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A List of Things Built: Reflecting on My #OneWord2017

I started 2017 with a list of things I wished to build in the upcoming year.
I start 2018 with a list of things built:

 A playlist.
A stack of hundreds of pages of creative work.
Tribe, anchored rather solidly at a used bookstore in Southeast DC.
A body I love, even on the days I don’t like it as much as I could.
Certainty in what it is that I want.
In a becoming.

Those last two words sum up my #OneWord2017: a becoming.

And perhaps instead of trying to write something poignant, I will share the words of someone who already did, in a letter to me, after my #VOWresolve post (my favorite post this year):

While risking sounding miserably cliché, I hope you can, in some ways, enjoy the process of becoming. Because, the truth is, we never stop. Becoming, that is. And I don’t think there is ever complete resolve. We are ever-evolving in ways that we can’t even comprehend.

But I know you know that. 

My wish for you, sweet lady? That you, in the midst of waiting for clarity regarding your next bold move, can focus on what does make sense. To really focus on those pieces that you’re collecting—picking them up, studying them in different shades of light, and realize that, “Damn. I am the compilation of a lot of cool things.”

And as for the frenetic aloneness? I hope that you can try your best to enjoy what solitude affords you. Even though it seems like a burden (especially at 3 am), there are so many gifts that solitude gives. I’m wishing I had more of it myself. And the solitude won’t be with you forever. I’m sure of it. 

Here to the pieces. All of them. Whenever they choose to show themselves.

I am still very much waiting on a some pieces, a couple of them somewhat impatiently, but at least I know what they look like now.

With all that in mind and taking her wish into consideration, in 2018 I have decided I am going to attempt to focus on what does make sense, on the pieces I have collected and continue to. I am going to


And with that in mind, this month, we








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12 Verbs in 12 Months: Our 2018 VOW Venture

51 verbs in 52 weeks; that was our venture in 2017.

In 2017, each of us chose a single verb for the entirety of the year, our #OneWord. For Lin, it was EMBRACE; for Steph, it was BUILD. Our goal was to spend the year reflecting and putting this verb into practice. We bookended our challenge with this word, making our #OneWord2017 our VOW, our Verb of the Week, for the first and last weeks of the year.

To read our first post of 2017, click here for Lin’s and here for Steph’s.
To read our last post of 2017, check back in a few days.

For the 50 weeks in between, we randomly selected a verb for each week that we spent time with. We began on a Monday and ended with individual reflections on the weekends, with the exception of a few bye weeks for each of us.

To see our VOW schedule for 2017click here.

In 2018, the second year of our project, we have opted for 12 verbs in 12 months.

Our #OneWord’s for 2018: For Lin, it is EXPAND; for Stephanie, it is NARROW.

Completely unplanned, we chose antonyms of each other for our words this year, so we decided to keep that theme in mind for the 12 verbs we will encounter in 2018. We randomly selected six verbs and then chose opposites for them. For example, in January 2018, we will CHARGE; in February, we will FREEZE. We will each post at least once a month.

To see our VOW schedule for 2018, click here.

The purpose of the VOW Venture is simple and remains unchanged: to live more intentionally aided by our favorite part of speech.

To join our ventureclick here.


#VOWwait-ing for Christmas

I fly back home tomorrow. And by that, I mean that I fly back to the District from the rural town where I was raised. From my parents’ house. The place where I spent the last week.

It’s cheaper to fly on Christmas. Plus, you get free drinks. Actually I get free drinks anyway–a friend upgraded me to First Class.

I have to say that I always find the very well-intact class system at the airport a bit disturbing. But, I gotta admit, that pre-flight drinks in real glasses and a much-upgraded snack choice to enjoy in my very large seat is pretty clutch.

I have strong feelings about this, but thoughts of free champagne have me falling a bit off my soap box.

.  .  .

I always expect this place to ground me more than it does. I always hope the house that built me will leave me steadied. Yet I always leave feeling less anchored than I’d like.

I feel unmoored.

.  .  .

Sister says it’s the season. All the ghosts.

Man, I hope I see that big hairy muppet angel of a Hagrid in my dreams tonight. The one who shows you them.

The past ones.
The present ones.
The future ones.

Those are the ones I would like to meet.
The future ones.

Maybe then I would have some idea about what I’m looking for.
And where.

.  .  .

It’s Christmas Eve. My Saturn Return is upon me.

And I’m here. Waiting.

Feeling less like a kid leaving cookies out for Santa and more like the one who just found out he isn’t real.

To be honest, I think the lack of holiday cheer has to do with the introvert in me screaming for time.

She wants to hide out in a dark closet for a bit.
She needs time to think.

She needs time.

.  .  .

It feels like I have less of that lately.

There’s pressure.
To make choices.
To make starts.
To have happy endings.

But I’m just not there yet.

Or maybe I am.

I just need a little help believing.

.  .  .

Christmas is the time for that, and there’s still tomorrow.

.  .  .

And until then, all I can do is cry as much as I need and to be as present or as absent or my heart will allow. (Credit to Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls for that.)

.  .  .

This week, our One Word comes back to close the year, and I continue to


P.S. Give Lin’s #VOWwait post a read.

#VOWdare: Walk Tall & With Heart

I am convinced you find what you’re looking for, and when DARE is your verb of the week, you’re looking for a fight. You’re asking the Universe Buddha God to give you reasons to enter the arena. To suit up and battle. To show up and be kind. To have a not so great week.

Brené is a goddess, but the work she asks us to do is Hell.

In the past seven days:

I was soft with a man, knowing it might be one-sided.
I was emboldened by my sister to demand something for softness.
I was scared to write a letter and a couple of emails but wrote them anyway.
I signed up for my 200-hour yoga certification, knowing it will cost me.
I realized when I was wrong and apologized.
I saw a chance to extend empathy and did.

And I saw others do the same thing every damn day.

Because when you’re waiting for people to dare greatly, you’ll see them do it. And if they don’t, you’re mindset will be different–maybe, just maybe, they’re doing the best they can–because you truly never know the battle someone else is fighting.

And I think some gratitude is probably in order for the work they are doing, so…this week we


Steph’s DARE mantra: Courage, my love.

Steph’s Song of the Week: Inner Demons by Julia Brennan

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


#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).


#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.

A Time to #VOWrelease (& Never Read This Post Again)

I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go.
About the long list of things I need to release.

And let me tell you, it is quite extensive these days.

For the last month and a half, I have felt heavy. Both physically and metaphorically.

I’m struggling with my body again. To get out from under it. But my mind is hell bent on keeping me where I am, pinning me there with all its weight.

This isn’t a new struggle for me.

I’ve been back to the childhood journals to investigate its roots. And it started in earnest sometime around eleven, but the battle for my body began well before the first shot was ever fired. Years before I realized that my body looked different from what I thought it was supposed to look like, I watched my mother wage war on hers.

Back then though, while there is no doubt it stemmed from my brain, I thought it had only to do with my body. If I ate better or went for my runs consistently, it got better. And given that I was still living under my parents’ roof, I hadn’t yet had the chance to experiment with drugs like refined sugar, processed carbs, and wine.

These days, it’s not so easy.

Because I know too much but still somehow, not enough.

Now I know that when I wake up each morning and stand in front of my mirror naked first thing, inspecting and sizing up and pinching and deciding my worth based on that moment (and the two handfuls of the same that happen throughout the day), it isn’t a body problem. Because no amount of healthy eating and exercise fixes what you see in the mirror.

No doubt it helps, but, on its own, it treats a symptom, not the cause.

I’m heavy for other reasons you see. Deep wounds my parents and I have inflicted on each other that seem like they may never heal. Consistent worries that I will pass those wounds on or continue to pour salt in them. Lack of trust in a relationship that I don’t know how to fix but desperately want to. And a body (and in turn, a person) I want to quit sizing up by what I see in the mirror.

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and a woman said something about how she decided one day, she just couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t keep being just the right size and worried about gaining weight or not where she wanted to be and scrutinizing everything she put in her mouth. She wanted peace with her body.

So she set her mind accepting herself and learning how to eat mindfully. And let me tell you, that sounded so easy.

It’s not.

I mean I haven’t even tried it, and I am getting hung up on the thought. Learning to eat mindfully is one thing—though I will point out there is not a manual for that. But accepting your body for what it is? That just sounds like a recipe for continuing on and not caring.

And as my mind was starting to make the rhetorical rebuttals, she started speaking to them. Talking about how accepting your body doesn’t mean giving up. How it means starting to live in the way of the belief that the body you have is the one you already love. And how when you start to love your body for what it is, it’s hard to hate it, and it’s easier to treat it better.

I get it.
But it’s hard.
To let go of so very much.

And it’s more comfortable. In my bed. With streaming sitcoms and glasses of wine. And my self-righteous indignation.

But I know enough to know that it’s time to get out on my own or have someone pull me out, because this is not the person I want to be, and I’m slowly becoming her.

And that isn’t something I am willing to accept.

I’m a girl who likes to work for it, and it’s time to keep building.

And this is a post I don’t go back to proofread or I will never post it, so apologies for any typos.

This week, we


I Choose Choice. (#VOWchance)

I believe “chance” is a noun. Not a verb.

Chance happens to us; choice is how we counteract it.

I tried all week to think about chance. To chance things. And I just kept coming back to choice. To the power I have to make a decision. To choose.

My boyfriend and I had some serious conversations this week. And I found myself terrified as we started making plans.

It’s not that I fear commitment. It’s that I fear being without it. (And not it as in a boyfriend or a relationship, but the thing we have built.)

As I’ve mentioned before, our story has been in the making for over a year. For years actually, if you think about the co-worker who introduced me to the guy who would be significant in my life for a number of years whose boss introduced me to the man I would later fall in love and start to build a life with.

So now, as we begin to build, it’s scary as hell to think about The Tower (tarot reference; Google it).

About chance.
About how it can break what you build.

But then there is choice.

The choice to stop building and let chance run its course, or the choice to keep building and keep choosing. To admit you’re scared as Hell. To accept that things sometimes crack and crumble and break and burn. To choose the chance of that happening over the belief that it will.

Because some things are worth choosing.
Every day.
Again and again.

No fancy add-ons this week; I’m tired. (I’ll probably update tomorrow.)

Told you…

This week we CURL

Steph’s CHANCE mantra: “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” William Jennings Bryan

Steph’s Song of the Week: Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine

& Don’t miss Lin’s post on #VOWchance.

Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/aubreyyrenee/

Making & Taking Up Some Damn Space (#VOWelevate)

I had plans to pray this week. Or to try it perhaps. It’s been many, many months since I have raised silent words to the ceiling, letting them float beyond it carrying my concerns and gratitudes. It is not that I have been ungrateful—in fact, I whisper thanks to the universe at least as often as I eat. But I just haven’t been able to pray, and elevate seemed like the perfect nudge.

But before I got a chance to try it, I stumbled upon a TEDtalk that changed the trajectory of my week and got me thinking about priorities. About how I elevate some things above others and why the things that theoretically rank the highest on the list don’t always get the most time.

The talk: “How to gain control of your free time” by Laura Vanderkam

My delight in planning and organization, habit and routine, immediately drew me to the title–life and time hacks are among some of my favorite things to learn about.

However, Laura disappointed me (momentarily), and she struck a very tender nerve.

First of all, she didn’t give me a single tip or trick that made me at least 10% more productive, and second, she confirmed what I was already starting to realize after an hour of past-my-bedtime, mindless Instagram scrolling: maybe a lack of time is not the problem—how I am spending it might be.

Although I recommend you watch the talk for yourself, the summary I would deliver is essentially the thesis Laura asserts: we have more than enough time to do whatever we need and want to do.

Seriously, we do; Laura’s crunched the numbers:

There are 168 hours in a week. Twenty-four times seven is 168 hours. That is a lot of time. If you are working a full-time job, so 40 hours a week, sleeping eight hours a night, so 56 hours a week — that leaves 72 hours for other things. That is a lot of time. You say you’re working 50 hours a week, maybe a main job and a side hustle. Well, that leaves 62 hours for other things. You say you’re working 60 hours. Well, that leaves 52 hours for other things.

This was a shocking realization nine minutes into the video, but, truthfully, Laura had captivated me in under two minutes when she prominently used my #oneword365, build:

We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.


Laura makes more than a few salient points in 12 minutes:

About how not-enough-time is really an alternate fact, because when life demands we give it our attention—with a leaking pipe or an illness or a friend in crisis—we have enough time to give life. Hours magically appear.

About how not-enough-time is really just the way we avoid taking ownership of the priorities we are setting without realizing it.

I mean, this is the story we tell ourselves and, often, other people:

Busy is why I can’t hang out tonight.

Importance is why I can’t put down my damn phone for a few hours while we share a meal.

Too-much-to-do is why my shelves are filled with unread books.

But, in reality:

The truth is I don’t want to hang out–either because I just need some down time or because you just drain my energy (both of which can be hard to say to some in our lives).

The truth is I didn’t even think about how my actions may affect you.

The truth is watching Netflix is easier.

Laura has spent a considerable amount of time tracking how highly successful people spend their time, especially the seemingly insignificant and brief periods of time between other engagements (It’s not on Instagram, in case you were wondering), and she’s figured a few things out:

Small moments can have great power. You can use your bits of time for bits of joy. Maybe it’s choosing to read something wonderful on the bus on the way to work. I know when I had a job that required two bus rides and a subway ride every morning, I used to go to the library on weekends to get stuff to read. It made the whole experience almost, almost, enjoyable. Breaks at work can be used for meditating or praying. If family dinner is out because of your crazy work schedule, maybe family breakfast could be a good substitute.

It’s about looking at the whole of one’s time and seeing where the good stuff can go. I truly believe this. There is time. Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters. And when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got.

Our week of elevating has come to a close, but I’m just starting to really think about the ways I can raise my awareness and prioritize, elevate, the things that should be filling up my days. How to make them start taking up some damn space.* Space to take care of myself. Space to soothe my soul; space to nourish it–with the people and things I love. Space to make sure, as Megfee said, that “my actions align with my value system.”

This coming week:

Here’s to CHANCE.

Steph’s WITHDRAW Mantra: “Be stingy with your time and spend it in spaces that fill you up.” Janet Mock
Steph’s Song of the Week: “Lot to Learn” by Luke Christopher

Stay tuned for Lin’s #VOWelevate post.

“Take up some damn space” is basically my new favorite phrase, borrowed from this total badass I follow on Instagram: Aubrey Renee.