almost summer

Last week, I got to spend an evening watching some of my favorite little ones yuck it up in a sun-soaked backyard. It really doesn't get much better. And while ALL of these sweet faces are moving away from me very soon (WHY???), I stole what moments I could, stalking them with a camera until the sun drained from the sky. It's my favorite time of the year, this almost summer season, and these kiddos reminded me that the best way to enjoy it is with (mostly) shoeless, wild abandon.

dirty work.

There are lots of different kinds of hard work. There is dirty, work-your-hands-to-the-bone kinds of work. There is emotional, in-your-gut-kinds of work and can’t-fall-asleep-at-night kinds of work. There is hard work that makes you feel full and hard work that makes you feel empty and sometimes the work that falls somewhere in between. And then there is the personal hard work - the stuff that wrings your brain and heart out, and forces you to ask the challenging questions, even though the answers might be scary. For each of us, this work looks different. It is measured differently, felt differently, and experienced differently. But it’s difficult and dirty, nonetheless.

The past few months, I’ve found myself engaged in an all-too familiar kind of grind. And so here is the truth of it: I can’t stop comparing every aspect of my life to every aspect of everyone else’s. The comparison game has been beating me down, days at a time, and I don’t like the way it feels. I know the routine, this act of comparison, and it’s one that can happen so quickly, it’s as though the laces are tied before I’ve even decided what shoes to put on for the race.

I hope I don’t sound too ungrateful here, but growing up and existing as a millennial is its own kind of terribly bizarre gift. Unlimited access to the world and its details is, at best, overwhelming, and at worst, terribly disheartening. I’m paralyzed, almost daily, by the amount of opportunities, opinions, options, paths, roads, careers, failures, and successes that I consume via photos, tweets, websites, and social media. I know so much about so many things and yet, I can’t seem to make a decision that I won’t talk myself out of five minutes later. I want to be about a million different things at any given moment (a writer! a world-traveler! an entrepreneur! a photographer! an artist! an activist! a farmer! a graphic designer! a chef! a hip, skinny-jean-wearing mom with great hair and sponsored Instagram posts!) and it can be difficult work to cultivate contentment in the wholeness of my present life. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, because I hear it, almost daily, from my peers. The millennial mantra can be hard to live by. With a little help from our parents, we’ve embraced the idea that we can be anything we want to be! and that rules were meant to be broken!, and I’ve witnessed it time and time again. I’ve seen my vagabond friends travel the world, make art, pay their bills, and look good doing it. I’ve observed acquaintances build start-ups, work from home, promote the hell out of themselves, and walk away with full pockets. I’ve seen others start businesses via social media and make more money in a month than I see all year. The point is, my generation bares witness to all of this, all of the time. And this isn’t the exception. This is often the rule. There is an innate expectation, however false, that can come with this kind of exposure. We want to believe (I want to believe) that life can be ALL of the things, all of the time. I don’t want to play by the rules of working hard. I want the time, freedom, and opportunity to live a life that is curated by myself alone, one lovely and intellectually stimulating moment at a time. I DESERVE THIS, I tell myself. Social media tells me so. Who wants ordinary when you can be extraordinary?

And then I give myself a proverbial punch in the face.

There is so much danger in the belief that hard work can be bypassed. While yes, we can all generally create our own set of rules to live by, we cannot outsmart, outwit, or outshine hard work. I cannot outsmart, outwit, or outshine hard work. If I’m lucky, I will get to choose the kind of hard work I want to do, but, in the end, it will still difficult and it will still be dirty.  The choice is the privilege, not work in and of itself.

Like many millennials, I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m fairly confident I won’t come to a full conclusion until I’m on the downside of 70. And that’s ok with me. It’s a luxury, to be sure, and one that I don’t take lightly. I live in a world where there a million and one ways to learn, grow, change, connect, and evolve. But here is what I know for sure:  Freedom takes work. Time takes work. Opportunity takes work. My vagabond, entrepreneur, creative, beautiful-people friends all have to put in the work, even if social media would have me believe otherwise. Nothing worth experiencing occurs in and of itself. Hard work makes the good stuff happen.

I’m tired of comparison. It steals joy, as they say, but I believe it also diminishes the value we place on the process and on the hard-fought journey that so many of our lives represent. I want to love, support, and encourage the imperfect lives that my friends and peers lead, and I want them to do the same for me. I want to strive to embrace the process, the dirty work, and the imperfections as much as I embrace the shiny and beautiful filtered Instagram photo. Because, as much as I love a good photograph, I love the simple, ordinary, hard-working story behind it even more. 

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm going to work on ceasing comparing my thighs, meals, clothes, trips, and days to yours, if you remind me every once in a while that you work hard to earn those European excursions and that you, too, in fact, wake up with pimples the size of Argentina on your forehead. In exchange, I'll try to stop bragging about how awesome my dog is and will work on posting more cellulite-heavy pics (yum!). I think sometimes it takes a lot of hard work and extraordinary courage to be perfectly ordinary. But for the sake of millennials everywhere, I'm willing to try.

walking it out.

Most days, Marlo and I take a short walk around the neighborhood. We head out just about the time the sun rests in that special slot in the sky- the place where the trees light up and the world seems to shimmer just a little more than it did before. I pull on a fleece, shield my eyes, and let that lovely, stubborn dog pull me down the street. She will pull and tug until she understands that our collaboration is far better (and less exhausting) than our struggle. (A metaphor for life, perhaps?) We generally walk one of three routes and, some days, I even let her choose which one it will be. Yesterday we walked my favorite, if only because it takes us past the most wonderfully lived-in home where jazz music is always playing and the neighborhood kids are always laughing. 

I’m a big believer in taking walks, and not just the put-on-your-running-tights-and-tennis-shoes-and-pretend-to-run kind of walks. I’m a believer in the daily stroll – the kind that allows you to intentionally explore the world around you.  I believe in taking the time to notice the slightest changes in the leaves or the cosmetic shifts happening to the home being restored down the street.  I believe in waving to the older gentleman who always walks his dog at the same time of day as you and stopping to wish him a very good evening. I believe in not having anywhere to be – at least for a little while - and in stopping to take a picture or two. You’d be surprised by how much life happens in the amount of time it takes to huff it a few blocks.

I grew up taking walks. My family went on frequent walks together. My friends and I would go on "hikes" and try to see what new things we could discover in the same old trees and same old sidewalk cracks that we were accustomed to. Depending on where my family lived, I often walked to school, and have distinct memories of formulating elaborate schemes and stories in my head in the amount of time it took for me to reach my destination.  In college, my friends and I would roam around campus for hours, often times in the middle of the night, just for the adventure of it. When I adopted Marlo, daily walks became part of the deal. And I loved it. I loved the excuse to stroll around the neighborhood in the early evening and let my imagination run wild.

Someone once told me, “If life begins to feel difficult, go take a walk. You’ll feel better by the time you’ve rounded the corner towards home.” The exercise is helpful, of course. But more than that, I believe it’s the vantage point.  These daily walks act as medicine, a meditation of sorts, and they allow me to create my own kind of therapeutic time-lapse. I’m only able to take in the world as slowly or quickly as my body (and Marlo) allows. There is more time for the details and even more space for my thoughts and creativity. I’m allowed to take note of all that has changed and all that has stayed the same, and rest in how much beauty resides in all that is ordinary.  For many of us, it takes a whole lot of effort to do that kind of simple work. But I’m willing to try. 

So, tonight, when I get home, I’ll put on my fleece and grab the leash. Marlo will get excited because she knows an adventure is about to be had.  She’ll pull me down the street and I’ll do my best to take note of how the sunlight hits the cement and how the smell of fresh laundry, most likely from the neighbors’ house, is still hanging heavy in the air. I’ll take a deep breath, push aside the stress from the day, and do the simple work of focusing on the present. I'll wave to the older gentleman, dodge the bicycle commuters, and enjoy the journey. And then we’ll probably take the long route, just because we can.  




I don’t often write about my work here in this space.  Besides passing references, I try to keep the scope of what I share thoughtful and non-invasive.  I want to be respectful of the population of students that I work with and certainly don’t want to paint them in any kind of light that isn’t true or encouraging. However, it seems that the longer I do the work that I do, the deeper its reach becomes. It’s difficult to not mention it here, because it has become so much of who I am. By default, it's bound to leak into this space, if only a little bit at a time.

I suppose the first thing I should tell you is this: inevitably, whenever I meet someone new and participate in the reciprocal exchange of niceties- name (Courtney), interests (cheese), social connections (I went to college with her cousin's ex-husband's new boyfriend), place of employment (school psychologist who works with blind and visually impaired students) – I always get a few follow-up questions or statements that usually sounds a little something like this:

“You work with blind kids? Geeeez. You win.”

Or: “Wow, what an interesting job. So, do just listen to blind kid’s problems all day?”

Or: “Wait. What does that even mean?”

Or, my personal favorite: “Whoa! So, do you speak sign language?”

I generally just smile and answer the questions as briefly as I can, because the truth is, it would take hours to truly explain what my role is in such a unique environment, and nobody has the time or attention span for that. But I get it. It's one of those jobs that just sounds different than most. And I suppose it is. But some days are really hard. And some days the to-do list feels too long to truly make a difference.  Often, I feel bogged down with paperwork. I wish, almost all of the time, that I had more hours in the day to do counseling with my students. I get frustrated with all of the rules and regulations that Special Education requires and often wish for simple, concrete procedures that would just STAY THE SAME ALREADY.

But then, sometimes, I feel as though I’m bursting at the seams with stories. I want to shout from the rooftops that I am basically the luckiest woman alive to get to work with such courageous, beautiful, challenging students. I’m continually amazed by the attitude and spirit of these kids.  The things they accomplish and navigate put me to shame.  While I struggle to get out of bed every morning, they are also struggling to get out of bed every morning, but are generally doing it with the BEST ATTITUDES EVER. While I’m praying to switch places with my dog just so I can sleep an extra hour, they are fully embracing who they are and who they want be. They are determined, almost all of the time, to be the best versions of themselves. They are tech savvy, fearless, and amazingly fashionable. They are committed to learning scary and daunting new things because they want the freedom to pursue their wildest dreams. I can’t even begin to tell you how life-giving it is to bear witness to such a thing. 

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live your life without the gift of sight? Take a moment and just imagine it. Imagine what it would be like to cook a meal, clean your desk, or go to the grocery store. Imagine the skills and tools you would need to simply get dressed in the morning. Imagine introducing yourself to new people, trusting them to help you rather than take advantage. Imagine learning a new neighborhood, a new city, a new job. Think about the challenges that would arise in even the simplest, everyday tasks. I believe most of us would not only lack sight, but also the vision needed to see beyond our physical limitations.

Even more, imagine what it would be like to be a TEENAGER and to be visually impaired. Imagine trying to navigate social situations and crushes and cliques and plans for your future. Imagine trying to learn how to study and take tests and apply for colleges. Imagine the courage it takes to go out and let the world see you try and learn and make mistakes. Imagine wanting to drive, and figuring out that you never will be able to do so. Imagine taking a sex education class as a blind or visually impaired teenager. No. Seriously. Imagine it. There would be SO MANY QUESTIONS, right? Now imagine having additional disabilities to consider – orthopedic impairment, auditory impairment, speech impairment, cognitive impairment, autism – as visual impairment generally has a very high co-morbidity rate with other physical and mental disabilities.  Do you have a good sense of what I am trying to convey? These, THESE, are the students that I get to spend time with every day. These are the funny, frustrating, smelly, lovely, courageous teenagers that I get to sit in meetings about, write reports for, design behavior plans for, and provide tissues for. These are the teenagers that I get to help discover who they want to be when they grow up.

I don’t want to romanticize things too much, because teenagers are still teenagers, regardless of the sum of their parts. Some days they make stupid choices. Some days they do hurtful things. Other days they say the wrong thing or don’t say the right thing or lie or cheat or frustrate me beyond words. But they are teenagers. And this is what they do.

Yes, I’m a school psychologist.  You picture Freud, but instead, the reality is hours of meetings, and hours of paperwork, and even more hours of navigating a special education system in order to ensure that all parties are happy – student, family, and school. With the time that’s left over, I sometimes get to sit with teachers and students and try to help solve the world’s problems. Sometimes, it's terrible. Sometimes, I laugh until my insides hurt. Other times, I feel helpless and awful and like the world’s worst adult. But whatever the season, I have the opportunity to sit down and learn from the tremendous staff and students that surround me. If I'm honest, there are moments where I'm still not sure how I ended up in such a ridiculously unique place. I didn't plan on it.  But I'm thankful for it, even when the days are rough. So, yeah, I guess what they say is true.

I work with blind kids. And I TOTALLY win.



Yesterday, I came home from work, sat on my bed, and felt the room go whoosh around me. I think maybe it’s this time of year, when time seems to get sucked through a kind of continuum that forcibly makes the hours seem shorter and the to-do list appear longer than humanly possible. Or I suppose it could just be me. I’m working on my stress/anxiety/worry/catastrophizing management. Winter just doesn’t lend itself well to the part of my brain that craves sunshine after 5 pm. However, it does lend itself well to the part of my brain that likes to drink red wine after 5 pm (because what else do you do when the sun goes down?)

Marlo has been sick all week. I understand that having a sick dog is entirely different from having a sick child, but since a sick dog is all I’ve ever really known, it’s been enough to turn me into a pacing and slightly irritable mother (of sorts). What began as terrible hacking evolved into full-fledged kennel cough and the sound of Marlo’s dry-heaving does not the magical holiday soundtrack make.  She’s on the mend and will be perfectly fine but I have reason to believe that my ears will be bleeding for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

I tell you these things so you can understand the context in which I am sharing some pretty important information. You see, I'm not always a very lovely and patient person to be in a relationship with. Yet somehow, even with my incessant grumbling and penchant to seek wine for companionship, I managed to convince the world's most wonderful man that he should spend time with me. And I thought you should know that today is this wonderful man's birthday. Thirty-three years ago today, he was born and I think this a fact worth sharing/shouting/obnoxiously blogging about. While I’m probably a bit biased, I have to tell you that this guy has one of the most sincere hearts you will ever encounter. He is fiercely loyal, kind beyond measure, and a gift to me in ways that I am continually discovering. He has loved me wholly and consistently from the very beginning and has never wavered (even though he really, really should have because have you seen me hangry?) and he has done so with such faithfulness and integrity. He requires that I be the best version of myself and has no tolerance for gossip or unnecessary criticism. He is humble and honest and has annoyingly good hair. He is ridiculously patient, deceivingly creative, and has the metabolism of a 17-year-old boy. Also, he genuinely loves Marlo and helped me google her disturbing symptoms at 1:30 AM last weekend when my internet was refusing to cooperate. Both of these things are worthy of very shiny medals.

So, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m thinking my boyfriend is probably at least a little bit better than yours. Also? We already have the same last name (plus or minus that extra "L"), so there’s that.

Happy Birthday Rob. I hope you read this, turn nine shades of red, and then think about how much fun we are going to have celebrating your awesomeness today. Thanks for being exactly who you are. Thank you for allowing me to be exactly who I am. I'm so very glad you were born. 



Being thankful is difficult for me almost all of the time. It's difficult because I'm often focused on the greener grass across the way. It's difficult because I'm distracted by all of the noise to my left and to my right. It's difficult because most days I have to take a little blue pill to help me see the good, rather than the bad. It's difficult because I exist in a world that is generally small, safe, and filled with people that look like me, speak like me, and own lots of things that they probably don't need, just like me. I forget to take the time to say thank you and instead catch myself grumbling about, in no particular order: Work! Broken cars! Jiggly thighs! Bills! Dog hair! I accidentally bought the wrong kind of almond milk! And, ugh, no one understands me! Soon, the gratitude gets buried under layers of minor inconvenience, discomfort, and stress. Excavation has to be initiated and shovels have to be located. And then sometimes I skip the shovel altogether and find myself on my hands and knees, desperately seeking out even the smallest corner of gratitude, of thanksgiving, of acknowledgement. I call loved ones. I talk with friends. I write. I pray. I take walks. I make out with my dog. You get the picture. It can get tough around here.

But then something happens- something like what happened this past week in Paris. And suddenly, the previous layers of ridiculous problems are obliterated in one swift glance at CNN, and gratitude aggressively erupts. We see images of a world beyond our own - people in pain, people immersed in fear, people desperately trying to make it to the next moment, hour, meal- and we realize how unbelievably good our inconvenience, discomfort, and stress really is. We are no longer distracted by the noise. The new things don't seem so shiny and pretty. We tell those we love how thankful we are for them. We gladly pay our bills, fix our cars, buy our almond milk, and go to our jobs. We look for ways to help. We gain perspective, quickly, and wave a large, significant flag of gratitude. We are thankful, sincerely, and vow to hold on to this flag for as long as we can. Sometimes we do, but more often, we don't.

Thanksgiving is days away. I will drive to see my loving, healthy, appropriately dysfunctional family and we will laugh, tease, analyze, and love with the best of them. We will tell each other what we are thankful for. And then I will return to a warm home, filled with well-worn and special things, and I will prepare to go to a job that challenges me, inspires me, and allows me to practically help a population of students that I would otherwise not have access to. I will open my fridge and see fresh, delicious food. I will use my phone to connect with friends. I will pull my healthy body out of bed and walk, run, jump, and dance- because I can. I will move through a life that is rich, safe, and good. I won't be concerned about my safety or my freedom or where my next night of sleep will occur. I will have the support I need to make it to the next day, and the day after that. Most likely you will too. 

But here's a question: Do you ever wonder what would happen if we became a community that was instinctive and consistent in our ability to be thankful? Have you ever considered the magnitude of reach that such a community could have? I do. And I have. I so want to be a woman of frequent gratitude. I'd like thank you to be a more common part of my vocabulary. I'd like to hold on to my flag, so to speak, and wave it an obnoxious amount. I don't want tragedy to always be the most powerful catalyst for my gratitude, or for yours. I'd like for thanksgiving to occur outside of the impending turkey dinner or annual Friendsgiving brunch. I'd like my heart to remind my brain of what it so often forgets - that there is such power and generosity in gratitude, and that acknowledging the good, regardless of the bad, is simultaneously beautiful, difficult, and miraculous. I'd like to not have to excavate so deeply or so often. But I need your help. And you need mine. Let's remind each other of the good when we can't see it for ourselves. Let's point out the ways we are unbelievably blessed and not wait for CNN to do it for us. Let's practice saying thank you as much as we say THIS SUCKS and see what happens.  Small changes give way to crazy evolution. And what you cultivate in your heart gives way to how you interact with your world. This week has continued to demonstrate just how much our world is hurting. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to be better within it so that I can give more generously to it.  Taking the time to sincerely and lovingly say merci seems like a pretty logical place to start. 

Happy Thanksgiving, all.









Guys. This family is one of my favorites. Chasing these kids around in the sunshine is the best kind of medicine, and I'm so thankful that we get to share the same city for this season of life.

Rob and I took far too many photos, because how can you not when you are surrounded by such enthusiasm for, well, everything? Here are a few, just because I couldn't help myself. I WANT TO SQUEEZE ALL OF THE CHEEKS.

fluffy robe.

Last week was a week that wasn't one of my favorites. I thought about quitting my job exactly 347 times and tried my best to will my brain to a place that was free from responsibility, paperwork, and people asking me questions in the hopes that I might provide an answer. I thought about feigning illness, but karma is too scary, so instead I cried at least three times and only contemplated running away to become a starving writer twice. All in all, I've had better sequences of days.

(For the record, I have a really lovely job wherein I'm surrounded by wonderful people and get to help the most dashing and courageous students you ever did meet. But sometimes it sucks. A lot.)

So, this week, I'm committed to taking better care of my brain. I'm hoping to give it the full spa treatment- I'm talking deep massage, exfoliation, seaweed wrap, steam room kind of stuff- and then I'm going to tell it how pretty it is, and encourage it to book again for next week, and the next week, and the week after that. My brain needs a fluffy robe, you guys. And a mug of herbal tea. I think sometimes we forget to go gentle on our brains - to extend to them the same courtesy we extend to others.  I spend a lot of energy every day putting together plans to support other people's psyches and sometimes I forget to do the same for mine. This week I was reminded that it really is extraordinarily difficult to be good to other people if I'm not being good to myself. 

For me, this means seeking the quiet pockets of time and acknowledging them. It means writing more but not feeling guilty if I don't. It means telling the people in my life that I love them and reminding myself that they love me too. It means saying/praying thank you more than is reasonable and noticing the joy more than I do. It means turning off the T.V. and cutting down on the cheese and putting fresh sheets on my bed. It means taking more pictures. It means child-posing the hell out of Monday afternoon and then smiling about it on the way home. It means saying yes to new things and no to negative things and I don't know if I really don't know. Because, sometimes, I REALLY DO NOT KNOW. 

You know?

So I'm curious: what kinds of spa-treatments do you give your brain? How do you take care of yourself so that you can provide the necessary affection for others? How do you rest and find the space to say thank you when your day has been uprooting and discouraging? 

For now, I'm resting in the knowledge that my days have value, regardless of their weight, and that each morning is a new opportunity to love others fiercely and then tell them that I probably don't have the answer, unless it involves cheese. And, if that's the case, then the answer is always Brie or Sharp Cheddar. 

Bring on the fluffy robe. Spa week, here i come.


I'm a self-admitted "pusher" of sorts, and it doesn't take much for me to tell anyone or everyone all about my new favorite things. While you may not be interested in hearing about my new favorite things, I'm going to tell you anyhow (and if that doesn't convince you of my pusher status, I don't know what will).

Let's start with this book. Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans sunk me in the best kind of ways. It's wise and beautiful and challenging, and allowed me a really pervasive space to sink deep into my thoughts, experiences, frustrations, and celebrations regarding church, Christianity, and culture. I'm inconsistent in my appreciation for "faith-based" literature, but this one stuck with me. Maybe it will stick with you too.

Next up is this podcast. Guys, I'm pretty into it. Maybe it's because I've recently been in a creative revival of sorts, but Elizabeth Gilbert's approach to discussing the topic of creativity and "making things" is honest and refreshing. Each episode is perfectly short, really insightful, and wonderfully digestible. Soak it up, let it sit, and then get to work putting out your creative stuff.

In the beauty department,  I can't say enough about RMS Beauty. Maybe I'm the last to jump on this bandwagon (my mom introduced me, because she is cool like that) but this product line is the loveliest kind of natural, beauty magic. I use this, this, and this on a daily basis and pretty much love everything about them. Even the packaging is simple, functional and wonderful. I dare you to use them and not do a double-take when you find yourself glowing in the mirror.

Finally, THESE CANDLES. I love being able to tote the merits of some hometown products (Lincoln, NE y'all) and Wax Buffalo does it up right. I'm burning the Sweet Tobacco scent right now and I wish you could be here to smell how PERFECT it is. I'm a big believer that it's the small things that make a home feel safe and warm, and these candles are very good at doing just that. 

Hopefully I haven't been too pushy. Or, maybe I hope I have. Go! Use! Listen! Read! And then come back and tell me how right I was about the life-changing aftermath.



It's that time of year again, where pumpkins crowd corners and fake cobwebs hang loosely from doors. Children anticipate the acquisition of gallons of candy and adults prepare for the sugar crashes that will almost certainly follow. Costumes are prepped. Witch hats are aplenty. And mummies stand rigid in window displays. 

But that's just in your average elementary school hallway.

Everywhere else I look, fake blood drips down walls and severed heads hang from trees. "Festive" bloody hands hang out of car trunks and fake intestines are slung about as though they are the trendy new garlands that the average american hipster can't live without. Murder is glorified, gore is personified and, for this short, lovely, holiday season, gruesome events are the thing. And, can I just be honest for a minute? I TOTALLY DON'T GET IT. LIKE, I REALLY, REALLY DON'T GET IT. Am I alone? Am I unhip? Am I too old and cranky and squeamish to appreciate a good crime scene recreation? 

Here's the thing: I love Autumn. I love this time of year. I love the costumes and the candy and communal aspect that comes from trick-or-treating and Halloween parties. I love a pumpkin patch as much as the next girl.  I appreciate a witty Halloween ensemble and a festive, spiked punch.  

But you know what I don't love? Violence. Brutality. Gore. Torture.  Or, you know, ax- murderers. So I guess I have a difficult time understanding why it is P.C. for us to celebrate and elevate these things simply because tis' the season.  In March, we say "Murder is terrible!" but in October, we say "Just kidding! Now it's festive and fun!" and really, it's all just very confusing. I know I shouldn't be surprised, based on the sheer number of crime-based shows and "Saw" movies that have been financially backed and produced (what are we on now? Saw XXII?). It's obvious that our society loves it some fantastic forensics. And maybe it's because I work with young adults or because I am a person of faith or because I can't get my blood drawn without passing clean out, but regardless the reason, I hope you understand how serious I am when I say that it all hurts my soul a little bit. 

Yesterday afternoon, I drove past the ol' "fake set of legs protruding from the lawnmower" decoration. This morning, it was a mailbox with toddler-sized bloody hand prints. I think this recent news story is a horrifying reality check on how far over the line we have crossed.

I know Halloween is probably your favorite holiday (because it seems to be everyone's favorite holiday these days). And, if so, I ask that you wear your socially/culturally/politically ironic costume of choice proudly. Drink the spiked punch. Eat all of the candy. Dance with every mummy you can find. But, before you squeeze on the fake blood or purchase a few more severed limbs, just for "fun",  consider what you are celebrating and, thus, what you are communicating. Spooky is different from atrocity. Scary is different than brutality. Children are noticing. New generations are observing. Culture is being shaped. 

Call me close-minded. Call me ridiculous. But I'm not the one with a bloody chainsaw propped by my door as I greet the neighborhood children.



Last weekend was just the best. It was autumn and family and football and junking, all rolled into one. Pretty much all of my favorite things, packed into a lovely few days. It was a good celebration.

Photos: Junkstock - Omaha, NE; Memorial Stadium - Lincoln, NE; My parent's backyard- Lincoln, NE.

Dear Kind and Generous Strangers,

I want you to know that you matter. I wish that I knew all of your names. I wish I'd thought to ask. Regardless, I'm so thankful for your actions and your words. I needed some extra kindness these past few days and I'm so glad that I was able to learn a little bit more about life through each of you.

You see, last week, while walking back home from dinner, my boyfriend stopped me in the street and said he had a surprise for me. I'd suspected something was in the works, as all of our conversations about my birthday plans had been suspiciously vague, but I'd envisioned a quick day trip somewhere lovely and maybe a little bit of wine. As I strained to comprehend what he was telling me, I heard him say something about flying home so that I could celebrate with my family and all of the sudden I was crying and realizing that I was completely homesick and that that was exactly how I wanted to spend my birthday. So we packed our bags and headed to the airport. Nebraska or bust! Isn't that how the popular phrase goes?

Kind and generous strangers, this may come as a surprise, but did you know that it's almost never a good idea to fly a plane with a leaky engine? United Airlines informed us of this fact after we'd boarded our first flight and had already gotten cozy with the safety cards in our front seat pockets. Since our plane appeared to need a bit of maintenance, we were asked to exit, take a deep breath, and try not to kill one another. Once the news broke, a few lone United workers were left to deal with the re-booking issues for a flight full of tired and cranky people. After talking to everyone we could, it was decided that the best course of action was to get on a plane to Houston, spend the night there, and then attempt to fly stand-by to Omaha the following morning. (As luck would have it, the Astros were playing in Kansas City the very next day, and every flight to Omaha was booked solid, which once again supports my theory that baseball, does in fact, ruin everything.)

As we prepared to board a red-eye to Houston, my boyfriend approached the very nice woman who was scanning our boarding passes. He politely asked about our chances to get on a stand-by flight the following morning. The woman looked at us, smiled, and said "Stand-by? We can do better than that. Let me see what I can find out." And, ever-so-furiously, this kind woman began typing.

After searching through the computer system for a few minutes, she told us that she was going to attempt to "over-book" the flight. While she explained that this wasn't always acceptable, she said she could ask. The worst they could do was say no.  And then, these magic words: "I'm going to be here until 1 A.M. and I pray a whole lot. I promise I'm going to keep trying to get you on that flight. I'll keep checking and praying and I'll call you if anything changes." 

I looked at the plastic tag pinned on her blouse. Her name was Katie.

I told her that I, too, like to pray a whole lot and that oh, by the way, it's almost my birthday and hey, wouldn't it be neat if my handsome boyfriend and I could get home in time to celebrate? She laughed and assured us she would do her best. She wasn't kidding.

Three hours later, while standing in another long line at the Houston airport, our phone rang. It was Katie. She had successfully over-booked the flight. Exhausted and weary, we couldn't believe she'd actually followed through on her promise. I called it a birthday miracle; United Airlines called it a mishap. Regardless, Katie's kindness (and a whole lotta prayin') made it happen.

And then, as if that wasn't enough, there was the lovely man we met at the airport, who smiled and laughed and told us about his grandchildren. There was also the shuttle driver who made us giggle and helped us pretend that it wasn't almost 1 A.M. on a Thursday evening. And then, in the Omaha airport, there was the sweet older man working at the convenience store who, upon observing me purchase motion sickness medicine, patted my hand and told me everything would be alright. Such small offerings, but when stacked one upon another, helped to make the day a bit lighter and my spirit a bit softer.

And finally, yesterday, after the loveliest of weekends and a few days of work back under my belt, I left my phone on a city bus while escorting a group of blind students downtown. My heart sank when I realized what I'd done, as I figured there was no way I would ever be able to track it down. I called the bus company, explained what had happened, and waited for them to laugh off my questions about retrieving my fancy phone. But then, an amazing thing happened. I talked to an incredibly kind woman who listened to my confusing details and made an effort to truly help. She called a few bus drivers and tracked a few routes and within minutes, had located my phone. Such a small thing in the grand scheme, I know, but her kindness mattered. Gestures don't have to be large to matter deeply.

So, all of this is to say thank you. Thank you, kind and generous strangers, for taking the time to pause and listen. Thank you for taking the time to look me in the eye and empathize with the everyday struggles. Thank you for responding with kindness rather than with what is only required in your job description. You've reminded me that gestures have weight and that words are significant. Some days I forget. I forget to choose kindness and even more, I forget to look for it, around every corner and behind every counter. Today, wherever in the world you are, please know that you've helped me to remember.

All my best,





I'm about twelve days into this terrifying thing called Whole 30, and I feel as though I'm finally getting my feet underneath me, so to speak.  It's been interesting and humbling and challenging and easy and all the other kinds of things that people like to say when it comes to health endeavors and massive diet shifts. Having to say no to foods and habits that you are used to embracing, bear-hug style, can feel like the beginning of the end.  But then I turn on the news and see the depth of struggle and despair that is occurring at seemingly increasing rates all around me, and it's a lot more difficult to whine about the lack of cheese and cookies in my life. Perspective is key, and I'm truly thankful to live in the kind of home and space where I have the energy, comforts, and resources to even THINK about the affects of carrageenan and monosodium glutamate on my body. Am I right?

Which brings me to right now. And why I chose to participate in Whole 30. And why I don't hate it.  

I won't bore you with the lengthy details of how about four months ago my body decided to revolt against me and my attitude followed suit and before I knew it all I wanted to do was wallow in my own pool of stomach aches, infections, and exhaustion. Eventually, I knew something needed to give. I started by committing to working out more consistently. I felt a bit better. Then I decided to give up coffee. Disaster. And then I decided to give up gluten for a trial run- just to see if it helped. It did. Eventually, I decided to bite the bullet, dive in head first, and commit to completing a Whole 30. It's been a definite challenge for this food lover, but twelve days in, I already feel like I've learned some genuine stuff that I hope will stick with me for the long haul.

What I've learned so far:

1. I care about food too much. I associate it with my moods. I put pressure on it to entertain me. I expect it to transform my day from mediocre to magnificent and, let's be honest, it just shouldn't have that kind of power. A slice of pizza is one of the best things ever. But it's still just a slice of pizza.

2. As long as I can drink my coffee, I'm good. Seriously. 

3. Culturally, we millennials like to eat, drink, and be merry... together. It's hard to be social when you can't eat and drink what everyone else likes to eat and drink. But, it's not impossible. It's a mental game, and with a lot of positive self-talk, it's entirely plausible to drink water instead of beer and feel as though the room is spinning. 

4. Cooking isn't really that hard. Let's be honest, I'm not the world's greatest cook, nor do I enjoy cooking to the extent that many others do. But, it's about finding the rhythm within your day to throw a few ingredients together to put in your belly. It doesn't have to be the day's main event. Organize your head, buy delicious things, and cook them.  Also, always wash your dishes as you go.

5. Finally, we probably ARE what we eat, as much as I hate to admit it. Sugar is the worst and vegetables will always be a good option, no matter how many times you try to convince yourself that they aren't. Protein is important and queso isn't a viable source. Yes, reading labels is annoying but how else are you supposed to know what is going inside of your body? Just learn to speed-read and you'll be far less irritating to the people around you. I promise.

Beyond these things, I'm happy to report that my sleep is ON POINT and that my stomach's aches have greatly resided. I'd say that's pretty great for twelve days in. So, all things considered, I'm not saying I'm ready to marry Whole 30, but I'm not saying that I'm not. I know how lucky I am to have the ability to take such an active role in my health and in my general well-being. I mean, I live in Austin, TX. This city was founded on independent health food stores and neighborhood yoga studios. And in a world that can seem a bit overwhelming in all that is beyond our control, I'm oh-so-ok with having something so reasonably and positively within my grasp. I'm holding on tight (at least for another 18 days) and I can't wait to see how many more tacos, cookies, and glasses of wine I can turn down. 





The truth is, I don’t have much of an imagination. 

I hate admitting this, because by default, I’m really just stating what many of you already know: For all practical purposes, I am more boring than you are. 

But, truly, for as long as I can remember, I’ve preferred ideas and contexts that are rooted in the kinds of things I can touch, see, feel and know. Even as a child, I remember wanting to feel certain that I was participating in games and pretend scenarios that were tethered to the here and now. I stuck to the plausible and practical. Barbie’s car wasn’t flying through the sky on my watch. Because, you know, GRAVITY. Today, this lack of imagination is probably most evident in my disdain for Science Fiction trilogies (pentalogies?) and my struggle to write any kind of meaningful story that isn’t at least semi- autobiographical.  It can't be denied. My imagination has its limits.

But, here’s the complicating factor: creativity. 

Because, you see, deep down inside of me, it’s there. It eats away at me, frustrates me, excites me, and rears up in the most unimaginative of times. And, it’s got me thinking. How do I reconcile the role of meaningful creativity in a brain and world that is often taken up by the plausible and practical? How do I create if I feel as though my imagination is waning? Because for such a self-professed imagination-slacker, I’ve always found solace in creating. Usually, I create by writing. Sometimes, I create by taking a photograph. Other times, I cook a lovely meal or slap some discounted tempera paint on reclaimed plywood and call it a day. Regardless, the need is there. And if I don’t carve out the space in my life for creativity to emerge, I feel crankier and less-than in a very tangible way. 

Ask my friends and my family and my boyfriend. They know.

So, here's a preposterously boring theory: perhaps, for a lucky few, vivid imagination is what drives the creativity. Imagination is the thing and creativity is the vessel. They make and say and papier-mâché beautiful things in order to share with the world what only their imagination knows. They must create, because if they don’t, they will explode with the burden of keeping such world-bending secrets. 

But, for others (i.e. me) maybe creativity is the thing. Maybe it’s the miraculous action that connects the mundane to the extraordinary. Perhaps by getting up every morning and choosing to not only see the tangible beauty, but contribute to it, I am challenging the limits of my imagination and stretching it wider and wider, inch by inch. I don't know about you, but life has shown me that if I can take the feeling that stoops in my belly when I see the elderly man at the grocery store, or hear a little girl giggling, or watch a movie that moves me to tears- if I can just wrangle that feeling and create something to let loose on the world, well, then I can believe in just about anything. Even flying Barbie cars. 

(Or maybe not. It's just a boring theory.)

Whatever the conclusion, I'm committed to creating. And challenging my imagination. And creating some more. 

And just in case you are wondering, I'm also committed to continuing to avoid the attendance of any future Lord of the Rings watch parties. 






It feels like I am constantly breaking up and getting back together with my body. It's a complicated relationship, trying to saddle up to the good while simultaneously minimizing the bad. I won't wax poetic about the tragedy of being a woman in today's culture for too long, but I will say that there are days when I feel as though every cell in my body is working to form a union in which the motto is MAKE CELLULITE OR DIE. It's a constant choice to get up every morning and say thank you for my body- a fully functioning, seemingly healthy form- and to mean it deep down to the depths of myself. As a grown woman hoping to hold on tight to more than what is deemed beautiful on a random Tuesday afternoon, I know that I must do the work and define beauty for myself. I fail, almost all of the time, but I'm committed to trying again the next day and the next day and the day after that. 

I recently was talking with one of my dearest friends, a woman whom I respect and love immensely. She has three lovely human beings that she and her husband call their own, two of which are delicious-to-the-core little girls. As we sat admiring her little ladies, I asked her how they planned to raise their daughters to do the hard work and define their own beauty. I asked her how they planned to point them to bigger and better sources of affirmation, beyond the boys and the social media hype and the totally plausible attention that comes with being an attractive female in today's society. Together we discussed the challenge of this idea- of wanting to instill confidence in these impressionable little people without attaching too much value to outward appearances. "I want them to know that I see their physical beauty, in both the big and small ways," she said. "But I also want them to know that I see their character, their kindness, their integrity, their faith. That's the stuff that I want to compliment. Because if I don't point it out every day, who will?"

I've thought about this conversation many times over the past few weeks, usually right about the time I am tempted to break-up with myself AGAIN due to newly discovered hair/dimples/pimples/wrinkles/general displeasure. In these moments, I know it's utterly ridiculous to possess such self-loathing. I am a fully-blessed, intelligent, loving woman who knows with absolute certainty that I am more than the sum of my imperfections. And, yet, there I am, on the brink of throwing in the towel. I know I am not alone in this. And I also know that so many of us struggle daily, hourly, even moment-to-moment, to remember how true beauty is defined.

So, in the spirit of my wise friend and her ever-growing daughters, I'd like to make a proposition. I'd like to be a person who compliments character as often as I compliment new haircuts and cute shoes. I'd like to point out kindness with the same ease in which I tell a female co-worker that I like her skirt. I want to acknowledge stunning integrity as readily as I point out beautiful eyes. I'd like to be the kind of someone who bares witness to all kinds of beauty, small and big, inside and out. I'd love for you to consider doing the same. And I wonder if these kinds of words, shared with women and men and young and old, well, I wonder if they might help make the hard work of loving ourselves, wholly and authentically, a little less complicated.



Picking up where I left off has never been my forte, if only because the grammatical confusion of the phrase "picking up where I left off" has been know to trigger my motion sickness and WHAM, just like that, I've forgotten where I was to begin with. It's a tragedy of the highest order.

But, if I were to try, I suppose I could tell you about how I took an “unofficial” sabbatical from writing this past year, as I decided that I needed to actually live within the mess of my life rather than just observe it. I could also talk about how I was tired of feeling sad, and writing about feeling sad, and then still feeling sad. I could describe to you the other things I did instead- the work stuff, the falling-in-love stuff, the seeing-new-places stuff and learning-new-stuff stuff. I could share stories about the new people I’ve met and the old people I’ve met again.  I could tell you how I gave myself a good pat on the back for having rallied strong against the withdrawal of it all- for not having typed a single word for an entire year. And I could tell you what a good season it's been, rich and adventurous and rewarding, now that I've kicked that wonderful writing habit to the curb.

But I’ll spare you the details.

Instead, I’ll tell you this: I miss it. I miss the sharing and I miss the act of throwing out words into the world in order to see what sticks. I miss having a place, a plot even, to cultivate and to share with the people I love. I miss the possibility and the potential. And, just as I predicted I might, I feel rusty and emptied out and ready to rejoin the rhythm of words + creativity + community.  

Addiction at its finest, indeed. 

I’m hopeful that this new, quiet space will provide room for all of us addicts can gather round and commiserate about how wonderful and terrible and completely rapturous life really is. I'm excited to throw around some words and occasional photographs, just to see what happens. And while I know all of our days are blurry and filled to the brim, I'm committed to pulling up a chair, so to speak, and putting thoughts to paper. Read, if you'd like. Share, if you'd like. Even better, say hello and pull up your own chair if you'd like. And just in case I forget to mention it later, thanks for sticking around and keeping me company.