Inspired By.

Most commencement speeches are so overrated. I know for sure that I slept through my college keynote at one point, until the speaker broke into operatic song. Then I was awake and so ready to walk across that stage and be done already for the love of God. But looking back, it all went by too quickly and everything from that day is a blur with a few freeze frame photos thrown in for good measure.

And now here I am, three years later, and this week I’ve been mulling over hard decisions about work and career stuff and wishing I could just go back to that moment a few years ago when everything felt simple and possible.

Okay, maybe the “everything simple and possible” part is an exaggeration. But I could really use a pep talk, a commencement speech for this time when things are changing and I have to try something new. The average day doesn’t allow for the pomp and circumstance and some highly accomplished “expert” in randomness using sports analogies to encourage me, Carpe Diem! You’re young! Go out and do amazing things!

And so, in honor of my brother who is graduating high school today (omg!), and to give myself and you a little pep in our next steps, here’s a better-than-your-average-commencement-speech round up :

The Opposite of Loneliness.

“The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.” – The Future Has an Ancient Heart.

“Don’t wait for some dumb boy to give you closure. You give yourself closure. That’s real. Tie that mess right on up. Buy ice cream if necessary.” – These Things I’ve Learned.

“So what if someone started 8 years before you and it seems like they’ve achieved everything you’ve ever wanted? Start now. Don’t dwell on how far you still have to go. Eight years from now (trust me, that time will fly) the only thing that’ll make a difference is whether or not you got started in the first place and kept going. Compare yourself to you: past, present, and future.” – Good advice for belly dancing, writing and life.

In case you’re ever stuck in a rut of self-loathing, go laugh your ass off at Adventures in Depression with Hyperbole and a Half. No really, do it.

Play to the size of your heart, not the size of the crowd.

And if all else fails, ask yourself : What kind of story are you liv­ing with your life?

Now Carpe Diem! You’re young! Go out and do amazing things.


Poem : Wedded Bliss.

We celebrated the love of two close friends this weekend.
There was talk of wedded bliss,
of forever happiness.

And we took this photo,
and I look at this photo now,

Past the whimsy of floating bubbles,
of sunlight and laughter and dancing and happy tears
and wine at dusk and his dapper suit,
there is a deeper thing.

My fingers can’t quite place it.
My heart can’t quite articulate it.
If you asked me for a road map to that moment,
I couldn’t give you one.
And from here on out we’re following our headlights in the dark…

But three years in,
our lips mouth the words to vows we’ve made before,
and we marvel a little that we’re still here,
still together –
deeper still – we’re best friends.

It is absolutely a choice.
But it’s a little bit of a miracle, too.

(Thanks to Lauren for taking the photo and to Leen for blowing the bubbles!)

Hello, Summer.

I hope you had a lovely long weekend. Mine sure was, with a wedding to celebrate and a hot May sun to lounge in.

I read a book all afternoon on Sunday and let myself ignore obligations to write or work or anything, just for my peace of mind.

And then I tried planting flowers in a pot on my porch, but the squirrels shredded them and flung dirt everywhere and seeing it the next morning my husband just shook his head and scraped it all up and back into the pot and we laughed and shook our fists at wild life, because sometimes we forget its there.

For the holiday, my best friend came over so that we could we dangle our legs in the community pool and talk about relationships and people watch while all the neighbors that I don’t know I live next to bring their kids out to splash around when it’s 95 degrees on Memorial Day.

Chicago winters have us all living like hermits, but come summer, everyone comes out of their caves to socialize and feel sun on skin and spend time together.

Hello, Summer. I’m glad you’re here.


Inspired By.

It’s been a crazy wonderful first week in the new She Writes and Rights space. I’m a little overwhelmed by all of the support and positive response. Thank you!

I will admit that my introverted self is a little fidgety with all the attention, especially the new Facebook page thing. You can ‘like’ it, and I’d be flattered, but launching the blog and the Facebook page and the whole shebang made me sweaty-palms nervous, like I was about to give a public speech in front of 500+ people, instead of just posting it for you to read for yourself.

So while I’ve been really happy and blessed this week, I’m kinda ready to get back to our regularly scheduled programming, aren’t you? More poems and less this is how it’s done. Like I said, I’m not a how-to blogger.

Other than the bloggyness this week, I’ve been reading a lot. I finished A Moveable Feast awhile ago, and now I’m deep into Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and though I loved Hemingway, Miller’s words are grabbing my heart at a time when it needs to be shaken up and moved. I’m a little late to the party when it comes to Miller’s writing, but hey. Better late than never, right?

And reading Miller’s thoughts on learning to live a better story came at exactly the right time because we’ve been exploring the idea of living a good story over at Prodigal this week. (Did you see my post in the series?) We’ve had a flood of great submissions, so be sure to check them out. This one, “How the Best Story Found Me” was my personal fave. An excerpt :

“I think about what I will tell my niece, and our daughter if we have one, about the pursuit of love: how for so long I worked so hard to find it, when all along it was meant to find me. How it looks nothing like fear or desperation but sure can feel like stillness and faith. How often I’ve stood in the middle of my life with a map of my own making, thinking I knew just the way to go, and how much of the time I was dead lost and didn’t even know it. How, when it mattered, love located me and wrote its chapter of my life itself.”

A few other words that wowed me this week :

How hope is circular.

Five words that will change your life.

A love letter to my city.

“Never take advice from lists. Stories are better.” Yep.

“People often ask me who my heros are, who do I look up to, and who do I get my inspiration from. If only Indiana Jones had been a whip-wielding, Nazi-killing, fedora-wearing writer instead of an archeologist, I’d have a respectable answer.” You are a writer, so just admit it.

Did you have a personal post favorite this week? Leave a lovelink and have a wonderful weekend!


Essential Elements of Blogging : Generosity.

We’ve talked diligence and design, but this third and final installment in the essential elements of blogging is the most important :

Generosity begets generosity.

I’ve learned that if you want people to pay attention to you, you have to start with paying attention to them first.

It’s how you build community. You can write great content, but if you’re not actively engaging with others through their blogs and social media, your blog will remain a lone little island of you, your mother, and that stranger in Romania.

Also, I should distinguish between positive and negative engagement.

It is the difference between demanding versus invitingmarketing versus dialoguing.

No one wants to be put on the spot to share or endorse your work. No one needs another sales pitch.

When we share good, honest, vulnerable, true stories in our work and engage others in their honesty and vulnerability and talent, we don’t have to beg.

If we give and share unconditionally, if we admit that nothing is original and that creativity is cultivated best through community, everything will grow organically.

My blog didn’t start growing until I started connecting with others through comments, Twitter, and content sharing. I didn’t meet other writers until I fell down the rabbit hole of the blog world. The tandem of blogging and tweeting has connected me to the deeper network of writers that have inspired and changed me. And I learned to engage them without expecting anything in return. I learned to build relationships.

A short but extremely important list of people I’ve discovered :

Ally & Darrell Vesterfelt | Jeff Goins | Samantha Shorey | Joe Bunting | Leigh Kramer | Lore Ferguson

And this is why I won’t ever stop doing my Inspired By series; it’s an unconditional exercise in hospitality and giving credit where credit is due. I would be an empty, inert vessel if I wasn’t reading and exploring other blogs and books and articles every week. What I read has an enormous influence on how I arrive at my own content. I share because otherwise my content would be two-dimensional, and in a sense, dishonest. I share out of gratitude. I share because I want you to be inspired to explore and grow, too.

Check back tomorrow for a full list of lovelinks that helped me develop good blogging habits, or jump in right now by perusing my “Inspired By” links in the column to your right.

Share your own thoughts : What are the golden rules of blogging? Or if you don’t blog, how have you learned to be generous in your work?