Book Review: PARADISE, WV by Rob Rufus

“In a poor West Virginia town decimated by the opioid epidemic, teenagers Henry and Jane have it worse than most. Their father is Harlan Lusher, a convicted serial killer known as ‘the Blind Spot Slasher.'”

HELLO! In what universe am I not going to snatch up that book to read immediately? Especially when I read further into the back-cover blurb and find the phrases “true crime podcast” and “doomsday, snake-handling cult.” Why does this book have everything I love?!

Seeing as my expectations were basically sky-high going in, it would have been REAL EASY for this book to fall short, but it did the opposite. It was even better than I expected. This small-town Appalachian serial murder mystery rocks and rolls from beginning to end, culminating in a heart-pounding conclusion that had me yelling from disbelief. Twists and turns abound! Secrets and lies pave the streets of Paradise, WV! And have I mentioned that I would DIE FOR HENRY, JANE, AND THEIR NEW PAL OTIS?

Speaking of them, I love the 80s “kids on bikes” vibe, but it’s much harder to pull it off in a 21st century story. Rob Rufus totally makes it happen here. Much like Adam Cesare’s Clown in a Cornfield is a successful modern take on the classic slasher story, Paradise, WV does the same for the Goonies/Monster Squad/Stranger Things ragtag group of small-town kids, but updated for these times. The themes of the current true crime boom, the popularity of podcasting, the opioid epidemic, and the myriad woes strangling rural America rebuild this seemingly familiar story into something poignantly contemporary.

But back to our heroes: Henry, his sister Jane, and his new best friend Otis are precious angel babies who made me laugh and tugged at my heartstrings constantly. Henry is a misfit metalhead, isolated because of a health condition and his lack of internet access. Jane is a rising-star soccer player with a bright future, but held back because of anxiety due to the trauma of watching her father tried and convicted as a serial murderer. Otis is a home-schooled genius with a penchant for speed-reading who becomes accidental friends with Henry and offers to help the siblings clear their father’s name. Henry and Jane’s grandmother, Mammaw, is a tough, loving old hippie with an adorable little dog named Gravy. Lt. Elena Garcia is the determined, badass officer who won’t quit until she’s figured out who’s really behind a new (or maybe not-so-new) string of murders in town. This cast of characters are so lovable and authentic, they really make this story special.

This is a 5-star read for me, no question: great pace, great mystery, great characters, great overall vibe. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It’ll thrill you, chill you, and warm your heart all at once.

BTW: Rob’s first book, the YA punk-rock cancer memoir Die Young With Me is a big favorite of mine that I would recommend to ANYONE! I haven’t read his lauded second book, The Vinyl Underground, yet (damn my towering TBR!), but I think it’s gonna skip the line soon because I need more Rob Rufus words in my life ASAP. You do, too, so go buy the books! 

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Season 6 of The Office is The Worst Season

Here’s the thing: like many Millennials who overly rely on pop culture “blankies” for comfort, I watch The Office constantly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cycled through the show, always watching from beginning to end, never picking random episodes. Part of the palliative magic of the show is the overarching narrative: watching Jim and Pam fall in love, Michael’s growth from the almost unwatchable cringe of Season One to the boss who cries with Jim on his last day in Scranton, Dwight ascending from ARM to Regional Manager, over and over and over again. It’s deeply comforting.

I might not know when I’ll get to visit my elderly parents again because of a global pandemic, but I do know that I will be dazzled by the slow burn of Jim and Pam’s love story every single time I watch it, and sometimes I need to forget everything but that.

But even as a die-hard Dunderhead (my dad recently discovered this term in a bathroom reader and told me about it), there is one season that I positively dread during each re-watch cycle, and it’s not Season Eight, or Season Nine. (Yes, even with Season Nine Andy.) No, the worst season of The Office is Season Six.

It’s absurd that this season is able to fail so spectacularly, even when I take into account:

  • It actually starts out great with “Gossip”! That’s a really fun episode.
  • The aforementioned Seasons Eight and Nine
  • How much I adore Jim and Pam’s wedding
  • Date Mike and Recyclops, two of my absolute most favorite Office things
  • The fact that “Murder” is probably in my top five favorite episodes

Despite of all that working in its favor, I still struggle to watch Season Six every time it comes around, and here are some reasons why:

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: “Scott’s Tots” is a 100% unwatchable episode. We all know and acknowledge this universal truth. On top of the positively supernatural cringe factor (laptop batteries; really?!), not even the subplot is enjoyable. Dwight setting Jim up with the employee of the month prize is so contrived; I hate it, I can’t watch it, burn it with fire. This entire episode is so bad, so unwatchable, that it alone could bring down the season, I think.

But it had help. Plenty of help.

My next huge problem with this season is the Jim-as-co-manager plotline. The entire arc feels really out-of-character and awkward. Jim, whose entire personality revolves around being a slacker, is suddenly a task-master as co-manager? I hate him during the “Koi Pond” episode, and don’t get me started on the sheer ineptitude of deciding who to give raises to. WITH BOSTON BAKED BEANS. Absolutely none of this vibes with the Jim we’ve come to know and love, so it all feels wrong on a deep level. Nobody wants to watch bad-guy Jim, and we definitely don’t want to watch incompetent Jim.

Pam’s reaction to Michael dating her mom is extremely hard to watch. It’s not that it’s not understandable that she would be upset, but again, it feels out-of-character for her to be so mean about it. Are we supposed to blame pregnancy hormones? (I’ll admit; one bright spot comes from this episode: Michael’s face when he sees Toby teaching Pam how to throw a punch is a GEM.)

Michael appears to really like Erin for all the episodes up until “Secretary’s Day,” when he claims that he thinks she’s “kind of a rube.” It’s simply a terrible continuity error. He supposedly dislikes her so much that he doesn’t want to take her out to lunch, which is so ridiculous because all Michael ever wants to do, ever, is go to lunch with his employees. It’d be like if Leslie Knope suddenly turned down a waffle. It’s just fundamentally wrong for the character.

Now for some random, smaller issues:

  • I find the “Delivery” episodes to be way too long. They did not need to be a two-parter! Stretching these out just really feels like pandering to Middle America.
  • Dwight referring to Isabel as “a bumpkin” is SO WEIRD. This is Dwight Schrute, borderline-Amish beet farmer with an outhouse, calling someone else a bumpkin. It makes zero sense. Later on he almost gets engaged to “an actual milkmaid,” in his own words, but gorgeous, normal Isabel is “a bumpkin?” Okay, whatever, Season Six. Go home; you’re drunk.
  • Michael is so H O R R I B LE during the Christmas episode (when he gets angry about Phyllis getting to be Santa Claus). And I know the whole thing is that Michael is always horrible at Christmas and that’s the joke, but still. I find his Jesus thing funny for about one minute and then it gives me a headache.

There’s just so much that happens in Season Six that feels off. It’s not as much fun as the other seasons, and I dread watching it. Even “Murder” and Recyclops and CREED GRABBING HIS CROTCH WHILE DANCING DOWN THE AISLE can’t save it, which is a tragedy. Those moments all deserved better seasons. Kathy M-F-ing Bates deserved better.

All right, time for you to sound off. Do you agree? Disagree? You’re wrong if you disagree, but I’ll listen politely. Comment below with any of your Office Season 6 thoughts!


Disc Golf is Perfect for Social Distancing

Listen, we’re all in the same boat here, right? We’ve been physical distancing for nearly six months straight. Everything is online ordering, curbside pickup, or food delivery. We’re wearing masks, washing our hands constantly, and really wearing out our Netflix subscriptions. Things like international travel, attending concerts, and hugging our older parents are still off in an unsure future. Honestly, it sucks. It’s not fun.

And on top of that, we’re dealing with the “group project effect,” where those of us who are following the rules and taking it seriously in hopes of getting back to a safe normal quicker are being dragged down by the mask naysayers, the conspiracy nuts, and the people who want to get drunk at a crowded bar more than they want to keep the nation’s grandparents safe.

By late June, it was really starting to wear on my husband and me. The strain of being stuck inside, only ever seeing each other, was turning us perma-cranky. Life had become one long zone-out, relying on binge-watching our fave shows and constantly eating snacks.

Then, as you can read about in my last post, we discovered disc golf, and it changed everything about our pandemic experience. Suddenly, we had an outlet for all of our clogged-up, sad, lethargic feelings, and we ran with it. The thing is, disc golf is the PERFECT pandemic activity, and here’s why:

  1. Socially distanced: Disc golf is naturally socially distant. It’s an outdoors activity that you can play solo or with your quarantine partner. Even if a course is a little crowded, you’re still gonna be playing one group per hole at a time; nobody’s getting all mashed together. And depending on the hole distance, you could be hundreds of yards from the group playing directly before and after you. Basically, it’s all spread out, and that’s GOOD.
  2. Easily accessible* to most: Disc golf is almost everywhere. There are over 6,500 disc golf courses in the U.S., located in every single state. Disc golf courses are in cities, suburbs, and in rural areas. So in these times when we’re mostly staying close to home, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a course not too far away. And most disc golf courses are free to play! (*I threw an asterisk on there because I’m talking more about geographical and financial accessibility than ADA accessibility. There are disc golf courses out there that are more accessible than others, but ADA accessibility is not universal, similar to the situation with hiking trails and other outdoors activities. It depends on the setting, etc.)
  3. Usually free: To harp on the FREE thing once again, this is crucial during the pandemic because you can just drive up, park, and start playing; no need to go inside and pay someone or otherwise interact with a gatekeeper. Big win for social distancing!
  4. Use your own equipment: There’s no need to rent equipment to play disc golf like when you play putt putt, regular golf, or take part in other outdoor sports, like skiing. You’re using your own equipment, so you don’t have to pay money to use someone else’s germy stuff.
  5. Get active!: The best thing about disc golf during the pandemic is that it’s a safe way to get active. You don’t have to be part of a large group or go to a crowded gym. With disc golf, you can burn calories, get your steps in, and build muscle all while keeping safely away from others.
  6. Use your brain without staring at a screen: Disc golf is not just physical; there’s a huge mental component to it. You have to strategize your shots, figure out which disc is best for your position, plan your approach to the basket, and aim your putts. There’s a lot going on to work your noggin, which is much needed during a time when your brain power is usually reserved for making sure your Zoom meeting doesn’t reveal your stack of dirty dishes in the background.

If you’re curious about disc golf, hopefully I’ve convinced you that now is the PERFECT time to try it out. Disc golf is growing in popularity during the pandemic and I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all; it only makes sense!

Do you have questions about disc golf, or disc golf during social distancing? Do you have any other reasons why disc golf is perfect during the pandemic? Comment below and let me know!


Why I Love Disc Golf

During the past few years of my life, I keep falling in love with things I never, ever thought I would be into. I spent years making fun of people who love the Grateful Dead, and now I’m a total Deadhead. You ask me my favorite Dead album, and I’m not gonna tell you a studio album; I’m going to name a specific performance recording by date and venue (Harpur College 1970). I even make a special trip to go see Dead & Company perform every summer (except this one, THANKS PANDEMIC). 

Same with NBA basketball; I haven’t been into pro sports since growing up in the Atlanta suburbs in the early 90s, when literally every single person was a Braves fanatic. Things changed in November of 2016 for, uh, reasons, and my husband and I threw ourselves into watching the Oklahoma City Thunder as a way to distract ourselves from the dumpster fire federal government. It was Russell Westbrook’s historic MVP year, and we fell HARD. I’m going on my fourth year of watching the Thunder religiously and I can’t imagine my life without the NBA now.

The latest of my unlikely loves is none other than disc golf. Yes, frolfing; the hippie sport much maligned by Pam Beesly (and turns out, disc golfers hate when you call it “frolf.”) I don’t entirely know how it happened; my husband tried a few rounds with a friend and then implored me to try it with him. I was dubious but went along for the ride, and I ended up loving it. 

I not only fell for disc golf; I’ve become a total disc golf evangelist. That’s why I’m writing this blog post about Why I Love Disc Golf, along with the soon-to-come second part, Why Disc Golf Is The Perfect Pandemic Activity. Let’s get to the list!

1. Low overhead: My husband and I have talked about trying golf for years, but it’s a real financial commitment. Clubs, shoes (or the cost of renting them), green fees, and then possibly finding out that you don’t even like the sport after spending all of that money. It’s just a big risk to take to try a sport that might not work out for you. Disc golf, however, is hardly a risk at all. If you know a disc golfer, you could ask them to borrow some discs (that’s how my husband tried it out), or you can buy yourself a starter set of discs for around 25 bucks and you’ll be set. A basic starter set of discs will include a driver, a mid-range, and a putter, but don’t worry about knowing what that means. If you just Google “disc golf starter disc set” you’ll find plenty of ready-made and affordable options. Speaking of affordable…

2. Free to play (usually): Most disc golf courses are totally free to use, just sitting adjacent to (or integrated with) one of your local city parks. Just search for disc golf courses near you, and you’ll probably find at least one option, if not several. There are paid courses out there, but there are more free ones, and the free ones are great. It’s so casual, too; you just show up, find the first hole, and get to it!

3. Easy to try: You can either have an experienced disc golf friend show you the ropes or just look up some beginning disc golf videos on YouTube to figure out how to play. Sure, you’re not going to look like a pro right out the gate, but you can learn enough to get on the course in just a few minutes. Watch a video or two on form, a video on which discs to use and when (generally, you’ll use your driver first, your mid-range second, and your putter last), and read up on the general rules of the game, and you’ll be ready to go in no time. I know you might be worried about making a fool of yourself, but luckily…

4. It’s an extremely welcoming community!: I have yet to feel like I’m unwelcome at a disc golf course as a beginner. Sure, I might feel nervous about making a putt if there’s a group playing within eyeshot, but it’s not because I actually feel like they’re judging me. It’s just my own nerves and perfectionism kicking in. The disc golf community is seriously a great group of folks; if they see you wandering around on the course looking confused, they’re kind enough to ask if you’re looking for the next tee and point you in the right direction. It’s kind of a hippie-ish sport, and the people who play are pretty chill, like you’d expect. Even if you’re a woman, which brings me to my next point…

5. Women are welcome and also competitive: Women are not looked down upon in disc golf at all. It’s one big happy family, the more the merrier. Women do compete separately (not always) but it’s mostly a mechanics thing; they just don’t have the strength that men do, so they’re going to have a higher stroke count. There are, however, exceptions to that rule; Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen are just two of the absolutely badass women disc golfers who are entirely capable of giving the men a run for their money, and they are highly respected. Again, as a woman, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. I love the sport, so I belong.

6. It’s athletic, but not intense: I mean, it can be intense, especially if you’re competing. And if you try to play full rounds a couple of days in a row, you’ll get sore enough to realize that it’s definitely a legitimate sport. But really, disc golf can be pretty chill, and you don’t have to be a super athlete (or an athlete at all) to start playing. It’s kind of like hiking or walking in the park, but with a game along the way. And you have to use your mind as much as your body when you’re strategizing your drives or planning your approach to the basket. 

7. It’s super fun for travel: My husband and I love to take road trips to hike at national parks, wildlife refuges, and state parks, but adding disc golf to our repertoire has really opened up our travel options!. Now we can look for fun disc golf courses to try when we want to hit the road, and as a travel activity, disc golf is immersive rather than touristy. You can really get to know a place and its landscape by disc golfing, and you’ll fit right in with the locals on the course. Unless you can’t find the next hole, but again, other disc golfers will help you out in a jiffy.

I really can’t recommend disc golf enough! If you’re curious about it, seriously, just get out there and give it a try. I’ve sprinkled links throughout this post, but I’m going to list some resources down below if you want to learn more. Please comment if you have any questions, or tell me if you’re a disc golfer, too! And watch for my next post on why disc golf is the perfect pandemic activity.

JomezPro: Fun YouTube channel with tournament coverage, tutorials, and more.

UDisc App on Google Play and Apple: Great, free resource to look up courses near you, keep score, rate courses, and more.

Definitive Guide to Disc Golf Book: Straightforward, enjoyable book of the history of disc golf, how to play, etc.

Brodie Smith YouTube channel: Brodie Smith is an Ultimate Frisbee Champion who has switched to playing disc golf. He has a lot of fun videos to watch of him and his hilarious, adorable wife, Kelsey, out on the course together. It’s an inspirational look behind the scenes of a beginner who is improving his skills fast.


How To Live A Minimalist-Ish Life

So you’ve probably been stuck inside your home for the last three months. Maybe you, like me, have found yourself looking at all the fucking shit in your house and thinking why on earth do I have so much STUFF everywhere? Why do I make myself clean this, look at it, organize it?

Another side of effect of staying at home all the time is that I spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I used to scoff at all the pictures of bright, white, spartan living spaces. Like, who could live there? Where are the retro tchotchkes? Where are the cat hair tumbleweeds? It would take me two seconds to spill an entire mug of coffee on that ecru couch! Now, though; now, I drool at those pictures. I YEARN for all that uncluttered space. Those pictures are pornography for the housebound and socially distant.

It’s an unexpected pivot for me, as someone who declared Marie Kondo an enemy when I once took her advice to discard all unnecessary papers only to find that I really needed that marked-up manuscript for revisions a couple of months later. I have long lived by a decidedly “more is more” decorating credo, because where else am I going to put all of this cool vintage stuff I buy at thrift stores all the time? I do like a bit of cozy clutter, but my situation has gotten out of control. Staying at home every single day for over three months has been the wake-up call I needed.

Enter my newfound obsession with minimalism. I watched the documentary on Netflix, I have a rapidly growing minimalism Pinterest board, and my belongings are quivering with fear under my newly judgmental gaze.

The only problem is… this isn’t me. I am not an innate minimalist. I am an innate maximalist. This doesn’t come easily or naturally for me. The idea of decimating my book collection or – gasp – owning less than 15 funky retro coffee mugs strikes me as profoundly wrong.

I’ve sobered up after my initial fling with the possibility of becoming a real, true white-couch-and-two-plates minimalist, and in the harsh morning light, I’m seeing things more clearly. Capital-M Minimalism isn’t going to happen for me, nor do I actually want it. I just crave simplicity. I want to live with more intention, and I want to have less shit around to accumulate cat hair. I want more space to breathe. I want to be minimalist-ish.

Maybe this minimalist-lite lifestyle appeals to you, too. The following are my personal guidelines for being minimalist-ish:

  1. Treat it like a marathon, not a sprint: You don’t have to do the Marie Kondo-style slash and burn decluttering in order to simplify. If the idea of unsentimentally getting rid of most of your stuff makes you nervous sweat, or if, while seeking the life-changing magic, you have thrown out something you needed later and you’re now gun-shy about it (*raises hand*), just take the pressure off. You don’t have to do a 180 in a weekend and wake up on Monday with half the belongings you used to have. Commit to regular decluttering and take it a little at a time. If you’re unsure about an item this time and you’re really struggling with the decision to toss it, put it aside until the next go-round. Slow and steady progress is still progress.
  2. If you have a mess you truly love, keep it: We all have certain truths in our lives that just aren’t going to change. I am going to keep tons of books around, and I’m not getting rid of my large lot of inherited vintage Pyrex dishes. Maybe you have a collection of some kind that brings you joy, and I’m here to give you permission to keep it. That’s allowed when you’re minimalist-ish. Go HAM on trashing your decades-old credit card statements and keep your dang books!
  3. Pick your battles with yourself: Similarly, use your discernment in deciding when to get tough with yourself. Yes, I probably have six knit hats left at this point, but I want them all! It’s not a big deal because they take up very little space. My yarn stash, on the other hand, is a bigger deal, size-wise, and I’d feel better if I re-homed a bunch of those skeins. So pick your battles and don’t quibble with yourself over the small stuff.
  4. “Just in case” items are totally allowed: Hardcore minimalists will tell you not to keep “just in case” items around. A popular rule is if it’s not something you use every day and you can replace it for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes, get rid of it. That philosophy doesn’t bode well for a lot of my camping gear (I’m not going to buy new propane canisters every time I go camping just because they’re cheap) or other random things I own (I’m not going to buy a new curling iron every six months when I want to get extra fancy for a work meeting). Use your best judgment on this. Some “just in case” items can certainly get tossed, but you don’t have to go overboard. Assess your own needs and available space and do what works for you.
  5. It’s okay to hate capsule wardrobes: I don’t know who these people are who can get by on two tank tops, two pairs of jeans, and a dress, but I need more clothes than that. Furthermore, I have CLOTHING GENRES, and my casual clothes are nothing like my work clothes. It’s called being multi-faceted, folks. Learning to seriously pare down my wardrobe has been useful and rewarding, and it makes my life way easier to only have clothes around that I love. However, I’ve had to make this system work for me. I have casual clothes, work clothes, workout/hiking clothes, and comfy clothes. I know “comfy clothes” is a decidedly un-Kondo concept, but in my life (especially during #WFH), my cozies are my most important clothes, period. Keep each section pared down to what you actually need and love, but don’t get too hung up on trying to whittle your wardrobe down to 20 universal items. Normal people living through a pandemic just need more sweatpants than that system allows.
  6. Don’t be afraid to go it alone: You might be the only person in your family who wants to simplify, and that’s okay. No, you can’t (and shouldn’t!) secretly toss your husband’s childhood baseball card collection, but you can certainly clean up your own shit and have plenty to keep you busy. You can embrace being minimalist-ish without forcing it on your entire household.
  7. Being minimalist-ish is also a mindset: Contrary to what it looks like on Pinterest, simplifying your life is hugely about your inner landscape, not just your surroundings. Learning to bring more intention to your day by planning your to-dos, doing one thing at a time, and carving out dedicated chill time will go a long way toward helping you feel calm. The white couch doesn’t mean shit if you’re running around with constant mental chatter and endlessly scrolling social media. Try meditation to help you cut out the inner background noise, and really focus on giving your intention to one task at a time. If you’re replying to work emails, reply to work emails. If you’re making dinner, make dinner. If you’re reading a book, put down your fucking phone and read the book. This is one of the most positive lessons of my minimalist-ish life, and it has nothing to do with how many belongings I have. Sure, it helps to live more intentionally in a less-cluttered space, but the real work here is inner work.
  8. Incentivize yourself!: Let’s call this the gold star method. Take a cue from your kindergarten teacher and make this process fun and rewarding! I’m way more encouraged to clean out my closet when I know I can make money on my old clothes. I use Poshmark to sell my gently-used clothing and shoes, and I love it because they make it SO easy. Sign up with my referral code GROOVYRETROCAT to get $10 to spend!
  9. Make cleaning fun!: Keeping your space clean is a big part of being minimalist-ish. Cleaning also does not come naturally for me, but I have learned to love it by ordering all of my earth-friendly cleaning supplies from Grove Collaborative. I actually look forward to getting my Grove shipments each month, and I’m not kidding when I say that this company has totally changed my attitude toward cleaning. Sign up with my referral link and you’ll get a free 5-piece gift set with your first shipment – it’s literally like twenty bucks worth of free cleaning supplies and totally worth it. You’ll be hooked like me and your space will be cleaner than ever!

The whole point of being minimalist-ish is to reap the considerable benefits of simplifying your life through owning less while taking it at a comfortable pace. Once you get started, though, you’ll probably find that you grow less and less tentative about getting rid of belongings you don’t need. The longer I’m at this, the more willing I am to declutter and the more decisive I am about what should go and what can stay.

If you’re interested in minimizing and simplifying for the sake of your quarantine (and post-quarantine) sanity, take it one step at a time and do what works for you. Baby steps will do just fine. I’m rooting for you!


I Never Feared For My Life: Reflections On White Privilege

Around 2003, during my sophomore year of college, my bestie Z and I were on our way from Georgia to South Carolina to visit another friend at the College of Charleston. We were driving my red ’92 Jeep Cherokee, but Z was behind the wheel because I had gotten my eyes dilated or something that morning. I had some medical reason why it was safer for him to drive, but we had to take my car for cheaper gas mileage reasons.

It was around 9:00pm, dark, and we got pulled over on the interstate outside of Columbia because Z was speeding (nothing major, around 10 over). We pulled over, groaning, and got ready to do the whole getting-a-ticket thing, and it was so dumb from the beginning. Like a Three Stooges sketch, one thing after another went wrong, making us look guiltier than we were.

Right out the gate, Z struggled to get the driver’s side window rolled down. The cop stood there waiting while Z fumbled in the dark with my unfamiliar switches, until finally I had to reach over him and roll it down myself. So we looked drunk immediately, which we weren’t, and then one look at Z’s long hair and our hippie-ish thrift store outfits combined with my Led Zeppelin sticker on the back window, and our cop assumed we also had weed in the car.

Z had to walk the line and touch his nose and all that, and when he passed the sobriety tests, the cop moved on to searching him. Here’s where another Three Stooges moment happens: Z had a pack of rolling papers in his pocket. They were (unbelievably, I know!) actually a pack that our College of Charleston friend used for cigarettes, not weed, and Z threw them in his pocket last-minute before getting in the car because he figured we could return them.

“Where’s the weed at?” the cop asked Z, holding up the contraband he had fished out of Z’s shorts pocket.

“Sir, you’re not going to believe this, but we really don’t have any.” Z was almost laughing as he said this; the whole thing was so ridiculous.

I was still sitting inside the car for all of this, watching as Z balanced on one foot and then leaned with both hands against the Jeep for the search, but I wasn’t worried because I knew we were sober and didn’t have anything illegal in the car. So when the cop came back to the window and asked me to step out as well, I was shocked.

“I found drug paraphernalia on your friend, so we have to search the car. I’ve radioed for a female officer to come search you as well.”

Those damn rolling papers! I thought. They’d been floating around our apartment for weeks, and now they were screwing us. Why hadn’t we just thrown them away? What do they cost, fifty cents?

So I waited with Z while my car was searched top to bottom. It was kind of satisfying to watch the newly-arrived drug enforcement cop grow more frantic as he searched through our overnight bags only to find textbooks and toothbrushes. There wasn’t a damn thing in our car that shouldn’t be there, and you could tell it flew all over him that he couldn’t find anything to bust us on. I was searched by the female cop when she showed up and all I had on me were Hoover flags by the time she was done.

We were finally set free to go on our way. I don’t think the dejected cop even wrote the speeding ticket Z totally deserved. Zooming off down the road toward our weekend of partying in Charleston, we cackled about how bummed out the cops were to find us clean and cursed the rolling papers for getting us into the ordeal in the first place.

Why am I telling you this story? Because it’s a classic story of white privilege. At no point in the traffic stop did I fear for my life. Our worst problem that came out the encounter was rolling into town later than planned. Well, the lining had been ripped out of my favorite vintage purse in the search, but again, that’s nothing.

Now, was this traffic stop completely fair? There’s an argument to made that no, it wasn’t really. Yes, Zac was speeding, but I do believe that we were profiled as hippies (and thus druggies) from our clothes and my Led Zeppelin sticker on the back of the car. But luckily for us, druggies or not, we were still white, so the worst thing we expected in our wildest dreams was exactly what happened: a mild inconvenience and a funny story to tell everyone later about how mad the cop was about not finding anything.

We never feared for our lives. Not for one second. In recent years I’ve thought back to this incident countless times, remembering how secure I felt, how clueless I was at the time of how my whiteness was protecting me from harm. I think back to the couple of other traffic stops I’ve experienced and, again, I never felt anything more than impatience. Annoyance about getting caught at something that I was actually guilty of.

There was even the time when I was pulled over under extremely sketchy conditions: leaving my friend’s house very late at night, a cop began following me through the neighborhood. I wasn’t speeding, I was sober, and my lights were all on and functioning, but I was a little weirded out by him tailing me. It got even weirder when, as I approached the darkened rural main road, away from all the cookie-cutter houses, the cop finally switched his lights on and pulled me over. I’m still not sure what the deal was, but he asked me a lot of inappropriate questions about who I was with, what was my friend’s name, what I was doing, why I was leaving so late, could I call my friend on my cell phone so I could prove that I was telling the truth. I actually couldn’t call my friend; out there in the middle of nowhere, I had jack shit cell phone service, which was doubly alarming as I was starting to think I might need some sort of assistance if the cop didn’t stop asking intrusive questions and let me go. I was a single woman, alone in my car, with no cell phone service, and I had been intentionally stopped in an isolated, poorly lit area after the cop had had ample opportunity to pull me over in the neighborhood, among homes and street lights. After about 15 minutes he finally let me go and I drove off, heart pounding, sick to my stomach, confused and frightened.

But even in that fucked-up scenario, I never feared for my life. I was scared, to be sure, really damn scared, but my fear was vaguely rape-related at worst. I never thought I would be shot, I never thought I wouldn’t come away from it alive. Even though I was pulled over alone and harassed under suspicious circumstances.

To quote Courtney Ahn (@courtneyahndesign on Instagram): White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it means your skin tone isn’t one of the things making it harder. Having white privilege doesn’t mean you’ve never struggled or been unfairly treated. I should never have been harassed by that cop in the middle of nowhere, but I know that being white has been an advantage in that and other interactions I’ve had with cops.

My [also-white] husband and I are avid birders and hikers, and our whiteness allows us to enjoy those nature activities freely and without interference from law enforcement or other folks enjoying outdoor spaces. We have white skin and white names and white families and all of this has protected us throughout our lives.

We also grew up without a lot of money, so we’ve experienced socioeconomic limitations. I’m a woman, so I’ve experienced sex-based harassment and stereotyping. Most of us have some type of marginalization(s) working against us, and recognizing one’s privilege doesn’t mean that those things haven’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t had a hard time. It only means that you’re willing to admit where you’ve had a leg up because of your whiteness. It means you understand that despite everything else, you still benefit from your whiteness.

After recognizing your white privilege, the next step is to use your privilege for good! There are so many things you can do: make calls to your legislators regarding issues that affect people of color, speak up when others (especially friends and family) make racist comments or jokes, show up at protests, amplify the voices of people of color, step back and center the experiences of people of color, learn/read/do research about white supremacy and anti-racism, sign petitions to demand accountability when people of color are wronged by those in power — these are just a few off the top of my head.

You can’t help having white privilege, but you can choose what you do with it. Choose to help. Choose to listen. Choose to be uncomfortable. Choose to affect change.

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In Somewhat Belated Defense of “Murder Hornets”

Consider this my “Leave Britney alone” moment. But with bugs.

There’s a lot of news these days to have a rage stroke over, but the one that really got me was “murder hornets.”

I mean, I found myself stewing over “murder hornets.” I started conversations on G-chat with the ominous lead-in: “Can I go on a rant real quick?” I monopolized dinner conversations with my already-quarantine-weary husband who was just trying to watch some Try Guys videos in peace. Even thinking about it now, after a couple of weeks, I’m starting to grind my teeth.

Let me take you back to a moment in time: It’s July in the Texas panhandle, and to say it’s “hot” is an understatement of monumental proportions. Also of monumental proportions was mine and my husband’s hubris in thinking we should try some real hot weather camping and then choosing Caprock Canyons State Park soon after Independence Day for the venue.

We had a lot of surprises in store that weekend: Suffering through the hottest hike we’ve ever done, I learned that sometimes it’s so unbearably sweltering outside that you might not be able to outpace heat exhaustion, no matter how much water and Gatorade you guzzle. I was pouring liquids down my throat almost constantly and yet I still ended up feeling sick for the next 24 hours. Once we got off the godforsaken trail and started trudging our way along the park road back to our campsite, absolutely desperate to hop in our car and blast the A/C for a few environmentally irresponsible minutes, we happened across a bison.

Living in Oklahoma, this was nowhere near the first bison that we’d encountered, but this one was different. Standing by the shimmering asphalt road, chewing the cud in the blazing heat, and staring directly at us, it was clear that this bison wasn’t in the mood for our shit. This bison was pissed off, the vibe rolled off him in waves, and we weren’t going to push our luck by trying to pass.

So we stood by the side of the road in a standoff with the bison we came to refer to as Beavis. Beavis chewed and chewed, never flicking his malevolent gaze away from us. I had thought there wasn’t anything that could keep me from the precious air conditioning waiting in the Subaru, but turns out, the threat of death by goring would do it.

After about ten minutes, we saw a little coupe approaching, and it’s a testament to our desperation that even as two introverts living in a culture that won’t even make phone calls to friends without a warning text, we shamelessly flagged these strangers down and begged for a ride past Beavis. “Please, our campsite is just over there in the north loop,” we panted. The middle-aged couple inside kindly obliged and dropped us off down the road at our car (my cheeks were so red that the woman, a nurse, expressed profound concern for my condition) where we jumped inside, cranked up, and moaned obscenely as the chilly air hit our faces held against the vents.

Nature is a bitch, basically, and it’s ridiculous to think we have any control against her. Whether she decides to send you ungodly heat, a curmudgeonly bison obstacle, or a global pandemic, your only real option is to stand down and say “uncle!” You just have to deal with what she doles out the best way you can.

That morning before setting out on the trail, I spotted a glint of iridescent green in the desert scrub outside the campsite clearing. “Hey,” I yelled at my husband, who was fiddling with a tent stake. “Come look at this giant beetle!”

J made his way over and peered at the specimen crawling through the grass, only to jump back almost immediately. “Get away from it,” he warned. “That’s not a beetle. It’s a wasp.”

“What?” Instead of backing up like he had suggested, I leaned forward for another look at the shockingly large insect. Sure enough, the giant wings were tucked down close to the body, similar to a cockroach, which is why I was fooled. Upon closer examination, however, there was no mistaking the menacing stinger curled beneath the bug’s backside as it crawled over the dirt. I turned tail then and got the hell away.

The wasp, J informed me, was a tarantula hawk. The only reason he knew about it was because he had recently watched a YouTuber intentionally sustain a sting to demonstrate the effects of the purported second-most painful insect sting in the world. Being stung by a tarantula hawk is so incredibly debilitating that experts recommend simply lying down on the ground and screaming until the pain passes, usually in about 15 minutes. Seriously. It hurts so much that it’s actually dangerous for a person to remain on their feet because they’re likely to trip and fall and injure themselves further. Stop, drop, and scream; that’s the official advice.

It was alarming to find out that this diminutive visitor was capable of such destruction, but the tarantula hawk continued on his merry way, seemingly unaware that he had scared the shit out of a couple of humans. They’re called tarantula hawks, by the way, due to their enormous size and also because of their prey. The wasps paralyze tarantulas, drag them back to their lairs, and lay an egg on the spider’s abdomen. The tarantula hawk larva, once hatched, then feeds on the spider, careful to keep it alive for as long as possible. It’s total horror movie shit.

They’re elusive and rare – the naturalist in the video I linked above had to go looking for one in the desert for a couple of days – but we somehow ran up on another one during our hell hike an hour or so later. This one was flying, so it was even more frightening, but ultimately it went on its way, unconcerned with us. We aren’t tarantulas, and we’re too heavy to drag back to their burrow.

Back to the “murder hornets.” As soon as I started seeing the headlines (and they must have been everywhere for me to see them; I am extremely news-averse), I knew that something was up. Even a cursory glance over the news articles proved what I suspected: that this was a blatant attempt to cultivate fear (and thus generate fear-clicks) in a populace that’s already crippled by existential terror and anxiety.

The articles trumpeted death tolls from these “murder hornets” (real name: Asian giant hornet) of around 50 per year, but really glided over the part about how those deaths were primarily from allergic reactions, not from homicidal intent or any intrinsic murderousness of the sting itself. It’s like calling them “murder peanuts” because of potentially fatal allergic reactions. It’s ridiculous.

Yes, there are valid concerns about the arrival of Asian giant hornets in the U.S., mostly because of the threat to bees, who already have enough to fucking worry about.

I guess after encountering our own, native tarantula hawks in the wild, I have a healthy respect for giant, terrifying stinging insects with the potential to cause immense pain. They are truly not trying to “murder” us; they just want to be left alone.

I’m not saying they can’t be devastating (or even fatal to some); I’m saying that the threat is actually so limited. You’re not going to run across an Asian giant hornet or a tarantula hawk while walking down the street (unlike a certain virus #WEARAMASK).

If you’re going to run into a potentially deadly wasp or hornet, it’s probably going to be during an ill-advised hike in the extreme heat, and in that case, you’re already fucked because you went out in the Texas desert in July. That’s on you.

That’s nature, folks.


Having Trouble Finishing Your Book? Try Ditching Diet Culture

When I started writing my first book in 2014, I was on fire.

I tore through NaNoWriMo. I let my manuscript rest for a month and then I picked it back up and finished the draft. Then I got on my edits and got beta readers, did more edits, and I was ready to query within about a year.

That was 2015. It has been five years and I haven’t yet seriously queried another book. 

I’ve written two full manuscripts that I have done substantial edits on, but haven’t gotten them to full querying shape. I have two other drafts I’m still working my way through, but it’s been extremely slow going. I can make a lot of excuses for why I’m been so stuck: I suffered major mental health setbacks after the 2016 election, I got a new, more demanding job, I moved to a new city and got an even more demanding new job, etc, etc. And sure, all of those things contributed to where I’m at with writing.

But the single most detrimental factor to my writing has actually been diet culture.

According to Christy Harrison, diet culture is a system of beliefs that:

Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”

Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.

Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.

Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health.

It’s no coincidence that around the same time I was finishing up my first book, I joined a popular online wellness/fitness community. I can’t say that the experience was all bad; to the contrary, I made some of my closest friends in that group, and I gained a lot of physical strength and confidence from learning how to work out.

Unfortunately, these wellness/fitness teachers didn’t stop at posting fun workouts on YouTube and building a community of like-minded women. Their main money-making mechanism at that point was a nutrition plan, and the most insidious kind, too, in my opinion: they never outright said that the point of the plan was to lose weight. They would heavily hint at it, of course, and all of their fitness challenges began with a routine of measuring and weighing yourself and taking “before” pictures. They also marketed their community with before and after pictures that members submitted, where the clear message was: “Join us. You’ll lose weight and be healthy and hot like us.”

There was a lot of mixed messaging like that, where being lean and being healthy were conflated, becoming basically interchangeable ideas. That’s the worst part about modern diet culture; so much of it is wrapped up in “wellness” and “clean eating” and health messaging, so it’s easy to think that you’re just doing something good for your body. You’re just practicing self-love by always saying no to the burger and only saying yes to grilled chicken breast. It’s tougher to suss out because so many of us grew up in a time when diets, the old Weight Watchers and calorie-counting kind, were considered passe, and yet, they’ve just repackaged it (literally, in the case of WW) as wellness. And we’re buying it, despite knowing somewhere inside that diets don’t work.

[There’s a lot of proof and studies out there that diets don’t work, so I’ll link a few resources at the end of this post and get on with my story. I prefer an Intuitive Eating approach, which, again, I won’t go into too in-depth here, but I’ll leave some of those resources as well.]

So despite my inner conflict, I fell into this community, hard. Between their nutrition plan, which consisted of no calorie counting but a WHOLE lot of rules about what to eat and when along with frequent “slimdown weeks” which were basically starvation diets, and their workout regimen, which commanded that we work out twice every day (once for cardio and once for resistance/strength training), my physical, emotional, and mental energy outside of eating and exercise slowly dwindled, not to mention the actual *time* I had left for the rest of my life, including my full-time job and my writing.

Even when I got wise to what was up, when I first discovered Intuitive Eating and realized that diet culture wasn’t doing me any favors, I spent the next couple of years in a cycle of rejecting diet culture, embracing IE, and then picking diet culture back up in sneaky ways for months at a time. Telling myself that tracking calories wasn’t as bad as cutting out food groups (as is the custom in most “wellness” programs aka diets) because at least I was calling it what it is, which felt healthier in some ways. 

But it still took up vast amounts of my time and money, preparing food, weighing food, measuring food, tracking food, and enormous amounts of mental real estate, because now I was not only doing the constant arithmetic of tracking calories, I was also fighting the internal battle of whether or not what I was doing was actually okay or not. Was I still enabling diet culture by doing it this way? Was I actually satisfied by eating light Babybel cheeses and making protein coffee drinks as a way to hit my macro targets? Was I hurting my self-esteem by weighing myself every day? And this is before you take into account the workout programs, the exercise regimens, the sheer amount of time and money spent on trying to find the elusive thing that would work for me (i.e. help me lose weight).

I recently picked up Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison, an Intuitive Eating RD, on a whim. I think something inside me realized that even if I had ostensibly rejected the Intuitive Eating approach and embraced food restriction, I still needed a check-in to see how it was all sitting with me. I had recently taken a short Instagram break and after a few days away had noticed how my overall body satisfaction had gone up seeing as I wasn’t looking at thin, blond influencers all day every day. I wanted to go with that spirit of liberation and see if there was more work to be done.

Within just a few pages of her book I realized just how far I had strayed, and just how much my sneaky dieting was impacting my life. I work a very demanding day job now, both mentally and emotionally as well as being an erratic time commitment, and the idea that I was wasting my precious time outside of work to MEASURE EVERYTHING I PUT IN MY MOUTH suddenly seemed like the absolute most ludicrous thing I could be doing.

No wonder I haven’t queried a book in five years. It’s been a constant battle just to clean the bathroom regularly between my day job and fretting about food and my body.

[Sidenote: I know there are plenty of people out there who have a lot more on their plate than I do and still manage to write: moms, dads, people who work multiple jobs, people who deal with mental illness and trauma, marginalized folks, etc. I am not by any stretch of the imagination saying that I have it particularly bad. I’m just saying that given my particular bandwidth and commitments, I struggled mightily to write when diet culture took up an inordinate amount of space in my life.]

So I’ve been back in the Intuitive Eating mindset for the last few weeks, and suddenly my productivity in all areas of my life, including writing, has increased immensely. I just have so much more SPACE, for creativity, for spending quality time with my spouse, for exercising in fun, interesting ways that don’t result in injuries from overtraining, for making overall choices that support my future rather than cutting myself short because I’m stretched thin and just trying to survive day to day. For engaging in real self-love and self-care.

For some of you, this might not resonate, and that’s fine. You might be doing great with whatever way of eating you’ve got going on, and you may have struck a sustainable balance with your life commitments, and you might be writing up a storm and kicking ass. That is awesome! If you’re killing it, don’t let me bring you down. Do your thing.

But I suspect that at least a few of you might see some reflection of yourself in what I’ve described here, and if so, you might benefit from learning about Intuitive Eating (IE), Health At Every Size (HAES), and breaking up with diet culture. Some of us really internalize negative messages about food and our bodies to the detriment of our physical health, mental health, and the rest of our lives, and we could use the support* of a different approach.

I’m going to leave a list of resources at the end of this blog post for you to check out if you’re interested. I’m not here to debate about this, because I’m not trying to convert anyone against their will, but if you have earnest questions or want to chat, feel free to comment or DM me over on Twitter.

*If you are suffering from an eating disorder (including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or orthorexia), studying Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size will not suffice. Please seek professional support.

(This is not an exhaustive list of resources but if you’re curious about anything I’ve talked about, this can get you started.)


Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon
Body of Truth by Harriet Brown
Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got A Life by Kelsey Miller (this one is an EXCELLENT audiobook, btw)


Food Psych by Christy Harrison
Let It Out by Katie Dalebout (not explicitly anti-diet but the host has overcome an eating disorder and works to promote Intuitive Eating)


And I love everything Kelsey Miller wrote on Refinery 29 about Intuitive Eating and rejecting diet culture. These articles are a great way to dive in and see what it’s all about:


All Of My WIPs

Hello, friends! I thought it might be fun and helpful for me to list out ALL OF MY WIPs! This includes manuscripts in all stages of being, from baby ideas to zeroing in on final edits to languishing on the shelf (for now).


Palomino Canyon is my story that just won’t die. I started writing it as 100% fun wish fulfillment, the way some people write themselves into fan fiction. But with this book, I was writing my ideal life if I lived in Los Angeles in 1968. Palomino Canyon (my fictional version of Laurel Canyon) is the titular home of my main character, Dawn, and the other three major characters, Linda, Gigi, and Maybelline. This multi-POV story follows the four girls as they swirl through the glittery rock-n-roll nightlife of late 60s L.A., finding themselves, supporting each other, and of course, having lots of steamy rock star romances.

When I started writing Palomino Canyon, it was for my eyes only. I wasn’t even going to burden myself with a PLOT, but then after a while it turned into, well, a real story, and I fell in love with the characters, and that was a few years ago and here I am, still tinkering with it. It’s been shelved, but like, not really shelved. Honestly, I’m in a weird limbo with it. I have no idea how to pitch it, with the in-between age (the MCs are all 19-ish) and the fact that it’s multi-POV, and there’s probably too much sex to be women’s fic/chick-lit but not enough sex to be straight romance, and I don’t know which direction I want to take it. I might just leave it where it is and keep it for myself – that’s who I wrote it for in the first place, anyway.


Mama Tried is the real book of my heart thus far. It’s a Southern Gothic novel about a loner named Marty who loves metal detecting and works at a hospital laundry facility in Jacksonville, Florida. He finds out that his job is being outsourced, and after a major misstep with his friends, starts to question his own sanity. He’s always been painfully shy and isolated, but after learning that he shares some childhood experiences with a lot of famous serial killers, he wonders if his eccentricities go beyond being a quiet, mild-mannered guy. What if he snaps one day? Marty, along with Winky, the stray dog he just found, sets off on a journey to follow only his good impulses, which takes him through the state of Florida setting things right. When he picks up a hitchhiker, Tiffany, he’s presented with the perfect opportunity to do a good deed and get her to her destination safely. It turns out, however, that Tiffany has a dark secret of her own… and the two of them might not make it out alive.

Like I said, I love this book. I’m also stuck right now. I have edits to make and more writing to do to get it where it needs to be, but I just haven’t been able to move forward on it in, like, months. Part of that is because I’m distracted by my current first drafts, but I also just lost momentum with it and am struggling to get back in the saddle. I need to get back to this book soon, because I want to share it with the world so badly.


THAT’S RIGHT, I’M WRITING A COZYISH MYSTERY SERIES. Maybe. If I ever finish this first book. I have ideas for, like, the next four books in the series, and I love this MC, Jenn MacDougall, an architect and fledgling tiny house builder. I love her sidekick/bestie, Thea Night, even more because she’s a wry, loyal, wildly popular ace goth who lives in the creepy Victorian house of your nightmares.

Jenn moved to the little mountain town of Pine Knot, Arkansas, to grieve the sudden passing of her mother, unaware that she was relocating square into the middle of disputed territory. The turf war between the old guard (in the form of the Pine Knot Heights Neighborhood Association) and the newer transplants from the nearby university town (mainly professors and college students) rages on with every new proposed business or building. When Jenn lands a lucrative contract to build a mobile tiny house for a high-profile blogging couple in town,  she finds out just how contentious a rolling home on wheels can be. After a presentation to the neighborhood association goes poorly, Eunice Staples, the association’s social director, turns up dead, and Jenn’s client is the top suspect. Jenn needs to clear her famous client’s name so that her business, the Bluebird Tiny House Company, can get off the ground, but she’s about to find out just how many secrets the Pine Knot elders are holding.

Also, there are two potential love interests, and I fully plan to have Jenn go back and forth between them until the series is over (but I know who wins out eventually!).


This is a paranormal thriller and it’s the book I’m the most focused on right now. I absolutely adore this premise and it’s honestly the most confident I’ve ever been about a book while drafting it (I might eat my words later on, though).

Shauna Taverner is the darling of the cryptozoology community. She appears at all of the conventions for panels and podcasts, all because her husband, Jason, a noted bigfoot researcher, disappeared while on a solo expedition two years ago. She shows up. She dabs her eyes. She appears every bit the grieving widow. But she has a secret: she’s glad her husband is gone.

Jason may have disappeared two years ago, but Shauna lost him to the bigfoot community long before that. That’s why she doesn’t feel bad taking their money. Besides, she needs it to survive, so she’ll play the part of the sasquatch widow for as long as she can. Jason was her rock before bigfoot took over their lives, and Shauna feels ill-equipped for life on her own.

Shauna is just starting to move forward (and even has a new love interest) when Jason shows back up. Shauna’s reeling, trying to come to terms with his sudden return and the weird circumstances of him being there. Like the fact that he has no memory of what’s happened since he disappeared. The fact that he looks exactly the same down to a healing cut on his shoulder that Shauna had helped dress a couple of days before he left for that last bigfoot trip. Two years ago.


Mother Road is just a baby idea that I’ve written a couple of chapters on, mostly noodling while I get to know my four main POV characters. I’m imagining Mother Road to be like Stranger Things for adults x The Stand all taking place on Route 66 in the early 80s. If you Google “Picher, Oklahoma,” you’ll see my real-life inspo (spoiler: it’s really creepy). I don’t have a lot to tell you on this one yet, but it’s percolating. And I’m excited for it.

I hope you enjoyed reading about all my WIPs. If there’s one theme that runs throughout all of my work, it’s that I always write about weirdos and misfits finding their place in the world! What can I say, it’s the Aquarius rising in me.

And that’s all, folks! One day I will write an entire post all about my journey with Debs, my beloved, permanently-shelved YA novel (the first book I ever wrote), but you’ll just have to wait for that one.


5 Things You Can Always Find (And Use) at the Thrift Store

Some things are just inevitable in this life, like death, taxes, and finding at least 3 Trivial Pursuit sets at your local Goodwill. I am a lifelong thrifter, and at this point, there are certain things that I know are guaranteed to be at the thrift store at any given time. You will always be able to find a World’s Best Secretary coffee mug and an outdated copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting (honestly, this should be a Bingo game).

Those items, however, are basically useless. Except for the Trivial Pursuit game, but you probably already own one. The good news is, I can tell you 5 things that you can always find (and use) at the thrift store:

1) Stephen King books. The ubiquity of used Stephen King books is not a reflection on his relevance; it’s purely a numbers game. The man has published 61 novels and a ton more short stories and has sold over 300 million books during his career (and he’s still going). If you’re unaware, I’m going to let you in on some vital knowledge: Stephen King is totally boss. There’s a reason why he’s sold over 300 million books. There’s a reason why he reigns at the top of both mine and my (mostly-nonfiction-reading) husband’s lists of living celebs we want to hang with. That’s because he’s a smart, funny, awesome guy and he’s a hell of an engaging writer. I know it’s easy to look at the huge shelf of his books at your local Goodwill and dismiss his work as passe mass market garbage, but listen… a person can only store so many hardcover books. People have to get rid of them eventually. And then people like me purchase them for mere pennies and treasure them. My suggestion? You can’t go wrong with the biggies like It or The Stand, but my other faves are 11/22/63 and Gerald’s Game. You can always start with Carrie for a quick classic to get started, and then you’ll be hooked.

2) Richard Simmons workout videos. The same goes for Richard Simmons; with 20 million videos sold, it’s an inevitability that you will be able to find at least one at your thrift store at any time. He’s one of the highest-selling workout instructors of all time. Unfortunately, most people actually would consider his work to be passe mass market garbage, but that’s just lucky for you. Listen, I know the world has moved on to Crossfit and pilates reformer classes, but you and I are both aware that 80s aerobics has never ceased being bitchin’, fun, and effective. Right? You can’t go wrong with Sweatin’ To The Oldies 1 or 2, but don’t be afraid to try a deep cut like Disco Sweat if you see it.

3) Electric bread machine. There are plenty of kitchen gadgets that are unnecessary, overly-specific junk (quesadilla makers, I’m looking at you), but electric bread machines may not be one of them. I understand that they’re not for everyone, but I’m going to try to make the case for this particular appliance: 1) Bread machines are easy to use. You quite literally dump the ingredients in and turn on a switch and then awhile later, you have fresh, hot, homemade bread. Sure, it’s a bit of a cheat if you’re a bread-making purist, but if you don’t have the time (or desire) to knead and let rise, this will do just fine. 2) There are so many delicious and interesting bread machine recipes out there; you’ll never get bored! 3) Making your own bread also gives you the opportunity to know exactly what’s going into your bread, which some of us want. 4) And finally, electric bread machines are timeless and seemingly indestructible, which is why there are scores of them languishing in thrift stores across the country. I promise you can find one for cheap, and I promise you’ll like it. (And if the instruction manual is missing, you can find it online, or at least one that’s close enough to work for your particular machine.)

There it is, just waiting for you at Goodwill.

4) Vintage slow cooker. Another kitchen tool! Are you on the Crock-Pot train? If you’re not using a Crock-Pot, you are seriously missing out on some easy, yummy eats. There have been times when I have assembled two weeks worth of Crock-Pot meals in a day, frozen them, and then thawed each one the night before it needed to go in the slow cooker. I didn’t have to cook for two weeks! Even adding one Crock-Pot meal to your weekly dinner schedule will free up an evening of kitchen work, and you will be in love with your slow cooker like I clearly am. Thankfully, slow cooker technology has barely advanced from the very beginning. Sure, you can get a fancy digital one with a timer nowadays, but all you really need is the ability to switch it on and set it to High or Low. That’s it. And any Crock-Pot you find at your local thrift store will do that just fine. Like bread machines, slow cookers are a hardy appliance, so they usually function perfectly, even if they’re 30 years old. Bonus: You can find fun retro prints! I unfortunately had to cut back to one (boring, modern) Crock-Pot due to storage concerns, but I’ve had plenty of harvest gold and burnt orange crocks in my day. Pick one up and try out my favorite easy dinner recipe, Maple Dijon Chicken Thighs.

5) Last-minute Golden Girls Halloween costume. I did this two years ago, it took me one hour in Goodwill to find, and I was the best damned Dorothy Zbornak you’ve ever seen. I even won $20 in my work’s costume contest! Thrift stores are stuffed to the gills with potential Golden Girls outfits; you just have to know what you’re looking for.

Rose: Pastel drop-waist dresses, soft sweaters
Blanche: Sequins and bold-colored silk, baby
Dorothy: Layers, popped collars, trousers
Sophia: Sturdy cardigans, straw purse, glasses

All of them will require suntan knee-highs and sensible shoes (imagine what your grandma wore when you were a kid) and if you’re not as lucky as I am to be prematurely gray, you’ll need to find a wig (click the links on each of their names above)- and voila!

Did I mention that an actual old man said I looked “snazzy” that day?

Thank you for being a friend and checking out this post! Do you have any thrift store old reliables? Comment and share them below!