Cock of the Walk

A man and his Chow Chow scoot along the sidewalk past me and Toby, and turn the corner ahead of a man looking completely lost, lingering at the crosswalk’s end; his attire screams tourist.

“Excuse me,” he calls, sunlight glinting off his sunglasses.

I stop long enough to smile, arching my eyebrows in a quintessential question mark face as I do. His camera clacks against his belt, and I wait for the expected “best nearby brunch place” request.

Images of French toast dance through my mind.

“Where’re the best cruising spots around here?”

Cruis’n USA’s arcade theme music reverberates in my mind as I stammer for an answer. Thankfully, Toby wriggles out of his collar and I turn quickly to re-lasso him, gathering my composure and feeling the man’s eyes burn into my ass from behind his lenses.

“Um, well, uh. Probably The Cuff?” It’s up a block and over. But I don’t think they’re open this early.”

He looks expectantly. Clearly, my one recommendation is tragically paltry.

“And, uh, Purr is down there. And R Place is down around the corner. R, not O-U-R. JUST R.”

Sweet Jesus, let him be satisfied.

He considers these options. Toby pulls impatiently.

“So if I wanted to suck a cock, where would I go?”

Like a middle schooler, I giggle a little. His brazenness is commendable. But I just can’t wrap my mind around the question with any hint of seriousness.

“I’d try The Cuff.”

“Okay. Thanks.”


He walks up the street. Toby and I keep going, taking a more scenic route back to avoid crossing paths again.

By the next block, I’m fully awake and begin passing restaurants that’re rousing ever so slightly. Sandwich boards advertising drag bingo clack together as weary hosts set them up on the sidewalk, the faintest echoes of rap and country issuing from the open kitchen doors before the hipsterfied elevator music takes acoustic hold for brunch.

I absorb these moments, file them away – the embarrassing with the mundane. And I project forward – anticipating the day when life is quieter, when the sheen of city life has faded a bit, and I find myself pulling weeds from our raised vegetable beds, mopping sweat from my brow as Toby investigates something enticingly smelly near the back fence before running to the porch to wriggle into a weathered chair where Andy sits reading.

Until then, I’ll keep sidestepping garbage, hopscotching over condoms, remembering that home is just around the corner.


Last week, I shuffled into my 31st year with a migraine. I pushed through the workday, thought about all the things I’ve wanted to get done by this day – considered the book manuscript collecting dust in our closet, the blank sketchbook pages, the unopened camera tripod – and returned home to the most beautiful flowers I’d ever received, and watched the remake of Cinderella.

Over the past few weeks, there’ve been ample opportunities to let those tabled interests backslide into a dark, forgotten place. And I’ve entertained such notions – it’d be so much easier to let them go and start over with something else.


But recreating myself isn’t really an option – I’ve done that several times over the past few years: chased a sense of self and self-confidence that’ve always been there, that’ve stowed away in the back of my mind throughout the course of our westward trek. So I’m just left asking myself the same question over and over.

Why is it so hard for me to look at the lumpy clay of my life and know that this pile is the only medium through which I can mold a future?


I guess the older I get, the harder it is to acknowledge all the things I want to be and do without balancing them with the reality that very few may actually come to fruition – regardless of energies and efforts I expend. But I guess it’s a good thing that my passions haven’t gone quietly into the night, melted into a comforting, emotionless routine. It helps remind me that they’re worth the fight – worth stripping away the lenses of apathy and malaise each day layers over them.

Achieving something easily rarely feels exhilarating or satisfying.

At the very least, hard, exhausting work and fewer pity parties will make me feel as though what I’m doing matters, that I’m working toward something larger than myself.

And while I don’t know what this 31st year holds, or what I’ll make of it, I can smile knowing, at the very least, how this sentence will end.

Mint Condition

Dust quietly layers the sideboard as the week-old carnations brown and droop. The apartment still smells faintly of cumin and chili powder and paprika from last night’s chickpea dish, and Toby attacks his new toy before dragging its stuffed carcass into our bedroom, his lair.

I close my eyes, sink into the reverberating sounds from the living room fan, and let my mind doze.

In two days, I start my new job. After a little over two months of applications, rejections, and interviews, I finally snagged a position that I’m actually really happy about. Even still, its imminent kickoff triggers all the typical qualms that most everyone whispers to themselves – all of which boil down to something along the lines of “Don’t cock it up.” But at least this time around, I’m not quite as fretful as I was starting over in LA – mostly because I’m not completely recreating my career. And I now know that mastering nonprofit code-switching is the key to succeeding in Nonprofit World. All that aside, it’ll be nice to get back into the swing of things, and do some good.


Lately, I’ve pulled back a bit from the world. Everywhere I turn – and every time I read through my Facebook feed, or peruse some news site – there’s so much ugliness and tragedy and terror that I want to curl into a ball and sleep, or throw a vase against the wall.

It seems I’m lacking a much needed groundswell of inspiration – something wholly necessary to offset the stressful annoyance of trying to bring this whole publishing-a-book goal to fruition. I’ve been hoping that the greasy sheen of oil pastels or the earthy richness of potting soil will jump-start my mind like a drained car battery.


More doodling...

And another doodle...

But there’re no sparks to be felt, no gears shifting around upstairs.

Usually, my recourse would involve complaining and violin-playing, and then I’d get over it. Now – whether it’s a few more years of wisdom, or a few more reality checks under my belt – I’ve found that putting a little good out into the world and having the courage to keep going are more appropriate responses. Because even if these tacks don’t spur some genius idea, or break through that writer’s block, I know that I haven’t fed into the defeatist mentality that lords over so many folks’ minds. My mind is still free.


Sirens howl through the afternoon heat, and I reach out and rub the tabletop geranium’s fuzzy leaves, their peppery fragrance steeping under my fingernails.

I look over at the mint plant’s new, fragile shoots bending upward toward the light – growing slowly, silently, and gracefully.

Growing, slowly but surely...

White Privilege: The Lion in the Room

I’m a few hours away from another phone interview. The hurdles we clear in the course of starting a new career are stressful and tiring, and we often just long for them to be behind us, with an offer waiting in our inbox.

But for me, there’s something more wrapped up in this particular interview.

When I made the decision to leave my papered academic past for nonprofit work, I knew it wasn’t going to be glamorous, the path wouldn’t be littered with hundred dollar bills. The adage “underpaid and overworked” became my mantra, whether or not I embraced and adopted it. And it was okay, because I felt like what I was doing was worth the exhaustion that nips at most nonprofit professionals’ heels.

Part and parcel to most nonprofit work is educating the public. Whether your organization increases awareness about racial inequality, STI transmission, human trafficking, environmental conservation, planned parenting, LGBTQIA advocacy, or animal welfare, the crux is always education. Because a more informed public is more likely to speak out, stand up, and effect meaningful change.

As a kid, I didn’t always grasp the importance of why I had to do certain things, and why my parents pushed me and my sister to branch out – always reinforcing how crucial it was to be able to relate to people from different backgrounds and respect differences. During those teachable moments, I – like most my age – would roll my eyes and complain about spending yet another valuable weekend of my youth planting trees, cleaning up roadside garbage, caring for injured wildlife, or taking food to people in need.

I’d often think Where’s my freedom? Why do we have to do this? Nintendo and Bonanza marathons were much more appealing.

Little did I know, I was learning exactly what it meant to be free – and, not until I was much older, the problematic, insulating effects of white privilege.


Growing up in the Deep South, racial lines were socially mapped and cultivated in our consciousness through school and print media – and unabashedly writ into the landscape of our small Alabama town. In ninth grade, we weren’t taught World History, but rather Alabama History. We came to recognize “the other side of the tracks” or a “rough area” was synonymous with a predominantly black neighborhood or an area of violence. In daily dialogue, describing people without a racial preface was unheard of – there was no “There was this guy” or “That lady at the grocery”; often whispered, black became the most important identifier in a descriptive parable relayed from the day’s happenings. Without fail, that hushed tone conveyed something else – something sinister pulsing through that word and, by association, the person to whom it was applied. Everyone was guilty of such profiling – even if we didn’t realize the implications of what we were doing, we became complicit in widening that divide, contributing to tacit racial tension. But this proclivity wasn’t reserved for towns in the South. Whenever Andy and I talk about growing up, we always touch on how racism was just as prevalent farther north – just cloaked in different veils. We both grew up very differently, but we shared a privilege we couldn’t exactly articulate until now, in retrospect.

Even still, we also shared a nagging feeling that we were somehow different. In high school, I had an odd fixation with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – the weight of the albatross a fitting analogy for the emotional baggage that’d been weighing me down, something that I was terrified was as obvious as a dead bird strung around my neck. But it wasn’t. And I could pass. Again, not until I was much older, I realized the color of my skin diluted my difference – made it more socially acceptable.

Not until I became more outspoken, and had the privilege of a collegiate education, did I start to comprehend the enormity of the problems humanity faces. We parse and segment as a means to better understand, but in so doing, we lose the connective thread that connects them all: education. And by education, I don’t mean post-secondary. I mean hands-on, face-to-face, person-to-person interaction; getting in the dirt together and finding common ground in meaningful, proactive ways. But many of us must first acknowledge our white privilege – that we have the luxury to obsess over the death of a Zimbabwe lion, while our black friends are under threat every single time they leave their home. Until we understand why black bodies are grossly policed, are subjected to structural violence, and take action to change it, we can’t really move forward to tackle everything that we face.


I’m inching closer to my interview, and I’m remembering why I was drawn to this particular organization: its emphasis on early, comprehensive education for every child, every family. And I can’t help but think about what I learned as a kid, and how much I want to teach my child so many of the same things – chief among them, respect.

I hope I’ll be open about difference, and be able to answer hard questions. I hope I’ll be able to appropriately frame how inequality hurts everyone, and how important it is to speak out and stand up for your friends, known and unknown – to speak and to act.

Because if we don’t first take care of our species – prioritize humanity – there’s no hope for those others with whom we share this planet.

Health Kicks

Health trends are so damn annoying, mostly because they follow a painfully predictable routine: you liquefy your diet, center your mind, and poo your brains out.

I’m all for being healthy, but I’ll never be able to cut all the sugary sweetness that I love. Still, I’ve been making strides to cut back where I can – not so much because I want to, but because I’m becoming aware that I can’t (1) have my cake and eat two more without repercussions; (2) skip breakfast; (3) process tons of daily sugar; and (4) go long without hydrating.

I’m chalking this up to a combination of being in my third decade of life and my body finally screaming “ENOUGH, GODDAMMIT!” In college, I spent next to nothing on groceries. I shopped at Dollar General for everything – made Venironi (venison mixed with packaged mac ‘n cheese), drank juice cocktail because it sounded fancy, and once subsisted off of generic frozen fish fillets and cheese food product (combined intermittently) during an interim summer semester. And I wondered why I didn’t have washboard abs.

I left most of that behind in graduate school and opted for eating disorders instead. But now I love food, and have a much healthier relationship with it. Still, though, I’ve found myself going off on sugary overloads – and dealing with the consequences. Ups and downs with blood sugar aren’t exactly fun.

So in the vein of downsizing stuff – as we’ve done during our time on this coast – I’m trying to get back to more simple eating. Granted, I’m basically a rabbit and can eat salads pretty much every single day. But that’s boring.

I like combining funky recipes with local foodie scenes and distilling out ideas that I want to incorporate into our daily eating, and developing reliable, healthy food standbys.

Like these summer rolls:

Summer roll deliciousness

Rice noodle salads:

Rice noodle salad!

And cheesy egg sandwiches with avocado-bacon spread (okay, maybe not super healthy, but good):

Sammiches!I’m also trying to cut down on my coffee intake.


But I can’t keep drinking pitchers of coffee. So after my two glasses of iced coffee (hey, I’m weening myself off…) in the morning, I’m pushing lemon water, which is supposed to have all of these great health benefits. Plus, I’m trying to take better care of my skin – all of that exfoliating, cleansing stuff that I never had time for until my complexion started looking a little off.

Alcohol has been super easy to cut out since we just sort of stopped drinking earlier this year. It wasn’t even planned. We just ran out and never bothered to re-stock. I think if we ever do, it’ll probably be more wine than anything.

But despite all of these cutbacks and whatnot, we have to enjoy some goodies every now and then. Like movie candy and cupcakes and the occasional ice cream truck score.

Turtle power!

Because if we can’t have some good-bad crap, life ain’t worth living.

This is 30…er, 31. Almost.

I’m not gonna lie: 30 hasn’t exactly been easy. And even though I only have a few months until a 1 shoves that 0 aside, I’m not discounting the rest of this allegedly life-changing year.

This new decade feels nice. I have the emotional maturity to deal with life as it comes, with an experiential arsenal chock-full of missteps and tiny victories to help guide me along. With the last plumage of my twenties shaken off, I’m a fully fledged adult – feeling less like an impostor with every passing day.

The associated life knowledge that comes with it severely blunts my ability and desire to blame others or Society or Life for my problems. Because I know, in the big picture, whatever I’m challenged by is pretty minor stuff. I’ve overcome plenty, and I’m more than capable of handling the hard stuff.

Still, there’re also things that I crave with the same ferocious intensity I reserve for my first glass of coffee (yes, a glass – in the morning hours, a cup is a laughably paltry half-measure) – like seeing more of the world, buying a house, adopting another dog, having a kid; not a long list, really.

But sometimes those things become clouded by battling expectations of what I’m supposed to want or do during this transformative decade: traveling to every country imaginable, renouncing materialism, living in a yurt, and finding inner peace while buying a massive house with a matching mortgage, having two cars and two kids, and having matching IRAs. These contradictory ideals often come in rapid fire bursts – shouted through social media posts or those annoying Buzzfeed lists. I’m somehow supposed to become a hippie with a Lexus – a socially aware materialist. Maybe these polar opposites stem from the Millennial context – growing up and balancing a pre-tech, outdoor-fueled childhood with a post-pubescent, office-centric tech explosion. And like plenty of folks, I find myself caught in between.

Do I want to see more of the world? Most certainly – but not all of it; I still want there to be mysterious places “out there” where my imagination can wander. Do I want a massive house filled to brim with kids and cars and stuff? No. But I’d love a small, manageable house with another shelter dog, where we can bring up a human pup sometime down the line.

To accomplish these goals, though, we’ve both acknowledged that we first must develop greater senses of self, and take care of ourselves. The thing is, prior to this decade, I’d already passed through a lot of mental sieves – left unnecessary, emotion-laden clutter and baggage caught in the webbing, and let thought and ambition and optimism flow through. None of it was easy, and I still have a ways to go.

But as I near 31, I’m at the point of looking in and past the mirror and acknowledging that, yup, this is it. And I’m pretty damn happy with it.

This is 30

So I need to treat myself accordingly, and embrace the all too infrequent senses of calm – of knowing that a decision or thought is true and right.

A few weeks back when Andy and I decided to move back to Raleigh in a year, I experienced one of those clarifying moments. All of the doubt and uncertainty I’d been feeling about making a home on this coast (the costs, the isolation, this and that and everything in between…) cleared. And I could see the future that we wanted. It’s still distant, but we’re inching closer to it every single day.

I’m not going to wax poetic and project ahead – assume that this year is going to be a revolutionary one.

To be certain, it’s going to be challenging. But every year, every decade is pocked with cake walks and welters of madness. So I’m not expecting 31 to be anything more than another year of me doing the best to live the life I want.

Because doing just that is interesting enough.

There’s No Place Like Home

Good morning. Be advised: I’ve had coffee. You can approach.

As recorded in this un-posted post, I found Wednesday a little challenging:

Oh my gods. Do you ever just have those days where everything you do turns into a giant poo ball? WELCOME TO MY TUESDAY!

But really. It’s 11:30 and this is all I’ve accomplished:

(1) Sent a query.

(2) Wrestled sidewalk meat away from Toby.

(3) Sent the WRONG FUCKING cover letter for a particularly interesting job.

(4) Gone Devil Wears Prada on the asshat moving company that still owes us for fucking up some of our furniture.

(5) Deleted yesterday’s three job rejections, including the one for this job.

(6) Repeatedly screamed “FUCK the FUCKING FUCK!”

(7) Guzzled a pitcher of iced coffee.

(8) Realized that some people’s dogs on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook have more likes/followers than my blog.

(9) Read about a stay-at-home gay dad turned writer, checked out his Instagram feed, and was bombarded by shirtless photos that made me want to EAT A CAKE AND THROW IT UP JUST SO I COULD EAT IT AGAIN.


I’m in such a foul mood. And the most annoying thing about it is that it’s one of those that I know I can snap myself out of, but I sort of don’t want to at the moment. I JUST WANT TO GIVE EVERYONE MY RESTING BITCH FACE AND END IT WITH AN ALL INCLUSIVE MIC DROP.

Not only did everything in the world rub me the wrong way, but I’d completely misplaced Wednesday.


I haven’t hidden the fact that moving to Seattle has been harder than I initially thought it’d be. I figured we’d land on our feet like we always have, and I’d snag one of the bazillion nonprofit development jobs floating around, and we’d live contentedly happy lives smack in the middle of Capitol Hill and marvel at the amazingness of life.

That’s just not how it’s panned out.

Granted, we like where we live and we’re constantly marveling at the amazingness of life, but we’re also aware that this move has drained us a bit. What’s more, it’s reminded us of what we’ve been missing, and what we want.

Last weekend we ventured out to immerse ourselves in Seattle’s LGBT community (after all, one of our goals before moving out here was to get more involved), and we figured we’d do that by going to visit the location of one particular organization that seemed to be a crazy-awesome hub for LGBT activism. So, fortified with coffee, we set out with equal parts exhilaration and anxiety – because starting over in a new place is always difficult, as is meeting new people.

We walked up, got excited by the fluorescent sign, swung open the door, and walked into a tiny room stacked with books – whose keeper was completely passed out at his desk. After tiptoeing around a bit, stoking the now smoldering embers of our excitement with the slightest fuel – LOOK, THEY HAVE AN OLD, YELLOWED COPY OF SUCH AND SUCH – we started heading for the door, at which time the attendant awoke. I asked him where the “larger center with which this place is affiliated” was located, and just got a blank stare in response. This was it. Thoroughly dismayed, we donated the few bucks we had in our wallets, thanked him, and left.

To the organization’s credit, it was there – present for the community as a resource and support; that’s incredibly important and I don’t mean to minimize it.

But the fact of the matter is, over the past few years, we’ve craved community on this coast and haven’t really found it. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet wonderful people and make a few friends. Still, even in the liberal enclaves, we’ve yet to encounter anything remotely as accessible, opening, and welcoming as the community-centric LGBT Center of Raleigh – where we met, and a place we love.

LA seemed more about appearance and income brackets than community.

Seattle seems more about fragmented, insulated social bubbles into which it’s nearly impossible to break.

Naively, we were expecting that same sense of community from our Raleigh days to be amplified in these larger, more liberal cities. Instead, it’s been the exact opposite. And the very particular sense of loneliness that’s resulted has been what’s been pushing us to move around, to find a fitting answer – even when the most logical solution has been staring us in the face.

Wednesday night, after Andy surprised me with tulips and a sweet card even though I was being a monstrous beast, we chatted over pizza and peach pie. And then watched Revolutionary Road. Whenever we’re thinking intensively about the future, and any big changes ahead, we always watch it.

We watched it when we decided to venture out to this coast.

So we watched it again when we decided to move back.

Wednesday was a big day.


So, we’re giving ourselves a year or so before we head back – after all, we just got to Seattle and there’s a lot of interesting stuff here to explore, and things to learn.

But there’s a certain sense of relief knowing that we’ll be returning to a place that’s felt more like home than anywhere we’ve lived – a place where we can make a difference, contribute to the community, and feel a sense of belonging that’s been so lacking out here. Plus, whenever we decide to become parents, we don’t want to raise our kid in a liberal bubble, but we also have to be somewhere where we, too, feel supported and at peace.

Until then, though, we’ll keep our heads up and enjoy our time out here – with our Raleigh goal always in sight. And while our journey on this coast may end, we’ll still learn plenty of lessons while we’re out here.

And gladly take them back home.

Rejection’s Silver Lining

Rejection hurts.

Rejection hurtssource

And lately, my cup overfloweth with rejection from potential employers and publishers. The emailed lines “Thanks, but it’s not what I’m looking for” and “We had so many wonderful applicants, but…” are becoming such expected parts of my days that not receiving one or more after my first cup of coffee has me questioning the functionality of our WiFi service.

No matter how many times I quietly advise myself not to get overly excited about a particular submission, there’s always that little optimistic fairy buzzing around inside my head chirping, “THIS IS IT. YOUR BIG BREAK!” It’s the human condition, undergirded by the absurd notion that we’re each unique snowflakes and we’re all going to do great things.

But the fact of the matter is that I don’t need a particular job or to be published to feel like I’ve accomplished something meaningful – that I’ve succeeded. Would it be nice to have a job right now? Sure. And I’ll have one soon enough. Would it be amazing to have my manuscript published? Undoubtedly. Will it happen? Yes, one day – even if I have to self-publish it at age 84.

Oftentimes, I dwell on the sting of rejection because pushing on and staying strong are so much harder – and no one wants to constantly travel the hard, more pothole-pocked road.

But I’m finding there’s a certain silver lining of rejection: in those first moments after a particularly trying rejection letter, I have to cling to what I do have. I reflect on what I have at that exact moment – a logical mental calculation to offset the defeat with a triumph, or at the very least, a comforting realization.

That’s exactly what I did this morning after I got my first query rejection for my book. It came from my top publishing company pick, the one I was sure would be “the one.” And right after I read the last line of the email, I screamed into my darkening mind, “THAT’S OKAY. KEEP GOING.” I took a breath and closed my eyes.

And then I walked around, and let my eyes stop on a framed wedding photo.

I have a loving husband. He’s mine. I’m his.

I looked around our apartment.

We’ve created this. 

I sat next to a slumbering Toby and hugged him.

We’ve given this furry being a new, fulfilling life.

I thought about our future.

We’ll create a family. Together.

And the rejection’s sting subsided.

Albeit blunted, the sting will be with me until it’s supplanted by a more biting one, or balanced a bit by hopeful words, or even an acceptance letter.

The important thing for me is to first feel it, then absorb it, and ultimately let it go.

Because each day is a celebration of much more than what we do or accomplish, and I fully intend to keep reveling in it all.

The Next Frontier: Getting Published

Someone’s scraping a shovel against the sidewalk outside, and I’m hugging Toby – much to his dismay.

Usually Andy’s the one coddling The Tobes, but this morning I require a little extra reassurance, and Toby’s blobby self is exactly what I need.

I’m re-reading my query letter for the 400th time, ensuring that the email formatting isn’t going to jack everything up, and double-checking that I did everything exactly the way I was instructed to by the publisher’s website. By the time I get to the last period, I’m exhausted.

My shaky lil finger hovers over the “Send” button for a few seconds.

“Here we go, Tobes!”

He shifts uncomfortably, and hops out of the chair to attack his eyeless Piglet doll.

I send the email, then check my Sent folder to make sure everything looks alright. I exhale, wander around the living room for a minute, and gather my thoughts. This is the first step of many, but getting here has been harder than I thought.


It’s hard to believe that over two and a half years ago, I was jabbering about writing a book. And then I worked and worked and worked, and it felt like the closer I got to the end, the longer the process was going to take. Especially when I realized I had to write a proposal on top of everything else.

But after some intense proposal writing and query letter development, I feel as though I’m pretty good to go. It took a while to figure out how best to structure my proposal – mostly because all of the available articles on the Internets tell you a hundred different ways to write one. But I distilled out what I felt worked best for me and infused the proposal with humor – because if nothing else, I want it to accurately reflect me and my personality.

In all honesty, I had no idea that a proposal was so involved – that it’d need its own table of contents. Between the marketing and promotion sections, the chapter-by-chapter summaries, and all of the other goodies, my proposal ended up being 30 pages. And sure, that’s probably way too long. But at least this way I can pull out parts that various agents/publishing houses may require – and I won’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time.

Late yesterday, I finished re-reading the full memoir – whilst spot-editing for little grammatical mistakes. I cut a few things here, added there. But then, around bedtime, I realized I was as done as I’ll be – and not just with one task, but with everything.

And now, I’m in that terrifying phase of shopping my memoir around to see if anyone wants to bite. In many ways, I’m back at the starting line.

But I’m ready to race.

Succulent This!

What a witty title. It’s like I’m channeling my inner hormone-raging teen who doesn’t know the first thing about sexy time.


Since Andy has been traveling like crazy, I figured a great way to relax him would be to make him help me bring my crackpot idea of an indoor succulent garden to fruition. Especially since all the herbs I planted died in the past few weeks’ heat wave – except the mint, praise be (because if that goes, we’re doomed).

See, both of us appreciate the calming effects of indoor greenery – especially since we haven’t had anything approximating an outdoor space since Raleigh. And even that was pretty hazardous. BUT NOW, we have a teeny succulent garden in an antique dough bowl. Because we’re raging gays who love to incorporate antiques into anything we can.

How do you construct this wonderful, life-changing succulent garden, dearest Green Guru? you’re asking your computer screens.

WELL, let me show you.

Step 1: Get Yo Antiquin’ Pants On!

If you don’t have superfluous antique dough bowls laying around, you’re a loser and you should hate yourself. Just kidding! You should pride yourself on not being crazy hoarders like us. But if you love American Primitive goodies, or want a unique planter, waddle to your nearest antique store and poke around their outdoor stuff, or look for an old utilitarian box like this one that we just sold.

Get an old box or something

So, like I was saying, find this amazing thing and hold it up so that your photographer can take a cheesy, not-at-all-staged photo.

Completely natural photos are the best, aren't they?

(Also, be sure to wear a shirt with a socially conscious message so that Dan Savage will see your blog post and exclaim to his lovely family that they should go out and do this project IMMEDIATELY and then invite us over to ogle it and laugh at the world in all its weirdness.)

Step 2: The Secret Ingredient!

Add obese Chihuahua.

Toby is the secret ingredient


Step 3a: Walk the Line[r]

Since I didn’t want to damage the actual dough bowl, I made makeshift “liners” out of two large compostable bags (got them at Target). And then I nested a small plastic water catcher in the bottom center, on top of the bottom liner. This way, any water that percolates down should get caught in this reservoir.

Dough bowl lined

Step 3b: Start Layering!

I layered a bit of Cactus Mix (small bag) atop the bottom liner and in the reservoir – just to help absorb any percolating water.

Start layering!

Step 3c: Layer 2 (Take Some Scissors to That Old Bag)

Unlike the bottom liner, I perforated the top liner so that most of the holes were over the plastic reservoir in the second liner layer – so that any percolating water would most likely funnel into it.

Planting with scissors!

Step 4: More soil!

Add soil little by little, spreading it out to leave about an inch of the exposed bag layer around the bowl’s circumference.

Soil, soil, soil

Again, I didn’t want the soil directly touching the wood, so the exposed bag around the edges is for buffering purposes. (Plus, whenever I need to refresh the soil, I can dust off the edges and pull up on these bags – bringing each layer out in one large section.)

Spread it out!

Make sure your hair is perfect

(Also, make sure your hair looks decent.)

Step 5: Succulent Staging!

Unpot, arrange, and plant your succulents as you’d like.

Succulent staging

(Double chin optional.)


Step 6: Roll the Bowl!

To triply protect the integrity of the wooden bowl, we cut a paper towel roll into strips (length-wise), and then cut those in half. We bent each along the middle and arranged them around the circumference, to (again) direct water to the center and down to the reservoir. (This was totally not part of the original plan, but makes the next step so much easier.)

Paper towel roll border!

Ring around the dough bowl

Step 7: Sprinkle in the Sparklies

Use decorative stone fill (or marbles, or googly eyes) and in-fill the space behind the cardboard pieces, and then cover them – working your way to the middle. We completely filled the outside areas and over the tops of the bags and cardboard first, and then moved inward. We didn’t cover the soil completely around the succulents, just so water could get to the roots a bit more easily.


You’re done! You’ve re-purposed a beloved antique and given it a new life.

It's finished!

And now, our apartment is full of beautiful green things!

More green!

Some of which look like marijuana plants, but they’re totally not. For a second opinion of the marijuananess of our plants, we called Amy Adams, but she was too concerned about her lunatic husband in Big Eyes to be of any help.

Big eyes and eye-popping orange planter

(And pay no attention to that hideous, but necessary fan.)

Now, gaze again upon the beauty and wonder of your creation from another angle. And remember that you did this together. Or solo. Whatever. I don’t judge. You made something cool, and that’s a fun accomplishment.

One last shot

Hopefully I won’t have to write a follow up post explaining that the liners failed and the dough bowl rotted out and all the succulents died.

Until then, we’ll be here in our city garden full of tropical, invasive species that’ll never see the outside world.

Yay, environment! Now, go make something cool – and have fun doing it.

Downsizing Space, Upsizing Life*

The other day I was reading this hilarious tiny house post by the witty blogger behind Hipstercrite, and found myself screaming, “GODDAMMIT, YES!”

Let me first caveat this by saying that, like Hipstercrite, I wholeheartedly acknowledge all the positive things tiny houses represent: environmental conservation, recycling (e.g., you quite literally poo where you eat), de-materialism (it should be a word), blah blah blah good things. Hell, my parents live in a semi-subterranean, off-grid hobbit house in the middle of the woods. (But it’s more than one room.)

The Alabama Hobbit Hole, aka The Mirarchi Homestead

I get it. Being good to the earth is awesome.

But you know what else is awesome? Being good to yourself. Which means giving yourself space enough to think, eat, contemplate life’s mysteries, watch movies, and poo without the smell competing with the chili bubbling on the stove outside the tiny house’s bathroom “door” (it’s a curtain, y’all).

It’s no secret that I love talking and writing about design, mostly because I don’t know the professional ins and outs, and wing it whenever I’m decorating our apartment. But I have to say, if Andy and I ever moved into a tiny house, we’d probably end up getting a divorce approximately 6 minutes after walking through the door. (Although it’d probably make for good reality TV: Two Gays, One Tiny House, and An Obese Chihuahua: Who’ll Come Out On Top…or Dead?!)

We both love having our own space. Which is why our historic apartment in Raleigh was amazing. In fact, the other day Apartment Therapy re-posted our House Tour in their “Pride at Home” series following the SCOTUS decision. That was pretty awesome, not just for its timing and the fact I finally felt like an all-star, but also for the window it gave us into our lives a few years back.

We re-toured it, and remarked about how most of the stuff we saw has since been sold or gifted away. (And it also gave me an opportunity for ample self-loathing when I saw myself in those skinny pants, and my hippie hair. Oy!) Then we looked around our Seattle digs, and realized just how much we’ve downsized since moving from North Carolina to California to Seattle.

I mean, when we first landed in California, we were in a 450 square foot studio apartment in Koreatown, and most of our stuff was in a Gardena storage facility (oh, how little we knew the geography). Which, coming from our 1,100 square foot historic Raleigh duplex, felt like a glorified walk-in closet.

Ah, yes. The living-bed-work room. All in one tiny space! Bah!

Thankfully, the only thing we did right with that apartment was sign a 6-month lease.

And then we were off to West Hollywood – a step up space-wise with an actual bedroom and generous living-dining room. Still, it was maybe 850 square feet – quite a bit smaller than what we were used to. Thankfully, it had a great deal of built-in storage – so all of our random crap (and some furniture) was stowed away.

More space!

But then Seattle happened. We loved the new-old space immediately. But when the boxes kept coming and coming and coming, and the movers bid me a “good luck” with nods to the cardboard box forest behind me, I realized that this apartment was quite a bit smaller than our WeHe digs. (We never knew how big our WeHo place was, because the square footage was never listed.)

Big, open spaces. Big, open spaces. And breathe.

Not only that, but we have one closet.

And when I mean one closet, I don’t mean one walk-in closet and five other closets.

I mean one closet in the whole apartment. Granted, it’s a walk-in, but when you factor in all of the random domestic detritus you always need but have to store (towels, blankets, clothes, coats, umbrellas, ironing board, cleaning products, that one box of holiday decor you allow your husband to have…), you need at least two closets. The only other “closet” we have is completely occupied by our stackable washer-dryer, for which I’ll gladly sacrifice the space.

Honestly, though, as annoying as it’s been having only one closet, it keeps us honest. No hoarding clothes or shoes or furniture. Our space is full enough now, so anything new we bring it means something else goes out.

Except for Fiesta. There’s always room for rare I-will-cut-you-for-that Fiesta pieces. (One of the main reasons why we could never live in a tiny house.)

Always room for Fiesta!

We’ve culled a lot. And when I mean a lot, I mean that the only decorative stuff we have is what we see (except for some framed art under the bed – that ain’t going anywhere). And the only furniture we retained are pieces that pull double-duty, except for those necessary chairs. So our sideboards and cabinets hold dishes (all of which we use) and DVDs, and all of our clothes and shoes and coats and tools and gardening supplies are stored in the bedroom dressers and walk-in closet.

Even though this move was exhausting because of majorly downsizing, it was totally worth it. Do we love stuff? Absolutely. But we don’t need more of it to feel like we’ve succeeded in life, nor do we need a tiny house to convince us that we’re leading a quintessentially “simple life.”

And while this is the smallest apartment we’ve ever lived in (and will probably ever live in), it goes without saying that it’s still more than most folks in the world have. There’s something about living in a small(er) space that anchors this in the fore of my mind; it reminds me to be thankful for this little slice of life, and to cherish everything in it – because what we’ve chosen to retain is what we feel matters most.

Plus, it’s sort of fun transitioning formerly decorative stuff into the functional realm (e.g., the dough bowl that used to hold pine cones in my parents’ house, looked Spartan and old and beautifully empty in our WeHo apartment, and will now be turned into a container for a succulent garden in Seattle).

But there is such a thing as too small a space, and I need more than one pan to cook with.

My ideal is to have another bedroom for guests (or, you know, a kid) and another bathroom. (I also like to occasionally channel Mary-Louise Parker in The Client and tell Toby that all I want is “A little white** house with a walk-in closet.” (Nix the white.) It’d also be great not to have to design everything along a wall in our living room, but I’m done worrying about “design rules.”

Our pared down library

I think our space works just fine, and doesn’t look half bad either. So while we won’t be investing in a tiny house anytime soon, I’ll take some of the tenets from that ascetic lifestyle and map it onto our slightly more material-bloated, less claustrophobic 745 square foot Capitol Hill perch.

After all, Toby’s not about to pare-down any of his toys.

Toby isn't letting a single one go. No tiny house for him!

(*I’m pretty sure upsizing isn’t a word. But it should be.)