Category Archives: Inspiring Stuff

An unedited picture of my tidy workspace this morning. It looks something like this most days.

On Being a Tidy Artist

Forget politics. It seems the most polarizing issue in my news feed these days is tidiness. Marie Kondo is in the zeitgeist again thanks to her new Netflix show, and many of my artist friends are taking serious umbrage to the idea of tidying up their living and working spaces.

I was reading a blog post by Austin Kleon this morning, and even he gets in on the KonMari-bashing act. He quotes from his latest book Keep Going:

“This is a bad time to be a pack rat. The propaganda against clutter and the mania for tidying has been whipped up by TV shows like Hoarders and Storage Wars and countless blogs that fetishize orderly studios and perfect workspaces with “things organized neatly,” culminating in Marie Kondo’s gigantic bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. While Kondo’s tips can work wonders on your sock drawer or your kitchen pantry, I have serious doubts about their usefulness to artists.”

There’s a particular camp of self-proclaimed messy artists who feel that art can only be created out of chaos. I find this insulting. Do you honestly believe there is only one way to be an artist? That’s an incredibly limiting point of view. Especially coming from an artist.

Several years ago I had a small party of friends at my house in Los Angeles, and one of those friends brought along with him a fairly famous rock musician. After pleasantly chatting with this musician over drinks by the fire pit, he happened to see my workspace. He turned to me and said, “I thought you said you were an artist? Your space is way too organized to be an artist. How can you come up with anything creative in this environment?”

I was thunderstruck and of course totally embarrassed. And insulted. Because I AM creative in my space. And my space is super organized. If I get to the point where my space gets messy, it causes me stress, which is not conducive to the work I do. My space is not minimalist, but it’s tidy.

I feel like I can be more creative because of my tidiness. I have enormous respect for every object in my space – from the mug I use to sip my morning coffee to the box that corrals all of the as yet unused greeting cards which I will someday send to friends and loved ones. I don’t believe I am the owner of these objects. I am merely the steward. And I feel a responsibility to them because a) I derive great pleasure from them and b) in most cases they will far outlive me. I treat my home and the objects within my home as though they are all living beings. I think that casually accumulating objects for use “someday” robs them of their potential to be put to greater use elsewhere. They get piled up or tossed aside or lumped together in boxes. They don’t get to breathe.

I am inspired by the idea of only keeping objects that spark joy. To me, it is a form of mindfulness. I am paying attention to what surrounds me. I am connecting with the objects in my life. I am giving those things that spark joy in me the opportunity to inspire me. Everything in my workspace is needed and wanted and cared for. And yes, I do only own about 30 books though I’m an avid reader. I only enjoy keeping the books that I refer to again and again. The others, I pass along so that other people can enjoy them. If I need to reference something again, there are many libraries from which I can get those items. And guess what? The library is an inspiring place to go where even more ideas can take shape!

I am not against collecting. I have several small collections, everything from wigs to puppets. But I don’t see these things as “mine.” They are simply passing through. Some stay longer than others, and that’s OK. Letting go of things inspires me to go out into the world to find new things that spark joy in me. It’s a cycle.

It can be isolating to be a tidy artist. I don’t know too many of them but doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Are you a tidy artist? I’d love to hear your take on the issue.

An unedited picture of my tidy workspace this morning. It looks something like this most days.
An unedited picture of my tidy workspace this morning. It looks something like this most days.
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Raising My Vibration With Houseguests

I’ve been giving myself a bit of a hard time lately. I wanted to document our Epic Move on Ye Olde Blog, but, dammit you guys, this settling-in process has been overwhelming to say the least. I find it difficult to write when my environment is in an upheaval. Upheaval doesn’t even begin to describe what this relocation has been like.

Nonetheless, I also try to practice self-forgiveness, so I’ve been doling out heaping helpings to myself, too.

But we’re finally edging towards normalcy and routine here, as evidenced by the fact we had our first overnight houseguests last week! There’s nothing like knowing someone is going to have an extended look at your home to motivate you to get it together.

My dear friends from college, Anthony Wood and Anne-Margaret Redding, own a yoga studio in New York (The Giving Tree in Astoria, check it out), and are currently on a year-long Raise the Vibration Tour of America. The tour was born out of a deep and intuitive need they have to help heal inner and outer divisiveness on a local level. They have a series of workshops that focus on yoga, meditation, community-building, live music and performance. I’ve been following their adventures on Facebook.

As it so happens, we have an incredible shop here in Miller Beach called Vibrations Health, Wellness & Juice Bar that just this week was debuting a new studio space called The Breathing Room for yoga, meditation, massage and other types of wellness services.


Since I’m eager to get friends to come stay with us in our new place, and since the connections between the tour and the shop’s new space were incredibly self-evident, I suggested to Anne-Margaret that perhaps they could come to Miller Beach and give a workshop in the new space at Vibrations.

Not kidding, guys, an hour later the whole thing was in the works. Synchronicity much?

So this last Thursday, Vibrations celebrated the opening of their new space with an evening workshop presented by Anthony and Anne-Margaret. I suspected the community here would be receptive to this kind of thing, but even I was surprised by the turn out. In fact, so many folks showed up there wasn’t enough room in the new space, and we relocated down the street to the Nelson Algren Museum.

I love that in our community, the shop owners in our small commercial corridor work together and have each other’s backs.

We were treated to an evening of gentle yoga, meditation, deep breathing, live music and spoken word poetry. The vibe in the room was incredible. Anthony and Anne-Margaret are confident and capable, and holy cow does Ann-Margaret have a beautiful voice. If they’re coming through your town, you should get yourself to one of their events.

But the real joy for me was having them as guests in our home for two nights. I love being a host, and while hubs thinks I go a tad overboard, I really enjoy creating an environment that is warm and welcoming.

I think one of the reasons I haven’t been writing so much is because so much of my creative energy has gone towards creating the environment in our new place. These last two weeks I’ve been looking at that environment through the lens of being a guest, and trying to make the house as comfortable as possible, especially in the guest bedroom. Good books to read? Check. Tasty and healthy snacks? Check. Information about local attractions? Check. Earplugs? Check. I really tried to think of everything.

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Come stay awhile…

There is something about focusing my attention so closely and specifically on my home that puts me in a state of flow. I lose track of time and feel more finely tuned in. It is such a joy to prepare for guests and create just the right environment.

At one point over the weekend, Anthony and Anne-Margaret interviewed us for a series of webisodes they’re making for their YouTube channel. They asked us what raises our vibration.

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I think the time I’ve spent infusing my home with love and intention has seriously raised my vibration. Having guests over, connecting with them, sharing our stories, and sending them back on their way with full bellies and hearts raises my vibration. Knowing that their visit to my community had a positive effect on so many others raises my vibration.

Long story short – be sure to check out the tour. And if you ever want to spend a night or two in Miller Beach, our door is always open.

We’ll See What Happens

The view out the back of my new home studio in Indiana.
The view out the back of my new home studio in Indiana.

When I worked through The Artist’s Way almost 3 years ago, I had an idea of what the book and 12 week program might offer me in the short term – some insight into my creative strengths and weaknesses and hopefully renewed energy for my creative pursuits.

What I wasn’t sure about was how it might affect me in the long term. What would stick? What would be cast aside, like so many other creative coats I’ve tried on over the years?

Well, here it is almost 3 years later, and I am surprised to report that what has stuck with me the most are the morning pages. I write them nearly every morning. Sometimes life gets hectic (I’m looking at you, stressful cross-country move) and I set them aside for a few days or even a few weeks. There’s a lull in the conversation between my psyche and me. I just can’t be bothered, or I’m too overwhelmed, or I’m so focused on a big project that I don’t want to sacrifice that precious morning time. Those handful of magic minutes first thing in the morning where I’m most positive, enthusiastic and ready to get down to business.

But I always pick them back up.

Mostly, they are a laundry list of what I did the previous day and what I’m hoping to accomplish on that day. I list my worries, my complaints. I think the phrase I use most often (usually several times in one sitting) is “We’ll see what happens.”

And then there are days like today, where I plunge a little deeper. I shine some light on some of the darker places. I don’t just write down that I feel kind of shitty or disappointed or tired or overwhelmed. I ask myself WHY I feel kind of shitty or disappointed or tired or overwhelmed.

This move from Los Angeles to Indiana has taken my almost complete focus for the last six months or so. I knew this would happen. Which is one of the reasons why I was so resistant to it for so long. I already feel like I’m behind in my life. Like I’m racing to catch up with everyone else. I didn’t want to get even further behind.

Now that we’ve successfully packed up all of our stuff, shipped it across the country, took our two nervous and drugged cats on a plane, lived with my parents for a month, closed on a house, moved all our stuff and the cats into the house, totally redid the plumbing, painted some rooms and have mostly unpacked, I’m starting to feel a little restless.


I suppose that’s kind of weird to feel restless after such a huge expenditure of energy. But I haven’t put any energy whatsoever into any of my creative pursuits for the last six months, and I feel it. I think that’s why I feel so shitty. I’ve been neglecting that part of myself, and it’s ready to come back out.

I’m a little overwhelmed thinking about all the pieces to pick back up again. What will I focus on? Writing? Acting? Creativity coaching? Something else? I’m hoping that as I continue to get settled, that I’ll find the focus.

In the meantime, I’ll get back into my creative routines (morning pages, weekly blog posts, sending queries out for my first novel, working on the second). I’ll start some new routines (walking on the beach, joining a local writers group, seeing theater in Chicago). I’ll see what rises to the surface, what clamors for more attention.

We’ll see what happens.





Happy Anniversary, Los Angeles. And Goodbye.

Greetings_from_Los_Angeles,_California_(63828)It’s my ten-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. As I write this, it’s been exactly ten years to the day that I first rolled into town with my piss-and-vinegar cat, Mars. That day was March 15, 2007.

Today is March 15, 2017. I’ll be finishing packing up boxes to load in the trailer that’s being delivered on Friday. Shortly it will be on its way to Indiana, along with me.

I didn’t plan for such a tidy ending. It wasn’t part of some grand scheme to have my departure coincide so neatly with the anniversary of my arrival. Ah, but that’s how life is, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s middle-of-the-night, operating-on-four-hours-sleep messy (like me right now, writing this in my dark kitchen at 3 a.m. surrounded by moving boxes). Sometimes it’s clean and delivers life-changing moments with a plodding regularity.

Life is like a box of chocolates, I guess.

When I got here ten years ago, I was 31 years old. I was tired. I was depressed and lonely. I was eager to fill a void inside me that I knew could never be filled in New York.

I had spent most of those five years in New York struggling – struggling to pay my bills, struggling to find success as an actor, and, most of all, struggling to find the companionship I longed for. I had recently ended the only meaningful relationship I had during my time there, after making the realization that although my boyfriend at that time really liked me, he didn’t love me. And I couldn’t continue investing in a relationship that wasn’t ever going to be enough for me. I decided I deserved more than that, even if it meant giving up the companionship that I so desperately wanted.

It was the most grown-up, and most painful, decision I had made up to that point.

My best friend/roommate had also recently moved away, leaving me feeling adrift in an indifferent city. Though I was terrifically, monumentally unhappy in New York, I didn’t want to leave. Being a New Yorker felt like a badge of honor, some kind of special designation that announced to the world that I Was Doing Something Important With My Life. My entire identity was wrapped up in being a hardened, ready-to-take-a-punch resident of the greatest city on earth.

But I had this nagging feeling that it was time to go. I’d had the idea planted in me to move to Los Angeles by my roommate/bestie who had relocated here to work as a Production Coordinator on a TV movie.

It was ludicrous, really, the idea of moving to Los Angeles. My one experience of L.A. was when I finished grad school. Our class came to the city for 10 days to present our showcase to casting directors and agents. As expected, I was a non-entity, dead on arrival. Nobody ever thought I was Los Angeles material. Not my acting teachers, not my classmates, not the industry muckety-mucks who looked right through me as they chatted with the younger, thinner, more attractive actor standing next to me. I was told, time and again, that an actor should never move to Los Angeles unless she had a reason to go, that reason being something like already having a gig as a series regular on a TV show. Or, at the very least, a decent agent.

I didn’t have any of those things.

Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe I should go anyway. I came out to visit. My roommate/bestie engineered a pull-out-all-the-stops weekend to convince me I would like it here. I saw Ray Romano on the escalator at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. I attended the screening of my bestie’s TV movie where I chatted for 20 minutes with one of the stars of my all-time favorite movie (FYI, it’s Tommy Boy, and that star was Julie Warner who played Chris Farley’s love interest. Don’t judge.). I ate French toast at Dupar’s. I went swimming outside in November. It was fucking glorious.

Still, I resisted. But my intuition kept saying to me, “Go to Los Angeles.”

Since companionship was my number one priority, even above my career, I decided to take a peek at what dating might be like in Los Angeles. I didn’t have high hopes. I believed the stereotype that the only women who get attention here are hot and blond. Nonetheless, I joined to scout prospects.

I was surprised by the number of quality guys there appeared to be. And how many of them wanted to talk to me. I started regularly chatting online with a guy named Adam. He didn’t exactly fit the description of what I thought I wanted (he was older than me and had kids), but I genuinely liked him.

I decided to give Los Angeles a try. So I packed up my shit and drove with Mars from New York to Los Angeles over the first two weeks of March, ten years ago. I was scared. But I realized I could be scared and still do the thing that scares me anyway. I guess that’s called courage, right? To take such an enormous leap of faith?

And now, here I am, ten years later. Sitting in my darkened kitchen, a purring kitty named Venus in my lap, another named Murray happily burrowing into a bag of bubble wrap somewhere nearby (I lost Mars six years ago). My husband, Adam, is snoring in the bedroom. Yes, the same Adam. We’re leaving, and I’m sad and glad and excited and nervous and irritable and nostalgic and can’t sleep.

And I’m a little bit scared. But I’ve learned how to have courage.

When I was deciding whether or not to move to Los Angeles, somebody told me what they thought the difference is between New York and L.A. New York is flashy, and will dazzle you. It’s close and tight and you have very little personal space, but it opens your eyes to what is amazing about the world. By contrast, Los Angeles is slow and sprawling and filtered through the haze of sunlight and palm trees. But it gives you the space and time you need to find out what is amazing about you. That is the city’s gift.

I am so full up with love for this beautiful, frustrating, life-changing place. Yes, the traffic is soul-crushing. Yes, there’s crime and vandalism and violence. There’s a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. There’s not enough water and it’s too hot in the summertime in the Valley and it’s way too fucking expensive to live here.

But this is where I grew up. As silly as it sounds, Los Angeles is where I found myself. I didn’t have anything that looked like traditional success here. I did a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I didn’t make much money. But I got to know myself in a way that I don’t think could have happened anywhere else.

I’m now 41 years old. I’m still tired. But I’m not depressed and I’m definitely not lonely. I found the companionship I was looking for. Not just with my husband and those silly cats. I also found the pleasure in solitude. I made friends with myself here. I learned how to love Amy Clites. She’s pretty fucking cool. I like hanging out with her. She’s curious about the world and she has a big heart. She likes to learn and try new things. She loves to garden and make things grow. She enjoys her creativity. She wants to put good in the world. She’s ready to map her own course.

Just like when I moved to Los Angeles, my intuition has been telling me that it’s now time to leave. I could stay and continue happily on, but I don’t think that’s what I’m meant to do. I feel like I’m being called to do something else, to take this experience with me to another place. And while I’m sad to say goodbye to the dear friends I have here and to the city I have grown to love, I feel light and free and ready to set off on a new adventure.

Happy anniversary, Los Angeles. And goodbye.



It’s Time to Go

"You Are Beautiful" sign welcoming people to the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary, where we are planning to move. Part of the You Are Beautiful public art project
“You Are Beautiful” sign welcoming people to the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary. Part of the You Are Beautiful public art project

I’ve been a firm believer in trusting my intuition for many years now.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as easy as all that. There’s much hand-wringing, and forehead-rubbing, and stomachaches, and internal arguments that go on. I hear that inner voice telling me what to do. And sometimes I rationalize its arguments away. Sometimes I ignore it. Sometimes I listen to it for awhile and then get distracted by other things.

But I always end up going back to that voice. I’ve learned that it tells me what I need to know, whether I want to hear it or not. And I’ve learned (and am still learning) to trust what that voice says.

And right now that voice is telling me it’s time to go.

I know. It’s scary.

It’s been telling me this for awhile, but I haven’t been listening. Well, I’ve been listening, but I haven’t been trusting. I’ve been explaining it away. I’ve been rationalizing arguments not to go.

But I now trust that it’s time to go.

After all, I’ve chosen this life. I’ve chosen a life of creative adventure over financial security. I’ve chosen wildness over stability. I’ve chosen to satisfy my curiosity, not to stock my coffers. And because I’ve been listening to that unpredictable inner voice, that intuition, I’ve found the adventures I’m looking for. I take risks. I uproot myself and start over. I take a fresh perspective. I upend things, even when it appears they are thrumming along quite healthily.

So, now is that time. I’m uprooting, upending and relocating myself.

I am going back from whence I came.

I am moving back home.

It feels REALLY WEIRD. I’ve spent more of my life away from home than I have living there. I have loads of worries. Will I fit in? Will I even want to fit in? Will I make new friends? Will I be depressed? Will I get really fat? Will I be unhappy? Will I hate it? Will I think it’s a mistake?

Will I feel like a failure?

But, amidst all those (VERY LOUD) worries, that inner voice says, loud and clear, GO.



So, hubs and I are packing it up and moving from Los Angeles, my love affair of the last ten years, to Indiana. An hour outside Chicago. On the lakefront. In Gary.

Yes, Gary.

We are moving to Gary, Indiana.

I can’t hardly believe I’m typing that, let alone DOING it.

But that voice, loud and clear, has said “IT’S TIME.” And for some reason it’s also saying “GO TO GARY,” which, if you’re from the area, you know that’s just UNHEARD OF. Who moves to Gary?

Apparently, I do. And hubs. Even hubs trusts my intuition, which is practically screaming “GARY, INDIANA!!!!!” at me all the time now that I’m listening and trusting.

I’m in for a major course adjustment. But every other time in my life it has been exactly the thing I’ve needed. But I’ve never moved away from someplace I’ve come to love so intensely.

I love it here. I love Los Angeles. And I will miss it terribly. And the friends who have become more like family. I will miss them more than I could ever possibly express. I will miss the life I have created here.

But new adventures await. I see a world of possibility before me. My spirit, even though it is scared shitless, is also exhilarated about what the future might hold.

There’s much work to be done before the move happens. I’m exhausted just by the thought of it. But it must be done. The wheels have been set in motion, and it is time to move forward with their momentum.

More to come. So much more to come.

Exploring Creativity

creativity einstein

Woah! Where in the world have I been since April?

Sitting right here at my desk, actually, caught in a whirlwind of work. I’m afraid I had to set aside some things in order to focus and finish, and posting updates from the fray was one of the casualties.

But here we are, the first day of summer, and things have quieted down a little bit. Seems appropriate for summertime, no?

One of the things that has captured my attention these last few weeks is exploring the idea of creativity.

I’ve been thinking about its place in my life and how it affects my happiness. I’ve noticed that at times where I’m disconnected from my creative wellspring, I feel “off.” My happiness levels plunge, I feel less in tune with my internal barometer and more disconnected from the world around me.

It’s gotten me to thinking about how creativity plays into everyone’s lives, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a creative person.

I’ve been thinking back to times when I’ve connected with other people over their similar detachment from their own creativity. Talking about it and helping each other through those times have been enormously rewarding for me.

I’ve also been thinking about ways to expand my freelancing business, looking for other opportunities that align with the skills I have and how I’d like to spend my time.

Lo and behold, I stumbled across the idea of becoming a creativity coach.

What? Does that even exist? Apparently, it does. And a person can take classes and become certified in it.

I’ve signed myself up for the introductory class, and I can tell you I am blown away already. The entire thing is conducted through email (a Google Group, to be exact), and there are about two dozen creative souls taking this course along with me.

What surprised me is that the other students are from all over the world – various places throughout the US, Canada (including the High Arctic!), the UK, Australia, Switzerland, South Korea, Greece, Cyprus, and even an aide worker in Turkey who lives about 100 miles from the border of Syria.

Reading everyone’s stories, hearing about their creative lives, where they struggle, how they want to help others with their own creative struggles, is even more inspiring than I thought it would be. I feel re-energized and excited to pursue this so that I can confidently add “creativity coaching” to my skill set as an artist.

Along with the class, we need to do 100 hours of private coaching to become certified. I’ve secured my first client (yay!) and will be looking for others who might be willing to give it a go with me. For a limited time, while I’m getting certified, I’ll be offering private coaching for FREE. If you’re interested, drop me a line either in the comments or through the “Hire Me” page on this blog.

I’m really looking forward to this adventure, and I’m excited to share with you all some of the insights from the journey. Stay tuned!

Help Spread World Peace with SERVAS


Have you ever heard of SERVAS?


I hadn’t, until last summer when hubs and I were preparing for a trip to Europe. When travelling outside the country, we try to connect in some way with locals, as a way to understand and at least briefly experience what life is like for the people who live in that destination. Often we rely on friends and acquaintances to connect us with people around the world, but for this particular trip to Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece we were coming up mostly empty-handed.

Hubs knew there were organizations out there that connect travelers with hosts – something a little more submersive than what you would experience with Airbnb or couchsurfing. He did some online research and discovered SERVAS.

SERVAS is an international federation of national groups that connects a network of hosts and travelers. They were founded shortly after World War II by those committed to fostering world peace, people who wanted to do their part to ensure nothing like that devastating war would ever happen again.

The purpose of the group is to help build understanding and goodwill by giving people the opportunity to connect with others from different backgrounds, cultures and nationalities.

It’s world peace, one conversation at a time.

Here’s a video that explains it a little more:

After filling out an application, providing references and having an in-person interview, we were accepted into the group and went about making arrangements to stay with hosts. As a Servas Traveler, you may stay for free for two nights with approved hosts. Over 100 countries participate in the program.

Over the course of our three-week trip, we spent seven nights with an amazing couple in Istanbul and one night with an equally amazing couple near Thessaloniki, Greece. To say that we were met with warmth and generosity would be an understatement.

In Istanbul, we spent evenings talking at length with our hosts about life in the city, their travels, the role religion plays in their culture. They taught us how to properly make Turkish coffee, helped us sample the best of the local cuisine, gave us maps and endless suggestions of what we should see during our stay, gave us our own room in which to stay, and introduced us to the delights of a full Turkish breakfast. Even their three cats welcomed us as part of the family.

Me and my new friend, McBule
Me and my new friend, McBule
Our delicious breakfast that our wonderful host, Esra, prepared for us.
Our delicious breakfast that our wonderful host, Esra, prepared for us.

In Greece we were collected from our hotel, treated to an amazing homemade lunch, and toured around their small village. We visited their dairy farm, spent a fun afternoon and evening touring Thessaloniki and were even driven to the airport the following morning. Not to mention the warm bed to sleep in.


Through this program, you are encouraged to behave as though you are a member of the family during your stay. You learn about your host’s customs, culture, food, ideologies, issues, struggles – you name it. You help prepare meals. You meet other family members. You experience a level of intimacy with total strangers that is practically unheard of if you were traveling in a way that most tourists do – so much so that many times you become lifelong friends.

It is eye-opening, mind-opening and heart-opening.

There is virtually no way to go through an experience like this and not come out with a deeper understanding of those who may at first seem different than you, but who end up being human just like you, with many of the same fears and hopes.

Less than a year later, these places where we stayed have experienced violence on an international level. At least twice now Istanbul has been the target of bombings in areas frequented by tourists. We can’t help but remember walking in these very places with our new friends, and we worry about their safety and how these events are affecting their lives in a real, tangible way.

Hubs and I posing on the trolley, near the site of the most recent bombing in Istanbul.
Hubs and I posing on the trolley, near the site of the most recent bombing in Istanbul.

There is so much to fear in the world right now. It would be so easy to close our borders and stay home, worrying that if we step outside we may be the next anonymous victim of violence. Places that once seemed safe have become targets. We could be next.

But I challenge that notion.

This isn’t the time to turn away from the hurt. We should be turning towards it and facing it together. There is no better way to destroy hate and intolerance than through travel. It’s easy to stay in our own little cocoons, but there is so much world out there, there are so many beautiful, warm-hearted, welcoming and amazing people to meet. There are more of us, more of the people who want to bridge the gap and foster mutual respect and peace, than there are of those who wish to terrorize. But we have to be willing to meet them – either here at home by opening our doors to those who are different, or by visiting them on their home turf.

I invite you to learn more about SERVAS. Visit their website. If travel is outside your means at the moment, consider becoming a host. You have nothing to lose, and only a greater understanding of the world and our place in it to gain.

We can spread world peace, one conversation at time.




When Your Childhood Best Friend Moves Away


You guys, I’ve been really sad.

You see, my childhood best friend is moving away.

Here’s the thing – we actually moved away from our small Indiana hometown a long time ago. We both left for college at 18. And other than a couple of very short stints during adulthood, we’ve lived elsewhere. I’ve been in southern Indiana, New Jersey, New York and now Los Angeles. She’s been in Tennessee, Georgia, Colorado, Montana, northern California and now Washington.

But we lived on the same street – Grant Street – growing up. My parents have lived in the same house for almost 40 years. And her parents have lived in the same house for almost 40 years.

Until now, that is.

My childhood best friend’s parents just sold their house and are moving to Washington in a month.

The house in the foreground is my best friend's parents' house. Sniff, sniff...
The house in the foreground is my best friend’s parents’ house. Sniff, sniff…

I feel like I’m 12, and that I’ve just been delivered very bad news. As a kid, the only thing worse than being told that your family is moving is being told that your best friend is moving away forever. That was like my worst nightmare.

And now it’s finally coming true!

I know I’m being ridiculous. Neither of us has lived in our hometown for ages. We only see each other once every two years for a couple of hours at Christmas. In fact, I’ve probably visited her more in her other homes throughout the years than I have at her parents’ home.

But still…a chapter is closing. For good.

I spent as much time in her house as I spent in my own. My family lived in a small, newer construction home. Her family lived in a big old Victorian home with a creepy basement and an equally creepy attic with a big yard and a spare bedroom. We could go a whole day without seeing anyone else there. We made haunted houses in her bedroom and tried contacting spirits with her Ouija board – which seemed totally possible in her house. It was spooky and fun and it felt like home.

It’s weird to think I’ll never set foot in that house again.

In my best friend's bedroom our Sophomore year of high school, in front of the Hair Metal Wall of Fame
In my best friend’s bedroom our Sophomore year of high school, in front of the Hair Metal Wall of Fame

As an adult, I’ve lived in so many different apartments and houses that I’ve lost track. I don’t miss most of them in any kind of profound way. And even though I lived in the same house my entire childhood, if my parents were to move I don’t think I’d be very upset. But for some reason, my best friend’s parents moving out of their house has stirred a deep part of myself.

Perhaps it’s because it was my escape. I always looked forward to going there, whether we were spending an afternoon in the backyard pretending like we were leading a travel adventure show through the wild or staying up until midnight on a sleepover and chanting into the bathroom mirror in the dark, “I hate you Bloody Mary.” It was a place of magic and friendship. It was a place of daydreams and HBO (which my family never had). And now it will only live in my memories. Although, in all honesty, it has only been a memory for many years.

In her driveway, after our shift at McDonald's.
In her driveway, after our shift at McDonald’s.

I’ve written about the importance of place before, and her house inspired the house in my first novel, Inside Chance. The place itself is a character, a living, breathing part of the world that influences in no small measure who we become.

Part of what has made me into the person I am today is that house in which I spent so much time growing up. And I’m going to miss it.

Goodbye, house...
Goodbye, house…








What the Death Valley “Super Bloom” Taught Me About Success


I’m a sucker for flowers.

Honestly, if I have any kind of spare time these days, I’m typically spending it in my garden, looking at other people’s gardens or simply browsing through pictures of gardens on Pinterest for inspiration.

So when hubs forwarded me an article about Death Valley’s recent “super bloom” and suggested a day trip to witness the event ourselves, I was totally on board.

Colorful flowers blooming in Death Valley

For those that haven’t heard, Death Valley is experiencing a rare mass-blooming event. Because of the recent El Nino rains and warmer-than-average temperatures for February, the valley floor has erupted in great masses of wildflowers.

Walking out into the wash.

Death Valley is an apt moniker for this alien landscape, part of the Mojave Desert. The lowest point in the park is 282 feet below sea level and sets records with temperatures as high as 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Most years it gets an average rainfall of just over two inches. It’s a desolate place of rocks, long expanses of salt flats and scrubby little plants and bushes that have somehow adapted to these extreme conditions.

People in the distance walking onto the salt flats.

But this winter something special is happening. Millions of wildflower seeds that have lain dormant on the valley floor for years have suddenly burst into bloom, virtually overnight. The last time something similar happened in the park was in 2005, so some of those seeds have been patiently waiting there for over ten years.

The landscape was dotted all over with tiny figures enjoying the rare flower show.

It struck me how much this super bloom event has in common with so-called overnight success stories.

Whenever someone new has broken through and caught the media’s attention, they’re often labeled as an “overnight success.”

What the media often fails to mention is that in most cases that person has been toiling away for years, planting seeds and hoping that one day a “perfect storm” of events will blow through, providing just the right environment for those seeds to bloom and thrive.

Up close and personal with the “Desert Gold” flower, the most ubiquitous one in the super bloom.

If we keep striving, keep planting our own seeds by working on our own projects, and have the patience to wait for the right opportunity to present itself, we will have the chance to shine and thrive. The trick is to hang in there, even when the wait seems interminable.

While we passed by these expanses of wildflowers, creating lakes of yellow, one thing surprised us – the flowers weren’t densely packed, as they appeared in the photos. There was probably about one flower per square foot, but when viewed together at just the right angle, it appeared seamless and creates a pretty spectacular show.

Sunset at Death Valley

Isn’t that a lot like life? We drop these seeds in our wake whenever we can. Each individual seed doesn’t feel like much. But when they all bloom at the same time, when our collective experience is viewed in one fell swoop, it’s pretty impressive. Each tiny piece of history is connected, creating the rich tapestry that is our lives.

One tiny piece of the tapestry
One tiny piece of the tapestry
One tiny piece of the tapestry

And then of course, there’s the knowledge that this super bloom event is temporary. In a few weeks, after the weather starts to heat up and the ground dries up, these flowers will be gone.

In life, if you don’t create the right environment for your dreams to thrive, they, too, can die. It’s not a one-shot deal – you may be in the right place at the right time to have your dreams sprout, but it takes a lifetime of nurturing and diligence to sustain those dreams and to build on those accomplishments to have continued success.

Go out there and plant your seeds! And if you want to witness the superbloom yourself, you best get out to Death Valley stat.

True Desert Gold



Why Rupi Kaur Gives Me Hope For the Future


Have you heard of Rupi Kaur?

I hadn’t, until my 15-year-old stepdaughter asked if I was interested in reading her favorite book – a book of poetry, no less.

I am not normally a poetry person. I continually try to open myself to poetry, and there are some poets I do love (Walt Whitman and e.e. cummings and Mary Oliver come to mind), but I often struggle to make a connection to poetry. To hook into what the poem is conveying. I have problems finding my way in.

But when a 15-year-old girl gives you an opportunity – an invitation – to peek into her world, to have a glimpse of what grabs her attention, what penetrates her heart, what expresses even a sliver of her own inner life – you don’t say no. It’s an honor to be let in.

So, she deposited “Milk and Honey,” Rupi Kaur’s first book of poetry, on my nightstand. I’ll admit — it sat there for two weeks before I finally picked it up. But the universe has a way of tapping you on the shoulder by way of synchronicity, so when a close friend shared a Rupi Kaur poem on Facebook, I took the hint and immediately picked up the book.

 photo by rupee rags
photo by rupee rags

You guys – wow.

First of all, the language is simple and bold. There’s no fluff, no fancy constructs, no unnecessary elaboration. It gets straight to the point and immediately taps into some decidedly raw feelings.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Secondly, the subject matter speaks to what is arguably the every day experiences of many women around the world. It’s about hurting and loving and losing and healing. It’s about vulnerability and strength. It’s about learning to be female in the modern world. It’s about self-knowing and growth.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The poet is in her early 20s. She was born in Punjab and moved to Canada when she was 3. In addition to writing poetry, she performs spoken word and writes fiction and plays.

But to get to the point – Rupi Kaur gives me hope for the future.

Why? Well, millennials are often maligned in our culture, characterized as being lazy and self-absorbed and stupid. And, OK, when I see interviews where young people can’t correctly tell you who the Vice President of the United States is or who won the Civil War, I worry. I do. This characterization isn’t totally unfounded.

But when I read Kaur’s poetry, and when I know that it resonates in the soul of a 15-year-old girl on the precipice of adulthood, I’m fucking grateful. I’m grateful that our culture has birthed young women who are unafraid to speak about their experience, their emotions and their bodies.

For the past five years I’ve been involved with charity productions of The Vagina Monologues, V-Day and One Billion Rising. I know that odds are 1 in 3 that a woman will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. I know that we have thousands of years of patriarchal culture to unwind before women can feel safe and heard and equal.

But I think we’re making headway. The teenage girls I know are smarter about their bodies than I was at their age. They have less shame. Many have cultivated an emotional intelligence that probably outstrips men twice their age. They are empowered in many ways. There is still work to do, of course, but I can see how positive change has affected this next generation.

And it gives me hope.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

If you haven’t, check out “Milk and Honey.” And if you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.