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.


Coffee Date |Merry Christmas|


  • the basics.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk life. It’s a beautiful Decembered Monday and life is full, but complicated. We’d talk adult Christmases–how it’s near-to-impossible to feel the same way you felt as a kid. I’d tell you Christmas is my favorite holiday–I’d ask you what you’re doing, I’d wish you Merry Christmas. And we’d talk about my new car. We’d talk about living in the business world. We’d talk about nostalgia. We’d talk essential oils and I’d tell you about my business, tribe and essential. We’d talk about the new vision I have for my poetry and everything we want to get done in 2017. We’d talk love life and the holiday season. We’d talk about cracker candy. I’d send you the recipe. We’d talk work and I’d tell you how exasperating it is to try being nice, but being in charge at the same time. We would talk trying to diet, but also loving comfort food during this Christmas season.


  • Project Christmas Card.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d slip you a Christmas card. No doubt in my mind, if we had a conversation today, you would be getting a card. Because I have this new love of Christmas this year–a tamer, quieter sort of love that isn’t wrapped up in materialism or flashy lights, but in smaller acts of love and giving. I’d tell you about our tree that barely reaches 4’11” and has no colored lights on it at all (one of my much-clung to traditions). I’d tell you that I named him Charlie and I’d tell you how much this little tree grabbed onto my heart that day in the tree lot because something told me that no one else would want it. And I don’t know how…but that little tree had so much light to give to this world and it needed a chance. (Needless to say…Charlie sits very proudly in the corner of our living room.) Then I’d tell you why I started Project Christmas Card this year–how something just tugged at me to send as many people as possible a Christmas card.

  • chasing.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about the dreams that have been on my mind. But two things you should know before I tell you this story: 1.) I work as a manager. 2.) I’m working on a book called Chasing Dandelions. So…I had this dream a couple weeks ago, Coffee Date. An old crush was standing behind the counter at my work like he was waiting on me. I stared at him and he said something to the effect of, “Hey, you got these kids whipped into shape?” “Most days,” I smiled, noting the sudden gray in his beard. “Well, if you need me to get them into shape let me know.” And then I’m standing in a field and a giant dandelion flies at me, stopping just before my face, and then it exploded into thousands of dandelion seeds. I guess I don’t know what either of those mean, or if they mean anything at all, but it did solidify that what I’m working on is important. And maybe it will be important to a million people, or maybe it will be important to 5 people. Maybe it will only be important to me…but it still has value. And, Coffee Date, that eased my mind.

  • hawaiian.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d hop in a car and drive. Drive down those backroads I’m so in love with until we get to the coffee shop I’ve been curious about for a long time. I’d give the Hawaiian Salted Caramel latte a shot, especially since I haven’t been doing too hot on the old diet lately. And the word hawaiian is music to my ears during all things winter.

  • winter.

If we were on a coffee date, you’d probably ask me how my Christmas shopping is going–if I have any presents, how Project Christmas Card is going. And I’d say I’ve got nada, zip, zilch on the gift end, but I wish so much that I could get tickets to the Beach Boys concert for the fam bam. Then we’d talk seasonal depression and I’d tell you how I’m trying to infuse as much spring as I can into my world before the darker, colder days hit. That I’m really trying to cling to hope this winter.

  • voskamp.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d share this post with you. Because it broke down my walls a little bit with God. Ann Voskamp is the realest.

  • the difference, hillary.

Coffee Date? A teenager asked me for advice last night. At first I thought she was joking…but she was serious. Me? And I know, Coffee Date, that it seems simple…but to me, it isn’t. In a sense…I’m still so used to feeling like what I have to say doesn’t really count that…it’s hard to understand that I actually do have a seat at the King’s table. What I say does make a difference…and when I leave spots, it does make a difference. And this would segue into me making absolutely certain that you know what I haven’t known for so long: you matter, Coffee Date. You have a fingerprint unique to this world and when you leave, you leave a space. You’re not here to take up space, but to make something good of the spaces you inhabit. Think about that.

  • little bugs.

I’ve been thinking about this scene while writing this post. “Take care of everyone smaller than you.” These words really weigh on me because I’ve been the littlest of bugs, Coffee Date. And not one person saw me. But I’m realizing, in my adulthood, that I went through everything I did because God knew that really…I was a seed. And He knew that someday I’d grow. So He needed to plant me in a spot where I could do the most good–where I could take care of the little bugs, if you will. And wherever you’re at, Coffee Date, I hope you know that whatever pain you’ve been through or are going through…it means something. It’s paving the way for opportunities and those opportunities may not be about you, but about the little bugs. We have to take care of the little bugs.

Peter Banning: Now I want you to take care of everything that’s smaller than you.
Thud Butt: Okay.
Too Small: Then who do I look after?
Peter Banning: Neverbugs – little ones.


  • “but she found herself and, somehow, that was everything.”Finally, if we were on a coffee date…I’d show you my latest playlist. One I listened to while writing this, one I’ve been listening to in the car, one I’ve been listening to while laying in bed at night, one has shown me what love can look like, and one has sparked my creative process.

All my love, Coffee Dates ❤


The One After The Coffee Date.

“Little One? You weren’t abandoned in this place to be forgotten — you were placed in this place to be found.That place that may feel like abandonment —- is placement. And what may have feel like being thrown away — is about being placed because a way is coming always.” -Ann Voskamp

Two Saturdays ago, I’d just dyed my hair because it was something to do. I climbed into my car and drove down all the old roads, past a home we were under the impression would someday be ours. It was the only hope we had. I’d go into detail, but you’d think I’m insane. And so, I drove by that house…only to see a sign that said: Under contract. That’s it. All it took to propel me into a rage of depression and abandonment, cursing God because I knew how much it meant to my dad. “Why do you do this to him, God? What did he ever do but try to live in a world that doesn’t even want him? What did he ever do but try to have a friend? Pay his bills? Be loved? And you take it all away. Can’t even do one simple thing to make the last seasons of his life happy and fulfilling.” I was angry.

I did what I always do when I’m angry, sad, too much on my mind, etc: I took a drive. Something about winding roads lined with trees and rolling hills breathes life back into me. And so I loaded my cat, Schmidt, into my old ’99 and took off. I was just passing an old road where someone I used to have a crush on used to live and it only took 1/2 mile to hit me: I’m driving down a road alone–like, really alone–with bright, red lipstick and red hair and A CAT and…there’s not one thing about me that’s attractive. Too different, too quirky, too awkward, too unseen. Or at least that’s what the lies say, what the lies want me to believe about myself.

Too different, too quirky, too awkward, too unseen. Or at least that’s what the lies say, what the lies want me to believe about myself.

And in that moment, it occurred to me that if I were to ever see the boy who used to live at the end of the road…he’d look at me like I was the strangest person on the planet. And it seemed too much to bear, in that moment, because…7 years ago, he was supposed to see me. Someone was supposed to see me by now. All I’m ever seen as is odd or awkward or unusual or a pushover and sometimes, reader, it’s tough.

So I wrote about it. My last blog post was written out of bitterness, anger, confusion, and hurt and somehow, I’m not sorry. Because if that post resonates with at least one person, it’s worth the vulnerability. I posted it, however, not knowing how many people would reach out or message the post to a friend, asking them to pray for me. It wasn’t what I anticipated at all.

So, reader. Here’s where I’m at in 4 bullet points (for your convenience 😉

-God is still on the sidelines because I have realized that I truly don’t know how to let Him in.

-I still hear Him. And I know He wants me to let Him in. I know it. And I know I’m not forgotten, even if it still stings.

-I now recognize the importance of dealing with issues, rather than bottling them up. They will end up on the internet, if you’re anything like me. EMOTIVE ELLA.

-Free will is a thing. I am a human being. And I get to choose to walk in darkness or in light. I get to choose that. It’s a gift, but it’s sticky and messy and confusing. But still a gift. And salvation doesn’t look like God chasing me down and loudly proclaiming that I’m going the wrong way. Salvation is a quiet thing and for so long I’ve believed it needs to be loud and bold for it to be relevant.

Reader, there’s not always a 1-2 step process. Life doesn’t always reflect the cause-effect model and that’s okay. We’re all human and we all have things about our pasts that will always sting a little. But don’t stay in the hurt. Make room to let new things in. If it hurts, pay attention to it.  Tell someone, do something. Heck, post it on the internet.

But no matter what–no matter where you’re at, you’re never alone and this is never the end.




Coffee Date 2: The One With All The Bitter

I’m sorry to say it, but if we were on a coffee date today…I’d be pretty selfish. Either we’d both know that the coffee date existed because I needed you or I’d pretend I didn’t need you and be nonchalantly nodding along to every word you said. I’d be sipping a flat white with skim milk, new red hair and yes, that Hebrew word would be once again sharpied onto my left wrist.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about the last few days. I’d tell you what happens when the leaves fall…how all the life that’s in me just disappears. And it leaves me not knowing how to get back up again–it leaves me…not knowing if I want to. I’d tell you how badly I wanted to stop the car the other day, sit by the road, and nurse my wounds. We’d talk about the family history and yes, seasonal depression goes back generations and yes, the aunt that had a chemical imbalance and yes, the environmental factors and yes, spring always comes and yes, life goes on and yes, so many things to be thankful for. But no, none of that really matters when the pain is so real.

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you about the drive that brought about the depression this time. How that house was under contract and how I flew down a road, feeling so different, so unlovable, and so alone it made me want to stop everything and sit in the middle of a field for a very long time.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you how mad I am at God. How seriously angry I am. How could he leave me. How could he even let my family go through this. Wasn’t ’98 enough? And ’99 and 2000 and 2001 and 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and 2006 AND EVERY DAMN YEAR SINCE. No friends for my Mom, no church family to give a damn, no friends for my dad, no solutions for anyone, no heat in the house one winter, no electricity for three weeks the next summer, no jobs, cars taken away, foreclosures and God only knows what else. And he leaves us community-less. Still on the outside after 20 damn years. And then all the pretty church boys fall for all the stereotypical church girls and no one asks the poor girls with the cursed family to dance. I’d break down in Starbucks, friend.

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I’m putting my faith on hold for awhile. All the books, the Bible on spiritual warfare, the random church attendance, the random chats with God…I’m putting them away. Because it hurts too much right now. How do I place hope in a being that comes through for everyone but the girl who needs him the most? And how do I…pretend it’s okay when it’s everything but?

If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I’m fine, but I’m not. And all the vitamin D supplements in the world, all the rose-colored glasses can’t cover up how low I feel right now.

Starbucks Lovers: Coffee Date 1


Hi all! Doing kind of a fun post tonight from the perspective of if we were on a coffee date. This idea has popped up into my newsfeed quite a few times, courtesy of the amazing erinsalmonwrites.com, but this time I couldn’t resist. ❤

If we were on a coffee date, I’d sit across from you in my latest favorite sweatpants and a Fear is a Liar t-shirt, this logo I wear as an attempt to thwart the darkness. I’d probably have a faded Hebrew word, sharpied onto my wrist, where I’ve written it and let it fade. I’d tell you how I’m trying it out, wondering if my wrist will ever be its home. I’d order a venti Flat White with skim milk and subtly explain the lifestyle change I made earlier this year. And as you spoke, I’d memorize every expression and note everything that makes you tick. Because I’m a writer and I notice those things. I’m a caretaker of details.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d pepper you with questions. About everything. I’d want to know where you’re from and if you miss it, if you like where you’re at now and if not, why? I’d ask you what you used to like to do, what you used to want to do. I’d ask if you had family, if you were close to them, if they made you feel loved and worthy. I’d want to ask you what that look on your face meant, what was happening in your world when I touched on that subject, but I’d probably stop mid-question and make some degrading comment about my awkwardness and let it go. But I’d encourage you, as much as possible, to open up all the old closets and all the painted-over windows and let you speak. Really, really speak.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk faith wounds and God. I’d talk about the legalistic church that grew me and the charismatic movement that’s helping me piece together why Christians can be so mean. I’d tell you more stories than what you wanted to know, but I’d want to hear what you experienced too. I’d tell you what God says to me and I’d ask you if you believe God still speaks. I’d tell you about my lost boy and what they did to him, how the faith wounds stretched open until they had all that was left of him.

If we were on a coffee date, yes. We’d talk about our villages. You say you’d ask about mine, but I’d ask about yours too. I’d tell you about our adventures and I’d tell you what I love about my people. And I’d tell you that I’ve always wanted to be wanted as much as I want everyone around me. I’d tell you that I don’t know how to make it happen and I’d try to squeeze out some guarantee that you’d stay. I’d tell you how badly I want a village and all the places I’ve tried to find it.

And if we were on a coffee date, that last one would segue to Tinder and Bumble and Whisper and all the other places I’ve tried to find my roots. I’d tell you about fear. How I want to branch out, but serial killers are real. I’d ask you your opinion about fearing strangers on the internet or inviting them in. We’d talk about boundaries and we’d talk about red flags. We’d talk transparency and we’d talk oversharing. We’d talk about that blurry, freaking line.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about my kids. I’m not a mom or a teacher, but I am a manager and I care about these kids. I’d tell you how God showed me it’s not about the work, but about the people and that scares me. It scares me because I don’t know how to make everything okay and it kills me because I know some of them aren’t okay. But I feel responsible to make them feel okay. I’d tell you every time I say, “Hey, you doing okay today?” and they say, “Yeah, doing well!” I see something in their eyes and I just want to shake them and say, “I KNOW YOU’RE HURTING JUST TELL ME.”

I’d tell you that it’s hard because on the one hand, I have my job and I have to crack down in certain areas. But on the other hand…I just want to hold group therapy sessions in the back room and make them all cupcakes every single day. I want to just build their self-worth until nothing can vanquish it, but I’m not God. But I am a doer. And I’d tell you…nothing feels like enough.

Lost boy would come up again, at this point, and I’d tell you how I couldn’t save him. And so I want to save them instead. All of them. But I still can’t.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk work. I’d want to know why you’re doing the work you’re doing. I’d want to know if it fulfilled you. I’d want to know all the plans and all the details, the future, and the goals. In all reality, we’d probably agree that in ten years if nothing’s changed, screw it, let’s start up a tie-dye t-shirt business on the beach.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk winter. I’d tell you all about my battle plan for getting through winter depression-free. I’d tell you about my vitamin D, my essential oils, my mental playlist that I thumb through, and the long country drives I take. I’d tell you about spring and how it’s coming. Four months and we’re there.

If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk old ghosts in the closet. I’d want to know what you survived, how you wound up on shore after winters at sea. You’d probably ask me what the heck I mean and I’d explain  how it felt mentally after my storm–how it was like the sun shining for the first time in months. How it was like crashing onto shore after months battling the sea. I’d want to know if you had those moments–if you felt like that too.

And lastly…man. If we were on a coffee date, we’d talk about finding our own lives. I’d tell you how I’ve found the life I want and it’s so new, so free. And you’d tell me what you’re aiming for. I’d tell you that you’ll make it–you’ll really make it. And I’d tell you that you deserve good things–good homes, good villages, good coffee, and good sweatpants. I’d tell you how glad I am to have met you and I’d tell you to keep choosing light. Keep choosing the good and pure things, keep pressing into what you’re worth.




Dear America–Love, A Fast Food Worker

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we alter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” -Abraham Lincoln

14720533_10211380730578855_170289470852994294_nWe’re driving the South Carolina back roads. He’s telling me all sorts of things and I’m listening, shuffling through Spotify, watching the blurring trees, feeling all kinds of alive.

“Yeah, your great-grandpa, Blev, used to tell me about living during the Depression,” he says, thoughtful.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. He says Grandma Polly used to bake pies and she’d always leave it on the window to cool with a butter knife near it, so if anyone was hungry they could just get a piece.”

“Really? And did they?”

“They did. But they’d only take one, see. That sort of thing wouldn’t happen today.”

“Ohhh, no.”


Keep that story in mind as we fast-forward.

It’s 2016 and I’m the great-granddaughter of a great man on a much different page in American history where everything is different. I’m working as a manager in a fast food restaurant and it’s a crazy night with a very popular coupon that is nowhere in our system. And I’m up to my eye balls, trying to help the team members calculate coupons and refusing to leave the fifteen-year-olds to fend for themselves. I’m helping one of the team members and watching out of the corner of my eye, uneasy, as another customer stands by, looking unhappy and tapping a foot. I look up, say, “I’m sorry for your wait. I’ll be with you in just a moment.”

She throws up a hand, tosses a look at her husband beside her. Finally we figure out the five coupons for the group in front of us and I slide into place behind the first cash register.

“Yes ma’am?” I ask, cautiously, “What can I get for you guys?”

A raised eye brow as she lists off what she wants, but one look and I know she’s still dissatisfied. I muddle through the order, ask questions, and hand them their cups, “We’ll get that right out to you guys. Hope ya’ll enjoy!”

They saunter off to a booth and I sit back, relieved that the tension is gone. Until five minutes later, it’s not. “Hey Mandie,” a team member approaches me, “We can’t find this order. . .and this couple says it isn’t theirs. . .” She looks helpless.

Great. I take the tray and look all over for the customer, asking the couple from a few moments before if they ordered two cheeseburger snack packs. “We didn’t order no cheeseburgers!” the woman snaps, throwing up a hand to her face and shaking her head violently when I say, “Okay, let me figure this out. . .I think they must have mixed up the numbers. I’m so sorry.”

It was back and forth with the kitchen when the woman approached the counter, irritation written all over her face. It wasn’t that I misunderstood her perspective–it was that she misunderstood mine. It was that she had no desire to understand mine. We finally came to the conclusion that the food on the tray was in fact theirs, but she demanded a remake, “That food has been all over!” And in the end, she got a remake in addition to free baskets in the future while I excused myself to the back because I needed a moment.

I sat in the office and let the tears stream down my face. Five minutes and I couldn’t find the will or the desire to face them. To face the dehumanization infringed upon me every time I slide my tie into place and adjust my hat simply because mistakes are made in my business. Because sometimes we get it wrong. Because sometimes people wait an extra few minutes on fries or a milkshake. I let it all pass and stood at the sink, gripping the edges. Honestly, I was angry, indignant, and overwhelmed all in one fell swoop. And it took me taking off my hat, staring at my reflection in that paper towel holder to remember I was human. I was very human. And I was still alive, still me.

And to be honest, since beginning as a manager in a restaurant I’ve discovered what I believe to be the true issue with the country I love so dearly. Because situations like the above occur all the time and no matter what you do, how hard you try, you can’t stop it from happening. So you learn to deal. The main issue with America isn’t Trump and it isn’t Hillary Clinton. It isn’t abortion or the wage-gap or climate change or the vast difference between Republicans and Democrats. No, work with the public in any capacity and see it for yourself: entitlement, narcissism, dissatisfaction, high standards with no leeway, blame-shifting, lack of empathy for fellow human beings, etc. All this out of the nation where pies were left in open windows. This is America crumbling before our eyes.

All this out of the nation where pies were left in open windows. This is America crumbling before our eyes. 

The fact of the matter is, most people aren’t happy. Blame commercialism, blame lack of community, blame corporate America, blame religion–I don’t care who you blame because all that really matters is that it’s happening. Most people aren’t building lives anymore. They’re just existing, placing happiness in the latest technologies, the highest-paying companies, the best-connected people in their circles, the materials accrued. And I think that’s why my generation walked away from traditional American values and from becoming family-oriented individuals–because we found the disingenuous writing scrawled all over the walls. Wake up, America.

But what’s appalling is that everyone seems to be either looking back or looking forward. Either the country’s too different from 1952 or the country hasn’t changed enough and they can’t wait for 2040 and whatever they think is waiting there. This attitude is a disservice to America. The past is behind us. The future is in front of us. But neither are much help in the here and now. We are the builders, the dreamers, the thinkers. It is up to us to not give into this new identity pressing in on every side. It is up to us to not lose hope or to believe our voices mean nothing. The way we take back our country depends on what we do with the power they say we do not have. We have it. And it scares them.

We are the builders, the dreamers, the thinkers. It is up to us to not give into this new identity pressing in on every side. It is up to us to not lose hope or to believe our voices mean nothing.

The answer to how will America end up? In my opinion, it’s quite simply lodged in a question. . .

How will we leave it?

How will we impact our families? Our friends? Our communities? For good or for bad? Will we continue the parade of negative comments, strung along article after article? Will we continue to take everything we have for granted? Will we continue the dehumanization of anyone who doesn’t fit this image that the media has built? Mainstream media, America, is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Quit reading what they say. Quit listening to what they’re saying. Unplug. the. computer. Find out on your own. Build on your own.

Trump will destroy America, they say. Clinton will destroy America, they say. No. They don’t have that kind of power. If we are destroyed, the blame will be on the shoulders of every American sitting back and losing hope, believing this lie that there is nothing to be done. I won’t be a part of it any longer. There is everything to be done. There is everything to hope for.

My ancestors are varied. They are of Swedish, English, Germanic, Irish, Welsh, and even Cherokee descent. I am standing on their shoulders, on what they built for their descendants. And I am imploring you not to walk away. I am imploring you to come back. I am imploring you to fight.

I don’t know what you will decide to do, America. But I will keep hoping no matter who wins in November. I will keep doing the best I can with the decisions laid out in front of me. And I will keep pressing into my faith, into my family, into my friends, and into my community. Because it starts with me and what I choose to build.

And it starts with you too, America.