Category Archives: misc

The Free(lance) Folk

There are so many articles out there about how to make the move from full-time work to freelance, and practically all of them advise having a 6-12 month “safety net” in place before doing so. There’s even a good handful of articles about how to jump into freelancing *without* the safety net…but even in all those articles the writer seems to find a way to get their freelance income to basically equal their full-time income before they make the leap. What I don’t see out there is advice for what to do if freelancing is thrust upon you due to job loss, you have zero safety net, you still haven’t made close to your old salary after a year, and lately you haven’t even been able to set money aside for taxes because your monthly bills are eating most of your income. Yeah. There’s no advice for that.

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I love freelancing. I love setting my own schedule and being on my own. I love working from home, or from wherever I want. I love not having ridiculous corporate evaluations. I no longer need to feel like my skills aren’t valued because I’m not an extrovert who prances about making small-talk. I even would enjoy being responsible for the money…if there were enough of it there.

The problem is that I just DO NOT know how to piece together anywhere near what I was making before. Right now I’m not even making close to what I made fresh out of college when I was 22. In publishing. In 2004. My student loans have gone down since then, and my car is paid off, but I have credit card debt from vacations I took when I had a real job and thought I’d be able to pay them down, and the student loans aren’t going anywhere. I can’t save. I’m way behind in the money I need to be setting aside for taxes, and I have anxiety attacks about it at 4:30 in the morning because, you know, that’s the perfect time to be thinking about money.

So how do you do it? How do these people who freelance edit/write survive? Are they all married to rich people? If not, where are they finding the high-paying gigs and/or the time to squish enough work into the week that they make enough? I can’t even afford to live anywhere but my grandmother’s attic. And how do you do it when no one really believes that you can and doesn’t think it’s worth trying?

I just recently picked up another editing client. It’s been helping fill in the gaps around getting papers from my main client. I have one writing gig that brings in a bit of extra cash. Then I random get little temporary marketing writing gigs that I sort of just stumble into through connections that also bring in a bit of extra cash. But I never have enough. I have budgets. I know how much I need to be making. I just haven’t been able to do it. I wanted to be able to write a “How to Freelance When You’ve Been Thrown Into It” article, but it’s more like I need someone to write one for ME.

For now I’m going to keep going. I’m going to get a loan for whatever I can’t pay in taxes and use any extra to put towards my credit cards. Then I’ll have just one payment to handle (or at least one less payment). I’ll really focus on my editing and churn out a paper a day every day I have one available. There will be more days where that’s possible now that I have two clients. I’ve only just started getting paychecks from the second client, so maybe it will start to improve a little. And if someone wants to write that advice column for what to do when you have no safety net and didn’t waltz right into a high salary, I’d love to read it.

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Escapism

I don’t know what I’m going to write about, which is not good for a public-facing blog. Things I post here are supposed to be somewhat focused around a singular topic and at least some semblance of organization to them. They’re supposed to show the casual passerby that I sound like a writer. The crazed mindstream goes in the written-down journal, where the thoughts come so fast that my hand can’t keep up. So, sorry to anyone who reads this. It’s going to be a bit of a mess.

I last posted here in September. I miss being able to write ridiculous posts about books I read as a kid in the hopes that it will amuse someone who loved them as much as I did. Now my nerves are just frayed and the world is a disaster. I keep joking that I’m going to just leave…just pack up the cats and move to Ireland…because I loved it there last April. And yes, I was on vacation and obviously vacation is different from real life. But it would just be so nice to NOT BE HERE. Imagine being here instead.

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This was Co. Clare by a little creamery that made their own ice cream. You can juuuuuuust see the cows down by the beach. I remember being there and just wanting to build a little house right there and never leave. And play with the cows. (And then, you know, only eat ice cream because I’d have no car and would have to walk everywhere.)

And I freelance now, so technically I can work from anywhere. BUT I don’t think I make enough to afford even super-modest rent. And then there’s things that are nice to have like eating. And the cats would need to get their expensive-ass Urinary SO food either shipped over or I’d have to find someplace there that carried it. And getting two cats over there would be crazy expensive.

I also wouldn’t have any playwriting connections over there, and there’s no way in hell I could afford to live in a city where that would be easier to establish. And if I wanted to go visit the family, I’d have to have at least one friend who would be willing to cat-sit, and what if I made no friends?

But honestly, the biggest concern is my mom. I feel like I can’t leave her. Moving the cats is a one-time hassle (two times, because I’d probably come back after a couple years), the money thing is something I could work on if this is something I really wanted, and I could write on my own for a couple years and connect to people online. I’d just feel too awful moving away from my mother when she’s by herself (two of my brothers are here, but it’s not the same as having me around).

But I still find myself wistfully looking at rent prices and re-googling the process for bringing pets in, and what you have to do after you’re there more than three months, and wondering what being self-employed but for US companies falls under in terms of them giving you permission to stay, and if I’d have to be rich like retirees do because if so then this would just never happen…and then my mind runs away with itself like that. And all of that is just way more fun to think about than anything currently going on.

So apparently when I let my thoughts just come out all unfocused-like they turn to thoughts of escape. That’s good to know.

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Dear Spambot Commenters,

Hello, spambot commenters! Thank you for stumbling across my blog. And for leaving me comments. It makes me feel like my opinions bring up many interesting points that are really spot-on. Especially when you tell me that you “like all the points I made about this subject” and that I was “spot-on with this writeup.”

However, I really don’t need your advice on how to make my website better by getting more Google hits. I do not need to visit your spamlink for alleged SEO software that can create unique Google-friendly content in a couple of seconds.

You see, when I’m not writing, I’m editing. I do a lot of editing for SEO. A lot. In fact, I should be doing that right now. I have basically been editing nonstop today for over 12 hours, until I received a comment on my website about my interesting content that was exceptionally well written but could be even more successful.

So, next time you want to auto-spam my page, please just stick to the usual pEn!s enLarGements and young 18 y.o. Russian ladies.

Thanks.

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Back in action

Wow, it’s been a long time. So long that it looks like WordPress has updated their New Post window. This is just a quick pre-work update on all of the things that have been inhibiting me from updating (i.e., an excuse blog! I’m great at those).

Speaking of pre-work, I have a new job now! Am I writerly enough to call it a “day job”? I don’t want to sound obnoxious. Anyway. I’ve been here two and a half months. I’m not working from home anymore, and I’m up and at work before I used to have to even be awake. It’s been an adjustment. I hate mornings.

I also moved! I am back in the hometown of Somerville. I moved about a month ago, but I’m still unpacking and getting things settled. It’s one of those moves where the unpacking feels overwhelming and I just don’t want to do it. I probably should force myself to work on it tonight a little.

The hardest update, which is probably why unpacking has been so overwhelming, is that Allan (the boyfriend) moved back to Arkansas and we’re currently doing the long-distance thing. Long-distance is extra-hard when his internet is limited to a certain amount of data because cable and DSL aren’t available in his area, so skyping has to be limited. It’s been hard, but we’re making it work one day at a time.

So all of this has left me completely out of it writing-wise. I’ve worked on a few things lately though, so I’m starting to get back into it, hooray! The other day I was working on seeing what my fairytale play Mirror, Mirror would be like adapted into sort of an early-reader chapterbook. I haven’t decided if it will work yet. I was adding a frame story to it which I like, but I’m not sure if the material I have would be too long for a book in that age group.

In any case, I also want to adapt that play into a play for young audiences. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. What’s held me back is that I think the verse element needs to go. And that kills me. This play was my undergrad thesis, my very first little proto-play, and the verse was SO. HARD. to write. But I need to think of it in terms of theatricality now, not just academics. And I need to think about what will play better on the stage, especially for kids. And if there’s not a good, necessary for the story reason for it to be in verse, I should cut it. I can keep the lyricism and rhythm of the language without being so limited by the form. But like I said, it kills me.

I’ve also been a children’s lit kick lately, and I want to try my hand at writing a book for kids. The play adaptation is serving as a sort of “practice session” for that to play with the form and get more of a handle on it. It’s weird when you’ve been writing drama for so long that you suddenly sit down to fiction and it feels foreign. It’s like, “you mean I just can’t write ‘setting: the bedroom of two young girls’ and have a set designer make it all pretty for me? I have to actually use words to describe it???”

My latest project has been a much-needed revise on The Prayer Bargain. I had one of those flashes of insight while taking a shower the other night, and I think I’ve figured out Molly’s journey and what she wants. Being back in Somerville means I’m on this play’s stomping grounds, so I’m getting more excited to finally tinker with the problems this play’s been having.

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At my own pace

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, and guess what… I’m still running! I went through a period where I fell out of it for a week and a half when work was going crazy and I also had to get a lot of writing done, but I’m really trying to make this something I stick with. Because of jumping around and missing a few days, I’m on the beginning of week 5 of the beginner program I’ve been doing.

Today’s schedule was 12 min run/1 min walk repeated twice followed by a 4 min run to round out the 30 minutes.  Last Wednesday was when I finally got back to the gym and started up again, and I did an interval of 10 min run/1 min walk twice followed by 8 min run. I was mad at myself for going a week and a half between running days, and I told myself that I had to set the treadmill on 5.0 for my minimal running pace from now on because everyone else at the gym seems to run at 5.5 at the least. I can run at 5.0… when I was doing shorter run intervals I liked that pace because going slower actually felt more difficult. The first 10 minutes were pretty good… I started at 4.6 and bumped it up to 5.0 after two minutes because my previous run had been at 8 min intervals. The second 10 minutes were harder as it got down to the end. I was clock-watching a lot and that always kills me. When I got to final 8 minutes I could feel a blister starting to form on my left foot and a cramp in my hip on that leg, and I practically was speed-walking the final minute and a half.

Then I tried to run again on Thursday even though the plan usually has a walk day in between run days, again because I was mad at myself for being away so long. I was also missing my dad a lot because it was the anniversary of the day he died, and I sort of wanted to run out all of the sad feelings. But I could barely do it. I managed to run for 15 of the 30 minutes, but I had to split it up into 10 run, 10 walk, 5 run, 5 walk. I felt awful. Friday I fell asleep after barely making it through work. It was a rough week.

So today I started off at the beginning of week 5 of the plan, as I said with 12 min run intervals. The muscle aches of last week were gone, and I decided that I probably needed to stop caring about my pace or my calories burned for now and just focus on building up the endurance. The speed will come once I get the endurance there. That’s a problem I always have with anything I approach. I feel like if I’m not absolutely killing myself then I must not be working hard enough. But I ran at 4.6 instead of 5.0 and, big surprise, got through the 12 min intervals much easier than the 10 min ones of last week. It was still a workout, but I wasn’t left feeling like I must be incredibly weak to not be able to handle the plan anymore once I got halfway through it. I put the speed up to 5.0 for the final 4 min run and that felt good. And I still went past the 2 mile mark and got to 2.25-2.30, which is around where I was last time. And I feel like on Wednesday when the interval rises to 13 min, I will be able to handle it.

I need to approach more facets of my life like this. It doesn’t matter that (what feels like) everyone else at the gym runs at 5.5 or 6.0, and it doesn’t matter if they can go that fast and are also beginner runners. Maybe I’m better at dancing or yoga than they are (and if not, then ehhh, whatever, I’ve never been a super-athlete anyway). And if a friend is way more established as a writer than I am, that’s ok and it doesn’t diminish that I’ve made some progress since getting the MFA. It doesn’t mean I should sit there berating myself while I revise until I start questioning whether I’m actually cut out for it. Or if a friend makes more money/owns a house/is married/has a kid/all four of those things, it’s ok that I’m not there yet. It’s ok that I’ve had a couple major challenges in the past few years and have had to take some time working through them. It’s so much more productive to write/live at 4.6 and stay motivated than to force yourself to function at 5.0 and beat yourself up when you’re struggling to maintain it. Now I actually feel like going out and running again next time instead of dreading it. And when I don’t beat myself up about writing, I usually write things that turn out a lot better. Imagine that.

Remind me to take a look back at this post when I start feeling like I’m not doing good enough with life. Remind me that when I’m thinking clearly, these thoughts make sense and that it does not signify my “taking the easy way out.”

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I ran! Sort of.

I “ran” today! I’ve never really done it before. Running for the purpose of running, I mean. I’ve been wanting to at least attempt a little bit of running ever since the Boston Marathon attacks, and today I started off with this 8 week beginner’s program I found on RunnersWorld. You start off really slow, which is good.

I’m not as cool as all the other people who have taken up running though, because I used a treadmill. I set out to do it outside, but I was feeling lost. I didn’t know which direction to go in, when I should turn around towards back home, and I didn’t know how to time myself… the program starts off with run/walk alternates for 30 minutes, and I needed an easy way to see how many minutes had passed. I wanted to use my ipod, and I didn’t want to carry that plus my phone. And, kind of important, I’m also out of contacts right now. I need to go get an eye exam and reorder. I didn’t want to be running on the sidewalk with my glasses slipping down every minute. So, for now anyway, it’s treadmill. When I’m more comfy I’ll venture outside.

I thought the program had said week 1’s program was to run 2 minutes and walk 1, for a total of 30 minutes. I get home and check my computer, and apparently week 1 is run 1, walk 2. So I technically did week 2’s plan today. What do I do next? (assuming I can keep up with this and not’s just a one-time thing.) Do I continue doing week 2’s plan and do it for two weeks to get back on schedule? Do I go back to week 1’s plan? Do I just take it as it goes?

I ran slowly I’m pretty sure. But that’s ok. The point of trying this was to make me want to do it again, not to push myself to the extremes. Which is of course what I always want to do. But what I did today was totally something I could do again. It was a workout, but not a kill-myself workout. Tomorrow on the plan is “walk easy for 30 minutes.” That’s not bad at all. Then, since the program begins on a Monday, I’ll probably repeat day 1 and day 2 on Monday/Tuesday to get on its schedule. Again, assuming I keep getting myself up and out to do this. And now it is time for shower and comfypants.

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Punctuation personalities.

Sometimes being a playwright and also being a copyeditor collide in really weird ways. I already obsess over punctuation way more than the average person, but when I’m writing, it takes on a whole new level. It’s more than just “this character wouldn’t speak in really long sentences or use big words.” The different punctuation marks actually start to take on different personalities. And it’s hard to use them, even if they’re grammatically correct, if their personalities don’t match those of whoever is talking.

Is that weird? Does that even make sense? It’s like, semicolons. That’s a big one. I obviously know how to use them (for the non-grammarians: basically you need to have a complete sentence on either side), but they feel really official and kind of snooty. Very few, if any, of my characters would ever use a semicolon. So if someone is speaking in short phrases, I find myself either splitting them into short sentences or using a comma, even if the comma is incorrect and should be a semicolon.

But herein, of course, lies a new problem. Sometimes you don’t want to use two separate sentences because that divide feels too “major.” But the comma would be grammatically incorrect. And that really irritates my inner copyeditor. And I start thinking about a million steps down the line, about how if this script ever got published someday, the copyeditor working on it would think that I don’t know how to use correct grammar. And then that copyeditor would change my commas to semicolons, and then not only will I look stupid, but those lines won’t “feel” right.

I’m working on a new play now, and I just wrote three little independent thoughts in a row, and separate sentences would’ve felt too divided. But semicolons would have just been… wrong. Too intellectual. So I used commas and felt really weird about it, like chewing gum in school or something, and had to come write this.

I obviously don’t mind using sentence fragments and things like that in creative writing. But punctuation is different. It’s not supposed to be creative (unless it’s the interrobang). But, in my world, an ellipsis is totally different from writing “(pause),” which is also different from writing “(beat).”  A “pause” in my brain is longer than a “beat.” An ellipsis is someone trailing off. It’s not quite a pause. And an em dash means the character is getting cut off and interrupted.

Does anyone else, writer or copyeditor or not, overthink things like this? Or do you overthink about other things that are completely unrelated to writing?

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This Is 30

Or, was 30. My birthday was this past Monday. About a month back I read an article in the New Yorker about how the Apatows’ version of 40 in This Is 40 doesn’t quite match up with a lot of other people’s. I haven’t seen the movie, but I highly doubt I’ll be anywhere near where the characters are in 9 years. So this is my more realistic version of a “sort-of prequel” to This Is 40 (which is the “sort-of sequel to Knocked Up,” according the trying-too-hard marketing tagline).

January
Last January was a busy month.
Things got kicked off with the first Boston One-Minute Play Festival! I had two little plays in it. Both were sad. I was still in a rough place in a lot of ways.

My Birthday!
I decided to have a party for my birthday, which I’ve never really done before. It was 80s themed and it was awesome. It left me wanting to have another 80s party just for the hell of it. I spent too much money on ridiculous outfits.

KCACTF
The end of January saw a return trip to the Kennedy Center’s Region 1 American College Theatre Festival in lovely Fitchburg, MA. I wrote about a big red button. Not unlike this one:
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Right after KCACTF, I got my permit and bought a car. Allan’s car had died right before my birthday, and I had decided that I had to get my license because it was ridiculous not having one. So I bought the car to learn with. Then I had a rough first outing behind the wheel and progress was slow moving for awhile. But the car is adorable.
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This is one of the “real-life” parts that I’m talking about. Paying for real-life things like an apartment or a car or college sucks. Sometimes it’s hard to get by towards the end of a pay cycle. The characters in This Is 40 don’t seem to have had to deal with any of that.

ANYWAY.

February and March were pretty uneventful.
Shadow did this:
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I worked some more on a scarf that I only just finished earlier this week.
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And that’s about it.

April
Marmalade got out when our old roommate came in late one night and didn’t close the door fast enough. The following morning it poured and he was nowhere to be seen. I started putting up lost cat fliers the next day and put pictures all over facebook and twitter. I left food out on the porch, but all it did was make Oskar and Shadow want to go outside. I also searched the neighborhood every night, sometimes with family and friends and sometimes by myself. I met this cat who I named Not-Oskar.
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Here’s Oskar for comparison.
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After being gone for 8 days, Marmalade just showed up on the front porch one morning. It was the best day ever. He slept a lot the day he came home.
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Late-May/Early-June
Lots of graduations!
My cousin Erin graduated from high school the same day my friend Pam graduated from med school. And my brother Connor graduated from college!
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June
My year as a New Voices Fellow at New Rep ended with our Festival of New Voices. It was only the second full-length reading I’d ever had and I was a bit terrified. But I loved working with everyone and it was an awesome year.
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Photo by the lovely K. Alexa Mavromatis for the Playwrights’ Perspectives BPT blog.

Other than that reading, June was rough. I felt gross and decided that I needed to start losing the weight I’d put on after my dad died. The reading was just before the one-year anniversary of when he died (it feels weird to use the word “anniversary” for something awful, but my brain isn’t able to find anything else). I think after all the stress about writing that play was suddenly gone, and the friends who were in town for the graduations went back home, I had no more distractions from how I was feeling. There were a particularly rough couple weeks before I started to be able to pull myself back on track.

July
Oskar got really sick. He was spending a long time in the litterbox, and it happened more than once, so I called the vet on a Saturday to get him seen. Turns out his bladder was blocked, which is potentially life-threatening if not caught early. Luckily, we had caught it early. My mom drove us up to the emergency animal hospital in Woburn, where they were going to have to keep him for a few days and place a catheter to get rid of the blockage. Leaving him at the hospital was really rough. But there was good news… when they were prepping him for the catheter, his bladder unblocked itself. So he only had to stay one night for observation and didn’t need the procedure. He came home and let me know he was ok by peeing in his carrier on the car ride back. He wasn’t happy about how they shaved his front legs for the IV though.
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This is another real-life thing. Animals get sick, and it really freaks you out and you cry and then you feel bad that you cried taking your cat to the hospital but not during your dad’s funeral. And vet bills are a lot of money. When you buy a car, you know what you’re getting into financially. But you’re never really planning for your cat to have a bladder obstruction. The pet insurance was very good investment in this case. But you still have to pay up front and then get reimbursed.

But July also had some good real-life goings-on. It was two years with Allan! This picture is not from July but it’s one of the few from this year that I have of us.
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August
Annual fun with playwrights in NH! Sadly all my photos came out really bad because I took them all at night. But believe me when I say that it was a weekend full of fun, fireworks, swimming, and wine. Lots of wine.

I also started taking real driving lessons towards the end of the month. See above about slowly picking myself up and back on track.

September
Not much going on. Some months are like that. Marmalade played in the sink.
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October
The kitties had Halloween fun.
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And I really amped up on the driving lessons and started to not feel freaked out when I was driving. Which led to–

November
I got my license finally! yay! But all the expenses from paying for the lessons and road test and the licensing fees really hit me hard and I’ve been poor for months now. And all the holiday craziness started. Thanksgiving was with my family and Christmas was supposed to be with Allan’s, but–

December
First flights got insanely expensive. Then when we decided to take the train, that shot up in price to be almost as expensive as a flight. So we ended up having Christmas in Boston. It was nice being with my family, of course, but I’ve only met Allan’s family that one time and he hasn’t seen them in forever, and I really want to fix that sometime soon.

So that was my 30. No fancy house, no kids, no unique artsy job that somehow pays for all my expenses and then some. It’s more like struggling to pay bills, feeling guilty when you order food (or buy 80s outfits), conquering ridiculous fears like driving, celebrating small victories whenever possible, and cats. Lots of cats. But all of that probably doesn’t make for a good movie.

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Now I’m driving for real

I got my driver’s license earlier this month. I totally feel like one of these kids:

Also, definitely check out the “boy” Power Wheels commercials on Youtube. It’s crazy how gender-stereotypey they are. I had a few Barbies but was never really a major Barbie fan. But I totally do have a “girly” car (a 2002 silver Beetle).

I was terrified of driving for most of my life. Like, it was one of my biggest fears. I’ve still only driven at night once, and I’ve only made super-short trips by myself with no one else in the car twice. So I have a long way to go until driving becomes commonplace, but I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I was just a few months ago.

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Hey look, it’s fall!

Today’s been the first real fall-feeling day that we’ve had so far. Technically there’s still a couple more weeks of “summer,” but even though I haven’t been a student for several years, my brain still switches into fall mode once school starts. When I was younger I used to hate fall. I associated it (as you can see) with school starting, which always meant anxiety, wearing uniforms, and staying up to all hours of the night doing homework. Somewhere along the line after school ended, I started to enjoy fall again. Here’s some things I’m looking forward to:

1. Pumpkin-everything!
Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin spiced lattes, and of course, pumpkin beer.

Happy beer!

2. Long-sleeve t-shirts.
The ones from shirt.woot are super-comfy. They don’t come in women’s sizes so they’re kind of baggy, but they’re awesome for just relaxing and feeling comfy.

3. Theatres starting up their new seasons.
Lots of shows to see! And readings! And also the deadline rush for winter and spring festivals, which means I really need to get some 10-minute plays together soon.

4. Hot apple cider.
And also apple picking, but I haven’t been able to actually go and do that in years.

5. Red and yellow leaves!
And finding the most perfectly crunchable leaves to step on.

6. Cool mornings and nights.
I can have coffee in the morning without blasting the air conditioner, but it still warms up enough to not need a jacket or to just throw on a hoodie.

7. Halloween.
Candy and costumes.

8. Fall-scented candles.
I love “Leaves” for September and “Pumpkin Patch” for October from Bath and Body Works.

9. The cats get snuggly again.
It’s cool enough for them to feel like sitting on your lap.

10. This-year-specific things to look forward to:
Mike and Amy’s wedding; driving lessons and trying to get my license before snow season hits; friends-and-baby visiting! and (hopefully asap) planning a trip to Chicago for another friends-visit.

Also this:

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