LOU: Michelle, I have been a Michelle Jones fangirl ever since I first stumbled across Consuming Louisville. I don't know if you remember this, but our first personal communication consisted of me writing you an actual "fan" letter. In my opinion, you're the whole "Awesome Louisvillager" package: nifty, innovative, AND kind. What inspired you to start Consuming Louisville, and why do you think it is (I have no numbers to back this up, but it seems a reasonable estimation) the most popular culture blog in the city?
First, the fangirl thing is completely mutual. You are awesome and I love you. The precursor to Consuming Louisville was a site called Consuming Indy. When B was close to finishing her residency in Indianapolis she started getting inquiries from hospitals and practices up there. I was afraid that she was going to get a job offer too good to turn down and we were going to be living in Indianapolis forever. It would be fair to say that Indianapolis and I didn't get along. The vibe and culture of the city just wasn't right for me but I figured if we were going to be living there for a long period of time I would have to figure out a way to be happier there. So I started more actively seeking out the independent shops, galleries, restaurants and other cultural things that are really important to me. I decided if I was looking so hard for those things that at least a few other people had to be looking for them as well so I should share that information on the interwebs. Thus Consuming Indy was born.
The day B accepted a job offer in Louisville I bought the domain name for Consuming Louisville. I couldn't wait to get back home to write about all the amazing things going on here. With Consuming Indy I was searching really hard to find things, with Consuming Louisville I knew I'd be overrun with great things to write about it and instead my role would be a bit more like a curator.
What popularity Consuming Louisville has is due to three things I think. The first is consistency. Week in week out month after month I publish Consuming Louisville. Except when I'm on vacation (and even sometimes then), when I'm observing religious holidays or federal holidays I'm adding new content to Consuming Louisville very nearly every week day. People know they can expect new content. The second is passion. People know I love this city and I write about things I think are good and worthy of more attention. I'm upfront with my biases (both pro and con) so I think readers have a good idea of what I'm about and over time readers have figured out whether they generally agree with my assessments or not because there is enough. The third is diversity in content. Although the name leads some folks to think Consuming Louisville is only about food I publish about everything from Hummingbird Festivals to sci fi conventions and from Louisville based Etsy sellers to art shows at tattoo shops. So I think there tends to be a little something for almost everyone on Consuming Louisville.
LOU: I know you're a Louisville transplant, and I also know that you just bought and fixed up a home. How did you end up in our lovely city, and do you think Louisville is going to be your "forever home"?
I moved to Louisville when B came to medical school. She's a few years older than I am and we met when I was an undergrad. I transferred to UofL, she went to med school and the rest is history. Well almost. After med school we lived in Memphis and Indianapolis before we came back home. When B finished her residency we were pretty free to move anywhere we wanted and we made the decision to come back to Louisville, it's where we want to be. It's the place we've always been most comfortable and happiest. It's big enough to have all the amenities we want and small enough that we feel we can really be part of and contribute to the community in positive ways. So yes, I definitely plan on Louisville being my forever home. Plus after we bought the house I swore I was never moving again.
LOU: You're a "Louisville Connector." I'm not really sure what that means or what the "job" entails. Tell us about the Louisville Connector program and what it means to you and what the program means to the city.
I'm incredibly proud and honored to have been chosen a Louisville Connector. I have a very non-traditional work life and a very non-traditional definition of career success. It feels like a victory for independent creative types and geeks everywhere that someone like me ended up on a list with such company as the mayor and Gil Holland. That being said I'm not sure what the job entails other than to keep on keeping on. Meaning it's inspired me to try to be even more proactive in not only doing good in our community but to also help others do good as well. For a long time now I've been looking for a mentor, someone who understands my life goals and can help guide me. I'm still looking for that mentor but the Connector program has helped me understand that I can, at least in a small way, be a mentor to other folks even though I totally still don't feel like a grownup.
What I hope the Connectors program eventually means to the city is that a strong network develops among the Connectors and we help each other multiply the good we are each doing exponentially. I want us all to get in a room where individual Connectors say "This is the cool project I'm trying to get off the ground or that I want to support, who can help out?" Then hopefully that person is stampeded by other Connectors who can do just that. That hasn't happened yet, but I'm hopeful it will, if not with my class of Connectors then at least with future classes.
LOU: You're also a "do-gooder" in so many senses of the word. Tell me about some of the "do-good" projects you're most proud of and about some of the "do-good" projects in the works.
The do-gooder project that I'm all kinds of in love with right now is a volunteer program through JFCS called "Shabbos Friends." Once a month volunteers, myself included, visit nursing homes or retirement communities to welcome Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) with the Jewish residents. It's a tiny little thing to spend a couple hours a month doing but it is so rewarding. I know the folks I visit enjoy it but truthfully I am so enriched by the experience I almost feel like I should be paying someone to get to do it.
A couple of my favorite do-gooder projects were ones we did for the library. Consuming Louisville readers were so generous both during the "Libraries are Free but Books Aren't" book drive and the bake sale we had last year. I've actually been thinking it's time to do another bake sale just because it was so much fun. I'm not sure if it will be another library fundraiser or if it will support another organization but I'm thinking early October will be a good time for it so I can make all sorts of pumpkin based treats (mmm pumpkin)!
I'm still trying to get a do-gooder project off the ground for "Let Them Tweet Cake." I've stalled out in raising money for it but essentially we're trying to help senior citizens stay connected to friends and family though social media tools. We want to pair up smart, tech savvy women with seniors to be, basically, their personal internet coach. From Facebook to YouTube to good old email there are so many free tools to keep folks connected we want as many people to have access to them as possible. We just need a little bit of hardware since nursing homes, retirement communities, etc don't tend to have open access computers for residents.
LOU: Here's a personal question, but to me, it's one of the things that makes you so "awesome." I know you're about to celebrate your 15 year anniversary with B. I'm a little older than you are, but too often when I spend time with my coupled friends, I come away thinking, "I'm glad he/she found someone, but I wouldn't want their kind of partnership for myself." That's just not the case when I spend time with you and B. As far as I'm concerned, you two share a relationship that we should all aspire to. What is the secret to your success?
What a wonderful question. Yes, B and I have been together for very nearly 15 years. It's funny that you ask this questions because we actually talked about this today at lunch. There are many pieces that fit together to make our relationship work but I'll tell you what I think the three most important ones are.
1. We genuinely enjoy each other's company. From the very beginning we've always had a really good time together. We laugh a lot, we have a ton of inside jokes and we have no reservations about being completely and totally silly together. To say it another way, not only do we love each other but we also really like each other.
2. She is the best person I've ever known. She has always raised the bar for me to be better. To learn more, to be kinder, to recycle more, to stop throwing my clothes in a pile in the bedroom floor, whatever. It's not by guilt or nudging, it's by example. Her commitment to her patients and how genuinely she cares is an incredible inspiration. I think it's terribly important to be with someone who makes you want to be better, who makes you want to try harder.
3. We are committed, there is no "out." We aren't the same people we were 15 years ago when we first met. We've changed in who we are, what we do and things that are important to us but through all of those changes we knew that being together was the one thing that would never change. Yes of course love is a feeling but it's also a choice. We choose to be together everyday, we choose to love each other. Even through fights or rough patches we know that we've chosen to be with each other so whatever it takes to fix things or make a situation better is what we're going to do.
For example she works crazy long hours that frustrate me. I know though that her work makes her happy and I know I'm never going to leave. So I have to look at the situation and say "ok, that's not changing and our status as a couple isn't changing, so what can I change to make myself happier?" and then I go from there. And from her side of things I went from being a-religious to religiously observant after we'd been together for a decade. That was a huge change in our life but we both knew that even with such a change we would be together, leaving just isn't an option. So we worked through it to find a way for my religious observance to enrich our life together instead of being a burden for her.
If you were to ask B what the secret to our success is though her answer would be much simpler. She'd say "Crusty edge, soft middle." Meaning she likes the crusty exterior of bagels and bread while I prefer the soft middle pieces. So I give her my crusty edges and she gives me her soft center. In other words our likes compliment each other.
You can read Michelle's blog at: Consuming Louisville
And her tweets at: twitter.com/michellej
And Michelle encourages everyone to volunteer with JFCS!