because I'm into you, July

Coffee and magenta lipstick. Oh my. 

Coffee and magenta lipstick. Oh my. 

If I can summarize July in any way, it would be through the words of clarity, luminosity and embodiment. 

It was a month of learning curves, for sure. But even more it was the month of fully accepting and embracing who I am in this season and celebrating with those I love. I entered into the month marking nine years being a Mrs. and ended the month 32 and ready for the dreams taking shape for this next year. 

2014 has been the year of soft — learning more about what makes me move in this flesh and bone. I'm learning more and more — and loving what I find. And I just may have the beginnings of my word for 2015. 

books read :: 

#GIRLBOSS, Sophia Amoruso - I saw a picture of this book on Instagram and immediately went to find it online. Snarky, honest, and at times completely unconventional, #GIRLBOSS was exactly the read I needed to jumpstart my understanding of what it means to be a creative entrepreneur. 

Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion - A tale of a zombie-turning-human again? Sure I'll bite. Great summer read for a local book club. Wasn't disappointed. 

The Here and Now, Ann Brashares - This was one of those reads where I would love the direction Brashares was taking and then suddenly, I was left wondering what the hell was going on. Way too many subplots, I think. Over all I enjoyed it, but I probably was more thrilled about the cover design than the actual plot. 

Landline, Rainbow Rowell - it's no surprise I'm a huge fan of Rowell. This book is no exception—a brilliant and honest look at modern marriage and friendships with a slight nod to paranormal elements. Bonus: her dialogue is still the best out there as far as I'm concerned.

Conversion, Katherine Howe - my favorite book of the month/summer/year so far. I'm serious. Listen, I'm a huge fan of The Crucible and so any book that chooses to tie into the themes of hysteria as well as the pressure high school students are under now, it's just brilliant. My favorite line just might be the APUSH instructor looking at the students and saying (describing Miller's play), "...and because it's Arthur Miller, it's not about the Salem Witch Trials. It's about sex." 

Um. Yes. Spot on. All my geeky-literary respect and mad props to you, Katherine Howe.

books still reading ::   

The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective, Richard Rohr 

Linchpin, Seth Godin

Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin 

Book of Life, Deborah Harkness

for the love of poetry ::  

There are fundamental values
underneath tonight
- and every other night - 
I don't want to get self-conscious
inhibited about it. 
I'd like to leave that entirely 
to you.

-  me, a found poem from this month in my art journal

television ::  

I'm mourning the fact that we finished Chuck earlier this month (but how cute was that series finale). We also finished Orange is the New Black, with me bouncing up and down on the couch as you-know-who did you-know-what in the last few seconds of the season.

And, in the vein of needing to just shut the laptop and unplug, I've had TWO FULL DAYS of Pretty Little Liars binge watching. Hello, Ezra. When did you get so creepy? And how 'bout that season 4 finale? A is most definitely for answers.

Finally. Luther. Oh my. 

music :: 

Definitely still listening to Somewhere Between Water & Sky's playlist as well as this one I created a few months ago for a secret project I'll be starting soon. 

Also? This song from Yuna has been on NONSTOP. 

on beauty ::

I'm still obsessed with violet & magenta lip color. Particularly this line from Bite Beauty. Other than that, July wasn't necessarily a month for beauty—considering I had an allergic reaction to arnica covering a majority of my body for most of the month. 

But yay steroid pills. And lipstick. 

And haircuts from Bird's Barbershop.

everything else :: 

The weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. Click on the picture to sign up! 

The weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. Click on the picture to sign up! 

  • Celebrating nine years of marriage with my love
  • Clarity that comes after chaos
  • The launch of ten story-coaches within Story Unfolding
  • Language surrounding where I want to go 
  • Falling back in love with Somewhere Between Water & Sky
  • Weekly art-journaling dates with my closest friends
  • Taking risks and stretching into this skin of creative entrepreneur
  • Investing in eCourses from Indie Shopography as well as Braid Creative (they're brilliant. Check them out. No really.) 
  • Dinner with Preston & Hilary Yancey
  • Getting the cover to book two (cover reveal next week!)
  • Celebrating 32 years with my people
  • Days spent reading just because. 
  • Launching the 30-Days of prompts
July brought a tradition far too long in the making: Sunday evening wine and art journaling. 

July brought a tradition far too long in the making: Sunday evening wine and art journaling. 

What about you? What's made your July magnificent?  

:: Linking up with the amazing Leigh Kramer for her What I'm Into posts ::

Posted on July 31, 2014 and filed under this-here blog.

making hustle your friend.

Every week within Story Sessions, the members receive an email focused on the creative life. Sometimes it's encouragement, other times it's equal parts ass-kicking and inspiration. I love writing these emails because they force me to engage in a form of artistic metacognition. Such as this email, copied for you below, on hustle. It's something I've been pondering for a while and was just now able to put to words so I wanted to share it with you. 

.::.

I remembered this past weekend just how much hustle a life of creativity demands.

Editing needs to be done. eCourses need to be brainstormed. Websites need to be updated. Books beg to be read. 

But despite the exhaustion of days spent behind the keyboard, nothing thrills me more than seeing a scene fold into perfection. Saturday and Sunday were sixteen hour days of research, writing, planning and learning. I loved every minute. I felt driven and energized, as if the words on the screen were fuel for my dreams. 

Sometimes, I wonder if the hustle has gotten a bad wrap in the midst of all our talk of rest. 

Don't get me wrong: rhythm and flow are essential for a creative. Seasons are real and sometimes our words look like the fallow ground of winter. 

But if we're not careful, our seasons can shift into spring and that fallow ground can turn into the tough soil of  a land that hasn't been tilled. 

This was me in April. I almost never started book two. If it weren't for coffee with Teresa in the Austin airport and hearing her say "just write the damn book, Elora. You know it's in you" the angst of hidden characters and words would most likely still be eating me alive.

So for you who wait: now is the time. 
For you who doubt: let us believe in you. 
For you who are overwhelmed: just start here.

You know it's in you: the book, the blog post, the drawing, the website, the eCourse, the business. The hustle is your friend. With her, the crazy-making world doesn't seem too crazy anymore. In fact, she often comes arm-in-arm with the Muse. Get to know her. Love her. Welcome her. 

And then sit in that chair and create.


newsletter.jpg

Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. Come join us?

Posted on July 28, 2014 and filed under writing.

do what you must :: when you need to find the flow.

This past month has been one of the most stressful I've experienced in a long time. A few days ago, on a Story Sessions call discussing Rilke and the importance of artistic rhythms, I had a moment of clarity I decided to turn into a mini-series on the blog about doing what you must. The first post can be found here

flow.JPG

If there has been one word that captures this season of my life, it's the word flow. 

Rhythm. Movement. Shift. Drive. Change. 

Every where I turn, she reminds me of her presence. 

It would make sense, then, that most of my moments of clarity have come when I'm actively engaging in motion.

.::.

It's three in the morning, and the third or fourth time I'm taking our dog out for a walk. There aren't very many thoughts pressing in outside of let this be the last time please and holy cow can there BE any more trees left on this property that you have yet to sniff. 

But I feel a dissonance. 

I let her lead me around the complex, forcing my eyes to stay open, and when we trudge up the stairs and I fall into bed I think for a split second I need to change something. 

Bianca Broos tells us in a Coaching the Coach meeting that dissonance can be one of the best teachers. My ears perk up and I jot it down in my notebook. 

Teach me, then. I think. 

The words come later that evening as I fight for control with my dog's leash.

It shouldn't be this difficult, I pout, wrapping the leash around my wrist and giving her collar a slight yank.

And then I pause. My girl stops with me, looking up and giving me a questioning glare at the interruption of her squirrel chase. 

It shouldn't be this difficult.

.::.

I've been discontent with the direction of this blog for a while. 

I knew what I wanted: to encourage artists, to be real about the creative process, and to blog candidly about my experiences with creative entrepreneurship. What I didn't know was how to get from where I was, stuck, to where I wanted to be—caught in the flow. 

Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. - Rainer Maria Rilke

In our last call for the spring session of Story 201, I had us look over this quote and consider it for ourselves. Was our life a sign and witness to the impulse within us? Were we truly digging for a deep answer of what it is we must do?

I knew my answer even before pausing the camera and allowing them time to reflect. I needed to find my flow. I needed this — in all of the definitions of that word — to not be so difficult. 

And I'm not speaking of the difficulty surrounding risk and growth. Change and movement always require a shift, a breaking of sorts. That hurts like hell and isn't easy, even if it's for the best. I'm speaking of the difficulty of trying too hard.

I'm speaking of the moments in which we choose to bleed out instead of asking for help. 

I knew there was a shift occurring within the clarity surrounding Story Unfolding. I knew it would probably look a lot like restructuring and rebranding. 

It also looked a lot like hope, and felt a lot like flow. 

.::.

I was skyping with Bianca when I told her, "you know, this past weekend was the first time I gained clarity and acted out of my vision instead of necessity. Every other moment of decision-making it's been because of someone telling me what I should do or offering a suggestion." 

She tilted her head. 

"Tell me about that. What were you doing?"

I laughed. "Um. I was knee-deep in eCourses. I was taking notes and answering the difficult questions. I was thinking about my language and my brand and what my vision is for Story Unfolding's future. It wasn't how we could make this as big as possible or involve this person or that figure. It was hat is Story Unfolding at its core?—I wasn't concerned about anyone else's opinions. I needed to know for myself." 

.::.

Here's a spoiler: I found my language. 

I have a lot of work cut out for me. But for the first time, I'm okay with feeling driven. I'm okay with the movement. It's not overwhelming anymore; it's breathtaking. 

And if it were a color, it would be golden

 

This is one of the things I'm most excited about—the redesign of my newsletter. A weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and inspiration about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. Come join us?

do what you must :: when it's more than a rash.

This past month has been one of the most stressful I've experienced in a long time. A few days ago, on a Story Sessions call discussing Rilke and the importance of artistic rhythms, I had a moment of clarity I decided to turn into a mini-series on the blog about doing what you must. This is the first post. 

The rash started on my knee. 

At first, I thought it was a heat rash. (Hello, Texas summer) When it didn't go away like other heat rashes, I thought maybe a cut was healing.

And then I woke up one morning clawing at my neck. When I looked in the mirror to see what could be going on, I found tiny red splashes of irritated skin staring back at me.

Hello, stress. How are you? So nice of you to visit. 

I did what I normally do: complain, try not to scratch, and use an inordinate amount of cortisone cream. One morning I kicked my sheets off of my legs and started scratching feverishly, watching as tiny bumps formed underneath the red streaks left behind by my fingernails.

Nothing was working outside of an insane lathering of aloe vera, and well, that just got sticky.

After a few days, the spots on my neck faded and my legs were calming down considerably. And then? It was everywhere. My legs. My stomach. My arms. My neck. My chest. 

The redi-clinic couldn't help me, saying it was eczema and for me to use lotion. When I finally connected a new laundry detergent appearing shortly after the rash, I decided to throw that one out and get an old stand-by we'd used before.

It wasn't until a sleepless night had me googling allergic reactions to every single thing I'd used in the past month that I connected the culprit: arnica. 

A magical little gel-like substance that solves any muscular aches, it also can provide horrific reactions to those allergic to ragweed (raises hand). I felt simultaneously hopeful and frustrated. 

Especially because I had even taken the pills. 

This was more than just your standard allergic reaction. 

After a trip to the dermatologist and a hefty dose of steroids, I started noticing a slight improvement. 

But this story is not about a rash.

.::.

For the past week, I've had to keep my skin as hydrated as possible. This meant stopping what I was doing throughout the day to rub lotion onto my legs, my arms, my stomach, my chest. 

Talk about forcing embodiment. 

Every day, I took a handful of lotion and in circular motions, massaged these pieces of me that normally don't receive so much attention. After a few times, I started talking to them. Letting them know that I see them, and I notice the rash, and I love them anyway.

It was a profound moment of mothering myself. 

Rashes are a thing for me. I don't do well when there's something going on with my body in which I have no control. I would say you could blame my past for that, but it's also a healthy dose of fear of the unknown and my need to have things in a certain order. 

I've gotten better over time, but there's nothing that will send my anxiety spinning then seeing something I can't stop. Itchy skin is up there on the list of triggers. 

I used to think I'd be a horrible mom because of this. Kids get rashes. They just do. I know this—as a teacher I saw plenty of funky skin conditions. 

But I also had the lysol spray handy.

I had friends tell me that it would be different when I was a mother, that it wouldn't matter because this was my kid and he or she was uncomfortable and that would be my priority, but I knew myself. I knew the way my mind played tricks on me. I wasn't so sure I would hold so much grace. 

So it's fitting that my first round of mothering was meant for me—for my skin and knees and arms and neck that were red and angry with a reaction coming from within. 

It was the only way I could calm down. Sit on my bed and breathe. Pull out the lotion and breathe again. Use my thumbs and fingers and work out the tired muscles tense from stress and worry. Whisper safety and healing and love. 

Only then could I begin to see connections between stress and how my body was reacting. Only then could I begin to understand that maybe the allergic reaction was yet another way of my body reminding me that I needed release.

And that's when I remembered it'd been weeks since I cried.

Posted on July 23, 2014 and filed under creativity & rest, desire map.

12 First Dates: An Accidental Blog

Call me Sonia. It’s not my name, but if I told you who I really was, it may sabotage my dating life. 

Right before New Years, I decided I was ready to actually try when it came to romance. I promised myself I’d go on at least one date a month for the full year. Twelve First Dates.

I wanted accountability, so I put a call out on Facebook. "To my single girlfriends, like this post if you are interested in a challenge that might result in love, could result in winning money, will definitely result in some funny stories and could very well result in heartbreak too. I’ll message more details over to anyone who likes this." 100 likes later, I found my pool of ladies to join me.

Of the 100 who liked my post, 24 of them were willing to actually step up to the challenge. We would each ante up $20, joining a community where we were encouraged each other be bold when it came to dating. We built a secret Facebook community and as strangers became friends, we became each other’s cheerleaders. We’re genuinely happy when someone in our community finds love. We feel that we helped each other! (Come on, admit it, you get jealous when your friends post blissful romantic photos online.)

So, from January to May, Twelve First Dates was just a private community of women cheering each other on. As beautiful and vulnerable stories started pouring in, I began to realize that maybe the world beyond just this Facebook network should hear the stories of these gals’ bravery. 

In May I bought up the web URL for Twelve First Dates. I swooped up social media ownership rights as well. Then, I began a conversation with our group. Were we comfortable sharing our most vulnerable dating experiences? Were there confidentiality issues for the men we’d been dating? We talked and everyone agreed that there was too much “good stuff” here to not share it with the world. The blog was born.

Since May, I’ve been busy building a website from scratch. The Twelve First Dates bloggers have been working hard fine-tuning their dating experiences into posts. We’ve been writing reviews of the best dating books and websites we’ve found. We make sure to tell the book author and web designers know that we’re sharing their work on our website.

That’s working. We’ve been approached by popular dating websites and distinguished authors who find the approach behind Twelve First Dates completely fresh and authentic. Why thanks

For the past two months, I’ve filled my non-dating evenings with meetings with friends who have a strong eye for design, begging them to tell me everything I’m doing wrong. I read. I bought Blog Inc by Joy Cho to learn what the heck “SEO” means and how to improve it.

Meanwhile, while I’m learning how to build a blog, the bloggers for Twelve First Dates post. And post. And post. We’re totally okay doing this even if we never magically explode as a viral sensation. We haven’t been promoting the website until we’re fully confident that Twelve First Dates is chopped full of compelling content. 

Today, our social media following is still in the double digits, but for some unknown reason, the website is getting hundreds of views per day. Somewhere, an underground swell is building and readers are taking our blog posts to heart.

Why? I think it’s because real life is more interesting than fiction. In real life these things have already happened during the first half of 2014:

These are the juicy stories your girlfriends tell you at happy hours. Hundreds are visiting the website daily because it’s authentic

And now, this week, Twelve First Dates is launching (thanks for sharing Elora!) Rather than rushing a launch, our community has slowed down to be certain that what we have published is interesting enough that YOU would want to read it.

If you want to build a blog, slow down. Make it authentic. Build in vulnerability. Say something different from the rest. 

My goal in doing ALL this isn’t to build a website. It’s to find love and to help my friends do the same. This isn’t about elevating myself into a famous blogger... If it was, I wouldn’t put a bag over my head on my profile picture. 

Sonia
Age: 28
City: Los Angeles, CA
Career: Event Planner for the Fashion Industry
About: Sonia thought of this crazy idea while spending a bit too much time alone in her car right before New Years. She holds a master's degree, and is pretty obsessed with craft beer. Her biggest dating mistake is she keeps enthusiastically telling men how much she loves her kitten... but it's a really adorable kitten. She's datable. You should tell your friends.

Posted on July 17, 2014 and filed under co-connivers, finding your one thing, writing.