Beautiful Souls Create Beautiful Worlds

She was 32 years old, her favorite color was purple. She was a waitress and a paralegal. She lived in an apartment with her chihuahua, Violet. She loved people and wanted the best for everyone she encountered. She felt the world so deeply that any story of hate or oppression could bring her to tears. She stood up for the things that she believed in. And because of this, she was killed- one week ago today the world lost a beautiful soul to the hands of hate. Her name was Heather Heyer; she was murdered when a car intentionally plunged into a crowd of counter-protestors who were ensuring that their own voices would drown out the hate spewing from the white supremacists who had charged into Charlottesville.

I didn’t know her, but I’ve known countless like her. Her death strikes a deep chord with me because she could have easily been one of my friends, my family, myself. She was one of us; she had a compassionate soul which left her no choice but to feel the beauty and pain so evident in this world right down to the core of her being. She was one of us; she never hesitated to stand up for those who couldn’t, give help and strength to those in need. She was vibrant and beautiful, inside and out. She followed her heart, even when it led to her death; she was one of us.

She was only a few years older than me. She worked in the same field as I do; and anyone in legal will tell you that it takes a very special type of person with a very odd sense of humor to handle what you see. She got the job because of who she was, because of how hard she worked- she got the job with a high school diploma and elbow grease, as the saying goes; just like I did. She wanted to help people, she went to rallies and protests and gave a voice to the things that mattered to her; it could have been me standing there, it could have been my sister, my mom, my friends. We have all marched in those lines, we have held our signs and chanted those words. We have all looked at this world of our and tried to make it better. She was one of us.

Some days I feel like I’m lost in Oz, in a land full of tin men who have lost their hearts and scarecrows who don’t know how to think for themselves. The only problem is that they don’t realize it. I remember when relatives and friends were posting sentiments to social media about ramming cars into crowds of protestors because “if they are in the street stopping traffic, they deserve it.” I remember being shocked (and from a girl who has spent ten years in the court system, very little still has the power to shock me). I remember trying to have conversations with them about it- every time they deflected with jokes that they thought were so damn funny- until now when they’re not. Jokes and laughter can be an outlet, but they can also normalize behavior and give people ideas that they are better off not having. My heart broke back then, and it’s breaking now because of the silence exhibited by these same people. They were so quick to laugh and makes jokes at the idea, and yet now that it is once again a poignant reality- they view the subject as too serious and taboo to touch. So they are silent.

The other day a woman who I have known and respected for years made a snide comment about the death of this beautiful woman. “You can’t get killed in a protest if you are at work.” I am still in shock at the callous response from someone who claims to be a good, religious woman, someone who is an involved member of her community, someone who used to bring bright smiles to my day when I was running short of my own. How do you respond to that kind of hatred? How do you react when someone shrugs their shoulders and points the finger at the victim? What happened to our hearts? If it had been me- someone she has known for years, I wonder if her reaction would have been different. I wonder if she would have been sad, or lit a candle in my memory. I wonder if she would have decried the hate that took the life of someone she had known for a decade. Or would she have shrugged her shoulders, thinking I was partially to blame for simply being there. Would her response have been different? And if it had- why? Why would one life matter more than another?

People keep telling me that you can’t look at Charlottesville as if it is a microcosm; you must view the whole picture, and the whole picture isn’t full of that much hate. They tell me that there are more good people in the world than bad, and that these people- the ones who marched through a town carrying torches and screaming Nazi slogan- they are rare, and as such should not be given the attention that we have shown. While I agree with this to a degree- I am still too cautious to nod my head and look the other way.

You see, there were lessons to be learned from Charlottesville, and yet a lot of them were ones that did not present themselves until days later. I agree that most people will denounce the type of open racism we saw last week. And yet in the days that followed I still saw a lot of shoulder shrugging, a lot of jokes, a lot of excuses and red herrings, a lot of people who turned away and found something else to distract them. In the days that followed I saw our bigger problem; and it is in the subtle actions that decry our lack of compassion, our biases that reside just below the surface, our heartless responses to moments of pain and fear. It is etched into the complete lack of empathy for anyone who is even remotely different from those we view as being a part of ‘our tribe,’ whether we chose religion, race, sex, philosophical viewpoints, etc- as the markers for that tribe. We have lost our sympathy and our compassion for anyone outside of our bubble. The river does not need to become a tidal wave to cause damage; it is usually the calmly flowing stream that can erode the banks and change the flow of the river entirely. Our problem is not solely with the blatant hate and prejudice that we saw last week; it is the more subtle daily interactions we have with one another. It is the way people respond to someone different, in the way they so easily dismiss another’s concerns. It is in the fact that members of my own family thought it was funny to joke about how satisfying it would be to ram their car into a crowd of protestors knowing that I have been in those crowds. It is in the fact that I can bring this to their attention- and they will dismiss my words and my concern. They will refuse to have a simple conversation; they will dismiss me and say they were only joking. It is a cold world that will find this funny.

There’s this interesting concept in the world today where people seem to think that they can dictate how others should interpret the world around them. You don’t get to tell someone that what they experienced wasn’t racism. It’s not your job to roll your eyes and tell her she was mistaken- that wasn’t sexism. You don’t get to tell people what lenses they need to view their life through. Your job is to ask a question, to open a dialog and figure out why they feel that way. Perhaps both parties will learn something new about the other. You see, our backgrounds, our appearances, our modes of speech and residence will create the life experiences that shape the lenses we view the world through. It’s easier to be blind to racism or sexism- or any other ‘ism’- if you do not have to experience it yourself. It was easy for people to tell me that sexism wasn’t a problem- and yet I remember when my friend’s boss openly told her that they almost didn’t hire her because she was a woman. People rolled their eyes and said that age discrimination wasn’t a thing- but I still remember the day that a customer refused to let me help him because I ‘looked too young to know what I was doing.’ So instead he waited for the older woman next to me to be available- ironically, she was the woman I was training at the time. It was easy for people to tell me that racism wasn’t a problem; and yet they never stopped to listen when I repeated the stories from my biracial cousin. We share the same blood, we were raised the same way- and yet the world treats us in very different ways. The last time a cop stopped me it was to ask if I was okay and if I needed anything. And yet when he would get stopped, he would be questioned and treated with suspicion- every time. Just because you do not see something through the same lens as another person does not give you a right to discount their experiences. That is not a decision for you to make.

Tonight I am angry, I am sad, and I am at a loss for what to do. There has been so much hate; some more blatant than others, but the subtle kind has been just as dangerous. The problem with our problems is that people want to remain blind. Admitting that there is an issue means admitting that we all have a part to play in it. I’m exhausted with the perpetual hate. I am so damn tired of everyone pointing the finger in a hundred different directions instead of where it belongs. We did this, and we have to fix this. We have to look within ourselves and confront our own monsters and biases. We have to own our experiences and accept that there are a million different viewpoints out there; each one as credible as your own. We have to stop dismissing one another and turning our backs to the problems that we believe don’t directly effect us. We have to find our hearts again, we have to have compassion and empathy. We have to start wearing each other’s shoes and walking for miles through their complex and beautiful lives. We have to stand up and speak out when something is wrong. We have to be patient enough to have meaningful conversations, and above all we have to learn how to listen. We have to share our stories so that people can begin to see the world through another lens. We all have something valuable to add to this conversation, we all have a responsibility to one another to speaks our truths.

Tonight I ask two simple things; if there is nothing else you ever take away from me or these words I’ve tossed out into the world, I pray you take these to heart. First: remember those brave souls like Heather Heyer- those courageous lions who got up every single day with their hearts on their sleeves. Remember the people who felt compelled by their own compassion to go out into the world and attempt to make it better than it was yesterday. Remember them tonight- these real flesh and blood people who deserved more than what they got.

And the next thing I ask: emulate them. Just because the world can hurt you, just because the pain can be so overwhelming- please, don’t ever stop feeling. Don’t ever turn your head away- witness this. Both the beautiful and the painful deserve to be seen and remembered. See this world for what it is and also for all of the potential that it holds. Be kind, be compassionate, tell stories and listen, please for the love of all that is good- listen to the words of others. Don’t dismiss them, talk to them. Be kind. Be human. It is a blessing and a curse to feel the world so deeply- never stop feeling it. That is the only thing that will change all of this. We owe it to ourselves and to one another to throw some kindness back into the world, to shine a light into all of its dark places. Be a lightning rod for change, use your own kind words and gentle actions to force others to see you and what you are doing. Remind people that there is hope and good still exists. Don’t ever let them forget.

I’m a Writer, I’m a Runner (and how they are the same damn thing)

I am not a natural runner, never have been, never will be. This is a fact that used to make me rage internally. I wanted to be that girl; there's a version of myself that I envision in some alternate reality in a galaxy far, far away. She's fit, lean, and ready to jog a marathon on a whim with a smile on her face and a light glistening of sweat that makes her look slightly magical as opposed to gross and smelly. The reality is far less appealing. I huff, I puff, I scrunch my brows into pained concentration. My hair jettisons out into a frizzy halo and the color of my face could rival the ripest tomato. I don't have any real form to speak of and could probably be confused with Phoebe from Friends as she's rushing to Central Perk. I am not a pretty runner. I don't say that to be modest or cheeky, it's true. When I was younger I even stopped for a while after being made fun of for it- my brittle self-esteem at that awkward age could not quite take it, so I avoided partaking in the activity for years- at least not when other people might see me.

phoebe-running-style-o

And so everyone who knew me was quite shocked when I agreed to take part in a multi-day, two-hundred (ish) mile relay race. I was dreading it, if I'm being honest, but I had a team of eleven other people who were depending on me- peer pressure can be a truly motivating force.

A few things happened that I never expected while I was out there on those roads, pushing through mental roadblocks and physical limitations, taking a pounding from the relentless sun and basking in the beauty of a star filled sky. I fell in love with this difficult challenge that forced me to find a sense of grit we lose in this world of modern convenience.

I didn't think I could do it- I went into the challenge simply hoping to survive long enough to cross that finish line. But there's something refreshingly human in the desire to prove yourself wrong; when you dig deep and find that resilient spirit you tucked away so many years ago. There's something empowering when you stand there staring at your own expectations of what you are capable of, holding your weaknesses in your hands and smashing them to the ground with a war cry of your own invention. There is something invigorating when you find a shard of strength you didn't know you had embedded deep your soul; that moment when you realize you actually did the one thing you always thought would be impossible. You become a fighter, you become more than you were yesterday.

There is something that we always seem to forget about grit and strength; contrary to what Instagram would have us believe- it is not always pretty, it does not always look empowering, and things do not suddenly become easy simply because you have changed your frame of mind. You don't suddenly morph into Mulan and start kicking ass without an ounce of trouble. I did more than I thought possible- but I still looked like a burnt puffer fish running down those roads. I was still in pain, my muscles screamed, my lungs went into panic mode. I still had to fight for ever inch of ground I gained, and I had to keep up a constant dialog with my own brain to convince it that my body could keep pushing. Success does not come easily, it does not always look like those inspirational pictures with the cliche captions on Pinterest. Life is messy, it is hard, and you will have to fight for all of it.

When you are out there pounding the pavement with no other distractions to steal your precious attention; your mind starts to wander into places you don't often visit. You find yourself searching for inspiration, for a reason to keep on moving forward. As I was out there on the road I thought a lot about life and what I wanted from it (apart from surviving to the finish). I thought about this past year and all of the steps that I have and have not taken towards my dreams. I thought about school, about work, about my writing. And I realized how similar my running and my writing actually were; it made each step a tiny bit easier when I realized that I already knew how to do this. I find my grit when I'm writing, I push myself, I battle with my inner critic who wants me to quit- I silence that voice. I knew how to run because I knew how to write. Knowing the patterns of the struggle reminded me that I know how to overcome them.

They say that running just entails putting one foot in front of the other, and writing is merely stringing words in a row. And yet to those who love them, they are so much more than that. These two completely different hobbies require the same frame of mind. You have to want it, you have to push, you have to fight for every advantage. And the enemy you are going up against isn't some scary monster- all too often it is that little voice in your own head saying 'you can't do this, you aren't good enough, why bother? Just stop.' You have to fight that voice with everything inside of you even when you don't believe your own inspiring words, even when you start to fall for those lies that little voice tells.

I'm a master of excuses. I can come up with ten thousand three hundred and thirty two reasons not to do something- each one more creative than the last. I do this on days I should be writing, and I especially do this on days when I'm supposed to hit that pavement. And yet with both the real struggle is simply beginning. Once you start- the world is fine, and you might as well keep on going. You have to fight the urge to be comfortable, you have to be willing to push yourself when you don't want to. You have to want it more than you want the bubble you hide in.

You have to be willing to put in the work if you want it to look effortless. I wrote a lot of horrible pieces when I started- and sometimes I still do (a lot of times). I had to keep practicing, putting words to paper as a foundation. I knew that I could sculpt it later, but I needed something tangible to work with. I had to start if I wanted to get better. It's easy to read a book and say 'I will never be that good, I am not that talented.' It's easy to forget that you are witnessing merely the tip of the ice burg that author has carved. There were months of awful work behind that. There were first drafts that were painful and difficult. There was editing and redrafting and polishing- all to create this little collection of pages that look so effortlessly beautiful.

Running is no different; it does not come easy to most people. When you see them on the road cruising along like they're floating on air- that's because they worked for it. You didn't see all of those months when they were gasping for air and pushing to reach the next telephone pole. You didn't see the struggle, you are witnessing the outcome of their hard work. They had days where the road kicked their ass, they had a time when the idea of running an entire mile without stopping seemed impossible. They had weeks where they didn't feel like they were improving at all. They would push just a little bit farther every day. They had to fight to make it look so easy, and truthfully, inside they are probably still waging that war as you watch them. These big rewards were not meant to be easy, these dreams are not ones you will accomplish unless you truly and deeply want it.

You will have to work hard, even when every piece of you is resisting. Writing when the muse is with you; that is the most beautiful time for any author- when the words flow freely like a raging river and the characters transform into living being right before your eyes. Writing is easy when the stars align just for you. But the truth is, this won't happen often. Most of your time will be spent pushing through the mental roadblock, and that fickle little muse will be off indulging some other wayward fancy. You will have to carry the story on your own. You will have to find something inside of you that pushes you forward, something that will keep you sitting there stringing one word behind another. Out on that road you will find the same thing. There is a period where the steps are easy and the pace is fast; you could go in for miles- so it seems. You feel great and your mind is keenly in tune with your body. Perhaps you have someone near you to keep you motivated; I do my best running at the beginning of a race when you are surrounded in a pack of likeminded individuals embarking on the same adventure- I beat personal records right in that sweet spot. But it doesn't always feel like that. In fact, a lot running (for me) consists of an inner dialog that I cannot turn off. It's my voice yelling to reach that next marker, to push it just a little bit farther. Most of it- for me- is hard work. A lot of really hard work.

When I did that relay- about eighty percent of the time I was not pleased with being there. It hurt- my muscles ached, there was a stitch in my side that would not go away, the sun left me parched, my face was so red police officers were actually concerned for my safety, and I was breathing like an elephant in need of an inhaler. It was not glamorous, it was not this magical moment that the fitness vloggers out there would lead you to believe. Pixie dust might sprinkle itself on them when they hit the road with their running shoes on, but not this Princess. But I was still out there. I was still fighting for every step, every inch, every mile with every fiber of my body. I didn't quit. Just like I don't quite writing when it's hard and the muse is gone.

The thing that I love about these two very different adventures; they both make me feel alive. They both push me to do things I would never typically attempt. They force me to see things from new eyes and to turn that gaze back on myself, to see me for who I truly am when my shell had been broken open and I am just a girl losing her way through life.

I am a writer; I spend my time telling stories, weaving together inspiring tales of flawed people. But this time- just this once- I got to be the character in my own story. I got to be the one to push myself, believing I was crazy the entire time. I got to have an adventure. I ate at a place called Bob's Burgers (if you've seen the animated show, then this might make you smile- they were delicious and the waitress was amazing). I also got locked in the restaurant after closing on accident. I stood in the Puget Sound as freezing cold water lapped at my knees watching the sunset with five amazing people. I walked to the dock in the middle of the night and sat on the stairs that lead to nowhere, drinking in the sights of the lights glinting from the opposite shore. I danced in a phone booth wearing a sloth costume. I ran to the Canadian border and set foot in another country (albeit fleetingly). I slept on the floor of a high school with a few hundred strangers. I crossed Deception Pass at two in the morning (albeit in a van- running it was not my challenge to face this year). I listened to my shoes hit the pavement as I ran through fields in the middle of night with nothing but my thoughts to keep my company. I found peace in a crazy world during one of the most exciting challenges I've been privy to in a long time. I cheered for strangers and had those who've never met me shout out words of encouragement (and the cowbells, oh how could I forget the cowbells). I crossed that finish line. And when I was done I stood on the back of the ferry and watched the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen- I immersed myself in it so much that I didn't even stop to get a picture (sorry friends, but I suspect it's something that just wouldn't have come out quite the same when you weren't in person). I celebrated with wine from a can, like a classy lady.

I fell in love with something that scared me. Just like with my writing, I was reminded how important real adventures are in this short time we have on earth. I was forced to truly look into myself and ask if I was the person I wanted to be- and how could I reach out to that girl? My stories taught me how to be inspired and brave; but it took a real adventure to show me what I was capable of. These two things are not so different. When used together, they can help one another thrive. My stories helped my running, and my running is helping me live more stories. I have more grit than I realized. I am stronger than I thought. Writing an adventure can be a beautiful thing, but do not forget to live them as well.

Waiting in the Wings (for the ones who pushed me to greatness)

In life we are constantly in search for our own accomplishments. We strive. We hustle, we push; we fail and we succeed. And yet so often we forget about all of the hands who were there to help us along the way; how many people stood in the background while we thundered through our moment of glory, basking in our own personal spotlight. Today I was so quickly reminded what a simple kind word or thoughtful gift could mean to someone in the midst of the struggle.

Nothing will bring you back to reality like bonking at a physical fitness challenge. I am currently participating in Ragnar Relay- as I mentioned yesterday; two vans, twelve people, two hundred (ish) miles in two days and one night. I didn’t train like I should have, and thus- it has been a challenge, to put it mildly. 

I was terrified when my teammate showed up to our exchange full of energy and good vibes, slapped that bracelet on my wrist and sent me on my way to run my very first leg. You see, even though you sign up with large teams and spend your days in the company of five other people- the actual act of running is pretty solitary. It’s you and the road, two feet stomping pavement as you follow the signs (and other runners) to that ellusive exchange zone. You get to take your magic slap bracelet and tap someone else to begin their own portion of the journey. 

My leg was at 11:00, the day was hot, the wind was scarce and the sun was set to extra strength. In the first part of my run one of the officers patrolling the course actually stopped to ask me if I was okay. After explaining that yes, I was, and my face just always gets that red when I’m running, I trundled on my merry way. But the problem was- my body wasn’t ready for this sudden jolt of activity. I was not physically prepared for the challenge I signed up for.

So I struggled, and I walked (a lot!). I pushed myself as hard as I could go as person after person passed me by (which is actually saying a lot because my speed walking if nothing to sneeze at). Every person who passed by called out words of encouragement; which made a big difference to me. They recognized my struggle (which can be embarrassing), but also acknowledged and appreciated the fact that I was still out there in pain, exhausted, sweating- and still putting one foot in front of the other at whatever pace I could muster.

There is a difference in the type of support that people offer you; the officer, who meant well, approached me as if he didn’t think I could do it, concerned for my safety he wanted to make sure I was okay. This is something I deeply appreciate, but his lack of confidence in my abilities forced me to question what I was doing there that much more. It took the winds out of my ebbing sails. And yet the other runners out there never once questioned my ability to be ranked amongst their numbers; they saw the exact same stuggle as that officer, but they approached me as if me finishing that leg was a guarantee. They had faith that I could do it because I wanted to do it. They had no hesitation when they offered me their simple unwavering support. 

And then there was the van of amazing women who completely changed the tone of my first leg. They had a runner on the road who was consistently near me, so they would pass me and see me as they waited for her. Instead of only caring for their own person, they paid attention to me as well. Even going so far as to pull over to ask me if I needed a little bit of water. This may not sound like much, but it was exactly what I needed at the perfect time. I was hitting a wall and wondering why the hell I had even signed up- and their words of encouragement a small gift of water completely changed my perspective. It reinvigorated my body and soul for the road that was still winding ahead of me. 

There are moments in our lives when we are the runner, and there are times when we are the cheerleaders. Both are vitally important. Just a small act of kindness, a tiny nod of encouragement can morph a struggle into a beautiful experience. Without the people on that road pushing me forward, the mental struggle I was waging could have easily changed my entire experience.

When you are standing on the sidelines in someone else’s story, never forget how important the supporting characters can be. Always offer a kind word; you never know if that will be the tipping point that will propel them to greatness. And when you are standing in the spotlight, carrying the show- don’t forget all of those people standing behind you who have helped you on your path. Don’t let them forget that they are a big part of the reason you are standing where you are.

So to everyone who yells out words of encouragement to friends and strangers alike; to all of you out there who rang your cowbells and cheered me on as I pushed past my own endurance- thank you. To the man with the rainbow shorts, long beard and no shirt- you made my day with your encouraging words and contagious enthusiasm. And to the ladies of the black and pink van who stopped to help a runner in need of both physical and emotional replenishment- thank you, I would not have had the same experience without you. You are truly inspiring, thank you for welcoming me to this amazing adventure.

Excited amazement that I actually survived my first leg- in the van on the way to support our next runner as he hit the road (and killed, by the way- shout out to Cody)

Reading Dangerously

Books have the ability to shape minds and sculpt opinions, they are as diverse as the people we share this beautiful world with. They can change us if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves and our beliefs. What we choose to read will show in who we become as people, and, as creators, it will become apparent in what we bring into this world. Whatever your chosen medium is, you have the power to make an impact with it, to become timeless and honest. I want to write books that change people, I want to pen articles that make others question what they thought, or provide them with a glimmer of hope that they are not alone, that they have an ally in a world that has too few. I want to write Dangerously, and to do that, I must read the same way.

When I was in high school we had weekly opinion pieces to write and then group debates on a myriad of subjects we originally knew nothing about, and a few key topics our teachers were brave enough to let us choose ourselves. One of their favorite things to do: make us argue a side we deeply opposed. Why? Because it forces you to learn, it compels you to challenge your own views and opinions and, in effect, discover a sense of compassion for those you disagree with.

It is no secret that we live in an interesting time; though not as unique as we may imagine it to be. We have hot button issues that compel passions within individuals that are unrivaled. Passion is a double-edged sword, and in a world of misinformation, skewed propaganda, and sensationalization: passion can be a unforgiving and dangerous blade. It seems that searching for information and challenging our own thoughts has become too difficult a task. It is far too easy to get swept away in the sea of words we have billowing out around us.

At the end of 2016 I started working through some of the books I’ve left idling on my shelf, books that ignited a curiosity and passion inside of me, some of them made me question my current belief system, and others managed to reinforce my opinions with information that I did not previously possess. They gave me a fire, and a deeper understanding of the world around me. And they reminded me of how complicated and colorful our world really is. 

I believe in tolerance and compassion, but there are many cultures and social issues I still only had limited knowledge of. I felt unable to voice my opinion in fear that I was missing something. At the same time, I feel we all have a social obligation to help one another and defend each other from unwarranted hate and preconceived notions.

It was my desire to challenge and educate myself that led to a very specific goal this year, one that I suspect will continue far longer than these 12 coming months. The challenge: to read dangerously, to confront my own views and biases and force them to make a case, to expand my knowledge and, with that, my understanding of this complicated world that we live in. It is a year to remember those long-forgotten facets of our history and find the correlation with our current troubles. It is a chance to propel ourselves to be better people.

I was originally thinking about monthly themes, and while I may eventually transition that way, right now I am simply enjoying the extensive and random selection of books I own but have been sitting unread. I have books covering all subjects: history, religion, race issues, sexuality, the sciences, biographies of strong women, athletes, and world leaders, philosophy, classics and modern tales that shape us in unseen ways. I have books that I suspect will support my current beliefs, and ones that I have a strong inclination will test them. 

Now, I have hopes that this will be somewhat interactive, though I think it will evolve a bit as we go. I have just finished Voyage of the Damned, a phenomenal book I will be doing a follow-up post on in the coming week (spoiler: I highly recommend it). If you would like to see the 2016 books that inspired this, feel free to peek here: Tipsy Typer’s Top Ten Year-End Literary Lovelies

My current selections include an overview of world history in the form of The New Penguin History of the World because, well, I am a bit rusty and I’ve tried to read this lengthy tome many times- darn it, I will do it this time! Also, I am finally reading The Quran; I’ve always had an interest in religious studies and have read the texts of other religions, but have never made it to this one. Thus far it has been very eye-opening in terms of some of its similarities to a few other predominant religions. I think a big part of understanding and having compassion stems with educating yourself on what is important and fundamental to other people. Religion is a driving force for many, and learning to respect that and understand the similarities as well as the differences will go a long way on our road to acceptance and appreciation. I also just started a promising new read that follows my underlying theme: Threading My Prayer Rug

But I want to ask you all: what suggestions do you have for me? What books have changed you, expanded your views or made you ask questions? The genre, the subject matter, geared towards children or adults- there are no boundaries, any book that made you feel something, learn something, or challenged you in some way; I’d love to hear about it and add it to my list. And if you care to immerse yourself in your own Reading Dangerously challenge, feel free to comment; I think sharing this experiment with others would only help us all grow.

Cheers, my friends, may we forever find the strength within ourselves to keep growing and changing.

To Truly Live (A Hope for a New Year)

Happy New Years, my friends! I hope that you make 2017 one to remember fondly. I hope you walk away from this year with pride in all that you have accomplished. I hope you dare to live bravely, to challenge yourself, to find lessons in your failures as well as your successes. I hope you create an adventure that you will look back on in twenty years with a smile saying ‘I can’t believe I did that.’ I hope you slide into December 31st a little bit weary, a little bit ruffled, and with a contagious smile that just won’t quit. I hope you find joy and kindness, I hope you show the world what you are made of. I hope we all do.

I have always been a lover of New Years Resolutions, excitedly proclaiming my goals to my less-than-enthusiastic friends. I know that some don’t hold an abiding belief in this tradition, following the logic that change can and should be made everyday, not just at the beginning of a new year. And while I see the merits in their argument (I myself have decided on a random Wednesday that I had finally had enough and sought my change right them), I still can’t seem to refuse the hopeful joy I feel when that clock strikes midnight, the ball drops, and we all find ourselves collectively standing in a new time, a new day, a new hopeful beginning. It is like the first chapter in the sequel to a book you know and love. You are well aware of the pitfalls, the plots, the characters; but that does not detract from the magic of a brand new book.

There is a sparkle to a new year, a symbolic fresh start, a way to clean the slate and set tangible timelines to your goals. And while you are still the same person you were yesterday, you can look at your problem with fresh determination, even if it is only a change in your state of mind.

2016 was a year of foundations for me. It was a time for me to embrace the things I love and start tackling the maze that is the writing world. It was a year of change, of asking questions, of looking at myself in terms of my potential as opposed to my prior accomplishments. 2016 was a year of tearing down the walls that I had built, crashing through the limitations that I had set. And 2017 will be about putting on that hard hat and building on what I have started. It will be a time to view my life through a new lens, to begin answering the questions that I posed a year ago. 2017 will be a year of living and loving bravely, of baring my soul without apology. This year I resolve to take the next steps off the beaten path I have always so willingly followed. This year will be about potential.

There will be many failures; I am nothing if not deeply and profoundly human in everything that I do. I fail with the best of intentions. But this year I hope that I will not let those failures determine my path. I will struggle, and I will continue to question. I will feel discouraged and sad and wonder what the hell I am doing with my life. But my friends- that is to always to be expected. That is what it means to live a genuine life and be true to who you are. It is not an easy road, to follow your heart and your dreams. It is an unpaved adventure when you deviate from what is expected.

I have seen clearly what my life will be like if I don’t step outside of my box. I will continue to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and blearily hop in the shower to wake up. I will depend on my coffee as I drive to the same building I have worked in since I was 18 years old. I will be happy there; I have been happy there. I will bond with these people, occasionally go to happy hour with friends. I will plan vacations once a year to someplace new, saving every last penny. I will maybe have a few kids (to entertain the dog and cat). I will live a happy, ordinary life.

But when I come to those pearly gates, I will know that I did not live my life. I lived the life that was expected of me. It will be great, it will be grand; and it will be the epitome of everything I am not. I am organized chaos. I am a eternal optimist. But most of all, I am a girl full of dreams and stories that keep my head floating in the clouds. My closet is full of blazers and high heels, and yet I am happiest in my worn tennis shoes and literary t-shirts. I take pride in what I have accomplished, and yet I know in my heart that I am not living up to my potential.

We all know the dream, many of us carry it in our hearts and guard it zealously. Oh, how happy I would be to make my living with a pen in my hand and a story in my heart. And yet, I have come to a realization this past year: the outcome of my writing does not matter. If I never catch the attention of a publisher, if I never see my name on a best-seller list; that doesn’t mean that I failed. The true test is in the journey. If I keep writing, if I keep chasing that dream with wild abandon, if I still daydream about that one story I can’t get out of my head when I should really be reading the latest legal decision on that one case everyone is talking about; then I am winning, I am living my most genuine life.

This year I want to explore my boundaries. I want to re-discover what I really love and what I truly want. I want to do it for myself, not to check a box off of an ever-growing to-do list. This year I am going to be brave and start looking at the bigger picture. While I love my job, I know that I am settling by doing what I do. I am not challenged like I hope, I’ve hit the top rung of my current ladder and I am not satisfied with my view. I am capable of more than what my current task-set allows. And while I don’t think I will be plunging head-first into any new careers this year, I will start the journey to figure out what really brings me joy. I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I also envisioned a big glittery question mark that begged the question of ‘what else’? As I ramble down my literary road, what else out there will leave me fulfilled? I want to find out, I want to see what I can accomplish if I set my mind to it, I want to rediscover the passions that I fell in love with once upon a time. If nothing else, I will learn something new about myself and perhaps find some fresh fodder for my literary endeavors. I am forever learning, observing and soaking it all in.

These are my hopes for 2017, the dreams and adventures that I wish to look back on fondly next December as we prepare to ring in yet another year of change. While I thought about writing out my well laid plans on here with all of their lovely little bullet points and step by step directions, I think my purposes are best served with the intentions, the heart of what I am hoping to accomplish. Each month will bring with it a new challenge that I will set out to accomplish; and each task will be met in its own time.

2017 will be a year of self discovery; of learning to slow down and listen to myself, to follow my interests and desires and see where they will lead. It will be a year of taking a step back from the hold that mindless technology has taken on my brain and revitalize myself out in the tangible world. It will be a year of cultivating my mind and body, making small changes now that I will be grateful for in the future.

2017 will be a year of writing, of finishing what I started. It will be a year to explore the possibilities of publishing and facing my fear of public opinion. It will be a year to dedicate to this lovely little space that allows me to bring voice to my thoughts and feel a little bit less alone. 

2017 will be about finding myself in small adventures; whether they be as simple as the pages of a book I would normally not read or as grand as a vacation to someplace I never would have envisioned visiting. It will be about finding the good in things that I all too often spot the negatives in.

2017 will be a year of investment; exploring new cultural experiences, finding common ground with people who feel like strangers, searching for a place to fit in a world that wasn’t necessarily created for people quite like me. 

In this year, I hope to build, to grow, to look within myself and find a new perspective to color my views with. We have a world of possibilities at our feet and a choice in our hearts; to walk down the path so readily laid before us, or to take that leap and jump into the rambling woods beside us. This year I choose to live my true life; whether I succeed or fail doesn’t matter in the end. It’s going to be one hell of an adventure as we carve this road. I hope to see you amidst the trees, my friends.

Tipsy Typer’s Year-End Top Ten Literary Lovelies

Books have always been my saving grace, my escape from a world gone wild. Whenever I am overwhelmed, in need of comfort or inspiration; I turn to those familiar worn pages. They are constantly changing and questioning my world view, pushing me to become a better version of myself. Books are a large part of my life, and as such, they are also one of my biggest investments. When my bookshelves started overflowing, I plunged into the realm of the ebooks (people can’t question your purchases if they cannot see them piling up in the corner of your room). Which is how I wound up with 481 books owned and unread at the beginning of 2016.

So this past year I embarked on a grand literary adventure: to start reading some of these little lovelies I have waiting for me. In 2016 I set a new personal record: 205 books read, checked off the list, coded and catalogued. Now, this was in large part due to my fascination with reading some shorter titles that are geared more towards young adults and children (surprisingly pertinent lessons can be learned from the works we abandoned as we entered adulthood), and my discovery of audiobooks to go with my long commute and a job that allows me to listen to whatever I want when it won’t interfere with my work product.

This has been a year of transition and change for me, a year of challenging myself and my own opinions, of expanding my views and opportunities. These books were an integral part of my personal journey, and so in tribute, I am going to mention a few; my top ten. Deciding the titles that would make this list was an incredibly difficult decision for me, as I had fond thoughts of most of them. But after some time debating and evaluating, I finally managed to whittle down the numbers. With that, I present to you: Tipsy Typer’s Year-End Top Ten Literary Lovelies (note: these were not all written this year, they just happened to be read by me this year). They are in no particular order, so here goes:

  1. In the Country We Love: My Family Divided.    By: Diane Guerrero
  2. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education.    By: Mychal Denzel Smith
  3. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.   By: Wes Moore
  4. I am Malala.   By: Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
  5. Wild.   By: Cheryl Strayed
  6. Kingkiller Chronicles (Book 1: The Name of the Wind. Book 2: The Wise Man’s Fear).   By: Patrick Rothfuss
  7. The Martian.   By: Andy Weir
  8. The Elephant Whisperer.   By: Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence
  9. AWOL on the Appalachian Trial.   By: David Miller
  10. I Ching.   Author unknown

And then, because I really struggled with this decision, I’ve decided to include 10 honorable mentions that were so unbelievably close to being on the top list that I actually swapped a few of them out. Multiple times.

Tipsy Typer’s Just as Awesome Honorable Mentions that Probably Should Have Made the List (again, in no particular order):

  1. The Little Prince.   By: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  2. Wishful Drinking.  By: Carrie Fisher
  3. This is Your Brain on Parasites.  By: Kathleen McAuliffe
  4. Catch Me If You Can.   By: Frank Abignale
  5. Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain.  By: Michael Paterniti
  6. American Gods.  By: Neil Gaiman
  7. The Art Forger.   By: B.A. Shapiro
  8. The Girl on the Train.  By: Paula Hawkins
  9. Ready Player One.  By: Ernest Cline
  10. Dead Mointain.   By: Donnie Eichar

Every book I have read this year has left me with something, has impacted me in some way. That’s the beauty of books; they change us in ways that we don’t always immediately recognize. And judging by the mountain of exciting pages I have in my to-be-read pile (currently numbering at 633), I believe I will have another year of memorable forays into the written word. If you get a chance to peruse any of these beauties, I know you will not walk away disappointed. So tonight I raise my glass and send a cheers out to the authors who have inspired me this year, as well as those who I know will help me navigate through 2017. I couldn’t do this lie without you. 

The Gift of Time

I was once a somewhat materialistic girl. I think we all are to an extent. Now don’t get me wrong, I have never been interested in name brands or personal items meant as status symbloys. I adored things that showed a bit of flare, a hint of the personality hiding just below the surface. I loved my stuff, I grew attached to it, and as such, I always struggled to part with it. And then I moved- and vowed to never again buy another unnecessary item that I would have to cart around with me for the rest of my life. If I ever had to move again, I was just going to burn everything and start over, yep, that seemed like a reasonable remedy. So much easier than packing box after box to haul to the next home. As it turns out, when all is said and done, I am a bit of a liar.

This last time I moved I became introduced to that dreaded three-syllable word: downsizing. It was a painfully therapeutic tool that was a necessary evil in my life. Severing ties with physical objects was difficult for me, far more so than I am willing to admit. I grew up beilieving that even the most trivial items can be repurposed, and that if I decided to finally let go of something, I would enevitably need it immediately. Couple that with the fact that I don’t own things that I don’t like. And if I like it, well I want to keep it. I’m was a recipe for disaster, and a constant frustration for my fiancé who grew up with the ‘get one, lose one’ philosophy; meaning if he wanted a new toy, well, something needed to be traded. As always, he is the yin to my yang. The problem was that we didn’t have room in our new living quarters, nor did we have the funds to dedicate to a storage facility. So we sliced things out of our lives. I combed and purged, combed and purged, over and over again until I couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore. 

I’ve always wanted to embrace the life of a minimalist. I have read the books, I have started the work. But I’ve never been able to truly belong to the movement. I love color and variety too much to feel comfortable living with only bare essentials surrounding me. I embrace my creative nature in my living space, I don’t feel at home without at least a tiny sense of chaos, of odd juxtaposition, of inspiring objects that leave your mind reaching out for more. So no- I cannot be a minimalist. But I have learned not to bring more into my life than I can handle.

Which is why this particular season can be a bit tricky for my. It is the season of giving and receiving. You see, I am very careful about what physical possessions I bring into my life now. And I am perfectly content with what I have. There is not a single thing that I need. And at this point, I don’t have any extra room to dedicate to superfluous objects. For the first time in a long time I can say that everything I own enriched me in some way. Which is why I find it rather difficult when others demand to know what I want this holiday. The answer of ‘nothing’ does not seem to go over well, many believe it’s just a modest answer that I don’t really mean- you know, one of those tricks us women like to play on the unsuspecting men in our lives. Last night I overheard a conversation between two people that I found rather interesting. The man was like me- he didn’t want or need anything, and he would rather any extra money be spent on his grandkids instead. His wife, however, had a different view of the matter. She got upset that he wouldn’t say anything, and finally yelled, “it’s not always about you. The gift giving isn’t always about you, sometimes it is because other people want to do something nice for you.”

I can’t tell you why I found this so interesting; probably because I know a number of people who show their affection through the physical act of buying things for those that they love. And perhaps it’s also because I do genuinely understand the desire to do something kind for a person that you care for. We all want to see their eyes sparkle when we had them the perfect little item they never would have asked for. We get our own satisfaction in the giving; I’m like this as well. 

So this year, I am trying something a bit different. For those in my life who still feel the need to pay for a gift (though I am always quick to tell them that I would rather they spend their money on themselves)- for those that don’t like this answer, I am asking them for something a little bit different. Either a picture of us or something important to us- no frame needed- for me to put up in my office to look at all year round and remind myself why I go in there everyday, something that will make me smile during those moments that test my patience and my kindness. Or else the gift of simple time- this is perhaps the thing most often neglected. We are all too quick to replace our own presence in someone’s life with a memento of us instead. As thoughtful as the item itself may be, nothing can replace the actual time we spend with one another. It could be something as simple as a walk down the street with a cup of coffee looking at Christmas lights, or a lunch at a new restaurant. Or even (as my sister did this year) a little Ugly Christmas Sweater Party with friends and family). This year I would rather we spend our money on experiences to bring us closer together. I am not an overtly social person, and I struggle to get out of my box and join the world some days. So the greatest gift for me is a shared experience with someone willing to give me the greatest gift of all- a few minutes of their precious time. That is all that I need. Not more trinkets to put on a shelf or keep in a box until I move to a bigger house. Just a couple minutes of your time, and perhaps a smile or two. This year I want memories, not merchandise. I want a Christmas to look back on always with the fondest of memories that will outlast anything you could buy in a store.