My real life superpower

Outside of about a two week span in high school, I've never tried to hide the fact that I'm a nerd. Not just in the "Oh yeah, I read 27 think pieces about comics last week" way, but in a "Big Bang Theory isn't funny because physicists aren't represented well" kind of way.

These days, I stick to cocktails and reading a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. I'm an extroverted introvert, so I tend to prefer deep conversations to small talk. Bartending has helped partially overcome my aversion to small talk, and booze usually tends to lubricate the conversation (pun intended). Even four years in, I'm still trying to wrap my head around people wanting to hear about my nerd-dom.

And at cocktail parties and young professional events, that's my superpower. Not everyone likes reading the same things I do, but almost everyone has a favorite cocktail, mocktail, or flavor. Get on that topic, and I'm in my element.

Probably the greatest part of it is that cocktails are capital-c cool. People want to talk about what they like and dislike in food and drink, and love hearing how things fit together. Dive into the history of a spirit or cocktail? Your audience is usually captive.

My origin story thankfully doesn't begin with exposure to radiation or chemicals or science. When I started behind the bar, I spent almost all of my off-hours researching drinking history, lore, and recipes. I made dozens of flashcards to learn recipes for classic cocktails, and dove into it like I would have for a paper in college. My manager had provided links YouTube videos on bartending technique, and I practiced at home. When I was at work, I went through my flashcard deck of tasting notes as I tried new-to-me spirits, liqueurs, and tinctures.

No matter how far into it I got, customers at the bar wanted to hear about what I'd discovered. My friends were interested, and editors began accepting stories about the weirder aspects of drinking and bartending culture. Before, I had to rely on extensive web searches, tips from friends, or writing assignments to find topics to pitch, but in the bar world, everything was new and shiny and desirable.

I'm still finding things that keep it fun, but the shine has worn off for me. Cocktails are a big part of what I do, and until I find the end to all of the topics I have in my pitch ideas notebook, I'll keep digging. Right now, it's tequila and modernist authors, but in the next week, I'll probably start developing cocktails to submit for the winter menu at Marble Ring.

And until the day the drinking trend moves back to sugar-laden, day-glo club drinks, cocktails will be my superpower. 

Want to claim a superpower of your own? Check out my online whiskey class! In 30 minutes, you'll zoom through nine videos and become a whiskey hero all your own.

Stock the Bar (It's ALIVE!)

Lots of things have happen since I last posted. It's been a tumultuous time, and I hope to get back to posting about different local and national organizations that do amazing work in the community and world. As I've mentioned before, self-care is a hugely necessary part of any and all social justice work. For me, that means a bath, hot cup of tea, or some sort of boozy tipple. Sometimes, it even means writing about something that will bring joy to others' taste buds. Like my new book (that was subtle)! It's called The Classic & Craft Cocktail Recipe Book, and it's available on Amazon and, of course, from me.

It also occasionally means being silly with my friends. You may recall that David Griner and I did a couple of fun posts matching stock photo characters with what I would serve them if they walked into my bar. Given that I'm pretty sure one of these did walk into my bar last Halloween, I feel like I have a bit more experience than usual with this set. Without further ado:

mermaidAttina, Ariel's sister, will probably need something refreshing and relatively low proof, given that I'm pretty sure mermaids die if they dry out. Since she's already obsessed with bubbles, I'd fix her an Aperol Spritz. It's the perfect thing to make her feel like she's part of this world.

secret-formula Next Halloween, I plan to dress up as a mad mixologist: lab coat, goggles, beaker of craft cocktail or PBR and a what-the-hell-are-you-drinking attitude. But this dude will need a drink before then or his brain might turn to mush from all that math. At my bar, I'd serve a Rob Roy, sometimes called a Scotch Manhattan, with several extra napkins: he'll either forget his drink and knock it over (my M.O.) or need them to scribble down a flash of brilliance.

alt-right Is it too soon to make an Alt-Right Barbie joke? In any case, off-brand Lara Croft here would get a Whistlepig whiskey and Buffalo Rock ginger ale. You know, mixing something that has a great tag line and all-American branding but is actually made outside the U.S. with something made locally.

sexy-cleopatraTo start, I dig her outfit, and would tell her so. Based on the mod rags, I'd serve her a Harvey Wallbanger (basically a Screwdriver with a float of Galliano) with a giant fruit garnish and an Austin Powers dance. Cheers, bay-bee.

merlins-beard A wizard walks into a bar...I've been waiting a while to use that joke. But someone as fancy as this guy deserves an absolutely magical cocktail. Like a Zombie variation with a flaming lime shell, served with a friendly "YER A WIZARD, LARRY!" to top it off. Even if it was a quiet Tuesday.

How To Read A Cocktail Recipe

Outside of writing, tutoring, and working at My Sister's Closet at the YWCA, I teach bartending classes every quarter at the Homewood Library. Sharing my knowledge from bartending and writing research is one of the most fun ways to blend the two vocations together. For every class, I batch the cocktails that attendees drinks, then demonstrate how to mix each cocktail on its own. All of the juices and syrups are made before the class begins. When I talk through making the cocktail, it looks easy. But without hundreds of hours of practice, many of the movements and practices probably don't feel natural. That's OK.

Next time you want to make a cocktail at home, keep a few things in mind to make the outcome more delicious. If you're so inclined, you can apply these tips to the recipes in my book that's due to come out in December.

  1. Be confident. Everybody looks silly shaking cocktails. Do it with confidence, and you'll look more the part of the badass bartender.
  2. Avoid ingredients with artificial ingredients. Store bought syrups and juices
  3. Be precise. Use jiggers or other measuring devices. Yes, many bartenders don't, but if they're making craft cocktails, they've had a lot of training. At home, 1/8 ounce too much or too little of an ingredient can throw a drink way out of whack. Use the dang jigger.
  4. Read into instructions. "Shake vigorously" usually means to shake a cocktail for 10-20 seconds, 10 for pellet or chip ice, and 20 for huge cubes. Same goes for "stir vigorously."

Let's talk about The Media: Day 2

news-1Let's get one thing out of the way: A lot of things about the upcoming administration scare the shit out of me. But one of the most troubling is the President-elect's unwillingness to allow reporters follow his actions. Traditionally, a corps of reporters has followed the President's moves to report on meetings, health updates, and policy coming out of the White House. To paraphrase a wonderful Facebook post from a friend, it is entirely possible to influence what is run on even the most mainstream sites. Here are a few tips from Julie:

  1. I probably sound like a broken record, but speak up! If you want to see more of something or less of something else, let the publication know. Editors listen, and in the days of waning ad revenue, they want to know what gets your eyeballs onto their page.
  2. Stay away from fake news, especially to prove a point.
  3. If you can afford it, subscribe to publications that pay writers well and are fact-checked.

She's even put out a list of several of those publications on that Facebook post.

Double post: Let's talk about The Media day 1

newY'all all know I'm addicted to NPR. You've probably guessed that I'm also a sucker for a beautifully written Washington Post, gut-wrenching Atlantic or quippy New Yorker column. But all of my media, including the most conservative channels got this election wrong. Not just a little wrong, bigly W-R-O-N-G. Or big league. Whatever. Some people place the failure on the proliferation of fake news sites like these. One writer for one of these outlets even went as far as to say "I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me." Google and Facebook showed up a little bit late to the party, vowing to vet and monitor publishers' veracity a week after the election.

There are probably some of y'all out there saying "But Clair, you're a writer. You've written articles for The Media. You're part of it!" Yeah, well, I write about cocktails and I'm a fact-checker. That second part is what you should focus on: it means that I get to regularly pick apart articles to make sure that they're watertight. It, along with my physics background, means I really like numbers.

"But censorship!" you cry. When approximately 38 percent of the articles on these websites have been found by one survey to be a mixture of true and false or mostly false, it's damaging to the mere hope of any sort of civilized discourse. In comparison, the so-called mainstream media gets it right much, much more frequently, or about 90 percent of the time.

Here's the rub: It's likely that most people who read this post will be ideologically similar to me. It's conversations like this that must happen over the next four years. But with news sites like this on both sides of the aisle propagating what are literally different sets of facts, the talks are nearly impossible.

If you'd like to get a heads up when you're visiting a possible fake news site, download the Google Chrome extensions suggested here. To make things even cooler, another detector called FiB has been developed by college students and will hopefully be available very, very soon.

Take a walk: Self-care

self-careIt may not be an organization doing good work in the community, but you can't do sustainable good for others if you're not practicing self-care. Though getting something done after pushing through may be satisfactory, it also makes you susceptible to colds, viruses, and other forms of illness. For me, that means binge watching something mindless on Netflix (like "Reign," which absolutely fits the bill) while playing a silly browser game and working out at least twice a week. But if that doesn't sound like pure bliss, explore your options. Whether it's an intense workout, dinner out with friends, a long soak in the tub with a beverage of your choosing, or a couple hours of video games, self-care doesn't have to be expensive. Heck, if you love to walk outside or watch videos of puppies, it can be free. Whatever it is, take the time out to care for yourself so you can care for others.

Don't believe me on this one? Well, check out the TED playlist on the subject or Lifehacker's take or Psychology Today. Stress, like that caused by your job, home life, political realities, etc., is really bad for your body (Google Scholar backs me up here with more than three million papers for the search). Self-care is a way to re-center, re-evaluate, and give yourself some space to exist in the moment. Cold season is upon us, and I'll say it again: you can't effectively fight for others if you're ill yourself. Be gentle.

Day Four: the YWCA

ywcaFor this entry, there's a caveat. I work part-time at the YWCA in our secondhand store, My Sister's Closet. Fxmmes, if you're ever in need of cheap work clothes, we have a pretty awesome selection. More info on that in this article by my wonderful and talented best friend. Though the YWCA is a national organization, each local chapter chooses their service areas based on the area's needs. For the YWCA of Central Alabama, those four areas are domestic violence services, childcare, affordable housing, and social justice. These programs serve both the heart of the city and the rural areas that surround it.

With a powerful member of Trump's proposed cabinet accused of domestic violence and who has actively expressed anti-semitic, misogynistic, generally hateful rhetoric, it's more important to put energy and focus on the good, unsexy work being done to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. That is, after all, the YWCA's mission.

If you have any questions about the organization, I'll do my best to answer. Get involved by volunteering, even for a couple hours a week or for special events, or donate.

If you're ever in need of domestic violence services, call 205-322-4878.

This is part of a series on organizations that will fight tooth and nail to protect the rights of all. If you are looking for resources on allyship other than organizations you can support, check out this list.

 

Day Three: Crisis Center/Rape Response

crises-centerThe Crisis Center is an organization local to Birmingham, but there are many similar organizations around the country. Though I can't speak for national call centers, since the election, the Birmingham Crisis Center has experienced a much higher than normal volume of calls. Per their website, their mission is "to serve the unmet needs of people experiencing personal crisis or mental health issues and respond with services that promote coping, emotional health and well-being." In addition to their Crisis Line, they also offer services for rape response, teens, kids, and seniors. Rape Response is an extremely valuable asset for Birmingham, and has a specially trained nurse on site 24/7.

If you're interested in getting involved, they take donations here. They're constantly in need of volunteers at the crisis line. In case you need their care, their main number is 205-323-7777.

This is part of a series on organizations that will fight tooth and nail to protect the rights of all. If you are looking for resources on allyship other than organizations you can support, check out this list.

Day Two: Southern Poverty Law Center

splc_logoFor 45 years, the SPLC has been a powerful legal and educational voice for civil rights. Their specific program focuses include children's rights, immigrant justice, LGBT rights, economic justice, criminal justice reform, and monitoring hate and extremist groups. SPLC has tracked the instances of reported hate crimes, not just over the past few days, but since their inception. What's changed is the rate at which they've occurred. From Wednesday to Friday, they logged more than 200 incidents. Usually, 200 to 250 hate crimes are reported in six months. These occurred in two days. Two. Days.

If you're interested, follow them on Facebook and/or donate here.

This is part of a series on organizations that will fight tooth and nail to protect the rights of all. If you are looking for resources on allyship other than organizations you can support, check out this list.

Day One: Allyship

Not enough. Since the election, a lot of people have been posting about wearing safety pins as an outward indication that you're an ally. For some, it's the first step they've ever taken towards allyship, which is cool. But a symbol without action, is no longer enough. It may have been co-opted as a symbol of solidarity per this Facebook post. If you wear one, make a plan about how you will react when (not if, when) you see injustice. Isobel Debrujah has a lot of information on how to get started.

If you want to be an ally, please don't ask your People of Color, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, people of faith, people of no faith, and Othered communities. And for the love of everything holy, don't tone police them, especially not in this time of grief.

One tough thing to keep in mind: Being an ally isn't about you. It's not about shouting your views from the rooftops, it's about your actions. And yes, I recognize my privilege and the irony in posting on my personal blog about how to be an ally. There's not much more I can say on that end, so on to the resources:

  • If you see something happening, this video has a great plan of action for how to reaction.
  • Everyday Feminism has a tag on how to be an ally or a better ally. This page is updated regularly. They also published an article on How To Be A Proactive Ally.
  • Christopher Keelty does some good work on Medium about easy ways to become an ally to non-White groups. Spoiler alert: speak the hell up.
  • For a hard read on how not to treat Women of Color, check out Shannon Barber's "Dear White Ladies."
  • Need some ways to start working on racial justice? Showing Up For Racial Justice has resources for you.
  • Scared for your Muslim friends? Follow CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They'll be featured separately soon.
  • Check out the Trans* Ally Workbook to challenge what you know about gender.
  • For a heaping dose of body positivity, check out Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham.
  • If you feel alone, join the Facebook group White Nonsense RoundupThis group was founded "by white people to address our inherently racist society and stand up against racism in our own families, work spaces, and communities. We believe it is our responsibility to call out white friends, relatives, contacts, speakers, and authors who are contributing to structural racism and harming our friends of color."
  • Call your representatives' offices. Let them know that the civil rights of every human in their district are a priority in how you'll vote. When election day comes around, get to your polling place and cast your ballot.

Edited at 19:30 CST on 11/13/16 to include a link on making a plan for how to be an ally. Thanks to Anna Lisa Ciaccio for the link! Edit: 11/13/16 21:43 CST to include calling representatives. Edit: 11/14/16 20:21 CST to include 5 Ways To Combat Racism video. 23:37 CST first graf edited for tone.

New focus for Blog Like Crazy

And now, for something completely different.  Y'all have probably noticed that I haven't posted since Tuesday. The election results and subsequent wave of hate crimes, hate speech, and general bullshit have left me with a lot of deep grief. Here's the thing. As a cisgender straight white woman, I experience a goodly amount of privilege. Much has been written from this viewpoint that expresses what and how I feel. It's not my place to do that again.

Instead, I'm going to resume Blog Like Crazy for a different purpose: To highlight organizations working to preserve the rights of People of Color, LGBTQ+, women, people with disabilities, and all Othered communities. To be a signal boost for writers of color. To provide resources on how to be an ally. Because it's up to us, White people, to LEARN how to be allies. It's not on these communities to teach us.

If you don't think there's a problem, unfollow me. If you believe that the reaction to this election is the same as the other side's to 2008, these posts are not for you. I'm not here to argue, I'm here to provide resources. Love trumps hate. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has. 

Vote-y McVoteface

voteI get really, really excited about voting. In fact, Ed Bowser wrote an article four years ago about how stoked I get to go to the polls. Spoiler: it's a lot. This year, it's more important than ever. Today, I'm not writing to convince you to vote for my candidate. I'm not rehashing my arguments about our current third party options. Nope. Today's not the day for that.

Today is the day to get your butt to your polling place and vote. If you want to write in the Glow Cloud or Mickey Mouse for president, be my guest. But aside from the presidential race, 469 seats of the current do-nothing Congress are up for re-election. Many state and local officials are on the ballot.

Vote. Vote for people who have been purposefully disenfranchised, even this year. Vote to protect your rights and the rights of those you love, however you feel that's best accomplished. Don't boo, vote. Don't kvetch, vote. Today of all days, don't stay home. Vote.

This month, I'm attempting to blog my way forward by writing every day as part of Blog Like Crazy.

Chronic FOMO

Bar Institute Austin Bartenders host the best events. Try to prove me wrong, but if you've ever been to a Lush Life Productions events, you know. Though I've never been to Camp Runamok or Portland Cocktail Week (both are on my bucket list), I went to the educational Bar Institutes in Miami and Austin. Right now, I'm missing Bar Institute New York, which will showcase the year's most popular seminars and presentations.

Over the course of the past year, I've skipped or missed a lot of those events, both locally and nationally. Instead of traveling for work or fun, I've mainly been making trips out of necessity to visit family. At the time, family took precedence, and I wouldn't trade the memories from those trips for anything in the world.

The tiny, fearful part of my brain tries to convince me otherwise. "You could be having so much fun," it whispers. "You're only young once." But even at the events I've attended, even at amazing Bar Institute parties and dinners with friends I love, I find myself counting down until I would be by myself, curled up under a bunch of blankets.

It would seem that there's no right answer. But the truth is that I've been pushing myself beyond the limits of my body and mind for more than a year. I've been exhausted, both mentally and physically, and need to give myself some time to heal. Hell, after my last big trip in July, it took almost three months to recover from feeling utterly off-kilter when I got home.

Tonight, I'll wish my friends all the best fun, drinks, and food New York has to offer. Y'all post all the pictures so I can keep up and stay jealous, alright? If you need me, I'll be curled up on my couch under a blanket, headed for an earlyish bedtime.

This month, I'm attempting to blog my way forward by writing every day as part of Blog Like Crazy.

Your not-so-secret admirer

It will probably come as no surprise that I read a lot. As a writer, I read to stay abreast of current events and to relax, but mainly to learn. Here's the thing: I learn from almost everything I read. Even the Harry Potter series, which I'm currently rereading for the 324th time, teaches me something about the convergence of craft and content. Like my social media feed, my media consumption usually revolves around cocktails, pictures and videos of puppies, and local news. After five years as a writer, many of the pieces that come across are writers and bloggers I've met. But there are many bloggers whose work I actively seek out and subscribe to.

Locally, the scene is unapologetically amazing. Some of these fantastic souls work so hard to elevate the scene that Beyoncé should watch out. These include:

  • Ed Bowser's cutting wit, comic book smarts, and humor make Soul In Stereo a must-read for me. Almost every entry I've read has made me laugh.
  • Mary-Berkley Gaines and I went to high school together, but I didn't know her then. Now, her work on  The Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham Project spreads the radical body positivity message near and far.
  • Sara Glassman is my book dealer. As a bookseller and librarian, her book blog, Medusa's Library, keeps me in books and news from the speculative fiction scene.
  • David Griner, the Digital managing editor for Adweek, is a friend and writing hero. I hope to one day write articles with the focus and speed with which he practices the craft.
  • Javacia Harris Bowser, the fearless founder of See Jane Write Birmingham is, of course, the first on my list. While the rest of us are sleeping, she's working on her lesson plans for her classes at ASFA, freelance assignments, and businesses coaching plans.
  • Carla Jean Whitley gave me the chance that made me a writer. She was my first editor on a professional level, and helped to shape my work into something salable. Her professional work, along with her honest and cat-filled blog, Ink-Stained Life, has been an inspiration since I started this journey.

Though I'm far from a fashionista, I still read several local fashion blogs regularly. Recently, this has become even more important, as I took a position back in June as the coordinator of My Sister's Closet, a secondhand boutique operated by our local YWCA chapter. Some of my favorite include:

  • Jeniese Hoisey, the badass babe behind the Jenesaisquoi Blog, is more glamorous than I can ever hope to be.
  • Alexis Barton of Same Chic Different Day, who I'm still convinced is too cool to be my friend.
  • Jennifer Dome King, whose Stellar Fashion & Fitness entries push me to embrace my body and work from where I am towards a fitness level that works for me.
  • Maacah Davis, who runs belladonnaa high fashion magazine that features models of color and diverse backgrounds. It's gorgeous, and I can't wait to see what else she's able to do in the future.

I also read a lot about cocktails, but to ensure that this post isn't 12,000 words long, I'll list some of my favorite writers' names:

This month, I'm attempting to blog my way forward by writing every day as part of Blog Like Crazy.

6 Articles I Barely Shared On Social Media

home-is-where-the-dogs-are-2As both a deeply private person and a writer trying to build her portfolio, I've written a lot of pieces that I didn't share when they came out. Though I was proud of many of them, they weren't immediately available online and I forgot or the topics were personal enough that I could risk offending someone or there was some sort of error (from me or the editor) that overshadowed the awesomeness of the piece. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, most of those errors have been fixed after the fact, but it was far enough after publication that I forgot to publicize the piece. Yikes. Anyhow, here's a short and strange look into my portfolio.

  1. When "My $5,000 Wedding Budget" was published on Debt.com, we had gone a few hundred dollars over budget. I also don't like to admit that wedding planning triggered panic attacks, or that I think the modern obsession with weddings can turn the celebration into a pageant and that icks me out.
  2. I profiled winemaker Randall Grahm for VinePair, and forgot to send the article to him for several weeks. He's an odd but interesting bird, and I got to learn about viticulture. Wine is cool.
  3. This article on the geeky side of clarification in cocktails for Tales of the Cocktail came out a couple weeks after the third death in our family in ten weeks. Big, huge, sloppy thanks to the editors for their flexibility and generosity. I was too shellshocked to do anything other than read over it and file it away for later.
  4. Sometimes I write about agriculture. FarmLife magazine is super cool, but the full issues don't go online for a bit. My first feature for them focused on a pair of brothers farming up in Quebec.
  5. For the first few months of the year, my main coping mechanism was compartmentalization. Though many of y'all may not believe it, I wrote an article about the history of the Cosmopolitan for mental_floss.
  6. People get real snarky about recommendations for starting a home bar. Really, people get snarky over booze recommendations in general because they're based on opinion. There's no hard and fast rules, guys, mmkay? Drink what you like. Here's my take for mental_floss.

This post topic was inspired by the suggestion to blog about 5 things you know. This month, I'm attempting to blog my way forward by writing every day as part of Blog Like Crazy.

The Almighty Bucket List

No matter the struggle, Nikki Bear ALWAYS wants to cuddle. Piecing together a new bucket list is one of my biggest goals for the month of November. As I may have mentioned if you've seen me or my social media since September, I wrote a book. It's a cocktail book (surprising, I know), but it's not the book I've wanted to write. I'm still trying to figure out what else I want to do with my life, but that's still to come. Here's what I've got so far:

  • Write a helpful book. Hello, vagueblogging! Recipe books are awesome, but I want my work to have a positive impact.
  • Write a fun cocktail recipe book. This one will be a collaboration with a dear friend and extremely talented artist. Again, details to come.
  • Successfully pitch The AtlanticMarie Claire, and Fast Company. I've written for The Atlantic's CityLab, but I'd like to write for the publication itself. As for the others, I've got the byline bug, and want to see my name in other publications I admire.

Every time I think about quitting writing, my brain immediately starts the "But what would I do instead?" Literally every time this happens, the first 1,283 thoughts that come to my brain are ALL writing-related. As in, "Oh, I could go back to school for anthropology. Discover would LOVE me!" or "Bama has a great MLS program. Library work is so conducive for writing and reading."

Seriously, brain?

The farther into this internal debate I get, the more I think that writing is not the issue. In fact, writing has become a non-negotiable part of my life. Perhaps the lesson here is that the life of a freelancer isn't for me. For someone who values her independence and mornings, the lack of structure, benefits, and regular work also makes me anxious. But changing careers costs money, and the money has to come from somewhere. Unless something drastic happens, that, for now, is my way forward.

This month, I'm attempting to blog my way forward by writing every day as part of Blog Like Crazy.

2016, in a nutshell

home-is-where-the-dogs-areAs promised on Nov. 1, I'm going to use #bloglikecrazy to get a bit more personal on the Internet. But there's less than two months left in 2016, and it's time to face the music: This year was pretty shitty. There were some high points and a good bit of travel, but a lot of the milestones were negative. As a result, I've spent a lot of time on the couch with Netflix instead of socializing because I couldn't bring myself to leave my blanket burrito. Though I've nabbed three bylines in new-to-me national publications (and have one more coming), I've been seriously struggling financially with writing. Most online writing pays less than $500 per article, and the hours involved in researching and writing render the hourly rate less than ideal. Include time spent pitching and emailing, and the stats are downright grim. In addition to articles, I almost write copy for one corporate client, but the gig isn't steady.

Now, to the really tough stuff. In the first few months of the year, three family members passed away and we moved another into an assisted living facility, all in the span of ten weeks. All this happened before our first anniversary. Though none of them were completely unexpected, it was/is completely overwhelming. I worked through the first two deaths, but took almost a month off to try to keep our lives even marginally functioning. For several months, we were splitting our time between Birmingham and Guntersville. Thank goodness the Bears don't get carsick.

On to the positive: at the beginning of the year, Adam was offered a job with a local law firm (YAY!!!). I traveled a lot, and although it threw a lot of parts of my life out of sync, it also provided me a way to temporarily distance myself from the tough stuff. And we bought a house tucked away in a cute little neighborhood in Homewood. It's about twice as big as our shoebox apartment was, but it's a haven. It has a decent-sized back yard, which the Bears love, and lots of sticks and chipmunks for them to chase.

In the middle of all that, I dropped off the face of the Earth. Social media, blogging, social interactions: all of it was too much to face. Several of the articles I wrote during that time haven't made it onto social media. I simply haven't had the energy or motivation to do anything but hide from the world. When a publisher approached me about writing a book back in August, I jumped on it to have Something Important To Do. And to see my name on a book, of course. It was overwhelming, and I lost myself in it for six weeks.

If I'm being honest with the Internet, I haven't processed most of the changes from early 2016. To keep going, I've addressed the issues with a large(r than usual) dose of inappropriate humor, but that's a mask. I want to start back with therapy soon, even though I don't feel like I'm ready to face up to that much loss and anger and vulnerability. But that's life, in some ways. No way forward but through.

This month, I'm attempting to blog my way forward by writing every day as part of Blog Like Crazy.

November goals

Making a living off words has always felt a little forbidden. Without a journalism background, without decades in the field, making a steady living in the field has always seemed just out of reach. But it's also addictive. I will never forget the thrill of seeing my byline in print for the first time, of my first cocktail piece, or of my first feature. I'll put my list in here.

Unfortunately, some of that shine has worn off. There's still a serious rush in seeing stories published by new places and becoming an expert on a new-to-me topic to beat a deadline. But that part of the job only constitutes a small portion of my time. The rest is spent doing the duties of self-employment: accounting, directing, promoting, and always, always hustling.

To get through that grind, you have to have goals. With my bucket list getting ever shorter and lack of motivation looming larger every day, I need something new to work towards. So, here goes.

  • Update my bucket list. What publications and companies do I really want to target? Do my bartending goals belong here as well?
  • Share book updates. I should have a cover proof and Amazon listing pretty soon, and I don't need to hide those under a metaphorical bushel. Let's get excited about this thing!
  • Do some writing just for me. Not for you, not for social media, not for fame -- figure out what I want to write and do the damn thing.
  • Make a choice. When it comes down to it, I'm unlikely to ever entirely stop writing. But cocktail writing is not the sum and total of what I want to be known for. I know I promised to be precise, but I'm going to spend some time this month figuring out if I should stay with writing or go.
  • Experiment with motivation. It has to come from somewhere, right? I just haven't found it yet. Right? Right?!

Join me as I try to intentionally blog every day during the month of November as part of Blog Like Crazy.