my slobbery, comforting shadow

Hi friends! Just wanted to let you know that my essay “My Slobbery, Comforting Shadow” — about how our beloved family dog Murray helped me during a difficult time of my life — was recently published on the website Sweatpants and Coffee. You can read it here.

“Welcome home, honey,” my mom said, ushering me inside the front door of my childhood house. My dad followed close behind with my suitcases. As soon as we stepped through the door, we were greeted by a wriggling 82-pound bundle of brown-furred energy: our family dog, a boxer named Murray. I hadn’t seen him in five months, not since I had been home for Christmas. He yelped and barked with joy, leaping up to kiss my face, then running around the living room—his own version of welcoming me home.

“It’s good to be back,” I said, petting Murray’s head. He slobbered all over my hand, but I didn’t mind.

“I’m going to make you a sandwich,” my mom said, heading into the kitchen. “I can tell you haven’t been eating enough.”

I didn’t argue—I hadn’t really been eating or sleeping much the past month and a half, not since my engagement had quite suddenly but irrevocably unraveled….

Read the rest of the piece here: 

my piece is on thought catalog!

Hi everyone! Just poppin’ in this morning to share some exciting news with you: I wrote a piece that is up on Thought Catalog! My short essay is about my high school drama class, life’s transience, firsts and lasts. You can read it here.

If you enjoy it, I’d be super grateful if you share it on Facebook, pass it along to your friends, and/or comment at the bottom!

thought catalog essay

Have a masterpiece day!

my perfectly decorated apartment

Last week, Kellyn from Compass reached out to me asking if I would do a “Starter Stories” blog post about my first apartment. I thought it sounded like a fun idea, so I wanted to share with you an essay I wrote about the first apartment I lived in all by myself, when I moved from California to Indiana to attend graduate school.

This essay was first published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home and also appeared in the online literary magazine Faith, Hope & Fiction.

apartment front door

My Perfectly Decorated Apartment

“It’s perfect!” I told the landlord. “When can I sign the lease?”

It was a chilly April afternoon in the small college town of West Lafayette, Indiana. I had just been accepted to graduate school at Purdue University and, after three whirlwind days of sitting in on classes and meeting professors, I had decided that this was the program for me. West Lafayette would be my new home for the next three years. I was nervous, but also very excited.

Before catching my flight back to my California hometown, I drove around looking at apartments. The second place I visited was part of an old Victorian-style house that had been sectioned off into four separate apartments. As I drove through the shady tree-lined neighborhood, the stress and frantic pace of the last three days ebbed away into a calm tranquility. Yes, I thought. This feels right.

front porch

The apartment was charming. Bay windows, hardwood floors, a wide front porch. It was the ground floor unit, which meant the front door was the original front door of the house. How neat it would be, I thought, to walk through that beautiful front door every day! And the porch would be the perfect place to write or do homework when the weather is nice.

I signed the lease right then and there.

The rest of that spring into summer, whenever I felt nervous about packing up my life and moving halfway across the country, I would think of that apartment. I’d never had my very own place before, and it felt like a milestone on the path to adulthood. In college I’d not only shared an apartment with three other girls, I’d even shared a bedroom with a roommate because living costs were so expensive. Now, I’d finally have a place of my own that I could decorate however I wanted. I explored websites and daydreamed about curtains and dishes, rugs and duvets.

Moving day came. I crammed my car with clothing and books and drove for five days along Interstate 70, from the Southern California beaches into the heart of the Indiana cornfields. I walked up the stairs onto my new front porch, unlocked the giant glass-paned front door, and strolled around the empty rooms with a huge smile on my face. It was all mine! I was officially a grown-up, living on my own!


I immediately threw myself into turning my empty apartment into a home. I scoured Craigslist, wandered the aisles of flea markets and used furniture shops, and dipped into my savings account to buy kitchen supplies and dishes. I was a giddy, energetic decorating fiend.

Before long my apartment looked like the apartment I had been dreaming about for months. Red accent pillows on the couch matched the red cushions on the kitchen chairs. Sunlight shone through the gauzy white curtains, warming up the rooms. Prints of my favorite Impressionist paintings hung on the walls. The bookshelves were filled with books I loved and photographs of my friends and family. I looked around and was filled with contentment. Yes, I thought. This is perfect.


Except … something felt a little off. I had carefully decorated and cozied-up my apartment, but somehow it still didn’t feel like home. I would come back from class and sit on my comfortable couch, the pillows perfectly fluffed, the coffeetable free of dirty dishes, the TV remote exactly where I had left it—and loneliness would ebb through me in gigantic crashing waves. All my closest friends and family were thousands of miles away, and I ached with homesickness for them.

I tried to fill the emptiness with more decorating: a pretty embroidered tablecloth for the kitchen table, a bright rug for the bathroom, a congregation of houseplants under the Bay windows. But nothing quite worked. My apartment still didn’t feel like a real home to me.


One evening in mid-October I was eating dinner alone at my kitchen table, feeling nostalgic as usual. How nice it was back then, I thought. Coming home to a lively apartment with three roommates. My new apartment was too small for more than one person. Maybe my mistake had been thinking I could live alone? I started thinking about the parties my roommates and I hosted in college, celebrating a holiday or someone’s birthday. Those were my favorite memories from that time in my life: all of my closest friends together in one place, laughing and telling stories and sharing food.

Suddenly, I had an idea: what if I threw a party here, in my new apartment?

living room

I sent out invitations for an autumn potluck to everyone in my program and spent the entire day before the party cleaning my already-clean apartment from top to bottom. I bought autumn-themed paper bowls and napkins and made two big pots of chili. I arranged pumpkin centerpieces for the kitchen table and coffee table. Everything looked perfect. But I was nervous. What if it was a disaster?

In some ways, maybe it was a disaster. Wine spilled on one of my new rugs and left a small stain. Someone dropped one of my new plates and it chipped. Dirt was tracked in on the floors, the pillows on my couch were smooshed, and my new embroidered tablecloth was littered with crumbs. It took days for me to find the TV remote, which someone had unaccountably placed on the very top bookshelf. When the party wound down to a close and the last guests had traipsed out the door into the night, my apartment was a total mess.

And I could not have been happier.

me in apartment

I used to believe that filling an empty apartment meant buying furniture and decorating the walls. But I learned that what really makes a place into a home is welcoming others inside it with you.

That night, my new apartment was filled with people and food and joy. The walls soaked up their stories and laughter so that even when they left and I was by myself again, I didn’t feel alone. I drifted to sleep with a smile on my face.

purdue friends

For the first time since I had moved in, I felt like I was home.

fabulous friday #38

Happy Friday! You know what this means, right? One week till Halloween!! Do you have any ghoul-tastic plans yet? {Haha, someone is obviously a liiittle too hyped up on caffeine right now… sorry!} Earl Grey before yoga + post-yoga endorphins + pumpkin chai latte from Starbucks after yoga = this version of me you are hearing from right now 🙂

Moving right along… this weekend, Allyn and I are going pumpkin-patching {don’t know if that’s actually a verb, but it is now} and I’m planning to hit up a craft store for a couple last-minute touches for my Halloween costume. If you’re looking for an easy, fun Halloween costume but don’t have any ideas, feel free to check out this post with some costumes that have worked well for me in the past!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. This beautiful autumn bouquet from ProFlowers that arrived on my doorstep a couple days ago from my incredibly sweet and thoughtful dad! He sent them just because he was thinking of me and wanted to send some sunshine my way. How amazing is that? I am the luckiest daughter on the planet. I miss you, Daddy!

autumn flowers from dad

2. My favorite dessert of late: peanut butter toast topped with mini chocolate chips!

pb toast

3. Every time this song comes on the radio I do a little happy dance: “Riptide” by Vance Joy.

4. This heart-wrenchingly beautiful and wise short essay my brother wrote for HuffPost called The Girl Effect and My Grandmother. Read it, and believe me — you’ll be glad you did! Here’s a teaser:

“The agony of these missing parts applies not only to our deceased loved ones — it applies to when we allow fear to dampen courage; ignorance to imprison knowledge; and hatred to overwhelm love.”

5. My grandma’s soup. Her chicken tortilla soup just might be my favorite, but she also makes a mean split pea and curried lentil + barley. I’ll try to get the recipes for those latter two up on here soon!

grandma tortilla soup.jpg

Oh yeah, and one more thing that might explain why I’m feeling so dang happy and excited … I FINISHED MY NOVEL!!!

finished novel doc

Happy weekend, friends! Sending lots of love & joy your way! Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere. It means a lot to me 🙂

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

dancing with the stars

Do any of you watch this show?

I’ve never really gotten into it before… until I saw a promo for Season 19 and saw this guy in the cast!

Tavis Smiley!

Longtime blog readers might remember when my dad was interviewed as a guest on Tavis’s radio show earlier this year to talk about his book Wooden & Me. My dad said Tavis could not have been warmer, more authentic and engaged; it felt like having a conversation with a longtime friend. I’m a fan of Tavis’s TV show on PBS and his books — including his latest book about Martin Luther King, Jr. — and now I have another show to watch! I thought he did a great job dancing and was cheering when he made it through the first round of voting last night. Woo hoo!

Here are some other odds & ends I wanted to share with you:

  • My ebook “Lost & Found” is available for FREE this week on Amazon! Grab your copy here {and please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested in an entertaining free read!}

CSS Home Sweet Home

Now I’m off to grab some oatmeal & green tea for breakfast before digging into work on a few writing/editing projects. Tonight I’m meeting Erica for dinner, which I’m super excited about. Have a great day, friends!