8 things I learned in September

Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.

1. It’s worth making your bed.

Even in a hotel. A friend gave me this tip years ago: make your bed when you travel, because that ensures you won’t accidentally leave behind your eye mask or pajama pants or iPad beneath the sheets. I don’t want to leave an iPad behind, so I make my bed.

When I was in Winston-Salem for book tour, the authors for the Bookmarks Literary Festival all stayed in a lovely hotel in downtown Winston. And in this lovely hotel, the fire alarm went off at 4:00 am, and we all shuffled out into the rain. (Before that night I might have considered standing in the rain in my pajamas next to Newbery winners the stuff of anxiety dreams, but nope, that happened.)

It turned out to be a false alarm, thank goodness. But the next morning we were EXHAUSTED. So I didn’t make my bed, because what could I have possibly left in bed? And that’s how I left behind my precious advanced review copy of Nine Perfect Strangers, the Liane Moriarty novel that doesn’t come out for five more weeks.

2. The prototype for the Empire State Building is in North Carolina. 

And it houses the hotel of the 4am fire alarm! One of my kids has long been obsessed with the Empire State Building, so I was over the moon when I learned—just hours before we checked in—that we’d be sleeping in the historic Reynolds Building. (I love having legitimately cool stuff to text my kids from my travels, like my awkward misty morning photo above.)

The Reynolds Building opened in 1929 and quickly received accolades for its unique design, so when they were asked to submit plans for a soon-to-be-built NYC skyscraper, they submitted a similar design, on a much larger scale. And that’s the Empire State Building you know today.

To acknowledge their debt, every year the Empire State staff send the Reynolds Building staff a Father’s Day card. Isn’t that fun?

3. Book tour is really hard on my reading life.

Ironic, no? I’m hitting the road to celebrate the pleasures of reading, and reading less than I have in months. (If I loved to read on airplanes, this would be a different story.)

In September I went three whole weeks without finishing a single book. That might be normal for most people, but it’s not normal for me!

(Although I went camping this past weekend and read nearly 500 pages in a day, thanks to this page-turner.)

4. But The Office holds up.

I don’t love to fly (it all comes back to this) and on airplanes I need a higher level of sensory distraction than a good book typically provides. I usually alternate between podcasts + 2048 and a movie or show.

This trip, my show-in-rotation has been The Office, and it’s been so much fun to re-watch. (Well, fun except for those scenes I choose to skip because sometimes Michael Scott is too painful to watch.)

5. There’s a reason that glasswork looked familiar.

When I was in Asheville, we made an impromptu visit to Biltmore, prompted by the beautiful fall day and current Chihuly exhibit. The glass was amazing, but not altogether unfamiliar.

Thanks to your blog comments, I now know why—I’ve seen his work on display at another favorite destination, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis.

When I shared the Biltmore photos, I was surprised to learn how many of you are raving Chihuly fans, and how many different places his work is exhibited: Maker’s Mark distillery right here in Kentucky, The Bellagio, the Mayo Clinic. And apparently the Seattle museum is out of this world.

6. The generic Beauty Blender is not the same.

I’ve dabbled in makeup more the past year than I have in my life, and last year—at the prompting of a Sephora employee—I got myself a Sephora Pro Expert Sponge (basically, a generic Beauty Blender) to apply my new-to-me foundation (it’s this). And I liked it just fine.

But then this fall I was gifted a Real Beauty Blender. I started using it right away, because I figured I’d keep one at home and drop one in my travel bag. I didn’t And WOW, is it different. Maybe not better (although I do think it is for my pores and my foundation), but definitely different.

7. A Chinese edition of Reading People is on the way.

Now THIS was unexpected! It’s a long timeline, and I’ll get copies when they’re available in a year or two. I guarantee I will share photos when I have them. (Read more about my first book right here.)

8. Serial is back.

And it’s different this time. Season 3 just started up and I found episode 1 fascinating. I’ll keep listening.

More podcast news: I’ve been looking forward to the new podcast Last Seen, about the Gardner Heist, since I first heard about it in July, and it’s finally here. Will and I listened to the first two episodes in the car this past weekend and they were not quite what I expected. Interesting, but whoa.

What did you learn in September? 

P.S. 9 things I learned in August, and 9 little things I’m loving this September.


Leave A Comment
  1. Ruth says:

    I’m with you on the pull of Lethal White – I read it everywhere possible and finished it in about four days – I love Cormoran! And thanks for the fun fact about the baby ESB in N. Carolina – who knew?

  2. You’ve learned a lot! I love the whole making the bed. I’m an early bird by nature where my husband likes to sleep past 9:00 am. I have learned to bring him a warm cup of coffee to get him out of bed.
    Two things I have learned in September
    1. To schedule my writing time and communicate it with my family. It will be my year anniversary of having my blog! (My editor the other day suggested that I write a post about what’ve I learned.)
    2.. Read, read, read, take classes to learn more about my writing.
    3. Be authentic in my writing. Show don’t tell. If I have the feeling of insecurity, frustrations, or how to find time for myself there are others that go through that.
    October is a new month with new possibilities and new books to read. Thanks for reminding me that it’s okay to sit down and read!

  3. Victoria says:

    Chihuly at the Bellagio is fantastic. There’s a chandelier in the UK at the Victoria & Albert museum and there was a display at Kew Gardens years ago. His work is incredible.

  4. Ashley says:

    Michael Scott is painfully awkward. You’re not the only one that skips. I get secondhand embarrassment from that show ?.

  5. Heather says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who can tolerate only so much of Michael Scott! He tends to get a bit too ridiculous / unreal if I watch for too long. Hmm this month I learned that Shrek the Musical is on Netflix, which made for a fun night in, and that one can eat too many apples in one day.

  6. Nicole says:

    The Children’s Museum in Indianapolis has an amazing Chihuly exhibit called Fireworks of Glass. The museum is incredible and worth a visit if you’re in the area with your family—the Chihuly is the icing on the cake!

  7. Cherilyn Anderson says:

    In September I continued to learn how to be retired! Having looked forward to this major event in my life, I discovered being retired takes work, reflection, and perpetual adjustmentb

  8. Debora says:

    Cherilyn, there is a lot of wisdom in your comment. Retirement does take work, reflection, and perpetual adjustment. I am finding that it also includes perpetual astonishment! Thank you for your comment!

  9. Megan says:

    I live just ouside Winston-Salem and LOVE it! I spend my quiet walking-around days dawdling downtown (which are rare with four homeschooled kids).Loved seeing your presentation at the Bookmarks Festival!

  10. Gita says:

    I love your blog!!

    I live in India,and why don’t you explore Indian writers to o?
    But, love your pics and writing anyway

    • Janelle Carlson says:

      Gita, I just finished reading The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani this afternoon. I loved it. It’s set in India, by an Indian writer who is a former attorney. There are so many fantastic books from India!!!

      • Juliedtx says:

        I agree. If you were to read a book about Texas you might have a limited view that paints all Texans as gun toting, horseback riding cowboys! I do believe that Mistry does a good job with character development and the relationships in the story. For it to be such a long book I hated for it to be over.

  11. Mary says:

    I am a firm believer in making your bed every day — but making it in a hotel? I’m not sure I can hop on board with that!! 😉 Maybe just rustle through the sheets to make sure no books are left and I’m good!

    Thanks for all the tips – love these posts!

  12. Kacie says:

    I couldn’t read on my recent outbound flight, so it was watching The Price is Right for me, haha. But, I read nearly all of this month’s book club pick on the way home. Great way to pass the time!

  13. Mary Lou says:

    When I read your post about visiting the Chihuly exhibit at Biltmore, I wracked my brain to remember where I had recently seen one of his pieces. It was on a college tour (My daughter is 17. I’ve been on many college tours in the last year.) In fact, there are 2 Chihuly sculptures in the new fine arts center at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. They’re amazing! Unfortunately, my daughter is not applying to Wofford, but I would encourage anyone to take the tour and see the Chihuly’s. You’ll be impressed–by the art and the school.

  14. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    1. I’m obsessed with checking in hotel beds…and we usually forget something big outside the bed. Oh well!
    4. Yes, some scenes with Michael Scott just need skipping!
    5. We saw a display of his at the Dallas Arboretum several years ago.
    Thanks for sharing these fun tidbits from the book tour and your life in general with us!

    • Hannah Beth Reid says:

      And it is so sad that you left the Liane Moriarty book! Our book club has already slated it for next year, no voting required.

  15. Dee says:

    Can’t quite get on board with making the bed in a hotel room. In fact, that’s one of the things I always love about being in a hotel – someone else make the bed and cleans the bathroom. You could call them and ask for them to send the book, though.

  16. Eleanor says:

    Things I learned (or remembered) in September
    1) September (aka back to school) is CRAZY! Extra coffee is required
    2) Saying goodbye to my college freshman was not as hard as I had been anticipating his entire senior year of HS
    3) I never thought I would say this but I miss the messy chaos of my oldest who is the above mentioned college freshman.
    4) Being brave sometimes means just showing up

    • Guest says:

      Thank you for giving this middle school mom some hope about the college years. 😉 And, I would argue being brave usually means just showing up. 🙂

  17. steph says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed my adopted hometown. I left a big piece of my heart in Winston-Salem! Though I must say I’m enjoying Louisville. BTW, will you be doing another signing here? I hadn’t yet received my copy before the last one 🙁

    • Anne says:

      I might be doing another one late this fall or early next year. I will definitely share if I do! I’ll also be at the Kentucky Book Festival in Frankfort in November.

  18. Janelle Carlson says:

    There is also a magnificent Chihuly sculpture in the lobby of the Salt Lake City Symphony Hall that goes to the ceiling! It’s made of brilliant shades of orange and it’s gorgeous!
    If…. I mean, WHEN you come to visit Utah, you can see it in person!! 😉

  19. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    Pianolessons so fun,. Growing up classics was the only option, now at almost 66 learning to play with only chords is a challenge. My Kindle is a universe, before preaching this Sunday found fabulous books for studying the gospels in a deeper way, love it.

  20. April says:

    I am listening to Last Seen as well. I love it! I have never listened to true crime podcasts before. I have been worried about listening to something violent of gruesome, but I thought an art heist might be okay. Episode 3 is waiting for me today!

  21. Kelsey says:

    You learned so many interesting things! I love it!
    There’s also a Chihuly exhibit in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. He has been one busy artist!
    I read the book about the Gardner Heist a couple years ago before I visited Boston and found it so fascinating and heartbreaking. I still think of that missing artwork from time to time, even though I’m not a knowledgeable art-lover, and it makes me sad that it still hasn’t been found. I’ll definitely have to check out the podcast!

  22. The Office is my current go-to. There’s something comforting about the crazy antics at Dunder-Mifflin. Though I absolutely cannot watch Scott’s Tots. It stresses me out way too much.
    Also The Great British Baking Show always puts me in a better mood!

  23. Marge says:

    The audiobook narration of the Cormoran Strike series is SO good, that I’ve listened through all four books in a crazy short amount of time. Now it will be really, really hard to wait for the next one.

    I really enjoy your blog and your podcast. Thanks, Anne!

  24. Ann Matteson says:

    So excited about Lethal White. Love that series. Thank you for mentioning the Chihuly Museum. I love his work and will be in Seattle later this year and have added that to my list of things to do.

  25. Mimi Gregor says:

    These are things that i knew, but had driven home in real time lately:

    1. Quality over quantity. I recently bought a pair of Doc Marten-like boots that were expensive, but made well, with cushioning inside that makes me feel like I’m walking on pillows. I only have less than a dozen shoes (I must not have gotten the shoe fanatic gene when they were doled out.) so the ones I have should be quality. If your feet hurt, it just makes you a miserable person.

    2. Being nice gets you further than being angry. I was at the water department about a meter problem, and another woman in line had a billing problem and was going ballistic about it … and getting nowhere. Sure, I got the run-around, but these are PEOPLE in these jobs, and they probably don’t like the bureaucracy either. I tried to treat each person I had to deal with in this stream of people I had to deal with as if they really wanted to help me with my problem. And, sure enough, I finally spoke with someone who could actually help me. I doubt that would have happened if I were more focused on creating drama than on getting my problem solved.

  26. Laura Knight says:

    I just (last night) returned from a fabulous trip with my sisters to the Biltmore. We went specifically to see the Chihuly exhibit and, wow, were we impressed!! Imagine my delight when I clicked over to your blog this morning and found a picture of something I have just seen. So fun!! We were able to see the exhibit at night and during the day. It was fascinating to see how the pieces looked different, yet the same. Beautiful both times! I’m glad to learn, through the comments on this post, of other places to view his work.

  27. I never make my bed in hotels, because I feel like I’m just creating extra work for the housekeepers (who will have to unmake it again and put fresh sheets on for the next guest), but I love your idea behind doing it – could the same thing not be achieved by stripping the bed?? Pulling everything off might even make it easier to find would-be lost iPads, sleeping masks, etc. and it actually saves the hardworking cleaners a few seconds. Just a thought! 😉

  28. Kyla Pearlman says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! For giving me the heads up on Serial and Last Seen. LOVE them both!

    Also, last winter, my family and I (3 kids under 5) stayed in a hotel in the snowy mountains of Colorado. The fire alarm went off at 6am (after we were all finally asleep after having been up all night trying to get everyone to go and stay asleep!), and we had to go outside, IN THE SNOW, for 20 minutes and then back inside. SO frustrating!

  29. Britany Arnold says:

    I’m lucky in the workplace that our founder has a huge appreciation for art, and we have artwork on all of our walls throughout our home office, with a few Chihuly pieces in the lobby.

    He has actually recently opened his own museum!

  30. el Hen says:

    Anne, I’m a brand new subscriber to your website and blog as of today! So imagine my thrill to see my beloved hometown of Winston-Salem in your blog and photo of the Reynolds Bldg.! And I never knew that fun fact about the building being the prototype for the Empire State Building. I’

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