words words words

I subscribe to Restaurant SmartBrief’s daily newsletter to stay current on foodservice trends (and, let’s be honest, watch for the thrilling appearance of ads I’ve written in their natural habitat); the quote-of-the-day feature is worth scrolling down for, too.

I think back to high school me, who didn’t have the internet. She did have her bulky Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and an urge to scribble down meaningful words. This habit came in handy in college when, as an RA, I could impose my obnoxious optimism on a captive audience of freshmen. (But, guys! You CAN become the change you want to see in the world.)

2003. Such a simpler time. There are too many words now and they start to lose their meaning. We live online in a land of quote overload. Inspiration is forever at the ready.

There it is!

There it is!


One day in June, I caught myself deleting multiple newsletters I’d flagged because the Q-O-T-D had hit the mental spot. I noticed a trend: They were all about perseverance. 

“Everywhere I look,” I thought, “things are literally telling me: DON’T GIVE UP.”

Creative work is hard, y’all. So much time spent feeling like you suck. (Maybe all of the time, forever? I heard an interview with certified TV-genius Norman Lear, who said—at age 94—that he still doubts himself. Still.)

You may get the occasional little nugget of outside affirmation. You treasure this nugget and for a while it energizes you. But soon enough you’re back to the daily grind, and daily grinding will wear down a happy nugget until you’re left with just a shriveled grape-nut of self-doubt.

(You’ll even find yourself doubting your nugget-based creativity analogies. It’s rough.)

But that’s the game. It’s nice to be reminded that so many quotable notables have played it too. So. In honor of that, here’s some annotated scribblage:

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.
— Babe Ruth, baseball player
pretty obvious, right? but he should know. imagine B.R. pointing his famous finger AT YOU.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
— Calvin Coolidge, 30th US president
oh dang, Calvin! we just got served. (successful men without talent: also a thing.)

Jumping at several small opportunities may get us there more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along.
— Hugh Allen, musician
but, like, big ones are nice too.

Be as you wish to seem.
— Socrates, Greek philosopher
this one tickles my brain. that was Socrates’ whole deal, though. makes sense.

Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.
— Gail Sheehy, writer
shut up, Gail. (this one makes me whiny. sorry, Gail. that’s on me.)

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.
— Sven-Goeran Eriksson, athlete and sports executive
I imagine a name like “Sven-Goeran” is a barrier in itself. way to overcome, S-G. 

All dated up

Found this little postcard treasure in a closet downstairs at work. Just sitting all by its lonesome on top of some old sheets of photo slides. (I find myself doubting whether that’s what you’re even supposed to call those ancient artifacts…slides? That’s right, right?)

Postcards and slides. Like typewriters and cassette tapes, these once everyday objects have become oddities, forgotten completely or elevated as collectibles by weirdos like me who have affection for the past. This shift in value is curious to me. I keep my mom’s 1960s typewriter because I think it looks cool and vintage, but it used to be the thing she’d use to type her homework. Just a utilitarian object, unspecial and easy to ignore.

What are the things that I encounter every day that might someday find themselves on display in a vintage shop or museum? My rainbow of PaperMate felt-tip pens. A printer-slash-scanner-slash-copy machine. Beloved binder clips. Thumbtacks. Which of these will become things that my grandchildren don’t even recognize? (Well, mine would, because I would force them to. “You will sit down next to Grandma and listen to her talk about the good old days, while you watch these Fey-Fallon-era SNL reruns, and you will LIKE IT.”)

Haven't Written Because

So I found this old postcard, and I rescued it from its life of solitude on top of that basement closet filing cabinet, and now it lives on my wall, where it will make this weirdo very happy.


Outdated language lesson of the day: “Busted” was old-timey slang for “broke”… so “flat busted” does not mean what you think it means. And I can’t get google to give me a definitive answer for “all dated up,” but it seems to mean something along the lines of, to use modern meme-speak,  “has all the plans!”

Wordy Thirty

An abbreviated list of things I’ve discovered in my first week of my fourth decade. With not-so-abbreviated explanations.

I don’t hate olives.

Ask me a mere 8 days ago, and I might have told you a different story. But sitting on the back patio in Denver last week, day drinking with friends and daydreaming about future vacation spots, I decided what the heck, I’ll try one, when Sean brought out a small bowl of maroon-colored olives to complement our fine snacks of cheese and Cheez-Its. So I tried one. The day-drinking patio is a safe space in which to try new things.

Guess what? I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it, either, but I figured that maybe now’s a good time to reevaluate those things that I dislike simply because I’ve always disliked them. Who knows when I’ll stumble upon a new favorite.

Later in the weekend, we went to this bar that’s hidden speakeasy-style behind a “pie shop” and features adorable be-vested or be-suspendered waiters. You can also order a drink “Bartender’s Choice,” where you tell him what you like, he asks a few questions and then brings you a delightful concoction based on your particular taste. (Folks.) First I asked for a twist on a Manhattan. Yum. Next round, he asked if I liked “herbaceous” drinks. (Charlie what now?) But I said, sure, lets find out. And guess what? Turns out I do like drinks with a little fresh, herby flavor. I can’t remember all the unusual ingredients well enough to ask for it again (one was “spiced green tea syrup”), but I at least have an affirmative answer the next time a cute boy in a vest asks me whether I like herbaceous things. So that’s a win.

Live music is so good!

Okay, this isn’t a revelation. More of a reminder. Birthday night was spent seeing Portugal. The Man and The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks, the venue that makes all other venues feel like a sad church basement. In my early 20s, I would not have described myself as a “music show person” — to be fair, my experience was limited to either megastars in giant arenas or cramped, loud spaces with local bands I didn’t know well. I hadn’t even begun to define my music taste then, either. Keep in mind: there was no youtube, and iTunes was brand new. Dave Matthews Band was in heavy rotation.

But now, I love a good concert. I was a just-okay fan of the Avetts when I saw them for the first time last year in Springfield, but their show won me over. Just so much energy and cool old-fashioned harmonies and, kid you not, rocking-out hot sex on the banjo. (haha that’s funny. but seriously.) Again they did not disappoint this 5th of July. In the clear and crisp Colorado air. With 10,000 people. Surrounded by nature. Under the stars. I suppose it’s hard not to be wowed.

I like my job.

My flight back home on Monday was delayed, and I missed my connection to Branson. I’ve never had that happen before, but I did get a voucher and a free night in Dallas (at an airport hotel with a liquor store next door. Not the worst place to be stranded). While I waited outside the airport for the hotel shuttle, another rent-a-car shuttle pulled up in front of me. I didn’t think anything of it until the driver opened the door and started talking to me. I had to ask him to repeat himself three times, between the heat and the changed plans and his thick accent, I was a little thrown off. Once I finally figured out he was saying, “want to step inside and get some of this cool air?” I was close enough to the door that it felt silly to refuse. So I hopped up and we chit-chatted until my van arrived, and he offered me his hand all southern-style to help me off his shuttle. Too cute. And weird. But mostly cute.

For my return flight the next day, I had the choice between 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 in the afternoon — and, without hesitation, I asked for the early one. This goes against my natural tendency against morning-person-ism, and the natural tendency of most humans to prefer days-off to days-in-the-office. So I guess I really do like my job. This one still feels like a revelation, though I’ve felt it since I started working here last September. Not so bad to be reminded at the end of vacation.

I am braver than I used to be.

“Brave.” This has been my mom’s go-to descriptor of me lately, in reference to selling my house and traveling alone, and it makes me laugh. I certainly don’t feel all that brave. (I’ve only been skydiving once, after all.) But I know for sure I’m braver than I once was. I’m no longer afraid to talk to strangers. And I’m more able to overcome my fear of embarrassment when my gut tells me to try something a little scary, even if that scary thing is something potentially good. (My gut would be fighting my gut in this case. Not unlike the strong desire to, and inevitable aftermath of, eating Indian food.)

Here’s a story: I was in line at Target earlier this week, when I noticed the couple in front of me fiddling with their purchases and trying to determine items to leave behind so their total would fall within their prepaid card balance. The cashier ran the card, and the $20 balance wasn’t enough. They pulled another item out of a bag, and it took. But their balance was $20.90-something, so they rustled through wallets and pockets to find change. I was kicking myself for not having any cash — I would’ve just handed them a dollar. But I couldn’t.

Now before we go further: this level of people-watching is not unusual for me. Being a writer and an improviser teaches you to study people. And it’s also just been a thing I’ve always done, curiously observe and often take an interest in strangers. But this next part is not a thing I would’ve always done, though I certainly would’ve thought about it.

The couple finished their transaction, and the woman turned to me and apologized. I told her not to worry, and went on with my transaction. I looked at my little pile of items, made up of both needs and wants, but certainly some not-needs, like a 6-pack of beer for my Mystery Hour writer’s meeting that night. After I swiped my Target card and headed toward the door, I spotted the couple from before sitting in the Starbucks area. “Do something!” my gut quietly pleaded. I’d heard about people paying for the people behind them in drive-thru lines and what not. These stories are always lovely. But random acts of kindness are also scary when you are the person doing the randomness. What if they’re offended? Embarrassed? (Both likely.) Or what if they’re actually well-off and just left their credit card in their other jeans? (Less likely.)

No matter the what-ifs, I couldn’t fight the urge to go back in. So without thinking too much, I dumped my stuff in the car and then marched back inside to grab a gift card, spotting the couple still sitting there, praying they wouldn’t leave. I paid for it in the Pizza Hut line at the front of the store, the girl behind the counter struggling to ring it up correctly. (The drama!!) And then I walked over and gave it to the couple. Just saying it seemed like they might need some help, and I felt like I should help them, and I hoped they weren’t insulted, because I didn’t know their circumstances, and I didn’t need to.

Was it awkward? Oh my, yes.

Was it worth it anyway? Oh my, of course.

I don’t tell this story to pat myself on the back for my charity. Because, come on, I understand that a Target gift card isn’t life-changing. But maybe it’s day-changing — and that makes it worth doing. And I have a feeling that a lot of us feel those gut-impulses, and a lot of the time we ignore them because we don’t want to do something embarrassing or weird.

All I can say to that is: maybe sometimes take the risk of feeling weird. I promise you’ll survive it, and afterwards you’ll probably feel pretty good. Grateful. Content. Even — though this word is overused in social media to a nauseating degree — blessed.

So, yeah. Thirty’s not so bad. Here’s to trying the olive. Saying “okay” to the nice stranger. Doing the scary good thing. Braver times (and tasty drinks) ahead.