Friday, October 24, 2014

goodbyes suck.

Forgive me today, everyone, for I have broken the cardinal sin in the workplace by ugly/swollen/red face crying all day.   

After rounds of emotional buyouts and difficult layoffs at Turner Broadcasting and CNN, today is the day that I say goodbye to my mentor and friend, Paul Caron.


Paul has worked for CNN for 28.5 years - in two countries, four bureaus (Detroit, Miami, London and Atlanta) and he's done more or less every job television has to offer - from an On-air Correspondent to Assignment Manager to Unofficial Expert on Detroit.

His unparalleled experience, sound news judgement, and managerial style is something of legend around here.  His quick wit, lead by example attitude and unceasing loyalty made him adored my many - as both a colleague and friend.  Without a doubt, he is one of the best bosses that I've ever had. 

When I told him I was dealing with depression, he told me if I needed anything, he would be there and then he said, "This doesn't mean I can't still make fun of you, right?"

I burst out laughing - it was exactly what I needed to hear. I have a book full of "Paul Caron-isms" just like that - I will cherish it always.


When he celebrated 25 years with the company, my friend Jackie and I made a video tribute with words of praise and roasts from our colleagues.   There is no way we could ever top that video, but all of the sentiments and tributes still stand.

Paul, we love you.  We will all miss you.  CNN wouldn't be what it is without you and it won't ever be the same when you're gone. 

In the words of the man himself, "A tip of the Old English D," to you, Paul!  Best of luck!

And seriously, I know it's a long shot - but if my dad, brother and all male family members pass away AND I ever get married (BIG if, I know), I really hope you'll walk me down the aisle.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

funny girl.

This picture was taken in 2011, a few weeks before my 31st birthday and two weeks after I was diagnosed with depression.  That's a shower cap on my head and I was surrounded by my friends and colleagues while out for a drink after work.

"Look at me," it screams, "I'm the funny girl!" 

I often was the funny girl.

I was also severely depressed. 

I wrote about my diagnosis for - about being the life of the party, the girl who tries new things, a Wal-Mart hula-hooper.  I denied that I could be a depressed person - because I didn't identify with what I thought a depressed person looks like.  In light of Robin Williams' death, the article was resurrected last night.  While I'm a little embarrassed at the attention the old article is getting, so many of the points I made back then still apply now.   

The irony (that's irony, right?)  that someone who brought us so many laughs was himself so depressed is a concept with which I am all too familiar.  

Like so many other diseases, mental illness does not discriminate - it affects people young and old, black and white, rich and poor - even the people who make us laugh the hardest and most often.  Sometimes, it's the funniest people who are in fact the saddest, as Jim Norton points out in this poignant Time article.

"The funniest people I know always seem to be the ones surrounded by darkness. And that’s probably why they’re the funniest. The deeper the pit, the more humor you need to dig yourself out of it."

I'll reserve words like "devastated" and "heartbroken" for my family and friends - people I actually know and love and don't just watch in movies, but I feel so profoundly sad that mental illness has claimed another - and this time someone as spectacular as Robin Williams.

He will live forever through the iconic roles that he played - as the genie in Aladdin, as Mrs. Doubtfire and Peter Pan, as Doctor Sayer in Awakenings and Professor Sean McGuire in Good Will Hunting.

May he finally rest in peace.

If you are depressed or have had thoughts of suicide, please seek help. Here are a few resources: 

You are not alone It does get better.    

And like Professor Sayer said, "You'll have bad times, but they'll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren't paying attention to."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

chasing dreams.

"If you want support for your dream, support someone else’s dream first.
-Author Jon Acuff

The other day while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I couldn't help but feel impressed.

In fact, I may have mumbled aloud, "Damn, I know some people doing some cool shit."  

Amid the Farmville invitations, beach and food porn photos, ambitious friends from all different facets of my life are out in the world chasing exciting dreams and are bravely asking for help in achieving them; since I know how difficult self-promotion can be, nothing pleases me more than to use my own space to promote these and ask for your support on their behalf.   

While she may be one of the most hysterical people on the planet, my friend Caroline Van Sickle is also a serious business woman who is serious about beauty.  In her last year in business school, Caroline created Pretty in My Pocket, aka PRIMP, a FREE mobile app that serves as your beauty aisle shopping tool - connecting you to other consumers who have already bought and commented on that product.  Through Plum Alley, a fundraising site geared , Caroline is asking for support to take her business idea to the next level.

Ramone Dickerson didn't know a stranger at Irmo High School, nor did he have a single enemy.  He and a friend created 2 Fat 2 Fly Stuffed Chicken Wings.  Is your mouth watering?  I said STUFFED CHICKEN WINGS!  In addition to inventing such a culinary delight, Ramone and his partner also happen to be hilarious - so much so, that OWN - as in the Oprah Network - has given them their own reality show, Wingmen.  I cannot think of anyone who will make a better television personality than Ramone and I will definitely be watching.  The show debuts August 16th. 

Justice Littlejohn, Grayson Goodman and Ryan Crabtree are also guys that I went to high school with in South Carolina.  Their dream is to open a creative space where they can feature their original and regional art.  One of Justice's funky paintings hangs in my kitchen - and he is the real deal.  The trio found the space to make their dream a reality and need financial help to create a studio where they can create and teach others . . . all while serving free sweet tea (to go with your stuffed chicken wings).


Tanika Gray is more than just my co-worker - after years of admiring each other's outfits and sharing thoughtful conversations about provocative Halloween costumes and race relations, she's definitely a friend.  I'm also almost certain that she never sleeps because once she leaves work, she's always on the go - speaking at an International Women's Conference in India, being honored with awards for all of her work in the community, or snapping selfies at fabulous parties.  Her latest achievement - House Resolution 1898. After watching her mother suffer with fibroids, and then struggling with the condition herself, Tanika took action and lobbied to have July declared Fibroids Awareness Month in the state of Georgia.  She will be at the Capitol this morning on behalf of her White Dress Project.


While often unmotivated and unsure of how to navigate my own dreams, watching others go after theirs in a big way certainly has the potential to make me feel insecure.  And on particularly bad days, I do.  But mostly I am inspired and completely impressed by this network of people I know doing extraordinary things.

I hope that you'll check them out, visit their sites, donate to their causes, eat their wings, watch their shows and be inspired to find your dream.  If you've already found it - let me know.  I'm happy to support - unless your dream is making potato salad, and then, well probably not.  But good luck!

And unrelated, except for the fact that I annoyingly ask him all the time to tell me his hopes and dreams usually right in the middle of a sporting event or concert he's watching, today is my boo Jacob's birthday.

Recently Updated

Happy Birthday JJ and keep chasing your dreams!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

don't stop believing.

I'm a liar.

I know I said that I'd be okay regardless of how things turned out for the US Soccer team, but after really believing that we could win, I wasn't at all ready to lose.  

I feel so sad.  Sad for the players and for what could have been, but mostly because it's highly unlikely we will ever see this team play all together again.  

It's too much.  

I feel the pride and happiness for what this team accomplished, which is more than any other sports team, celebrity or elected leader ever has.  Uniting a country full of cynics, fickle fans, unpatriotic doubters is no small task, yet for several weeks, we all believed and we all cheered for the same team.  I hope each of those players feels as I do - that this accomplishment is far greater than any that can be achieved on a soccer field.  

But still, I'm bummed. 

I'm headed to the beach this weekend to eat and drink and sun my feelings - and I sense I'll be alternating between the disappointment that it's over and overwhelming happiness that it happened.  

So lucky to be an American - even when we lose, we still win.

Happy July 4th - I believe that we can be the country the World Cup made us out to be. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I believe.

My history with the game of soccer runs deep - like back to the fields at Seven Oaks Park in Irmo, South Carolina deep.

Though probably hard believe looking at this picture that just screams, "All-Star Athlete," I never really excelled as a soccer player.  I wore the team shirt and the shin guards and I ate the orange slices, but I spent most of the games twirling around the field like a ballerina while my teammates abandoned their positions to chase the ball in an unorganized pack.  Sensing playing soccer was likely just a "phase" I was going through, my parents never even invested in cleats, so I "played" the game in Reeboks.


The highlight of my short-lived soccer career came after a heartfelt conversation with my dad over a bowl of Wheaties when he politely suggested I try to be more aggressive during the games.  "Get in there with the others," he said, "Go after the ball!"  I was inspired to put the twirling on hold to join my friends chasing the ball up and down the field.  Taking my dad's advice never amounted to any goals or assists - I'm not sure my foot ever actually touched the ball - but I'll never forget the proud look on his face standing on the sidelines.

In middle school and high school, soccer was, admittedly, all about the boys.  Attending all home games and traveling to club and away games was less about the game, more about looking cute, seeing my friends and hoping for a awkward teenaged sweaty hug after the game was over.  Thankfully, my high school had a soccer reputation and we won the state championship every year that I was there.  Being a fan was easy.

Thanks to Jacob (who was one of those hottie high school players at a school across town) my relationship with soccer has changed in the two years we've been dating.  I mean, let me be clear, the game is still full of eye candy that I'm more than happy to sacrifice a Saturday morning for - but his knowledge and love of the game has rubbed off on me and by proxy, I've become a legit fan.  I'm still learning the difference between the English Premier League and the League Championship and the Champions League and what offsides means, but last summer I went to my first professional game and I was hooked.


The World Cup has taken my casual "fandom" to a whole new level. 

Jacob and I watched the US/Ghana match at an Outback Steakhouse in Florence, South Carolina, on our way back from the beach.  We went back and forth about whether or not we should continue driving and just listen to the game on the radio, but decided to stop, knowing if we didn't we'd regret missing out.

The stop delayed us getting home until after midnight, but it was completely worth it.  Even surrounded by non-soccer fans shouting nonsensical things like, "Damn! We need more points on the board," I couldn't contain my excitement over the US win.  Jacob was smiling from ear to ear.

Last weekend, we didn't do much more than watch soccer and I enjoyed showcasing just how far I'd come as a fan, calling out from the couch when I recognized someone I'd seen before.  "There's Sturridge!" "Rooney's hair plugs have come in nicely!," and "There's the biter with the horse teeth!" Suarez has been the source of many laughs long before this week's incident, but jokes aside, Suarez is a grown man, professional athlete playing in the World Cup and he is a serial biter.  WTF?

Sunday we postponed leaving for the Counting Crows concert so we could watch the US/Portugal match - an emotional roller coaster of epic proportions.  We're gonna lose . . . We're gonna tie! . . . WE'RE GONNA WIN AND MOVE ON AND OMGGGGGGGGGGGGG . . . aaaaaand we'll settle for a tie.  While mathematically I knew the team was still in great shape to move on, tying felt like a dagger to the heart.  

I'm certainly not immune to losing emotional games - I am a Georgia Bulldog, after all.  But while Sunday's disappointment was palpable, so was the camaraderie I felt with the three people I was watching with and all the millions of people cheering for the US team.  That felt different.  In a country where everyone seems to be at odds about everything, it's fun - emotional even - to feel the excitement of all Americans finally cheering for the same thing.

There will always be soccer haters - and our country might not ever completely the embrace the sport like others have, but it's hard to deny that there's something special about this team. 

This week's nervous excitement and pit in my stomach - that all feels familiar, like every Saturday in the fall.  I'm wearing red, white and blue and needless to say, I can.not.wait. for 12pm.

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I believe that we will win.

But if we don't - I'm glad I'm in good company. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

accentuate the positives (of new orleans).

"How was New Orleans?!," I was asked by friends and coworkers last month after returning from a long weekend at Jazz Fest.  

Normally such innocous pleasantries don't cause me anxiety (which is, in and of itself, remarkable because I'm anxious about nearly everything), yet unsure of how to honestly answer this question without immediately making things awkward, I dreaded people asking me about it.

First of all, do people really want to know about my vacation (or anyone's vacation, for that matter?), or are they are just being nice?  Secondly, if someone was sincerely interested, I imagine a simple, "It was great!" or "We had a blast!" is probably all they're looking for - spare the details and keep it positive.   

Yet, I found myself conflicted and unable to hide how the trip really was for me, because while there were definitely some musical and culinary highlights, as well as some good laughs shared with friends, the best words I can use to describe my trip to New Orleans are "complicated" and "off." 

Jacob and I were off, the music was off, I felt . . . just off.   And for everything to feel "off" in a town that is always "on," meant a lot of my super high expectations for the trip fell short.

Cue the Debbie Downer honk. Womp. Womp.

I suppose I could've just omitted blogging or talking about New Orleans altogether - I mean who wants to read about a bad vacation?

I had to chuckle, though, when I looked at the more than 200 photographs I took while I was there - you certainly wouldn't know that anything was off.  Any evidence of the the not-so-great moments wasn't captured at all.  Instead, smiling faces and beautiful scenery - lots of proof that there were plenty of good times. 


But I'm no bullshitter - so I felt the need to provide you with proper context.  These pictures tell the story of a trip that didn't exactly live up to my expectations, but it wasn't all bad.  Consider this me "accentuating the positives" of the trip, which included -

The kindness of strangers -

I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Vance Vaucresson for a piece I wrote for CNN.  If there was such a thing as Mayor of Jazz Fest, Vance would win, hands down.  In the few hours we spent together, our conversation was interrupted repeatedly by festival goers coming to his booth to say hello.  He had so many stories about his life in New Orleans pre-and post-Katrina, I swear I had enough material to write five stories about him.


The first day of Jazz Fest, we befriended a group of people from Atlanta who invited us to set up our chairs next to them.  We all became fast friends and Jacob and I agreed that with all the negativity in the world, there's nothing quite like a music festival to restore your faith in humanity.  I realize how hippie and flaky that probably sounds, but in all seriousness, people at Jazz Fest are just really nice and friendly.


The food (and drinks, duh) -

The first time I went to Jazz Fest in 2005, I was completely and pleasantly surprised at the super important role of food at the festival.  As in, it's as important as the music.  Most of the vendors have been serving gourmet New Orleans-style cuisine for decades.  No cotton candy and corn dogs at this festival - we're talking Shrimp and Grits, Crawfish Monica and so. many. Po boys.  We kept ourselves well fed, both at the fair grounds and everywhere else (Thank you, Cochon, Herbsaint and Atchafalaya.)

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The music - 

Music highlights for me included Jason Isbell and Jon Cleary performing "Stagger Lee" at a small club on Frenchman Street.   Galactic and Phish put on good performances, but honestly with so many wonderful musicians in the same city, I'd hoped for more surprise guests and collaboration.  Still, though, Jazz Fest is like pizza and even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. 


The city - 

New Orleans is so rich in culture and history and once you get away from the French Quarter, the city is so beautiful.  The days we had to just wander around the city were my favorite.  


Social media, for better or for worse, is a lot of smoke in mirrors.  We put the most positive versions of ourselves out for the world to see.

Sure, I've been annoyed at what I consider a tendency of some to over.share.every.minute.detail.of.everyday with the world and others who disguise the tremendous dysfunction in their lives with glossy, smiley pictures of everything looking great.  But thankfully I learned long ago not to compare my insides to someone else's outsides. 

I think that most of us treat Facebook and Twitter like wearing makeup - we're really looking really just looking for an opportunity to accentuate the positives in our lives, not mislead anyone into thinking everything is perfect.

I took fun pictures of New Orleans, but the trip wasn't without its challenges. 

Thanks to a faulty zipper on my luggage, when I arrived back in Atlanta, I found several pieces of my clothes cruising solo on the carousel and my suitcase looked like this:


Looking and feeling like we had been to a war, Jacob and I looked at each other and then we looked at the suitcase, and then we burst out laughing. 

Now that's accentuating the positive.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

truth and books.

I am in a full-on writer's funk.  See also: unmotivated; uninspired; lazy; boring.

While extremely frustrating to not feel capable of putting together a coherent thought worthy of your attention, not writing means that I'm finally getting around to reading books that I've had on my list for a while; ones that my book club, which I'm dangerously close to getting thrown out of, discussed months ago.

I guess for an aspiring writer, there are worse activities than reading with which I could occupy my time.  Getting lost in a good book expands my vocabulary and my imagination, and it's definitely better than rotting my brain on reality television.


I'd hoped reading might be motivating and helpful in shaking my springtime writer's fog, and in some ways it has.  But the books I've been reading lately have been so wonderfully layered and completely captivating, I've also felt inferior and therefore less inspired, less motivated than before.

I mean, how could I ever weave together the true achievements of a historical character (from Charleston, SC!) within an enchanting work of fiction, the way Sue Monk Kidd does in The Invention of Wings? And Jordan Belfort's account of his over-the-top life in the Wolf of Wall Street is far more interesting than anything I've ever done or will likely ever do, so why bother?

What could I possibly write that hasn't already been written?

I finished Me Before You on Sunday afternoon after just a day of reading.  As I was wiping the ugly tears off my swollen face from the novel's heart-wrenchingly beautiful ending, I checked Instagram.  A blogger/photographer I follow had posted a picture of her young daughter, along with a quote by C.S. Lewis:

"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

I have read it a dozen times since then, and thought about it even more.  Though I suspect my struggles with motivation and doubt happen to everyone at some point in their creative process, I felt as though the writing Gods were speaking right to me with that quote.    

Feeling inspired, I immediately started three blogs that I'd been thinking about, but proving that even C.S. Lewis can't cure all that ails me, I quickly got discouraged and gave up.  I picked up and read, The Fault in Our Stars instead.  I finished it yesterday, again with ugly tears and a swollen face. 

(Side bar: whatever you do, do not Me Before You and The Fault in Our Stars consecutively.  Bad idea.)  
Another book down and now a blog post?  Maybe C.S. Lewis is making an impact after all.  I can't promise you'll read any award-winning, life-changing prose over here, and I can't be sure that what I think or write will be terribly original, but thanks to my mom, I definitely know how to tell the truth.

And that's what really matters, right?

Plus, she thinks I'm funny, and she reads constantly, so I know she knows what she's talking about.


Next on my reading list is Brain on Fire, a memoir of a journalist who went mad - which sounds frightening and a lot like my real life - maybe my book club picked it in hopes I will return?


It's good to be back, telling my truth.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Spring finally arrived in a big way at my house.

Every time I get home, I want to skip to the front door with happiness, like I'm in the Wizard of Oz.

I Instagrammed this picture last week with the caption, "My yard is better than your yard," but don't let me mislead you, I had nothing to do with any of it.  My landlords work tirelessly to make it look like this and I'm so grateful.   

My yard is better than your yard. #tulips #spring #sometimesiskiptomydoor

Unfortunately, as of last night, spring has left us again, going as quickly as it came.  I'm back wearing a wool coat and tights, while getting pushed down the street by howling winds.

At least my yard is still looking the part. 

My curmudgeon landlord said he was tired of passersby taking pictures of his yard.  I'm not sure why this offends him, nor am I sure why he would make his yard look this way if he didn't want people to admire it.

I chose not to tell him that I used the beautiful flowers as an excuse to get my camera out and practice my skills.

Cheers to Spring - let's hope it returns soon!

Friday, March 28, 2014

from one relationship to another.

A week ago, I went to see Southern Soul Assembly - a musical collaboration of southern rock/blues artists Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi All Stars), J.J. Grey (Mofro), Marc Broussard and Anders Osborne.  

I know what you're probably thinking - even you huge music fans - huh?  Who is that?  I hadn't heard of them either, nor had most of the music-lovers in my life.  

This concert came about, as many of them lately do, because of Jacob.  His next level knowledge and commitment to seeing concerts has forced me to question what I thought was a healthy and sincere love of live music.  Every week, I sit in annoyed anticipation of what new artist(s) I've never heard of will be coming to town - I can almost guarantee that he's heard of them, loves them, and is dying to see them live.  

There are far worse boyfriend problems to have, I know, and Jacob has proven time and time again, he knows good bands and good concerts.  I almost always end up apologizing for my resistance somewhere between the second and third songs. Southern Soul Assembly was no exception.   The show was awesome.

Like, "I feel like I'm in my friend's basement drinking canned beer and everyone can sing and is playing random shit on guitars and telling stories and making fun of themselves," kind of awesome.

image jjgrey

After his iPad malfunctioned at the start of the show, Anders Osborne was forced to sing the songs he knew from memory, which according to him, wasn't that many.

"I did too many drugs," he laughed with the audience, "I can't remember shit." 

J.J. Grey started to play one song when someone from the audience yelled out, "Slow, Hot and Sweaty."  He paused, put down the guitar he was playing, and said, "Oh, alright," fulfilling the fan's request.

There were lots of self-deprecating, funny stories told about wives and kids and traveling together.  But mostly the night was full of amazing musical moments that made for some serious head-nodding, toe-tapping, and for a handful of middle aged women standing in the front, a whole lot of booty-shaking.

Despite not knowing a lot of the songs I heard, I left the show with a huge smile on my face and a pep in my step.

In fact, I likened the evening to those blissful first months of a new relationship when you're first falling in love; when every conversation is flirtatious and fulfilling, every date is more exciting and fun than the last. 

Which each song, the adoration between the musicians on the Soul Assembly Tour seemed to grow.  There was no competition, no disagreements, no egos - their energy and chemistry was sky-high. I pictured the four of them trying to end a phone conversation and imagined hearing a lot of, "No, you hang up!"  If they all weren't so cute and talented and entertaining, I'd want to roll my eyes at them.
There truly is no other feeling quite like the "new relationship" feeling.

What musician wouldn't want to experience that kind of love fest on stage? 

I had to wonder, though, if like settling into the day-to-day normalcy of a stable relationship can feel like a let down, if these musicians returned to their regular gigs and thought to themselves, "Oh, you again?"

My desire to "chase the new" is what started this blog in the first place, so I know that worry and the anxiety that comes from worrying that I might wake up one day and realize that all I've done with my life is the same old, status quo.  The same is true of relationships - I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss that "new relationship" feeling that ceases to exist after being with the same person for a long time.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I'm 33 and not married?  

On the other hand, there's something about someone who knows you well -someone who knows the song you're going to play before you play it and knows every word by heart. 

Just one day after the Southern Soul Assembly, a few of my girlfriends and I went to see George Strait at Phillips Arena.  This country crooner's performance couldn't have been more different than Friday's show - from an intimate venue in Center Stage to a sold-out Phillips arena; from new guys jamming on multiple instruments, to one guy, with one guitar playing a perfectly timed show full of his greatest hits.

There was part of me who wished George Strait would do something crazy or bring a special guest out on stage to play "Baby Blue," but besides a Tom Petty cover that wasn't very well received, he pretty much played the same decades-old songs he's been playing since he started.  I knew every word and sang along.  Loudly.

That too, was awesome.


In relationships, my job, my life, I struggle with the constant desire for things to be new! different! better! - like the Southern Soul Assembly.  I never want to stop trying new things and challenging myself personally and professionally, but sometimes the classics - the same old - are comforting and exactly what I need.

Just like a George Strait song.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

required reading.

The last time I admitted to reading a novel in the "young adult" genre, I felt a little like I was confessing it to you; like I'd done something wrong. Up until then, I'd proudly avoided all of the Harry Potter and the Twilight books, only to fall hard for the Hunger Games trilogy.  I devoured the books as quickly as I could get my hands on them. 

This enthusiastic post is also about a "young adult" book that I just read.  But this isn't a confession and I feel no embarrassment.  In fact, I'm here to tell you that if you haven't read Wonder by R. J. Palacio, you should read to the end of this post, make a comment about how brilliant I am and then immediately go read it.

It's just that important.  It's just that good.  If it were up to me, every school should make it required reading.


My cousin Anne told me about the book when was in Atlanta a few weeks ago.  It's her oldest son, Will's, favorite.  She started to tell me what the book was about, but stopped short, saying she wanted me to read it without any prejudgments.  But I could tell by the way her she lit up when she spoke about it, this book had made some kind of impact on her.

Considering I've looked up to Anne since I was a little girl and did whatever she said and wanted to be just like her, it came as no surprise I ran right out to get the book.

If "Teenager Anne" tells your 8-year old self to tease your hair like a teenager and spray it with Aqua Net, you do it. 


If "Adult Anne" tells your 33-year old self to read Wonder, you do it.

So I did.

It took me just three nights to read it - which I did while Jacob was beside me reading, The Wolf of Wall Street, which I'm sure made for a humorous scene - him laughing a plot lines involving Quaaludes and strippers and me fighting back tears, my heart literally breaking with sadness and then swelling with hope for Auggie, Wonder's main character.

Without any hesitation and absolutely no shame, I encourage you to read this book, share it, talk about it with your kids, nieces, nephews, neighbors.  It will make you appreciate the struggles we all face both as kids and adults, regardless of the circumstances we're given; it will make you want to be kinder, or at the very least, consider giving others a break every once in a while, for we're all doing the best we can, after all.  

I always joke that I owe Anne everything for teaching me everything I know about hair - and now I can thank her for introducing me to a book that in just three short days, has changed my perspective and softened my heart.  If only I could go back to middle school and do things differently - both for my hair and my attitude.   

This book is what you're getting for your next birthday.  I hope you like it!  Love, Aunt Steph

Friday, March 14, 2014

wide open spaces.

So you know how I'm always talking about how my biggest challenge in life is defining what it is that I want to do and how the only thing that I do know that I want- to write a book - just feels impossible sometimes and I have too much self-doubt and not enough motivation and all I need is someone or something to help me finish what I started? 

Well, I think that I found it:

Amtrak's Residency Program for Writers

The program started as an innocent suggestion of writer Alexander Chee, who admitted in an interview that he loved writing aboard a train and that Amtrak should offer a residency program. 

From there, a Twitter firestorm of writers who agreed with Chen - so much traffic, in fact, that Amtrak created a program that will choose 24 aspiring writers to take long-distance trains to work on their projects.  I can't think of an opportunity more well suited for me.


Honestly, I thought about not telling anyone about this amazing program, for fear you'd all run immediately to their site and apply, therefore instantly diminishing my own chances.  But I also need some accountability here - so if I tell you I'm applying, I'll actually have to actually apply.

So far my personal experiences with train rides include a summer jaunt around Europe with a bunch of girlfriends and then falling hard for a Mountain Man on our romantic trip from Yosemite to San Francisco.  It's only fitting that the next installment in my crazy life should involve finishing my book aboard a train, am I right?

I probably won't have to tell you what I'm doing this weekend -thinking of clever ways to get noticed by Amtrak.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I still like a train best for this kind of thing. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers. And after trains, libraries at night, especially empty ones.
- See more at:
Where is your favorite place to write?
I still like a train best for this kind of thing. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers. And after trains, libraries at night, especially empty ones.
- See more at:
Where is your favorite place to write?
I still like a train best for this kind of thing. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers. And after trains, libraries at night, especially empty ones.
- See more at:
Where is your favorite place to write?
I still like a train best for this kind of thing. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers. And after trains, libraries at night, especially empty ones.
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Friday, March 7, 2014

sacrifice the icky.

I always feel inspired during the season of Lent.  While forty days and forty nights doesn't sound like a long time in the grand scheme of things, (tell that to the guy who gave up beer), positive change can happen and bad habits broken, all as a result of small, six-week sacrifices that are made to help us feel more connected to God.


A girl I know on Facebook posted Wednesday that she has elected to give up things that make her feel "icky," like, "candy, soda and Facebook."  While I was intrigued that Facebook was among the things that make her feel "icky" - I mean, what are her friends posting anyway? - I like the sentiment of removing the noise, or the icky, so that we might focus on things that matter.

I also like the idea that at the end of each day, my friend will know if she has succeeded in sacrificing her icky by simply asking herself if she ate candy, if she drank soda, and if she checked Facebook.  If she can answer, "no," then she will have succeeded. 
If you've spent any time on this blog whatsoever, you know getting rid of the icky has been my struggle for years.  I've made repeated vows in this space to stay more present, be more balanced, choose more love.  But unlike my friend, there is no measure of success with these promises, and seemingly no way to be held accountable.

I wanted to choose love.  And sometimes, I did.  And other times, I was a bitch.

I wanted to stay more present, so I went to yoga.  I cleared my mind, centered myself and focused only on my breath . . .and then my thoughts would shift to my grocery list or the next vacation I wanted to go on.

The intention is very much there, but my execution needs some serious work.

At the start of the year, I promised myself, and anyone reading, that this would be the year that I would finish the book I've been longing to write since the blog began in 2009.  "I'll write," I said, "Everyday for an hour." I have definitely written more, but not everyday.  Now it's March, and I'm afraid I have to tell you that I'm still nowhere near close to my goal of writing a book. 

I mean, I have the material - much of it lives here on this blog.  Some of it exists in emails I've written to myself and in notebooks lying around my house.  I'm certainly not struggling for ideas - every time I turn off my light to go to sleep, or am taking a shower, or am out running, great, hilarious anecdotes come to me and inspire me that this will happen.  "I can do it!  I can be a published author!  

Yet when I sit in front of my computer, with all of my notes and emails scattered around me, all distractions turned off and/or tucked away, all of those good ideas seem nowhere to be found.  Instead, all I can hear are loud, doubtful voices inside my head saying, "This will never happen," "Who are you kidding?," and the worst, "Nobody cares about what you have to say!"

This kind of self-doubt makes me feel unmotivated and anxious - it makes me feel icky.

Why not, like my friend is doing with soda and candy, just give up the self-doubt?  For Lent?  Forty days and forty nights of thinking positively about myself and my abilities.

Is that even possible?


Apparently these feelings mean that I'm in good company - one quick Google search of "self-doubt" and "writing" yields pages upon pages of results from those who experience (suffer?) the same.

Writer and documentary producer Robert Hughes once said, "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."  Well if that's true, then I might be the best damn writer there is.  

Most of these sites offer suggestions on how to break through the self-doubt.  Among my favorites:

Fake it till you make it and keep writing.  Find a way to ignore the voices that tell me I can't and just keep writing.  That seems almost as elusive as "choosing love," but I'm going to try it anyhow.

Set easy goals. I thought I did this when I said I'd write for an hour each day - but with no accountability to anyone, it's an easy promise to break.   I've been sticking to a once-a-week blogging schedule, and I'm going to try to up that to two.  I cannot believe that I used to blog everyday and now twice a week seems like a challenge.  What happened?!

Call on your cheerleaders/biggest fans/accountability partners. The reason this blog happened is because of you and if the book happens it will be because of you also.  Just like I hope you'd remind me of my giving up chocolate for Lent if I went in for a Hershey bar, I'd like to think I can count on you for encouragement and accountability when it comes to writing.  I'm boldly asking for your help, your reminders, your sharing of this blog with your friends if you think it'll help.

How do you deal with self-doubt in writing and in life?  What icky are you sacrificing for Lent this year?

Will you help me?

Friday, February 28, 2014

happy, happy, joy, joy.

"Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys."

 -Rita Schiano

My friend Jackie just posted this quote on her Facebook page and it completely changed my day.  

Since I haven't had time to get a real post together, I thought I'd quickly share with you the most joyful thing that happened to me this week.  Last night Jacob and I went out for dinner - a quick, no-nonsense pizza dinner at Ammazza in Edgewood.  

There's certainly nothing crazy, or over-the-top joyful about pizza on a Thursday night, except that a DJ at Ammazza was pumping the most amazing music ever.  So pizza night turned into Dance Party USA and my very own rendition of Jimmy Fallon's lip sync off all rolled into one.  I'm used to finding a reason to dance everywhere I go, but I took it to the next level from the restaurant booth.  And I was in good company - as nearly everyone was bobbing their heads or tapping their toes.

Here's a sample of the ones I could remember:

Miss You Much (Janet Jackson)>Let's Dance (David Bowie)>Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)>You Make My Dreams Come True (Hall 'n Oates)>Rich Girl (Hall 'n Oates)>Maneater (Hall 'n Oates)>Higher Love (Steve Winwood)>Tell it to My Heart (Taylor Dayne)

I could've closed the place down. Seriously, the hardest part was deciding which song we'd eventually leave to - C&C Music Factory's "Everybody Dance Now."  Trust me, it wasn't easy.  

But so very joyful.  

Also, this song wouldn't have really fit into the theme of last night's 80s/90s pizza dinner dance party, but I dare you to listen to it and not shake your booty, or at the very least feel very happy indeed.

What is making you happy right now?  Please share! 

Happy weekend. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

what I learned from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.

I think I might've scared, or at least bewildered, every man in my office this week when I announced my excitement over the 50th Anniversary issue of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.

"I've been obsessed with it since I was a little girl!," I exclaimed to a handful of male colleagues, who responded with raised eyebrows, confused looks, and nervous laughter.

My admission and our subsequent conversation about the magazine sparked a flood of nostalgia with all of us and soon names like Stacey Williams and Marissa Muller were getting tossed around, followed by wistful sighs. It seems every man - gay or straight - has at least one, if not a plethora, of not-so-G-rated memories associated with the annual swimsuit edition.  

Most were then understandably confused over my (a girl's?!) adoration for the magazine.


Yes, I realize that my fascination with beautiful models in bikinis, both as an adolescent and now heterosexual woman, is strange.  Creepy, even.  I think I can hear my parents and feminists everywhere cringing at the very thought.  

Like a lot of my weird quirks - I don't know why or how I even started caring about this magazine or how this one issue emerged superior to all of the YM, Seventeen or Teen magazines I collected.

Perhaps it was my own young dreams of becoming a model myself?       


Maybe. (I mean look at those serious pics?!), but those dreams were short-lived.  I reached the peak of my child modeling career at age 12 and then acne and hips came into my life.    

Without a doubt, my obsession with this magazine and all of the others has contributed to my own body image issues and society's unattainable standards set for women.  And yes, that sucks.  But I can say with sincerity, that I actually learned a lot from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, and it wasn't all negative. 

For instance, a lot of the exotic geography I know is due in part to the locations shot in the magazine.  Places like St. Kitts, the Windward Islands, Seychelles.  I don't even know how to pronounce "Seychelles," but I know it exists and I know it's gorgeous and I know I want to go there because Sports Illustrated showed me how amazing it is.  See?


Even Martha's Vineyard looked magical with Tyra Banks there.  

I developed a respect for artistic photography.  Seriously, I did.  Stop laughing.  I know that claiming to look at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition for photography is like claiming to go to Hooters for the quality food, but the photographers associated with this issue have always taken risks - using light and nature and body placement in ways other magazines don't.


My love of the magazine led to my obsession with the HBO Documentary about the making of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, where I learned that even for the most beautiful women in the world, photoshopping happens.  And the life of a model isn't all that it seems.  Sometimes models get up before the sunrise, they are forced to splash and jump around in the freezing ocean in the middle of the winter, and when they're making sexy faces at the camera, sometimes they're thinking about Oreos.  Kathy Ireland actually said that. 

Perhaps the most shallow, though certainly the most monumental lesson that I learned from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition has stayed with me into adulthood.  I learned that it is possible for redheads to be hot - like model hot.

angie 95_aeverhart_02

I have always had a complicated relationship with my hair color.  When I was young, it was more hate-hate than love-hate since being a redhead when you're 12 is more freakish and weird than unique and cool.  But seeing Angie Everhart opened my eyes to the possibility that redheads can be different and beautiful - and be in Sport Illustrated

Maybe I should've given my modeling career a second thought?

Yeah, no.  (See above.)

I'm thankful that we have the constant capability of learning and changing how we feel about ourselves and the world even in the most unlikely scenarios - even in a magazine photo spread.

Thanks for being my teacher, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.

And Happy Anniversary.