Step into my laboratory.

I have been working at a stressful job for the last 2 1/2 years, a job that is about to come to an end. (The contract is ending.) I’m happy. TOO happy for a person who’s about to be unemployed. Blissful.

I have absolutely no plans for what happens next, and this makes my smile even wider. I’ve scanned the job listings, found a few things I could definitely do. I’ve had a few phone calls from people interested in hiring me for the same type of work as what I’ve been doing. But I don’t want to do that anymore, and I don’t give even a single solitary shit. I can almost see my peaceful aura shimmering a little brighter around me each time I say “no thanks” and hang up the phone.

I would be perfectly happy to just sit and think zero thoughts for at least a month. But it turns out I have the opportunity to do something I enjoy without getting paid for it. That sounds like my kind of gig.  I’m moving my art studio to a new locale – a bunch of us are turning an old commercial space into an arts center with studios and two galleries. So I get to spend time lovingly fixing up my space and making art in there.

And the best part: It’s a former dental office/lab with all kinds of awesome shelves, counters, and drawers in that lovely mint-green color you only find in places where you’re probably about to get murdered.

2015-02-12 12.14.33
That’s not just the fluorescent lights – these are the actual colors of the room!

Awesome, right?!? Not only is that an enviable amount of built-in storage, but also the drawers have peeling labels that say “Bunsen burners” and “tubing.”

Bonus: The drawer labeled “Tubing” actually contains tubing! (no Bunsen burners, though.)

I’m tempted to leave it exactly like this, but I think I’ll be happier with a thorough cleaning and some new paint on the walls in a less creepy color.

I don’t have any brilliant ideas for my next art project yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve tubing.

Are people using too many words? Let my neighbor help.

by guest blogger Kim, my neighbor

Hi there, everybody. Jen asked me to write a guest post today all about my consulting service, so here goes!

Do you ever find yourself in a conversation with a loved one, friend, or stranger, and suddenly you feel as if you’re totally lost? Like they are about 5 topics ahead of you and you’re struggling to keep up, and they hate you? Well, stop worrying – it’s not your fault. Well, it probably is your fault, but you shouldn’t let your shortcomings hold you back.

I can help you help other people talk on YOUR level. My qualifications? I have years of training as an editor, and a husband who likes to stump me with brainteasers every single day. Shout out to my honey!

I know I’m digressing, but… I have to brag about my better half’s delightful sense of humor. I’m truly #blessed! Why just yesterday I asked him if the living room seemed darker than usual, and he was like “if this senile behavior continues to manifest itself, I will have no choice but to pursue legal guardianship.” Hah! What a goofball!

Seriously, though, next time someone asks you a “simple” question that’s really not, try this: Write down the person’s complete question, then cross out all the extraneous words with a red pen and hand the paper to him or her. Or better yet, put it in the mail so it arrives a few days later. People really appreciate this type of indirect feedback!

Here are a couple of practice rounds to get you started.

Exercise 1: A simple question

“Can you pass me the remote, or am I not allowed to have it today?”

See how much simpler that is? Now you can respond with a simple “sure, here you go” or “get it yourself.” A good rule of thumb is that if a question can only be answered with another question, such as “whaaa?”, the asker probably needs to prune some extra words. In the next exercise, we flip to the other side and look at a too-wordy response to a simple question.

Exercise 2: A simple answer

“Do you know where the grocery club card is?”

<sigh>It’s on the desk next to the computer. I mean, we just had this conversation a week ago. You forgot, didn’t you. Again.

See that? You just saved them 15 words and one noisy exhalation! Way to reduce your carbon footprint! Of course, in an ideal world you would keep better track of rewards cards, seeing as how they are more precious than life itself. You only have 47 of them, so it shouldn’t be that difficult.

So, do you have excess words polluting the air around you? Put them in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to help! Oops, gotta go – sounds like I put the wrong grade of plastic in the recycling bin again. I know, I’m the worst!


What exactly does that sticky cow pie represent? Hm?

This is the cover of last month’s issue of Texas Monthly, which I temporarily forgot about after angrily chucking it. (Forgetfulness is a blessing. It’s what keeps me from sounding and looking like Lewis Black, not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Wendy Davis, Recipient of Texas Monthly 2014 Bum Steer Award
Texas Monthly, December 2014

As Andrea Grimes at RH Reality Check rightly points out, the “Bum Steer” distinction is usually reserved for prominent Texans who engage in acts of buffoonery like accidentally shooting your buddy in the face, or being Rick Perry.

But this magazine cover, y’all. This magazine cover is something else. Just months after Texas Monthly lauded Davis as a potentially serious political threat—along with San Antonio’s Joaquin and Julian Castro—under the headline “Game On?“, the magazine flung her into a cow pasture in an act of pure, derisive mockery. All for the crime of running for office and losing.

And, perhaps more pointedly, for the crime of running for office as a woman.

I subscribed to Texas Monthly about a year ago, partly out of nostalgia for my home state, and partly because its long-form articles tend to be really well written. It’s a fairly reliable (or at least non-insane) source of insight about what makes Texas tick.

It’s getting harder and harder to find those meaty articles, however, hidden as they are among pages of ads for fracking companies and brokers of million-acre tracts of land stocked with exotic game.  And as much as I love barbecue, I believe we’ve gotten to a point in our culture where there is really nothing more we can say about slow-smoked meat. I emerge from this magazine exhausted by its tapdance and vaguely sad that I don’t own a really good silver and turquoise statement piece.  But at least I know where to go if I want to spend $20,000 to shoot an ibex.

Yeah, I think I’ll just let that subscription lapse.