Category Archives: this i know: notes on unraveling the heart

I’m Back!

As I feared, kind and gentle reader, my internet access, technology options, and available time while I was in Portland attending the World Domination Summit (WDS) were such that I couldn’t post. And some of you had been generous enough to tell me it was okay to take a break. So I did. Thank you for that. I had an amazing time, but I missed this, missed writing and sharing with you. But, now I am back.

Fair warning, a disclaimer and a promise: this event, the full experience of it, blew my mind, expanded my heart to almost breaking, and there is so much to say about it, so much to tell you and to process…this is going to take a while.

I feel the same way I did after hosting Rachel Cole’s Well-Fed Woman Mini Retreatshop: grateful, inspired, encouraged, full, on fire with love, and ready to go. The sheer size of WDS (1000 attendees, 10 main stage speaker sessions, and 40 smaller workshops) makes me feel just like that, only times ten (and I got to see Rachel again while I was there, so bonus points).

As I’d heard from previous attendees, this is the kind of event where the energy of it propels you through the whole next year, giddy in your expanded effort and possibility, and that really amazing shit starts to happen, for you and because of you. After attending this year, I know exactly what they were talking about.

image by Armosa Studios

As I said, this is going to take some time to process. For today, I’d like to start simply by giving you a quick list of the highlights, some of the moments of magic, and a few items that would show up on my blooper reel.

Magic Moments, the Highlights of WDS

  • Prefunction event at Kelly Rae Roberts‘ Studio. Holy wow, when I walked in the room and saw all the amazing women who were there, the beautiful space, I almost fell over, passed out from the sheer overwhelm of joy and gratitude. It was so kind, so generous of Andrea Scher to invite me, made the start of WDS not quite so intimidating or lonely.
  • Meeting Tina, one of my favorite blog readers.
  • Amazing main stage speakers, and inspiring, moving, compelling talks. My favorites were Brene’ Brown, Scott Harrison, and Chris Brogan. I will be writing a post about each, so consider this “to be continued.”

    Brene’ Brown at WDS, image by Armosa Studio

  • The Mark Spencer Hotel. Just a few blocks from Powell’s Books and a Whole Foods, with a kitchenette and fridge, and within walking distance of everywhere I wanted to go.

    old school coffee prep at the Mark Spencer

  • Seeing my friend Molly, who moved to Portland last year, (which means she’s no longer across the hall from me at work, and that sucks). We had a few meals together, a few visits to Whole Foods, and it made me miss her more because it made me remember how much I love her, how amazing she is.
  • Meeting people “in person” that I have loved from a distance. I was able to look them in the eye and tell them how grateful I am and how much I adore them, or what a badass they are, and I didn’t even throw up on any of their shoes. Just to be clear about the magnitude of this, while at WDS, I met (hugged, hung out or ate a meal or laughed with, sat by, adored): Kelly Rae Roberts, Jennifer Louden, Flora Bowley, Laura Simms, Andrea Scher, Michelle Ward, Sandi Amorim, Kate “Courageous” Swoboda, Hannah Marcotti, Jamie Ridler, Courtney Carver, Susannah Conway, Cynthia Morris, Jennifer Lee, Marriane Elliott, Tammy Strobel, and so many more.
  • Susannah Conway’s Book Event. I was so lucky to get to stay for this, to be in a room full of other people who adore her and her work, listen to her read and talk about the book and the process. She really is one of the most honest, genuine, generous, creative people on the planet.

    me and Susannah Conway

  • Meeting new people I hadn’t expected but loved anyway. There were a few I really wanted to take home with me.
  • Group meditation in the park. Sadly, I didn’t get up early enough to go the first day, but made it on Sunday morning. We were a small but mindful group, and under the cover of gorgeous, tall, lush green trees, we sat and I watched the wind move the grass while I focused on my breath. It was beautiful.
  • Yoga class in the park. Marianne Elliott is a great teacher and it was a good group, a perfectly timed break in the day.

    image by Armosa Studios, that’s me in the green shirt, back row

  • Finding the dog people. The longer I’m alive, the more I think I’m either a dog in a human suit or just plain crazy, because in any group of people, gathered for any reason, I will find the dog person (or the dog, if there is one) and talk their head off about dogs. I was missing my boys so much one day that I stood outside a dog park watching other people’s dogs play, until I noticed some of them looking at me like I was a creepy alone dude standing at the edge of a playground staring at the kids.
  • Portland. It really is a great city, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t typically appreciate or understand cities.
  • Messages from the Universe. They were everywhere for me this weekend.
  • And this, which still hardly even seems real. I mean, who does this?!

My Blooper Reel for WDS

  • Tripping on the stairs into my hotel–every time I went in!
  • Almost getting lost just trying to find the parking lot for my hotel. I must have driven around those three or four blocks three or four times, and just when I was about to lose all sense of where I was, there it was.
  • For a moment, being the only person at the prefunction event not talking to anyone. I mean not being part of any conversation at all, not even standing near one, but rather on the edge trying to figure out what to do, how to join in, trying not to freak out or cry, feeling like the math tutor geek that got invited to the cool kids party because they felt sorry for her and she was always so nice to them–but it only lasted for a moment.
  • Taking a wrong turn and not realizing until many blocks later, which meant walking for a bit in an area where I shouldn’t have been alone.
  • Saying “hi” to Laura Simms, standing in front of her telling her how adorable she is like ten times in a row, and then not knowing what else to say so just walking away. Luckily, I got a chance to redeem myself the next morning at breakfast.
  • Telling Jennifer Lee that I “loved her doodles.” D’oh! She’s an amazing artist, and so kind (and a fellow dog person), and thankfully understood what I meant, but *sigh*
  • Eating Marionberry pie in my hotel room bed (I was having a moment, give me a break), with all white linens (can you guess what’s coming?), and dumping it over onto the duvet cover and part of the sheet. I left that bed looking like someone had been seriously injured there. Thank goodness for bleach, right?
  • And I almost forgot: buying hundreds of business (life) cards and only handing out ten. I wasn’t very good at knowing how or when to do it, felt weird, awkward, sort of jerky about it, and got so caught up in simply talking to people, I would forget.

Something Good

view of the high park fire as seen from my corner this afternoon

Kind and gentle reader, today’s post is hard. I need something good more than usual, keep asking Eric to “tell me something good,” but all I really want him to tell me is that this fire will stop, that no one else will lose their home or get hurt, that all the animals will be safe, that our favorite places to hike won’t completely burn up, and that it won’t reach us, that we aren’t in danger. The lizard part of my brain is having such a hard time with it, keeps screaming at me “grab the dogs and run!,” and my heart is just breaking for all the hurt and damage. The High Park Fire, as of the last update, was started by a lightning strike, has burned 36,930 acres and 100 structures, and is 0% contained.

So in light of all that, it feels a little silly, naive to share a list of things I saw this week that I thought where awesome, but at the same time, it feels more important than ever…does that make sense?

1. If you are interested in helping, one way to do so is to donate to the Larimer County Humane Society. They have taken in pets from evacuated homes, are “currently providing temporary shelter for cats, small mammals and farm animals (the size of a goat or smaller) displaced due to the High Park fire,” but are at capacity for dogs (in Colorado, we love us some dogs, so there are lots of them). They need help feeding the animals, so have set up a way for you to give a donation online. I’m sure there are plenty of other places to donate, this just happens to be the one closest to my heart.

2. The Denver Botanic Gardens. We needed a break from worrying about the fire today, so we took a spontaneous trip to Denver to look at things that were lush and alive. We walked around for over three hours, and I took lots of pictures, and we got lots of ideas for what to do with our new beds in our front yard. We were laughing at ourselves, because if you add in both dog walks, we did about 4.5 hours of walking today.

hidden bench, can you see it?

dreamy purple clematis

3. Kizuna exhibition at Denver Botanic Gardens. As a lover of most things Japanese and all things bamboo, I adored this strange and wonderful instillation spread throughout the gardens. “This season’s signature exhibition, Kizuna: West Meets East, brings together two installation artists working in bamboo: Tetsunori Kawana and Stephen Talasnik. Through different working methods, both artists employed this versatile natural material to create large site-specific works for the Gardens.”

4. I want to make this list: Jamie Ridler’s Discovering Delight. In fact, I think we should all make this list, throw out our “to-do” lists and live this one instead. I will if you will…

5. 7 Ways to Celebrate Summer from Positively Present. This list is a good start, but I bet if we tried really, really hard, we could think of more than seven ways.

6. How to Make a Living as an Artist at Create as Folk, by Laura Simms. Be sure to watch the video, if for no other reason than Laura is just so stinking cute.

7. How to Unstress and Truly Enjoy Your Vacation from the Positivity Blog. Can you tell where my head is at?

8. Welcome to the World, Book Baby by Susannah Conway. This is a really great post about her new book, This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart, how it came to be, and links to her virtual, online book tour.

9. Really cool terrariums by the slug and the squirrel.

10. Photo a Day, June Challenge List. I wish I had time, because I love this idea and think it would be really fun, so I’ll save the link and maybe do the one in July.

11. A sweet little video about life and how fast it goes by, in honor of the baby robins next door who are learning how to fly today.

12. The color of. Oh, I could waste so much time here…”a system created to find out the colour of anything, by querying and aggregating image data from Flickr, a popular online photo sharing community. It is an attempt at answering a potentially complex and abstract question in an objective manner, by using simple algorithms on data originating from subjective human perceptions.” You can search any term. Here are the ones I just made.

Love is cooler, calmer, gentler than fire, but they are clearly similar.

13. Quotes from Ray Bradbury on Brain Pickings. Ray Bradbury passed away this week at the age of 91. I adored him for most of my life, and am sad he’s gone, but glad he left such a wonderful legacy.

14. Want To Know Yourself Better? Ask Yourself These Questions from the Happiness Project. These look good.

15. You Can Be at Peace from Jennifer Louden. Oh how I adore her…

16. I love Rosie Thomas, and apparently, so does Susannah Conway, who shared this link to an interview with Rosie. I love hearing stories about how someone “finds art” or “becomes an artist,” those magical origin stories, and this article also pointed out that Rosie has a new album that I didn’t know about, which I am listening to as I write this post, (oh, and it’s really, really good, so #16.5 on the something good list is her new album).

17. Do These Petals Make My Stem Look Fat? by Sunni on the Daily Breadcrumb. Oh that Sunni, so precious, so brilliant. This post, which I adore because maybe you’ve noticed by now how much I love flowers?, also reminds me of this quote: “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change,” (Buddha, who is precious and brilliant as well).

18. This quote, shared by Judy Clement Wall in her latest post on A Human Thing: “You can’t control what other people think about your art. Think about the part of yourself that you can control, which is your ability to be kind and loving and creative.” ~ Ann Patchett, Yoga Journal

19., my new favorite website. Go ahead, try it and you’ll see what I mean.

20. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zero, Man on Fire.

i’m still standing

Something Good

1. Before and after of a mess. I realize that this is really only something good for me, but I still wanted to share it.



2. Got my shirt! It fits and it makes me smile.

3. Peonies. I don’t know why, but I am obsessed with them right now. I am planting at least three or four bushes when we redo our front yard so I can have them on my writing desk the whole season.

4. Obi’s rose bloomed. I’m not sure what kind of rose bush this is, but the smell and color is intense, and each bud has about 1000 petals. It grows next to one of Obi’s favorite places in the yard, by the back fence in a spot where he could see both the front and the back.

In the last months that he was alive, every time a new bloom would burst, I’d wonder which would last longer, the rose or Obi. I took a picture of him next to that rosebush during those last nine months that ended up being the picture I posted on Facebook the morning he died. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending so much time in the backyard lately, but I have been missing that boy like crazy.

5. I can no longer, another great post from Christa at Carry it Forward.

6. The (Fearless) Love Essays by Judy Clement Wall. They’re here, they’re here! I can’t wait to read my copy. And Judy so wants them read, she’s offering them at variable pricing ($7 suggested), so if you can’t pay, you can still download a copy–because that’s how she rolls!

7. An excerpt from Patti Digh’s Commencement Address at Guilford College:

Carol Sanders…writes… “Follow the idea that calls you. As you start on your own life’s passage, follow the idea that makes you wake in the morning without an alarm, that calls you to scribble ideas on napkins and scrap paper and to lose all sense of time, that makes your heart beat faster at every corner with the endless possibilities.”

Yes, please!

8. Cultivate Your Play Ethic by Hannah Kane on Scoutie Girl.

9. Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start by Anne Lamott. One of my favorite quotes from this is “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.” Amen.

10. The 3 Most Important Questions by Vishen Lakhiani. Holy crap, this is gooooood. Watch it, do the practice, do it now.

11. Summer Manifesto. I love this idea, want to write one–way better idea than my summer to-do list.

12. 27 DOs + DON’Ts for being a badass woman from Justine Musk. Listen to this woman, she’s a badass.

13. Call Your Girlfriend Robyn/Erato cover by Lennon & Maisy Stella. I loved the original version of this song, but I loooove these girls. They were on the Today Show, or some similar morning show performing this week. I want them to come to my house and sing me to sleep every night.

14. Infusing Play into Mundane Tasks from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits. I like the way he thinks.

15. Joan Didion on Self-Respect on Brain Pickings.

16. A Girl and Her Room: Portraits of Teenage Girls’ Inner Worlds Through Their Bedroom Interiors on Brain Pickings.

17. This quote from Geneen Roth:

For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.


18. Good advice for those attending the World Domination Summit with me (and hundreds of other people) in July.

  • A Story of Yes, from Andrea Scher on Superhero Journal, posted last year but still relevant, (she’ll be presenting again this year).

19. Live the Questions: Jacqueline Novogratz’s Advice to Graduates. Another commencement speech, another post from Brain Pickings.

20. Rilke on Embracing Uncertainty and Living the Questions on Brain Pickings.  Sorry for yet another, but this site was on fire this week.

21. Message from your Inner Pilot Light: When you choose to numb out – whether you numb out with TV, sugar, alcohol, drugs, smoking, or busyness – you dim my light. When you’re brave enough to face the truth, you’ll feel me glowing in the center of your chest, warm, steady, increasing in strength. Are you willing to face the truth without numbing out? With me, you’re safe to face anything. I’m right here.

22. A special offer from Susannah Conway. You already know how much I love this book, this woman, and this is a really great offer from her. Class starts tomorrow, so there’s still time!

22. Telling True Stories with Laurie Wagner, class starts on June 18th. I took the first round of this class, and highly and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Bonus something good: As someone who lived this era (the 80s) and loves a good musical almost more than anything, if this movie works, it will be so friggin’ awesome!

An open love letter to “this i know: notes on unraveling the heart” and Susannah Conway

I first discovered Susannah Conway’s blog the way I’ve discovered all my favorite women on the internet: through a link on Andrea Scher’s Superhero Journal blog. For me, Andrea has been the sun at the center of a universe of female planets, the shiny middle that all the other bright and precious things orbit around. The next love letter I write will be to her.

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the whole sky.


I started following Susannah’s blog and immediately adored her. She is consistently honest, open-hearted and funny, willing to share her “wobbly bits” along with the brilliant beauty of life. Her words and photography are gorgeous and authentic, and at times heartbreaking (in the very best kind of way, cracking you open to let in the light).

In March, I took her Blogging from the Heart course, which was absolutely brilliant. I am currently taking (and falling miserably behind) her Unravelling: Ways of Seeing Myself course, which I am also loving. Her lessons and prompts are full of opportunities to unravel, which she describes in this i know.

It’s not coming undone or losing control. It’s letting go in the best possible way, untangling the knots that hold you back, unwrapping the gifts you’ve hidden for too long, unearthing the potential that’s always been there, finally ditching the labels and should-haves, and letting yourself be what you were always meant to be.

For two back to back afternoons, I sat under a tree in a lawn chair in my backyard, reading this book, the sun making leaf shadows on the pages and birds singing in the background, taking the occasional break to throw a toy for one of the dogs or to stare at the sky.

At first, I didn’t want to mark the pages of this copy, sent to me and signed by Susannah, the most precious of gifts. I wanted to keep it pristine and protected. But as I turned the pages, read the words, I felt exactly the way I do about cake, not knowing if I should go slow and savor every bite, make it last, or gulp down huge handfuls, devouring every last crumb as fast as I could. I found myself wanting to tear out the pages and eat them, taste the colors in the photographs.

Then I remembered the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which is all about accepting transience, and about knowing what is beautiful is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Something is wabi-sabi if “an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing” and this view “nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect,” (Wikipedia entry on wabi-sabi). I got out my pencil and started underlining my favorite bits, making notes in the margins, loving this book in a real, messy, wabi-sabi way.

At the end of those two afternoons of reading, something had shifted in me. A calm determination had settled into my core, a deep knowing–this was absolutely possible and so certain it might as well have already happened. Confidence bloomed in my belly, the kind that Susan Piver describes as “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

This confidence has to do with two things. First, I know I will stop smashing myself to bits, I will manifest my basic goodness, I will embody my inherent wisdom and kindness, I will save myself, I will be a beacon to others looking to do the same, I will live a wholehearted life. I will do as Susannah suggests in the book, “Living mindfully, appreciating what I have, learning to let go of what I no longer need, and practicing kindness as often as I can–especially toward myself.”

Second, more than two years ago, I had a vivid dream about a book. At that time, I was sure it was the book of a friend–must be, because I was not an artist, and in my dream, the book was a mix of art and text–so I told her about it, that she needed to write it. Two years later, she still hadn’t, and I realized it was my book I’d dreamed. I started to see books that reminded me of it, were physical manifestations of what I’d dreamed, showing me it was indeed possible. But it wasn’t until I held Susannah’s book in my hands, the weight and the color of it, that I knew for certain. My book hasn’t yet been written, nothing exactly like it done by anyone. It’s waiting inside of me to be born, will never exist if I don’t make it–messy, raw, small and simple, brutal and beautiful.

I held in my hand a love letter to my own possibility.

image by susannah conway, her beautiful hand, her brilliant ring, and her precious book

Any woman who has experienced grief and loss (that is, every woman alive) should read this book. For some of us this is the loss of a loved one, for others the loss of self, or for others still it might be the loss of both. This book is a map of one woman’s personal journey through bereavement and rediscovery of self, but it is also offered as a guidebook for those making their way along the same path, traveling through that same territory of loss. And yet, as Susannah says, this “is not a story about grief, although it informs everything I’ve learned about life. This is a book about unraveling the layers of our lives and exploring what we find in order to better understand ourselves, our relationships, and our path.”

This book embodies, through both word and image, the tender heart of that sadness, not shying away from the reality of it, the truth that life can kick your ass but that we can also lean into joy and be softened by beauty, can and will encounter grace, and know love. We may have tears streaming down our face or feel bad about our thighs, but with our eyes and heart open wide to both the brutality and beauty of life, we can heal, we can live a wholehearted life.

This book might first be about one woman’s individual journey towards wholeness, but in the end, it is an offering to the reader, an invitation to unravel our own hearts. Sometimes, simply knowing that others have walked a similar path is all the medicine and advice you need, but Susannah Conway takes it one step beyond, offering a reflection at the end of each chapter, small creative exercises that invite the reader to explore, to unravel. In this way, it is a book that one could come back to again and again.

In the end, this book is like a long, intimate conversation with the best girlfriend ever, one who has been where you are, can authentically sit in that dark place with you, but who also has a map that shows the way out, an invitation to the rest of your beautiful life.

I’ve already given away one copy of this book, and I plan to give out many more. The brilliance at the center, the wisdom at the heart of the book is this:

I believe that by being the best and most healed version of ourselves we can truly make a difference in the world.


This particular day

Remember that this particular day will never happen again. ~Susannah Conway, from this i know: notes on unraveling the heart

A few moments from today:

Sleeping in until 6:15 am (yes, this counts as “sleeping in” when you typically get up at 4:30 am), Sam stretched out beside me, his warmth and deep breath lulling me back to dreams.

Roses from my garden, white and deep red, in a Mason jar on my writing desk. The open window lets in cool air, bringing with it morning bird song and the smell of rain, which mixes with the scent of the roses. I write in my notebook, but not about that.

Walking with Eric and the dogs, we see a man park his truck, get out dressed in nice work clothes (button down shirt and slacks), pull a pair of dirty work boots out and put them on. With a rake slung over his shoulder, he walks towards the ball field. We walk one lap around the dog park, and when we get back, he’s still raking lines in the dirt as if it were a giant zen garden.

I clean up the house a little more, folding sheets and sorting laundry. At first, the dogs follow me from room to room, but finally settle somewhere and sleep.

A blog post that brings me to tears of gratitude and recognition, exactly what I need to hear, and I wonder once again “how will I ever thank her?”

A shower while Eric barbeques steaks for lunch. The 1/2 side of organic beef we bought at the beginning of the year allows such extravagance, midweek and midday.

Another walk, at a different park. We try to identify trees, guess the types. Everything I don’t recognize, I call an Elm–Honey Locust, Kentucky Coffee Tree, all of them Elms.

In the backyard, reading this i know: notes on unraveling the heart, the sun making leaf shadows on the pages. Sam drops a toy for me to throw, and when I do, he jumps across my chest, over my lap and the chair to go after it, like some crazy agility move or circus trick. Later, both dogs are sprawled out next to me, Sam hoarding all the toys.

This particular day will never happen again…

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. The view from where I write, roses from my garden and my new favorite book.

2. Sam’s nose is getting better, and might not be Discoid Lupus Erythematosus after all. We took him to the vet yesterday, and he thinks it’s most likely a simple case of skin depigmentation that’s common in Collies that just got irritated by the sun. We got some supplements for him to take (bacon flavored, so he’s happy) and are going to check back in a month. Sam’s coat is also turning “Summer Shepherd,” when he goes from almost pure black to this brindled reddish brown, especially on his neck.

3. Summer vacation. Did I happen to mention I’m on it? For the whole summer? Until August? I took a hefty pay cut to take summers off, but I am guessing it’s totally going to be worth it. Right after I get over the trauma of the to-do list I made yesterday…

4. Brene’ Brown The Power of Vulnerability two day workshop in Boulder. I get to go, and if that weren’t enough, a dear friend decided at the last minute to go with me, so even better.

5. This morning, I wrote an outline of the book I’m working on. I’m not typically an outliner, I’m much messier and more unplanned than that, but this felt right. And you know what, kind and gentle reader? I had a complete sense of power and confidence as I did. This is totally going to happen, and I’m going to learn so much in the process.

6. A good night’s sleep. After waking up so early yesterday and worrying about Sam, I needed it.

7. Even when I plan to take a day off from blogging or writing, I can’t, I don’t. I want to write and there seems to always be something to write about. After 25-30+ years of writer’s block, this is nothing short of a miracle.

Bonus Joy: Watching Away We Go again. I wanted a goodhearted, romantic comedy, and since they are so hard to find, I watched this one again. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, and Alexi Murdoch does almost the whole soundtrack, so that’s really good too.