Monday, September 8, 2014

Catching Up

Just to take a step out of the land of serious blogging, I thought I'd give you all a little glimpse into the recent goings-on in my life.

WARNING: This post is going to be rambly!


I moved!  Again.

As much as I loved my darling loft apartment with its exposed brick walls and the elevator and the little call-box thingy that I'd get to use to let people into the building, back in March/April I decided that I'd had enough of living alone.  I was tired of eating poorly, spending the majority of my income on rent/utilities and coming home to cold polished concrete floors and echoing 12-foot ceilings.

Around Memorial Day (end of May for my non-American readers) some of my closest friends found a newly refinished duplex for extremely reasonable rent that is just a block from my work.

I love it here.  Our house is spacious enough that even with four adults living here it never feels like we're on top of each other.  Our house was built in the 1890's but with the recent upkeep that was done I think it manages to look quite stylish, especially since all four of us like decorating.  (Come Christmas, we'll put the Griswolds to shame.)

I moved the last carload of stuff out of my old apartment at precisely 11:30pm on June 27th.

I woke up at 5:00am on June 28th, drove to my parents' house and then my dad, brother, and I drove to Chicago, caught a plane to Milan, Italy where we met my mother and boarded a train to Venice.

We did a whirlwind tour of Europe that included two nights in Venice; 5 nights in Switzerland staying with our family; 1 night in Germany; 1 night in Luxembourg; 1 night in Belgium; 1 night in Amiens, France; and 2 (or 3?) nights in Paris.  We also had dinner in Holland and visited Bruges for an afternoon. At least... I'm pretty sure that's how that all went.

It was an amazing experience that I'd love to talk on and on and on about right now, but I'll just post a bunch of pictures

Venice was beautiful.  I've kind of been saying I didn't think I ever needed to go back.
But looking at all of the pictures... I think I need to!
On the way to the top of Jungfraujoch in Switzerland.
Green grass, snowy peaks, and weird t-shirts.

At the top - low altitude is to blame for that facial expression.

The house in Bischofszell, Switzerland where my great-grandfather was born.

Celebrating the 4th of July with my cousins in Bischofszell.
Wearing an America on my chest and a Swiss flag on my head.
At least I represented!

Der Kindlifresserbrunnen (The Child-Eater) of Berne, Switzerland
We explored the ruins of an old castle in the German countryside.

Bruges, Belgium - I could have spent weeks exploring this town.

I got to explore the city on my own, so I made
sure to find my way to the canals.

Did I mention it was raining the whole time we were in Bruges? I was a pretty! 
It also rained most of the time we were in Paris - 

It was rainy and foggy - but that didn't stop me from going all the way - 

To the top of the Eiffel Tower!  I was the only one of my family brave
enough to tolerate the cold, wind, rain and fog for pictures of mist.

Our last day in Paris had beautiful weather. 

I walked all over and explored the city on my own.  It was amazing.

So many lovers have visited this bridge and locked their love to stay forever.

I met a surprise bicycle marathon as I was approaching l'Arc de Triomphe

Our last night in Paris ended with a sunset visit to Sacre Coeur in Montmarte.
I would go back to Paris, just to visit this church again.

Needless to say, June/July were a couple of crazy intense months for me.  As soon as I returned home from Europe I had to finish unpacking from my move.  Luckily, my roommates had done a lot of work in the weeks I was away, but we planned a house warming party for two weeks after I returned so the house needed to be in tip-top shape.

But we got it done! And we got a fully-stocked liquor cabinet as a result of the party... which I've already had to partially replenish...  I like making weird shots, it's a problem.


Other than that, I've been camping, kayaking, swimming, boating, and getting up to all manner of other summer shenanigans.

Our house has become a meeting place for many of our friends since we're right in the heart of downtown and are within walking distance of everything.  I've always loved having a house full of people so it's a great situation for me.


I'm still working on my book, though the behind-the-scene planning is still getting in the way of me doing much development with the story-line.  It's going place though, which is a wonderful feeling.  I got a lot of writing done in my downtime in Europe and hammered out a lot of the holes with the main character's back-story.

I estimate you'll see it on the shelves of your local bookseller (aka Amazon...) no later than the fall of 2030.


So that's kind of a whirlwind tour of the big goings-on in my life.  A lot has changed, more has stayed the same.

I'm still struggling to figure out adulthood and asking myself really hard questions about what I want my future to look like while simultaneously recognizing that much of it is already here.

I hope you had a wonderful summer!

Is anyone else as excited for fall as I am?

Much love,
Annie Jay

Friday, September 5, 2014

Self-Censorship Vs. Courage

Back in January, I decided to erase all of my old blog posts.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that they’re all back.

I read through the old posts over the last weekend and I realized that I can’t just erase the last two years of my life.  It’s full of good times and some bad times.  This blog is a record of my journey as I try to figure out what being an adult is all about.  It’s not always perfect, it’s not always appropriate and it’s not always about me being the best person I can be. 

But that’s life. 

One of the greatest struggles I face as a writer is self-censorship. 

I believe in being open and honest about my life (not just when writing but in person as well) but that can sometimes make people uncomfortable – hell, sometimes it makes me uncomfortable to be so exposed.  But as much as I’d love to sit around and talk about what an angel I am and how I lead a Pinterest-perfect life, I just can’t do it.

In this day of social media and unending image-crafting, it can feel shameful to lead a life that is anything other than the standard white-picket-fence-shiny-happy-people American Dream. 

Sometimes I’m not happy.  Sometimes I think mean things about people.  Sometimes I really want to talk about staying up until the sun comes up dancing in my friend’s living room.

Sometimes those seem like things I shouldn’t write about. 

This inevitably leads to long dry spells in my writing.  I’ll have things on my mind that I want to talk about but I’ll be too afraid of offending someone or looking like a fool that I just end up not posting anything.

A few months ago I tore down the wall between my personal life and my professional life. 

On August 16th I celebrated my eighth anniversary at my company.  As I neared that milestone, I realized that I’d been working tirelessly in all of that time to keep my work life and my personal life separate.  It was probably the right decision for the first few years.  I was just 21 when I started and although I had a drive to prove myself professionally, I was still making the kinds of decisions that 21-year olds make.

But as time went on I settled down a bit and became more comfortable in my skin.  There came a point where keeping the division felt like being unfair to myself as a person.

Since tearing down that wall I’ve had to constantly fight with self-censorship.  The whole reason I did it was to become a more-whole human being.  If I keep trying to edit my life, it defeats the purpose entirely.

I’m still working at it – just as I am with my writing.  Some things I want to write about are still uncomfortable but I have to ask myself “Is this something someone else might find useful?” If the answer is yes, I have to put my comfort aside and realize that bravery and creation go hand-in-hand.

I’d imagine I’m not the only person who feels this way – let me know if you’re the same.  What do you do to keep your voice genuine without feeling uncomfortable sharing?

Love and things,

Annie Jay

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

True Love: How a Turkey and Parsnips Made Me Cry

Every year at Thanksgiving, my company gives each employee a turkey for the holiday.

The past several years, I’ve donated my turkey to my mother for our family Thanksgiving.  But last year I decided that I wanted to host a dinner for my closest friends.  I picked a weekend halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas and set out to make the menu.

For weeks, I perused cooking websites and asked family and coworkers for recipes. My friends all signed on to bring dishes to share.  Then I finally put together my menu.  I’d be preparing the turkey, dressing, several side dishes and appetizers. 

In the weeks leading up to the event, I must have asked my mom “How long do you roast the stuffing?” at least fifty times - among so many other questions.  Even though I kept waiting for her to tell me to back off, she was always supportive – she wanted my first “grown-up” dinner party to go well almost as much as I did.

The day before the event, it was finally time for me to cook the turkey.

I will be the first person to say that I’m willfully ignorant when it comes to many of the details of food processing.  I buy individual, nicely trimmed chicken breasts and pre-cut roasts from the meat counter at the grocer’s.  I’ve seen my mother prepare turkeys in the past – had listened to her tell me many times about thoroughly washing the bird and what parts needed to be removed - but I’d never actually handled one before in my life.

Turkeys are slippery. 

And wobbly.  

How the hell was I supposed to rinse the thing?  And what is with that weird flap of skin?  Am I supposed to pluck the random feathers that are still on it?  The neck has bones in it?!? Two openings?  And ok, Martha Stewart said to tie the legs together and tuck them - OH GOD! DID I JUST BREAK ITS LEG?

I stopped a few (dozen) times.

I’d cleaned my kitchen immaculately before beginning the process of preparing the turkey.  You could eat pudding out of the garbage can and mashed potatoes off the floor – before I unleashed the turkey.  But after just ten minutes it looked like a band of deranged interior designers had taken over and declared that Salmonella was the perfect accent color to compliment my polished concrete floors.

But after just a little more gentle coaxing the struggle ended.  The turkey was cooked, carved and ready for the next day’s festivities.  I re-disinfected my entire home and the day of the event finally arrived. 

I like to put a lot of work into hosting events for my guests.  I want people to feel welcome and, most importantly, I want them to have fun.  So the morning and afternoon before the dinner party, I had more work to do. 

That was how I found myself, just couple of hours before the event, getting weepy while cutting parsnips.

It had been stressful preparing the meal and cleaning my home.  But I was filled with excitement.  And for such a stupid thing – it was just a meal!

But I thought of my mother and my aunts and grandmothers and how they did this year after year, holiday after holiday. 

And I finally understood. 

Because yes, it was just a meal but more than that, it was a way to celebrate the people I love. 

It was an attempt to give back to them something that was tangible and in some way showed them that they were worth it all.  I had toiled away cleaning, wrestling dead birds, and murdering parsnips in order to give them something special.

Most of us are still putting the pieces together to figure out what this whole adulthood thing means.  Most of us are still living in less-than amazing homes or working less-than amazing jobs.  Most of us still think a good night out is one in which we don’t drunkenly lose our cellphones or end up with any broken bones. 

Humor often replaces sincerity and genuine emotion is hidden in favor of aloofness and bravado.

But the reality is that we are lucky. I am so. damn. lucky.

My friends and I often talk about how we’re a family.  We’re blessed in that most of us have families ourselves, many of them close by, and most of us love our families very much.  But the family of friends that you build as you step into adulthood is the one who sees you in your most vulnerable moments.  They see you as you try a new experience for the first time and are there to laugh it off with you when it doesn’t work out or hold you up when it threatens to drag you down.  They are the ones who celebrate you and push you to be better.


Not everyone has that.  Not everyone has someone they can turn to at a moment’s notice for a ride to work.  Not everyone has someone who will come over and make them breakfast because they woke up on the cloudy side of the rainbow.  Not everyone has someone who will forgive them when they’ve been a real jerk.

So as I finished cutting my parsnips I reflected on what it meant to work to provide people you love with something special, something out of the ordinary.  I smiled as I felt the warmth of love in my heart and laughed at myself for getting weepy over vegetables and turkey. 

I say this without any exaggeration - Every time I am with my friends is my favorite day.  It doesn’t even matter what we do.  When we’re together, I’m surrounded by love. 

They are the loves of my life.

Strange and pasty as they may be.

What do you and your friends do to celebrate your lives together? 

Do you find it challenging to share genuine feelings amongst your friends?

Much Love,
Annie Jay

PS - This was the first part in my new blog series, True Love, about how love manifests in the world around us. 

 I'd really like to expand the conversation.  

Shout at me via email at, via Twitter @TheGrowUpPlan, or comment right here on this blog.  I'm down for questions, suggestions of topics you'd like to see covered and most of all - your own stories about how you've found yourself in the presence of love.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

True Love: Introducing a New Blog Series

I’ve been thinking about love for the last few months.

I know you’re sitting there thinking “Oh my god! I’ve been waiting for someone to talk about this topic!”  I know, it’s cutting edge stuff.

But here’s the deal; the world kind of… sucks – sometimes.

(No, I could not choose which punctuation to use there, thankyouverymuch)

And most of the time we don’t have the energy to deal with all the sucky parts so we turn off all our feeling parts and instead turn to distractions that take us out of the present and throw us into a nice numb world where nothing feels bad.  Nothing feels all that good, but that’s alright if it also gets rid of the bad.

In the World of Feelings, we have to deal with the fact that some of those things feel rough around the edges, or prickly, or stabby, or tear-my-heart-out-stab-it-with-an-arrow-and-throw-it-into-the-lava-pits-of-Mordor-y. 

But I think a lot of us forget that by turning off the Sucky, you turn off all the things that feel smoother than silk on your skin.  You turn off all the things that taste like devil’s-food cupcakes with raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting being served to you by Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt wearing perfectly tailored suits and - *ahem* …where was I?

Sometimes, when you’ve spent so much time in the Land of the Sucky – or in No-Feelings Land – it’s hard to trust the Good Feelings when they come along.  You fear that if you trust them, they’ll just disappear again and it’s just so much easier to keep on being numb instead.  So you don’t invite the Good Feelings to your dinner table and instead, you just keep on keepin’ on. 

Wake up.  Drink coffee.  Go to work.  Come home.  Make dinner.  Zone out.  Go to sleep.  Repeat.

Meh. It’s not bad.

But –

HOLY FUCKING SHIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? You’ve got one life to live, Puddin’ Cup.  If you’re reading this, chances are, you’re somewhere in your 20’s or 30’s so even if you only live until you’re 70-years old, that’s a solid 40-50 years left of this bullshit.  Is “Meh” really all you want your life to be?

I’m not saying that you have to go out and start jumping out of airplanes or stealing submarines. (But seriously, who wants to go steal a submarine with me?)  It’s totally ok to lead a perfectly normal life – but just remember to experience your life.  It’s important to let yourself feel the good feelings, just as much as it’s important to feel the bad feelings.

So starting today, I’m beginning a new blog series.

I don’t know how often I’ll post, or how many I’ll post but posts there will be. Posts posts posts.

I often find that it’s easiest to reflect on the bad things in my life, so for the purposes of this blog series, I’m going to be focusing on good things – specifically – love.

Because when you get right down to it, love is pretty much everything

I won't just talk about romantic love.  I’ll tell you stories of times when I witnessed love manifest in a new couple and in a long-existent one.  I’ll tell you about times when I saw love pushed to the limit and times when it came easy.  I’ll tell you about times where love was weird and times when love was so sugary sweet you’ll need a root canal by the time you’re done reading.

And sometimes I'll just talk about this pile of kittens.
Love is more than just what happens with you and your significant other - it's realizing that someone is going to be ok when they haven't been for such a long time.  It's realizing you can look in the mirror and be happy with the face looking back at you.  It's the teeniest tiniest moments that stick with you through the decades.

It's called the True Love series.

Hopefully by sharing stories of the various manifestations of love I’ve witnessed it will help you to recognize similar times in your own life. 

If you have anything that you’d like to add to the conversation, just shoot me an email at thegrowupplan@yahoo.comEmail me your own stories, questions, or anything that you feel would be worth talking about here.  You can also join in the conversation in the comments down below.

I’ll be posting the first story in the morning.  Stay tuned!

Hugs and Kisses,

Annie Jay