In the Garden

"The Bible is a set of narratives that portray a social imagining of God developing over time in response to societal conditions.

Is God someone who wanders in a garden? Is God someone who wrestles physically and bodily with someone? Is God a burning bush? A pillar of fire? A mystery dwelling in a temple who can only be heard in Zion? A mysterious force that emanates through the entire world? Is God incarnate in God’s own son? Is God a spirit that appears at Pentecost and dwells with people? Or is God, in a post Biblical context, a Trinity of Beings who exist in relationship?

...Which one of those is God? Whatever we are speaking of when we speak of God, all of these have been ways we have understood and related to God. Because we are relational beings, we require that relational capacity to relate to God."

The Liturgists, S5 Ep12, 36:25, Freakin Mike McHargue.

I got to speak on Holistic Revolution on WXNA Nashville a few weeks ago about faith, among other things, and shared that the greatest awakening in my soul has unfolded to me how much more expansive God is than I ever knew. That I will never know the boundaries of God because they do not exist. That to believe God is "over all and through all and in all" means I will never meet a person or visit a place where God is not. That not even my language can contain or give shape to the Divine.

I once understood that only those with a specific (modern, Western, individual) relationship to God through Jesus were true children of God, and now I see we are, every one of us, carriers of the very essence of God; the Kingdom of Heaven is here and now, not located elsewhere for a time after death. I once understood that the Bible was the one true and complete revelation of God to humanity, and now I see that Earth herself, here long before any of us, whispers the fullness of God. I once understood that the Bible was the only way to a true understanding of God, and now I see that the Bible is a library, a catalog, a collection of the stories of those seeking to understand God over thousands of years. She contains the history, poetry, mythology, lament, and joy of a humanity trying to understand and relate to something or someone called God.

The pressure to force a literal understanding of these texts kept my faith in a cage. The gift of embodiment practices, travel, meditation, of learning from deeply faithful Muslim and Jewish and Buddhist and Black and Transgender and Roman Catholic and Atheists who are all seekers of truth from their particular place in the world, that gift has been to unleash my faith and allow it to expand. To love more deeply and cling less desperately to a particular understanding. To crave the questions more than the answers. To open up to a richness of spirituality that is more like a vast, wild garden than a singular creed.

To borrow the words of one of my teachers, Rachel Held Evans, there are days I believe and days I don't. And that's fine. Even on the days I don't believe, the garden still opens up and welcomes me in. There, John O’Donahue reads a poem which is the closest I feel to experiencing whatever it is we mean when we talk about God. In this garden, there are street kids and queer folk and addicts and weirdos and misfits and sex workers and refugees and the Fab 5 and the irreverent and artists and even a few Baptists and no wonder these are who Jesus partied with and there is no right or wrong there is only HERE. And I sense, even if I don't believe today, God is HERE.

Grounding for the restless, hungry, anxious

Near the end of a month when I felt indescribably foreign to myself, when engaging with my own life and with others felt like a mountainous task, when cloudy grey wisps clung like ivy to more moments than not, I wrote this. There’s no method to the order or rhythm of the words; they’re simply the ones that squeezed out of the pen. In journaling through the fog, I found my way out. Sharing in case someone else might find some ease in the words my body gave me.

Breathe deeply ten times. You have time for this.

I can focus my attention in this moment.

I can allow my attention to rest.

I can be quiet, now, and still.

I can listen to the sounds around me without self-reflection. I can simply take it in.

I am presence and awareness.

I can allow the actions and reactions of others to exist without my needing to change them.

I can experience the richness, texture, tastes, colors of a single moment without rushing to the next.

I need not grasp or cling.

I can sit with the unpleasant and unfixable.

I am presence and awareness.

I can be here without running away.

I can be here.

I can feel this. All of this. I don’t need to skip it.

It feels too large. But I have the capacity for this in me. I will allow it.

I am presence and awareness.

I have the capacity for this.

i have the capacity for this.

I can expand for this.

I can hold myself up.

I am presence and awareness.

The fog cleared. I fell into my couch this weekend, curled up with a blanket, book, and cup of hot tea. Rain fell. My partner cooked dinner in the kitchen. I wept for the relief of returning to myself, for the exhale after weeks of inexplicable held breath, for the grace of feeling at home in my body, my home, my life again.

I don’t know why I left myself. It was awful. I know I could not reason my way back. Here are the practices that helped me return:

Journaling. Eliminating nearly all social media from my phone. Spending screenless time outside in the sun. Eliminating numbing agents: what are yours? What do you find yourself diving into in order to NOT be in your life? Eating wholesome, healthy foods from the earth every day. Breaking a sweat. Listening to instrumental music. The things we know. They still work.

A little at a time. Stubbornly moving inward.

And again and again and again.

In the nearly 12 months since I last wrote, Jess and I packed our lives into boxes and moved north of Nashville to our sweet little Springfield, TN. I’m writing now from our yard, looking out at the garden, the fire pit, and the new pup, Willie. We lost our Cash early this year, and Willie gave us just enough time to heal before lumbering into our lives with his sleepy eyes and floppy feet. Neighbors on all sides have little ones we’re honored to Auntie. Friends live just down the block and 10 minutes outside of town in the rolling Tennessee countryside. I’ve started a web design company and work from home; morning coffee and slow walks with Willie now replace my commute to town. Our 100 year old home with her wood floors and glass doorknobs was the biggest surprise of all. She’s a dream home, and one we still can’t believe found us.

I came home from Asia last year bursting with confidence and drive, certain 2018 would be the year I found language and direction for my work in the world. Instead I wandered through part time jobs and ill fitting obligations, knowing something bigger was close but uncertain how to climb out of the box I’d managed to build around myself. Richard Rohr says everything belongs and Rob Bell says everything is our teacher, so I showed up for these various jobs I enjoyed but that didn’t quite fit, trusting even these were my teacher. I met kind and generous people who offered their support, felt valued for what I brought into those spaces, and learned how to show up every day in a way I hadn’t ever had to before. I also met many of the people who would go on to be clients and partners in the next thing, although I didn’t know it at the time.

photo by Bralyn Stokes Photography

photo by Bralyn Stokes Photography

As it turns out, the next thing was something I’d been doing all along, albeit not intentionally. When we opened the yoga studio in 2013 I started playing around with Squarespace, designing the website for the studio and for various other businesses and projects through the years. I accidentally got pretty damn good at it. I started offering to build websites for friends about halfway though 2018, launching what I thought would be a side gig. My auxiliary job began taking up more and more of my time, and soon the money it brought in surpassed the money coming in through my main gig. It only made sense to pursue it full time. I thanked my boss for the months he’d provided a truly supportive and special workplace, and told him I had to chase a dream. He’s also an Enneagram 7, and he totally got it. A month later, I got my last paycheck. And I leapt. Again.

Etta Bea Design is named for my great grandmother, reminding me every day from where I come. And Etta Bea Design is now my primary source of income, reminding me every day where I’m headed. I’ve worked hard to establish clear goals and processes for my work, and find myself in what feels like the beginning stages of growing my very own adult career. I’ve worked with a business coach and strategic partners to reverse engineer my goals, aiming for a very specific amount of money- and it’s more than I’ve ever made before. It’s taken a lot of work to deconstruct and reprogram my beliefs about money, but I’m on track to get that number. Ultimately, I want to build a business that employs, supports, and trains women in tech to design their own careers and make lots and lots of money. I’m interested in empowering women to financial freedom at all stages of their adult lives. When women thrive, we all thrive.

This time last year, I wrote: “YOU are uniquely, specifically qualified to do the thing that makes you feel alive. That little seed of a dream in your heart? That vision you see for your life? That reality you can taste and smell and feel is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER? The only thing standing between you and that reality is your decision to move toward it.” And this year, on the other side of fear and scarcity and uncertainty, I encourage you to get specific about that dream. Get specific, talk about it, say it out loud, focus on it every day, and move towards it in bold and conscious ways. You may end up some place you never expected, surprised by the generosity of the Love that moves you. You may end up right in the middle of your dream.

The Good Shit

I'm looking at the date of my last entry- March 21- and thinking about just how dramatically life has changed in the months since then. Jessie and I have grown closer and into a 'We' more than we ever knew we could. Early in April, we went to Florida for a couple of weeks after the sudden and seismic passing of her beloved father. Nothing in either of our lives could have prepared us for that, and yet there we were. That kind of trauma has a gravity, a weight, a density that makes everything around it heavy. Grief has a way of moving in and taking up residence in your life that forces anything not easy or self sustaining out. Just... out.

If a coffee date or a conversation or a project didn't give life, didn't bring ease, if it demanded any mental, emotional or spiritual energy at all, it simply didn't happen. For weeks, for months, and I think for the rest of our lives, we will make space for grief in everything we do. The amount of space that grief takes up will change; sometimes that space will grow and sometimes it will sit quietly off to the side, but it will not be predicted and it cannot be ignored. Grief is present, it is part of the new normal for my sweet partner. As we do our lives together, as her partner, that grief will take up space for me, too.

After that, it took months to find some reasonable new rhythm for life. We're still, some days, feeling our way in the dark. The loss of a parent is inevitable, and yet it is a kind of loss for which you cannot prepare. Neither of us could have known what it would demand of us, neither could we have known how we would do our lives after it happened. This project, like a few others, fell entirely off my list of priorities. For weeks. we were in triage. All we could do was stop the bleeding. Patch wounds. Try to survive.

I remember now how much I love this project. I remember how I love this blog, and the podcast, and the possibilities. I'm also challenging myself to be completely honest, completely vulnerable, completely brave. The truth is, I named this project Begin Again because I was beginning again in my own life and felt desperate to know I could do it. I wanted to surround myself with people who were makers, creators, and visionaries. I wanted to hear their stories and convince myself that I could do it, too. I could start from scratch. Just like these people who motivate me started something new, I, too, could begin again. I needed to know that was possible, and I needed to know there were a bunch of us doing it together.

Starting this podcast and blog was my way of not letting myself off the hook. I knew then and I know that that my work in the world means something to people, because I devour the work of people who are showing up in their lives the way I want to show up in mine, but I didn't feel qualified to make my own story or perspective the center of my work. "I'm not a therapist. I don't have a master's degree. I haven't been certified..." I gave value and meaning to my excuses, and in doing that I began to believe they were valid. I believed that without a certification or degree, I couldn't start doing my work the way I wanted to, the way I saw myself doing it. Getting started with this project was my way of saying, "Even if that is true, I can at least do this. I can talk to other people, people who are qualified, people who are worth trusting..." Starting this without a plan, without a real strategy, with just an impulse and a decent microphone got me out of my fear. It catapulted me onto the path. But, I still felt 'unqualified'. As soon as I ran out of interviews, I stopped uploading episodes. I stopped writing. There was plenty to say, but I allowed myself to believe my voice wasn't (fill in the blank) enough.

Then, we went into the grief bunker. Even when I had the time and desire to get back at this, I didn't. I lost momentum. I chose to believe I didn't have what it took- the time, the strategy, the business acumen. I let it go.

I started looking for full time work. I created this imaginary income threshold and decided that I could do the things I love once I got there. Once I got a salary and benefits, I could do what I love. If I could just hold out, focus all my energy on reaching that threshold, then I could create again. 

That's what we do, right? We look at our calling and we say, "But I'm not qualified/ smart/ interesting/ confident/ recognized/ established enough." We look at the people who are doing what we hope to do and compare where we are NOW with where they are after years of movement and work towards where they are when we happen to discover them. This is such a tired, boring old way of putting off what we're created to do. It's possible to waste decades of our lives with this kind of thinking. But how terribly unoriginal. How uninspired and used up these excuses are!

In all my excuse making, every door I try to kick open gets closed. Every box I try to force myself to fit into breaks. Every job I try to secure makes me feel small. Not doing the thing that makes me come to life is. not. working. 

Friends. We cannot wait until we cross imaginary thresholds to do the work that brings us to life.

Writing, podcasting and storytelling, interviewing, speaking and teaching are what make me feel alive. This is the work I'm meant to be doing right now, and I believe now that I am uniquely, specifically qualified to do it. You know what else? YOU are uniquely, specifically qualified to do the thing that makes you feel alive. That little seed of a dream in your heart? That vision you see for your life? That reality you can taste and smell and feel is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER? The only thing standing between you and that reality is your decision to move toward it.

The world does not need us to reach an income threshold. The people who believe in you do not believe in you because of your tax bracket. Your fulfillment does not depend on the number of dollars in your bank account or the number of letters after your name. The world needs us to be fully, completely, boldly ALIVE. People need YOU, they need ME, not to be comfortable and secure but to be AWAKE. 

So I'm showing up. I'm committing to myself to do the work that makes me feel alive; to listen and learn and take up space in the world doing what God has put it in me to do. If this year has proven anything to me, it is that we do not know what kind of time we're working with, here. We only have today, and the stakes are too high to waste the time we're given. 

Let's reset, today. Let's set our sights on love and positivity and create the reality we know is possible. Let's drop self-limiting beliefs and focus on the good shit. That's how I choose to live. 


The Fisherman

You know how to find crabs? Come, I teach you.

Koh Chang, Thailand. February, 2018.

On Kindness

Kindness is a currency that does not run out. Spend it generously, and it will return generously to you.

Kindness is a language that transcends words. A kind act done with a smile, silent as it may be, softens the giver, receiver, and all who witness it.

Kindness multiplies. Kindness shown by one spreads like a single drop of dye in water, coloring it all.

Kindness relieves. A single kind deed calms and soothes any wound, even if the pain is great.

Kindness catalyzes. Like match to kindling, it sparks forgiveness, hope, possibility, and creation. 

Kindness begets kindness. It is not a zero sum game. Giving it away doesn't mean you have less, and nothing goes missing when a measure of kindness is shared.

Kindness returns in many forms. An iced coffee bought for a stranger on a hot day may return as your cab fare paid when the credit card reader is down and you haven't the cash to pay. Silently helping a fellow passenger on a plane struggling to load her bags in the overhead bin may return as a free drink from the flight attendant who watched from a few rows away. Supporting and encouraging colleagues at work without a selfish agenda may return as greater influence or trust. When you spend the currency of kindness, it may come back to you in surprising ways.

Kindness may cost nothing at all, or everything all at once. It may look like a handwritten note or the sacrifice of the stranger who lay down their life saving a child who ran into traffic. It may be small or it may overwhelm with its bigness. Either way, it matters greatly.

Kindness matters most of all. When we come to the end of our lives, we will not wish we had been busier or wealthier and we will likely not give thanks for all the likes our social media accounts received... we will be known for our kindness, for what it created in us and around us, for the many ways in which we shared it, and the many people to whom we gave it away. 

How will you spend your kindness this day? 

The Year of PLAY

My New Years practice is to choose a word for the year, and let it guide me. I’ve done this for a few years, and this always gives me intention and direction, even if only for a few months. It’s always fun and it’s always helpful.

This year, New Years passed me by without much of the usual intention setting and fanfare. I was busy. I was working. I was distracted.

This month, my word for 2018 found me. It sneaked up on me with a damn water gun, tapped me on the shoulder, and gave me a good soaking. Friends, my word for 2018 is...


This year, I make PLAY a priority. I know there is work to be done. I know there are bills to pay and marches to attend and movements to continue and necessary change for which to fight. I know this and I value it and I will be there, too.

But that's not all I'm going to do with my life this year. If 2016 was a year of worrying what would come and 2017 was a year of shock and trauma and activism, this year I choose JOY. If I'm going to be any good for anyone in the world, most of all myself and the people I love, I am choosing to set my eyes toward play and joy-making for the sheer fun of it. I will play without feeling like it’s selfish, I’ll play when I feel anxious, I’ll play when I’ve worked hard and it’s time to walk away, I’ll make play time as important as paying bills.

This tree is in the middle of the Masai Mara in Kenya. Our safari driver stopped here so we could have a picnic. Zebras. Everywhere. Wildebeest, too. Rhinos in the distance. Hippos bathing nearby. All my insides said, "YOU MUST CLIMB THAT TREE." Before I could come up with a bunch of reasons not to, I climbed the damn tree. It was awesome.

This tree is in the middle of the Masai Mara in Kenya. Our safari driver stopped here so we could have a picnic. Zebras. Everywhere. Wildebeest, too. Rhinos in the distance. Hippos bathing nearby. All my insides said, "YOU MUST CLIMB THAT TREE." Before I could come up with a bunch of reasons not to, I climbed the damn tree. It was awesome.

I will not become too busy to play. For the sake of my brain, my heart, my soul, my relationships, my work, my way of being in the world, may 2018 be the year of eyes and arms wide open, head thrown back in laughter, sense- indulging PLAY!

The next chapter of Begin Again will come out of this word. I can't wait to bring you workshops, events and GETAWAYS (OMG LET'S GO ON A TRIP TOGETHER) designed to give you permission to play your dear, sweet heart out. In all the coming together we're doing to create and be strong and put out good work in the world, I am so excited to dedicate time and energy this year to creating spaces for us to PLAY. 

Stay tuned, family! 

Grace and Peace!

Nothing is wasted

Today, I am happy. I am full. I am free.

I have the same amount of money- and the same amount of debt- I had when I left home. I am just as unemployed now as I was 3 weeks ago. Three weeks ago, I couldn’t sleep. I felt uncertain and edgy and stuck.

Today, I am happy. I am full. I am free.

It has everything to do with taking the step that seemed, three weeks ago, like something I dream about and other people do. It has everything to do with following my gut and my feet to the next right thing. It has everything to do with doing WHATEVER IT TOOK to move in the direction my heart was pulling me.

I knew I could do it. Still, the moment I am in now felt, three weeks ago, like someone else’s story. It felt like something that people who have all their shit together get to experience. I had to hear over and over and OVER again that I could do it, that I was even allowed to do it, before I did it.

I booked a one way flight to Thailand late last year. I didn’t tell anyone. I sat on it for a while, the juiciest and tastiest and scariest secret I ever knew. I didn’t sit on it for long, but for about 24 hours it was mine. A friend who fell in love with Chiang Mai in 2016 invited me to visit her there. I knew I was getting ready to sell my business. I had, two and a half years earlier, sold my home so that I could travel more. I checked the prices on flights to Chiang Mai. $350.


I had $350. Barely, but I had it.

I booked it. One way. Thailand. If I didn't do it RIGHT THEN, I would have talked myself out of it. I would have let myself down so badly. So, I booked it. I was going to Thailand. I wasn’t ready to think about coming back. I just knew I was going. The thought of it felt like popcorn in my brain.

Three months and some days later, here I am.


Happy. Full. Free.

So far, my time here has taught me something I’ve known to be true for a long time but not felt as fully as I feel it now. The truth of this feels grounding, like earth under my feet; a sensation I felt far from three weeks ago.

Everything that has happened in my life, every decision, every move, every relationship, every job, every bit of it has mattered. Nothing is wasted.

Working retail and restaurant hostessing jobs for $8- $10 an hour taught me, no matter what, I can bring in money. It may not be much, but I am capable of hustling for it.

Watching my mother taught me to handle myself confidently and competently- even if I’m in place in the world or my own life where everything feels unfamiliar. I can figure it out. There is always a way.

Traveling with my father taught me to pack light, to always have cash on hand, and to get to know my way around before I do much else. Get to know a place. Don’t be a stranger. The place will not change to fit me- I must fit the place. Smile! 

My grandfather, DD, taught me to look up where the world is. It's worth seeing.

Shaving my head taught me to follow an impulse that feels true and right without overthinking it. It taught me that letting go can feel like freedom, not loss.

Falling in love with Jessie Mae taught me to trust my instincts, that nothing is worth giving up what makes you feel loved and respected and known.

Opening, and ultimately releasing, the yoga studio taught me to create and design and invest my soul in something I believe in; and, when it's time, to let go.

Speaking with Rachel’s Challenge taught me to use my voice and presence in a way that matters deeply in the world.

I hear my Gammy in my head often reminding me to talk to Jesus and live below my means. Things are just things, but experiences and memories and laughter are well worth collecting.

My little brother packed his whole life into an Isuzu Rodeo and moved across the country. He teaches me to be brave.

My older brother left his career to work as a background actor in TV and films because it makes him happy. He’s hustled his whole damn life and now he has his time and his life back. He teaches me no job or career is worth losing yourself.

My life long friends, the one I’ve known since we had braces and acne and wore high socks with sandals, they show me how to love well. They teach me how to show up, how to invest when it matters so when you’re far apart you can pick right up where you left off. They teach me how sacred it is to be fully known and understood.

The friends I’ve made in the past year, my Home Church, they show me how to move through transitions of all kinds without losing what really matters. They refuse to let this deeply important circle of love and trust fade away, even when it would be easy to let it. It is not time. The teach me to hold on.

My collaborators in embodiment workshops teach me how to hold and release and feel and know. They teach me to be present, to sit in moments, to feel them fully. They challenge me to bring my best, my most honest contributions to our friendship and our work. Most importantly, they teach me to play. To work and to play and let my work become play.

My yoga teachers and friends remind me to move my body, release stories that aren’t true, and catch myself before I “should” all over myself. And poop. Always make time for a really good poop.

My “brain trust”, to borrow a phrase from Brene Brown, these master teachers and thinkers and writers give me permission over and over again to hone my instincts and trust them. They give me permission to jump. They cheer me on, they remind me over and over that truth is worth speaking, beauty is worth creating, stories are worth telling, simply because they must be told. They insist I use my voice and do work in the world that matters, no matter what.

Travelers I've met along the way teach me there is no such thing as "ideal circumstances". You must simply go.

My Rachel’s Challenge family remind me of my worth and support me when I can’t find my feet. They trust me to do the same for them. I will always be so deeply grateful for this chosen family.

All of it matters. All of it has led me here. To Thailand. On a one way flight. With no real plan, but all the confidence in my being that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Happy. Full. Free.

Wait... How'd You Afford That?

One of my favorite podcasts is from the team at WNYC and NPR, called Death, Sex, and Money. Anna Sale hosts conversations about, as she says, "Things we think about a lot and need to talk about more." They do a lot of talking about... well... death, sex, and money. The things we really want to talk about are, often, the things we're definitely not supposed to talk about. 

Let's talk about something we're not supposed to talk about. One of my best friends, a person who has known me for half our lives, a friend I can call at any time for any reason at all, asked me how in the hell I'm able to afford this little journey halfway around the world. My dearest friend had no idea how I came up with the money, and if she didn't then you sure as hell don't. Instagram glamorizes all this, and we don't know - and don't always need to know - the way a person affords to live. But I am committed to making sure this project is honest. I will not let this be a place where people compare their reality to what they think my reality is- and find themselves lacking. There's plenty of that online. I'm here to tell the truth, and I won't ask others to be transparent if I'm not willing to do the same. So, let's settle in, grab a glass of wine, and get a little uncomfortable.

When I was 22 and making "real money" after college for the first time, I started a long term savings account. (22 year old me also bought a house. She was far more financially stable than 30 year old me, I assure you.) I cannot thank 22 year old me enough for making the decision to stash some money away. When 26 year old me sold that house, a little over $5000 went into long term savings. And by long term savings, I mean retirement. It was a retirement account. I wasn't going to tell you that, because it makes the next part of the story seem reckless. Did I mention 22 year old me was the financially stable one? 

Anyways, 30 year old me has a car payment and a camper payment, and some credit card debt because of a couple really lean years when some things just had to go on the card. She also doesn't have a reliable source of income because she's a yoga teacher and, despite the appearances of glamour and spandex dreams, we HUSTLE, y'all. Your yoga teacher usually makes between $30-$50 teaching those group classes you love so much. If that's his or her only job, you do the math. I remember one of my friends, a well known and dearly loved yoga teacher in Nashville, once told me, "I would love to break the $30k/ year barrier." This person was 32. She had been teaching for years. If you practice yoga at a studio, there is a very good chance you make more than your instructor makes.

I'm not mad about it, I chose to do work that filled my heart but not my bank account. All of this is simply to make it clear that, no, I am not independently wealthy. I am not even debt free. I haven't had a salary in years and I haven't had health insurance since 2016. I am not a person who travels because she is rich.

I am a person who travels because I spend any spare money I do happen to have on travel. I don't shop. My closet looks very much the same as it did 2, 3, 4 years ago. I try not to be too attached to things. If I need to sell stuff to buy a flight, I sell stuff. I collect miles on my Southwest card. I have a couple of savings accounts and put $25-$50 away each week, depending on how much wiggle room I have in my budget. I took a side job at a bakery. I have spent years learning how to work the flight booking system. And, in order to go on this once in a lifetime adventure, I damn near cashed out that retirement account. 

That's right. I did the one thing you're never, ever supposed to do. I took out almost (almost) all of the money from that retirement account to have some money to live on while I work on this project. I believe in it. I don't know if it will generate any income, but I can't not do this. This dream chose me. It has to actualize or it will leave me and find someone else to make it. I can't very well have that.

I have had to hold my beliefs about money with an open hand. Sometimes, I'll have plenty of it. Sometimes, I won't have much at all. I can't let the amount of money I do or do not have at a given moment determine how fully I live. Trust me, my fear has insisted many times, most often at about 4am, that I have lost my mind and I'm headed for financial ruin and WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?! I have battled serious shame about credit card debt. I have gone toe to toe with the expectations 22 year old me had of 30 year old me- and I almost always walk away from that conversation at least a little bruised. 22 year old me was smart and careful, but she was also pretty scared. She wanted to do all the right things in the right order, and do them as quickly as possible so everyone would know how grown up she was. 30 year old me is brave. She's a little reckless, but it's because she has seen fear get her absolutely nowhere. She's tired of nowhere. She's done caring what people think, and she's fully committed to following her guts and her feet. 

Maybe 40 year old me will be smart and careful and brave all at the same time. We'll have to wait and see. For now, for those of you who have seen these posts and the Instagram shots and wondered what I did to afford 10 days in NYC and a trip around the world... Well, kids. I did what your parents will tell you not to ever, ever do. I'm quite literally going for broke in order to chase this dream and birth this thing I feel growing in my heart.

Also, and this matters, I'm staying at a kind and generous friend's apartment while he travels, himself. All I had to pay for was a flight and food. I have purchased many groceries, fam. I am not eating out every night in the fabulous and fabulously expensive NYC. I'm headed to a city in Thailand where you can live for $500-$600/ month- including lodging. This is a budget trip, ya'll. Nobody is staying at the Four Seasons, right now.

So that's how I'm able to afford it. Why spill these beans? Why talk about money? Because it is so important to me you know this is space where the truth matters. I know what it feels like to feel inadequate, like the dreams you want to chase are out of reach because of logistics or money or fear. The only difference between me a few years ago and me now is I'm simply refusing to stay afraid. Being afraid didn't get me anywhere. Hoarding my money didn't make me rich. I'm shifting my priorities. Right now I'm at a time when I don't have a whole lot of money. But I am so, so happy. I am alive and excited, my time is my own, I have a vision and project, and I am so happy. 

I also don't have any children or adults depending on the money I bring in. So, if I fuck this up, the stakes aren't terribly high.

But if I nail it.. y'all... if I nail it?! It will all have been worth it.

Here's to taking chances and telling the scary, ugly, beautiful truth.



Here I sit, with a brand new camera and very old backpack and I feel like it's the first day of school. For 5 years, I've been steering my life toward this moment: packing the little I need in a single bag and hopping on a one way flight to the other side of the world. I've dreamed of what it might feel like to step out towards something completely unknown, trusting that I'll find my way. I have a few things with me I know; this orange LL Bean backpack, embroidered with my initials, a gift from my aunt and uncle for graduating high school in 2005. In the pockets, coins and receipts from other times I went searching. This backpack is the one thing in my possession I know well. I'm taking it with me into a part of the world- and a part of myself- I've yet to meet. 


I've learned there is little I know for certain, but I'm pretty sure of this: There are some things we only learn about ourselves in the wilderness. I've been comfortable for a long time. Even when I wasn't sure where I was headed in my work or from where the next paycheck would come, my physical security and comfort were never in question. The privilege loaded into that fact is heavy. I'm thankful for it. I know entire national populations cannot say the same thing. I haven't done a thing to deserve it- privilege is, by definition, unearned. I've always been surrounded by people who know and love me, and whom I know and love. And yet, I believe there's something critical and primal and deeply human that we can't know until we step away from the conditions and relationships that keep us so damn comfortable.


So I'm getting uncomfortable. The thing about travel is it forces you to face yourself; when you travel, the place in which you suddenly find yourself doesn't know or care about your preferences. You change. You adapt. You make yourself smaller so the place around you can teach you, stretch you, show you how to take up space in a more compassionate, considerate, conscious way. These are lessons of the wilderness. If we are to learn them, we have to go. And we have to go alone. 

Old Love, New Adventure

Before girlfriends and boyfriends and shacking up with Bae, there was The World.

I don't remember my first flight, it was likely in utero, but I do have early memories of my first flights alone, flying back and forth from Nashville to Texas or Florida to visit family. I was one of those kids with a bulky "Unaccompanied Minor" tag hanging around her neck for years, carefully dropped at the gate to be watched over by flight attendants until an approved adult could collect me on the other side. I don't remember being afraid, although I might have been. I do remember feeling utterly swept off my feet. Hopelessly, rapturously, passionately in love with being "on my way". Leaving home, being on the road, seeing new places, living in different cities, hearing languages and accents, walking through history and culture and nature unlike my own... this is still the thing that makes me feel fully alive. 

Berlin, 2015. Fully alive.

Berlin, 2015. Fully alive.

My family has always been solidly middle class. We drive used cars, we have cozy, modest homes, we save more than we splurge... but by God, we love to travel. Any good fortune we have had to see the world has not been because of extravagant wealth, although I certainly understand and appreciate the privilege of being able to travel. No, we were able to travel as a family growing up because my dad's job kept him in good standing and many thousands of miles with American Airlines. Because of his work, the currency of which we did have plenty- and which remains worth more to me than gold- was Frequent Flier miles. 

My most treasured childhood memories are on the road. My brother, Alex, and I in the back of our mother's blue Ford Aerostar, and later the red Chevy Astro, quilts and pillows and blankets where the middle bench seat had been, a small portable TV/VCR combo wedged in between the seats up front. I couldn't tell you how many times we watched Mulan, or how many Ding Dongs we went through on those drives. We would pile into the back of the van, carefully construct our nests of pillows and Gameboys and handmade quilts, and watch as Tennessee or Texas, Alabama or Arkansas flew by.

Sometimes, if dad had flown enough for work that year, we would pack up and fly someplace wild and magical like Santa Barbara. One year, what we thought would be an exotic Caribbean vacation turned into a rain- soaked week in a cabin on the lake in Norman, Oklahoma. At the time, considering the alternative, we were less impressed. Looking back on it, I wouldn't trade that soggy week cooped up in that cabin with my people for anything. It was paradise. (PS: Remember paddle boats, and the bacon in the microwave that caught fire? "Look at it! Look at it!")

For me, and maybe for all of us in the Jackson gypsy wagon, it wasn't ever necessarily about where we were going. The rush, the adrenaline, the dopamine surge always came from the act of going itself. For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with the going. The being in new places. The exploring and the colors and the tastes and smells and textures and pure sensuality of it all. I am in fully love with The World, and most alive when I'm getting to know her better. Wanderlust, some call it. It's deep and powerful and insatiable, like the best kind of high.

So, I'm headed to explore and feel and experience a part of her I haven't, yet. I'm going to Southeast Asia, on a one way ticket to spend some time with my First Love, again. I'm going to get to know the mountains and the trees and the waterfalls, but also the people and the history. I don't have much planned, but I'm taking my camera and a mic. I'm going to talk to as many people as I can, and share their stories with you.  I'll start in Thailand and see where the road takes me. I have some ideas, some contacts, some great advice from travel bloggers I follow, but I'm letting the Wanderlust in my gut take the lead. She hasn't let me down, yet.

southeast asia map.JPG

I can't wait to share this new adventure and the stories of people I meet on the road. If you know someone living or working or creating in that part of the world, and you think we should meet, I would love to hear from you!

I hope you'll stay in touch and follow along! 

Daily Resistance

What does it mean to resist? To speak truth to bullshit? To be light in the darkness? What does that look like, every day, in actual life?

I think we’re all asking these questions. It’s easy to get “cause paralysis” these days, what with a meeting or protest or march or act of nonviolent resistance just about every weekend. Every week, sometimes every day, there is a new outrage screaming for our attention. In these months of heightened, emotionally charged politics, it’s easy to feel unsure where to take a stand, short of making a sign, traveling to a march, or joining a movement. That's good and necessary work, but it's not everyone's work. 

For some of us, that’s exactly where we want to be and feel most useful. Resistance to power needs organization and movements. We need people marching. We need people protesting and chanting in the streets. We need people on the front lines, raising their voices and calling out injustice and speaking truth to power. We need community organizers. We need women running for office and people of color given fair and equitable representation in public spaces. People are standing up in courthouses and on street corners for wage equality and immigration reform and black lives and LGBTQIA+ rights and we need them there. We need that fire and volume and visibility and energy.

You know what else we need, though? We need people living out Resistance in their pedestrian, daily, ordinary lives.

And we also need bookkeepers. And artists. And scientists. And stay at home parents. And all the people who have no desire to join a march but will serve meals for the homeless every weekend. And storytellers who make us laugh at the things that scare us. And dads who will take their kids to the grocery store dressed as superheroes. And beauty for beauty’s sake. And music that transcends language, moving total strangers in a bar to tears. And introverts with stage fright who face their fears at open mics to tell their stories about love and loss and grief and recovery.

The world does not need you to be polite. The world does not need you to be well behaved. We need you to tell the truth, to take up your space, to own your courage, to be kind, to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, to create beauty, and to love fiercely.

Mars Presents Variety Show, Nashville, 2015. Talking about death and living and courage and resilience. Doing what makes me feel alive, right where I am.

Mars Presents Variety Show, Nashville, 2015. Talking about death and living and courage and resilience. Doing what makes me feel alive, right where I am.

And we need you doing the thing that makes you feel alive, right where you are.

We need you to say “No” to the things that drain you so you can say “Yes” to the thing that lights you up. We need your depth, your soul, your best and most cared for self. That version of yourself who feels vital and electrified and vibrant, like she’s doing exactly what she was made to do. That’s the version of YOU the world needs. When people walk around illuminated by the vitality of their work in the world- and I do not mean vocation, I mean your life work- the darkness doesn't stand a chance. Anxiety and fear and worry cannot exist in the same space as that kind of brightness. They're crowded out.

You don’t have to make a sign or join a protest if speaking truth means, for you, that you read stories of brave women to your children every night. If you come to life on stage, go find one and tell the truth. If you feel lit up making spreadsheets, make the best damn spreadsheet we’ve ever seen.

Let your art, your life, your love, your work in the world be an act of daily resistance.

Why now?

All around us is bad news. It’s the easiest thing in the world to go online and find chaos after tragedy after seemingly endless disaster. I can hardly open the News app on my phone anymore without slamming the phone down in a rage. It’s tiresome, this constant worry over the state of things. I’ve spoken with more people this year who have developed anxiety since the last election cycle than who haven’t.

Here’s the deal about bad news, though: It’s not the only news. Is it what we hear the most often? Sure. Is it what advertisers want us to focus on? Absolutely. How else would they convince us we need the hundreds of products and services they’ve designed? If the world is more safe than not, and if people are already of great intrinsic worth and inherent dignity exactly as we are and nothing can take that away, what reason do you and I have to buy that extra life insurance policy or the home alarm system that can also order cloth diapers and play Bruno Mars? As long as media conglomerates and politicians and advertising companies control the narrative, we can be scared into just about anything. As long as we’re scared of the world around us, we can be manipulated into doing and believing just about anything. As long as we’re divided into our camps of “Us” and “Them”, as convinced of our own righteousness as we are of their blatant stupidity, we’re very easy to control. Those who control the narrative control everything.

Friends, it’s time for us to write a new story. It’s time for us to take back the narrative.

Here’s what I love about us. We drive me absolutely bananas, don’t get me wrong. We hurt each other every day and we say awful things on the internet but, somehow, in the midst of all the war and poverty and racial injustice and mass shootings and authoritarianism and rape and moral bankruptcy, we still manage to live.

We still make music in living rooms.

We still watch little ones jump in rain puddles.

We still plant flowers in gardens.

We curl up by fires with books.

We chase fireflies in the summer.

We build new tables out of old wood.

We put on plays and musicals that make absolutely no money but bring great joy.

We make soup for sick friends.

We jump out of airplanes.

We hop in the car and drive through the countryside on a Saturday just to see the leaves change from green to blazing red.

We help our kids with their algebra homework.

We weep to bury our loved ones and laugh over memories of them.

We have hard conversations with people we don’t understand because we love them.

We apologize.

We forgive.

We put quarters in gumball machines because it reminds us of being young.

We surf.

We skateboard.

We take naps on sofas.

We adopt pets from shelters.

We walk through the woods because they’re there.

We pick up trash from the sidewalk because it’s the right thing to do.

We eat stinky cheese and drink sparking wine.

We call our mothers.

We try to remember to write ‘Thank You’ notes, and we always feel better when we do.

We give gifts on birthdays, and on holidays, and, sometimes, just because we want to.

We buy tiny gourds and arrange them on tables for no other reason than they look nice there.

We turn wool into sweaters and blankets and itty bitty socks for newborn babies.  We play instruments and turn notes into songs.

We tell our stories.

We live.

It takes so little light fill a dark room. People, even when we’re really enthusiastically screwing things up, are capable of generating such bright light.

We are born resilient.

Hate is learned. Fear of the people around us is learned.

I believe we can unlearn those things. I believe the most radical thing we can do is introduce ourselves to one another. I believe the way we make the world a place of light again is not by constantly complaining about the darkness, but by realizing we have had access to the light all along.

Thanksgiving, 2017. Releasing light, gratitude, and dreams.

Thanksgiving, 2017. Releasing light, gratitude, and dreams.

It’s us. It's ours to share. The light is not lessened when we share it, but like a match to a candle the light multiplies and spreads. 

Thank you for all the ways you are light in the world. Keep opening yourself up. Keep living. You can't possibly know when your light will ignite someone else's. There are so many of us, friends. Keep shining.

The Beginning

In a way, this project is a beginning. But in lots of other ways, it's simply the next right thing in a story full of stops and starts. I've never been a person for whom normal was going to work out. My "career path" is more of a meandering mountain cilmb, sometimes trailing along little sparkling streams with baby deer and butterflies, but more often switching back and forth and up and down and around until my hamstrings cramp and my boob sweat and armpit sweat become one inner tube of stank wrapped around my middle. I almost never know what's coming next. I have spent the past decade or so following my gut to the next right thing, seeing what patterns emerge in my life, identifying what makes me feel alive, and trying my damnedest to turn those next steps into some sort of a living. 

This project is the birth of what's been growing in me ever since approximately November 9, 2016. I'm tired of not knowing what to do to make the world a little less insane. I know exactly what to do. I am nervous and a little afraid, but I know exactly what I'm going to do. I am going to meet you, sweet strangers of the world. I am going to meet you and listen to your stories of resilience and share them with whoever will hear us, because I think the collective truth of our lived experiences is what will save us from a world of misrepresentation and alternative facts. There is a truth with more depth and breadth and life than the facts- even the right ones- and I'm going to seek out that truth and share it. It's in our stories. It's in our moments of empowerment and courage and sacrifice and forgiveness and mercy and love, and it exists inside us and in between us- always. 

This project is about meeting strangers and introducing you to some of the amazing people in my life, and sharing all of our stories of resilience in one place. This project is about making the world better. It's about good news. It's about telling the truth. There are people facing their pain and their fear and anxiety about the world, and living luminous and bold lives of creation right where they are. I'm going to find them and introduce them to you. My hope is that their stories will remind you of your own bright and bold life, and point you back to your own resilience.

Here's what it will look like: There will be a podcast where I'll sit down with some incredibly normal and totally resilient humans and we'll talk about hard, beautiful things. There will be an instagram where I'll post pictures of people from all over the world with little glimpses of their stories of resilience. There will be a blog where I'll tell the truth as best I know it. There will be you and me and all of us sharing our best, hardest, most beautiful, awful, life giving and empowering stories about how and who we are in the world. We will tell the truth. We will make the world a little less insane. We will BE the good news we've been waiting to hear. And when we fall and fail and lose our way, we will begin again. Together. Always.