From Personal Growth

The Eighth Grade voice of reason

Abandon accolades and Aristotelian ethics. This is the Eighth Grade. There’s too much pressure to be the paradox. Preteens wade between two polars: the homogeneous clones—prone toward whatever the popular populous deems cool—and the individual butterfly waiting to explode in uniquely bold genius. Eighth grade is too much for all of us. In the fever…

The abundant now

My phone alarm wakes me. As I silence it, groggy and half-blind, I see a notification that someone has commented on my post. I swipe to see it. And there I am, phone already in my face, inundated by images and words through a luminous screen. Before I’ve even taken stock of my body, said…

Trains on their tracks

I can hear it from our bedroom, that low heavy rumble of a train on its tracks. There is a faint whistle, but we are many streets up and there are rows of trees and a river between us, soaking up its sound. Often only the heaviness of movement is what I can hear, a…

The call of the wild

Pit toilets are a dismal attempt to domesticate the mountains. The stench hit my nostrils as I rounded the corner and came in view of the toilet, a simple wooden throne with a single step up to it and a hole in the middle. Flies hovered over the opening, which looked half rotten, drenched in…

New mercies

I am typing this on a borrowed laptop. The ceiling paint above me is cracked and peeling, tainted with yellow stains. The bedroom door won’t shut into a door frame deformed from years of settling. I can see out the window because several of the blinds are cracked or missing, but the view is incredible.…

Comic Conomenon

When I sat down to write this article, I could not think of a single new thing in my life. Same job, same house, same brand of coffee (Major Dickason, you delicious, brooding devil, you). Luckily, a quick perusal of my recent photos quickly reminded me of a ginormous, 90,000-person new thing that I just…

Snap peas

Reject the notion that you are not enough. Or that you are too much. Or that you don’t have what it takes. Reject all the lies that you are tempted to believe, and begin the adventure of knowing that it’s okay to be you, exactly as you are now, in your shoes, in your skin,…

The ones we keep choosing

Last week I opened an email that began, “Unfortunately, Joanna, you did not win…” It was lottery tickets to see Hamilton, which just opened in Seattle. The tickets have been at scalper’s prices since like five seconds after they went on sale. This lottery is my best hope of seeing what some have called the…

“Moonless Darkness Stands Between” 

In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a small motley troop of friends offers gifts that prove they’ve been listening to one another, that they care about each other’s details and dreams. If only all gifts could say what we want them to, could show our deep affection, could bless and enrich another for life.…

The Blur

It’s been a blur. My reflection in the glass. For the last seven years. So much so that if you asked me what I looked like, I couldn’t tell you. No matter how long I stand here trying to catch a glimpse of who I am, it plays out in pixelated streaks across my mirror.…

Anniversary interrupted

I woke up to the sound of my five-year-old vomiting and shot out of bed. “Noooo,” I groaned, filled with sudden dread. Not just because I hate vomit. Not just because my son’s suffering fills me with helpless pity. More than either of those, I felt forebodings of disappointment. This was the morning my husband…

Play

Hands poised, I felt brave and silly. How could I have not played before? All those moments I’d spent walking by, watching my kids and husband, I had not even once considered that I needed to play, too. She stands proud in my living room, daily offering her love to me, and I hadn’t realized…

Forgive and forget…and dance

Todd was abusive. Kate was a gossip. Laurel was downright needy. Life was tough in the fifth grade. My mother hated the slang that came from having fifth grade friends. Let one juicy almost swear tingle on the tip of your tongue too long and she’ll sense it. “We don’t say shucks or darn or…

The allure of intentional community

When I was twenty-two, I filled a backpack and flew to Switzerland to live in an intentional community. It’s called L’Abri, which means “The Shelter” in French, and functions outside typical labels—part retreat center, part seminary, and part commune. Despite its name, the main language spoken is English. Its cluster of chalets built onto the…

See those clouds over there?

In junior high I made a tornado machine. For the science fair, I was determined to do something showstopping, something smashing. No clay-made volcano of baking soda and vinegar explosions would suffice. Our summers growing up were often spent driving to and from Minnesota so my mother could help on the farm. I assumed in…

The pursuit of self-awareness

You may have heard of the Enneagram. It’s a personality typing system. I know, insert eye-roll here. If you’re like me, these things are fun, and a little narcissistic, and about as useful as the daily horoscope. It can sort of apply, but it’s not going to change your life. Except this one has. For…

Shoot the Moon

Stay singleminded. Focus. Be confident. Follow the heat. Run like your life depends upon it. But don’t get cocky. There’s always going to be somebody better, but strive to be the best. Follow your dreams. If your tired of giving up, stop quitting and make your dreams come true. Shoot for the moon, miss and…

A Solid Seven

The pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of knowledge. The pursuit of one date that doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out. I’m sitting in my car. These things always start in my car, at least half an hour away from my usual stomping grounds; it’s my fault for setting the search radius to…

Mothers, makers, miracles, part two

This article is part one of a two-part series on parenting and pursuing a creative vocation. Last month I shared about my journey as a young mom to find my creative life within the limitations and challenges of parenting. Creative parents are in a time-resource bind that can feel unbreakable: not enough money for childcare…

In which we chase meadows

The most magical moments of my childhood were spent alone. I would lay amongst the prickly spears of grass in the meadow near my home—never able to escape the heat of the midday sun—and always in an imaginative world of my own. Laying flat, pressed against the bosom of the earth, I would roll in…