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A Letter to my 10-Year-Old Self

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 12.07.35 AM Dear 10-year-old self,

Hi there. It’s me. You. I've been challenged to write a letter to my ten-year-old self, so here I am. And here you are. And this is what we do. And here is what I know:

You’re going to be an awkward kid. Bad bangs, weird last name, more sensitive than most. You’ll soon be plucked from a place you love, and thrust into the alien north where you’ll be the only one sporting cowgirl boots and a seriously heavy accent. While the other students spend half the year making fun of the way you pronounce “pen,” you’ll spend it trying to convince yourself they’re just really into school supplies as you seek refuge between the covers of cherished books.

You’re going to be tall your whole dang life. Pants are never going to fit you quite right, so you might as well start getting used to it now. Whatever you do, don’t shrink away from who you are or shrink away from opportunity. Promise you’ll always remember that any person who asks you to be less than you are is no one you want in your heart or your life. (And just so you know, on that fateful Halloween a year or so from now, when that old lady accuses you of being “too old to trick-or-treat” just because you’re the tallest of your friends, you’ve got my support. Go ahead and flip her the bird, because you’re really going to want to do it.)

The 90s will be chock full of life lessons. (And you’ll get to relive them all over again when the 90s become retro-cool sometime in the 2010s.) What it really comes down to is this: Lunchables are horrible. No matter how deprived you may feel at the moment, you’re really not missing out. Stock up on Clearly Canadian, though, because it’s set to go extinct. And Britney and Christina from the Mickey Mouse Club? You’ll be hearing from them again.

I’m not gonna lie. Things are going to get rocky in junior high. Puberty is going to be a train wreck. Growing boobs will traumatize you. Starting your period will traumatize you. Changing for gym class will traumatize you. Being asked to dance will traumatize you. (Believe it or not, you'll turn down an invitation at the seventh grade dance, and residual feelings of lingering guilt will bubble up any time Toni Braxton comes on the radio throughout the duration of your adult life.)

High school will be fun. You should try harder in your classes than you will, but you’re going to learn way too early that you can do just fine with minimal effort, which will free you up to focus on fun. (And that’s something you’ll never regret.) Everything – and I do mean everything – with your friends is going to feel like the center of and end of the world. Zero percent of it will matter in the long run. But those friends are still your friends today.

Little self, stand up. Stand up for yourself. Stand for something. Take a stand. You’ve got opinions and a voice – use them at your discretion and to your detriment.

Don’t ever miss a chance to take a midnight swim or splash in the ocean. The universe doesn’t care how you look in a swimsuit, and you shouldn’t miss a single opportunity to revel in creation and all His glory.

Say yes more than you say no. Accept the invitations that come your way as often as you can. A decade from now, you’ll look back and long for just one more country drive, one more night at the park, one more conversation, one more night at Burnham, one more Italian soda at Maxwell’s. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Wring every last drop you can from your marvelous existence.

You’ll be bad at being bad – and that’s never going to change. The things (and parents) you’re going to push against will keep you out of so much trouble. And you’ll be so grateful for that one day. Trust me.

Sometime around 1998 your friends are going to take a lunchtime vote. They’ll decide you’re going to be the first to marry because you’re that much of a romantic. They couldn't be more wrong. You’ll still be holding out at 33 – because you’re that much of a romantic. Stay hopeful. Stay patient.

Spend less time writing code names for boys in secret notebooks. Spend more time telling them how you really feel. Be vulnerable. Be brave. I know it's scary.

That DIY dye job the day before senior pictures? It's a bad idea that’s going to make a great story.

No matter what anyone tells you, a Manhattan isn’t a good starter drink. But that’s a lesson you’re going to have to learn the hard way.

Take sensory snapshots and file them away, because change is coming and it’s just a couple years away. Memorize the beauty of red dirt, the song of cicadas and the smell of mesquite trees on a hot Texas day. Soak up the sun from your little world of inner tubes, sunscreen and chlorine. You won’t want to go, but you’ll know you can’t say. And one day you’ll look back to realize your first love wasn’t a person – but a place.

Eventually you’re going to begin to realize you hit the family jackpot. The years and the miles will try to pull the ties that bind apart the seams. Don’t let them. Weddings and funerals will fling you back together from far corners from time to time over the years. And when you find yourself in same room once again, you’re going to quietly marvel that these are your people. And they are such wonderful people. Really.

You will make mistakes. You will have regrets. You will hurt people. You will hurt yourself. Challenge yourself to find a solution. To learn a lesson. To apologize and mean it. To forgive and let go.

Let the seed of faith grow. It really is the root of everything.

Pet all the dogs you meet. Be happy. Have fun. Go barefoot. Refuse to let the world tame you. Say a prayer of thanks every night as your head hits the pillow. Get up early enough to welcome each new day.

Never lose sight of who you are, little self. And I promise to do the same.

See you soon, 33-year-old You


An Open Letter to Stone Brewing Co.: Come Home to Columbus

columbus post card

Dear Stone Brewing Co.,

Greetings from the Midwest. I feel like I already know you, and we haven’t even met.

I hear you’re considering a new place. Congratulations! The aftermath of your announcement sure has generated a lot of talk about cities. Cities under consideration. Cities cut from the list. Cities still in the running. But I think people have got it all wrong. This isn’t about a new zip code. It’s about finding your place. A place to plant your dream and grow your vision.

Someone once told me that whenever you sell a house, you should leave a letter behind for the family that follows. It makes the difference between moving into an empty shell and beginning a new chapter in a home. If it works for houses, maybe it works for business?

Here goes.

First, a confession. I’m extremely partial to Columbus, but I wasn’t always. I moved here out of necessity after college. In those first months, my world was very small. I avoided certain parts of town. Took the same roads to and fro. Shopped at the same places and went to the same restaurants. I complained about traffic and way too much football.

Over time, I warmed to the city. I ventured out and began to discover what I had been missing all along. Soon, I was in love, yelling O-H at strangers on the sidewalk, reveling in the downtown hum, enamored by the tenacity, ingenuity and spirit of the people who call this place home.

So, here is what I can tell you for certain. We’ve got a rare kind of magic in this town. You'll find it sprinkled everywhere, from our Shoe to our suburbs. We are a city where people turn potato salad into positivity and tell stories by the scoop. We’ve got pride in our place and pride in our people. Whenever and wherever you conjure up the spirit of  Sloopy or Caroline, someone (clad in red) will be there to get your back. Of that, you can rest assured. We’re helpers and dreamers and world-changers. We’re a city that cheers for science nerds, band geeks and artists. We're weird. We're happy. We're scrappy and smart. We like big boats and we cannot lie. We’re too many things for one infographic or a single list.

Columbus isn’t obvious; it’s understated and often underestimated. We’re a place people never see coming, which gives us the chance to constantly surprise the world. When they label us “flyover territory” and “cornfield country,” we laugh. Because, yeah, we’ve got your cornfield right here.

Columbus has a way of winning people over. And when it does, you just get it. From the nuts around our necks to the O-H-I-O above our heads, we’re a team here – and we’re all in. We cheer for the underdog. We champion for the success of strangers. We do whatever we can for whomever we can whenever we can. When one of us wins, we all win. We’re a place for everyone. And everyone has a place here.

I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies involved with brewing. (I'm a wine girl, still searching for her soulmate beer.) I don’t know how you make hops hop or how grain goes from barley to bar, but I do know business.

It’s true that brands aren’t built on passion and passion alone, but I'd venture to say you won’t find a single successful company that got where they are without a tribe of passionate people rallying behind their dream, their vision and their spark. You can make things happen anywhere, but if you want more, go with the optimists and visionaries, creatives and believers. Go where people never hesitate to roll up their sleeves and link arms. Go where people aren't afraid to stand up and stand for something. Go home.

Home isn't a zip code. It's where you find your people. Here we are. We’re saving you a home in our city – and in our hearts.

Come home soon.

Wanderdust: A Memoir to Myself on My 32nd Birthday

birthday The day I left South Carolina I cried. I cried my way through half of North Carolina. I cried on my way past the mountains. I cried past peach stands, boiled peanuts and the house my ancestors built over a century ago. I cried passing the Blue Ridge overpass, the exit to Biltmore and the turnoff to Asheville. I cried through handfuls of songs and multiple commercial breaks. And although I was bursting with anticipation and excitement about what I was driving toward, I refused to look in the rearview mirror until I hit the Kentucky line, for fear that if I caught a glimpse of what I was leaving behind, I'd turn the car around.

The older I get, the more I realize this is life. Each day we're writing stories with our time, our moments, our choices. Every minute of every day we're filling the pages of a story that will ultimately be filed on a shelf alongside the story of everyone else.

History is happening -- and it's happening fast. There are no do overs, no rewind buttons, no mulligans. There are only choices and onward marches.

This weekend I turned 32. It's a good, sturdy age, 32. Old enough to have gotten over most of the bullshit hangups of youth, young enough to have not given up. Young enough to feel there's still plenty of time, old enough to know that's not how it always works out.

32. The older I get, the more I feel myself getting taken down with life's insatiable undertow. I want to be everywhere. I worry I'm not reading enough. There are continents and shorelines my feet have yet to meet. I long for adventure and at the same time crave stability. I am simultaneously paralyzed and propelled onward and upward by all the dots on the map where I find infinite amounts of love available to me. My definition of "family" and "home" have expanded exponentially, while my perception of a great big world has shrunk a little bit with each stop along the way.

“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that we take with us for our entire lives, wherever we may go.

In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, a room, but that does not mean those places leave us. Once entered, we never entirely depart the homes we make for ourselves in the world. They follow us, like shadows, until we come upon them again, waiting for us in the mist.”

Friday night I traveled back to one of my dots, and there -- under fairy lights -- I had an epiphany. The word wanderlust is more or less defined as the desire to travel to new and foreign lands. If there is truly a counterbalancing equivalent to everything in the universe, then I propose the notion of "wanderdust." If wanderlust is the curiosity-driven desire compelling us into the unknown, wanderdust is the gratitude-laden breadcrumb trail of memories and moments and conversations that will always lead us home.

"Promise me you'll shake things up, wherever you go," you once said, "People out there are desperate to dance and swirl around and lose their minds."

I've got two snow globes -- one in each hand.

This is life.

And 32.



A Letter to the Hill


When I was in college we used to do inanimate writing assignments. It changes the way you think and relate to the world when you’re asked to come at life through the lens of something you’ve always taken for granted. Be it a graffiti wall or an abandoned car or a tiny golf pencil, when you stop over-thinking, you begin to see into the soul of the world around you. This not only makes for better writers, it makes for a better human existence.

This weekend a friend asked me in passing about the wine I was drinking, and I found myself wondering “why write about a bottle of wine, when you write on her behalf?”

The truth is that my Friday night wine came from a favorite vineyard in the photo at the top of this blog post. It’s a no-name winery straddling the cusp between Napa and Sonoma that most people drive right past. The vines twist and turn at the base of a little mountain that keeps watch over them as they bask in the California sunshine day after day, season after season. If the bottle could speak, I imagine her penning letters to her hill. And this is what I believe she would say…

I like you more than all my appendages and most major organs. I like you better than long weekends and sno-cones in July. I like you better than pumpkin carving and palindromes. I like you better than birthday cards and more than fresh fruit. I like you better than hosta leaves and first pick of the cinema seats. I like you better than thunderstorms and sunny days when they predicted rain. I like you better than peanut butter and jelly cut on the diagonal. I like you better than cello solos and every coin wish in the bottom of the Trevi Fountain. I like you better than the thesaurus and dictionary combined. I like you more than 1.618 which is a number that once had significant meaning to me but now I’m not sure why. It is cowardly that I say these things in this way, but I simply cannot hold onto all these balloons. So, instead, I am releasing this SOS in the hopes that one day, maybe, when we’re old or young, happy or sad, you will find them. And you will know that if presented with a choice between you and Orion’s belt and all the sun’s tea and a Texan bluebonnet field that went on for miles…I still would have chosen you.

A Letter Unfurled

yellow balloons The medulla oblongata controls automatic functions of the body. Heartbeat. Breathing.

Long before we've even entered the world, before we understand what it even means to be alive, this little part of our brain is hard at work having already figured out what we need.

There are some things we, as a people, are meant to do. Without knowing how or when or why. These things have no beginning. No end. They just always are. We're never taught how to do them, somehow we just know. For me, loving you has been one of these things. It is as much a necessary part of my life as heartbeats. And breaths in. And breaths out. Nobody ever taught me how to love you, but I know without knowing how or when or why. I've been doing it all my life. I knew before I knew you. I knew before I met the world. I knew before I knew what it meant to be alive.

An Open Letter to All of You Good People of Earth

thank you kindly Thousands of shares, hundreds of emails, a handful of media opportunities, two weeks and one tweet from Rosie later, I find myself right back where I started, trying to decide how to follow up that letter.

Going viral was unexpected to say the least. When I clicked "publish" on the post, I had every intention of turning in for the night and carrying on with my evening (and life) as usual. Needless to say, that's not exactly how things panned out.

Many people have reached out in the wake of the story wanting to know how things turned out. Did Mike Jeffries respond? Was I going to participate in the Abercrombie protest? Had Ellen reached out yet? (A note to the curious: No. No. And no.)

But here is what did happen...

I received a flood of comments and emails from people of all sizes, shapes, ages, races, sexual orientations and walks of life, sharing their personal stories of bullying, body image and personal struggle.

While the vast majority of the comments were positive (a category into which I also lump comments from those who respectfully and constructively expressed their disagreement with my viewpoint in the letter), there will always be that small handful of people who chime in with hateful negativity no matter what the topic. In this instance, I think those responses served as shining examples of why this conversation is so necessary and important. At the core, the letter was never really about Abercrombie or Mike Jeffries. It was about the impact intolerance has on the world and on the individual. There is no hierarchy of hate. No form of hatred is more or less acceptable than another. Intolerance is unacceptable. Plain and simple. 

Many people have asked me when I knew this letter was "really something." While hearing from Rosie was surreal, the morning I opened my email to discover this letter from a teacher in Georgia was the moment the magnitude of everything really hit me:

"I would like to request permission to reprint Amy Taylor's article, "An Open Letter from a 'Fat Chick' to Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch" for each student in 6th grade at [XXX] Middle School in [XXX}, Georgia.

The Language Arts Department would like to use this piece in a unit on bullying/fitting in during the 2013-14 school year, and students would need their own copy in order to annotate for understanding as they read. I appreciate your considering this request and look forward to hearing back from you."

As a writer, the greatest reward of all is discovering that your words have resonated with someone, inspiring them to take positive action. It has been remarkably humbling to hear how a single letter has empowered so many parents and teachers to start a dialog with their kids about the things they’re struggling through and dealing with on a daily basis.

Despite what some people perceived, the letter didn’t come from a place of anger. It came from the memory of everyone who has played a part in who and where I am today. Throughout my life I have known so many wonderful people who have been bullied and judged for everything from their sexual orientation to the way they speak, the neighborhood they grew up in to the color of their skin. The message of the letter belongs to all of us, I’m just the one who put it to paper.

As a marketer by trade, I’m acutely aware that every brand has a target demographic and a marketing strategy. Some verbalize it, some don’t. I respect the right of every American to speak their mind, whether I agree with it or not. Mike Jeffries’ alleged comments were simply an opening in the conversation that allowed me to share my story. The message I hope people end up taking away from all of this has nothing to do with t-shirts or jeans. We are all works in progress. We have all overcome something in our lives. We all have a story to tell. Chances are, someone out there needs to hear yours.

As for the future, who can say. In the wise words of my dear friend Josh Cox, "A hundred years from now, I’d rather be lost in the crowd of a revolution that started when everyone banded together as one to take our minds and bodies and lives back. If I do what I believe in the way I want to do it, I’ll be lost in a tidal wave of great people doing great things who never would have done those great things if they didn’t realize how great they were as people."

My sincerest thanks to every person who has reached out, left a comment or shared the post. You've given me a front row seat to the best side of humanity. For that, I will be forever grateful.


Like this? Check out Amy's passion project, Good People of Earth

An Open Letter from a "Fat Chick" to Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie + Fitch

amy I remember the moment as though it were yesterday (which is saying a lot, because it was nearly two decades ago...) Last week of 8th grade. One of the "popular girls" walked over to me in gym class and asked if she could write in my yearbook. When she handed my book back, I excitedly turned the cover, only to discover that she had written (in beautiful penmanship) the following:

Have a great summer. Stay thin.

Except the word "thin" had been crossed out with a single line. 

I have always struggled with my weight. Big-boned. Plus-size. Thick. Curvy. Voluptuous. Padded. Pick your adjective. Over the years I learned to deal with it in different ways. I learned to ignore it. Compensate for it. Deny it. Dress it up. Cover it over. Like everyone who struggles with something physical, I wear my battle on the outside for the world to see. There's no running from it, because there is no hiding it.

According to Elite Daily, Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercombie + Fitch, has allegedly commented on everything from why he hates fat chicks to why he doesn't want "not-so-cool" kids shopping in his stores.

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While I was initially outraged by the story, by the time I reached the end of the article, I felt more of a sense of overwhelming pity for the Abercrombie CEO than anything. A man blessed with unimaginable success proudly spouting off soundbites reminiscent of a cruel little girl I knew in eight grade? It would seem Mike Jeffries is a deeply unhappy man.

Mean-spiritedness aside, Mr. Jeffries' comments raise a flag about a bigger, more troubling cultural issue. Pretend, for one moment, that instead of fat chicks, unattractive people or "not-so-cool" kids Mr. Jeffries had said "African Americans" or "homosexuals" or "single moms." As a society, we would rise up and crucify any brand that flaunted that kind of exclusionary business plan.

I'm not slamming Abercrombie, proposing that they start carrying larger sizes or suggesting they welcome everyone into their stores. What I am questioning is why, in a country where two out of every three adults are considered overweight, is it acceptable for anyone, let alone the CEO of a major company, to proudly and publicly sling what could be considered by some to teeter on hate speech?

With each brand that joins arms with companies like Dove, TOMS and Anytime Fitness, opting to lead with their values in order to drive new, important conversations, a positive change is happening. Who do you think will thrive? I'm willing to bet at least two out of three Americans can answer that question...and they'll do so with their dollars.

Now on to the letter.


Dear Mr. Jeffries,

Hi there. It's me, Amy. We've never met, but since it seems we won't be sitting at the same lunch table (or crossing paths in your stores) anytime soon, I thought it was important that you get to know me if you're going to hate me. I'm one of the two out of three Americans you can't stand and don't want in your stores. I'm your neighbor. Your doctor. The young woman working behind the hotel check-in desk. I'm your child's third grade teacher. Your sister's best friend. I'm the veterinarian who saved your dog's life...twice. And the lady sitting next to you on the flight to Los Angeles. I'm the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I'm the housewife with one heck of an expendable income. I'm the 13-year-old teetering on the verge of an eating disorder. And the 22-year-old battling depression and low self-esteem. I'm the employee working in your office, living in fear that two pounds are the difference between my paycheck and the unemployment line. I'm the American Woman...and I've got something to say to you.

Mike (can I call you Mike?), I'm not only a fat chick, I'm also a "not-so-cool" kid. Always have been, always will be. I've had 31.5 years to come to terms with that. Along the way I have been bullied, tortured, teased and harassed. Somehow I came out the other end better for it. In case you haven't noticed, those not-so-cool kids are the ones who are passing people like you by--and doing some pretty amazing things. (You can read about a couple of them here and here and here.) Funny thing about wearing your struggle on the outside: it makes you stronger. It teaches you how to adapt. It forces you to dig deep and do more. And while people like you are sitting at the cool kids table intent on holding others down, the ragtag team of not-so-cool kids is busy pulling others up...and we've become an unstoppable force driving the world forward.

You got me, Mike! I don't wear a size 4. You should probably also know that my middle fingers curve ever-so-slightly outward and I have a Morton's toe. I'm terrible at long division and I'm not that great at parallel parking. But I'm a good person. I have an awesome job, great friends and a family that I wouldn't trade for the world. I have mentors with brains as big as their giant hearts, and a rescue dog who is always happy to see me at the end of the day. Like everyone (size 4 or size 24), I have wants and hopes and dreams. I dream of writing a children's book and inheriting a large sum of money so I can open a rescue retirement home for all the old shelter dogs that nobody wants. I'd like to pay for the person behind me at the toll booth sometime, and it'd be nice to get around to taking the "Great American Road Trip" one day. Overall I'm a pretty happy person. I'm a loyal friend and I strive to make the world better whenever and however I can. I love my community and I'm proud to call Columbus home. Although Abercrombie is headquartered here, you don't represent the voice or the spirit of the place I know and love. When people think of this city, it is my hope they'll choose to forget your name and instead think of people like Jeni Britton Bauer and Christian Long and Liz Lessner; doers and thinkers giving Columbus (and humankind) a good name.

As a marketer, I understand where you're coming from on some level, Mike. I really do. When you say "a lot of people don't belong in our clothes--they can't belong," I get it. For consumers, every purchase is a declaration. With each dollar a consumer spends, they are saying, "I am part of this brand and this brand is a part of me. I believe what this brand believes. I support what this brand supports." As I sit here wrapping up this letter, I am proud to say that I may be a not-so-cool kid and the extra pounds I carry may not be a thing of beauty, but I am nothing like you or your brand--and that, Mr. Jeffries, is a beautiful thing.


Sincerely, Amy Taylor

The Sidewalks of Chicago

chicago yellow balloons There is a place in Chicago, high above the streets I can tell you about. I've only been there once.

There is a place in Chicago, high above the streets I can tell you about. I won't tell you the name, because it's not important. But it's there, believe me. High above the hustle and bustle of a street named after a state, some of the most world's most talented musicians have met their destiny.

It is more treasure chest than shop. A landing pad where string instruments arrive like long-awaited foreign dignitaries with names like Francois and Annalinda. Some of them are named after artists or constellations, others named after lovers lost between the pages of the world's greatest unwritten love stories. Each one has a history. Many of them, if not most, are centuries old. One sat in the corner, listening to gossip at Marie Antoinette's ball. Another recalls the first breath of fresh air after years passed hiding in Amsterdam. The youngest is rumored to have a distant cousin that continued playing that night as the ship went down.

When you meet the dignitaries your instinct is to hush. You want to believe they will whisper their stories if you listen closely enough.

There is a sadness to the dignitaries. They have lost-and survived-everyone they ever loved and every hand that ever loved them in return. They have lived a series of lives, a constant reincarnation marked by the passing of time and the ticking of t he clock. Dutifully, they have sung again and again under aging hands, having lost as soon as they are found. They serve faithfully. They endure knowing others cannot. The dignitaries mourn; you can hear it if you listen, like holding a seashell to your ear. Every last breath, ever final farewell and ever swan song remains in the and of their scrolls and the spaces in between.

The people who buy the dignitaries spend a small fortune; at times, the price of a modest home. It seems unfathomable, but once you've heard them sing, you understand they're not just buying an instrument, they're liberating legends and wrapping their fingers around a legacy.
There are families that bring small children to meet the dignitaries. And though the children do not yet know it, their families have also brought them to meet their destinies. The children politely bow and greet the dignitaries. One by one, down the line, they raise their tiny fingers and tiny hands until they stand before The One that sings out in their native tongue. In a split second a path is cleared and a golden light shines just a little bit brighter through 48,000 crystals dangling above the sacred hall on 7th Avenue.There is a place in Chicago, high above the streets, I can tell you about. You would never find it were you not looking. It's behind a door with a brass handle and across a marble floor to an ancient elevator, the kind you only see in old movies. A black man with kind eyes will help you now. He'll pull aside a brass gate with strong hands before asking you which floor you're headed to. Tell him the 6th floor or maybe the 8th. It could have even been the 9th, I can't quite recall. Pass down the short hallway, then a right down the long corridor. If you hit the water fountain you've gone too far.To your right you will see a series of leaded glass windows. Some will be propped open. Step toward them, take a deep breath and see-really see. In the middle of this building in the middle of all this concrete, nine stories below there is a garden thriving in a city. Almost nobody knows. But now you do.Take a seat on the old wooden bench worn from years of visitors coming and going. Close your eyes. Somewhere in the distance the click of a woman's high heeled shoes comes nearer, then further away from you.It's quiet now and you are aware of the sound of your breathing and heartbeating high above a city that does not know of courtyard gardens or dignitaries or of your existence.

At the end of the hall there is an arched doorway. You can see it from where you sit. A single, short step leads up to an old wooden door. Light escapes through a crack between the floor and the base of the door. Beyond the door you hear voices, muffled but jovial. Then the click of a door beyond the door.

And then the singing begins.

You are hearing a familiar song for the first time. Every memory rushes back to you. Discovering toes. The comfort of being tucked into bed as a child. The infinite weightlessness of soaring through the air on a tire swing. The touch of your grandfather's hand patting your back. The smell of July at 10:30 p.m. The feel of a paintbrush in your hand. The taste of vanilla ice cream and South Carolina peaches. The exquisite sensation of slipping beneath the surface of the water in a swimming pool. The exact moment a ride on a bike with no training wheels finally makes sense. The electricity of the first kiss. The rush and rebellion of your first beer. The people you know and knew are laughing and smiling and waving as they go sailing by on a brilliantly colored carousel. Every dream, every hope, every wish is coming back to you now, like lady bugs

Open your eyes.

Stand up.

Turn away from the arched doorway. Walk down the long corridor. Take your time. Turn left down the short hallway. You'll find the elevator and your friend waiting to return you to the lobby from the 6th or the 8th or the 9th floor. He's quieter this time.

When the elevator stops and the doors open, step out and cross the marble floor. Pull open the door and step outside. Let the sunlight envelope you as you squint upward seeing only white light.

To your left a yellow taxi pauses at a stoplight as a child passes through the crosswalk leading a yellow balloon.

High above a bow is lifted from strings as a familiar life begins again on the sidewalks of Chicago.

Southern Housepitality: Become Your Own House Guest

Throughout my life I have noticed certain inalienable truths. You'll always find what you're looking for the day after you need it. The home projects you've been meaning to tackle (ugly countertops, hideous paint jobs, tragic flooring) are the things that get done just before you hand the keys over to the new owners and move out of your house. And when it comes to rolling out the royal treatment, most of us are adept at treating house guests with a sense of pampering that we fail to master for ourselves in our daily lives. No more, I say. It's time to be your own guest.

Southern hospitality is no joke. And while my first year of living in the south may not have sold me on chitterlings, sweet tea or turnip greens, the great lengths that southern women go to in order to care for their homes and create welcoming spaces for guests (whether they're staying an hour or a week) is near and dear to my heart.

If you're anything like me, hostessing a house guest is an opportunity to tap into your Pinterest-loving, friend-and-family-spoiling, Martha Stewart-idoling inner core. In the days leading up to a house guest's arrival, I find myself pressing linens and arranging fresh flowers while plotting flavored water recipes.

As is known to happen, after the guest leaves life returns to it's regularly-scheduled, hectic pace. Linens get tossed in the dryer instead of line-dried. Flowers bloom and wither on the vine. Water is water.

This is the picture of insanity. Over the course of a year, I probably entertain house guests for an average of 20 cumulative days. That's less than a month when all is said and done.  The other 11 months of the year, I live here. I know I'm not alone int this tendency. So what is it that compels us to care for our guests with such joy and enthusiasm during a brief stay, while we forgo the simple pleasure of a pampered life when it comes to our own daily lives?

No more, I say. It's time to become your own house guest. Below you will find ten of my favorite, standard houseguest niceties. I hope you will treat yourself to one (or eleven) of these simple pleasures. They truly can make the difference between just getting through the day and savoring the little moments of life.

Lavender Water

I have noticed that most lavender waters sold online and in stores are often QUITE expensive. (Put anything in a glass bottle with a french name and I guess it gives them free reign to jack up the price.) Here is  a great recipe for an at-home DIY lavender water that is just as lovely as any you will find in the store. Your local Whole Foods is a great resource for reasonably priced lavender essential oil.

Quality Hand Soap

Sure, you can grab a bottle of hand soap at the local dollar store. It will clean your hands and get the job done, but will it invigorate your spirit? For whatever reason (call me a soap snob), I have found that investing in a quality hand soap is one of those unexpected opportunities for a little pick-me-up moment of invigoration. Two of my favorites hand soaps are Mrs. Meyers in Lemon Verbana and J.R. Watkins in Lavender.

A Cream-Colored Quilt

I will admit, I am a bit quilt-obsessed. There are few things as quintessentially American as being wrapped in a quilt on an autumn night. It feels like being hugged by history.

I know some people love to get crazy and colorful with their bed linens, but I tend to be more of a traditionalist, favoring the crisp, clean look of white linens topped with a cream-colored quilt. Not only does it conjure up a sense of B&B luxury, a cream quilt goes with everything and gives me the freedom to change accessories in the room without having to invest in a new set of sheets.

Here's a beauty from Restoration Hardware

An Signature Scented Candle

Find a signature scented candle. Embrace it. Sprinkle it throughout your home. Breathe deeply throughout the day. Feel good about life. I can understand why some people balk at the thought of paying $30 for something you are going to burn, but I have noticed that Henri Bendel candles really do last forever. They claim to have a 60-hour burn time, and I have squeezed a year of fairly regular use (hour-long burning sessions) out of mine. Firewood is my signature scent. It's like having an eternal autumn on speed-dial.

Another favorite candle brand: Linea's Lights. Soy candles, cotton wicks, utterly amazing scents. I pray that they will bring Forest Fir back this Christmas, at which point I will be stocking up with enough to get me through the year.

Quality Stationary

Every woman needs a set (or two..or eighteen) of quality stationary on standby. My suggestion is:

  • a set of personalized, blank stationary for formal correspondence
  • a set of fun, blank stationary for casual correspondence
  • a set of quality thank you notes (because, let's be frank, most greeting cards sold on supermarket shelves are simply hideous)
If you are in the Asheville, NC area, be sure to check out The Baggie Goose. It is one of my favorite places in AVL, and quite possibly the planet. If you're not in the Asheville area, check out Crane & Co. for stunning stationary.

Reading Material

Last year I went a little nuts with Amazon's Christmas $5-$10 magazine special, and I must admit, opening the mailbox to discover a new glossy awaiting me still gives me a kid-on-Christmas thrill. Whether your vice is celebrity gossip, interior design or guns & ammo, go ahead and indulge in reading material for your bathtub bookshelf. Your secret is safe with me.

Line-dried Linens

Nothing smells more amazing that line-dried linens. And white linens bleached by the sun? Utter heaven. Do it. And while you're at it, check out

40 slotted clothespins for $2.30

A beautiful, signature tumbler

A special, pretty tumbler, all my own, makes me want to drink more water throughout the day. Or lemonade. Or mojito.

Yummy Bath Products

What pampering list would be complete without a little tub-side luxury? I realize the above photo looks like a jellyroll gone awry, but trust me on this. Lush has THE MOST amazing bath products ever. And while they're far from cheap, they are worth every penny. And the cost of shipping. And the wait time as they slowly travel down from Canada. Try the bubble bar in Karma. Bathtime will never be the same.

Note: I slice off half-dollar size pieces of the bubble bars to extend their life (and help my wallet.) While you won't get a bubble extravaganza from such a small piece, it is more than enough to scent the water, your skin and bathroom.

Fruit Infused Elixirs

I always get a kick out of the spa waiting area. Admid the zen waterfall and mood lighting, women chug down thimble-sized cupfuls of spa elixir (fruit infused water.) The possibilities here are endless. I like to pull from my garden. Play around until you find a combination that makes your taste buds cheer.

A few options...

  • Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit)
  • Berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries)
  • Cucumber slices
  • Ginger
  • Herbs (basil, mint)

Now, go forth and spoil thyself. Happy living!



Elegy for a Man Named Mutt

My great uncle Mutt passed away last week. And the world is a little less of a place this week as a result. This is a letter I sent to a friend in 2010. I remember the day vividly.

Saturday May 30, 2010

My Great Uncle Mutt’s real name is Ivan.  Save for the mail on his kitchen counter, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone refer to him as “Ivan.”

Unlike the majority of relatives on my Mom’s side of the family, my Uncle Mutt did not live in Wichita until very recently.  My mom used to tell me how Mutt was a former beatnik.  For the longest time, I had no idea what that meant, but I knew it made him fascinating in a way that always made me want to sit by him at family gatherings. Even as a small child I remember feeling transfixed by Mutt.  He is the type of old, gentle soul who walks into a room and people just want to know him. They want to be liked by him. And when everyone else in the world would say to me “Amy, you are your father's daughter,” Mutt would walk through the door and marvel “Amy, you remind me so much of  your mother.”

It was only around the age of 15 or so that I finally realized Mutt’s companion Terry was more than a roommate.  It never phased me before that...or after. I loved Uncle Mutt for his knowledge of art and film and the intricacies of cultures of countries I had never even heard of.  I loved that in a sea of chattering loud women, Mutt, a former social worker, could sit quietly and soak in every tidbit of the conversation going on (verbal and nonverbal.) I loved that his coffee table wasn’t a coffee table, rather some sort of refurbished door from an old Italian villa. And whenever I visited, he took the time to tell me about the art on the wall. 

Of all the conversations with Uncle Mutt, the one I remember the most is the day he declared "Fresh flowers are as essential to life as food.”

He isn’t just a man who speaks it, he is a man who lives it.

Mutt isn’t doing well.  His health has been in rapid decline since Terry passed several years ago. I often wonder if his condition is tied to true malady  or a truly broken heart. You see, it turns out not all the art and films and Italian doors in the world cannot compete with the love of your life. You can buy more everything, but you can't buy more love. 

We went to visit Uncle Mutt today. I noticed that he has a picture of Chihuly's glass ceiling at the Bellagio framed on his kitchen counter. He obviously loves it, as people only take the time to frame the things they truly adore.  That ceiling is my favorite thing in Vegas, competing only with the water show outside, which gives me goosebumps and makes me leak from the eyes. I remember the first time I saw this particular show, I was in awe. It seemed all of Vegas was left speechless, too. From the smallest children to the drunkest drunks, it made people stop. On the sidewalks. On the streets. It hushed the crowd and captivated everyone.

If the flashes of light people talk about when they return from the brink are real, I have to imagine that passing from this life into another is not unlike "Time to Say Goodbye" at the Bellagio Fountains. All the madness and chaos and multi-million dollars of the surrounding hotels and casinos fading into the background. Time stops as a life gently folds in on itself, and a soul is escorted from this place in one final, golden show.

We have a huge Chihuly installation at the Franklin Park Conservatory in town.  I think next weekend I will dust off my camera and go to the conservatory to take pictures of our Chihuly to mail to Mutt.


Wherever you are now, dear Uncle Mutt, I hope you have a Chihuly garden to call your own.