|Mid-August|Be Here.

I run my hands down my own waist, catch at the curve, arms akimbo. I wear shirts that match my eyes, but it’s not enough to hide what I thought would never happen to me again. Six months ago this space was beginning to take shape, beginning to not be the first thing someone noticed about me. 


I pass blue, wonder about so-and-so. Six months ago, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and shoot a text. 


Scroll through my email, pass over the spaces social media apps used to take up on my phone.  


Pass over places we used to go, use the wallet she bought me for my birthday. Listen to music we used to listen to, think about the nights of emotional breakdowns and believing lies–remember the fallout, the angry tears, the Facebook deleting and overreacting. 


They call me Amanda here. They don’t know any different because I never asked them to know any different. When I’m honest with myself, I know how weird it feels to be called Amanda but I know I can’t be Mandie. Not here. What no one told me about branding myself as the funny, self-deprecating, please-affirm-my-existence girl is that people hold you to it. They start spurting out half sentences like, “I know you, Mandie.” They brand you with words of their own. No one tells you it hurts. No one tells you that you won’t sprout iron nerves just because you want it. Eventually you have to close your doors. Eventually you have to stop going to the same wells of affirmation and find it in the worth you already have. It doesn’t make them bad; it doesn’t make you weak. It means things have to grow to survive.

But the good thing about a nickname–physically or metaphorically– is you can always go back to your roots. You can always go back to your original self and grow it. Never be afraid to grow yourself.

I dress in business casual these days. I stick a temp badge with a bad, non-smiling photo of me to the door and it lets me in. I keep the badge pinned to my pants–flipping the card face-down again and again throughout the day. There’s a guarded-faced security man who I already want to figure out–the guarded faces always tip me off to fascinating stories and broken hearts. We nod to each other occasionally, say hello. I like to think we’re both respecting the others’ privacy–I see you, but I won’t ask you to tell me what you’re hiding hauled-up in that heart of yours. I’ll be passing right by every morning if you ever need me.

I’m sitting in class, glass-faced–trying to absorb as much information as I can. “Sorry,” the bearded guy says to me, munching on a snack. He always talks to himself during training, always asks me if I want chips or a cookie or a piece of gum.

“For what?”

“Talking so much. I get the feeling you don’t like to talk much.”

I smile, say, “You’re fine.” For the first time, I’m not scared of being the quiet girl–I’m not scared of being mislabeled. Maybe growing up means growing into old fears and realizing they never were a thing to begin with–you can still be seen and be the quiet girl. You can be the quiet girl and still find places to call your own. And so, I sit. I do what I’ve always done in classrooms: I pick up on the annoyed looks the trainers give each other when that kid in the back won’t shut up and note the nonverbal communication buzzing all over the room and pick out the people who struggle with anxiety. Including myself, the tally is up to 4.

I’ve had two borderline panic attacks in this building–pressed up against the bathroom stall, crying my eyes out and envisioning God grasping me by my two shoulders, whispering, “Shh. Shh. Shh.

My mom says, “You have to figure out how to calm yourself down in those situations.”

And my dad pauses, says, “I don’t know the answer to that,” when I ask him the hard questions.

I hold broccoli and cheese soup addictions–bread in the bag, to-go please. And…how much is water? Free? I’ll have twelve, please.

I listen to songs I know will make me cry–when I’m in my car at lunch–because I know that’s the only time to let everything out. Because when we break for lunch, the knot in my stomach disperses for a moment and rebuilds over the hour.

Me and my anxiety–we’re pals now. I know it’s my brain’s way of trying to stay in control of all the internal/external stimuli it’s processing–we’re learning to work in the same space and get along. It tells me when something’s frightening me and I push back, make notes, take deep breaths, refuse to give in. Not here, not now. Not here, not now. It’s like emotional weight-lifting and I know I’m getting stronger: I just keep going. It’s simple, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy; don’t let anyone say you won’t feel the pains of getting stronger even when you’re on your couch, sipping coffee. And so I tell my anxiety stories. I talk to myself, write notes to myself, say the words I’d breathe to anyone else:

Hey babe. Your responsibility is to learn. You’re here to absorb and apply–ask questions as you go. It’s okay. You’re okay. Just sit down. That’s all you have to do in this minute.  Look right at me, hon. Right at me.

I sit at a desk. My name is placed on the wall, typed on a piece of paper like it’s been waiting for me to arrive. My office buddy is an I-something personality type and saves my butt exactly 100,000 times per hour. I tap him on the shoulder, ask where the mute button is. In the moments I most feel like an idiot, I almost blurt out, “I’m a writer and right-brained and I’m sorry!” but then I bite my tongue, fight the old ways of wanting to be known and understood.  I try to contain the drops of Stress Away when I’m just trying to breathe through the nerves, try to pace my questions and cringe when he says, “You got it, Amanda?” Because we both know I don’t. But we have a system: I get flustered and do something stupid and he raises an eyebrow and locks my computer when I forget for the tenth time.

After work I sit in her office some Wednesday evenings, settled right around the corner from the building I want to turn into a bookstore and half a mile from ghost lane. I breathe deep and let go. I explain, let my side be known in hushed corners–hushed tones, colors and hues that remind me of fall and being at ease. She tells me she doesn’t want to fix me, that I already have all I need to do everything I want to do. She takes notes while I talk, looking for themes and interjecting on occasion for clarity. I tell her about dandelions and childhood and legalism and boys who never looked twice when I just wanted them to stay. She tells me about the research that indicates how every memory is different each time we remember it–even if just a little bit–and she tells me she wants to hear how I remember things happening because that’s what I’ve been carrying emotionally.

I breathe. I unpack. I leave empowered and hopeful.

I’m still hashing out Charlie’s story. I’m writing fear in as a character, but I will not give him a face. Fear doesn’t get a face.

This is where I’ve been. It’s gotten easier since I first wrote this. This season I’m in is stretching me in every way possible. It’s growing me. But it’s beautiful. I’m here, beginning again and breathing slow. Always slow.

Coffee Date: What You Want.

19142196_10213791228679801_788207019_n“When we first dropped our bags on apartment floors, Took our broken hearts and put them in a drawer, Everybody here was someone else before.” -Welcome To New York

Hi, loves. Coffee dates happen every single month over at erinsalmonwrites.com and she writes so well about Jesus and life. So if we were on a coffee date. . .here’s what would happen.

I swing open the door to Starbucks and look around until I spot you. I’m in boyfriend-cut jeans, with a hole in one knee and a slight tear on the upper thigh of the other leg. They seem to mirror each other, each leg rolled up one, two times. The anklet is still there, loose around my left ankle and green-beaded. I’m probably in a black v-neck because all my other clothes are in a studio apartment in Atlanta, waiting for my return. My things are scattered across two states at the moment, torn between house-sitting for my brother and trying to be here for Father’s Day for my dad–this incessant need to run and stay. I’m like a runaway train that keeps making all its stops– stop, go, stop, go. I’ve got a type-writer in my sister’s car, poetry strewn across my mind and my car and the suitcase on the concrete floor of his apartment, cd’s loose in the car I can barely afford where I keep 1989 on repeat, a toothbrush on the edge of the porcelain sink that may or may not be here when I get back. Everything’s up in the air these days. But I’ll pack my little bag and be off again.

I’m only here for a couple of days, I tell you, play with the ends of my hair, mind sitting on the trip back to Atlanta that I’ve never driven before. My nails are black, chipped–the classic artist look. My mind is running a million miles a minute and I probably slathered on that essential oil roller, labeled with a make a wave sticker because it makes me happy. If I lean in for a hug, you can probably smell the faint aroma of orange and peppermint, dancing to wellness with me. It’s a crazy game. I barely know the plays. Some days I feel more like a pawn than a player, but I’m in it to win it.

Today I’m needing something comforting. It will probably take the form of a white chocolate mocha, Venti please. I’ll make small talk, ask how you are. How’s life? What are you working towards? How are your people? How’s your mental health doing these days? Do you need a break? Do you need a hug? How can I be present for you?

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you about the city that I’m exploring and how I missed the fireflies in Tennessee again. We’d talk summer bucket lists. I’m about to cross off “Go somewhere by myself” and my sister just crossed off “Messy Twister.” Do you have a bucket list this summer? What are your goals for summer? Are you going anywhere? AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WILL YOU GO SEE THOSE DARN FIREFLIES WITH ME NEXT SUMMER?

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you how I watched Dear John last night only to realize it was a mistake because I’ve never known what it would be like to have someone like John–whose main question was simply, “Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you give me a chance to change your mind?” I kind of want someone like that. What are you looking for? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, none of this, “Hmm…brown eyes, good sense of humor,” nonsense. What do you want? I want someone who wants to be with me on a Tuesday night. I want someone who wants to tag along for my drives to see where I go, what songs I listen to on repeat. I want someone who stops mid-sentence because they realize I hadn’t finished what I was saying. I want someone who wants to read my book, who wants to know how I came up with the idea and where the characters come from. I want someone I’d marry in December, on the darkest, coldest night.

If we were on a coffee date… I’d ask you who you want to be. We always talk about what we expect of our significant others, but what do you want from you? Who do you want to be to your significant other? I want to be kind and generous and raw. I want to be good in my own skin. I want to live loved and do what I was created to do. I want to go into the mess that is this world and be a light.

If we were on a coffee date…we’d talk mental health. I’ve realized in the past few weeks that I love pouring out to other people, particularly through my words. I love words and my essential oil business, but I came to the conclusion yesterday that I was trying to pour out to other people when I was running on empty myself. Do you ever do that too? I think it’s more common than we know. Sometimes, coffee date, you just need to take a step back. If you’re in a hard season–if you’re in the wilderness–just let it be. Don’t be hard on yourself. What are you doing to keep yourself from burn out? Me? I’m doing the necessary things and not much more. I’m making the appointments and keeping in touch with the people who need me and giving myself a bit of space. I’m ranting when I need to.

If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask about your Netflix. What are you watching? I’ve rediscovered New Girl, Gilmore Girls, and just discovered The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. IT’S BOMB, guys.

If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask what you’re listening to lately. Here’s my list–NO LAUGHING. 😉


  1. Wonderland by Taylor Swift
  2. You Are In Love by Taylor Swift
  3. Welcome To New York by Taylor Swift
  4. Handclap by Fitz and the Tantrums
  5. Follow You Down by Gin Blossoms
  6. My Sharona by The Knack
  7. Migraine by Twenty One Pilots
  8. Kitchen Sink by Twenty One Pilots
  9. Old Time Rock N’ Roll by Bob Seger
  10. Better Man by Little Big Town
  11. The Middle by Jimmy Eat World (CLASSIC)
  12. Riptide by Vance Joy
  13. Green Light (Yes, still…) by Lorde
  14. Hungry Eyes by Eric Carmen
  15. It Ain’t Me by Kygo with Selena Gomez

If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask you what you think about the name Scherbatsky for a cat because…I kind of like it. Schmidt was named after a New Girl character and SHE NEEDS A FRIEND NAMED AFTER THE LAST NAME OF A HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER CHARACTER. It would be the cutest thing…

If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask you if you saw Katy Perry’s therapy session. IT WAS FASCINATING. And don’t you think it’s sad that everyone’s hating on her for it? I think it’s awesome that she was that real in front of the world. What do you think about the flack other people get when they choose to be real on social media? Is it brave or needy? Does it help or hinder? This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought, especially as a writer.

All right, coffee dates. I’m off for the month to be still, write, figure out my next move, explore a city, and learn to pray. Do you need any prayer from me? What can I help with, friends?

Much  love,


PS: Listed below are the questions I asked in this post. I’d love, love, L-O-V-E to hear from you either in the comments or at manderssss22@gmail.com. I’m always there.


1. What’s your coffee order? How’s life? What are you working towards?

2. Any bucket lists for the summer? Any plans? Any destinations? Any goals?

3. Who are you looking for?

4. Who do you want to be? What do you expect from yourself?

5. Tell me what your Netflix/Spotify playlists are.

6. Is being real and honest on social media brave or needy? Is there any compromise?

7. What do you do to maintain mental health? What do you do to keep from burning out too quickly?

8. What do you need prayer for?


Summer 2017 Bucket List


I’m doing a fun thing today! Writing, for me, is such an emotional thing and I’ve always struggled with how to write about happy things because writing has always been the release of anything negative I feel. Anything positive I feel is released in moments spent with other people so I don’t have a need to write about it. AND SO I’m changing it up a bit today. For some reason, 25 seems a little daunting to me and I’m realizing all the things I’ve wanted to do but never did. I turn 25 September 28th, so I put all the things I’ve always wanted to do in a bucket list

For the next 16 weeks, I’m doing one thing that I’ve never done before or haven’t done in a really long time and then every Friday I’m going to write about it. I would love it if anyone wants to join or add suggestions! I would love it even more if you came up with your own bucket lists for the summer and tell me what they are!

  1. Get a cartilage piercing
  2. Go tubing down a river
  3. Go on a road trip by myself
  4. Go to Tennessee to see the fireflies
  5. Cliff jump
  6. Learn how to surf
  7. Learn enough pottery to make a mug because THIS IS ALL I WANT OUT OF LIFE.
  8. Read 10 books (Quiet, If You Find This Letter, Wild and Free, Uninvited, The Shack, Jane Eyre, Broken Way, Chasing Fireflies, Yes Please, Girls In White Dresses)
  9. Go to a concert
  10. Hike alone
  11. Go swing dancing
  12. Camp on a beach
  13. Fly somewhere
  14. Go fishing
  15. Fly a kite
  16. Learn how to juggle
  17. Learn how to dive

This is what depression looks like.


(Disclaimer: I hold no counseling license or degree in psychology. This post is my story with the intent to raise awareness about depression, self-care, and getting help if you need it.)

Over the past two months, my life took a completely different turn and in the process was dumped upside down. I’m still living in the aftermath, still healing, still fighting to get better because I was almost better when I got pushed back down. And over the past two days, I’ve stared at this most-recent picture of myself again and again as it slowly hit me: this is what depression looks like. This is the face I wear before going off with friends, before slipping unnoticed into family reunions, before someone snaps a picture. This is the I’m okay face, but it’s a lie. I wear it to make people feel comfortable around me, to not be too much . To act like I’m doing just fine, but right now–I’m not. In reality, I’m terrified of the future and unmotivated and overwhelmed and lonely and hopeless and anxious about everything all at once. And you know what? It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. Unfortunately we live in a society that likes to put on a good face and not do the hard talking because…THEY CAN’T EVEN. But you know what? That’s on them. You and me, we’re the real MVP’s because we’re dealing with our baggage and fighting the battles and being the best we can be. Even if we’re not okay, but getting there.

We were eating peanut butter pie when it suddenly hit and I was left, staring at a wall and wishing I could sink into nothing. They were talking about their lives when suddenly I just didn’t want to be there anymore. I wanted to go home and bury myself in a book where I could submerse myself in a better story where I was just a few page-turns away from finding they all lived happily ever after. Suddenly I just wanted to be alone.

Loves…that’s not me. If you knew me, you’d know. That’s not who I am.

I got up, slid my chair back, and zombied (Can we please make this an official verb? Because it’s a thing.) into the bathroom, closing myself into one of the stalls. I stayed a few minutes before taking a deep breath, wiping at my tears, and finding my place again at the table.

They ask what’s wrong, press for what’s wrong, but I don’t know what to say. I didn’t want to talk about it–I don’t want to talk about it. After a long pause, I tell them it’s just too much sometimes to hear about their lives when mine is in pieces. It’s suddenly too much again and I leave again, this back and forth between almost okay and not okay at all.

I close myself completely in the stall once more. The stall door held a pinkish hue and was chipped away at, scrawled over, and it seemed to match me, line for line. I pressed my palms against the door, carefully noting via the crack in the door whether or not there was another occupant in the room. Tears slid down my face. How could it have gone so wrong? How is a girl who just wanted to be a journalist, just wanted to be loved, just wanted to write into people’s hearts–have gotten it so wrong? And what do they have that I didn’t? 24-year-old post-grads aren’t supposed to be jealous of their 21-year-old college student sisters simply because at least they’re headed in a direction. 24-year-old post-grads are supposed to at least have a job, at least have a roommate, at least have loved and lost once.

The door opens and she slips in, “Hey, you okay?”

I peek out the door, nod slowly. She gives me a hug and I cry quietly into her shoulder–she knew what happened. “You know it’s funny because we were talking about how sucky our lives are,” she eyes me, “But I know you’d rather have that.”

I nod vigorously. There aren’t words to say. I wipe more tears and tell her I’ll be right out.

What most people miss is that depression doesn’t look like crying all the time. It doesn’t look like moping around. It doesn’t look dramatic. It looks like less, to be honest with you. Less interest in old activities. Less interest in interactions with friends. Less opening up. Less emotion. It looks more like staring at blank walls than crying into them, to be perfectly honest. It looks more like apologizing, saying, “I’m kind of in a funk, sorry guys.” It looks like pushing yourself to show up when in reality you really aren’t there yet.

Here’s the thing. You have permission to to cry it out. You have permission to take time for yourself. You have permission to hurt. Struggling isn’t a dirty word–it’s just a human thing that sometimes takes all our attention, that’s all. When you’re struggling, don’t be ashamed or beat yourself up, just take everything one day at a time. Know yourself, know your triggers, know the problem, know the action steps you’re going to take to get better, and press into the healing process.

A week from today will be my two-year anniversary from graduating with my BA degree in Journalism. In four days, I’m going back to that campus to watch my little sister graduate with her associate’s and, despite my happiness for her, I know that I’m going to be flooded with memories, regret, and reminders of all the places I thought I’d be by now. But you know what? I’m going to take baby steps. I’m going to take care of myself, physically, emotionally, and mentally. If wearing makeup is too much, I won’t do it. If  questions about job-hunting from friends and family become too much, I’ll politely decline answering. If tears start to flow, I’ll have a tissue and a piece of chocolate ready.  That morning, I’ll eat well, drink my coffee, and try to squeeze in a workout. I’ll water my plants, pet my cat, write out anything I need to say, do whatever I need to do to take care of myself.

It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. And you know what else? You can still show up for important things, even if you have to take the back-burner for yourself.  If people ask questions about why you’ve changed, you don’t have to engage. I firmly believe there are times where you’re allowed to simply let yourself be, take steps back, and just worry about breathing.

I didn’t want to end this without talking about self-care, so here are a few action steps for you.

  1. Talk to a therapist. The good thing about therapy is it’s an objective individual whose sole concern is how you’re doing, what’s really going on emotionally/mentally, and working to find action steps to get better and prevent mental health issues from getting worse. While your friends and family are always there for you, they don’t always know the best way to help you.
  2. Do what your doctor says. If you’re starting to notice a shift in your mentality, go to your doctor. See what they recommend–then do it. I wish I could get down on eye level with you because this is so, so important and I want you to hear me: Mental health is one of the most underrated health issues, if not the most underrated issue, and it’s easy to believe the lie that you’re weak or not doing enough, but you’re not weak and you are doing enough. You know when you’re in pain and you know when something’s off–listen to yourself and do what your doctor says.
  3.  Take care of your body. Take your vitamins, detox your body, stay active, and eat foods that help you rather than hurt you. That jar of Nutella doesn’t do much past your taste buds, so put. it. down. Take it from someone who knows–binge-eating only makes you feel worse about yourself. There’s tons and tons of natural things to benefit your mental health. Get outside and grab some Vitamin D!
  4. Talk it out. This one is key because depression aims to isolate you and make you believe you’re alone in this. But the truth is, you’re not. You’re so, so loved and depression is a liar. So if you’re struggling with something and someone hits an emotional trigger, walk away if you need to, but don’t shut down. Tell your people what you need from them. If you’re going through a break-up, it’s okay to sit out the relationship discussions. It’s okay to sit out the girls nights if they’re just too hard. It’s okay if you need to take a step back, but talk it out and don’t leave your people hanging. If you need to take a step back, explain to them what you’re doing and why. And you know what? If they don’t understand or make it into an issue, that’s on them. Find people who love you enough to let you take time to yourself.
  5.  Find the thing. You know the thing–it’s buried down deep, under years of growing up and shoving things aside that you once used to love. It’s the Jessie doll under your bed, if you will. For me, it’s books and singing and climbing trees and imagining wild and beautiful things and laughing loud. For you it might be ballet or soccer or piano or pottery–only you know what it is and only you can bring it back to life. Dedicate 15 minutes every day to doing one thing you love to do. It doesn’t have to be big, love. It just has to sing back an old song you used to know and love.

Lastly, if you know someone who you suspect is struggling, here are a couple action steps for you. Every person needs a support system, especially if they’re struggling, and these are things that should be used in friendships anyway.

  1. Listen. Don’t interrupt, minimize what they’re struggling with, or try to make it funny. It’s as serious as they’re telling you it is and if they’re willing to talk, be willing to listen.
  2.  Check in on them. Depression is out to isolate and degrade. Don’t let it happen on your watch–send a text, a card, or invite that friend to coffee. The most important thing is to be there. You don’t have to be perfect–you just have to show up and be a friend.
  3. Encourage them to seek help. Show them that getting professional help and taking care of yourself is healthy, not showing an area of weakness.
  4. Do your homework. Being educated in mental health and self care is so incredibly important.

Coffee Date: I’ll Come Get My Things.


“‘Cause honey I’ll come get my things, but I can’t let go/I’m waiting for it, that green light, I want it/ Oh, I wish I could get my things and just let go/I’m waiting for it, that green light, I want it. “-Lorde

Dear Coffee Date,

I missed March. It was too hard, so I took a step back because I knew that I had nothing positive to say. I knew that at the end of the day, I couldn’t look you in the eye and say, “I’m okay.” I wasn’t.

I’m better now, so let’s do coffee. Let’s talk life. Today is beautiful, so let’s grab the keys.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d say let’s grab the coffee and go. Anywhere. Name the place. Let’s just get out of this town, or at least out of this county. Let’s go sit by the lake and flesh out all these old wounds. Let’s go the back way and have a good cry.

Oh and also, I’d grab a Venti Flat White with skim milk because life. Starbucks is bae.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d have very short playlist as I’ve been obsessed with like two songs and just re-discovered Relient K. It would go as follows:

  1. Green Light by Lorde–“I wish I could pack my bags and just let go.” WHAT.
  2. Avalanche by FLETCHER– “Everybody wants their shot, but you’re bulletproof.”
  3. My Own Worst Enemy by Casting Crowns– “God help me get away, Break these chains and set me free.”
  4. Million Reasons by Lady Gaga– “I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away, But baby I just need one reason to stay.”
  5. How Do You Like Me Now by Toby Keith– “I only wanted to catch your attention, But you overlooked me somehow.”
  6. Forget and Not Slow Down by Relient K–“How many times can I push it aside? Is it time I befriended all the ghosts of all the things that haunt me most? So they leave me alone.”
  7. Big Girls Cry by Sia– “And I don’t care if I don’t look pretty, Big girls cry when their hearts are breaking.”

If we were on a coffee date, I’d unload the story. Nearly two months ago, I was let go from my position and the past two months have been the most difficult of my life. It wasn’t anything I’d done or anything I really could’ve predicted or prevented because they wanted to part ways to let me follow my passion. Small problem, though, in that…my passion isn’t exactly paying at the moment. So I’m looking for work. And I’m trying to pick up the pieces of a life that seems to get more complicated the further I go. But the thing is, coffee date? I never thought it could hurt so bad. I never thought it could make me feel so worthless and purposeless…but…I have to admit that I really believe that God is going to use this hard thing to create a turning point in my life. I really believe hope is still alive.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d unload the story part two. Two weeks ago, I saw that the church I’ve been going to holds intercessory prayer meetings every two weeks. I felt this tugging, so I very reluctantly went with the thought that I was going for my family. I was wrong–I was supposed to go for me. It was incredible. Holy Spirit showed up and these women spoke words of life over me and I cried basically the whole time.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d talk about Charlie. Charlie is the main character/narrator in my book and I’m having the best time creating who he is. It’s crazy how attached you can get to characters, whether you’re reading about them or creating them for others to read but…it’s wild. And especially what this character is meant to represent…I’m just…in love completely with this book I’m working on.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you what you’ve been reading lately. I’m currently working through two: Without Rival by Lisa Bevere and I just started The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Without Rival is incredible and all about self-worth, so if you still don’t know who you are go get a copy.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask about your season of life. Where are you at? Where are you going? And who are your people? Are they taking care of you? If not, I’d tell you to find new ones. Find the people who get you. Find the people who stay up with you until 4:30 over coffee. Find the people who see a status and text you, “So which McDonald’s are we going to?” Find the people who will go see Beauty and the Beast ten times in theater with you. And hey, coffee date? You deserve to find your people. You’re worth it. Go get ’em.

Much love, coffee date.



Hey You: To The Girl Losing the Comparison Game


“I’m not gonna care if I sing off key/I find myself in my melodies/I sing for love, I sing for me/I shout it out like a bird set free,” -Sia, Bird Set Free

“I’m stupid,” the six year old in front of me says, tongue-in-cheek. I’m not her mother and I’m not her aunt, but I know a lie when I hear one. These lies start young, seep in wherever they can, whenever they can. And they’re out to take your joy, your life, and your purpose.

The lie is one that I know so well, I stop immediately, get on eye level and ask, “Hey, would you say that about someone else?”

“No,” she says carefully.

“Then why would you say that about yourself?”

“I don’t know.”

“Here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to name three things that you like about yourself.”

She thinks for a second, “I’m smart, nice, and pretty…”

“Beautiful,” I prompt.

She smiles and agrees, “Beautiful.”

The picture above? It’s mine. My name is pressed into everything about it. But it wasn’t perfect, so I destroyed it. I do that sometimes. I think we all do sometimes. I don’t know about you, but some days I just can’t take another reminder hanging on my wall that represents everything I’m not. The truth? I don’t like limitations. I don’t like being told I can’t do something or a dream isn’t realistic. It’s in the moments and spaces where I collide with limitations that I get defensive and upset.

Truth be told, my heart has been so steeped in the lie that nothing I do will ever be enough that it’s become the perspective I operate out of. You would know if you stepped too close to it–this heart murmur of mine–because it’s in the moments I overreact, start to cry, or get really quiet because you just stepped on faith wound central. In those moments, I just want you to leave. Say hello to the ghosts on the way out, but get out. Don’t get too close.

I don’t even like sharing this picture. I never want to look at it again, to be honest with you. Yes, it’s mine. No, I’m not an artist BY ANY MEANS. It was supposed to be a dandelion and it was supposed to be pretty. I was okay with the result, happy with the work–until it got down to the little details I didn’t know how to paint. It wasn’t enough that I’d never been taught or had any practice–because she could have done it without practice. They could have done it. It’s like a broken record that plays over and over until there’s nothing left of me.

She could have done better,” it’s a whisper on a mission, the lie that curls around me until it’s all I see. It’s the lie that causes me to put the brush down, put away the paint, rip apart the canvas, drop everything and grab the keys, do what I do best–run. I’m always running because if I sit down with the lie that tells me I’m not enough–what I do isn’t enough–I might actually find out it was truth the whole time. I might actually find out that I really am not special or worthy or beautiful. If I face the lie, fight the lie, I might lose.

I think about grades. I think about social status. I think about relationship status. I think about appearance. I think about talent. I think about intuition. I think about wages. I think about purpose. I think  about pictures on social media. But mostly, I think about how I’ll never compare–never compete. It all wells up until I don’t know what else to do but get angry that I’m not special like her, that I’m special like me and somehow it’s not enough.

The thing about lies is that they’re fueled by fear. As long as fear is involved, the lies win. We never fight for what truth says about us when fear keeps us believing that the lies define us. Too curvy. Too skinny. Too dark. Too light. Too curly-headed. Too thin-haired. Too much. Too little. Too unintelligent. Too intelligent. Too loud. Too quiet. Too unlovable. But really what we’re scared of is that we’re too broken to ever be of any value. Really…what we’re scared of is someone else’s purpose actually does matter more. 

But the other thing about lies is that all they’re out to do is steal. They don’t just leave casualties–they’re out to annihilate everything about you that’s meant to do good in this world. When I look back on all that the lies have stolen from me, the cost is steep. I’ve been spending all my time sitting on the sidelines, making excuses, because I believed I wasn’t good enough to get in the game. This whole time my job really was to show people who Amanda Russell is by developing my own strengths and playing them to the best of my ability: my writing abilities, my humor, my social skills, my love for adventure, my love for life, my love for people.

By focusing on my lack of artistic skills, I’m going nowhere. 

We need to learn how to speak kindly to ourselves. In my heart of hearts, I know that healing is a Jesus-thing and nothing less. Only He can fill you up again. We need to learn to see ourselves as He sees us: worthy, loved, beautiful, purposed. You weren’t placed on a shelf. You were placed in a story. You have a say and you have a story and if you were to go or decide to sit on the sideline, the world would never recover from the loss. You might be sitting there and thinking that’s a pretty radical statement, but I’m standing by it. If there was no you, the whole world would miss out on the things only you can create.   We need you to be you.

So here’s what I’m thinking, babe. How about I root for you and you root for me? How about we build each other up? How about we help each other face the lies? How about we point out the things that make each other unique? How about we make conversations empowering and supportive? Because this lie is powerful and it’s out for blood. It’s out to take away everything good and beautiful about you. It might take going back to the very root of the comparison lie and digging it up. It might take killing it with hard and specific conversations about where you’re at on the self-worth scale.

But you know what?

It definitely takes us looking out for the lies in other people. It takes us getting down on eye level and saying specifically, “Why would you say that about yourself?” If we do this for six year olds, we need to do this for ourselves and for each other. We have to stop the competition. The guy you’re both going for isn’t worth it. The promotion you’re both shooting for isn’t worth it. The beauty contest isn’t a thing. Nothing that requires stepping over other people or stepping all over yourself is worth it.

At the end of the day, be the best you can be and drop the rest at the door. Let it go.

So here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to repost this and name 3 beautiful things about yourself that you like. I’ll go first:

1.) I like that I’m kind.

2.) I like that I’m real with people.

3.) I like that I’m funny.

the cat story.


Hi there! I need a laugh. Do you need a laugh?


(Quick sidenote: I’m giving you a name because I need a visual. It’s part of my process. So, shh. No more questions, Matilda.)

I digress.

(Another sidenote: It truly bothers me that I tend to write quick, quirky sentences rather than paragraphs. But like…THERE REALLY AREN’T ANY OTHER WORDS. I CANNOT DEAL. My old English teachers are dropping like flies over these life decisions. I mean, isn’t it bad enough that I dependent clause the heck out of everything I do–WHY THE MADNESS. IT’S BEYOND EVEN AN ARTISTIC STRETCH AT THIS POINT. When is enough enough? I know these were the questions you had, Beatrice, so have no fear–I’ve asked them. Rest your soul.)

So story time. Once upon a time, there was a little teeny-bopper named Mandie. And let’s face it, she was an idiot. An overbearing, crazy, pee-your-pants-laughing sort of 20-year old. (Yes, she was 20 at the time of this story–a fact not overlooked by the MUCH OLDER/WISER version of the 20-year-old-in-a-onesie. This current 24-year-old is merely a name-bearer–a new and improved version of the crazy child– who has gone to extreme PR measures to leave all traces of 20-year-old Mandie in 2013 WHERE THEY BELONG. We don’t need that kind of negativity here, 2017.)

So the NEWLY turned–might I add–20 year old had this onesie. It had sock monkeys for feet and SOMEHOW WE ALL THOUGHT IT WOULD TURN OUT OKAY. One cold January night the girl was in a homework-evading mood and thought it would be fun to shove, quite literally, her cat into the onesie and zip her in. You know how 8 year olds shove baby dolls up their shirts and walk around like, “MAMA, I’m having a baaaaby.” Yep. That’s what was occurring at much higher levels of creativity, hyper-activity, and pure stupidity.

Poor Marshmallow.


Her life has never been easy.

Unfortunately, the 20-year-old onesie-loving, cat-loving freak didn’t think about slippage. Yep. The cat began to slip slowly down the leg of the onesie, which the 20-year-old thought was HILARIOUS. So the 20-year-old, cat in semi-tow, hobbled out to the living room where her parents were casually watching the news and started laughing so hard, trying to tell them what the sitch was that all they knew to do was stare in confusion and start counting regrets like WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME, CHILD, AND WHAT IS THE BULGE IN YOUR PANT LEG. AND ALSO, IS THAT A ONESIE.

(Before I go any further, I must admit that this 20-year-old had experienced small issues with bladder control in situations where laughter is present…yeah…she’d peed in almost every house of every friend she’d ever had…because…yeah…this one was a laugher. And EVERYTHING was funny.)

Before any coherent sentence could be formed, the 20-year-old–who had been laughing UNBELIEVABLY hard about such an UNBELIEVABLY stupid situation that she couldn’t even stop the urge–there was NOTHING to be done. The floodgates were unleashed.

And Marshmallow, still in the leg of the onesie, was absolutely DRENCHED. In…you know.

YET SOMEHOW THE LAUGHTER CONTINUED. And the girl now is hobbling to the bathroom, drenched cat in tow, leaving a trail of YOU KNOW WHAT behind. Marshmallow was wiped down with a bunch of Wet Ones and the zipper on the sock monkey onesie soon-after came into a little accident, which I’m pretty sure was God’s nice way of saying, “Girl…no. I do this with love.”

And now, I tell this story to friends who are having bad days or to prove to people who THINK they’re awkward that uhm…I’VE HAD THIS TERRITORY DOWN FOR YEARS. Don’t even mess with me. I came to play.

(Final sidenote: Yes, the cat is fine. The trauma wore off years ago and she even now lets me pet her sometimes, but any move toward torso-level AND SHE IS GONE.)

So to all you kids out there, it’s all fun and games with your sock monkey onesie until someone throws a cat in and zips it up. WHEN THAT HAPPENS, DROP EVERYTHING AND RUN TO A SAFE SPACE.


Hey, Coffee Date: If it was you.


“Hi, I’m Ted Mosby and exactly 45 days from now you and I are gonna meet and we’re gonna fall in love and we’re gonna get married and we’re gonna have two kids and we’re gonna love them and each other so much. All that is 45 days away but I am here now, I guess, because I want those extra 45 days with you. I want each one of them.” -How I Met Your Mother

“Hey Mandie,” she’s 17 and I’m 24, looking back, “What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?”

I’m wiping down a blender, listening. Mid-wipe, I pause. It strikes me as odd that I’m being asked because it’s such an old dream by this time that I don’t know I’d recognize it if it was standing right in front of me. It’s like taking an old clock that’s been paused off a shelf, dusting it off and setting the time right all over again, strange how it surges to life. Somehow you forget it even stopped. And somehow I forgot that I’m even in the running to be loved. It’s strange how foreign it feels–that someday someone might hug me tight and want to know all the thoughts locked up in my head. I thought I’d closed all that with 2014 and pixie cuts and picking myself back up.

“Uh…” I’m Amanda  Russell for a minute, no longer in manager mode, “Working, I guess…”

I was going to write a normal coffee date blog post, followed by an empowering Valentine’s Day post for all the singles out there, but somehow I needed to write to you–the person out there who may or may not be looking for me, the person I’m going to need to be there someday. Tomorrow I’ll write my post about being rooted and strong, but tonight is for you and for all the lonely people and wanderers who feel like a piece is missing.

So here’s to you, loves. You’re not the only one alone tonight. You’re not the only one waking up to no one tomorrow morning. And your value is non-transferable, not dependent on relationship status whatsoever.

And to you, whoever you are. If I were to have a coffee date with you, here’s what would go down.

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day. It’s 15 minutes after  the agreed-upon time by the time I actually get to our table. We probably have a table by this point. We probably have a usual. We probably have a barista who eyes us while we sip coffee and we probably have an inside joke about her. You’re sitting there, scrolling through your phone and I’ve already sent you 3 “two minutes” texts because I’m stressing about being late. And you’re smiling because you know I took a backroad, last minute, and I thought I had it in the bag. You knew I didn’t have it in the bag. And you know I’m flying down Wade Hampton, all but flipping off old ladies because I get SO. MAD.

Maybe I’m in uniform and just getting off a shift. Maybe I’m headed to a girls’ night out and maybe you’re headed to a guys’ night out. Maybe we’re on the same page or maybe we’re just floundering through whatever this is. Maybe there’s a ring or maybe there’s nothing but empty spaces.

But the beautiful thing about coffee dates are that the details aren’t deal-breakers. Coffee dates are all about heart. And so…

  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I went to this incredible Beach Boys concert three weeks ago and it shook me to my core. I sat there, speechless and awed. It wasn’t because it was a spectacular show or the excitement in the room moved me or anything like that. It was the passion that made me grin like an idiot in a dark arena, an hour away from my hometown. I was sitting there watching men in their 70’s absolutely rock it and it wasn’t because the crowd was the same as it’d always been or because they were trying to stay relevant. It was this deep love for music that moved those guys forward and it ingrained in me this mission to be like that when I’m 70. I don’t want to be rocking on a porch and I don’t want Bingo night with the girls to be the only thing I look forward to. When I’m 70, I want to still be moved by passion and love for people. I don’t want to be lifeless while I’m living. I really, really don’t.
  • Also…I’d ask you if you’ve heard God Only Knows yet for the umpteenth time and I’d beg you to watch Love and Mercy with me. I’m fascinated.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you I was rejected within the past week and it stung so bad. I’d tell you all about the faith wounds this rejection poked at and I’d say, “I know it sounds stupid…” about a million and one times because these faith wounds are the kind that I don’t know what to do with. I’ve combed over the details and asked questions. I’ve relived the details. I’ve dug deep. But I come up short every time. I’d leave the conversation hanging by a thread, uncertain if you really understand where I’m coming from. And, God knows this is what I wish for…if it was you, you’d pry. You wouldn’t let the conversation go without making me dig deep.
  • If we were on a coffee date…We’d talk 50 Shades Darker. I’d want to know your true opinion, not the popular opinion from the community we were raised in. And I wouldn’t toss your opinion aside because you’re a man, so you MUST have a porn problem and OBVIOUSLY you’re wrong about all things sex.  I’d want to know your thoughts. We’d talk fiction–we’d talk about the rallying cries and you’d hear ALL about how every time I hear the rallying cries against something, I have this tendency to peek around the corner to see what the root of the hubbub is. Thus, I currently have a Hillary Clinton book waiting on me. We’d talk fact versus speculation. You’d probably roll your eyes heavenward because I’m on that thing where I don’t stop talking because I HAVE SO MANY ARGUMENTS, TWISTS, AND PERSPECTIVES.
  • If we were on a coffee date…you’d be annoyed.You’re probably the type to think a lot before saying anything and I’m the type who just blurts out all the thought processes and curiosities. I’d study your expressions and hold my tongue when I really want to shake you and say, “WHAT DID THAT MEAN.” To be honest, when I think about finding you…I think a lot about how patient you’d need to be. LORD KNOWS.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask you about your family. Tell me all about them. Tell me all about your childhood. Tell me your favorite spots and your favorite traditions and what you did for birthdays. Tell me what you liked and what you hated–about everything. I want to hear all the things you. Tell me if you read books or played with Legos or were more outdoorsy than anything. Tell me about your friends from way back then and if you still know any of them. Fill me in–I’ve been waiting 20 years to fill all the spaces.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask you about your goals. Not in your career, but in your life. There’s a big difference. Where do you find happiness or are you still looking? If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why don’t you go? What’s your bucket list? I’d want to know about all the walled-in, abandoned corners of your heart. I’m nosy–I’m a pryer. Unapologetic, man.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d talk about summer 2017 with you and make plans. Summer 2017 is going to be a thing, man. 24 is so beautiful and so golden and I want to soak as much beauty in as I can. Tell me we can learn how to skateboard and go kayaking. Tell me you’ll go fishing with me and learn how to crab just because.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d want to know what you did tonight. I want to know how you spent the night before the world wakes up to magic.Were you alone in the world or did you find a friend who feels the same way you do? Did you have someone you thought was the one or were you at the point where you found out she was only a chapter in the story? Or has she been long gone, but the scars are still fresh? How’s your heart doing? Is that even allowed to be said or did I just break bro code? …and for the love of God, is that still a thing? <—Literally what would be said.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you about my night. It was spent with a single friend and we talked Valentine’s Day hype and sipped on coffee. We laughed a lot tonight and watched ridiculous movies and ate Pinterest recipes that turned out way better than planned. W
  • And lastly…if we were on a coffee date… I wouldn’t want to leave. I’d want to stay as long as possible. But one thing I’d tell you before I left, no matter what:

           Your life and my life may become one beautiful life one day, but just because we’re not in it yet doesn’t mean our lives aren’t simultaneously and individually beautiful. It doesn’t mean we lack value and it doesn’t mean we’re going nowhere. It just means we’re in separate chapters. It just means we’re human. It just means the best is on its way.  So hang on, kid. You’ll be in it before you know it.



Coffee Date: wild + free.


Coffee dates originate right here: http://www.mrthomasandme.com but while she’s taking a bit of a break, you can find all the coffee date goodness over at erinsalmonwrites.com. There should be LOVE buttons for this type of thing, guys. 

I’ve got this Kathleen Kelly vibe going on today, coffee buddy. I’m just in the mood to toss out a bunch of rhetorical questions into the void, knowing that they’re being received by something even better than a Joe Fox–a community. And in this community, we’re real. We’re searchers. We’re dissatisfied with the norm. So here we go:

If we were on a coffee date, I’d drag you to the Starbucks near my house. I’m feeling a fat-free flat white, but I’d be all over that venti. ALL OVER. I’d show you my new baja and I’d laugh as I told you that I think I’m trying to be a teenager again. How I moved heaven and earth to find this baja only to realize that the only people I’d seen wear them are the TEENAGERS I work with. And now… I can’t wear it to work because then all the teenagers are going to think I’m copying them. AND THEN MAYBE WE’D HAVE A DISCUSSION ABOUT OVER-THINKING AND ANXIETY.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you to please call me Amanda. Please, please. I need you to see me.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about my friends: Laura, Erin, and Emily. I met two of them while we were all journalism majors and they were two of the only people in the whole major who wanted to know me. And Emily…gah. That girl was the first person I met on my first day of college and she is one of the very best friends I’ve ever had. I’ve been thinking about them here and there over the past few weeks and…I love the way they live. Neither one is really related to the other besides this common thread: they live well. They live wild and free–they have amazing laughs and when life gets tough, they find SOMETHING to laugh about. And I love that. I’m getting to where I crave being around people who laugh BIG and love BIG and dream BIG. I mean…why shouldn’t we? But beyond that, coffee buddy…I’d tell you that these three are people who’ve circled back into my life over the past 3 months and I’d tell you…these are the real friends. They’re the ones you lose contact with for a bit and pick right back up with. They’re the ones who come rushing out of the shadows to pick you back up. Find the real friends, coffee buddy. And if you’re ever feeling lonely, know you’re not.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you if you remember the last time you were wild and free. I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens between adolescence and adulthood, where it’s like we’ve been trained to wake up, do a job, and go home. And yet…we were once wild and free. We once held onto ideas and dreams and let imagination roam free. What happened, coffee buddy? Are we all just hiding? Why are we all so afraid?

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you what you think it means to hide from yourself. There’s this incredible quote from the movie Joy and I can’t shake it: “When you’re hiding, you’re safe because people can’t see you. But funny thing about hiding, you’re even hidden from yourself.”

If we were on a coffee date, I’d spread out all my ideas. Visual poetry ideas, nonprofits I’d like to start, businesses I think would work, entrepreneurship, earning an MBA versus a master’s in Forensic Psychology–honestly, I’d tell you that I’ve strongly considered getting both but then decided I was INSANE and needed to just PICK.ONE.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about this reading challenge. And how it’s going to kick my butt. Pretty much that’s all I have to say! Oh, but I’d invite you to join me and tell me what you’re reading. Tell me what you’re learning, buddy.

Finally, if we were on a coffee date, I’d ask resolutions. Did you find your word for 2017? What do you hope for this year? Did you pick up your heart from last year? Do you know where to start? And do you know that even when you mess up you’re not finished? If you take nothing else from our chats, coffee buddy, please know that you’re not finished. I hope you find the bravery to start things fresh, start anew.



Hey, 2017:Renew and being fearless.



“I never miss a beat, I’m lightning on my feet,
And that’s what they don’t see, that’s what they don’t see,
I’m dancing on my own, I make the moves up as I go,
And that’s what they don’t know, that’s what they don’t know.” -Shake It Off

My word for 2016 was light, but my phrase for 2016 was simply: make a wave.

This time last year, I was down. I was out. I was holding on to a string of a job, I was the biggest I’ve ever been, I was lonely, and I was losing hope for the future. So I decided to stop making goals and just make waves instead. I knew that if I could just make a wave–just prove that there was something pulsating beneath the person I’d become, I would make it out. Or at least I hoped. And in the end, I learned that making waves looks a lot like giving answers. Yes. No. Not right now. Not for me.

It was in late January that I finally stopped in my tracks and said, “No more,” to the job I’d thought would set me free.

It was in May that I said, “Yes,” to the job that scared me to death. Manager? There certainly couldn’t be a spot for me at that table. I was called stupid for taking it. I was told it didn’t sound very much like my sort of job. I moved forward.

But I still had problems. At 284 pounds, standing eight hours a day took a toll on my feet. By the end of the day I could barely walk and no matter how much I rubbed them or soaked them, the pain was constant. When I woke up, I could barely walk. I took pain medication just to get through and I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. It was late June that I went for a pedicure just to get relief and instead found myself inside of the biggest wave I would make in 2016. As I sat there, I happened to look up at the mirror and I just remember thinking, “I don’t like  how I look.” So I sent the text that I’d been hesitant to send. I got help. And I lost 60 pounds.

I turned 24 in the fall. And then the darkness came at me harder and earlier than it ever has, speaking lies over me about my future and my worth. It was sporadic and hard, but Christmas still came. And God taught me about loving little things. I fell a little more in love with life this year. I learned more about myself–the way spring makes me feel, the way I love being the type of person who notices the little things, the fact that I’m single and still okay. HA..I’m still okay. Still in the game.

While my word was light, I learned that it’s not about perfection. I’ve always based how well I’m doing off of perfection and I lose every time. Every. Time. So this year was just about getting up again–just about making small efforts, about proving to myself that I wasn’t done yet. Even after storms, there’s still a future. Even after losing what you wanted, you still get to move on. You still get a chance at living your life. And it doesn’t have to be perfect–you don’t have to have it all together to have a beautiful life.


And so, it’s 2017 now. I have new decisions to make. All the battles of 2016 have been fought–some won, some lost. But I did what I came to do in 2016–I picked myself up again. God gave me a shot to restore hope. So for the past two weeks, I’ve thought about my word for 2017 and I thought I had it down. I wanted to be renewed. Restored. Fresh. New. Clean. Rebuilt. Turn of the page, leave the old in the flip.

But then, I started thinking about the common perception of me: shy, awkward, uncertain. I compared that perception with the perception I have of myself and I compared that to what’s inside and something didn’t add up. At all. I have a very strong inner voice and I know my own mind, but fear has held me back from showing who I am because I’ve had this perception that if I spoke too much or too loudly I’d be seen as annoying or too much.

So. I’ve tossed and turned over whether my word for 2017 will be fearless or renew. But then I looked up the definition for renew again and saw something I’d missed before:

Renew-Making something the way it formerly was. 

If that’s not fearless, I don’t know what is. It’s fearless to backtrack and say, “No more.” It’s fearless to refuse to accept something as your reality. It’s fearless to have a vision and push it forward when no one sees it how you do. Of course they don’t and they won’t unless you show them. It’s fearless to refute other’s perceptions and expectations of you–to alter the way you speak about yourself, no less.

This year I do plan on finishing up my weight loss goals, beginning my master’s, growing as a manager, growing my essential oils business, and finishing my book. I have bucket list things to do and I have a life to fall in love with. And most importantly, I have a relationship to renew with the Father. But even if I continue to run–even if I continue to get it wrong, which I will, I want this year to be one of renewed faith, strength, and heart. I want this year to be fearless.

I make no promises, but 2017…I’m coming for you.