Sunday, September 28, 2014

Summer Reading

I come from a family of readers.

I remember coming home from the last day of 3rd grade, the whole summer wide open in front of me, and my Mom telling me I could stay up reading as late as I wanted because there was no school to wake up for the next morning. That was one of the best rewards ever.

Even now, when I am home for holidays, the mornings are usually spent with the 4 of us sitting in my parent's living room reading. It's silent except for pages turning, coffee mugs being picked up or set down, and "good morning" when a new person comes downstairs to join the group.  It's a really nice way to start the day.

At the start of this summer I treated myself to a book splurge on Amazon (and picked up a few more through out the season.) Between my front porch, Mellon park, the bar at Franktuary when I'd finish a shift, and several planes, I worked my way through the stack. It was a really nice blend of fiction and stories. The authors made me think, and smile, and tear up, and care about their characters, or see things in a new perspective.

As much as I love love love my library, there is something special about buying a book. I have some more space now in my current apartment for books, and a well stocked home library is something I aspire towards. Even if books are old fashioned, and a complete horror to move. (I know,  I've lugged them all over the city of Pittsburgh from apartment to apartment at this point.) I may love technology, but there is something about curling up with a book, the weight in your hands, the smell of the paper and the ink that I am in no way anxious to give over to a screen.

This week was the fall equinox and in good timing, I finished the pile of books I had marked for the summer. It's a new season.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thread + Moop

Two years ago I started the best adventure of my life, which is working full time for Thread.

This week, our company moved into our first real office space. It's empty save for a bottle of tequila and margarita mix (we moved in on cinco de mayo). We don't even have chairs yet, so we're sitting on the floor typing on our laptops. We're just so happy and excited to be in our office.

no chairs, don't care.

Our office.

It's a big deal.

Almost as big a deal as the fact that today marks Thread's first product collaboration with Pittsburgh-based bag manufacturer, Moop.

Our fabric is being used in stuff.  Stuff for sale. And it looks freaking cool.

Being able to point to a finished product and say, "that bag is creating jobs, and making neighborhoods safer," makes me proud. Having the opportunity to know the people responsible for making that fabric first hand makes me grateful.

Seeing the response from our friends and families as the bags went on sale this morning, has been pretty overwhelming.

People care about where their stuff comes from. We can use trash as a resource to end poverty.

It's working.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Coming Back

You're prepared for culture shock. You're warned and nervous and so out of your element that when it happens it's unnerving, but you expected it. Of course you did. You're in another country, speaking another language, surrounded by customs and mores unfamiliar to you.

What you're not warned about is coming back.

Which is really the harder part, because you don't expect it to be hard. And it's not hard per se, it's that while you were off galavanting around the globe, life at home held steady. While you learned how to exist in a foreign city, in another nation, and while you had great revelation into yourself, and while you gained confidence and courage that only comes with being completely out of your element, everything else stayed relatively the same.

Sure time passed. People started new jobs, couples got together or broke up, babies got bigger, but generally speaking things stayed the same.

Coming back from extended time abroad is such a mixture of excitement and relief at first. You know how things work! You don't have to look up directions every time you leave your house! You get to see all these people who know you, and who you love, and who you've been missing!

But quickly, everything's just as it was. And you're a little changed, but not different, so you can't help but notice that everything feels flat.

Flat. That's where I've been this week.

It's not that I'm not happy to be home. It's not even that I miss Paris. It's the return. It's a weird and difficult feeling to explain. I've been here before, and judging by the way I prioritize travel in my life I'll be here again.

Other people, much more worldly than me have written about this - one of my favorite descriptions being that if you're not careful, you'll develop a lifestyle version of the bends.

So I'm reconciling with being back and life being about as normal as it gets. I'm trying to indulge in the things and people I missed, while holding on to some of the habits I picked up. I'm already planning future trips while settling back into a routine in a place I am happy to call home.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In Defense of Sharing the Good Stuff

Last fall I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while at an event. “I’ve been following your exciting life on line!” she exclaimed as we hugged hello.

“Thanks!” I responded, then laughed, “I only put the good stuff up there.”

Which, like most of us is true. My instagram, twitter, and facebook feeds are filled with photos and musings of good times, fun adventures, food that was divine, and flattering pictures of myself and my friends.

There are a lot of articles complaining about the lack of realness in the way we curate the information we share publicly. How our lives all look shinier and more put together then they actually are, and how we shouldn’t feel bad when we see our friends doing amazing things, because they’re only posting the good stuff. How going on Facebook makes us depressed, because as humans we can't help but compare, and if you're comparing your life to a hand picked feed of only good times, how can you not feel depressed that your life doesn't measure up?

And I want to say that I support us sharing the good. If you want to share the personal, bad, and/or everything else in between, that’s your decision and good on you for doing what you want. But, I’m sick of us vilifying the sharing of good stuff.

Personally, I think it’s a very pessimistic view to say the photo streams we have aren’t real because  they’re capturing happy, exciting, or accomplished events. They are obviously real life. We took them during our real lives. And yes, bad stuff, confusing stuff, sad, awful stuff has happened to all of us and was just as much real life, but I don’t think the good should be discounted based on the fact that it’s what we may want to remember or share in public setting.

Similarly, the feeds of my friends: creating, celebrating, having fun, falling in love, exploring new places and kicking ass at their jobs don’t fill me with despair. They’re god damn inspiring! I’m friends with these amazing people, building lives they want and working hard to make that happen. They are talented, beautiful people and I love having insight into the parts of their lives they are proud enough to share.

I’ve been posting more to instagram while in Paris than usual, because, well, everything is foreign and more catches my attention and curiosity. Being more aware of my surroundings in Pittsburgh is something I hope to take home with me in a couple of weeks. Anyway, one of my friends posted a comment under a picture I took from a morning run through the Jardin de Tuilleries which said, So thrilled to see you enjoy the magic of Paris and to share it with us. Hooray for living dreams!

Which, is a remark very true to her personality, but also struck me as such a pleasant and wonderful way of looking at the noise that is social media. How it’s thrilling to see someone you care about enjoy him or her self and share that enjoyment.

So, I defend the re-touched wedding pictures, the creatively posed engagement and pregnancy announcement photos, the look at me having this awesome adventure profile pic, and the photos where your kids look angelic and are getting along. I’ll even stand up for cat pictures, food porn, and selfies with your significant other.  Life is too short to not find the beauty in it, to share that, and to revel in how we all interpret and experience that beauty differently.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An American in Paris

I'm sitting in my small and charming apartment in le Marais. Slightly buzzed on côtes-du-rhône, and très contente.

It's hard to write anything other than PARIS IS AMAZING AND I LOVE IT HERE for this post, and while that is true that's rather boring.

Paris is amazing and I do love it here. Everything is beautiful, everything is delicious, and the children (not to mention the rest of the population) are so well dressed.  I can walk 15 minutes from my apartment and be at the Palais du Louvre, which is incredible. I skip home with a freshly baked baguette that requires no butter, or jam, or nutella, or anything it already tastes so good on it's own. I spent Sunday afternoon wandering around the left bank with a gentleman who told me my eyes are brilliant. Life is pretty great here.

A lot of my life feels the same. I work, I see my Thread team every day for huddle, I grocery shop and cook myself food. I wake up and do yoga, and go running. At the same time, everything is scary. Every time I leave my flat it requires concentration and learning and the probability of making a fool of myself, and that is thrilling and fun and nerve-wracking.

I am very much alone here. But I don't feel lonely.

Having this space (literally an ocean's worth of space from real life) with time to think, and walk, and write, and draw, and eat, and read, and sip espresso, and people watch is wonderful.

Maybe one day I'll reach a point in my normal life where I can build real time for all of those things in my day to day. Maybe I'll get better at treating my beloved Pittsburgh like a tourist and forcing myself to go, and see, and appreciate the things I take for granted as a local. Maybe I'll learn to really get out of my comfort zone without having to go half way around the world.

Until then, I'm seeking asylum in Paris.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dirty Dishes

There is a certain satisfaction waking up the morning after you've had a party, and your furniture is still slightly askew, and there is a pile of dishes in your sink, and you're finding glasses set down in corners and on top of bookshelves.

I love it. I love the evidence that there was a bunch of people hanging out in my space. Cleaning up doesn't even phase me because I am so happy that it happened.

In college, at the Polyhouse, after big parties on Saturdays we would spend Sunday mornings drinking pots of coffee and eating waffles, and then the 6 of us would clean all afternoon, trying to get the spilled beer smell out of the living room carpet, and would eventually make dinner. Is it weird that some of my most nostalgic memories from college come from cleaning up after parties with my roommates as opposed to the parties themselves?

I hosted a pot-luck on Friday to welcome home my boss, Ian, from the desert, and as a house-warming for myself. It was crowded and loud and fun and I loved it. This new living situation of mine is wonderful for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that I can entertain again.

I was in the kitchen, getting drinks and helping people find serving spoons for their dishes.

"Kelsey, do you want help putting out the salsa?" asked Heather.

"Sure," I said. "Here are some bowls to put them in," and handed her bowls.

"You can just send them out," said Aunt Janet* "they're ok in the containers they're in."

"Oh no," I said. "I mean, I know no one cares, but they need to be put in pretty dishes."

"I understand," said Heather, scooping the salsa into the bowls.

"My Mom and Aunties would be relieved to know this happened," I explained.

So presentation resulted in some extra dirty dishes. It made the women who raised me proud, even if they don't know it, and it made me happy to see them stacked in the sink the following morning.

*Aunt Janet is technically Ian's Aunt, but everyone calls her Aunt Janet, and I've adopted her as an aunt here in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It Must Be Nice

Today I quit my gym.

I do this every year when it starts to warm up and running outside doesn't make me want break down into a sobbing mess. I did it early this year, because in 2 weeks I am moving to Paris until the end of April, and when I get back it should be spring in Pittsburgh.

(If we're still experiencing polar vortexes in April, I am convincing the EU to grant me a visa and am not coming back.)

Anyway, the gym manager of course asked me why I was ending my membership, and I told him about Paris, and how I have a job that allows me to work from where I want, so I was taking advantage of that.

"Must be nice," he replied. He said this twice in our brief conversation actually.

To which I smiled and said, "It is. I'm really excited."

Because it is nice. In fact, it is thrilling. I can't quite believe that this is my life right now, because this kind of thing - picking up and moving to Paris for funsies - is something I thought about, and read about, but didn't think would actually happen to me.

Much of my life now consists of things that for a while I didn't think would happen to me.

And it didn't just happen. I didn't just wake up one morning with a job that required travel and therefor gave me airline mileage points so that I could accrue a free flight to France. I didn't suddenly have a job structured in a way with colleagues who trust me enough for me to leave the continent for 5 weeks and still operate business as usual. I didn't suddenly have a job I find invigorating and fulfilling and that challenges me.

All of this took time and effort and sacrifice and the trust and support of a lot of people. And it could all go away very quickly.

It is worth it though. So worth it. Building a life you really want is worth every moment of fear and stress. It is worth every breakdown, every panic attack, every time you question 'what did I get myself into?'

Things like moving to Paris, or landing your dream job, or running 150 miles in the desert don't just happen. The people who do those things rarely just get lucky and find themselves in the midst of that kind of situation. Those experiences are hard to get to. So hard, that they seem impossible until it's happening. So hard, that even when you are experiencing so much joy from doing that impossible thing, there will still be fear and doubt and uncertainty.

If you want it though, it's worth it. Or at least worth what you learn in the process of trying.

Life is too short for "must be nice"'s.

Do the work. Make the time. Save the money. Experience what must be nice.

Monday, February 24, 2014


I am not a good dancer. 

And after years of never feeling more self-conscious than when on the dance floor, I have reached a more adult stage of life where I don’t care, because dancing isn’t about how you look (unless dancing is your job, in which case, look good), dancing is about having fun. And I am not about to let my inner critic stop me from having fun.

That didn't keep me from being extremely nervous before my first SWAG class last fall however. SWAG, stands for Sweating With A Goal, and is basically an hour of pretending to be a back-up dancer in a dance studio in Bloomfield. Not only had it been ages since I had attempted to follow any kind of choreographed dance, but I can’t tell you the last time I tried such a thing in front of floor to ceiling mirrors and a large group of strangers.

Still, my friends raved about it – and I needed to break up the monotony of running with something, so I finally forced myself to go. I was pretty awful. I bumped into the people next to me lunging left instead of right. I had to stop and watch and try to jump back in every song. I avoided glimpsing my reflection moving stiffly and awkwardly. I had so much fun.

SWAG has quickly become a weekly tradition that I look forward to. I wouldn’t say I’ve improved much, except that some of the routines have become more familiar, and I don’t bump into other people as often. So on Monday nights, I trek over to Bloomfield and spend an hour bending-and-snapping and looking ridiculous, but having a blast doing it.

Usually we like things we're good at.

But sometimes it’s real good to just do something you’re bad at.