My Very Perfect Magical Sunshine Job Description

This photo is totally unrelated to this post, but I think the people at Fletch would like it.

This photo is totally unrelated to this post, but I think the people at Fletch would like it.

I'm not job hunting, but I got the silly idea the other day to create a my perfect job ad. I'm not talking about the job ad your career counselor has you write so you can figure out what keywords to click on Monster.com. I'm talking about the fantastical job ad that would make you gasp out loud because could this actually be a job? was I stalked and secretly monitored so this job would be just for me? 

No, it can't actually be a job because this is total fantasy, but I had such a good time coming up with it that I'm totally okay with that. And I have all these other ideas now for other perfect job ads (because you can obviously have more than one perfect fantastical job). 

So here it is: my very perfect magical sunshine job ad from my very perfect magical sunshine made-up company.

Fletch
Director of Communications and Audience Engagement

Overview

The Director of Communications and Audience Engagement will work closely with the CEO to create, curate, and market an expansive collection of film clips (full episodes and movies as well as short clips) focused on bringing light escapist pleasure to the (mostly female) masses. The ideal candidate will have a strong working knowledge of 80s and 90s television, including shows like Murder She Wrote and Cheers; a deep understanding of a variety of romantic comedies; and a love for WWC (watching while crafting).

The Director of Communications and Audience Engagement is primarily a teleworking position. However, the Director will be expected to attend certain office functions, such as Little House on the Prairie marathon watch parties, company writing retreats, the annual knit-a-long, volunteer work days, and the holiday dessert potluck and cream puff eating competition. 

Primary Duties

  • Screen television shows and movies for inclusion in the film database
  • Draft compelling copy describing clip highlights as well as suitability for WWC (watching while crafting)
  • Develop material for and run weekly podcast with interviews of actors, writers, crafters, and highly engaged fans
  • Serve as editor of the quarterly Cheesy FanFic Review, showcasing the best fanfiction about 80s and 90s television shows, primarily Matlock and Murder She Wrote-style mysteries
  • Monitor virtual watch-and-craft-a-thons, using social media to drive interest and showcase examples of exceptional WWC skills 
  • Maintain a personal writing practice and seek publication outside Fletch, preferably on topics of interest to a similar demographic

Desired Skills and Qualifications

  • Multiple degrees in a variety of (perhaps unrelated) fields, indicating a zest for life and learning
  • Expertise in marathon-ing television shows while crafting
  • Experience writing about television shows and movies from a fangirl perspective 
  • Experience with social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest 
  • Ability to craft a compelling story
  • Passion for our mission: personal joy through cheesy television and crafting
  • Ability to quickly and effectively answer the questions, "Which Golden Girl are you?" "Which Designing Woman are you?" "What is your favorite Meg Ryan film?"  "Who is your favorite romantic comedy lead?" "Sheriff Tupper or Sheriff Metzger?" etc
  • Kind and thoughtful communication with colleagues, audience members, and guests

I would so kill this interview. 

Please please tell me what your very perfect magical sunshine job description would be! It's super fun, and I want to know!

p.s. I've talked about Murder She Wrote seven times on this blog. Little House on the Prairie? 13 times.

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Β 

Summer Rain

We got a screen door installed a couple weeks ago - just in time for summer rain. I have the front door open, and I'm listening to it come down, a quilt wrapped around my shoulders.

I have been go go go lately - at work, at home, in my mind. I enjoy the feeling of pursuit, of setting a goal and crossing things off the list. I like it when my brain feels like it's going to burst from the million ideas I have for this project or that project or every project. I feel a little surge of pride when my hamstrings and my back ache after a day of heavy gardening.

I also get burned out. I lose the joy.

The garden feels overwhelming, or I can't make time for even a little piece of the thousands of projects running through my head, or the list is growing with nothing getting crossed off.

There is a fine line. Once it begins, the spiral down is quick and complete.

I know enough these days to know it's a cycle, to know that tired and overwhelmed is a phase that will pass, that I will be rejuvenated and energized again. And I know that joy and pursuit and fear and exhaustion can live right next to each other, weaving themselves together in inseparable ways.

The best thing for it, I think, is summer rain. It's the feel of a blanket around my shoulders and a cool breeze on my face. It's the sound of billions of tiny droplets falling on our garden. It's not running immediately to check for slugs but instead breathing in and out again and again and again.

p.s. still loving this smoothie

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This Week in My Garden: June 4, 2015

The garden has made me a murderer. 

The slugs are on my basil and my eggplant already, teeny tiny baby ones chewing dozens of little holes in each leaf. 

I like slugs. Snails too. Their slow, seemingly magical movement fascinates me. And around here, they're often small enough to fall into cute territory, at least for me. So I'm not super excited about killing them. But I know what happens when I let my ambivalence take over - plants so obliterated that they don't even have enough green left to soak up the sun. 

I tried the humane method last year, going out each night and picking off each slug and moving them to another part of the yard. The next night, along with dozens of new holes, there would be dozens of new slugs. Or the same ones, back again?

I finally realized that either we were going to get the basil (and the kale and the sugar snap peas) or the snails were. There were so many of them that there just weren't enough green leaves to go around. So I put out little containers of beer, finding a sad few drowned in the morning. But there were still more. Still holes. So I tried cornmeal, which they shunned. 

At this point, my basil plants were hardly plants anymore. More like stems with fragile green lace hanging off them. I headed to the garden store and begged for help, which is how I came home with Slugg. I sprinkled it on the ground around the plants, and it did the dirty work while I slept. 

As long as I reapplied every week or so, the snails were gone. 

Of course, gone is a bit of a euphemism. They were dead. I sent a contract killer to do my bidding, too cowardly (or worse, too busy) to do my own murdering. 

I sprinkled this year's first batch this week after picking off five or six slugs no bigger than grains of rice. Around the basil and the eggplants and the sugar snap peas. If I keep it up, I won't even know they were ever there. Perhaps they'll stop coming at all, signaling somehow to each other that it's a dangerous place. 

I hope so, at least - that there aren't dozens of them sliding to the slaughter each night. 

I'll think of them as I pluck off that first sweet sugar snap pea, the fruits of my labor. And my ruthlessness.

p.s. Previous weeks in my garden: May 28th, May 21st, May 14th, May 7th

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90210 Lesbians

"You know why I'm not getting my hair cut, right?" my wife asked me the other morning as we stood in front of our shared closet, each trying to figure out what to wear.

I looked at her, my eyebrows raised in a question mark.

"Because then we'd have the same hair," she said, the silent "duh" remaining unspoken.

I laughed and told her she was ridiculous. 

She continued to avoid making a hair appointment.

My wife has thick, curly hair that hasn't been touched by a brush for more than a decade. I've always loved her curls for their wildness. They're a bit all over the place, and it suits her. Her favorite way to wear it is chin length, a little stacked in the back, but right now it's grown out to her shoulders.

Mine has, for the bulk of our almost-8 years together, been straight by virtue of blow drying and flat ironing and generally taming into place. I've always known that I have some curl, but I wasn't sure how to work with it. It's been long and short and everywhere in between, always a bit of a hassle. And then a series of good hair events led me to my perfect hair.

Joy of joys.

But without realizing it, I walked straight into a situation no less horrible than the

Kelly and Brenda spring dance dress debacle.

Because apparently my perfect hair is also my wife's perfect hair. 

And I'll be damned if I'm going to give it up. 

I mean, let's take a little lesson from our friends in Beverly Hills - they both looked awesome in that dress (at least by 90s style standards). After a little scuffle, Brenda got busy with Dylan, and Kelly got crowned spring princess. There was room at that dance for two high school hotties in off the shoulder black and white dresses. They lived it up and both went home happy. 

So to my wife I say

There is room in this relationship for two hotties with perfect hair. 

Let's live it up, 90210 style. 

p.s.

Our Wedding

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The Robin



A robin tried to make a nest in the light fixture on our back porch.

I realized it one day as I was working at the dining room table, and I heard a scratching sound at the wall. I went over to investigate, and as I stuck my face up against the glass of our back door, a robin flew away. I poked my head out and saw the mess of straw and bits of this and that packed in between the metal fixture and our siding - not quite a nest yet but clearly the result of hours of flying back and forth and tucking it all into place.

That evening I told my wife about it, and she said that we had to get the nest down.

Why? I asked, suddenly dismayed. Wouldn't we love to have little baby robins outside our door?

The weather was warming up, she reminded me. And once we started using the deck and going in and out of the door, the robin wouldn't want to be there. She would be afraid and might leave her eggs.

We got on the computer just to be sure, and there were countless posts about people dealing with the same issue. If we let the robin finish building her nest and lay her eggs there, there was a good chance she would get disturbed or scared by our constant in and out and likely end up abandoning her eggs.

So the next afternoon, I reached up and began pulling down each piece of straw from the light fixture. I could feel her looking at me, her beak hanging open, her eyes filled with pained horror. I stopped and looked around.

How could you do this? she was asking me. How could you rip apart this home that I've been so carefully building? Why? Why? Why?

I'm so sorry, I said out loud. I looked around into the trees.

I'm so sorry, I said to the sky.

I know you put so much into building this little home for them. I know you don't understand, but you'll find another place. You will find another place. I promise.

I leaned against the wall of our house and closed my eyes and held the mass of prickly straw and grass in my hands.

I promise. 

There's a message for me in there, I think.

I'm trying to listen.


p.s. Two years ago, talking about girls and bullying.

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Know When to Fold 'Em



Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. And then call other people over and encourage them to laugh at you too so that you remember not to take things so freaking seriously (at least things that are really, truly not that serious).

Like infinity scarves.

I was attempting to make this scarf - so cool, right? It's a scarf that you can snap together to wear as an infinity scarf or unsnap to use as a blanket on long trips (or in my frigid office). And then my sewing machine broke, and I brought it to get fixed, and they fixed it. Except it still wouldn't work. And there was a lot of cursing and stomping of feet and feeling very sorry for myself about the stupid sewing machine.

One of my neighbors had mentioned a while ago that she taught a sewing class, so I stopped by her house to ask if she had any ideas. She did. I took her suggestions and changed the needle (ballpoint wasn't working for the knit + the snap tape I was using), and I put tissue paper between the knit and the machine to help with the feeding. Bam. It worked.

I was so jazzed. I sewed that sucker right up, patted myself on the back, and...realized I had sewn the snap tape on the wrong side. So the scarf snaps but in a bulky, obvious way. Not at all cute like the tutorial.

I gave up. Ripping out the seams would destroy the soft knit.

So I headed to the bathroom to take pictures of myself in the mirror with the scarf  - I hoped they would convey my frustration, give-up-ness, and annoyance while not looking terrible. I was writing a post in my head about trying again when things don't work out, and it was going to be very profound, and I was thinking about how the perfect facial expression would convey that I was defeated but would rise again. Guys, I was really trying. This was serious business. But I was so cranky, and none of them looked right. I put down my phone in a huff and walked away.

When I picked it up again and scrolled through the photos, I couldn't help but laugh. What a ridiculous, vain way to spend 10 minutes of my life - the blogger mentality run amuck. And I just had to share it with you guys because I'm not always good at laughing at myself. When I am, I figure I should let other people join in.


p.s. The Messy Shot


p.s.s. I recognize that the scarf looks relatively cute in these photos, and I may still wear it. But it's a little uncomfortable with the enormous snap bulky situation at the back of my neck. I'll play with it a bit when I'm not so cranky. 


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Eyes on the Prize



I'm having one of those weeks where your eyes are locked on the finish line, and you're just hoping you can make it there without tripping over your own shoes. 

The good news is that I've never experienced a Wednesday that wasn't followed by a Thursday, or  a Thursday that wasn't followed by a Friday. I don't know about you, but no matter what I do, the next morning, there it is. The week keeps moving forward. 

While I do try not to spend my life in a constant "it'll be better when..." cycle (or at least I think about trying not to), sometimes a little future thinking helps to soften the rough days. 

In that vein, here are the top 10 things I'm using as motivation to keep those feet moving:

1. Vacation. 

We're still in the planning stages, but I will definitely be taking time off in the coming months to see friends and family and enjoy the beauty of Vermont (an absolutely necessary move so that we can be chummy again after that frigid winter). 

2. Raspberries. 

I check the bushes every day. They look healthy and happy and bigger than last year, and I think I'll burst from excitement when I pluck off that first red berry. It's like growing candy in our own yard. 

3. Reading on the back deck. 

It's been weeks since I've settled in with some fiction, and the idea of the sun on my face, a cool drink in my hand, and a good book on my lap is ecstasy.

4. Slow weeding. 

I won't deny that weeding can get overwhelming when I'm trying to rip out the major offenders as I run by the garden on my way to work. But I actually love it when I have an hour to wander through the rows, thinking about nothing and everything as I tend to my plants.

5. Homemade ice cream.

Enough said. 

6. A screen door in the rain. 

In my opinion, the smell of summer rain is a sign that there is a divine being. We don't have screens on our oddly-sized front windows or a screen door, but we'll be getting one soon. I can't wait to enjoy the sound and the smell of a good soaking while I putter around the house. (also, puttering)

7. CSA pick-up. 

Thursday afternoons during the summer find me at Intervale Community Farm grabbing up vegetables and fruit and flowers. And since I pay in full at the beginning of the season, it feels like I'm walking out each week with the best bag of free swag ever. 

8. Flowers on the dining room table. 

I don't allow myself the luxury of flowers most of the year because they feel like an unnecessary expense and because I know I'll have more flowers than I know what do with once the CSA begins in the summer. My dining room table is ready.

9. Lazy breakfasts on the front porch. 

I love eating breakfast in our adirondack chairs (plastic, from the hardware store) while Jammer monitors the comings and goings in the yard almost as much as I love brunch. More? Perhaps.  

10. Sleeping in. 

Maybe this is just the tiredness talking, but there is really nothing that I want more right now than to sleep until I can't sleep anymore and then to force myself to stay in bed and sleep some more. There's always a little sadness for the loss of the morning hours, but at this moment, I'm willing to make the trade.

What's on your list?


p.s. The Great Outdoors


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Writer's Block Wednesday



No, this is not a new series where I have writer's block once a week. Or at least I hope not.

I sat at my computer this morning at 5 am, totally blank. I noodled around on the internet trying to find some inspiration (which is almost never where inspiration appears). I began a few words of a post that I abandoned for lack of adequate interest and research. I began a few words of a second post and closed it out for the same reason.

And at 5:41, I gave in to the truth. For the first time since January 29, when, under the umbrella of practice makes perfect, I committed to myself to post 5 days a week, I can't think of anything to say.

Perhaps it's because you guys gave me such love yesterday and now the pressure is on.

But more likely, it is simply the cycle of inspiration and the effects of tiredness and a busy work life that has nothing to do with these pages.

Either way, the words are missing. 

And yet, look what we have here: words on a page. 

You know what they say. Showing up is half the battle. Also, practice makes perfect. 

In truth, I think sometimes showing up might be the whole battle. And practice makes space for more practice, better practice, practice again tomorrow. 

See you then. 


p.s. The Ease of Wanting


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Brokenness and Community

My sewing machine is broken. Or its user is. Maybe both.

I figured out how to change the foot and the needle. So proud of myself, I pressed it down onto the knit fabric - my first time sewing on anything other than cotton - and it jammed up. Thread stuck in the bobbin and wrapped around it and held firm, and the needle wouldn't budge. I pulled out the manual and took apart the bobbin case and put it back together and tried again. Jammed again. 

I took the manual back out and removed the machine from its table. Nothing I said to the man at the repair shop seemed to ring a bell. Not the "I know exactly what the problem is" I'd been hoping for. He said he'd give it a tune up, and when I returned for the machine four days later, that's what he'd done. He found no problems, just adjusted the bobbin tension a bit. 

I brought it home, screwed it back to the table, sat in my chair, put the fabric back under there. Jammed. 

I cursed and put my hands over my face and tried again with the same result, the sewing project I had planned for the blog thwarted for the second week in a row. 

* * * 

There's this thing that happens as a blogger, where you spend a lot of time typing some part of yourself into the keys of your computer, and no matter how much you try to be "real," the story that comes out is inaccurate. At least it seems that way as you see it mirrored back to you in the words of friends or readers, when people start using phrases like "do it all" or "have it all together."

In a world where so many of us use the successes of others as weapons against ourselves, as proof of our own failures, I feel some obligation to set the record straight. To say that these pages are a tiny piece of the story and sometimes I am talking about Facebook or pie or quilts, and while you are reading those words, I am at home falling apart or screaming at my sewing machine, that I have a billion questions and almost no answers, that I cry and yell and think mean thoughts and sometimes say unfair things. That I have worries and fears and goals that I'm too embarrassed or ashamed or protective to share on these pages. Or they just don't belong here.

And yet somehow the simple act of writing these words down and sharing them with you here gives the impression of having sealed it all up in a tidy bow. I don't know how to kick that. Maybe I'm not supposed to.

Writing is reflective. It's not tidy, but it does provide some context, some meaning, to its subject. A broken sewing machine (or a broken user) is no longer just that. On the page, I am no longer the woman sitting in tearful frustration in front of an antique machine that befuddles her. Instead, I am a woman acknowledging her limits, sharing her humanity - with you and with herself. 

* * * 

I've read a lot of sewing blogs over the years. I've seen countless projects - bags and dresses and shirts and table runners and quilts. I've never read a word about someone fighting with their sewing machine, jamming the bobbin, perpetually screwing up the tension, at least not from someone who isn't sitting down at a machine for the very first time. As far as I can tell, I'm the only craft-oriented blogger on the internet who can't figure this crap out. I'm the only one who's dumb enough to be bested by this hunk of metal.

And yet that can't be true, right? I am not so unique that I can claim this particular frustration as mine alone. I don't want to. 

I want a community around it. I want all of the people staring at their sewing machines in confusion and anger to yell across the web to each other, "ME TOO!" and wave their hands and then point and laugh at their screwed up projects because hey, we're all in this together. 

I am just as broken as you. Maybe more so, depending on the day. What you see on these pages, what looks like life tied up in a bow is me, seeking community. It is me, sharing my humanity and, in my deepest dreams, creating a space for you to share your humanity too. To wave from across the internet and say hey, me too. And to smile because you're not alone. And neither am I. 

p.s. Fickle or Renaissance?

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The Well Runneth Dry



Over the winter, we woke one morning to find that our faucets would produce only the tiniest trickle of water. My wife and I began rushing around in a panic, yelling across the house at each other as we turned on each one, hoping for more than a dribble. No luck. Our town listserv had been busy with stories of frozen pipes for days, and we finally stopped and looked at each other in resignation.

We called some plumbers, who said what we were dealing with didn't sound like frozen pipes. Great! we thought. Frozen pipes had been our biggest concern - in fact, we'd been leaving the faucets slightly dripping on the coldest nights just to be sure. So what else could it be, we wondered. And that's when we heard the truly terrifying words.

Shut off your valves. It might be that your well's run dry.

I was afraid to ask what we would do if that turned out to be the case.


We'd either dig down deeper or dig you another well.

I sat at the dining room table, foot tapping, fingers jumping on my keys, pretending to work while the man from the well company knelt outside in the snow to test the level of the well. I hopped up and walked to the front door when I heard him step onto the porch. I looked at him, eyebrows raised in a question.


Well, you've got water. 

I let out my breath and then asked what happened. Why did we lose water if our pipes hadn't frozen and our well hadn't run dry?

He explained that wells can run temporarily dry. Basically, the use of the water outpaces the flow of groundwater into the well. It can happen in really dry seasons or really cold ones when the frost reaches deep into the ground. Or it can happen when there's a leak, even a tiny one. He checked our faucets and our toilets and tightened some things up. Those little drips could add up to a lot of water over time, he said. 

* * *

Today my well is dry. Perhaps it's temporary, and I just need to find the leak. Shut off the valve, tighten a few things, and wait for the inspiration to fill me back up.

Or maybe it's truly spent. Empty. No more. And then what?

Dig down deeper.

Or dig another well.


p.s. Hello.


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I Promise: Vows for my Dearest Friends



My wife and I wrote our own vows, heartfelt and specific expressions of our particular love. A mix of aspiration and realism, they were promises of who we hoped to be for each other while recognizing our own limitations. Writing them was an exploration of the type of person I wanted to be in this relationship. I felt honored to share mine with my wife and to be the recipient of hers on our wedding day. 

I've been thinking a lot about friends lately and what makes a good friendship, a friendship that lasts. I've known some of my closest friends for almost half my life, more than double the amount of time I've known my wife. And there are newer friends that I'll likely know and adore for another half my life. They've talked me through breakups, cried with me over losses, and rubbed my back when I'd had too much to drink. They've partied with me and called me when times were rough. These friendships have sustained me. 

In romantic relationships, at least the ones that choose the traditional route of marriage, the couple makes promises to each other about what the rest of their relationship will look like. Here's what you can expect from me. And even in those long-term relationships without marriage, I think there are conversations about what one partner can (or can't) promise to the other.

Perhaps other friendships are different, but in my experience, even the best of friends don't have those conversations. I've made promises to my friends, of course - I'll keep it a secret, I'll be there for you after you break it off, etc. But I've never set it out in full. I've never said you're so important to me, that I sat down and thought about who I want to be and who I can be in this relationship.

So here goes. These vows that are both aspirational and realistic, promises of who I hope to be for my dearest friends while recognizing my own limitations. 

Dearest Friends,

I promise to always remember your birthday except when I don't, in which case I promise to wake up panicked in the middle of the night and send you a verbose belated birthday text that includes a substantial number of exclamation points and emojis.

I promise to verbally (or in writing) agree with you about how horrible your boss/significant other/roommate/parent/sibling is behaving, but I also promise to offer gentle, sensitive questions if I think you're going to extremes (which of course would never happen, but just in case).

I promise to dance with you at trashy clubs and in kitchens and living rooms and grocery stores and on sidewalks and create more ridiculous memories. 

I promise to read emails from you and respond to them promptly except when I don't, in which case I promise to feel terrible about it and think about the email every single moment that I am away from a device with a screen.

I promise to tell you if you have something in your teeth, mascara smudges, or a wardrobe malfunction. 

I promise never to post a bad picture of you on social media, even if it includes the best picture of me that's ever been taken.

I promise to celebrate your joys and grieve your sadnesses, and I promise to share my joys and sadnesses with you.

I promise to give you the benefit of the doubt and to tell you if I'm feeling hurt by you or angry with you in a way that is compromising our friendship.

I promise to listen and try to understand your point of view when we disagree.

I promise to carry you in my heart for the rest of my days.  


p.s. Blue Moon.


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I Took the No-Like Facebook Challenge



A post by popular blogger Schmutzie has been making its way around the internet for almost a year - about how she quit liking things on Facebook for two weeks and found herself more connected to her Facebook community. I didn't find it until a few months ago, but when I did, I decided to try her idea for myself. 

It has been a little over two months since I quit in earnest. Perhaps I've let my finger slip a time or two - that habit is hard to break, but for the most part, it's been a like-free zone. In the beginning, I experienced feelings similar to those Schmutzie describes. I felt as though I was letting people down, as if they would notice the absence of my "like" on their recent family photo. I worried that I was breaking the inherent social contract of a Facebook friendship: You like my updates. I like yours.

To combat that feeling, I had to comment on posts where previously I would have simply hit "like." I felt suddenly shy. Do I really know her well enough to say something about her recent promotion? Liking it, sure. 185 other people liked it too, so she probably wouldn't even notice. But even a simple "Congratulations!" seemed like it might prompt a response like, "WTF? Why is this person writing on my Facebook wall?" Or worse: "WTF? Who is this person? Did she go to my high school?" 

Through Facebook likes, I had been smiling and head nodding along with perhaps dozens of people that I never actually interacted with. It was as if I sat on a bench a couple feet away, listening and smiling and nodding, while someone told all their "real" friends about their trip to the Grand Canyon. What would happen if I yelled out from the sidelines, "Hey! I went there last summer too!"? Would they incorporate me into the conversation? Or would they view me as an intruder?

So while I struggled with worrying that someone might miss my likes on their posts, my fear of intruding simultaneously kept the bar high for posts I would comment on.  If I hadn't spoken with someone in real life in the last 10 years, I didn't comment on their posts. And because of Facebook's algorithm, I eventually quit seeing their posts at all. For the most part, the posts that remained were those belonging to the people that I actually engaged with - the ones where I commented on the adorable overalls the kid was wearing or sent my condolences for a terrible experience or gave a little "Woot!" for a job well-done. 

My feed was more tailored to me and more likely to prompt a friendly online conversation than a like fest, which made Facebook a more enjoyable place to be. I'm not immune to Facebook envy, to pictures of vacations and new offices and perfectly decorated birthday parties leaving me with a sense that everyone else's life is better than mine. And recent studies indicate that the voyeuristic style of Facebook use, where we watch (and perhaps like) but do not engage, is more likely to result in feelings of depression after we peruse our feed. The watching means we only see the Facebook story, the pretty pictures, the parties with girlfriends, the successes, the combination of images and words that make someone appear to us as a constantly beautiful and happy character rather than a live human being. Engaging, even with people we don't know in real life, often leads to an understanding of a more nuanced story. We comment on someone's photos from Hawaii, "That looks like Heaven! Those must've been the best 10 days of your life!" And they respond, "It was! Except for the 3 days the kids were sick and puking and the day my husband locked the keys in the rental car! Haha!" And Bam. Envy spell broken. Humanity restored. 

But perhaps the restoration of humanity is not what we're all looking for on Facebook. 

What surprised me about the experiment is that I visit the site less often now. I shouldn't have been shocked. I'm an introvert at heart (though, obviously, a very chatty one), and engaging with other people, even online, requires more energy than simply liking a post. I'm less apt to pull up Facebook on my phone while I wait in line at the grocery store because I won't have time to really respond to a post. Before, I could scroll through, liking away, without really being present. Now, if I like someone's post, I take the time to say something, even if it's just "Way to go!" or "What a cutie!" (which, incidentally, might be my new "like"). If I'm in a terrible mood or just feeling like I need to recharge, engaging even in this online fashion is more challenging. 

And I miss some of those old posts. I appreciate reading about the lives of people I don't really know, or at least not anymore - I'm a self-professed online voyeur. Sometimes I feel envy, absolutely. But those people and their posts also broaden my view of the world, precisely because they're not in the circle of folks with whom I usually engage. 

So after two months of not liking anything on Facebook, I'm adopting a hybrid approach: Commenting as the primary activity. Liking as secondary, to be used primarily when commenting would feel too much like inserting myself into a conversation for which I have no invitation.* 

But don't even try to take away my Instagram double-tap.


p.s. The Blogosphere Comparison Game: It's a Lose-Lose


* I know there are those who believe that posting something online is an automatic invitation for comments by any and all who can see the post. While that may be true in theory, I think that in practice and specifically on Facebook, people tend not to think that someone they barely know is perusing their posts.


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Opting Out



A few weeks ago I read this post by Sarah over at Yes and Yes. 

"I remembered that freeing feeling of opting out and started applying it to other areas of my life. And I realized that there were plenty of things I could opt out of - things I could simply choose to not care about."


Perhaps it sounds simple, but when I read her post, a lightbulb went off for me about the difference between not being able to do something and choosing not to do something. 

A few months ago, I signed up for the trial period on one of those online exercise programs. You know these sites, right? You pay $10 or $15 dollars a month, and you get access to a library of work out (or yoga, pilates, etc) videos that you can do in your own home. Usually there are a bunch of filters you can use to find just the video that works for you in that moment. For instance, you can sort the videos by length. So if you only have 20 minutes, you can find a video that's short and only do those squats and lunges for 17 minutes. 

I tried out Barre 3 after learning about it from (never home) maker, and I did one of the 10 minute videos and liked it. And then every day, for the next 15 days, I thought about how I should do a video. But I didn't. I was busy or tired or forgot when I was actually at home. The next day I would chastise myself a bit for the previous day's failure and promise to sign on today. 

13 days came and went. 

And then I read Sarah's post, and it hit me. 

I could choose not to do these videos. In fact, I was choosing not to do these videos, but I wasn't thinking about it in those terms. Instead, I planned every day to do a workout video, and every day I failed. I was viewing myself either as a failure or as someone way too busy to fit in working out, both of which left me feeling crappy and not in control of my own life. 

What if I decided that walking my dog twice a day was all the exercise I was going to get? Maybe not forever, but for right now. What if I decided that having toned legs and sexy arms just wasn't on my priority list?

What if I opted out? 

I cancelled the membership. 

I have a lot going on, and I choose not to add home exercise videos to that list. 30 minutes of sitting on the couch and knitting while I watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is on the list, but home exercise videos are not. That's just how it is right now. I opt out.

I started looking for other places in my life I could opt out. 

Making the bed
Looking fashionable on the weekends (see photo above)
Getting my inbox down to zero
Saving old clothes to re-purpose them (now I just consign)
Giving up coffee 
Being an emotional stoic

I'm *this* close on high heels.

Opting out is basically about honesty. Either you're opting out already but not owning the decision or you're opting in but feeling miserable and stressed out. 

By finding places to opt out, I'm realigning my time and my energy. Sometimes you have to figure out what you don't want so that you can make time for what you do

I encourage you to do the same. 

Opt out.


p.s. Our stenciled bathroom.


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The Seasons of Life



April is a tough one in Vermont. Every morning before I get out of bed, I check the weather on my phone - ours here in Richmond, my sister's in New York, and my parents' in Atlanta. Yesterday morning it was 32 at my house, 50 in the Big Apple, and 72 down south. This is my third April in New England, and it's still hard. Every one else is getting spring, and I'm still stuck in winter. There's still snow on the ground, and I'm still wearing a down coat. 

These cold months have been difficult for so many reasons, and it is so easy - the easiest - to sink into a feeling that how it is now is how it will always be, that this season is endless. It will be winter, forever and always. 

I was tooling around in the archives of my previous blog the other day and came across the post below. I wrote it 5 years ago, and reading my own words again this week was enormously comforting - not because they were somehow brilliant but because they reminded me that the seasons always change. Always. It is never winter forever. Even if I wanted it to stay, it wouldn't. 

So many of the things I longed for 5 years ago have come to pass and some haven't. The life I have now, just 5 years later, is one I never could have imagined - in both wonderful and difficult ways. The seasons have changed. Just like they always do. 

* * *

My girlfriend and I have a recurring conversation about death - or life - depending on how you look at it. She wants to die in her 80s, and I would like someone to come interview me when I'm 110 because I'm the oldest person around. Her reasons make sense - she doesn't want to live long enough to see all of her loved ones die, and she doesn't want to be alive when she can't really live anymore.

It's not that I want those things to happen - it's just that I need the time.  I cling to stories of people who are bopping around, mowing the lawn and gardening when they're in their 90s. There are so many things that I want to do, and I need all those years if I'm going to get to them all.

There are days when I feel just desperate about the fact that I don't have a garden, not even some herb pots by the window.  I wonder how I can dream of having land and a vegetable garden, how I can delightedly buy myself a copy of The Backyard Homestead when I didn't even make it a priority to rent an apartment with a south-facing window. 

I'm daily traumatized by the fact that I don't write regularly, that I haven't acted in years, that I'm not in a choir, that I haven't started my own baking/crafting business spent more time crafting, that I'm not a mom yet, that I've never learned to speak Spanish.

But then I try to calm myself by remembering back to this post I read a couple of years ago.  I don't have to do everything right now - in fact, I can't.  Asking myself to start a backyard homestead while starting a job at a large law firm would be like asking the universe to make it snow while it's 95 degrees outside.  We can't ask for all four seasons at the same time, but just because it's spring now doesn't mean it will be spring forever. 

This is my legal season, and realizing that it will not go on forever will allow me to really appreciate it for what it is.  Believing that there will be many, many years and many seasons in the future for me to do all of those things that pull on my heart strings helps me in those moments where I feel panicked about the things I'm not doing. 

So I'm holding on to all of my dreams and desires and counting on the fact that I'll be around here long enough for their seasons to come.

* * * 

Though let's be real: I never fully appreciated my legal season. Sad, since I'll be paying it off for many seasons to come.



p.s. Donuts for all seasons


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Making Friends on the Internet (or Not)



I recently heard another person say - for the thousandth time - that they made some of their closest friends on the Internet, through their blog. I've heard this now on podcasts and audiobooks, I've read it on countless blogs, seen evidence of it in conversation threads on twitter and friend selfies on Instagram, and I've listened to cheers about it at BlogHer.

And every time I think I must be doing the Internet wrong.

* * *

I sat on the edge of my twin size bed and looked up at the NKOTB poster on my wall. My mom stood in front of me as I explained the trouble I had with making friends. 11 years old and new to the wide halls and ramped up social structure of middle school, words like cool or confident would never be used to describe me. I was awkward and sensitive, and though I had some notion that perhaps I was interesting and fun, I couldn't figure out how to convey that to people around me.

While snuggled under the crocheted coverlet during a summer vacation at her grandmother's house, my 5th grade best friend told me that she didn't want to be tied down once we made that transition to the big leagues. We spent the rest of the week drinking homemade lemonade in her grandma's kitchen and going to afternoon tennis lessons, but I knew it was the beginning of the end. With the help of her older sister, she had likely realized - long before I did - how these things work when you're 11. She would be one of the popular girls. I would not.

My mom suggested that I just start saying hi to other students in the halls.

I turned my gaze away from the NKOTB poster and stared at her.

"Just say HI?" I balked. I gave an exaggerated wave. "Oh hi! I'm Katie, and I don't know how to make friends!" I shouted cheerfully and then glared at her.

My mom pursed her lips. "Well obviously not like that. You could just give a little wave, like this." With her arm held down by her side, she lifted up her hand slightly, cocked her head to the side and gave a quiet and coquettish "hi."

I burst out laughing.

It was obvious she understood nothing about the 6th grade.

* * *

If I want to make my mom laugh, I can still do it by giving her that flirty little "hi."

I made a few friends, but middle school was hard for me just like it is for lots of kids. It took a while to find my people - band dorks, primarily.

Even now, my inner introvert struggles with friend-making. Adults are so much nicer and more welcoming than 6th graders, but you still have to put yourself out there. You still have to know the rules of the game.

When it comes to internet friendships, it seems like everyone else got the memo while I was in the bathroom. Sure, I've exchanged an email or two with someone, had a twitter exchange, said nice things back and forth about a photo. But it's never gone much beyond that. The person I'd say is my "best" internet friend is someone I already knew from college.

I have wonderful friends in real life, people who I can laugh and cry with and who get me. I'm not friend poor. But I spend a pretty substantial amount of time on the web reading and following and putting myself out there. And I want to have greater connection. I want to be part of a greater online community.

I'm walking down the hall, and I'm just trying to figure out how to say "Hi."


p.s. Three years ago today, I made these whole grain pancakes. And I made them again this past weekend.


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Boiled Peanuts (or How to Be a Southerner)

My college roommate got married last May down in that part of northern Florida that is essentially synonymous with southern Georgia. 95 degrees without a cloud in the sky, the air hugged us tightly as soon as we walked outside. We spent a day and a half fanning ourselves while we cut stunning gladiolas from her mother's front yard for the centerpieces, swatting away mosquitos under the Spanish moss, and wiping the sweat (excuse me, the

glisten

) and melting sunscreen from our brows as we carried tablecloths and homemade strawberry cake into the garden center where she would say "I do" to her long-time boyfriend under the oak trees.

We woke happy and hungover the day after the wedding, rummaged through the refrigerator in our bathing suits, and dumped leftover corn on the cob and barbecue sandwiches and beer into a cooler. We shoved ourselves into a couple cars with the bride and groom (now husband and wife) and headed south for a few hours at the beach, a little friend-accompanied pre-honeymoon.

Before we turned left onto the long straight road aimed toward the Gulf, we stopped at a little wooden hut where an older gentleman sold us boiled peanuts for five dollars. We breathed in the smell of the salty brine and with soggy napkins crumpled in our fingers, we passed the hot bag around the car.

The beige sand stretched along for miles, and we sat on the edges of a sheet under the pop-up canopy drinking and snacking and telling stories. When it got too hot, we waded into the calm water and tried not to step on the horseshoe crabs zipping around underneath us. The sun started to dip below the horizon, and we rolled up the sheet and walked barefoot back to the cars.

We drove back in the dark, tired and sandy and satiated.

Boiled Peanuts 

From

EJ

, with much gratitude

Raw peanuts in their shells (not roasted)

Salt

1. Dump about 2 pounds of peanuts in their shells into a stock pot and cover with water plus an inch or two more.

2. Bring to a boil.

3. Add 1/2 cup salt and turn down to a simmer.

4. Simmer covered for 1 1/2 - 2 hours and then check to see if the peanuts are soft. (I actually had to cook mine for about 4-5 hours. I think I didn't add enough water in the beginning - I added more - and perhaps had them on too low of a simmer).

5. Once the peanuts are soft, turn off the heat and let them sit in the salty water for at least a half hour.

6. Drain the peanuts in a colander and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They can be reheated in the microwave or eaten cold.

Shout out again to EJ

, who made this walk down memory lane possible by sending me the peanuts and the recipe. Thank you thank you thank you!

p.s.

You can go home again

.

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The Messy Shot

not really that messy, but you get the idea

Over the weekend, I walked past my studio and said "Woooh, looks like someone's creating things in there!" Navah laughed, "Is that what we're calling messy these days?"

"When it's in my studio, it is," I smirked.

We both laughed. 

And then I thought about it for the rest of the day. 

When I'm really in my creative space, when I'm painting and scheming and cooking and making things, my home looks like a disaster. The mess is huge - it can spread across multiple rooms. And sometimes I have to leave it like that for a day or four or a week or more while I tend to other things or think about what comes next. 

And thank goodness I have the space (and the understanding spouse) to do that. To make an enormous mess in the name of creating something special. 

That's what I was thinking as I got back to my painting project on the floor of my studio. And as I brushed on the metallic paint, I had this realization. 

My life is messy. I'm always saying that. 

It's messy and disorganized and chaotic and difficult. I'm always trying to figure out some way to add more structure, to contain things, to clean it up. And I'm not just talking about my house or my car or my inbox or my desk. I'm talking about my life. I'm talking about my thoughts and emotions, my behavior, my dreams, and my love. 

I spend so much time wishing it would all make sense. I want to know why I feel what I feel, and I want to be able to turn it off if it doesn't suit me. 

I told my therapist the other day that every time I am feeling upset or experiencing anxiety, my first instinct (and often my only instinct) is to make it go away. Return to neutral. I almost never think This feels terrible, and then just stop and feel terrible. I feel terrible while simultaneously attempting to neaten everything up, to figure out (a) why I feel terrible, and (b) what I need to do to stop feeling terrible, and (c) how quickly I can do that thing. And I'd like to figure all that out in a way that can be summed up in an alphabetized outline.

When my life is messy, my instinct is always to try to clean it up. 

But guess what we're calling messy these days? 

Yep.

The mess is where the creation happens. Not the cleaning up. 

The mess is the indicator. The mess says Work in Progress. The mess says Take Note. Things Are Happening Here.

The mess is being made in the name of creating something special. 

Honor the mess.


p.s. No, I can't.


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5 Things You Can Do Today to Get Out of Your Funk

March can be rough, especially up here in New England where the promise of Spring rings hollow when you're tromping through the snow. If you, like me, are finding yourself knee deep in a classic funk, here are five things you can do today to help move yourself in a more positive direction. I won't call them easy because absolutely nothing is easy when you're in a funk. But these steps are short and straightforward and might give you just the jolt you need.

***

1. Go outside.

I know. It's cold and icy, and the fuzzy socks you're wearing are too thick for your boots. The couch and the blankets are embracing you in one giant soft hug, and they would probably be sad if you left. Also, you were just thinking about maybe doing some dishes. Maybe. And you can't do dishes if you're outside.

I know all of this. Go outside anyway. Look up at the sky. Look down at the ground under your feet. Put the palm of your hand against a tree. Breathe in. Breathe out.

2. Put down the food. 

Do not stop at the gas station for donuts. Shove that jar of peanut butter back into the pantry. And for the love of God, step away from the Cheetos. I'm not bashing the Cheetos - they're delicious. Except when you're eating them day after day after day to fill a void. Any food consumed for the purpose of filling a void tastes like cardboard dipped in nothing sauce. Even Cheetos.

This might be the hardest thing you have to do. Remember how it feels when the bag is empty and your fingers are orange and all you can think about is another bag. Hint: it feels like sh*t and not at all like being satiated.

3. Call a friend. 

Stop pretending that you lost your phone or that you can't hear me over the noise from the nine-thousandth episode of 30 Rock you've watched today. Put down the block of cheese, and dial the number for someone you like. Ask them how their day was, what's been going on with their marriage or their job or their kids or their art or the cute guy they've been obsessing over.

Listen. Listen to something other than the cranky ramblings of your own mind.

4. Dance.

I know. Your legs are sore from walking up and down the stairs to get more peanut butter. And dancing is the absolute last thing you want to do. You're tired - exhausted really - and not interested in anything so rambunctious. You're not even sure you could will your body to move in a happy way.

Maybe you're right. But try this for me anyway. Go into your kitchen (kitchen dancing is the best) and put on your favorite peppy music. No sad stuff. I know you like at least something with a beat. Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift or Sir Mix a Lot or the Four Seasons or the Beastie Boys or your Pitbull Pandora station. Absolutely no Adele. Give yourself ten minutes. No pressure. Just nod your head along to the music. See what happens.

5. Get it done.

Your to-do list is out of control, or else you've just stopped keeping one because honestly, you're so lazy and disorganized that what's the point? Your sink is full of dishes, your bedroom looks like it was robbed by a psychotic clothes whore, your inbox is a disaster, and everything you've ever promised anyone you'd do has fallen through the cracks.

I hear you. You're a complete and total waste of space. But just humor me on this one. Set a timer for 10 minutes. And then go. Don't think. Just do. Make your bed. Answer an email. Wash some dishes. Just for 10 minutes. Then this is the most important part: when the timer dings, pat yourself on the back. Literally reach your arm over your shoulder, pat yourself on the back, and say (out loud), "Hey, good job, you." Go sit back down on the couch or do another 10 minutes. Either way, well done.

***

Above all, be compassionate with yourself. You won't be perfect, and getting out of your funk takes time. Try not to berate yourself if you don't wake up tomorrow morning feeling like a million bucks. Also, one word of caution: when you're in a funk, being compassionate can get a little confusing. What seems like compassion at other times - hey, I had a long week. It's okay if I veg on the couch for 4 hours tonight watching a Friends marathon - might not be compassion when you're in a funk. When you're in a funk, your compassion might need to be a little tougher. Compassion might need to get you up off the couch and outside for a walk because staying there and watching the next episode guarantees you'll stay in that funk.

If you hadn't noticed, I could have titled this post "Dear Katie," but I thought there might be some other folks out there who'd benefit from the same advice I've been trying to give myself. And being nice to people is another thing that can help get you out of your funk. So there you go.

One final note: I'm not a therapist or a medical professional. If you think you may be clinically depressed or could just use someone to talk to, please seek out a therapist. Therapy is for winners.

p.s. Also, maybe you don't have a life that's meant to be gotten together either.

This Is The Day



Growing up, I loved the summer days I spent hanging out in church auxiliary rooms at Vacation Bible School. If you're not familiar, VBS is essentially a week-long day camp where you make craft projects and play games and learn some Bible stories. 

And you sing. 

At the end of each day of Vacation Bible School at my Methodist church, we'd file into the pews in the little chapel and sing camp songs. This was my favorite part. 

This was the part where your teacher might put her hand up to her ear in the universal sign for I Can't Hear You, Please Shout At The Top Of Your Lungs. And fifteen little seven year olds would gleefully throw their heads back and yell out the words to This Little Light of Mine until they were hoarse. 

As an adult, you're expected to hit the right note and keep your voice as clear and soft and in tune as the voices around you. As an adult, you're expected to regulate. Don't get me wrong - I love singing in choirs and making beautiful music. I love harmonizing and the goose bumps that come from a perfectly executed pianissimo. 

But shout-singing, that realm of the uninhibited child, has always felt a bit like prayer to me. 

One of my favorites was a call-and-response style number with these words: 

This is the day
That the Lord has made
Let us rejoice 
And be glad in it.

I taught it to my wife early on in our relationship by shout-singing it one morning to pump myself up before classes. By then I had changed "the Lord" to "God" in my own rendition. It didn't take Navah long to learn the basic tune, and it quickly became a staple get-pumped-for-the-day song around our house. One of us takes the leader lines, the other repeats back with gusto, and when we get to the words that call for unison, we each try to sing-shout louder than the other as I yell THIS IS THE DAY THAT GOD HAS MADE and she yells THIS IS THE DAY THAT HASHEM HAS MADE (because that's how you do interfaith right). Jammer wags his tail.

It's silly, and it's also my most joyful prayer. It's a thank you to God (who or whatever I believe that to be on my ever-evolving faith journey) for this exact day, a reminder to myself that there is hope and possibility in the act of waking up to a new sunrise, that there is something inherently magical about being alive to experience this life, that happy shouting is a heart opener. 

When I started thinking about a project for over the doorway in our main living space, I knew immediately what I wanted - a symbol not just of the potential in every day, but of the joyful exuberance of the little seven-year-old I still have inside me. 

I painted and stained this wood board with the line THIS IS THE DAY over the weekend, and when I stepped back from hanging it up, I squealed and giggled involuntarily. 

Yes. 

This is the day. 




p.s. Another of my favorite childhood songs

My Own Bible



I stole this idea from my friend EJ, who borrowed it from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love the notion of organizing in one place those words that speak truth to me, that I turn to again and again. This is just a beginning for me, and I will be adding to it as I find new words that inspire. 

Heart

"Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering, in order that they may have existence." 
Leon Bloy

"Engrave this upon your heart: there isn't anyone you couldn't love once you heard their story." 
Mary Lou Kownacki

"If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that will be enough." 
Meister Eckhart 

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."
Mary Oliver


"What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love; you must somehow keep working at it and not lose too much time and too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people."
Rainer Maria Rilke

"The wound is the place where the light enters you."
Rumi

Mind

"Little breath, breathe me gently, row me gently,
For I am a river I am trying to cross." 
W.S. Merwin

"What you seek is seeking you." 
Rumi

"The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life." 

Derek Walcott


Hands

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."
Luke 6:31

"Wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking." 
Spanish poem

"Write like a motherfucker." 
Cheryl Strayed


"Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave."
Rainer Maria Rilke

"You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing."
Amy Poehler
What words would be in your own bible? Share the quotes that are like the blast of a trumpet to you in the comments. 


p.s. I know that Mary Oliver poem by heart because I see it every day.