Monday, February 28, 2011

Pulling at a Memory

A few weeks ago, a co-worker and I started doing a staff seminar with our interns.
She and I chose to focus on storytelling and writing and talking about how to do these things well.
Part of that, we believe, has a lot to do with just meeting the blank page.
So, last week, we met with the blank page and a tiny prompt.
This is what happened on my page:

You were at the ice cream shop.
I was on the beach.
Lamenting the uncertainty in my bones
when it came to you.
She was on the phone, listening to my doubts.

You were at the ice cream shop.
I was on the beach.
Tear tracks.
Swollen eyes against the wind.
She kept listening as I talked in circles.
About you.
And your

You were at the ice cream shop.
I was on the beach.
Hoping for an ending to this night
that didn’t end with tears.
She told me about believing
in me
and you.

You were at the ice cream shop.
I was on the beach.
Your cocky walk down to the edge of the water,
the edge of what I wanted.
She listened to the excitement

You were on the beach.
In front of me.
Seeing a moment you wanted to seal,
binding us to this patch of sand.
A smile in her voice, she

You were on the beach,
walking ahead with him.
Believing what you took
was yours to take.
She kept listening,
for the breaking.

Thanks for reading.
You all are very awesome. :)

Remember to take care of you.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Metaphor Turning in my Head

This week, I've thought a lot about the ways we close people out and the ways we desperately want to let people in.
The result:

If my whole self were a patch of woods, there would be a well, hidden deep inside them.
My whole self couldn’t be a garden—a garden is too pretty, too fragrant, too obvious.
No, I would have to be the patch of woods.
With its invisible spider webs to trip you up
and its snaking roots to make you stumble
and its eerie silence to conceal my secrets.

But that’s not the point.
No, the point is the well.

It hides my most vulnerable parts deep, deep down in the earth.
Though I could whisper in the wind that you should take a look,
I wouldn’t because I need you to prove you’re worth the whisper first.
See, if you don’t even stop to have a look at the well,
I already know.
If you stop to look but you get angry because there isn’t a pail close by,
I already know.
But if you stop to look with your brow quirked like a challenge,
I might take a chance.
And if you toss a coin to see how far it goes down,
I would know that you’re not afraid of a little investment.
If you go in search of a pail and actually come back to see what you can find,
I’d know that you’re worth the risk of letting you pull up what is hidden deep down in the dark.
Yes, I would know that you might be safe.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Promise to Myself

One of the hardest parts
being a writer
is one I'm learning.
There are so many people
who have said so many good things
and arranged their words so well,
that I feel like I need to eat up all of their words and arrangements
to be the best kind of writer I can be.

Problems exist in this plan.
I end up
never feeling
like I will be able to read all that is on my list
of good writing and beautiful arrangement.
But in the midst of trying,
I tend to not actually write.
Ms. Britt told me
a writer is someone who writes.
If I don't actually write,
that makes me not much of a writer then.
It needs to be different, see,
because I have so much to say--
so much that sometimes
the thoughts
tumble over each other
and I can't get them out fast enough.
At night,
it's like my ears
are fighting for the pillow
while I toss and turn,
arranging and rearranging sentences
in my head
that are buried again
by morning.

It will be different.
It must be different.

But I have to make it so.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thoughts on a Tuesday

Things from today:

1. When you go to the gym in January, there are SO MANY people.
All those resolutions being met with earnest enthusiasm.
Something interesting: there were SO MANY pretty people at the gym tonight.
Like, I've been to the gym plenty of times in the last year (I mean, not so much regularly, but you know what I mean), and I have never seen that many pretty people.
While I was listening to The Naked and the Famous, I wondered if most of those people thought they weren't pretty at all and that's why they were at the gym--to make themselves their version of pretty.
Friends, that is a kind of sad thought.
I mean, those people are already so beautiful.
That goofy but beautifully smiley guy who worked out beside me.
The young woman with the most elegant pear shaped body I've ever seen on the stair stepper.
The thick woman running her heart out on the treadmill trying not to slap herself with her own breasts.
The clean cut guy with matching sneakers and work-out attire.
The older woman with her precise eyeliner on the bike who totally just came from work.
So beautiful.
All of them.
For 2011, I hope they all believe it.

2. I missed work during break.
I don't really know what this means about myself.

3. One year ago, I started my full time position with TWLOHA.
I had a one year celebration in September because that's when I arrived for my internship.
But my full time one year is today.
I did not believe that I would make it to this point, much less be planning to stay for a while longer.
I have proven my strength to myself time and time again this past year, and today reminds me of that.
My body can almost not even contain the cheer I feel about it. :)

Things from 2010:

1. I definitely read 75 fucking books. :D
That is the first legit New Year's Resolution I've set out to truly achieve.
It feels really great to have done it.
For 2011, I hope to do it again.
And maybe even share some of my reading adventures here with you.

2. I learned a lot about what it means to hear people, the things they say and the things they don't.
I thought I was good at being present and invested and caring.
I'm much better now because 2010 happened.

3. You should give people chances.
Even when they seem like cocky and snooty bitches.
Even when trouble seems to follow them.
Even when they drive you fucking nuts.
Because they are living a story just like you are living a story.
Both deserve to be heard and shared and appreciated.

Things I want for 2011:

1. Diversify my reading.
I want more classics and biographies in my palette.

2. To write more.
I know--that sounds like a broken record here, right?
I'm going to try very hard to mean it a lot more than the other times.

3. Eat out less.
I spend
way too much
fucking money
on eating out.
So, I'm making a plan to cut that out.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Things for you:

1. "They shared the weight of memory. They took up what others could no longer bear. Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak."
"They carried the land itself--Vietnam, the place, the soil--a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity."
Both of these quotes are from Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried."
This story moved and shaped me as a writer and a human.
I hope you will google it and read it and feel connected to these men who are imagined and yet so real and like the actual ones who fought in an awful war.

2. Number 1 was heavy, so for Number 2, please just watch Marcel the Shell on YouTube.
It is truly awesome and makes you laugh the more times you watch it.
Also, it is particularly wonderful to quote Marcel the Shell at random points throughout the day when you need to smile.

3. Thank you for reading, for caring about what I have to say, for coming back to look at this sorry excuse for a blog.
You are good people.
I hope your 2011 has gotten off to a great start.
If it hasn't, please eat a tiny piece of chocolate and refer back to Number 2.
It won't make the year entirely better, but it might make your mouth happy. :)

You are loved and appreciated.
Please never forget that.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Things for Sharing

Yesterday, I had a blog posted for TWLOHA.
Here the link:
It's also posted on the TWLOHA fan page if you want to share it with other people.

And here's a quote that I'm really loving right now:

"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could."
— Louise Erdrich

I hope, wherever you are, you know of a love that stirs your soul.

Sending joy to you through the computer screen,


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Understatement and a Special Piece

Dear, dear Readers, how I have rejected you over these last few months.
Know that I haven't forgotten you (yes, even you, Kirby:D ).
I could give you a dozen excuses, but those wouldn't really make it better, huh?
I guess the main reason I haven't posted is not because I didn't have things to say, but more that I didn't know that what I had to say was relevant or what you all would want to read or powerful enough to be posted.
That's pretty silly, right?
I mean, I think you have to be at least a little narcissistic to keep a regular blog--you know, believing that other people, potential strangers, give a shit about what you have to say.
So this, my friends, is an effort.
I don't have some great, profound words to share for the evening.
But I will share something I've worked on in the months I've been absent.
It's a fiction piece, and it's very special to me.
I hope you'll tell me what you think.
And I hope that wherever you are, you know that you are beautiful and loved and deserve to laugh and smile every single fucking day.
I'll post again very soon.
Keep a look out. :)


I notice his hands.
The long, slender fingers with their trimmed nails.
Smooth hands that were made to be gentle.
Hands that haven’t known hard work but could be marvels if they met my body.
His eyes hold me like arms should.
Deep set and gray like London.
Long lashes the color of onyx.
When he holds me through them, I’m utterly and completely his though he doesn’t know it.
He’s never sure if he should touch me.
I make the decision for him, touch him first, let him know that it’s okay, that I don’t mind taking the lead.
I slip one finger under each sleeve and trace half moons on his biceps.
He closes his eyes, letting me.
This tiny moment, it says everything we’ve been wanting to say.
It says that I am bold.
It says that he is longing.
It says that we will let this current take us out.

His hands come to rest lightly on my shoulder blades.
And that gesture, my shoulder blades instead of my hips or my breasts or my ass, it is so far from anything that may be a violation.
He nudges me, not enough to move me but enough for me to know he’s ready for me to be closer.
I trail my fingertips up and down his back now as I step closer.
His lips rest on my forehead, just below my hairline.
They are soft and full, and for a moment my fingers stop at the wonder I feel in those lips.

I pull back enough to stare into his gray depths.
Tonight has been so tender, and he is such a broken boy.
And I want to hold him to my chest, one arm around his back, my other hand in his hair.
I settle for my arms resting on his shoulders, my left hand playing lightly with the hair at the nape of his neck.
I smile, just happy to share this moment, this now, this possibility with him.
Something in him releases, and his lips come down to meet mine.
His wraps my bottom lip between his lips, and I move closer, closing the space between our bodies, his hipbones pressing just above my own.
I part my lips.
I can feel him holding back.
This is the tale of us together, letting him know that he can be free with me.
I slide my tongue through to meet his, and he grips me moving one hand to the small of my back, more than nudging now.
We lose ourselves in the magic of meeting this way.
My hands explore the folds of muscle rippling in his skin.
His hands are more respectful.

My lips move to his jaw, square and dusted with shadow.
I kiss a trail to his ear and move down his throat.
I get to the hollow, and his head is rolling back.

“Jade,” he whispers, and I don’t know if it means stop.
I decide it doesn’t and continue the attention of my lips to his collarbone, opening the collar of his button down that I may serve him better.
Those long, slender fingers slid my hair out of its pins and find a home in the curls.
Just as my hands come around to get the next button, he tilts my chin toward his face with his thumb and forefinger.
Once he’s holding my gaze, his hand returns to my curls.
I’m lost in the smolder of his eyes for what seems like an age.

Then he says, “we shouldn’t get carried away,” and I think I hear a tingle of regret in his tone.
“What does carried away even mean?” I challenge.
“Well, for one, it means me stopping before I get to the point where I can’t,” he says.
“And would that be so bad?” I say with a smirk.
“Probably not during,” he says, looking away from me.
I know that he has given so much tonight.
I reply, “that’s okay, lover. I am quite a patient woman.”
His hands leave my hair, their pins lost forever in the grass beneath our feet.
I grab one hand and lace my fingers through it, and we walk to the train.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Certain Kind of Magic in Nashville

I grew up throwing dirt clods for sport and listening to Garth Brooks and Vince Gill on cassette tapes. Bare feet and dirt roads. When I was older, four-wheelers and trails through the woods. In high school, I was a part of the self-proclaimed redneck crowd donned in Carhart coats socializing around their oversized trucks with lift-kits. I still remember when my dad moved out when I was in second grade into another trailer across town. He had cable, and I was introduced to CMT and music videos. All that is to say, I was raised in the country on country music.

Though my musical tastes are broad, country music emanates this feeling of home. There is this unparalleled community that happens in the country music world. There is a shared history and love of the South and its culture, a fondness for simple pleasures in life, and the sweet twang—all of these things bringing musicians and fans together.

Jess and I share an office, so when she looked up the information about CMA Fest, I was the first to hear about it. My job is mostly administrative and doesn’t require me to go on the road very much, but I knew that if TWLOHA was going to be at CMA Fest I wanted to be there. Of the fourteen people on staff, Jess, Chris, and I are the only country fans. Chris is from Georgia, so it’s a part of his soul. Jess is a diehard fan and has adopted a bit of a twang. But we were sure it wouldn’t work. Summer is our busiest season, and TWLOHA has never been involved with the country music world at all.

Jamie and Rich said yes. Surprised but incredibly excited, Jess submitted our application. The CMA Fest only has three or four nonprofits, a much smaller number than we’re used to so we were unsure whether or not we would get picked. Next thing I know, Chris is packing the back of the Jeep like a jigsaw puzzle while Jess, Emily, and I organize pillows, snacks, and music for the long drive to Nashville. Although Emily wasn’t a big country fan before the festival, she left singing along to Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood and still laughing about Blake Shelton’s jokes.

I’ve been back for ten days and I’m still smiling and singing Zac Brown Band’s “Free” with a majestic hope in my heart. I said the words, “we’re a nonprofit raising awareness about depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide” with an info card in my hand and sweat trickling down my back 847 times, and I didn’t get tired of it. Some people politely listened feigning interest and others really heard me and tied a string from themselves to us because somehow our story was their story, too.

Peggy didn’t expect to be so drawn in. She stopped at the McDonald’s tent to get a snack for her granddaughter waiting at the picnic table when our funny name caught her eye. For the 321st time, I told a stranger who we are. Holding back tears, she told us about her niece Jeanie and how much Jeanie needed to know about us. “This is so Jeanie, all Jeanie,” she kept saying and shared how Jeanie has dealt with great loss and pain in the last year. Peggy walked away and wasn’t a stranger anymore.

The next day, Chris was helping a petite soft-spoken woman with her blonde hair cropped just above her shoulders who was learning about us for the first time. I came up when she was paying for her Love is the Movement shirt. Holding back tears and digging in her wallet, her gaze not meeting our eyes, she said she lost her brother to suicide. I said I was so sorry to hear that and Chris asked her name. Asking someone their name gives them this unspoken validation that they matter even though they may be a stranger. Through her smile, she said her name was Lisa, and I knew I would never forget her. She looked at me and said, “Mom and Dad are never the same,” and I said, “Yeah, it changes everything—nothing and no one is ever the same.” She nodded, and I asked when her brother passed sure that it was within the past few months. Her voice cracked as she said, “1986.” I tried to contain my surprise. I haven’t lost someone to suicide, so I haven’t dealt with that kind of pain personally. Her brother has been gone longer than I have been alive, and her pain at losing him is still so fresh and real. She held up her shirt, bowed her head, and said thank you as she walked away, and I wonder who is more grateful that she stopped at our tent—her or us?

At CMA Fest during the day different zones are open and most of them free to the public, but at five booths start closing up for the night for everyone to get dinner and make the trek to LP Field across the bridge for the evening concerts. Passes to the concerts were included with our booth package, so each night we joined more than 40,000 people to sing and dance to our favorite country songs. Anyone who enjoys seeing live music knows the magic of being in a crowd of people, singing the same song at the top of your lungs and getting goose bumps. It doesn’t always happen that way in the nosebleeds, but during Keith Urban’s set it was inevitable.

In case you’ve been under a rock and don’t know this, Nashville had an awful flood the first weekend in May. Most of downtown Nashville (where CMA Fest is held) was under water. In the beginning, the media didn’t give it much coverage and the city wasn’t getting help from the outside. But Nashville banded together, pulled themselves up and did what they had to do to get their city on its feet again. Restaurants spent their days making bag lunches and giving them away throughout the city, while other people worked to repair the damage. A little more than a month later, they were ready to host the first ever sold out CMA Fest.

Keith played his whole set, then he talked about Nashville and the flood. He talked about how proud he was to be a part of a city with such a strong community, how people joined together without thinking twice, and how important it was for all of us to be there at CMA Fest, how much Nashville needed us to come. He dedicated his next song to the city and the people and launched into a cover of “With a Little Help from my Friends” with Little Big Town. The performers at Heavy and Light this year also covered this song, but this performance had a different force, a different power, a different magic with images from the flood flashing on the screen behind the band. We stood and we sang and we rocked (yes, we still rock out in country music). In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie talks about this moment where he and his friends are singing together in the truck and he says he felt infinite (page 39), and this night, this song, this moment is infinite for all 40,000 of us.

Depression doesn’t care if you wear a cowboy hat with Wranglers or skinny jeans with Converses. I hope that through this small window into what may be a different world you see that this story may be your story, too. It may look different and sound different, but pain is universal. Hope is, too. That’s why we went because everyone is a part of this ongoing conversation. May your life look like this—where strangers become friends in an instant, where 40,000 people can feel like family, where a song and a few pictures become an infinite moment you want to tuck away so you can take it out again and again.

So much love to all of you strangers reading this.
Know that there is someone down in Florida who believes in you.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your story.