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01 December 2011

an announcement. a sigh of relief. and back to writing.

Photo1-3My dear friends,

I have been longing to write more. Longing. Yearning.

Part of the reason for the redesign of my website - coming officially on January 5th and likely to show up unofficially before then so we (and you) can test it out - was to create a new space to write, to create a spaciousness for myself that was lacking, to get back to the writing that started 37days. A clean slate. A space that would focus on words and images. A space free of clutter, free of ads or pop-ups or boxes to fill out. No strings attached, just the strongest offers I could make to the world.

Since my books starting coming out in 2008, I've been blessed with an amazing response from readers. Schools have started using my books in their curricula, I've traveled the country on book tours set up by enthusiastic readers of my work. It has been extraordinary and buoying and fulfilling and fun and so much more.

And yet, I haven't been writing. Not really.

I've been answering emails and shipping books - and not that efficiently. I've been overwhelmed, truthfully, and I feel I've let people down by not responding quickly, or sometimes, at all. With hundreds of emails coming in a day, it has been a source of stress - not to hear from people - oh, no, not that at all - but to lose track or not get responses out or not send thank you notes. It has felt like I'm a failure at that. And I hate that.

Also, let me be completely honest here: My daughter, Tess, needs me. She is having a hard time of it, and my extended travel is difficult for her. I am changing my life, just as I changed my life in 1996 when it was clear that Emma longed for me to be home more and I quit my corporate job to do just that. Now, Tess needs me here. If that wasn't clear to me before now, it is now. And once you know that, you can't not know it.

So I have needed to create space, get organized, stay home, write more, ask for help (which is hard for me), and partner with people who can help me.  I've done just that.

My new team

My friend, Pam Slim, suggested I contact Tim Grahl at Out:think about creating a new online business space, and I did. From the very first conversation I had with Tim and his designer, Brian Morykon, I felt relieved and heard and taken care of and challenged. It is their work that will debut on January 5th with the official launch of my site. They will also be behind the scenes helping to launch a year-long series of 37-day-long classes online beginning in January. Can you change your life in 37days? We're about to find out.

Pam also suggested a woman named Megan Everett (pronounced Mee-gan) to help with planning, special projects, and organization. Megan has been an angel flown down from heaven above for the past few months and she has just agreed to come onboard as the business manager for 37days.

For those two referrals, a huge thank you to Pam.

Meanwhile, I did a most fantastic writing workshop with Jen Louden and Susan Piver in Boston in September (coming to Asheville in October 2012--details coming soon!). A woman named Melissa Martin-Costa had volunteered to help with the retreat, and she was so amazing a helper and such an amazing woman that I told her (and anyone else who would listen) that one day I was going to hire her as my executive assistant. And I did just that, today. On her 37th birthday. 37. Yep.

I cannot say how thrilled and relieved and happy I am to have created such a powerfully creative, wise, and organized team to help me step out of the fray a bit and write more. And stay home more. And get excited and create more.

I've learned to ask for help. To partner with people I trust. To let go enough to let them do their jobs. Try it. You'll love it.

I'm looking forward to 2012 in a way I haven't in years past. I thank Pam, Tim, Brian, Megan, and Melissa for their part in that.



Letting go. And creating.

35daysIt is 35 days until the official launch of my new site. I hope you'll join me for an online celebration!

In the days leading up to that launch on January 5, 2012, I'm asking you to consider two questions:

What do I need or want to let go of as 2011 ends?

What do I want to create in 2012?

I'll feature as many of your submissions as I can here on 37days as we lead up to the launch on January 5th. You can submit your answers (up to 200 words) here.

Let yourself sink into the beauty and honesty of the answers people are expressing:


More living

-Lisa Evans


What do I want to let go of?

I'm letting go of a part of me, the one that people never see.

It's that loud and mean voice deep inside, the one I've tried my best to hide.

I have no need nor time for cruel words, the ones that should never be uttered or heard.

I forgive myself for telling lies, the ones that drove me crazy and made me cry.

I'm letting go of my monkey mind , the one that creates chaos and isn't kind.

I happily give up this part of me, the one that's kept who I am from being truly free.


What do I want to create?

More love and freedom. More stories and more dance.

More joy and jubilation. More connections and more romance.

More surprises and adventures. More strength and more movement.

More patience and presence. More experiences and more events.

More lightness and laughter. More silliness and more play.

More hope and honesty. More silence and more say.

More music and art. More goodness and more giving.

More peace and passion. More growth and more living.



-Erin Coughlin Hollowell

As I look at the clutter on my desk, stacks of papers, notebooks, forms, cords, a mug of tea… I understand that what I want to get rid of is scarcity. The mess on my desk is not from too much, but from my fear of too little. Unmoored from a typical 9-to-5 job for the first time in many years, I’ve let my fear of not enough work cause me to say yes to too much work. What was supposed to be a time in my life for pursuing my writing has turned into a nightmare of overlapping priorities. I need to let go of the vision of the world as a place of scarcity.

I want to embrace “enough,” to create a life in the new year that has space for walks outside, cups of tea by the woodstove, and most especially time each day to devote to reading and writing poetry. Enough would mean that I wouldn’t feel like I was cramming my writing into a space too small for it. It would mean creating a life that honors what makes me feel larger, not what presses me down smaller. A life that has just enough.


30 November 2011

What do you want to let go of? What do you want to create?

36daysDear fantastic human,

Like many of you, for me the end of a year and the beginning of another is a special time. It's a time to reflect and know.

As I end each year, I ask myself two questions:

    What do I want/need to let go of as I end this year?

    What do I want to create in the new year?

These have become profound questions for me. I hope they will be for you as well. It takes great honesty to answer them in a way that has real meaning. Sometimes we need to let go of a habit, or a relationship, or a person who is toxic in our lives.

What is your answer?

I'm counting down to the launch of my new online home for 37days, and as part of that countdown, I'd love to feature your answers to those two questions on 37days.

You can submit your answer here (up to 200 words). I'll choose one to feature every day on 37days for the next 37 days. If you'd like yours to appear anonymously, just write "ANONYMOUS" at the end of your answer.

I'm also planning a free online celebration and launch party on January 5, 2012 and would love for you to be there! We'll celebrate the 7th anniversary of 37days and the launch of my new fantastic site with some prizes and gifts and a short webinar called "Your Dream Has a Heartbeat--Listen to It"! Click here for more info and to register!

24 November 2011

we are saying thank you. (and my paean to cranberry sauce)


with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
... we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

-W. S. Merwin

I write a thank you note every morning. I have for 2 years now.

It has changed my life to look at the world in a constant state of thankfulness. I even look at moments of sadness and anger and loss - those moments that bring a simple "wow" to my lips - with a sense of deep thankfulness for what that moment is bringing me. It is a revolutionary act.

For me, thankfulness is a daily practice. I'm letting Thanksgiving serve as its mascot, but not its replacement.

With thanks to Lianne Raymond for pointing me to this significant poem. Let us read it aloud and sit with it this fine day. I'm starting my Thanksgiving with a walk around Low Blood Pressure Lake. Then I'll attempt to make cashew-stuffed Portabello mushrooms without the cashews that I forgot to buy. And then I will remember how very much I love cranberry sauce. And then I will remember that imperfections make us real and complex and fully human, and that we can choose the story we tell with our lives, which means we can reject the stories others try to impose on us.

With thanks for you, always. You are treasures.



(image from here. I love the quote she chose to go with this image)

17 November 2011

thinking thursday.

2011_10_12_18_33_45.pdf000(Tess, third grade school photo)


I'm keenly interested in education, and found this article fascinating: What if the key to success was failure?

You'll reach new heights if you learn to embrace the occasional tumble.


7 foods the experts won't eat. Are you eating them?

My cousin Karen posted a link to this article on Facebook, and it got me thinking: Do you have a health care directive? I don't. And I need one.

A literacy of curves: "...apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other."

Simple, and beautiful.

This will be on my Thanksgiving menu. Oh, my, yes.

And by the way, have you ever roasted red grapes? They are amazing: Carefully toss grapes with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook at 450 on a parchment-lined pan for 10 minutes. Thanks to Marilyn Maciel for that new flavor sensation!


Taking as much mindfulness as you can stand: "thoughts are innocent, as Byron Katie might say. Suffering begins when we start to be impressed by them, believe them, take them personally." Ironically, I'm going to be impressed by this thought, believe it, and take it personally.

Susan Piver is out to bring meditation to the world. She's helping me start a one-minute meditation practice soon because she asked a group of us to write down how long we thought we could meditate every day and then add one minute to that number. After my addition, I came up with "one." Join her Open Heart Project. See the meditation videos she's creating, including this one that changed everything for me last week: "Who would you be without that thought?" I knew immediately the answer to that question: I would be happy, and free.

Words to ponder: When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.  -Victor Frankl

16 November 2011

poetry wednesday : for nagesh.

Nagesh2(photo from Nagesh Rao's Facebook page)

I participated in Colleen Wainwright's amazing "50 for 50" project to raise money for WriteGirl, an LA-based nonprofit that supports girls and young women writers. For my contribution, I was to receive a custom poem by one of their mentees, a poem that young woman would write for me, or for someone of my choosing.

I filled out a form explaining that I chose my friend (and make-believe twin bro) Nagesh Rao, to get a poem. That we are twins is somewhat make-believe, not Nagesh himself. He's very real and very necessary.

And here it is, a poem in honor of his mother's passing, by 21-year-old poet Portia Frazier.

To Nagesh, and to all of us navigating our own private geography of loss, with love and thanks for all your listening, and in full recognition that grief is a tease:


Requested by: Patti Digh
Poem is for: Nagesh
WriteGirl Author: Portia Frazier, Age 21
Title of Poem: Where Do You Go

Where Do You Go

When you leave me, where do you go?
Are you lost in time, shaped by its flow?

Science says that our cells are made up of energy
Does that mean I can breathe you tasting more than a memory?
If energy never dies and can never be created
Does that mean that our meeting may again be fated?

Are you in the hands that still hold me?
In the eyes of the ones near me?

My heart aches for you
The embrace I depended on now withdrawn
My eyes and throat burn with the need to mourn
My voice breaking under pain too sharp to be borne

“Why must you leave?” I shout through my dreams
Hoping it reaches you while I unravel at the seams

My path is still clear
I can still feel you near

You are in my memories
In the air around me
In the hands of our family

When you leave me
You are in peace
In beauty
In rest.

A whole new space in which to breathe.

Hi, fabulous person. It's raining here in Asheville, and I'm holed up at my dining room table making big plans, cooking up some magic for 2012. I am SO EXCITED to show you my new website (very soon! squeeee!) and hope you love it. To make sure you do, I've got a few questions for you - just 10 short itty-bitty questions to be exact - and I would love your input about 37days - and about the creation of fun, amazing, collaborative online courses that I want to develop for 2012 so I can travel less, stay home more, and engage more deeply with y'all.

This survey won't take but a few minutes to complete - and I would really appreciate hearing from you. All the answers are anonymous. Thanks so much! You rock. You truly do.

NOTE: This survey will close at 5pm Eastern on Friday, November 18th, 2011.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

10 November 2011

Stop abdicating the responsibility for your own humanity: The Penn State Rapes

The fact of the Penn State horror are simple and clear to me:

No child should be raped. No child should be raped in a shower. No child should be raped in a shower by an adult he trusts. And no one watching that rape should sleep until they know that that child--and others like him--are safe. Whether they are the witness, the coach, or the president of the university. If you know, you cannot not know.

You cannot abdicate the responsibility for your own humanity to others, or to the law, or to the system.

End of story.

But that's not what happened at Penn State. There are probably a lot of reasons for that--some have said that football trumped reason, for example. That the money generated by football was too great to jeopardize, even though a child was at stake. Many children. Whatever the reasons--and there might be many reasons--they are not valid. They are not true and just and appropriate. No matter the reason, they fall short in this case. They are excuses, not reasons. They are representations of our too-convenient "not seeing" because too much is at stake.

As a young employee in my first job after graduate school, it became clear that my boss was taking money from a grant fund our organization had received--and applying it to his own personal expenses. I went to the president of the organization with documentation of what was happening because it was wrong. And here is what he said to me: "Frank just had a heart attack, and we don't want to do anything to upset him. Plus he is really respected in the field."

I left that job after sending the documentation to the grant-making organization to ensure that they knew. That is what we must do. We cannot stand up for children, for truth, for others, for ourselves, only when it is convenient. We must not.

There is no reason that comes close to explaining why so many knew, and so many did nothing in the case of Penn State. This is also true of the Catholic Church and other institutions that are built on systemic injustices and abuses, of which there are many.

I am not talking about what people were legally bound to do--because that has no place here. None. The life of a child is simply not measured in legal terms. I do not care what the law said. I do not care what the policies and procedures of that university said. Children should not be raped in the shower and that abuse covered up.

People knew. And they did nothing.

A friend asked my opinion on this case, and here it is:

We are not responsible for the actions of those we admire, whether they are a coach or a teacher or a movie star, or the university from which we graduated. And since every institution is comprised of human beings--all of us flawed--we make mistakes. Sometimes they are small mistakes and sometimes they are large ones.

It is heartbreaking to watch a university or any institution crumble under the weight of bad decisions, of looking the other way, of condoning by commission and omission.

I believe the only appropriate response--the only one that improves the chances of other children in that situation--is not only one of justice against those who did nothing--and they are all to blame--but much more importantly one of commitment that each of us as individual people will stand up against child abuse each and every time we see it.

The woman on the plane cursing at her small child and slapping him across the face? You have a responsibility. I know you don't want to make a mistake or make things uncomfortable or misinterpret or cause a scene.

Neither did the people at Penn State.

We are better than this, people. We owe it to our children to do better. We must do better.

If you are a graduate of Penn State, be proud of what you took away from that fine institution and let this be a time of learning rather than damning. This is a hot spot, a time when we can either shut down or open up to learning. Let it be the latter.

19 October 2011

poetry wednesday : pencil in "sunlight"

SunlightThe Word

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive, 
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

-Tony Hoagland

With thanks to Lisa Smith for pointing me to this poem.

17 October 2011

mindful monday : elvis, my muse.

2011-10-13_16-38-01_937I've been resting.

And reading.

And enjoying my new orange desk. I may have mentioned that once or eleven times.

I walked around Beaver Lake this morning with my friend, Andrea. It was, as she said, like walking in a postcard.

I ate fruit for breakfast.

I am clearing my head, and my body. More love.

Here is one tool I'm using to clear out, clarify, make simple:

iDoneThis is a simple "here's what I did today" program that I've been using for a month. I love it to pieces. So simple. Respond to an email every day with what you did that day, and it puts that info on a calendar for you. Sometime later, you'll be reminded what you did on October 4 or September 27 and it will ask how you felt that day. There is something so comforting and additive and memory-making about this program. A reminder, a beautiful accumulation of actions and thoughts, a recognition that it is usually the tiny moments that make up a life, not the big events, a way to capture things that might later serve as writing prompts. I hope you might like it too. I find myself noting the simple:

Tue Sep 27 2011

  • Flew to Chicago.
  • Got a hair cut.
  • Had a delicious raw vegan lunch at Karyn's with JD and Lynne.
  • Worked in O'Hare airport for hours.
  • Skyped with John and Tess from Gate F12 in O'Hare.
  • Let people use plugs on my power strip in O'Hare.
  • Used my iPod to drown out the constantly talking Mr Loud in the plane to Lincoln.
  • Drove to Hastings, Nebraska.
  • Ate my traditional baked potato and oriental slaw at Murphy's Wagon Wheel.

Sat Oct 08 2011

  • Slept late.
  • Went to the library with John and Tess - and to Kim's Oriental market.
  • Made Vietnamese coffee for me and John.
  • Watched John and Tess paint her bookcase bright, beautiful purple.
  • Ate veggie dumplings.
  • Put Tess to bed.
  • Went to bed early.
  • It felt great to be home.

Clarity, restfulness, remembering.

Your results will differ. And that is fantastic.

(p.s. I never mention programs or products because I'm an affiliate with them and will earn income from mentioning them. Long ago I decided not to say yes to any of the many people and companies who offer affiliate links to me--if you see something featured here, it is simply because I love it. No ads, no affiliate links. That's outside my intention with 37days.)