in recent years



totally top five 2k14: giveaway

So, you know I love doing my Totally Top Five lists, particularly at the end of the year, and even though 2014’s took a liiiiittle longer than usual, I loved doing those too.


So I love talking about stuff I love, but my actual favorite part of the end of the year lists is the giveaway! Because I like giving stuff away and I love giving stuff away to you guys because you guys are pretty damn cool. Yeah, man!
So, like last year, I’m giving away three gift cards! ‘Cause I don’t just like one of you, I like three of you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM CST on February 28, 2015. Good luck! The giveaway is now closed. Winners should be receiving their emails shortly. Thanks for playing!

a thirtieth birthday

I turn thirty on the 26th of this month. I haven’t decided yet if I am going to be traumatized by turning thirty or if I’m going to take it in stride and be chill about being an unsuccessful but surviving adult, still living in their parents’ basement. Who knows? This next 24 days are going to be a real adventure.

Most of my freakouts have been not age related, but milestone related. I freaked out about going to middle school. I freaked out about going to high school. I freaked out about going to college and graduating college and going to grad school and graduating grad school and moving cross-country and moving back and moving cross-country again.

But the birthdays? Nah. I like birthdays. I remember ten being a big deal — double digits! — and thirteen! And I failed my driver’s test on my sixteenth birthday, so that one was pretty garbage-y, but otherwise I’ve been okay so far. Birthdays are happy, celebratory. I spend the entire month of my birth making myself the center of everyone’s attention and because I am just that annoying and because the people around me are just that amazing, they not only tolerate it, but encourage and participate in it.

I feel old all the time. I feel old when I realize how young other adults are. I feel old when I realize — with a suddenness that should be impossible at this point — that I will not publish my first book before I am 25*. I feel old when I see Taylor Swift. I feel old when my bones ache — which is sometimes daily — and I feel old when I hear a song I loved as a kid played on an “oldies” station. I feel old when I don’t like something intended for youths and old when I do. I feel old when I wake up with a headache or when I decide not to have a drink because being buzzed sounds exhausting. I feel old constantly, but I have always, since I was a kid, and it has never had anything to with the numerical value of my age.

I am old. I have always been old. I am perhaps slightly less old now, at thirty, than I was at 25, and most definitely than I was at sixteen. I will likely always be old.

But for me, old is just the way to be and the way I have been has worked out pretty well for me. So bring it, thirty, I’m waiting.

*And now not before thirty. What a failure.

PS: My RSS feed was/possibly is broken, so it is likely you aren’t even seeing this post! I have removed the Totally Top Five 2K14 Giveaway since it wasn’t hitting readers, but I will get it up again this week and give you guys plenty of time to win some Amazon gift cards! I will eventually spend a weekend moving away from my current theme since it is kind of infuriating, but for now we shall persevere.

totally top five 2k14: stuff

We’ve come to the end of the list-making! The end of everything I loved in 2014! The random stuff I loved that I couldn’t1 manage to shove elsewhere!

5. The Gym

Uggggh, I cannot even begin to explain how much I hate that I even considered putting this on the list, let alone actually did it. I went to the gym in college and I always hated it because it was boring and tiring and full of weird people. I started going in 2014 when Williston’s 80 million dollar rec center opened and actually turned out to be pretty nice and Crystal was willing to suffer by my side.

For me, it’s really helpful to have a gym partner, headphones, and a Kindle2 and even though I usually hate it at the beginning and at the end and sometimes in the middle, I usually get in the zone enough with my book and my Cardio Hip Hop to get through it.

I sleep better, I feel more rested, and have less pain when I work out. And okay, I guess I just feel generally better when I do it on the regular. Annoying as that is, for that alone, I’ll begrudgingly let it have a spot on the list.

Also, our gym is preeeeeeetty nice.

As secondary faves having directly to do with the gym, I have to also mention:

FitBit One which I got as a gift in February and have worn almost every single day since. I don’t know how useful the information is but I do enjoy having it!

Also, the Skechers Flex Appeal New Rivals which are the only walking/workout/gym shoes I have ever worn and actually liked rather than tolerated. They are so comfortable that I sometimes wear them in public with regular clothes like some kind of mom.

4. Target

Okay, so I grew up by a Target and then we got a nicer Target and then my sister lived right by a TWO-STORY Target, but never in my life have I appreciated Target the way I do now. The closest Target to us is two hours away, which means if we pass through Minot for any reason whatsoever, I am spending an hour, minimum, in Target. My oncologist is in Billings, MT where they have two Targets and I feel like I’m in some kind of mighty prairie metropolis. On a recent trip to Bismarck, we went to Target twice then stopped at the one in Minot as well. And the current rumor is that Williston is on track to have a Target in two short years. If I’m still here, I’ll probably be first in line to shove other people to the ground in pursuit of those sweet Cartwheel deals.

I don’t know exactly what I buy at Target or what compels me to wander the aisles, somehow both dazed and overexcited, but I do know I’ve spent more money at Target in 2014 than I have at any point in my life before. I even have the Target Debit card. I have a problem and I love it.

3. Lumosity & Elevate

I have always had a terrible memory, terrible enough that my sister calls me Goldfish, and I’d learned to cope with notes and apps and all kinds of things. In 2014, I decided to try exercising my brain with more than just the media I consume and started using Lumosity in app form between switching over to their superior and more varied desktop version3 almost exclusively. I play four times a week, usually, and I don’t know that it’s scientifically done anything of use4 but anecdotally, I have definitely noticed an improvement in a couple of my brain areas. I definitely improve at the games, which is pretty rewarding, but I’ve noticed my ability to multitask has improved and my memory has definitely gotten better. Not bad for some goofy games, right?

Elevate is newer to me, but I think I like it even more than Lumosity. It targets different things — I find Elevate’s games to be more practical, while Lumosity’s are more indirect. It’s like… If your brain was training for a marathon, Elevate would be the time your brain spent running, while Lumosity would be your strength-training and stretching. Both are necessary, but the results feel really different.

I don’t pay for Elevate, partially because the free service is awesome, but mostly because $4.99 a month is just way, way too high for me. I’m sure it’s worth it — what’s available free is seriously wonderful — but I’m just too cheap.5> Definitely snag it for free though, you won’t regret it.

2. Washi Tape

This is probably one of the goofiest things I could’ve put on this list, but I see washi tape every day and use it weekly and am pretty much surrounded by it constantly, so I kind of can’t hide how much I love it. Goofy, yes, but also a legit fave.

I think I bought some Martha Stewart washi from Amazon at the beginning of 2014 and wasn’t wildly impressed with it6 but then ended up ordering some of this stuff and loved it. Then I started decorating my Moleskine7 with it and then… I started seeing it in Target and now it’s… a problem.

Anytime I obsessively collect something, my girlfriend makes fun of me8 and there is nothing she mocks me for more than my love of washi. I’m very proud.

1. TokyoMilk Dark No. 62: Tainted Love

Okay, so this was supposed to be number one on the Bath & Beauty List but I kind of dropped the ball and forgot about it while I was writing the post, even though there’s a 99% chance that I was actually wearing it while writing the post.

I love perfume and have a solid collection curated since I was, oh, like 14?9

But I am really, really picky about what I’ll spend on. Perfume is expensive! And I really need to love something to drop the cash on it. I have never been the kind of person who can just wear one kind of perfume until it runs out and then switch to something new, nor could I be the kind who has only a signature scent. I like to have a nice big tray full of choices to pick from each morning, but every single one has to be a scent I love.

I bought Tainted Love at the Sephora in the MALL OF AMERICA after smelling pretty much every single bottle on their wall of scents. I had gone in to buy Spicebomb and almost did, but it ended up not smelling great on my skin. I kept gravitating back to the TokyoMilk bottles because they just look so pretty all lined up together. The TokyoMilk scents can be… kind of weird. I think they’re going for ~edgy and if edgy smelled good, I would be so into it, but it turns out edgy mostly smells like patchouli which is the worst.

Despite how lacking I found the rest of the selection, Tainted Love is great. The notes are dark vanilla bean, orchid, white tea, and sandalwood, which is really warm and sweet without being grossly sugary or overwhelming. The sandalwood makes it a little masculine, which I love and it seems to last on me well enough. It just a great fall/winter scent and I am going to be so sad when it gets too warm to wear it. And, bonus!, it’s only $36 a bottle. A steal!

Next time I’m in a Sephora, I’m going to obsessively smell every single TokyoMilk scent again until I find another one I love. Tainted Love is so good that there’s no way it’s their only winner.10

Previously: 2K12 | 2K13 | JAMZ | MOVIES | BATH & BEAUTY | TV | ALBUMS | BOOKS

1. Or forgot…

2. Had I had my Kindle when I went to the gym in college, I’d have probably managed to become a regular.

3. You get access to both and the app has finally started to get more games, so I am fonder of it now.

4. The brain test you take to start and the one you take a while later like they suggest? My score didn’t change a single point.

5. To be fair, I would probably think Lumosity was too expensive too, were I paying for it myself.

6. I still am not impressed with the Martha Stewart tape and wouldn’t recommend it. Washi, as I have learned, should feel like masking tape and Martha’s is stiff and waxy and the rolls tend to peel and separate and are just generally crappy. Bad show, Martha.

7. I changed formats for 2015 — well, I’ve used this one before, just not in a while — and I like the washi in there too! Also, it’s cute as hell.

8. Even though she is the queen of collecting crafts and hobbies. Bins! Boxes! Full of yarn! She’s a hypocritical monster.

9. Most perfumes last pretty much forever. I have a bottle of Ralph Lauren Romance that I bought at Macy’s when I was starting my freshman year of high school that still smells flawless. I’ve had a few go bad on me over the years — looking at you Pleasures & Beautiful Sheer — but for the most part perfume is a great investment because it lasts. To be fair, if you like the smell of burned maple syrup, perfumes that have gone bad might be your thing.

10. Well, I’ll probably be running topless through a field screaming about how much I missed warmth, but when I remember to be, I’ll be sad.

totally top five 2k14: books

I love reading. Reading is my favorite. But I never read as much as I want to, partially because I get lazy, but mostly because no amount of reading will ever actually be enough for me. More books, always more books.

5. Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein

I really loved Moonwalking with Einstein, which was actually kind of surprising since I didn’t realize it was memoir/non-fiction when I bought it. Because even though I love to read, maybe my reading comprehension isn’t great?

It was funny and fascinating and easy to read and full of the kind of inane trivia that I really love. I like Foer’s voice and the weird characters/champions available to him on the memory circuit. I liked that even as the methods worked for him, he remained skeptical and self-deprecating and that even though he thought it was goofy, he grew to respect and admire the competitors. I love the anecdotes about historically well-memoried individuals!

Most of all, I know I liked the book because I do a lot of my reading at the gym and I kept pulling my headphone out to lean over and tell my girlfriend about all the fascinating things I was learning. That’s a good book.

Also! I can still do a decent job of recalling the first list of items he learns even now, months later1, which is amazing if not utterly useless.

4. Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette was the first book I thought of when I started making this list and I distinctly remembering being about halfway through reading it and thinking, “OH, this is totally going in the Totally Top Five.” And it being at number four on the list is really only a sign of how much I loved the things I read this year. Love on top of love on top of love.

The narration is great and the story being structured around documents (emails, etc.) made it feel really fresh and exciting. It had an actual plot! That was engaging! And surprising! And complex, likable characters who I really wanted to spend time with. I don’t know that you’re necessarily supposed to like Bernadette, but I love her and I empathize with her and I kind of want to know her. At least for a little while. I’m not sure that Bee is straight likable either, but you watch her grow and you in turn grow to love her even with her faults. Magic.

Sharp writing, a real story, and characters you care about? Amazing.

3. Libba Bray, The Diviners

I don’t remember a lot about The Diviners to be honest. I read it really quickly, over the course of maybe two days, because I absolutely could not put it down. The world was engrossing, the characters flawed but engaging, the plot well-timed, and the mythos built carefully and casually without running into overly long passages of description and exposition. It had a nice, solid resolution despite being the first in a series and it made me want to read more of the world, rather than just leaving me with a million unanswered questions.2

Evie is complicated and she can be annoying and frustrating, but somehow Bray manages to keep her from falling irretrievably from favor and just lets her hover around, figuring out who she is and you end up liking her more than you expect for it. Secondary and tertiary characters can be a little weak, but with Evie so powerfully centered at the heart, that’s not really all that bad.

The Diviners is a coming of age story with a bunch of gory supernatural stuff happening in and around it and it rules.

2. Gavin Extence, The Universe VS Alex Woods

I cried so much reading The Universe VS Alex Woods and I loved it, both the crying and the book. It’s smart and it’s painful and it’s frustrating and funny and it deals with a topic I have never, ever seen addressed by a young adult novel before and it deals with it deftly and honestly without ever veering away from its humanity into an “issues story.”

It reminded me in voice — in all the best ways — of King Dork and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl except it’s smarter than King Dork and more empathetic than Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Alex Woods is a good person and a wonderful narrator. Alex Woods is smart and kind and never particularly condescending. Kids have so much to learn from Alex Woods. Adults too. Alex Woods is a little bit my hero.

1. Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys

I loved The Raven Boys. I loved it in a way I haven’t loved something in a long, long time. A long time. It is so lovingly written and so well-plotted and just wonderful to read. Maggie Stiefvater understands and exploits the female gaze like I have never, ever seen a writer manage before. Her descriptions of the boys are tender and beautiful and she manages to make Blue soft and unique without ever making her weak or “not like other girls”3 which is a huge relief.

I liked that it carefully walked the line between otherworldly and realistic, that it felt like I was really experiencing something new as I got deeper into the story, that I was compelled by not only the solid plot, but the rich inner lives of characters I really liked and cared about.

I haven’t read the next book in the series yet — because I am lazy — but I am so looking forward to its turn coming up on my reading list this year. I can’t wait to see the weirdness that’ll come from the story as the magic and mythos starts to really take shape and come to life.

Honorable Mentions

1. Mostly I just like picturing my girlfriend in a giant tub of cottage cheese and that’s what really counts, right?

2. Looking at you, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

3. Okay, I will be TOTALLY honest and say that this is a very fine line, but I think Blue manages to stay unique without entering MPDG territory because 1. She was created by a woman, and 2. She is so damn likable.

Previously: 2K12 | 2K13 | JAMZ | MOVIES | BATH & BEAUTY | TV | ALBUMS

new year, same me

Resolution culture is garbage. It is a New Year, but you do not have to be a New You. You are wonderful and you don’t have to change jack shit if you don’t want to.

But if you want to make a change, the New Year isn’t a bad time to, right? New Year, fresh start, all that stuff. You’re the same person you were last year, but with maybe a little extra motivation.

I spent 2014 making some very big and serious changes to my life partially because I got The Cancer, but also because I was well enough to have a full-time job and sort of behave like an actual Adult Human for the first time in my life, which is kind of cool.1

So, since 2015 is upon us and I did pretty damn good making changes last year, I’m taking my New Year’s Motivation and making some resolutions and sharing them with you. Fun, yeah?

1. Write More

I’m a writer! But I basically forget to write. I cram blogs in at the last second and I forget how much I actually enjoy writing them. When I write one blog, I feel urged and excited to write more of them. I should, you know, follow that instinct. I also write fiction! And, to be fair, I verbally and text-message-ually write almost every single day because I tell my girlfriend stories of all shapes and kinds, but I don’t write enough of those stories down. I have a finished novel I should edit and try to, like, sell and another that’s got a solid shape and tons of ideas scribbled down in a million places. I want to do something with them. I love words. I need to write more of them down.

Concrete Goal: Write 100 words a day! Edit/re-write my MFA book.

2. Consume More

I read and watch a pretty fair amount but I want to consume more and I want to consume things more intentionally. I like liking things and I want to find more things to like. Simple.

Concrete Goal: One new movie every two weeks, three new episodes of TV a week, 50 books this year, and more comics! Update listography and goodreads regularly, including a small review for each book I finish this year. Try to hit at least some of these diversity challenges.

3. Keep Moving and Feeding This Body

I work out frequently — sometimes six times a week! — and I have gotten much better at feeding myself in a way that satisfies my body and doesn’t make me miserable. I want to eat burgers and fries for every meal, but it turns out that my gastrointestinal system doesn’t exactly feel great when I do that? Crazy. Also, I kind of like how I feel after I work out. Gross, right?

Concrete Goal: Keep food journaling, meal planning, and going to the gym. Keep on keeping on.

I also want to be less envious and subtweet-y. I hate how often being cranky makes me think everything is dumb, but it’s kind of hard to resolve to like, be an entirely different human being than you are? And to come up with goals more concrete than “Be less of a dick.”

I am going to try to ask myself “Do you really want to say that?” before letting things loose on the world via social media. And also try to think, “That’s nice” when someone is enjoying something, even if I’m not into it. I love enthusiastic and joyful people! I don’t need to be a passive-aggressive bummer. I want to lift people up whenever possible or at the very least try harder not to drag them down, indirectly or otherwise. I am not a beacon of sunshine and I will never be, but I can strive to, you know, shut up a little more frequently when I’m in a mood.

Are you making resolutions? Are they as boring as mine? Did you resolve to become a superhero? That’d be pretty cool, to be honest.

1: I would way, way rather be sitting on my couch marathoning TV shows, but we can’t have everything.