Read This: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Have you ever read a graphic novel? If not, now is a good time to start with Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. It's an autobiography called a "tragicomic" and it left me completely awestruck.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

An incredible part of this book is it's full of surprises, so I am not willing to give away any plot details (unless you've read it, then call me and let's talk forever!) but I'll discuss other elements I loved.

Fun Home is an autobiography about a small-town Pennsylvania family, yes, but it's full of literary allusions—an English major's dream come true. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Camus, James Joyce, Proust, some Greek just name a few. I felt smarter as I read each page. 

The emotional journey of the protagonist is so relatable, and really causes you to reflect on your own upbringing, however different it may have been from Bechdel's. She uses a lot of her childhood journals to piece things together, and, as I was a "journaling child" that made me smile.

Another thing I've never appreciated about graphic novels until reading this book is how very few words they get to tell a story. Her word choice is on-point, with almost a poetic quality.

Do you want to buy a copy yet? Well, I feel like a should mention a couple things regarding content. I think this book would be an amazing read, both for males and females, as it explores issues both sexes face, but it does not restrain itself on the female side. If you are a grown, mature man who literally can't look at a box of tampons without squirming....maybe get over it, first, then read this book. If you can't get over it, I hope with every fiber of my being that you are blessed with five beautiful daughters.

Also, if you are a grown, mature adult who has no problem in the world with heterosexual sex scenes, but just can't handle homosexual sex scenes, you should reconsider the "grown" and "mature" adjectives, read some James Baldwin, and then this book. ;)

Disclaimers aside: Everyone should read this, for their own sake. But also, because I want to talk about it with everyone.

And now, I need to know: Any other graphic novels I've been missing out on? I feel like Fun Home is my gateway into graphic novels, and I couldn't be more excited to explore a new genre.

p.s. Does Alison Bechdel's name sound familiar to you? You're probably thinking of the famous Bechdel test and, yep, same person.

p.p.s. Although I struggle to imagine how this story could translate into a Broadway musical—others did not. It won a Tony in 2015. So now, given my love for Broadway, I must see it.

Our Engagement Stories

Monday, October 19, 2015

These days, there's a lot of pressure put on a single moment—the wedding proposal.

With so many meticulously planned and filmed proposals destined to go viral, it raises a lot of questions. Does he really love her if there isn't a flashmob? Did the moment actually happen if it wasn't captured on video? Or at least photographed? Does the number of "likes" on a Facebook engagement announcement increase their chances at everlasting love?

All this to say...Stephen and I got engaged yesterday! And, surprisingly, no flashmobs were involved. I want to tell you the wedding proposal story—I do—but reducing our five and a half year relationship to one moment seems impossible, like reducing your life to a single piece of paper. I couldn't pick just one. Here are a few of our engagement stories:

When I was a junior in college, in the middle of the worst basketball season of my life, Stephen and I started dating. We're talking a single-digit win season. Stephen came to every home game. Even if you're one of the few who considers women's basketball extraordinarily exciting, these games were not that. They were often downright painful. But Stephen came, cheered, waited (and waited) (and waited) after the game for me to be done in the locker room. Stephen was my fan, from day one. His enthusiasm has never wavered, all these years later.

The first picture taken of us together. Photo by Cosi!

Only a month or so into my relationship, my aunt died unexpectedly. I got the terrible news, then went to basketball practice. After practice, I knew Stephen had been looking forward to playing poker with a group of guys. Instead, he was at my apartment holding my favorite Dairy Queen blizzard, and refused to leave.

Stephen's graduation weekend. Before the wine and cheese thing at Bucknell.
I started this blog one year into our relationship. I was terrified to let anyone read it. Stephen would patiently proof every post, reassuring me it was good. His belief in me has caused me to more deeply believe in myself, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Somewhere on some trail in Arkansas.
Stephen and I dated long distance for over two years. Most of that time, he was in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I was in Madison, Wisconsin. Nearly every time I flew down, he'd text me after I landed something like: "Got held up at work. Can you take a cab to my place?" or "Sorry, not there yet." He was always there. He was always waiting. (And often hiding behind something so I had to look extra hard for him.) Despite all the miserable things about long distance dating, I'll never forget the joy of reuniting in airports.

Getting in touch with our artistic sides in Arkansas.
Since I had a job in Wisconsin, Stephen moved here. A little over a year after he moved here, I decided to quit that job. He was unquestionably supportive. Even though I wouldn't have an income. Even though we now lived in Wisconsin, away from all of our families, because of me and now I was quitting the job that brought me here. Stephen never stopped supporting me.

Stephen's first weekend living in Madison! (At the terrace)
Over the weekend, we flew to my home in Pittsburgh for my friend, Nicole's, beautiful wedding on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, Stephen asked if I wanted to go for a walk and, since we go for walks all the time, I agreed without thinking anything of it. We walked down to Hopewell Park and started going on a trail through the woods. The air was crisp, but not cold. The leaves on the trees shimmered in the sunlight—all shades of yellow, red, and orange—and the leaves on the ground crunched beneath our feet.

Once we neared the top of a hill, he suggested we sit on a bench for a bit, and that's when he got on one knee and asked me to marry him! Upon our return home, my entire family was there along with cake, flowers, champagne, and cute decorations. We had a big family brunch together. I couldn't stop smiling.
This picture snapped by Grace after showers were taken post-walk :)
If I had one wish, it would be that every person in the world has someone who loves them the way Stephen loves me. I look forward to making many more stories with him for years to come. 

I love you, Stephen!

Favorite Madison Brunch Spots

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's almost a travesty I haven't written this blog post yet because there are few things I do better than brunch. And one of them is hang out my cat—no shortage of photographic evidence of that! Yet, brunching has been something I have never fully vetted on the blog: Accept my most sincere apologies. Madison has tons of great brunch spots (in my opinion), but over the last four years I've narrowed it down to my top two places to grab brunch in Madison, Wisconsin, and here they are:

1. Lazy Jane's 

I have three key things to say about cozy Willy Street house-turned-breakfast spot: scones, scones, scones.

Perhaps you're one of those people who says "I don't really like scones" and first off—I hear you. I used to live in your sad state of existence, thinking scones were dry and hard tasteless things only edible perhaps when drenched in coffee/tea or if you're England and have no other options like the all mighty muffin.

BUT THEN. I had a Lazy Jane's scone. And listen up: Not all scones are created equal. 

These scones are, to incorporate some underutilized eighth grade vernacular, the bomb.

I always get a scone as a pre-brunch appetizer, eat my brunch, and then occasionally (real talk) stop at the Lazy Jane's annex bakery and get another scone for the afternoon. #notashamed

But let's say you, perhaps, like eating things for breakfast that aren't just heaps of butter and sugar. I will suppress myself from asking the obvious question (what's wrong with you?) and say that Lazy Jane's also offers delicious savory breakfast options. My boyfriend loves their frittata, they always have great scrambler specials, and I'm a BIG fan of their granola, yogurt, and fruit (okay, that's not savory but it is delicious).

Lazy Jane's is cash only (but there's an ATM on site) and totally worth it!

2. Marigold Kitchen

Located right off the square, Marigold has been my go-to brunch spot for years. They offer the most delicious classic breakfast classics, and amazing specials. I always check out their pancake specials, have ordered them many times, and never been disappointed. If I want pancakes, I go to Marigold's.

The only problem is their side of breakfast potatoes are so good, and those don't come with pancakes. So, just you're average #firstworldproblem of too many good brunch choices. They also serve up killer omelets and—if you want something more lunchy than breakfasty—high quality soups and salads too.

Their location couldn't be more perfect for Farmers' Market Saturdays, but, if you do go then, be prepared to wait a little bit for a table. The place is well-managed though, with friendly wait staff, so you shouldn't have to wait too long.

The way I look at it is going to an empty brunch spot is like going to a movie and being the only one in the theater—it's probably not very good. Marigold's is always buzzing, but always delivers. And, if you're a fancy-coffee fan, like me, you can't miss their maple latté.

What are your go-to brunch places in Madison? 

Read This: Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It's hard for me to recommend Truth & Beauty because I can think of two words to succinctly describe it, and one of them is sad. The other word, of course, is powerful. I suppose I am advocating that you read it for the second word, if you can handle the burden of the inherent sadness. However, if you're in a state where you don't want to read a "downer" book, maybe this isn't for you. At the same time, I think we are in a culture addicted to being happy—and maybe fully recognizing and exposing ourselves to a wider range of emotions can help us, as a society, develop a sense of empathy that seems to have gone missing from the world.

In short, I recommend this book. But if you find it moderately depressing, don't say I didn't warn you.

Ann Patchett wrote Truth & Beauty shortly after her dear friend and fellow writer, Lucy Grealy, died at 39. Lucy had cancer as a child that left her face and jaw disfigured, and had over 30 surgeries in her lifetime. In Truth & Beauty, Ann chronicles their friendship, which blossomed while rooming together at the Iowa Writer's Workshop in Iowa City, continued long distance (predominately pen-pal style) while Lucy was in Scotland for surgery, and persisted while Ann settled in Nashville and Lucy "settled" in New York.

I must put settled in quotations for Lucy, as she never seems settled—she seems boundless. Through reading Truth & Beauty, I feel like I got to know Lucy on an almost intimate level. Ann includes letters from Lucy that capture her spirit, her struggles with self-worth and depression, and her desperate desire to find true love.

There's definitely some darker adult content in this book—sex, drugs, abortion, suicide attempts. Yet still, to me, the book feels sweet. I think that's due to the current of deep friendship underlying it all.

Ann also shares their collective struggles of to break into the writing world, something they both successfully did during their friendship, which I enjoyed from an aspiring writer's perspective.

Not only did this book make me want to read Ann Patchett's other works, but I also put myself on the library wait list for Lucy Grealy's memoir, Autobiography of a Face. Have you read any Patchett or Grealy? Would love to know your thoughts!

Watch This: The Intern

Thursday, October 1, 2015

If you're looking for a feel good movie to see this weekend—or just looking for an excuse to eat an exorbitant amount of butter-soaked popcorn—I recommend The Intern where Robert De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a 70 year-old retired widower who wants to shake things up so starts interning at an e-commerce company run by Jules Ostin, played by Anne Hathaway.

Photo by Francois Duhamel/Warner Bros. Pictures
I saw it on opening day last weekend with Becky and it exceeded my expectations.

The New York Times review has some criticisms about what director Nancy Meyers is suggesting with her Jules character, but they also say Robert De Niro steals the show, and I agree. He is absolutely captivating.

For me, it was refreshing to see a movie that didn't center around a love story. Yes, there's a bit of romance—and some marriage struggles—but the main conflicts are more work/life balance for Jules, and finding meaning in life post-retirement for Ben. During a few scenes, I laughed out loud. During a few, I teared up. And, overall, I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it! Have you seen it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

p.s. I also just caught the trailer for the Burnt movie with Bradley Cooper, a redemption story of a two-Michelin star chef. What do you think? I definitely think I'd see it! It comes out October 23!

p.p.s. Joanna Goddard interviewed Nancy Meyers and I enjoyed it!