Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Lauren from Better in Real Life

I first found Lauren when she was interning for a website I was reading.  Her posts there were some of my favorites; they were always heartfelt and had a casual voice that I just couldn't get enough of, even once I started reading her blog, Better in Real Life.  She's one of my favorite voices on Twitter, and was one of the first people who made me feel at home on there.  Whether she's talking about life as a new mother, her experiences as a young writer making her way in the world of literature, or the adventures she takes everyday, Lauren is open-hearted and full of joy.  I was lucky enough to meet her on our recent trip to California, and while I didn't think it was even possible, she really is better in real life.  I wish we lived next door instead of across the country because I know I'd be stopping by her house for chats constantly!

Lauren on one of her many adventures, rock climbing!

Who are you? I am Lauren! I am 28 and live with my husband, named Kamel (like Camel but with a different emphasis), and baby, named Gabe, in the Bay Area (for now!). I am a writer trying to meld a professional life and a creative life. I try to be as honest as possible while still being tactful and hopefully funny. I am an only child with few (hopefully!) of the only-child-traits (I mean, only the really endearing ones, right?), I grew up in Seattle, and I have my MFA. I am a lot of things all at once and I like to tell stories.

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? I have a lifestyle blog at I say lifestyle because it involves my journey with food, clothes, adventures, family, and all of the big big big life events (wedding/pregnancy/baby) as they happen to me. I am an over-sharer, so this is how I get it out of my system and not embarrass my coworkers. I have also written a book, which very few people have read in its entirety and I will not attempt to have published, but it can be found in the library at the University of San Francisco. It's about death and taxidermy and family. And then! I have a couple short stories/poems published in university collections that no one has ever heard of. Right now I'm trying to find a way to balance having a baby, a job, a life outside of my computer AND a creative writing existence. It is harder than I thought. Oh! And for money, I write hotel descriptions for an online travel agency. It does no good things for my eternal travel bug.

Lauren and Kamel with their friends Margaret and Jeff after a hot air balloon ride.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I think.... I just needed an outlet. It was 2004/2005 and I was sitting in my then boyfriend's living room and I had thoughts and I wanted somewhere to put them. I started blogging on Myspace (covers face with hands) and I actually had a pretty good amount of readers for a system that wasn't blog-gy in any way. During that time I was getting my Rhetoric degree at the University of Illinois so my writing world was very multi-faceted. I don't think I have ever been more prolific than I was in college. Probably because all I did was work at a coffee shop part time, and think about writing (when I wasn't in some sort of drama involving friend betrayal or lost love... it was all very opera when I was in my early 20s). I think back on that time and I wonder if I will ever have that kind of creative flow again. Hopefully I want have so much of the heartache that surrounded it.

Why do you write? I don't feel like I have a choice. If I didn't write I would explode on the inside. I think I would be voiceless. It would strangle me.

Lauren and her son, Gabe

Who inspires you? YOU! With your amazing view of the world, and your amazing experiences at NYU and how utterly gracious you are. A lot of the online world I have experienced through the work I've done as an editor of the internets and my own blog has been incredibly inspiring. There is a lot of kindness out there - and not just kindness, but smart, well read, interesting, and diverse people all willing to share bits of themselves. It is jaw dropping.

The specific people who push me to be a better thinker, person, mother, writer, everything are:

Margaret LaFleur -
Rebecca Woolf -
Margaret Atwood
Joan Didion
Alice Bradley -

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? That is so hard because I want to go EVERYWHERE! Right now I am obsessing over a trip to Italy via a flight to London and then taking a train through the Alps to Rome. Then seeing the Cinque Terre and a few other spots I've been dreaming about since I was 10 watching Rick Steves on PBS. But! I feel like I will eventually be able to afford that .... I would really like an all expense paid trip to Bora Bora and stay in the 4 seasons for 10 days... in one of those huts over the water and then have people in boats deliver our breakfast to us each morning. I would also need someone to watch the baby... I need some grownup away time.

Lauren and Kamel in Barcelona!

What is your favorite place on earth? The rocky beach at Lincoln Park in Seattle. It is a beautiful hidden gem with views of the islands and bald eagles and whales and ahhh it is the greatest all times of the year.

Anything else you'd like us to know? I think I'm going to make this my life motto and continue to say it until I'm blue in the face: Anyone can have adventures and do great things! It doesn't take gobs of money or a sponsorship or great talent or anything. It just takes.... doing it. Being afraid, taking risks, etc etc. From small things to big things, I want everyone to go beyond their mental limits and be AWESOME!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I think this is the first time I've ever posted twice in one day, so I'll keep it short:

Happy birthday to the best father on earth! I don't know that there's anyone out there luckier than Jill and me. Can't wait to see you tomorrow in Queens! (Also, just as I'm posting this, "Piano Man" came onto Pandora. Coincidence? I think not...)

Weekend Wanderings - An Experience

On Friday, we met up with Rob for drinks and sandwiches at Astoria Bier and Cheese, which was incredible. They had some amazing beers on tap for really great prices, and their cheese plate and all their sandwiches were awesome. I would definitely go back. While we were there, we saw a Good Friday processional crowding Ditmars Avenue, which was also really interesting. We stopped by Martha's Country Bakery on our way home and devoured a really delicious berry Napoleon cake. After brunch last weekend and our Friday night, I give Queens dining an A+!

On Saturday, we headed upstate to our hometown for the weekend. That afternoon, we drove out to my friend Tess's house in North Salem to hang out with her and her family. They have a gorgeous deck and it was lovely to sip some wine (or in my case, water - I may have overdone it on the beers the night before!) and look out at the lake. I'm looking forward to more afternoons there this summer!

Justin, Cooper, and Tess

One of the most amazing things about the afternoon is that we got to witness Cooper's first steps! I'm sure he won't remember that we were there for them, but it's definitely a moment I'll never forget. He was happy and peaceful the whole afternoon, and it was so great to hang out with him and catch up some with Tess and Justin.

Lake views!

That evening, we celebrated my father's birthday with dinner at a Chinese restaurant (always a favorite with the Maffei family), and then Roger and I headed to Peekskill to see our friends Jess and Greg, and their new house. It's incredible to me that we're at the point where many of our friends own their own houses! Jess and Greg's is a really nice 1850s era woodframe, and they're doing a bunch of improvements on it. I can't wait to see what it looks like when it's finished!

On Sunday, Roger and I went for a 3-mile run together on the bike path. I really love running with him. Especially now that we've been so busy, it's a great time to catch up and talk things over. I dropped him at his parents' house and then headed back to my parents' neighborhood to finish the last 6.5 miles of my long run. I really love running the route near my parents' house, because it feels so familiar. I drove over those roads every day for the 13 years I lived there, and it feels like they're a part of me. My parents are planning to sell the house once my mother retires and move somewhere warmer, and I didn't take to the idea very well at first. But on this run, I felt like I was perfectly at peace with the idea. As if I'd have an incredible childhood growing up there, but that that part of my life was over now, and it was fine. It was a good thing. Now, the idea of them leaving feels almost liberating.

I haven't really talked about it much here, but I've been feeling a really intense pressure to settle down lately. My friends are all getting married, buying houses, having kids. And I felt like that was what I needed to do. I felt like it was the "next step." But on this run, I realized it was just so ridiculous to put this pressure on myself when none of that is actually what I want. It's just what society is saying I want. But in reality, I want to grow my career. I want to publish my book. I want to travel more and live somewhere new. I don't actually feel ready to settle down in any of the normative ways I've felt like I wanted to settle down. What I feel ready for now is a real destabilization. We're moving sometime this summer, and I've been heartbroken over it. It was our first place together, and I love our apartment, I love our neighborhood. But, it was time to move on. After a winter with no heat and the rent going up again in August, I knew it was time, even though my heart was fighting it. But on this run, I just let it go. I'm so excited about finding a new apartment. I'm so excited about going to Mexico. I'm so excited about so many parts of my life right now, and none of the things I'm excited about involve settling for anything. I've had an experience, guys. It's all going to be good.

Roger hanging out with some Easter tchotchkes at his parents' house.

Anyway. Roger's parents apparently thought I was crazy because I was a little vocal about how amazing everything was at the lunch we had at their house afterward. But I really just feel like I've been striving for all the wrong things, and now I'm back on the right path again. Lunch was lovely, and coming home afterward to our disaster of an apartment was even better.

Friday, April 18, 2014

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Recap of this week on Not Intent On Arriving:
  • A rare Sunday post wished the best partner in the world a Happy Birthday.
  • On Monday I recapped our weekend, including a great little day trip to New Haven, CT from NYC, and our day wandering around Queens.
  • Tuesday's Weekday Wanderings was a little post about the first fire drill I participated in at work. Silly, but I had such a great time during it.
  • Writer Wednesday featured one of the first bloggers I read, Steerforth from Age of Uncertainty. It was so great to be able to feature someone I've been reading for almost a decade and I hope you'll check out his interview!

This weekend we're heading up to Putnam County. I'm looking forward to visiting my friend Tess and her family, kayaking, and seeing our families. I don't celebrate Easter or Passover, but if you do, I hope you have a blessed one!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Steerforth from Age of Uncertainty

I can't say exactly when I started reading The Age of Uncertainty, but it was, I'm almost 100% sure, the very first blog I ever read.  I think I somehow stumbled upon it when I was living in the UK, and because it is, at its very heart, a love letter to books, I was instantly hooked, and I've been hooked for going on seven years now.  My very favorite features are the Ladybird Books and the Derek Diaries (or you can find it a bit condensed at The Dabbler here); both are at turns funny and sad, and both have haunted me for years.  In addition to the books and ephemera he finds in his business as a bookseller, Steerforth writes about his daily life and travels.  His writing style is unassuming and careful, and I hope you'll read more after you finish his interview, below.

"I resisted the strong temptation to add a photo taken 10 years ago and have attached a recent one."

Who are you?  I’ve been asking myself that question for many years. The simple answer is that I’m a forty-something Englishman, born in SW London. In my 20s, I got a job in a bookshop as a temporary expedient, while I decided what to do with my life. 25 years on, I’m still selling books.

If I could live my life again, I’d concentrate on composing, as the most enjoyable thing I’ve done was writing the music for a Lorca play.

I’m married with two sons, one of whom has ‘special needs’ – something that has made life rather complicated during the last ten years.

I have many interests but can’t stand sport, which rules out a lot of male small talk.

I grew up surrounded by people born in the 1890s and still catch myself using words like ‘jolly’ and ‘chap’, but I’m also fascinated by contemporary culture and am very wary of nostalgia, even though my blog is largely about the past.

My idea of happiness is going on a long walk in the countryside which ends in a teashop that serves the perfect fruitcake. My idea of unhappiness is being stuck in a business meeting with people who have no sense of humour, which is one of the reasons why I became self-employed.

Where can you be found online?  Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work?  If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation?  Remember, you're in a hot tub with them on a clear cold night, stars twinkling above you.  They want all the details.  If not, tell the hot-tub-stranger about your writing in such a way that makes them urge you to get an online receptacle for it.  One of my ambitions is to spend a winter afternoon in a hot tub drinking champagne, but under the stars would be even better.

If I had to describe my blog – - to my tub companion (preferably not an overweight, middle-aged man), I’d say that it’s a book-related blog that frequently meanders off in different directions, with features on old photographs, historic places, amusing anecdotes and, occasionally, personal stuff. The range of subjects may seem a little random, but they’re all things that I’m passionate about. 

Its main aim is to amuse, because I think that’s the best way of engaging people’s interest in often serious issues. I generally assume that readers don’t want to spend more than a couple of minutes reading a post, so I try to keep them short, with plenty of images to break up the writing.
What inspired you to start writing/blogging?  When did it happen? Seven years ago I had an extremely unpleasant bout of food poisoning after eating some bad oysters. My wife and sons were away for two weeks and I was becoming increasingly bored with being stuck in bed all day. After hours of surfing the internet I stumbled on Blogger and wondered how difficult it would be to create a blog. I wrote a post, with no intention of actually becoming a blogger, but then somebody read it and posted a pertinent comment. From that moment, I was hooked.

Why do you write? I like the sense of being part of a global community of like-minded people. In the past I wrote as an act of catharsis, with no expectation that anyone would ever read my words. I didn’t mind that, but occasionally felt frustrated that I couldn’t share my thoughts, particularly if I’d just read a book that I felt was unjustly neglected.

Blogging is a benign form of self-publishing that doesn’t involve any harm to trees or booksellers. It also demands a new style of writing, in which less is definitely more. I particularly love the multimedia aspect of blogging, in which the words can be complemented by photos and videos.

Your writing inspires me.  Who inspires you? My favourite blog is The writer is a self-employed graphic designer who lives with two dogs in a house that sounds as if it’s on the brink of collapse. Many of his posts are just gripes about daily life: the lack of money, the stupidity of his neighbours, his incontinent dogs and the frustrations of dealing with clients. In the hands of a lesser writer, it could be a depressing, monotonous read, but Grey Area sparkles with wit.

I remember a post in which he wrote about a piece of slightly burnt toast and marvelled that someone could make such a trivial incident amusing and significant. I love lines like this:

"I've just made the most disgusting cup of tea imaginable - but in the spirit of austerity - I've drunk it."
It takes courage to write about toast or a cup of tea. Grey Area pulls it off.
In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?  I don’t know why, but I’ve become terrified of flying, so I’d probably opt for a trip on the Trans-Siberian Express, or a train journey to the far north of Norway. However, if I could get over my phobia, I’d like to explore Australia and New Zealand. I also have a hankering to explore islands like Kerguelen, Pitcairn, St Helena and the Azores.

What is your favorite place on earth? 
I don’t really have one and I’ve noticed that if you return to a much-loved place, it can sometimes feel very different on the second visit. I’d say that Yosemite National Park is the most beautiful place I’ve visited, Chile the most appealing country, Stockholm the nicest city and Iceland the most extraordinary. But some of my happiest moments have been closer to home.
Anything else you'd like us to know?  Just a quick recommendation for anyone who loves ‘Revolutionary Road’. Try David Karp’s ‘Leave Me Alone’, which is one of the most unjustly-neglected novels I’ve read for a long time. Secondhand copies are still available on Amazon.