The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.


The long, fuzzy days of summer

Celosia (cock's comb) and ornamental chiles at Ligonier Country Market, August 2007

I've been twitchy and buzzy for days. I can't focus, can barely think, and keep swatting away distractions and negativity like flies. And like flies, they keep coming back.

Ideas swirl around in my head, floating up to the surface, sometimes bobbing around haphazardly -- maybe running into a buoy or dinghy -- before losing air and sinking again. I can see them just under the surface, but can't make out the details.

On Saturday I found some relief by getting out of the house and doing instead of stewing. (ha)After three weeks of failing to get up early enough for the Ligonier Country Market, I finally made it. I'm not a morning person at all, and my desire for local produce and baked goods was thwarted by staying up until the wee hours and having no chance of getting to market.

I've been having trouble with farmers markets in general lately. Two weeks ago I tried to go to the Tuesday market on Wednesday. The following week I tried to go to the Thursday market on Wednesday. Clearly, both of these should have been open on Wednesday! I was beginning to think I just wasn't meant to have fresh veggies.

But this weekend I prevailed! I wanted to get to Ligonier by 10:00am, but my body told me that was just silly after going to bed at 3:00am. I managed to get up by 10:00 and got there around 11:15. I only had 45 minutes to zip around and fill my arms with goodies. It was blazing hot and some of the selections were limited, but it was well worth the trip. I think the trick is to get there when they open around 7:00am. (Geez -- maybe I should just stay up all night and then go!)

I was giddy at the delightful sights and smells, drunk on local flavor. I bought a bunch of flat-leaf parsley for 75 cents; a pint of grape and pear tomatoes; green beans from an Amish family; homemade lavender soap; a loaf of potato bread; raisin-filled cookies for the hubby; a delicious raspberry-cream-chocolate pie from Sand Hill Berries; a lunch of tabbouleh, spinach and feta pie, and baklava from a Greek food vendor; and not one but TWO bunches of gorgeous fresh flowers, one of luscious lisianthus and little white hydrangea, and a glorious wildflower mix that includes plump sunflowers, jaunty zinnias, and shy snapdragons.

I also lusted after a gaggle of hand-knitted, felted purses by Toni of Raggz. I'd link to her website, but she doesn't have one yet. I'm encouraging her to get one ASAP so I can tell everyone I know to buy a purse or three. I'm not a purse kind of gal and typically can't find one that I really like, but I wanted to buy everything in Toni's stall! (For more Raggz goodness, check out my flickr set. If you see something you'd like to buy (for yourself or for me!) -- contact me and I'll connect you with Toni.)

Raggz creations at Ligonier Country Market

Toni was also kind enough to offer to help me learn to knit if I wanted to sit with her some Saturday. I've been thinking about learning to knit for awhile now, so when I won the book Knit Wit from Felicia Sullivan's Friday giveaway a few weeks ago, I figured it was time to take the hint and try it out. I found a local yarn shop (also named Knit-Wits Inc., incidentally) housed in a little red school house. (Photo at left is from their website.)

I think I could fall in love with yarn. It's yummy. The inside of Knit-Wits was like a candy shop. I wanted to gobble up all the rich colors and textures. I'm not sure if I'll ever love knitting, but I may just start collecting beautiful yarn and displaying it as art. I have a feeling I've hit the tip of the needle (har!) with this knitting and yarn thing. Something tells me that there is a whole knitting community, even yarn cults, out there. It's the fuzzy underbelly of the arts&crafts movement.

The kind lady at Knit-Wits told me about the boutique's knitting lessons for $15/hour. I think I'll do a lesson or two, especially after trying to use the book, which was--how do you say? Hard. I think the book is pretty well-written. But learning to knit from a book, especially when you've never even held a pair of knitting needles before, is like learning to use American Sign Language from a manual. (Trust me, I've tried it.) It's nearly impossible to teach a three-dimensional activity from two-dimensional illustrations. Then again, I'm not so great at anything involving spatial relation skills, so I enlisted James to help me decipher the pictures. With his help, I managed to "cast on" using the "long tail method," but had trouble with the actual knitting of stitches. And I didn't even attempt purling. My favorite part of the night was watching James puzzle out the directions, do his best to knit a row of stitches, and then say, "But what do I do NOW?"

I find myself asking that question all day long: What do I do now? My Saturday outing was lovely, but I still can't focus. I keep waiting for my head to quiet down so I can think. I hear that knitting is a good balm for such brain buzz, but I have a feeling that's true only after it stops feeling like trying to "floss your teeth with your toes," as Knit Wit (the book) described beginning knitters.

Are you clear headed or fuzzy these days? What's in or out of focus for you?

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add to kirtsy | 12:33 PM | 2 comments


All that glitters

You know that girl in your head who tells you can't do it, so why even try? Well, I know that she's a liar, but she has me petrified. I'm not mad at her, because I understand that she's just scared and doesn't want to see me fail. Her scope is so limited that she can barely imagine the possibility that I might succeed, or at least have some fun along the way. I feel bad for her (let's call her Violet) because she usually sits alone, cautiously looking around, making sure that nothing will force her out of her comfortable little corner. Violet is extremely suspicious of the other girl (let's call her Phoebe) who lives across the way, in another corner.

Unlike Violet, Phoebe doesn't usually stay put. She's all over the place, flitting here and there, running about laughing, even venturing over to Violet's corner and inviting her to come out and play. On a good day, Violet does. And each time it's like discovering a whole new world. "Look at this!" says Phoebe. "Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it fun? Aren't we wrapped up in the joy and wonder of it all?"

On those good days, Violet responds, "Yes! I never knew it could all be so marvelous! How could I ever think that my one little corner was enough?" And she and Phoebe hold hands, laughing, skipping, just living and breathing pure magic.

But on the bad days, Violet, who has a pessimistic and mean streak, looks at Phoebe and says, "What's the use? What's so great about any of this? You keep trying, but it's just so hard sometimes, isn't it? Wouldn't you rather take a nap, Phoebe?"

Phoebe is fiercely independent and annoyingly optimistic, but even she can't hold out forever. Most of the time she simply tells Violet that she loves her and will always welcome her to come and play. But sometimes, on the worst of days, Phoebe takes Violet's gloomy advice and retreats to her own corner, drifting into an uneasy sleep.

A few weeks ago I signed up for a Postcard Swap hosted by Karen of Chookooloonks. The idea instantly thrilled me for two reasons. First of all, I love the idea of taking online community off-line into the "real" world. What an interesting way to connect with strangers who share at least one common bond (reading the same blog). The concept is fairly simple: Create a batch of handmade postcards using your medium of choice, mail them out to the 11 people on your list, and receive 11 little works of art in return.

The second reason I was excited about this is that I needed an art project to jump start me. I've mentioned before that I started dabbling with watercolours earlier this summer. I'm sad to say that I've only painted once since the class ended over a month ago. I want to paint and try new art forms (at this point, most art forms are new to me), but I never seem to get around to it.

I think about it a lot. But it just seems like such a hassle. I have to work on the dining room table, which means I need to put the kits in an upstairs bedroom, otherwise they'd be covered in paint and glitter . (Okay, I don't actually have glitter. Should I get glitter?) I tell myself that it'd be so much easier to paint and create if I had an art station in my office. That way I could make a mess and not clean it up if I didn't finish a project in one sitting. "If only I had a studio," I tell myself, "I'd create more."

But the real truth of the matter is that I'm scared. When I first started painting, I had no visions in my head of what I wanted to do. But very quickly -- surprisingly quickly, in fact -- I started to have ideas and inklings about what I'd like to see happen on the page. But I'm new. So new that I often don't have a clue about how to achieve my vision. I don't even know what materials to use. Heck, I don't even know what materials are available. I'm pretty sure that some of my visions aren't suited to watercolour, but I don't know what I need.

All I know is that I'm supposed to mail out 11 hand-made postcards in two weeks. And I don't want the recipients to be disappointed. As I fretted over this a few nights ago, a poem came to me, just a few lines long, but perfect and complete. I haven't written poetry in years and was surprised by its appearance. I'm taking it as a gift that I can use to anchor my vision for the postcard. At least I have a starting point now.

I'll share it -- and the postcards -- with you after everything is mailed out. In the meantime, tell me, how do you get your own artist to come out and play?

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add to kirtsy | 9:44 PM | 4 comments


Nothing but time, baby. Nothing but time.

I am swimming in time. I have so much free time that I squander it, forgetting its value, like a wayward pop star with her fame, or a young socialite who doesn't care about her millions because she has millions more.

I used to work a fulltime job and do freelance writing on the side. I was edgy and exhausted much of the time. I didn't have enough time for myself and was forced to follow other people's schedules that just didn't jibe with my own biorhythms.

When I left fulltime employment a year ago, I took some time to recover. I was overextended and pretty close to some sort of breakdown. Since then, I've had periods of time with a lot of work, and other periods with very few deadlines to meet. I've found that work breeds work. Researching one project always leads me to another. Securing one client somehow brings me another, even when they're not even remotely connected. And creativity breeds creativity. One idea wakes me up and generates another and another, on topics as varied as citizen journalism to art journals. When it rains, it really does pour. And so often, it truly is famine or feast. These sayings have become clichés because there is some truth in them.

During the slow times, I get lazy. But lately I've had a load of new ideas and the desire to fill my days with more useful, focused, and exciting activities. Then I immediately feel overwhelmed and wonder how I will possibly fit it all in. Fit it all in to what? I already said that I have an excess of time. So where does it all go?

Why am I not reading more books? Sending out more magazine queries? Fleshing out my book outline? Taking more walks? Seeing friends more often? Cooking more dinners? Baking more cupcakes? Playing with watercolours? Remembering to moisturize my newly-pedicured feet? Visiting more farmers' markets? Praying more often? Why am I not doing all of the things I swore I'd do if only I had the time?

I've talked with some artists who are also mothers, and they assert that the time-consuming job of child rearing can actually help them with their art. Being forced to work in shorter, more focused spurts seems to spur them toward greater creativity and productivity. Much of the analysis paralysis, the procrastination, and the fear are set aside for those glorious moments when they have the opportunity to create. They say the look back at their pre-motherhood days and wonder what they did with all that free time.

I think about this and wonder, what's my excuse for not doing all of the things my heart desires? What am I doing with my time?

I don't want to wait for a baby or some other responsibility to make me look wistfully at my previous life and ache for the long, long days filled with me-time. I have the me-time now. And I'm determined to start making it my time.

This means making lists and checking them twice. As much as I like to be a free spirit, I need some structure and accountability to keep me on task. The beauty of my life right now is that I get to choose which tasks I take on. What a glorious gift! I always secretly wished for this type of life, but never really thought I'd have it. I realize that it may not last forever. But while it's here, it's mine. And I'm going to use it well. In the process, maybe I'll acquire some skills that will help me to live fully even when external demands take up more of my time.

Tell me, how are you making your life and time your own, despite (or because of) the constraints around you?

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add to kirtsy | 10:05 PM | 1 comments


BlogHer Roll Call

Okay, this might be my last post about BlogHer. (I can't make any definite promises.)

Before I get to the people, let's talk about the stuff.

BlogHer '07 swag

The swag, it was copious. And some of it was really cool! (Did you know that the word swag can be considered a "backronym" for "stuff we all get"?)

Now for the people.

One BlogHer accurately described the weekend as camp while another gave us this fun list of the top 10 reasons to attend BlogHer. But one of my favorite descriptions is Claire Fontaine's analogy to a dog park. She writes:

You Put 800 Women in a Room

...And it's kinda like the dog park. All a dog really wants is to be with other dogs. Even timid little Fifi cuts loose, squealing with joy, chattering from one pooch to another. They just talk and talk and talk. And talk. Women don't bond in duck blinds or on the golf course. We bond verbally, from the moment we can (ask any woman who's had a son and a daughter.) Which means we get to do it anywhere, with strangers in the ladies room (Love your shoes! Aren't they great! I got them last week at...) and, thank God for technology, online. We can yak with a woman in India about film theory or a gal in Vancouver about diapers or menopause. Or politics. Fertility. Iraq. Sex. Shoes and makeup. Wine. Arctic travel. Ricotta cheese.

Here's a round-up of some of the great women I met at the "dog park." Or camp, if the comparison to dogs is a bit off-putting.

While in the buffet line for Friday morning breakfast, I met the enthusiastic Tracey (of the soon to launch Shutter Sisters) and may have slighted freaked her out by saying, "I know you! Or at least, I know your name!" Then, on the way back to my table, I passed a woman saying the phrase Nerdy Renegade News and got to meet Lisa from Ohio, whom I'd met through her comments on this blog. I then proceeded to end up in multiple sessions with her, promising that I wasn't stalking her.

During the insane "speed dating" warm-up networking on Friday morning, I stood next to the passionate Cooper, of newly-launched The MotherHood, who had excellent swag like this and this. She's also helping to head up BlogHers Act and is a fellow Pittsburgher. Other Pittsburghers in attendance included sketchblogger Elizabeth and Etiquette Grrl Lesley, who sat next to me on the shuttle bus. I also speed dated Carey of Holtzbrinck Publishers who insists that This November You Will Give a Damn as well as Karin who is creating a Garden Variety Family Calendar to show the diverse nature of families.

My blog heroes Jen and Rachelle were just as full of positive energy in real life as they are online (and did a great job of making me feel like I wasn't a total stalker freak). Through them I got to hang out with the intriguing Krystyn and met the joyful Myriam, who I didn't talk with nearly enough. Oh, and it should be noted that Rachelle's husband seemed totally at ease hanging out with hundreds of women. Rock on, Paul.

At the Friday night cocktail party I received a snazzy shot glass from Kristen of Mommy Needs a Cocktail. (And let's face, don't we all?) And then at another party I met Laura, the Girl con Queso herself, who introduced me to her lovely sk*rt colleague Laurie of Leap Design.

On Saturday I attended a lunch session with about a dozen other BlogHers and personal fitness trainer Jillian Michaels of NBC's The Biggest Loser fame. I'm not a raving fan of the show and wasn't sure about attending the lunch, but am glad I did. I discovered that Jillian's TV drill sergeant personality is just one layer of a very caring and real person. The session turned out to be surprisingly edifying (recaps here and here), and I met many determined women including busy mom Carmen and the international Shauna. I also got some encouraging words from the sassy Jessica and connected with Sheila and Melissa of

The topics of the weekend were diverse! Anderson at Large schooled me in the ways of being a citizen journalist during a birds of a feather lunch, and Birdie shared her wisdom on writing good stories during a session and an Open Space round table. I met my new friend Misa Gracie at the eleventh hour, which made the Unconference totally worth it. The kits and I are honored to have made the BlogHer pets blog by chatting with Laurie on Sunday.

Who else? Who else? There were so many more! Can you see why my head was spinning? Did we meet and I neglected to include you here? Please correct my mistake in the comments! We can never have enough link-love.

Oh, and did I think to take pictures of any of these wonderful women? Nooooo -- I was too busy talking. But other people kept their heads together and took beaucoup de photos. Cruise the BlogHer Flickr pool.

And if you want more BlogHer, check out these session recaps, written by the live bloggers, brave ladies with very fast fingers. I'll be reading through these myself, since I missed some great session by attending other great sessions.


add to kirtsy | 1:05 PM | 7 comments


BlogHer Deliverables

Long after most of the Internet has quieted down about BlogHer, I'm still trying to put together the perfect post to explain why I was so excited about this conference and why I had such a wonderful experience in Chicago.

There's a lesson here, of course. And it's almost so trite that I hesitate to point it out. It is, of course, this: Perfectionism leads to procrastination. This is the third time I've tried to write this post, and I'm determined to get through it now. So...

Why should a conference of 800 women bloggers have me in such a tizzy? When I tried to explain the conference to people in my "off-line" world, I could tell some of them didn't really get it. I realized I was doing a poor job of describing BlogHer when someone asked me, "So, it's like a conference about computer stuff?"

Yes and no. But for me, mostly no. That's what I love about blogging. The technology surrounding and supporting it is cool. And I have loads to learn. But what the technology enables is way cooler. I was excited to meet other women who are sharing their opinions, telling their stories, and creating communities online. I was excited to meet other women who "get" blogging.

You know how you build something up in your mind and the real thing can barely compare? Well, BlogHer wasn't like that. It may be the best conference I've ever been to. I met so many interesting women over those three days. I'm still working through the stack of cards that I collected, visiting new blogs and sending little email "hellos." I was also touched by how many other women were interested in me. They wanted to hear my story as much as I wanted to hear theirs. There was a strong sense of community and good juju that I never experienced at the business networking events of my previous life.

The days weren't just about meeting and greeting, though. There was a jam-packed schedule of sessions to choose from. I mostly stuck with The Art of Life track, but ventured into a few Business and Technical sessions. I'm still going through all of my notes. That's another thing that really impressed me about this conference: its usefulness. Maybe it's just because I'm more interested and motivated on this topic than others, but I don't usually find much value in seminars and conference sessions. All too often it's a bunch of talk without any useful take-aways. But I have tons of resources to check out and ideas to pursue after BlogHer.

Before I left for Chicago, I made a list of BlogHer Deliverables, a mini wish list in which I described how I wanted to weekend to go.

  • Meet new kindred spirits and begin to establish meaningful friendships.

  • Meet blog crushes.

  • Find someone who will redesign and combine my website and blog into one fabulously designed site.

  • Increase my blog audience.

  • Make good professional connections for future writing work.

  • Begin to learn about monetizing my blog.

  • Make good connection for my book.

  • Be inspired and encouraged.

  • Have fun!!

  • Be comfortable and confident in my own skin (and my own clothes!).

  • Feel beautiful and intelligent.

Saturday night, after two very long, action-packed days, I sat in my hotel room feeling very tired and a little sorry for myself. Nothing was actually wrong, but my internal critic started whispering in my ear, saying darkly seductive things like, "Sure you met a lot of people, but who will remember you? Will this weekend be worth anything once you're home? Maybe you made a fool of yourself, blathering on like you did, eh? And let's face it, your blog sure needs a lot of work..."

I was journaling about all of this, boo-hooing for myself when I remembered my list. As I read through it, I was shocked to realize that every single item had happened or was in the works. The only iffy one was learning about monetizing my blog. But I learned something even more important: I'm not sure if I want to monetize this space. Some people are definitely pro-ad or anti-ad. I can see the value in each scenario. I realized that I need to better define what I want this online space to be and to do. And that goes far beyond the "ad vs. ad-free" debate.

My weekend among other bloggers has me asking questions: Why do I blog? For whom do I blog? Can I be a generalist? Do I need to find a more specific niche? Does my voice come through in this writing?

To that end, why do you come here? Tell me your thoughts and preferences in the comments or by email to jennifer[at]thewordcellar[dot]com. Join the conversation, won't you?

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add to kirtsy | 10:02 PM | 3 comments


A Quiet Joyful Girl

Lavender Leaves Henri Bendel candle

I spend too little time by candlelight. But tonight that soft flickering light, and music, seem like the only things that will ease the unexplained heaviness in my heart.

After returning from Chicago last Sunday, I spent the week holed-up in the house with my husband. We spent most of Monday in bed, having a lazy summer day slumber party. We've turned our days and nights topsy-turvy, staying up until 3:00 or later, and sleeping until after noon. We don't get a lot of time like this, with no responsibilities pulling us in different directions. But we're on vacation from work this week, and the only schedule we have to keep is our own.

We've been laid back and irresponsible all week – eating up the little food that was left in the house from before my trip, and then eating out or ordering in when we couldn't find anything left in the freezer. We need to go to the grocery store. We probably should do some laundry, and maybe vacuum. But we've been resting, and it was nice.

Now, I'm weary with resting. Too much inactivity makes me sluggish and sad. And tonight I definitely feel sad, even though I don't really know why. I've had plenty of together time with my beloved. And I've even had plenty of time to myself this week to pursue my own interests.

Something inside of me feels out of sorts. I don't like this feeling. When it shows up I always fear that it is a harbinger of more concrete sadness to come. I tried to shake it with a good dinner, conversation, and a glass of white sangria. But it lingers.

I felt melancholy like this a lot during my college days. I lit a lot of candles then. If they didn't cheer me up, at least they created a space in which I could acknowledge my feelings for what they are. Of course, you run the risk of wallowing when you do this. But sometimes it's all you can do.

I have two cats now, and don't bother to light candles very much anymore. The furballs are reckless, and I'm a bit forgetful, so open flames are an invitation for disaster. But a few weeks ago I splurged on a Lavender Leaves Henri Bendel candle for my office, the one room in the house that's off-limits to the kits. I only light it when I'm sitting at my desk, and have a contract with myself to blow it out whenever I leave the room.

So tonight I light the candle and listen to Ani DiFranco's "Joyful Girl," which came up in this session at BlogHer. I’m only a casual Ani listener, and have always meant to listen more closely. The lyrics for "Joyful Girl" speak of confidence and joy, but when I listen to it, the song sounds sad to me.

This leads me to thinking about the basic difference between joy and happiness. Sometimes I think that true joy is something deeper, something separate from the emotion we identify as happy. Joy can be jubilant, but at its core it is rooted in a knowledge that transcends emotion. It has a solidity that isn't swayed by mere moods. It's a certainty and a comfort even when we feel unsure and sad.

I suppose each person must find her own joy, the foundation on which she can move and breathe and have her being. I'm only slightly surprised to discover that at the age of 31 I'm still seeking my joy, still working to build and strengthen my foundation. The younger me had hoped I'd have it figured out by now. But really, why should I be surprised? As I get older, I realize that there's no such thing as "finally" growing up. We grow and change, but it's never done.

I like the quiet joy of "Joyful Girl," but disagree on one point: "I know that there's no grand plan here/This is just the way it goes," Ani sings. Until recently, I might have agreed; I railed against the adage that "everything happens for a reason." Sure there's a reason, I thought, but only so far as the laws of cause and effect. I believe in a loving God who has given us freewill in the midst of a fallen world. As such, bad things happen – and God is not pleased with them, and neither should we be.

I used to be much more of a "when a door closes, a window will open" type of person. But the last few years of my life had made me cynical and bitter. Over the past few months, as I've slowly opened myself again to the beauty and mystery of the universe, I'm more inclined to think that our small lives are part of a grand plan. And for now, I'm trying to find the joy in that, even if it's a quiet, candlelit joy tinged with melancholy.

Joyful Girl ~ Ani DiFranco

I do it for the joy it brings
'Cause I'm a joyful girl
'Cause the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
I do it because it's the least I can do
I do it 'cause I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to
'Cause I want to

Everything I do is judged
And they mostly get it wrong
But oh well
'Cause the bathroom mirror has not budged
And the woman who lives there can tell
The truth from the stuff that they say
And she looks me in the eye
Says would you prefer the easy way?
No? Well okay then
Don't cry

And I wonder if everything I do
I do instead
Of something I want to do more
The question fills my head
I know that there's no grand plan here
This is just the way it goes
And when everything else seems unclear
I guess at least I know

I do it for the joy it brings
'Cause I'm a joyful girl
'Cause the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
I do it because it's the least I can do
I do it 'cause I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to
'Cause I want to

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add to kirtsy | 12:38 AM | 0 comments


An Exercise in Overkill (Or, Stick with what you know)

For those of you keeping abreast of the shoe situation:

Did you know that has free shipping? And free returns? It's like having a shoe store in your home!

So in a last minute panic to find footwear for BlogHer, I ordered seven pairs of shoes. Seven. (Note to procrastinators: Rush shipping ain't free. Argh.)

Here are the shoes I ordered, hoping to find one or two pairs that worked:

Here are the shoes I actually took to BlogHer. (Note: Only two of the brood made the cut.) (Also note peeping toe with French pedicure cuteness at bottom of frame.)

And here are the shoes I actually wore at BlogHer:

Two pair of flip-flops that I already owned!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to package up six pairs of shoes for a free return trip. (The Skechers may get to stay, I'm still not sure.)

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add to kirtsy | 7:06 PM | 3 comments

Clearing the Mental Clutter

View of Lake Michigan from Navy Pier, Chicago

I tend toward chaos. Without constant attention and diligence, I'm just a messy person. I enjoy well-organized spaces, as long as they feel lived-in. But left unchecked, I create clutter: magazines, newspapers, mail, print-outs, dirty dishes, laundry -- they all pile up so easily.

And that's just the external mess. The internal disorder is so much worse. My mind backlogs with half-formed ideas, I start to forget things, and frustration sets in. As an editor for my clients, I'm extremely detail-oriented, even nitpicky. I can take a muddled manuscript and infuse it with the rosy glow of clarity. But when my mental clutter overflows, it's my own writing that suffers. I may have loads to say, but I struggle to get it out in an orderly -- and interesting -- manner.

One of the ways I combat the messy mind syndrome is by cleaning. My physical environment deeply affects my mood and mindset. So I try to clear my head by clearing a room. Today I spent hours digging out from the embarrassing mess that filled my office. I feel a bit more focused, but I'm still all over the map.

Part of the problem is that I haven't written my morning pages for about a week. Every day when I get up, I try to write three pages in a journal. The writing doesn't have to be good or coherent or interesting. It's a place to let out the chatter. Sometimes I write three pages of boring stream-of-consciousness chatter. And sometimes I hit upon something significant, or even have a small epiphany. The practice of the morning pages is part of The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. And the more I write them, the more clearheaded I am.

Right now, I have so much I want to share with you. Thoughts on community (online and off), my time in Chicago, and what exactly the "real world" is. Please bear with me as I sort through the chaff.

And tell me, what do you do to clear out your mental clutter?

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add to kirtsy | 12:52 AM | 3 comments