It is very cliche to say that this year, no matter what year it was, was a big year, but... 2019 was a big year for me! I appeared on the ballot in a municipal race, got married, tried & failed to garden, moved my body a lot and read a lot. I consumed a lot of memes.
The Biggies #
Running for Office #
Let's just get this out of the way: in 2019, my run for Lincoln City Council came to an end. I earned 1,289 votes, just 407 votes shy of making it through the primary. I think that's great! I learned a lot about the political process - what is expected of a candidate for office, what issues voters care about, and how the local Democratic machine (yes, we have one of those in Lincoln!) works. My campaign was one of the first big challenges that my husband (at the time, fiance) and I faced as a couple, and I'm so proud of how we got through it together. I'm thankful to Josh for spending so many evenings walking with me as I knocked doors in the cold and dark, and thankful for my friends, family, and local activists I'd never even met before who offered me so much support. I'm proud that the earlier work I did alongside other members of Renters Together, as well as my campaign, made affordable housing an issue in this year's city elections in an unprecedented way.
Getting Married #
I got married this year! Though we had a secular wedding, Josh & I went through several sessions of pre-marital counseling with my pastor from college. We gained a deeper perspective on our relationship and practiced resolving conflicts constructively. Then, we had a beautiful ceremony on a perfect October day, and a rockin' party with all our loved ones. I love the way Josh & I support each other and push each other to be our best selves. I love the walks we take, our shared love of Carhenge, Bon Apetit and Brian David Gilbert videos, and our cute cats.
Things I Discovered I Enjoy #
"Discovered" is a loaded word. In some contexts it smacks of colonialism - think Columbus "discovering" the Americas, where people were already living, or white people "discovering" a vegetable or cooking method that's a staple in another part of the world, and presenting it as if it's their own new invention. None of the things I "discovered" this year are really new; I'm certainly not the first person to enjoy them and in most cases I was introduced to them by someone else. Nonetheless, these are things that hadn't been a significant part of my life before, which brought me great joy this year.
Later, I took a free, 5-week class at the South of Downtown Art Hub called "Poetry is for Everyone". The goal of the class was for participants to encounter poetry and even write some for themselves. It worked - I discovered a love of poetry when I previously thought it wasn't for me. (The only poem I could really remember from high school was Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" which had never really spoken to me.)
I wrote my first ever-poems (though I think I might have had a couplet phase in elementary school inspired by a character in A Series of Unfortunate Events) and even read some at a local open mic night. I listened to a lot of poetry on YouTube and through a delightful 5-minute daily podcast called "The Slowdown". I acquired a bunch of chapbooks. You can browse some of my favorite poems if you're curious.
Weight Lifting #
I started lifting weights in May with a goal of getting stronger. Weight lifting was part of my volleyball team's summer requirements in high school, but it was never something I really enjoyed. I remembered how good it felt to be strong after a winter of hauling boxes of frozen meat at my parents' meat processing plant though, and wanted to find that feeling again. I was also heavily inspired by Casey Johnston. Casey writes a column called Ask a Swole Woman (once at The Hairpin, once at Self, and now at Vice). Big themes in her columns include that weight lifting can be fun fun, it's not just for dudes, lifting heavy is the best way to get stronger, and being stronger is a worthwhile goal - fitness doesn't have to be about aesthetics or vague health benefits.
I've logged 35 workouts this year, of mostly weight lifting with a few treadmill sessions scattered in. In 2020, I want to keep lifting weights, and also include more cardio on rest days.
I've attempted to pick up knitting every few years for probably a decade now, and this year, I finally figured it out! I have a neighbor friend I knit with somewhat regularly now, and it's an awesome way to pass the time while catching up on life. My current project is to create a very large, very pink triangle that one day I will be able to wear as a shawl.
Things I Continued Enjoying #
I played a lot of tennis this year. I participated in a USTA 3.0 women's doubles league, the women's doubles ABTL league, and a more casual weekly mixed doubles league the rest of the year. There were a couple months when I played twice a week, and not many weeks when I didn't play at all. I'm still not very good, but I'm getting better! I'm practicing keeping my head focused on the game at hand - I've learned I play markedly worse when I'm thinking about politics or work or relationships instead of the game.
Book Club #
I am in a book club that has attributes that I believe are very rare among book clubs: it actually happens every month, and people actually read the books. We alternate who picks the book every month, from whatever genre. Highlights for me from this year included Kindred by Octavia Butler and One of Ours by Willa Cather.
Kayak Polo #
Josh & I took a break from kayak polo last year while my campaign was going on, but we're back at it this year! We both became members of the Lincoln Kayak Club and played in a 10 week season this fall.
Josh & I made our second pilgrimage to Carhenge, one of my favorite places in the world. On a camping trip there with friends on the Summer Solstice, we read poetry to one another at dusk in the center of the circle of cars. When I woke up in our tent thinking my appendix was bursting (it wasn't), we made an unexpected detour to the hospital in Alliance where the doctor wondered why the heck we had come all the way out there just to see Carhenge. Our visit was filmed by a documentary crew who came to capture this weird little slice of roadside Americana. They were quite interested to hear the story of how Josh & I got engaged just after our last trip. Carhenge continued to usher in big changes in my life: I learned sitting around the campfire that two of my best friends would be moving far away at the end of summer.
Things I Explored, with Mixed Results #
Josh & I built a 4" x 8" raised garden bed, and planted it full of vegetables in May and again in late summer. We grew, in total, two heads of lettuce, a sickly broccoli that never bore fruit, and a majestic weed of some sort that we watered diligently until we realized it was not, in fact, a broccoli.
We also hired a local consultant to help replace our front lawn with a native prairie garden. At planting time, he advised us to keep the weeds under control. That was a bit concerning; at planting time the ground (which had been stripped of grass weeks earlier by some other work) was already rather covered in weeds. Two weeks later, our consultant returned and said we had the worst weed infestation he'd ever seen. He advised killing everything we'd planted (and the weeds) and starting over from scratch in the fall, so we did. I'm still very excited to have a prairie garden full of nice habitat and food for birds, small animals, and bugs. I'm sure it will look nicer once all the plants have filled in a bit.
Having a Newsletter #
I started a newsletter this year called "Cassey's Livable Communities Roundup." My goal was to have a space to share interesting links about housing & streets policy with people who are interested, so I could stop sending them piecemeal to people who weren't really that interested. I also wanted to help interested people increase their familiarity with these issues and various policy tradeoffs, so we can all become better advocates for effective change that will improve our communities.
It was fun at first, as was building an app to ensure each newsletter had consistent formatting. Then, writing and editing the newsletter started to feel a lot like another chore, and I stopped publishing so frequently. Some of the content I wanted to share was time-sensitive, which added extra pressure. I still think the newsletter was a good idea, and is likely a good use of my mental energy, so I might start it back up again at some point.
Learning German #
I've been interested in learning German since a very brief stay in Austria a few years ago. This year I flirted with Duolingo and audio lessons on Rocket German, then lost interest. Since I don't have plans to visit a German-speaking country any time soon, it's not a huge loss. For me, studying German was about stretching my brain in a way that was engaging but arbitrary, that is, just for pleasure/leisure.
Music I Liked #
This year I continued listening to artists that have been my favorites for years now, like Jukebox the Ghost, Lord Huron, Frightened Rabbit and Hozier. I also encountered the music of Lizzo and Janelle Monáe for the first time and really enjoyed it. And I went back to artists I hadn't listened to in a long time, like Taylor Swift. I jammed out to Old Town Road a lot, feeling all the frantic energy of these kids Lil Nas X sang to at school.
Stuff I Read #
I found deep insights in Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown. I was moved by The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and couldn't put it down. I loved The Humans by Matt Haig as well as The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I'm reading the second book of Chambers' Wayfarers series now and loving it, too. After leaving it half-read for more than a year, I finally finished the second book in The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, The Broken Kingdoms. I enjoyed Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhoarse, the sequel to a book I read for book club last year, and I'm looking forward to the third book in the series.
Shorter Things that Stuck With Me #
- "I am not always very attached to being alive" by Anna Borges
- "The Magical Thinking of Guys Who Love Logic" by Aisling McCrea
- "Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden" by Melanie Hamlett
- "The Last Conversation You'll Ever Need to Have on Eating Right" by Mark Bittman and David Katz
- The inherent contradition making housing an investment as well as affordable, by Daniel Hertz
- Tweet thread on "The Shirley Exception" by Alexandra Erin
- "Foster Care: Everybody Likes a Comeback (But Not for These Kids)" by Emma Margraf
- "Everything you Could Possibly Want to Know about Therapy" by Anna Borges
- "The Challenge of Going off Psychiatric Drugs" by Rachel Aviv
- "A Feminist Defense of Bridezillas" by Kelsey Mckinney
- "Locked Up: Why the Movement for Criminal Justic is Stalled" by John Pfaff
- "Hello, Roberto" by Helen Rosner, on good recipe writing
- "The Ones Who Stay And Fight" by N.K. Jemisin, from her short story anthology How Long Until Black Future Month
Good Food #
My friend Dylan made this Morrocan carrot and chickpea tagine for book club one night and it blew my mind with flavor. I've made it several times since. I've made this meatless cheeseburger helper several times - it makes a ton of leftovers and is so tasty that I uh, sometimes eat it for literally three meals a day. I've made Samin Nosrat's kuku sabzi from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat several times too. It's a greens-filled, filling-heavy frittata that makes a wonderful weekend meal - very healthy yet feels indulgent, and preparing all the greens is so satisfying. Plus, I have Samin in my head whispering words of encouragement when it's time to flip the kuku. "Gather all your courage and just go for it," she says. "And if it kinda sucks, don't worry: it's only dinner."
I think that's the energy I'd like to take with me into 2020: I shall gather all my courage each day and do my best. At least some of it will still probably suck, but I will learn from it and keep pushing forward.