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Why I Love IKEA

The answer’s simple— it lets me feel like I’m worthy of having a wonderfully designed home, no matter what that home is.

However, there’s a long answer to this and I discovered it on my recent trip to the College Park, MD IKEA. I’ve also talked about it in my book.

Before we get started with the long answer of why I like IKEA, let’s talk for a moment about how I got there and I how I chose to go to College Park versus the other two Baltimore/DC area IKEAS.

When I did the map Googling, Google got me to College Park in 49 minutes, versus 1.5 hours to Woodbridge. On transit. And that delivered. I walked the twelve minutes to the Georgia Ave.-Petworth Station. I zoomed the few stops to the College Park station after about a ten minute wait for the next Greenbelt-bound train.

I got off and noticed a couple of interesting touches: students waiting for a shuttle seated on the concrete and a mini escalator that only went up. Maybe it goes down at morning rush hour, but I only saw it at midday and after, as I got to the station around 2:45 p.m.

About seven minutes later, the #17 The Bus came to get me. Yes, in Prince Georges County, MD, it’s simply known as The Bus. I was sitting in the designated shelter when I ‘grammed this teaser.

It was also sunny and about 55 degrees, so not a bad wait outside. It pulls up and I set off on a 10-minute ride past the University of Maryland campus entrance and typical suburban strip mall characters mixed with some newer city-wannabe buildings. We get to the I-495 Capital Beltway junction and to the left, just over the gully of the highway, I saw the blue box and the top of the store flags. We wove around the parking lot to the bus shelter, which was covered and not too far from the front entrance and I hopped out.

Found it. And yes, I've got a post brewing about it…

A photo posted by Kristen Jeffers (@blackurbanist) on

Fast forward to about 7:45 p.m. I had no faith in The Bus still running. After all, I had to drive to my last IKEA because the buses didn’t run after 6 p.m and that was inbound from downtown to Merriam, KS. (Of course, Kansas got the IKEA, not Missouri, but I digress) Plus, I had a few items. They were safely enclosed in yet another big blue bag, though. I reluctantly queued the Uber I’d priced out while eating chicken fingers at the restaurant an hour earlier. I’d elected to play a bit of Janelle Monae’s Dance or Die while waiting because I was feeling very dreamy after walking through the store, despite having a bad day before making the trip to the store and I wanted to add my spin to the upbeat and funky music playing throughout the store. The day got even better when I saw The Bus sitting exactly where I left it. I quickly canceled the Uber, which was already in the parking lot and ran down to the bus. Ten minutes later I grabbed this shot and bragged about my haul. I was home 30 minutes later after a little help from my usual #70 Metrobus.

Taking it home too! With a rug, fake orchid and a cardboard lampshade. #transit. #igdc #ikeahaul

A photo posted by Kristen Jeffers (@blackurbanist) on


So let’s get back to why I still love IKEA. First and foremost, in this case, it’s transit accessible. However, that’s not a guarantee for every area (even though Charlotte’s about to run light rail just outside of the building). What I like is that no matter what size home you have or even if you’re home is a tent, there’s an IKEA product for you and it looks nice to boot.

But what about the assembly? What if I must have it delivered or if I have to take it back? The Yelp for the store you’ve praised so much for being so close to transit has all kinds of negative reviews on it for customer service and for parts not being delivered. Also, YOU TOOK TRANSIT TO AN IKEA. YOU CAN’T GET ONE OF THE FLAT FURNITURE PACKS ON A BUS. Not true actually, but to be honest, I wouldn’t want to own that couch that you can get on the bus.

Let’s not even go into the carbon footprint piece or the extra space, although the Emeryville, CA IKEA has almost no surface parking and is in an old warehouse area, so there wasn’t any wildlife to replace and it was already in an industrial zone.

What I love about the store, that’s universal to all stores is, that it’s universal.

No matter what store you go in, no matter how they structure the maze, it’s still the same maze, the same meatballs, the same LACK table no matter what country you or the store is in. Again, I went in the store still nervous about my underemployment and our incoming presidential administration. I came out with a beautiful forever blooming orchid and a new idea to balance life in my awkwardly shaped bedroom.

Yes, I really do have that many doors and one of them is not necessary, as I keep it open to my other room most of the time.
Also, what furniture/housewares store shows you how to live like a queen in 270 square feet of space? On top of that, now they’ve made this room a young black woman’s room.

And it even had sewing supplies.

My whole apartment is about   650 square feet, but again I have doors in odd places and I have one tiny window, that only gets sunlight a few hours a day and when it’s cloudy, never gets any decent natural light. Yes, it’s a dungeon, but for what I pay and who lives upstairs and the location, it’s not a bad deal. And now, thanks to IKEA, I’m considering turning my walls blue.

Eventually, my TV will go on that southeast wall (the picture shown is from the east side of the room, looking west), but for now, it’s sitting on a chair that’s against the door I don’t need, where the black bookcase is in the model image. Oh and instead of having my bed made and sleeping on that side of the wall, I’m sleeping on the opposite end, feet facing southward. I have room for my KNUBBIG lamp on my nightstand and I finally have some mood lighting. That and the TV had been in storage up until Sunday, but still, my trip helped me know where to put things old and new.

And finally, it’s hit me, that I want to do more with interior decorating and design in my professional life. I want to bring that IKEA ethos to my practice, especially since many people can’t live in that perfect urban (or suburban) home. Some people want tiny homes or homes on wheels or the ability to unpack a few suitcases and boxes and make any home a home. Or as this year’s IKEA catalog mentioned, sometimes people don’t get to choose when they have to move, but they have to move in order to survive and they still deserve to be able to pick a few things out and make it their own.

I’ll be using my KristPattern site to bring that vision to life, but I’ll be sure to keep you folks who primarily come here updated.

In the meantime, what are your best #ikeahacks? Do you get lots of #inspo going there? Or do you want to scream your head off before the maze is done or beat the creator of the Lack table with the leg you still couldn’t get to attach right? Ok, I’d not do that last one even if you are frustrated.

I’m Kristen.  I started blogging here to make sense of the built environment around me. You can find me on FacebookTwitter, and  Instagram . You can find out more about me at my main website, www.kristenejeffers.com. Keep with me via email here.

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My Placemaking Wishes for 2017

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Happy New Year folks! We did it! It’s 2017. It could be bad or worse and it can be good or better. And in that spirit, I am coming to you with my 7th annual set of wishes. Depending on my mood and the mood of the industry, sometimes I do more personal wishes and sometimes I do wishes that are more general. 2017 is going to blend both. Take a look at wishes from 2011, 2012, 2013, 20142015 and 2016. And now, for 2017, I wish:

That I wasn’t so afraid of the future and neither were so many other people

This is the linchpin to me of the most recent round of elections in the United States, as well as the last few election cycles. We’re afraid to die. We’re afraid of losing control. We’re afraid of never being in control. This is just a portion of the phenomenon that allows evil to raise up through our civic spaces, but it’s worth looking at by itself.

On a more personal level, I’ve been more afraid since the election. Mostly because I was afraid long before the election. I feel safe to say that I left both my hometown and the one I adopted from June 2015-September 2016 because I was afraid of being myself in the spaces I conducted myself in. I feared that I wasn’t square enough to be in elected and appointed politics. I felt super black, and not in a good, fists up, I matter kind of way. I felt smaller and smaller. I felt like I had to be involved in small town nitpicky things. I felt like I was running out of people. And energy. And time. So I’m in the D.C. Metro finally. I can’t say that it’s for good, only because life happens and life happens outside of me.

For our greater populace, we may not like each other. We may feel like people are invading our personal space and messing with our ego, but the world needs some of that. We need all kinds of spaces, safe, and unsafe. We need dense and open spaces. May we continue headfirst to the transect and may we look at everyone first and foremost as worthy of love and worthy of the best. Then stop building bad things, taking away good social programs that work and condemning folks to judgment places that probably don’t look like what you think they do in your head.

That we could shift more of our economy to community ownership and bartering

I like having options just like the next person. I don’t think we need to start wearing uniforms or burlap sacks in the name of unity. We can have different kinds of living situations. Yet, we can improve on our market. Last year brought the opening of the Renaissance Community Co-op in Greensboro and the return of full-service grocery to a side of town that really needed it. Plus, instead of being a profit center, it’s a community center. I do hope they can continue to be successful and that we can continue to share these models, farmers markets, craft fairs, community clinics, community schools and the like so that nice things don’t have to be tied to having lots of income and wealth. Speaking of income and wealth…

That we can become a people who aren’t jealous or greedy

This is the other piece that I feel explains politics in the United States. Those of you reading from other nations who seem to be doing a bit better in this, please share. I think we need to all look in the mirror, be at peace with who we are now and then make decisions based on things we want. I think we also as leaders, need to not hoard resources for ourselves and realize that not everyone has the privilege to navel-gaze. Build things, sell things, but not at the expense of others and not because you need to do it better or bigger. And I want to get to the point where I stop making comparisons to others and how popular they appear and how wealthy they appear. I want to do things because they are good and they are good for me.

That I can buy a house by the end of the year

I live in a metro area where this may continue to be a wish into 2018. However, I know that I’m probably wrong. I’ll keep y’all posted on this one. Revisit my thoughts on buying my dream house in a world of mass gentrification.

That I can cut my consumer debt in half by next year

Same as the prior wish. I feel good about this too. I wrote about the fact that I struggle with not being good money, while I’m yet good with making connections and writing things people like back in the fall.

As usual, tweet, Facebook or just comment about your wishes for this year. And yes, I do believe that many of us will see 2018. And if we don’t, this time on earth has mattered and we will call up your spirit in many ways over the coming years. Likewise, this will live on somewhere even if I’m gone.

I’m Kristen.  I started blogging here to make sense of the built environment around me. You can find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can find out more about me at my main website, www.kristenejeffers.com. Also, if you want to follow my playlist for 2017, here it is!

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Four Lessons I Learned About Place in 2016

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My original lead into this post was that I learned nothing. Then I wrote that I learned nothing that I wanted to share. Then I remembered the power of the pen (or type in this case). And I realized that I have learned things. No, I’ve haven’t mastered anything, but yes, I’ve learned things. And in that spirit, I’m going to relate those things to placemaking and also be very honest and a bit stream of consciousness about where my head is during this last week of 2016.

Things are happening, but they won’t necessarily happen on the schedule you want them too. 

I’m squeezing out every penny I have. Money is really funny. However, I finally live in Washington, DC. I finally have become car-free. I walk daily. I’m starting to see shoots growing off my many business ventures. However, I’d like to see a steady shoot that would keep me from having to budget as much and be creative with payments. The benefit of this is that I’ve learned to be happy and live with less. As my income increases, there are a lot of things I’m going to keep doing. After all, not all wealth is tied into money.

If I wanted to put a universal placemaking spin on this, the more money you have, the faster things can get built (or not get built if that’s what needs to happen). However, lots of things can be done, if you live lean and find abundance in other ways. Also, we need more than two classes, really poor and really rich and a shadow of a middle class. We have to be as patient as we are active. And finally, we have to believe that things will still get better. Even with what our election looks like, I’m determined to keep pushing back and be hopeful that things will get better and people will just be better humans.

I want to make things. And I need to not let the politics of the industry and the world keep me from doing so.

I have learned that my ideal life would include me writing this blog, designing my surface patterns and other crafty things, teaching people things and doing some community planning projects. Yes, all four. Not necessarily simultaneously, but collectively as one piece of a whole.

Yet, I’ve had to really push against the politics of the industry and the politics of our society, to make myself keep creating. Coupled with lesson one of learning that things take a while,  I’ve felt like I should hang up the towel many times. I’ve tried new things on the business side and I have yet to see the profits and I’ve also felt I’ve pushed people away. I’ve had people openly doubt me, laugh in my face or suggest doing something different. Or not acknowledge the work at all. On the other hand, I can’t see when those of you with me 100% are actually supporting me. I am working on making sure I tie up any loose ends, but I often get discouraged. I was uplifted by this quote, by architect Paul Revere Williams on his own place in the design world:

I was encouraged though, by this quote, by architect Paul Revere Williams on his own place in the design world:

I came to realize that I was being condemned, not by lack of ability, but by my color. I passed through successive stages of bewilderment, inarticulate protest, resentment, and, finally, reconciliation to the status of my race. Eventually, however, as I grew older and thought more clearly, I found in my condition an incentive to personal accomplishment, and inspiring challenge. Without having the wish to “show them,” I developed a fierce desire to “show myself.” I wanted to vindicate every ability I had. I wanted to acquire new abilities.

I wanted to prove that I, as an individual, deserved a place in the world.

He wrote those words in a 1937 essay called “I Am a Negro” in American Magazine. He wrote those words in the midst of another economic downturn and far worse race and class relations than now. Yes, we have some bad times and could be facing more. Yes, our industry is still behind in dealing with its racial and class politics. And yes, sometimes I really feel like I don’t belong in this space and that my work has no economic value.

But even if all I do for steady income next year is wait tables, I’m still going to draw patterns, write essays, and suggest ways we can build better houses. I love buildings. I love transit. I love developing communities. One day, my previous work or personality or even things I can’t change like my skin won’t get in the way of that.

However, as I’ve said before, this doesn’t excuse misbehavior both inside and outside our sector. We need to do better. Here’s how we can start to do better, especially as we center our practice on who we are as people.

There are places I feel more at home at and I need to be in those places. But I can have friends in many wonderful places.

Earlier this year,  I backed up on my “urban hierarchy is dead” theory. There’s really no place like home and that home for me is not Kansas.

I always knew I wouldn’t be in Kansas City forever. I just wished it could have been a little longer. I miss a lot of you who I did manage to become friends with. I miss burnt ends.  I just hate that all the things that were exploding around me, exploded all at once. I hate that North Carolina’s politics are crazy. I hate that our national politics are crazy.

If I were to pull a quote here that’s motivating me in this lesson, I am leaning more and more on Maya Angelou’s quote on accepting that no place is really my place and in that acceptance, everywhere becomes my place. I’ve made moves and made friends I never thought I’d make. I know I need people around me lifting me up and pushing me in newer and better directions. I could live in a shack, with one outfit and eat the same thing, but if I got to travel and see my best friends and afford to do things with them all the time, I’d be totally ok.

In that spirit, I’m proud of the moves I’ve made and the friends I never thought I’d make. I know I need people around me lifting me up and pushing me in newer and better directions. However, I could live in a shack, with one outfit and eat the same thing, but if I got to travel and see my best friends and afford to do things with them all the time, I’d be totally ok.

Consistency matters. And so does being true to yourself

I know I bounce around the weeks I email. I misspell words. I’m silent during times that I probably speak up. Yet, I’m still writing on this blog after six years. When I do write here and when I do send out emails, people do listen. However, I’m also learning consistency helps me. It helps me to write out my feelings. It helps me to journal privately. I don’t necessarily have to write everything or draw everything for the public. All I have to do is show up and do my best.

If I had a quote for this, it would be what Grace Bonney of Design Sponge said her father said about business, that you have to believe in your business more than anyone. She said that at a book talk for her latest book, In the Company of Women, which was full of other women doing creative and crafty projects, all at various levels of success. All of them mentioned consistency and perseverance. Thankfully, both of those things, plus courage, are free.

And with that, next post, I have wishes. See you in 2017 with those wishes.

I’m Kristen. Six years ago, I started blogging here to make sense of the built environment around me. You can find me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can find out more about me at my main website, www.kristenejeffers.com

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Interior view of the basket-like casing of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum was lead by an African-American and British-Ghanian architects.

Interior view of the basket-like casing of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum was lead by an African-American and British-Ghanian architects.

I have always owed a great debt to the work of Sara Zewde, especially the usage of the term black urbanist and talking about black urbanism. Zewde is currently a principal at Asakura Robinson and in 2010, published her MIT graduate thesis, Theory, place, and opportunity : black urbanism as a design strategy for the potential removal of the Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans.

When I started this page, she had the only reference I could find online to the concept of black urbanism, especially as an architectural vernacular (style). Later on, fellow planner and blogger Pete Saunders addressed the term here and here. These authors have provided an African continent-centered focus on black or African urbanism. The most compelling chapter I’ve found in a recent Google search to see if other writers had used the term in recent years. Somehow I missed this chapter in Adam J. Bank’s  2006 book Race, Rhetoric, and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground.

I especially want to draw attention to Melvin Mitchell’s theories which are highlighted in the chapter, which I’ve taken a snapshot of below:

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With this being said, and with the new political environment that we are facing, what’s next for black urbanism? I’d like to take a stab at naming a few things that need to happen:

Insist Black buildings and Black neighborhoods (and other ethnic and poor  and marginalized neighborhoods) are just as deserving of historic preservation as others. While it saddens me that so many of the historic Victorian and Warder row-homes here in DC are so expensive, at least they are still standing in their present form and many are . Additionally, the modern homes in the wealthier Black areas of Chicago are just as worthy as anything Frank Lloyd Wright has built. If we can keep the D.C Chinatown and even enhance it by building the archway, we can also prioritize historic structures even as we densify. Likewise, being mindful  (again)that black urbanism is also an architectural vernacular. This gets back to Mitchell’s ideas. I will say that strategically placed public buildings like the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture can be culturally sensitive and still help the black community, even though they were built for primarily white institutions.

Create and honor homeownership or long-term leases, as well as create shopping centers and service plazas that service all income levels. As much as I’d love a certain bullseye-clad big box store to be a bit closer to my home, I’d like it even better if we had a neighborhood business that are smaller, more focused sections of the department store, such as a stationary store, or grocery or clothing. Neighborhood businesses that are co-ops or otherwise under less pressure for profit and more pressure to create livelihoods and provide good service. Likewise, continuing to promote and provide home purchasing and renovation services, as well as a wide variety of rental options for multiple budgets.

Push for the restoration of the traditional public school system, and turn the charter system into an alternative educational mechanism. I get it, charters promise parents more control and you can do things in charters that the regular public instruction doesn’t allow (like boarding schools, religious instruction, etc.). However, nothing is stopping a group of parents from creating extracurricular education groups for their children, even in marginalized areas. This is where the new charter apparatus would come in, by providing supplemental funding for programing outside of the classic school day, as well as forming a coalition with other adult and child social service providers. I think we need to push for a strong public education system and we need to focus our own extracurricular activities into ensuring that all children have opportunities for after school art, sports, and extra career and trade education. We need our youth to know they can be creative and they can create a new future out of the ashes.

Acknowledge climate change, especially the kind done by fracking,  regular oil pipelines. mining and even landfills near residential areas. I feel like this will be the one thing that the administration has pushed that will affect everyone and potentially exterminate us. So many black communities have battled living near factories, landfills, and other toxic waste for years and many lives have been lost silently to cancers and other diseases. 

File civil suits for every constitutional amendment or social issue violation that happens. I’ve been kicking money back to the ACLU for years and I’m going to increase that donation to them and the Southern Policy Law Center. Also, not just court cases, but standing up for all kinds of marginalized people and recognizing that there are many successful kinds of lifestyles for adults, children and families and creating communities that allow for diverse lifestyles and cultures, without pushing the supremacy or harm of one or the other.

Being careful that we make it clear online when we are speaking our opinion, being satirical or using facts. Yes, facts still exist, and so does opinion. I want to do my best to only spread ideas as ideas that I think better society and make it clear where facts come from.

Recognizing that activism for black folks and other marginalized people does not disqualify a person from professional or political practice or office. Activism is also a form of tactical urbanism. Recognizing that people of color and marginalized folks are going to be even angrier and oppressed and the microaggressions and outright neoliberalism and the systemic classism, racism and homophobia are going to be worse. Don’t be that person in your planning or architectural practice, your pursuit for good governance or internally with your friends and colleagues.  Understand fully or try to understand the righteous anger and/or the burden of practice, especially against oppressive systems.  Constantly check yourself. Also, there’s fine line between a practice that is rooted in cultural vernaculars and only being the voice for that culture. Let’s be mindful if and when we choose to token and know that while it can be necessary, it can also be just as harmful. Also, having a culturally-sensitive urbanism doesn’t exclude or excuse anyone, if practiced properly. 

And if you are marginalized, rail against the system, but also tap into your creative side. If we had better, more sustainable systems, we could abandon the old ones causing us harm. I know for many of us, we just want to survive or get a piece of the pie. But what if we knew how to bake our own pies and could share? Forgive yourself and forgive those who are evil. You don’t have to forget, but you will need all that energy for the new creations and new worlds we are walking into. Let go of the shame of the words of the oppressor and remember they are wrong and you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have a purpose.  Don’t do things that turn you into the oppressor. Teach or find someone willing to teach others how to respect cultural tradition and vernacular. Oh, and this is the part where I type SELF-CARE, SELF-CARE, SELF-CARE, SELF CARE…in all caps and repeatedly.

Finally, don’t give up. We will survive someway and somehow, as we always have as a people. Even if that means we are a people in exile.

I’m Kristen. Six years ago, I started blogging here to make sense of the built environment around me. You can find me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can find out more about me at my main website, www.kristenejeffers.com

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Mid-Day Piedmont train in route to Charlotte from Raleigh, as seen from the balcony of CityView Apartments in Greensboro. Photo by Kristen Jeffers, the author.

Mid-Day Piedmont train in route to Charlotte from Raleigh, as seen from the balcony of CityView Apartments in Greensboro. Photo by Kristen Jeffers, the author.

I’m finally getting around to doing a fantasy transit map.

My inspiration? My trip home from D.C. to Greensboro via the train.

It takes approximately 8 hours to do it in the daylight and 5.5 hours to do it in the middle of the night. And those are the only choices, just the two trains a day.

However, years ago, there were at least 5 trains a day, if not more. I think we could get back to that point and do so quite cheaply. Also, I think there’s no real excuse why we can’t have trains going to every major city, at at least 60 miles, if not 90 miles an hour.

This idea actually was planted in me years before I decided to do planning work, but not long after my first ever train trip just before I started kindergarten.

North Carolinian fourth and eighth graders study their home state in social studies classes.  Being the social studies and history nerd I still am and was very much so then, I read my textbook from cover to cover.

My fourth grade social studies textbook. This was the only image I could find.

My fourth grade social studies textbook. This was the only image I could find.

There was a section in it that talked about life in North Carolina in 2032. Part of that life was being able to have lunch on the coast and dinner in the mountains (And I’m sure breakfast in one of the three regions and other meals on other coasts, but still, you can wake up one place, lunch in another and dinner in yet another).

As it stands right now, thanks to the routing of the Carolinian and the Piedmont, you can have an early breakfast in NoDA in Charlotte, a high noon lunch at Natty Greene’s in Greensboro and a dinner at one of Ashley Christensen’s fabulous James Beard Award-winning joints in Raleigh. You could do all of this in reverse. (probably need a different breakfast spot though…)

However, what if you could have dinner at the Chef and the Farmer in Kinston instead of that dinner in Raleigh and still get back to Greensboro before midnight?

That’s the fantasy I’m creating with my North Carolina Passenger Rail Map.

Before I reveal the map, a few rules that I worked with:

1.This assumes that we can start putting commuter rail stops and tracks down the interstates and state highway medians immediately.

2. This is not by any means parallel or inspired by the existing maps for the High Speed Rail corridor or any strategic plans. Please do dig up the strategic plans, especially for the Durham-Orange Corridor, the Wake County Corridor. The regional transit authority sites are good places to start for this and I may be back here to add those links in.

3. In the interest of still keeping some realistic planning in place, I’m using those highway medians with the assumption that the lanes lost in the process would be absorbed by people taking the train more often, especially in the Charlotte Raleigh corridor. Also, the costs would be lower, as basically this can be rolled into the existing plan to add second rail from Charlotte to Raleigh and also highway resurfacing and widening.

4.I decided to overlay a Google Map, because all the work is done for me. The map is blurry, yes, but it’s really just there for perspective and once I started drawing the lines and circles over top, I didn’t want to re-center it. I will revisit this later as well.

So, all aboard (couldn’t resist)! In my fantasy world, you can get to just about any city in the state in less than 5 hours, many within 2-3 hours.

My trunk line is the existing Piedmont routing. I’m assuming that almost everyone, save the folks on Asheville to Wilmington line, will come through Greensboro, Raleigh or Charlotte at some point.

(Here are the raw distance calculations, using Google Maps and following existing interstate, U.S. or state highway routes where possible).

I imagine these stations will be massive park and rides, utilizing space right next to highway interchanges for cars and regional buses to areas that still can’t be served by rail efficiently. These buses will still sync up directly with arrivals and departures and will leave the cities they originate in promptly. Also, there will be transit to major commercial areas in the cities represented.

Or, I could go even more fantastical and make all these stations downtown stations, much like all the existing ones are. A lot of these places will need new track anyway, why not go downtown to downtown and save money on parking and buses.

Now, what you’ve been waiting for, the map!

North Carolina Fantasy Amtrak Map

Existing Amtrak service is represented by blue lines. Fantasy service is represented, with slight approximations, by the green lines. In the Google Drive, distance is calculated using state highways, of which many do have a passenger or freight railroad paralleling or hugging anyway.

Also, if you’ve not seen the infrastructure maps, especially the railroad maps, the Washington Post recently published, you should. It will also point out that a lot of my fantasy map, could become very real and very viable–if only we reinstated some of the old railroads or allowed more passenger traffic on the ones we have.

Finally, there’s some great information on the N.C. By Rail website, including this awesome video of the progress and modifications to the primary state-owned and operated route that the Piedmont travels.

I expect you to critique the mess out of this. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

I’m Kristen. I started blogging here to make sense of the built environment around me. You can find me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can find out more about me at my portfolio website, www.kristenejeffers.com. Or get an email from me weekly on Tuesday’s with links, other posts and job/fellowship opportunities.

 

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It’s time for my weekly email! A few weeks ago, I decided to move my email over to a new provider, InfusionSoft. In addition, I decided that since I’m doing this blog and other parts of Kristen Jeffers Media full-time right now, there’s no reason why I can’t send you guys a letter every week. Want it in your actual email? You can use the top bar, but that won’t give me your name and city. Instead, use the link on the sidebar. (RSS subscribers, you’re probably reading in email or a special reader anyway, so this isn’t so much for you).  And now, the email! Oh and a two regular posts are coming soon, I promise.


 

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It’s not been a secret that I feel like I’m always home now that I’m in DC and so close to NC. However, there’s really one thing I’ve not been able to properly do since my return: go to a fish house.

For the uninitiated, what many North Carolinians consider a fish house is one styled on the culinary tradition of the town of Calabash, which has dubbed itself the seafood capital of the world.

This Visit NC article has a quick history of the tradition, but for me, the restaurant pictured above, in its second location of both of our lifetimes, is ground zero for my love of Calabash seafood. There are a number of Calabash restaurants called Harbor Inn, but the one in Burlington frequented by my family since they opened in 1985 is the one I’m talking about.

We and we meaning my grandmother and my mom and a handful of her siblings are such regulars there, they know us by face, if not by name at this point. The family-owned restaurant is now being managed by my generation as I saw at the Wednesday lunch I had there with my mom and grandmother and I told the manager on duty how grateful I was that they were keeping the tradition going, especially since like “beach music”, calabash seafood eating seems to be something that only grandparents who came of age in the 30s, 40s and 50s do.

(Yes, even backyard bone-in fish fries fall under that sometimes, even though I requested one for my high school graduation twelve years ago, and this is the seafood I’m talking about when I say seafood is one of my food groups.).

He said he appreciated it and folks like us are why they are there. If you want to visit Harbor Inn, they are located at 2408 S Church St in Burlington, NC and you can check them out on the web and Facebook.

That, learning that Harris Teeter sells gas now, making a scarf on my newly expanded finger loom, watching the Gilmore Girls revival in its entirety, attempting to go to the new Greensboro The Cheesecake Factory just because, and spending much needed time with my family, was how I spent Thanksgiving week. I hope your holidays were as free of drama as mine. And now, my usual weekly reminders:

THIS WEEK ON THE BLOG AND PODCAST

Third Wave Urbanism podcast logo

We are still working on that special podcast episode. And I have two actual post drafts coming up.

In the meantime, this year’s holiday gift guide is here. Yes, it’s the same one from last year, but I added several specific products, including my own. More about that in the next section.

Listen to the entire podcast archive here or on your favorite podcast network. Also, I was on the Parkify podcast discussing the election a couple of weeks ago.. And yes, there’s a Bike Nerds episode with me also floating around.

Thanks always to Sustainable Cities Collective for continuing to syndicate my work, like this blog from a few weeks ago!

WHAT I’M WORKING ON AND HOW YOU CAN HELP ME

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PlantoSpeak Office Hours, Private Coaching and the Big Event on January 6th in DC!

As I was planning the big gathering, I realized that what I want to do should have some smaller elements, like me coaching folks on their presentations and proposals one-on-one. We all know about that weird RFP or the special member of the planning board who holds all the sway. You can plan for those things, but sometimes it’s better to discuss them and your strategy to combat them, one-on-one.

Join me virtually every Tuesday from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Eastern, using the hashtag #plantospeakQ&A on Twitter, to discuss anything relating to public speaking or proposal writing. I tried doing this on Facebook today, but still having issues. I’ll be tweeting from the @plantospeak account.

Additionally, in addition to doing one big class, I’ll be offering one-on-one coaching on an hourly basis, virtually or in-person if you live in the DC Metro area. The fees include my Six Things to Do When You Present Your Work coursebook (either digital or in print. Schedule your first round of coaching now.

And don’t forget the big half-day course in DC on January 6th! I have great news for you, as I now have a sponsor, cove, and I’ll be holding the class, absolutely free, for both cove members and a few of you! Register here. I do have a suggested donation of all non-cove members of $75, but this is truly pay what you can.

Please fill out the order form and I look forward to seeing you either in my private class, on my weekly Q&A or at the big event!

A few consulting projects from my network: I can be your public engagement team member. Or I can help your office revise, revamp, renew or even just kick off a new media campaign. Take a look at my portfolio page and let me know how I can be of service.

And if you like what I’m already doing and just want to buy me a coffee once a month, click here to contribute to my tip jar . I can slide goodies back in there for you and will start doing so in January. (Because getting presents in January is even more awesome than doing so in December).

2016 The Black Urbanist Holiday Gift Guide. The gift guide is here. And yes, it’s the same as last year, because certain kinds of gifts are timeless. You’ll want to send this to any of your family and friends who need help buying things for you that are sufficiently plannery and bikey.

Also, if If you need wrapping paper, or you want quirky fabric or gift wrap I can help! You have until December 9th to order anything on my Spoonflower site to guarantee shipping before Christmas.

Also, if you click any of the I’ll send you a free copy of the Spoonflower sample book or a swatch of your favorite fabric. Also, my holiday prints are, is a great choice for wrapping paper! Thanks to you, if it was one of you, who purchased my Flowing Woman Christmas print, pictured in the center above. Also, I will be adding a few more finished product options next week, like phone and tablet cases via Zazzle.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE READING

Still (largely) on Facebook sabbatical, but I’m definitely alive and reading things on other sites and tweeting them if you want more real-time daily commentary.

MY TRAVEL AND EVENT SCHEDULE

In DC for the immediate future, save my trip home to Greensboro for Christmas December 23rd-27th. In the meantime, I’ll be around TRB at the happy hours, at Transportation Camp DC Saturday, January 7th and I’m almost always up for happy hour here in DC. Oh and don’t forget the Plan to Speak half-day on January 6th! And in NYC the weekend of the inaugural.

HOW TO REACH ME

@blackurbanist on Twitter and Instagram. kristen@theblackurbanist.com (this goes to my Gmail account) and if you already have my cell number, text me or message me. Otherwise, dial 1-888-207-9391.

See you next week,

Kristen


This week’s email is brought to you by ThePlug. The Plug is your daily email source for Black achievement and developments in the technology sector. Subscribe here.

You can sponsor this email too and get your logo under my name every week and reach over 300 engaged planners, developers, architects, policy wonks, concerned citizens and a few of my relatives and childhood friends with your product or service. Click on the advertise tab for more info. Also, I will post your job listing! More info on that coming soon.

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It’s time for my weekly email! A few weeks ago, I decided to move my email over to a new provider, InfusionSoft. In addition, I decided that since I’m doing this blog and other parts of Kristen Jeffers Media full-time right now, there’s no reason why I can’t send you guys a letter every week. Want it in your actual email? You can use the top bar, but that won’t give me your name and city. Instead, use the link on the sidebar. (RSS subscribers, you’re probably reading in email or a special reader anyway, so this isn’t so much for you).  And now, the email! Oh and a real post is coming soon, I promise.


 

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I finally went to the #Blacksonian. (Seriously, they should consider changing the name to that, it’s a bit more catchy and hashtagable).

Considering the mood I was in, and that I live right down the street from it, I really only focused on the cultural parts of the space, as well as the building itself. I ate at the cafe, took pictures of the architectural model and I stood in the middle of the cultural gallery and let the circle embrace me and show me that my work matters and that I matter.

The collage above is only a fraction of what I saw and because I got such a late-in-the-day ticket and had a phone call to attend to, Yet, I do plan on returning and letting the entire experience of the struggle and triumph envelop me and make me even prouder of my heritage and culture.

And now, all the other things I’ve been up to and reading this week…

THIS WEEK ON THE PODCAST

Third Wave Urbanism podcast logo

Before the election, Katrina and I recorded an episode on autonomous cars, and we just dropped it out into the universe. Come hear us talk about the near future!

And we lost last Monday’s audio :(. However, we did re-record a version of that episode as it had a lot of great advice on how to move forward. with our work in the very near future of a new presidential administration.

Listen to the entire podcast archive here or on your favorite podcast network. Also bonus podcast episode from me, as I was on the Parkify podcast discussing the election this week. And yes, there’s a Bike Nerds episode with me also floating around. And thanks to the firm EnSite for spotlighting this classic post on my Thanksgiving ritual.

WHAT I’M WORKING ON AND HOW YOU CAN HELP ME

Earthly Mechanical Movement by KristPattern available on Spoonflower.com

PlantoSpeak Office Hours, Private Coaching and the Big Event on January 6th in DC!

As I was planning the big gathering that I proposed last week, I realized that what I want to do should have some smaller elements, like me coaching folks on their presentations and proposals one-on-one. We all know about that weird RFP or the special member of the planning board who holds all the sway. You can plan for those things, but sometimes it’s better to discuss them and your strategy to combat them, one-on-one.

Join me virtually every Tuesday from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Eastern, starting on November 29th, for a live webinar on Facebook Live, to discuss anything relating to public speaking or proposal writing. My first webinar will be on my Six Things to Do When You Present Your Work post that birthed this master class. You can send questions in advance and I will download the video so that it can be seen on another platform. I may also move this class to another platform, so watch this space and others for information of where the office hours will be.

Additionally, in addition to doing one big class, I’ll be offering one-on-one coaching on an hourly basis, virtually or in-person if you live in the DC Metro area. The fees include my Six Things to Do When You Present Your Work coursebook (either digital or in print. Schedule your first round of coaching now.

And don’t forget the big half-day course in DC on January 6th! Register now and the course will only be $250. I’m only offering that rate until December 31st, so hurry up and register! I’m also available to come to your workplace to do a similar full or half day training at a special rate. Please fill out the order form and I look forward to seeing you either in my private class, on my weekly Q&A or at the big event!

A few consulting projects from my network: I can be your public engagement team member. Or I can help your office revise, revamp, renew or even just kick off a new media campaign. Take a look at my portfolio page and let me know how I can be of service.

And if you like what I’m already doing and just want to buy me a coffee once a month, click here to contribute to my tip jar . I can slide goodies back in there for you and will start doing so in January. (Because getting presents in January is even more awesome than doing so in December).

2016 The Black Urbanist Holiday Gift Guide. Next week in my email and on the blog, you’ll be getting my 2016 gift guide. You’ll want to send this to any of your family and friends who need help buying things for you that are sufficiently plannery and bikey.

Also, if If you need wrapping paper, or you want quirky fabric or gift wrap I can help! You have until December 9th to order anything on my Spoonflower site to guarantee shipping before Christmas.

Also, if you click that link above (tweet at me and ask specifically for a sample), I’ll send you a free copy of the Spoonflower sample book or a swatch of your favorite fabric. Also, Earthly Mechanical Movement, pictured above, is a great choice for wrapping paper that lets the world know how proud of a planner you are.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE READING

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Still (largely) on Facebook sabbatical, but I’m definitely alive and reading things on other sites and tweeting them if you want more real-time daily commentary.

MY TRAVEL AND EVENT SCHEDULE

I am on the train headed home for Thanksgiving in Greensboro (Well, I will be from 11ish to 7ish on Tuesday the 22nd). I will not have my own transportation, but I would love to see you if I can. Please reach out to me and put something on the schedule for Wednesday-Sunday. Note you will probably have to pick me up from my Mom’s house.

HOW TO REACH ME

@blackurbanist on Twitter and Instagram. kristen@theblackurbanist.com (this goes to my Gmail account) and if you already have my cell number, text me or message me. Otherwise, dial 1-888-207-9391.

See you next week,

Kristen


This week’s email is brought to you by ThePlug. The Plug is your daily email source for Black achievement and developments in the technology sector. Subscribe here.

You can sponsor this email too and get your logo under my name every week and reach over 300 engaged planners, developers, architects, policy wonks, concerned citizens and a few of my relatives and childhood friends with your product or service. Click on the advertise tab for more info. Also, I will post your job listing! More info on that coming soon.

 

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[Weekly Email] Election Breakdown (and a Call for Self-Care)

We are back to the original program on my email. However, I’m still going to paste them here as posts, so you can get a taste of what I email to my subscribers and you can keep up with me on a weekly basis. And unlike in email, all the links are hot!  And there are pictures! Oh, and they will be weekly for the foreseeable future. Here goes!


 

How I’m Feeling and This Week on the Blog

My post from last Wednesday captures a lot of how I feel about what happened last Tuesday.

Another thing that helped? Spending time with other advocates of color and other marginalized peoples, as well as dedicated allies at The Untokening in Atlanta. (Here we are on a bike ride)

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Also, finally meeting Katrina in person! We had a great time recording Third Wave Urbanism live at Pipeline Philly yesterday and we look forward to doing so again. We talked a lot about the election and why we decided to do both a joint podcast and why I decided to do my work. The audio will be up soon, but in the meantime, check us out on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, or at our website .

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Instagram has all my travel pictures. I got to foam (train-watch) and spot (plane-watch) like crazy over the weekend. And I need to get back to Redding Terminal Market so I can properly eat my way through it.

What I’m Working On

Getting PlantoSpeak ready: January 6th, location in the DC Metro area, TBD. Cost, $250 until the day of, $499 the day off. You’ll spend a half day with me, critiquing your proposals and presentations, as well as getting a dose of how I make mine awesome. Go to www.plantospeak.com/resources  in the meantime and look for registration forms at the beginning of December.

A few consulting projects from my network: I can be your public engagement team member. Or I can help your office revise, revamp, renew or even just kick off a new media campaign. Take a look at my portfolio page (www.kristenejeffers.com) and let me know how I can be of service.

And if you like what I’m already doing and just want to buy me a coffee once a month, contribute to my tip jar. I can slide goodies back in there for you and will start doing so in January. (Because getting presents in January is even more awesome than doing so in December).

Adding a few new prints to the Kristpattern holiday collection. If you need wrapping paper, or you want quirky fabric or gift wrap I can help! Here’s one of my new  prints, Golden Tea Flight!

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What You Should Be Reading

For the best commentary on this election and the effects on cities, Next City and CityLab have been doing a great job with keeping tabs on the work of the new administration.

I, for purposes of self-care, have been avoiding a lot of the news cycle. That includes Facebook. I am still tweeting here and there and I’m sharing a few things I think are great over there.

I am also doing my best to not read too much into the doom and gloom scenarios. Yes, I do believe we will have some damage to human and civil rights. And yes, I do believe we need to take it seriously.

However, some of us more than others have had to cope with negative influences and policy much longer. Some of you have the privilege of being able to influence policy to go another way. Whatever you read or choose to do over the next few days, let us listen and also let’s take calculated and defined action. Also, be mindful of your online chatter and also your mental health.

My Travel and Event Schedule

Next week, I am home for Thanksgiving in Greensboro. I know I’ve canceled several Greensboro trips since I moved back to the East Coast, but this one will stick. Because of that, you’ll get a smaller weekly email, and then the following week I’ll be back in DC and ready for the holiday season there.

How to Reach Me

@blackurbanist on Twitter and Instagram. kristen@theblackurbanist.com (this goes to my Gmail account) and if you already have my cell number, text me or message me. Otherwise, dial  1-888-207-9391.

See you next week!

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Open Thoughts on the U.S. Election Results

Looking back at San Francisco from the Rockridge Station in Oakland. I wanted to note one of last night's victories, more money for the BART system.  Image by Malcolm Kenton

Looking back at San Francisco from the Rockridge Station in Oakland. I wanted to note one of last night’s victories, more money for the BART system. Image by Malcolm Kenton

I assume most of you are probably in a state of either shock or fear or a combination of the two. I wanted to write a note here, so you’ll know that someone is listening one and two, that you’re not alone and three, so I can process these things. The platform is here for a reason and I’m using it for this today.

First of all, at the local and state levels, some strong advocates and leaders were elected for the first time or re-elected. Some strong leaders were very close to winning. And the presidential election itself on a county-by-county level was very close. While there were some places that flipped, others stayed the same or were stable.

Additionally, I’m so proud of all the cities that voted for transit or other infrastructure bonds. There’s also been an idea that in the new presidential administration, that an infrastructure measure of great consequence may actually happen. I can see that, as many of the transit referenda went forth in places that went red last night.

Going forward, I do think we need to tackle that civic-inferiority complex, along with our own inferiority complexes. We need to listen to all people. We need to make sure they are all fed and have the opportunity for healthcare without the extreme financial burdens. We need to make sure they all have a place to live. We need to stay out of bedrooms and church houses and other places that if we don’t have to go, we don’t have to go. If someone isn’t attacking you, don’t be a bully. Believe what you believe, but don’t attack people or be a bully in the pursuit of your own feelings of needing a person to be a certain way for you to feel some kind of self-worth. Sometimes we deal with this in our own families or colleagues or classmates and even longtime friends. I think our first step is to accept who they are, discuss things tactfully and then when it’s clear that mindset change is not happening on a particular day, move on and focus back on ourselves and self-worth and self-love and our improvements that we’ve been told we should do, through various means.

I know that many times in the past six years, I’ve written people off, people who have no intention of being violent or who really just want answers to questions, because I don’t like how they say it or what they say. I think we have done this a lot over the past few years and really over the past 50 years since we decided collectively that all people should have rights, but on the flip side they only have rights if they do things our way and in our moralities. Do realize that this country is not unified under one moral code. Other than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. Also realize that we have built this country under systems that have always privileged a select few. However, because we had language in our constitution that stated otherwise, we as people in the United States have felt like we can have a fair shot at challenging those norms.

On the flip side, we need to redefine the American Dream such that it doesn’t require extreme wealth and the appearance of success to succeed. We need to stop making it about what we own as so much as to what we can offer in our own creativity and grit and love.

Our cities must continue to fix and maintain and build better transportation systems. We need to wipe the terms market-rate and affordable out of our housing conversation and just talk about housing. We need to commit to a common, free, lifelong education system. We need clean water and air. We need free or low-cost healthcare. Our first responders and protectors that seek to protect and serve, need do that not just fear and bully and kill. Our regions and cities should  their citizens before investing in corporations that may or may not stay around long enough to build the economy. We should respect the rural areas and the breadbasket of our nation and instead of shaming suburban people, looking at it for what it is and doing our best to create real, functional towns and villages out of the various sprigs of development that we have.

Additionally, I ask that you respect those of us, who may have chosen third parties and who may take this opportunity to choose another country of residence. We live on a globe, not just a flat piece of land and there are many more issues and places and ideas that we need to address. Many of us look to Copenhagen and Amsterdam for bike/ped infrastructure, and to South Korea for rail infrastructure. We need to be looking outside the box, especially if all that changes is that all of the new laws of the last eight years are repealed. If we are allowed to continue to exist as a democracy, if we aren’t at risk of deportation, or extreme public shunning or shaming, or being killed, we can start the conversations we need to have at the local and state level on new leadership. We can be more innovative with whom we choose as leaders. Or, much as I’m an American expat in America, we can visit and live and work in other places, build up income and experience and come back home and shift our country.

In 2020, I will be old enough to run for president. Not saying that I’ll exercise my right then and that it will be available, but I want us to think about what the world could look like as soon as next year, when there will be more elections and maybe local ones you can plug into and start building the seeds to help us get back to a better place.

And finally, let us be courageous and keep living our normal lives. The oppressor wins when we bow down and we change our lives. Let’s be our best selves until the end.

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[Weekly Email] Voting and Housebuilding

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It’s time again for my weekly email. As it went out wrong again, I’m including it here on the blog, plus, if you scroll down, I’ve included a small note on my election day experience so far. Here’s the email:

I’m sure you noticed that my house, my virtual house that is, has been under construction.

(Especially when you got that other email just a little bit ago, sorry about that.) 

Actually, what I did was build a bunch of little houses that are not structurally sound alone.

And those of you who are architects or architect-adjacent like myself understand how important it is for the house you build to actually stand up by itself.

So first I figured I’d build some connecting paths to my houses.

That’s what Kristen Jeffers Media is, a way to connect all my various ventures under one singular idea, which is me and the channels in which I communicate with the world.

However, I still planned on making sure all those houses were separate things and not one big thing. I am also feeling stretched thin trying to keep the lights on in all these houses when I could just spend my energy in one big house.

That big house being The Black Urbanist, the one you come visit me at all the time anyway.

(I’ll still be Kristen Jeffers Media legally)

What does this mean for PlantoSpeak and Kristpattern? It means they will be living inside two nice big rooms in The Black Urbanist house.

Kristpattern is essentially The Black Urbanist at Home anyway. And that’s how I’ll refer to it. You can still purchase things under the banner of Kristpattern at the Spoonflower site, and on Zazzle.

You’ll also see the phrase The Black Urbanist at Home over there a bit more often and if you need a reference point, think of it as my interior design line. Because even in all my urbanism, I still like to decorate houses and carry my laptop in nice bags and cover my phone and you all know I love dresses. So that’s that room.

PlantoSpeak, which you should totally plan on coming to in January, tentatively scheduled for the 7th in Washington, DC, just before the Transportation Review Board Annual Meeting, is the first of what I hope will be many The Black Urbanist Masterclasses.

You will see that name more often, but you’ll also see PlantoSpeak. You may also see some of my Masterclasses on other platforms and you can always purchase one for your own office or organization and I’ll come to you.

So, that’s it for this week’s edition of The Black Urbanist Weekly. Again, this month as we move into the holidays and making new budgets and goals and buying gifts and such, I wanted you to be aware of ways to support me and also to keep you in the loop about the evolution of my brand and my design practice.

If you want to read curated links and my latest posts, head over to my public Facebook Group and join and make sure you’re still on my email list in December, when we shift back to more regular programming in my email.

And, for those of you who want to support me and might not need anything I’m selling, you can subscribe to The Black Urbanist Tip Jar, for $5 a month. I’ll be launching a bigger subscription service soon, with more content and projects, but for now, click here and you can turn one of your cups of coffee into something that will help me keep my foundation standing and write more of the stories and commentary you want to hear from me.

Oh, and please go and vote! Here are my thoughts on voting from earlier, which I sent out on social media with the photo leading this post. As of this writing, all polls are still open across the U.S.

It is done! I’m going to speak specifically to the privilege, yes the privilege, of voting in the District of Columbia today.

First of all, I walked a block to my poll. I listened to one of my favorite songs as I walked. I met a few folks with materials, but it was mostly our folks for our Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which is like a congress of neighborhoods, that actually holds weight and gets things done. I walked in with my identity documents, not because I needed them with my existing voter registration card, but because I needed them because I needed to register to vote on the same day that I voted. Oh and it wasn’t a provisional ballot, although there was a corner for folks who did that too. It was a normal paper ballot and if I’d wanted to, I could have used an electronic one. There were no lines at around 11 a.m. Eastern when I was there. All the poll workers were friendly.

And I want everyone to know, that this is how it should work in a democracy, a fully open, non suppressive, democracy. I’m not going to endorse anyone here, but if you know me, you know how I voted and that I’m going to get out and do the everyday work of making sure we have a government we can all be proud off.

My buttons are a nod to my home state, which needs to turn blue tonight and start to become turquoise. My other button says think globally, participate regionally, act locally, which is a nod to the Piedmont Together regional plan and all the transit, parks, and rec and other infrastructure bonds that are on ballots today. Please vote for the ones that actually make sense! And vote for people who make sense! I will endorse that measure. And the middle one is my Shower April Beans pattern which you can find at my Spoonflower store along with other cool patterns you can look at to take a break from everything else on your feed today via the link in my bio.
Happy Election Day and may the odds ever be in our favor! Also, newsletter subscribers, it’s weekly email day!#election2016

I’ll be back to writing essays soon. And if you want to be on the email list, go here. And if you want to support me, there are tons of ways to do that above. And for the record, I don’t think the world is going to end today ;).

 

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