Guest Post | One Letter

I love what my friend Missy said the other day,
She was talking about Grammy winner Adele’s breakup with a terrible, horrible, no good boyfriend that broke her heart, and how that breakup gave Adele the fuel she needed to write the album that changed her life and changed the world. It’s a beautiful concept isn’t it? It’s not something we think about in the midst of pain, but creativity has the power to heal if we let it.
What experiences in your life can you put to good use? How can sharing those experiences through your art impact the lives of others?
I answer those questions in my guest post for Missy’s blog in her “One Letter” series, and talk about my relationship with my mom, the letter she left me, and the one letter I would love to leave for my own daughter some day.

My 30 Before 30 List

In keeping with my unintended valentine’s theme this week, let me pass on to you the best date idea I’ve come up with in a long time. I mentioned last week that I was going to share my 30 Before 30 List, and here it is. But a kind of amazing thing happened in the midst of pulling this together; I realized that it wasn’t just about me.
It started when I was writing this post a few weeks ago. I was thinking about what 2012 will hold for me, all the firsts I have to survive without mom. And then I thought about mom, all the things she survived just to be with us as long as possible. And then I thought about me, all the things I want to live long enough to do. I’m only 24. And it’s only February. A lot can happen in ten months. And a lot can happen in the five years, eight months and 23 days before I turn 30. If I’m blessed to make it that far, and maybe even another 5, 10, 20 or 30 years or more, I want to capitalize on that “privilege denied to many” of growing older. So it started as this short little list of things I wanted to make sure I accomplish this year, and then the list grew longer and the goals more grandiose. Maybe I can’t accomplish all these things in 2012, but in the next five years, I sure hope so.
In my excitement, I told my husband, Matt, about it.
“What’s on the list?” He asked.
“Lots of things,” I replied, and I started listing them off as they came to mind.
“I should make a 30 Before 30 list, too, I think,” he mused.
And it sparked an idea : we agreed to finish our 30 Before 30 lists and then read them aloud to each other. So Friday night after he came home from work, we sat on the couch and drank Blue Moon’s Winter Abbey Ale (my favorite!) and ate pizza and read our lists too each other. Surprisingly enough, about half of our lists were the same. The other half were largely related to our personal career success. It was romantic and relaxing and fun, and perhaps most surprising of all is that it didn’t prompt arguments about money or time or responsibility. It was just dreaming, much the way we did when we first dated. Whether you’re married or not, making a list of goals is a great way to gauge whether you are on the same page with each other in a positive way.

So here’s my list, arranged by category and definitely not in chronological order.


1. Get a dog.
2. See hubby go on tour with his band!
3. Start a family.


4. Earn a graduate degree in creative writing/publishing.
5. Become a full-time freelance writer.
6. Curate an art exhibit for local artists.
7. Contribute a story to This American Life.
8. Become a regular writer for a renowned magazine, newspaper or NPR.
9. Write and publish a mother/daughter memoir.
10. Write and publish a book of poetry.

P E R S O N A L 

11. Buy a Mac desktop complete with Adobe Creative Suite.
12. Buy new living room furniture.
13. Buy a new bed (mattress and frame)
14. Take a French cooking class.
15. Host a four-course dinner party.
16. Donate blood once per year (at least)
17. Run a half or full marathon.
18. Read all of Jane Austen
19. Take a yoga class.
22. Make a scrapbook/photo album of my semester abroad.


20. Visit hubby and band while they are on tour.
21. Go on a European vacation with hubby.
22. Return to Salzburg, visit the Monchsberg.
23. Go on vacation with my Dad, my brothers, and hubby.
(Yellowstone, Maine, or Alaska, maybe? You pick, Dad!)
24. Visit :
– New York City
– Washington D.C.
– California wine country


25. Get health insurance for my husband, me and our growing family.
26. Establish life insurance.
27. Get better at saving money.
28. Bring down school loan debt by 50% (I feel like this is lofty, but nothing is impossible, right?)
29. Establish college fund for our kids.
30. Buy a house.

Do you have a list for what you want to do in the next five, ten or twenty years, or before you reach a certain age? What’s the top priority?

Goals for 2012.

It’s been a month. One month without mom. Without her voice, her touch, her face, her thoughts. I expected to be immovable, stranded on an island of grief and away from the world that I understand. But grief defies expectations, and so does faith. When the two interact, we often find ourselves in unfamiliar territory; rough, but not impossible.

This is where I find myself, one month into this new chapter of life, this new year where nothing and everything is different. The thing is, for me, the girl that moved away from home nearly seven years ago ne’er to return, my life looks the same in so many ways. But it feels different on the deepest levels.
And so when I started working through the idea of change, writing this post a couple of weeks ago prompted me to think about tangible ways to embrace that change. I’m not one to make resolutions; I’m usually one to break them. When I have made new year resolutions, February usually marks the end of effort and there’s a celebratory burning of the resolution list. I can be just that rebellious against myself.
But this February is different. I am different.
Maybe it seems inappropriately belated to share a resolution list in February. But life is short. And in one of the last conversations my mom had, she told one of our family members, with clarity and conviction and absolute love, “It’s never too late.”
If we’re not intentional, time rushes past and most of it is wasted. So I’m sharing with you the goals I have for 2012, the ones that will help me embrace change. Next week I’ll share another goal list, my 30 Before 30. Tell me, do you have any goals for 2012? Or goals before you turn a certain age? Now that it’s February, how would you rate your progress with those goals?
P E R S O N A L : 
- get a physical (for the first time in 2 years)
- visit the optometrist and get a new pair of glasses (for the first time in 5 years)
- visit the dentist (for the first time in 5 years)
- take a bubble bath once per week (this one is going VERY well, I should mention.)
– give myself a weekly manicure (this one has also been a success!)
- read at least 12 books (an average of one per month, but I don’t have to finish each one within 30 days)
P R O F E S S I O N A L : 
- redesign blog and/or convert to WordPress
- double my blog readership
- contribute 11 guest posts for other blogs (average of one per month from February to December)
- write and share at least one new poem per month on my blog
- get one article or poem published in an online or print magazine
- create writing portfolio for graduate school and job interviews
- get business cards for my writiting, editing, and art
- create and sell at least 100 paintings through my Etsy shop
- get up early enough to eat breakfast and write for 30 minutes each morning (working on this one, but not quite there yet)
[Image via]

Morning: A New Routine.

I am not a morning person. When the alarm goes off at 6:15 my body feels like a dead weight. My ears don’t really hear it until 6:30. And the purpose behind that annoying jingle doesn’t really register in my brain until 6:45. And then the dread sets in : the effort of getting out of my warm bed, making myself presentable, going out in the cold, dealing with morning traffic, answering emails at work, doesn’t make sense from the comfort of my fetal position beneath a pile of blankets. To my shame, I have been known to sleep until 8 a.m.
The bright spot, the one motivating event of my every morning, was my phone chat with mom on the commute to work. I would climb into my car, put on my headset, dial her, pull out of my parking space, and before I reached the end of the lot and started on the road she would greet me with a cheerful,
“Good morning, my Bethy.”
As the months of 2011 waned on and cancer took its toll on her body, this routine changed. The cheer in her voice lost its color and vibrancy. Conversations grew shorter. And there were many mornings when instead of that phone call, I received another one from my dad or my grandmother saying that they were taking her to the hospital again. I let the depression settle into me, keep me in bed a little longer each morning, away from the world, away from work, away from writing and everything “wrong” with my life.
You can imagine how different my mornings feel now, to know that our routine is forever changed. No phone calls, no cheery chats. It would be all too easy to justify staying in bed permanently.
Yesterday I pondered words for 2011. Today I ponder words for the first weeks of 2012.


The one word that seems to fit for this time : 

C H A N G E .


2012 is my year to accept that change. To live with it, work with it, respond to it. I figure that since my mornings are fundamentally different now, why not roll with it? I know what my mother would do to me if she knew I was sleeping in and arriving late to work every day. I can’t dishonor her like that.
So I’m getting up early, when my alarm actually goes off… Okay, here’s a secret : I employed the help of my best friend, who has to be AT work at 7 a.m., to text me repeatedly until I answer her that I am out of bed. And I can’t lie to her, so I might as well actually get up when I say I am going to.
And from my bed I walk to the kitchen, where our shiny new french press awaits, and my bright yellow tea kettle sings hello, good morning, and I pour a mug for myself, mom’s mug.
From there the day begins. I’ve even allotted time to pack my lunch. And instead of dwelling in the silence of a morning commute without my mother, I call my grandmother; it doesn’t do to dwell in the loneliness.
So let the change I feel be the change I need in order to rise early and greet the day in a new way, with gratitude, with discipline, with determination.