Learn a Book! – [20]20 From To-Be-Read

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Another year, another witty gimmick gone half-made. Last year apparently I promised to read 30 books and then proceeded to immediately forget that and, for the rest of the year, assume that I must have promised to read 19. So 19 books were read.

This year is another one in which general fatigue and weariness have continued to slowly chip away at my bibliove. There was some consideration given to reading 20 books written in the 1920s, but that was immediately abandoned for reasons I really don’t think need explicit explaining.

A Tale as old as Casstastrophe is the one in which my book buying addiction always and forever outpaces by book reading. Part One of the issue is that I love to visit independent bookstores whenever I’m travelling and I happen to have made a personal vow to myself never to enter into an independent bookstore and come away empty handed. Support the brick and mortar, am I right!? Part Two of the issue is what I call The Blackouts. Some days I wake up with a visceral need to read something new. Nothing in the monstrously large To Be Read piles will cut it, and next thing I know I’m coming to back at home with a few (or a many) new buddies to add to the stacks.

In 2020 it’s time to get serious about said stacks. No more give but so seldom take. This year I’ll commit to reducing the current state of these piles by at least 20 books. I will not commit to not adding any more to them.

Hey, the first step is admitting that I am powerless.


  1. ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen [252 pgs]
  2. ‘The Clockwork Dynasty’ by Daniel H. Wilson [309 pgs]
  3. ‘Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA’ by Amaryllis Fox [224 pgs]
  4. ‘What Should Be Wild’ by Julia Fine [351 pgs]
  5. ‘The Call’ by Peadar O’Guilin [307 pgs]
  6. ‘Weapons of Peace’ by Peter D. Johnston [466 pgs]
  7. ‘The Alice Network’ by Kate Quinn [503 pgs]
  8. ‘Dreyer’s English’ by Benjamin Dreyer [269 pgs]
  9. ‘Dear Edward’ by Ann Napolitano [336 pgs]
  10. ‘Dear Madam President’ by Jennifer Palmieri [175 pgs]
  11. ‘Selected Poems of Robert Frost’ by Robert Frost [282 pgs]
  12. ‘Crave’ by Tracy Wolff [571 pgs]
  13. ‘Hex’ by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight [215 pgs]
  14. ‘The Chemist’ by Stephenie Meyer [518 pgs]
  15. ‘A Visit from the Good Squad’ by Jennifer Egan [340 pgs]
  16. ‘Toil & Trouble’ by Augusten Burroughs [320 pgs]
  17. ‘Keats: Poems’ by John Keats [248 pgs]
  18. ‘Black Leopard Red Wolf’ by Marlon James [620 pgs]
  19. ‘The Lottery and Other Stories’ by Shirley Jackson [302 pgs]
  20. ‘Selected Poems’ by T.S. Eliot [127 pgs]
  21. ‘I’m Telling The Truth, but I’m Lying: Essays’ by Bassey Ikpi [256 pgs]
  22. ‘Akhmatova Poems’ by Anna Akhmatova [255 pgs]
  23. ‘Catherine House’ by Elisabeth Thomas [310 pgs]
  24. ‘Hood Feminism’ by Mikki Kendall [258 pgs]
  25. ‘Brontë’s Poems’ by Emily Brontë [249 pgs]
  26. ‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty-Williams [328 pgs]

Total Page Count: 8,391 pgs


Boldly go where the bolded books bid you.

As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads. Reviews will never be written so cease and decease with the ask.

27 Delays To 27

There was an idea for this year’s post in my annual birthday series that wasn’t what this post is now. Try as I might to write that original idea, it just didn’t feel right.

Much like the arrival of 27.

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This birthday felt weird. Weird because every other age has felt, in some way, anticipated. They’ve all been defined by impatient countdowns to shakily defined milestones. In fact, when I started these annual age posts at 23 it felt like the most exciting year of my life was upon me and, at that point in time, I suppose it was. Then 24 arrived with many lessons learned to prepare me for it, with 25 fast on its heels and hyped to impossible heights by just about everyone I came into contact with, thereby making me hellbent on spending the time leading up to 26 keeping things as low to the ground as physically possible.

27, on the other hand, just seems to have strolled its way into my life with a quick passing wave, taking a seat over on the wooden bench at the far side of my inner consciousness’s train station. Stubbing out its cigarette on the back of its own hand and settling back with crossed arms to watch what the hell I plan to make out of it. I know, I’m scared to meet it too.

Every time I sat down to write that other post I was pushing and pulling myself through it. There was an element of research and information gathering to it that I just couldn’t find any interest in. One of the super fun personal traits that I’m trying to work on is mistrust. And there is a scale of, let’s face it, insanity as to what I don’t trust. On one side we’ve got microwaves and central air systems, on the other side we’ve got myself. One of those rightfully deserves to be targeted and I’ll give you a hint – I’m not super concerned about learning to enjoy microwaved food. I am super concerned about being able to listen to myself and follow those instincts. See that I’m just not into something and not do it.

So I did that. I stopped writing that other post. Then I got a little down because as the weeks kept going up to, then at, then past, then really past my birthday it seemed like maybe I just wouldn’t write anything about 27 at all. But I really enjoy writing these annual musings, knowing that they’ll be here for me to look back on in my later years. I can still write something, I thought, it’ll just be a little delayed.

Talk about a thought that resonates. Everything feels a little delayed these days. My own birthday felt like I was late to the proverbial and also literal party! So I asked myself, what caused that? What delayed you, my Cass?

And then I came up with these.


I was learning to golf. That’s right. Finally something on those bucket lists got crossed off. Don’t get too excited though, it’s a strong work in progress. Still haven’t actually worked up the courage to go out on the course, but wow oh wow do I love me some hot coffee drinking on a Sunday morning at the driving range.

My changing body. The changes have always come in phases. I hit the usual year-over-year growth track until about 12 or 13, suddenly shooting up to full height and living an awkward gangly few years waiting for everyone else to catch up. Then some time around my Middler (Northeasterners, what’s up) or Junior year of college things changed again and there they’ve remained until this past year. But this time things are moving slowly, giving me a better chance at noticing the change. My body communicates with me now. It tells me that we’re getting older. Sometimes we move the wrong ways and things tweak out for no good reason at all. High time to take care.

Aliens arrived. My view count of ‘Arrival’ is potentially disturbing but also not at all because it’s become so integral to me and my spirit and my soul and everything about me, et cetera and so forth. A lot of time has been spent watching this film, thinking about this film, embodying this film in past, present, and also future. For that, I treasure.

I work a lot. God, do I work a lot. And not really in the ways that I think people should work a lot. I have many not great feelings about it, and I’m pushing myself to mull on that. Mull in that. Mull all around that. There have been one too many times where I’ve been called a ‘machine’ these past few years and at one point I disturbingly took that as a compliment. Now it’s in my top ten list of insults. Work can be a passion, can be fulfilling, can be time well spent. ‘Can’ being the operative word. Glad we got this one out of the way up top.

Blame my cell phone… and the internet. We’re all in this mode of technological absorption. We will continue to be in that mode from now until the day that we perish. I cling to my personal brand as a late stage millennial but also a grandmother. My phone does not have many apps on it, and the few that it does I’m actively trying to claw myself away from. My response times to text messages or phone calls are atrocious and downright insulting for most people, but I dig the independency of it. Consider it conditioning. I’m fine, you’re fine, go do something. On your phone or off it, who cares, this is our world now.

There was YouTube content to consume. Speaking of the internet, have you ever heard of a little something called Bon Appétit? What about the popular British television “programmes” Taskmaster, Would I Lie To You, QI, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown… ever heard of those? I don’t pay for cable television here in America because I think it’s a complete rip off, mostly trash, and also, oh yeah, because I’m never home to watch it (see above re: working a lot and also below re: travel). I used to feel sheepish about telling people that I watch YouTube but I don’t have the capacity to keep that feeling around anymore so, yeah, I watch YouTube. And there’s a lot of quality content out there. Too much. I’m actively working on reining in my consumption because also, like, hobbies, my girl.

Families, am I right? There’s love, there’s stress, there’s obligation, there’s missing them. There’s a lot of inroads to this topic and all of those roads go in totally different directions so I’ll just say that families are a lot. I love and miss mine, but there are reasons humans are meant to grow up and leave to go find their own lives too.

I was reading out loud. I love doing this. I’ve always loved doing this. I used to read books to our Christmas tree as a kid, ornaments included. It was my favorite part of English classes, my favorite activity when babysitting. It made me finally understand and like, and in some cases love, poetry. I struggled so hard with the silent reading and analysis assignments of Dickinson or Frost in high school. Nothing clicked. Then Obvious State came along and inspired me to try reading it aloud. There’s something intimate about speaking the written word. A habit I hope to never lose.

My memory and attention span have fallen to tatters. My shoddy memory used to be something of a joke with friends but it just makes me kind of sad now. There are a lot of wonderings as to why my brain works the way it does. Why I can’t remember conversations and interactions with people, and not in the total verbatim recall kind of way, in the we conversed or interacted at all? kind of way. Friends I continuously prompt to tell me things that we cherish about our relationships. Already that grandmotherly figure reliving stories over and over again because each time means that I haven’t lost them yet. Certain books avoided because I really want to retain the information but know that I never will. Note taking and journaling tried but in mere milliseconds the moments lived flutter right on out of my mind. Scary to wonder how it’ll continue as I age on.

I’ve been thinking about a move. It’s been quite a few years in Charlotte. About as long as I ever expected to stay. The cravings are coming for something else and my eyes have settled on an albeit chillier prize. More soon.

Books required reading. There are so many of them. The past few years have seen my pace of reading drop off monumentally and I’m desperately trying to resurrect it. There have been those weekends where I bury myself beneath pages and pages and I’d like to blame my time spent on those but there haven’t been enough. No, the blame instead goes to agony over weakening.

I was working out. HA. This is new. Again, my body is in desperate need of some care. I’ve found that those people who eat well and exercise regularly, who never shut up about how good and happy it makes them, are actually on to something? We’ll all be waiting to see if this is just a phase, but here’s hoping it’s a true blue lifestyle change. I’m late for hot yoga.

I was spending time with my car. Oh Linus, my Linus. A favorite pastime of mine is finding any and all excuses to get behind the wheel of my little blue bug. We cruise around the city, music far too loud, sometimes steered by knees when changing radio stations while sipping coffee. But, like me, my boy is getting old. And with thoughts of moving, it comes more and more to my mind that maybe it’s time we part. I’m not kidding whatsoever when I say that that thought makes my heart drop and tears flood my eyes. He’s seen me through so much. Some day I’ll write a Ode to him and tell you all of the whats and the whys.

Women. There isn’t enough WordPress word count space to handle me on this one. The past few years I’ve grown so much deeper into understanding and feeling and learning and reading all about women. Women professionally, women politically, women personally. The things we go through day in and day out. At home and afar. Together and alone. So much of my time is spent lost in the things that I’m seeing and hearing and reading and thinking. Not enough of my time is spent fixing and helping and changing and being.

My kitchen was making me dance. Another favorite pastime. I have a whole playlist dedicated to the cause. This part of the home is used solely to dance around in and store vino. Odd occasions occur here and there where we fire up the stove tops while getting our groove on. It is all that it is, and nothing less.

I was drinking. Not in a clinical kind of way, don’t worry. Relax. My taste in scotch and wine has grown quite beautifully over the past year or so, if I do say so myself. Considering the first time I ever had Laphroaig I burst into tears from the pain and now it’s my scotch of choice (Lore me all the way up, take me to that altar to die) says quite a few things, methinks. The palate developments, and my quest to become a whiskelier, live on.

I wasn’t drinking. Another new super fun thing, another trial decided by my body. And in the time before that, mostly attributable to nights that made me cool my jets for a few days. Again, I get why people kick alcohol. I’m not going to be one of those people, but I’ve done my time walking that mile and Everlast was on to something.

Travel was taking up my time. My little brother thinks my airline status makes me cool but my fellow road warriors know it for what it is. A life lived too often 30,000+ feet above the rest of the world. And not in a jet-setting, vacation travel kind of way. My career means I need to travel a lot, which I honestly don’t mind at this stage in my life. It makes it that much important to me to have a perfect home base. I did almost two years of weekly cross-country travel and at the start of that I was having full meltdowns on every takeoff and landing. Now I’m well attuned to the sights and sounds of flying so that the meltdowns only really occur in times of heavy turbulence. Even that’s starting to go down. Now to add in more of that travel for fun stuff that everybody’s talking about these days.

Thinking about Papa. Too much but mostly not enough. Missing and hurting. Coping.

Hill House was being haunted (again). Scroll up to Aliens arrived then replace ‘Arrival’ with ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and ‘film’ with ‘show.’ My everythings.

I was trying to find my power. Another relatively new thing. Something I didn’t even realize I needed, but when I did realize it I felt like I was bowled over by one of those giant cylindrical haystacks. It came at a time of struggle and confusion, of feeling generally lost about what to do with myself and feeling afraid of why I felt like there was something to be done in the first place. This is something I hope to keep exploring and thinking on, maybe to share some day when I settle more on and around it.

There was chocolate to be eaten. A fiend, am I.

I was in the bath. I took myself on a birthday vacation this year explicitly to revel in doing absolutely nothing. Said vacation involved a hotel with a standing tub, excellent eucalyptus bath products, and the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. Daily routine, don’t mind if I do. I take a decent amount of baths at home too and wholeheartedly recommend. Pour a beverage, run that hot water, bubble city, put on a podcast or an album, even get old fashioned with it and grab a book. Get in there, kid.

My muse left me. Writing was such a passion. I found any and all excuses to type or scribble away. Took English class assignments too seriously and undoubtedly pissed off all of my teachers, crammed up to and sometimes past the page and / or word limits. Sank into stories big and small as they danced in and out of my head. Now I’ve fallen into a state of negative conditioning, responding Pavlovian style. I think of writing and fill with sudden exhaustion and dread. Too much of myself has been given and taken elsewhere, I haven’t been trying hard enough to get it and grow it back.

My energy needed protecting. Time and effort goes into protecting against feeling drained and fed on. There’s a lot of ongoing study with this one.

Stitches were waiting to be crossed. I was in college when I learned that drawing with the grid method helped my anxiety. It was the only thing I had ever known that captured my full attention. I’m not a great artist but I didn’t have to be to copy a reference image one square at a time, hyper focused on the details so that my brain didn’t have any free capacity to think about anything else. I found the same thing in cross-stitching. Concentration fully devoted to counting the squares and decoding the colors to produce the full image from the pattern. There’s something mathematical about it. The closest I’ve come to meditation.

Uber drivers were being nice to me. There is a whole Evernote on my phone where I keep track of the kind, considerate, and uplifting things that a select very few Uber drivers have said to me over the years. Thanks to my job and lifestyle, strangers’ cars are places where I spend a lot of time (second, of course, to airplanes). It doesn’t always go well, but when it does it really does. A fan favorite of mine, spoken and then immediately left to silence for the rest of the ride: “Ready to start another day? Everything will go exactly the way you want it to.”


Also, for anyone who cares, when I got the idea for this post I sat down and wrote it in one go… Trust yourself.

Recent Reads – Halloween Edition 2019

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If you look closely, you’ll spot a cameo by a previous Recent Reads – Halloween Edition book

So, you’re telling me the season for spook is over? Think again, buddies. Some people leave Christmas decorations up until after New Year’s. Others leave Halloween decorations up until after Thanksgiving. I make the rules in this house.

It’s been such a long while since we did anything in the Bibliove world, let alone a Recent Reads. Fair warning: I’m a very different person now from who I was last Halloween Edition. Once one of the biggest wimps on the block, I am now on a constant quest for the best “horror” books and movies. Quotations there because I’ll concede that true horror is defined differently for each of us, based on your scare spectrum and thresholds. 10 points to Slytherin if you can figure out what exactly it was that triggered my thresholds to expand as far as they have over these past two years. And no, the current state of global affairs does not count.

Two of the books on this list were technically read last year but with the way my life’s been going, that’s recent enough. The rest were found and / or read over the past few weeks, when another one of my manic (and, let’s be real, borderline blackout) book buying sprees occurred. If you’re new around here, these are the days when I wake up and find that there isn’t a single book in my many floor piles of books-to-be-read that fit the vibe I’m going for. All things must be dropped or rescheduled, an immediate trip to the bookstore must be made, and anything that passes the general vibe test must be clutched to my person until I’m willing to hand it over at the counter for the sales woman to give me a knowing smile, as if to say “we’ve all been there,” and kindly apply as many discounts as humanly possible because damage has been done here in this bookstore today.

It isn’t until I’m safely back home, stacking my haul on the floor with the rest of their brothers and sisters, that the mania dissipates and I can crack on with one of those new reads. Look, I could have worse habits.

Halloween may have come and gone but if you’re like me and you’re looking to stretch it out for a little bit longer then I present to you some of my favorite Recent Reads – Halloween Edition. Onward we go. Enjoy.


‘The Supernatural Enhancements’ by Edgar Cantero

This book is so great. A true favorite regardless of how recently I’ve read it. A related but not super relevant fun fact about me is that there is a direct correlation between the amount of unsettlement and stress going on in my personal life and my attention span for books. The worse one gets, the worse the other gets. This was the book that survived a double digit spell of pick-up-put-down switches during a particularly hairy life transition time a few months ago. As I said, so great.

What pulled me in was the style and format of the writing. It felt a bit like what I imagine listening to an old radio show would feel like. There were scenes in which the main characters were on the main stage, then scenes in which they were playing out an aside somewhere else, then intermission-type segue scenes in which you were exposed to letters or discussions that were tied to but not really part of the main attraction. From a plot perspective, the idea of a haunted house was used as a bit of a red herring for the broader “real life” mystery plot. All in all, ‘The Supernatural Enhancements’ is very uniquely written and very addictive. Highly recommend.

‘Strange Practice’ by Vivian Shaw

You had me at vampires and Doctor to the Undead, Vivian. Set in London (massive check one), Dr. Greta Helsing goes off on an adventure with her ancient vampire, demon, and ghoul friends (massive check two) to take down a sect of supernatural monks (massive check two-and-a-half because there is also a budding romance between the Doctor and one of the aforementioned ancient vampires, which is a massive check to end all checks as far as I’m concerned).

You lost me at ‘Strange Practice’ being the first in a series. In my younger years I could crush a 13+ book series without giving it a second thought, but now there are just too many things to read that I couldn’t possibly commit unless the first one is an 11 out of 10. Not to mention series are difficult to manage with my constant war on paperback publishing delays. Get your hardcover release dates out of my face.

That being said, this one is a fun read. The plot is good, the writing is good. And don’t fret, the series aspect doesn’t make this any less of a standalone. I’d rather read an entire book dedicated to Ruthven though and I suppose I can thanks to John William Polidori… but something tells me that it just won’t be the same. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that spin-off.

‘City of Ghosts’ by Victoria Schwab

Despite the fact that I Did Not Like ‘A Darker Shade of Magic,’ which is by the same author just with a slightly adjusted pen name, the synopsis on the back of this one was hard to turn down. A young teenage girl who sees ghosts and is traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland for the summer because her parents are paranormal historians / investigators? Didn’t realize someone had been scouring the recesses of my brain for story material lately. Another series, which is unfortunate, but this is a lovely read with some ace character development of the three main youngsters (one of them is a ghost and that’s not a spoiler so don’t get mad at me).

‘City of Ghosts’ is technically for a younger demographic, but if you’ve given up on children’s or young adult books then you need to sit yourself down and sort yourself out because they have some of the best plots and life lessons that I’ve ever encountered. Maybe authors feel less pressured to develop kitschy narrative styles or something, but wow oh wow do books for younger audiences really punch you right in the heart sometimes. Don’t knock ’em. Try ’em.

‘The Price Guide to the Occult’ by Leslye Walton

Not only is the physical printing of the book absolutely gorgeous (see red pages under skull above), but as is the setting and imagery that Walton conjures. Oh so wondrous. Lush greenery galore on an island that feels more alive than the humans inhabiting it.

I love a good cursed-by-the-sorrows-of-the-scorned-matriarch-witch witch book. Think ‘Practical Magic’ meets ‘Beautiful Creatures’ then add a dash of teenage grunge sass and you’ve got ‘The Price Guide to the Occult.’ There’s a female bloodline curse, an evil mother on a power bender, a faithful familiar… what more could you possibly ask for? Better acknowledgement of the fact that the main character’s grandmother slash the book’s main living matriarch is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, that’s what. Otherwise, I’m delighted with this one. There were definitely a few setups at the end that could lend to a follow-up if Walton so chooses to write it, but they weren’t so dramatic as to make the reader feel like they didn’t get closure. This is a story for witch (are you having that?) I’d pick up the next one in the series.

‘The Rules of Magic’ by Alice Hoffman

Speaking of ‘Practical Magic,’ this book happens to be its prequel. ‘The Rules of Magic’ has been sitting at the bottom of one of my books-to-be-read piles for ages and, I’ll be honest, it’s been left down there for so long because Hoffman’s writing in ‘Practical Magic’ wasn’t exactly my favorite thing of all time (even though the movie adaptation means more to me than most things ever could). It had its moments, Hoffman’s just isn’t really my cauldron of tea. Once HBO announced a potential pilot for ‘The Rules of Magic’ though I knew I had to hop to it in order to settle on my usual footing of reading the books before watching the adaptations. Girl’s got a brand to keep around here.

Anyways, in this prequel The Aunts are much younger (but not any less feisty) and are learning about the hardships of life and magic in New York City. There is the addition of a brother to Fanny and Jet, and if you’re familiar with ‘Practical Magic’ then you can probably figure out the connections if you really think about it but I won’t say any more about him than that. There was a part approximately halfway through this book that made me start to cry and next thing I knew I couldn’t stop crying for the next few hours until I finished it completely. That could have been a me and my emotional state problem or it could have been classic Alice Hoffman hitting you with those quality one-liners. You can decide.

‘Alice’ by Christina Henry

This one has to have a caveat thrown out there because technically it’s a Currently Reading selection. I’m about 100 pages in as of writing this. So far, it’s got a few of my favorite things going for it. ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Asylums. Seers. Horror. I’m a sucker for a good fairytale retelling (‘The Lunar Chronicles,’ I still see you… ‘Charm,’ I try really hard not to see you) and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ retellings might be up there as the record setter on my shelves.

Within the first 25 to 30 pages Henry makes it abundantly clear that you’re in a much darker and more adult version of the tale you thought you knew. Inclusive of some stomach dropping abusive assault moments that aren’t the easiest things to read. I’ve never read or seen Handmaid’s Tale, but I assume this is along the same lines (Game of Thrones, looking at you too). Why is this the new form of female character building these days? I can’t speak for all women here, but I personally find myself quite capable of fathoming the struggles of my gender in past, present, and future well enough without the added and increased tortures of physical and sexual assault, thank you very much. Fingers crossed that writers of television, movies, and books let us get to know female characters for themselves, and not for what the horrors of men have turned them into.


Still not sold on the idea of recommendations, so if you have any and you keep them to yourself then I wouldn’t mind. But if you find you absolutely must pass them along then I suppose I won’t turn my back on you completely… unless they’re true crime or excessive gore. I still draw a hard line in the fake blood on those.

As always, feel free to follow along with my real time bibliove over on Goodreads.

Real Moments: Growing On Without You

Editor’s Note: This was written to be published last year but, alas, it was not. The why is because many things were happening. Many changes, many adjustments, many repressed, many too much. I’ll never force myself through putting something out here on Tales just to do it. So know now that it’s time.


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I say that I miss you and more and more, every year, it feels like I’m saying that to nothing at all. To myself and an otherwise empty room. I tried for a long while to pretend like there was something about you that lingered, like a piece of you was still hovering here somewhere with me. But I don’t feel that anymore. Or rather, I don’t trick myself into feeling it anymore. Why would you ever have come back here?

I do still feel the loss sometimes. The emptiness. The difference. I don’t remember most days but then when I do it’s in waves of anger, always ending on a begging question, the closure point to end the momentary relapse, the push back into accepting defeat. Why did you leave me?

You are the particular space that no one and nothing else will fill. Year after year I’m learning what it is to be on my own without you. Without your soul, your being, your life. Faced with the temporality that you were and now are not but that I still am and some day won’t be. Different people have different fears but that is decidedly the most significant of mine. Another conversation for another day.

You’ve never known me now, Papa. You never knew so much of this life that I’ve built for myself. You never came here. Never saw this place that I’ve turned into a home, albeit another temporary one. If you did, the pool would have been your favorite part. You loved the sun. We would have visited together and talked, but talked of nothing at all. Parting ways at the end of every night with a kiss to your cheek, a promise to see you in the morning.

I often wonder what you’d think of this life that I live. What you’d think of me. I don’t know that you’d have any particularly strong thoughts, if I’m being honest. But it took me a while to settle in that. You had so many quietly uncommunicated expectations of me and I went out and I achieved them all. But we never, not once, ever talked about them. Which leaves me now to wonder what else? What else did you see for me? Want from me? Want for me?

You never told me. You never gave me the rest of the plan. When you were here we walked my path together, then when you left I felt shoved right off the side of it. I remembered enough, the direction of the twists and turns we still had up ahead to keep me going for a little ways, but now here I stand beside Alice and her pup, watching it sweep the forest floor into nothing while patiently waiting for you, my guide, to reappear and show me what I’m supposed to make of me.

Do you want me settled, with someone who will settle themselves with and for me? Do you want me searching for the one that is the absolute, the soul piece? Do you want me with children, to grow and adore? Do you want me in a career that puts money above all else, or all else above money? Do you want comfort? Do you want success? Do you want happiness?

You’ve made it incredibly difficult to live this life for me when I’ve spent so much of it living always and forever for you. But I’m trying. Standing here in this unknown forest, moving onward in a way that I can only hope is the way. I’m learning. Learning to change things and choose things. But I still wonder what you’d think. Your silence feels so indefinitely loud. I still want you here front row to every change and every choice. Here for all of it. Here to tell me what you want. You are my soul, and my being, and my heart, and my home.

But now my life is what it is, and I am who I am. I’ll grow on without you.

Learn a Book! – 30 in 2019

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We’re going (going) back (back) to simple (simple).

Look. The past few years I’ve been all talk, no read. I set these kitschy challenges for myself (that I adore! oh, how I adore them!) but have I actually completed any of them? Ask 2017 and 2018. Those two fell right to bits and tatters, they did. This year, I’m shaking it up with my annual reading challenge by going back to the basics. Let’s just get through some books this year. Haven’t we been through enough with the hellstorm that was 2018? Will we ever stop saying that? Spoiler alert: we have and we won’t.

Just give me a break, me. I can’t do it.

Fine, me. Have it your way.

So here we go. Here’s to learning all the books I never got to imagine up myself. Happy 2019.


  1. ‘The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ by Stuart Turton [430 pgs]
  2. ‘Smoke’ by Dan Vyleta [536 pgs]
  3. ‘Jackaby’ by William Ritter [299 pgs]
  4. ‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking [197 pgs]
  5. ‘Monstress, Vol 1: Awakening’ by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda [235 pgs]
  6. ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller [385 pgs]
  7. ‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney [307 pgs]
  8. ‘The Supernatural Enhancements’ by Edgar Cantero [353 pgs]
  9. ‘The Essex Serpent’ by Sarah Perry [418 pgs]
  10. ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston [418 pgs]
  11. ‘Strange Practice’ by Vivian Shaw [353 pgs]
  12. ‘The Rules of Magic’ by Alice Hoffman [366 pgs]
  13. ‘The Death of Mrs. Westaway’ by Ruth Ware [368 pgs]
  14. ‘The Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill [164 pgs]
  15. ‘City of Ghosts’ by Victoria Schwab [285 pgs]
  16. ‘Alice’ by Christina Henry [291 pgs]
  17. ‘Ninth House’ by Leigh Bardugo [455 pgs]
  18. ‘Hiddensee’ by Gregory Maguire [283 pgs]
  19. ‘A Cosmology of Monsters’ by Shaun Hamill [320 pgs]

Total Page Count: 6,463 pgs


Bolded books still favor the recommendations of mine self.

As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads. Reviews still not written but at least this year I’m thinking about becoming a ‘bookstagrammer.’ I’ll let you know how it doesn’t go.

26 Places to Commemorate 26

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I wanted to kick this off with the phrase “another year around the moon” but then I got really stressed that I’ve used it in all of my other annual birthday posts. I’m inclined to think that 23 and 24 may have made it out alive, but 25 feels sneakily suspicious.

Alas, here we are. Another year around the moon. 26. I hate it. This is terrible and this is awful. This is the decline of my youth. There is no excitement.

I’m kidding, of course. Mild excitement. But I learned my lesson from last year. 25 was an age where everyone piled on more expectation than I’ve ever known. “This will be the best year of your life!” “25 holds so much promise!” “That is the greatest age!” Thanks to all of that, I went into it with too much energy and created too many of my own expectations and, shockingly, very few of them were actually lived up to. Very few. I left the year quite displeased with all of those people who did that to me! I’m convinced they put the whammy on it.

So, in 26 I’m decidedly expecting not much of anything at all. It’ll be an age, alright. It’ll hold so much… who knows? We’ll come back and see this time next year.

For now, let’s look behind us. I wanted to get a little different in my birthday reflective writings this year because lately I’ve been giving some serious thought to where I want to settle this here life of mine. As in, settle settle. I thought I had that figured out already. It felt so known for so long. I had a plan and a timeline and a too-stern nod of the head whenever anyone asked me. But lately half of the plan appears to be smudged and the timeline is ticking by too quickly and the brow on the sternly nodding head is beginning to furrow.

I know, I know, we’re throwing expectations right out the window and apparently this is one of them. Rather than get decided about where I’m going to be, this age wants to remind me about all of those tiny nooks and not so tiny crannies that I’ve been. That make me feel like my soul is in a home place. Maybe that’ll help me solve the settle.

Captured below are 26 places that give me those soul feelings. That commemorate what it means for me to make it to the unripe, not-so-old age of 26. “Pin drops” have been provided for the specifics.

Onwards, in no particular order…


1. The Front Porch @ 42

[Pin Drops]: the wall ledge against the house, the edge before the stairs, the original green door

2. Long Lived Papasan Chair

[Pin Drops]: every turned page, every tucked leg, every grey morning

3. West Cork, Ireland

[Pin Drops]: the strawberry patch, cake crawling, Levis’

4. Pembroke College, Cambridge, UK

[Pin Drops]: Pembroke Library, the dungeon room, Brewsday Crewsday

5. On Top of the World

[Pin Drops]: Pride & Prejudice (2005), dir. Joe Wright, mus. Dario Marianelli

6. Where Orion Was Its Brightest

[Pin Drops]: my heart, and soul, and fresh air

7. Cancun, MX

[Pin Drops]: Back of the Jeep, mirror selfies with actual digital cameras, hang outs in hotel rooms where coconuts hid under the bed

8. The bar at Knights of Columbus

[Pin Drops]: paper animals, shuffleboard tables, the salty sweat smell of home

9. Liguria, Italy

[Pin Drops]: the lights, cobbled streets, architecture to steal my breath clean out of my lungs

10. Pacific Coast Highway Beach

[Pin Drops]: warm rocks, cold water, highway air

11. The Special Room @ Kings Library

[Pin Drops]: my tears, most of my tears, all of my tears

12. Boston, MA

[Pin Drops]: Northeastern, the T, the whole damn city kid

13. Kangamagus Highway

[Pin Drops]: Scottish Fest, the condo, that last Tennants up in the lodge

14. Glasgow, Scotland

[Pin Drops]: River Clyde @ the Childrens Museum, Big GG’s garden, Wee GG’s electric coal fireplace, the Genius couch

15. Kirstenbosch

[Pin Drops]: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

16. Wigtown, Scotland

[Pin Drops]: hill down from the train station, bookshelves, quietness of the mind

17. Cape Town, South Africa

[Pin Drops]: bus rides, Wobblies, money, more laughter than my heart will ever know again

18. The Olympic Peninsula

[Pin Drops]: La Push (baby), Worlds Biggest Spruce, Bella Italia

19. The Old Living Room @ Euclid

[Pin Drops]: 5am, Lord of the Rings, putters under couches for Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

20. The Attic @ 42

[Pin Drops]: animal hospital, makeshift apartment, imaginings

21. The Atlantic Ocean

[Pin Drops]: Second Beach, Ocean Drive, Ireland

22. The Night Sky

[Pin Drops]: Ursa Major, airplane windows, front windshields

23. The Upper West Side

[Pin Drops]: Museum of Natural History, Cafe Amrita, Dead Poet

24. Parker Hill Abbey

[Pin Drops]: cuddle puddles, the (6 hour?) shower, open-doored bedrooms

25. Punters Pub

[Pin Drops]: Danger Zone at #1 on the jukebox, that Bud Diesel tap, the broken booths

26. My Inside Breath

[Pin Drops]: the moors, the forest, the heart places


As always, thank you for being part of this. I guarantee you, yes you, are woven into one and / or many of the above. Here’s to many more together.

9 Lessons to Lead Through 2019

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Hello, friends. Have you missed me? Okay, very well. But have you missed me like I’ve missed me? Doubtful.

I hadn’t realized that this post was something lingering around in my head to write until one recent eve, standing at my kitchen counter, listening to a single song over and over again trying to learn the lyrics, and realizing the great deal of many other things out there that I’d still like to learn. All out of a sudden sorts this list started forming itself (with a little help from my friend my mental inside voice) and I had no other choice but to write it down. Then to write it down in a way that I could share with you as some of the lessons I want to lead myself through in 2019.

If that sounds ridiculous to you, it’s because it is. But don’t worry, these lessons are just as. I haven’t written much lately. To be too honest, it’s because I haven’t found much worth writing about. But over the past few weeks I’ve worked really hard at hardly really working, in an effort to force myself to repress the hyperdrive and just take stock. I scanned my body to see what it was unwinding to tell me, scanned my mind to see what the heck takes up all of the space in there, scanned my soul to see where on earth or elsewhere it wants to be. Settled into a deep breath and a shrapnel approach to this whole reflecting and resolving business.

These lessons I’m about to share with you are just one of the many jagged pieces, probably the one lodged into my spleen. Yes, I did think about adding “medical school” to this list and yes, I am on my 100th re-watch of the hit classic television series “ER.”

Last year was something, though, wasn’t it? I’m still trying to work out how it happened, how we got here to this point. The collective we, the we that is my mental inside voice and me, the we that is you, dear reader, and me, your dearest writer. Take your pick. My point is – I’m taking my sweet time to mull it all over. To understand what happened and why it happened and what I think and feel about what happened. To decide what I’m going to do and say about what happened. That takes a lot out of a woman, let me tell you.

I hope that most others out there are in the mulling it all over camp as well. Or maybe you’ve sufficiently mulled by this point. The new year has officially kicked itself off, after all. Just please oh please don’t be one of those people who think that reflecting, resetting, and resolving during this time of year is overrated. Life goes on! you may say. What’s new about it!? you may also say. New Year, New Chumps! Time still ticks!

Time does still tick. Your life may very well continue on. Humanity certainly will (at least for an ever so slight little while longer). But, that doesn’t mean that something isn’t out there beginning. How terribly uninteresting all of this would be if nothing ever began.

Maybe you’re not a “reflections” or “resolutions” person. Sure, I get it. Maybe goals are more your thing. Dream setting. Aspirations organization. Mind cataloging. Winter hippocampus cleaning. Whatever you want to call it. Do what you must. Or don’t. Either way, there is still so much more to come. For you, for me, for us. In it together. Deal?

Diatribe over; lessons abound.


Handwritten Stamina

Where has all the handwriting gone!? I recall spending years of my life in school only physically handwriting assignments. Now, I get through half of a thank you note before my knuckles start cramping. I whinge and I whine and then I turn to typing because, like many of my generation, I’m actually quite good at it. All those years of writing thousands of words of nonsense on the internet really paid off. But I miss a handwritten note, a letter, an anything. Time to bring that stamina back. This year, I’m penning things left and write (are you having that??).

The Step One: Repression of texting in favor of letters. So many letters. You want a letter? You got one.

Play the drums

I know, I know! Get it out now. In through the nose, exhale that exasperation right back out. I’ve been saying this one for years. We’ve all been here for it, evidence can be found all over this website. But this is the year, I can feel it. After all, it’s only a matter of time before that Foo Fighters CD really does make me break my steering wheel clean off of my car.

The Step One: My eyes have been trained on a potential lessons spot prize. Next weekend I’m stopping by to schedule my first lesson. Keep me accountable.

Conscientiousness

It’s exhausting to get to know yourself. I know I can’t possibly be alone in this one. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I go on autopilot. It’s a running joke that work-Cassie can become a bit of a machine. But when the machine runs for too long and you finally turn it off, sometimes it takes a second to remember what you’re like without it. This year I want to learn how to be more conscientious about what it’s like to steer the ship myself. No autopilot. Not just for work-Cassie but for all-Cassie.

This one is a little more abstract than the others, but it essentially boils down to making the effort to be more well-rounded. I had one of those moments when I was on the cusp of 20 (not as catchy as the edge of 17, trust me I know) which made me wholly and entirely comfortable in the knowledge of who I am. I’m incredibly thankful for that, I know it’s a fortune some others don’t have. But to keep it and, more importantly, to grow it – I’ve got to be aware of changing with the life and times.

The Step One: Plan more trips to make the effort.

Taste in Vino

I’ve gotten into a semi-aggressive wine drinking habit this year. Not semi-aggressive in a worrisome way, but in a completely contrary to my steadfast collegiate declarations of never drinking anything other than Bud Heavy and Guinness way. So far my libations of the vino variations have been isolated to one particular type and, to be frank with you (O’Hara, never Sinatra), I want to understand what it is about it that I like so much. What is my flavor palate’s profile picture, or whatever the heck you call it? As you can see, the only way to go is up.

The Step One: Try some new vino, I guess? I’m a big Argentinian Malbec drinker, but apparently this type of wine originated in Bordeaux so let’s head in that direction first. Yes, I am quite skilled at the 20-second Google scan.

Find My Narrative

My dream of dreams is still to become a published author. The number one commendation that teachers and professors would scribble into the corners of my papers was “good narrative voice!” But, in my opinion, that was always just me being me. Naturally argumentative about whatever it was they asked us to take a stand on because I’ll semi-literally argue someone to death on just about anything. Go ahead. Question me about being semi-literal.

Becoming an author, a true honest to goodness writer, is a completely different narrative voice. It’s not like me here writing to you. It’s not my voice that gets pulled through, but at the same time it is something that belongs to me. And I absolutely agonize over that. I’ve had such a hard time trying to sit down and write something that I’ve developed this fearful aversion to almost the entirety of the institution! And that, my dear reader, rightly and truly breaks my heart.

The Step One: Learn how to get over my fears of even trying. Find a routine and a safe space.

Flight School (hoo ha ha)

Yes, yes, this one is still around too. I want to learn how to fly an aircraft. Been there, said that. Still hasn’t happened. Met an Air Force vet on a flight recently and he gave me an extra little nudge. This will be the year.

The Step One: Research flight schools and schedule an intro-flight.

Talk It Down

Anxiety is something that I, along with 40 million adults in the United States, deal with more often than I’d like to. Worse, it’s still something that I get surprised by. This past year, my body caught me off guard… a lot. The usual signs that used to warn me, to tell me that something is coming and I need to take notice, weren’t the only ones anymore. New things cropped up and I didn’t listen. I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t realize what was happening. Lesson One learned.

Now for Lesson Two. This year I want to push myself a little bit, get a little scientifically experimental when those signs start coming around. Not in any sort of dangerous way, but I want to learn how to listen to myself. There are times when I get that chest feeling, that stomach feeling, that head feeling, and I just accept it. My fight or flight is flight, always flight, and I get the heck out of dodge. But why? What about that situation or place or person caused that? Is it actually my usual anxiety or just a weird feeling? Is something else going on? I never know! This year I vow to listen and to learn the ways to talk it down.

(As an aside, I know I keep saying that I’ll save my full dissertation on anxiety for another day and then that day never comes. I’ve had drafts on here since 2015, it’s just never felt like quite the right time to take it on. Mental health and wellness is something I’m incredibly passionate about – in personal and in professional – but it’s not that easy for me to strip out and write down. Please bear with me a little longer.)

The Step One: I’ve devised a little system to keep record of the various “waves” of anxiety that I experience. I’m an analytical type of gal. Fingers crossed we can make sense of it.

Play Golf

Someone gave a presentation on golf at a work event recently and I loved every second of it. We talked swings, we talked courses, we talked luck, we talked calculations. There’s always been this threat of mathematics to the people of my skill level (read: novice), but very rarely has anyone ever actually offered to explain them. I keep meaning to become a better (read: just flat out ‘a’) golfer, because I feel like it’s an affront to my Scottish heritage to not learn and also because I’m really looking forward to the day when I absolutely crush an old white guy out on the course. Let’s call it The Old Course, shall we? According to the presentation, golf is mostly mental and luckily so am I.

The Step One: North Carolina has some great golf courses, so I’m on the hunt for one of the lesser great ones. Preferably one in possession of a driving range. Also going to research all the names of the clubs. A driver is definitely a thing.


Please do come back around from time to time. I’m trying my best to get both of us back to this space more often in the coming months.

Until then, I’ll be off in search of some Tales.

Queen City Caffeine Crawl [@CharlotteNC]

I’ve done it before and I’m doing it again – this time on the opposite side of the Atlantic, and this time with a Queen City caffeine theme.

Charlotte, North Carolina has been home for over 2 years now. Since the day I arrived, I’ve been pretty bent on finding the best coffee this place has to offer. Come to think of it, that’s one of my top missions anywhere I go. It’s a close jostle with bookstores. But before going any further with this, let’s get something out of the way. Writer, you ask, is Charlotte known for its coffee? Reader, I say, no it is not! This search has been a difficult one but are they a-changing or what, these times?

I’ve been noticing a slow but sure growth of new places to stop for a cup of coffee in the Queen City. I love the idea of a ridiculous crawl and now felt like as good a time as any to launch the next installment. Café Cake Crawl wasn’t going to work here, so I had to scrap visions of a part two. Of the many coffee places I started to peg as potential stops while researching, none too many featured café cake options. If anything, planning for this yielded a clear North Carolinian distinction between coffee shops and bakeries. Down here those two just don’t mix (are you having that??) and Café Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread Crawl didn’t have the same ring to it.

Let’s get going with this quest for the best caffeination station. The rules: No chains (but local multi-locationers accepted). No additives to the coffee (I drink it black anyways and yes, my teeth do hate me). No to-go cups because I’m not that busy of a woman – substitute in some worry over a personal problem where if it’s served in a mug I will try to drink it before it’s cooled enough and therefore will ruin my t-buds and thus and thenceforth this crawl. Smallest size only, for fear of cardiac arrest (remember this one for later). And last but not least, must sit down to absorb the vibes (as the kids say) for at least 30 minutes in each individual location.

Understood? All aboard? Great. Now, prepare your heads for this second-hand rush.


Trade and Lore

I purposefully chose to kick off with Trade and Lore because the name and photos from Google Maps were extremely intimidating to me. It seemed like the type of place that looks at you like you have 14 heads and they’re so bored of seeing people with 14 heads so kindly stop breathing their air and go sit in the corner uncomfortably until your coffee is ready, but not announced, so it’s actually been sitting at the counter for a few minutes and was mistakenly picked up then put back down by two other customers before you apprehensively stood up and went to go get it. You know what I’m talking about? Good, because Trade and Lore is nothing like that type of place.

Trade and Lore is upstairs above a NoDa Brewery, Salud, and the space feels exactly like that. It actually went so far as to remind me of some of my favorite spots in New York City. Except instead of astral ambient electro synth, they were playing some tracks in the stride of ‘All Because of You’ by Rise Against. My new preferred way to kick off 8am. The entrance was a little tricky to find so I ended up walking around the block (a fault entirely of my own, I can confirm that there was in fact signage) before climbing to the top of some cool looking stairs that led into a cool looking second floor which I guess I’d describe as a really, really cool looking den? When I thought the thought that I was glad it felt hidden and protected and wasn’t a more obvious in-your-face glass storefront, I realized that I was becoming too annoying for my own good.

I give this coffee a rage against that espresso machine out of 10.

Basal Coffee

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I’m obsessed with the floors here. Also pretty much everything else about here. Confession: never knew this place existed. Never knew it was even about to exist, but allow me to introduce you to yet another fault entirely and all the way of my own. Basal Coffee opened back in March of this year, further emphasizing my point that the Queen City coffee scene is positively blooming (that… are you having that??). The biggest difference I noticed was that where other spots have waited until 100% to open their doors to the community, Basal opened with the minimalist necessities and so many exciting growth plans to share with their customers. I know this because the owner happened to be behind the counter while I was there and gave me a very passionate summary of what’s to come (Block parties! Coffee block parties! Do you hear the people sing?). It’s really cool that our community is going to get to go through this journey alongside the employees and owners of Basal. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn something about opening a place like this of my own some day (Hopes? Dreams? Is that you? How are the children?).

My Colombia pour over (pourover? pour-over? Pour Over? poor over!) was a presentation and a half. Coffee is taken seriously here. Not pretentious seriously, but you can tell that they love it like one of the family. People were coming in all morning describing the tastes and styles that they were looking for and the guys behind the bar weren’t disappointing. I must find out exactly what type of Colombian coffee this was because it was delicious.

I give this coffee a best pour over I’ve ever had in my quarter century of a life no seriously I’m equal parts floored and amazed and also stunned but mostly thankful out of 10.

Not Just Coffee

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Quite a few of my young millennial friends have social-media’d about this place and a new Charlotte city limits location seems to appear every other month so I figured it was time for me to jump on in. The Not Just Coffee spot in Atherton Mill was fine. It wasn’t exactly my scene, if I’m being entirely honest. It is literally situated in the middle open space corridor of a modernized mill. My personal feeling is that a little more greenery could have enhanced the space to feel less pop-up industrial but I think that might actually be what they’re going for here?

Unfortunately my no to-go cups rule was broken at NJC but it didn’t seem like they had any of the capabilities to deal with dishes so I get it. It also didn’t seem like anyone was coming here for that? Of the short time I spent sitting and watching, most of the people cycling through were intentionally picking up something to leave with or they were bringing in their lunches and getting a cup of coffee to go with it, then back out and on with their lives. Given its growth, Not Just Coffee is clearly great for the citizens of Charlotte, but it’s just not the coffee for Cass.

I give this coffee a paper cups for paper people out of 10.

Queen City Grounds

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Absolutely without a doubt couldn’t leave Queen City Grounds off the crawl, could I? Again, I judged by Google Maps images. I searched coffee, this place popped up, and I audibly groaned because I wanted to stay out of Uptown and, to be honest, it didn’t look super inviting from the photos. Let me say, completely different impression when I walked through the doors. Energy levels were great for an early afternoon. People were sitting and chatting or working away on laptops. Hanging plants! Off of an open loft area! Now we’re talking, this was a vibe.

On the way here I had to make a stop for french fries as a last-ditch effort to build up a liner because at this point the caffeine on the empty stomach was really starting to buzz directly to the tips of all ten fingers. I know, I’m dumb, I know. We’ll speak about that later. I went for a Guatemalan drip brew by the name of Finca Los Chorros. No idea what that means but it was really good. At this point I was really devolving into preserving the integrity of the crawl and not so much focusing on enjoying what I was drinking. When I ordered, the barista behind the counter was super energetic and friendly which made a lot of sense for someone working in a roastery surrounded by coffee shakes, rattles, and rolls all day. A few short minutes into sipping on this, the foot tapping had begun.

I give this coffee an I imagine this is what lightly smoldered firewood tastes like and I’m super into it apparently? out of 10.

Central Coffee Company

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My neighborhood favorite. Had to add Central Coffee Company even though it’s not a new find like the others on this crawl, mostly because I wanted it as a control group. Really didn’t need it, but wanted it. By the time I got here, it began to feel as if all of the coffee in my system had made itself a body-sized reservoir in between the epidermis and hypodermis layers of my skin. A jitter that hadn’t quite taken over my body yet but was definitely enough to make me feel extremely… weird. Ever feel like that? No? Huh.

I love coming to Central in South End first thing in the morning because it’s extremely well-positioned for natural sunlight in the early AM. I bring my tree encyclopedia to veg out for a bit with a to-here, then pick up a to-go for the trek (read: barely half-mile stroll) home to start the rest of my day. Central also has the best weekend hours of any coffee place in Charlotte. Fact. On this trip I tried a Papua New Guinea Kange brew, but there is one particular light roast that I’ve had here a handful of times and it’s the best light roast I’ve ever experienced and it kills me that I don’t know what it is. The flavor profile (if that is its real name) reminds me of crispy birch bark with a hint of toasted marshmallows (don’t ask). I’ll never be able to make it at home though because, fun fact alert, I am terribly horrible at making coffee myself. Seriously. Can’t work out the “mathematics” of it. And people have tried to help. Save yourselves.

I give this coffee a central to my mental and emotional comfort company out of 10.

Undercurrent Coffee

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When I was living in the Plaza Midwood area, I used to drive by this place and anxiously await the day when the “Coming Soon!” signs would be replaced by “Now Open!” signs. Undercurrent Coffee reminds me of exactly what it is: a house that was converted into a coffee shop. It’s refreshing to be in a place that offers multiple brew styles to their customers sans pretension and judgement. I don’t know where it is that hurt me to expect that type of vibe from every coffee place I go into now, but I’m delighted that the Queen City has wrecking-balled that into a very friendly and welcoming dust of nothing.

The ladies and man behind the counter here are phenomenal. They honestly make the place. They make it feel like Undercurrent actually wants you to learn how to appreciate coffee. It doesn’t expect you to walk in the door as a master roaster with a world class palate. They’ll help you figure out what you want (they quite literally offer classes) and “I think I like things that are light and woodsy and kind of taste like caramel” was sufficient for them to make a recommendation and for all of us to move on with our day. Related to vibes, the man and woman sitting next to me were practicing tarot while I worked on writing this – making me feel right at witchy home. The playlist was set to a roll of the “rock and” persuasion but at one point the Kate Bush classic “Wuthering Heights” came on… I just about internally strangled myself to prevent a cry laughing scene. Do yourself all the favors and watch that music video.

I give this coffee a HEATHCLIFF out of 10.


As with the cake crawl… I did not feel great at the end of this! Shocking!

In fact, I sincerely discourage anyone from trying this if you’re not extremely in touch with your caffeine intake limits. Seriously, for health and safety and well-being purposes do not do this. On a normal day I usually drink anywhere from 2 to 4 disturbingly large coffees so I figured I could handle 6 small ones but I was duped, my friends! Firstly because hardly anyone served me in sizes that I would describe as anything other than full. Out went the “small only” rule.

Secondly because it was a lot of caffeine in not a lot of time. This whole crawl took me around seven hours to complete. When I reached the last few stops, I was able to recognize the signs that enough was enough. In fact, I even went so far as to fear caffeine overdose because I’m the Queen of Internet Diagnoses. In all seriousness, the mild chest pain and twitchy shoulders insisted that I not finish the last few sips of some cups. I love coffee, I do, but I love it because I enjoy it. At the end of the day, this started becoming very not enjoyable.

I’m an idiot, I know, but as Eddie Vedder once said, I’m still alive.

3 years to 50!?

I’ve had many words to say about inconsequential things, and inconsequential words to say about many things. Somehow that got us to 50 complete packages of things published on this here internet space we call Tales of Cass.

Three years! Fifty posts! I am equal parts impressed and disappointed in that figure.

A few weeks ago I stumbled back onto my landing page and started looking through the old drafts of some of the things I’ve saved to write over the years. I’ll be honest, it started making me pretty upset. I wish I could say in the past few weeks or even months but, in all honesty, in the past year (and then some) I’ve had such a stretch of lacking the desire to write anything at all – on and off this space.

If my personal journals ever make it into a museum exhibit, this time period will come to be known as The Barren. Correspondences with faraway friends via letters and emails, the kind that kept my fingers nice and toasty warmed up, have slowly dropped off. Scribbles of notes with ideas and words and strings of sentences sit in a notebook, unacted upon.

I remember the exact day that I started this site, which says a lot because I remember approximately nothing in my life (poor nutrition and homeostatic dehydration will do that to you, kids). It was while sitting on the bed of my tiny little dungeon (read: basement) dorm in Cambridge, convinced that I wasn’t going to make any friends during my study abroad experience (flash forward and I’ve now seen two of those friends get married) so I needed something else to keep myself occupied. It was a crazy, creative, wonderful summer for me because it was the first time I got to immerse myself entirely in the things that I loved – two whole months of reading and writing.

It made, and still makes, me so happy to post something here. To think of an idea and jot down a ton of random notes about what I envision I’ll be able to put together. Then to go out and do it so that I can sit down and write it.

When it comes easily, that’s when I know I’m onto something that I really truly enjoy – not just in the moment but in the now years later when I scan back through these pages on particularly bad days. I used to find any excuse to get my words out here, to make myself laugh and grow and do something a little outside my comfort zone. Now I find myself using Tales of Cass more often than not for the memorabilia – to look back on all of the cool things that I’ve done and to remind me of where my heart places lie.

I’m trying my hardest to get back to those words that we all know are in here somewhere.

In the meantime, and as a celebration of these three wild years, I wanted to do what I do best and look back on some of my top three categorized Casstastrophes. Obviously I can’t go without also giving you some slightly new content so “never-before-read” Editor’s Notes have also been added for every link, from me to me to you. Enjoy.


Top 3 Photos

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Top 3 Lists

Learn a Book, Every Annual
2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Pembroke Library

Probably the most consistent thing about this place. Technically this is cheating, you may say, these are four individual posts. But I say I do what I want. There will be a record kept of the books that I read regardless and I enjoy writing these annual challenges so much because they keep me on my toes. My past few years have gone so horribly off-course from the intended end results that even my intense internalized competitiveness couldn’t help drag them back, but here we are. I try really hard to write these as funny, punny, and informative. I’m also obsessive over page counts, which is why they’re always included. Engage me, I dare you.

A List of Cooking Tips For a Novice Like Me

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I am such a bad cook. And also still reeling from the fact that I baked bread once. As in, edible food bread. Like, bread that people actually ate. Shockingly enough, I actually still remember some of these tips that I was taught. I’ve also come to enjoy getting a little experimental in the kitchen every now and then. As long as the every includes a bottle of red wine.

23 Thoughts On Turning 23

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The OG of yet another annual series. 23 Thoughts is particularly fond to me because it essentially wrote itself in my head while I was driving down a well-worn street in my hometown, one I’ve driven at least 7,000 times. It was the holidays and I was home for indefinitely after just having finished my undergraduate education. Apparently I was in a reflective mood and a bunch of the Thoughts started begging for attention so I wrote them into a draft while waiting in line at Starbucks. Over the next month or so it grew into what it is. I’m either going to die young or we’re all going to be stuck living through this hellscape of wondering what gimmicks I can come up with until I’m 87.

Top 3 Written

Real Moments: “To Everything Its Proper Time And Place And Turn.”

I don’t really talk on why I do these but I do them. This one was a storm. I spent weeks barely sleeping on the floor of my college dorm room, drinking more apple cider than any human rightfully should, and playing hours upon hours of Gilmore Girls episodes because I was too afraid of quiet. Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls’ was the first thing to make me laugh again. A group of guys who asked to pair with me for a semester-long class project were the second. None of them were actually friends with me, but they’ll never know how much I needed them to be exactly them at that point in time. I had a duality to play. Go to class, finish your degree. Stay home, think of it all. Eventually this one wrote itself too.

Books I Brought Abroad

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Another one with strong associations to the floor. My room in Ireland had a heater settled at the wallspace between the bottom of the window and the top of the baseboards. When I was reading or writing I’d either sit in the chair at my little desk right next to it or on the floor with my body twisted and tucked to make the heat hit as many places as possible (my best was full back plus a thigh and a half). As a kid I used to lay on the floor next to the heater to read as well so if there’s two things we all take away about me today it’s warmth and floors. This was the first supplemental books posts I made (beyond Learn A Book), and it started the idea of bibliove.

To England, With Love: A Send-Off to Summer

Have I mentioned how important this experience was to me, yet? Cool, cool, just checking. To this day I am fascinated by the concept of a blue door. I don’t recall ever seeing them before this experience but there was something so soul-catching about the aesthetic of them. I learned a great many things during this experience and I really enjoyed finding a way to write the important ones out to share. It was my own little thank you to every person, place, and thing that was a part of it all.

Top 3 Voyages

Kancamagus Highway

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I believe I did this the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving one year. I really didn’t want to spend time around the house and for some reason this place that we used to visit when I was a kid just kept tugging at the back of my mind. Roadtrips are a favorite activity for me. I’ll find any excuse to drive around for a while. My family asked why and I lied and told them I was going to visit a friend because if I just said I wanted to take a drive they would have made it a big deal and ruined it for me (sorry, family!). I just missed the woods and the mountains and the feeling of Autumn. Boston and Newport weren’t delivering at the time. This was a day of getting comfortable with the quiet again.

Into Twilight

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It shocks me sometimes when people who really know me don’t realize how much I love Vampire lore. The Twilight Series meant a lot to me as a young teen, and it still means a lot to me today (I’ll hold my dissertation for another time but if you’d like to engage on this one too then you know how to find me). My best friend moved to the Pacific Northwest and during my first visit we took a roadtrip out to see the magical mystical realistical Forks, WA! It has since become our favorite annual excursion. If you’ve never been to the Olympic Peninsula you are missing out on some serious natural vigor. This trip was also my first time seeing the Pacific ocean.

Skibbereen & Baltimore

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This was a great day. It was brisk and Irish as all hell. I spent the morning wandering around on my own and appreciating the small town that is Skibbereen before Tony joined me and we took the tour a little farther out to the town of Baltimore. I don’t think I really have anything fresh and new to say that I didn’t already write into this – except for the fact that thanks to Tony, I am fully intending a return to the Emerald Isle so I can roadtrip the heck out of the Wild Atlantic Way. Windows down, old folk streaming through on the radio, winding my way around the ocean.

Top 3 To Make Me Laugh

Café Cake Crawl

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This was one of the funniest days I have ever spent with myself. Also one of the most physically grueling. Trying to explain to a bunch of Irish people that I was going to spend an entire day in town eating a ridiculous amount of cake… remembering their reactions to how I was choosing to spend my Saturday “off” and just in general the fact that this was an idea that I had… it still makes me laugh. I abused my stomach so much for this. Disturbing amounts of sugar layered on top with disturbing amounts of caffeine to make room for more sugar and thus more caffeine… what a day! I will surely do more ridiculous crawls like this in my lifetime. Little Birdie says stay tuned.

Scotland’s National Book Town

Hands down the best Voyage I have ever had. I wanted to save it for this category though because it was truly like some kind of TV special – a young girl trekking her way through the homeland lowland in pursuit of genuinely nothing at all. The entire trip was absolutely wild. I want to just quickly emphasize that I honestly truly laughed out loud to myself for three days straight on this trip. I did nothing but sleep and read and wander and laugh. I have a feeling this was a gift from the Universe to settle me and prepare me and bid me an apology right before it tore my world right into tiny shredded little pieces of heartache.

£5 Worth of Local Drinking Tips

this thing

Once again, I remember sitting on my bed in my little tiny dungeon (again, read: basement) dorm room in Cambridge (one more time for the people in the back), writing this post and cracking myself up. It was the first thing I was really putting out there on Tales of Cass and the jokes they were a-rolling! I doubt any of those jokes came through to anyone else reading it, but alas. I maintain that I am the funniest person I have ever known. No one can make me laugh like I can make me laugh, and that’s pretty special.


Looking back on all of this, what has stuck with me the most about this space is the people who have come along with it. I went through a ton of failed blog creations before Tales finally took hold, mostly because I was worried that I didn’t have anything to say to anyone. Now you’ve all shown me, friends and strangers alike, that I do. Months will go by with no content and yet you still reach out to send a message and start a dialogue, share your thoughts on what I wrote, or send support that makes me that much more encouraged to keep doing what I’m doing.

Tales of Cass was always first and foremost for me, but it continues from such a deep and heartfelt appreciation of the people around me that want to be a part of it too. No one on this planet, least of all me, can possibly comprehend what it means to me to share this space with others who actually want it. Thank you, thank you, thank you – if only that were enough.

Real Moments: Three Dreams

Editor’s Note: A significant gap of time exists between the day when this was intended to be published and the day that it actually was. Other family events were occurring around the intended date and it didn’t feel quite right for me to put this out there into the world. Months and months and months have gone by since, and here it is. Mostly for me, but a little for you. Entirely and always for him.


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“When I was a boy, after my mother died, I always tried hard to hold her in my mind as I was falling asleep so maybe I’d dream of her, only I never did. Or, rather, I dreamed of her constantly, only as absence, not presence: a breeze blowing through a just-vacated house, her handwriting on a notepad, the smell of her perfume, streets in strange lost towns where I knew she’d been walking only a moment before but had just vanished, a shadow moving away against a sunstruck wall.” – The Goldfinch

730 days without you, at the date. An eerie parallel to your age.

Dreaming of those who’ve left us behind feels very Shelleyesque, in a way. In dreams you never get the full picture of them all at once, like you do in life. Pieces get revealed bit by bit and some days I’m not sure which is which. Three already holds so much meaning for us. The number on the back of your jersey. My favorite for that very reason.

Three years since you left me. Three dreams where I got you back.


In the first, it was you and I in your car.

We were driving around the Island like we used to on any ordinary Saturday morning. You had that baggy fleece of yours zipped all the way up, the collar peeked out away from your neck. I can’t be sure if the weather was actually cold. Your calloused hands held on just barely to both sides of the steering wheel. A light grip. Every turn, I could hear the sound of your skin grating against it as you let the wheel correct itself. A beige, sweat-stained baseball cap rested comfortably on top of your head, little wisps of what remained of your dark hair combed neatly on either side. My left leg was crooked at the knee, tucked up under me in that comfortable way it always was when we drove together, resting against the middle console. The fabric of the seat was soft and warm from a sun I don’t think was actually shining. I can still feel that fabric, smell the pieces of bubble gum you kept in the cup holder, see the pill bottle full of quarters and the old green and metal tool you kept around for your hand cramps.

The skies were gray; there was a hurricane coming, but we weren’t particularly bothered. We were listening to music on the radio and looking for something, trying to find it before we had to turn home, before the storm came. I don’t remember what we were looking for. I sang along with the radio like I always did. Never self conscious. Just you and I in the car. Just you and I, like always. My most comfortable place on earth. We didn’t talk much, but I remember we were speaking words at one point when we were in a parking lot, that parking lot we’ve been to a thousand times. We discussed looking for what we were looking for, decided to go home without it, not really that disappointed. There was a feeling, a sense in the car that neither of us acknowledged. We were together. We felt safe together, we were always safe together. But the clouds made us worried for one another, each secretly wanting to turn home and thinking it was a good idea, if only for the safety of the other.

I woke grasping at the memory, scared and shocked and happy to finally see you again; the first time I got to see you again since you left.


In the second, you were a ghost.

Only Mom and I could see you, only we knew that you were there. It was a secret, she told me before you arrived. It was just for the three of us to know. We were up north somewhere, in New Hampshire I think. A friend’s dad had found me a job. It was something great and important, just like you had always wanted for me. It came with a house big enough for the whole family to come up and visit. It was near the forest. The air smelled crisp, the way you liked it. It felt like places we had all visited as a family before, those weekends away to our makeshift highlands. Everyone came to move me in. Aunts, uncles, cousins. They walked from room to room, commenting undecipherable dream comments. Undecipherable dream me nodded along to them, but only cared for seeing you. At one point Mom and I were on a loft, away from everyone else, standing there with you, the ghost you. You weren’t able to speak to us, but you could smile. You never stopped smiling. That was more than enough. I had you there, you were there. Everyone else had to leave and go back home, they’d come back to visit some time, but they’d leave. Mom told me that you were going to stay there with me, in that house near the forest. My secret, our secret. You would always stay. I’d have you back. But this time you were something different. And this time I knew.

I woke to confusion, displacement, mumbling words of comfort to ease myself back to sleep, to not think about it. The foreignness. Grasping to remember only the parts that meant you were there again.


In the third, it was terrible.

We, the family, had all taken a trip somewhere. There were trains, a lot of trains. I think we were in Massachusetts somehow, but it was different. Industrialized. There was a large station with an upstairs and a downstairs. Trains coming in and going out. A lot of different, compartmentalized terminals. We, the family, were there with you in the station, but it didn’t feel like we were there for only seeing you. It was all together. We were all there intentionally, together. There was some different purpose for why. Time went on with whatever we were doing together but then in the end we, the family, had to leave. Not you, the rest of us. You didn’t come. Turn by turn, everyone else took their time to bid you goodbye. It passed quickly. They all disappeared up the escalators, upstairs, to the platform where our train back home was set to arrive. One by one, they all disappeared up, away. Smiling and laughing. Happy to have spent the time together. We, you and I, were left. I knew. As soon as it was the two of us left there on that platform, I knew. No one knew anything before. Not even me. There was nothing to know, there was no feeling of something to know. It wasn’t until right then, that exact moment, just you and I together on that platform, me the last one left of we, the family.

I asked you to come with us. I was confused why everyone else was saying goodbye. The confusion hadn’t been there moments ago. It was sudden. We were all together, we were all going home. It was a realization, right then to me, that you weren’t. I asked you why you weren’t coming. I started to cry like I used to when I was little and someone made you leave me. Kindergarten. Vacations. Work. College. You said something to me, and oh how I wish I remembered what it was. It wasn’t many words. I think you were crying too. You wanted to come, but you knew that you couldn’t. I felt that I didn’t want to make you explain it to me, and I knew that you didn’t want to. Your eyes were different. They weren’t your eyes. They were filled with something I didn’t know, something beyond. I hadn’t noticed until just then. Maybe I hadn’t looked. Maybe the whole time it was there.

We stood there together a few moments longer, close enough for an awareness of your body, your physicality, to come through to me. I hadn’t felt that in so long. It felt so present. You felt so present. We were so close. We were there together and not like the other times, this time more. We were present. Knowing. A noise sounded from upstairs, calling for passengers to prepare for the arrival of the train. It was time for me to join we, the rest of the family. You couldn’t come. It ached you that you couldn’t come but it ached me just as bad. We knew we had no choice, almost as though we knew that I would either leave up the stairs or I would awaken. Either way, we would part. We finally embraced and I rushed away, joining the family upstairs, slinging an arm around my younger cousins as we boarded together for home, feeling something I didn’t understand how to feel, a whisper of having you back, this time more.

This one was the worst. This one felt just like the very last one. The one where I was the last one. The last one brought home to you. The last one left begging in my head at your bedside for you not to go, feeling equally like the traitor and the betrayed, while everyone else spoke words of encouragement and love. I held tightly to your hand and prayed selfishly to myself words I knew you could hear, words I knew you so desperately wanted to obey, words of pleading for you not to leave me.

I woke to the dark. This one there was no happiness at seeing you again, no confusion at your state of existence. This one I woke to our broken hearts, yours and mine.


I know that eventually you’ll come back to me again, in another land of my dreams. If soon to be once more, then all I ask is that next time you bring me your laugh.