Friendship is an Act of Rebellion

It was a sticky Florida Saturday and my husband, Braveheart, was hauling a wagon full of chairs, which later had to be shaken out to release a “friend” or two who occupied them during long periods of storage. Also in the wagon: a pop-up tent for those of us who fry in the sun, Doritos in two flavors, virgin pina coladas for the kids, iced tea, roast beast and swiss cheese, fresh taco salad, and homemade peanut butter cookies.

Braveheart had parked the car with a measure of patience and impatience, and he and Unthanklet 1 packed the wagon while Unthanklet 2 and I found our friends.

They were under a big, shady tree, waiting for us.

Which was awesome.

I’d lived in Jacksonville for a year, and I had finally made some friends. Come-let’s-share-a-drink-and-listen-to-Lizz-Wright friends. Meet us in front of City Hall and we’ll spend this hot, sticky day together friends. Reminisce about Back to the Future friends. Geek out about music friends. Here, meet my kid friends. Try this cheese friends.

And they have no idea how grateful I am for someone willing to spend the day with me and my circle of four.

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You see, there’s a rare and precious thing those wrinkly-faced, white-haired folks always talk about between complaints about joint pain and those damn kids on the lawn: fellowship. That’s an old-fashioned word for getting your head out of your apps and having a face to face conversation for which you are not master and commander of the running time.

We’re losing our ability to do that, often glorifying our aloneness, uniqueness, and status as the hermit/victim to the point of antisocial narcissism.

We’ve learned to ignore. To interrupt. To redirect the conversation back to our interests, current situation, and comfortable context in order to keep talking for another minute or two. To not speak at all. To leave early. To decide that people are stupid, and they suck.

Watch out for this very popular little trap–it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you’re always looking for an excuse to leave a conversation or not have it in the first place, people are walking on eggshells around you, and you are making it unsafe for them, adding to the problem. Funny how rejection works, isn’t it?

Inconvenient and painful as it can be, pushing through social awkwardness and the desperate desire to withdraw is how you make friends–and these days, it’s practically an act of rebellion against popular ways of framing humanity.

People are going to let you down, even if they are good folks who like your husband’s collard greens. It’s what makes us human, and it’s no excuse for avoiding the joy of a true connection. Move in. Lean in. Stop waiting for everyone else to make the world socially safe for you… be one of the socially safe/ emotionally grounded people instead.

True friendships are worth the pain of awkward moments, of the mistakes we make with each other and eventually forgive, of the joy of shared cheese and night swimming and the sultry voice of Lizz Wright.

I dare you to try it… you rebel, you.

Better Questions to Ask Women

“Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”

Small talk with women has changed very little in the last 50 years. Basically, it consists of three questions.

“Do you have a boyfriend?/Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
“When are you getting engaged/married?”
“When are y’all going to start having kids?”

Since I know exactly no one who enjoys being pelted with these questions, I’ll skip any commentary and offer some more polite alternatives.

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-When do you graduate?
-What will you get your degree in?
-What is your passion in life?
-So, are you heading up the project?
-What are you designing now?
-When are you getting the patent?
-Where can I go see you in concert?
-When does your book publish?
-How can I donate to your nonprofit?
-What is your Kickstarter page?
-So, what was your goal? How did you get there?
-What did you learn this week?
-What is your next idea?
-How are you planning to build it?
-How did you decide to set up your office?
-When are you going to apply for that promotion?
-When is your company going to put a team behind your idea?
-Where are you traveling next?

I’d love to hear your alternative questions in the comments.


Does Being Easily Offended Blind You From The Truth?

Three years ago, I broke up with my TV. The dastardly thing had a habit of telling me what to think about everything.

Including you.

Yes, you.

All of you black, white, Asian, hispanic, older, younger, northern, southern, popular, unpopular, famous, nonfamous, Buddhist, Christian, atheist, agnostic, cat-owning, dog-owning, conservative or liberal voting people. You precious, precious people who are so much more than any label.

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Now that I’ve unplugged, it’s easy to see how propaganda distracts people from the truth. I can tell what your televisions told you to think about each other (and current events) on any given day by watching social media. Unplug your TV for six months and you’ll see how Facebook and Twitter routinely explode in patterns of discord between groups of people who, suddenly and in tandem, are offended. Hurt. Feeling marginalized by society.

We’ll never find our way back to each other with that mindset.

It’s not that people don’t have good reasons to feel offended, hurt, or marginalized by society these days. It’s that we’re mindlessly consuming exaggerated caricatures of one another without realizing that everything, from our favorite TV dramas to the nightly news, generates revenue by making us mad at each other.

Our hypersensitive culture is a cash cow, y’all. Conflict causes almost everyone to tune in, and the more viewers, the more ad revenue. You get the picture.

If you’re in a people group that’s misrepresented by stereotypes in the press, take a lesson: if we want peace with each other, we can’t afford to assume the media’s depictions of others is also gospel truth.

When the internet explodes with a hot button issue, ask yourself,  “Do I wish, deep down, for reconciliation?”
Are you upset because you want to solve a problem? Or do you enjoy long, detailed lists of complaints about someone else’s shortcomings?

It’s time to rise above name-calling and have one-on-one conversations with people about unsettling things. Many Americans have drunk so much Conflict Kool-Aid that we can’t speak of anyone running for office without talking party-line politics, or take a political stance without attacking someone personally.

As the yelling gets louder, problems remain unsolved.

When was the last time you had an hours-long, soul feeding discussion in someone’s living room? When was the last time you shared your convictions one-on-one, away from the computer keyboards where trolls insult strangers for their beliefs? Do you have meaningful exchanges, seeking the heart the matter without dismissive words like “liberal, conservative, intolerant, tolerant,” and “judgmental,” which are used to avoid the hard work of considering uncomfortable viewpoints?

People, we should be able to disagree out of sincere concern, without shame, and with generous doses of the benefit of the doubt. Please hear me: we can choose never to get up from our computer keyboards with blood on our hands again. Ever.

I believe it’s healthy to debate important things on social media. But let’s move beyond the F-bombs, name-calling, and the desperate need to look like the smartest aleck in the room.

It’s better to reason together for elevation. If we crowdsource respect and common sense, we’re bound to reach a better day.


photo by Ale Paiva

Your Story Isn’t Over

I’ll never get the image out of my mind.

I was watching The Pursuit of Happyness, a film about a homeless man (Chris) who tries to build a serious career while sleeping in various shelters with his son, Christopher. Each night, Chris and Christopher raced the clock to catch the last city bus to the shelter to avoid sleeping in the street. Every scene in the film features Chris defying crazy odds, all while his little boy plays with a blue action figure… his favorite toy.

And that horrible moment came when Christopher dropped the little action figure in the street, but there was no time to go back for it. The bus door was closing. And there he was, his face pressed to the window, screaming with heartbreak. It was agony to watch. One story was ending. A better one was about to start.Dark Secrets

If you’ve ever tried to climb your way to a better day, you know the agony of that scream. The one you feel when the sweat pours down but you just can’t lift that heavier weight. Where the millionth rewrite still disgusts you. Where you paste that painful smile on for work after reading the 152nd rejection letter. Where the fever keeps rising and the pain is at a 10, but you pull the covers over your head because you can’t afford the ER.

And you’ve got some sort of security blanket that makes you feel good. You stop posting your songwriting videos, and the trolls go silent. You embrace writer’s block, and your family sighs with relief that you’re past your “stirring up trouble” phase. You spend the money you were saving for schoolbooks on a weekend of fun. You sit on your ideas at the church board meeting just to avoid possible glares.

You precariously balance your purpose on the false safety of a quiet moment, leaning hard on those little comforts and habits that immobilize you for a while. And there you hang, lonely and fearing life without the crutch, without the security blanket.

I’m here to tell you, the story isn’t over.

That false sense of security isn’t going to fix you. Life doesn’t need permission to make you suffer. Swear off drama all you want; it will still come knocking at your door. No one thrives while living in perpetual and reactionary numbness. It’s time to walk through it and see what is on the other side. Yes, you have to be pathetic for a while if you ever want a prayer of being incredible.

As a woman of faith, there are two ways I overcome: 1. asking for God’s help, and 2. being as honest, practical, and gracious as possible about my awful situation.

At first, letting go feels like a disservice. When you go through something terrible, you just want the hell you endured to *matter,* so it’s tempting to hold on to the pain. When you keep trying and failing, it can even feel good to hate yourself to express that pain. Don’t. It matters. It does. You can be honest about that as you heal.

But the story isn’t over. For some reason, suffering becomes meaningful in hindsight. Elevate the impulse that wants to save you, and you will suffocate the immobility that wants to destroy you. And that is how you wake up at 30, 40, 60, and 80 unafraid of the ghosts keeping you in fear this very minute.

People will let you down, throw wrenches into your perfectly-moving gears, and otherwise fail to meet your expectations in ways that pack a wallop. Sometimes you bank your hopes on a dream, only to watch it die again and again.

But despite the tender stitches, the fractured ribs, the tears slipping like oil down the front of your shirt, I want you to let go of the little indulgences that hold you back, and choose growth over death. The story isn’t over.

You are not alone. Please don’t let that sudden fall into pain and pitch blackness take your heart.

Your story isn’t over.


For Kim G., who dared to be brave today.

One Thing to Remember About Confrontations

First, a disclaimer: it takes two to reconcile. If you are caught in a vicious cycle with a master manipulator who isn’t sincere and hasn’t heard your voiced concerns, I understand your impetus to disconnect. I also consider you off the hook for the following advice.

If you call an honest person out on something, you must also call them UP.

Offer solutions. Offer humility. Offer honesty stirred up with compassion.

Offer companionship in the recovery.

Offer solid belief in their worth.

Build up. Don’t tear down.

Play, Even When They Throw Rocks At You

If you’re a true revolutionary, your name won’t be safe in everyone’s mouth. Your beauty will not be held sacred in the eye of every beholder.

External acceptance may forever find it’s place on the mile just ahead of you.

This is why it’s important to love and respect yourself at the level you reserve for those you adore most. Yes, I know you’ve made mistakes and you don’t feel qualified. (I’ve made them myself, many, many times.)


People who dry tears, repair rifts, and sow change in the soil of this earth aren’t remotely perfect, fearless, popular, or praised by everyone in charge. They are people who dare to let their hearts out to play again and again, defying the fear that their tender insides will be met with thrown rocks instead of a smile.

They dare to walk hand in hand with Truth in an hour when that union is met with disgust and angry calls for shame.

Those people gift the beholder the chance to look eye to eye and say, with great relief and tears, “Yes. Me too.”

That is one heck of a gift. 


For Toye, Alyssa, and my fellow DreamBuilders.

Disruptions Are Good. Here’s Why

I’m on this journey to continuously improve as a writer, artist, and human being. I’ve decided the next step in this journey is an experiment… a Disruption Day.Image
This Monday, I am planning to do as many unplanned things as possible. Those things can be tiny or huge.


-If I normally wake up and check Facebook on my phone, then I will get up and cook breakfast or walk the dog instead.
-If I normally turn on GMA while getting ready, instead, I’ll listen to a jazz record or a Robin Sharma webinar.
-If I normally skip breakfast, I’ll have oatmeal. If I always have eggs for breakfast, I’ll have an enchilada.
-Maybe I’ll do stretches on the last 5 minutes of lunch to limber up these hamstrings.
-If I normally get coffee and check my e-mail first thing when I get to work, maybe I’ll get coffee, turn on a lava lamp, turn off the overhead light, and listen to “Welcome to the Jungle” while I address the first 5 pieces of mail in my paper inbox.
-If I normally berate myself inwardly when I make a mistake, I’ll skip the inner tirade and tell myself, “Oops. Good one to remember for next time. You’re still smart. Enjoy your day.”
-If I normally do easy work first, maybe I’ll set aside 8 AM to 10 AM to chip away at the big project on which I keep procrastinating.
-Maybe I’ll get lunch from a food truck instead of a freezer, and buy the lunch of the person behind me.

Disruption Day isn’t about trying to reset all bad habits in a single day, but about interrupting the trance and finding the adventure in everyday life:

-To see exactly where my minutes are going. (Remember, minutes are the currency of greatness.)
-To serve one of my NY Resolutions: to keep my brain as healthy as possible. (To do that, I have to throw it curveballs.)
-To work my Rethinking and Adaptability muscles.
-To force my path in life to intersect with new people and new locations.
-To embrace the beauty of surprises again.
-To supercharge my problem-solving skills.
To view each day like an explorer, and avoid getting the same exact results in life.

Who’s in? Hashtag your results on Facebook and Twitter with #disruptionMonday.


P.S. (Disclaimer: those of you who have autism or autistic children are excused. There will be other ways for you to accomplish the same goal.)Photo via Bigevil600 at

If You’re Single on Valentine’s Day, Rejoice.

My Facebook page today is a hemorrhage of red and pink and white, with post after post extolling the virtues of wedded bliss.

As a yet-to-be-married woman, I have to tell you… I’m pretty dang happy this Valentine’s Day, as many single people are. Maybe we should celebrate that too.

You see, today I woke up and there was no one sitting on my couch in a stained t-shirt playing Call of Duty instead of looking for a job.

My checking account had not been overdrafted by anybody.

A toddler did not throw up on my best pair of Steve Maddens.

I didn’t have to pick four pairs of dirty boxers up off the floor to get to the bathroom, which I used with no interruptions.

I started planning a bucket list photography trip to Multnomah Falls without anyone’s permission.

No one accused me of being selfish.

When I tripped on the way out of the door this morning, no one laughed at me.

Nobody reminded me that I don’t look like 25-year-old Teri anymore.

I wasn’t anyone’s whipping boy because of a bad day at work.

When hot single men smiled at me, I smiled back if I felt like it, without guilt.

I hope all of my married friends enjoy the roses and candy and parking fees and bumper-to-bumper traffic and long dinner lines, as well as the unfair, confusing, and unspoken commercialized rules you somehow have to obey on this day. Believe me, I feel for you more than I envy you.

But to all of my fellow singles? Have a blast today. Eat garlic. Go to the beach for no reason. And whatever you do, have the best, freest, dopest, most awesome Valentines Day ever.



Slaying A Monster in An Inconvenient Moment

(Why You Should Move Forward Even When You Aren’t Feeling It)

I once had a nightmare in which I needed to rescue a sick, dying man. I tracked him down to the basement of a distant house, but didn’t dare descend that dark staircase.

He was guarded by a terrible monster that looked like a mashup of bear, lion, werewolf, and devil, and no one could kill this thing. The main floor of the house was full of people praying that God would remove the monster, prayers that grew in intensity every time the horrific thing let out a wall-shaking roar. Being a woman of faith, I hit my knees and joined them.

We prayed all night. As the room glowed orange with the first beams of dawn, I heard the man’s scream again, followed by another earsplitting roar from the monster. That was it. The time for prayer had grown into the time for the next step.


I stood and left the still-praying crowd, flung open the basement door, and stood eyeball to waist with the monster, which was all muscles and teeth and glowing red eyes, and it snarled hellishly like the queen alien confronting Ellen Ripley.

Then I reached up and broke it’s neck with my bare hands. It was like snapping a twig. All roar. All fear. All sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I woke in real life as rescue workers in my dream ran past me down the basement steps and saved the dying man.

Fast forward to now.

This quote is on my mirror: “In this moment, are you spending your time in a way that serves your purpose?”

I started thinking about this because I set a three-month goal last fall to initiate my career as a speaker. I’d put together a focus group, deliver my first speeches, and start editing.

Then I blinked.

Five months were gone, and I was still locked into the wishing, wishing, wishing phase. I had worked on other things– worthy things, of course. I took a second job, then added several new freelance clients to my first job. Then there was the car accident, the website I helped launch that wound up in HuffPo, the trip three states north to hold my dying grandmother’s hand. There was a surprise case of pneumonia, then auditions and dates and appointments and important phone calls to family and friends.

I realize now that there will never be a good time for the genesis of my speaking career, but the time to stand up and strike is mostly certainly now.

Each step forward confirms my belief in the people I have been sent to serve, belief in the God who loves them, and belief in myself as someone who is declared worthy.

My friends, greatness isn’t found in the thought a warmer tomorrow or a sparkling, brand-new year. Greatness is found in the gray, damp-basement-smelling imperfection of this moment and in the brave souls who seize it.

Minutes — little sixty second snatches of time — are the currency of greatness.

I hope you don’t waste those minutes hating yourself, doubting when you should hope, cowering in fear when you should be brave.

I hope you redeem them for greatness.


Photo via MilosMilos at

Dearly Beloved, You Are Invited to This Thing Called Life

Low self worth is the homecoming queen in your mind who eases up to you, puts her lips to your ear, withholds the anticipated kiss, and instead whispers that you don’t belong at the party.


Notice, I said: In your mind.

People with low self worth use everyday “awful” moments as evidence to support self-hatred. Those thoughts take on a far bigger and more insidious meaning inside the insecure human brain.

Then they replay, replay, replay, replay, and replay–ad nauseum– awful little “not enough” moments. What starts as a nagging little bee sting in the back of your mind swells to an attack from a Hitchcockian swarm within a matter of hours.

“You failed. YOU failed. YOU FAILED. YOU FAILED!”

And oh, how they sting:

I should have said this.
I should have worn that.
I should have told him no.
I should have known ___.
I should have made this point.
I should have looked prettier.
I should have done more research.
I was a fool to even try.

Make no mistake: if you have an inferiority complex, it lies to you.

It says you are never invited.
You are a fraud. You will be found out.
You don’t belong here.
You aren’t qualified to have your job.
You are stupid.
You have some talent, but it isn’t good enough.
Other people have much more to offer the world.
You are boring.
Fat guys aren’t attractive.
You’re too young/old to be relevant.
Everyone at the meeting hated your input.
Your ideas are stupid.
They are all just being nice… deep down, they hate you.
You aren’t handsome or pretty or generally attractive enough to matter.
You can try, but you always screw things up.
That lady wasn’t being a jerk to you. She was just brave enough to say what everyone else really thinks about you.

If you struggle with self-worth, you say things to yourself that you’d never allow your best friend to say to you.

And yes, it stings.

I have found, however, a weapon against this swarm, summed up in a singular statement. Remember this:

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

It’s okay to love the imperfect you. It’s okay to try and mess up in the process.
Truth is, you have as much right as anyone else to cannonball into this life. Truth is, mistakes are a natural part of the process.
Truth is, if you allow the fallout from those mistakes to fester into bitterness against yourself,  it will only steal, kill, and destroy.

Each person is given things to share with the world–important stories for ears that must hear, important banquets for those who hunger, important paintings for eyes that have yet to see beauty.

We choose to withhold those things from or release them to the world. Make no mistake: you have something helpful to offer this world, so that struggle between showing it or silencing it? It isn’t about you.

Hiding your greatness isn’t humility, it’s lying.

When you make mistakes, analyze the facts for learning purposes, apologize if need be, and don’t waste one diamond tear on self pity or self-accusations.

Just let it go. That self-hate only conceals the truth in you.


With thanks to my dear friends and creative collaborators: Kimberly Shell, Shanna Delap, Craig Harmann, Jason Hoschouer, David Bouchard, Eric Swanson, Audra Rogers, and Jim Shields.