What a week.

On Monday, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing at least three people (including an eight-year-old boy) and injuring more than 140.

On Tuesday, the FBI was alerted to a letter intercepted by the U.S. Senate Mail Facility which contained ricin, a lethal toxin. Three such letters were sent to President Barack Obama, a U.S. Senator and a judge.

On Wednesday afternoon, a mostly Republican minority filibustered gun regulations that the majority of Americans support, regulations that would have expanded background checks, increased funding for mental health resources, criminalized gun trafficking and protected American citizens from military-grade assault rifles.

On Wednesday evening, an explosion at a fertilizer factory in West, Texas, killed at least twelve people, with more than 60 people still unaccounted for. About 200 people were injured by the blast, including residents at a nearby nursing home.

On Thursday evening, gunfire at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resulted in the death of one MIT police officer. Later that evening, residents of Watertown reported hearing gunfire and the sounds of explosion, as the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing exchanged gunfire with the authorities.

These are America’s tragedies, moments that force us to hold our collective breath. They are moments that remind us that we live in a world that isn’t safe. They remind us that we aren’t invincible.

In the midst of all of this, we each have our own crises: a lockdown at a sister’s school, a hurtful email spread throughout the web. More pain, wreaking havoc on our hearts and minds, as if we didn’t have enough already.

And what is there for us to do? Sit in silence, waiting for the next notification, the tweet that tells us about one more round of gunfire, one more human being added to the death count. We try to keep our perspective; tragedies such as these are daily occurrences for many of our global neighbors. We have the benefit of constant information – or is it really a benefit at all?

I feel powerless. I am thousands of miles away, with nothing to offer those who are hurting so much. Do I give blood? Make a donation? These acts of support feel hollow, checking a box on a list that shouldn’t exist.

And in the back of my mind is that nagging notion that what I’m doing with my life doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t make a difference. That this could be (should be?) a call to act. And if it is? What can I offer that means something? And what will tomorrow bring?

I feel powerless.

Six months later

It’s been a full six months since the last time I posted on this blog. (Don’t believe me? Here.)

The good news is that you haven’t missed anything! Here’s what I’m thinking about today:

Michelle Obama has bangs. Perhaps she was inspired by everyone’s favorite duchess?

Yesterday I read Deadspin and now I know things about sports. Or at least Manti Te’o.

William and Kate’s firstborn is due in July. Crossing my fingers for a birthday twinsie.

I’m five degrees removed from the actual HBO subscriber whose account I use to watch Girls.

Even if Des Moines were to get an H&M, it would probably be the dirtiest H&M ever.

I share the same weight as Lena Dunham. Or at least, her character. That’s something.

There are 49 days until SXSW and I can’t remember being more excited for anything.

GRUYERE. Why is it so delicious? Why do I want to put it on everything? That is all.

My feature on the Drake University website

Several weeks ago, a member of Drake University’s Marketing & Communications team asked me to write a piece about why I chose to stay in Des Moines after graduation. I was honored that their team thought of me, but to be honest, I struggled writing this piece. My relationship with this city is so complex — there is so much about Des Moines that I will always love, the parts of this city that forced me outside the college bubble and into the real world. And yet, there’s plenty I would change about Des Moines if I could.

I could write many, many pieces about how being in Des Moines has affected my academic life, my professional life, my social life. But the piece below is a start, and if it begins to address the misconceptions that current and future Drake students have about this city and state — or the misconceptions of young professionals in other cities and states — then I’ll consider it a success. Click the image below to read about how I chose Drake, and how Des Moines chose me.

Life with Woz and friends

This is my little guy. His name is Woz, and if you have connected with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you’ve probably seen a lot of photos of him lately. He’s become something of an Instagram celebrity. So I’m giving the people what they want!

Woz came into my life about a year ago. After spending hours on Pinterest staring at this little guy (who I believe is actually not a hedgehog, but perhaps an Australian echidna?), all of my rational thinking skills were replaced by this loud voice in my head that said, “GAWWWW” anytime I saw a baby hedgie. The boyfriend had grown up with a hedgehog around the house and managed to track down a local breeder, and so on my 22nd birthday, he surprised me with a hedgehog of my very own. I’ve actually already written this blog post about “the early days,” so I’ll stop writing it now.

What I really wanted to write about was how I became a “pet person,” because it was a development that seemed to happen overnight. But here’s the thing: I am spoiled by the most adorable, most loving, most low maintenance pet there is. I really had no choice but to be swept into this madness by his charm.

Sometimes when I’m alone in my apartment, I realize I’ve been talking to Woz for far longer than is socially acceptable. Even worse, that typically happens during the day, which means my nocturnal hedgie is konked out. He’s not even awake to hear me talking to him! (Like that makes a difference. See, crazy!)

But now I’m spending my evenings swiping through photos of medically needy adoptables in the Petfinder app and on Facebook. I’m emailing photo after photo to the boyfriend, knowing we’re in no position to bring more animals into our lives but THEY’RE SO CUTE and THEY NEED US. Insanity, I tell you. Insanity!

And now, gratuitous photos of my family’s dogs, Emmett and Murphy. At 13 years, Emmett is an old soul, our beloved Golden. He loves laying down on the patio in the sun and ignoring Murphy. When Emmett was bad as a puppy, my mom would shout “Damn it!” at him and when we called her out on it, she would tell us she had just yelled “Emmett” so she wouldn’t have to put money in the swear jar. Sneaky sneaky, Mom.

Murphy is less than a year old and was a rescue from RAGOM, Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota. He looks less and less like a Golden each time I see him and enjoys playing soccer, moving around the sod in my parents’ backyard and tearing the wallpaper off the wall in the hallway. He also walks with a goose-step and runs like a rabbit.

Welcome to June.

Today marks the start of a new month, and to say that I am thrilled is an understatement. I’m positively giddy.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a wonderful May, or that I’m particularly looking forward to the month of June. I just find the start of a new month to be a joyful, liberating experience.

Perhaps it’s because for the first 22 years of my life, the turn of a new month meant a new song to sing (“Hoy es lunes, el siete de marzo…”), a new calendar page on the bulletin board, a new date to write at the top of my papers. It was a way for teachers and professors to break up the monotony of the school year, to remind their pupils that time was passing even though the clock seemed to stay still. We looked forward to remind ourselves that life was moving forward, even if we couldn’t see it.

As an adult, I mark the start of a new month with my own traditions. A new pair of contact lenses, a new parking pass to wrestle onto my rearview mirror, a few minutes updating my net worth on an Excel spreadsheet. Updating my iMac’s desktop to the next month’s calendar, courtesy of RedStamp. These are the small tasks that bring joy to me at the beginning of a new month, insignificant as they may be. They remind me that life is moving forward, even when things feel stagnant.

Welcome to June.

5 things I hate about live music

I don’t like live music. Actually, that’s not true — I love live Irish music, jazz, classical music. I just don’t like going to concerts. True, I haven’t gone to many concerts, but I find the system so inherently flawed that it instantly puts me in a bad mood. I’m a selfish music lover. I don’t like sharing the experience with others. I want to keep it pure and true and real, and the minute all the mess of other concertgoers is thrown in, all the magic is lost for me. To most of the world, this translates into me having no soul, like saying I don’t like puppies. [I do like puppies. All of them.]

City and Colour at First Avenue

This past weekend I went to see City and Colour, one of my favorite musicians, at First Avenue in Minneapolis. All the pieces were in place to make it a fantastic night — a musician I love, headlining at a world-renowned venue in a city that makes me feel alive. And while I loved the performance itself, the experience reminded me of the things that just irk me about live music:

1. The encore. Today’s encore is an entirely theatrical experience. Audiences have come to expect it, and so we are forced to endure the song and dance of pretending we think a concert is over, pretending that more applause will coerce our musicians back to the stage, and pretending to be surprised when it works. If we know they’re just going to come back, why must they leave the stage in the first place?

2. Crazies. I don’t know what it is about concerts that makes people put on their rude pants, but concertgoers become flat-out mean when surrounded by hundreds of strangers who share their taste in music. Our fight-or-flight instincts force us to become the most vicious versions of ourselves, taking on every possible conflict with a rashness akin to lions fighting over carcasses in the savanna.

3. Downtime. Forty minutes passed between the end of the opening act’s set and the beginning of City and Colour’s performance. Sure, they had to set up the stage for the main act, but that took no more than fifteen minutes. In any other industry, keeping people waiting for forty minutes for no reason beyond theatrics is off-putting. Music fans endure it without question because they’ve come to expect it.

4. Standing. For all that’s been said about the value of standing in the office, standing really is the least comfortable position. Even in the most comfortable shoes, standing for four hours on a concrete floor is not pleasant. And beyond the discomfort factor, standing at a concert means that your relative height will make or break your concert experience. Stuck behind a 6’8″ amazon? You won’t be seeing the stage tonight.

5. Karaoke kids. Did I pay $22 to hear you sing, soccer player from Edina? No, I paid to hear Dallas Green sing. Pipe down. If I hear your voice louder than the voice of the mic’d performer, something is wrong. Quietly mouth the lyrics, but don’t let me hear you. Save your singalong sessions for nights alone in your bedroom so the rest of us don’t have to hear it. Especially if you’re singing off key.

/rant