This is 42

"Barn's burned, now I can see the moon."

-Mizuta Masahide,  17th century Japanese poet and samurai

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Photo credit: Lindsey Tillman

Last night I was taking out the recycling and caught a glimpse of the moon reflecting in pools of water in the road. "Thank you," I thought.

For the past year I've been asking myself the question, "What's next." The next, for me, is here, in so many areas of my life.

Today I'm sharing a new look and feel for my site. It is a work in progress, but much more reflects who I am today. I slashed and burned, deleted a lot of the old posts that tried to answer that question, and kept only what reflects who I am today. 

There are a lot of new things in my world, particularly professionally. I'm not quite ready to talk about everything yet, but will say: I am so thankful for where I am now. For being able to use all of my skills and experience in some very meaningful ways. 

For now, I'm going to kick off this year with a list of gratitude for the things that happened during #41, my in between year. All of these things, each and every one, were blessings from a power far beyond my own design. All of them happened because of a couple simple factors: I showed up, did the work, and surrendered. 

That's all.


During 41, I did these things. Not ranked in order. I'm not listing them to be self-aggrandizing, but because a)I am thankful b)I want other people to know that there is so much life beyond the one we can imagine for ourselves.

No, seriously. On my last birthday I felt so "in between." During this past year I learned to sit with that discomfort and also trust that life was unfolding exactly as it was supposed to. I hear they call this faith. It grew by leaps and bounds.

  1. Wrote on an index card on January 1 the following guiding word for the year: "Identity." 
  2. Thought about what I wanted my life to look like, and what kind of work I wanted to do, professionally and personally.
  3. Interviewed from some jobs around conference room tables that made me think, to quote Elizabeth Gilbert, "Not this!" 
  4. Drove Alabama backroads in search of velvet paintings at the World's Longest Yard Sale
  5. Dropped off and picked up my son from sixth grade nearly every day.
  6. Spent time with my niece and nephew. 
  7. Helped redesign and guide an independent, hyperlocal restaurant site (What To Eat in Birmingham)
  8. Learned that I am physically strong, making and keeping commitments to move every day
  9. Confronted every old story about myself and made new ones on the Pilates reformer, doing things I never thought were physically possible for me. 
  10. Celebrated my mother's 70th birthday with every member of the JazzHandsFamily
  11. Was a fairy godmother to a sweet two-year old friend, spending a week with her in Washington D.C.
  12. Saw "Hamilton" (finally!)
  13. Tried to pray every morning. Some days failed and scrolled through Facebook. Other days quieted my mind and felt God's enormous love. 
  14. Witnessed my brother marry the love of his life in a field in Tuscany. Cried tears of joy watching my father perform the ceremony.
  15. Wrote two stories for The Washington Post. One was about a poop train. 
  16. Got to take my son to the Washington Post newsroom for a tour, by a former writer of mine. Stood on the roof with them and experienced profound gratitude for this life of words.
  17. Shared my recovery story openly and freely, understanding that this is in part why I was put on this earth. 
  18. Was interviewed for four podcasts and one video series (getting better at this and the secret is it involves breathing)
  19. Launched a movement to help people have tough and important conversations around alcohol and alcohol messaging aimed at women. Tell Better Stories brings me so much joy, mostly because I get to encourage folks every single day to show up, do the work, and surrender
  20. Spent time making my home more comfortable and right for us now. Yes, this included getting an adjustable bed and a dryer that plays a little song when it's finished.
  21. Was a better wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend (I hope).
  22. Spent time with my cherished lifelong friends, including seeing three of them in one week in one city.
  23. Made so many new friends, friends who talk about real issues and vintage clothes and movements of women who are changing the world. Some live in my city and others live around the world. This network of women are people I can call on any time day or night.
  24. Realized that the prayers that didn't come true were really blessings of protection.

As for 42? Well, I have some ideas. But mostly it's just continuing to show up, do the work, and to surrender. Oh, and probably to buy a new vintage dress or two. 

With gratitude,




That One Time I Screamed At Santa



This weekend, as I took down the last of the boxes of Christmas decorations, I was thinking about that one time I screamed at Santa. Guess what was involved?

It started like this: every year, I hosted a grand Santa party at our house. Children came in the guise of a "cookie party," only to discover the man in the big red suit was the surprise guest of honor. But wait ... there's more! As the children sat on Santa's lap, he pulled out a gift just for them from his sack. The gifts had been procured from their parents weeks and months before, as I worked on this elaborate event for months at at time. 

It made me happy to do this for the kids; that much is true. I liked giving a gift them and to our friends, who got Santa photos with their kids without having to wait in line at the mall. I had "inherited" Santa and the cherished first Saturday in December from a friend whose daughter had aged out. The Santa was really, really good, with a thick, real beard and twinkly eyes. He was so good he was booked solid for years. 

Planning the party was stressful, and I made it more stressful on myself, but I also said things like the window for belief was small, and I was so lucky to have this great Santa. How could I give up that coveted first Saturday in December?

All true things. Also true: planning the Santa party also took up nights, weekends, and energy that I didn't really have. At the time I was working 12 hours a day, often in other cities. Often while having an extra glass of Chardonnay or three to take the edge off.  I just kept going, plunging myself into planning a party that involved hot gluing for weeks, creating a photo booth, commissioning hand-lettered invitations like the one above.

That photo is from a post in 2012, in which I lamented how busy and tired I was and how I needed the wine to get through it all. I wrote:

"The wine happened because I was in between packing for a week-long trip, and laundry to get everyone ready for the week, and some work. So there's that."

I cringe as I read this. As if the wine just "happened." As if I was a martyr for hosting a party. As if I was working woman of the year. As if celebrating Christmas was something I had to do to get through. 

I thought it was totally normal to drink it all of the time, and because I was such a busy and important person that I *deserved it.* There was a mimosa bar at the party, and a mimosa bar that was my life. "You would drink this much if you had to do what I do," I said, or I thought. It makes me sad now, but that's with hindsight, several years of recovery, and the knowledge of how many women fall into the same trap. 

It makes me sad to see this photo of me holding my baby nephew, playing this role of harried hostess. "Another Santa party in the books!" posted to Facebook. Sigh. 

I believed my own hype. I posted these photos and wrote cheeky status updates an endless cycle of, "See? I have it handled." 

A few years later, one summer day St. Nick emailed me to say we needed to change the date of the party. He had given away the first Saturday in December. Could I do a date in November? Could I do a weekday morning? The audacity. If I'm going to be honest, I can't remember if I called St. Nick or if I emailed him, but I was a total jerk and told him he'd ruined Christmas. I yelled at Santa. Whether it was via phone or words, it doesn't matter. I yelled at Santa. 

Hiiiiii, that's me. 

That was me.

When not a delightful hostess I was a mean drunk. Those photos were not Christmas card worthy. But, that was then. This will be my third Christmas sober. 

I hardly recognize the girl in the photos, except for one thing: the look in my eyes then. "Help." No one was coming to help -- I would have to save myself. And I did. And I do. 

If I'm being honest, and I am, because I just told you how I had to get loaded to plan Christmas parties, I will also say that I feel a little empty now unpacking the decorations. We've long outgrown Santa parties in my house, regardless of how this one ended. My son is in middle school now and I don't plan parties because I "should." I don't know why the decorations make me feel off, but it probably has to do with the memories they bring back, back when I was running around trying to make everything so lovely and ignoring the storm that was brewing inside of myself. Yes, that is why. 

I haven't yelled at any Santas lately, or commissioned any hand lettering, or designed a photo booth. I have stayed sober another day, and started building a life I didn't need to escape from, not with one sip or with the pageantry of an event to distract me from the truth. It seems like a good place to start, this first weekend of December.