Pure Bright Fire

Formerly a struggling single twenty-something

Ten-Year Blogaversary

As of today, I’ve been blogging for ten years.

Ten. Years.

For a trip down memory lane, here’s my very first blog post on what was then called Struggling Single Twenty-Something. I’m sure it will surprise none of you to know that I kicked off the blog with a Les Mis reference.

I’d just graduated college then and was living with Christina about five hundred feet off-campus from BC. I changed the name of the blog when “twenty-something” was no longer relevant. Whether I’m still “struggling” is up for debate, but I am sad that ten years later, I’m no closer to relieving myself of the “single” status.

Most of what I wrote in that first post is still accurate, minus the publishing job. It took me longer than it should have to realize that I should be doing something else, and I just celebrated one year in my higher ed job.

It kind of makes me wonder how much I’ve really changed in ten years. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like very much, and like I should have changed more.

Blogging has certainly changed. For one thing, very few people are still doing it. I’ve written about it before here and here, so I won’t repeat myself, but one thing I thought of recently: when was the last time you heard someone mention the blogosphere? It used to be a term people used freely, but those days seem sadly past.

Read this. I agree with it. You should blog.

And I need to follow my own advice, because while I’m still posting something at least once a month, as I have from the beginning, I definitely don’t post as often. I do love blogging, but motivation is hard when so few other people are doing it.

I’ve stuck it out with this blog for ten years. And maybe it will change forms, maybe I’ll change in ways I can’t forsee right now, but I hope I’ll keep it going for a long, long time. (And yes, I have a draft of the Zimbabwe post- going up soon!)

Zimbabwe Post Preview

I’ll be posting about my trip to Zimbabwe soon. Here’s a quick preview:





So this is what I wrote for my birthday last year.

Yeah. I was really not in a good place.

But now? Honestly, I feel better. And there’s no huge reason why- I haven’t fallen in love or anything, haven’t even had any good dates recently. But there are a lot of good things that add up.

I have my new job now- and actually, I now have an even newer job. I got a bit of a promotion recently and so far it’s going really well. I like my coworkers, I like working in higher education, and I’m surprised at how little I miss my old job.

I like my new apartment. More sunlight, an awesome pool, no drug addict next-door neighbors (ah, Sketchy Meghan, I wonder where you are now?), a little balcony, a washer and dryer in-unit (although no dishwasher, weirdly), a library and several stores and restaurants a short walk away, and neighbors who are mostly ninety, which means it’s quiet.

Here’s some exciting news- next month, I’m going to Zimbabwe! Tiana and her husband (who’s a foreign service officer) have been there for a couple of years and now Erin, Julie, Jackie and I are going there to visit her. We’re going to see Victoria Falls and do a safari and go to a wildlife sanctuary- and on the way back, we have a long layover in Dubai!

I’ve been reading a LOT. I’ve read almost as many books so far in 2016 as I did all of last year- thank you, longer commute. I’m going to be posting about some of those books soon.

I’ve also been exercising and cooking more. I’m doing things I’ve meant to do for a long time.

I just feel…more connected to people, more comfortable with myself than I did at this time last year. I hope it lasts.


Good Things: The Hamiltrip!

The Friday before Memorial Day weekend, I set off for New York, armed with my ticket for Hamilton.

Hamilton ticket


It was a physical ticket, not even an e-ticket, but I was still worried that it somehow wasn’t legitimate, that something as awesome as being able to see Hamilton with its original cast (well, minus Jonathan Groff) could not really be happening to me, even if I had paid good money for the ticket. Judging by people’s reactions when I told them I was going to Hamilton, it might be the most impressive thing I’ve ever done.


I arrived in NYC on Friday, reading Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, the biography that inspired Lin-Manuel MiranDisplaying IMG_0601.JPGda to write the musical, on the bus ride down. I first went to the graveyard at Trinity Church, where Alexander and Eliza Hamilton are buried.

.Hamillton grave


I THINK, based on my Internet research, that this is where Angelica Schuyler Church is buried. I couldn’t get too close to it and her name isn’t on the gravestone anyway.

Angelica grave

And what do you know, Hercules Mulligan, the guy with the greatest name in history, is buried here, too.

Hercules Mulligan grave

I stopped at Fraunces Tavern for a drink, got a cookie at Levain Bakery, grabbed a quick bite to eat, then headed to my first show of the weekend, She Loves Me.


I didn’t really know the music before I saw the show, but I did know the story—You’ve Got Mail, one of my favorite movies, is based on The Shop around the Corner, an earlier movie which is based on a Hungarian play called Parfumerie. She Loves Me is also based on Parfumerie. So I knew what to expect from the storyline. The cast was excellent, and I got to meet some of them at the stage door afterwards. Laura Benanti didn’t go to the stage door because she was sick, but she did pre-sign some programs and she waved to us as she got into a car when she left. Here I am with Jane Krakowski and Zachary Levi!

Jane krakowski



The next day, I went to the Statue of Liberty. I’d been there before (in my pajamas), but this time I had crown access!




Then I got a cookie at Schmackary’s (which was awesome!) and went to the matinee of Waitress. It was AMAZING—even better than I expected. Jessie Mueller was incredible in the lead role—she made me tear up during “She Used to Be Mine.” And Christopher Fitzgerald totally deserved his Tony nomination. His character, done wrong, would end up seeing creepy or stalkerish—in the movie, in fact, it kind of seems like Dawn is settling for Ogie—but he was endearing and hilarious, especially on his big number “Never Getting Rid of Me.” Keala Settle, whom I also loved when she was Madame Thenardier in Les Mis, and Kimiko Glenn were both great as Becky and Dawn, respectively. Joe was played by Dakin Matthews—I remember him as Headmaster Charlton on Gilmore Girls! And all the music was phenomenal. I love Sara Bareilles, and I really hope she isn’t done writing musicals. Hamilton is totally going to win Best Score at the Tonys, but I feel like in any other year, it would be Waitress.


I didn’t take any pictures, but afterwards at the stage door, I met most of the cast. (Not Jessie, unfortunately.)


After a quick bite to eat, I headed to the Richard Rodgers Theatre to enter the room where it happens.


I’d listened to the cast album a million times, liking it better and noticing something more each time I listened to it. I’d read the Hamiltome. My expectations were pretty high.


Hamilton surpassed all of those expectations.


There are things about the show that don’t come across when you listen to it. The incredible choreography. The turntable that enables them to do some interesting things, like the rewind during “Satisfied.” Hamilton making fun of Jefferson’s dancing in “Cabinet Battle #1.” Hercules Mulligan being the flower girl in the wedding scene.

But moreover, the energy in the theater was just incredible. You knew everyone there was super excited and happy to be there. There was this palpable joy in the air, the kind of joy Lin-Manuel Miranda radiates every time he talks.


I am super lucky that I scored this ticket for when the original cast, except for Groffsauce, was still with the show, and all of them were on that night. I didn’t get to meet anyone at the stage door, unfortunately—I went, but it was really crowded and I couldn’t get up close, and after forty-five minutes the new king, Rory O’Malley, was the only person I saw come out.


The next day I went to a cat café. I love cats and wish I could have one, but it was so hard to find a new apartment after the fire and would have been even more so if I had a cat, so I think now I’m resigned to not getting one until I own a place. I didn’t take any pictures, but the kitties were cute!


Then I decided to see if I could get rush tickets for Bright Star. I’d listened to the album and had heard good things about the show, and although it’s gotten five Tony nominations, it’s struggling at the box office. So I got a ticket, for a pretty decent seat, and I’m glad I sent. The show, which is an original story, was written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, and the music is all bluegrass.

FullSizeRender (2)

I’m so happy I went. It’s a lovely show that more people should see. It takes place in North Carolina and goes back and forth between 1945 and the early 1920s. Carmen Cusack plays the main character, Alice, as both a lovestruck teenager in the 20s and an intimidating literary magazine editor in the 40s. She’s the absolute best thing about the show, and while her fantastic voice comes across on the album, her phenomenal acting needs to be seen in person. Her performance of “At Long Last” gave me goosebumps. She totally deserved her Tony nomination—and this is her first Broadway show, so I’m excited to see what her future holds! There are other things that need to be seen in person, too—one song, “Another Round,” didn’t make that much of an impression on me when I listened to it, but onstage it’s a really fun number.


Also, when the curtain came up after intermission, there was Steve Martin onstage playing the banjo! That doesn’t happen at every show, so I’m lucky I got to see him. At stage door (he’d left by then), the cast was saying that even they don’t know when he’s coming. Here’s a (not very good) picture of me with Carmen Cusack.


A little more sitting in the park, a little more book shopping, a little more good food, and my Hamiltrip came to an end.


Seriously, you guys, watch the Tonys tonight. Even if you don’t care who wins, now that I’ve seen four of the nominated shows, I can guarantee you that it’s going to be an awesome show.

Here’s a Preview…

…of my upcoming post about the Hamiltrip I took this past weekend. Let’s just say there were four Broadway musicals in three days.


Jane krakowski Waitress Hamilton

Just a Quick Note to Say…

…that there will be more coming soon. I feel like I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging regularly, but I will be posting more soon. I”m also planning on a redesign. Stay tuned!

Adventures in Exercise: Insanity

At the end of last year, as you could probably tell from this post, I was not in the best frame of mind and had once again fallen off the exercise wagon. So at the beginning of this year, I decided I needed something I’d stick to, preferably something I could do from home. Winter 2015 in Boston, if you haven’t heard, consisted of basically nonstop snow for two months, which sometimes made it hard to go for a run or get to the gym. This year hasn’t been anywhere close to that, but I didn’t know that at the time. In any case, I’m glad I decided to do what I ended up doing: Insanity.

Insanity Workout Tips

I think I was a latecomer to hearing about it. Most people I told I was doing it had already heard of it, but I had no idea what it was until the end of last year. If you’re like I was then and have never heard of it, basically, it’s an intense at-home DVD workout with a lot of cardio and bodyweight exercises led by Shaun T. You do it six days a week for nine weeks, with one day off and one recovery day, with a less intense workout, per week. The workouts are about 40 minutes each for the first four weeks- warmup, stretching, then the main workout. Then there’s a recovery week with a less intense routine, and then for the next four weeks, the routines are more like 50-60 minutes each. You do a fit test on the first day to see how many of certain exercises (switch kicks, power jacks, suicide jumps, etc.) you can do in a minute, and the fit test comes up again about every two weeks so you can track your progress.


I started on New Year’s Day, and the first two days were the hardest. When I did my first fit test, I had to keep pausing the DVD so I wouldn’t puke. And the second day was even harder because I was so sore from the first day. But after that? It was surprisingly manageable. Hard, yes, but do-able. The circuits had a lot of exercises I’d never even heard of before, and I liked trying something new. Shaun T. is a good leader for this kind of thing, too–he’s just the right amount of pushy.


There’s a meal plan that goes along with it, too, and I tried to follow it fairly closely. I’m a bit of a picky eater, so there were some suggested meals I didn’t like as written, but did like when I used one of the substitutions listed in the back. I loved smoked salmon, so I did the lox and bagel one a lot, and I would sometimes substitute it for something like turkey. The pizza English muffin is another one I enjoyed, and this gave me a lot of ideas for healthy meals even when not doing Insanity.


All this said, I was definitely ready to be done with it by the end. Even though there are several different DVDs that go into this, I got tired of the same routines eventually. And it was HARD trying to find time six days out of seven to do it- so I’m even more satisfied to say that I never did miss an Insanity workout. Even when I went to New York, I brought my laptop and the DVDs with me and did the workouts in the hotel!
Since I’ve finished it, I’ve been trying to do a bunch of different types of exercise…but that’s a topic for another post.

Song of the Moment: Back to Before

There are some musicals I’ve never seen but would love to, having listened to the music from them. The Secret Garden is one. Ragtime is another. And this is my favorite song from Ragtime: “Back to Before.” It’s so beautiful and has lyrics that apply to so many things besides the specific situation in the show. Back in college, it made my AIM away message quite frequently. Those days are over, but I sing it in the shower quite a bit.



ALL the Theater!

I’ve always loved musical theater—see this post, and all the ones about Les Mis—but lately I’ve been obsessing about it more than usual. I think seeing Les Mis over the summer triggered something in me.


I traveled to New York twice in seventeen days. The day before New Year’s Eve, I just took a day trip there (it’s about a four-hour bus ride if the traffic’s not bad) to see Allegiance on Broadway. I had a feeling it would be closing soon and I wanted to see it before it was gone, and the subject matter—a Japanese-American family in an internment camp during World War II—interested me. Plus, Lea Salonga, who has one of the most gorgeous voices ever, and George Takei! The show had gotten mixed reviews, but I liked it a lot. The music was okay, but the story and performances were what made it really strong. I’m sorry to hear that it’s closing in a few weeks.


Then last weekend, I went down Saturday and Sunday for two shows. One was, for the third time since it’s come to Broadway, Les Mis. I’m quite sure I’ll never see a Jean Valjean better than Ramin Karimloo, but his replacement, Alfie Boe, played Valjean in the 25th Anniversary concert and is also very good. Unfortunately, Alfie ended up being out sick that night, but the understudy, J. Michael Finley, did a good job. Other standouts in the cast—Adam Monley was an excellent Javert and Brennyn Lark was great as Eponine.


The other musical I saw, at the Sunday matinee, was the second-to-last Broadway show for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I didn’t know very much about it before I saw it, other than that the lead role was played by Bryce Pinkham, who graduated from BC a year before me (I don’t know him, though) and that Jefferson Mays played multiple characters. I’m glad now that I didn’t know more, because it turned out to be hilarious and delightful and if I’d been spoiled about much of the plot, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much. The entire cast was excellent, and my head is spinning thinking about the quick costume changes Jefferson Mays, who plays NINE characters, must have had.


I have another trip to New York planned for Memorial Day weekend, which I’m really excited about because I’m going to see…Hamilton! I had to spend a ton of money on StubHub to get the ticket, but I’m dying to see it with the original cast, so I think it will be worth it.


I bought the Hamilton soundtrack recently after several listens on Spotify. Before I listened to it there, I’d heard a lot about it and thought it sounded interesting, but I was hesitant about it because I don’t like rap—like, at all. So when I finally heard the whole thing, I was shocked at how much I liked it, and it gets better with every subsequent listen (partly, I think, because you know the story better). If you’re like I was and think it sounds interesting but don’t like rap, have a listen to this song, “You’ll Be Back,” first. It’s sung by King George in the play (the hilarious Jonathan Groff), and it’s essentially a breakup letter to the colonies:

Now listen to the whole thing:

I’m really excited to see it in May—it’s one of the things to look forward to that I’m giving myself. I hear there’s some awesome choreography in it as well, so even though I’ll know all the music, seeing that will be new.


I’m also hoping to see Waitress on Broadway at some point. It’s moving there after premiering in Cambridge last fall, but unfortunately, it sold out very quickly and I missed it. The music is by Sara Bareilles, whom I LOVE, and she recently released an excellent album where she sings some of the songs from Waitress. Again, listen:

The other show I might see on Broadway this spring is She Loves Me. There are a lot of cool people in it—Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski—but I mostly want to see it because of Andrew Kober, who until recently was in the Les Mis cast and featured heavily in Ramin’s vlogs.


Plus, my friends and I are thinking about seeing The Sound of Music when it’s in Boston in a couple of months. I love the movie but have never seen it on stage.


So this is shaping up to be the year of ALL the theater, and I’m really excited!

Look Forward

This was not a good year for me by any stretch of the imagination.

And honestly, it’s only partly because of the fire. While that sucked, it’s pretty much behind me now. What’s not behind me is the persistent loneliness that was the dominant feeling of this year.

I remember back in 2008, I had a coworker who lost her apartment in a fire remarkably similar to mine– it was a fire that was caused by someone else’s cigarette, it killed one person, she had renter’s insurance, and her apartment wasn’t damaged as badly as the others, although she still had to move out. At the time, I felt so bad for her. Now that I’ve been through it myself, I find myself envying her, because there is one key difference between her experience and mine: she was (and still is) married. I had to go through the whole thing alone.

A few days ago, someone asked me who I call when I have a bad day. The question surprised me, because…I don’t call anyone when I have a bad day. Like, it doesn’t even occur to me to call anyone. And I realized that it’s something that people in good relationships take for granted: that when they have a bad day, someone will be there for them.

I might never have that.

The year certainly had its bright spots (my new job is definitely one of them), but overall, I spent too much of this year very unhappy. I’m doing my best to make changes in my life, although I know there’s no guarantee that I’ll be successful in making those changes.

But if I had to tell you one thing I’ve learned from this year, it’s this: it’s important to give yourself things to look forward to.

Buy a ticket to that thing you love. Plan a trip. Sign up for a race. Take a class. Mark your calendar for when that book/movie/TV show comes out. Do what you need to do to keep yourself going.

Because when your future seems uncertain, when you don’t know if your life will ever turn out the way you want it to, when it seems like all the good things in your life are behind you, the best thing you can do is give yourself a reason to look forward.

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