Category Archives: Passion

A word vom pep talk for the bosses out there.

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Have you ever played the “If I believed in past lives, I would be _____________” game? I think I might have just invented it on the way to my favorite coffee shop but still, the game feels like a riot and I was only playing it by myself so I imagine it would be even better with actual people playing alongside you.

You could be anyone, really. Cleopatra. A fox (because who does not want to be a fox these days?). Shirley Temple. A tree in the Hunger Games. (Y’all are thinking, why wouldn’t you want to be Katniss? And you know a lot of us are all blah-blah-I’m-not-good-enough-to-be-Katniss so let’s quit the drama and settle on being a lame tree instead. Maybe I’ll convince you to be Katniss by the end of this post.)

Basically, if I believed in past lives, I’d be one of those cool, kind-of pudgy & balding men who run the screen printing companies. My name would probably be Lou. And I’d make some pretty ballin’ T-shirts. I’d be friends with Diddy & Weezy and probably be dating Ellie Goulding because everyone would want my swag. I’d smoke cigars because that feels kind of random but awesome for Lou to do. And then I’d screenprint a T-shirt and save it for my life as Hannah, the blogger.

The T-shirt would read, “AINT NO WORD VOM BLOGGER.”

If I owned that T-shirt, I’d never take it off. EVER. Honestly, for the longest time I sincerely detested word vom bloggers. You know the ones. The ones who spill their guts and heart and soul and inappropriateness all over the floor and it kind of just looks like a mangled mess that no one is going to clean up. I used to say to myself, that’s what a diary is for. I’ve never been interested in letting y’all wade your ankles in the puddles of my own struggles.

But today I am word vomming like a B-O-S-S. I have nothing else to give you. No poetry. No pretty morals. Just honesty.

I’m struggling.

Not in the way where I am unsure about life. Not in the way where I wonder how to get out bed. Just in the fact that it feels like I’m juggling 72 things. And you don’t want to admit to anyone that you are afraid of any one of those things dropping and shattering across the floor. Just in the fact that the to-do list never gets shorter and you wake up thinking, “Man, I really want to be a better human being than this.” I want to remember people’s birthdays better. I want to be the one who has the time to send my friends letters in the mail. I want to remember to eat breakfast. I want to get a better workout in. I want to stop. beating. myself. up. so. hard. for. stupid. stuff.

You’ve been there, babycakes. Let’s not act like you could not possibly be standing in these same sorts of feelings right now. If I’ve learned anything in the last 25 years, it’s that we sometimes live 9 lives within one day. We’re crazy like that. We wake up optimistic. By 10am we’re exhausted. At 1pm, we feel illegitimate. It steepens at 2pm when we convince ourselves that no one has ever loved us. By 4, we’re positive again. By 6, we want to hack off all the progress we’ve made in life and just start over. Sentence of the day: Humans be cray. It’s a marvel that we manage to get up every morning and get out of yoga pants. If you didn’t make it that far today, I still love you something fierce.

So here’s a few things you might need to know today, because they are words I most definitely need to digest myself:

1) You’re human:

That’s it. You’re human. You’re not super human. You’re not subhuman. You’re just plain human. You make mistakes. You don’t scale walls. You hurt people without ever intending to. You get your heart ripped out of your chest. Some days the only language you can endure is tears and you’re like, “I’M SO FLUENTTT IN TEARSSSS. WHATTT ISSSS WRONNGGG WITHHH MEEE???” Shh… Shh… It’s ok. It’s ok.

2) SURPRISE! There is only one of you:

Sky high to-do lists seem really practical until we need to execute them. You won’t get it all done today. Maybe you will, but you’ll already be making another list in your head. Count your fingers… there should be 10. Count your toes… 10 again. Your eyes? 2 of them. There is one single person inside you, not 18 or 27. Stop acting like you can manage the load of 47 humans. If you can’t swallow that fully, go back to point 1.

3) Take a break:

Sometimes. It doesn’t mean you stop going to work or you abandon all your daily tasks but sometimes we just need an hour or two. Sometimes we just need a good book. Sometimes we need a Skype call with a best friend.

If your mind feels cluttered, take a break from social media. You’d be surprised to see what happens when you delete the apps for a little bit and just sit with your own thoughts instead of the 140-characters of the world’s population. Clarity comes, babycakes. Clarity comes.

4) Get yo’ self a stealthy pet name:

Some of you are thinking, when did she get all “babycakes” on us?

Well, people who know me, or anyone who gets an email from me, will know this truth: I only refer to people in terms of endearment. The second I know you, the second we first communicate, I basically forget your name and pick one of the following pet names for you: 1) Love 2) Darling 3) Babycakes 4) Babygirl 5) Lovely 6) Girl 7) Doll.

I’m not trying to be overly lovey-dovey with people but names are a really powerful thing. We call ourselves all sorts of ugly things. We are fat. We are stupid. We are lazy. We are pathetic.

Baby, baby, get yourself an amazing little pet name.  I hauled through 6 lectures and 7 flights in a little over 72 hours this weekend but the whole time I kept saying, “We got this. Babygirl, we got this.” And it got me through. Being kind to myself, being loving to myself, got me through.

5) Ban Adele:

Not forever. But in fragile times when you feel low & down & insecure, Adele doesn’t help anyone. She makes us want to gouge our eyes out with pencils because WE. FEEL. SO. MUCH.

Use Adele as a springboard if you need to, or just go sit in a Starbucks, and when all the sad music rolls in just give yourself permission to cry. Big tears. Little tears. Sloppy tears. Ugly cry all over that coffee shop and hold your hands up and surrender and admit that you are far from put together. Let the baristas carry you out screaming and crying and slurring your words to Adele. Get someone to video the whole thing so that you can become a really, super awesome viral sensation. And don’t forget about the person who gave you the sweet idea when you go on Ellen.

6) You. Are. Freaking. Katniss.

You are freaking Katniss. I don’t care what people tell you. I don’t care what you tell yourself every single day. A lot of the stuff we tell ourselves are just stupid little lies. You are capable. You are strong. You are not the tree in the Hunger Games, you are Katniss.

You’re an absolute genius at something. You have gifts all hidden in your limbs. You are not the sum of your doubts or your insecurities or the thought that you won’t get anywhere in this lifetime. You are going somewhere. You are, you are, you are. You are brave. You got swag. You got potential. You are a BOSS. Write that on your desk, doodle it in your notebooks, get it tatted on your head if it drives the point home: You. Are. A. Boss. This world ain’t got nothing on you, darling.

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Filed under Month of the Pick-Me-Up, Passion

Slow down and laugh a little, baby.

Dee & Her Red Lipstick

Dee & Her Red Lipstick

I never knew much of a woman named Dee. Sepia-stained photographs tell me she knew what it meant to stand laughing at life.

Dee. She is a woman I only know from photographs and stories that slip out from behind carved turkeys and cardboard boxes full of ornaments.

You see, I knew Grandma. I knew Boccu. But I never knew the woman with the beautiful brown hair and the burlesque lipstick that shaped a mouth that gave vows to laughter.

When I found Dee, arthritis had crippled her hands after years spent holding flowers and the faces of children who cried and called her, “Mama.” Age had wrinkled her skin. Age had tattered her bones. Age, you are so fierce, can’t you tread easier on the ones who only ache to learn from you?

But the Dee I see in pictures is the Dee who believed that life was fierce. Life was bold. Life was a case for red lipstick no matter where ya’ headed. The grocery store. Central Park. Life was turbulent some days but it will required you to show up and try to laugh. Try to get the sweet sound of release slipping up through your vocal chords.

I want to remember that. And on some days, only that.

I think that Dee might laugh at me. Up to my knees is Must Do’s and Have To’s and Oh Lord, The World Will Fall Apart If This Don’t Get Done’s. I think she’d laugh at me then get real proud.

Her eyes might well up. She might bite her bottom lip, not caring if the lipstick caked her two front teeth, just the way I do.

She might remember the days when she held me, tucked me at her side to watch the Wizard of Oz with a tube of Pringles in my lap.

I was skinny like a rail and my nickname was “Boneyard” and I was never really a Dorothy type but all I really wanted was for Grandma to see me that way. For Grandma to believe that I could be a girl with a beautiful, blue checkered dress and the Most Grand of Red Slippers on my feet. That I could travel deep into this world and really get my Yellow Brick Road. That I could be someone. That I could be someone wonderful like that.

“I’ll see your name on book shelves one day,” Dee used to say. “Books are gonna love the feel of your name on their spine.”

And that is all it took. All it took for one girl to decide she’d grow up and be someone beautiful. She’d grow up and turn the Lives of Others into something really striking and rich.

Dee, if you can hear me, I know you’d care to know: I’m dancing somewhere in the middle of something really beautiful, just like our favorite moment when Dorothy first finds the poppies and she’s trudging in Red. Pure Red. And then the snow comes.

I’m doing something sort of like that lately, Dee. And there are days where I wanna run straight to Oz because I can see it so clearly. And then days where I know just what you would say, “Slow, baby, slow. I know you want to sprint, but don’t you forget that every moment you are running past is a chance to drag your finger across the map of someone else standing in that poppy field and lead them back to love. You’re young. You’re bright. You’ve got the world coming up all around you, slow down and laugh a little, baby. Slow down and treasure it because it will slip faster than you know.

Run at a pace that will let you catch the snowflakes. Let you get the Red all up in your toes.” 

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Filed under Passion

Remember when we became the Honey Boo Boo children of time management?

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We’re all convinced we are super, uber bad at time management.

I don’t know the myth or mystery behind it but I’ve yet to meet the person who is like, “ME?! HECK YA, I DOMINATE TIME MANAGEMENT… I ROCK THAT THINGS LIMBS OFF! I AM AN ABSOLUTE ANIMAL WHEN IT COMES TO MANAGING MY TIME.”Yea, if that person does exist then I want to meet them… and maybe date them… and then marry them and follow them around drooling while I watch them tackle their day with a productive vengeance.
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Time management seems like one of those weak spots. One of those things we have not quite mastered yet but we really hope to (dot dot dot) someday. But you know what? No more, friends. NO. MORE. Today I am coming at ya’ strong and saying: We are done with being the Debby Downers of Day Planning. You hear me?!?!  If you are too weak for the contents of this post then please exit my blog now. Otherwise, guzzle a 5-hour energy shot and repeat this credo after me:
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“I, ____Insert name here or nickname you’ve always wished people would call you by____, do hereby swear to stop whining and walking around weeping in the organization section of Target. I am going to stop thinking that Etsy shops are my cure-all and that one more set of funky, oval to-do list sheets is going to make my time management skills any bit better. No one needs oval to-do list sheets… not even me.  I am vowing, today and for the rest of my life, to rock the face off time management like Honey Boo Boo child. I am going to be a beast with appointments. I am going to be a tank when it comes to tasks. And I am going to STOP telling people that I am awful at time management and instead tell them that I am the girl/boy on fire before diving into a rendition of notes that Alicia Keys will always hit better than me. And that’s alright… because my talent isn’t singing anymore, it’s time management.”
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No frills, no ruffles- you need a system.

“Buying a new planner, and new dividers, and funky post-it notes, and sweet little stickers and these oddly shaped clip thingers that are an absolute anomaly to me but cute nonetheless are going to make me an organized person! Suddenly I am going to show up to meetings early with a coffee in hand feeling like a million-and-two dollas.”

Yea, you know we’ve all eaten that idea up like cake. Like fluffy, white birthday cake. But can I debunk the lie? And tell you it’s simply not true? No amount of cute accessories will make us better managers of our time. A day planner = tool. A rack of highlighters = tool. Babycakes, step. off. the. tools. and. get. yourself. a. system.
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You have to know the inner workings of your productivity and workflow if you ever want tools to help you down this yellow brick road of time management. I may as well sacrifice this entire blog post to the gods of bad Wizard of Oz References by saying that Dorothy’s shoes, as bangin’ they looked, held no power until she knew how to click those rubies together. I don’t care how pretty we can make our organizers look, we need to get into the habit of creating a system that we go back to day after day after day. Without the system, the frills fail us.
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You need to come into the ring already knowing yes, this works for me or no, that has never worked for me. And girl, it if it has never worked for you then, chances are, it’s not going to work this time around either so please spare yourself the trip to Target for a new planner and just step off for a second.

Lock + key your week before it begins.

I schedule everything into my planner on Sundays so that I can walk into my week knowing what is ahead. I sit down, with tea in hand, on a Sunday night and I map out: what are the projects I need to finish this week? Who are the people I need to see? What emails need to be sent? Do not pent this kind of info up in your head and walk into the week overwhelmed. Write it all down and go from there.
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I walk into the week knowing the tasks I want to accomplish and, more importantly, where they are actually fitting into my day-to-day schedule. After Sunday, that calendar is lock + key. I don’t push my limits, I don’t cancel things, I stick to the tasks I know I need to get done.
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Don’t let “Where” dictate your “What.”

Let’s just be clear: most day planners revolve around where you need to be. Martha Stewart will even go so far as to tell you what day to go to the grocery store and cheer on your son at soccer practice (Martha, I don’t have a son… please hop off my swag with your assertive planner tendencies). I know that if my week revolves around the places that I need to be then I will get way less done. To have a productive week, I must accomplish tasks and push projects forward, regardless of where my meetings lie. Therefore, I use a daily planning sheet to make sure I stay focused.

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Get my daily template here.

Printing out these sheets and stacking them in a big ol’ binder has been the key for me, especially with a crazy travel schedule. I know where I need to be (but it does not dominate my whole day), who I need to follow up with, the big tasks and nitty gritty. Gratitude is also a very important chunk of my day so I make sure I keep a running list of thank you’s so I can spread them out after the day winds down.

Know thy peaks + valleys.

Hours vary for everyone. Some of us work a 9-5 day while others are up at all hours of the night cracking away at the workload. Instead of beating your head against a wall when you lose an hour of productivity, key into when you are the most focused in a day, when you get the most things done, when you tend to slump in your chair and hate your life a little. Schedule the daily workflow into those peaks + valleys.

Be realistic. & plan accordingly.

I am a retired member of the “I used to want to do 27 things in one day until I realized it was physically impossible and my limbs were weeping” club. Time management and day planning means nada if you are constantly setting unrealistic expectations. Know your limits. Know how long a task normally would take you and schedule out from there.

I try to enter into each day with at least 4-5 smaller tasks to get done of 1-3 bigger tasks. Some days I will dedicate an entire day to 1 project while other days I am in serious need of having a bunch of mini projects done. Go at your own pace and know it isn’t the end of the world if a task is not completed. You’d rather the work be on par than frazzled but finished at the 5pm hour.

This is just the first of several posts that will trot your way on time management as I learn the crooks and curves of it myself. I would love to hear from you and gather some tips on what works and what doesn’t work in your own time management habits. Let’s chat in the comments below, boo.

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Filed under Career, Passion, Plans, Uncategorized

Your daddy is no Rumpelstiltskin and I’ve not got the bones of Betsy Ross.

Like any normal child, I started writing letters to my One Day, Some Day daughter when I was 11-years-old. I’ve been writing her into the margins of my diaries for eleven years now in hopes that one day she’ll find these books buried somewhere in the attic and know through the etchings of my messy cursive that I wanted the most for her. Even when I’ve had no idea what to want for myself, I wanted the most for her. The following posts are for her, my One Day, Some Day Daughter. 

Dear Daughter of Mine with the neon pink nails,

Honesty sits square on the kitchen table in our home, somewhere between the salt shaker and the pan of brownies that I managed to burn. And so, I’ll just be honest and tell you straight: Your daddy is no Rumpelstiltskin and I’ve not got the Bones of Betsy Ross.

I’d be lying if I said I never thought how your life might be different if I’d been the girl all wrapped up in thoughts of red, white & blue while your daddy Rumpel watched me from across the roller rink. If I’d been thinking of stripes as he said to his fairy tale pals, “There’s my star.”

I’d be foolish not to tell you that some days I wonder what it would have been like if he and I had collided like a firework pent-up in the garage for far too long. And if the rest had just been called History. If we’d wrapped ourselves up in a One Day American Flag and laughed up to the rafters about a Some Day Daughter: You.

Dear Daughter of Mine with the zebra-striped nails,

I would have started sewing early for you if I’d been a Betsy with a Rumpel by my side. While Sleeping Beauty snoozed in our recliner and the dwarves played Apples to Apples on the floor, I’d hold up the latest cloak for Cinderella and she’d surely nod. Pleased.

“This one is Strength,” I’d say, folding the finished cloak and handing it to Little Boy Blue. “Can you run upstairs and hang it up for me? Right in the middle of Grace and Peace.”

It’s a fine, fine collection you’ve got for her there,” Cinderella might’ve said. “I only wish my mother had been alive to knit me these kinds of cloaks, for the days when life gets tough and shoes don’t seem to fit right. But why are you knitting them all so early? She surely won’t fit into them until she is grown.”

“Cinder, Cinder, Cinder,” I’d tell her (because everyone knows her nickname was never Ella) “The sooner I make them, the sooner I can wear them. I’ll wear them Monday upon Monday so that no Some Day Daughter of Mine ever questions if someone’s love for her is like a well-worn sweater. So she feels me all around her, even when I’m no longer there.”

Dear Daughter of Mine with the pearly white nails,

I know there will be a day when life is going to hurt you, crush you, make you feel the magic has seeped out from your billowed sleeves. And what will I do? What will I do without a cloak of Strength to place around your shoulders? How will I manage without a closet full of Hope & Serendipity & Agape– hemlines of yellow & purple & silver– for the days when life starts showing you that she’s got teeth and she’s got bite?

Because I know I cant stop it. Cant stop the first boy who will break your heart. Cant stop the first time that you start to doubt the One who made the sunsets all for you. Cant stop you when you cry & spit & curl into a bucket of tears on the floor. No piece of silk will stop that. No cloak of gold will halt the sting.

Dear Daughter of Mine with the aqua blue nails,

I’ve come down to my knees for you nearly 1,000 times, in hopes that He’ll give me what it takes to stitch it all within you. Because I’ve not got the fingers of a Weaver and I’ve not got knitting needles all up in my hair.

And so I tell him everyday, “Break my heart and shatter my bones if it means I’ll have something to teach her when Growing Up hits her like a tidal wave. Place me into spots where I am weak, where I am hungry, where I am helpless.  Show me how to crawl instead of walk, walk instead of run.”

Dear Daughter of Mine with the red polished nails—my Some Day Daughter Sleeping Soundly Somewhere South of Saturn— there’s no closet full of cloaks waiting here for you. But I am waiting. Waiting for the day when your laughter becomes the soundtrack for my way to work, the lullaby for the sleepless nights.

And I am learning. Learning to go as Black and Blue as a Bob Dylan song to make you feel my love.

And I am stitching. Already stitching my heart into every sleeve you’ll ever own.

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Filed under Love Is..., Passion, Uncategorized

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!

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Filed under Happiness, Passion, Uncategorized

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.

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Filed under Happiness, Passion, Women

I’d string the trees in Central Park with Yellow Bows for you.

She was fidgeting with the elevator buttons

when the tears for you rolled through.

I knew upon the first slow trickle, down blush-applied pink cheeks,

that the herds of salty soldiers marching from my eyelids

were all for you today.

Untamable tears. Terribly Untamable, Mysterious Tears.

They might be my only offering to this world.

They might be just the start.

I let the tears scamper for a moment,

like restless children tumbling to see the first gleam of spring.

Propelling down over humps that were once

the bane of a chubby cheek existence.

Searching in my mind for ways to turn

Each Drop of Salt into Characters that sit Metallic in Blank Word Documents.

Because crying doesn’t solve anything,

(my mother taught me that one)

but words can do some good.

You held up a piece of cardboard two days ago and I knew it then.

Homeless. Veteran. Iraq.

These three words would call me to my knees one day soon.

Black Tights on Tile Flooring Praying for Men with Foreign Soil Beneath Their Boots.

My mind left stirring over a cup of coffee we never had.

Envisioning you taking me from start to finish.

Tell me the story of how a young man,

waking only to lie down for his country,

encounters that same sleepy-eyed country when its time to cradle him home.

When he fights well. Does Good.

Shouldn’t “thank you” be a phrase that

Drops Endlessly Off Our Tongues?

Thank. You. You. You.

I’m no politician. No picketer. No rebel.

My combat boots are all for show. Fashion, really.

No agenda. No protests. No Crude Words for Magazines.

I cannot talk Libya or Japan when I just want to talk humanity.

I cannot banter over military industrial complexes

when I simply want to know, adding sugar as you speak:

How did the air feel in your hair over there?

Whose arms folded you inward during tented dreams at night?

Whose laughter are you longing for? I know it’s not mine.

When did you start missing it?

Tell me the pitch.

Verbalize the tone.

You’d speak and I’d categorize your eye color into the

running concordance in my mind. Maybe the Blue Files.

Perhaps the Ambiguous Hazels.

Scripting you deep into the front line in the notepad memory

of a Syllable Seamstress with Untamable Tears.

It’s not much but sometimes we need that:

for someone else to remember our eye color.

Remember something about us.

And let their minds return back to it after longer days.

I’m going back today.

If I see you, I will ask you out to coffee.

Knees sunk into the floor of a 43rd street office space.

Turning tears into syllables for you. Asking words to be

brave enough to speak for a hero like you.

Wishing those Words Would Unravel into

Miles Upon Miles of Yellow Ribbon.

I’d string the trees in Central Park with Yellow Bows for you.

Fresh Yellow Bows. To remind the World that a Foot Soldier Came Home.

That a Foot Soldier with Blue Eyes Came Home.

And so who will fetch the water to clean the mud from his tired boots?

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Filed under For a Better World, God, Passion, Poetry, Poverty, Simply Living, Thank You

For years following that night I thought I might tell people that closure was smashing a teddy bear with your father’s hammer until the voice box inside gave out.

“Do you think closure exists?”

The letters of the text message, restless and exposed at the front of my inbox, begin rising with a leavening of old love stories we once spent hours telling to one another.

Closure.

It is funny how the very word can send doors swinging wide open after having been locked for years. Doors you swore you lost the keys to.

She’s asking me because I am a relationship guru, a closure Buddha, I think. Because I have mastered the art of letting go, that’s why. No, she’s asking me because the word has meant a lot to me in the past and I am still not perfect when it comes to closure. Turns out, none of us are.

When I was younger my definition of closure was two parts what I digested during Dawson’s Creek and one part my attending a Closure Ceremony in the 9th grade.

A Closure Ceremony. My first and only one.  Translation: A group of girlfriends sitting on the driveway as July hissed humidity into our hair, watching our friend with a broken heart bigger than her own body take a hammer into her hands and begin smashing a slew of keepsakes that a boy had given to her throughout two years.  

I am over him,” she said, after chucking the broken pieces of a charm bracelet he had assembled for her tiny wrist into the bog beside her house. “I don’t want to think about him ever again.”

For years following that night I thought I might tell people that closure was smashing a teddy bear with your father’s hammer until the voice box inside gave out.

But the part of it all that I didn’t understand was that even after the Closure Ceremony she still waited, ready to pounce on any conversation that carried his name. To Spill Ten Thousand Stories About Him as if she were being granted permission to speak after years of silence. To make herself a victim to Ten Thousand Stories where the ending never gave her any sense of “Happily” or “Ever” or “After.”

And so instead, closure became a word to me that didn’t make much sense and yet the world was obsessed with talking about it as if we were legitimately closing things. Toy Boxes. Screen Doors. Treasure Chests. A concept that allows us to mold excuses like play dough to explain why we cant get into that next relationship or why it is just too difficult to move on. 

It just seems like a fancy metaphor for what we all really need to say but never find the space or place to say it out loud: This hurts. It hurts really, really bad. And sure, it is in the past but I sometimes feel the prick as strongly as the day it happened. And I don’t know how to move forward. And I cannot inch my way around trusting that it won’t happen again. And I want to stand still and dissolve a little. Because it hurts. There, I said it, it hurts.

But I have always believed that this is what humanity is all about: learning to dance even in that pain. Even with every single door around us swinging open and closed. A Symphony of Swinging Doors. And Yet We Still Dance to the Rickety Tunes Life Spins onto Our Record Players.

To close, for good, would mean to stop telling a story that we know by heart. Not to forget the beginning or the middle or the end, because that won’t ever happen if we are thinking practical. But to silence our heart when the story comes up and threatens us with sadness that perches like gargoyles on old, beautiful cathedrals.

Closure. I think it does exist. But only when we stop living in circles of “what was” to meander our way into “what could be.”

Only when we admit to ourselves that we deserve Good Stories, Better Stories. The Best Stories. Without so much bruising and battering on a daily basis. And surprisingly, it takes a lot of courage to want that for ourselves.

Only when we validate with words that, “Yes, that time in my life was painful and it was hard, but I got stronger. Maybe my heart broke, my knees shook, and maybe sometimes I wish that it never actually happened but I am writing a better story off of what I know now. And with just one look I can already tell you, my sentences are stronger than they have ever been before.”

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Filed under Humanity, Hunger, Passion, Reality, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

Show me a girl with pencil shavings on her forehead and an imaginary cousin by her side and I’ll show you a fireworks display more smashing than July 4th.

Picture a girl in elementary school, legs as thin and long like two yard sticks holding up a torso, anxiously rubbing pencil shavings onto her forehead in the girls’ bathroom before running out the door to meet her imaginary Italian cousin at ballet class.

It made me terribly uneasy to know that my peers got an entire holiday to put ashes on their foreheads and then proceed to whine about not being able to eat meat on Fridays.

I was envious that their mothers made them give up soda or that they wore white communion dresses and got a second middle name halfway through life.

And I was especially jealous that they had all these cool prayers to repeat as if each one were a secret pass code to a club I would never be invited to: The Catholic club.

I am convinced that a normal child would ask questions and then get over it. Embrace the nondenominational religion she was given.

Go back, reread several posts of mine, and then say this to yourself, “She was not a normal child.”

Hence my decision to rub the lead from my unicorn pencils on my forehead to blend in with my soot headed peers and then proceed to spend the next forty days grumbling the loudest over not being able to have soda or chocolate.

You don’t even like soda and you are allergic to milk chocolate,” I could remember my best friend saying to me.

She wasn’t Catholic, wasn’t getting ashes, wasn’t eating fish on Fridays and (GASP) didn’t care!

“You don’t understand, at least you still get to be Italian.”

And so, when refusing to talk to my best friend whose life was easier for being Italian or the God who made me into a pale mess of Irish freckles and German roots, I turned to Gabby.

My Italian cousin.

Had we been in the same fifth grade class I would have told you about Gabriella Vacaldo or you would have found her on my family tree. Gabriella was my Italian cousin and a star gymnast. She was the best in her class at pottery and she had long curly brown hair. Her parents gave her a cell phone at the mere age of 12 so she could call me anytime.

I imagine she would have called me all the time, if only she existed.

Yup, I made up a cousin in the fifth grade and I probably rubbed lead on her head as well. But in all fairness, everyone knows there is nothing cooler than having an Italian cousin to hang out with after school; at least there was nothing cooler at my lunch table.

So. as all the other kids scuttled off the black top at 3 p.m. to go play with Vinnie and Antonia, I was “making a call to Gabriella.” Translation: Lead head Hannah going off to play by herself, all the while kicking the dirt over the fact that she wasn’t Italian or Catholic. Tough. Life.

Both these stories fall into the chapters of my life spent trying to fit in. To fit the mold instead of break it. To make plea bargains with the gods of normalcy that they would remove any trait that was a) distinguishable b) unique c) quirky d) different, so that I could slide through life being happily ordinary and blissfully average.

We could very easily do this for the rest of our lives. We could an entire 365 days out of our years fitting in and never pouncing on any plan that might make us stick out from the crowd.

We just need to ask the question and then assume the role: Leader or Follower? Leader or follower, baby?

Take it from someone with experience, wads of it. I spent a good 76% of my life on the path to being a follower and there isn’t much excitement in it. The footprints to follow are already in place and it tends to get very boring, especially with huge ideas keep chit chattering in your head like gossipy freshmen. Someone did the something we dream of doing before us, yes, but do we really want to spend our lives playing in their shadows?

Wait, wait, wait.

Still one more option to hurl on the table. Before I sway you into being a leader. Yikes.

We could just wait until tomorrow instead of starting today. We could wait for a better time, a more manageable schedule, a better support team. But we might be waiting for a while. Waiting Forever. You cool with that? You down with being labeled as a time waster?

A dear friend of mine, and a huge role model to boot, sent me an article today that was all about the notebooks we keep, bursting at the spirals with brilliant ideas. Except, after a certain point, we can exhaust the world with our blabbering about this good idea and that amazing idea.

After a while we need to actually put the ideas into action. Become, as Katy Perry would tell us all, our own firework in this world. We only need to glance upward to see that a million others have already started bursting and they would never choose to sink back into line again.

It’s funny that she even sings those lyrics, to proclaim the fact that we are all fireworks. What a scary thing to be… it means we need to be willing to gear up for an explosion. It could be  fantastic but the thought of lighting the match is quite petrifying.

You see, that would be a point of no turning back. That would really set us apart from the rest of the world. That would really make us stand out.

And so we must ask ourselves if we are ready to swap out the firework display that has been playing in our minds for years for the real deal.

That could be a real risk.

But, secrets told: I want to be one of the ones shooting up in the sky and yelling back down to the hesitant ones on the ground, “Baby, get up here! It’s something worth living out loud!”

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams, Humanity, Passion, Thank You

Passion. In Three Parts. Or Puddles. Whichever you prefer.

Part One.

The person who came up with the “Someone is Going to Love You Just the Way You Are” pep talk has reasons to thank me.

Mammoth reasons to thank me.

I am absolutely certain that if she and I had crossed paths when I was thirteen she would have sprinted back to her computer after five minutes, pulled up the word document with the rhetoric inside, and proceeded to delete the entire thing.

Stamping the backspace button frantically all while grinding her teeth, “I regret I ever said that. No one is ever going to love that girl for who she is.”

Woof.

I really wanted to begin this post by telling you that I landed my first gig as a “girlfriend” through lying. It was when I was thirteen, the same age as when I dodged the lady who created the “love yourself” pep talk.

You see, I learned pretty easily that I was either going to have to find a boy who took strange delight in writing cryptic homicide novels and could talk for hours about Sinead O’Connor, Priscilla Presley, and children in the developing world, or I would need to adopt whatever his passions were.

The latter was much easier (and I still haven’t found a boy who appreciates Graceland).

And so I scoured instant messenger conversations for passions in order to win a boyfriend. And I found one, thanks to Dave Matthews Band.

The boy was passionate about Dave Matthews and I set out to win his heart through memorizing lyrics and making flashcards of the song titles.

And I stand sturdy in the fact that the purpose of this post is not to tell people the dangers of changing who you are for another person. I can assure you, I still wrote cryptic novels regardless; I just learned some new Dave songs as well.

Despite the fact that the relationship lasted less than 48 hours, or the fact that he dumped me via AOL profile, or that the only treasure between he & I was a receipt for a hat that I never gave him, which I proceeded to staple to a page of my diary (the receipt, not the hat) and cry over for weeks after, I learned a great deal from him.

And about what it means to be Passionate & to embrace your passions, even if they happen to be angry feminist singers. To own your Passion. To love a song deeply or to be able to spend hours talking with words like “acoustic” and “scales”. To light up over a mere mention of a band, or a country, or a kind of food.

And since that 48-hour boyfriend, a winding list of remarkable individuals have come along to show me what it means to be Passionate about Something. Some Idea. Someone.

Part Two.

Most days in New York City affirm to me that the people who really understand and “get” life are the people who legitimately leak Passion. They leave Puddles of Passion wherever they go. And other people find those Puddles, put on their brightest pair of wellies, and splash in them long after the person is gone. It is how anything beautiful, wonderful, useful, and world-changing was ever created, through someone first having the Passion to fuel it.

NYC, she has some pretty passionate people in her borders. I found one just this morning on the way to work. He was clutching a pile of fashion books. DIOR scrawled on the back.

Just the way he fell into these books seconds after sitting down on the subway made me itch to sit beside him. To read along.  To ask if I could follow him from place to place.

There is a Puddle of Passion forming beneath your feet,” I wanted to tell him. “Do you mind if I follow you with a mop?

You might want to tell me to pump the brakes right now but that is just me: I leech to passionate people. I would post calls to Passionate People on Craig’s List daily if they had not started charging.

Lucky for me, I live and breathe within a city that defines Passion. People come here to follow Passion. People claim their Passion lived here first, before they ever sought out their name within the skyline.

New York City needs an ark builder, another Noah, because soon enough the floods of Passion are going to wipe us all out. And we will need a boat to stay above surface in this city.


Part Three.

My best friend, she inspired this post.

I was walking to the gym this morning at 5:30a.m., cursing God for bare-boned temperatures while laughing to myself over the fact that my best friend adores U.S. presidents.

Yup. She loves them. She is all BFFL with Lincoln and would totally be Facebook friends with Hoover if he had gotten the whole social networking thing down.

And I am proud of her for that. That, to me, is beyond cool. Beyond Trendy. That, to me, is Timeless.

I am very lucky: To have encountered a person who handed me a pair of rain boots and invited me to stand in her Passion Puddle with her.

She is very lucky: To hold such a Timeless Passion. A Passion that won’t fade easily or become old-fashioned like palm pilots. That girl is going to love presidents for the rest of her life. She will be floating on a rocking chair in a River of Passion when she is eighty, over Clinton & Roosevelt.

And I hope the same goes for you, and me, and all of us.

Your passion, whatever it may be, hold it tight. Never let it go. If I have not exhausted you with cliches just yet, here is one more: Follow that passion.Find ways to weave it endlessly in & out of your life.

Talk about the passion in coffee shops. In too quiet libraries. In rowdy sports bars. In church (unless your passion happens to be those same cryptic novels of my childhood). Tweet about it. Blog about it. Surround yourself with individuals who live for it too. Make movies about it if you are into film. Write stories about it if words are your constant companions in this world.

Get up. Go out. Buy some rain boots. Hand them out to people with a fair warning, “Listen, you are going to need these babies if you plan to hang out with me for a while. For you see, I am pretty passionate about ____________________________.

Fill in the blank.

7 Comments

Filed under Big Dreams, Passion, Uncategorized