A Crescendo of Counsel: 2016’s Life Lessons (From Least to Most Important)

  1. With hard work, a little planning, and a lot of luck, it is possible to properly prepare for your period and avoid staining your clothing and/or furniture each month. Use one of the myriad available apps to track your cycle and when you begin to crave cheese and chocolate and/or tear up when someone raises their voice a decibel, that’s the time to stuff some tampons and pads in your purse and start wearing the old undies.
  2. It makes no sense to wash your car before a road trip. Even though you may be excited to show the world you are the responsible kind of person who (a) knows where to find the car wash (b) has a spare $10 to spend on a wax and buff and (c) takes pride in a shiny, happy junker, you’ll be throwing your money away on something you’ll have to pay for again at the end of your trip. So screw appearances and drive dirty.
  3. Also, don’t take a 24-hour road trip by yourself when you’re a young female with little to no muscle mass and an anxiety disorder that causes you to carry mace into every gas station and pull over to text your entire family every hour after sunset. It’s just not a vacation if you’re worrying about sexual assault at every rest stop.
  4. It is possible to survive job interviews without shaking out of the hot seat or sweating through your pantyhose. But I recommend preparing as much as possible beforehand. That includes getting enough sleep, eating well, and accepting that you have little control over the questions asked or the outcome. Also, be prepared with at least 5 questions to ask them and take notes during the interview. Treat it like a first date and keep in mind you’re interviewing them too. You don’t want to be stuck with a boss from hell for years of your life. Screen for them.
  5. Don’t make plans with people outside of your immediate family or close circle of friends on major holidays like Christmas day. It won’t work out and you’ll either feel like an asshole for making the plans at all or you’ll make the other person feel like an asshole for making room in their day of family fun for someone who was OK flaking  on them at the last minute.
  6. Back up your hard drive. Just do it. Right now. Before Microsoft or Apple or whoever has the chance to send out an update. Do it, and I’ll take some small comfort that my sacrifice was not in vain.
  7. Even hot rock gods like David Bowie and George Michael are mortal, so take the time to really appreciate their hotness and general awesomeness while you can.
  8. Any article or headline you see about Kanye West or Lena Dunham are not worth your time. Keep scrolling.
  9. Racism, sexism, class discrimination, violence, homophobia, general intolerance, ignorance (and even Nazis for crying out loud) are still present in our country and spreading messages of hate and fear. Combat this with kindness, compassion, and empathy with yourself and others.
  10. No matter how inconvenient your god-given personality may be to you at times, it isn’t realistic or wise to attempt to suppress it to make way for a false persona that you believe will be more accepted and/or financially secure. Financial catastrophe struck in my life, and in the lives of many of my loved ones, after my graduation from college in 2008.  I emerged from those struggles with the new belief that financial security and literacy was my new number one priority.Never again would I find myself sharing a tiny house with one coworker, one “traveling salesperson” who constantly had people in and out of the house exchanging cash, and their newborn son squalling his head off at all hours of the night while I ate Ramen noodles or set rat traps in my bedroom.  From 2009 to 2016, I climbed the little ladder of my small community bank and tried like hell to convince myself that I was practical, business-minded, and tough. And I made myself pretty miserable in the process.

    This was more convenient than admitting that I wanted to spend my days taking photographs, writing, and reading. I thought it was time to grow up. My mistake was thinking that meant giving up my interests and passions and burying my voice and myself in the back corner of a vault where no one would ever find me. This year I realized that growing up meant accepting myself and following my own goals and dreams, while also accepting the reality that in order to do so, I will need to serve my time performing less-than-thrilling tasks at a day job that comes with little pay or prestige. The necessities are taken care of and I have time for the inexpensive hobbies that give my life meaning. That’s worth a pay cut and even a second job.


How to Buy My Smug Mug Photos

This entry is aimed at those kind family members who’ve expressed interest in buying my photos. Please follow the directions below and let me know if you have any questions during the process.

Click: my photography link (or enter the url https://allisonoutlund.smugmug.com into your web browser).

Click on the galleries link.

galleries-linkFind photo/s you want to buy & click the BUY PHOTOS button. Click the desired option from the drop-down menu to purchase photos, download photos, or create a card.


Click on PHOTOS FROM THIS GALLERY to order prints.

Click on the photos you want to buy. Select one or multiple.

Click on CHANGE PRODUCT to browse product options including various sizes, print formats, iPhone Cases, and keepsakes.

Adjust the quantity.

Verify the currency.



Thank you for reading and shopping!


I’ll Show You Focus

I’m on Smug Mug!

A teacher of mine from high school once told me that she thought I lacked focus (after telling me about my various other faults on multiple occasions). I think about her now and then when I carry bags of books out of the library with subjects ranging from interior design, to photography, to writing, drawing, psychology, history, etc. I also think about that when I look back on my two writing degrees and my career in retail, banking, and now the library. I wonder why I’ve had such trouble staying on one subject or career. I’m not sure about the answer yet, but I do know that I am endlessly curious and I don’t think that is something to be discouraged, particularly by an educator.

I thought about that teacher today as I read Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone  Having Fun Without Me? when she started to describe one of her friend’s boyfriends who had gone to graduate school for multiple degrees, but drifted from one entry level job to another. She went on to declare this man to actually be a boy, even though he was technically thirty-two. I am thirty-two. I have multiple degrees. And I am now back in an entry-level position. (I know Mindy Kaling was definitely not referring to me in any way and even if she somehow was, I could only feel flattered by the mention.)

But it gave me pause in which I thought those decisions were right for me. I could have become an Assistant Manager at the bank where I worked. Several managers told me this. But I didn’t. I quit banking and started over again at the library on the bottom rung. I followed my interest and my values and put those above status, money, and other people’s opinions (which has more to do with them and their own need to feel superior). I think if anything, my tendency to consider the opinions and desires of others (who don’t have to live my life) have interfered with my ability to discover what I want and need for myself. So yes, I could see how this would appear as “lack of focus.” But in reality, I’m focusing on you all so much, what “you” want from me, that I lose track of what I want and care about.

So, to combat this I’ve decided to increase my efforts to write more and examine my own thoughts and opinions in this blog. Also, I’d like to continue to “focus” on my photography and work on forming a side business in selling and marketing my photography. This is another interest that I’ve put off really investing in because a mentor once told me that so many people were interested in photography that the chances of my making money was slim. Maybe that is true. But even so, I love doing it and if anyone else would enjoy my photos, I want to make them available. So, to that end, I’d like to share my new photography website where my photos are now available to buy in various formats.


Anxiety-Induced Insomnia

When I started this blog, I thought I would do more raw first-person writing about my anxieties and how I deal with them. After all, the title of the blog has the word “Anxieties” in big, bold letters. But the truth is, I’m anxious about writing about my anxiety. I don’t think it is a weakness. I know it is a chemical, biological, scientifically proven… thing. But I’m afraid to talk about it even though it’s something I’m constantly dealing with. I mean, I talk to my family about it because they all totally get it and won’t meet my rants with concerned looks as they slowly back away from me a few feet. They’ll enthusiastically exclaim, “Oh my god, me too!” when I tell them I had nightmares for a week after watching the first episode of Black Mirror or that I’ve started to sanitize my library books because I’m afraid I’ll get a paper cut and then contract HIV from some random stain left from the previous borrower. Oh, and then I’ll research the progress made in HIV/AIDS treatment for an hour online.

My default coping mechanism is to  withdraw, it’s definitely not writing my feelings in a public blog for all to see. I mean, a few sentences alone will give me hours of anxiety time later on. Did I punctuate correctly? Did I overshare? Do I need to work on my boundaries?  Is there any way to make more readers find my blog but fewer of my known friends and family members find my blog? I mean, whenever I see anyone I know, I’ll be silently wondering if they’re judging me for some random comment I made in my blog. Then they’ll make a face that affirms my suspicions and I will remember the exact expression of smug dissatisfaction each night as I lay awake trying to do the stupid mindful breathing my therapist keeps assigning to me. 

It’s so much simpler to write book reviews and hide behind sarcasm and jokes that get me through my life than to pour out the thoughts that necessitate those defenses. But I started this blog in an effort to start being authentic and unapologetic in my anxiety. So, even though I had notes on a book review, here I am.

Sleep for the Strung-Out

One of the worst parts about my anxiety disorder is the effect is has on my sleep. I absolutely love sleep and pretty much everything about it. I love pillows, pajamas, slippers, curling up to say goodnight, tucking myself in and turning out the light, spooning my boyfriend, and letting the cat under the covers to curl up by my chest. You’d think a bed fanatic like myself would be able to fall asleep, right? Oh, no. Anxiety makes me work for it. Hard. But over the years I’ve discovered some tricks. Maybe they’ll help you too:

  • Eat a bowl of whole-grain cereal before bed. Apparently the combination of calcium, carbs, magnesium, and tryptophan are a proven remedy for insomnia.
  • Avoid chocolate, soda, coffee, alcohol, sweets, (pretty much anything really tempting and yummy after 5pm) or it will interfere with your sleepy-time.
  • Speaking of which, I highly recommend any “Sleepytime Tea” before bed too (plus bonus! cute bears on the box). Just make sure to leave a little time between drinking and hitting the hay or you’ll just have to get up to use the bathroom. Then the problem starts all over again.
  • No bright lights an hour before bedtime. Try to unplug before bed by turning off the smartphones, pads, tvs, futuristic watches, etc. Our crazy monkey brains see that bright light and think it’s prime hunting time or running from mammoth time, or whatever our caveman versions did.
  • If you need TV to lull you to sleep, I recommend documentaries or Bob Ross videos. But don’t be fooled by some of those nature documentaries, it can be stressful watching penguins freeze and and ice caps melt. Learn about climate change in the morning. Bob Ross on the other hand, has a very soothing deep voice and a positive outlook that is difficult to resist. Always a comfort.
  • But I recommend audio books or reading before bed above TV or movies. Ideally a story heavy in dialogue narrated by someone with a British accent.Or a classic like Jane Eyre  or Jane Austen. Anything involving a Jane will do. Just make sure to use a soft reading light conducive to nodding off mid-chapter.
  • Exercise for at least 20 minutes, preferably a cardio exercise that gets your heart rate going for a bit. If you’re like me and find this difficult after a day on your feet, try a morning walk or yoga to start your day off right. (My anxiety tends to be highest in the early morning so these exercises work to calm me down and ease me into my day. It also gives me something to focus on besides everything that could possibly go wrong in the next 24 hours.)
  • Keep a worry journal by your bed. If you absolutely cannot turn off the endless “what-ifs” or “why did I’s?” then just getting them out of your mind and on paper can really help. You can also return to it the next night and reality test your fears. How many of those concerns came up today?
  • A warm bath. There are certain products that seem to help me more. I respond best to lavender and vanilla scents but you can experiment to see what works best for you. Worst case scenario you just got some good relaxation time and you come out smelling all nice and flowery. (If you’re like me and you worry about water conservation, try to find ways to conserve in other ways like cutting down on laundry or running the dishwasher.)
  • If you’re really desperate, try this song. For some reason the transparent reverse psychology works wonders on me.


A Year in Book Review: 2016’s Favorite Fiction

Super Sad & Symbolic Shipping News (3 out of 5)


Set at the time of writing in the 1990s, Annie Proulx’s second novel, The Shipping News, follows thirty-six year old Quoyle from his small hometown in New York on his quest to escape his tragic past. He moves to his ancestral home in Newfoundland, Canada, with his tough, no-nonsense aunt in hopes of providing his two young daughters with happier childhoods than his own. Quoyle joins a crew of quirky locals in writing a small newspaper in the fishing town of Killic-Claw. Assigned to report on car wrecks and shipping news, Quoyle slowly finds his voice while creating a home capable of housing love without pain.

The novel was written in a distinctly modern style, often mirroring the headline style of the newspaper articles Quoyle writes, providing bullet point factual accounts of the action. Although this was effective, I did find it distracting at times as I kept rereading in search of missing subjects or articles. While the plot takes a hopeful and uplifting turn towards the conclusion, the majority of the novel focuses on somber themes including lengthy descriptions of setting that are dense with symbolism. I think it was a challenging and worthwhile read, but one that makes you work and throws in some dark twists and turns. It’s not one for the beach.


Amazingly Imaginative All Soul’s Trilogy (4 out of 5)

Image result for all souls trilogy

Two scholars at Oxford seem to have nothing in common until they discover their mutual interest in an elusive enchanted manuscript hidden in the Bodleian Library.  Matthew Clairemont and Diana Bishop are two stubborn and strong-willed opposites who quickly fall for each other as they team up to find the manuscript. Written by new novelist and historian, Deborah Harkness, The All Souls Trilogy is a unique combination of genres. One part popular fantasy where vampires and witches are real, one part science fiction where the vampire is a renowned geneticist and the witch can time travel, and one part history lesson where we learn about New England witch trials and journey to Elizabethan London.

As a sucker for unlikely romances between outcasts, of course I fell in love with this series. But even so, I found some scenes too cheesy or dramatic to take seriously and found myself laughing a bit instead. I also thought the obvious attempts to compare monsters and witches ostracism to the modern day plight of homosexuals a little heavy-handed. Although I agree with the message that love in any form or grouping is a major positive, I think the delivery could have been more subtle. It just felt a little too after-school-special. There were also times the plot became a little predictable due to it’s structural similarities to Twilight. But I will say I was happily surprised at the feminist aspects that were nowhere to be found in Twilight. In fact, the strong female characters and relationships are my favorite part of the series.

Simon Rich’s Silly and Smart Short Stories (5 out of 5)

The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories

Simon Rich is a Harvard graduate, a former SNL writer, a former Pixar staff writer, and co-creator of my favorite show on television, Man Seeking Woman. I read four of his short story collections this year including Ant Farm & Other Desperate Situations, The Last Girlfriend on Earth: & Other Love Stories, Spoiled Brats, and Free Range Chickens. Rich has a talent for summing up the Millennial experience in hilarious, concise, and unexpected stories.

On one page you’re reading about the futile existence of video game villains dying off after three punches, on the next you’re reading about the fantasy of putting your parents through the excruciatingly awkward situations of your youth, like  inviting over their entire office for their birthday so as not to exclude anyone, or insisting on impromptu performances of their talents to impress your friends. One story describes Zeus’s inability to reign in a rebellious Cupid who would rather learn to rap than spread love. The ideas are so clever and original. I loved every collection and laughed out loud all the way through. Simon Rich is a new favorite.

Tripping on Tryptophan: A Thanksgiving Story

Local Homicide Investigators to Question Suspected Accomplice in Missing Turkey Case 

 ~ The Daily Gobble 

Chief Chicken: She’s coming to, fellas. Stay alert and follow my lead.

Detective Dog & Sergeant Sow: Yes, ma’am. 

Allison: What the hell? Am I in the barn? Jesus, not again. How much  wine did I drink?

Chief Chicken: You are at Poultry Police Headquarters. I’m afraid we had to detain you. 

Allison: Wha?? Ahhhhh!!! Damn! Did you just TALK? 

Chicken: Please refrain from profanity. This will go better for you if you cooperate. You are a prime suspect in the disappearance of Turkey Tom. Several witnesses saw you with Tom in the yard last week. Now, what do you know? 

Allison: Oh my god. It’s finally happened. I’ve lost it. I always knew it would happen around the holidays, just thought I had more time. Wait… maybe one of the West coast relatives drugged dessert again? I hope so. Maybe it will wear off. 

Dog: You say you lost something? Do you have a pattern of losing important things? 

Sow: And did you say you’re involved with drugs? 

Allison: You ALL talk? Whoa.

Chicken: We don’t have time for games. I asked what you know about Tom, the Turkey. We have concerned friends and family waiting for word in the coop. Now tell us what you know!

Allison: Well, yeah I saw the turkey when I brought him in the house last week. I had to get him ready for Thanksgiving. 

Dog: What did “getting ready” entail? A bath? A scratch behind the ears? What?!? 

Allison: No, Wolfy, I fed you scraps from the table. How do you not know what happened? 

Sow: Leave the questions to us. Now, what did happen exactly? 

Allison: Well, uh. Do we really need to go into details? He is in a better place. 

Sow: So you do know where he is? Where is this “better place?” Ohio? Nebraska? Not Minnesota. 

Allison: Look, I don’t know why I have to answer to you, but the turkey is gone. We ate him for Thanksgiving. 

Chicken: You. Ate. Tom? Ate him up…What kind of sick maniac are you? I’ve dealt with a lot of twisted criminals in my day, mostly cats, but…

Dog: What did you mean when you said you fed me scraps? Of Tom?!?

Sow: Good god. I’m going to be sick. 

Allison: Look, it was quick ok. I just hit him on the head and it was over. He didn’t feel a thing. 

Chicken: Well, I guess it’s ok to kill us off if it’s nice and fast. Lord, I’m recommending psychological testing for you missy. Did you all enjoy Tom at least? Was he worth the price you now pay?

Allison: Actually, I got him for a good price from a neighbor. It’s cheaper and more humane than the store bought turkeys. But I’ve never really cared for turkey meat. I eat it, but I have to mix it with the stuffing and mashed potatoes for flavor. I’ve always preferred chicken. But tradition is tradition. 

Chicken: Ohhh. No words. 

Dog: (sobbing) I had no idea. You have to believe me, Chief. Who else have I eaten?!?

Allison: I’m sorry, Wolfy, but you’re a hunting dog. I figured you’d be ok with it. 

Dog: Listen, I better go to the coop and break the news. Least I can do. Then I’ll get to work writing my confession. I will accept whatever punishment you see fit, Chief. 

Chicken: There was no way for any of us to know. 

Sow: I’ll go with you. Leave the Chief to deal with this sicko. (Sow and Dog Exit)

Allison: Look, I gotta get back and find out who drugged the pie. 

Chicken: Technically I can’t keep you here. You’re bigger and stronger and I depend on you for grain. But you ruined more than one life today. The farm will never be the same. 

Allison: Yeah, I hear you. I should really go with ham next year. See you at the coop. I have some shopping to do when I come down. 

Thankful Thursday: Library Love

After seven years of working at a community bank and a lifetime of feeling like a misfit without a tribe (family excluded), I’m excited to report the reasons I am so very thankful for my new job at the local public library.

Curious Kids!

There are happy children everywhere talking about stories and asking questions. They’re actively and excitedly looking to learn and their egos don’t even enter the picture. They just want to know answers to their questions and they’re excited to explore and discover. This morning was the weekly story time, where youth service librarians read aloud and play games with kids and parents before the library opens. So my day began with checking in books and listening to silly stories, nursery rhymes, and laughing toddlers. My day used to begin by calling a list of overdrawn customers to ask when they could make it in to bring their account positive and review their growing pile of fees. Each task is important and necessary, but so far I prefer listening to laughing children rather than yelling adults.

Kick-Ass Co-workers.

I’ll just list some observations to show you what I mean: A fellow worker approached me today to point out a particularly cute picture book cover with a cartoon mouse wearing pants held up by twine. Another coworker invited me to a “Biblio-Ball” in which we attend a ball at the library dressed as our favorite character from classical fiction. The staff lounge is covered in baked goods and invitations to employee events like weddings or concerts. The supply closet houses a pet rock, nicely labeled “pet rock” with a small, yellow post-it. I checked in about twenty books with cute dogs and puppies on the covers, all labeled “Puppers!!!!” in the computer system, by an enthusiastic librarian putting together a doggy display table.

Stretching Circle. 

My boss invited me to join a stretching circle this morning in which the Pages appeared to be doing Tai-Chi moves. I wasn’t sure what the routine entailed, but I curiously stepped into the circle and mimicked my coworker’s exercises, listening as he explained the benefits of the moves and how library work can strain certain joints and muscles. I was surprised and touched at the thoughtfulness of this gesture. We’d all been given pamphlets from HR regarding ergonomics and had to watch a cheesy 80’s video on back pain. I was delightfully surprised at the thorough and kind attention to our physical comfort on the job.

Hordes of Helpers.

Everyone is eager to answer questions without judgement and offer amazingly thorough resources including procedures, guides, cheat sheets, indexes, shortcuts, etc. to help me navigate the new software, policies, and procedures. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by this, considering that librarians by definition organize information and strive to make it as accessible as possible. But they seriously have a guide for everything, so even if I were left alone, I’d easily be able to find answers using the searchable manual, or the indexed procedures, Excel charts of card comparisons and requirements, and so on.  Librarians also educate so I’m also not sure why I’m surprised at how helpful and thorough my coworkers are. But these are all very pleasant surprises, of course.  I hope to return the favor someday or at least “pay it forward.”

Book Blabbing

I actually get paid to blab about books, movies, and music with patrons and coworkers. I’ll also get paid to attend library costume parties, decorate display tables and desks, and write book reviews about my favorite recent reads. I already have a list of ten titles I want to add to my GoodReads “to-read” shelf after listening to customer and co-worker recommendations. I’ll let you know if I find any amazing reads. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before I start writing reviews on this blog, since I’ll be doing it for work anyway. Fun!!

Thanks for reading. I’m thankful for YOU too!

Unsolicited Advice: Bad Break-Up Blues

I tend to give my best advice to friends going through rough times, so when I spouted out these words to a heartbroken friend a few days back, I figured I’d jot them down:

Allow yourself to feel how you feel even when it is uncomfortable and know you’re stronger than any emotion and will overcome it with time. Try to identify when and why you become angry or sad and sit with those reasons to figure out how to lessen their negative impact in the future. In the meantime, give yourself the love and understanding you wish men (or whoever you’re seeking love from) were capable of giving you. Be kind to yourself, look out for yourself, nourish your body and soul in the way only you can. Channel your energy into positive and creative activities you enjoy like your art, music, coloring, writing, cooking, decorating, hiking, etc. Whatever sets a fire in your soul. Treat yourself the way men SHOULD treat you. Set the example for others and yourself, so when the guys or whoever don’t measure up in the future, you immediately feel the difference and know deep down you deserve better.

Now, why can’t I think of this crap when I’m upset or having a hard time? It’s a mystery.

Monday’s Moody Musings: Proud Public Service Announcement

A few weeks ago I was offered a job at the local library and I happily accepted. As I had been using most of my spare time to write, unpack, and look for work, I was grateful to get a few weeks of vacation time before my first day of work today. I used that time to visit my boyfriend’s grandparents in the Midwest and drive to Northern California to visit my dad and stepmom. I hope to have some more photos to post from my drive but paid employment takes priority.

My official new title is “Circulation Assistant” which just means I help check books in and out, issue library cards, close accounts, and help shelve and organize the branch. I went to my new employee orientation today and I’m very excited to get going on my first full day of work at the branch tomorrow. I got to meet a lot of nice folks today and I think this job will be a better fit.

First thing this morning, the library director gave the small group of new employees an eloquent and inspiring speech on the importance of freedom of speech, privacy, integrity, honesty, and accountability. Even though I’m on the lower rung of the library ladder, it’s still a plus to know that the big wigs up top are down-to-earth people looking out for the best interests of the public and the employees.

A training coordinator also spoke to us and made a point of saying that continuing education and training opportunities are a priority and encouraged to all employees. She also mentioned how she doesn’t condone looking down her nose at folks who’ve had fewer opportunities or “been stuck.” So it’s also a big plus that I’m in an institution that prioritizes equal opportunities for all patrons and employees.

Some other big pluses include a very lax dress code (I can wear jeans and comfy tennis shoes! and I don’t have to do my hair and makeup everyday!! Hooray!!!). My boss is very laid back and funny. I get to be around books all day and other people interested in learning and helping others  learn and explore the world.

I get a cool ID badge! This may not seem like a big plus to some people, but when I volunteered at the library, I didn’t get an official badge. I got the bright orange, ugly “volunteer” badge and I felt like I was given a guest pass to a cool club I really wanted to be in. So even though it’s a silly symbol, it represents a desire to belong to the library crowd that I felt for a long time and now I’m in the silly club too.

Oh! and when I’m verbally abused or sexually harassed, I get to report it and the patron will be banned from the building, at least for a little while. My branch also has a full-time security guard on duty, so if there are threats or issues, there is someone nearby whose job it is to deal with those situations. It’s not all on me or the other service staff to address.

Anyway, I know it’s still a job and it’s just my first day but my first impressions were positive and I’m excited to learn more and get into a new work routine. But my focus now is learning the job and studying for the GREs so I can get going on my MLIS program applications. Plus now that I have an income, Matt and I want to stop throwing our money away on the crazy high rents around here and find a house. I may write a bit less in the next few weeks as I try to relearn math for my upcoming test, learn about first-time home-buying, and learn my new position at the library.

Again, thanks for reading. I’m so grateful to have so many followers and found so many interesting and inspiring blogs to read myself. I plan to write a “Thankful Thursday” post soon to highlight my amazing blog finds and followers!