The Three Only Things


What a long week it has been! On top of a busy work week packed with hosting retreats, meetings, kickoffs and classes, I also had the opportunity to help organize and attend the Rivers of Ink Writers Conference at my local library. I began attending meetings for the planning committee back in May and was happy to see the final product today.

During the open keynote this morning, Terry Persun referenced Robert Moss’ concept of The Three Only Things as it relates to writers. Terry Persun said that as writers, we must do the following:

  • Read. Don’t just read what you’re most passionate about. Read eclectically. Read fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose. When you’re reading, don’t just get the idea of the story. Check your pace. Where do you read quickly? Where do you slow down? Why?
  • Learn. Learn from everything you read, everything you see and everything you experience. Research. Take notes. No matter what, learn.
  • Love what you do. Realize that your life is important. Create the life that you want to live, according to your values.

These three “only things” certainly inspired me as a writer, but they also made me consider what my only things are in life as general. Later on when I was in another workshop from Liz Fountain who cited Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle I jotted down my “why.” And it came out in three things:

  • Love. First and foremost, for me this means loving God. Then it means loving others. And finally, it means loving myself. Simple as that. My first goal, my first purpose is to LOVE.
  • Create. Whether it’s with my writing, my projects at work, or relationships, I feel at home when I’m making something. There’s something about setting out to make something useful and/or meaningful.
  • Move. I may be an introvert who enjoys quiet and solitude. But I also believe that I’m not made to stay still. I have to move. I have to explore. And I don’t think that either of my first two “things” would happen if I didn’t move.

I went to this conference to learn about how to become a better writer, but I got so much more out of it. I got a new perspective on how to set goals that pertain to my beliefs and vocation. So it’s a goal of mine…when I’m going to do something, I want to ask, does this fall into one of my three things? Does it lead me to love, create or move?

I was surprised by how much I learned in this conference. Maybe it’s because I’ve never thought there was much to my writing that I didn’t already know. But this weekend showed me that there are ways to perfect my craft. Far from being overwhelming, it was fulfilling. I loved it. I’m ready to create. And I can’t wait to move.

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What if it were me?

13627155_10206200493401418_6822412705193164642_nImagine it’s Easter morning.

Imagine you and your family are getting ready to go to Sunday service for the biggest celebration of the year. You’re dressed in your best, and you are in solidarity with all other Christians throughout the world who are celebrating the Resurrection of Christ.

You sit down and turn on the TV to kill time as your family gets ready. You flip channels, and they’re all talking about the same thing. You hear about an attack on the Vatican. Imagine the shock, the confusion, the hurt. Imagine someone then saying it was done in the name of Christianity.

Now you may have an inkling of what it felt like to be a Muslim when their holy city of Medina was attacked during their holy month of Ramadan.

Now imagine you’re stopped by the police and you have to explain everything you do or are about to do. A child is in the car with you. She sees a gun aimed at your boyfriend. She sees blood. You feel obliged to tape everything so there’s proof of what happened. Can you understand what Philando Castile’s last moments were like?

Imagine you’re called into work to take care of an emergency. You get up and you do it. It’s your job after all. Imagine crowds of people giving you dirty looks because of the badge you wear. Imagine protecting them anyway. Imagine hearing shots. Imagine one of them hitting someone you’ve worked with for years. This was real life in Dallas yesterday.

Our problem isn’t just too many guns,too much racism and too much ignorance, although I do believe that those factors contributed to the crises of the past few days. It seems like the first question we ask when one of these disasters happens – whether it’s a terrorist attack or a shooting or an attack on the police – is “Whose fault is it?”

What if instead of looking for blame, the first question we asked was “What if it were me?”

What if it were my faith that was attacked?

What if it were my daughter who witnessed a man die?

What if it were my brother, husband, sister, wife, who was killed in the line of duty?

What if it were me who heard doors lock every time I walked by?

What if I had to work twice as hard to get half of the respect?

What if I were afraid that I’d be spit on for holding the hand of a loved one?

What if I didn’t know if I’d make it home when I put on my badge?

IMG_20160708_153553We come from a long history of fighters who did it the right way.

John Lewis risked his life for the sake of the civil rights movement.

Fr. Gregory Boyle works with gangs in LA to bring everyone into the circle of kinship.

Mohandas K Gandhi fought for the truth and saw dignity in every human being.

Nelson Mandela earned the respect of his jailers to the pint where they would only address him as “Sir.”

I look at these leaders and look at us now and wonder if they would ask themselves, “What did I do that for?”

If people are still killing each other, why risk my life? Why  fight so hard? Why is our society moving backwards when we worked so hard to move it forward?

To be honest, I’m in a situation where I feel terrified yet again.

I’m terrified that my black friends can’t walk down the street without worrying that they will be hurt.

I’m terrified that my friends in law enforcement won’t come home.

I’m terrified that if it doesn’t stop, one day it’s going to be me who’s afraid to go out and walk down the street.

I would hope that we’d do something now to prove that the sacrifices of Lewis and Mandela and Gandhi and Boyle are not in vain. They knew something that we have yet to understand:

It’s not an uprising we need. We’ve already had plenty those. What we need is to acknowledge is that we belong to each other. We need compassion. We need to be willing to place ourselves in the shoes of those who threaten us. We need to ask the tough questions: Why are they angry? Would I be angry in their situation? What can we do to move forward? Because if we just continue to point fingers and refuse to be compassionate, there will be another attack. There will be another shooting. Another family will be broken as they bury a loved one.

Within a few weeks, perhaps the hashtags will stop. Police barricades will disappear. People will start posting about their dogs and what they ate for dinner again. We’ll continue with our daily lives until someone else dies. The cycle will continue. And it’s not even a question of what if one day it’s me? It’s a question of when will it be me?

Or we can choose another way. We can choose to see each other for who we are and choose to support one another not just when blood is spilled in the streets. We can choose to see that that blood is our blood. We can choose to love every day.

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Be a Hotdog


Original photo from Buzzfeed

I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic.” There were many things that I agreed with and many things that don’t necessarily apply to me, but when I closed the back cover, I came away with one thing: I’m not alone in this special thing called the creative life.

I’ve loved being a writer since I was a little kid. I would write short stories, poetry and journal entries. My teachers would praise my essays and writing assignments. I even won a some awards. Regrettably, I never turned this passion into a way of generating income. I never thought my material was good enough or that it could turn into a lucrative career. So instead I pursued a career in medicine. Then I changed my mind and thought I’d be a lawyer. I’m now working in youth ministry, itching once again to get a pen into my hand as the blank page calls my name. It just goes to show that our true vocation always calls us back no matter where we may venture.

The point is that what I loved as a kid has returned to me as an adult, and I have no other option than to respond. What it has led to are paper cuts, frustration, ripped pages, blank pages, writers block and late nights wanting to write but feeling uninspired. But I have never been hopeless. Instead, I search for inspiration. Sometimes it shows up in unexpected places, but one thing remains consistent: I can always find inspiration in other people’s art.

A good friend of mine, Alex Lasota, once said to me,

“Talent from one artsy area – totally inspires talent in the other!”

Her words proved to be true as I was scanning videos on YouTube and came across Amy Vachal’s version of La Vie en Rose.

I absolutely love the song. But I was even more struck by the background of this video…a piece that she made. And a classic song that she made her own. I then started to watch different versions of the song, and all of a sudden I was motivated to write and fill blank pages with words that were inspired by a beautiful song but turned into a story that is all my own.


What happens when the heart tells pen and paper that they really do belong to one another.

What Alex said is true…When you feel uninspired, you can look for inspiration in another piece of art.When you do, you realize not only that you’re not alone but that being a creative is special. You may feel like you’re alone in this endeavor. You may feel like a weirdo in a world of people with “normal jobs.” You may feel like you’re moving against the tide. But you also get distinction. You get to exercise being unique and courageous. You get excitement and adventure. I look at what the first six months of this year have brought me: I get to call myself a dancer. I get to call myself a writer. I get to call myself an artist. I get to call myself a creative. And that means the world to me.

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Feeling so loved post recital!

It all started with a couple of friends who wanted to vary their fitness routine. We were walking along the river when one of them, who has a daughter who dances several times a week, suggested that we sign up for an adult tap class. I was excited about the idea, so on a Thursday evening in September, I found myself at The Dance Class for my first dance class in 30 years.


You may have read about my first tap class in a previous post. I’ve learned so much about myself since then. What I didn’t include in that initial post was that my two friends eventually got to the point where they decided tap was not for them. Still, the class continued, and one day the two teachers (who are PHENOMENAL) asked us all what our goals were for the year. When it was my turn, I said,

When I first started out, I was here with a couple of friends who just wanted to get a little more active. They decided it wasn’t for them, but I’m going to make it to that recital!


The incredible, encouraging, supportive women from the adult tap class at The Dance Class (Photo from Brooke)

As of last night, I met my goal! I had the time of my life performing to Caro Emerald’s “Stuck” with about a dozen other ladies from my adult tap class, and now it seems so surreal.  I’ve learned so much this year about discipline, self confidence, dedication and yes, being fearless. It takes some guts to try something new. It takes guts to admit you didn’t get it right the first time. And it takes guts to keep on trying. It takes guts to get out and perform in front of hundreds of people. It takes guts to do all this with people who you barely know but grow to trust.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that life will present you with all kinds of opportunities, and when you choose to be a little brave, you gain so much. In tap class, I learned that there are some things I can let go of (like the need to be perfect or that being an introvert means that I have to be alone all the time), and when I do that, I feel free. I hate to think about what would have happened if I didn’t choose to stick around. I would have missed out on so much fun! I would have been “stuck” at home on Thursday nights “with nothing to do.” And I would have missed out on so many life lessons that I learned from my amazing tap mates. In the words of Barbara, who teaches ballet, but tapped for the first time this year, “It has been good for me to be a beginner in something.” Same here, Barbara! After all, beginning something new can be scary, but it is also an exciting adventure!

I’m actually a little that it’s over, but I am looking forward to next year. ‘Til then, I’ll be basking in the fun times I had this year…and maybe watching some Operation Tap videos so I don’t get too rusty for the fall.😉


That’s me in the red dress photobombing and admiring the adult jazz class…Maybe I should do jazz next year? (Photo from Brooke)

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FB_IMG_1463542837939When I was in college, I went 54 hours straight without sleep. Just let that sink in for a little bit. Think about how tired you are after a long day of work or how tired you feel after you’ve been walking around in the hot sun all day trying to make it from Point A to Point B.

Between studying working and being an active member of my sorority, I was just incredibly busy. I woudl just go, go, go and say yes to everything but sleep and stretch myself incredibly thin. I wore my lack of rest and “ability” to please everyone as a badge of honor, like I was Superwoman, ale to conquer everything that life threw my way.

Over a decade later, I look back at that itme and wonder, “What was I thinking?!” Staying awake for that long and feeling like doing so woudl gain attention and attraction from my peers was not healthy at all. Over a decade later, I realize that i”m not alone in this behavior.

As a part of Mental Health Awareness month, Deidra Murphy shared her story of mental illness with me.

In 2013 Deidra found herself in the midst of a hurricane of activity. She was planning a wedding while also juggling a teaching job and then a career change; buying and moving int o a new house, working with her new husband to expand their clinic and on top of all that sleeping very little – all in the span of six months. Deidra found herself placing her own health and well being at the bottom of a long to do list. A severe lack of energy left her feeling hopeless, depressed and rejecting relaxing vacations because she didn’t want to pay for a vacation she wasn’t going to be able to enjoy.

I found myself nodding my head, understanding everything she was sharing. It really hit home when she said, “Not only did I feel like I had failed myself, but I felt like I was failing our patients, my husband, and anyone who looked to me for answers on health and wellness.  Internally, my brain was yelling at me, “how can you help others when you can’t help yourself?!”

A point came when Deidra told herself that she had to make a decision to practice what she preached. She had been advising others to eat properly, exercise regularly and minimize toxins, so she did the same. In addition, she started saying no when she had to. She started asking others for help. In short, she started listening to her body and taking care of all aspects of her health. As a result, she found moved from thinking it would be easier if she passed away to proving to herself and others that she can be a beacon of hope.

As I look over Deidra’s story, I am reminded so much of mine. I remember thinking that self care was selfish. But it’s just the opposite. When we take the time out to invest in our own health, we become so much better for the people around us. When we feel good, when we are rested, when we are able to enjoy life, we are so much better equipped to encourage others to do the same. Self care, whether it is physical, emotional, intellectual or mental is not selfish.

“Why did God decide to let this battle become such a part of my life?  I am still unsure.  But maybe this, what I type right now, is the reason.  Maybe he wants me to share my story with the world so His power of healing can be made known.  It is only through HIS grace, HIS power of healing, and HIS forgiveness that I am back to where I am today…God puts people in our lives to help lift one another up, don’t feel like you have to handle the burden all by yourself.”-Deidra Murphy

Deidra’s story is not a story of weakness. Rather, it is a story of bravery and victory. By recognizing her illness, she stepped onto the road of becoming the best version of herself. Deidra’s story inspires me to care for myself and to remember that our accomplishments are so much greater when we can recognize them as good and be satisfied with what we’ve done rather than beating ourselves up for what we failed to do.

Too often,  (and so many people who I love) push myself to be perfect and to be everything to everyone at the cost of my own health. But Deidra’s story reminds me that we can best love others when we love ourselves and accept the fact that we deserve to invest in ourselves and our health.

Thank you, Deidra for being brave enough to share your story and use it to inspire others!


Deidra is the owner and operator of 180 Consulting where she uses her passion for fashion helps women turn around their image. Deidra was also named first runner-up in the Mrs. Washington Pageant.

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Learning How to Speak

“Had I known but yesterday what I know today, I’d have taken out your two grey eyes and put in eyes of clay. And had I known but yesterday you’d be no more my own, I’d have taken out your heart of flesh and put in one of stone.”

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I first encountered this quote when I was reading Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Dogs of Babel where the main character, Paul, searches for the explanation behind his wife, Lexy’s suspicious death. As the story progresses, Paul puts together pieces that uncover the truth: his beloved wife was facing mental illness. The quote above was a message from Lexy that Paul received after her death.

Those who are fighting mental illness don’t intentionally hurt others, and those who love them would do whatever they can to help those who are hurting and suffering from mental illness.

I remember a friend who meant the world to me; who would call me just to see how I was doing, who would offer to do anything under the sun for me — and actually do it.He knew me like no one else did. But what I didn’t know was that he was struggling with mental illness. I searched and searched for reasons and explanations for what happened to him, and I never wanted to put mental illness on the list of options. But it was the only logical explanation. I think back sometimes and wonder “If only…If only I knew, if only I had paid closer attention and asked the right questions, maybe he would still be here today.  I am reminded of something his dad said, “I would have gladly taken his place.”

In The Dogs of Babel, Paul convinces the reader that it’s possible to teach his dog, Lorelei, how to talk, a goal that he hopes to reach so that Lorelei can tell him what happened to Lexy. In trying to give Lorelei a voice, he actually gives a voice to those who struggle with grief and depression. He shows us the raw wounds that result from mental illness, both in those who suffer from it and those who love the suffering.

This is what I want people who struggle with mental illness to know right now. People are willing to help you. They are willing to share in your suffering. They would gladly take your place. You are not alone. You have a voice. We are listening.

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“I realized I wanted to do something more. I would listen to my clients and I’d look at what I saw at bridal shows. Then I would  think to myself, “That would be even prettier if it had this kind of ruching or if it had a different kind of beading on it.”

Perched on a chair at &Yet, a web design office in Richland, WA, I listened intently as Amy Morris, owner of Amy’s Bridal, shared her story about building her business. She painted her vision of a shop that would cater specifically to a bride’s dream gown. She spoke passionately, and her audience listened attentively.

version-3-darktealWe had gathered for the Rising Tide Tuesdays Together group, which is a branch of the national movement that promotes the spirit of community over competition among creatives and entrepreneurs. Hearing Amy’s beautiful and inspiring story reminded me that everyone has a story, but not everyone gets a chance to tell it, and sadly not everyone has someone to listen.

We all carry the role of storyteller, but these experiences and anecdotes don’t mean much when there’s no one to tell them to. An untold story can be as painful as a shared story is exciting. Sometimes we have stories that we’re afraid to tell out of fear of rejection or judgment. We stay silent because we don’t want people to think we’re weak or that we can’t handle life’s challenges.

But really, that’s when our stories most need to be told. I was speaking with another friend

No one else had to know.

But as I sat among friendly faces at The Rising Tide meeting, I became quite aware of the need to find and use the key to unlock these stories.

Processed with VSCOThese stories are just as important as the stories about physical illness, romantic dreams, professional triumph and starry-eyed ambition.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, 43.8 million adults and one out of five children ages 12-18 have or will have a serious mental illness. That’s too many untold stories. In the month of May I will share my experiences with mental health and invite you to do the same. It’s time to go all in and let people know that every story behind mental illness is important and deserves to be told. More importantly, these storytellers need to know that there’s a listening ear willing to hear their tale.

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