Inspired By.

I awoke this morning to rolls of thunder and rain whispering on pavement. In the dim morning light I lay quietly and listened, let my eyes droop closed a little longer and wrapped the duvet tighter around myself. There's just something about the sound of a spring thunderstorm in the early morning that feels so comforting. It makes for a cozier, quieter kind of day, and after an off-beat kind of week, I need that. 

As for my weekly must-reads list, my usual wealth of online inspiration has been sparse this week, and maybe that has contributed to its off-beatness. This is not to say that my regular reads haven't produced good content, but I just haven't connected with anything. Chalk it up to my own distractions - my own writing, my own struggles, and on a positive note, my distraction from the internet by pages of print.

I started reading Great House nearly a month ago and I'm still working through it. Reading Krauss' The History of Love was an entirely different experience than this second novel of hers. I started Great House expecting to experience that same love at first sight, but as I never seem to learn, you can't begin an author's second novel expecting it to be anything like the first. 

No, love at first sight was not the case, even remotely. In fact, I left it untouched for over a week out of sheer frustration. On reflection, this is not a result of Krauss' writing; her writing is as impeccable as ever. Rather, it was a personality conflict with one of her characters. And actually, I think we can all agree that dislike for a character can be the sign of truly good writing, because it means that the author has made us care about what is happening to the story. 

This only really dawned on me when I forced myself to take it up again and reread this passage from the early pages of the book, 
"There are moments when a kind of clarity comes over you, and suddenly you can see through walls to another dimension that you’d forgotten or chosen to ignore in order to continue living with the various illusions that make life, particularly life with other people, possible.
Great House is a collection of loosely connected stories. At this point, I have very little understanding of how they connect with each other, but what I can say is that with each story I find myself more and more aware of those parts of our lives that we live and exist and move around, like furniture, the ones we don't quite understand but can't let go of - memories, habits, heritage. Sometimes we notice these things in other people, and we can't understand why they hold so tightly to them. And when we come to recognize them in ourselves, we have to choose what to do with them. 

If you've read this book already and totally disagree with me on this analysis, good. I hope I find more to this story than what I understand of it half way through. Your thoughts are welcome here, just no spoilers, please! 

So what are you inspired by this week, online, in print, or otherwise? Have a good weekend, friends.



Why Not Cheese?

I think so often about what life would be like if I had been something else. What if I hadn't dropped my art major in college to focus on English, and instead dropped English to focus on art? 

Sitting on the counter last night and waiting for the water to boil for pasta, I sliced myself a chunk of stinky cheese that my friend and I snagged with a Groupon over the weekend. I am devoted to cheese. It may have to do with the fact that I grew up on a dairy farm. It may be a result of having traveled to other countries in the world that have a healthier relationship to cheese than Americans do. Either way, I am devoted to cheese. I could never be a vegan because of cheese, never mind the fact that I could never be a vegetarian because of bacon. 

And this funny thought popped into my head, 

Why not cheese? 

Why not devote myself to cheese and forget about this whole writing business? 

Cheese is simple. Food is simple. Cooking is a simple pleasure that fulfills a basic need. I'm a fairly good cook, so why not just do that? Why not just research and make and sell and eat cheese for the rest of my life?  Add a little bread and wine and fruit and maybe some olives and I'm set. 

There is cheese, and then there are words. Words, for all their necessity to life, are complicated. I do not write because I find words easy or because I understand them. And on days like today, I can't find words to explain why I write at all. 

So why writing?

I think about these things when caught in the throws of a particularly difficult piece of writing, or when the question confronts me again, where will you go next? or when I get the same compliment again that I'm a good writer, because just between you and me, that compliment is sometimes more of a blow than a boost to my ego.

And I think about that part in Blue Like Jazz when Miller talks about how people always assume that because writers can articulate thoughts and ideas better than other people, that this somehow means they have the answers to everything. It's kind of an unfair assumption when you think about it. Writers, for all their words of wisdom, have a pretty good track record for insanity.

I always feel compelled to temper that praise with realism - or is it cynicism? But I don't have it all figured out, I want to say.

And for this, I contemplate a career in cheese rather than writing. And then I go and write a blog post about it. 



book·ish : The Great Minds behind Great American Novels

There are the books themselves, and then there are the minds behind them. Epic writers like John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway seem so much larger than life, this ordinary, often mundane life that you and I live every day. They have captured so much of life in these stories that we conclude that we will never attain that kind of wisdom with our words.

And then we unearth things like letters they wrote to loved ones or their daily rituals and habits that helped them write those words. Eccentric though they may have been, they were human, and it was their discipline that they helped them pen those great American novels. 

I don't think that everyone can write, or that everyone was born to write. But for those of us that feel it is our purpose and pleasure to wield words, it is a comfort to know that we're not completely insane. I'm convinced that writing is equal parts eccentricity and discipline; we need enough of both to keep us imaginative and to keep us grounded. 

Here are a few bookish links to the great minds behind great American novels, via Brain Pickings.



1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they arefound on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement. 



Inspired By.

Everything has sprung anew. The magnolias and forsythias have bloomed, their branches reaching happily towards sunlight. My heart has warmed with their vibrance, too. I can hardly believe that we sleep with windows open and walk around in shorts and tank tops in March in the Midwest. 

Each year I’m always relieved that the miracle of spring has happened again, because I’m always a little afraid it won’t. Sometimes those weeks between late January and early March feel so cold, so dead that I lose faith that the world will thaw and thrive again. 

It did. It always does. 

A few good reads from around the web this week : 

In brief, beautiful bloom. (An old NPR story that still brings tears to my eyes.)



Pedaling the Bicycle.

Sometimes I cry for the clumsiness of it, the awkwardness of not understanding how to move forward. Like everything in life, grief is learning to pedal a bicycle without training wheels. A precarious exercise, a teetering balance that is sometimes exhilarating for a pace, but mostly dangerous and scarring. 

I am eight years old again, crying for my pain and pride, bleeding from different parts of me, angry that someone let go of my bike seat before I was ready.


Poem : Prayer

I stumbled across this poem the other day, and it spoke to me about the frustration we find with ourselves when we try to grasp the abstract things that seem so important - spirituality, love, generosity. We want to commit our thoughts to these things, but our small human brains become distracted by the tangible and mundane, by the immediate gratification of doing. I try to sit still, eyes closed in prayer, and I begin to think about lunch. I am so annoyingly human sometimes.


by Marie Howe

Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention—the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage

I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here

among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.

The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?

My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.

Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.


Prodigal : Owning Failures on My Résumé

I have another story up on Prodigal Mag today, and it's one big dose of humble pie.
Confession time : Have you ever been fired from a job? It's okay, I'll start : Here's my confession.

In case you missed it, here's my first article for Prodigal about losing my mom.


Inspired By.

You may have noticed that posts were a little scant on the blog this week. Between wrapping up nearly a dozen Etsy orders, drafting another story for Prodigal, celebrating bff’s birthday, celebrating rare 70 degree days in March in Chicago, and a busy week at work, the blog was low on the priority list. Nevertheless, here are a few things I did get around to reading.

What are your thoughts on Pinterest?

Rather than constantly pondering whether our reach is ‘big enough,’ we should also be looking at the depth of our actions.” - Jess Constable.
20 Things to Know in Your Twenties.

10 Reasons to Love.

"I pray He’ll draw them in, whisper to them that they’re worth it.



Happy Birthday, Love.

I look at her across the table. The glow of the tea candle between us highlights her soft features and curtain of dark hair; I know this face so well. 

My earliest memories of her begin with our desks arranged end-to-end in our third grade classroom at the small private school we attended. We shared the same love for Beauty and the Beast, and I remember the day that we both came to school toting the same lunch boxes, pink with Belle on the front. 

She, with her terrible memory, does not remember this, but it's okay - somehow my elephant memory and her forgetfulness balance our relationship, the same way that her head for numbers and facts and order balances my flighty, rather unkempt, highly emotional existence. 

It's the reason I feel completely comfortable asking her to open my bathroom cupboards, not because she won't tell me that I'm a mess, but because I know she will. In fact, she'll stand there with me and tell me what to toss and what to keep when my own obsession with beauty products rivals that of my mother's. 

We're such opposites in some ways. She's at ease in a kitchen surrounded by twenty other cooks and waitresses, and in the chaos she maintains a focus that produces finely crafted breads and cakes, the likes of which you'll only find in artisan bakeries or her own mother's oven. 

I share her love for food and cooking, but in that same flurry of activity I'd be a basket-case; I have the scars to prove it. And while I can sit for days on end in front of my computer screen crafting essays out of words and blank pages (so long as the coffee and quiet hold out), she would be driven to madness within an hour's time of being faced with that task.

And yet. We're so compatible. There are few people in life that know the difference between stealing and sharing when it comes to a plate of food. We coordinate our orders at dinner to make sure we get the best of both worlds. On ritual Thursdays (movie + wine + dessert = weekly pre-weekend celebration) we can split a bottle of shiraz evenly, and we can split a box of frozen, store-bought cream puffs in one sitting and arrive at the same conclusion : good idea in theory, but let's never do that again.

Our childhoods were similar in so many ways: we grew up in the same church, our parents were friends, and we each survived life with a pair of torturous younger brothers. We are the only sisters we have. 

After nearly twenty years of this sister-love, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that she never left my side when mom died, and yet, as she walked into the room where my mother lay in her casket, tears sprang to my eyes, 

"You're here," I whispered. 

"Of course I am," she whispered back, wrapping her arms around my neck.

That's true love at it's best. Surprisingly faithful, radically selfless, quietly constant, wholly unconditional. It needs no explanation, it carries no complaint. It bears all things willfully, and it communicates without words : 

I will do the same for you.

Yesterday was her birthday, and what with her recent trip to Paris and my scant free time between work, writing, and art, I nearly forgot it. Thank God for my Google calendar. We did what we do best and made an impromptu dinner date, braved bumper-to-bumper city traffic to meet each other, and then there we were, splurging on steak frites and Sophie at Hopleaf

"You're 26," I say, raising my glass to toast her. 

"Wow. I am," she replies. 

We share that smile, the one that we've shared for a million milestones, big and small : 

We're growing up, but it's our little secret.


book·ish : Brookish

Oh my, I'm in love. Brookish is an Etsy shop entirely devoted to bringing a little Jane Austen to your everyday happenings, complete with mugs, totes, and scarves. A little dose of Mr. Darcy with my morning coffee? Yes please.  


1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they arefound on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.


Inspired By.

The stars were quiet. The river spoke in some other tongue, some vernacular for fish.
- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

I’ve just finished Miller’s spiritual memoir (in preparation for seeing the film adaptation in a few weeks!) and I really loved the heart of it, and the writing was so good; this small passage is one of many that I found absolutely delicious. The words latched themselves to my memory instantly. I continue to roll those phrases over and over in my mind like candy on the tongue, savoring their flavors. That’s why I loved this post from him about using verbs versus adjectives. His sentence is a perfect example of that principle at its best.

While I pick up the pages of this novel, here are some good reads for you to explore.

"...to the seedling on the sill. I am the small, green heart, all bud and shoot and tendril."
(Poem discovered thanks to Sam's tweet.)

Worst movie of all time? Hard to narrow it down to just one.

Good advice from a dad and a grandpa.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.” - Diane von Furstenberg via The Everygirl.

[Photo and excellent reflection on Blue Like Jazz here.]


Paris : A Recollection.

In a quiet moment at the Musée D'Orsay, I sit on a bench and watch a painter make his peace with a replica of Latour's La Nuit. In strokes he layers pastels over the soft concave and convex curves of her body, wraps her in a cloud of lavender and gray. 

Patrons tread quietly on marble tiles, stand arrested by the colors of Cézanne, Degas, Delacroix, Klimt. They peer out the second story windows at a brilliant sky. By my eyes, the clouds are different here than anywhere else in the world, brilliant white cotton and silk spun mountainous over sacred monuments. And the sun shines bright across twinned balconies, long bedroom windows, blue rooftop after blue rooftop. 

By no surprise I am in love here, and with here. I am unsure if it is the expected or unexpected that raptures me, the idea or the tangibility. As with art and life, romance and relationships, idealism and realism beg conversation.

So it is with memory - was I really there? I'm glad I wrote it down.

[Best friend returns from Paris tomorrow. Oh how I wish I could go back.]


Poem : The Memory of You.

Recent past eclipses healthy memories, 
those days when your smile and skin glowed happy, 
what do we remember from before? 
all of us were young and unaware of a soon and threatening after, 
of a life later, 
when the living room is empty of you, 
when sad, silent objects sit in your void. 

Tears come, a slow tide of grief in the dark, 

or in a swell surrounded by a sea of strangers, 
an angry rock of grief grows in my throat as I flee 
to bathroom, closet, closed door.
I drive apologetic and repentant all the way to work each morning, 
all the way home at night, mascara running along the road with me.

And when I think that faith has failed me, 

"Take a deep breath," you say. 
The sun glows bright against glistening pavement, 
a sparrow flies fast and free above me, 

I breathe. 

"Until I see you again," 

       I whisper,
"Beatific, wholly holy, alive and well."


Prodigal : "Facing Grief and Finding Faith"

My very first article for Prodigal Magazine has been published today! "Facing Grief and Finding Faith" is  about the challenge of finding God's love in losing my mom. Have you ever lost someone close to you? How did it change your perception of spirituality? Of God? Of Heaven and Earth? Please share your thoughts.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart to Ally and Darrell for this opportunity, and to Leigh Kramer for proofing my first article and being such a wonderful encouragement to share this story. 


Inspired By.

Le sigh. I just drove my best friend to O'Hare so that she can catch her plane to Paris for an international pastry-making competition. I die of jealousy, but I've had my turn already, nearly four years ago. It's her first time traveling internationally, so I'm happy for her. I'll go back someday, right? Right.

Meantime, I sit in the quiet of my little apartment in the Chicago suburbs as the sky begins to fall in big white chunks - a late winter snow storm that I could do without. I hate the Midwest in March for the hangover-like feeling it leaves on dreary afternoons and its unpredictable swings in climate. It was fifty degrees and sunny only two days ago. I'm ready to bare my legs in a gauzy dress and go without a jacket and feel sun on bare skin and sit outside on my porch late at night.

For now, I guess I should use it an excuse to brew an extra mug of earl grey and settle in with my current read. Yes, that sounds like a good idea... Happy weekend, loves. 

There are few things in life as romantic as dating your spouse

Not Heaven someday, when we get there, but right now, right here

Praise God for transition.

Beautiful words about my favorite city

Doesn't this book look like a juicy read?

Then trying to get back in... which makes me want to read this book



The Ripe Word : Shop Update

Good news : I've restocked my Etsy shop, The Ripe Word, complete with new designs. Have a look