26

 

I haven’t written anything on this platform in over a year, I haven’t written for EliteDaily in longer. I haven’t written a good meditation. I haven’t written anything that means something to me. In the interim, my writing has been a string of academic hurdles with the occasional sprinkle of an iPhone note –  which are complete nonsense. For entertainment, see below. What? Normal.

I want to blame my lack of words on the aforementioned classwork, but secretly it’s because I know that I’ve simply run out of things to say.

But – today, I got quiet.

Today, I slowed down *gasp!*

Today, I have something to say.


On my 16th birthday, give or take a few days, my parents pulled me out of class early. Doctor’s appointment was the believable excuse, if I’m not mistaken. Fast forward to the car ride and the unexpected pull-in to our Amtrak station. Cue the expected totally-clueless-16-year-old-me face and the “surprise!” from the parents. They had my bag packed – a new, bright pink duffle – waiting in the front seat with all of the Washington D.C. essentials.

And just like that, off we went to celebrate 16. 

On my 26th birthday, give or take a few days, I packed the same bag – less bright, with at least two rips now – but nonetheless packed again with all of the Washington D.C. essentials, which now include heels in lieu of sneaks and my parents are in a text thread rather than the seat beside of me.

And just like that, off I go to celebrate 26. 


Maybe it’s the cyclical irony in the decade shift, or maybe I’ve been on a train too long and slowly losing grip on reality, but I’m feeling like there might be magic on this train. With each tiny tree passing at 70 miles per hour, I have a tiny realization. Call it a Universal birthday present for this year, or call it a gift that’s ten years in the making. Whatever it is, make sure it’s also coined to be the gift that keeps giving.

That’s not to say that what I write is important or worth stopping your time for, it may not even make sense; but if something bubbles up after all this time, it may be worth sharing. (I’ll find out when my hands stop and I decide to put this on the online.)

These tiny realizations sound something like,

hey! this matters!”

hey! that doesn’t matter!”

hey! you matter!”

hey! they matter!”

hey! you’re better when you’re happy!”

hey! they’re better when you make them happy!”

We all walk around with an internal box – maybe around our gut, I think that’s where the doctors would find it if they could see them – and in them are all the things that make us tick. The things that make us laugh, or the things that drive us to make moves, maybe even things that decide how we love people, and bet your bottom dollar that there are things in there that make us perfect. Yeah – ugly P word – perfect.

My idea of perfect is to always be happy. Really happy, not Snow White happy. Not happy as in “nothing bad ever happens to me ever and life is so great that I actually live in a cartoon sunshine world.” Happy as in “Everyone has their share of ugly, but we always find ourselves laughing when we look back at it.”

To me, happy means dancing when there’s no music, or even if there is. Either way, I’m not working with rhythm, so someone ends up laughing – it’s a win-win.

Happy means seeing two people catching sass with one another and throwing the white flag on their behalf. Guaranteed move – if you break up the tension, you have three smiles, you + the two knuckleheads.

Happy means being content with what you have. Every day I wake up and blink out of the window hoping for summer. Doesn’t happen. So I wrangle Bruce and Leo and sit in my yard – we get sun when and where we can. And we’re all happy.

Happy is the moon. No fancy equation for this one. It’s just that good. How could something that moves the ocean not make you happy? And to boot, it’s beautiful. Leo and I check it on in the binoculars quite often. We never walk away sad. And considering he’s named after a constellation, he has title to declare the moon worthy of something.

Where did this all come from? Where does my birthday tie-in to tiny boxes in our guts, and how do the tiny boxes tie into being happy and hoping the same for others? Honestly, it’s a faint connection. Similar to those that connected two cans when you play the phone game as a kid; thin, probably short, and utterly useless without a little imagination work.

Nonetheless, here’s my phone string connection:

Endings happen everyday, death finds us around every corner. Very recently someone passed; someone who crossed my path, and the path of a handful of others who may find themselves reading this. I haven’t spoken to him or heard about him since one of our few shifts worked together. I couldn’t tell you what his favorite color was, I couldn’t tell you what he believed in or hoped for, I couldn’t even tell you if he remembered who I was, and I definitely couldn’t begin to tell you what was in his gut box. But I’d like to think that our paths crossing had something to do with my tiny passing-tree realizations today. He met his fate, it gave me feels, and I happened to be on a train with nothing to do for eight hours, so I took those ingredients and made a weird thing.

That’s where it ties in, kind of? Fortune cookies, the tiny crackly vessels that spill out a message after a little crack in pressure. That’s what we’re looking at here. Messages – the good, the bad, the ugly, the enlightening, and sometimes the entertaining – find their way to us one way or another. If it wasn’t my birthday, I wouldn’t be on a train, I wouldn’t stop thinking long enough to see what’s around me, I wouldn’t let my mind be quiet enough to hear something that someone else may also need to hear.

So there you have it. Find out what’s in your box. It’s all good things. Pandora’s box ain’t got nothin’ on this baby. Find what’s in there, and if you don’t already – start sharing it. Every day. With everyone. Whether you meet them for an hour, a day, a lifetime, or a handful of shifts – exchange energy. Learn something from someone. Teach someone something. Lend a smile. Go make someone happy. Make yourself happy. Ride the train. Board the plane. Listen to the song. Write the song. Make the phone call. Crack the joke. Don’t take any of it seriously. Just make it count.

Make someone happy.

It comes back.


Live example: went for a Gingerale, Amtrak man was all out. Fast forward an hour and the gal sitting next to me has a Mary Poppins bag of snacks, and out rolls a beautiful can of Schweppes. Who do you think she shared it with?

*cracks Gingerale*

And just like that, off I go to celebrate 36…

         …46, 56, 66, 76, 86, and hopefully 96.. all right now. It may be all I get. 

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Unbranded

… Untamed, Untethered, Unbridled.


 

 

“We don’t know how Cricket died. I think in a way, it was fitting of a Mustang; not to die in somebody’s stall, or in a holding facility. He was in the backcountry, he was fifteen miles from the nearest road, he was living with other mustangs, eatin’ good mountain grass.”

                            -Unbranded


 

As I write this, I am sitting in a polished room in Washington, D.C., and every now and then I catch a speck of snow floating outside of the window.

But in my left-handed, right-brained, ultra-sensitive world, I am in wide open Western territory drinking whiskey in the middle of a hail storm.

That would be thanks to my vivid imagination and ability to mentally paint just about any picture. But more importantly that would be thanks to Ben 1 + 2, Jonny, and Thomas; four modern-day Western America conquistadors, mustang whisperers, and all around good ol’ nature lovin’ boys.

Conveniently located by way of Netflix, on every piece of technology you probably own, is a film called Unbranded. A documentary that follows those mustang gents on their horseback, 3,000 mile journey from Mexico to Canada. I wholeheartedly suggest you find some time in your week to see what you might gain from watching this. I can unashamedly tell you that I am now watching it for the third time while I write this review/admiration letter/string of thoughts.

In the first fifteen minutes, you may find it to be an advocation for wild horse lives in the Western area of our US of A. The film shows bits and pieces of the people and organizations that stand for wild horses’ rights. It shows facts and figures of the problems that continue to rise from the wild-horse-what-do-we-do-with-them battle. (That’s my putting it simply.)

But naturally, I didn’t see those things. I heard them, and I watched them. I understood the urgency and I found a twinge of my heart itching to help.

However, I saw the message those recent college boys were trying to spread. I heard the story that was trying to buck its way through. The story of how training a small bunch of mustangs was just as much about them as it was about the horses. At the start of the film, you see Ben 1 + 2, Jonny, and Thomas shaping the horses, teaching the horses, helping the horses. As with most things in this life, things came full circle for them. By the end of the journey, you see the horses giving it back. The journey was one of self discovery, an equal exchange of power between Man and Mustang.

So, with that being said, you can stop here at the end of this quick snippet of a review (from just some gal with a Netflix account and an unimaginable appreciation for the wild, for adventure, and well shot film) OR you can stay through to the end of this read (from just some gal with a computer and a few hundred things to say at all times.)


 

“There’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that the wild lands of America have a viable future. The opportunities we have are just unreal compared to people in other parts of the world. I don’t think people realize that.”

                                   –Unbranded

 

 

 


 


 

I can only write what I know, and I know what early 20’s feels like, I know what mud squishing between your toes feels like, I know what being lost in unmapped territory feels like, I know what howling at a moon feels like, I know what adventure feels like, and I know what the thirst for more adventure feels like.

I have landed in a generation, give or take half a decade, of thrill seekers. Of responsibility haters. Of nonconformists to the “American Dream.” And luckily, I find myself right smack in the middle of that tornado.


 

“Man, if I was honest with  myself, that’s what I’d want to do.”

                                    –Unbranded


I will never choose a cubicle. I will never choose an office with no window.

I didn’t choose college at 18. I didn’t choose a career at 21.

I chose to be a mustang. I chose the metaphoric 3,000 mile journey across the country. I chose to be wild.

I choose to stay that way. I choose to keep running. I choose to forage my way from story to story, from accident to lesson.

I will break the norm. I will break out of the corral. I will wade in rivers. I will sleep in the grass. I will take the rocky route and leave the yellow-and-white-lined route in my dust.


 

“I feel like we have a bit in common with theses horses. There’s not enough room out there for them, and sometimes I feel like there’s not enough room out there for us.”

                                      –Unbranded


You look at a map and say, “West Virginia is a dot compared to Texas.” But, when you look up at the sky at night, one sky doesn’t look bigger than the other. And between those stars, and those mountains and plains, is you. The mustang. The rider. The map with no legend.

Our job here isn’t to crunch numbers, not for a while at least, and it isn’t to punch the same clock for 55 years. Our job is to learn to appreciate the sky from the million different ledges we’ll be seeing it from. Our job is to learn to carry a saddle on our backs, but only to carry the things necessary to our being; water, food, and desire. Our job is to see the world that was created for us. Our job is to run free and give back to those that help us thrive. Our job is to buck and kick when needed, but to stand still and be lead when required. Our job is to know that we would be nothing without our world, our America, our Mother Nature, and it nothing without us; and remembering that you’re one in the same.

Our job is to make a map. Of ourselves. Of our West. Of our Mustang home. Of the miles we walk, ride, and run.

Don’t just read about the Mustang. Don’t just watch the Mustang. Don’t just talk about the Mustang.

Be a Mustang.


 

“The mile doesn’t really matter. What really matters is the land and these horses that have proven themselves time and time again. There’s an honesty in their actions I really admire, and I’m grateful. The future of our wild horses, wildlife, and us, depend on the management choices that we make today. And I hope to God that in 100 years, there’s still a backcountry route to ride from Mexico to Canada. And that’ll require sacrifice and society willing to face difficult decisions. And a really good horse.”

                                        -Unbranded


 

 

Reason for the Season

“Hey, Kay, can I tell you something that I’ll make sure to tell you every time I see you until my last day?”

“You love me?”

“Well, that too. But… that you’re my favorite person.”

“I was going to say that too.”

THAT, boys and girls, is better than any thing you’ll rip out of a tissue-paper-filled box, and without question beats anything you’ll find after one more scroll on Facebook.


 

Life doesn’t happen on Facebook – or in the newest pair of sneakers – or in the front seat of the giant bow having, new leather smelling car that Santa brought.

Life happens at 8:30 p.m. on Christmas night when the only sound is your niece drawing with permanent marker. (That sound is also known as “trouble.”)

Life happens on Christmas Eve when you talk moonshine with your Papaw.

Life happens when you open your last Christmas present, but it’s not new at all, you see; it’s the quilt that has your parents’ house embroidered on it, the one you have walked past more times than you dare to remember.

Life happens when you appreciate your Yoga gear, but the real gift is your great-great-grandmother’s jewelry that your aunt slipped you before you said, “Goodbye, see you soon.”


 

I have meant to write, for the curious minds, and maybe for myself, why I’m taking a social media hiatus. At first, I couldn’t give anyone much of a reason. And then, as with most things, the reason and I found each other in time.

Much like the [real] meaning of Christmas, I want to pay attention to what matters, to slow down, actually stop and smell the roses instead of finding the perfect angle and the Goldilocks filter for those roses.

We know that we always rush. We rush school, we rush jobs, and we rush people, places and things. We all wake up and the first thing we reach for is our cell phone, we look for missed calls and missed messages. We barely make it to our first cup of coffee before we’re 500 scrolls deep in Facebook or Instagram, or both. You’ll rip through your first present and expect the other to be waiting at your feet. You’re more worried about what’s in the box than the thought and heart behind it.

See, I realized that my choice to leave social media mirrors my thoughts on Christmas. They both come with rules that I wish we could all follow. Maybe I’ll get that Christmas wish in 3045, because it won’t happen in this lifetime. (But hey, a girl can wish for a Christmas miracle.)

  1. Stop worrying about what he/she/they have or received. YOU have what YOU need, no more – no less.
  2. Whatever he/she/they are doing doesn’t effect you, and if it does, you’ll either be there beside them or they’ll make it a point to tell ya all ’bout it. And if you aren’t, and they don’t, well..none-ya-bizness.
  3. Comparison is the key to destruction. Who you’re with, what you have, and where you are is no better or worse than anyone else. Appreciate it. We all have stories.
  4. Life, and Christmas, isn’t a competition. There shouldn’t be an unspoken rule to one-up your neighbor. Their lights look great, your lights look great, everyone looks great.
  5. Both of these things are here to spread the love. Keep people connected. Let someone know you’re thinking about them and that they mean something to you.

On December 19th, around 10 o’clock that night, nearly a week before Christmas, Santa delivered. Someone asked me why West Virginia was the greatest state. (Because, yes, I said that it was.) Before I could answer, he asked, “What’s the big city?” My neck gave a quick snap towards him, I looked and said, “There is no ‘city.’” After a quick pause, he said to me, “Your face lit up when you said that.”

That stranger’s affirmation was Santa’s Christmas present to me this year; the reminding that I already have all I need. I have West Virginia as home. I have an old house in old mountains with old memories. I have a family that supports each other despite the baggage we’re all carrying around with us. I have people that know me better than I know myself.


 

Maybe leaving Facebook in the dust seems a bit pretentious, hypocritical, or even a little overzealous.

But, I say that actually going to sleep instead of lying in bed looking at a phone means more sleep, enjoying the view through my eyes and not a lens let’s me actually see it, and maybe the Christmas tree shines a little brighter when I don’t look at it from my Instagram page. Who knew a life size, 3D tree trumps a three inch, 2D tree? Hm.

I’ll certainly pop back up on Facebook and Insta, and whatever else we manage to create, by the time it’s all said and done. But for now, I’ll enjoy playing with my niece (and simultaneously praying for patience) instead of worrying about my latest notifications. And for now, I’ll actually reach out to the folks I miss and ask them how their Christmas was instead of finding out through the internet.

Social media is a powerful tool, it’s helpful, it’s informative, and a lot of our lives today happen there. Shoot, writing here is social media. (We can all agree it isn’t quite the same as the instant-gratification-type as Facebook? Awesome.) With that being said, I know it will be there waiting for me when I’m done smelling my roses.

With all of that being said, I hope everyone had the merriest Christmas. And I hope you cried, the good kind, at least twice.

 

 

Square Pegs in the Round Holes – This is Yours

Lately, rounds deja-vu has been keeping me company. My weeks have been filled with a case of the Repeats. You know… wake up with the sun, get to that desk, take the test, do the homework, go to work, fall asleep on the couch, oh look – there’s the sun again.

Re. Peat. And, quite frankly, it’s really been bumming me out.

It’s no secret, surprise, or headline news that I don’t appreciate normal, routine, or the expected. I would light those things on fire if I could. But, I can’t, so I just endure them. But only for so long, and then my right brain starts sparking a little, and Scout’s Honor that I can see those tiny, sparkler-esque flickers in my right eye if I look hard enough. It’s only a matter of time before it blows.

And that’s when the writing gets done, when the tricky poses get mastered, when the masterpieces are painted, when the songs are written, when the whiskey and the wine flows. The Creatives of the world can raise their hand with an “Amen!”

I say these things, because it just happened this morning. It happens all the time, hundreds of times, thousands of times; every time a new idea pops up, or a new thought floats across your mind. A lot of things start and stop in this world, but creativity isn’t one of them. It has a mind of its own, and sometimes it runs away, but just like an old dog (that isn’t Leo Redlegs Mathena), it’ll come back when it’s ready. It’ll come back with inspiration in tow. You may think that you hone a creative skill, or you find it at the end of an Art class. But, unfortunately, that isn’t true. It’s a spell you’re put under long before you learn to do anything at all. And it isn’t a skill, or a trait, it’s a blessing – it’s a thing. And that, folks, is why it will come and go when it damn well pleases. You can’t force it to rear its beautiful, demanding, high maintenance head. You find it at the end of the walk to your muse, at the end of the prayer or the meditation. You don’t find it by pulling it out of a drawer.

You find it by honoring it for what it is – and what it isn’t. You find it when you accept that your products, your masterpieces, won’t be made on your time. It’ll be made when the inspiration hits, when your heart and soul are in the right place to really make that inspiration shine.

Here’s a way everyone will get it:

It’s like pizza. It starts as a big list of ingredients that don’t make sense, maybe they don’t even mesh well. But then, little by little, it starts coming together and it becomes a little ball. You look at the ball and say, “it’s just a mushy glob of dough, this will take too much work, I want something now.” Instead, you take it and start kneading it, you push it, flatten it, and make it perfect. Then you start recognizing it, “ah, pizza!” Then you start tossing it up in the air (if you’re good at that sort of thing.) And you toss, and toss, and toss, and voila – a perfect pizza crust. Then you take a step back, look it up and down, and wouldya look at that? It didn’t take that long after all, it was right there the whole time, you just weren’t ready to see it.

[Disclaimer: pizza making most likely isn’t that dramatic… BUT I bet you get it now. ; ) ]

Maybe you’re wondering why I am wrote all of this and why I said creativity is a blessing, indicating that not everyone on Earth has it. I wrote it because it’s true, and since I’ve been feeling lie a fish out of water, I wanted to write this for myself, or that other Creative that is asking “Masterpiece, Next Big Thing, where you at though?!”

There are people that take care of us when we’re sick, there are people that build metal homes that have an address listed as “Space.” There are people that teach five and six year olds how to read. There are people that argue not only with their neighbor across the street, but with their neighbors on the other side of the Atlantic. There are people who know that are bodies are in fact made of water, and muscles, and blah blah blah, not just magic and good times (that’s what I think.)

There are left brainers and there are right brainers.

There are people to make us feel things and there are people to make us understand things.

There are people who made the machines to print books and there are the people who took the adventure to write it.

See what I’m saying here?

There are all kinds of people to make the world keep on keepin’ on. And if we were all the same, well, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it. People are like colors, we sit on a color wheel and we have complements. There are hospitals, schools, courthouses. But there are also museums, concert halls, and dance floors. Could you honestly pick between either of those groups? Sometimes you’ll find your medicine at your family doctor’s office. But sometimes you’ll find it on a dancefloor in West Virginia where your best friend just got married.

So, here’s to the Creatives. To the movers and the shakers. The doers and the creators. Maybe you’re stuck spinning your hot pink wheels. Rest easy, you and your wild heart.

Your Creativity will be back before you know it. It’ll come flying around the corner wearing a Cowboy hat. It’ll come screeching in on two wheels with flowers flying out of the window. It’ll be a flicker of lights in your rearview mirror – oh wait, that’s just the sparks coming out of your right eye.

Happy, creating, Creatives.

Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away.

Think about the last book you read. It can short, or long, it makes no matter. Now raise your hand if you either A) skipped to the end of a chapter to see what happens or B) skipped to the very end to see what happens. I raised both hands (so bad, I know.)

Has anyone else noticed that just like reading a novel, an article, or any kind of story, we try and skip to the “good parts” in our own stories. Yeah, our lives, those stories. Maybe we don’t all skip ahead, maybe some of us are blessed enough to truly just enjoy the ride, 100%, all the time. (What’s your secret?!)

But if you’re like me, a skip-aheader, then this is for you.

I always want to skip past a juicy part, good juicy or oh-no juicy, because I couldn’t possibly just wait it out and smell the roses. But, without fail, when I do, I appreciate those roses a little more, whether they be thorny or trimmed.

So you blow your first shot at college, do you skip ahead and go to the part where you’re back doing the school thing? NO. Put the page down. If you skip, you miss New Zealand and those fairytale mountains. You miss accidentally finding Yoga and realizing its your thing. You miss falling head over boots in love.

Even if you left those islands behind. Even if you can’t practice everyday anymore. Even if that love’s light dimmed. You still miss all of those things if you skip those chapters.

Why does it matter?

Because if you hadn’t sat on an 18 hour flight alone at the age of 18, you wouldn’t have found your travel bone. If you hadn’t enjoyed deep breaths and handstands, you wouldn’t be able to help people today. If you hadn’t fallen crazy in love, you wouldn’t even know that person at all. All of that sounds pretty crappy to me. So, that’s why we will no longer be skip-aheaders. Let’s make a deal to ourselves, to each other, that we’ll read all the details and all the chapters. Even the ones we read with our eyes half closed, even the ones we never want to stop reading because they’re just so perfect. There will be new chapters waiting until you lay your head down for the last time. And considering you’re reading this right now, you have some chapters lined up.

If we keep skipping, or even hanging on to one chapter, the chance of missing THE chapter of chapters could slip right by us. And one day we’ll look back and say “shoot, I’m 89 years old and didn’t get my happy ending.” Well, because you skipped that chapter at one point or another. So stop re-reading the last chapter because you’re too scared to read more. Stop skipping the scary parts because it’s too much to bear. Stop skipping the last page, because your life isn’t on the last page, it’s in the other 1000 pages before it.

There is someone out there who has written your story. They know every chapter, every climax, every ending + beginning, every let down, and every laugh out loud moment. They know what we need, what we want, what would/will/shall make our stories complete; even if they aren’t here, walking with us down the street. They’ve never put their feet on our soil. They’ve never sat in traffic and cursed the red light for making them late. Who is it? Who’s writing these stories?

Their name isn’t Fate. It isn’t Chance. It isn’t Lady Luck. And it definitely isn’t Coincidence.

Design is His name. AKA The Big Man Upstairs, God. Maybe you pray to someone else, and that is just fine.  Just remember, no matter who you thank at night, they also work by design. For you. For your happy ending, every chapter leading up to it, and every moral lesson in between Start and End. He sits up on a big giant cloud with a pen in his hand. No paper, no books, no notepads. Just Him, his cloud, and this pen. He writes our stories on those clouds. And when it rains, and the rain hits us, that’s our souls’ way of reading. The words, the chapters, they seep right in.

Think that sounds a little crazy? There was an awful storm here in Charleston last night. I woke up at 3:07 and it was raining absolute cats and dogs. Naturally, Bruce wanted to go outside. But then she wouldn’t come back in, so I had to go herd her. The rain hit me out there, my feet were wet, my hair was a little damp. I went in and we all crawled back in bed. I couldn’t sleep anymore, but guess what did happen? All of those things I just wrote popped into my head.

You know, my soul read some things this morning at 3am.

Still think it’s crazy? Good. That’s when people start paying attention. I hope you get rained on today. Happy reading, y’all.

I Volunteered In My Community and I’m Mad About It.

I volunteered my time today with an organization called One80 Place. I gave up my Monday morning. I chose to hit the community center versus hit the beach.

And I am 100% angry with my self. Confused. Ashamed.

Ashamed it has taken all 24 years of my life to finally do it. Ashamed that I haven’t given up other Monday’s, or Tuesday’s, or any day at all. Ashamed that I kept repeating “one day” instead of ever reaching “one day.”

One80 Place works in Summerville and Charleston (South Carolina) to offer help to Veterans and other homeless people in the community. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They offer Veterans’ quarters, as well as Women and Childrens’ quarters. And guess what else they offer? Hope and smiles.

My heart broke wide open this morning, and I’m still in a tail spin now. We see homeless folks everyday. In West Virginia, New York City, Charleston, in between on the highway. We walk, ride, run, sneak past them. They keep arguments going; “do they really need the help”, “how much”, “well they should just find a job.” Stop for a moment though and remember… we’ve all heard something along the lines of, “be kind – everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Maybe he or she can’t just go get a job. Or maybe they can’t just call a friend. And maybe they don’t have a family to grab a hold of their hand to pull them up. However, I’m sure they had a momma and daddy at one point. Maybe a best friend, maybe three. I can almost bet that whoever they are and wherever they are, they never expected William or Sarah to end up in a community center kitchen line waiting for the only hot meal they can count on.

We all have stories, some are dustier than others, some with a little more sparkle. At the end of the day, we all need a few things. One: a bed to sleep in. Two: a roof every once in a while. Three: a meal to make our bones warm. Four: a safe place. And five: love. All of these things are taken for granted every day. We hear it all the time, we read it all the time, we tell ourselves all the time. But how often do we actually sit with the thought, shake hands with it, instead of just throwing it aside?

My two hours at the center were more than wiping tables and pouring umpteen glasses of milk. It was asking what book he was reading, and listen to his opinion on the chapters. It was listening to his story about growing up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. It was watching a mom with her kiddo waiting for the line to go down. It was being asked how MY day was going before I got a chance to ask her. It was a reminder that life is an exchange. Of heart, smiles, conversation. We never owe anything to anyone, for any reason. Nor are we owed. But we do get what we give, and hopefully we give what we get. So that’s why she asked me about my day first, so I could be the first to tell her to have a good evening.

I once spent some time with someone who befriended a man who lived under a Roanoke bridge (if I remember correctly.) And I grew to know his story, and how he missed home: Philadelphia. And how he used to go to Flyers games with his momma. That friend of mine gave him a present when Christmas rolled around, and it was a Flyers thing, some memorabilia piece that wouldn’t mean much to you or me. But he cried. And in that moment, it was probably the happiest he’d been since sleeping under that bridge. For that moment, he was safe and he was home. I remembered him today after driving away from the shelter and it made me wonder where he is. If you haven’t made a friend like him yet, I hope you do.

At first thought, you want to start thinking that those people don’t have anything to offer you. So wrong, so very very wrong. They offer us the only thing they have: their time.

So, in closing thought, I hope you find a day this month or quarter, or year to volunteer somewhere. Not just donating blood (I used to think that was a big deal) but shaking someone’s hand. Laugh with them about not picking up a glass of carrot juice (we might get hungry – but c’mon, that’s gross), or talk with someone about when they served and what they saw, entertain someone’s toddler so mom can get a breath for one minute of her day.

I know its tough; we’re all busy enough as it is. I’ll be the first one to say that giving up my time won’t be easy, I’ll drag my feet. But I’ll also be the first one to say that my eyes were opened today, and they won’t be shut. I’ll also say that if you do the same, I’ll have an echo.

P.S.

Thank you Lord,

For my house with the water stained ceiling. Because it means I have a roof over my head.

For the endless peanut butter and jelly’s. Because it may not be gourmet, but it sure as hell ain’t carrot juice.

For the textbooks that cost the price of my unborn child. Because it means I am getting an education.

For the cell phone that rings too much. Because this far away from home, that’s how I can tell my family how much I love them.

For the two expensive rescue dogs that kick me out of my own bed. Because they’ve since rescued me back, and will do it again.

For everything I curse, and everything I praise. For everything I need, and everything I can live without – but manage to acquire.

Thank you.

I Hope You Leave.

I do. I really hope you leave. [Maybe turn to look back for just one sweet second.]

Your house. Your city. Your state. The life you know. The friends you know. Your habits, good and bad.

I hope you leave so you can go next door. Next state over. The ocean on the other side. The country way over yonder. To that lady or gentleman waiting to shake your hand. After you do these things, you can go back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Being in the same place, with the same faces, with the same feelings is part of life. A big part, matter of fact. But our bodies shouldn’t be the only thing that changes over the years; our hearts should, too. *Cue other big part* One easy guess how that happens… Leaving what you know. I don’t mean leaving behind everything you own, hugging your parents, and hopping on a plane that’ll drop you half way around the world (although, that did work for me once upon a time.)

Just simple traveling will do the trick. Grab that bag on the top shelf of your closet and throw in the necessities; swim suit (always), boots (duh), those pesky things called pants and shirts, toothbrush, hairbrush (fat chance), and what’s that last thing….. OH YEAH, magic. We all have a little of that stored away. Throw it in the bag and catch a ride, catch a plane, catch anything and get the heck outta dodge, ya’ll.

“But I don’t have money.” Guess what? You’ll find a way.

“But I don’t know where to go.” That’s the best trip, pinky promise.

“But I don’t have anyone to go with me.” GOOD.

I have learned more life stuff by traveling solo than I have from any textbook, any talk show, any wine-induced BFF convo, The Word… you get my point. Being out there on your own makes you figure it out. Makes you figure yourself out. Makes you make a choice. Makes you be in charge. Makes you have a good time. Makes you find whoever “you” is. You many not figure out just exactly who that may be, because we are always changing (yeah, news flash: people do change – every day.) But I am sure about one thing; you’ll find out who you aren’t and that’s the next best thing.

Sure, we aren’t all Gypsy Rose (she’s typing this) and maybe running and jumping on that runaway train isn’t your thing, but that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from seeing what’s a few stops down. People are always asking me how I do it. How do I just skip town at every moon turn? I wait patiently for my God-given opportunities and when I see one out there in the distance, I run like hell and catch up to it. That doesn’t mean I’m any luckier than you, or that I have an easier life, or a fatter bank account. However, I’ll tell you what I do have. I have a loved pair of boots that beg to stomp on new ground. I have dresses that beg to be twirled in new cities. And I have two good hands that yearn to shake those of new friends.

Spend your time wisely, we forget that we only get so much. And unfortunately, the amount isn’t even a guarantee. So run with the wolves in Canada. Run off barefoot into the woods and see where you end up. Go build that fire with no one’s help but your own and hear someone say, “I didn’t know people like her existed.” Then go find the first reflective surface and find who’s looking back at you. That person you’re seeing? Traveling got you to her. And you’ll say, “I didn’t know either, but know I do. Watch me go.”

If running barefoot and hearing mud squish in your toes isn’t your thing, no worries. Run off to The City. Paris, England, New York, Washington, LA. Find the nearest rooftop bar, order your usual, go rest on the ledge, and wait for it. The gust of wind that comes around hugging you, that’s a “thank you” from The City. Those endless car horns, that’s The City saying “finally, you’re here.” That soul that shakes your hand and lights you on fire with endless conversation, that’s what’s going to teach you a little some’n.

See – woods, city streets, North, South, far, near; makes no difference. There are places out there begging for you to drive over their borders, to meet their people, to learn their ways. Pause for a moment and picture a color wheel. Each one has a complement, one on the opposite side that is the “other piece.” We’re just the same, all colors on a color wheel. And we have complements somewhere. But no one is there to show us which one that is; we have to find it, and you won’t do that by sitting in that one horse town.

I urge you to go. I urge you to be an animal and go where your first instinct suggests. Something(s) is out there waiting on each and every one of us. Far, far away. Places that are over the river and through the woods. I know it to be true for one simple reason: The Good Lord wouldn’t have made the Earth so vast and utterly different in every corner. It’s made to be explored.

So…. One thing is for damn sure: when I’m eighty years old, I will absolutely be able to say, “I. Have. Lived.” So, Cheers to the next sixty years (fingers crossed) of fulfilling that promise to myself. Do yourself a favor and tell yourself the same thing.

Believe in Fairytales.

Believe in every piece; the princesses, the princes, the talking animals, the villain, the lesson, and of course the happy ending.

Fairytales are more than a “Once Upon A Time” followed by a “The End.” They’re up and down, kind as they are mean, handsome as they are ugly. They weren’t written as an escape from real life; they are a reminder to real life.

People do get rescued. Maybe not from towers by ladders of hair (a girl can dream.) But we have heroes all the same.

People don’t have a pond of frogs to kiss until one turns into a lover. But we do have folks that teach us what to hold out for.

People do get a happy ending. Chances are it won’t include a glass slipper, but maybe it’ll include a worn out boot that smells like campfire… and that sounds about the same to me.

People do have villains and heroes alike. Sometimes it’s the person next to you, sometimes it’s your mama, sometimes it’s the dog who can’t talk back (remember, this is real life), and sometimes it’s you. Yeah, you can be bad… Nobody is all good. Not even in those Fairytales.

We all wake up everyday and we want something. A person, a thing, to go to some place. And most times, within our own confines, we do whatever it takes to get it. That’s how sometimes even we become the villain; to ourselves, to someone else. We have points where our choices aren’t the fairest of them all. Either way, we go through with it. Does that make us our own hero for conviction or an evil witch for inevitable damages? (Food for thought: some Fairytales have villains that don’t get defeated, they get softened. Remember that when you make a sour choice and find yourself in your mirror asking who isn’t the fairest after all.)

Back to the bright side, those pesky villains are only a piece of the fairytale puzzle. And whether it’s yourself or the people you find in your path, the dark, gloomy castle will give way to sunshine.

And THAT’s what makes it all a fairytale. There is always a rainbow at the end. A happy ending. A “She/He/They Lived Happily Ever After.

We run around looking for our glass slippers and our damsels locked in a tower with golden hair, not realizing that every day we have is a story worth reading.

Stories that hold lessons, some with heartbreak and some with triumph. Stories that lasts for hours, days, or maybe years. No matter which one you pull off of the shelf on any given day, know there’s a moral there waiting. One to show you to the next chapter, or the next story, but if you don’t get to reading… How should you know?

So next time you’re thinking you need more of something, you want to fly to some new place, you’re not living your love story, you haven’t gotten your happy ending…

A knight on a black horse will come around and scoop you up. And you’ll laugh and laugh and laugh in your boot slippers. And the sun will come out. You’ll listen to the birds singing to you.

And then it hits you: knights are supposed to have white horses, not black. That’s when you realize the prince and the villain are the same thing. You’re the princess and the evil witch. It’s not all good, it’s not all bad. It just is. The point? Life isn’t a fairytale; it’s fairytale(s). And fairytale(s) are nothing other than adventures. So you go pick up another story and find the next tall tale.

Step 1. Look in mirror | Step 2. Say, “How YOU doin’?”

We know I always have something to say (usually for the better – just agree), and in hand with that comes the ability to listen. It’s equal parts gift and burden. People come knocking on the door (even when they don’t realize they’re asking for it) with these things and I always have solutions. I always know what to say. It’s just sitting there. A million tiny, made-just-right presents with bows on them waiting to be picked up at the Advice Counter. (I’ll take a Tiffany & Co spin; I’ll be Stephanie & Co. and my boxes will be yellow, not blue.)

My past few weeks have been filled with lunch dates, midnight calls, wine induced convos, tomato-tamatoe text convos, you get the point. I’ve been here with this person and there with that person; talking about this thing, then that thing. And there I was, walking down the street, trying to get to my Soy coffee as fast as possible and there it was. A big gust of wind. The blossoms swarmed around, I pulled my sweater a little tighter. And then it happened. It hit me, what all those conversations had in common.

People aren’t feeling loved right now. And let me tell you…. not good… no bueno… pas bien.

“Feeling loved” means a lot more than that forehead kiss or the “I ❤ you” text. It’s feeling appreciated, safe, knowing that someone doesn’t want to go to sleep at night without knowing how your day went, someone to listen to your ridiculous story about that super funny (not funny at all) thing you saw today.

We’re all looking in every cardinal direction for that assurance. For that “hey, I’m right here listing.” But guess what, y’all? You’re looking in the wrong direction. It’s not on a compass. Ladies, reach in a purse and get your compact. Fellas, take your sunglasses off your head and look at the lenses. See that reflection? You? That’s the direction you’re supposed to be going; inward.

Starting on your Day 1, you’ve had this person on your team, your most important person. It’s not your momma (sorry.) It’s been you, all along, from now ’till the end. You were born with more than bones, eyes, hair (if you were lucky), fingers and toes. You were born with heart. And knowledge. And a bear hug that never ends. And The Plan For The Best Day Ever.

Heart that will always know what you’re capable of, even when the guy that you want so badly to see it, just can’t.

Heart that will always forgive the times you said too much, kept too many secrets, or pushed too many buttons, even when that person can’t find the same room to forgive.

Heart that will always, always celebrate your crazy, your fire, your internal circus, even when he can’t find the courage to handle it. Being afraid is a story for another day.

Knowledge that can never be unlearned. Knowledge that trumps your string of bad decisions, even if you’ve let your dad down too many times and he thinks you’ll never see the light.

Knowledge that will always be your teacher in what is right and wrong to the world around you, even when you’ve seen her cry 99 times too many, so you take the “right” way out and slap a band-aid on her heart even when you knew it was the wrong long-term choice.

Knowledge required to harness your talents, your gifts, your little Stephanie & Co.-esque yellow boxes so that you know where to direct your sails, even when that devil on your shoulder tries to tell you that you want something else out of life.

A never-ending bear hug for the nights that he’s gone. For the nights she is half a world away. For the nights you can’t decide which “she” you’re thinking about. For the nights you know being alone will turn you into a mint leaf in a hurricane. Cue internal bear hug that knows where to squeeze, where, why, and the exact moment you need an embrace. It’s there, inside of you.

The Plan For The Best Day Ever that was written for you by God himself, tucked into a trunk in your brain with a note that reads “You got this, girl (boy). Knock ’em dead. -G” Short and sweet: having the time of your life starts with you. Someone else won’t make you the life of the party, you make you the life of every party. Trust me, Mathena Dance Party of 1 going strong. (Red dress woman emoji)

Those conversations I’ve found myself in lately came from different directions. From one coast to the other. One personality to the extreme opposite. We have a hard time talking to each other now, we as in the world. We want the easy way out. We want the results without the work. We want our cake and the ability to eat it too. We want one thing today, and another by tonight. We all do it, each and every single one of us.

So, inadvertently, as an entire group, we’ve made it easy to walk away from each other. Because there is someone around the corner looking for the easy conversation I just mentioned, that next fun thing to keep them laughing for a few weeks.

What’s that have to do with anything? After the weeks of laughter comes the abandonment. Comes the breakup. Comes the ghosting. Comes the unanswered calls. Leaves the love.

I don’t mean just put-a-ring-on-it love, but the I-just-met-him-and-know-hes-great-but-just-gotta-go love. The love from the conversations you find at 2 in the morning, from the Sunflowers waiting on your table when you get home from a trip. As with anything, love is a scale. And it isn’t reserved for the couple of 10 years. It’s for you and your best girlfriend, it’s for you and the parent that wasn’t there. It’s for the girl and guy, one Atlantic, one Pacific, yet right there when they look over.

Love leaves for a thousand reasons. It’s going to in the morning, at night, in Summer, at 24, at 40. But you never leave yourself. Your biggest love story isn’t being written chapter by chapter; it was written many moons ago. It has tattered pages, and notes scribbles in it. The chapters are the laugh lines around your eyes, the scar on your right arm, the wink you give to strangers, the stories that go “one time…”

It’s probably already happened; you lost it. It left. And there you are, packing up your house to move South, away from the life with the lost love. Driving in a car for days to find something you already have. Then you pick up and you call the girl with the answers. And here’s what she says:


 

It’s going to leave. Your best friend, your plus sign, your fishing buddy, your trouble maker, the only friend you had for seven years, your emergency contact; it’s going to leave you. That love is going to change. Maybe forever. Maybe for right now. But we know what didn’t leave… your #1 team-mate. So when you find the quiet moment when you know it’s okay because this is life and life happens, you’re going to put your lipstick on. you’re going to put on a clean shirt. You’re going to pack your bags. Because you know what makes your heart happy. You know what makes you fun. You know when you’re your best. So go, go dance.

And then it’ll be your birthday and you’ll be in a familiar place with a new face. You’ll be sweaty, uninhibited, drunk on yourself, and he’ll stop you and say “You….You’re just…fun.” And thus commences a solid two days you didn’t know you needed.

Or you’ll be driving for hours and decide it’s time to get out of the car. Next thing you know, you’re roof top watching a South Carolina sunset that rivals the most expensive piece of art out there.

Or you’ll be upside down, on your hands, looking forward. Handstand. That thing you said you’d never be able to do. And in that moment, you remember you’re best friend reminded you of that long ago. And thank God you finally realized it.


 

Whether it’s dancing your ass off with a stranger (truly underestimated), cloud hopping with the gal you’ve toyed with, or finding yourself upside down, yet as grounded as you’ve ever been….. Thank God you got there.

It wasn’t him or her or them that led you there. It was you. You always know. Sure, women rock it a little more, but intuition is in each and every one of us. There’s a core in us that transmits nothing but love; love that never leaves your mouth or your body, it’s just for you. And that dancing through life is what refuels it.

I’m not even going to bother saying that “you’ll meet your person. they’re there waiting until the time is right.” Because this isn’t about them, it’s about you. You have everything you’ll ever need. And when you stop looking for that stuff in outward places, you’re going to dance until you’ve fallen over. And you’ll be laughing so hard you can’t breathe. And when you stand up, you’re going to get that rush. But this time, it’ll be more than the feeling; you’ll feel the sentences swim and tingle from your head to your toes. But, you won’t find that rush until you’ve stopped looking. (And just saying you have doesn’t make it true. Yeah, I’m looking at you. You’ll know when it happened for real. Trust me.)

The sentences that read “Love. Love. Love. Love. Hug. Love. You’re the most fun I know. You’re enough. Love. I’m right here. Game, Set, Match. How YOU doin’? Love.” And I don’t think I need to tell you (again) who’s voice it is saying those things.

Okay, it’s yours. (I don’t like guessing games.)

 

Once Upon A Time…

There was a gypsy. She ran into some real devils and some pretty nasty storms. Yet, she always found the magic in it all. She stopped with her oh-why-me’s and harnessed her find-the-silver-lining’s. And can you guess where all of those silver linings go? They’re the fuel for the smile always on her face, the reason even the bad isn’t so bad after all. Those silver linings are the lessons given by life’s biggest teachers.


Losing my job didn’t teach me how to cry. It didn’t teach me who to be angry with. It didn’t teach me how to get even. It didn’t teach me why I’m not good enough.

Losing my job taught me how to find the enter in the exit. It taught me how to start looking for my right place. It taught me to take a break. It taught me to appreciate why I am good enough – for the better that is waiting just around the corner.

It taught to me to take one of God’s opportunities He’s always throwing my way and find the gift he wrapped up inside of it. So I flew to London and found more magic (my Magic Storage is getting full).

London didn’t teach me that we have French Fries all wrong. It didn’t teach me that we (‘Mericans) are on our phones entirely too much. It didn’t teach me how not to navigate the subway.

London taught me escapades don’t mean breakthebankcapades. It taught me that sometimes, being your own company is all the company you need. It taught me that sometimes the one conversation you need is waiting halfway across the world. It taught me that when one [insert your former workplace] door closes, a plane cabin door opens… and you better pull your boot straps up and get ready.

Sure, we can’t just hop on a plane and fly to the next country any time we get a little sad. But we can find an adventure one way or another. We can find the reason why that slap in the face came, why that ending happened, or why that thing didn’t work out. It’s because whether it’s New Zealand, London, West Virginia, Zimbabwe, or some giant cornfield in Kansas, something is always waiting for us to find it.

Every single (tiny, minuscule, microscopically unimportant) thing happens for a (giant, monumental, life changing) reason.  Whether its’s a person, a place, a thing, it’s there to teach you something; maybe something about yourself, someone else, the place your in. It’s God’s job to make the things happen, and it’s our job the find the reason(s) why.

There are no coincidences in life, not even a shred. And I promise (bet all of my magic) that if you spent even 30 committed seconds to finding a reason why you’re running late, why you had to leave him, why your good job had to be taken, why anything, you will find that it was the answer, the beginning, the lesson in the present waiting for you.

And if you don’t believe me, ask the gypsy. She found her self in a London bar, drinking an American drink, being with-in and with-out.

And then what happened? Some English gentleman found her sitting there. Asked her where she was from. She answers with “West Virginia.” And so… he starts singing Country Roads in that sweet, sweet accent. And that’s when she found the London Magic waiting for her.

And so, that novel-worthy “Goodbye, West Virginia” she got when she left him reminded her that goodbyes are just as important as hellos.

That life is in fact a fairytale. But only if you believe in the magic.