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from joy to joy to joy

Word of the Year 2018

Looking out at the snow from my writing desk, it seemed like a great time to finally get around to my Word of the Year post.

Since 2009, I’ve been selecting a word to guide me through the year rather than doing traditional resolutions. My word acts as a sort of spiritual nucleus for the year, and often ends up influencing me in interesting ways that I’m not always actively conscious of in the moment.

My word usually comes to me at the end of December, but I like to sit with it for awhile to be sure it feels right before posting about it.

Last year, I also made an inspiration board to go with my theme, which I set as my desktop background. I loved seeing it every day as I worked and reminding myself of the “vibe” I wanted to create. That trick worked so well last year that this year, I had my board printed to hang in my office, made a notebook with it as the cover, pasted it into the front page of my Passion Planner, AND set it as my desktop background. It would take me serious effort to ignore it!

Without further ado,

this year’s theme is EMBODY.

my 2018 inspiration board

I once again participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council program (which has become an annual gift to myself.) In Holiday Council, Molly helps us figure out a theme for the year and also a few chosen Ways of Being, or ways of approaching daily life that support the main theme. This practice has been a great way to expand my annual tradition and has helped make goal-setting more focused and meaningful.

My year of “embody” will include being:


Acting rather than reacting; staying centered; being rooted in my home; practicing mindfulness and focus.


Sending out light; using my voice to guide and help; leading with care; laughing more; being fully present.


Being discerning, especially with my time and energy; Acknowledging my experience; Using good judgement in personal & professional relationships.


Fully committing to my work; showing up every day; expanding my skills; being consistent.


Taking joy in simple things; creating space for play; enjoying the fruits of labor before jumping directly to the next thing.


Do any of you choose a word for the year? Or do you have another way of approaching goals and resolutions? I’d love to hear about it.


Well, it’s officially 2018 which means I’ve come to the end of my Year of Taking in Media Made Primarily by Women and People of Color Instead of More Stuff by White Dudes. It’s been an incredible personal project and I’m really glad I did it.

It’s interesting that I initially thought this would be hard. It’s not that I didn’t know women & POC made stuff — obviously they/we do — it’s that I assumed it would be harder to access. And, while it’s not the stuff that’s most actively promoted, the internet is a magical place and streaming services made it easy to purchase and access things I may not have found once upon a time at my local theater/bookstore/record store.

The other thing is that I didn’t think I’d get to see many movies in the theater. 2017, while a garbage fire in so many ways, was actually pretty great in terms of films by women and POC getting more press and distribution that I remember seeing before. I even got to go see two superhero movies in the theater, which I certainly didn’t think would happen! Wonder Woman & Thor:Ragnarok, directed by Patty Jenkins and Taika Waititi respectively, were massive blockbusters. It was really exciting to see.

Looking forward, even though I’m now “allowed” to go back to the way I used to watch/read/listen, I’m not really reaching for that stuff yet. There are so many books still on my tablet from last year’s queue, there are still so many movies and shows and podcasts to check out.

Rather than a temporary project, this has become a lifelong choice. I’ll continue to seek out things made by women, people of color, and marginalized groups because it benefits me to expand my perspective with stories of people with different experiences and to see characters I can more directly relate to reflected in media.

I highly recommend a similar media project if you feel like it’s something you want to try for a little while. I had a blast and found so much new stuff to love.

A couple of notes:

  • My focus with regard to television and movies was on directors/writers/showrunners rather than on the cast, primarily. I believe this made a big difference because those are the folks most in charge of what story is being told and how, and took the project to a more significant place for me than simply “there are women and POC in this show/movie”.
  • That said, the shows with women & POC at the helm ALSO tended toward more diverse casts.
  • I’ll be making another post later on where I talk about my favorites from my list. They certainly weren’t all winners, but I really enjoyed a lot of them.]


If you made it through the alphabet soup of that post title, congratulations! Your reward is that I’m gonna explain what the hell it is.

The acronym stands for The Year of “Taking In Media Made Primarily By Women And People of Color Instead Of More Stuff By White Dudes 2017” and it is something I chose to do this year for a few reasons:

  1. Supporting media made by underrepresented groups financially means that the industry will pay more attention to them and be more inclusive.
  2. There’s such breadth and diversity out there and reading/listening to/watching only one kind of person is really a shame in light of that.
  3. I was tired of white dude stories.

One year while I was in college I went the whole academic year reading only books by women (aside from stuff that was assigned reading) and it changed my life. I wanted to see what would happen if I chose to do a similar project again a decade later.

Some ground rules:

  • This applies to new media. Re-watches or Re-reads don’t “count” but I will still limit my intake of old favorites that fall under “white dude” territory in favor of other options.
  • I have to expand my reach in each category (film, tv, writing, podcasts, music) by at least one thing each month.
  • The focus is on contemporary or new-to-me works, as I have covered many of the “classics” in these areas in the past. (Readers: please keep this in mind if you make suggestions.)

I’m tracking my media in my Passion Planner and will update this post with thoughts and the media I consumed each month. Stay tuned and feel free to play along!


Movies: 13th, Hidden Figures

TV: Master of None, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Cristela Alonzo’s Lower Classy, Steven Universe

Music: Hamilton (I mean…always), Childish Gambino, Aimee Mann

Podcasts: Call Your Girlfriend, Put Your Hands Together, Politically Re-Active

Writing: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison, Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks


This month was a challenge because I was performing in a musical (Ragtime) and writing & recording an EP, so I didn’t have as much time to take in other media. But I did get a few new things in

Movies:  The Babadook, Tangerine

TV: Luke Cage, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S2)

Music: Sarah Donner & Kittens Slay Dragons Big Big Heart, The Hamilton Mixtape, Anais Mitchell Hadestown

Podcasts: Code Switch

Writing: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemison, Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa


Y’all, I am not missing my old media habits At. All. I’m just not. At the start of this month, I removed everything from my Netflix “to watch” list and started fresh, adding anything that looked interesting and fit into my requirements. Now it’s easier for me to scroll through my options instead of scouring a list for something until I’m too tired to watch anyway.
I even did a version of this project “live” while I was on the JoCo Cruise at the start of the month. While it is difficult to completely avoid stuff made by White Dudes on a cruise tailored to nerd culture, I went out of my way to make time for and attend things presented by the non-white and non-dude performers and guests. It was a huge help that each year, the organizers of the cruise add more women and POC to the roster than they had the year before. Even though it’s nowhere close to “enough” diversity, they’re doing a bang-up job compared to typical cons.

Highlights were Aimee Mann, Zoe Keating, Cameron Esposito & Rhea Butcher, Jean Grae, Tawny Newsome, Hrishikesh Hirway (Song Exploder), Mary Robinette Kowal, Jackie Kashian, and Rebecca Effing Sugar (Creator of Steven Universe).

Movies:  Get Out, As(h)oka

TV: Celia, Atlanta, sense8

Music: (see live music above), also checked out a bunch of instrumental hip-hop and Earl St. Clair’s My Name is Earl

Podcasts: Food Stuff, Song Exploder, JV Club

Writing: Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan


Movies:  Moana

TV: Chewing Gum

Music: Aimee Mann, Mental Illness; Norah Jones, Day Breaks

Podcasts: 2 Dope Queens, Politically Re-Active (S2)

Writing: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher; Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan Coyote


Movies:  Miss Sharon Jones, The Girl King

TV: sense8 (S2), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (S3)

Music: Margo Price, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Podcasts: Last Name Basis, The Hidden Brain

Writing: Jaran by Kate Elliott; The Door by Margaret Atwood

BONUS: I also played a lot of Gravity Ghost, a puzzle game designed by Erin Robinson.


Movies: Wonder Woman, Rough Night, Suicide Kale

TV: Her Story, GLOW, Unicornland

Music: Charly Bliss, Guppy; ALA.NI, You & I

Podcasts: Nancy, LeVar Burton Reads, The Complete Woman Series

Writing: salt., by Nayyirah Waheed; Binti, Nnedi Okorafor; The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin


Movies: The Big Sick

TV: Master of None (S2), Danger & Eggs (S1)

Music: The Beast, Valerie June

Podcasts: Happier in Hollywood

Writing: Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal; The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood


Movies: Deirdre & Laney Rob a Train, Tallulah

TV: Friends From College (S1), Crashing (S1), Fleabag (S1)

Music: Miss Eaves, Feminasty; The Doubleclicks, Love Problems

Podcasts: Queery with Cameron Esposito

Writing: MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood; Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor



Movies: Today’s Special

TV: Thirty (web series) ; Insecure

Music: Tori Amos, Native Invader

Podcasts: Spilled Milk; Reveal

Writing: The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemesin



Movies: Inn Saei: The Power of Intuition

TV:  One Mississippi (S1); Z: The Beginning of Everything

Music: Rhiannon Giddens, Freedom Highway

Podcasts: You Must Remember This

Writing: Whiskey Women by Fred Minnick (gave myself a technical pass on this one since it was non-fiction centered on women.)


Movies: What Happened, Miss Simone?; Thor: Ragnarok

TV: Call The Midwife (S1)

Music: Mavis Staples, If All I Was Was Black; Talib Kweli, Radio Silence

Podcasts: Baby Geniuses

Writing: Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado


Movies: Sleeping With Other People, To The Bone

TV: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; She’s Gotta Have It

Music: Miguel Zenón, Tipico; Danay Suarez, Palabras Manuales; Sia, Every Day Is Christmas

Podcasts: Another Round with Heben & Tracy

Writing: Kitchen Table Tarot, Melissa Cynova; Ayoade on Ayoade, Richard Ayoade; The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

Word of the Year 2017: Reach

Well, I certainly took my time getting this post up. Contrary to previous years, this delay wasn’t related to not having my word yet – I landed on it and started putting it into practice even before 2016 was out. I’ve just been neglecting my online writing in favor of old fashioned paper notebooks and forgetting to transfer the contents here.

In December I participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council, which dovetailed perfectly with my usual practice of choosing a Word of the Year. The program helps you evaluate the previous year, set some goals, and come up with a theme for the coming year, including areas of focus for how you’d like to “show up” in the world on a regular basis.

My Theme (Word of the Year) is REACH.

I made this “inspiration board” to go with my word of the year.

For me, “reach” will include being:


Expansive: Stretching beyond my current imagined limitations, especially professionally. 

This includes a bigger commitment to my creative life, committing to doing new things I’ve been putting off (like that partially outlined screenplay I’ve been avoiding), increasing my reach, and broadening my mind and experiences, particularly through the media I choose to take in.


Connected: Fostering the connections I value and focusing on creating and maintaining in-person relationships.

This means keeping correspondence outside of social media, hosting music jams & film events, volunteering with local organizations, having relaxed social time with friends, and finding a local spiritual community.


Intentional: Being deliberate and choosing actions over reactions.

This includes a bigger commitment to my meditation practice, creating better systems for household/personal tasks and work, following through with opportunities I’d like to pursue, getting “dressed for work” everyday (this last one is a big deal for those of us who work from home!)


Thriving: Getting out of survival mode and into a place where I feel vigorous and joyful.

This includes daily writing, cooking more at home, lots of time hiking and walking in nature, having a sustainable income from creative work, and listening to my body when I need rest.


Powerful: Allowing and preparing myself to take up more space. 

This includes physical power (strength training, aerial silks, rowing, etc.), power as a performer (training to expand skill set, stage presence), and working on honing my leadership abilities.



I am only a month in and having the above as a set of guidelines for my year is already having an effect. I know I can expect some discomfort as I stretch myself but I’m sure that, past the fear, there are some incredible things waiting.



[Do you have a theme or Word of the Year? I’d love to hear it in the comments!]

A Good Old-Fashioned Barn Raising: 2016 Word In Review

I should know better by now. I should know that this exercise is not one to take lightly or brush off. If I ignore it, I quickly learn that it has a sense of humor.

My word for 2016 was Build.

As I’ve mentioned before, I try not to overthink what my word of the year “means” when it comes to me. Every time I’ve tried to force it, I end up with something that doesn’t resonate and inevitably change it. So, “build” showed up and I just accepted it. So how’d it go?

At the end of 2015, I had just found out I’d be moving back to North Carolina, a state I love (despite its current political climate) and where I had spent a few years in my early twenties. Other than knowing I’d be heading to the Triangle area, I had very few preconceptions or plans about what my NC shift would bring.

For the first half of the year, I felt, frankly, lost. Living in temporary housing while working on selling the house in Atlanta, spending hours and hours in the car going back and forth between Raleigh and ATL, having most of my belongings in storage, spending more hours traveling to shows…Oh, and my beloved guitar and all my sound equipment getting stolen the morning a tour was starting. I was adrift and didn’t have any touchstones to ground me during that time. My only recourse was staying present (thank you, meditation and hiking trails) and accepting things as they came. For someone who loves to be in control of the plans, I was being taught a firm lesson about “rolling with it.”

my hiking buddy, Pavlov.

In April, we bought a house in Durham NC. We ended up with a fixer-upper ranch on 2.5 acres and a couple of out buildings. Because the housing market moves so quickly around here, I actually “saw” the house over a video chat and told M. to put an offer on it while I drove up from Atlanta. We’d been burned by a previous offer falling through because we couldn’t get to it in time, and thought it was worth the risk. I hopped in the car for a 6-hour trip, worried I would hate it when I got there.

Luckily, I knew we were in the right spot as soon as I set foot on the land. It needed (needs) a LOT of work, but I love to get my hands dirty and, after all, I totally asked for it.

We spent a month doing the most major updates before moving in to the place in May. We took out two walls, repainted kitchen cabinets, tore out shower doors, installed a massive support beam, repaired plumbing, gutted the “garage apartment” (seemingly designed by someone who woke up one day and decided to build a house with no regard to code, safety, or logic), build two garden beds, and hauled more than 4,000 lbs of junk to the dump. Here’s a snapshot of that process:

Oh, you wanted to Build you say?


In addition to the actual “building” I did, I also had some goals around community building and settling into a new area. I wanted to meet members of the creative community here and get involved. To that end, I became a Patreon supporter of a local theater, played a few local shows, auditioned and was cast in a community theater production of a musical to knock some dust off of my theatrical skills, and participated in a Christmas show with a 22-piece band to raise money for a great organization called Arts for Life.  I’ve been slowly but steadily meeting people and trying to foster friendships, which is awkward and a little odd as an adult, but I’m committed to making it happen.

The second half of this year, things finally started to feel like they were settling in to a groove and a sense of normalcy and stability peeked its head out of the rubble. The year was chaotic but wonderful, difficult but rewarding. 2017 approaches, full of possibility.

photo by Hartman Outdoor Photography

Oh, and this happened, too. 😉


Did you have a word or theme for this year? How did it go?


Friday Poetry – The Concert by Edna St. Vincent Millay

photo by @chuttersnap

I still remember the first time I read this poem, and the way the last line struck me. I needed to be lost in the work. I needed to fully buy in to the consensual reality of the situation, the suspension of disbelief — and having company who wanted to chat or otherwise socialize during a performance took me out of it. I still love to go alone sometimes. 

The Concert

No, I will go alone.
I will come back when it’s over.
Yes, of course I love you.
No, it will not be long.
Why may you not come with me?—
You are too much my lover.
You would put yourself
Between me and song.

If I go alone,
Quiet and suavely clothed,
My body will die in its chair,
And over my head a flame,
A mind that is twice my own,
Will mark with icy mirth
The wise advance and retreat
Of armies without a country,
Storming a nameless gate,
Hurling terrible javelins down
From the shouting walls of a singing town

Where no women wait!
Armies clean of love and hate,
Marching lines of pitiless sound
Climbing hills to the sun and hurling
Golden spears to the ground!
Up the lines a silver runner
Bearing a banner whereon is scored
The milk and steel of a bloodless wound
Healed at length by the sword!

You and I have nothing to do with music.
We may not make of music a filigree frame,
Within which you and I,
Tenderly glad we came,
Sit smiling, hand in hand.

Come now, be content.
I will come back to you, I swear I will;
And you will know me still.
I shall be only a little taller
Than when I went.

Friday Poetry – Be Nobody’s Darling by Alice Walker


A photo by Lacey Raper. unsplash.com/photos/ey1Obz7I2fw


Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

Friday Poetry – I Got Kin by Hafiz

I’m really digging this one today. I hope you will too. 








So that your own heart
Will grow.

So God will think,

I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and

Because this is a food
Our starving world

Because that is the purest

Word of the Year 2016: Build

Build A Fire, woodtype print by HarryCanary on etsy.
Build A Fire, woodtype print by HarryCanary on etsy.


It seems appropriate that today is the day I finally sit down to write this post, a few days overdue. My word for the year came to me several days ago but, as usual, I waited to see how it sat, to see if it was the right word after all. Now I’m sure of it.

David Bowie died last night after fighting cancer for a year and a half. He spent the last year of his life creating two incredible farewell letters to us, in the form of an off-Broadway show (Lazarus) and his album, Blackstar, released just two days ago on his 69th birthday.

While I, along with countless others, mourn the loss of our great weird hero, the long reach of his life is what stays with me. His absolute dedication to his work, his constant evolution and striving, his willingness to be absolutely himself (and to change that self), and the transformation even of his death into art.

A death like this reminds us all of our own mortality. I’ve never been someone frightened of aging. In fact, I’ve always looked forward to being wiser, more experienced, more evolved. That said, today it occurred to me that, at 33, I am just under half of Bowie’s age, and I haven’t gotten going on the Big Stuff that I feel is my greater mission in life…the stuff that will be my contribution when I go. This realization was what solidified my word for 2016.



  • I want to build up my creative community, through new work and new partnerships. I want to expand beyond the safe, small world I have worked within.
  • I want to make more things with my hands, tangible creations to make me feel accomplished and rooted.
  • I want to build lasting personal relationships in my new home in North Carolina and beyond.
  • I want to work toward my Big Damn Dream of running an artist retreat to foster and feed those who feed us with their work.
  • There may even be some literal building in my future as I move to a new state and a new home! I love the idea of a homestead, of a more lasting sense of place.

“I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture I was living in.” – David Bowie

Up to this point in my life, I have felt like I was waiting… for what I’m not sure. Perhaps waiting for a feeling of “readiness”, completion, for the risk to seem smaller, for someone else to take the lead? There is no more time to waste or wait. Let’s get to work.