Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

What I’ve Read So Far This Year

It’s true what people say about freelancing: you’re either being hit between the eyes with a Super Soaker or standing last in line at Bi-Rite Creamery. Either drowning in work or in tears. (Or, let’s be honest, both).

The start of this year was painfully slow on the work front. I had come off the high of trying to do every possible project I could get my hands in October into the blissful month I spent in New Zealand. When December rolled around I wasn’t particularly worried, a slow month here or there won’t kill anyone. But by February I was desperate.

Which was how we got here. Those brutal, hungry months can lead to some of the best stories and most exciting opportunities, or crippling self-doubt. I went from not blogging because I was constantly pitching and worried about putting my best ideas here to barely having enough mental space to remember family birthdays and the last time I brushed my teeth. I find it challenging to make the time for words that I’m not getting paid for. I have to eat, and at this point in my life—despite what freelancers tell themselves—I work for everyone else.

Which is all to say life is good now, freelancing is just as challenging as everyone forewarns, and I’ve done too much reading and writing to fully catch you up. But that doesn’t mean I wont’ try. So here it is, seven months of reading in a single blog post. Enjoy!

Books on Nightstand — What I'm Reading

What I’ve Read So Far This Year

I would break the internet—okay fine, my brain—if I tried to give you a feel review of everything I’ve read since January. Instead I’m offering the reductionist version. Here’s a quick list with a couple thoughts thrown in.

1. The Imperfect Environmentalist: 2.3-3/5 stars… although part of that could be because I want to write a book like this, but better.

2. Lotta Jansdotter’s Handmade Living: 3.5/5 stars. Scandi-living candy. Did not actually get me to start decorating two years after moving in as hoped.

3. The Heart’s Invisible Furies: 2/5 stars. Went on forever. Not a fan.

4. The Kinfolk Home: 2.5/5 stars. Depressing. How can anyone afford to live like this? Liked most of the essays.

5. Still Life with Tornado: IDK stars. I don’t remember how I felt about this YA book. So I guess that says something.

6. New Minimalism: 3/5 stars. Nothing new or surprising to me here. Still liked it. Good place to start if you haven’t already gotten rid of 75-80 percent of your stuff and moved into a 275 square foot apartment with your partner.

7. Spark: 2.5/5 stars. I liked the first chapter. Then it felt like it went on too long.

8. Wing Jones: 4/5 stars. Loved this YA novel about finding your power and voice through running.

9. Fix Your Clothes: 3?/5 stars. Helpful reference. Still can’t really fix clothes.

10. Make Yourself at Home: 3/5. Book did not magically decorate my home.

11. Urban Jungle: 3/5. Have two new plants.

12. Sing, Unburied, Sing: 4/5 stars. Cried.

13. Little Fires Everywhere: 4/5 stars. Weird. Liked it.

14. Sage Living: Decorate for the Life You Want: 3/5 stars. Still have not hung up a single photo.

15. This Will Be My Undoing: 4/5  stars. Insightful, honest read. Recommend.

16. The Last Magazine: 1/5 stars. I wanted to leave this off this list to prevent drawing any more attention to it. Came off as sexist and racist. I have complicated because the author is dead so I feel like an ass for hating it and getting so worked up about it.

17. Born a Crime: 4.5/5 stars. Cannot recommend it enough.

18. Rethink The Way You Live: 2.5/5 stars. Kind of interesting? Have not rethought.

19. Tin Can Homestead: 4/5 stars. Gorgeous small living.

20. Goodbye, Things: 2.5/5 stars. Roughly translated, concept is just not for me. Repetitive.

21. Garbology: 5/5 stars. I cannot stop talking about this book. The history and scientific analysis of our trash blew me away. Please read it. It’s way more interesting and insightful than you could ever imaging a book about physical trash could be. So good.

22. How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky: 2/5 stars. So, so weird. I don’t get the hype. Wish I hadn’t finished it.

23. Emergency Contact: 2.5/5 stars. It was okay. Would have been better if the text messages the story was built on would have had stupid typos and autocorrect nonsense like they would have in real life.

January Book Reviews: What I Read This Month

The fact that this post is going live a little more than week before the next edition is due is telling. Life can be frustratingly disruptive on the reading and writing front. But no matter, still we continue.

Escape the news, laugh at yourself (and the people toiling away in the gym while you eat a donut), dig into culture, and find a little happiness with these January Book Reviews.

January Book Reviews

January Book Reviews: What I Read This Month – Treading Lightly

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

I did get a few laughs out of Drop Dead Healthy, but I was kind of surprised at the weird knowledge he chose to follow and the lack of sturdy science. That said, it was mostly entertaining just to listen to his thoughts and follow along with his always-a-little-out-there experiments.

 

Big Mushy Happy Lump (Sarah’s Scribbles #2)

There are times when I read a book and I think “Yes, this author and I so get each other!” Big Mushy Happy Lump was just as great as Adulthood Is a Myth. When you can’t take the news anymore or you just want 30 minutes where it’s perfectly alright to laugh by yourself in a corner, I can’t recommend Sarah Andersen enough.

 

The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People

Everyone is obsessed with Scandinavia. Even I can’t help myself. Both with The Little Book of Hygge and the latest, The Little Book of Lykke, I found myself thinking how at home I would feel  nestled amongst the candles, hot drinks, warm cinnamon buns, and bicycles.

This book was less handbook and more of an intentional eye-opener. I loved the stats and examples, and it made me start thinking of ways that I could live a little more like a Dane (preferably somewhere without snow and ample winter sunlight). Be forewarned, it will also make you want to hop on a plane and see what all of the fuss is about.

 

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of those writers that I compulsively read, but he makes me work for it. His books are never well-suited for tearing through, but instead make you reread entire pages and stare off into the distance while you rethink what you thought you knew about the world or imagine a world that owned up to its mistakes and rectified them quickly instead of desperately clutching onto lies and undeserved power.

While it’s true that you can read most of the essays in We Were Eight Years in Power on The Atlantic’s website, I much preferred being able to take my time with them, set the book down when I needed to, and come back a few days later when I was ready again. I may be an outlier, but I also really enjoyed his introduction to each essay where he explained what was going on in his personal life, what he would have done differently, the work that went into the piece, and the parts of it that he still feels strongly about or has changed his mind on.

 

The Mother of All Questions

From the author of Men Explain Things to MeThe Mother of All Questions takes on rape jokes, violence against women, damaging masculinity and femininity, and the power of women who cannot be silenced.

Why I’m Not a Fan of Everlane

Revoke my Millennial card now – I’m about to commit internet blasphemy.

I don’t like Everlane.

The brand has made its name touting its transparency and ethical wares, but I feel strongly that it doesn’t belong on the same racks as truly sustainable, ethical clothing. Yes, it is fantastic that Everlane is making an effort to show consumers where there clothes come from and break down the real costs that go into each piece. But I don’t think the clothes they are making right now are deserving of the praise they’ve been getting. (And there’s an ongoing debate about if they are actually radically transparent.)

It may seem unfair to complain about a company that is trying to do better than most fast fashion brands, but that doesn’t mean that it belongs on every list of ethical clothing brands or in every conscious consumer’s closet.

Why I'm Not a Fan of Everlane

Before I get into my reasons, I want to be very clear. I have only bought from Everlane once and visited their pop-up shop in San Francisco once. Outside of my time in their shop, I have only tried on and touched three of their pieces: crew neck cashmere sweater, v-neck cashmere sweater, and a cotton v-neck t-shirt.

Let’s get into it.

Why I Won’t Buy Everlane

1. It’s Fast Fashion Lite

Trendy? Check. Cheap? Check. Built to last? Definitely not.

Everlane may not add new items to the site every day, but they certainly pump out their fair share of new styles and colors. Most of their clothes are on trend, which means they will quickly become dated. Are they the same as H&M and Zara. No. But they are more like fast fashion than most people would like to admit.

Why I'm Not a Fan of Everlane

2. Poor Quality

Their low prices should have been a dead giveaway, but my biggest disappointment has been the poor quality of their clothing. All three of the pieces I ordered, including two cashmere sweaters, were see-through thin. The same can be said for most of what I saw in the store. The fabric is not high quality and the pieces do not feel like they are built to last.

You cannot pay fair wages, produce things well, use high quality materials, and sell a shirt for $15. The math just doesn’t add up. Something has to give.

Every time I wash my only Everlane piece, a dark gray v-neck t-shirt, I am paranoid it’s going to rip. I wash it on delicate and in a garment bag because it’s so thin.

3. Materials

Ethical comes in all shapes and sizes, but to me ethical clothing needs to be sustainable. Everlane does not use organic cotton or other low-chemical, low-water alternatives. They do not tell you what kind of dyes or process they use. They do not use leather that has been safely tanned without harmful chemicals. Their jackets are stuffed with polyester and polypropylene. Pants and dresses from their work wear collection contain viscose from unspecified origin, polyester, polyamid, and nylon.

That said, most of their materials are natural and not man-made. They have gone out of their way to manufacture their jeans in a sustainable denim factory. The sustainability of their materials and production is something that Everlane clearly cares about, but they haven’t gone far enough for me across their entire line. (If I had to guess, the cost of organic materials is likely their biggest barrier at this point to more sustainable materials).

4. Personal Reasons

It would be unfair to leave these out. I have struggled to find pieces that fit both my style and my body. However, it’s all of the things above that keep me from trying new pieces or giving them more chances.

 

Take a look inside my minimalist wardrobe or read why the ethical clothing blogger behind Gretchen’s Closet Stopped Buying Everlane.

This Is Garbage

We need to talk about trash.

There have been some important stories about trash in the news lately that are weighing on my mind, and yet they seem to be going unnoticed.

GoodFor Aukland Zero Waste Bulk Grocery Store

If every grocery store looked like GoodFor in Aukland, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

The biggest is that China is no longer taking our trash. Before the new policy went into effect on January 1, 2018, China recycled about half of the entire world’s paper and plastics. Now they are refusing to take on our dirty business due to environmental damage, poor quality of the materials we send, and hazardous waste and trash that’s mixed in and bring down the value of the recyclables. Countries including England, Ireland, Germany, and Canada are already reporting a buildup of plastic recyclables according to the article in the New York Times.

As more plastics and paper products build up in cities and ports around the world, the article reports that many are looking to export their waste to other countries like India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. But what are these countries going to do with this overflow of trash? Without proper recycling facilities and a capacity to actually process the massive surge, these countries will be inundated with our castoffs and left with the same problems that has left China reeling.

Sure, it feels like you’re doing the right thing by recycling – and yes it’s better than throwing things straight into the trash – but this is yet another (7.3 million ton) reminder that recycling is not enough. So what is?

We, as an entire global community, need to make less trash. It starts at home, but we also need to hold companies accountable for the packaging they use and demand better options.

For more of what you can do to reduce your waste right now, go here.

 

17 Things I’ve Been Doing to Resist

It’s been a full year. A full 356 days of standing up for what I believe in, fighting for what’s right, and bracing myself for the next New York Times notification.

Many of the things below are not necessarily new to my life – some have been around for at least a decade – but they have taken on new meaning to me. Here’s a fairly exhaustive list of what I’ve been doing to resist (in no particular order).

Resist Reading List: Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

1. Reading

Books are powerful. Written language carries weight and meaning beyond the letters on the page. There’s a reason the current administration doesn’t want anyone reading newspapers or getting their right to free education.

Newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books illuminate other perspectives and immerse you in someone else’s experience for a brief moment. They add context and gravity to the things happening around us and help us better understand the real stakes. While I think any reading can be an act of resistance (and self-care!), here are a few of the books I read in the past year that fired me up or gave me much needed understanding:

The first two are must-reads.

2. Supporting Real News

It’s vital to support valuable sources of truth with money. I have a NYTimes subscription, but just remembering to turn off my ad blocker and spending more time with their content can make a difference for newspapers and journalists.

Resist: Bike to Farmers' Market

3. Riding My Bike

Every time I pick up my helmet instead of my car keys, I’m giving this repulsive administration a massive middle finger. Oil money has bought them off, and I refuse to put any back in their pockets. Instead I make every effort to ride my bike and pay for public transit. Each time I buy a ticket for the local train I am voting with my dollars and insisting that we need more funding and investment in our shared resources and sustainable transit. Riding my bike improves my community’s air quality, reduces traffic and road congestion, (hopefully) inspires other people to bike, and makes it safer for everyone. It also makes me really happy.

Who knew riding could feel so damn satisfying.

4. Calling My Representatives

I am lucky to live in a state/region that has politicians who are fighting for equality and justice. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need to hear from the people who support them. Actually calling makes me nauseous (and I totally cried once while talking to a staffer about health care and how much the Affordable Care Act has helped me), but I always feel better when I do.

Resist: Shop at Farmers' Markets

5. Eating My Values

I’ve been vegetarian for more than a decade. This year we’ve made an even bigger push to eat local foods by skipping the grocery store and getting our produce at our farmers’ market instead. Our veggies are from fields around the area and our money goes straight to the farmers instead of filtering through Amazon’s pockets. I refuse to give Monsanto or other massive agro-companies my money. We buy organic to protect our local environment, the workers, and ourselves. We’ve also been paying attention to foods with big carbon or water footprints and trying to eat them less.

Resist: Ditch the Trash

6. Working Toward Zero Waste

In general packaged foods don’t fit my values or come from companies I feel good supporting. Even more so, I can’t stand the idea of sending chip bags and granola bar wrappers to a landfill where they will either end up in the ocean or be buried in other plastic junk longer than I will be alive.

Reducing our trash has pushed us to support local business and farmers, discover new resources around us, reuse what we already have in different ways, and slowly cut down on our environmental impact. (You can see more about the changes we’ve made here.)

7. Refusing to Support Companies Who Support Hatred, Racism, and Sexism

A simple Chrome extension let’s me know when companies support the current administration. Before I purchase anything I do a quick search to make sure that the company ethically produces their goods, has sustainability practices, and aren’t in favor of the current regime. (Here’s a good list to get you started, compilations of dirty donors, or dive into the ultimate list of people and companies to boycott.

8. Keeping an Ethical Wardrobe

Creating an ethical wardrobe is about more than just buying from ethical retailers. Instead I have been taking good care of the clothes I already own. I have refused to buy from companies who don’t use sustainable materials and practices, don’t treat their workers fairly, and don’t pay fair prices for their raw materials. For much of the year, I just didn’t shop at all. When I did need something, I checked for used options first.

9. Reducing Online Shopping

Online shopping is a hard habit to break. I still research every purchase online before I buy it, but I’ve been trying to make purchases in a store rather than online. Sure, online shopping may be cheaper on the surface, but going to stores (especially when I ride my bike) saves carbon and helps starve oil companies. It takes untold amounts of oil to get all of our Amazon packages to us. Most things I can easily buy within 10 miles of my home. This also helps me cut down on packaging/waste.

 10. Supporting Independent, Ethical, Environmental Business

You don’t just have to shop to do this. I’ve been including more business that I believe in in the things I write (especially for other publications), following them on social media, and telling my friends about them when they’re looking for something in particular.

11. Staying Off Twitter

I refuse to fuel or partake in the distracting name calling and hatred that goes on in the space. It goes without saying, but not following the president and never retweeting him goes a long way. He takes power from people listening to him. Even retweets that are meant to show his idiocies or dispel lies turn into proof that people care what he says and that he’s being heard. Let him yell his lies to an empty void. (Related: Why I deleted my Facebook.)

12. Ignoring Clickbait

I refuse to teach publications that it’s okay to use the frequently unfolding horrors to drive clicks and revenue. I will not let publications get away with stories meant to inflame or needlessly entertain. This includes political ‘you won’t believe!’ stories, almost all celebrity stories, and anything that looks like it came out of a tabloid. I can’t stand the current president’s obsession with this “tv ratings.” I’m not watching. (That doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention or informed.)

13. Listening to New Voices

I’ve spent an outrageous amount of time listening to podcasts in the last 12 months. Top of mind are Seeing White from Scene on the Radio, Pod Save America (and its offshoots), and Call Your Girlfriend. They keep me up to date about what’s going, tell me how I can help, and help me understand the world a bit better. I’m also a big fan of the Small Victories newsletter that highlights the progress and good things that are happening.

14. Talking

There have been some falling outs in the last year over social and political beliefs within my extended family. But that hasn’t stopped me from seeing how important it is to talk to the people in my life candidly about what’s happening, how it’s affecting everyone, and what we can do to help one another.

15. Supporting Public Services

The library is one of my favorite places. It is one of the public services that I use the most, and I am so thankful for it. We have a great library system in our county. Not only does it mean I can read 79 books without having to spend a dime, but it offers so many programs to the entire community. When I go stir-crazy at home it’s the first place I pack myself off to for some quiet work or a much needed browse.
There are so many other things that fall into this category, but the others that I use or try to visibly support is bike access/parking in my community, public transit, and farmers’ markets and other open events.

16. Refusing Greed and ‘Me First’ Attitude

This obnoxious, toxic behavior is what got us here. We’re all trying to grab what’s ‘owed’ to use before the next person can, and it’s destroying our societies and our happiness.

I’m actively working on not getting mad at people who cut in front of me when driving, being mindful to hold open doors, wave other people through at stop signs, and generally reassess whenever I feel like I have to have something before someone else gets it. This also includes not chasing after the latest and greatest things and instead being thankful for the things we do have.

17. Recognizing Humanity

American society is weird. We pride ourselves on giving each other personal space and being self-reliant individuals. And yet we close ourselves off from others and ignore the humanity in the people around us. I’m all for gliding through the background unnoticed, but there are times when I think it does more harm than good.

This one is as easy as saying ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ or even ‘good morning.’ Start with people who hold doors open for you and move on to every service worker who helps you, homeless people, or strangers on your commute. Talk to the person in your office that you’ve never actually met. Get to know the people who take care of your yard or your local park. If an introvert like me can do it, anyone can.

Noticeably Absent:

This year I didn’t make it to any protests. I let my still healing ankle and fear get in the way. 2018 seems like a good year to change that.

 

November and December Books: What I Read

Phew, what a year.

This list concludes the rambling reviews/thoughts/complaints/useless nonsense I have written for all 79 of the books I read in 2017. (Yes, I too wish it was 80. Although that seems greedy given that I had originally set out to read 52.) More than any year in the past, these posts have reflected my worries, my hopes, my weird obsessions. These books have offered me comfort, answers, and a nice dose of ‘well at least it’s not that bad… right?’ I hope you were able to sneak in a little bit of that too.

2017 Reading Stats

For the curious:

Books read:79
Fiction: 32
Nonfiction: 44
Poetry: 3
Average length: 297 pages
Total pages: 23,432
Shortest book: 78 pages
Longest book: 707 pages

November and December Books

I got a bit behind on my monthly book posts, so you’ll have to excuse this massive post with both November’s and December’s list.

November and December Books: What I Read This Month

Say What You Will

This book was not what I expected, and two months later I’m even less sure what I think about it. I enjoyed that the focus of the story and the narrater is a teen with cerebral palsy who can’t talk or walk without assistance. For the most part it was a believable story that does a good job of keeping you engaged. Unfortunately there were times where it was just a bit too over the top for my taste.

 

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Add this to the list of things I fear and hope I never need to draw on. Jon Ronson digs into the frightening world of public (typically online) shaming and what it really looks like in the aftermath.

The main things I learned from So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: women have their bodies and lives threatened, while men are made fun of and have their masculinity challenged. Women are more likely to be permanently marked by a public shaming, while men can move in on mere months and go back to having the life they had before. Being called out on the Internet can ruin your life, especially if you are a woman who relies on public acceptance for work.

Perhaps not a great vacation read, but I think it’s an important issue that we all need to be more aware of before we jump on the shame wagon and attempt to obliterate people off the internet.

 

Sourdough

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore turned out to be a tough act to follow. Robin Sloan’s new book, Sourdough, is also set in the Bay Area and features distinctly dystopian views of the world. The story follows a software engineer as she leaves behind a start-up job that makes her miserable in favor of learning how to make sourdough bread.

I enjoyed Lois and her oddities, and I can’t say I don’t agree with some of Sloan’s views on where our tech-fueled culture is headed. But I can’t lie. I was dissapointed that Lois had to choose between her career that she excelled at and a new passion. The whole book had me on edge. Maybe no one wants to read a book where women can carve out professional success while still having a fully functional personal life, but I felt like the plot followed old tropes.

 

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement

I dragged my feet on We Were Feminists Once. I take issue with some of the underlying premises of this book, but I too sat in a class only a handful of years ago where I was one of two women, out of 20, who raised their hand when asked if they considered themselves a feminist.

Andi Zeisler chronicles the commodification of feminism and the glaring misunderstanding of what it means. (Apparently she was spot on about that one. Why did so many people have to look up ‘feminism’ this year?)

It didn’t revolutionize my world, but I do think it’s an important read to understand the last decade and where we need to go from here.

 

The Sun and Her Flowers

Rupi Kaur is the poet I wanted to be when I was 13. I say screw the establishment’s uproar and turned up noses. I’m all for more accessible, heartfelt poetry that so many women can see their own lives in.

 

The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown

Tears were shed. Socially inappropriate laughs burst out. This collection of true short stories that were adapted from live tellings gave me a much needed hit of unforgettable performances.

 

The Chemist

I enjoyed The Chemist more than I’d like to admit. Since leaving her job at a secret government group, the main character is on the run stay one step ahead of everyone, including her previous boss wants her dead thanks to the secrets she helped them uncover.

I liked the premise of the book. The main character’s paranoia felt right at home, and her problem-solving skills were believable (and often humorous). The chemistry portions of the book made it feel fresh and less like a shoot ’em up spy movie.

My gripe? Stephenie Meyer yet again made a book that could be about a woman fighting for the control of her life into a story about how said woman gives up everything to follow a man. You can see the love story coming from the first brush, and it annoyed me.

 

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

Something about The Song Machine just didn’t work for me. Its sweeping coverage of song making since the ’60s left me feeling unmoored and bored. There’s no connection with the people he writes about, and it often felt like he spent too much time on certain people and decades. I wish that it had been more about individual songs or albums. It was just too hard to grasp if you aren’t obsessively following producers and the charts for the past 20 years.

It was interesting to read about how song writing and making has completely transformed into a corporate group effort. The assembly line has been brought in, and it robs the most popular hits of their individualism and soul.

If you do love the top 20, you will hate this book. It will show you that every song you listen to is heartless and made like a shitty inexpensive sports car. All flash and no lasting power.

 

Lust & Wonder

Pure love. I first read Augusten Burroughs in high school, and this autobiography had me flashing back to sitting against a locker while desperately trying to devour as much of Running with Scissors as possible before I had to go to class.

Along with David Sedaris, Burroughs perfectly hums along with my humor. His life choices drive me absolutely insane, but I don’t want him to stop telling me about them.

 

Artemis

Artemis is one of the books I looked forward to most this year. I still recommend The Martian to people, and I was hoping this one would be just as good. I was so desperate to read Andy Weir’s latest that I actually bought it (it was one of the maybe four books I bought all year).

The plot is outlandish as Jazz Bashara, Artemis’ unofficial smuggling expert, takes on her biggest project yet. But overall it’s easy to be fully onboard with the world Weir creates and his community on the moon. The book was great fun.

 

Girl Up

Written for teens, this book is a handbook for carving out your life in a sexist world. Laura Bates acts as a friendly guide and a wise older sister as she breaks down some of the most frustrating and unfair things girls come up against. Her advice is spot on, and I enjoyed the humor she was able to bring to what are often stuffy, overly serious, scarring conversations.

 

Adulthood Is a Myth

I think Sarah Andersen and I should be friends in real life. But the kind of friends where you mostly text and only see each other in quiet, uncrowded places. My introverted soul nodded along to every page of this fun illustrated book.

 

Ramona Blue

Set a little more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina, this YA novel brings together race, poverty, and sexuality without it feeling forced or preachy. From her off-kilter friends to her fierce protection of her sister to her constant push and pull with her hometown, it’s hard not to dive right in alongside Ramona as she struggles to choose her future and let her family stand on their own. Julie Murphy managed to make Ramona Blue entertaining and relatable even when tackling the realities of being stuck in the wake of a disaster.

 

Want more? Here’s everything I read in 2017

October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

My Top Books of 2016 and 2015

You can see all of my book reviews here.

More Like This

10 Best Books to Read on Vacation

How to Make Time to Read

 

The Best Things I Bought This Year

This might seem like a weird thing to write about for someone who calls herself a minimalist, but this post really does have a place here. Part of cutting back on purchases and unnecessary stuff is being able to appreciate what you have and realize what has really made a difference.

I haven’t purchased much this year, although this list has reminded me that I bought more than I realized. This list includes most of what I bought, and for good reason. The things below all made a tangible difference in my life and were the best things I bought this year.

My Best Purchases of 2017

Used Trek Lexa 2

1. Bike

I was pretty devastated when my bike was stolen. It took me months of going to bike shops and relentlessly scanning the internet to find my new bike. I eventually found the perfect used road bike on Craigslist. When I brought her in to my local bike shop to get her all set up the (amazingly patient and super helpful) guy said he never sees used bikes that fit that well.

Since purchasing her (and an unfortunately expensive slew of other necessary things like a helmet and pedals), I have reduced my driving down to once a week. I love flying down hills and racing past traffic. Lexy (yes, she has a name) is by far the best physical thing I bought this year. She makes stupid happy and we go nearly everywhere together. She’s now my main set of wheels.

Allbirds Wool Travel Shoes in Iceland

2. Allbirds

It feels near impossible to find a relatively sustainable shoe that is also comfortable and not hideous. I pined after these wool shoes for nearly a year before I finally purchased some. They were my main travel shoes this year (they went all over Iceland and New Zealand wonderfully). They were also my main every day shoe. From commuting to riding my bike on errands, I take them everywhere.

Patagonia Women's Micro D® 1/4-Zip Fleece – The Best Things I Bought This Year

3. Fleece Sweatshirt

I’ll be honest with you, I have some guilt about this one. I am very aware that my fleece sweatshirt leaches plastic fibers into the environment and the water every time I wear and wash it. The synthetic fibers wash out of the garment and into the waterways, ocean, and even our drinking water. I’m planning to purchase a bag that traps the fibers and helps keep them out of the water, but it will still end up in the trash or blown away.

With that said, I couldn’t find a warm sweatshirt or mid layer made from natural fibers that I could afford. I also needed something that could pack small, get wet, and handle being shoved in a suitcase. This Patagonia fleece is ethically produced from recycled polyester, which made me feel slightly (just slightly) less terrible about the whole thing. It does everything I need it to do, and it will last me for years. I wear this sweatshirt every single day, and it’s on my must-have list for any trip. (Don’t worry, I wash it around twice a month, so it’s not too grungy and it sheds less.)

Zero Waste Handkerchiefs – The Best Things I Bought This Year

4. Handkerchiefs

I never thought I would love using handkerchiefs. I am a complete convert. My nose has never felt better, they wash and dry like a dream, and we have massively reduced our trash. I bought some handmade handkerchiefs off Etsy, but you can find them all over including in thrift stores and zero waste online shops like Life Without Plastic and Package Free Shop.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots – The Best Things I Bought This Year

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots – The Best Things I Bought This Year

5. Hiking Boots

While hiking in New Zealand I would not shut up about how great of an investment these boots were. After 4 hours of rain and 2 hours of snow my feet were still completely dry. They handled plodding through an unexpected foot of snow for hours on end like a champ. It took me forever to find a hiking boot that my feet accepted, and I was happy to discover that these are made in Europe and that the company takes their impact seriously.

Dyson V8 – The Best Things I Bought This Year

6. Vacuum

I am a cleaning nerd, and I’m not ashamed of it. I dreamed of owning this vacuum* for almost a full year before we decided it was worth the investment (both money and space). I’m so glad we finally brought it home. It works great in our small space, and I’m thrilled to no longer have to sweep the stairs (which really just meant throwing all of the dust and debris into the air).

Kayaking Milford Sound – The Best Things I Bought This Year

7. Time Off to Travel

Of course this is on the list, and it’s definitely not really last. Sure, it’s not something physical, but it was my biggest expenditure this year. I took on extra clients and projects and gave up some weekends throughout the year to be able to spend more than six weeks traveling in 2017. From Iceland to New Zealand to Hawaii to visiting family, it was worth every extra bit of hard work.

Freelance has been a huge learning experience with some serious lows, but the ability to take off when I like and travel has made it all worth it.

 

PS. I don’t make any money off of the links I included here. They’re just for reference/ nosy people like me. 

*Much too patient boyfriend not included.

Why I Deleted My Facebook Account

For years I have been dreaming about this day, but I always told myself ‘I couldn’t possibly actually do that.’ Well past self, I definitely did.

I haven’t used Facebook with any regularity since college. In the years after I would go on and catch up with people’s lives that I never see or talk to. I don’t know about you, but this left me feeling more like a stalker than a far away friend. Once the timeline updated and stupid videos that acquaintances shared started to take over my feed like virulent mold, I stopped logging in altogether.

It’s been at least two and a half years since the Facebook app was on my phone, but I still couldn’t quite bring myself to delete my account entirely.

Why I Deleted My Facebook

Facebook Isn’t for Friends

My account was my ‘binders full’ of friends. I held on to it for so long because I had convinced myself that all of the people who were a part of my life in the past – elementary school classmates, high school friends and lab partners, family that moved away when I was child – were still relevant and connected to my current life. Deleting my account made me face the fact that I never interact with anyone on there. They give me a false sense of friendship when in reality we are strangers with each other’s names on a website.

Facebook has not built my friendships. If anything, it made me feel less connected to the people who are in my life. When I actually used Facebook I would follow along with what all of my high school classmates were up to in their new lives while my college roommates sat in the room with me.

I no longer buy into the idea that social media deepens our relationships or helps us connect meaningfully with new people. Of course you can make new friends via social media, but the real friendship building happens offline.

 

My Last Straw

This has been building for years. Facebook’s lack of response to harassment, trolling, and blatant hatred toward women was reason enough. I was sick and tired of Facebook using predatory ad practices to market me more things I don’t need. I am still tired of all of the all companies selling my data to other companies who want to get me to give them money. Each and every update to the service feels more and more like it’s for brands and people who profit from the site.

The election pushed me over the edge. From the widespread infection of truly made-up ‘news’ and false events to the hate groups that grew their faithful lackeys to the constant barrage of outrage and poorly thought-out rants, I was done.

Facebook’s complicity in Russia’s hostile attack on our election was my final straw. I want them to suffer for what they’ve done, and deleting accounts and rapidly deflating their user numbers is one way that I can contribute.

 

No more fake friends.

Twitter and Snapchat were deleted years ago for failing to hold my interest (and taking up way too much of my tiny 8Gs of space). My Twitter account hangs on by a thread due to career obligations (but my do I salivate about cutting it).

Instagram is still on my phone. And I need to do a lot better about using it meaningfully.

From here on out I want to be better at interacting with the people I follow on Instagram. Like many, I follow people who I admire or who inspire me. As long as that’s still true, I think they deserve space in my feed. For everyone else, it’s time I reached out and used Instagram as a way to build our connection, not just watch from afar. An engaged comment on a friend’s posts, a quick text to start a real conversation, or, even better, a request to hear about their recent stunning vacation in real life would go a long way towards what I’m really after – richer relationships in my real (a.k.a. offline) life.

 

The End of Social Media?

I can’t help but hope so. This article by Nick Bilton in Vanity Fair about the future of social media gave me a little bit of hope.

 

Looking for a little peace in the digital world? You might like my posts about my Distraction-Free Smartphone, Minimizing Social Media, and a hearty Digital Decluttering.