The search for that ‘Big Magic’

Let’s be honest here: I haven’t really channeled creativity beyond cloth-covered cubicle walls in nearly two years. Two years.

A second piece of honesty: it’s really hard to channel creativity whilst immersed in traditional corporate America. I’m fortunate to have forged muddy, puddle-ridden pathways for my creative juices to flow down…though, admittedly, the puddles have dried up from time to time. But enough of these metaphors.

Here’s a list of the most creative things I’ve done in the past year that I can think of right now at 12:57 a.m. off the top of my head:

  1. Moved my guitar from the couch to the corner of my living room because Nick never puts shit back where it belongs.
  2. Created a photo book on Snapfish of our trip to the Bahamas last June (woo wee).
  3. Painted my nails an outlandish color – does this count?
  4. Fashioned individualized birthday cards using blank cards I purchased from JoAnn Fabrics, because I’m too cheap to pay $3.50 for one damn Hallmark card.
  5. Made two necklaces and one bracelet.
  6. Painted flowers on my glass salt and pepper grinders using nail polish.
  7. Borrowed a friend’s woodworking shop to make Nick’s Christmas present: a pin travel map.
  8. Wrote letters to two penpals.
  9. Photographed our hike through Olympic National Park.
  10. (Barely) Started writing my novel.
  11. Cooked. A lot. Which I really do find creative and enjoy immensely.
  12. Attended a coworker’s gallery opening of her beautiful photography.
  13. Followed the instructions on my first MakersKit to make essential oil bathroom spray, bath balls, and a candle. (My Christmas present from Nick, who clearly noticed I’ve been starved of creativity… bless him.)

It’s 1:08 a.m. I allotted myself 10 minutes and, even though I racked my brain for all possible projects, I struggled to write the list above. As our president would say, “SAD!”

This is not acceptable.


One of my dear penpals – who also must have sensed my struggle from 3,000 miles away – sent me “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert for Christmas.

I’m only on page 61, but Gilbert has made me recognize and accept the absurdly short list above, and other areas where my creativity has been lacking. My short bio on this blog has included this paragraph for the past couple of years:

“I am always going, going, going (and talking, talking, talking). There’s something wrong when my mind isn’t whirring with new poems to write, blog posts to compose or tweets to tweet. It’s even weirder when I’m quiet. Trust me.”

Over the past two years I’ve only written two or three poems, two or three blog posts, and a mere handful of tweets.

And that’s just not acceptable.

Emily’s real-life ‘adulting’ in 2015

I moved out of my parents’ house last January after my college graduation in December. I didn’t write much in 2015 (sorry, 14-year-old self), but you’ll remember this post about my breakdown in Walmart, and perhaps this post from September, where I offered a glimpse into what the hell I’d been up to.

I’ve been busy. And, as my ex boyfriend’s dad told me in November, “This has been quite a year for you.”

He’s right. But he doesn’t know the half of it.

Here are 15 things I learned in 2015 as a first-time, real-life, full-fledged, compound-modifier-loving adult.

I realize that we’re almost into February, but hey, better late than never.

1.) That beeping sound your carbon monoxide detector is making? Take it seriously.

You’re not in your father’s house anymore, meaning the detector probably doesn’t just need new batteries.

2.) Enjoying a week’s vacation and getting paid for it is one of life’s most wonderful things.

Especially when you’re cavorting around Europe and haven’t a care in the world.

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3.) Beware of Friday the 13th

While I watched snow float to the ground on Friday, Nov. 13, and marveled at the world’s silence, my parents were having the worst night of their lives. It involved a vehicle and an overexcited yellow lab puppy. I’ll never forget my father’s voice wavering on the phone and hearing his sobs.

We managed to surprise him over Thanksgiving with another little bundle of love that is growing by the minute, chewing sneakers, and having accidents in the house.

We know he loves her.

4.) Things from college can come back to haunt you.

Someday I’ll talk about this.

5.) Your heroes and mentors are capable of disappointing you.

But that disappointment only makes you stronger.

6.) Your alcohol tolerance level will drop once you’re done with college. Be careful when you drink double IPAs at work events.

I swear I’ve never acted like a complete imbecile, but I do take advantage of the free drink when I can get it.

7.) That/those relationship(s) you had in college? They might not make it. And that’s perfectly okay.

Moving on while the other stays behind only works in a relationship when you really really want it to. If you can’t picture yourself going to college parties and waking up hungover in a beer-soaked house nearly a year after you’ve graduated, you’ve moved on in more ways than one.

8.) The importance of hobbies.

They teach you this in high school, but they don’t in college. I started taking guitar lessons. In fact, I have one in a couple days. I need to start practicing.

9.) The definition of insanity.

Every boyfriend I’ve ever had has been, like me, the youngest child in the family. I dated the same people over and over again and each time I expected things to be different.

This time is different. His name is Nick. He’s 23. He has a younger sister (six years my junior). He’s an engineer. We think differently; we do different things; we have different hobbies… and yet it just works. I poke fun at him like the little sister I’ve always been. He teases me and drives me crazy. It’s perfect.

10.) Love is love.

I’ll never forget it when my ex boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s mother (confusing, I know, and the reason I met her is a long, stupid story), said something like “I can’t believe they allow that in the army. I’m Catholic and I just don’t agree with it” to me as she shook my hand back in 2013. She was referring to a graduate from a neighboring college’s Army ROTC program who’d been announced at the 2013 military ball with her wife. Her wife.

I remember smiling uncontrollably when they’d be announced. She must have scowled.

When my ex and I walked away from her, I turned to him and said, “Seriously? This is the family you chose?”

I’m proud of myself for saying that to him. And I’m proud of my parents for instilling an indifference in our family toward sexual orientation so that I can enjoy the company of my friends and loved ones without being worried about which gender they enjoy sleeping with. Because, guess what? It doesn’t fucking matter.

11.) You’ll never forget your first car.

My 2000 Volkswagen New Beetle, fondly referred to as “Bubbles,” popped in October when the mechanic listed the repairs she needed in order to pass inspection. Because it wasn’t practical to keep her, I traded her in for a little black Hyundai Elantra GT. Her name is Pippa.

And yes, I cried when Bubbles was lifted onto the flatbed and sobbed even harder when she disappeared around the corner. Then I got in my new car, pushed the START/STOP engine button, opened the panoramic sunroof, hooked my work phone up to the car’s bluetooth for music, used the backup camera to back out of my spot and drove on with my life.

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12.) Take risks. Take risks. Take risks.

Kiss the guy who keeps looking at you from across the room at the party.

Book that plane ticket and travel to Europe by yourself.

Make the speech that people will remember.

As Marilyn Monroe said, “I’d rather be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Be ridiculous. 

13.) You’ll have bad days at work where you want to tear your hair out, but the good days make it all worth it.

Eh. Not much more to blow out on this one.

14.) Write letters and thank-you notes. Send a gift to someone randomly.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about living on my own, it’s that receiving mail that isn’t a bill usually makes my entire day. I sent a few Christmas cards over the holidays, wrote a few letters to some pen pals that I’d been neglecting, and sent my brother Adam a few “housewarming” gifts when he moved into his apartment back in the fall. I know it makes me feel good, why not spread the love?

15.) To be a generic twentysomething, travel and do fun stuff.

Winery visits on a Saturday morning? YES! Taking a class at the Culinary Institute of America? Sign me up! A weekend trip to Ocean City, Maryland? Sounds like a blast! While making my student loan payments and rent are priorities, I’ve learned to stop blanching at the price tags attached to experiences.

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Cheap jewelry and women’s underwear: a meltdown

I had a meltdown in Walmart about a month ago.

I’d grabbed my Suave Sweet Pea and Violet body wash, pack of men’s razors, perused the small appliance aisle, picked up a few vanilla-scented votives and successfully located my mother near the grocery section so I could place my items in her cart. When I realized I’d forgotten to pick up a pair of gloves, I took off and expected my mom to follow me.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

I saw the same Walmart associates again and again. They stared at me –– me, in my tie-dye pants, moccasin-style boots, bright green Michelin-man coat and the mess of colors on my hat, complete with ear flaps –– every time.

Little girl’s. Little boy’s. Handbags. Scarves. Cheap jewelry. Women’s underwear.

No gloves. No mom. No answer on her phone. No matches for my candles.

Nobody to come home to every night. Nobody to ask me, “Did you have a good day?” Nobody to eat dinner with. No dogs, thus no tails wagging. No reason to go home. No home.

I found scarves for $4.99 and an array of sports watches for $10, but no gloves.

The good news is, I, breathless, found Mom in the coffee aisle, lightyears away from the little girl’s, little boy’s, handbags, scarves, cheap jewelry and women’s underwear sections.

When I nearly started crying at the sight of her, she calmed me down. She understood that Walmart, though gargantuan, wasn’t entirely to blame.

She slept on the couch in my living room for one night before leaving me be.

Letting me be.

Ten reasons why Emily shouldn’t get a dog right now

10.) Money. Vet bills. Accessories. Cool collars, beds and fun toys!!! Wait. Focus. Why care for someone else when I’ve only just begun caring for myself (and the giant peace lily in my family room)?

9.) Shedding. Unless I get a hairless dog, like Cruella de Vil’s Fluffy:


8.) Barking. Because my neighbor’s dog is kind of annoying. Even though I know he/she just wants to get off the darn leash and go for a walk for once. Phew. Had to get that off my chest.

7.) Accidents in the house. Because, though I loved that little black cock-a-poo, Oliver made messes in the house throughout my childhood. Even when he reached doggy adulthood. He who used to run into the back screen door never learned right from wrong. In retrospect, he would have looked really cute in one of those doggy diapers. Human diapers may have even worked…he didn’t have much of a tail. Hmm…

6.) Wait –– I don’t have carpet. Huzzah! But this is supposed to be a con list. Whoops.

5.) What if she’s territorial? My boyfriend would probably have to sleep on an air mattress if my dog ends up anything like my brother’s golden retriever. And she would, of course, sleep in my bed with me. She’d be my little princess. She’d have a pretty green bed in the corner, but she’d never sleep in it because she’d be welcome on mine. It’s a queen. It’s definitely big enough.

4.) She’d take over my life. As seen in #5, I’d basically let her walk all over me. Which is what dog owners are supposed to do, right? They’re too cute to let down…

3.) No drinks right after work. Dorothy’s gotta go potty sometime.

2.) No weekend trips. Or a life, really. Because, like I said before, she’d take it over. She wouldn’t be like a cat whose food bowl I can fill and litter box I can clean. She’d be my version of a human baby, because God knows I’m not ready for that shit yet.

1.) I’m looking too hard. She needs to find me.

Hakuna Matata

My grandmother used to do fingernail inspections.

“Let’s see your nails,” she’d say whenever we had a free moment together.

She’d usually make a little clicking noise of disapproval with her tongue because, c’mon, I always bit my nails and often had dirt under their gnarly remains after playing outside with the boys.

She would make a clicking noise today.

Despite taking nail-health vitamins and frequently brushing on coats of nail strengthener, I’ve been snagging my fingernails on furniture and clothing while softening them beyond repair when I wash my dishes. Having braces forever cured me of biting my nails, but lately I’ve been taking the snagged edges and tearing at them with my fingers. The nail strengthener formula stung my exposed nailbeds just a bit ago as I brushed it on while sitting at my new kitchen island/table.

Sure, Grandma would make a clicking noise with her tongue today if she saw my fingernails, but I don’t need to worry about it. In fact, I don’t need to worry about anything. 

I have a job. I have a car. I have a roof over my head (AND A DECK AND A PORCH AND A WASHER AND DRYER AND A PARKING SPACE) and food in my pantry.

I don’t have a homework assignment due at midnight. I don’t have three projects to do and an exam to study for after I get done with work.

She’d make a clicking noise today at my fingernails, but that’s the only click of disapproval I’d get from her right now.

I’ve been sleeping deeply and dreaming –– DREAMING –– for the first time in years. I have no worries. The only clicking sound I hear now comes from my stovetop when I light one of the gas burners to make myself dinner.

Hakuna Matata.

Fame to shame and back again

The high school’s athletic department spelled my last name wrong on my first-ever MVP plaque for varsity cross country in 2006. Trevor, the men’s MVP recipient and my then-senior-in-high-school brother, hadn’t noticed the misspelling on his own plaque.

The physical education teacher apologized profusely, taking them back and promising to have them redone.

34119_1433227322690_1029585_nThat plaque –– with my properly spelled last name –– hangs on the lime-green wall in my bedroom at my parents’ house… next to the 2010 version, and above the 2007, 2008 and 2009 versions. Five straight years; every season I ran for the varsity women’s team.

Under the 2010 cross country plaque begins a similar saga for track: 2008, 2010 and 2011.

I had no idea that, when I finally hung the plaques up last Christmas, they’d be taunting me in a year.

To shove my award-winning past down my throat even further, there are plaques for school records held and MVP plaques/sportsmanship awards for individual races/meets/seasons.

34579_1433228162711_6570496_nNow I find racing bibs, seed number stickers and individual metal spikes in my childhood bedroom and throw them out without a second thought or glance.

That 100-pound life of mine? It’s been over for more than two years since I decided to pursue a different kind of lifestyle in college. And I’ve found success –– a lot of success, actually –– but I’ve also let my body down.

I feel like shit probably 75 percent of the time now. My doctor says I’ve reached a healthy weight, proportional to my 5’2″ stature and the lifestyle I lead, but I’m reminiscent of those high metabolism days when eating my weight in food refracted on the scale instead of reflecting.

Achieving a healthy weight doesn’t mean I’m entirely happy with the loss of tone in my muscles, the weight gain in my face and –– while this may seem like a perk –– the need to buy new bras to support a larger cup size.

I’m fuller, more of the hourglass figure women so desperately want… but I’m about ready to trade it in.

I stopped running because I hated it, the running part, I mean. Not to mention the drama on my college cross country team (almost wrote “country” without the ‘o’…not on purpose, I swear!) and coaching methods I did not particularly agree with. Maybe building a method of my own and running on my schedule will be the breath of fresh, cold and wintry air my cabin fever needs in order to be sweated out. Not to mention the 10 pounds I’d really like to shed.

So I’ve invested $100 dollars in my new RUN-BECAUSE-IT’S-HEALTHY-FOR-YOU,-EMILY initiative.

$30 on new Sauconys (the comfiest running sneaker you’ll ever find; I snagged a deal at Dick’s).

$60 on a new sports bra (you pay a hefty price for…well…having a hefty chest).

$11 on bluetooth earbuds (originally $40; I had Amazon credit to use).

So screw you, lime-green wall.


Crying in front of Plassmann Hall

10518857_824263050926992_6371536501199916685_nMy best friend here at school couldn’t believe it when I told her. Via text message, she whined and begged for me to stay.

“I’ll stay if you can pay for it for me,” I tried to compromise.

…she didn’t fall for that one.

Her response made me feel sick. It made me realize how much I’d miss out on. How much I’d miss my friends. How scary the real world is.

I pondered my predicament every day from the moment I noticed my degree audit’s tapped-out supply of credits. It took seeing a very expensive out-of-pocket cost on my student bill for me to see reason. I’ve always been a sensible person, much to my own chagrin. I knew what I needed to do, though I’d been in an impenetrable state of denial about it for months.

I told my friend Haley, a fellow December graduate, first.

“Congratulations, Emily!” was her response.

Wait… BACK UP, I thought.

I had expected her to tell me to stay, tell me to stick around and enjoy my senior year, tell me she didn’t want to graduate in December, either. But she didn’t.

I hesitantly told one of my roommates.

“I figured you would,” she said, referencing a conversation we’d had over the summer when I had first mentioned the possibility. “I would if I could.”


None of it seemed to faze her.

So I’m done letting it faze me.

I’m done standing in front of Plassmann Hall with tears rolling down my cheeks at 2 a.m. on a Saturday. My life isn’t over. On the contrary, it’s kind of beginning.

After applying online for December graduation and filling out how I want my name to appear on my diploma, I called my mom to tell her. Luckily (I guess), my dad was in the car with her.

They congratulated me. Told me they’re proud of me. Graduating early isn’t the crutch I’d formerly seen it as. If anything, it’s a boost, an advantage.

Then my parents dropped a bomb onto  my life.

365 days since Aug. 4, 2013

Grandma was the one constant in my life. I changed, but she never did. She sat in her chair, in her house, read the paper, made simple dinners, called me, asked me to take her out shopping.

That woman loved to shop.

Even when her cane slowed her down and I became aggravated. I tried not to let it show, but I think she could tell half the time.

But she stopped sitting in her chair in her house, stopped reading the paper, stopped making simple dinners, stopped calling me and asking me to take her out shopping. She stopped. Her heart stopped. She died of kidney failure a year ago today.

It’s hard being my age and hearing my peers talk about their grandparents. I feel like I’m too young to not have grandparents.

But, as my boyfriend says, c’est la vie. Such is life. But I miss her terribly.

So this one’s for you, Grandma.

14 to 20

My brother’s college professor encouraged his students to begin a blog. LiveJournal, BlogSpot, WordPress…power up your iBook, find the site that works for you and create an account.

So he did.

Jordan started a WordPress blog, called it “Innocence, In a Sense” and practiced his writing. (This is why Jordan is WAY smarter than I am; I just now realized how clever his title was. I’m a year older now than he was when he started his blog.)

Fourteen-year-old Emily wrote poetry.

Fourteen-year-old Emily idolized Jordan.

Fourteen-year-old Emily wanted to blog, too.

Following in Jordan’s too-big-to-fill footsteps, 14-year-old Emily became “Blackbyrd” and started writing about stupid shit. Stupid shit that, at the time, seemed relevant and important. Stupid shit that is, of course, entirely too fun to look back on now.

To go with the theme here, I wrote 14 posts this month six years ago. Fourteen. Now any number over five is an accomplishment because – and you’ve heard me say this before – writing on my blog takes me forever.

Now I put in 43 hours a week at my very corporate summer job. In 2008? Work had no relevance. With food on the table and a pool to swim in on the hotter days, I spent my time reading and, I guess, posting on my blog. Excessively, I daresay.

Twenty-year-old Emily still writes poetry. (She actually slams it, too.)

Twenty-year-old Emily still idolizes Jordan.

Twenty-year-old Emily still wants to blog and tries to as often as she can, but, after actually learning how to write, posting takes her a lot longer than it used to.

Twenty-year-old Emily lives on her own and provides for herself.

Twenty-year-old Emily is fully aware of her upcoming career search, apartment search, friend search, life search.

Still, twenty-year-old Emily couldn’t believe it when this notification popped up when she logged into WordPress today:









Cheers to present Emily, the past Emilys and hello to 2015, fresh-out-of-college Emily. Everything will be okay. It always is.