We're Moving!

Friends, the time has come for us to say goodbye to SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com...

Because I have a brand-new blog : BethanySuckrow.com

It's been really hard to keep this a secret from you for the last few months while Darrell and I worked on this, but it's finally up and running and ready for you to explore. It's newer and cleaner and much more functional, but it will still be what you've come to expect from me - reflective writing on all things literary, bookish, poetic, and creative. 

So head on over and read my latest post on the concept of "She Writes and Rights."


Of Life, Brief and Beautiful.

First Mother's Day, and I had to choose to stand at the grave of the gone or celebrate the here and now, who we are today and how am I blessed in this moment. So I chose to eat brunch with my mother-in-law and later wander the art institute with my best friend, where we explored beauty, ancient and new and twisted and refined and it was there that I felt all the longings of our mortality. 

This is the story we are asked to tell : of life, brief and beautiful. 

To find it carved in marble, stroked in oil and acrylic, woven in the fabric of our collective creative conscious over centuries, seems the only true comfort, the only way to celebrate our legacy of love and loss. 

[Photos : 1, 2.]


Poem : What the Living Do

Marie Howe is another one of those poets whose words and tone cling to me for days after reading her work. I first discovered her when I found this poem awhile back, but then I heard her interview with Terry Gross last October, driving home to Michigan to visit my mother. It felt divine, purposeful, that I happened to be in the car and listening to my radio right then, because it was exactly what I needed to hear. Reading poetry is one thing, but hearing the author read the poem as it was meant to be read, hearing them talk about where the poem came from, takes you so much deeper into the moment that they're describing. Read this poem, but if you're really wanting to be moved, listen to her interview on Fresh Air

What the Living Do
by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there. 
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of. 
It's winter again: the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living room windows because the heat's on too high in here, and I can't turn it off. 
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those 
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it. 
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want 
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss -- we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass, 
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:

I am living, I remember you.

book·ish : Curtner's Textual Collages.

There are many different ways to create art from words, and writing is only one form. But Richard Curtner takes word art to a new level with as a talented Textual Collage artist in Palm Springs, Calif.

Collages can look messy, but Curtner's pieces are as vivid and emotional as paintings. A particularly bookish one I loved : "Better than Fiction."



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.

If I really think about it, I was never blessed with just one mother. I think that when we celebrate Mother’s Day, we’re not just celebrating flesh and blood, but the role that mothers play in our lives - to nurture and guide and encourage us, to create space for us to grow into the people we were meant to be. 

And so, yes, my mother knew me better than any other person on the planet, in a deep and intimate way that could only have happened because I grew out of her very being, an honest to goodness miracle. But this Mother’s Day, I’m learning to see beyond the label of mother and think in terms of the abstract, the larger sense of motherhood, the legacy that spans generations whether you came from her womb or not. 

And so I dedicate this post to my Mother, the one that grew me and birthed me and raised me and knew me for 25 years, and also to the women that will be with me in the years to come, helping me navigate the next 25(+). You know who you are, and I feel more gratitude for each of you than I have words for. 

Happy Mother’s Day, with all my love. These sweet links are for you : 

Give her a name.

Like mother like daughter.

"We pray for sleep, for poop, for patience, for energy, for forgiveness." The real story of motherhood.

Mama for a Moment.

Tina Fey's "A Mother's Prayer for Her Daughter."

Every Mother Matters.

A healthy diet of bread and words.

"For every house you enter, you must offer healing..." A favorite poem for anyone who has ever loved their mother.

[Photo : coming soon to my Etsy shop.]

Guest Post | What's My Middle Step?

You guys, I'm on a roll this week. Today I share a third guest post over on Tim Snyder's blog, This Blank Page, where I ask the question, "What's My Middle Step?" He graciously asked me to share a bit of my story, about what it was like for me after college when I was struggling to find my professional footing as a writer. I needed to figure out my middle step, to go from just working a job to having a career path. And I'm sure that no matter what job you work, you've probably asked yourself that same question.

I'm happy to share this story, but I do so with caution. I want everyone who reads this to know that I still work the job I mention, and that while I wanted more for artistic flexibility as a writer than what this job can give me, I do love my job and I am thankful everyday not just to work as a full-time writer, but to do so for an organization that I believe in.

Thanks, as always, for reading, and be sure to explore Tim's site and give him a little comment love.


More than a Memory.

It's not always sad. There is a deep joy when I remember you, when I think about your arms around me, the words we shared, the things we loved together - coffee, dessert, hairspray, Gilmore Girls, The Sound of Music

I am not always afraid. When K told us she was pregnant last month and that this time the baby is healthy, my heart leapt with joy and I heard you say, This is possible; it will all be okay

It isn't always about loss. My heart is full with you - your affirmations, your laughter, your gentle words, even your tough love. You loved me for me, and maybe this is why I don't hate my body : you taught me that life was too short to starve myself of it. 

I am not always alone. When I talk with my hands or choose what to wear in the morning or glance at a passing reflection, it's that same conversation we always had, only quieter. 

It isn't always past tense. We are more than memories, more than dust and bones and the dirt we return to. You are faith and hope and love present tense, a glimmer of joy in every living moment. 

It’s true. I look at my life every day and think, I’m lucky. I am blessed. Our short lives - lived well - are better than the long lives we might have wasted in different circumstances. Fifty years of Grace is better than a hundred years of mere existence.


Prodigal : When I Become a Mother.

In honor of Mother's Day this weekend, Prodigal Mag is hosting a series honoring our mothers. Today I contribute with "When I Become a Mother," reflecting on my close relationship to my mom and how my  desire to be a mom has changed since she passed away in January.

P.S. My Prodigal archives, and other posts remembering my mother.  


Guest Post | "When You Can't Unbreak the Plate."

Today I'm guest posting over on Lore Furgeson's blog Sayable. Have you gotten to know Lore yet?  She's a great writer, designer, and all around wonderful and generous soul. She's doing a brave thing and taking the entire month of May as a vacation away from the internet. Could you, could any of us, go a whole month without it?! I think the only way I could follow through with that is if I were stranded in the middle of nowhere. 

Anyway, in her absence she has enlisted a group of her favorite bloggers to share their writing to keep her blog alive, and I am honored to be counted among them. So here's my brief story on grace, "When You Can't Unbreak the Plate."

P.S. My guest post archives, if you're interested. 


book·ish : Poetic Spines.

Here's a fun and bookish project to try out : make poetry from book spines! I stumbled across the idea the other day, and knew I just had to go home and make my own attempt. The hardest part? Finding verbs to make it read more like a poem than a list of titles. 

Speak bittersweet, good poems -
a great and terrible beauty - 
traveling with pomegranates 
a million miles in a thousand years. 



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.

Yesterday was the perfect kind of rain. The sky was split between sunshine and storm clouds, and while neighborhood children still played on bicycles and swing sets, those clouds broke open in a downpour and everyone got drenched and no one cared. They screamed with delight and I couldn't help but stand on my porch and get drenched with them and watch the rain and sun collide and make everything glisten. It was a happy, warm rain, the kind that you can dance in, the kind that feels like a relieved exhale. And I exhaled with it. 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend and happy reading : 

"And I tilt my head and re-read my life." The realism behind optimism.

"What's in a year, you say? An eternity on one hand, and a single moment in another. That, and the worlds between." 

"What the fine art market shows us, though, is that real value isn't created by this volatile fame. Consistently showing up on the radar of the right audience is more highly prized than reaching the masses, once then done. This works for every career, even if you've never touched a brush." - Volatility and Value. See also : A talisman for our times.

"But take solace in what unites us… all of which quietly collide one word at a time." - Life of a Writer.

"Sometimes they ask how I continue, and I reply, glibly, 'Because of contractual obligation.'" - The Agony of Writing.

A fascinating look at life alone



Early Evening Hours.

My early evenings after work and before dinner are usually spent alone, waiting for my husband to get home from his shift as a security officer. It's the perfect time of day to be alone, I think. The day's tensions slowly release their grasp around my shoulders, and I can cleanse myself of it all with a book and a glass of wine, or with my writing, or in doing the thing I've been meaning to do - tidy my side of the bedroom, change our sheets, clean the kitchen. 

In the quiet, I resist the twinge of loneliness, the urge to turn on the radio or watch television. If I wait long enough, let my ears adjust, I can hear the world unwinding with me. Our apartment sits near an industrial park, just past a busy highway and on the edge of a forest preserve. The trees muffle the sound of trains and planes and cars so that I can hear birds going wild with the sunset, calling to each other at the end of the day as the sun slips below the horizon. 

That sound, of birds, of rustling leaves, and that light, the long shadows of a day at its end, always reminds me that I am never alone, and the words of Mary Oliver and Walt Whitman meet me in that place of brief and whole contentedness...  

by Walt Whitman

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me — he complains of my gab and my loitering.  
I too am not a bit tamed — I too am untranslatable;  
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me;  
It flings my likeness after the rest, and true as any, on the shadow’d wilds;  
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.  
I depart as air — I shake my white locks at the runaway sun;  
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love;  
If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.  
You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean;  
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,  
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged;  
Missing me one place, search another;  
I stop somewhere, waiting for you.



Poem : Wild Geese

Do you have a favorite poet? Like my favorite novelists or favorite musicians, I can never narrow it down to just one, but Mary Oliver ranks high among them. Her words always spur me to live generously, to love more radically, to delight in the simple moments of every day. And isn't that the best kind of writing? 

This poem blessed me with solace last week, when I was feeling apologetic and spent and desperate. Which poets and poems do that for you?

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


book·ish : How Do You Choose a Book?

I read this really lovely quote the other day from Wentworth Dillon, IV Earl of Roscommon : 

"Choose an author as you would a friend." 

It made me think about all the books I've read and how I met them. Most often, I choose books at the recommendation of someone whose opinion I trust. In recent years, those recommendations most often come from you - my blog community. But sometimes it's a serendipitous happenstance that I recognize as a blessing in retrospect.

I rarely choose a book at random and enjoy it. The one exception was The Reader; it's one of my favorites, and now Bernard Schlink is one of my favorite authors, and the way that I found it felt sort of providential, like I was supposed to find it. It was sitting on a shelf in my local library, where I worked as a teenager. Its cover was beautiful, but when I opened the book I realized that it was placed upside down - to read it, you had to flip it over, and so to the rest of the world it looked as though you were reading it back-to-front and upside-down. The description on the back cover was intriguing, but I felt compelled to read it because of the misplaced cover, because I noticed that if patrons picked it up and noticed that the cover was a mistake, they often put it back down and found something else. When I read it, the secret in the story made it feel like I was meant to read it and if someone else didn't choose it because of the cover, then it was a secret between me and that book alone, one that I would always treasure. They didn't know what they were missing and I wasn't about to tell them.  

No matter how we meet books or people, the relationship requires trust, mutual interest, shared language. I love reading a book and thinking quietly to the characters and author, "Me too."




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 are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.


Prodigal : Watering the Peace Lily.

So I have this peace lily... and despite how often I neglect it, it's been teaching me some things about prayer, patience, and grief. Read my musings today on Prodigal Mag :
"I always go a day too long without watering it. From my usual spot in the corner chair of my living room one evening, I looked up from my computer screen, bleary-eyed after hours of writing, and blinked at the coffee table. There was my peace lily, slumped in a terrifying wilt, its leaves prostrate..." - Read more here

P.S. My Prodigal archives.


I'll Be Back Soon...

It's been quiet around here for the last few days. My apologies. There's been some excitement at the office, a pile of other to-dos for my other writing commitments, and I'm spending a lot of time on a little surprise for this blog (coming soon to a computer screen near you!)

Thank you for your patience, dear readers. Thank you for your kindness

Thank you in advance while I take another few days to right my writing self again, and swing back into a routine here on She Writes and Rights. 

I am taking the rest of this week off from the blog. I rarely do this, and I don't really want to, but I feel it's needed right now. I'm in need of more moments like the one pictured above, and less moments like the scene in my kitchen late last night when I accidentally broke one of our dinner plates and promptly burst into tears. 

Tomorrow I'll post another article over on Prodigal, but I won't be back here again until next week. 

Here are a few worthy reads to preoccupy you until my return : 

Thanks, Joe, for the needed advice.

The denim dungeon (I've been there, too.) 

And this story for This American Life had me in tears and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. (I think I've mentioned before how much I love This American Life. Are you a fan? If you love stories and writing and humor and life, you need to give it a listen. It will be the best part of your Friday and/or weekend.)



Walk Away from the Page.

Sometimes when I'm writing, I fear walking away from the page. I've gotten to a certain point, and now nothing good is coming out, and the blinking cursor is mocking me, heightening my anxiety that this writing business is all just a farce. Tonight is such a night. So I started cleaning my house. It needed it so I had good enough reason. But as I set about gathering laundry and scouring dishes, the anxiety of the unwritten page, the lack of ideas, followed me.

So I sat down and picked up Hemingway. This is the passage that leaped off the page at me, gave me permission to walk away.
I always worked till I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get going, I would sit in front of the fire an squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. Up in that room I decided I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was a good and severe discipline. 
It was in that room too that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until the time that I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything, I hoped; learning, I hoped; and I would not think about my work and make myself impotent to it.” - Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast.

If you're a writer, it is so necessary to read. I know that seems obvious - I don't know a writer that doesn't love to read. But I would be willing to bet that many writers struggle with the same thing that I do - if I read, I'm not writing, and if I'm not writing, I could fall behind, forget my focus, lose my muse. This is the real farce : that walking away is somehow a form of quitting. No, you just have to have rest your writing, feed it, nourish it. You have to let things influence and inspire you.

What do you think? Who are the writers that most inspire you?

Some more Hemingway, plus advice about writing from the great minds behind other American classics


book·ish : My To-Read List

Do you remember my goal list for 2012? Reading more was one of my goals, and I've stuck with it pretty well. I wanted to read an average of a book per month. I know other people who devour books on a weekly basis, but my schedule doesn't allow for that, sadly. 

I read Bird by Bird in January/February and Blue Like Jazz in February/March. I just wrapped up Great House, which held some enlightening and intuitive passages, but I am now ready for a change of pace.

On my way home from work today I finally snagged a copy of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. It's one of those that always seems to be checked out, but today was my lucky day. There are still a few others on my waiting list that I can never seem to catch, like The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, or On the Road by Jack Kerouac. 

After this I think I'll either read Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott or The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. 

So. What are you reading right now?




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.

Meet Sue, the famous dino from the Field Museum! Isn't she gorgeous? 

Actually, as my brother and I walked past her on our visit last weekend, my first thought was that she bears a remarkable resemblance to my face before I've had coffee in the morning. 

Just kidding... 

Honestly though, this may resemble my facial expression at the office every day this week after working for hours on the press release to end all press releases, and after reading a snippy email. 

And this may resemble my reaction last night after glancing at Facebook right before bed and seeing a really nasty status and subsequent conversation thread about someone else between two rather oblivious "friends." My response was rather explosive. 

Today I'm nursing what I've come to recognize as an anger hangover. It's not pretty.

And so I'm just going to be honest with myself, with you, with everyone who might ever fall victim to my wrath and insecurity. 

Sometimes I am not a nice person. 

Sometimes I handle things badly. 

Sometimes I tweet my problems. 

Sometimes I need to suck it up and deal. 

Forgive me? 

Meantime, here are some encouraging links for your perusal. Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

"To be with your truth while being with other sacred, courageous pilgrims..." - On Not Being Alone.

A few thoughts on writing from one of my favorite authors ever.

Can I just have Jess answer all my emails from here on out?

What are your happiest moments?



Removing the Blog-Goggles.

Today I'm struck by the value of time when it comes to good writing. My days have been a little out of sorts lately, in a good way. Last week my brother was in town over his spring break. We spent our evenings in the kitchen as I taught him the cooking basics (he's been on a steady diet of frozen chicken fingers and boxed mac-n-cheese for the last few months since our mom died.) It was time well spent; I don't think we've ever had that much time alone together, and realistically, we may never have that kind of time again. 

This week, my sis-in-law and niecey are in town, and my evenings are spent watching Dora or Ice Age and reading Curious George, and enjoying more than the usual gatherings of family for lunch, dinner, weekend activities, etc. I love it, I adore them, it's comforting to be with family and just relax together when we spend so much of our lives apart.

But I catch myself trying to do double-duty, to enjoy my time with family and think about how to make use of it in my writing. Some people refer to this syndrome as "blog-goggles"; sometimes I have to force myself to take them off, think of it in terms of just my life and not the subject of another post. 

This is time well-spent, just as it is. Stay in the moment. 

And I've long held tightly to this myth that if I just had an extra, oh, 12 hours in my day, I'd have an entire series of novels written and published by now. Instead, I'm stuck with a mere, standard 24 hours, an un-met deadline, a stale blog, and ideas that feel like cold, day-old coffee grounds in the bottom of my neglected french press. Ugh.

I forget that I'm young. I forget that life is messy, and it should be that way. I forget that I'm only human. 

I cringe when I think about what life will be like later, when kids and a mortgage and more job responsibilities might get thrown into the mix. 

Sometimes writing takes a back seat to life. And that's okay, because shouldn't writing be about life? The page will be blank or the words empty if there's no life to fill them. 

I'm learning that one of the biggest challenges of being a writer is to compartmentalize my life from my work, my self from my writing,  and then to allow those different parts of me to interact in a healthy way. 

As Shauna explains, good writing always requires quality time, but when you're caught up in a busy life, you may have to give up the idea of hoarding a large chunk of time for yourself and give in to doing it in smaller increments. I'm trying to implement this sort of method, but there are some weeks like this one, when all hope of writerly seclusion goes out the window.

How about you? What's the hardest part of balancing your life as a writer?


Poem : Life, Written.

I wish to write my life in essay form, 
answers to all your questions carefully crafted,

for when I am asked off the cuff for favorite films, 

I fumble and stutter like I've been caught, asked,
why did I lie about getting my homework done in fifth grade, 
when instead I spent the afternoon reading Judy Blume?
I say nothing that I meant to;
I land on comedy of all things, 
I forget about the dramatic scenes that bring tears to my eyes,
the running reel 
of what I really meant to mention.

And don't ask me why it made more sense to purchase drive-thru

Starbucks this morning,
rather than wait five minutes for the french press at home. 
I'm a walking contradiction, I know,

So let me write it all down for you.

Rather than a hand across my stupid mouth, 

my hand that flies across the page tells its truth, 
the heart of me, 
the heart I wish I wore on my sleeve, but that never really seems to say, 
say what I mean.

And rather than you keeping record of all my wrongs, 

I'd like to write that story myself,
the way I do so now.
All is poetry,
All is true,
But I'd rather you not tell it.


Inspired By.

There’s something sacred about reading a blog post on someone else’s site. It’s like visiting a friend’s house for a quick meal ’round the breakfast table. It’s personal — you’re in their space, and the environment is uniquely suited for idea exchange and uninterrupted conversation. In many ways, we should be treating our blogs like our breakfast tables. Be welcoming & gracious when you host, and kind & respectful when visiting.” – Trent Walton, via Swiss Miss.
I've been incredibly blessed over the last three years since starting this blog. I am being completely honest when I tell you that never once, no matter what I've posted, has anyone written a terrible comment here. I've deleted a few spammy ones here and there, but no one has ever left an anonymous insult or criticized me harshly. I've shared a lot about my life here - about losing my job, about being in therapy, about being a newlywed, about being under-employed, about losing my mom. I've written about my iTunes account getting hacked and losing $800, I've whined endlessly about my lot in life as a writer and I've revealed a lot insecurity. Sometimes I get crickets, but most times I just get encouragement. 

This week I shared an article on Prodigal, and it was one of the hardest things I've ever written. It reveals a lot of what I'm struggling with in-the-moment, and I cried through every word I wrote. I shared a lot about my faith and my lack of it. And the response was overwhelmingly positive. 

Thank you.

When so many things in life - my jobs, my relationships, my family, my self - have felt broken, this space has given me peace, assurance, a place to dwell in the positive, to enjoy the good things. It's because of you, dear readers. I'm happy to have you to chat with around my "breakfast table" of a blog. 

Here are a few delightful pieces I found from other positive spaces around the web this week. Enjoy. 

A tactful guide on commenting etiquette.

5 Reasons I Didn't Retweet You.

"Patience is bitter, but its fruits are sweet." - Jean Jacques Rousseau. A Writer's Most Important Virtue.

Want to do meaningful work? Keep reading. (Some seriously scary stats on the decline of literacy in adulthood.)

What a Life! Happy birthday, Maya Angelou.

Voices of our loved ones.

"I believe in building relationships. All kinds, any kind, if only because it instills a bit of purpose, however small, into the everyday." On being a dedicated, brings-all-her-friends kind of patron.

And because it's just really funny and completely accurate : Kate weighs in on the leggings-as-pants controversy.



Mom's Mug.

In a cupboard full of mugs, she always pulled out this one. Each early morning before work and school she would pour a steaming kettle of water into it with swiss miss mix, and a smell like hot chocolate would waft over to me as I ate my cereal. She would stand in the bathroom, curling her hair, applying her makeup, listening to the radio, sipping her swiss miss from this mug. 

When I was older we would share it, and when I had gone away to college, each visit home was a visit with this mug, which she would let me use to satisfy my own nostalgia. 

Now it sits in my own cupboard full of mugs. Each morning it follows me from room to room as I do my hair, put on makeup, get dressed for work. Or on Saturdays, as I wipe down counters, fold laundry, read a book. 

There are just some things that keep her with me, even if she's gone. 

And like I know so many of you might want to, here’s a link to buy your own vintage Taylor & Ng mugs on their site or on Etsy, including Le Chat.



Poem : In Perpetual Spring.

Stumbled across this on PoetryFoundation.org (such a good place to wander, no?) Her last line just gets me. 

In Perpetual Spring

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies   
and trip over the roots   
of a sweet gum tree,   
in search of medieval   
plants whose leaves,   
when they drop off   
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they   
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal   

human desire for peace   
with every other species   
wells up in you. The lion   
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,   
queen of the weeds, revives   
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt   
there is a leaf to cure it.



Prodigal : "On Crying in Church Bathrooms."

Today on Prodigal Mag, I share about faith, grief, and whether or not going to church is worth it. It's the  first post in our two-week series, "Why Church?" 

This article was harder to write than most, so I appreciate your support and it would mean the world to me if you would share your thoughts on church, and why you do or don't attend. Here's a snippet from my article :
"A throng of people are making their way to the alter, but I'm running to the bathroom. Once I'm safe in the stall I let my tears flow freely. I hear a toilet flush and the sink run, the crank of the paper towel dispenser. I hold my breath as heels click across tile. The door bangs against the jam and then silence. I'm relieved; I just want to be left alone. In the silence I beg God quietly, Why?"  - Read more here.  

Plus : my Prodigal archives


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.