Gimme Gimme: Reflecting on TAKE

Y’all, I’m sorry I’m late posting on #VOWtake. The thing is, today is my birthday. And last weekend, Josh and I went to the beach. And it was glorious. Humid and sweaty and cloudy and relaxing and wonderful. For hours we watched dolphins swim past us. The water was bathtub warm. The sand looked like it was synthetically manufactured and shipped in… it was that perfect.

I TOOK it all in. Soaked in the moment by being present for all of it. I didn’t fret at the idea of strangers seeing my body in a swimsuit. I didn’t marinate on the smattering of rain which threatened to cancel our parasailing plans. Hell, I didn’t allow myself to panic when we were 400 feet above open water (quite an accomplishment given my fear of whales and deep water).

I didn’t wallow at the idea of having to leave far sooner than I wanted to. I tried not to live in the past or the future or inside my head (or fears).

And I remembered to TAKE lots of pictures. Of the seaside view from our balcony. Of the sunrise stroll we took before departing. Of the two of us together… even though I thought my body looked bulbous and my hair was gigantic from moisture.

I didn’t want to distance myself in any way from this birthday. it’s been the best one I’ve ever had. I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to lose any of it. Even the pieces I wish were different. Which means TAKING the good with the bad, the glorious perfect parts with the (equally glorious) imperfect ones.

Lin’s VOW mantra: Appreciate what you have before it turns into what you had.

Lin’s SOW (Song Of the Week): Top of the World by Me First & The Gimme Gimmes

#VOWtake It In; #VOWbuild On It

For no other reason than a bone-deep feeling, I believe that my 28th year will be the last one that I am here—

Not alive (that’s morbid).
But fully present in this city, maybe.
More than that, by myself here.

I think, in a year, there will always be two, more times than there are one.
And that I will be completely ready for that commitment.

I believe I will owe that readiness, in large part, to this project.
To this year of Build-ing.

Because each week, these VOWs take me somewhere new.
They’ve become cities I’ve traveled to and explored without a map.
Alleys and cafes I fell in love with, not because they were wholly unseen,
but because they were ordinary things that made me feel feelings that,
in that moment, I hadn’t felt yet.

I think #VOWtake was an earthquake. An aftershock. And the rubble.
And ruin, as Elizabeth said, is the road to transformation.

This past week, I took:

In more calories in bread and cheese and wine than I should have.
More nights for what they were.
More chances than were smart.

And I regret nothing.

So this week, I’m primed to


Steph’s TAKE mantra: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the word is full of uneducated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. (Calvin Coolidge)

Steph’s Song of the Week: TESTIFY by NEEDTOBREATHE

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWtake post (coming soon…after she returns from the beach…not that I am jealous or anything).


Trusting Myself to the Water & #VOWholding

It’s been one of those weeks.
And I mean that in the best way.
It was one for the books.

Composed of a hundred moments that are insignificant in the grand scheme of our lives yet exactly the thing that makes the days they are made of great—

A handful or two of belly laughs.
Another of nights without enough sleep.
But more than that, it was dinner made and dishes done.
Beds and space easily shared.
Kisses and moments that never had to be stolen, because they were freely given.

And that’s both the bitch and beauty of living;
Nothing is forever.

So I’ve made up my mind to trust myself to the water (Alan Watts),
Because that’s what this whole thing is (David Foster Wallace).

And if I need to hold my heart outside my body for days (Nayyirah Waheed) in the aftermath I will.

But I’ll


My chances, because

keep putting your hands
on my mind.
It is the same thing as my body.’

—heal, Nayyirah Waheed

Steph’s HOLD mantra:
Help me to accept what it is that you need to give me.
Help me to release what it is that I need to let go of.

-a Quaker prayer

Steph’s Song of the Week: Unsteady by X Ambassadors

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWhold post.


30 Seconds to Intimacy: Reflecting on HOLD

I don’t remember exactly when Josh first mentioned it. Maybe it was something his therapist said. Perhaps it was a random article that caught his eye during a mental work break. All I know is that since he mentioned there was a “right way” to do them, all our subsequent hugs have piqued my interest.

Hugging, it seems, is good for our neurobiology. And 30 seconds of it increases intimacy-cementing hormones (namely, oxytocin). This is the chemical released during childbirth and, interestingly, intercourse. As much of a 30 second EMBRACE (recall that this is my #oneword2017) can enhance, solidify, and tenderize your relationship with your partner. Not that Josh and I need it — we’re that obnoxious couple that has never fought, despite dating for over a year and living together for nearly six months. Part of that is because we’re naturally so fucking compatible that it bewilders us on a daily basis. The other is because we actively work to preclude conflicts before they originate.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re going to have a huge blow out at some point. We’ve even placed a bet on what it will be about and who will start the fight (my bed: probably about his ex and it’ll probably be me saying something feisty).

But in the meantime, we are diligent to take care of the other person. To be on their side. To support and forgive and clarify. And this week, I wanted to give those long, restorative hugs a try.

So every day, we would HOLD one another for a long embrace. Sometimes it was in the bathroom, naked post-shower. Sometimes it was in the doorway, holding my purse post-work. Sometimes it was in the kitchen, wet hands from doing dishes post-dinner.

You don’t just wrap your arms around each other, either. Josh gave me instructions during our first run — you must also put your weight into the other one. Really lean in there. Rest your body against the other person. Hold tight-ish. Maybe place your face in the crook of their neck and breathe in their pheromones.

And for reals, y’all, it works. It’s an instant rejuvenater. At first we hugged for the designated 30 seconds. Oftentimes it lasted far longer, the two of us slowly revolving in our own little world. The hugs infiltrated our sleep, TV watching, and meal times. Josh thrives on physical touch so this week’s verb benefited him even more than me.

This week was a good reminder that our VOWs needn’t be major in order to be impactful.

Next week we shift gears and begin to TAKE

Lin’s VOW mantra:

Lin’s Song of the Week: Hold On by Rivvrs

Be sure to read Steph’s #VOWhold post (coming soon!)

Devotion: Reflecting on INVEST

This past week my family convened for a mini reunion in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

It was the first time I met four of my six nieces and nephews.

It was the first time I introduced my fella to my step sisters.

I gave Josh the Lindsey Childhood History Tour around Grand Junction.

I laughed with my brother.

I side-hugged my step dad while he wiggled a finger in my ear.

I talked about aliens with a 3 year old.

I was only coerced into a single heated political conversation (in which I said one sentence and extricated myself).

I listened to my teeny sweet momma tell bunches of profanity laden stories.

I ziplined over a canyon, swung off the side of a cliff, discussed my irrational fear of losing my fingers while ice skating.

I hadn’t anticipated this week to go so wonderfully. And I mean, sure, I was exhausted from kids screaming, stuffed from eating far too much meat and far too few veggies, and hungover from one too many mixed drinks on my brother’s birthday. But overall it was really fucking fun. And I was glad to have participated. Thrilled to have INVESTED time and energy and love with these people. We’re scattered all over the country but for one simple week we made each other meals, discussed our daily lives, laughed and high-fived.

I’m not as close to my family as other folks are. But it doesn’t mean I cherish them any less. And I’ll forever hold this time dear to my heart… even if we did forget to take a single family snapshot.

Join us next week as we try to HOLD on, HOLD tight, and/or HOLD steady…

Lin’s VOW mantra: “Don’t worry about the stock market. Invest in family.” ~ random fortune cookie discovered via Google

Lin’s Song of the WeekColorado by St Eugene

Check out Steph’s #VOWinvest post here!

#VOWinvest: ROI & Relationships

Lin and I have both said it before: we think the Universe really digs this little game we are playing, because, somehow, these words and our weeks seem to consistently work together to teach us more than we ever imagined.

I anticipated being very intentional about where I spent my time last week. I spent last Sunday planning the days ahead. I also decided as part of my week focused on investing, I would finally schedule a consultation with a financial adviser to talk about retirement.

I did indeed do the latter (and learned that financial planning is a serious investment), but I have to be honest; my follow-through with the former didn’t go so well. Things came up. I didn’t sleep as much as I should have. I lost focus. And, I had a little too much fun a couple nights.

When it came time to write my #VOWinvest post, I realized as I sat down that the thing that derailed my well-made proposal was not the way I invested my time but with whom.

Derailed is actually the wrong word, because it sounds negative, and the fact is, this past week was not negative at all. Yes, I didn’t do everything I planned, but I did spend more time than I budgeted with people who fill me up. And doing that instead of crossing the things off my list I could have was a good ROI.

I mentioned it last week, and after a week of #VOWinvest-ing, I think I’m onto something:

The second half of 2017 will in large part be about tribe. About who I am okay losing sleep with. Who isn’t worth staying up for. In some cases, who I just need to let go of, because the return isn’t worth it, and who I need to…


…onto with everything I have.

Steph’s INVEST mantra: Pack light and love heavy. (Give the song below a listen.)

Steph’s Song of the Week: Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song) by Aaron Watson

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWinvest post (coming soon!).

A Time to Set Fire & #VOWspark

Sparking has always been easy for me—or for at least as long as it’s mattered. I’m not sure that I’ve ever noticed it myself, but I have had it pointed it out on more than one occasion. I can come up with an idea on the spot. You can tell when something makes me feel alive. And I have no problem introducing myself and asking a question that means something instead our DC standard: What is it that you do for a living?

As an aside, it’s normally, What was the last great book you read?

I know my days are better when I get eight hours of sleep and an early morning start.
When I create.
When I sweat.
When I meditate, even for just a few minutes.
And when I spend time in a hammock reading just a bit of poetry.

The best days involve a conversation with my grandparents or my sister.

It’s took me 27.5 years to get a handle on who I am.
It took me 28.5 to understand what makes my soul sing.

What I still don’t know is who does.

I feel like my #OneWord2017 of Build has very much so far been about the former (as it should be)—knowing what sets me on fire—and I think the focus for the rest of the year will be about who does.

I think I’ve known, on some deeper level, that this was coming. That there was work to be done. But it didn’t click until this week, following a particularly rough weekend, a reading with my astrologer regarding romance and friendships (I’m sure Lin or I will at some point explain how astrology is not prediction of the future and that it—just like praying or a therapist—can be a tool), and a few texts with my sister.

Despite my best attempts to ignore that still small voice that I’m beginning to become familiar with, I’ve also known deep in my bones since January of this year that I haven’t found my person yet. I’ve known there is a reason.

The reason involves The Work that I’ve been putting off; The Work I’m finally ready to do. To take a good hard look at the men (and women) that have played a part in my journey to this point—what I learned from them and how I could have treated them (and myself) better along the way.

So here’s to


And putting in the time this time.

Because as a writer I once knew quite well put it (words that I quote more often than she will ever know and in my List of Things to Build post):

At the heart of all this is the love of story. Because these letters, meals, parapets and gardens tell stories about time and how it is the currency of our hearts. The things that last are the things that are built–brick by brick–and planted–seed by seed–and then tended–day by day. And I like these things because they cost me something to invest in. If I pay the price, then it is worth something to me. It’s worth is only equal to what I am willing to pay for it.

There are some things in this life that take time to develop, things that are worth keeping sacred for the right moment. Things that will be more lovely if I pay the price of waiting and watching and sowing into it, even when I am uncomfortable and lonely and hopeful all at once.

Because anything worth everything will always cost us something. And this time, I’m willing to pay big time for it.

Steph’s SPARK mantra: I have always tried to make room for anything that wanted to come from within me. (Dr. Carl Gustav Jung)

Steph’s Song of the Week: Never Say Never by Tristan Prettyman

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWspark post.

P.S. Lin posted first, and I think actually her explanation of tarot cards is similar to what I referenced regarding astrology. We #mindmeld like that.

The Ace of Wands: Reflecting on SPARK

I began reading tarot cards about four years ago. I’d always been curious about them, ever since my first viewing of the movie Now and Then, when Janine Garofolo’s gyspy-esque character pulled the 10 of Swords and instantly knew that a little boy had been murdered in the town many years ago. I sneakily procured my first deck when I was 11 but not understanding anything about what tarot is or what it’s meant to be used for, I became fearful of my deck’s assumed “occult powers” and I ended up throwing them in the garbage later that night.

But in 2013 I was drawn back while visiting Charlottesville, VA. A friend and I were attending a conference there and during one of the breaks, we took a stroll down a nearby outdoor shopping center. At the base of a tree by one of the walkways, a man in a tie-dye shirt sat with reading cloth, crystals, and a deck laying before him. Jeri suggested we sit for a reading; I readily agreed. During the passing hour and a couple of jarringly insightful spreads later, I knew that I wanted to learn the language of tarot. I ordered a deck shortly thereafter; to date, I have accumulated about 35 more.

During my studies, I learned that tarot is, in fact, NOT an occult instrument used for the practice of devil worship. While it is common for pagans or wicans to use them for spellwork and fortune telling, those folks are among many populations who appreciate them. In fact, there are a lot of tarot decks which are marketed to and utilized by Christians under the name of angel oracle cards.

I have found tarot to be a wonderful tool for self discovery, rich with symbolism to help uncode and unpack life’s questions or challenges. The cards can tell you more about your path, your mental state, or ways you can direct your energy.  For some folks, tarot is essential to their spirituality. For others, it is completely independent of it. For me, my practice lies somewhere in between.

With this week’s verb being SPARK, my mind immediately connected with the Ace of Wands.

ace of wands

Image by Jessie Durhaim

Each card in the tarot deck has its own meaning, its own lesson to draw from. Like in a normal deck of playing cards, Aces start the numerology of the tarot. They are all about potential, beginnings, and creation. Wands are a suit of the tarot, akin to hearts or spades. Wands represent the element of fire and thus indicate passion, power, and charisma.

For me, the Ace of Wands typically represents all the potential of a just-lit match (see the wrist tattoo in the image above). The Ace of Wands is the SPARK of a creative venture, a passionate love affair, the beginning of a joyous new hobby.

But a match is short and unless it is used to light something else, it will quickly snuff itself out. It needs connection in order to develop and progress.

We must always been cognizant of a match’s power as well. Because as we all know, a SPARK can start something comforting, like a campfire for friends and family to gather around. But it can also be the start of extreme devastation, like a forest fire started by an arsonist.

SPARK, it seems, is really all about what comes next. The path we choose to follow. Because inaction leads to wasted potential. Malicious intent leads to chaos and disaster. I suppose so can positive intent sometimes, too. But most often if we can control our SPARK and direct it in a meaningful direction then beautiful, comforting, wonderful things can grow from it.

This week we experienced the astrological shift from Cancer to Leo. Leo is a fire sign. And I am most definitely a Leo baby. So this Ace of Wands energy, representing the start of our most fiery season, is coursing through me. It is this week that I am spending with friends and family, this birthday that I am feeling the most at home in my life, and this season that I start a new degree that I anticipate will set ablaze a whole new future.

Join us this week as we INVEST

Linds’ VOW mantra: “From the little spark may burst the mighty flame.” ~Dante

Linds’ VOW song of the week: We Didn’t Start The Fire by Billy Joel

Be sure to catch Steph’s #VOWspark post.



exactly this:

“Never Say Never”
by Tristan Prettyman

Wish I would’ve listened to myself
You would’ve thought I’d known better
Shouldn’t trust my heart this time
But the mind, it changes like the weather
The scars will fade away, and I may never be the same
But you can’t start a fire in the pouring rain
Never say never

Now I hear you’re back to your old self
And I still can’t imagine
Why you take something good, like love, like us
And pretend it never happened
Cause you’ll look back one day
And you’ll wish we still had that flame
But you can’t start a fire in the pouring rain
Never say never

You said you would never let me go
You promised me, our love written on the wall
Felt so easy but I should’ve known better
To never say never

Gotta be careful what you give
You never know just what you get
Who knows, maybe the best hasn’t happened yet
Some days I still feel the same
And my love, it still remains
Wish I could start a fire in the pouring rain

You said you would never let me go
You promised me, our love written on the wall
Felt so easy but I should’ve known better
To never say never

Told the whole world that you were all mine
You put it in my head that we were doing fine
Am I the only one who remembers?
It doesn’t matter now if you change your mind
Cause I won’t be around when you finally realize
Nothing really lasts forever

Flames in the sky
And there’s smoke in my eyes
You set me free
So don’t say you miss me
Just don’t say you miss me

You said you would never let me go
You promised me, our love written on the wall
Felt so easy but I should’ve known better
To never say never

We should start a fire in the pouring rain

I may never understand why you left
I guess I just have to accept this is the way it was meant to be
Kind of like how I never understood how the ocean just stops at the shore
And why it doesn’t wash away the land
If only someone could hold my heart and my hand
And make it feel like you did, and not give up so easy
There’s no need to be angry, it’s okay to be sad
I just have to trust there’s something better for me out there swirling around in the universe
Someone who will believe in themselves as much as I do
And never take a wish for granted and always count the stars
Looking back, you’re always closer than you thought
There’s no point now in starting something new
The heart wants what the heart wants
And none of it matters in the end if you can’t love someone back
Love and truth are whispering, “you can’t start a fire in the pouring rain”

Well, my therapist said… : Reflecting on CHEER

I consider the monthly visits to my counselor as an utter necessity for my job performance. Not only because the field of social justice in higher ed has high levels of burnout, compassion fatigue, and turnover. But because my elderly adviser keeps me from losing my calm with my boss (aka Level Boss) and more significantly, my boss’s boss (whom I’ll refer to henceforth as The Superintendent).

Every Monday morning at 8:30am, Level Boss and I meet with The Superintendent to update him on our office’s caseload. Every week I am begrudged, disrespected, and spoken down to. It’s hard not to feel defeated before I have a chance to attempt any positive forward movement with my week. I put up with this treatment because I truly believe that I’m more-than-well-suited for my position and even further, because I have a great passion for the cause that I serve.

Oh, also because I apparently have low professional self worth (per my counselor).

I tirelessly hope that at some point my efforts and talents will be recognized, even privately between my supervisor and myself. Until then, I try to avoid conflict by keeping my head down, continuously refining and improving my job duties, and produce as much output as I can as quickly as possible.

This week, just a few short hours after that dreaded Monday morning meeting, my counselor, Ann, challenged me to change my responses for the overall good of the office (and my mental health). She initially asked how work was going and I launched into all of it. I feel deflated, unappreciated, unseen. I grapple with the fact Level Boss doesn’t seem to like me and am only slightly less than disgruntled that she doesn’t seem to make an effort to support and encourage me.

When Ann inquired about my recent interactions with my boss, I described the passive, lackluster, and formal transactions we share. Level Boss asks me to work on a task, I try my hand at it, I send it back with brief jotted notes requesting whatever edits are necessary. Zero warmth on my end. I shared that after so many months of trying to cajole some positive feedback, I have begun to feel less like a sad puppy just seeking a pat from it’s owner and more like a nonplussed cat who doesn’t give a fuck what’s happening so long as my most basic needs are met.

Ann recommended that I try subtly rephrasing two of our common communications. I was hesitant that I’d sound insincere and unnatural because it would 100% be an insincere and unnatural gesture… but Ann told me this homework was non-negotiable.

The first challenge is to start asking “what do you think is the best way to–” rather than “should I try–” This, Ann acknowledged, is absolutely passive flattery meant more to manipulate her into seeing me as less of a threat and more of a subservient. Both of these facts are true — I don’t want her job and I do answer to her, so I want to perform in a way consistent with her expectations. It also indicates that I’m requesting feedback, I’m seeking knowledge she has. Ann theorizes that if I can get my boss to feel like we’re having an open exchange of ideas, she’ll be more inclined to illicit my perspective and positively reinforce my input.

The second challenge is when I deliver a product of any kind, regardless of how small the task, to respond to any response she gives me with “I’m glad you like it” or “I’m happy you found that helpful.” Again, some subtle wordplay to implant that I’m a vital asset rather than a powerful workhorse.

Do I like Ann because she’s pretty damn kosher with craftily manipulating my boss? Definitely.

Did it bruise my ego when Ann told me she thinks that I downplay my worth at work because I have virtually no self esteem? Kinda (which may go to prove the self worth thing).

Does it seem likely that if I CHEER my boss, she’ll be more likely to CHEER for me, too? Yeah. I suppose. Even if/when it feels like Level Boss is blowing insincere rainbows up my ass, I guess you gotta start somewhere.

I’m happy to report that I’ve seen mild success in this strategy already. I encouraged Level Boss to leave work early after a particularly grueling morning, promising to have her back should The Superintendent came looking for her. While she ignored my suggestion but she did smile and the next day gave me my first ever compliment (“you’re very thorough”). While that may seem like small potatoes to others, I practically skipped out of the room.

Join us as we add SPARK TO OUR WEEKS…

Lin’s VOW mantra: “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” — Bern Williams

Lin’s Song of the Week:

Steph’s story telling event video is too good to miss so be sure to check out her #VOWcheer post here