You deserve happiness.


“My parents are just negative people,” she told me.

“That’s just the way it’s always been. I can’t escape it. I just think the same thing now.”

Her words fell down like surrender. Like the last breath of an argument that no one wins. And her eyes looked hollowed. I could trace the many, many roads she’d already walked with anxiety wrapping her wrists and ankles like threaded Navy knots.

“Has anyone ever told you that you deserve happiness?”

That was it. One simple question. It came out of nowhere as it pummeled pas my lips. And gushed out of me and left me standing there beside her, waiting to be proven wrong.

I wanted her to say yes. I wanted her to look me in the face with wild eyes and say, “DUH! Of course I do.” I wanted to be standing in the middle of a world where that got told to people on a daily basis– no matter what they’d done or where they’d been– I wanted to still naively believe in a world where we told one another the simple things that we deserved.

But she didn’t speak. She just bit her bottom lip. And I tried not to cry because I always cry and I want to not be the one who cries so much but I couldn’t help it. I listened to her silence as an apology letter webbed in my soul that started with “Dear World” and ended with “Love, a girl who just always thought you were better than that.”


Turns out, the world is mighty big.

And turns out, most of us leave the house in the morning never thinking we deserve goodness. And turns out, we want to do something big and noble with our lives but we still live with the idea that we are small and unworthy playing like a record on repeat in the background of your daily interactions. We focus all day long on our looks, and our success, and our jobs, and our treasures so much that we never stop to look around and see the opportunities to lean into one another. Those are the real, pulsing moments of this lifetime– the chance to lean into one another. Not when there is a tragedy. Not when there is a natural disaster. But always. Always. Always.

And so we focus, focus, focus on all the inner and outer workings of a life until we find ourselves sitting around tables with coffee in between our hands, talking about the days in which we thought we would actually change the world. That’s what we all wanted, right? And now, how many of us have given up?

Suddenly, the mission got too big. Our hands seemed to small. We didn’t know where to start. We figured it couldn’t be done. The news got too crazy. Our lives got too demanding. Life seemed to short. The light got snuffed from our eyes.

Changing the world starts with a single sentence.

Just one: You deserve happiness. You deserve happiness. You deserve happiness. You are worthy of that. 

I dare you to say it so much that it wears holes in your pants and fringes your jeans. You deserve happiness. Say it. Everywhere. In every situation. No matter what the cost. And say it, only say it, because you mean it more than anything. Because if you believe that we deserve light spilling in the window, and a tomorrow that ain’t so heavy, and conversation to water our bones, and the chance to be redeemed in the eyes of those we’ve hurt, then you believe in happiness. You believe in joy. My friend, you believe in a happiness that doesn’t get gone in the morning at the first crack of daybreak.

A simple sentence like “you deserve happiness” should be spilling out of us like zombie guts. It should be urgent. It should be shoulder-shaking urgency. We should be saying that on repeat to one another. We should be meaning it more than we mean the road rage and the celebrity gossip. We. Should. Be. Meaning. It. Because we all know how it feels to want to give up on this lifetime or want to go to sleep and never wake up. We’ve all felt the pulling of the threads that unravel and we’ve all ached to get back to a space of simpler things.

This need for other people to know themselves worthy of love is so much deeper and real than we give it credit for. It’s not a quiet need. It’s not a timid need. It is a real, raging, unsinkable need that we learn to shove out and turn away from because it takes more effort than buying milk at the grocery store. It takes more of us than a conversation on a screen. It demands more of our time and we’re already so crazed in a day that needed three extra hours tacked onto it yesterday.

The real question isn’t, Do you think that you deserve happiness? Not at the core of it. The real question is, Do you think that other people are worth it?

Do you think that other people– whether you know them or not– are worth it? Worth your time. Worth your energy. Worth it when you’re tired. Worth it when you’re the one who feels like falling apart.

This world is a constant dance of standing close to the edge of giving up on one another. Of turning our backs. Of looking away. Of saying, whether verbally or not, “that person is not worth my precious time.” But I don’t want to give up on people, no matter how hard it gets. I don’t want to be the one to say, “that human is too messy for my liking” or “that heart is too mangled.” I don’t want life to suddenly work in a way where we turn inward, and we focus on all of our junk, and we think we need to be “fixed” and “happy” and “whole” before we can make a dent in the life of someone else. That’s a lie. The chance to validate someone, lift someone, be there for someone started yesterday. Is it worth it to look up?

I don’t know if anyone has ever thought to tell you but you deserve happiness. You deserve to know that life means something. I would cry if you weren’t here. And the world would miss out on the purpose you brought here in your arms. You deserve happiness. You deserve happiness. You deserve happiness. I want to speak that into your bones until you believe it. And you feel it. And you get strong enough to tell someone else that they deserve the very same thing.

You deserve happiness. And you will always be worth it to me.

And when the rule book dies, so she must live.


I’ve been living in the Land of Juicy Memoir Writing as of late.

When not traveling, or booking brews, or frolicking around with a mail crate, I’ve been hanging in a land where sleep barely ever scratches at the window. And unicorns don’t prance in chocolate fountains (I know, I’m shocked too!). And inspiration wakes you from a tousled mess of dreams at 2am. And you begin to wonder if your skin will ever know sunlight again or if you’ll just resort to prehistoric grunting when the last shreds of human interaction you hold run dry in your soul.

Some days you cry. Other days you ball your hands into fists and march around the room when you finish a chapter. And most days you have to schedule out slivers of 30 seconds to keep your sanity with the Harlem Shake.

But alas, it’s an amazing little blessing to catch your story on a page. To finally put it down to rest in some sort of peace and pieces. And I hold all the power in the world to make it look better than it actually is on Instagram. 


In purging the nitty-gritty of my existence, I stumbled upon my “Rules for Being a New Yorker.”

Yes, you may absolutely pause in your reading to point and laugh at me when I admit that I wrote this little ditty and all its awesome glory before I moved to New York in Summer 2010. People, this thang is thick. And it’s a no-messing-around Rule Book. The Do’s & Don’ts. The Yes and the No to City Slicker Habits. 

The Rules for Being a New Yorker, well, they shimmied their way into existence at the point in my life where I realized the rules had poofed and disappeared in the summer air… The diploma was passed, the leadership positions were gone, college had ended. And suddenly I was left to forge for myself in a world where no one cared if I showed up, if I brought my A-game or my G-game. And I couldn’t imagine a life that was Rule(less) and Wild. And so I forced the rigid boundaries. And I made the boxes to stuff myself inside. And I begged for the sanity that comes with saying Yes & No to yourself. 


I wonder what we are so afraid of when we construct these rules for our diets, and our dress codes, and our schedules. I wonder what we are really petrified will happen if there be a little less boundaries and more breathing room. Would we spiral out of control? Would we become carnivorous and start attacking the passing cars? Would we feel threatened by the freedom that mingled in our limbs? Do we need the flimsy little rules to convince us that we are too fragile for the alternative? That we will, in fact, break without self-inflicted restrictions?


I only write about this topic because it’s been all over my scattered, little brain these days. And I recognize myself as a girl who has often felt like she needed rules. Like she needed to be tamed. Like she needed someone to stop her. 

In tandem with the Rules of Being a New Yorker, I also inflicted another kind of rule book upon myself entirely. It was the rules that I would endure when it came to the plates placed before me. The calories I could consume. The meats I could eat. The sugars I could intake. And I set up a lifestyle that was very much fragile, and very much restrictive, and very much tethered to the rules that kept me in check.

“What would happen if you broke the rules?” My mother asked me one day over black coffees– as my life had been sucked dry of creamers and sugar.

I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to speak of the monster who would wreck through all the cabinets and chomp down all the cereal and eat & eat & eat until the sun came up. She was bad. So bad. And she needed to be told NO. And limits. And a muzzle on her mouth. And rules in her pockets. 

But the rules took out the joy. And the rules made me the counter in the corner. And the rules took the fat from my cheeks. And the rules turned me into a vapid little girl, shriveled and shrunk in the body of a woman who everyone else thought had all the world at her fingertips.


I’m breaking the rules these days.

I’m finding more joy. I’m trying to let the laughter in. I am wearing the red lipstick whenever I damn please. I am eating pastries with the sunrise & I am having wine to celebrate the fact that this life is turbulent but tremendous. I am being kinder to myself. I am touching my skin and repeating with a gusto, “That’s Ok… That’s Ok…” And, truth told, I am finding that I don’t really need the rules so much as I need to trust myself a little in the morning. And a little in the afternoon. And a little in the evening before I say my prayers and fall to sleep. 

And I don’t need to sabotage myself with the Do’s and Don’ts so much as I need to realize that “failing” just might mean “trying” with a little less frill and a bit of a harder crash.

You see, like all things– the flowers, the bees, the birds, and my sweet soul– the rule book dies eventually. She gets buried in the ground. She gets forgotten & remembered & reforgotten & reremembered. And she’ll be back one day. Oh, oh, certainly she will live again before my feet are propped up in a blue suede coffin.

But when she comes on back I will be ready. I’ll be know that she can be broken & she can be morphed & she can be rewritten. Rewritten & rewritten, with a soft velvet pen, like a melody that hasn’t learnt to be a love song just yet.

Three Cups of Honesty: I’d argue it’s better than tea.

I’ve thought about breaking up with you lately. You. The Blog. The Whole Thing. 

I’ve been known to squirm away from confrontation and I know (all too well) how to break a heart just by walking away. Never giving an explanation. Never keeping in mind that the other person–no matter what– always deserve one. 

So I am being honest with you and saying that I’ve struggled a lot with this space lately.

I’ve cringed a bit over the blog schedule I once laid out for myself like fresh new tops and skirts unfolded and paired on the bed the night before the first day of middle school.

Lately, I take one glance at the white space before me, think that I cannot fill it to justice, and shirk away to do some other task.

I love this blog more than anything. I’d gladly sit anyone down who is fumbling with a domain name or the question of actually starting a blog, just to say Do It. I’d grab them by the shoulders, regardless if they were a pair of shoulders I’d known for years or not, and tell them that if they have something to say, something to write, then now is the time. Don’t wait. Just start.

In two years, this little crook of the internet has opened up 1,001 doors for me. Not just in the outside world but in my very own heart. She (because I do believe my blog is a lady) has let me use her corners & her angles, her texts & her headers, to grapple with feelings and spill endless concoctions of confusion all over her pure white space. I’ll be forever grateful for that.

I realize it sounds like I am going through with this break up. Like I’ve taken this little blog of mine out to dinner, told her to dress up beforehand, and then dropped something down on her like, “We cannot do this anymore. It’s not you, it’s me.”

But it stings to know that this blog can so easily force me into perfectionism, lead me to believe that I need similes with silk straight hair & metaphors with well-groomed moustaches to come out here and perform for you. And really, I have no desire to be a performer. All I want to do is be a Liver. A Lover. A Planter. A Sower.

I’ve always promised myself that I would not use this blog to talk about me or my life but people, there is excitement brewing all over the place and I want so badly to share it with you. Over cups of tea. Over long runs. Over this space if it is the only place we can find one another.

I’m bursting at the seams to tell you that I am humbled to my knees & core each day by how powerful God has proven He can be when you’ve got a dream and a vision and you give it willingly to Him.

I am practically squirming to share here that I am sleeping in my running sneakers almost every night to catapult from my slumber at 4:45am to get to the gym. A treadmill and some barbells wait for me. I want to talk endlessly about my training for a Tough Mudder, how determined I am to run and finish this deathly obstacle course in May. How I am learning to test my endurance but I am dedicating my every step to a boy who taught me the meaning behind enduring as he so valiantly fought a cancer that couldn’t beat him.

I want to come here every single day, even if I don’t have an alliteration to tango with, and ask you the very same thing that I wrote in the last blog post: This life requires that we be bold. Fierce. And, if you see none of that in your own life, what are you doing wrong? Where are you not taking a risk? Where are you walking when you should be leaping?

I just came out a serious three weeks of “Run Down, I’m Tired, Wah-Wah-Wah, I Want To Complain All Day” mayhem.

I emerged. I stared in front of the mirror. And I asked myself, “Who the heck are you? You are not this girl.”

You are a grateful girl. A blessed girl. A girl who needs to hold her chin higher. A girl who has the world at her fingertips but will watch it get sucked away if she cannot stop focusing on the negativity. The Must Do’s and the Should Do’s. 

I came out of all of that when I decided that I would be as bold as life needed me to be, fiercer than I thought I could be.

Yesterday, my boss at work told me I should write a blog post on my latest decision: to wear red lipstick just because it is completely and utterly fabulous. & Bold. So Bold. (I’ve been literally having the greatest shindig of my life wearing this Very Cherry lipstick).

I told her I don’t write about myself. I keep “Me,” the girl with red lipstick, out the blog.  And then it all hit me…

Maybe it is time to share some stories. Maybe it is time to give you a glimpse of what is really going on in the life of a girl who is wearing bright red lipstick, hurling herself into mud pits on a daily basis, learning to nurse a heart that aches and breaks for all the humanity around her while fueling a love letter movement that is healing broken spots and breaking boundaries with every new day.

Maybe it is time to introduce you to her. That girl. Maybe she’s not perfect but she’s bold & she’s trying. And finally…. finally…. She’s got a deep joy webbing within her soul. 


You are my best one… You are my best one…

“They still smell pretty good but I don’t think I am going to keep all of these,” she says.

7:30am on a Sunday morning that calls those without rain boots back into their bed sheets.

My eyes have barely unlocked their doors to open shop for the day and already my mother is spreading dead roses across the coffee table.

The decrepit petals are crumbled, like leaves I’ve crushed in walking through the folds of a fall day.

Five crinkled corsages wilt on the table. Giving testimony to proms. Daddy daughter dances. Homecomings & Balls.

Testimony to the first times in a girl’s life where she felt radiant. Like the only one.

And, if just for a moment that pokes its head from the day, I can feel the silk hanging off my hips again, the bobby pins tucked at angles into my heat roasted, curled hair, as he slips the little ditty onto my wrist and rests his hand on the small of my bare back.

And you know his mother picked the corsage out, pulled a twenty from inside her wallet and told him to go pick it up at the florist. “You’ll be slipping that corsage onto her wrist at five and the pink had better match the beading.”

And she played the role of any mother, teaching her son to be diligent with the moments at hand. To set them perfectly in time, as perfect as we can possibly make them at least.

And, if she had known the way time would unfold us in the next few years, like linens from the top drawer, she probably would have sat us down to give lessons on holding tighter and loving more. On simply enjoying the company of a person who knows your favorite color and all the backstories of your missing teeth while you have them around. While you can still captivate their attention. And to ask for nothing more in those moments.

Do we welcome these moments into daily life often enough? The ones of perfect simplicity and elegance? Where nothing gets questioned because suddenly there’s so much goodness in a single stitch of time, enough to make us believe that we’ll never need another answer again.

To get us thinking that we’ve found the answer. In a pair of eyes. In a head resting on a chest. In lifting a child up in the air, her feet propelling towards the solar system.

I know these Perfect Moments are strung like Christmas lights somewhere in my soul but I would be lying if I didn’t say it sometimes takes pushing boxes aside and tying back curtains to see their shine.

Time. When, oh, when will I ever nail you down and get you right?

You would rather have us dec flowers on ours wrist & glitter in our hair, sand between our toes & fingers in the spaces of other hands, than to ever drape you with the Cotton of Complication.

You beg to see us spend all of you on Playing & Laughing. Kissing & Jumping. Indulging & Thanking. Yet, you already know that we will waste you away. Don’t you?

We’ll waste so, so, so, so many precious pearls of opportunity turning a House of Cards Problem into a Grand Ol’ Glass Castle of Disaster. We’ll tarnish a moment to bring up drama. We’ll break the silence to start a fight. We’ll get hurt by another who promised never to hurt us and we’ll lash back. Smashing into pieces the secrets we kept safe for them.

Perhaps that’s why we keep the corsages, six or seven years after they’ve been slipped off the wrist. Maybe it’s why we keep all the memory boxes and old love letters, even when the endings weren’t so happy.

To keep a perfect moment preserved. To keep goodness at the forefront. To shush the “what went wrong” and “how things could have turned out.” To shush the whole “ION” Club: First the President, ConfusION, then the VP, DelusION, next the treasurer, FrustratION, and lastly the secretary, ConclusION.

We’ll look back at the end of all this and we’ll only hope to recall the best of this run that we got. This short run called a Life.

Not the fights. Not the tears. Not the leaving. Not the going.

But the Best Moments.

Where he saw you and you saw him quite perfectly.

Where it all fit together.

Where we asked no questions, we just danced in answers.

Where we whispered into the ears’ of one another, capturing the moment with a five-syllable sentence, “You are my best one. You are my best one.” 

Take this invitation, this blog post, as Me wanting to treat You to the finest elixir I know in life: A Coffee Date.

I’ve decided that I’ll drive across the country in a few years. Or maybe I will figure eight it. Either way, there is a Patchwork of Pretty States I’d like to find myself within. I think I need a little Memphis sewed into my sleeves. I’ll make a frilled tutu out of Denver.

But what would be the point, you ask? Why get into a car, load that sucker up with gasolina and skitter across the whole of Lady Liberty’s stomping grounds? Well, for you, of course. Sure, monuments and landscapes are awfully nice but, I kinda really just want the chance to sit across from you instead of spending this tiny blip of a life before eternity blocked by dueling computer screens.

And when I type “You,” I don’t mean “You” in the sense that “You” is really the guy who bulldozed by porcelain heart and got away with it. And I don’t mean “You” as in the “You” I have no courage to ask about the weather, never mind say hello. I just mean You. You, sitting right there with the coffee in your hands, growling at your office work or cooing at your baby. You & I. WE certainly need to arrange a time to sit down, put some Fine Frothing Fraps between us, and chat. Don’t ya think?

You think I am crazy? Seriously? You think I’m off the Sane Train for being willing to travel the 50 states just to take a seat in some roadside diner or nooky coffee shop just so we can gush about life together? Um, hellllllllo. I made a fulltime hobby out of writing love letters to strangers. How could I not take this epic road trip?

Take this invitation, this blog post, as Me wanting to treat You to the finest elixir I know in life: Coffee Dates.

I confessed it once while guest blogging, that I am a coffee date addict. My planner is filled with little drawings of coffee mugs with a different name scribbled on the inside of each cup. Each Teeny Tiny Cup, doodled from Sunday to Saturday, represents a different date I have made with someone. I average a good four or five a week. Sometimes in a newly discovered coffee shop, other times in good ol’ Starbucks. Sometimes with old friends, other times with complete strangers.

Sweet jeepers, they make my heart skip beats and they make my feet hang up signs on the tops of my shoes saying, “Gone Barefoot Dancing, be back in 20.” I think that a magic that knows no syllables or definition sits in the act of Sitting Across from One Another and Sharing Sticky, Sweet Stories like Cinnamon Buns Gone Melted in the Hot, Hot Sun.

So here is your list of pending questions, if you plan to accept my invitation, and welcome me into your state: Who are you? No, who are you reallllly? Don’t give me your resume, give me the gold. You, the real you. What keeps you up at night? Don’t tell me what you do, tell me what you dream to be… Are you on your way to that dream right now? If not, what is stopping you? Want to jump in the car?

How did you wish as a child? On stars? Candles? Tunnels? Tell me everything. Skinned knees. Battered hearts. Give me a cake batter of your life and tell me there’s no real recipe. And if there is a recipe, let it be a secret one. Like grandmothers and their sauces. Mothers and their pastas.

After all, you are an expert in life so what can you teach me? Don’t tell me you are not an expert. I am grande believer that we are all Experts in some Aspect of Life. Teachers to a trade, be it love or friendship, ambition or passion. So teach me. Show up at the coffee date with a chalkboard and lesson plan if you would like, just come trusting that you’ve got Good Stories and All the Right in the World to Tell Them Out Loud.

Perhaps you think I am kidding, oh but friend, I am so far from kidding. Even my funny bones are deciding not to crack jokes over this one. A few years from now I’ll start. You just tell me where to go. Pick the spot with the best character. Or the spot that serves a mean drip coffee (my favorite). Pick a place where history and love stories are literally peeling off the wallpaper. You come with your tales to tell and I’ll meet you with mine. And together we’ll either laugh, cry or heal in the middle.

I’ll be taking the next week off to plan my cross country road trip scattered with coffee date destinations. In the meantime, while I pray to God for a coffee soul mate who lives within walking distance of Graceland, I have two remarkable guest bloggers lined up for next week. Enjoy. Stay cool!

Do you have the chalk wedged in your waistband for the day the rain showers come?

Some sort of shove from the Divine lured me to sprint down to the corner store and purchase a pail of chalk before beginning the climb.

An untouchable feeling webbed in my stomach as I pulled a stick of white chunky chalk from the pail and abandoned the rest at the foot of the trail.

Hiking. Moving. Upwards.

I climbed furiously that day, my single piece of chalk tucked into the waistband of my running shorts.

And there, at the top, I sat. Breathed. And began to write a story on the rock that sat pulsing beneath me remembering a time when this was the daily ritual. When life was not getting somewhere I needed to be or climbing ladders, life was about making any kind of space or time to write my dreams out loud.

I should have prefaced this story by saying that I don’t normally set out mountain climbing with chalk tucked into my side but that I did once have a wild obsession with sidewalk chalk and driveways. To me, the two were practically a married couple or at least bound by common law. And I was their chalky offspring.

Either my real father is the chimney sweeper from Mary Poppins or God coated my DNA with a serious layer of chalk dust. If I were floundering in the awkward body of a 12 year old today, I’d still want to make out with my driveway more than Justin Bieber.

And, if I had my way as a child, I would have never been forced to frolic through sprinklers with other sticky children. I’d have tromped around in my Tinkerbelle costume, being the J.D. Salinger that I really was on the inside. Speaking to no one. Playing out my Romeo & Juliet love affair with my driveway.

Up with the sun, I was a second grader, already tortured by the heartbreak that comes with being a writer, heading out to the driveway to write stories before the school bus arrived. Chalk Girl. Donning a jumper stained with blue and yellow dust.

To me, the driveway was not a spot for cars. Not a place for engines to leak their oil on my canvas. The driveway was a grand landscape. A surface of potential. A chance to write, scribble, and form a holy matrimony between my hymns and concrete.

For the second I drew my very first lines I knew that letting my stories and deepest desires skitter was a way to tell the world that I was coming. That I was hitching up my dreams to stars like horses to wagons and I was coming. That my footsteps were loud. That my longing to live and inject humanity into every space I encountered was fierce.

I’ve stopped to ask myself lately where that magic slips to, where that eagerness goes… that steady source of eagerness to greet the Sun and his Golden Ray Top Hat and translate ordinary moments into sacred stories. It has been a very long time since I spread my arms and legs out wide to give space to the vision of who I want to become one day. I am happy. Full. Working. Blessed. But lordie, lordie, I am still a caterpillar who needs that cocoon like water.

A long time since I allowed my dreams and desires to poke their heads out from beneath the piles of work to be Written. Scripted. Solidified. Or simply asked for out loud.

I think I have the excuse right here: we get older and it becomes harder to declare our childhood dreams or write our passions out into the world with big Yellow Chalk. Or, we grow more apprehensive towards getting down on all fours and feeling the hot concrete on our knees as we scrape and scribble our wishes into the ground. What a silly act. No time, no time.

I mean, it hardly seems practical when we are burning our tired fingers on the morning coffee and juggling newspapers with a collection of “Life” & “Business” just to saddle ourselves into a seat on the train.

I am 23 years old; still very young in the eyes of people who wish to be 23 again. But I pray I never reach a day where I stop reading the chalk dust etchings of my own heart. Or stop hearing the sounds of my two feet as I make my way through life.

We’ve got to be careful. Terribly careful. Because the rain, she comes and wipes it all away. And thunder is already guaranteed in our forecast, unexpected storms that will throw our toes off balance and make us rethink why we are even here to begin with. Do you have the chalk wedged in your waistband for the day the rain showers come? Because you’ll have to rewrite that concrete story once again. And scribble those dreams out loud once more.

You see, the world will never care to know if we did what we “should” have done… Should is just a word waiting to be banished from the dictionary. All that will ever matter is if we did what we always dreamed. People will let us down, that is for certain. Left and right then right and left and that will never matter either. But trust me, it will matter at the end of all of this if we lived our lives out loud. If we had the courage to do just that. If we stayed true to the chalk dust and the stories that the concrete still knows by heart.

It will be a good story to tell one day.  The one you and I write about all the little dreams crossing over the border into True. I already know it. It will look quite stunning in pink & yellow dust.

Your arms will drool for the archaic days when they were the most valued props in the telling of a story.

You can’t, you whisper silently to yourself as the good news echoes over the phone.  You can tell by the pace in his voice that he jumped up and down a few times before calling you. That he asked the clock on the wall to stick out its hands so that he could overwhelm the next few hours with celebration.

You cannot just slither through the telephone wires, like the black hole water slides of childhood, to splash and land on the other side of the phone. To wrap your arms so tightly around his torso and squeeze him in a way that would cause anthropologists from far off places to tilt their heads and scribble furiously into their notepads:  This must be how natives to this land show pride to one another. With the wrapping of their arms around each another. And holding on tight. As if they won’t ever let go.

There’s nothing you can do, you think. You think it quietly. Even in your own head. The words form quietly and then lie down to play Jan Brady to his Marsha news.

Hush, you tell your arms as they sulk on both sides of you. Go easy on them; there’s been less and less holding these days and they simply don’t understand. And it’s quite difficult to explain to your own two arms that another pair of arms, with less freckles cascading their front sides, are surely there with him now. To celebrate. And jump up and down. And squeeze him tight.

“It’s just not you today,” you’ll need to tell them. “It’s just not you two.”

But we want it to be us, the lanky entities will cry. Raising up like branches into the sky.

And then you’ll be forced to tell your own Two Arms the story that all Sets of Arms need to hear as they grow older & longer: The Story of How We Held Each Other Less

You can tell them it all began with your mother, or maybe a teacher. Someone, somewhere in the pot holder stitching of your story line infused two deep pearly trinkets of wisdom into your soul: One) To stop at nothing when make your dreams come true. Two) To make friends along the way.

We little dreamers get in good, good trouble over those two trinkets.

We dream Fantastic Dreams and venture off to the crooks of this World that will Bring Them True. We resolve to stay far away from the spaces and places that will swallow our dreams up, leaving them Unfinished or Unraveled or Uninvited. And we take solace under the trees of the places where dreams come, Not Easily. Not Free. But True.

And we meet Awe-Inspiring Individuals. Who hold us for pockets of time. And then vow to hold us longer in cubby holes of the heart. For all the little dreamers know that to stay in one place for a long while is a deep rarity. And to always stay together, Arms Linked, is bound to happen less and less in a world that begs for us to make adventures from its soil.  

Or maybe you’ll tell those gangly arms of yours of the days where women cooked a steady broth upon a stove top of rocks and thickets and the men set out to hunt before the sun came up from behind the yawning hills. Those were the days when people stayed together. They never wandered off too far. And if they were nomads, they ventured in a group still. Rarely the individual. Rarely the one.

They were one another’s greatest gifts, sitting beside the fire at night telling stories. Their hands swaying in the darkness, shadowy characters prancing upon surfaces lit up by the flames. They shared almost everything, from stories and heartache to food and chores.

Your arms will drool for the archaic days when they were the most valued props in the telling of a story. Not a text. Not a picture from a camera phone. Not a semi colon slammed next to parenthesis to symbolize a wink.  

We’ve come a long way. You can tell your arms that.

A long, long way.

For now, our iPads light the night. And our iPods flush the day with sound. And our iPhones keep us in record touch with one another and so, with every loved one at our fingertips, we venture out into the world, the little “i”s that we are, looking to make something out of our place in this world.

All because someone pushed us to go forth and light our dreams on fire, as big and thick as the sky-climbing bonfires that our ancestors lit to huddle close beside for warmth.

But you tell those arms of yours that this story is not a tragedy, nor is it horror, for it is a great, great blessing to pick up and go walking in the world with the support of others by your side.

Virtual, maybe, but we said from the days when we first learned to walk that we would travel and learn and discover and seek. That we would make a life from postcards and foods we’ve tried, roles we’ve played and hands we’ve shook.

You tell those arms of yours how very brave they are, for travelling with you on a journey where there wouldn’t always be a body to clutch. Where sometimes they would be alone and wanting. Lost and fearing. Itching, itching, itching for a familiar pair of arms to entangle with them. You thank those arms of yours for being so willing to reach out a stranger and make them a friend or reach out to a body, just a plain old body, enough times to make them a Somebody. Who cheers for you. And prays for you. Even miles, and phone calls, and tweets apart.

And it meant leaving sometime all along, and learning to miss while being apart. And it would also mean that sometimes we’d just have to hope that another set of arms would be there, on the other side of the phone where your best friend jigs under the southern sun, to hold his torso and squeeze him tight. And relay your pride from half a world away.

23 Candles: A handful of pearls from the 22 women who took my 22nd year and grew it into something Memorable.

I have never been good with birthdays.

They make me squeamish. A little queasy. I really should be donning a crown and beating the pulp out a watermelon pinata but really I am always left wondering if I have packed enough learning into 52 weeks, done enough with 12 months.

And so here I am, newly 23, and wondering what the purpose to 22 really was.

Come on, I make symbolism out of my morning coffee, there was no way I was going to let a whole 22nd year slip by without looking for the life lessons behind it.

So…After 365 extraordinary days, 365 days with so much life packed tight into them, I can confidently say that my 22nd year was one shaped by 22 young women who have crisscrossed my path with theirs at some point this year, leaving me with arms full of wisdom, courage, and inspiration. My life would not be the same without these 22 women and they lessons they taught me in a span of twelve months. On this special day, I would like to share those lessons with you.

I would like to dedicate this pearls of wisdom post and my 22nd year to these world shakers who made me the person I am today. Thank you for teaching me with your light, your love, and your life.

Find that place in this world that fits you like an over-sized sweater. Find that place that makes Ruby Slippers seem totally practical if it really means clicking them will bring you back there again & again. Find that place that will always take you back into its arms, borders and intersections no matter how far away you travel or how long you have been gone. —Stephanie Rushford. Stephanie is a freelance politics writer who allowed me to see New York City from her own eyes. I will always remember a night this winter spent roaming the financial district near the 9/11 memorial and hearing from her what it means to be young and in love with a City that Knows Her Name.

Don’t let the universe regret you. —Azure Antoinette. Azure is a spoken word poet recently spotlighted by Oprah who helped us run our poetry workshop in Brooklyn this April. We spoke for about an hour on the phone and yet it was one of the best 60 minutes out of the whole year. Azure amazes me daily with her poise and grace, and her fervor for all of life. I am beyond ready for a musical July with her.

The world will try to get you to quit believing in fairy tale love. Don’t let it win so easily. Believe in frogs. Lost shoes. Carriages made from pumpkins. Pixy dust. And falling hopelessly, so hopelessly, in love. –Audrey. Those who know my blog know that my best writing is forever indebted to a four-year-old diva with a serious Princess Complex. Only two feet tall, Audrey showed me how to relive my whole life in one summer, three feet shorter and looking at the world through a pair of rockin’ pink shades.

The job that you want and will delight in doing for the whole of your life probably doesn’t exist out there just yet. You are going to have to create that job. —Lindsay Pollak. The ultimate expert on careers and the workplace, Lindsay is someone who will have you itching to network and map out your dream job in seconds. I owe this young woman a great deal of thanks for the inspiration and pushes she provided me with while job hunting in the last few months.

Adventures are guaranteed to come knocking at your door. Keep your ears perked for that Adventure’s rapping on the wood; get up out of bed in slippers and pajamas and greet the adventure whenever she arrives.Christen Brandt. Director of She’s the First, Christen is not only someone I love working with but also someone I love sharing life adventure’s with. I am constantly in awe of the readiness she holds in nearly every situation tossed her way. I am looking so forward to our future adventures…

Whatever role you play, play it with every ounce of yourself. Walk away at the end of each chapter knowing that you made your heart breakable for a very good reason; so that you could scatter it and leave it with others who needed it more in the moment.Carleigh Baldwin. I am lucky to call her a best friend, Carleigh is an individual who I look up to and respect for so many reasons. And I am absolutely ready to see her rock her first year of law school.

In all that you do, ask yourself “why.” From your morning coffee to your route to work, ask yourself “why” and if you cannot uncover the answer then have the courage to reevaluate.–Halle Butvin. I interviewed Holly back in 2010 and this piece of advice has stuck with me since. Founder of One Mango Tree, a fair trade company that helps bring women in Uganda out of Poverty, Halle is a role model who I absolutely admire for her endless efforts to be the change she wishes to see in the world.

Allow yourself to be the Rare, Limited Edition, Version of yourself that really, truly are. Don’t ever belittle how very beautiful you make this world.Nikita Marie. Confessions: I want to be this girl. You should be friends with this girl. You will NEVER, EVER meet a more stellar individual. Of this I am sure. Nikita is a serious world shaker who inspires me to paint beautiful pictures out each of my days. Seriously, spend fifteen minutes with this young woman. You. Will. Be. Glad. You. Did.

Serve a purpose in whatever you do. You are here for a reason, don’t let the opportunity slip.–Carla Blumenthal. If you could only meet one more person for the whole of your life, I wish it would be Carla. I am extremely honored to know Carla and to call her a great friend. In a short span of time in the Big City, Carla filled my pockets with her wisdom on every aspect of life, to doing the work you love to growing spirituality in an ever-growing city.

Leave time in your day,, for the following things: inspiration, love, symphonies, glitter, friends, fine art, prayer & Gloriosity.–Chesley Turner. This young woman reads me like a book and I thank the Good, Good Lord for her always. Inspiring, moving, poised and passionate, Chesley is someone I look forward to growing old with, chatting about the days when we were young, fabulous, running wild around New York City in mini skirts and heels that defied the borders of “spectacular.”

Make space in your life for people who surpass wearing their heart on their sleeve. Carve out special room for individuals who walk around this world with a staple gun in hand, stapling their heart to the sleeves of others. Lauren Lankford. I am honest in saying that I would love nothing more than to sit beside Lauren and talk about all things under the sun until the sun herself went down: Life. Love. God. Mistakes. Grace. Creativity. Founder of the Good Women Project and Love Drop, I never can seem to pick my jaw fully up off the ground over how much of herself Lauren has given to others. Selfless. Selfless. Selfless & Remarkable.

SARK, one my favorite inspirational gurus, writes that there is a great difference in life between telling the world about the tree you have drawn in your mind and actually showing the world that tree. Have enough courage to cease talking about the tree, walk outside, and plant it. —Tammy Tibbetts. I simply cannot string together enough good sentences to say how much I admire Tammy and how remarkable of a mentor she has been to me since first meeting her. Founder of She’s the First, a tree planted deep in my own heart now, Tammy has shown me the importance of letting your dreams live outside of your walls and the potential they hold when unleashed out into the world. I am blessed to call her a good friend.

Be the person who enters into the room with a smile on her face, wine in her hand, and a good story waiting to dive off into the crowd. In six, simple words: Be the Life of the Party. –Lauren Albert. Lauren teaches me daily what it means to embrace the spontaneity and hidden potential within each hour, second, and minute. She is my go-to gal, a dancing queen, a heart-to-heart companion always ready for a deep conversation and a glass of chardonnay. And , for all of these things, I am lucky to be so close with her.

Take time to sit down and map out what you want out of life. Gather up those who support and love you best to make those dreams and desires into the very best reality. —Selena Soo. I first met Selena at a power girl brunch but since that first meeting she has helped to sculpt me into the professional and world shaker I long to be. I will forever thank her for challenging me to design my dream job, it is because of her that I know I am inching towards it. Closer & Closer each day.

Be present to people. Give to them your time, your energy, your shoulders, your hands and your ears. When you are there, be sure to really be there. And when you are here, Be Here. —Laura Collins. Anam Cara is the Gaelic term for a “friend of your soul.” Laura challenged me, pushed me, and changed me in eight months of living with her. The greatest gift she gave me? The Gift of Presence, something I know she will continue to give as she heads off to Peru this winter.

Let life court you. Allow it wine & dine you. Let life get down on one knee, pull out a big ol’ diamond ring, and slip it onto your finger. —Mackenzie Filson. I don’t play favorites all that often but there is no denying: this girl is on the top of my list. I believe she and I have covered our souls with very same wallpaper… A coffee date lives in our future; this makes it nearly impossible to resist begging the future to get here now.

Tell others when you admire them, when they have changed you, when they have pushed you and challenged you and held you up at times. Chances are, if you have not told them yet then they have yet to know it as true. —Kaleigh Somers. Reasons why I adore blogging: this girl. Kaleigh has shown me, over and over again, why I wake up everyday to write out into the world via this blog. I cannot help but thank her endlessly for being a source of inspiration, an honest critic, and one of my biggest fans.

Don’t just bend backwards for friends you love. Bend in any direction they need of you. Front. Back. Side. Up. Down. Just be there to bend when they break. Becca Provost. I had the pleasure of watching and learning from Becca for eight months this year. From the very start, I admired the attention she gave to those who mattered most to her and with what delicateness she treated her friendships. Anyone would very fortunate to know this young woman… extremely fortunate to call her a friend.

Befriend creativity. Let it swim in your veins. Keep you up at night. Leave you lost in Central Park, sitting on a park bench, plotting story lines until the street lights come on. And after you befriend creativity, befriend the stranger sitting on the park bench beside you. —Libby Segal. She calls herself an “aspiring director.” Let’s all get real and just start telling the truth: Director will only be the beginning to what this girl will accomplish in her lifetime. Watch out world, this one is going to shake you. Big. Time.

Read your heart out loud to the ones you love. Read your heart out loud as if it were your favorite novel. Celia Fox. My very best friend, this girl has shown me and taught me what it means to read my heart out loud. I find it hard to tell her with real words how very proud I am and how excited I am to see her chapter in Kansas unfold… And how pumped I am to make endless Dorothy comments towards her. Love you St. End!

“Agape means that we love a person for what they are. Every person has an infinite mystery within themselves. Agape means that we never confine the person to what we know of them.  To love anyone is to hope in them always.” –Lindsay Field. If you do use Google today, use it to look up this word. It is a life-sculpting word that Lindsay introduced me to throughout the year. A strong young woman, I am beyond excited to see the next chapter of her life unfold as she heads to Equador for the next year.

Wake up and look around. The sights are too good to be missed at any time of the year.Britt Blicharz. A best friend, Britt teaches me this always and often. That no matter what time of the year it is– winter, spring, summer or fall–there is reason to stop what you are doing and breath in the air. Smile. Laugh. Maybe even cry. And thank God you are alive…

It would take seven cups of wisdom, eight plates of courage, four doses of compassion and a lifetime of selflessness to even be 3/4’s of the Whole that is my Mother.

The pew feels anxious beneath me as I sit beside my mother contemplating the ways to tell her that I have stolen from her.

Mom, I stole something from you. Mom, I stole a lot of stuff from you.

It doesn’t help that we are in church. That I am trying to find ways to come clean of my thieving ways as we are asked to rise and open up our hymn books.

I have no intention of stopping. I am not going to stop stealing from you.

It is moments like this one where life actually playing out like a soap opera would be terribly convenient. With Dramatic Pauses. And Intense Monologues. Because then I would have no problem saying out loud that I have been stealing since the day my soul learned to wrap pieces of my mother into swaddling clothes, tucking each piece carefully into the crib like compartments of my heart. That would be easier to admit if I had a 2p.m. time slot on One Life to Live.

I don’t think it is ever easy to tell someone these kinds of things. It is not so casual to say, “Oh, it is no big deal, Charlotte just rented out a room in my soul and spun a web out of your being so that I can keep parts of you forever.” No Big Deal.

Those kind of words don’t just plop themselves into conversations beside dirty dishes and student loans.

There were once days where I testified that I would never grow up to be like my mother. Someone should have placed a bet with me then that I would one day change my mind. They would be a piggy bank richer right now. These days I find myself getting down on knees, knees that have only felt the ground for 22 years, to pray to be Half of my Mother.

I’ve looked around. I’ve calculated. It would take seven cups of wisdom, eight plates of courage, four doses of compassion and a lifetime of selflessness to ever be 3/4’s of the whole that is my Mother.

And I wonder if she already knows that I am a thief. That I have stolen the way she looks at life. The Way She Greets the Sun. Stolen the way she dances whenever a band shows up or even when there is no music at all because it just feels so good to have legs that can move. Stolen the way she Injects Humanity into every person she encounters.

Maybe I will start smaller. Smaller Robberies. Easier to Admit to Her.

The way she writes down words, scribbles messages onto stray papers and receipts. The way she spoons an avocado or brews drip coffee from a red kettle. Her love for little trinkets: worry dolls, cards with mismatched envelopes. All into a Big Thief Bag.

I would say it if I could: that I have scrapbooked all the love she has ever given me. That when my own daughter grows up and spends her first holiday away from me and finds herself terribly homesick I will mail her a Yellow Towel.

A Pristine Yellow Towel.

Not because she needs one but because the color will be so spectacular. She’ll hold it to her face and I will think of her as I cut the turkey. The silverware won’t shine as brightly that year. I already know it.

But most of all, I have stolen her stories and the ways that she tells them. After all, since I was a little girl I have taken shelter within these very stories as if they were Pink Plastic Playhouses Sitting Pretty by the Patio. Resting my head beneath a roof made out of cross country road trips and painting days at the beach. Her strong, endearing narratives leave me closing my eyes to build maps in my head. Her voice– dipping and tightening– points out destinations upon my Mind Maps. Compassion here. Resilience there. Spirituality around this bend. Goodness along this road.

Everyday with my mother is a day full of stealing.

Robbing. Burglarizing. Pilfering. Thieving.

And there is no way to tell her this, that I am stealing, stealing, stealing in hopes that one day, when we no longer sit side by side in pews, she will have seeped deep enough into my bones that I can tell her stories to others as she would have liked. No way to tell her that I won’t be able to handle the day where we don’t sit side by side if that web within me is not fully cloaked in her Stories, Traits, & Wisdom to pass and pay forward to a world that needs them desperately. I’ll tell friends about Yellow Towels & Avocados. I’ll tell my own children about Mexican Hot Chocolate and Sunflowers in the Sky.I’ll tell strangers, children, the elderly & foreigners. I will tell anyone with open ears about the day I learned to steal from a woman who danced for every occasion and held a heart within her that ached and bent for the happiness of others.

Forget me before nap time. Remember what I want for you when it comes time to dream.

Just tell me… are you going to do it?” He asks her, “Tell me right now. Just tell me right now, Diana.

Diana, dressed prim in her lavender princess dress, hairspray clutching her curls into perfect spirals from the 7a.m. hair appointment, looks away from him and keeps staring into the mud below the magnifying glass. Looking for the inchworm.

Tell me now, are you going to break my heart? Tell me. Will you break my heart?” Bryan puts his hands on this hips; the bumblebee finger puppets still saddling the tips of his fingers.

Welcome to the conversations that plop from the mouths of four-year-olds when you dress the herd of Bieber Fever Babies “to the nines” in spring attire to take a single photo with the Easter Bunny.

Suddenly, suddenly, they are snorting a thick smog of romance from the air and carrying on “grown up” conversations in the science area. Forgetting their soap opera rhetoric from time to time to stare at the inchworm below the magnifying glass.

“I…like…Josue…better.” Burnnn.

And don’t look now Diana, but Josue is buttering up Katelynn in the corner of the block area. Telling her he likes her Sunday dress better than yours and would like to dance with her during exercise time.

In a 2-day span, Josue can date Diana. Break up. Hold hands with Katelynn a few times. Katelynn will then get tired of Josue, move on to his best friend, Joel. Joel will pine over Katelynn, then move onto Jamell. All the while, Isis and Madisson will be fighting over a clearly disinterested Josue.

And then next year they will all move up in the world, split into separate kindergarten classes and forget one another.

Not to put a grim spin on it all.

But they are four.

They forget what cereal they had for breakfast. They forget what month it is. They will forget one another. They will forget they ever had a “Miss Hannah” for a preschool teacher who was a pro at doodling princesses onto papers they clutched up until nap time.

I’ll forever be a pre-Facebook, pre-mobile phone, pre-email, preschool teacher to these children. Give these kids a few popsicles, a summer vacation, and a new teacher and I will be as good as gone in their pint-sized memories.  I am no match against Disney World or birthday parties at the hair salon.

And so what is a girl to do when she knows she will be forgotten?

Well it leaves me learning a good, hard lesson in the reason behind being alive right now. 

It leaves me learning that my name will never matter, nor will my face. And that my only job, Right Here, Right Now, is to plant this “Break Your Heart From Being So Full” Kind of Love that I have in my possession all over the place. Plant it until it hurts. Plant it long after it breaks my heart a dozen more times. 

Setting my heart on mastering this whole “loving until it hurts” thing suddenly makes it much clearer to see what to do with this Very Little Time and Very Tiny Space.

Love, though it involves risks and the art of “forgetting,” is all I can imagine I would want these kids to take away from me. Long before they remember the color of my hair or the flowers on my dress.

Remember how special I think you are, I want to tell them. Remember that you are limitless, I want them to know. That you shouldn’t be fearless but don’t let those fears dictate your choices. That you may never remember a girl whose hair magically turned from curly to straight from one day to the next but remember her love. Her Morphing Love.

This is all your Little Bones need. A Love that morphs into Ambition. Imagination. Creativity. To Grow Them Strong.

A Love that will leave you seizing days and dreams with both hands long after I have stopped holding them.

It is rainy days like these, where the Easter Bunny is in town and the Sunday “Tacos” have come out to click clack on the floors during circle time, that I want to tell every single one of them to forget me before nap time, so long as they remember all that  I want for them when it comes time to dream.