5 Netflix Gems For Date Night

For a brief, exhilaratingly span of 8 months, I worked from home. What I thought would be an introvert’s dream, was actually just pretty boring. The only thing I truly loved about it, was getting to roll out of bed five minutes before clocking in and that I got to watch an incredible amount of movies and TV during the day.  Now that I work in an office again, I’m starting to miss having the time to explore Netflix catalog.  Not everyone has had time (or the desire) to sift through all the content Netflix has to offer to find something worth watching, especially if they are just trying to have a nice date with someone special. Maybe that’s why you’re here, trying to get some recommendations. Well, dear Reader, I’ve got your back. Here are some quality Netflix gems for you and your date to enjoy.

The Last 5 Years (2014)

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Written and Directed by Richard LaGravenese

This is maybe my favorite movie adaptation of a musical to date. The music, written by Jason Robert Brown, is both beautiful and accessible but always evocative. If you don’t experience every emotion under the sun while watching this, you’re a cylon.  Anna Kendrick is a delight (unsurprising, I know) and her chemistry with Jeremy Jordan is electric.  Jeremy Jordan brings a much needed likability to the role of Jamie with his adorable face and charming demeanor but it’s his golden pipes that seal the deal.

The way this musical plays with time really breathes some life into the sometimes tired romance genre. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll tap your toes- what more could you want?

In Your Eyes (2014)

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Directed by Brin Hill, Written/Produced by Joss Whedon

Do you love original ideas? Do you love romance with a hint of magic? Do you love Joss Whedon? Then you will love In Your Eyes.  It’s not a runaway success, but it takes what could have easily been a trite and melodramatic concept and turns it into something with depth and heart.  The always lovely and captivating Zoe Kazan might only be engaging in a metaphysical affair with the hunky Michael Stahl-David but their chemistry is electric.

In Your Eyes is a romance but it’s as smart as it is fun. Whedon’s flair for dialogue is present throughout without being overbearing or hokey and proves that he’s capable of making smaller, more down-to-earth fair.

 

TiMER (2009)

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Written and Directed by Jac Schaeffer

Staring Buffy‘s Emma Caulfield, TiMER is a near-future sci-fi romance in which everyone has an implanted ticker that counts down to when they meet their soulmate.  Emma Caulfield is an absolutely delight. She carries this film with ease, and you really find yourself caring deeply about her situation.  Though the premise could feel a little Creative Writing 101, they truly explore the consequences in a meaningful way. Think of this as a less miserable and devastating Black Mirror and enjoy the ride.

Blue Jay (2016)

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Directed by Alexandre Lehmann and written by Mark Duplass

If you loved Before Sunrise, you’ll love Blue Jay (and if you haven’t see Before Sunrise, I can’t recommend it enough, but it is not currently on Netflix) as the events happen in near real time.  I watched it during the day by myself and was so moved by it, I made my husband sit down and watch it with me again that night. Though it was “written” by Mark Duplass, it was largely improvised. His previous hit, The One I Love followed this method and I have to say I love it. Improvise drama is such a special thing. It really brings a palpable vulnerability to the performances and creates the illusion of authenticity in a really interesting way. This filmmaking style is a perfect fit for this films tender examination of what it’s like to run into someone you used to love now that you are different people.

The shining star of this little gem is Sarah Paulson. I truly believe this woman is capable of anything. She’s done nothing but churn out incredible performances for the past several years and it was really thrilling to see her step into a leading role. Mark Duplass is great, but Sarah Paulson’s performance is the one that you’ll be thinking about while you’re trying to go to sleep two weeks later.

Sing Street (2016)

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Written and Directed by John Carney

This was easily one of the top five best movies of 2016, and it is CRIMINAL that none of its songs were nominated for an Oscar.  This is also hands down the most feel good movie on this list, so if you and your honey wanna snuggle up and just have a great night, I highly recommend this one.  It’s cute, it’s heartfelt, the songs are total bangers and it’s got a fun 80’s Ireland setting. The actors gives great performances, not just as actors but as musicians too.  I am very excited to see what these kids will do in the future and I don’t think you want to miss out on seeing how they got their start.

If you liked John Carney’s Once and Begin Again (and of course you did, because you’re not a monster), you’ll love Sing Street. 

 

6 Tips for First Time Home-Buyers

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My grandma’s house. Definitely not for sale, but pretty stinkin’ cute, huh?

Let me preface this post with a declaration that I am not an expert on home buying. I’m in the middle of buying a house (different than the one featured in the previous post, an explanation will come) and despite this, I spend half the time feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing. However, I have learned some things and I think I have a little wisdom to share with those who are thinking they’d like to maybe own a house. So here are some First Time Home Buyer tips from one Millennial to another (don’t worry, you can have avocado on toast if you want).

1. Discover Your Budget

This is probably the most important step and should be done right away. I did not start with this step myself and it can, technically, be switched with the second step, but it’s kind of the first Real Thing to be done.

Ask your friends/coworkers who have recently bought a house for  Mortgage Broker recommendations. You can always just do a Google Search, but asking people you trust is a good way to find someone you trust. We were able to find someone local, which was even better. You basically give them all your information regarding your finances and they tell you what your budget is and can Pre-Approve you for a certain amount. I think this step is so important to avoid heartache later. The house we are currently buying, was almost bought by someone else, but last minute, their funding fell through and they had to walk. You don’t want to fall in love with a house and get deep in the trenches of negotiations and inspections (which cost nonrefundable money, by the way) only to find out you don’t qualify for a loan that large!

2. Familiarize Yourself with Potential Neighborhoods

Indianapolis is a mixed bag of a city and so this step was critical for me. A couple blocks can make a world of difference in terms of crime rates and curb appeal (and often, it’s just a matter of streets). I had to prowl Zillow and take many an evening drive to figure out which neighborhoods had houses I loved while also feeling safe. There are neighborhoods in Indy that are “up-and-coming” but have been for twenty years so each street might have a couple of fully renovated dream houses, straight off of HGTV but be next to condemned, graffiti covered houses that last sold for about the same as a luxury car. Find out what you’re comfortable with, find out what you can afford and see if they are compatible.

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Decide whether you want to be able to relax in peace and quiet on your porch or people watch. Either way, how cute is my mom’s porch??

3. Make a Must Haves List

Think about what you MUST have.  Do you need a house without stairs and main level laundry? Do you need a walk in closet to hold your fabulous wardrobe? Would it not feel like home without a working fireplace? These are things you need to think about. Then consider what you would like but could negotiate on. For instance, I would settle for just one bathroom if it had a basement functional for entertaining but I’d give up a finish-able basement for the right neighborhood. These  don’t have to be set in stone. My negotiables changed as I started seeing houses in person. Your realtor should ask you a million questions regarding your Dream House (perfect, ideal scenario) and your Must Haves (realistic scenario). Knowing your budget and knowing what’s realistic for your budget might take a little extra research but it’s important to do this so you know how to manage your expectations.

4. Use Zillow AND Trulia.

Basically, don’t just use one site. These sights are NEVER as up to date as your realtor’s information will be, but they can be a useful tool. Zillow is more up to date than others, I’ve found, but Trulia helps you determine crime rate and school zones and all that other kind of stuff you might care about. They also provide neighborhood information which, as I’ve already mentioned, can be invaluable to you.  I spent hours a day for a full year researching listings. Every  day I would browse listings in my budget to get a feel for what was out there. That’s how I found my neighborhoods and my Must Haves that were actually in my budget. I HIGHLY recommend this.

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5. Find a Realtor You Trust.

Ask around. Unless you are brand new to an area and don’t know a single soul there, I would crowd source this. If you don’t trust your realtor, it makes the process a thousand times more stressful. Buying a house is just one bit heartbreak waiting to happen, ESPECIALLY in a seller’s market. I’ve fallen in love with an imperfect house, only to find out that the sellers have already received a highly competitive offer and I’d have to make a poor financial decision to win the bid. I walked away from that (truly devastated) but then found something I loved again that was a better investment later.  I’ve also had to walk away from a house after an inspection. You have to make a lot of very important, very critical decisions regarding your finances both current and future when you buy a house and it’s absolutely necessary to have a realtor you trust to help push you in the right direction.

6. DO NOT WAIVE YOUR RIGHT TO AN INSPECTION

Inspections are not cheap. In Indianapolis, ours ran about $500 for the standard inspection. However, unless you are a talented flipper with lots of resources, you want to know the condition of the house! Certain defects in a house can literally make the house unsafe (and the seller might not have disclosed them either because they didn’t want you to know or they didn’t know themselves) while other defects can cost thousands of dollars (broken sewer lines, crumbling foundations, severe roof damage, just to name a few). These are things most home owners are aware could potentially be a problem down the road, and are risks you assume when buying a home but these are not things you want to be surprised with! Especially if you are just starting out and don’t have thousands of dollars sitting in savings just waiting to be dumped into a structural repair of your home. We loved the first house we had our offer accepted on, only to find that after the inspection, there were a lot of indicators that the renovations weren’t as well done as they seemed. There were a lot of known repairs that needed done and probably more we didn’t know about. It soon became clear it was not going to be the great investment we thought and we had to walk. This is not uncommon and should be something you’re always prepared to do.

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The house we had to walk from. Good Bye Bungalow. Good bye Urban Chickens.

I might come up with more tips as I wade my way through this second negotiation but I think this is a good start.  I think the take away from this should be DO YOUR RESEARCH! Knowledge is power and that’s never more true than when buying a house. Empower yourself with knowledge so that you are prepared for anything and are not vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Actually, this is great advice for life itself, so try and take that to heart.

Good luck!

Jordan

Game Review: Sagrada

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A lovely, playable game for the whole family.

Gen Con, 2016, Josh and I demoed this beautiful, interesting prototype for a dice game called SagradaI was immediately into it because when I was 16 I went on a school trip to Barcelona and got to go inside (and up the perilously high towers of) Antoni Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia. There’s something magical about the cathedral that’s been under construction for over 200 years. That level of dedication and persistence and love is kind of hard not to appreciate. It’s also monumentally beautiful.

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Terrible picture I took of it back in 2009 on a crummy digital camera

How to Play

And Sagrada certainly makes good on its inspiration. The object of the game is to create your own stained glass pattern using colorful numbered die and to outscore your opponents. You score points by collecting high numbered die of your assigned color (which is secret) and by hitting objectives laid out at the start of the game (there are multiple objective cards and you only play three at a time so there’s lots of variety for multiple plays). The stained glass card itself also has restrictions, for example; one place might require a green die while another requires a 4.  Regardless of which stained glass card you have, everyone must obey the following rules: no two die of the same color or face value may be placed next to each other. You lose points for not following the rules and unfilled spaces.

The Look

It’s gorgeously designed. The dice are transparent, like little cubes of stained glass and all the pieces are quality and nice to look at. Definitely worth the value just for aesthetic purposes alone.

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Just look at how beautiful it is!

Multiple Plays

This game definitely lends itself to being played again and again. The Stained Glass cards come in varying degrees of difficulty and there are multiples of each level. There are different objective cards to switch out and the assigned color per player can change every game. No two games are going to played the exact same way.  The mix of strategy and  luck involved in game play keeps it interesting. The last few rounds can be really intense while you try and make what you have available to you in terms of dice actually fit in what available spaces you have, but for most of the earlier rounds it can be a calm and low energy game play which makes it great for playing after dinner on a week night when you don’t have much energy for anything else. I foresee my husband and I playing this often.

We’re Buying a House!

A few weeks ago, Josh and I got an appointment to view a really cute house in Emerson Heights, just a few streets over from the coveted Irvington area. We had been contemplating buying something for a while but we didn’t know where to start. We assumed we’d look for a few months and then make a decision but that apparently is very much not how the market is right now.

According to our realtor, not only is it a Seller’s Market right now (Go figure. It’s been a buyer’s market since I was sixteen years old. I’ve got terrible luck…) but the market in the neighborhood we were looking at was so hot some people have even made offers on houses they hadn’t seen in person yet! So when we toured this cute little Emerson Heights bungalow that had just undergone a full and beautiful renovation with a sizable, fenced in back yard and URBAN CHICKENS, we decided to make an offer.

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Josh, looking excited on the porch of our Potential New Home. 

The offer was accepted by the sellers so now we are in the very fun Escrow process (I am only 85% sure I’m using that word correctly and only because I saw Neighbors 2).  We had an inspection early this week and the results were pretty promising. We are just waiting to see how the appraisal goes and what, if any anything, the sellers are willing to fix or negotiate with us on.  I’m hopeful we’ll get what we want so we don’t have to walk away.

Also, on a mostly non-related side note, I recently bought a Canon EOS Rebel t5i as a generous gift to myself in honor of my new job. I’d been wanting a nice DSLR for a few years now. I’ve always really enjoyed photography from a super amateur, hobbyist perspective but this blog has presented me with an Official Reason™ to finally make the purchase. I want to be able to provide quality pictures on my posts that were taken from my phone.

I’m also the Social Media Coordinator for Circle City Chamber Choir (known as C4) and I was really wanting to get more videos our work out there. In high school and college, I dabbled around with short film making and so I’m looking forward to flexing those muscles to help support my amazing choir.

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Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful?

I got it only a couple hours before the Autumn Android’s Regarding, Entropy release party a couple weeks ago, but decided to take it with me anyway. It was a tiny, dark venue (very reminiscent of the movie Green Room) but I still managed to catch some decent shots for a first attempt. I did not use the flash due to the fact that I was by far the least cool person in this very underground music scene space and did not want to draw attention to myself in anyway.

Autumn Android’s party was a super success in my opinion. They sounded great and I was really impressed by all the other bands that performed, especially this all girl punk band, Bloodlines.  They’re from Muncie and they quite literally rock. They said they do a lot of work with Girl’s Rock Camp and I think that’s quite possibly the coolest thing ever and you should definitely check them out.  Slideshow below is just a few shots I got with my new camera:

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I think I’m going to have a lot of cool things to share with you in the near future, so please stay tuned.

Much love,

Jordan

Autumn Androids Deliver Real Human Emotion (Guest Spot)

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Album art by Adam Dick
Hello, friends! I haven’t updated in a few weeks because I’ve been transitioning into my new job, but I didn’t want to leave you stranded without quality IndyDahling content. So I have arranged for something very special for you this week: a Guest Spot article written by my husband, reviewing Autumn Androids’ latest album, Regarding: Entropy.  He’s a little more plugged into the music scene than I am, so hopefully I can get him to do this for us more often. Enjoy!

Autumn Androids Deliver Real Human Emotion

By: Josh Brown

When I saw Autumn Androids live a few weeks ago it was a great experience. They were easily able to command the room and fill it with energy. Song after song from their upcoming album was played and it was clear this would be a record to look out for. I was excited to hear for myself how well these tunes transferred from the loud, live stage to a pair of headphones. As soon as I heard the drums kick in on the opening track, “Fireflies”, any question of quality was put aside. Regarding: Entropy brings the same crackling energy of a live performance and delivers it straight into your home.

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Autumn Androids from left to right: Austin Wooton, Chris Woods, Ricky White and Alec Ward

Autumn Androids shows an incredible amount of confidence with this album. That is not as surprising when you learn that ¾ of the band were together previously under a different name; Good News/Bad Wolf, but it is still exciting to see a new entity get off on such strong footing. Throughout the album, the instruments all blend together smoothly and allow the vocals of Ricky White to skip off of the melodies and propel themselves to the front of the tracks. A lot of what lets the music really shine is the recording and mix, handled by Austin Wooten (he also plays guitar, piano, and contributes to the vocals).

Regarding: Entropy strikes a tricky balance. Looking at the tracklist, you will see titles like “Morgan County Misery” and “Lonely Summer” and may think that an hour of depression is heading your way. And yes, there is talk of regret and loneliness that White’s falsetto can deliver with striking vulnerability, but the music around these vocals is always full and present as well. Whether it be a dancing of sticks on cymbals by percussionist Chris Woods, a continuous thrum of a bass line from Alec Ward, or the constant strum of guitar from the already mentioned Wooten, there is always something that you’ll find your feet start to tap to. This band, which on their Facebook page describes themselves as indie pop folk rock, succeeds at giving us all of these genres. There’s the more quiet acoustic sound on a song like “I’d Rather Stay”, but also the full embrace of rock on the sprawling “Tried My Best (Family: It’s What’s For Dinner)”.

What keeps me coming back to this album even after a few listens is that the band obviously had things they wanted to say, and they say them incredibly well. You feel the ache when you hear White tell you that “these bones are telling me I’m old”. The lyrics get stuck in your head, but the emotions stay with you just as long. This debut solidifies a strong vision that no doubt will propel the band toward a bright future. Entropy can be defined as “a gradual decline”, but for Autumn Androids, it’s a welcome acceleration.

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Regarding: Entropy releases April 28th.

Isn’t Josh the best? Anyway,  huge thank you to him. Also, you absolutely HAVE to come to release party on Friday at Showroom Studios and this band live, it’s a lot of fun. Click here for more info.   It starts at 7. See you there!
xoxo,
Jordan

Life Moves Fast: A New Beginnings Reboot

They always say that life moves fast, but I seriously have whiplash over how quickly my life has changed in the past seven days.  A few weeks ago I posted my first blog post entitled “New Beginnings and Other Cliches”  and I intended it to be the first chapter in a new adventure for myself. But as any author knows, sometimes you get a few chapters into a project and realize the timing is just not right, or you get another idea (or both at the same time) and you move on to a different project.  And folks, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

As of right now I am no longer enrolled in a Transition to Teach program, and I no longer have any immediate plans to become an English teacher. English is one of my most beloved subjects and Education is something I value and respect above almost everything else in life, but I don’t think my timing is quite right.

Just a few weeks ago, I was starting to get very nervous about how I was going to support myself and my little family while I got this certification. My initial plan had been to just work my current job full time and do class at night and hopefully save enough to carry me through student teaching. This was a good plan. This was the plan I had in mind when I applied and enrolled in this program. However, not even five days prior to starting my class, I was laid-off.

Why didn’t I mention this before? Well, because  I was a little embarrassed about it to be honest, despite it being no fault of mine own, and I thought it over-complicated my narrative. But this is my blog, about my life and my life, just like yours, is complicated and I should be honest about that.  So here I was: enrolled in school, laid off, and suddenly without a plan. I immediately went to work finding employment. I put my feelers out everywhere, but mostly intended to Substitute Teach everyday. This was not a very financially secure plan and I was starting to get nervous so when a friend said he could get me an interview for a position at a super cool tech company downtown, I jumped on it.

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I took this just after my interview. Not one hour later I had a fever and sore throat. I wasn’t lying when I said there were a lot of rapid transitions this week!

Long story short, I had the best interview of my life last week and four days later I was offered this amazing job that I really believe is going to do nothing but open a lot of doors for me. Remember in my first post, when I wrote about how this was going to be a blog about transitions? I wasn’t lying. We are four months into this year and I feel like I have started every month out in a completely different life-situation. It’s totally jarring to wake up one day and suddenly have something happen that changes everything and then to have days like that with startling frequency. Is that what it’s like for everyone in their twenties or am I just having a particularly wishy-washy experience? I don’t want to spend too much time being anxious about what these changes look like from the outside, mostly because I don’t care what anyone thinks and also because it fundamentally doesn’t matter.  I’m in a state of transition. I probably will be for a while. That’s okay. That’s what our twenties are for! (I think. If anyone knows what exactly we are supposed to be doing right, message me ASAP.)

So my friends, I’ve accepted this job offer and I’m dropping out of school. I still think being a teacher would be really neat someday, but I don’t think today is that day.  I promised to write a blog about transitioning into adulthood and Indy and well, I’m still going to do that, I’m just doing it from a different perspective. I can’t imagine there’s anyone who knows me that would call me a risk taker, but I’m not going to play it safe this time. I’m going to step-out on a limb and see what I can do. If you’re still reading this, thanks for being nosy about me and my life and wish me luck.

Much love,

Jordan

 

Love Poems from Outer Space: a kick-off for National Poetry Month

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“Of Love and Galaxies” by Kristin Bowlby. Watercolors. 2016

I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I want to use this blog and what I want it to be but since April is National Poetry Month, I wanted to celebrate by sharing one of my more recent “finished” poems. (I say “finished” because anyone who writes poetry knows that it is never finished. Every time you come back to it, no matter how much time has passed, you find yourself making changes.)  My friend, Kristin, and I have dabbled with the idea of doing a collaboration where I write poems and she does illustrations. We want the collection of poems to chronicle a romance in a near-future colony in outer space. Sounds pretty cool, huh? We think so too.

 


Of Love and Galaxies

When our grandparents used to do this
they were looking at different stars.
They didn’t know there were other worlds,
other systems with life and love and us.
They saw these little burning specks of light
and did not see them as living things
but as souls or wishes; holes in heaven.
They could not have imagined
that that we would be out here
looking at different stars.

When I look in your eyes I see galaxies,
worlds inside you that I cannot fathom
but long to explore and inhabit.
I feel how our parents must have felt
when they journeyed into their last frontier
and found that it was only the beginning.
Everytime I think I know all there is to know
you teach me something new about us both.
Just like they made this sphere their home,
I have made you mine.

I have made you mine
“Just like they made this sphere their home,/ I have made you mine” by Kristin Bowlby. Watercolors. 2016

Oceans

My mother used to sing me lullabies
about oceans that stretched horizons,
hugging the curves of its earth
like a lover on a deep winter morning.
I can’t imagine that much water
having only seen ponds and lakes
I don’t see how the planet didn’t drown.

My mother used to wrap me in blankets
Oceans are skies you can swim in
and then I’d dream of flying with feathered fish
and birds with gills in an ocean of air.
This was better than the nightmare cell-memories
I’d have of inky hellscapes with liquid black holes
devoid of light but not life.
I prefer the sky.
Mother says she did too. Said they all did in the end.

I thought maybe I’m in that nightmare now
Sinking deeper and deeper;
Surrounded yet alone.

I am not dreaming,
But we are still drowning.

 

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“Oceans are skies you can swim in” by Kristin Bowlby. Watercolors. 2016.

 

In college, I loved poetry writing classes the most. I love storytelling but I also love to play with words and sounds. It’s almost like doing a poem except the finished project is mine and not a reproduction.  I love that I can sit down and spend a couple hours writing a poem and then have a (mostly) finished product when I’m done. Unlike writing fiction, which can take months or years to complete, it’s encouraging as a writer to have something you’re proud of after only a few sessions of working on it.

Hopefully one day soon our collaboration will be complete. In the mean time, I’m going to devote this month to writing and reading great poetry. Keep your eyes peeled for recommendations that I will be posting this month!

ttyl,

Jordan

 

Book Recommendations: Women Authors

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’ve decided to quickly round up some of my favorite books that have been written by women. In high school, almost every book I was assigned to read ever was written by a man. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reading about the same old, self-inserted, disenchanted white dude that has flooded literature for centuries. Let’s mix it up. Here are my suggestions.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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“Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”

This novel follows Ifemelu and Obinze and their relationship with America, Africa and each other. Very rarely does a book manage to be both educational and entertaining while telling it’s story, but Americanah does both in spades. The characters are complex and rich and beautiful and I loved every moment I got to spend with them. By the end of the book they felt like people I had known for a very long time.

Adichie writes honestly about race and the immigrant experience and it really helped me to see the world I live in from a perspective I’ll never actually get to see firsthand. Her prose is clean and inviting and I had a hard time putting this book down.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

 

This one has become frighteningly more relevant as the years have passed, which should be frightening to us all as this was written as simply speculative, near-future fiction. The United States is ruled by a Totalitarian Theocracy (that had successfully overthrown the established democracy, mind you) and now entire classes of women are being kept as vessels for childbearing and nothing else. Offred is a fascinating protagonist that I think many women can identify with, although the writing style can be off-putting to some.

Hulu is airing a mini-series based on it this year and it is devastatingly timely, so I recommend picking this up at your local bookshop and diving right in.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

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“Does it ever stop? The wanting you? Even when i’ve just left ye, I want you so much my chest feels tight and my fingers ache with wanting to touch ye again.” 

Though this is one of the most beloved romance novels of all time, do not think this will be a fluffy, sexy, little intellectual break compared to the previous books on this list. This behemoth of a book has about 900 pages filled with mystery, romance, horror and history. There’s literally something for everyone here. I felt like an expert on the history of Scotland when I was done with this book but all the learning was done without me even noticing.  I actually recommend the audiobook version of this more than I do actually reading it yourself because Davina Porter gives an excellent performance and her accents are truly incredible.

Gabaldon clearly researched like mad for this and I’ve never read anyone who writes as sensual or as achingly heartsick as she does. You’ll fall in love reading this book.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

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“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

This book grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me directly in the eyes and did not break contact until I understood exactly what it was trying to tell me. If this has never happened to you while reading a great book, I feel sorry for you and I recommend you keep reading to find that experience.  This novel explores the realities of what it’s like for Indian-Americans to feel trapped between two cultures and how they reconcile their new lives with their old lives. The Ganguli family  are at the center of this story and we see how the parents came to be together, how they struggle to raise their son in America and he struggles to come of age with immigrant parents. It’s honest, it’s heartfelt and I couldn’t put it down.

 

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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“Dear Scarlett! You aren’t helpless. Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you.”

This sweeping, Civil War epic is much more than a romance novel. In fact, I’m utterly shocked it’s considered a romance at all. This book is about the folly of the Southern society before and during and after the Civil War and how one woman, Scarlett O’Hara managed to survive despite her gentile upbringing. It’s a funny, frustrating and tragic story. If you’re looking for a bodice-ripping, heart-aching love story, I recommend you go back and read Outlander. The romance in Gone with the Wind, while famous, is secondary to growth and development of Scarlett. I’ve never seen a protagonist quite like her. She’s silly, vapid and selfish, but her hunger for survival is ruthless and somehow all these negative attributes make her likable. You’re rooting for her, instead of against her and if you had told me I’d feel that way about her when I first started reading, I would have thought you were insane. I’ll be honest, I’m only about 60% done reading this book but the experience so far has been so incredible, I have to recommend it.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”

How could I call myself a feminist bookworm if I didn’t include The Bell Jar on a list of women authored recommendations? Sylvia Plath often gets over shadowed by her dramatic and untimely suicide but her writing really is extraordinary. This semi-autobiographical novel really does show a dark glimpse into a woman’s decent into depression. The character of Esther Greenwood is often described as a female Holden Caulfield and I really disagree. They might have some things in common but Esther is her own character and she’s vibrant and complicated in her own right. This is a sad one but it’s really at the top of it’s craft.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”

If you’ve ever read the Hunger Games or watched Star Wars and loved it, you can thank Mary Shelley. At nineteen years old, Mary Shelley INVENTED science fiction with Frankenstein.  You probably think you know the story of Frankenstein, but you’re also probably wrong.  Is the real monster the man made of the bodies of corpses or the scientist who made him and abandoned him?

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

This is a quiet coming of age novel about a second-generation Irish-American girl set in Brooklyn during the early 20th century. Francie is a sweet girl but impoverished and lonely and this book follows her awkward journey to womanhood. Despite the lack of high stakes drama and action, this book has stuck with me for over a decade. It’s the kind of book that is tender and affectionate and you’ll be sad when it’s over. Honestly, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and I think you’ll love it too.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

 

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“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”

This sweet YA romance is probably my favorite Rainbow Rowell books and thus probably one of my favorite books of all time! Eleanor is an overweight, redheaded new girl in town and Park is a half-Korean, comic book nerd but the bond their form transcends both their differences and their similarities. This book touches on both poverty and race with a deft hand while also grappling with some darker, more troubling topics.  It’s set in the 80’s so you get a lot of fun pop culture references to songs and comic books. Just writing about it right now makes me want to drop everything and go read it again. It’ll charm the pants off of you.

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

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“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

Did you really think I’d make a whole list and not include the masterpiece that is the Harry Potter series? This book series changed my life. I would not be the person I am today if it hadn’t been for these books. I owe JK Rowling basically everything. This series taught me about the importance of friendship and bravery and standing up for what one believes in. This series taught me to stand up to bullies and demagogues alike. This series taught me to see magic in the world and in myself. JK Rowling wrote the first book while on government assistance and by the time the series was done she was even wealthier than the Queen of England. She’s a remarkable woman and this is a remarkable series and I’d be a fool not to recommend, you know, in case one of you just got out of a twenty year coma and missed it.

Did I miss your favorites? Let me know in the comments.

How to Deal with Stress

I absolutely hate when I go to the doctor and describe a symptom and the best they can do is suggest that I “reduce stress.” Buddy, if I knew how to do that I wouldn’t have the headaches/stomachaches/acid reflux/insomnia/whatever to begin with.  If you’ve ever been given that vague, unhelpful advice, I feel you. As someone who is currently undergoing a lot of life changes (going back to school, changing careers, going from full time to part time, yeesh I’m getting anxious just typing about it), I have been forced to learn some coping mechanisms on the fly. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and these have all worked very well for me so far and I want to share them in case you’re looking for coping mechanisms too.

 

ART

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I just got this one for Christmas. Thanks, Nana!

I started with Adult Coloring books. I sharpened up my Crayola colored pencils (all other brands are garbage, honestly) and colored in Game of Thrones characters or garden landscapes while watching TV. This escalated into me wanting to make my own drawings to color and now I like to draw as well. (I’m not great, but it’s fun anyway. Do it, you’ll see.) Any art would work: watercolors, crayons, charcoal, finger-painting… Pinterest might have some other crafting options as well to keep your hands busy.

If you’re not real keen on this kind of creative activity, maybe I could redirect you to another: music.  Listening to music is obviously one way to unwind, but if you’re wanting something next level, you should try making music. Sing. Play an instrument. Learn an instrument. I bought a ukulele a couple years ago and I’ve been teaching myself. A few chords here and there, a few strumming patterns. Sometimes I’ll just look up different tabs or chord progressions for my favorite songs and try and figure it out from there.  On the whole, I find any kind of creative endeavor to be very relaxing, no matter if I’m creating something or just participating. The world would probably be a better (and more beautiful) place if we would all just make art when we were stressed instead of a lot of the alternatives.

 

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A drawing of mine. Art trick: USE REFERENCE PHOTOS! It’s not considered cheating even though it kinda feels like it is.

 

READING

I have always loved to read, but during college I found I was hardly ever reading for pleasure. I then embarked on a reading challenge that required me to read 50 books a year. This might be ambitious for some people, but it keeps me on my toes. After doing this challenge for the past few years, I’ve learned a few things about my reading habits. I’ve found that blocking out 30 minutes to an hour of time before bed to just read a book has really helped me unwind at the end of the day. I get better sleep than I do when I just play around on my phone before bed and I find that I’m able to get through my books quicker. You can use goodreads.com to track your progress. I’ll review books on this blog occasionally throughout the year but below are some recommendations to get started.

CROSS STITCHING

Okay but HEAR ME OUT! There is nothing like stabbing something hundreds of times to relieve stress. It’s a little more involved than coloring but it requires less brain space than reading. You can find fun little patterns for free on google but you can also buy easy and interesting patterns on Etsy. You can always create your own patterns or just stitch as you go. You can get thread, needles and embroidery hoops for cheap at Michaels. If you have no idea how and don’t have a grandma who can show you the basics, YouTube, unsurprisingly, has good tutorials.

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I stitched this following a pattern I bought on Etsy from SweetPrairieSkies. Cute, right?

YOGA

Every doctor or therapist I’ve ever talked to about anxiety has always recommended yoga to me for years and I just never did it. Why would I? I’m not very athletic. (I don’t even own work-out clothes.) And besides, it’s just a bunch of new-age silliness, right? WRONG! I put on a t-shirt and a pair of leggings, pulled a mat out of the back of my closet and followed along to a video on Amazon Prime and fell in love! I’m not good at it. Heck, I’m not even sure that I’m doing it right half the time but I always feel amazing when I’m done. The combination of stretching your muscles while focusing on your breath to the tune of mystical soundscapes really does help the body (and the mind) feel relaxed. Give it a go! I just recommend taking your socks off first so you don’t slip and hurt yourself like I did the first time. If you don’t have a mat or aren’t convinced enough to try a whole video, just put on some nature sounds or something and do a basic leg stretch. Hold it longer than you think strictly necessary and take deep, purposeful breaths while doing so. It works, friends.

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What? You thought I was going to put a picture of ME doing yoga?? hahahaha

 

CUDDLING

Unlike some of the other suggestions, this one is free! You don’t need any special tools or clothes or streaming subscriptions. You just need a willing partner and they don’t even have to be romantic. Or human. Grab a pet, a child, a friend, a really squishy pillow and just cuddle the crap out of it. For additional mental health benefits, talk softly about what’s causing your stress or make each other laugh. (I’ve never managed to get my pillow or my dog to laugh, but it’s a work in progress.)

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Gaius is all about dem cuddles.

Those are some of the de-stressing activities that I’ve found helpful for me. What about you? What helps you de-stress?

 

 

New Beginnings and Other Cliches: An Introduction

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Indianapolis

I have not always loved this city. In fact, most days I’m still not sure that I do. Downtown Indianapolis, aptly nicknamed NapTown, can have a sewage-y smell that is both foul and unmistakable when in full force and it was, unfortunately, home to Mike Pence for many years. (To my knowledge these events are unrelated.) But over the years I’ve found things to love about it. Both the well-established Mass Ave and the up and coming Fountain Square area are beautiful, fun and inclusive environments within the city with lots of great restaurants, bars and art to enjoy. I do promise to write more on this later.

In the past couple years I’ve managed to find a thriving community of activists, artists and musicians, of all ages and backgrounds, who are committed to not just making Indianapolis a better place, but  to making our entire nation, our entire world a better place. Sure, Indianapolis isn’t the central hub of any political or artistic movement, but that doesn’t meant things aren’t happening here or that the people here aren’t filled to the brim with talent and imagination. There’s a lot of potential here. There’s a lot of positive energy just starting to find it’s direction here. It’s exciting.

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Fountain Square October 2016

And then there’s me. All my life, growing up in Mooresville, a mere twenty minutes southwest of the city, I couldn’t wait to get out.  I was your stereotypical creative type stuck in rural small town who just couldn’t wait to leave. And I did. I wanted more than that sleepy town had to offer.  In fact, I still want more. I don’t want to be someone who lives and dies in their home state. I don’t want to just be a traveler of the world, I want to live in it. I want to live places other than here, and maybe, eventually, that will come to pass. But I’ve very recently made a big life-changing decision that will tie me to this Midwestern city for the next handful of years and that is  why I’m starting this blog.

This weekend I begin a Transition-to-Teach program with Indiana Wesleyan University to become an English teacher. For me this was a long time coming. In high school, I always thought I’d be a teacher. I had dreams of teaching History or Music or English and I initially went to college for Music Education at Butler University. I love to sing and have always managed to find some success with it. However, during my piano midterm of first semester, the small, snobby instructor pursed her thin, prim lips at me and peered over her pointed glasses before asking, “Do you have any other interests you could pursue?” As a former theatre kid, I know how to recognize my cue when given one. I changed majors.

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Me, being a Small-Town Theatre Kid on stage circa 2007

Though I was very passionate about Education, I was also young and scared and going into disgusting amounts of debt for a Butler degree. I had also been attending some kind of meetings with other Music Ed majors where existing teachers terrified us with stories of being underpaid, under-appreciated and overworked. I was told there were hardly any teaching jobs because of the economy and at the time this was probably mostly true. So when it came time to decide my new major, I chose English because I was a great writer and left the education part off because while I thought Education was of the utmost important, didn’t I have any other interests?  I convinced myself that if I had ANY other talents or opportunities I should pursue them instead. And to make a long, boring and cliche story short: It was not worth it.

Nothing ever felt quite as important, challenging or worthwhile to me as Education did and so at long last, I am going back to school and making it happen. I’m starting this blog to document this transition and to give me a space to write about this city I’ll be devoting myself to for at least the next few years. Stay tuned. Content of questionable quality will soon follow.

ttfn,

Jordan