Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Let’s talk about death, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things in the death industry! Let’s talk about death!

Image from Goodreads. Click for link.

We’re all going to die. And no, I’m not being hyperbolic or melodramatic. Everyone dies at some point. However, our culture puts a certain level of taboo on death, dying, and anything that has to do with the care of a body once it is no longer alive. I’ve always found that a bit ridiculous. Maybe it was my early introduction to death and corpses or maybe it’s my bizarre interest in death rituals, but a lot of how we deal with death in contemporary society seems pretty fucked up to me. Continue reading


Review: The Female of the Species

Content warning for discussion of rape, sexual assault, and murder.

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They say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but that couldn’t be truer than with The Female of the Species. The cover is bright green and has a variety of animals displayed, making it appear to be a light-heart-ed contemporary YA novel that has something to do with animals. It is not.

Don’t trust the published blurb that describes the plot of this book either. It makes The Female of the Species out to be a modern murder mystery. With a first line of “This is how I kill someone,” I can see how some people got a bit confused, but this isn’t some novel riding the true crime wave going through our culture right now.

So what is The Female of the Species? I’d say the best way to describe it is as a pointed look at sexual assault and rape, the effects that trauma has on not only the victim, but an entire community, and how one of the strongest bonds between women is often the fear of becoming a potential victim. Heavy stuff for a book with such a bright cover. Continue reading

Every Heart a Doorway: Wayward Children Book 1

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Sometimes a book is gifted to you and it turns out to be exactly what you needed. I ended up with a copy of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire after a Christmas party with friends. My old roommate, Ella, bought it for me after reading it in her YA for Adults book club. I had never heard of it before, but now I’m obsessed with the series. Continue reading

Depression Hits Hard Today

I, dear internet, am feeling feeling fragile today.

It’s 2:00 in the afternoon as I write this, and all I’ve consumed is a banana, some crackers, and two cups of coffee. My appetite is gone, and even if I forced myself to eat, everything would taste bland and have trouble going down. Ice cream was even brought out and deemed unappetizing.

My mind can’t maintain it’s focus on anything. Not sewing. Not reading. Not gaming. Nothing. All I want to do is lie down and stare at the wall.

A deep need to cry is felt, but something is blocking my tear’s escape. It’s not sadness I feel, but hollowness. Emptiness.

I know I’ll be okay, and I just need to ride this out, but damn depression sure doesn’t pull its punches.

Reading in Review: 2017

I thought it would be fun to wrap up the year by looking at and analyzing what I read on a scale larger than the singular book reviews I tend to do. All in all, I read 42 books. It wasn’t quite my book-a-week goal, but considering I wrote a seventy-page thesis, applied to graduate schools and assistantships, graduated, and have been job hunting, I’d say the number is pretty damn respectable.

I think it is critical to consume diverse media. As expected from the word itself, diversity can look like a lot of different things. In particular, I want to look at the types of books I’m reading and who’s writing them. So here we go:

Book Type

Fiction: 27 books

YA: 13

Literary Fiction: 7

Short Story: 2

Hard to Categorize: 5


Memoir: 6

Biography: 1

History: 3

Essays/Essay Collections: 2

Instructional: 2

Poetry: 1

Author’s Gender*

Women: 32

Men: 10

Multiple Authors/Mixed Gender: All books with multiple authors

ended up being by groups of men

Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming: none ūüė•


Authors of Color: 10*

Further Breakdown: African American (3); Native/Indigenous (2); Chinese-Canadian (1); Pakistani (1); Latinx (1); Palestinian (1); Lebanese (1)

White Authors/Generally American/European: 32

Now let’s reflect:¬†Overall, I read mostly fiction, but my nonfiction consumption has been growing over the past few years. I never thought I would be into nonfiction, but lately I’ve been wanting to learn everything, and what better way than by reading? Plus, I’m really loving memoirs as of late. I think I’d like to get my fiction-to-nonfiction ration balanced out a bit more, but fiction is just as important and should not be skimped on either! I read a shockingly low amount of poetry this year, with only one collection completed. That must be rectified going forward. I doubt it will ever consume as much of my attention as fiction or nonfiction, but I do want to delve deeper into it. I also, surprisingly, did not read any plays/scripts this year. Maybe I’ll finally get around to reading some Shakespeare that isn’t a tragedy this year.

I overwhelmingly read female authors, and I’m totally okay with that. I read once that men fail to read female authors while women read male and female authors at about an even rate. I found this horrific because that means that female authors are getting the shaft while male authors are being read by everyone. Obviously that study was a long time ago and very cis-centric, but it’s still fascinating to me. I should look up some recent trends about that, because I’m a curious person.

That original article surmised that men find it difficult to relate to female protagonists while women are more adaptable. Is that really what’s going on? Who knows. Though, maybe if men read more female authors, we wouldn’t be having the painful sexual harassment discussions we’ve been having lately.

I didn’t read enough authors of color. Usually I take a class that really focuses on either transnational authors or American authors of color. I didn’t my last semester, so my numbers are a bit lower than I think they must have been the year prior, though I didn’t look into it so I can’t be sure.¬† I want to make a more conscience effort to read books by people who don’t look like me. It’s important, especially in today’s political climate here in the states. I think fiction is one of the best ways to try and understand what its like to be someone who isn’t you. We’ve always needed that extra empathy, but I think the divisiveness that has always existed in this country is screaming at us even louder than it has in the recent past.

This list is also not wholly accurate. I know that several identities are often lumped in with “White Americans or Europeans” nowadays. For example, I know there are several Jewish authors that I’ve read this year that live in America or Europe. I did not include that in the breakdown because I did all of this analysis all at once and long after reading most of my books. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to go through and start looking up the identities of authors I read months ago. If I included and identity as a subsection, I didn’t want to count one author and miss another with that same identity that I had read.

In the future, I’m planning on making a spreadsheet that I can update as I read the books. Then I can also really easily have the statistics and charts to go along with it. It will be more manageable for me to go in-depth if I do it as I go rather than all at once at the end. I’m a nerd, so I like that sort of thing. I think it will be fascinating to track how my reading changes and evolves over the years.

Do you make any kind of conscious decisions about who you read? Or do you just pick up what looks good, reading where your mood takes you? (Which is totally fine, btw) Have you ever tracked your reading like this? If so, tell me all about it!


*I tried my best to reasonably assume the gender identity of authors and hunt down the race and/or nationality of authors. I hope I did them justice, and any misunderstanding of their identity is an honest mistake for which I apologize. I also did not dig deeper and go into further less-visible identities, such as sexuality or a heritage that is less at the forefront of¬†an author’s public persona/super-duper easy to find. I plan on doing better in the future so I can better represent who I read.


Why I Started Quilting at 22

Quilting is not a hobby associated with youth. Rather, when one imagines a quilter they often picture a someone closer to retirement than their college graduation. So just why do I now spend my weekends at a quilt class or volunteering at the quilt museum rather than brunching with my friends as so many millennials are known to do? Well, dear friends, there are reasons aplenty.

My Mother

My mother has always been a sewer (sewist?). Growing up she made her own clothes rather than buying them. She made suits for her brothers in exchange for her first car. All of my Halloween costumes growing up were homemade–no store bought allowed. She even crafted the bridesmaids dresses for my sisters wedding! But that love of sewing was never passed on to me or my sister. She tried and tried, but we were stubborn. Whenever I sat down to try sewing a shirt or dress, it always led to frustration. The needle would break. I’d run out of thread. I cut the pattern wrong. Oh how I detested sewing. But a few years ago, my mom started quilting. While there are obviously many similarities between the two crafts, they really are completely different games in so many ways. After my childhood hatred for sewing, I had no plans on following in my¬† mother’s footsteps at the time, but I adored helping her pick out patterns and fabric. She made me a beautiful quilt that I use every night.

My Hometown’s Resources

While my hometown is small, coming in at around 5,000 people in the last census, we are mighty when it comes to quilting. The famed Marianne Fons of Fons and Porter¬†lives here. We have multiple stores that sell quilter’s cotton and other tools of the trade. We’ve got a quilt guild that has made and donated thousands of quilts to a local children’s hospital’s NICU, makes Quilts of Valor for veterans, and puts on a quilt show every year to show off what they’ve made. Recently an entire museum focused on quilts opened up on our town square.¬†We were even featured in the Iowa issue of Quiltfolk–a serial¬†focused on different states and communities of quilters.

On top of all of that, the quilters here love to teach others. A few teach in their homes, which is how my mom decided to learn. Our quilt store also holds a class almost every month, which is how I’m learning. It’s really handy to learn quilting from a professional quilter who also designs and sells his own patterns (yes his–a male quilter manages the quilt store I go to). Between him and the ladies who take his classes, I’ve learned tons of tips and tricks that I wouldn’t have gotten just from reading a book or quilting on my own. If I do say so myself, it’s helped me get pretty darn good at quilting in just a short amount of time.¬†

My Mental Health

It’s no secret that I’m not happy with where I’m at in my life right now. My plans were thrown into chaos a few months ago when I decided to put off grad-school and focus on paying off my current student debt before accruing any more. It was the right decision for me, but it was and is still hard. So now I’m job hunting. While job hunting is always difficult, the highs and lows are exacerbated by my depression and anxiety. After a few months of submitting applications and rarely leaving my house, I knew I needed something else to focus on. Since my mom already had all the tools needed and I was so well positioned to learn, I figured I might as well give quilting a go.

Honestly, having these projects has kept me from falling into pits of despair or having frequent anxiety attacks. You see, I tend to be a bit obsessive about things, both my hobbies and my anxieties. It was getting too in my head about this whole job thing. Books and video games, while great distractions, weren’t doing enough for me. I needed something constructive in my life.¬†Quilting fit that description for me.Being able to set goals and achieve them in one area of my life makes it easier to live with so much uncertainty of my job hunt. Plus, being able to wrap up in a blanket is very soothing when you’re anxious.¬†

The craft has done wonders for my mental health, and I’m not alone. There are lots of articles¬†(like this one) about how crafting (which quilting would be included in) helps your brain. Long story short, it increases your dopamine levels, and dopamine helps you feel relaxed. Crafting also helps fight the effects of aging on the brain. Though I don’t have to worry about that quite yet, it’s fascinating how the activity influences your brain.¬†


Now, if only I could find more millennials interested in quilting so that my community didn’t consist almost solely of women more than twice my age. Don’t get me wrong, I love those ladies, but I crave being able to share this craft with people closer to my own age too.

Post Graduation Feelings of Failure

I was excited to graduate from college. I’d put in a ton of work and had earned about every form of honors possible. I received university honors for keeping up a high GPA, taking special honors classes, and doing experiential learning. I earned honors in BOTH of my majors by writing an honors thesis that was over seventy pages long. And I was awarded entrance into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s most prestigious honors society due to all the work I’ve done. I felt great; a little sad to leave my friends, but ultimately excited for my future. And then it all fell to shit.

Initially I was all set up to go to grad school this fall. I was planning on attending the #1 school in the country for library science to work on earning masters. Unfortunately I didn’t get funding despite being assured¬†that I most likely would¬†when I accepted my admission (the whole reason I accepted at the time). I applied for so many assistance-ships, but I got nothing. And with tuition + cost of living = over $50,000 a year, I simply couldn’t afford not to have funding. So after a lot of crying, I decided to put off furthering my formal education.

The decision was hard, but I by no means regret it. Getting $100,000+ in debt for a job that really doesn’t pay all that much just didn’t seem like a good idea. On top of that, the current administration is trying abolish the public service loan forgiveness program and hoping to change how taxes work around academic tuition, so it’s about to get even more expensive to get a masters or PhD.

With that decision, I joined all the other college graduates trying to find full-time employment…only I’m a few months later to the party than they were. In theory, I feel like I’m a great hire. I clearly learn well, and I’ve been working since I was sixteen. Plus I’m personable, dedicated, and creative.

I wasn’t surprised to get my first few job application rejections. Rarely do people¬† find their first professional job right away. But as the months have gone on and my (metaphorical) stack of rejection emails has grown taller, I’m losing heart. I know, I know–this all takes time. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to be continually turned down for jobs. The sting is even stronger when the posting didn’t require any experience or even a college degree. It’s hard every time not to ask, “what’s wrong with me?”

Logically I know it’s not just about me. You and the employer have to mesh. Maybe someone else just has more experience. Maybe the timing isn’t right. Who knows? It could be anything on an endless list of reasons. I know that. But, friends, I’m tired. I’m so ready to be done job hunting. I’m ready to leave my temp-job where I answer phones all day and get yelled at about things I can’t change. I’m excited for my minimum student loan payments not to take half of my month’s income anymore. I want certainty.

All of this rejection and uncertainty has often led me to feel like a total failure; like going to college, working, and all the extra things I did weren’t worth it. Again, I know that’s not true, but those evil little monsters in my head sure do try hard to make me believe it. For someone who was so successful and ambitious in the world of academia, not being able to translate my skills and experience into the professional realm is bringing a lot of internalized shame that I need to deal with.

In the mean time, I’m working on reevaluating what I want my¬† life to look like–what I need in my life to be happy and what is a bit more flexible. Maybe I need to be a bit more creative in my job search. Maybe I shouldn’t limit myself to my rural state of Iowa. I don’t know, but I’m ready to know what’s next.