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It’s Christmas Time!!

‘Tis the season to be jolly!

I realize that not everyone celebrates or likes Christmas, and I totally get it. (I’ve worked many a retail holiday. It’s true what they say…what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. )

Yet, I’m still one of those people who LOVES Christmas.

Tonight I’m giving myself a little time off Christmas duty to clear my head and get re-centered. With so much to do, I have trouble giving myself permission to relax. My husband and I have been out of town every weekend to spend time with family and friends. There are so many people who are important to us, and we do our best to let them know how much we love and appreciate them.

I believe in the peace, joy and good will toward man (365 days out of the year), and Christmas is how my religion celebrates that. I really love the peacefulness that surrounds the nativity story — a clear star in the dark sky, a brave pair of parents who are far from home. It is a time of abundant faith and joy, with the most meager and human of backdrops–a manger surrounded by barnyard animals.

I hate the heart-pounding panic of navigating holiday foot traffic in big box stores. (Amazon Prime is my BFF.) I also tend to get REALLY ambitious when it comes to projects, which pushes me to the brink of exhaustion sometimes. And to top it off, I’m a bit mule-headed so when I get my mind behind something, I just keep pushing.

I like to think of Christmas as a type of strength-building season, a time to open my heart a little wider and learn to love a little deeper. I pay special attention to the people who make me better, who challenge me, who bring me to a greater appreciation and gratefulness for life. For our family, it’s about spending time together, drinking wine and laughing until midnight. The joy of life is learning to love one another, and it’s a continuum of experiences. To me Christmas isn’t about the presents. It’s about the presence of love.

We didn’t have much growing up, but I remember our modest Christmases fondly (bonus of divorced parents? 2 Christmases!). I always had warm clothes and a few treats. I was a pretty easy-going kid. For years my greatest hobbies were visiting the libraries for books and writing in my journal. (Ooooh and sneaking on the phone late at night to talk to boys…heehee!) It’s strange how at 30, life already seems so much simpler “back then” — before the Internet, before I was exposed to the great big world.

And the world is ever-more demanding. Email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat — I have about 67 running tabs with the people and topics I love. I rely on social media to connect me with a greater point of view than I would have on my own. BUT IT CAN BE UBER DISTRACTING, which is why I have to make a conscious effort to say ‘thank you’ to the people I care about. (It takes practice!)

My circle keeps getting bigger and bigger, which means more craftiness is required to give gifts on a budget. Sometimes I feel the Scrooge Syndrome creeping in, but it usually stops when if I take a step back and consider how fortunate I am and how much I could do without.  On a daily basis, living with depression has been largely about finding affirmation of my self-worth.

I grappled with it for a long time.

In the end, I have realized that the one thing I truly want in life is to leave the world a better place, if only in my very small corner of existence. I have found that no matter how tough the times, I could still give back to others. Kind words, patience, tempered judgment, forgiveness — these are the gifts we can give 365 days a year.

Merry Christmas & God Bless!!



VIDEO | Rosie the Riveter

Wonderful discussion about the symbolism and cultural context of Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter.”

General/ Human Rights/ Inspiration/ Love & Relationships

To All My Soul Sisters

It’s hard to keep up with the boys.

That’s something my sister and I definitely understand. We learned how to shoot guns and hold back our tears. To this very day we’re known to be a bit “wild,” but we’ve  never given much thought to a little eyebrow-raisin’. Some people will just never get who we are. Sometimes we don’t even understand who we are.

The backdrop of our childhood was naturally wild. Acres upon acres of forests, woodlands and fields. And sky. Wide. open. sky. There was a freedom in its openness. We forged our identities in the wooded groves of the Arkansas prairie wetlands. We climbed magnolia and apple trees. We fell out of them. We ran in our backyards, uproarious and joyful, shameless and utterly content.

We were fierce in our happiness, part of a small rural town in Arkansas. Clean-cut around the edges, with adventurous hearts. We had safe neighborhoods to ride bikes in; and we had schools with teachers who cared about us. The fields by the roads flew by in parallel rows, but we grew wild, without the pruning of hollow flattery and polite reserve. Raised by tough men and hard-working women, we were unabashed and independent, innocent and wild.

For all the blessings in my life, the greatest one to date has been sisterhood. My mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers and girl friends have given me the chance to express myself free from a bias that infiltrates almost every aspect of our world. Sisterhood promotes honesty and laughter, courage and kindness. But, perhaps most importantly, it encourages self-respect and confidence in a patriarchal society.

Today I’m writing to all my sisters out there. Music lovers, artists, thinkers, mothers, waitresses, dreamers, dancers, writers, teachers — I believe women are powerful influencers in this world, and in a world full of hatred, fear, pain and suffering–a woman’s touch can go a long way.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that the structure of our society is bound together by sexism. We are paid less than men. We hold fewer positions of power. Our sensitivities are often dismissed or overrun by a societal aversion to vulnerability and emotion. Just because we don’t feel the sting of everyday sexism, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Preconceived notions of gender norms, like all biases, tend to hide in our collective mental blind spot, keeping us out of touch with what we are not in a position to see.

Within prescribed gender norms, women are dedicated to the happiness and well-being of others. We carry children in our wombs, nurse them, teach them and care for them, but I think what we actually inherit from womanhood is far more powerful than what society can dictate. Not only because of our biological identities, but because our hearts are wild and ungovernable, except by our deepest convictions. We are undeniably human, but also undeniably different than men.

In a world that is largely a boys’ club, sisterhood is an oasis of freedom. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that feminist issues are “just between us girls.” Husbands, dads, grandpas and brothers can be our best friends and biggest supporters. Our friends and family members are the ones who inspire us to move forward, to get better, to heal and find happiness. Their confidence gives us the freedom to express and explore who we are, and the more we show of our true selves, the stronger our hearts and our voices, and the more good we bring, together.


“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador


Hands in the Soil


There is something therapeutic about handling dirt and watching things grow. Neglect, imperfection, accidents, ignorance. The beginning gardener faces many challenges, especially when the soil is foreign and your schedule is busy. But when you begin something new, you have to accept that there is always a learning curve. I’ve long since thrown out any fantasies about mastering new things immediately. I plod along with the mindset that roadblocks often give way to breakthroughs.

It feels natural to plant things and (try to) keep them alive. The rocky clay of the Ozarks has its qualities: steadfast and strong. It is the land of my people.

I have memories of riding with my grandfather across the cow fields, his trucker’s hat and neatly trimmed beard, the white, ever-aging, ever-present poodle he carried everywhere, his many pairs of gloves that we slipped on during the cold winter days when we would push hay bales into the field and watch the sky spread its arms over the Ozarks.
I feel his memory when I wear work gloves, when I slide open the backdoor and fell the air on my face. I learned to love the outdoors from my grandfather, how to enjoy the bite of crisp cold air. In the cow field my brother and I skipped rocks, ran from snakes and learned to drive. We were cowhands, and we loved it.


Words of Wisdom



“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

  • Audrey Hepburn
General/ Hiking

My 5 Year Plan:

My 5-Year Plan: Grow my hair out long and become a better hiker.


#Notetoself Suggestions for new life goals.


Create a lifestyle that nurtures peaceful contemplation and cultivate an appreciation for the simple rewards of life, such as good meals and good company. Plan your day around long walks and deep thoughts. Stride toward your purpose as though it is a mountain — See it there! Whether it is a speck in the distance or looming overhead, tall and foreboding with mist draped over its shoulders.  In your walks with others, remember we all face a mountain each day. Point people in the right direction as best you can. Help them get up and over their mountains. The most challenging journeys are the ones that teach us the most about life, about our own strength and shortcomings.

Seek. Share. Cultivate.

General/ Inspiration

Words of Wisdom

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Words of Wisdom

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. – Confucius



Thoughts on the New Year: Looking Back & Looking Forward

2013 has left me with dark circles. I realize this as I am in the mirror, dabbing on concealer.

It is a Saturday. From the bathroom, I can hear the music from the living room. Our apartment is small, and we are able to listen to music throughout the house without turning up the music so loud the neighbors complain. It is the first time since our move in October that I have felt the sudden, irresistible urge to write.

It wasn’t until 2011, the year my father died, that I embarked on my writing career. It’s not a promising field, but I’ve been lucky enough to find work over the past three years. Newspapers across the country are struggling to stay in business, leaving entry-level writers little option but to write commercially (as I do now). In August of this year, shortly after creating this blog, I was laid-off from my job as a staff writer and content analyst.

It was a heavy blow to my self-esteem. In the three months I was unemployed, I began to seriously question my professional value. From there, I began questioning my self-worth in every facet. I didn’t have a job, but I had the enormous responsibility of paying for a wedding. My portfolio was decent, but not outstanding. No one was calling me back for an interview, and I felt out of place and constantly overwhelmed in Houston.

I began to question whether I should be a writer at all. I could be a teacher or a marketer. I could go back to school and become a professional in a more practical field. But even when employing all of the most logical arguments, the truth remained that writing was my strongest skill. It was what I had studied in college, and what I had dreamed about as a child. I am most proud of myself as a writer and for the work I’ve produced, but I’m not as good as I would like to be. I know I can be better.

That’s the biggest lesson I learned during my unemployment, “You’re good, but you could be better.”

Heartbreak and promises of new adventures have always been the pegs I twist my strings around. I’ve often found myself determined to start over, to forget the past by building an entirely new future in a new direction. My first instinct is to say I’m too old to start over again, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I’ve finally committed to a direction. It’s the path that started with a childhood dream, but it’s proving to be a hard dream to follow.

The dark circles below my eyes are my hard-earned stamps of stress, bruised by the half-mooned hooves of anxiety’s war horse. Stress has driven me to my breaking point more than once this year, as I’ve grappled with wedding plans and loneliness and professional rejection. But luckily, instead of despair, I’ve finally found peace. I’ve already come so far on this journey, and I have the distinct feeling that something wonderful is just ahead. Even if the road is hard, I can’t turn back quite yet.

The scent of a new adventure is in the air.



Any suggestions for a concealer? Lawd knows I need it!

– Blair


Words of Wisdom

“Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.” – Joan Didion, On Self-Respect

Easy Recipes/ Food/ General

Easy Homemade Bread (Only Four Ingredients!)

There are some people who always seem to bring delicious treats to pot lucks. These people also have wonderful get-togethers with well-thought-out menus with appetizers, wine pairings, and/or specialty cocktails. Well, that’s definitely NOT me. I wish it were me, but the truth is that my success rate in the kitchen can be likened to one hit wonders (which I play on repeat until you decide to buy me dinner instead of coming over for dinner.)

What’s my chart-topping hit you ask?

Chicken and ____! That’s right, I’ll thaw out some chicken breasts, marinate them in whatever marinade I find in my pantry, add some bell peppers, and in the oven it goes. I make some rice, and if I’m feeling adventurous I’ll make a salad.

I’m not saying I’ve never outdone myself in the kitchen, but those times come once in a blue moon and usually happen when someone else was in the kitchen with me.  Then again, with a bar set so low, out doing myself sometimes isn’t much about an amazing dish as it is about getting out of my routine and actually attempting something with more than three ingredients.

Here’s one of my successes: Four Ingredient Bread! That’s right…FOUR (4)! It’s a delicious, easy homemade bread.


I found the recipe at the Simply So Good blog. (She has a ton of helpful hints and suggestions for additional ingredients.) Because baking is such a precise process, I followed the instructions step-by-step, and in the end produced a wonderful loaf of bread.  My husband was just as surprised as I was with my wonderful homemade bread, and he also really liked it. I used it to make fancy shmancy grilled cheese sandwiches.

Words of Warning

When I attempted to replicate my first success, I came out defeated. What was to be a homemade bread bowl for my spinach dip ended up being a salty brick.  (Pictures not attached)  So listen, don’t get your measuring spoons mixed up. And make sure you have enough flour to roll the dough in before baking. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a salty, biodegradable assault weapon.

I do have one useful tip; if you don’t have a cast iron pot like the recipe calls for, you can use the inside pot from a crock pot and a glass lid from a baking dish that matches in size.  Don’t put your crock pot lid in the oven because it is not oven safe.


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