About Juliet Vedral

Juliet is The Wheelhouse Review’s Founder and Executive Editor. She is also the founder and editor of Perissos, a devotional blog. Juliet is also a regular contributor to Sojourners and The Body Politic. But if you don’t have a long attention span, just follow her on Twitter.

The Final Countdown and/or Post

Ryan

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.

Kisses,

-R

Juliet

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.

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

poster-big

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 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/littledebbie11/)

Courtesy of Debs (https://www.flickr.com/photos/littledebbie11/)

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 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/forbesoste/)

Courtesy Heidi Forbs Oste (https://www.flickr.com/photos/forbesoste/)

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.

Moisturize

Courtesy Shawn Campbell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/thecampbells/)

Courtesy Shawn Campbell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/thecampbells/)

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 unsplash.com

Courtesy David Mao and unsplash.com

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.

The Americans on THE AMERICANS

Disclaimer: Neither Ryan nor Juliet have watched the latest episode of The Americans. But that’s great for you, because that means there aren’t any spoilers here…

Juliet

Hey Ryan!

The_AmericansSo we’re now four episodes into the fourth season of The Americans. The Americans is a show set in early 1980s Falls Church, VA outside of Washington, DC. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are a seemingly normal–boring, even–middle class couple. They run a travel agency in Dupont Circle while raising two children, Paige and Henry. But they are anything but normal–Elizabeth, aka Nadezdha and Philip, aka Mischa–are really Soviet “illegals” posing as Americans, sent to gather intelligence for the Motherland.

One theme in particular that stands out to me is faith, especially the different altars at which Elizabeth/Nadezhda and Paige worship. When we first meet Elizabeth, her unquestioning loyalty to the Motherland is in stark contrast to Philip/Mischa’s ambivalence. Elizabeth is a fundamentalist–she will do anything, kill anyone, sacrifice everything for the “Centre” and their cause. Philip is a moderate skeptic–it seems that in the back of his mind there is always the thought that he can just leave. It’s a thread that is pulled through all three seasons.

On the other hand, Paige is fully American. And a born-again Christian. Paige puts her faith in action for various social justice causes, including nuclear non-proliferation. We start to see, especially at the end of Season Three, where her loyalty truly lies.

Both perspectives can be dangerous: Elizabeth will literally kill for her cause, while Paige is willing to risk her family’s safety and freedom. But is it better to run hot like Elizabeth and Paige? Or to be moderate, like Philip?

Ryan

Man, I can’t believe how late I am to the game with this show. I remember when it first came out all the ads made it seem mysterious–sort of like Gabbo–and I didn’t know what it was about but it was called The Americans, and if there’s one thing like it’s America, hence, if there are many things I like it’s Americans. Then I watched the show and the “Americans” were Ruskies! Damn you FX for making a historic villain sympathetic protagonists. Anyway, I quit the show until a few months ago when I kept hearing how awesome it was, binge-watched the whole series in two weeks, and am now hooked like Henry on his video games.

I’ll get to your question of whether it’s better to run hot–e.g. Operation Hot Mother–like Elizabeth or tepid like Philip, but first I want to list my (few) gripes with the show and see if you agree. Gripe #1 is Martha. Actually gripe #1-10 is Martha. I consider myself pretty good at suspending disbelief when I watch TV or a movie. Hell, I’m pretty good at suspending disbelief in real life. Don’t believe me? Well then you have a lot to learn about suspending disbelief, mister. But the whole Martha thing is just….I mean c’mon! Marrying a dude who comes and goes about as predictably as a drunken clock maker? Not freaking the hell out and busting his car windows when he did his big “reveal” at the end of Season Three? (“Who are you?” “Shhh. It doesn’t matter. I’ll kill (for) you”). It’s just….c’mon!

And speaking of reveal, can we talk about their “disguises?” The producers must have gotten wind of this because in one scene the FBI gets a sketch of Philip and Elizabeth and says something like “damn they’re good at disguises.” Dude. Dude! Those are your neighbors with bad haircuts. It’s Elizabeth! She just has a wig that makes her hair look short (Felicity reference!). Maybe facial recognition skills were at an all-time low in the 80s (damn Reagan). Or everyone was just so coked up they couldn’t tell who from what or what from where (now brown cow).

Aside from those two gripes the show is amazing. And since I’ve completely ignored your “hot or not” question I’m actually going to toss another question back at you. What do you think of that est thing? Word on the internets is the show is based on a lot of historical fact, so maybe there was something like this back then. But it’s creepy. It’s kind of churchy–at least to a non-church going indifferentist like myself–but with more curse words and probably a hefty non-member entrance fee. What say you?

Juliet

So while I want to tackle est (it’s a real thing! It’s now called the Landmark Forum though), I first want to tackle Martha. And by tackle, I mean literally. Like to the ground.

I sadly can believe it, mainly because I–probably like a lot of other single women in their 30s–have believed the lie that pickings are slim so you gotta put up with some level of batshit if you want to get married at this age. This is of course A LIE and if anyone reading this has a boyfriend with a suspicious job, who is never around, and asks you to do shady shit, you should definitely not continue having sex with them.

But I fully get why Philip targeted Martha and why it was so successful. If women in today’s age are willing to put up with a lot of crap when it’s socially acceptable to be single, I can imagine a character who would stay back in 1983 or whatever. Plus, once he revealed he killed for her, I think that made her realize he could kill her. Yikes.

On to est…

I like that you brought that up because in some ways est serves the worship/faith function for Philip. I think it’s cool that he’s finally exploring his psyche and the story/cover he’s had to tell himself. I think in some ways est is a quintessential American thing–charging money to help people think and talk about their problems. I can’t imagine many Soviets, a great number of whom lived lives of suffering under Stalin, during the war, after the war, etc, caring so much about feelings and memories. Or caring about being self-actualized at all. It’s American wealth and privilege and leisure that enable that kind of introspection and self-actualization, isn’t it?

Now…tell me what you think about their friendship with Stan. Is it real?

Ryan

Ah the Stan-meister (I’m assuming that’s Philip’s bro name for Stan). I actually do think their–or at least Philip’s–friendship with him is real. Do I think his friendship isn’t driven in some part by his mission? Yes. Do I think he would hurt him (don’t do it producers!) if “The Center” told him to? Yes. Do I think asking myself questions in order to get a point across is a useful rhetorical tool? Yes, with a capital exclamation mark.

Here’s one reason why I think it’s a real friendship. He seems legitimately upset that Stan has IRL unfriended him after he was hanging out with his ex. The way he reacted to that relationship being strained wasn’t the same as when a relationship with a “source” or someone he’s “working” gets strained. It seems to legitimately bother him. And in the last episode he seemed to try to talk up Stan to his ex wife–sort of indirectly make amends with his estranged bro–though for the record he should not be hanging out with her in his house. Or maybe at all. Yeah, definitely not at all. Also, Elizabeth has teased him about being friends with Stan, and I’d bet rubles to donuts that Elizabeth knows how to read him like a warm knife through a bad analogy.

Ok, now I’m gonna toss a question your way but preface it with what may be an unpopular opinion. Ready: I think the show insists upon itself. Kidding! Ok real point now: I don’t like Pastor Tim. When he first came on the scene I thought he was going to end up being some kind of spy–either working for or against Elizabeth and Philip–but that plot twist has sailed (or has it….?). Even still, he irks me a little by just being….I don’t know…pushy. Like maybe insisting on himself a little too much. I have absolutely nothing to back that up with and no examples I can cite, but something about him… Maybe it’s the hair. Actually a large part of it is the hair. But I still don’t like or trust him. What say you about the possibly-next-in-line Pastor Tim?

Juliet

I’ll just say it…I think it’s the hair! Doesn’t it look like a terrible wig that say, a spy might wear? What if Pastor Tim and Alice are really counterintelligence who have figured out Philip and Elizabeth’s cover and are instead recruiting Paige against them?

That might be a little far-fetched. But as someone who has worked in ministry for a while, I can agree that something feels off. Why is Pastor Tim cool with him and his wife being the only guests at Paige’s birthday dinner? Why do they let her stay with them? I get the sense that they can’t have kids so Paige is a surrogate for them. But still…the boundaries feel a bit off.

Which is why I wonder if there is more to Tim and Alice than we think. And it’s what brings me back to my first thoughts. So much of the show is about faith and trust…are the people around you who they say they are? Can your government be trusted? Can your family be trusted? Can what you put your faith in, what you believe in, be trusted? We know from history that the Centre literally cannot hold, that Philip and Elizabeth have put their faith in the wrong thing. How long will it take for them to see that?

Wheelhouses

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.
(William Stafford, “Ask Me.”)

It was March 2012, and I had just emailed a few friends about writing for an online literary magazine that at that point, existed only in my heart and in the glint of my eye. At that point, I had gone on at least one or two job interviews a week and either nothing panned out or I wasn’t interested in the position. That particular week, I had multiple interviewers ask me to describe my “wheelhouse.” And in response I gave them my standard answers, but in reality, at 30 years old, I wasn’t sure I really knew.

typewriter

Courtesy of unsplash.com and Sergey Zolkin

But in my other life outside of job-hunting, deep in my heart and soul, was this need and desire to write. And so I turned all the excess attention I would have devoted toward worrying about the future and focused it on this writing venture. I kept praying for a name for it–it seemed wrong to just choose something. After all, it felt like an entity all itself that I was merely stewarding.

Then I woke up one morning from a dream in which everyone kept saying the word “wheelhouse.” I didn’t know that word would change my life.

It’s now nearly March 2016, four years after that fateful dream. Less than two months after that dream, my co-editor Ryan and I launched The Wheelhouse Review. We’ve published 866 pieces by over 20 contributors, many of whom “bared their souls spread eagle,” as Ryan likes to say. Some of our contributors have gone on to write or photograph for other outlets including Sojourners, Sojourners Magazine, Mockingbird, The Body Politic, and The Burnside Writers’ Collective. Most of us found our voices through faithfully contributing each week to what Ryan and I called our “literary petri dish.”

From the start we wanted it to be a safe place for writers and designers to experiment and find their way. We became masters of the compliment sandwich, trying to handle mildly-terrified contributors with care. After all, this is the Internet Age, where something you write can live on forever and some crazy person can send you a blistering comment from across the world. As a result, I count Ryan and Stephanie as two of my best friends, as we have labored together to create a good space to do good work.

For me personally, The Wheelhouse Review clarified the contents of my “wheelhouse” for me. I had spent my 20s doing what seemed practical and safe, what pleased others and would get me a “gold star.” That kind of life is sustainable for a few years and then it’s just exhausting.

Place matters: I could never have dreamed up or started The Wheelhouse Review where I was in New York City, despite the fact that it is a much more creative and innovative place than Washington, DC. Not many people knew who I was in DC and so I had some freedom to, as the Quaker author Parker Palmer writes, “let [my] life speak.” In New York it felt like there were all these expectations of who I was and what I was supposed to do. In DC, I was just another young idealist.

But I also couldn’t have had the space or quiet to question whether what I “had done was my life” in New York. I would have continued to snuggle under my cozy excuses or drown myself in drinks and distractions because they were there and they were easy. They didn’t require anything from me. The rowhouse I lived in on 5th Street NE between C and Constitution could have been a metaphor for my life–spacious and airy, yet rambly and vaguely smelling of beer. There was a lot of potential there, but was there the will to change?

There was. And I did. The course of my life has changed radically since those mid-March 2012 days. I recently began a spirituality blog called Perissos and a friend commented that it happened so quickly and efficiently–in roughly two months. And I pointed out that I knew how to do it because I’d already done it with The Wheelhouse Review.

Nearly four years and 866 pieces (now, with this one, 867) later, it feels like time to close up our beloved blog. We plan to continue running pieces until May 1, our four year anniversary, and hope to have a big celebration to commemorate our work over the past few years. More details on that to follow–we’d love to have our readers there with us.

Thank you for reading our work. Thank you for sharing it with your friends and your family and on your Facebook pages. Thank you for letting our lives speak to you.

Let’s Go to the Movies!

If that headline didn’t get the song from Annie (from which it was stolen) completely stuck in your head, you can listen to it here.

We’re getting deep into award season now and with the Golden Globes this past Sunday, we saw some clear winners. But for those of you who haven’t had the time to check out some of the buzzworthy movies out there, here’s a quick guide.

The Revenant (Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson; Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu)

I’ve never been a big fan of Westerns or even a big fan of violence and gore. Hacking at someone in the old-timey West just doesn’t appeal to me. But The Revenant is so much more than a “frontier revenge movie” (as it was described to me). It’s visually stunning–the cinematography alone is worth going to see. The story is inspirational–a man overcoming death to seek revenge on the person who left him for dead, only to allow room for his own redemption. There were some slow parts–I could have done with less trudging through the snow and examining wounds–but overall, it was fun to watch. Except for the last few minutes when I had my eyes closed and my ears stopped up.

I went to see this movie with a friend of mine and we pre-gamed with double Makers’ on the rocks because neither of us were particularly excited about watching Leonardo DiCaprio get mauled by a bear. I would say that while it did dampen the bear-mauling experience, it also made me less inhibited when I had to put my head into my lap to avoid watching the ending fight scene.

Some great quotes to mull over: “The wind cannot defeat a tree with strong roots.” “If you watch the trunk you will see its stability.” And for fans of ironic humor, a white fur -rapper commenting on the Native Americans he encounters along the way, “They always stealin’ our shit.” Continue reading