Do what it takes to make me your gold.

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He’s been talking lately.

Like a boy who goes radio silent for weeks before his name starts showing up on your screen again, God has been talking in that way.

I guess I should state the facts: he’s probably been talking all along. He probably has been whispering and trying his darndest to yell above the noise of my life and I just haven’t heard him. That’s usually the case– I am running, and doing, and pulling, and prying, and trying my hardest (my absolute hardest) to make life move without him. And that’s just the second fact: I like to be in control. I like to know the elements around me. I like to know what follows after Step 1. And so the idea of a God of the universe has always, sort-of rubbed up against me like sandpaper because I don’t want to let anything in that might make me unclench my fists and give up control. 

 

Give up control.

That would be the anthem of my life these days. Give up control & let me work.

That’s the first thing I heard when my car pulled onto the campus of the retreat center I was staying at for four days last week. I only had to speak one of the days. The other three days were like God’s perfect, compact entryway to tear into my life and show me all the parts of me that he could stand to change. It’s like he had a list. A List of Things to Change. 

I think that’s the part of God I’ve always resisted. I think maybe that’s why a lot of people resist God and try their hardest to disprove him, or hitchhike away from him, or make him a sliver of their life but not their whole entire life.

I used to think the people who made God the center of their orbit– the sun within their solar system– were crazy. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it. I thought, “Don’t you want control? Don’t you want to hold all the cards?”

That was God to me. God and I, we’d talk every once in a while. I didn’t look for him in the trees. I prayed when I needed stuff. God was like Santa Claus– I came to him with lists and I wanted him to leave presents for me while I was sleeping. I remember being really clear when I told God, “Listen, you get parts of me. You get very tiny parts of me but you don’t get all of me. Sorry. Not working that way.” Like I said, control is my thing.

 

The world has constructed a lot of gods out of God.

We live in this culture that does a really good job of taking one characteristic of the God of the universe and blowing it out to proportions where it smothers all the other characteristics.

I mean, it’s easy to believe in a God of Wrath. It’s easy to believe in that Leviticus kind of God. He’s the dude that ruins the party. He thinks less of us already. He holds his measuring stick high to our chins and whispers, “Just try, if you want. You’ve already fallen from grace in my eyes.” He points fingers and names names. And we throw up hands and curl in corners because this God never fit us. And this God failed the already failed ones.

When that is your own perception of God then it makes it so much easier to walk away from him. It’s easy to be free from the dictator God. It’s a perfect opportunity to bash him in circles and find common ground among the people who also have been hurt by a God of Wrath.

And similarly, it’s easy to believe in a God who is lukewarm. A passive little God who fits smug in your back pocket and you get the chance to pull him out whenever you need him to fight your battles. He’s like a Pokemon. I mean, it’s convenient to believe in a God who will always be smaller than you. It’s convenient to worship a God you get to play god over.

And then there is the God who showers you with praise. And the God who winks and nudges you at when you notice the bible verse on the bottom of the Forever 21 bag. It’s the God who doesn’t ask you to change and just exists to stroke your ego and tell you everything– every little thing– will be more than okay. He’s the God we plaster the quotes of on coffee mugs and journals. He’s sunshine and roses, always. Always.

But it gets uncomfortable when you meet the God who could stand to change you. The God who says, “Yes, I made you but I never had the plan of keeping you this way.”

This is the God who wants to morph you and mold you into something better. That’s supremely uncomfortable to believe in because the molding hurts. And the morphing hurts. And it would be easier– so much easier– to just stand in one place with the God of Wrath, or the Passive God, or the God who never needs you to dig deeper beneath the surface.

 

I met the God who could stand to change me.

I met him the moment I drove onto that campus and wheeled my little, red carry-on into my bedroom, the one with the rooster lamp and the strange farm scenes playing out all over my blue bedspread.

You see, I’ve been to this retreat center before. I’ve stood in this bedroom before. I know that if I walk to the closet and open the door, I will be met with all sorts of Sharpie marker scribblings all over the walls. The scribbles are from people who came to this retreat center with marriages crumbling and holding on by threads. Hoping God would move. Hoping God would pulse. I knew when I stepped into that room that, if I opened my closet door, I would find redemption stories dancing all over the walls in red and blue.

I left the suitcase at the door and I walked into the bathroom. I remembered the bathroom from the year before because the tub was massive, it was the type of tub I really hope I have one day. The type of tub that makes me think you’re a real adult if you have a tub so big.

I stared at the tub for a minute or so before stepping inside– clothes on and shoes on– and sitting down square in the middle of that tub. I am serious, I laid in the tub with my Nike pumps kicked up against the porcelain and I just closed my eyes. And I opened them. And I closed them. And the silence was deafening and I hated it so. I hate that kind of silence you can’t escape from, the kind that encloses all around you, because you know God is going to speak eventually. And you are afraid of what He will say. You are so afraid of what he will want of you.

I just stayed. Right there. I didn’t reach for my phone. I didn’t look for a way to push into some new distraction that would take me away from him so I easily. I stayed. And I started to pick at the polish of my nails. Flecks of red fell off and all around me into the tub. And as I chipped, he spoke. As I chipped, he spoke. And I was torn between interrupting. Interrupting to say, “I’ve missed you. Where have you been?” But I know his answer already.

I know he would have said right back, “I never left you. I never leave you. You’re just busy. You’re busy and you’re hustling and you are doing all these things that allow you to stay distracted enough that you never need to come to me. 

But haven’t you felt empty, child? Haven’t you missed the feeling of being full? Child, child, put your armor down. I never left you, you’ve just been trying to get away.” 

 

He’s right, I’ve been trying to get away.

Because I am human. And that’s what humans do. I pack and I flee away from the light. I look for the answers in the world all around me. I think I steer better and own my dreams better. But more than that, I have not stopped convincing myself yet that I am a better keeper of my own emptiness. I think I am really so good at guarding my own emptiness and letting no one near enough to touch and tell me, “You could clear this all away if you really wanted to.”

“Fine,” I whisper in the depths of that tub. “Just do it. Just do your work.”

Chip. Chip. Chip. The paint continues to fall away.

“Just make me into gold. All those bible verses, they tell me that I could be your gold. Do what it takes to make me your gold.”

Chip, chip, chip…

I feel him doing his work. Whispering into the old parts of me, “Done with this. Over with that. Gone goes that ugly part of you.”

Chip, chip, chip…

“Never again will you find your worth in this. Darling, aren’t you tired of holding this? Don’t you want to just let it go?”

Chip, chip, chip…

And then the quiet. I stay still. I close my eyes. Open them. Close them. And the voice comes back, the one that sounds like silver and victory. It rushes in to stop my sobs for good, “You, I love you. Gosh, it hurts so to express how I love you because I know you don’t see it. Somehow you don’t see what I think of you– you only see yourself through the lens of a world that wants you to get so small that you disappear altogether. 

I want so much of you. I am so jealous for you. I love you bigger. Bigger than your little mind can ever know. And that is why I can never leave you this way.  Sitting in the tubs of your own emptiness. That is why I can’t keep you here, clutching old garments of your past.

I have so much new for you, little bee. I have so much new for you. 

Baby, baby, all will be well. But you have to let me take it from here. You have to let it go and let me take it from here.”

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My booklist brings all the boys to the yard.

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A lot of readers have asked for my book list. And it kind-of, sort-of existed but it had been a long while since I updated it. In creating this list, I realized something: my day is torn between continuing to build and build upon this list and actually getting work done. I could write about books forever. And I could keep making a list and never be satisfied with my own selections. So I have decided that I will continue to build upon this list as time goes on. I will add categories. I will add new selections. And you can chime in through the comments to help me build upon this list.

Happy reading season!

hb.

 

A little fiction never hurt nobody.

Little Bee: I told my mother I was coming up with a book list and she nearly fell into a fit of rage jumping up and down with fists clenched screaming, “LITTLEEEEE BEEEEEEEEE. RARRRRRRRRRRRRR.” But no, seriously, you need to go read this book and then decide which room in your house you want to redecorate with all the pages. Next week on the blog I will post a tutorial on how to turn Christopher Cleeve’s book pages into wallpaper so that you can drool over it while cooking pasta in the kitchen or brushing your teeth in the bathroom.

Hemingway’s Girl 

Beloved

I Know This Much is True

El Girasol: A restless young woman searching for more finds herself in the arms of a Channing Tatum-esque man who just so happens to own an orphanage in El Salvador. Nuff said.

Plain Truth: Jodi Picoult is the junk of fiction. She does it all right & in an effortless kind of way like, “Oh, I just made your heart fall out of your chest with my ridiculous plot lines. Want another?” So read Plain Truth and then go build a bunker in your local library and camp out with all the books she’s ever written. The Pact is another solid one. And when the security guards come to remove you, scream that you’ve caught the Jodi and you are absolutely incurable. They’ll be sympathetic. I’m sure.

Firefly Lane: This book is perfection for the ones of you that feel like sitting in a pile of your own snot and tears tonight. A great story about friendship that will surely curl close the memories with your own best friends but there is just one thing I recommend: Keep your phone preset to dial 911 for the exact moment that you fall from the couch to the floor and begin choking and hyperventilating over your tears.

The Help: You is kind. You is special. You is important. This book is designated for a day where rain is cluttering the window panes and all your body is screaming for is a hot cocoa with whipped cream on top. These are the kinds of characters you want to pile up in your minivan and drive around town with stopping at various Starbucks to show off what a groovy clan you’ve got. Minnie will want to sit in the front seat, or maybe even drive the minivan. Fair warning.

The messed up sides of you will like these selections.

Gone Girl

Room: Also known as “The book that won’t stir you until page 50 but don’t give up on it yet.” I’ll admit that I stumbled and stammered and almost put the book down but that everything changed when I reached the 50-page mark. You go from barely holding up the book to gripping it tightly, sucking the oxygen from the teeny tiny pages. Twisted plotline. Twisted perspective. So delightfully gripping.

The Virgin Suicides: It took me a while to get into the actual plot of this book… or to distinguish if a plot even existed. But the way the author puts words together is its own form of crack. Like, if we were crack dealers he would probably be the king of us (so many crack references…).

Looking for Alaska

The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

 

Creative Nonfiction is my crack.

The Year of Magical Thinking: Do you know how ridiculously tough it is for me to even type out that title. I get choked up. I want to retreat far, far away from this computer space to curl up in a corner with Joan Didion’s book and just weep & pour over it. Joan Didion is the loomer or the loomstress or the seamstress (whatever you call it) to literature. She chooses her words carefully & wisely and spins you into a better person because of it.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

The Opposite of Loneliness: This girl is on fire. Period. End of story. Marina Keegan passed away suddenly in a tragic car accident just a few days after she graduated from Yale University. Her writings went wildly viral as a result. Her words are gonna grip you and pull you and rip you apart. And you’re gonna be addicted to what she left behind.

Reading Lolita in Tehran

The Diary of Helene Berr

On Writing: a memoir of the craft: Three words: “Kill your darlings.” For any writer, this is the stuff… The. Stuff.

 

Lady Friends to Travel With.

Wild: You knew I couldn’t make a list without mah girlzzzzz– Cheryl and Liz. This book made me want to pack a backpack (quickly), invest in hiking boots, and then haul on over to the Pacific Northwestern Trail. Get ready for a good journey, babycakes.

Tiny, Beautiful Things: This. Just this. I can’t say much more. This book is my designated “I give it to every single friend going into any sort of life transition” book. I can’t type much more than that… I swoon.

Bread & Wine

Never Have I Ever: This memoir is hilarious and unbelievably relatable. This is the kind of narrator you hope to have always– one who writes to you as though you both are sitting down to coffee, retelling every detail. Pick it up and laugh. Hard.

Eat, Pray, Love: This book is a classic in my book. My loyalties are pinned to it. I will never deviate. Liz Gilbert is my favorite writer, hands-down. And this book brought me through a number of monumental things– break-ups, starts of new semesters, transitions, and my own book-writing journey.

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: I read this book when I was 14-years-old. It made me want to be a hysterical writer. Susan Jane Gillman is the kind of gal you want to go traveling with. She is honest. She is brave. She. Is. Brilliant.

 

Dat dude upstairs.

Blue Like Jazz: I am still quite certain that there will come a day when Don Miller and I are sipping sweet tea out at the front of a wraparound porch. The man is genius. I’ve never had a single tempting to get a tattoo but some of his sentences are just so sticky that I think I want to ink them on my body in a forever sort of way. All of Don’s stuff is pure goodness. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is another one I highly recommend, especially if you are beginning to wonder the purpose within your little bones.

Traveling Mercies: If God were to grant me a small pocket of time to be Tyra Banks and judge this book as it strutted down the runway, I’d say something so Tyra-like, “Fierce. This book… all its pages and stories and plots within… all of it is FIERCE.”

Help, Thanks, Wow. 

One Thousand Gifts: If grace could grow pages and a spine, it. would. look. like. this. book. Beautiful language. And a beautiful thought process living on the page. There is no possible way that you will turn away from this book not being better or stronger in your walk with God.

The Hiding Place

When we were on fire. 

Speak.

Where the Heart Waits: Not to be confused with “Where the Heart Is” about the girl who gets pregnant and delivers a baby in Wal-Mart. I am a mega fan over any ink that Sue Monk Kidd places down on a page. This book is perfect for anyone going with a dark period with God.

Tables in the Wilderness: This book isn’t due out until October but I got to read an advanced copy and Preston Yancey delivers a moment that body slams you and your current state of spirituality. I love this boy something fierce and I know this is just one of what will be many, many books from him.

Radical: This book should be renamed. To something like, “Hi, My name is David Platt. And I am going to smack you in the face with truth. And it’s gonna be uncomfortable. And maybe you will move to Africa when you are done reading… TBD.”

 

Young Adults are Underestimated.

Hunger Games: I don’t care what a single individual says: These. Books. Are. Awesome. Sauce. And Rue’s whistle is my current ringtone. Read the first one and you’ll suddenly find yourself dropping off the face of the planet to read all three. They are addicting so please, only start these books on a week when you don’t have engagements to attend. And let me know if you want to put in an order for a t-shirt that reads, “Real Men Bake Cakes” from my one day, some day clothing line.

The Book Thief: If this book were actual crack then I would be a junkie in a heartbeat. I don’t know what more to say than this book needed to be read by you yesterday. Go, child. GO.

The Fault in our Stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: This ain’t because More Love Letters is sitting pretty at the back of the new book (wink) BUT the story in general is one that will yank you back to your high school shoes and all you ever felt about fitting in and wishing to be infinite for a little while. A real coming of age story that shakes and stirs at any age or angle.

 

Sometimes I wish Seth Godin was my daddy (and other things you’ll say after reading these business books).

Start Something That Matters: Blake, the founder of the TOMS movement, tells a compelling play by play of all the nuts & bolts behind a grassroots movement turned global. I reference this little ditty often with More Love Letters and it is perfect beyond perfect for anyone that wants to dig into business but is allergic to numbers and case studies.

Quitter: This book was a major player in helping me find the courage and the resources to quit my day job. Jon Acuff is smart and spewing with know-how when it comes to the topic of living out your passion in a remarkable way. I would recommend this book to anyone-a-n-y-o-n-e- who is looking to be humored and inspired and challenged, all at the same time.

The Firestarter Sessions: I worked with Danielle Laporte for six months, once upon a time. And everyday was as inspiring as this book. It’ll kick you in the pants. It will drive you to new levels. And it will touch on a topic you probably need to face: FEAR. Plus, it’s really, really pretty and bright orange so it’s a great addition to any bookshelf just for its aesthetic.

Tribes

GirlBoss

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: One of my favorites. PR Master Kelly Cutrone spits truth about the hustle. Be warned– it’s brutally honest and candid but you’ll learn a lot. She’s kind of like a merciless big sister.

The War of Art 

Essentialism: I have been on this wicked crazy rampage as of lately… One where I want to cut all the excess out of my life and just start fresh. This book is basically that idea, but in business format. Get ready to cut, cut, cut the junk out of your life.

Manage Your Day-to-Day: I don’t know if this book is available as more than an e-book but I got my copy for $2.99 or some absurdly cheap price. Which is crazy, considering it helped me completely restructure my day and squeeze the maximum amount of productivity out of me.

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Field Notes: Vol. 5

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You will have a moment when it is time to let go completely.

I don’t care that this is a men’s shirt. I ordered it. And I am going to wear it everyday.

I wept. A lot. A great deal.

Say it with me: BAWSEEEEE.

Gessika.

A man’s scent.

I nearly died of this cuteness.

It’s a MAD world.

LOL moment.

“No, it doesn’t work that way. You get to have me, or you have to give me up.”

Halloween be right around the corner.

This is legitimately genius.

New band obsession. Listen to “Gold.”

You’ve been served.

Meet the newest firecracker.

Tinder blogs are my new crack.

We need a whole set of field notes for doormats.

Have a beautiful weekend. Fill it to the brim with good people, good coffee, and rest. Rest– that’s an important one. If you don’t have any big plans, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes we all need weekends reserved for doing nothing. Curl up & enjoy the goodness of a day or two off. 

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You get to lay down your armor too.

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At the time, the idea seemed flawless.

It couldn’t fail. Putting my phone number on the internet, I decided, was going to be the best decision of my life.

This sounds crazy when I type it all out and I feel like I should preface all of this by saying: at the time of this brilliant decision of publishing my seven digits for the world to see and call, I was reading a book by Bob Goff. The book is called “Love Does.” It’s a good one. Bob put a phone number at the back of his New York Times Bestselling book and asked people to call him. Like, he really wanted people to call him. And though I have never gotten the courage myself to give Bob a ring, I’ve heard from countless amounts of people that he actually picks up the phone. He talks. He listens. All that jazz.

I became enamored with the idea of being that accessible to people. This image was floating around in my head of me getting all wrapped up curly telephone cord and talking for hours with strangers. I could picture myself sitting on the granite countertop, bare feet dangling over the sink, as I got to hear the stories of someone else on the other side of the phone. I’d understand the cracks in their stories. I would get to be there for people. Whenever they needed me. Whenever they called. No questions asked.

That didn’t happen. First off, a human being who is already evidently awful at picking up the phone (or even keeping her cellphone charged) is not going to magically “get better” at it by publishing her phone number on the internet. Also, the only people who called me were men. I felt like I was on one of those hotlines where lonely men call in just to “talk.” And I’m like too nice to hang up the phone.

My “deep, life-shifting conversations” consisted of one man who called just to have some company while he was walking to the convenience store to get Tylenol at 11:30 at night. I didn’t pick up for the four other men who called. They all left voice mails. And while I don’t have too much advice for men, I am confident enough to make this public service announcement: Men out there– men of this wide world– do not (I repeat, do not) leave a voicemail for a girl you don’t know including any of the following lines:

I need to hear your voice.

I just want to hold you like you hold your letters. I just want to hold you like paper.

I want to be the words on your page.

That is not the way to a girl’s heart. It is the way to a prison cell.

All this to say: my phone number sat on my blog for a mere 24 hours before I was forced to take it down. And I got pushed back to the drawing board.

Here’s the thing: I like to help people.

I like to serve people. I’ve never really known how to just take up a hobby. I am ultimately the worst person (ever) to engage with in a challenge because I will be absolutely relentless to murder the competition once you get me going. I don’t like losing. And I don’t like not being the best at things.

Yes, these are the fatal flaws. I am admitting them just because I know, daily, that I am wrestling each one down to the ground and making them lose their power. That’s what you do with your fatal flaws— you make them lose their power. You refuse to stay just as you are.

So back to that phone number on the blog: I thought that was the next step. It couldn’t just be a simple thing like sending a birthday card in the mail. It had to be global. It had be to be earth-shattering. I wanted to be there for strangers. No, I just wanted to be there for everyone.

And while some might think that is noble, I have to come see it for the truth that it is to me in my own life: It’s easier to stay at a distance. It’s easier to be there for everyone if it keeps you too preoccupied to take on the hard work of being there for just a few “someone”s who will fail you and let you down and you’ll have to forgive them anyway.

It’s easier to touch a lot of lives instead of laying your hands upon a few and refusing to let go. That’s been my life for the last year and a half: you get on a plane. You stay in a hotel. You wonder what to do when they finally you drop you off with your suitcase and you have a random few hours to kill in a city you don’t know very well. You’re an introvert. And you just want to find a diner with two eggs, stale coffee, and good people watching.

You get on a stage. You talk to college students, mostly. You sit with them in tinier circles after the talk is over. You hear their stories. Their breakups. Their big dreams. You take selfies. You go back to your hotel. You leave in the morning. 

You love every second of it. Really, you do. But you never get to “do life” with those people. And that’s a hardship I still have not found my way around.

There’s a grey I can’t quite understand for moments with people that don’t last longer than our fingernails.  It’s like traveling is just two steps on repeat: fall in love. And get on a plane. Fall in love. And get on a plane.

And when the plane is ready to take off again, get you up to about 10,000 feet, your mind always wanders back to the place it hates to stand inside of: what would it take for you to stay?

That’s the scary stuff that no one ever talks about: staying.

And what staying looks like. And why the heck “staying” is like the monster that hides in the closet once you hit adulthood. You lose the fangs. You lose the strange things beneath your bed. The idea of just letting someone stay, of just staying where you are and loving the one you’re with, becomes a whole new monster to taunt you at night.

We don’t talk about that for some reason. Maybe it hurts. Maybe it’s vulnerable. But it’s like no one ever undresses how absolutely terrifying it can be to let others get close to you. Close enough to see the junk. Close enough to let in the ones who won’t judge you when you come to them, weary and wrecked by the day, and just say, “You know, this day didn’t feel worth it. I could have stayed in bed. That’s just what I want some days: to stay in bed so that the rest of the world can’t touch me.”

And that would be okay. That would be okay to say out loud.

I guess you can give your phone number to the world.

You could. And you’d probably get a lot of good stories out of it. You’d learn a lot of different types of laughter and there’d be nothing wrong with that. But I guess the bigger question for me was this: Is this what you need? Do you need to go wider— touch more and more lives— or do you need to go deeper with just few? 

You can go wide, and wide, and wide but it will never feel the way it feels to go deep. To force yourself into people’s lives like a hurricane. To let them actually walk into your life and get the chance to say to you, “Hey, you don’t have it all together. You’re not the best at everything. And you get to fail too. You get to lay down your armor too. Please don’t be afraid of the ones who want to get close and closer and closest to you.”

You can go wide, and wide, and wide but it might never feel the way it feels to lay beside your best friend in bed. It’s a queen-sized so you both fit. Only the skin of your arms touch. And that’s just always been your thing— laying in bed for hours, laughing over boys who became ghosts and a God who feels a little too big and mighty on most days that end with “y.” But today, she’s not moving. You’re not moving. And it makes you want to crawl out of your skin because you don’t have the words to fix her. You always thought words could fix things, until they couldn’t.

But you stay. And you let the silence go on humming like a dial tone. You let the silence get louder and louder. You do nothing to fill the silence up to the brim with words. And that makes you feel helpless and free, all at the same time.

You just stay. And you don’t try to fix a damn thing. And it’s harder than a phone call with a stranger who can’t touch your burdens in return. And maybe you just stay in bed that whole day. You pretend like the rest of the world can’t touch you. At one point you whisper the only thing you can say without trying to fix the unfixable sadness that sits between the two of you. 

“You’re okay.”

Maybe that’s all she needs to hear. Maybe that’s all you need to tell yourself.

“You’re okay.”

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P.S. I miss you.

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To my readers,

I am learning a lot as of lately. For one, I am learning that I am not a octupus. And that’s a real shame. I want eight arms. More than that, I want to do everything. An extra six arms would do me a lot of good. I’d be able to write and dream and think and plan and create and cook and shop and do an excessive amount of “more things” with the extra capacity that would exist from six more arms. Sadly, I wake up every single morning being just one girl. One girl with two arms who wants to take on the world.

So this isn’t really a post, per say. And it’s not an apology letter, I promise. It’s just a quick note to some of my favorite folks scattered across the world to say: Hey. I miss you. And I am coming back to this space really soon. I have all these ideas tumbling around in my head for new content. I can’t wait to write about faith, and falling, and failing, and freeing yourself, and fumbling, and all these “f” type verbs that I didn’t realize all started with the letter “f” until now.

I went back and forth with my mother on the phone this morning about whether I’d write this post or not.I was trying to juggle my iced espresso, cellphone, bag, laptop case, and planner— all while thinking about you.

I’ve felt guilty for leaving this space unoccupied for nearly two weeks. You know that kind of guilt? You wake up with it. You go to bed with it. You listen to Taylor Swift’s new song and it falls off of you for ten minutes. And then it comes back, this evil little hissing: you should be writing. You should be writing.

I’ve been all over the country in the last two weeks and I kept saying to myself in Seattle and Tacoma and Portland and LA, “I am going to sit down and write. I am going to sit down and publish something.”

And I didn’t.

I guess sometimes you publish things. And sometimes you just live. You break all the little rules you’ve made for yourself and you just live.

So if this were a summer camp letter then I’d have a lot to say. For instance, I visited this massive gum wall in Seattle and got to leave a pretty sweet note (see above). I mean, it was a wall. Full of gum. And I thought it was awesome. I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the very first time and had a Britney Spears Crossroads moment (please, someone get my reference). I sat down in a coffee shop in Seattle with two readers that, I would say, are as diehard as they come. And one of them waited until I was sitting, until I’d taken the first sip of my latte, to start talking.

“Can I ask you something I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time?”

“Anything,” I answered. I’m an open book like that.

“What’s your dad like? You never write about your dad.”

So I got to sit there, with a pretty dang good latte pursed in my hands, and tell her about the sweetest man I know. I don’t write about him much here. He’s a soft-spoken sort of guy. You’d say my mother is the hurricane and he’s just always been that rock. I got to tell her that I hope to marry a man one day who is half of my father. Half of my father would be more than enough for me. By the way, his name is Bill. And you’d be lucky to know him if you knew him.

I got to sit at a countertop in the middle of Eugene, Oregon and finally catch up with a really good friend— you know the kind of catching up where all the pauses in the conversations get filled with “I’ve really missed you. I am so happy to be here.” I got to attend the Yellow Conference and meet so many of your beautiful faces. And I got to have one of those surreal “pinch me” moments when I realized that I’m not just a writer. Somehow, somehow, a community has formed here. In this space. And we’ve done life together. You and me, we’re connected in ways I could not even imagine. I get to cheer for you and that’s the coolest honor.

“I think I am just going to write a short post,” I told my mom this morning. “I just want to say that I miss them. Because I do.”

“Then say that,” my mom said back. “But don’t be sorry.” Now that my mother knows I’ve lived a past life as an apology note, she won’t let me go back there any longer.

So that’s just it, the actual reason I wrote this letter: I miss you. And I think about you a lot. And I just want to be the type of person who, when she misses someone, goes out of her way to tell that person they are missed.

So yea, I miss you. I feel really lucky. And I am coming back soon. 

hb.

P.S.

If you want to write back in the comments below and tell me about your summer, I will be reading. I’d love to hear from you.

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Untitled. For too many good reasons.

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I am a girl who has only ever known how to want big things.

I used to apologize for that. I remember lying barefoot on the hardwood floor of my childhood bedroom, palms up to the ceiling and whispering, “God, I don’t want to know about your line-up. I know there are a million other people out there who you could use before me. People who haven’t screwed up as much as me. But if you pick me, if you use me, I won’t let you down. I promise.” I didn’t make promises much when I was sixteen but I felt like I could keep that one.

I always felt like it was this unattainable burden sitting heavy on my life that I wanted something more. I wasn’t the girl who saw her wedding dress when she closed her eyes. I never dreamed in fences and babies with my curls. I dreamed of coffee shops and communities and words on the walls. I was the girl who wanted to be in the lives of too many people— not because she wanted to be known, just because she wanted to be wonderful.

I am not alone.

After years and years, I know that now. There is a cafeteria full— a stadium full— of other people who are just like me. People who care too much. And dream too big. And want so much less than what the world can give them— they just want stories. Conversations that leave you sleepy-eyed and wired at 2am. Chances to fill journals. Mornings when the breath falls out of you because the sun is still so pretty when she rises above the hills.

Maybe you’re in that pack. That pile. I don’t really know what to call it. Maybe you have thoughts that keep you up at night. Dreams that beg at the door of your heart. You stare too long at other people because you want to try to pocket their every mannerism and commit them to memory. You resist the urge to clutch the barista and tell her she is beautiful and lovely. You cry during commercials. You don’t want to carry the world on your shoulders but your friends watch you daily, picking that big globe up and hoisting it upon you from 7am to 11pm. You fight too hard. You claw too hard to reach the unreachable. You haven’t been able to think in single digits since the age of ten or twelve because you keep thinking, you keep mouthing, “But this could touch the world. This could change the world.”

That’s all I wanted when I was a senior in college.

It was vague and broad but I was so confident I could do it. Really. I took up a whole column space in my college newspaper where I would write bimonthly like I was going to be some sort-of world shaker. I want to change the world. I want to do something really wonderful. I will find a way to wedge myself into your life and stay there forever. I will. Trust me, I will. I said those things on repeat.

A month before my graduation, before my life stitched a name tag called “adulthood” to its chest, I drove to Target in my CRV— the forest green one with the seats once full of boys and girls too nervous to hold each other’s hands. I stood in the stationery aisle and pulled out 100 letter sheets and 100 envelopes. One hundred thank-you notes I wrote out by hand to mail out across my campus, into the corners of the world. I created a website. I asked people to do something really simple: write a thank-you note after you read this one. Just say thanks today.

Simple. That’s what it is. When it comes down to the things that shift this world and shake up souls, the ideas are simple. They’re basic, not extravagant. And I think that’s just because we crave the basics, even when complexity is all around us— the nights where you can see the fireflies, the days where you got a good sunburn and you didn’t check your phone all day. Simple things— you and someone else having a party the rest of the world didn’t need to know about.

Simple. That’s where it always starts. Like a blog you create when you’re sitting beside your best friend and she says you need to write more. You’ve been holding out. You have so much to say. You promise her you will. You didn’t make promises much when you were 20 but you felt like you could keep this one. 

That’s what happened to me, at least— It was just me and my best friend and this blog I desperately wanted to delete because I didn’t see the point. And she kept saying, sitting right beside me, “Just keep writing. Just keep going.”

Just keep going. I’m not a big advice giver but I think, if I was, that would be my first pearl of wisdom: Just keep going. Keep showing up for things if you ever want to see them grow. You have to swallow your pride, and swallow the parts of you that want to see a movement grow in a day, and just get used to tiny movements. Tiny, microscopic shifts that may never matter to anyone but you. But celebrate the little things— I mean, I can’t tell you how big and how hard my best friend and I celebrated on the day we sat around a table in the middle of my campus center and I told her, “The numbers are spiking. I just got a comment from someone in the UK. Someone in the UK knows I am out here!”

That was a big deal— a single person in the UK knowing your name is a big deal. Celebrate that. And all the other little things. And then keep going.

Just keep going and keep your cheerleaders close. The ones who tell you you’re “something” before you ever believe it for yourself. Victories will come. And failures will grow out of you. And the world will do a lot to tell you that long hours and too much work matter more than flesh and bones. But your cheerleaders— the ones who found you first— will keep you going. They’ll pump you full of life. They’ll keep you standing on the ground.

Look for the people who understand you. They are out there. I promise you, they are out there. And when you find them, and you get them in your corner, they make one hell of a difference. Find them. Take care of them. Always keep thanking them. Always keep them close. Let them buy plane tickets. Let them talk crazy. Let them go. When they need to go out there in the world and see what it has for them, let them go. Commit their birthdays to memory. Celebrate them on their biggest and worst days. Spur them on, especially when they come to you and whisper kind of helplessly, “I don’t know what I want.”

This morning was quieter.

I didn’t get much sleep— just kept turning and turning until the sun poked through the blinds and gave me decent permission to get up. I dressed. Drove to get my coffee. Sat at my desk, looked around for a longer minute, and wondered how I got here: from a couple dozen thank-you notes to a life where I can tell complete strangers I write for a living.

I looked around my desk. Laughed because my mother always tells me I decorate my spaces— all the little corners and nooks I’ve ever been given— with too many words. My office, no different. I pulled out my phone and texted my best friend, the one who sat beside me during those first months of starting a blog. To this day, she still sends me a message after every single post. And I just told her, isn’t it wild? Isn’t it wild how things grow?

I watched the sun come through the skylight as I watched the three little dots ricochet across the screen, telling me she was writing back.

“How strange is that,” she said. “I remember talking about this over tea and Christmas lights in your apartment up in North. And now you’ve moved to Atlanta and your book comes out in March. And I live in Boston and I’ll be a lawyer in just a couple months.”

“We knew what we wanted,” I wrote back to her.

“We did. But if you had asked then, we wouldn’t have known.”

That’s the truth— we didn’t know. We didn’t have a clue. We just had full hearts. Looking back, I wish we’d let that comfort us more than how we let it scare us.

The computer started. My email opened. The day began. I whispered thank you. For the prayers. For all the days I didn’t know what I wanted.

For a moment, a quick one, I could hear my best friend whispering, as if she was still right beside me, “You know. Don’t doubt so much; you know and I know. Just keep going. You’re not supposed to know how it’s all going to unravel. Just let the road take you right to where you need to be.”

I make a quick promise to her– to keep letting this wild journey push me and pull me and make me new. I don’t make promises much, even though I am 26. But I feel like I can keep this one.

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Since some Mondays are worse than Sallie Mae, I created a little breakfast club/secret society to help kick Mondays off right. You are reading me right. Every Monday. Me. You. We roll out via email and your morning brew. I promise to meet you with only the good stuff. Highly recommended for movers, shakers, and original gangsters. No rules. You feeling me, boo?

click here to join the wait list for the Monday Morning Breakfast Club Email

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photo cred.

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Field Notes: Vol. 4

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Perfect for waiting rooms. Stock up on reading.

Self-preserving. I say no more.

For all da entrepreneurs: this book.

New college list.

And then the angels sang… you know you’ve wanted this for a while.

If a limited edition backpack could define my whole life…

Kick in the pants.

If I could tell you any story, it would be of the time I left just because.

Ending it first.

Her letters. They pretty.

Brightest weekend wishes to each & every one of you! I’ll be curling in bed with some coffee and good reading, spending time outdoors & getting my church thang on. Stay bright.

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A “life is so fragile and quick” kind of letter.

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I used to think I would live a really short life.

I mean, I used to spend so much time wondering about funerals, and eulogies, and people slipping through my fingers when I was younger that I wondered if I’d die young. I couldn’t picture the white of my own wedding day. I never envisioned the texture of my children’s hair. I guess I wondered if that mean’t I would live a shorter life.  If some tragedy would happen to me. If I’d be here one day and gone the next.

I know that’s morbid. It’s not the way to start a letter but the news told me yesterday that life was fragile. And a funeral told me last week that time is kind of like scratch-off tickets: you win sometimes but most of the time you’re just gambling.

My mind winds back to you and I, sitting in the middle of a driveway and I couldn’t quite pin down the words to describe how my hands were shaking. August was the queen that night, her humidity hissed and tangled through my hair. We set down a blanket. Laid on top of it. Laughed under stars. You’d brought a boombox to sit between us, weaving the power cord all the way from the garage so you and I could hear love songs play on the radio. Delilah-style. Just like old times. Before we knew we were capable of changing and wanting different things.

Everything around me in that moment seemed to tell me, “You are getting older but you’re still so young.”  I’m sorry, I haven’t figured how to stand in the chasm of that space yet. 

You see, I want to go and do and be. I want to fill my life with action verbs. But I’m still human and I’m still fearful. I’m still the one who whispers to herself at night, “Don’t dream too big. Don’t fly too high.”  I’m scared of rejection. Of things I can’t see. Even though every quote on Twitter tells me to seize life like a lover in the airport, I am still fearful of a life where I fail. I’m still always wondering what it would be like to stand in the middle of a crowded room and be the one not chosen, the one no one ever asks to dance.

So that’s why I am writing this. Because even if I am fearful, there is much to say. And it’s selfish to let my insecurities speak louder than my love. I don’t care if my life is big or grand or short or long, I just want to make sure I told you everything when I had you. I don’t want fear to be the pilot, flying an airplane full of unsaid words. 

First thing I’d like to say: I tried. I tried so incredibly hard to be good. I know it’s always up for debate as to whether humans are “good” or not, but I know I never wasted a day without trying to be the best I could possibly be. It didn’t always work out that way. And a lot of times I was way harder on myself than I needed to be. But I tried. I tried to love you right.

I hope you know I always tried to look up at you. I tried to look away from the screen. I tried to smell the flowers and hear the rain. I tried to feel life, and feel feelings, and cry when life pushed it out of me. I tried to place myself in situations where my palms would still get sweaty, and life would still surprise me, and people would still break me. I mean, I didn’t want for people to break me but I’m learning that’s just half of our existence: being broken by people who tried to love us right and dancing in the redemption that comes with putting the pieces back together. 

I tried to stay hopeful. I tried to say the right things and not let anger speak first. I tried to believe in angels and forgiveness. I tried to believe in people: always, and constantly, and first.

I tried to constantly be this better version of myself even though I look back and think I should have just let myself “be” sometimes. I should have left my eyebrows intact in the 8th grade. I shouldn’t have given myself those bangs in the 5th grade. I didn’t always need to be a better version— sometimes I just needed to tolerate the person I woke up as that morning.

I mean, evolving is good. Learning is good. Becoming better is better. But there could have been the nights where I ate the ice cream, and took off my shoes to feel the sand, and just decided to speak or not speak. There should have been the days where I didn’t start the argument, where I didn’t need to be right, where I wasn’t so cold just because you hurt me and I thought “getting even” was a strategy. There should have been nights where I left you and nights where I didn’t leave you. I’m sorry if I never held your hand when you needed it more than whatever words I said to try to fix the things that only God could touch. 

People say “have no regrets.” To me, that’s just silly. I have regrets. I live inside those regrets sometimes. And if it weren’t for those regrets, I wouldn’t know how to make my whole life run smoother. And kiss people harder. And squelch my pride. And say things while I have people standing right in front of me. And not say things when I know words said selfishly have the power to keep two people standing in one place forever.

That’s the other thing I’ve learned as of lately: people aren’t things. You can’t keep them. You can’t control them. You can’t get mad at life when it takes away all your precious pawns. You can’t make a museum out of who a person is today, that never gives anyone the freedom to become someone different tomorrow.

I think back on that night when we were sitting on the bed, facing the white wall. The night with the beer bread. And I wish I found the way to whisper out the truth to you, “You could be a different person overnight if you wanted to be. I’m just so afraid you’ll let Plan B fit you.”

I’d like to go back and say that to you— you and all the “you”s I have in this world. Plan B doesn’t fit a single person I love. I won’t care any less or more if you choose that path but I just see so much potential for people that it breaks my heart. I see their possibility. I see their goodness. And maybe my friends tell me I am too hopeful but I’d rather see what you’re capable of then be the one who gives up on you when you just needed someone to stand beside you and help you claim the bright things for your life.

So this it. My end of the world my letter. My “God forbid” letter. My “this life is so fragile and quick” letter. And it’s just a lot of hopes I’d like to place in an envelope and tuck in your mailbox: Hope that you’ll say the hard things. That you’ll make the tough choices. That, when life tries to make a leader out of you, you won’t shy away.

Your heart is credible, so listen to it speak. Life is messy: choose to laugh at that instead of cry. Keep people’s feelings at the forefront of your mind but don’t always sacrifice what you want for making other people happy— sometimes you have to make yourself happy.

Don’t search so hard for this happiness thing. People will make you feel like it’s the sort of thing you uncover with a metal detector or a shovel or a magnifying glass. Happiness is tiny glimpses of “okay”ness slipped into the ordinary days. It is cool drinks. And bare feet. And sunburn that looks gracious and kind-of beautiful on your shoulders. Happiness is barely ever big or boisterous, the thing that comes traipsing into the room to make a big scene. Happiness is microscopic on most days, it flows in and out of your daily life. And, on the days when happiness isn’t there, don’t bully yourself so hard: remember we had so many grey days that one vacation with the yellow shovels… funny how I remember the grey days best.

You might never feel ready for the world. Or for other people. Or for someone who wants to hold your hand. Maybe ready isn’t the point. Maybe we get so consumed with the “finished products” and the “ready moments” of this lifetime that we forget real life was just quiet moments we never fully enjoyed. Instagram swept all the mystery away with a filter.

Just choose life. Just choose the people around the table instead of always choosing the ones who are miles away waiting on you to double tap their photos. They’ll be there when you turn back to the screen.

Choose who you have right here, right here. It’s precious. It’s urgent. When they ask you to go get margaritas after dinner, go without reserve. You can buy groceries the next day. Choose long drives. Choose screaming Taylor Swift at the top of your lungs. Choose saying “yes” to dates, even if you don’t know if they’re “the one.”  I guess I just want to beg you to let people in. Welcome them in. Just let people hold your hands and buy you dinner. Let them compliment your smile. Let yourself feel beautiful for five minutes.

Choose dishes left in the sink for nights beneath the stars. Choose random chats in Target with the cashier. Choose using people’s names more often than you don’t. Choose slow dancing in the kitchen.

Remember to give people the decent shot they deserve— you said it yourself, you’re always so hopeful people will take a chance on you.

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The devil, the fighter, and Jimmy with his roses.

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My Uncle Jimmy died on Saturday.

I found out about it on Sunday morning while roaming through a random Target in the middle of Greensboro, North Carolina. I was trying on shoes I didn’t need when the call came through. My mother told me they were taking the ferry to Long Island the next day. One shoe was on. One shoe was off. Looking like Cinderella in a maxi dress with combat boots, I found out he was gone.

That’s the weird thing about losing someone— you expect everyone around you to stop what they’re doing. You expect them to get it. You expect them to put down the shoeboxes and stop surveying the hairspray that give the most volume. You just expect everyone to be still for a few minutes. That’d be nice.

And it would also be nice to walk up to the cashier, the one with the bright red shirt, and say to her, “You get it, right?” It would be nice for her to nod her head and then you’d get to tell her that your favorite memory with Uncle Jimmy happened when you were a sophomore in college. Twenty years old. You were so taken at the time by a boy who read you Walt Whitman poetry as the rest of the world lay sleeping.

It was America’s birthday. You wore a bedazzled dollar store crown made out of tacky red, white & blue parts. You knew it looked stupid but you didn’t really care because your aunt wore one too. And Uncle Jimmy told you that when he saw his wife for the first time, he knew he would marry her. She probably would have begged to differ— she was younger than him by a few years and hardly even knew he existed. He showed up one day with a dozen yellow roses, anxious to hand them off to her. She looked at them for a second, said thank you, threw the roses on a nearby picnic table and ran off to be with her friends. Still, he knew it was her. She would be his girl one day.

That was your favorite story of Uncle Jimmy’s— how he knew it was time to fight for what he wanted. And it was the first story you ever told yourself on repeat when you needed a reminder that some things in life are worth fighting for.

I’ve wanted to write about fighting for things for a while now.

It’s been sitting restlessly on my to-do list just like that, “Write about fighting for things.” But I didn’t really know what to say. Honestly, I still don’t. Every time I go to type something there is this little whisper that hisses inside my head, saying, “Telling me people to go after what they want is selfish. What if they can’t? What if you are filling people with false hope?”

And so I’ve stayed quiet. And I’ve shut up. And I’ve realized, in the days that have drawn in all around me, that not talking about fighting for things is a lot easier than coming outright and telling someone: hey, there is something I’ve always wanted— a job, a different grace, a crazy dream. I want it so bad it keeps me up at night. Is that selfish of me? Is it okay with the world if I still want it, even if I’ve already told myself no?

That’s often the anchor that pulls me down. It isn’t always others. It isn’t always the circumstances. It’s mostly myself. And spoon-feeding myself with the idea that I am not worthy enough, I am not good enough, I am not smart enough. There is someone out there who always gonna be so much more “enough” than me. That person will be the one to get the things I want. 

Even in writing this, I’m afraid of the ways you might be sitting off somewhere thinking to yourself, “but you don’t know the way life has broken my heart.” You’re right. I don’t. And I can’t say that life won’t break your heart a million times more. It probably will. It’s heartbreaking to hear the words “you didn’t get it” and “I’m sorry” and “try again next year.” I get that. 

But then why is there still a whisper that speaks against my mess? Why do I still hear something saying, louder & deeper than my hesitations: You’re still standing here. So it isn’t over yet. What you want is worth fighting for. Please don’t miss out on one of the most worthwhile things of this lifetime: the fight. The struggle. The battle for what is most worth it to you. 

The first time I wrote about Uncle Jimmy and the yellow roses was in 2010.

Around Valentine’s Day over four years ago. It was about true love. It was terribly bad writing. I thought everything in life was simple and you could tie it all up in some pretty white bow. I sat in the parking lot of Target on Saturday morning and reread the words out loud of that post out loud. And I laughed because I was a completely different human. I probably would have never had the courage to say boldly enough back then: you’re worth fighting for. 

But I remember that Uncle Jimmy got a hold of that first piece of writing. And he kept it with him for a long time, a folded up piece of printer paper with my words on it. And he let people read it. And he let strangers and doctors and the cleaning lady know I was out there in the world trying to be a writer. His niece’s daughter— trying to be a writer.

I remember him being really proud of me. And I remember how that feeling— that feeling like someone wanted to claim you because they were just so proud of you— meant everything to me. It kept me fighting to become a writer- a real writer. And he didn’t know it, and I didn’t know it, but two years later I would quit my job for a dream. My safe, secure job. It would happen instantly after months of praying. One day I would be sitting across from a mentor in the industry and I would watch her mouth the words to me, “If you don’t go for this now, while the steam is here, I am afraid you will forget how to go for it at all.”

That would be enough. It would be enough to mobilize me to march into my supervisor’s office that next Monday and quit my job.

And, just as I was ready to announce my six weeks notice, all the power in the entire building would go out. And I would be standing there, wondering if it was a sign from the universe that I shouldn’t be quitting. Friends, I was so terrified. I mean, I was trembling and shaking and thinking all these ugly thoughts in my head: you can’t do this. You can’t possibly make this work. You want to be a writer? Cool. Funny. Awesome. Good luck.

As everyone around me proceeded to pack up their things and leave work for the day at 2pm– thrilled to know half of the tiny town in Connecticut was having an unexpected power outage– I stayed in the doorway of my boss. I told her I had to say something, even in the dark. I could not leave until I said something.

And when it was over, I got into my car and I cried big, thick, “I am so fearful” tears. I remember Florence & the Machine coming on the radio. Just this one line pumping through the speakers: And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back. So shake it off.

In the 30 seconds it took to say out loud– I am leaving this job at the start of July— I did not become a different person. I didn’t become a fearless person. I was still me. I still cared too much. I still fell for strangers. I still misjudged the amount of mexican food I could handle. I still messed up (a lot) and failed (a lot) in the years to come. That was actually the first day of what would turn into a daily battle, a daily fight to live inside of a dream job I wanted for myself. And it would be tears. And sweat. And doubt. And judgement. And Yes. And No. And fighting in the face of maybe not getting what I wanted after all. And having to be okay with that. 

But my mind was made up. And I did give up the devil that day in the car. I did decide that I was going to build a life out of words, no matter how crazy that seemed to admit out loud. I had an Uncle Jimmy moment. And I think him and I could agree on this: fighting for what you want won’t always make you a new person. And it won’t guarantee some red carpet or some dream coming true. You won’t always get the job. You won’t get the girl. You might not get picked. But maybe you will. And maybe “winning” or “getting it” or “arriving” has never been the point. Maybe we just came down here to learn how to be relentless, little fighters & good keepers of one another. I don’t know much but I know this: so much of life is worth the fight. You are never wrong to want to fight for the things that make you come alive. 

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Field Notes: Vol. 3

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Digital to-do list. Best app I’ve seen.

Commissioned this gal for a painting & I cannot gush about her work enough. Big plus: She’s a gem-and-a-half.

For the people who wanna do something.

Fitness blogger in NYC. This girl dominates my heart.

Girl power.

On a keychain binge.

You need to read everything she’s ever written. Specifically this. She’s my new favorite person. Place. Thing. Blog. Whatever.

You asked where I got my sweet leopard kicks.

But really… the best ever.

Sharpen up, babycakes.

Are you “that” person who sends too many emails too late at night? Game changer.

Best friend found this yesterday. Easily watched it a dozen times. Just for giggles in the middle of your workday.

Here’s to many hopes your weekend will be filled with lots of waffles & late night banter & chick flicks. Fill me in on your beautiful weekend! Got any good plans? Any sweet parties I can crash?! 

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