The Final Countdown and/or Post


As followers of my work here know, I try to avoid writing anything remotely personal so that I can retain an aura of mystery and/or bacon around my “brand.” I’m going to make a slight exception to that here since, well, it’s the end of a Mr. Toad-esque 4-year wild ride.

So when my Dear Edtrix and I started up this thing in 2012, both of us were “between jobs,” and by complete happenstance realized we both liked writing (and were pretty damn decent at it too), and thought, you know what, let’s try this group blog thing all the kids are talking about. Maybe it would take off and we could make some sort of income (however measly) off of it, maybe no one except our respective family members and cyber-stalkers would read it, and maybe, in my dream scenario, it would become a huge internet sensation, we’d go on speaking tours and radio shows, I’d start dating a conceptual artist who would convince me everyone else was holding me back, and I’d change my name to something cool like “Chet Manly,” go solo, and get my own reality show.

What ended up happening was both all and none of the above, which makes sense if you don’t think about it (words to live by, people). To my surprise a lot of people actually read our stuff. Not just friends and family I’d bullied into reading it, but random people I’d bump into at parties who know one of the writers (mostly Juliet) or the type of friends you have on Facebook that you completely lost touch with (belated HBD to you!). Not that I was inundated with sweet, glorious praise, but it was definitely more people than I expected, and frankly, flattering since I envisioned our audience to be basically equivalent to a “tree falling in the forest with half a dozen burly lumberjacks around.” So for all who clicked on any of mine or other authors’ articles, thanks! Especially if you read through some of my early stuff when my dear edtrix tried to edit my five-page tomes to a more readable two-page blog post.

So what did I learn on my trip to TWR summer camp? I learned that I like to mix absurdism and nerdism into humor, and can write a decent dialog thanks to the voices in my head (shut it, Carl). I also learned that writing is, um, hard. When you first start out you have all these ideas built up over the years, and then once you churn them out you need to find new inspiration in new places and the occasional dark alley. Especially when you’re no longer between jobs and have to do actual adult-type work instead of think of topics for haikus. Most importantly though, I learned how to write in a style I like. I found my writing “voice,” and even wrote a not-so-short-story in said voice. Oh, I also learned the true meaning of Christmas, but that was unrelated to my writing. Just wanted you all to know.

So enough navel-gazing. As my dad used to never say, “it’s been real, homies.” Thanks for reading, thanks for the comments, likes, and shares, and thanks in advance for buying me a drink to celebrate our blog-tirement.




I feel as though I’ve written so much already about what working on The Wheelhouse Review has meant to me. It changed my life, putting me on a different career trajectory, forging deeper friendships, forming new ones. It gave me the space to experiment and find my voice.

It was just supposed to be something to do while looking for a job.

It has meant a lot to me to know that people have read my work and not only enjoyed it, but found that it resonated with them. That’s a huge gift, to know that someone thinks you are saying something worth hearing/reading. To every person who has told me that–thank you. It kept me going when I wasn’t sure if I should keep bothering.

It’s meant a lot to collaborate with fantastic writers and wonderful people. I knew Ryan from grad school and apart from making jokes about Arrested Development, we weren’t that close. That’s changed–he’s now like a brother to me, one of my all-time favorite people. His laid-back work style sometimes drove me crazy, but it also softened my edges, because I never, ever wanted to be a bitch to him. Working with Ryan has made me a better writer, but also a better person. And I would never have met Stephanie had we not been introduced by a mutual friend because we are both writers. A few weeks ago, I found myself attending the Mockingbird Conference in New York to hear Stephanie speak.The last time I had attended was four years ago and I was in the process of launching TWR. I could never have imagined then that I’d plan a whole trip to New York around seeing this person–who I hadn’t known would become a dear friend. I could never have imagined the way that she’d also soften my edges (politically) and how knowing and loving her has made me a more loving person. Thank you both. I treasure your friendship.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t amazing to write with Sarah or Alison or collaborate with Faith or Amanda. It’s just that I knew those women beforehand. Ryan and Stephanie were beautiful, wonderful, surprises.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for these past four years. You’ve helped change my life.

Dear Abby is Off Today: Final Rapid Fire Edition

Dear Abby Final(Editor’s Note: This post is part of a semi-regular series in which Ryan takes an actual letter written to “Dear Abby” and answers it himself. For further background see the introductory post here, or maybe also here.)

Well Ms. Dear Abby, you’ve been a good sport and worthy adversary over the past four  years since I made my TWR debut by dropping advice bombs with more wisdom than Miss Cleo reading “Chicken Soup for the Soul” with a Magic 8-Ball in hand. So I can think of no better way to sign off TWR than one last “Dear Abby is Off” post.

Letter #1, dated April 26, 2016:

DEAR ABBY: For the last five months I have been talking to a guy I met via a dating app. We live a few states apart and have yet to meet in person, but we communicate regularly.

With my tax refund this year, I’d like to do something for me. He suggested that I visit him. I don’t get any red flags from him, and I’m sure I’d be 100 percent safe while I’m there. However, I’m anxious about taking a trip by myself to visit a guy I’ve developed a massive crush on. I have thought about offering to pay his way here instead, or simply not going at all. I asked my friends and family for their opinions. Some of them think I should go, while others say I should pay his way here. I need advice from an outsider’s perspective. — CONFUSED AND CRUSHING

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mid-thirtysmth or We’ve Only Just Begun

I guess in many ways, it’s fitting that the last week of “regular” posting on The Wheelhouse Review coincides with the first week at a new job. In many ways it feels like I hit pause on my life in January 2012 and am just now picking up where I left off. Except that I’m four years older and wiser and finally learned how best to do my curly hair.

It’s also fitting that I’m leaving one season and starting another as I leave my early 30s and fully dive into my mid-30s. I still maintain that this is a wonderful and amazing decade, that it’s so much better than my 20s. So for my final piece, here’s what I learned from the first half of my fourth decade.

There’s No Dream Anything


Last week someone asked me if my new job was my “dream job.” I replied that I was excited and honored to have the opportunity, but that I didn’t believe in “dream jobs” anymore. There will invariably come a moment when the honeymoon is over and daily routine sets in and there’s nothing dreamy about it. Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but if you live long enough, like Lelaina Pierce, you realize that reality totally bites. And that’s ok! It doesn’t mean something is wrong or not a good fit or that you messed up. In a way, this biting reality is a gift–it keeps you from diving too deep into just one thing when there are so many other great things to experience in this life.

Choose Your Own Narrative

Courtesy of Debs (

Courtesy of Debs (

No one would ever guess that I spent 19 months out of work once. That I cleaned offices and babies’ bottoms to make money. That in my most recent job I often had to do laundry and take out the trash. Why would they?  I don’t highlight those things on my resume.

And yet, in reality, it’s those experiences that make me worth hiring. They taught me how to be resilient, how to find value outside my work, the satisfaction of working with my hands (and the respect I have for people who do “dirty” jobs), and mostly, how to be grateful. I have a higher tolerance for BSwork (and a lower tolerance for abuse or BS).

Obviously, I know how to spin the negative–I really don’t highlight certain things on my resume. But I also have learned that we choose the narrative of our lives and that affects how we live it. Four years ago, I had to choose between feeling miserable and sorry for myself when I was out of work, or try to make the best of a negative situation (and yes, I understand that I’m privileged that those 19 months out of work were just a brief period of rest in an otherwise stellar career). Choosing the “red pill” changed my life. It helped me to see the world in a way that I would have missed if I had chosen to wallow. In fact, seeing the world that way changed me for the better.

You’ve Got One Life-Show Up For It

Courtesy Heidi Forbs Oste (

Courtesy Heidi Forbs Oste (

I get it, YGOLSUFI is not as catchy as YOLO. Bu I have found that showing up for each day and being present to them is the way toward contentment. We’ve all noticed that the day flies by when we’re busy and occupied, but a lot of that busyness is just spinning wheels. Showing up every day to what’s in front of you, paying attention to it, engaging with it, and living your life keeps you grounded. It also helps you find beauty and joy in places you might not otherwise have looked. This is truest when life is difficult and there is suffering–ignoring or denying pain or hardship makes things worse. Showing up doesn’t mean putting on a brave face and pretending away the pain. Sometimes it means getting angry or crying your eyes out. Sometimes it means acknowledging the crap and looking for the places where joy and hope and love are hiding. Show up to your life, be present. You don’t know what you might find there.


Courtesy Shawn Campbell (

Courtesy Shawn Campbell (

It was true four years ago, it’s true now: moisturizer is your friend. I know this from personal experience: I will turn 35 in five weeks and I am constantly mistaken for a 25 year old (younger, if I don’t wear make up) and I am currently debating with myself whether I should wear my glasses so that I appear closer to my age. You want to crush your 30s (and hopefully beyond)? Get some eye cream, use it twice a day (dotting it under your eye and along the corners with your ring fingers), get some moisturizer, use it twice a day (circular, upward motions–and don’t forget your neck).

Nothing Lasts Forever…and That’s a Good Thing

Courtesy David Mao and

Courtesy David Mao and

The past four years of weekly writing have been life-changing. I’ve loved most of every minute of it (there were a lot of craptastic minutes though). But one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that life is broken up into seasons and that’s a good thing. Spring and summer are my favorite seasons–I would love for it to stay like this forever. And yet when fall comes around with its changing leaves and sweater weather, and winter shows up with it’s coziness and slower pace, I’m grateful for them too. Seasons change, we change, everything changes. But that means new graces, new mercies, new hope every morning.

Thank you for sharing this season of my life with me.