Sourdough Rises and I Get Ready for Fall Reading

With the release of Sourdough, the second novel from Robin Sloan, my fall reading has officially begun. I always feel that I am either behind or constantly surrounded by books that I want to read, but this book I actually counted down the days until its release. It was a buy food or buy book situation and of course I chose the book. And I was not disappointed. I completely fell in love with Sloan’s first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a mixture of nerdy computer jargon and book nerd imagination with a touch of magic. Sourdough completely follows in that tradition. Except this time, instead of computers and books, its robots and food.

The main character, Lois Clary works as a software engineer for General Dexterity, a robotics company in San Fransisco. She has moved from rural Michigan and soon falls prey to her job and repetitive life in a larger city. It is so very early in the book, page 5 to be completely honest where Sloan grabs me:

“Here’s a thing I believe about people my age:we are the children of Hogwarts, and more than anything, we just want to be sorted”

Are you completely fucking kidding me? Does Robin Sloan know my whole life? And that was that, hooked…done, I would have stayed with Lois wherever she went. If the story was about her turning into sourdough I would keep reading.

Completely consumed by her job she herself becomes a sleep deprived robot even substituting her meals for a gag-worthy “nutritive gel” called Slurry. Gross. Finally, Lois calls the number on a takeout menu from “Clement Street Soup and Sourdough” and starts to not only feed her body, but her soul.

After becoming completely dependent on “Clement Street” for her daily bread she is horrified to learn that the immigrant brothers who run “Clement Street Soup and Sourdough” illegally out of their home have to leave the country. They do however leave her with a gift, the sourdough starter. And thus, Lois’s story begins. It is no surprise that the starter is infused with some kind of magic. The kind of magic that, just like in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, you’re not completely sure is real magic or the kind of magic that comes from the characters own belief in the magic of the object. But this starter is magical, it sings in the middle of the night an creates a light show on Lois’s walls. It allows Lois to come to life and out of her shell, she teaches herself how to bake bread and while baking life into loaves of sourdough she bakes life back into herself. Sourdough is a delicious read and Sloan makes it easy to devour.


Fall is normally the busiest time for books, it is a bibliophiles happy time. And with my first anticipated release already behind me I am under way in conquering my fall tbr (to be read) So here is what I am looking forward to as well as what everyone else says you should be looking forward to.

I have developed a small addiction to my Audible subscription. I do however, have some rules for my audio book selections: the author has to read the work. This limits me to non-fiction and memoir and I have expanded this genre of my personal library by a whole lot.

Therefore my most anticipated audio books are:

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisJ.D. Vance (I already finish this by the time I published this post.)

What Happened?Hillary Rodham Clinton (currently listening)

The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and ReadingAnne Gisleson

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American TragedyTa-Nehisi Coates

Uncommon Type:Some StoriesTom Hanks (Uhm Tom Hanks writes a book of short stories? Yes please!)

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill UsHanif Willis-Abdurraqib (I am not sure if this will be recorded for an audio book but it fits the criteria so I hope it does.)

My most anticipated print books:

VoyagerDiana Gabaldon (This is a back list read as I am reading along with the show Outlander, a very good book adaptation show.)

Little Fires EverywhereCeleste Ng

Sing, Unburied, SingJesmyn Ward

The Origin of OthersToni Morrison

The Sun and Her FlowersRupi Kaur

The Rules of Magic-Alice Hoffman (Which will lead to me reading another book on my backlist Practical Magic. Because a prequel to Practical Magic? Yes ma’am.)

Wonder ValleyIvy Pochoda

And finally, here is what everyone else thinks you should be reading this fall:

Book Riot

The New York Times

NPR

Publisher’s Weekly

Happy Reading all!!

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To Have and to Pee

I have to admit that when I started this blog I came up with the name “All Dina Does” because it sounded fun. And let’s face it, everyone loves alliteration. But to be completely honest, there is not really much that I “do”. I have been living in a vacuum seal of work, school, work that I hadn’t much time to do anything else but the two. But this past month I filled my calendar with numerous social events (gasp!) and ended with a trip home for nothing other than my best friend’s wedding.

I will say that the two shows I did attend undeniably deserve their own posts as they were the incredible “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” and “Hamilton.” Which I did not believe I was seeing until I was actually in my seat and the theater lights dimmed.  I rode the wave of theatrical emotion until I boarded the plane home to attend Chelsea’s wedding.

I have reached the point in my relationship with Los Angeles where I appreciate the small amounts of time we get to spend apart. Flying to visit my hometown is always a welcome vacation. If this vacation lasts a maximum of 7 days, does not take place between to the months of November-March due to weather and you have an understanding that there is always something to do and someone to see. If you understand all of this then you’re good.

Everything felt like a flurried rush until the wedding on Friday night that I found myself crouching next to the toilet holding Chelsea’s dress up as she peed before the ceremony started.

Chelsea and I met in Girl Scouts when we were seven and have created a friendship that has withstood time, distance and her sometimes nauseating around the clock happiness. And as I did my best friend duty by holding her dress and  checking for deodorant I wondered if I could ever allow myself to be this happy.

 

Of course women are happy on their wedding day but like happy everyday? That seems like it requires so much work. And of course I am happy… I think, or I am consciously working toward being happy. I mean I am happy with various parts of my life, my relationship, my job, friendships. But like consistently happy? Is that a thing?

At least it was never a thing for me, if I had a therapist, which I keep telling myself I will get one, they would probably tell me that I have inherent issues about happiness and regret and some other things that have bogged me since childhood.

So what to do with all of this happiness? How do you process fears of not being able to be happy? Who the hell has the answers to all of this? I found my answer on a nonstop flight back from Buffalo to LAX.

A couple, who may or may not have been an official couple. Or may or may not have been an official couple to only one involved. Anyway, they argued the entire way from takeoff to landing. I’m not joking, they literally argued about everything from Instagram, to Darien Lake, to the gentleman finally saying “We’re just friends. We’re friends who fuck. We’re just friends.” Eric and I needless to say were thoroughly entertained. We sat like school children and passed notes back and forth tying to figure out what they were actually fighting about, or if they were on vacation and if so why were they on vacation with each other at all. And sitting there listening to a non-couple couple fight while simultaneously being a couple with someone that made me happy. I decided on happiness.

I decided that we are in charge of our own happiness. And I was in charge of mine. Sometimes its doesn’t happen often and sometimes it’s hard to find, but controlling the amount of energy we spend on creating happiness is up to no one but myself. And that is all the energy I can muster right now.

Because this post is about happiness it is only right to share happy moments from my happiest friend’s wedding.

 

 

The New Taylor

I have spent the last few months looking for what myself and my friends referred to as, a grownup job. This is obviously not a very nice thing to say around my coworkers as they are all much older than me and are in their preferred grownup job. But in my eyes, my current career of waiting tables and serving food is not my ideal professional path. I was so focused on finding a professional job that I had my morning routine down to a science:

  1. Wake up & make coffee.
  2. Fix myself a cup of coffee and proceed to the couch.
  3. Open laptop and open various career finding engine websites that are extremely overwhelming.
  4. Drink coffee while filtering through terrible jobs and redundant internships.
  5. Send out first resume to a reasonable* job posting.
  6. Continue to sift through the trash that you are now convinced is Indeed.com.
  7. Take a bathroom break.
  8. Drink glass of wine
  9. Apply to a reach** job.
  10. Continue to search through the filtered results of job postings until you are convinced maybe it would just be easier to get another internship.
  11. Apply to a shit*** job.
  12. Give up and collect the various pieces of you dignity that have scattered onto your laptop keyboard.

*What makes a reasonable job:

  1. It is NOT an Internship
  2. The commute to said job is less than 40 minutes.
  3. The pay is less than what you currently make but you're willing to make the sacrifice for professionalism.
  4. You have the skill set required for this job.

**What makes a reach job:

  1. It is NOT an Internship.
  2. You have the required skill set for this job.
  3. It is for a company that you know will not hire you because they have their own set of internships that are following the internal corporate ladder. You apply anyway.
  4. The commute is so close that it is the Los Angeles equivalent of  next door.

***What makes a shit job:

  1. It MAY or MAY NOT be an Internship.
  2. This is most likely the last submitted resume sent for the day.
  3. You have the required skill set for this job.
  4. This job may or may not pay depending on the internship status.
  5. The commute is 40+ minutes away.
  6. You've only applied to this job because you want to hit your submitted resume quota for the day.

You then spend the rest of your day going on about your business but constantly checking your email for a response to your five (maybe more) submitted resumes. You rarely hear back from any of them.

I had in fact heard from about four companies that I had applied to. Two reasonable jobs and two shit jobs, because of course. I brushed off my interview blazer, opened Google Maps and went on the subsequent job interviews, all of them. After my last interview hadn't contacted me for over a week, I resigned to the fact that I would die in my waitress uniform. This feeling continued even as I started every morning with the same resume submitting ritual; until, I began playing phone tag with one of the women I had interviewed with for a trade magazine.

My noticeably lacking confidence seeped into the good news that this game of phone tag was indicating.So Eric, forever my support system gave this advice, "There is no way she keeps trying to reach you if you didn't get the job." He was right, and I had been offered a position at a reasonable job and I finally felt worthy of it. I could finally, if not in my mind alone tell Indeed.com to go fuck itself.

After going out to purchase "professional" clothes, because apparently yoga pants are not considered "professional" I started my first day my new job.

It is a publication that is part of a larger parent company with hallways full of small windowless offices for both editorial and production of various publications. I was walked down a hallway and politely told that I would be taking over Taylor's old office. I could barely hide my excitement that I was receiving an office at all. To sit in front of a computer editing and writing copy all day was a thing my dreams were made of. I DID NOT want to serve food anymore.

On my first day I left my office door open. Throughout the day various friendly faces from throughout the office popped in my doorway to introduce themselves and say hello. I honestly remember about four of them, but they were all very nice.

So here I am, about two months in. (And if I can just say this whole bi-weekly paycheck thing is something that I am going to have to get use to. It gives me anxiety as obviously this changes my bill pay schedule but I guess this is all part of the "grownup job"). And I have just started to make this little, windowless office my own. I've taken to throwing out most of things, I mean I know it is sacrilegious to throw away old Vogues but do I need every issue from 2013? Probably not. But what I really need, is a new desk.

Taylor's old desk has two broken drawers, which I would like to use as Taylor's file cabinet is also broken. So I mention this to my new boss and when I come in the next morning, there is a new desk. Not Taylor's desk but Dina's desk. After this new desk's arrival more and more things started to fall into "office space." I am starting to find my own voice when writing for the magazine, I am people that I can eat lunch with and have enjoyable conversation, some of them even like Drags Queens, so it is the ultimate win.

And it is a little weird sitting here thinking about how long, or maybe not that long at all, it took me to get here. And I take that back, it took a long time. And a lot of studying, and crying and taking the bus to class and taking the bus to work. And as I sit at my new big desk, in an office with no windows, where I am not an intern anymore but an actual employee with a byline (A BYLINE!), and I am so busy that I can only relish in what I've done once I get home because there isn't enough hours in the work day. I decide that I do not want to be the new Taylor. I would instead like to think that I am the new Dina.

May Showers, Mercury in Retrograde, and the Santa Ana Winds

It’s Spring. Growing up I couldn’t wait for Spring. You had spent the better part (depending on the year and our dear old and tired, Mother Earth) of 4-6 months covered in Western New York white snow and by the time May came around you were pretty certain that there would not be another freak snowstorm. But even though there was no call for snow, there was a pretty solid chance that it would rain. That whole “April showers bring May flowers” stuff was delayed by a month or so sometimes up in the Greater Niagara region. And even though you didn’t have to scrape your car when you tried to go to the grocery store, it would be pouring rain; and who, after five months of ice and snow who would be happy to see any other kind of precipitation at all? The nonstop complaining of hating the weather outside carried on until it was officially Summer, because you can never be too happy.

So when I was old enough to think I was capable of uprooting my life I choose a place to live where it didn’t snow. Little did I know that it would barely rain either. And after a few years of being surrounded by yoga, kale and Sunny SoCal Liberalism I started to drink the kool-aid and become more aware of my energy what kind of energy I was admitting into the mix of Carbon Monoxide and Methane gas. And although I was skeptical at first, and it honestly took a lot of time to become  fully conscious of what reactions I should expect from my own energy, I was starting to be able to manipulate my own aura. I should also point out that during my time of growing self-realization, the rainy season in Los Angeles became pretty nonexistent and the Summers became hotter and drier. About four years ago, I became fully acquainted with a SoCal Spring… and developed allergies.

With the increasing effects of the drought, the Santa Ana winds have now started to resembled a menopausal woman: increasingly hot, unapologetic, and dry as a bone. And since you can develop allergies at any point in your life (which I did not know until I actually developed allergies) I learned all about Santa Ana and her winds. I also learned when to watch for Zyrtec to be on sale; and so the seasonal weather complaining continued.  But I was a different person now right? I mean at least wasn’t I like, trying to be? How would the new Dina react to this seasonal weather pattern? Two things that I started with were acceptance and preparation. The winds started around the same time every year (Fall and early Spring) and all I had to do was make sure I had allergy medicine on hand so I didn’t suffer.No need to complain, no point in relishing in the agony of it all, because after 20 years of complaining about snow and rain you just have to come to terms with Mother Nature and the fact that she gives zero fucks about how you feel about her weather patterns.

I came into Spring this year after a shitstorm that was Winter and decided there was no way to go but up, and since we’re all about nature in this post lets keep it going and say, there’s nothing to do after a storm other than grow. See what I did there? So I was extra conscious about my energy as I stocked up on Zyrtec and braced myself for high, hot winds. But this year was extra special, this year just in time for Spring, Mercury decided to be in retrograde.

Now, what the fuck does that mean?

Although it is common to understand that Mercury in retrograde means that the planet Mercury starts to orbit around the sun backwards, this is false. Mercury in retrograde simply means that Mercury has changed its orbital speed compared to orbital speed of Earth. And even though I would love to sit here and talk about Astrology for 700 words, I don’t, and you’re all adults that can Google. As it pertains to this post however, Mercury in retrograde does normally affect communication of any kind. This includes how we communicate with each other and our normal types of everyday communication i.e. your phone or computer. So even though I have decided that I am able to survive and conquer anything that life has to throw at me, because after the first few months of the year nothing could get worse, I now have to accept the fact that communication will be hard to navigate and my phone may or may not glitch at anytime. This is of course, if you believe in this kind of stuff, and I do so there’s that. Haven’t you ever had a chunk of time where everything is like “What the fuck is happening in the universe right now?!” Maybe you should check your astrological calendar that’s all I’m saying.

So here I am in the middle of my growth with another season to complain about. But if we are being honest, isn’t there always something to complain about? I’ve spent to much time being annoyed with the way I think things should be instead of being okay with the way things are. The only advice you will find on ways to prepare for Mercury in retrograde is to have the knowledge of accepting that you can’t stop Mercury and to adjust your reactions to the effects this time will have. So I have one more thing to become adjusted to. But seasons change and if I have to adjust to six inches of snow in March or my phone just dying because it feels like it, there’s always something to complain about. And what do they say, “When it rains it pours?” How about “When it winds it blows?” there’s still the SoCal sun so I can grow.

🌱

Be

I am, or actually we are, 45 days into 2017. And I would just like it be over already. Within the scope of 45 days I have felt pretty much every emotion, it’s been a heavy year thus far. Most of theses emotions are self-inflicted , and I am still trying to figure out exactly how to navigate what I want to do with each of them. But instead of processing anything that I know I should be,  I sit here and I don’t feel like doing anything, just nothing. No reading, no yoga, no thinking, just being. And for me right now, a week after my 29th birthday, being is all I can be accountable for. I have thrown everything in the air and it has landed upside down around me and all I need to figure out is how to be. To be myself, to be strong, to be stable, to be stupid, to be something.

I thought that I had a pretty clear picture of what it was I wanted to be, until one day I didn’t. I woke up and saw everything for what it wasn’t, what I wanted it to be and how it didn’t turn out that way so I threw it all like caution to the wind. I thought that after I had thrown my life into turmoil that I would be able to breathe, and now that I am surrounded by the aftermath of my decisions I still cannot breathe. Sure I am breathing because I am living, I am here and I am aware. But I’m not here and I am only semi aware.

Maybe me trying to be requires that I take the steps to become aware. Or maybe I fly home and hide on my parents couch in 20 degree Western New York weather, maybe I need a distraction, maybe I don’t. Is figuring out how to be yourself a journey through maybes? Is that what I have done, entered myself into this self created labyrinth of maybes? I had spent so much of my time creating a place where I was sure, where I felt safe and secure. Until I didn’t. And instead of living in a world of what ifs I traded it all for maybes.

So what do I do with these maybes? What do I do with all of these emotions? I’m not exactly sure yet. But sitting here on my couch by myself wrapped in a blanket can only last for so long, until I decide to go back to yoga. When everything around me was created by the chaos within me then the only way to fix it is to go inside. Root down and rise up, lean on the strength of other souls so they can show you how strong your own soul is. Sweat out every tear that you think you have inside and try your hardest not to cry when you release the emotions that have settled in your hips (it is kind of embarrassing to cry in a crowded yoga class on a Monday afternoon I’ve learned). It’s 2017 and I am really, really over it, but it’s not done, and neither am I.

The Bills Make Me Want to…Cry

Well it is December once again. An Arctic front is once again hitting Western New York and the Buffalo Bills season is over. As a native of Upstate, my relationship with the Buffalo Bills has been contentious. I grew up in Niagara Falls, NY and pretty much like any other football town going to The Ralph on Sundays was just something that you did. In fact, some of my first football memories are from the mid 1990’s, when Buffalo had something to cheer for. But as much as it was disappointing, it was some of the greatest football memories I can think of. Actually, all Buffalo Bills home games are pretty memorable in their own right, but we’ll talk about that later. Since then, the Bills have been rebuilding for what seems like the last 25 years and as fans, we can only hope and pray that sooner or later Buffalo will get their shit together. We have kept the faith through Flutie Flakes, JP Losman, Doug Marrone just up and quitting, and  Bon Jovi trying to take us to Toronto. Every year we would rally cry that “This would be our year! This year Buffalo is going to the Superbowl!” but it never happened, and Buffalo hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1999.

I took some time away, I will admit it. I just couldn’t keep doing it to myself. Getting all excited every Fall for the start of a new football season and every Sunday just getting my Football heart getting crushed sometimes even before halftime. I wouldn’t even watch Bills games, missing them became easier since I moved to Los Angeles and couldn’t even get the Bills games on Sunday. Until one day we were saved, Terry & Kim Pegula came down from the heavens and saved us and the Bills from Bon Jovi and Toronto, beginning the era of “One Buffalo”. And it seemed that this new breath of Pegula life would be everything that Buffalo needed to grow into something that we had been waiting for. The Pegulas even gave us what they thought was a gift with a new head coach, Rex Ryan.

The beginning of the Rex Ryan’s tenure in Buffalo started just as you would think, with lots of talk, lots of personality and of course, lots of promises.Most of these promises included and long awaited trip to the playoffs in the 2016 season. They also included some new and noteworthy talent with the likes of a new quarterback in Tyrod Taylor and running power with LeSean McCoy. And we as fans, as the “Bills Mafia” were again giving our rally cry that “This would be our year! In Pegula we trust and Rex promised!” And what we got has been nothing short of  smoke and mirrors promises. Rex has let us down in the worst way, because he has played on our hope, and he has let us down with bullshit challenges and no timeouts left after the two minute warning and losing games by a field goal, and it’s time we say goodbye to Rex and Rob for that matter.

So it is the end of the our season once again, and yes of course I know that they season isn’t over but we in Western New York know better. We know that once the weather turns, the season turns, if it hasn’t already. And there is something reassuring in that, we know as Bills fans where we stand. We stand with the best fans in the league, we stand with the best tailgates you will ever find in any stadium in the country, and we stand with hope that next season will be the year the Bills make it to the Superbowl.

The World Turned Upside Down

Last week I had walked into a Big Lots for the first time in a long time. I was in need of some paper plates and dog poop bags. As soon as I entered the store, Christmas smacked me in my whole face. It was everywhere, from candy to decorations, to Christmas kitchen items to dog costumes. I immediately felt bad for Thanksgiving. It just gets the shaft, rushed over and forgotten.Agreed that Thanksgiving has transformed into a holiday that is buried in commercialism; stores don’t even close anymore, forcing  employees to miss the entire weekend with their families not just a Friday. And yes, Thanksgiving is a holiday with somewhat of a contentious history, but then again, what part of the United States history isn’t contentious. But I still felt bad, Thanksgiving had been reduced to a distant clearance corner inside Big Lots and it hadn’t even happened yet. With everything that has happened already this November, I can’t imagine rushing to the end of the year, freely falling into the unstable and unknown.

My fear of falling into the unknown followed me all the way to my yoga practice and has been taunting me for some time. In order to conquer this fear, I took the day off of work and participated in a yoga workshop given by a teacher that I take on a regular basis. During the opening sequences of our practice, the class focused on opening our chests and strengthening our spine; breathing intentions and focusing on our fears. The world is becoming unbalanced enough, my teacher had explained which is a vibe that has been a haunting theme in the everyday. He then mentioned the recent attention to this unbalance when the cast of Hamilton called out Vice-President Elect Mike Pence during a curtain call following a performance.It was the only political comment of the class, and it was taken with a passing laugh. In order to overcome that fear of being unbalanced, we had to adjust our “sunskaras” which is a sanskrit word for mental impression or habit, the order in which  you automatically cross your arms for example.In order to do that, we had to become aware of when our fear took over and adjust our reaction to that fear. Physically, this meant that as soon as we felt we were pass center we should bend our knees and land on the balls of our feet essentially in a wheel position.

When we focused back on finding balance while upside down,he went on to tell us that our spine has to be strong enough to find this balance; but subtle enough to adjust to the shock of falling. Our spine is the center of everything that is happening while trying to achieve an inversion. We spent a better chunk of the class flipping upside down and trying to hold various inversions including headstand, handstand and forearm balance. The ultimate goal, my teacher explained, is to not be afraid of falling out of an inversion, but to get frustrated that you did so. The goal, is to stay upside down, balance and be strong, getting over the fear of falling is just the first step.

By the time the class got to savassana I was exhausted. My arms were sore, my quads were screaming and I could not wait to lay down. Our savassana was extra long since our class was both extra long and hard on the nervous system. Once I had opened my eyes after giving gratitude for being able to practice that day, I felt light but grounded. I felt open and ready to be strong and stable in an unstable world.