I am a twenty-two year-old college grad based in the Boston area. As a Digital Media + Social Justice major, spreading inspiration and positivity is extremely important to me. When I'm not reading, writing, or blogging, I enjoy cooking delicious vegetarian meals and binge-watching crime shows on Netflix. Thanks for stopping by!
We’ve endured more than 330 days in quarantine, and I’ve spent my entire time as a 21 year-old in that period. It probably goes without saying that I didn’t have the most typical “21” experience. My birthday is on April 12, so there was no bar-hopping or get-togethers last spring. In fact, I actually spent my birthday completely alone. My mom had to work that night (a job she couldn’t call out of, as a nurse on the frontline,) and my boyfriend at the time couldn’t travel out to see me because it was Easter (yes, my birthday occasionally falls on Easter.) I’m pretty sure I spent the day eating cake, drinking pink moscato, and watching reruns of Jeopardy!, so unaware of what was to come.
Within less than a month of my 21st birthday, I was living away from my mom in an apartment in Boston with two other housemates. I had no job, no license, and no money to my name, but hey, at least my useless art degree arrived in the mail just in time for the economy to tank!
I applied to over 200 jobs that summer and burned through all of my tax money, savings bonds, and help from my mother to pay my rent. I started getting food stamp benefits to take the burden off paying for food. I landed a job at Starbucks in July, which I was actually excited about; the only problem was I had to walk four miles a day to get there and back. That was fine for the summer and most of the fall, but when the November chill hit and the sky began darkening with dread at 4:00pm, I began to panic.
I transferred to a closer Starbucks at the end of November, which downsized my daily commute from 2-3 hours to only about twenty minutes. Towards the end of December, Starbucks began cutting my hours due to COVID-19 policies and overstaffing. In less than the span of a week, I found myself balancing filing for partial unemployment, losing all my life savings to fraud, and going through a tremendously painful breakup all at once. Meanwhile, both of my parents were hundreds of miles away from me and not exactly on-hand for me to run to for a hug.
Needless to say, 21 has not been the dreamiest year of my life.
With that being said, I didn’t write this to complain about how hard my life is or throw a pity party about being poor and tired all the time. In fact, it’s actually the opposite. I wanted to talk about the past year of my life as something I’ve learned an enormous amount of lessons from, something that I am appreciating and learning to take in stride. After all, I am so privileged and fortunate to admit that I haven’t (yet) lost a loved one to COVID-19. I haven’t lost my home or my job or my pets, I haven’t gotten sick and been stuck in a hospital for weeks and weeks hooked up to a ventilator. And even though I haven’t been able to hug my parents or talk to them in person in so long, neither of them are dead. They’re only a phone call away, ready to love me and support me when I need them.
I think I’ve cried more tears and felt more stress at the age of 21 than I ever have before in my life, but I’ve also laughed so much and made so many beautiful memories in this messed-up, absurd world we’re living in. I’ve made friends for life in Boston and bonded with the customers in my coffee shop. I’ve cherished each and every dollar of tips I’ve ever made, saving them up for weeks so I could buy that new eyeshadow palette I’ve been pining for, or a new bed set, or a fresh set of toothbrushes from CVS. This year, I’ve learned not to take anything for granted and love each and every thing in my little apartment that I bought with MY money. I’ve learned how to be a responsible spender, how to earn a few extra dollars here and there with Facebook Marketplace and Etsy so I can worry less about paying my rent and more about the things that matter.
There’s an analogy from a book I really love. It talks about how we all have invisible veils hanging down in front of our faces, and while they make the world a little bit blurry, we like it that way. We like to walk around in our own little bubbles of ignorant bliss, only staring at what’s in the way rather than the big picture ahead of us.
If my ignorance and comfort was my veil, then 2020 really yanked the hell out of the veil and ripped it away from my face. At 21, I’ve lived through historical protests against police brutality and racial injustice. I’ve lived through one of the worst presidents this country has ever known, the most tragic disease outbreak of the century, a broken economy, and violent political turmoil and division. The last year of my life has taught me that it is my privilege to use my voice, and I am ready and prepared to do so to help keep this world full of kindness and acceptance.
If you had told me on April 12, 2020, that this is how the next year of my life would pan out, I probably would have been dejected and scared. And truthfully, I still do have moments of being frightened of the world around me and hurt by the big-ness of it all. But in retrospect, I think the past 330 (or so) days of my life are something I really needed to grow up. And growing is painful- that’s why they’re called growing pains.
I hope that everyone reading this can find some comfort and ease in knowing that you’re not alone. Especially young folks like myself who’ve found themselves confused about their direction and their identity in a world that feels so out of control, I see you and I understand you. And truthfully, I’m looking forward to 22. I’m hoping it’s filled with more cocktails, more pretty girls to kiss, more yoga and journaling and confetti and pets, more time with my parents, more special memories to make and hold onto, and more lessons to learn.
The roaring 20s may turn out to be the best time of my life. ✩
Like many other people, being in quarantine for most of 2020 meant I was able to spend much more time cooking, baking, and overall cultivating my culinary skills. I’m certainly not a chef by any means, and I’m still a picky eater, but these are the five recipes I enjoyed the most this past year that I’m looking forward to making again. I hope you enjoy these recipes just as much and find some inspiration!
I actually have to give full credit to my mom for finding this recipe. From the beginning of 2020 to pretty much right up until I moved in May, my mom and I made this recipe constantly. For those of you who don’t know, Gnocchi is a delicious potato-derived pasta commonly used in Italian dishes. It has a chewy, doughy, soft texture, and the taste is neutral enough that you can mix it into a variety of dishes. As you can probably guess, I prepare this recipe without the chicken, but it’s just as delicious and filling that way. It’s a perfect comfort meal for a cold winter evening, and it can be made in less than thirty minutes.
This is actually the most recent Pinterest recipe I made, and I love it for its simplicity, its bold yet simple flavors, and the minimal amount of time it takes to prepare this dish. Really, the hardest part of it is just boiling the tortellini, and that’s clearly not really labor intensive. I’ve been bringing this to work for lunch the past few days, and I have to say, I’m still not tired of it! It’s like the classy, more evolved older sister of a basic caprese salad.
Back before I was a vegetarian, I used to love tuna and considered tuna fish sandwiches to be one of my favorite lunches. Luckily, chickpeas have come to the rescue in this recipe and allowed me to enjoy a very similar version of my childhood favorite! Nori sheets are optional to give the salad an especially fishy taste, but personally, I think it tastes just as fine without. Even Nathaniel, a tuna eater, liked it, which he himself admitted he wasn’t expecting to.
I admittedly don’t know what one would call this sandwich and I couldn’t find a name or a website for the original inventor, but regardless, it’s delicious. It’s filling. It’s greasy. It’s extra. And although it was fairly messy to make, it was worth every paper towel and dirty pan. Truly, I think a decadent egg sandwich is the vegetarian’s dream, and this particular one really knocked my expectations out of the park. Like I said, I can’t find an OG recipe, but here is a pictorial!
In the deepest depths of quarantine, like many other Americans, I found myself getting extremely invested in baking bread. Particularly since I work at Starbucks, I was very eager to see how this pumpkin bread would hold up to the test. As a novice baker, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious this came out! It was thick and delectable without being too heavy, and I think it had the perfect amount of pumpkin (although Nathaniel said he didn’t think it had enough.) All in all, an absolute classic recipe.
I have to say, considering I don’t really have much of a background in cooking, I’m really happy with the different recipes and varieties of food I have tried in 2020 (even if it’s mostly pasta.) I think all of these dishes are delicious, but I especially recommend the sun dried tomato gnocchi pasta. Be sure to let us know if you try any of these recipes and what you think below!
I’ve worked at Starbucks for roughly half a year, and in that time, I have tried a LOT of coffee. I’ve tried everything from the summer 2020 Kiwi Star Fruit refresher (fairly gross, might I add,) to fall-themed pumpkin spice chai tea lattes (absolutely delicious.) And today, I am going to be sharing with you guys my thoughts on every single ∼holiday drink,∽ so buckle up and grab your lattes.
Of all the holiday drinks, I think peppermint mocha is probably my favorite. I’m just a huge fan of peppermint year-round, so being able to enjoy it in my morning coffee is such a treat. I will say, I find the regular brown mocha to be far too thick and gunky, so I always opt for a white chocolate peppermint mocha instead. You can also opt for less pumps of mocha to counteract the thickness, which I sometimes do as well. I highly recommend ordering this drink with whipped cream!
Toasted White Chocolate Mocha
The toasted white chocolate mocha is a bit different than a regular white mocha, because it has a bit more of a toffee nut flavor to it. I personally enjoy this flavor as well, and again, it’s a lot less thick and chunky than regular mocha, which I prefer. As you may have guessed, toasted white mocha also pairs very well with peppermint and I highly recommend asking for either a pump of toffee nut or a pump of peppermint in this beverage, if you’re feeling ∼fancy.∼
Caramel Brulee Latte
I am admittedly not the biggest fan of caramel, so I’m not as into the caramel brulee as I am the other holiday flavors. There’s just something about this particular flavor in particular that I don’t gravitate towards; I can’t tell if it’s too sweet or too sour, and there’s just something about it that doesn’t sit right with me. I will say, however, that the caramel brulee topping is absolutely delicious. That may be its one redeeming quality to me.
Chestnut Praline Latte
Chestnut Praline is definitely up there in my top 2, and honestly, I feel like it’s probably the most underrated flavor. I’ve never tasted anything like chestnut praline before, but it feels like the perfect toasty, spicy, warm, holiday flavor for a chilly winter day. Unlike caramel brulee and eggnog, I feel like chestnut is a flavor that actually pairs well with coffee and enhances the overall drink experience. If you’re looking to try something new at Starbucks, definitely try the chestnut praline!
Listen, I just have to say- I am a huge fan of eggnog. It’s one of my favorite holiday flavors, and one that I look forward to enjoying at my dad’s house every christmas. But a hot eggnog latte? I’m sorry, but it is simply atrocious. For one thing, your barista will almost always be unhappy with you for ordering an eggnog latte because eggnog does not aerate very well. This means that the preparation of steaming the milk is going to be obnoxiously loud and screechy due to the thickness of the milk, and then, in the end, what are you left with? A latte that tastes like garbage. I’m sorry, but eggnog and coffee do NOT pair together and you may quote me on that! Go out and buy yourself a quart of cold eggnog instead and enjoy it that way.
Those are more or less my final thoughts on the Starbucks holiday drinks, taking into consideration the quality of the coffee and the price point that customers pay for. I would definitely recommend opting for a peppermint mocha for something more sweet and traditional, and a chestnut praline latte if you feel like trying something new. I can even justify trying the caramel brulee for shits and gigs, but for the love of god, STAY AWAY FROM THE EGGNOG LATTES.
Have you guys tried any of these holiday drinks before? What were your thoughts? Let me know below!
From 1972 to 1979, Donna Jean Godchaux executed herself as an integral part of the Grateful Dead, and still, more than forty years later, she remains an important symbol of the band during their most prominent (and perhaps louded) touring period. As an outstanding vocalist and the only female member to ever play in the Grateful Dead, Donna has proved her legacy and impact on both the band and the entire culture of jam-band rocking itself. However, as with any well-known woman in the music industry, Donna’s place in the Grateful Dead has not come without its criticism. So, why is that?
The short answer: misogyny.
The long answer: You can have whatever opinion you choose to have about Donna Jean Godchaux. Like her or hate her, she’s doing just fine in 2020. And truly, when you strip back all of the excuses and weak-boned reasonings for why Donna is disliked the most, you discover that you can apply almost any of that criticism to the other members. For example, let’s take the age-old excuse that Donna “ruined” the music with her off-pitch vocals. Donna herself understands where the criticism comes from, but she’s more than willing to offer another perspective.
“I was a studio singer, never singing off-key. I was used to having headphones and being in a controlled environment,” Donna stated in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone.“…I’ve seen on Facebook people say, ‘Well, they didn’t always sing so great themselves!’
It’s no secret that being a woman in the music industry comes with a unique set of challenges and animosity- predominantly, in the form of an outpouring from the media. Rock ‘n’ roll in America has seemingly had a longstanding “no girls allowed” attitude, undeniably lends itself to the sexism Donna faced while serving as a vocalist for the band. Even before Donna’s career in the band, other budding female rock stars, most notably Janis Joplin, were already receiving flack for going against what was expected. After all, Janis Joplin was no soft, delicate 1960s housewife. She challenged both standards of beauty and standards of womanity- a path which may have paved the way for future singers, such as Donna.
Throughout her successful seven-year career with the Grateful Dead, Donna Jean proved herself as a force to be reckoned with, and a strong woman who refused to be “lumped in” or molded to fit the box of what was expected of a woman at that time. She proved that the word “woman” itself didn’t have to be a music genre itself- that she could bring flavor and creativity to the band and still feel original. Regardless of how you feel about her, her vocals are here to stay on some of the Dead’s most celebrated albums, such as Europe ‘72 and Terrapin Station.
I want to conclude by saying this: you don’t have to love Donna or her unique vocals, but you cannot deny her long lasting impact of success on the band and her role in some of the Dead’s most remembered touring days. Donna, we’re so proud of you for playin’ with the band.
I know, this sounds like bad news. But there’s also good news- just because you’re most likely the bad guy in someone else’s world, doesn’t mean you’re an inherently bad person. Which probably sounds self-explanatory to some, but for an empath like myself, it took me years to understand this.
I’ve been thinking about this unspoken reality for the last couple of weeks, since seeing a quote that more or less summarized this idea on Instagram. As someone who has gained (but also lost) a few friendships in 2020, I think it was a reminder that I really needed to hear. Because yes, we are all going to make mistakes at some point in our lives or make a personal choice that may not make the people around us happy. However, it’s important to realize that our mistakes do not define us and other peoples’ opinions of us do not paint a full picture of who we are, either. We are complicated beings and we are never going to please everyone.
I’m not the sort of person who likes to throw around dirty laundry or dig up old drama, but I did want to talk ambiguously about how I am almost definitely the “bad guy” in other peoples’ lives and how that has had an impact on me throughout my entire adult life. The story I want to tell you happened about seven months ago, when I was single and enjoying casual dating/dates, and spending most of my senior year of college just enjoying my final months with my close circle of friends. In short, here’s what happened last February: one of my good friends expressed that she found a guy at our school attractive, and shortly after, I started dating him. She was hurt and felt as though I had betrayed her trust. I was at fault for not telling her I had been seeing him casually, and that we were falling in love/going to start dating. If I had been in her situation, I probably would have been hurt and upset as well. Our friendship ended up falling apart, and since then, I have definitely become the villain in her story.
Although it was an all-around shitty situation for everyone (including me, even though I got the happy resolution of being with my wonderful boyfriend), I was very upset with the way this person decided to paint from that time forward (and how I began to feel confused about my own identity or morality). Like I said, I was now the villain and the shitty friend. I was the person who clearly lacked clear judgment and empathy. But what bothered me the most was the fact that I knew I was not that person. I am a good person, with strong empathy and a good sense of judgment, who made one mistake. And from this point on, whoever she chose to tell this story to, they would instantly judge me without even knowing me or hearing my side of the story. They would never know that this was a friendship I had to grieve for a long, long time, one that I truly felt remorse and pain for how things had panned out. And maybe that’s okay, because it’s not my version of the story to tell. I recognize that I am not a perfect person, but I am also just a person. I am also not going to allow other people to change my internal view of myself, and I am not going to push a narrative onto myself that I am inherently “bad” for my missteps. And neither should you.
Going through something like that and losing more friendships along the way has caused me to harbor less judgment for others, because I’m starting to think about the world in an external way rather than a narrative that the world is centric around my own existence. I know what it’s like to have people hate you when they don’t even know you and know what you are (and were) going through in that situation, and I think that’s something we need to remember when we are making assumptions about others. You don’t know what the second side of the story is unless you’re a part of it. People are free to believe whatever they want about you and your choices, but try not to be too hard on yourself if you know within yourself that your story is being mistold. You may be the villain in someone else’s story, but that doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about being your own hero when you need to for your own mental health and wellness. After all, at the end of the day, you’re the lead role of your own life.
While in quarantine, I’ve been journaling a lot about the different hobbies I’d eventually like to pursue and make time for. One of those hobbies is baking bread, because it’s such an intricate and patience-requiring art, I feel like it would bring me a lot of joy to try it. And guess what- I was right! I absolutely love baking bread.
The bread recipe I used was probably the most basic artisan bread you can find- flour, water, salt, and instant yeast. I specifically bought a specific bread flour that is designed for baking loaves, pizza crusts, and biscuits with, so I’m really looking forward to cooking with that again in the future.
The first step for me was to combine all of the ingredients and mix it together thoroughly. I used 3 and ¼ cups of bread flour, 2 teaspoons of instant yeast, 1 and ½ cups of cool water, and 2 teaspoons of coarse salt. Personally, I just used regular coarse sea salt, but I imagine you can use any salt that you wish. I also added a few good shakes of rosemary garlic seasoning (probably about 4-5 good shakes,) and mixed that into the batter as well. After I finished mixing it, I just covered it with some cling wrap and let it sit in the bowl for about two hours. As you can see, it looked pretty sticky and rough at first, but that was normal and to be expected. After I let it sit out and rise for a couple of hours, it got much fluffier and doughier. In fact, I’m pretty sure it doubled in size.
After this step, I read that you can either immediately continue with the cutting and the baking, or you can refrigerate the dough and use it for up to three days. I’ve read from a few different sources that it’s better to let it sit in the refrigerator than to use the dough immediately (it has something to do with the air bubbles,) but it really doesn’t make too much of a difference. I didn’t refrigerate my dough, and as you’re soon to find out, my bread turned out just fine.
After the 2 hours were up, I cut the dough in half (which was so satisfying) and formed two individual loaves, about 9 inches long and 3 inches wide each. After that, I preheated my oven to 450 degrees and left the loaves to sit AGAIN for another 45 minutes or so. The dough did flatten out a bit during that time, but it was easy enough to just push them back in and narrow them out again. After that, I made 3 slits in each of the loaves, about half an inch thick, and then I baked the loaves for about 25 minutes. Don’t forget to flour your hands and the baking sheet for this step! I think I might have used a bit too much flour, but it didn’t change the flavor or the texture of the bread.
You cannot imagine my pure joy when I checked on the bread 25 minutes later and I saw that it looked absolutely delightful! It looked perfectly cooked and browned on top, and the loaves had lost their heaviness and became light and fluffy. And they smelled absolutely amazing, too, which I owe to the rosemary garlic seasoning.
When I cut into the bread, I was very happy with the color and the density. It wasn’t as airy as I had expected- it was a bit denser and there weren’t a lot of holes- but that’s probably because I didn’t leave the dough to cool for 12 hours in the fridge. Instead of using butter or olive oil, I put mascarpone on my bread as a topping, and oh my goodness- it was absolutely divine. Mascarpone is a very soft, creamy, Italian cheese spread with a subtle taste, and I think it balanced perfectly with this bread. Because I made two loaves, I saved one for myself and froze the other one immediately so I could give it to my boyfriend’s family. I definitely don’t need two loaves of bread, so I was happy to give some away!
Overall, I think my first experience with baking bread was very successful! I can’t believe the bread came out decently; in fact, I’d go as far as to compare the flavor and the density to the white Cheesecake Factory bread. Speaking of Cheesecake Factory bread, I found a copycat recipe for the brown bread. Should that be my next baking endeavor? Let me know below! In fact, drop any other bread suggestions you have below! Right now on my horizons, I’d like to make sweet dinner rolls or pumpkin loaf next. Eventually I’d like to work my way up to sourdough bread, but not until I’m a bit more advanced.
I understand the appeal of starting a “family” YouTube channel, and I also understand that it usually comes from a place of goodness- not malice or greed. However, the older I get and the more YouTube continues to deform and change, the more uncomfortable I become with the concept of a family YouTube channel. Let me elaborate and provide some background.
A “family YouTube channel” refers to a channel that vlogs their day-to-day life as an entire family, so yes, that includes vlogging all of the children and filming their daily struggles and triumphs. I can understand how a family vlog channel could be entertaining or even informative, particularly if the channel is offering helpful advice or insight along the way, but I still truly believe that the cons and the dangers outweigh the pros in this situation. Because, at the end of the day, we cannot ignore the cold-hard facts. Being a YouTuber is a job and a business. Being a family vlogger equates using your children as your JOB and your BUSINESS. Like I said, it may not be malicious, but it is still child exploitation in its simplest sense.
Let me remind you of the definition of “child exploitation.” According to Justice.gov, child exploitation refers to using children as a “commercial transaction,” both sexually and not. While most channels are (thankfully) not using their children for sexual purposes on the internet, several parents are still exploiting their children for clicks with clickbaity titles, advertisements strewn throughout the videos, and the oversharing of personal moments and interpersonal conversations. If your child is under the age of 18, he, she, or they cannot give consent to be exploited onto the internet for income. Particularly for channels that focus on their infant or toddler children, your child does not even HAVE the voice to say “no” to family vlogging or exploitation. How do you know your child is not going to grow up someday and feel dread or embarrassment over the fact that millions of strangers have watched them grow up and commented on their lives? You DON’T. Stop making these monumental, life-altering decisions for your children who don’t have prominent voices.
And by the way, some parents DO exploit their children by taking advantage of their sexuality or promiscuity. Take Danielle Cohn, for example. Troubling enough is the fact that her age is already being disputed among the internet- is the thirteen? Fifteen? Nobody knows for sure. Regardless, she is still a minor and her money-hungry mother is exploiting her daughter using sexual thumbnails, titles, and pictures to garner more views and clicks. This includes orchestrating a fake wedding and fake pregnancy- both of which were later proved to be stunts.
And I’m not the only person who feels disturbed by this. In fact, many articles and videos have been made about this subject, which I will be sure to link down below. One article in particular posted by The Guardian summarized this concern perfectly: “As scripted content, the cost to the child is one of time and effort, but more than that, perhaps, one of perception. Most of these children are young – barely out of toddlerhood – when to perform an idea of cuteness and be made aware of its currency is to usher in early a plague of the age: self-consciousness” (Brockes.)
In recent news, Myka Stauffer, a family vlogger and Youtuber, came under quick fire for giving up her adopted child to a new family. That sentence is horrid enough, but when you take into consideration the millions of dollars Myka and her husband had made off of their autistic adopted son (and then uploaded to the internet,) it stretches from horrid to downright disturbing. Another family channel, 8 Passengers, recently came under fire for the harsh punishments their eldest son has been receiving (and, again, uploaded in full-detail to the internet.) For pranking his younger brother, the eldest son had his bedroom taken away and was forced to sleep on a bean bag for several months. Bad enough is the fact that these punishments were carried out in the first place, worse is the fact that these moments are documented and put onto the internet for millions of strangers to judge and make comments on.
So what’s the solution to this? It’s pretty simple to me- stop pushing your children on the internet so you can make easy money. If you want to be a YouTuber and share some of the best moments of your life, then that’s fine, but please take into consideration the fact that your actions do not simply affect YOU. They will affect your children, their relationships with others, their self-esteem, and altogether, their development into healthy adults. And what, all for a quick buck?
Here at Analog, we are proud to support Black-owned businesses and companies as a way to show our support for the Black community. Here are some of our absolute favorites that we’d love to share with you, too.
“As a makeup lover, I have been absolutely obsessed with Juvia’s Place for the past few years. Not only are the prices extremely affordable (and there are usually huge sales on the site on top of that,) the quality of the products is so impressive. Seriously, Juvia’s Place does not play around when it comes to pigmentation and blendability. If you’re looking for a great first palette to try from them, I highly recommend the Magic Mini palette. Beauty Bakerie is another great black-owned makeup brand I love, and their bakery-themed products are so adorable and creative.”
“Juvia’s Place is a makeup brand I have been meaning to purchase from for years (I am just not one to ever spend money on myself and makeup always feels frivolous,) but I’m SO glad I did. I bought a 4 set of their eyeshadows, including The Violets, The Berries, The Nudes and The Browns and I have genuinely never owned better eyeshadow. These six color palettes have a mix of sparkly and matte eyeshadows with the best pigment I’ve ever seen. They last through an apocalypse and the colors chosen in the palettes work together to make some beautiful eyeshadow looks. They are also very affordable and they arrived at my door in less than two days. The quality and overall experience was immaculate.
I also recently purchased from the Etsy shop ChanelleNovoséy. Oh my god. I am a huge lover of candles but I love smelling them in person, for obvious reasons, but because of the pandemic I didn’t really have a choice, as I try not to leave my house for unnecessary reasons. This shop has a wide variety of scents and is decently affordable for soy candles. I bought the candles from their Black Lives Matter series, where a portion of the proceeds go to BLM organizations. I cannot rave about these candles enough. The scents just of the candles unlit by themselves- immaculate. When they burn, they smell exactly like they do in the jar. ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ smells like a beach I can’t currently be on. ‘Coffee Shop’ smells like the coffee shop I can’t sit in because of quarantine. It genuinely smells like a warm hug of fresh coffee and caramel. ‘Fresh Linen’ smells like you just did the laundry you’ve been putting off for weeks without having to do the work. The candles are in reusable mason jars in the $16 version, and take about two weeks to get to you, but it’s well worth the money and the wait. Huge fan, will purchase again.”
-MJ, Assistant Manager
“Wingz & Tingz has been my go-to place since I started college two years ago. I can not tell you how many times my friends and I have had to make a pit stop for their Jamaican style food. Their variety of chicken wing flavors is both daring and too damn good. I’m not kidding. It’s like… dangerously good. Dangerous as in “i’m-fully-prepared-to-pack-on-some-pounds” dangerous. With over 50 flavors of wings, it is easy to get lost in the true Irie Jamaican food, especially on a Friday or Saturday night!”
-Abi, Staff Writer
“During quarantine, I have found myself shopping online to fulfill my never-ending shopping addiction. Many of these purchases supported small businesses. During these times of injustice and uproar, I have been educating myself on racism and how I can support the Black Lives Matter movement. I have discovered many Black-owned businesses, especially on Instagram, and in support, I want to share three shops owned and started by hardworking and creative African American women. If you’re looking for cute clothes that empower women with every piece, check out femmemute. They offer crop tops, hoodies, tees, and much more with clever and sleek slogans and graphics. Next is circantiques, who feature several cool vintage finds ranging from antique mirrors to 1950s dresses. You can scroll through all of her cool finds on her aesthetically pleasing feed and shop at the link in her bio. If you have been on the lookout for some bold statement jewelry, take a look at sewitsium on Instagram. You can find necklaces, bracelets, amulets, and earrings that are all inspired by African history and culture.”
-Lauren, Staff Writer
“The Lip Bar is one of my favorite makeup brands that I keep finding myself purchasing from! Not only is their shade range incredible, but you can see every ounce of love that is put into their makeup. It holds up well, and it always adds a splash of color to any outfit or style.”
Often in life, there are books you discover in your childhood that stick with you forever. For me personally, that was the case with the Sammy Keyes mystery series, penned by award-winning author Wendelin Van Draanen. The series follows a junior high school girl, Sammy, and her journey through both finding herself and solving the mysteries of the world around her. It’s humorous, witty, creative, and filled with loads of fantastic characters.
Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty books for young adults and teens, but her two shining stars are, of course, Sammy Keyes, and the novel Flipped, which was transformed into a beautiful movie, directed by Rob Reiner. She’s an incredibly talented writer, and as I’m sure you can tell, her work has had a large impact on my young adult life. For that reason, I was so honored when Wendelin agreed to be interviewed by my publication. She had much to say about her spunky heroine, Sammy, but she also gave me loads of invaluable advice on how to navigate the world as a creative person and a writer.
Analog Magazine: What was your upbringing like, and how did reading and writing lend itself to you in your formative years?
Wendelin Van Draanen: My parents were Dutch immigrants, and we lived the immigrant lifestyle in which we were frugal. My parents were working towards their American Dream, and they were very much about, “You come to a new country and you become part of the fabric of that new country”, so they wanted to raise their kids as Americans. We were kind of insulated (not necessarily isolated,) but we were different from the neighbors in that [my parents] had an accent and they approached life in a very vigorous way and there was a lot of work to be done. We were always working on something, so there were no idle hands. When my siblings and I did get free from the chores, we would go out and just be wild in the neighborhood, to counterbalance the restrictive nature of home. We had lots of wild adventures that my parents would not have approved of. Books were a big part of growing up because we could go to the library, so every other week or so we would go get a haul of books, bring them home, and take them back. I was one of those flashlight-under-the-covers kind of readers, because we had a bedtime and we stuck to it. Then I could escape with my flashlight and my book and meet up with my friends under the covers.
AM: What were your favorite subjects in school and what did you excel at as a student? What were your challenges?
WVD: My favorite subject for all levels of school was math, because math was the only subject that totally made sense. If you understood the concept and the building blocks for math, it made sense and it was easy. My least favorite subject was language arts. Those English teachers, man- you just could not please them! No matter what you did, you were going to get back your essay and there were going to be little problems with it here and there and then you’d have to redo it. Ugh, it was so frustrating. As you can probably tell from my upbringing, we were encouraged to excel, so a B+ was a very frustrating grade to get. With math, if you knew what you were doing, you were good. I feel like people who don’t like math are missing one of the building blocks. When I was a teacher, the subject I taught was math. And people say, “How do you go from being a math teacher to writing mysteries?”, and that is kind of weird until you think about it. Because a math problem is just a puzzle, and I love puzzles. I think it’s my mind just trying to make sense of something and find a solution for it. So I’m very attracted to mysteries, because I want to put those pieces together in a way that makes sense.
AM: What different careers have you had along your journey to becoming a full-time writer?
WVD: Ramping up to become a full-time teacher, I did a lot of odds and ends. I drove a forklift…I did a lot of different things. But my career-job was becoming a math/computer programming teacher, and then it was while I was working as a teacher that I was influenced by the kids in my class and inspired to try writing a story.
AM: What inspired you to create the character of Sammy Keyes and flesh out her story into such an extensive, vibrant, staple of young adult literature?
WVD: I think it was being a teacher and seeing that students were still reading Nancy Drew, and that my students had very little in common with Nancy Drew. I just thought it would be cool to take someone who represented the kids who I saw every day in the classroom, and put them into situations where they would stumble their way through right and wrong. I think when you’re an adult and you can see the behaviors of people and recognize the mistakes that you yourself have made… there’s not a big reception on a teen’s part from an adult, you know? Their peers are very important to them, and so I wanted -more important than the adults- to create a peer who would have these experiences and think about things, and about right and wrong, and the steps to take given dangerous or stressful or emotional situations. I wanted to have her make the mistakes a normal teen would make, but then have her draw conclusions that she would then apply to the next time she was faced with a similar situation. I think that those factors are what drove me to write about Sammy. Growing up is hard- it’s much harder than calculus!
AM: The first Sammy Keyes book was written in the late 90s, and the last book was finished 18 years later. However, in the Sammy Keyes universe, only 2-3 years passes. Was it difficult for you to develop with modern technology while trying to keep up with the timeline of the story?
WVD: Technology, man. It is a beast and it keeps messing with you. Being a writer and including technology in your writing is a dangerous thing, because it may completely change in six months. Having a series that spanned 18 years which only spanned 2-3 in Sammy world was challenging. She doesn’t have a cell phone; how do you explain that none of her friends are texting? How do you make it relevant to kids now when all the technology makes the world such a different place? So, when they went and redid the covers recently, I asked if I could go through the entire series and emphasize little references to technology. When’s the last time you’ve seen a payphone? Sammy has a payphone! It’s like, “Okay, kids don’t even know how to use a payphone anymore.” But how do you change the series so that it is still relevant to today’s kids? And so, I went through and I would add a little word or I would subtract a little word, so that it would kind of mold to technology. Instead of flipping open your phone, you would tap on your phone. So I would change “flip” to “tap.” And I couldn’t get rid of the payphone- it was a big thing- so I would add the word “ancient” in front of it. So she goes to this ancient payphone. Just the technology and updating it across the series, and especially at the very beginning, there were some challenges. When we get to the end, Heather’s got a cellphone and technology’s referred to, but I had to get rid of CD players. There were things that were already outdated, like in Psycho Kitty Queen she had a CD player. I think with all the experience of writing over the years, I’ve become a better writer, but not applying my improved skills to Hotel Thief and Skeleton Man and Sisters of Mercy and other early books, I had to tell myself, “You’re just here for technology. That’s all you’re here for.”
AM: The Sammy Keyes series is full of several diverse, unique, well-developed characters. Are any of the characters inspired by real people from your life?
WVD: That’s interesting, because the answer to that is pretty much no- Sammy’s a hybrid of the characteristics that I liked in the students I saw everyday. I would say that if there were, it would be an amalgamation of people. The ones who are the bad guys- they are more a person who has become a character than a character who was just a character. I usually start from a place with the bad guys, I start from a place of annoyance about a person, and then over time, they become the character. I usually hold onto who they were to begin with. You have people who are mean to you in life, and sometimes you can’t do anything about it. But if you do something about it on a page…it’s very satisfying.
“I guess that it seems from the outside, I have everything, and I realize that is, in fact, partly true. But there’s been a lot in the past that could easily have taken me down, and I’ve battled really hard not to let that happen.”
AM: One of the most notable aspects of the Sammy Keyes series is the undertones of real-life social and human issues, such as gang culture in Snake Eyes and environmental awareness in Wild Things. Did you purposefully add in these elements to introduce young readers to these topics in an accessible, creative way?
WVD: Absolutely. I always have a theme that I work with, and I have something that I want to say, but my approach to saying it is usually the backdoor as opposed to coming at you with a message. Mostly, I just want to present a situation and I want my readers to come away thinking about it, discussing it or expanding their view of it. In Wild Things, the whole thing about Sammy is that she thinks, “Why would anybody want to save a condor? It’s stinky and eats dead stuff, it’s ugly, what’s the big deal about saving a condor?” And then, by the end, she understands. But I think a lot of kids would relate to Sammy thinking, “Oh, well, it’s a bird who eats dead stuff. Who cares.” It’s like a game of basketball as opposed to running laps. You get to play a game, you get a little competition, you’re jumping and you’re running…as opposed to “Here’s the whistle, you’ve got to go around the track.” I’d way rather have my readers play a game of basketball than feel like I’m marching them around a track.
AM: Was it difficult for you to ultimately end the series after eighteen books, or did you feel relieved by the sense of closure to Sammy’s story?
WVD: Oh my gosh, it was so hard and emotional for me. She was like the daughter I didn’t have. First she was my peer, and then time went by, and she didn’t get any older and I did. I had two sons, so I didn’t have a girl. The eighteenth book came out about the time my son turned eighteen, so he was leaving home, and there were all these things ending at the same time. I was so emotional, and just the thought that I’d been with this girl and I’d lived in her world for all these years, and I’d think about her all the time. To create a story, you need to have a character and their world in your head, and I had her in my head all the time. And then, all of the sudden, it’s like I’m reaching the end and this was the last one. I do feel like a series should have what I call a “swan dive”: you should go out big and strong. You shouldn’t fizzle away. Anyway, I reached my goal, she had survived middle school (barely), but it was time, and it was really hard. People have asked me if I’ve planned to write a YA version of Sammy, and I just don’t. I think she belongs where she is; there’s a reason that she exists where she does. I think middle school years are the hardest years, and if you have a friend like Sammy to help you through those, I think you’re going to be alright.
“I always have a theme that I work with, and I have something that I want to say, but my approach to saying it is usually the backdoor as opposed to coming at you with a message.”
AM: Do you have a proudest series that you’ve written so far, or would that be like picking a favorite child for you?
WVD: I have two short series for younger readers, and I have Sammy Keyes. If we’re talking proudest series, that would have to be Sam. It took such a big part of my life to create. Picking a favorite title of any kind is not something I want to try to do, because they’re all special in their own way.
AM: What is something that you wish more people knew about you?
WVD: Wow. I’ve always tried to keep myself secret. I think that I have an initial impression that is not in keeping with what is actually me. I have blonde hair, I’m tall, I’m thin… but I’m not that person. I am someone who struggles with her ups and downs. I run a lot because it helps to stabilize my mood, and I get cloudy- let’s put it that way. I get cloudy and I feel misunderstood. I think it’s partly my own fault because I’m blonde (and I can’t help the tall), but this is just my structure. I think it projects an image which is not in keeping with who I am and my soul. You would hope that people would judge you on your work and the way you conducted your life, but in our society, we’re very snap-judgmenty. And so, I withdraw. I tend to withdraw as opposed to fighting a battle that I feel one couldn’t possibly understand. I guess that it seems from the outside, I have everything, and I realize that is, in fact, partly true. But there’s been a lot in the past that could easily have taken me down, and I’ve battled really hard not to let that happen. And so, just the notion that “You’ve got all that” doesn’t reflect what it took. Anyway, that got a little heavy.
AM: What are your other hobbies besides writing?
WVD: Reading, running, and rock ‘n’ roll. There is nothing more freeing than rock ‘n’ roll. My husband’s a drummer, and he’s also a young adult book writer. He and I, and our two sons once they became teenagers, started a band together. I have trouble sitting still, so rock ‘n’ roll is very physical for me. It’s just a fun release, and doing it with my family is so cool. Reading is what I do because I love to read, and running is for my health, my cardiovascular system, and mostly, my sanity.
AM: How do you think social media has lent itself to you as a writer and a creator? Do you feel like it has created a more personable relationship with your audience?
WVD: Yeah! I would say that for the positives, that’s true. I would also say that it helps me still feel connected to my career of being a teacher. Teachers on Twitter are very positive people. Twitter has a lot of negative people, but the teachers put forth support, they share ideas, they’re very forward-thinking, and I love feeling like I still have exposure to that community. That to me has been the best part of social media- the teacher presence.
AM: Lastly, what advice would you give to other young writers and readers?
WVD: To be a writer, you need to be a reader. I really firmly believe that. Read read read, and then to be a writer, you have to write. And writing, actually, is work. You have to sit down and do it. I have a lot of people in my life who have always said they always wanted to write a book. Maybe they got to chapter one, and then they discovered that it’s work. If you really want to be a writer, you have to read a lot, and then you have to write a lot. Like anything else, you only get better at it when you do it. ★
You can keep up with Wendelin by checking out her website or by following her on instagram @wendelinvand
As a Bostonian, I am extremely lucky to be near The Garment District- a department store notable for its wide selection of vintage products. For a thrift lover like me, it’s an absolute dream come true to visit the giant two-floor shop and browse for unique, vintage finds. According to The Garment District website, they pride themselves on being a “green business.” Not only are they doing a great thing by reselling wonderful vintage clothing, which helps prevent the buildup of clothes in landfills, they also send unusable clothes to “shoddy mills” so that they can be repurposed into other textiles.
Now, I don’t have tons of free money to throw around, so if I am going to buy clothes, it’s going to be something I keep for years and utilize as an essential clothing item. I’m really in love with everything I bought, and I’m looking forward to getting a good use out of everything! The only thing I didn’t actually buy myself was the pink top, as my roommate actually bought it at The Garment District with me, but then decided she didn’t like it.
“Grateful I’m Not Dead” T-Shirt | $16
Speaking of my roommate, it was actually her who spotted this Grateful Dead t-shirt for me on the tye dye rack. Erin, if you’re reading this, you have no idea how happy this made me! I absolutely adore the Grateful Dead, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a vintage t-shirt in such great condition. I also like that the shirt is an XL, because I definitely prefer to wear t-shirts that are a bit loose on me. Nathaniel is also super excited about the shirt, so I’ll definitely be sharing it with him.
Wide-Leg Jeans | $15 | Ann Taylor
I’ve wanted to buy bell-bottom jeans (or something similar) for a while now, so I was pretty excited to find the perfect pair in my size. Being a curvy girl, I prefer jeans that are high-waisted and flattering for my figure, and these jeans make me look absolutely fabulous. They also make my legs look ten miles long, particularly when paired with my favorite pair of wedges. I can always justify buying a good pair of vintage jeans, and for fifteen dollars, I’d be silly not to get them.
Shorts | $15 | Bugle Boy Company
I’ve never owned a pair of baggy shorts, and I have to say, I love them way more than my tight-fitting ones. Sure, they make my ass look like a blob, but they’re very comfortable and functional for the humid summertime ahead. Particularly since I’m going to Maine to visit my mom in about a week, I figured it would be convenient to buy a pair of durable, comfortable shorts to wear on hikes and kayaking adventures. As you can see, I have paired it with my new favorite Grateful Dead tye dye shirt, and I think it looks so groovy and cute.
Belt | $12 | Lucky Brand
I haven’t owned a belt since middle school, and it’s not often you find a Lucky Brand item for so cheap, so I figured this would also be a practical, reasonable purchase. For a while, I was pretty much only wearing yoga pants and pajama bottoms (that quarantine life,) but I decided this week it was probably high time I buy some real pants and a real belt to go with them.
Top | LOVESAM
Like I said, this was actually a top that Erin bought, but she decided she didn’t like it after she realized it had sleeves. I have to say, the sleeves are actually my favorite part. I think the cut and the material combined with the sleeves give this top a real 70s vibe, which matches the rest of the clothes I bought perfectly. I also think the color is beautiful, as I love wearing pinks and other soft, pastel colors throughout the spring and summer. I’m not sure how much Erin paid for the top, but I’m going to guess it was between $10-15. I also just peaked at the LOVESAM website, and it looks like everything in stock is between $150-200. Not a bad steal!
Dress | $20 | Modcloth
Lastly but certainly not least, I fell in love with this Modcloth brand dress in the contemporary dresses department. I adore anything quirky and floral, so of course I could immediately picture myself in this lovely little number. I also really like the color scheme of garish greens and yellows, because it reminds me of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album. This will be another great outfit to bring to Maine next week, because the cotton material is light, airy, and perfect for traveling. Similarly to my flare jeans, this dress also looks really cute with the wedges.
Overall, I would say this was a successful, productive shopping trip. On top of that, I am happy to be supporting such a progressive, green company through my clothing purchases. If you are ever in the Boston area, I highly recommend visiting the Cambridge location of The Garment District!