Happy Birthday, Dear J.J.

Today my cousin is turning 30! This is a thing that I recently did. That’s how it’s been our whole lives — growing up as the six-weeks-apart youngest grandchildren in a small, close family (just us and each of our older brothers), we shared many life milestones in close proximity (all the while looking quite stylish. See below. There were also some sweet overalls and plaid shirts in later years; not pictured).


Jennifer happened to write the most lovely blog about me on my birthday. I wanted to return the favor. Writing is what I do after all; only seems fair. So I decided to do a little tribute to her 30th year, through the TV shows we’ve shared in different stages of our lives.

(Me? Write about TV?! I know. It’ll be a stretch. Let’s see if I can get through it.)

Saved By The Bell

This show was maybe the first non-Lisa Frank related thing we were obsessed about together.

For pre-teen girls of the 90s like us, SBTB had it all: fashion, zany antics, cute boys, rated-G romance, and high school. Our pre-student-council selves wanted to be a part of that world (see: Little Mermaid), which seemed so grown up and fun. Plus it was on TV (in a world without hulu) at a time when we were likely to be hanging out — Saturday mornings.

Random fact: The original-cast run ended in 1993 (gulp).

High-school-themed program honorable mention: USA High 

American Idol, Season 2

Ah, college. The year was 20-0-2. We were freshmen at Drury. Though our college experiences were different (me in the dorms, Jennifer getting married and stuff), we did share many fond memories. Like that 8:00 a.m. drawing class when we drew the same naked lady in the art building basement. Special times in higher learning.

The spring and summer of 2003, we watched Clay and Reuben battle it out on American Idol. This period birthed a shared love of mix CDs, along with my misguided, and somewhat prophetic, love for Clay Aiken. We ended up watching the finale together with her (future) husband and my (future) ex-boyfriend.

Reality show honorable mention: Singled Out

The Office

What can I even say about this show. (I geeked out about Jim & Pam’s wedding on my old blog in 2009. Those feelings still apply.) We loved The Office because it was so, so funny. But it also gave us an excuse to hang out in those post-college years. I looked forward to the Thursday ritual of gathering at Jennifer & Matt’s house for snacks and Scranton, as much or more than I looked forward to the actual show… which was a lot.

We were figuring out for ourselves what it was like to grow up into the world of work, with its party planning committees and sometimes-awkward bosses. Like Pam, we were trying to balance the urgent to-dos of life with the desire to do creative work. Like Jim, I was just looking for someone to love. (Shoots a wide-eyed look at the camera.)

When the finale aired this spring, I laughed and cried through the episode and the hourlong retrospective special. (I mean, there were some ugly-cry moments. I’m not afraid to admit that to you.) And it wasn’t so much, “boo hoo, my show is ending.” It was, “wow, look at this thing that these people made!” mixed with “wow, look how much this thing informed my life for the last 9 seasons.” Nine seasons — can you believe it was that long?

(That’s what she said. BOOM.)

Post-college honorable mention: GLEE, season 1

New Girl

Our current favorite shared show, New Girl is sort of the TV soundtrack to our late-20s. Even though some things are still very different about our lives, and neither of us has three dudes as roommates, we share some very similar feelings. Married-with-kids or single-with-cat, there’s some restlessness and reservations we can’t help but have in common. And also some hopes.

Let’s just be real: Like Jess, we might sometimes be described as cute and/or quirky. We have been known to randomly burst into song. We like to make things (or sometimes at least, the idea of making things. Pinterest!!). We wouldn’t mind to own an entire closet full of Anthropologie dresses.

We both sometimes find ourselves in the “wait, but what am I really doing with life right now?” place. Which is maybe a thing we’ll never fully outgrow. But at least we’re in it together! (Like Jess, I am sometimes overly sentimental.)

So what?

So… all that to say: Happy Birthday, dear Jennifer, cuz of mine! I love that we have some much shared history — and shared TV. Television is one of my love languages, really, so I hope that you feel this blog post bursting with love. You are one of the most talented, inspiring, funny, stylish, creative, generous people I know.

Here’s to the new decade, and the adventures (onscreen and off) that it will bring. It’s fun to imagine what we’ll be like when we’re living our Golden Girls

Many, many, many decades from now.


oh for crying out loud

“EIGHT WEEKS?! Dear god!” is what I just said to myself, after doing the math on how long it’s been since January 1. Since I last wrote anything on this “blog” that I “write.” The irony is not lost on me that I write for a living but can’t, for the life of me, write for fun. But I’ve been thinking about it, I swear.

If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve almost-blogged the last few months… (Have you enjoyed reading my almost-blogging? Been real fun, right?) That nagging voice of inner Resistance will find any good excuse to keep you from writing, even the sneaky-sneaky Thinking About Writing: the seductive almost-but-not-quite euphemism for not writing at all.

You feel me, fellow creative-procrastinators out there? Forgive me muses, for I have sinned. I have royally fallen off the blogging wagon. But more like I fell off the wagon…and then a Native American tribe came along and took me in, like what happened to the lady in Dances With Wolves, and then I’m not seen again until years later, when I teach a handsome stranger how to say “buffalo” — and also how to love.

That kind of wagon-falling. Severe.

One disgruntled reader’s affectionate scolding has been bouncing around in my brain (since he told me this…on Christmas Eve):

You owe it to yourself to carve out time for writing every week.

Owe it to myself. That phrase has teeth. And they’ve been gnawing on the nails of my conscience…

Another loyal reader called me out a few weeks ago, saying a simple paragraph would at least be something for her to read. This was a slight revelation: maybe I don’t have to spend as much time perfecting posts, if time is what keeps me from writing. It’s a perfectionist’s paradox: If I take some pressure off myself, care a little less, I actually accomplish much more — and much betterly, too — than when I push myself to the edge of insanity with anxiety and unreachable expectations.

(Hullo therapy bills, you are now paying dividends.)

So. Here we go. An attempt at trying to TRY a little less. Try less in order to DO more. (Hullo Yoda.)

Most of my almost-written blog posts stem from random snippets of inspiration that I collect — mostly in a series of docs on my desktop, curated by month. I’ve been performing this ritual, a lovely mix of hyper-organization and typical-me haphazardness, for years. It amounts to a digital scrapbook of articles I read, funny things coworkers did, things I learned, encouragement from friends, ideas for screenplays…all the things that bounce around in my brain. (Some of the All The Things.)

So maybe that’s the twenty-thirteen 2.0 of whatsarahisreading: instead of a few posts and a self-imposed pressure to Say Something Important, maybe many shorter posts that just try to Say Something.

(If nothing else, I know this will keep one of you happy: looking at you, HKB.)

So. Here’s one Frequently Snippeted Topic: Television. One of the realities of a post-30 Rock world for me, besides the genuine sense of loss I felt that next Friday morning, was an immersion into the world of online entertainment writing. I found comfort in Emily Nussbaum’s New Yorker analysis and Vulture’s top 10 lists alike, both serving as that welcome reminder during any time of grief: you are not alone.

Maybe that’s what we have to look forward to in the new blog year. Thinking about little slices of life (a lot of them TV-based, let’s just be real) and looking for small reasons to remember you are not alone. Along with the usual self-criticism and idiosyncratic liberties with syntax. That all seems like a good enough reason to hop back on the wagon.

And now for something completely different.

“You are the product. You feeling something. That’s what sells.”

— Don Draper, to Peggy, Mad Men Season 2

P & D

So it begins…

“It” being my new job.
“It” being my A.D. (after-Drury) period.
“It” being my even-deeper obsession with Mad Men.
“It” being The Rest of My Life.
(Nope! Too scary. Way too much pressure. It’s just one day. Chill out. Cool.)

Still, “It” is a pretty big deal.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so much like the New Kid in an already-established world. I spent a lot time breaking into new groups during my first 22-or-so years of life. School… theatre things… nerd camp… ReaLife @ James River (there’s a blast from the past)… college… my first improv class… But most of my “big girl” work experiences after college have been in somewhat familiar worlds. And Drury’s been a familiar world to me for 10+ years.

This time, it’s all new.

And it’s all good.