Randomly, Tips for Getting Hired

When I was in my last semester of college, my brother-in-law set me up with an interview to intern at a Boston marketing firm. It was 2009, one of the worst years to graduate from college in recent history, and I had zero job offers from 50+ applications. I had a great GPA, a decent resume, and an oversized ego I had no business flaunting.

The office was hip, the work was probably cool, but I was stupid in that I thought I was smarter than the person that interviewed me. Even if I was better at math or politics or problem-solving, she had a job and real experience; I didn't even have a diploma yet. I may have known my way around the classroom, but I certainly didn't know my way around the job market. Case in point: I failed to send a follow up "thank you" email, the primary reason I was not hired, as I learned later from my brother-in-law.

I was embarrassed and pissed off, and I (hopefully) never made that mistake again. A resume is a piece of paper a hiring manager looks at for 10 seconds. Having a great internship or a diploma from a prestigious school may get you in the door, but a passionate cover letter, "thank you" email, or interview means a lot more. From the other side of the hiring table, I've seen the majority of people expect their resume to do all the selling. It doesn't work that way. The harsh truth is that college degrees are commonplace. There are still more job applicants than jobs. And you are not a unique butterfly; leave your entitlement at the door. Companies do not exist so that you can pursue your dream job (unless you build your own company). You need to convince them that you should be hired as an employee to bring value to them. Of course, you should get something out of the deal too... a salary, benefits, on-the-job-training, and/or career acceleration -- whatever you're looking for. 

Finding a job isn't easy, but if I could boil it down to a few suggestions, here they are:

1.) Do your homework. Demonstrate that you researched both the company and even the people who are interviewing you.

2.) Make your application specific. If it never mentions the specific company or is too fill in the blank, it's clear you didn't invest any time or effort and therefore don't really want this job.

3.) Show you're self aware. Not everyone is an extrovert (I'm certainly not). That's ok. Own it, compensate as best you can, and move on to your strengths.

4.) Send a "thank you." Believe it or not, this sets you apart from almost everyone else who has interviewed.


Back on the (Happiness) Horse

It's a good sign I haven't written here in a while because it means I'm happy. Happiness is boring to write about, or at least, I think I don't write well when I'm happy. So here goes nothing. 

I just wrapped up a "bachelorette" weekend in Arizona for a close friend. I use quotes, because my weekend was as far as you can get from the bachelorette parties you see in the movies. We drank good coffee, ate great food, visited botanical gardens and ancient ruins, hiked the beautiful Red Rocks, got massages, and just caught up on our lives. We also went to bed before 10pm and slept 8-10 hours each. (I should mention that all three of us are under 30.)

View from Soldiers Pass hike in Sedona

View from Soldiers Pass hike in Sedona

Sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for myself about how few friends I have in St. Louis (not counting the coworkers who would have my back in a hot second). But trips like these -- with people who operate on the same wavelength as I do and who make feeling joy so effortless -- remind me of how lucky I am. 

In the case of friends, quality can trump quantity. Quality can even trump proximity. I may not get to see my closest friends all that often, but I will ride (revisit) this feeling until we meet again.

Double Flu

I've been sick for 11 days. 

I don't mean that I've had a lingering cough that hasn't gone away for 11 days. I mean that, for 11 days, I've barely been able to leave my house or walk to the bathroom without keeling over from coughing. I'm over it. Spencer is really over it.

Five days into this ordeal, I schlepped to Urgent Care where I tested positive for strep. When antibiotics didn't help after five more days, I went back for another visit. I almost cried talking to the nurse. "I'm just not getting any better," I told her. "And I'm so, so tired." As I get older and the nurses get younger, it becomes more humiliating to be vulnerable in front of them. Maybe I was extra sensitive due to "my situation"? Living alone. A single dog parent (yes, this is thing for me). Accountable to essentially no one but my employer. And now, sick as hell. Woe, woe is me.

In the exam room, the same nurse told me she was going to take some samples for flu and mono tests. Apparently there's an option where they prick your finger repeatedly and try to squeeze out enough blood? If that doesn't work, they go for the arm anyway. The finger pricking sounded horrific, so I opted to just go for the vein. Not pleasant, but manageable. After that, I suffered the indignity of her sticking a Q-tip up my nose. (Did I mention she was a cute nurse my age?) "Is your nose wet or dry?" she asked. "Um, I think it's pretty dry." "Yup! Pretty dry. Oh... oh. Wet!" Ugh.

I ended up testing positive for two different strains of flu. At least some justification for feeling like death! They opted to hydrate me with fluids via an IV drip and went into my other arm. So, I got pricked again, sat there for 40 minutes, and watched Ellen on TV -- perfect timing! -- as the clear stuff magically entered my bloodstream. For the first time in ten days, I actually felt better.

Sadly, the best part of my visit was not the IV drip but the nurse cleaning all the blood off my hand and arm. I'm apparently a bleeder, so there was a fair amount. She took those little alcohol swabs and spent time cleaning all the red off my skin. She'd take my hand and gently twist to get to all the spots. A five-year relationship recently up in smoke and, I admit, it was just nice to be touched again, even by a latex-gloved hand. 

My Head During A Breakup

Flint Creek Farm, Oklahoma

Flint Creek Farm, Oklahoma

When Alex told me she wanted to end things on a Wednesday at 9:30pm, I kind of tuned out. Not a great time to disappear into one's head, I admit, but I did. I thought about the time. It was late, and I already felt exhausted. How could I make it through this conversation? Should I try to go to work tomorrow or should I get in touch with my boss now? What about that weekend's planned trip to Oklahoma? Should I text my friend -- who I had emailed hours earlier about what to pack -- and tell her we were no longer coming? (I ultimately went, just me and Spencer.) Then, worse than contemplating the immediate future, I started to consider the real future. Flashing before my eyes was the life I imagined for us, crumbling. 

I'm a fairly risk averse person. I try not to even let myself think too far down the line so as not to set myself up for disappointment. I think I waited six months into dating Alex to tell my sister about her, just in case. I waited months to mention her to coworkers even at socially liberal NPR. But five years into our relationship, I had finally allowed myself to picture "forever" with her. She seemed to be able to picture it, too, so I took her cues and ran with it. I imagined we'd get married in St. Louis at some point before her PhD was done, assuming gay marriage became legal in Missouri. We'd buy a small house or condo. We might even get a second dog. And in a few years when she completed her program, I imagined picking up all over again and moving to some new place for another adventure. I didn't need to picture where, just as long as it was our little family, us and our dog(s).

As I sat next to her on the couch while it all ended, my mind was racing with these thoughts. On top of them, I had some absolutely stupid regrets. Why had I brought her to Christmas last year? If I'd waited longer, aunts and cousins would have never known this had started, or ended. Why did I buy two sleeping bags and a tent (and remove the tags, god dammit) in advance of the camping trip I hoped we would take and now never would? And why did I encourage my sister, her family, and my brother to visit me in St. Louis? Their tickets were already booked. I had been excited to show them my new life, my little family. Now they'd only see me a mess. Then, another concern. Should I invent a new story for why I moved to St. Louis? Up until now, people I met always asked why I was here. I had always answered "for my partner's PhD program." Now what?

I imagined throwing in the towel and leaving for Boston, my go-to backup plan. Before I left DC for St. Louis, I'd quickly (and jokingly) mentioned to my sister that her basement was my Plan B in case everything went to shit. A year and change later, I guess it had? But it didn't seem like an easy plan to implement. How would I get me, my stuff, and Spencer there? Would I give up a great job in St. Louis for uncertainty in Boston? It seemed like a lot of work, not to mention risk, just to give up. So, within an hour of everything happening, I made up my mind to stay. 

I emailed my realtor a week later, and today -- two and a half months after everything changed -- I'm writing this from my very own home. I'm happy with what I have. I feel accomplished for pulling it together when everything was falling apart. I'm excited to have a garage and take a bath in my jacuzzi tub. But in the week since I've been here, I've also caught myself thinking, "Wouldn't this be perfect... if it was our home?" I guess I did buy a condo after all, just not how I had imagined.



Flint Creek Farm, Oklahoma. 9/21/2014.

Flint Creek Farm, Oklahoma. 9/21/2014.

I'm sitting on my couch with my dog. I'm surrounded by all my stuff, some in luggage, some waiting to be packed, which I will shuttle to a new place in less than a week.

I'm excited about moving, because -- in the ultimate act of shopping therapy -- I purchased a home. I'm devastated about moving, because it's the end of something I thought would never end.

The first person I told was my boss. In retrospect, that's hilarious. But at the time, it was all I could think to do when I had absolutely no idea what to do. Should I stay in St. Louis, where I moved in a huge leap of faith? Or would I limp back to the East coast to figure it all out later?

I obviously decided to stay. There's too much happening here for me to leave. And maybe that makes it the easiest choice, but I'm okay with that.

It's been two months.

The hardest thing is the decrease in communication. I barely look at my phone. No one's texting me. Gchat is mostly silent. Meanwhile, I hear her phone buzzing and beeping away. I blame it on her younger cohort, Snapchatting and texting at every opportunity. 

The upside? I spend less money on food. I don't care what I eat or if i eat when I get home from work. I didn't really go out before. I barely go out now. Those dollars are definitely adding up. Then there are my friends, even the relatively new ones. Their incredible compassion has brought me to tears over and over again, and they've stepped in to fill the void with texts, emails, and phone calls.

Finally, there's Spencer. I know he's "just a dog," but he keeps me going. He needs to pee, he needs to poop, and he needs to eat. He can't do those things without me, and he's so happy when he gets them done. He's my most reliable source of joy.

The last month has been one of faux normalcy, so I think the move will be a huge shock. I've never lived alone. 


Something's Gotta Give is one of my favorite movies. I watch it when I'm happy, I watch it when I'm sad, and I watch it when I need something familiar and comforting. I always thought this scene perfectly (and hilariously) captures what it's really like to be be sad. How it permeates every activity. How it comes out of nowhere. How you can take a break from crying in sleep only to wake up and start again where you left off.

scene cut from movie ''Something's gotta give'' Diane Keaton in an endless cryin' route in LOL on LockerDome

So many happy things have happened between May, when I last wrote, and today. But right now, I'm sad. I'm so sad. Luckily, I have a wonderful dog and wonderful friends -- some of them too far away right now -- and a job where lots of work needs to be done. That'll keep me going, I think.

Carpe Diem: Haircut Edition

This week, I did something very uncharacteristic. I walked into a salon -- well, more like a SuperCuts -- and asked for a haircut. I conducted minimal research beforehand (only a few guys had reviewed the place on Yelp) and I made NO appointment.

If you're a woman, this is more or less CRAZY.

Things that suck when moving to a new city? Trick question. Many, many things. But among the most annoying are finding a new doctor, a dentist, and a person that cuts your hair. It took me three years to find Camden, my previous stylist in DC, who I stayed with for five and a half years. We used to chat about music and beer and tattoos. I trusted him completely AND I could be myself. 

I knew finding my new Camden would not be easy, so I avoided trying at all. Over Christmas in New Jersey, Alex's sister -- a killer stylist -- kindly gave me a bonafide kitchen cut that tided me over. But five months later, I looked a little rough around the edges and desperately needed a trim. It was finally time for a St. Louis haircut.


Before and after.

Before and after.

First of all, I hate selfies, so forgive my expression. Second, despite chopping off approximately three inches in the middle of the workday, none of my coworkers noticed. They're mostly dudes, but still. They have eyes. Third, I forget why this was a list. Moving on.

My haircut is nothing groundbreaking. I like it, and I liked the woman who cut my hair. I just didn't feel that.... spark, for lack of a better word. Convenience and price were big perks, though, and it felt great to just get a haircut without much fuss. I'll probably go back a second time.


Still, here's my general complaint about getting a haircut. If you're even mildly tomboyish (I am) and you walk into most any salon, you can end up feeling like barely a woman.

"All you do is blow dry your hair?"

"Yup, that's it."

"What products do you use?"

"Shampoo and conditioner."

"Are you, in fact, a woman at all?"

"I think so...?"

That's why I tend to look for places where stylists are tattooed, pierced, and alternative. These people get it.

Yes, I am a woman. No, I only spend 5 minutes "doing" my hair. Now please help me look pretty.

Yes, I Skyped With My Dog

Spencer has not handled my going back to work very well. Our unicorn of a dog -- so well-behaved, so quiet and unfussy -- morphed into an emotional wreck three weeks ago. No matter the length of the walk, the intensity of the run, or the amount of playtime, he cries, howls, and barks when he's left alone. Sometimes he starts out quiet, but inevitably deteriorates into one sad, crying mess of a dog.

I told the guy at the pet store about my problems. I asked Reddit for help. I called a doggie daycare and spoke to a trainer. I was ready to try anything (except for a bark collar), but everything we tried failed AND Spencer was regressing.  

So last weekend, we tried Skype. We call Spencer from our phone or laptop and he "auto answers." You, too, can spy on your dog by setting Skype up as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 10.49.49 PM.png

Voila! Spencer on Skype.

"Where are my moms?!" - Spencer

"Where are my moms?!" - Spencer

We're only a few days into using Skype now. It's by no means a cure-all, but man, does takes the edge off our anxiety! We no longer leave the house and wonder if we'll get an angry email from our lawyer friend below. We no longer hope Spencer's not barking. We simply know if he is or isn't by calling him up on with a video call. He can't see us and we tend to leave ourselves on mute, but when he's upset, we try to calm him down with a few words. So far, that's worked amazingly. In combination with our other training and mixing his schedule up with daycare and walks, we hope he'll kick this anxiety for good in the next few weeks.

Am I crazy or am I crazy? 

Don't answer that. We just love the damn dog. 

Excuse the Mess

Gitnerblog has a new face!

Gitnerblog 2.0

Gitnerblog 2.0

I just moved the site from WordPress to Squarespace, and without much forethought, switched my domains over without tidying up first. 

A big thanks to Anthony Sessa, my Georgetown classmate and friend, who helped move me from Blogger (1.0) to WordPress in the first place. He held my hand, if you will, as I registered for domain names, and he even hosted all my content pro bono. Now that he's Lead Developer at PolicyMic and a legitimately big deal, I wanted to rid him of Gitnerblog's burdens. After all, the dude's got better paying gigs than this one. (Zero dollars.) 

4 Things I Love About St. Louis

Now that I've trash talked St. Louis' most beloved structure, how about a little love? Here are some quick things before I leave St. Louis... briefly... for a trip to Florida. First off, I love my neighborhood. I may have forgotten that fact this winter, but spring helped me remember. Here's a recent shot of one of my favorite streets.

Central West End homes

Central West End homes

House porn is everywhere. Almost every home is three stories tall and massive. And worse, some of these homes are relatively affordable. Luckily or unluckily, reminders of the sheer expense of maintaining such huge houses are present, too. Contractors are constantly parked out front and, just a few blocks north, many similarly large homes are in obvious disrepair, if not boarded and abandoned.

Urban vs. Suburban

From these photos, you might think I live in suburbia. Sometimes I feel that way. But the fact is, I live smack in the middle of everything I want and need, which leads me to another reason I love St. Louis: proximity.

Here's a handy chart comparing my life in DC to my life here in St. Louis.

Factor in my new commute to work -- only 3 miles in St. Louis compared to 3.5 miles in DC -- and St. Louis emerges the clear winner in terms of proximity. By bike, all the places on the above chart are easy (and safe) to get to if I avoid busy roads. If I walk, not so much. Roads with fast-moving traffic make short distances feel much longer and less pleasant.

More on that later, since I'm talking about things I like, right?

Forest Park

This deserves its own post, really. On nice days, I can easily spend upwards of two hours running and walking Spencer in Forest Park. Here he is relaxing on the Central Field.

Spencer at Forest Park's Central Fields

Spencer at Forest Park's Central Fields

We can be alone, or not. Forest Park is the one place, ironically, that makes me feel like I live in a big city. While it's always easy to find a space for ourselves, it's also commonplace to see dozens of people running, biking, flying kites, or walking their dogs at any time of day.

Forest Park also boasts the "Best City Golf Course in Mid-America."(Almost sounds like it's the only contender in that category, but let's move on). Golf in St. Louis, compared to other cities where I've played, is accessible, affordable, and unpretentious. No surprise then that Alex and I have gotten back into it. In DC, it was difficult to play without access to a car. Even if we borrowed one, courses were prohibitively expensive and often booked up. Here in St. Louis, we can book a same-day tee time for $13. Incredible!

Fido Friendliness

This is mostly an excuse to post my new favorite photo of Spencer.

But really, St. Louis is an incredibly dog-friendly city. I thought dog-friendly workplaces were a myth, but I've been to several offices here where employees bring them in. The majority of apartments and houses allows dogs (DC is a loser in this category).  Most bars with outdoor spaces seem to allow dogs, too -- even at night. As a result of all this fido friendliness, we try to incorporate Spencer into as many events as possible, partly to socialize him (not long ago, he was a sad, sad boy) and partly for our own benefit. Could we leave him at home? Yes. Do we want to? No.

St. Louis' Shockingly Embarrassing Monument (For Now)

Here's the kind of image St. Louis loves to flaunt.

The Arch from East St. Louis

The Arch from East St. Louis

Nice, right?

Here's a less flattering view.

Aerial view of the Arch

Aerial view of the Arch

And here's two more photos of the Arch grounds taken from the Arch.

View from the Arch

View from the Arch

Another view from the Arch

Another view from the Arch

St. Louisans and Missourians are fiercely proud of the Arch, which I find odd, because it's one of the least engaging places in the entire city. It's like that fancy couch your parents bought for the formal living room. It's in all the Christmas cards, but you've actually barely sat on it. (Bad analogy alert.)

Howard Stern had some harsh words for the Arch after a visit to St. Louis in 2012:

From my hotel, I could see that Arch thing. I hate to say this because people take such pride in their city, but boy is that a disappointment. (Robin: It looks like the McDonalds sign.) It’s like an aluminum arch... It’s not even lit up cool. Like, any bridge in New York is cooler than that Arch. We have shitty things that nobody looks at that are better and bigger than that. It makes no sense. It doesn’t do anything, I don’t think. Someone told me you can go in there and ride on it... It’s kind of lame. I hate to say that. They so love that Arch. It’s just so not happening. They’ve got to get something better. I mean, it’s not even that beautiful... It’s in the most random place and there’s these ugly signs around it. Nobody’s put any thought into it.

I do think the Arch is beautiful, but other than that, I'm at a loss for compliments. To me, it's this big, static thing that -- at the end of the day -- encourages nothing more than looking and leaving. (And I can look at it from far more engaging places in the city.) The Arch grounds are strangely confusing to access by foot or by bike due to the "massive physical barriers that completely sever this prized public space from the rest of the city: To the west, I-70, a rumbling interstate offering limited and unsightly pedestrian access, and to the east, the Mississippi River, prone to flooding, and dividing downtown from blighted East St. Louis" (FastCo Design).

And did I mention the Museum of Westward Expansion? It's located beneath the Arch and described by some, accurately, in my opinion, as "Disappointingly bad, but free" and "No explanation of anything!" One reviewer writes:

You don’t learn anything here because there are no plaques explaining anything. There are some really nice displays like for example an old carriage, and I was like “what is it, tell me something about it!” Nope. Nothing. I’m sure they could have told me something about stage coach travel, but no. It is not a museum.

CityArchRiver 2015

I'm neither the first to notice nor the first to complain about this shockingly embarrassing American monument. How it existed in its current state for so many years is mind-blowing.

But change is on its way, for better or worse. By October 2015, the 50th anniversary of the Arch, St. Louis should see a one-block "lid" over the highway; an expanded museum with more (and hopefully improved) exhibits; a riverfront promenade with access for bicyclists and pedestrians; and new and improved spaces and pathways.

That all sounds good. Or does it?

Alex Ihnen, editor of the fantastic blog NextSTL, posted a detailed timeline of the CityArchRiver project from 2010 to present, and he argues, quite convincingly, that the "lid" as currently proposed disrupts downtown's city grid and even worsens access to the Arch.

Can it get any worse?

Even if the "lid" is a disaster, the Arch has so much room for improvement that I can't see being disappointed on every front.

Joy + Relief! The Search Is Over

I left my job eight months ago. Yesterday, I was finally hired for a new position. I'll be working beside incredibly smart people at a company that excites me. Now, I feel like that gif + this song. (Edit: this other song is also appropriate.)


A huge chunk of those eight months was incredibly relaxing. I worked intermittently on some short-term projects. I traveled to both coasts. I spent lots of time with our new dog, and I explored my new city at a leisurely pace. I'd be lying, though, if I said I wasn't stressed out at times.

This job hunt wasn't easy per se, but it was much, much easier than when I graduated from college. (I was unlucky enough to finish in 2009, when unemployment hit 10%). I applied for a healthy number of jobs and interviewed for about a third of them. A few opportunities really excited me; others... not so much. But, if I was invited to interview, I always went with an open mind and my gameface. (This may have possibly backfired.) Along the way, people shocked me with their kindness and generosity. A podcast listener sent me occasional job postings. A woman I met while touring an office connected me with her network of creative people in the city. A fellow Hoya advised me on transitioning careers. Others simply took me to lunch and offered an ear.

This kindness, thankfully, far outweighed the lack of humanity I sometimes encountered. Though I won't go into detail, I want to emphasize my belief in treating fellow humans with dignity and respect. If you've interviewed an applicant in-person or even on the phone, if they dressed up and drove to your office, I beg of you: please have the decency to reply to their follow-up email or phone call. I have the suspicion that the people who treated me this way have never really been between jobs and either don't know or have forgotten what it was like to be on the other side of the desk. Good luck to them in discovering their own empathy and humanity.

Resources I Used

Job hunting and interviewing is a skill. I'm not an expert, but I found the following tools incredibly helpful on my search and I hope they can be helpful to someone else.

Simply Hired: I don't quite remember how I came to use Simply Hired instead of LinkedIn, Monster and all the rest, but I'm a big fan. Simply Hired delivered a daily digest of both quality and quantity when it came to finding jobs relevant to my skills and location. It ultimately helped me find the position I have today.

Creative Circle: I never used a recruiting agency before, and only found out about this one after a company I was interviewing with hired someone from Creative Circle instead of me. Turned out it was a blessing in disguise. The service is completely free to job seekers (companies pay for access to agency candidates) and, at least in the St. Louis office, is a fast track to interviews at some of the city's most creative companies. The recruiters were very helpful and supportive, and, though it was sometimes tough to swallow, were able to pass on employer feedback after unsuccessful interviews.

LinkedIn: Everyone knows about LinkedIn. Beyond having a nice, clean, shareable profile, it was useful to me in the following ways. First, I checked (where applicable) how popular certain job postings were. Although it certainly felt demoralizing to see that 100+ people applied to the position I was looking at, it was helpful in lowering my expectations. Second, I used it to see the professional backgrounds of my interviewers and of people whose careers I admired. This was always useful in coming up with questions during interviews. Third, networking. At my age and especially in St. Louis, I have a weak and virtually non-existent network, but I occasionally discovered I know a gal who knows a gal.

/r/Jobs: It's easy to feel isolated and alone during a job search, even with a strong support system of friends and family. Reading posts in this subreddit helped me feel that a.) I was incredibly lucky to have interviews and callbacks at all; and b.) other people were experiencing what I was going through, or worse. Reading advice and success stories was always helpful.


I need to give a huge shoutout to friends -- both IRL and from the internet -- and family. It's easy to feel ashamed about the job search. Why is it taking so long? Why hasn't something worked out yet? Your emails, tweets, texts and phone calls lifted me up. Thanks to a particular group of friends who endured my play-by-plays in WhatsApp. And above all, as usual, thanks to Alex for perfecting the art of support. When an interview went well, she cheered me on. When it didn't, she said "Fuck 'em." And of course, thanks to my dog, who was like, "Woof. Don't get a job. Stay at home with me forever." Sorry, dog.

Movies I Watched In 2013 (And Some Stats)

Last year, I chose my five favorite films and wrote what I liked about them. This year, something slightly different. Since it's New Years Eve and I'm rushing to get these out there, I'll aim to be more statistical. I've seen 23 movies or documentaries this year, excluding everything I watched that wasn't released in 2013. I think that's a hell of a lot of viewing, and there's still a TON I haven't seen yet. August: Osage CountyDallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Spectacular Now, Philomena... I expect to tackle most of these in the first few weeks of 2014. Now, on to the stats.

Total 2013 Releases (Films and Documentaries) Watched: 23 ...Watched in Theaters: 12 ...Watched via Netflix: 7 ...Watched in December: 6 ...Watched By Myself: 16 (ha!)

Favorite Films of 2013

When I see a movie or even hear a song that really strikes a chord with me, I tend to say "I'm changed." The movie altered the way I think or touched me deeply or stays in my thoughts for several days. Many movies did that for me last year but only a few this year (12 Years A Slave, Nebraska, Stories We Tell). I think the main theme of my favorite films of 2013 is entertainment. I was thoroughly entertained. And so, here are my five favorite movies and documentaries of the year, in no particular order:

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

2. 12 Years a Slave

3. American Hustle

4. Gravity

5. Stories We Tell

Other 2013 Releases I Watched (most-liked titles are bolded) 1. Nebraska 2. Elysium 3. Side Effects 4. The English Teacher 5. Man of Steel 6. About Time 7. Bridegroom 8. 56 Up 9. Salinger 10. Manhunt 11. Behind the Candelabra 12. Frances Ha 13. Blue is the Warmest Color 14. The Heat 15. The Wolverine 16. This Is The End 17. The Great Gatsby 18. The Way, Way Back

2013: My Travels in Photos

The bright side of having friends who live far away is that occasionally I get a chance to visit them. If I can't visit their cities, we meet somewhere in the middle. In 2013, I did a lot of traveling -- for bachelorette parties and weddings, to move and to reunite with friends. I'm still learning a lot about my camera and photography, but I tried my best to take good pictures along the way.  Here are some favorite photos from the places I've visited in the last 12 months.






















10 Favorite Songs of 2013

This year, I kept a running list of my favorite songs on a Spotify playlist. Out of over 40 tracks, these are my absolute top 10 that I still listen to on repeat. My favorite album of the year was Okkervil River's Silver Gymnasium, so let's start with them. In no particular order...

1. Okkervil River

"Down Down the Deep River" from The Silver Gymnasium

2. Neko Case

"Local Girl" from The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

3. The National

"This Is the Last Time" from Trouble Will Find Me

4. Torres

"Honey" from Torres

5. Caveman

"In the City" from Caveman

6. Aoife O'Donovan

"Red & White & Blue & Gold" from Fossils

7. Drake

"Hold On, We’re Going Home" from Nothing Was the Same

8. Kanye West

"Black Skinhead" from Yeezus

9. Typhoon

"Young Fathers" from White Lighter

10. Rilo Kiley

"About the Moon" from rkives

A History of Recent Thanksgivings

Thanksgiving is an excuse to go home and share a meal with family. Maybe it's been a week, a month or even a year since everyone sat down at the table together. It's been nearly a decade since I celebrated Thanksgiving with both of my parents, and it's been even longer since I spent it with my entire immediate family. It's been four years since my family has gathered for any occasion at all. Both of my parents are alive and still married (to each other), by the way. I'd be lying if I said my family's lack of togetherness wasn't a little destructive. I feel almost wounded at times. I've snapped at friends who've persisted in asking me what I'm doing for Thanksgiving year after year. ("Nothing" was typically my surly answer.) I've interpreted the need to see family as emotional weakness. I've even dubbed the entire Thanksgiving holiday meaningless as a sort of self-preservation technique. But, at the end of the day, I wish my family was a little bit more like everyone else's.

My sister is my savior. She's part sibling, part mother, part friend. At 14 years my senior, she's become the center of my family life. If I have time to visit family, I visit her and and her husband and three kids. If I'm able to visit for the holidays, I make sure to go where she's going. My brother usually does the same and so, it's as close as we get to a traditional family gathering.

I visit my sister several times a year, but I haven't spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with her for quite a while. In retail and in radio, the need for warm bodies is constant. And since I've been employed in both since graduating from college, I've skipped out on almost all recent holidays. Overall, it felt fine and normal to work during those times. I think another person in my situation might've felt sadder than I did. But when work was over, when I went home to watch TV and eat dinner alone, I felt lonely and isolated. It wasn't so much that I was without my family; it was that everyone else was with theirs. The tweets slowed down, no one was on gchat and Facebook and Instagram were a barrage of family photos.

Luckily, movies like You've Got Mail and The Family Stone exist. I watched these fictional families and their fictional coziness, and I wrapped it around myself like a blanket.

The Last Six Thanksgivings

I spent my first Thanksgiving away from family in 2007. I was three months into studying abroad in London. Any sort of trip back home was out of the question and my American friends were all in the same boat, so I didn't feel that bad about it. It helped a lot that life for most Londoners went on as usual. After all, "Thanksgiving" was just a fall Thursday in Britain. I rang in the holiday at a pub with an American friend. We ordered festive sandwiches with chicken, cranberry sauce, stuffing and lettuce -- no turkey, thanks to a bird flu-related shortage that year.

In 2008, I was back in in Washington, DC, finishing my senior year of college. I took the train up to Yonkers, NY to have Thanksgiving at my grandparents. My mom flew out from California, my sister and her family came down from Massachusetts and my brother, cousins, aunts and uncles all gathered for dinner. My dad, of course, stayed home. What I really remember, though, is the train ride back to DC during which I slipped, fell and cried publicly. Not the finest of all Thanksgivings, though it was the last one to date that I spent with family.

2009 was an especially sad one. I was working two jobs, one of which was retail, along with an NPR internship. If you've worked retail, you know the importance of staffing up for Black Friday. I had to be in DC on Wednesday and Friday. Since it definitely wasn't worth going up to New York for the day, I went into NPR and spent Thanksgiving with the Talk of the Nation staff. Like any other Thursday, they had a show to put on and their intern had gone home. I swooped in, ran scripts and tried to do my best to help out, but it felt incredibly lonely. I bought a sad lunch at McDonald's and ate it alone.

2010 was slightly better. I worked Thanksgiving day at Morning Edition, where I'd started about a month earlier. I didn't know anyone that well yet, so I still felt lonely. At least I was making some money, though.

In 2011, I spent Thanksgiving with a coworker who was also stuck working night shift that week. We each crammed in a nap before waking up insanely early -- probably 2PM -- to eat at his aunt and uncle's. His parents and sister had flown in, too, so it was a full and lively table. I was thrilled to do normal family stuff, like play board games and watch football. Later that night, I celebrated a 3AM Thanksgiving with Morning Edition staff. People brought in food -- I brought in two rotisserie chickens -- and set aside a few minutes to eat together. It was as good as a 3AM Thanksgiving could be, decent food and great people with an undercurrent of "at least I'm getting overtime for this."

In 2012, I worked the night shift again and thus, there was a baseline level of surliness. The food, however, was spectacular. Linda Wertheimer was guest hosting as she had the year before, but this time she brought in an amazing roasted turkey (or chicken, I can't remember). I made brussel sprouts. Other coworkers made green bean casserole and a sweet potato dish. Food was aplenty and staff had more time to relax at the table before getting the show on air. I also had a great meal with my roommate, who was also stuck in town for his job. We splurged on a Turducken from Harris Teeter and ate leftovers for the rest of the week.

Chicago Thanksgiving

This year, I'm not working Thanksgiving -- it's strange to say. Even though I have my own little family now (Alex and Spencer) and a quiet Thanksgiving at home would be fantastic, we're driving up to the Chicago area to spend the long weekend with one of my best friends and her family.

Kate's family is loving, generous, smart and eccentric, just like Kate. They're the kind of people you hope your hypothetical kids meet someday. When a group of our friends, including Kate, visited Chicago a few years ago, we stayed at their house and had such a good time, we opted to stay in suburbia instead of going into the city for a second day. They cooked us an incredible meal and joined us for a wine-fueled game of pre-1989 Trivial Pursuit.

I may not be having Thanksgiving with my family this year, but I'm thrilled to spend it with an amazing one.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Why I Almost Cried Outside the Coffee Shop

This afternoon, I held back tears after a barista shooed me out of a coffee shop for bringing my dog. It was advertised as "dog-friendly" on Yelp. Earlier today, I spent an hour on a job application only to be deemed ineligible at the last step: a two-part questionnaire.

This morning, someone on my Twitter newsfeed announced they were hired for a job I had interviewed for. The hiring manager, who had met me in-person and encouraged me to apply for the job, never got in touch to let me know. This is the second time this specific hiring manager has treated me this way.

At least there was the park.