Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Share Your Story: Bethany of She Writes and Rights

This is a guest post for the "Share Your Story" series (learn more about it here!). 

I'm excited to introduce you all to Bethany of She Writes and Rights. We connected through the blogosphere and our mutual love of writing... and we even got to meet in person a few months ago.


"Do you want coffee?" he asks casually, standing at the register.

I accept and the barista soon hands us paper cups brimming with bold drip brews. We slide into a booth and smile at one another. He yawns, tells me he has insomnia and his daughter was sick last night, too. And I think about how easy I have it right now, sans kids. I think about how sleepless I feel right now, even without them. The ever-present question floats to the surfaceHow will we ever make it?but I brush it away and listen to him talk about his work. School is out for summer and he's been busy in his studio, painting.

We climb slowly into the conversation we're here to have, about creativity and literature and art and making it through my twenties. He, in his early 30s, tells me about the penniless dates he and his wife had when they first moved to Chicago a decade ago, when he started grad school at the School of the Art Institute and they had no kids and didn't know how they were going to make it through their twenties.

He asks me about my freelance work. Oh, yeah. I take a deep breath and slowly relay my story, bit by bit as he pries the details from me. "Didn't I tell you never to work without a contract? … You were charging her how much? … Oh, Bethany."

I lean my head against the wall and cringe, "Yes, I know I know I know…"

But he is gracious and reassuring and firm, all the things I try to be for myself every day, all the things I need but don't know how to give myself.

We relay storiesones we've heard and ones we've lived through, mistakes we've made, small victories we've achieved as creatives, he as a professor and painter, me as a writer.

"You have to set a precedent," he tells me. "It's about self-worth. It's about valuing your work and what you were made to do."

He talks and I watch him, remembering late afternoons in the painting studio as we stood behind easels and he walked around the room, peering over our shoulders as we mimed arbitrary objects with oils and brushes - pumpkins, drop cloths, fabric orchids, old roller skates. Sometimes he would read from Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water. Sometimes he would come to stand at my side and I would step back and glance at him, waiting for the inevitable eyebrow to rise. Sometimes he would shake his head, say, "Look again," and walk away.

So many things have changed, but then again.

After an hour or two and the sun is higher in the July sky and I'm sure I'm running late to the office, we part ways. I thank him, but my words seem small compared to what he's armed me withcoffee, lessons, art, life.

I drive away, thinking. I've felt so sleepless with my thoughts lately, so tired of trying to "make it" and "figure it out" and find my "next step." I am grown up. I'm not a student anymore. But even so, sometimes I forget that I still need a teacher. Sometimes I forget that my independence has limits.

Sometimes I still need someone to push me back toward the drawing board, with a gracious, reassuring and firm hand. Sometimes I still need someone to tell me, "Look again."

Full-time writer by day, artist and blogger by night, Bethany Suckrow authors the blog She Writes and Rights, where she shares both prose and poetry related to life, faith, storytelling and creativity. Her greatest passions are Grace, words, and a good cup of coffee. She and her musician husband Matt live in the Chicago suburbs.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Holding On and Letting Go

I don't think I've slept through the night once this week.  And it doesn't seem like there is any obvious thing weighing on my mind, nothing in particular that should cause me to wake up and toss and turn in the early morning hours.

This morning between 2:30 and 4:30 am, I did all I could do to fall back to sleep.  But I couldn't help thinking about writing projects, weekend plans, to-do lists.  I tried to breathe deeply, to relax.  I pondered this quote:

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.

So true.  I came across this thought-provoking quote within the album cover of a Keith Urban CD several years ago.  Some attribute it to Rumi.  Regardless of the origin, it makes me consider my life, my balance, the holding on and letting go.

Throughout life, we hold on and let go of many thingspeople, places, emotions, memories, dreams. But in order to know whether we should hold on or let go, we have to understand the significance, the importance, the reason why we should keep something or someone close or choose to let go.

To strike the right balance in life, we have to know what's right for us, what we need and want.  Everything else can afford to be let gonegative thoughts, people who bring us down, fears and failures.  Holding tight to the people who love and support us, faith and hope, places that feel like homethose are the important things.

Today, I'm keeping this quote in mind.  Perhaps it will bring a kind of peace, guiding me to that elusive balance, helping me to see what's worth holding onto and what I simply need to let go.

What should you hold onto?  What should you let go?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Share Your Story: Sarah of Inspiration-Driven Life

This is the first guest post of the "Share Your Story" series (learn more about it here!).  I'm excited to introduce you all to Sarah of Inspiration-Driven Life, a blogger friend and fellow writer.


I’d like to say my career transition started on the last day of my first big girl job. I’d like to say I launched with the sunrise the next day and it’s been fruitful ever since. And I wish I could detail every step I took.

If that were the story, it would involve much less heartbreak and very little gut-wrenching, that’s for sure.

Just like the story of a vacation begins when we pull our suitcase out of the closet and not when the plane takes off, the story of any life transition really starts long before the transition itself.

And so I suppose my story starts in the spring of 2010, when I said yes to a once-in-a-lifetime man who was down on one knee with a diamond. There was never a question about a yes or no, because when you find a wonderful man, you grab him and keep him close. But I did wonder what this meant for my career.

When I got engaged, I was knee-deep in a stressful-yet-fantastic role in Development and Communications for a non-profit, inner city high school. Because I had the chance to dip my toes in multiple ponds, it was a wonderful first gig.

Mr. S. (my now-husband, then-fiancé) started grad school in August 2010, states away from this wonderful first gig of mine. I knew relocation was on the horizon. And so that season, I was planning our wedding remotely and connecting in community however I could, soaking it up before the inevitable move. I also scoured the job boards, networking as well as I could from a distance. A few leads, but no good fits.

That fall, I also tentatively tip-toed into the world of consulting. A Kansas City friend and colleague had invited me to help her behind-the-scenes in her college admissions counseling business. I channeled my inner grammar ninja as I edited dozens of admissions essays and offered critiques and suggestions . . . and the more I did, the more I loved it.

Today I look back and the answer to my feverish what-should-I-do-with-my-life is obvious. Consulting and writing and blending my multiple passions sounds like a natural fit. But it would take much more heartbreak before I realized it.

Days before our wedding, friends helped me pack up my life and ship the storage pod to Lafayette, Indiana.

The morning of January 1, 2011, I woke up crazy early and edited an essay before I got ready for my wedding. Looking back, it was the best decision I could have made. It was a professional victory on a day when much seemed out of control.

Post-honeymoon, the reality of joblessness hit me hard. I stared at a pile of boxes in the apartment I now shared with my husband of less than a week, and I found myself facing so much new, and all at once. A new town, and a job search without networking contacts to call on and without a community to lean on.

Sitting at home was scary and lonely and above all, simply boring. In between bouts of online job searching and unpacking and anxiety, I tried my hand at daytime TV watching. My grandma had been an All My Children devotee for decades, after all. And yet I couldn’t get into a single daytime soap opera. Clearly television preferences aren’t hereditary.

Passive job searching was doing me no good. And the jobs I applied for were less than enticing. When I fell for one of those Craigslist “remote assistant” ads, that was the final straw. I knew where my passions and abilities intersected: the nonprofit field. With a little help from the United Way’s database, I fired off 60-ish emails.

Each little email was a big leap of faith. I introduced myself and offered to do everything I’d done at my old job for free, as a volunteer. Why? Because one more day of sitting in this house – and staring at daytime soaps -- may have broken my soul.

Initially? Frightening. Later? Gratifying.

From those 60 emails came one precious response that very afternoon. It was from the Volunteer Coordinator at the Red Cross, inviting me to their office. Armed with a handful of business cards printed on my circa-2005 printer on Hobby Lobby cardstock, I gathered my gumption.

I walked in to meet not just the Volunteer Coordinator, but the Development Director and Executive Director as well.

I left, by grace alone, with a contract job. A consultant role, just like the role I played as an essay editor. Familiar, right?

I treasured the Red Cross job, and yet I knew it was just for a season. When the yearly fundraising campaign was over, my time as a consultant would be too. So although I was gainfully employed, and no longer slave to the daytime soaps, the job search never really ended.

January became February and February became March. Those who I met while networking typically said they had no position for me, or weren’t hiring at the time. But smaller projects? Sure. Writing opportunities? Absolutely.

I’ll never forget meeting the business manager of a growing IT company.  She was my first local client and, through her, I met dozens of other local professionals. Through the power of networking and a few crossed fingers, I was able to find more writing opportunities. Every project was a privilege, a chance to fall in love with communications all over again.

As the Red Cross position wrapped up, I applied for an open job in membership and fundraising at a local art museum. The job description fit me perfectly, and yet to submit my application was to take a leap of faith. This role was only 20 hours a week. So to apply for this job meant I’d take my freelance writing and consulting to a new level. Working on both fronts could make ends meet, and yet it was scary to take this step.

Just hours after my interview at the Museum, I accepted the position. So I suppose, in a way, that day was also the day I launched Inspiration-Driven Communication, my freelance writing and consulting business serving nonprofits, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Today, I’ve been balancing my own business and my museum position for well over a year. And yes, it’s a balancing act, but one I will never regret. One thing is for certain: there as been nothing business-as-usual about it. I’ve had the privilege of playing a role in building better businesses, creating stronger communities, painting word stories, strengthening teams and using the best words for the best messages.

As any entrepreneur will tell you, finding clients and building contacts and spreading the word is no easy feat. Any entrepreneur will also tell you it’s a journey of many teary nights.

Yet I don’t regret a minute of it.

I’ve learned the value of hard work, the necessity of patience, the joy of community, the importance of faith and the significance of grace in the middle of it all.

Each day, friends, has been a leap of faith. And for me, every leap has been a leap worth taking.

Sarah is no fan of soap operas, but loves community and creativity. She’s a young professional in the communications, writing and nonprofit fields and can’t get enough of it. Sarah appreciates a good cardigan, cherishes a great cup of coffee and gets a kick out of painting her nails red. Connect with her on her blog, Inspiration-Driven Life, at http://sarahkocischeilz.wordpress.com and on Twitter @SarahKoci.

Monday, July 23, 2012

City Maps as Modern Decor

I recently came across the Jenna Sue Map Shop on Etsy.  I love the choice of colors, the unique pattern of lines for each city, and the meaning behind choosing which maps to purchase and display.

all photos via
Since we are running out of wall space in the condo (and Scott's not sure what he thinks of these prints), I figured I'd let you all know about the shop.  That way, if you buy a print or two, I can live vicariously through you... and be slightly jealous.

I'd pick:
Kansas City - my hometown
South Bend - where I went to college
Chicago - where I live now

How about you?  Which cities would you choose--places you've lived, cities you want to visit?
*I'm not being compensated in any way for this post. Simply wanted to share a cool find!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Few Exciting Announcements

Hello, hello!

Just warning you that it may be quiet around here the rest of this week, but to make up for it, I have three exciting announcements to share.

1. I joined Twitter on Friday, so please find me at @melissatydell and let's connect on yet another social media platform :)  I'm still getting the hang of things, but it's fascinating to see what everyone is up to in the Twitter-verse.

2. Beginning next Tuesday, I'm starting my FIRST guest post series called "Share Your Story." 

I'm inviting peoplewriters as well as those who don't consider themselves to be writersto contribute a short inspirational post.  Each post will be a sort of short personal essay, sharing a piece of the guest blogger's "story" by telling about a specific time in his/her life.

Possible themes:
Overcome a challenge or difficult time
Learned a lesson
Taken a leap of faith
Discovered something new
Changed your mind
Seen something/someone differently
Stood up for yourself/something you believe in
Achieved a goal

As a personal mission and as a part of my consulting & coaching services, I want to show people that writing doesn't need to be intimidating. To that end, the content of the guest series is meant to inspire, but I hope that the form will inspire as well.

I have some amazing bloggers lined up for the first few weeks, but if you'd like to contribute, feel free to shoot me an email at inspirationandroughdrafts [at] gmail [dot] com.

3. Remember that survey I asked you all to fill out?  First of all, a big THANK YOU to those who completed the survey (and if you haven't yet, it's currently still open!).

I don't want you to think I've forgotten about the e-newsletter series... because the truth is I've been working on that little project behind the scenes and I'm very excited about how it's evolved.  More to come on that front in the next couple weeks!

...Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blogger Blitz Chicago

I guess it's a sign of a super-fun weekend when you feel exhausted on Monday.  I can't complain too much though... the past couple days were jam-packed with good things.  And I'm heading home this week to see my family and have some down time (soooo excited!).

This weekend... besides dinner + a movie with some of the girls, yoga, a bridal shower (complete with limo transportation, Mexican food and sangria, and bar-hopping afterwards), Mass, and a couple of drinks on the porch with friends... I attended Blogger Blitz Chicago!

{av} from {long distance loving} organized and hosted the event, which was on the fabulous rooftop at Market.  Though it was a million degrees outside, we all braved the heat to meet and greet fellow bloggers.  It was great to see some new faces and catch up with some of my blogging buddies.

I didn't get pictures, but some of the other ladies did.  Using the handy-dandy blogger directory we each received, I put together a list of everyone who signed up for the event (many of them posted recaps and pics of Blogger Blitz too!).

Jennifer Darling Notes
Mariel Mariel's Window (she posted lots of good photos!)
Melissa Inspiration and Rough Drafts ... that's me :)

And here's the adorable goody bag, very helpful blogger directory, and my glittery nametag (um... love!).  The pretty notecards were from The Scribble Pad.... can't wait to use them for some special notes.

Bonus picture... Because I can't have a drink or two with friends without snacks, Scott and I made a run to the store and put together a little spread on Sunday.  It was easy and yummy... just what I needed at the end of a long, fun weekend. 

And yes, that's a bowl full of cherries... how appropriate, right? :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Bridal Shower for the Lovebirds

Last month, I went to Milwaukee for a bridal shower and bachelorette party for my dear college friend J.  She and A. are getting married in September, and I'm honored to be a part of the wedding party.

J's aunt and cousin hosted the bridal shower at an adorable little venue in a park, right by a pond.  We ate lunch and admired all the lovely gifts J. received (and her fabulous dress!).  In the middle of the shower, we noticed it was rainingone of those humid, summer downpoursbut since we were indoors, it made the party feel cozy and relaxed.  Getting to catch up and spend time with some of my best college girlfriends that weekend was just wonderful.

And the decor was Pinterest-worthy, so I had to share with you all.  The hostesses did a marvelous job!

(As for the bachelorette pictures... well, those are going to have to stay under wraps!)

The herbs acted as decor for the shower... and favors for the guests to take with them!

"Love bird" theme :)

Love the tulle and turquoise!  And the napkin rings featured a circular tag with the couple's monogram.

The view outside

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Painting Party at Bottle and Bottega

Yes, we called it a "painting party"... but Bottle and Bottega calls them "hands-on art sessions."

Last week, I went with three of my girlfriends to an event at Bottle and Bottega.  They offer an assortment of public art parties, as well as private ones, at their locations in Illinois and Denver, Colorado.

Our event included a taco buffet and margarita mix (it was BYOT... bring your own tequila), plus a 16x20 canvas, paints, and art instructionall for $40 a person. There were about 25 attendees in all, mostly a mix of girls and guys in their 20s and 30s.

Using a picture as a guide, we each painted a beach scene.  It was inspiring to see how each person had a unique take on the same picturedifferent colors, techniques, elements.  Overall, it was really fun and definitely something outside of the typical dinner-and-drinks girls' night.

Here's a look at my creation:

And here's the picture we were attempting to copy:


Monday, July 9, 2012

Dealing with Disappointment

When people ask me how the business is going, I give them my honest response: it's both wonderful and hard.

One of the difficult parts is dealing with disappointment.  I get frustrated when I don't understand why something went wrong or I make a mistake.  I usually ruminate on what happened and beat myself up about it, but the best part is that I'm slowly learning to handle disappointment in better and smarter ways.

To be honest, on Friday, I faced three different work-related situations that brought me to tears.  As I wallowed a bit and tried to fall asleep that night, I had a mini-breakthrough: what had happened wasn't life or death.  In fact, those three instances weren't going to affect anyone else negatively.  I was giving the day so much power over my mood and my confidence, and it wasn't worth that energy.

I came up with three important questions to ask myself when disappointment strikes.  These questions help to put things in perspective:

1) Is this a case of life or death?
My dad is a doctor and faces life-and-death decisions every day.  Or in my former job, a mistake could have cost my company or the client a lot of money.  I'm doing important work now, but it's not going to hurt anyone but me if I make an error or receive a rejection email.

2) Will this matter a year from now?
This is a go-to question for many aspects of life.  It instantly helps me gauge how significant something is and understand that even if it seems like the worst, most awful thing ever today, it likely won't cross my mind a year from now.  Or if it does, I'll be able to see how far I've come and the good that's come out of it.

3) What can I learn from this?
Even when facing tough stuff, it's possible to find good, to learn a lesson, to grow.  I might not always understand why something happens or what exactly I should do differently if I'm put in the same situation, but over time, I will see the positive effects.  I will learn.

I know not every disappointment in life can be calmed by asking these three questions.  We can't solve every hurt, at least not right away.  There may be times that we have to deal with life-or-death dilemmas, with events that will matter years from now, with difficulties that don't seem to have a lesson within it.

In those cases, we have to reach out to others for support, have faith, and keep moving forward. We can acknowledge that it's hard and it's scary and it just plain sucks.  We can accept how we feel and hope each day is a little brighter and a little clearer.  We can let go of negativity, look for beauty in the small moments, hold tight to those we love.

Or if all else fails, I suppose it doesn't hurt to do as Elizabeth Taylor says...


Friday, July 6, 2012

Vintage Prints from Condé Nast

One Kings Lane offers up curated sales of top-brand and designer items... and when I saw they had framed prints from Condé Nast on sale, I had to check it out.

Left: appeared in the July 1960 issue of Glamour
Right: July 1955
I'm not in the market for art pieces at the moment, but with my love of magazines and vintage, this collection is right up my alley.

These are just a few of the prints available.  Sale ends in less than two days!

The cover of Glamour magazine in July 1944, which was the "Young America" issue.

Evocative of summertime in Maine, this Henry Stahlhut illustration features a brimming lobster pot and fresh-cooked lobster, alongside a golden glass of beer. It appeared on the cover of Gourmet in July 1945 cover.

Instead of his typical vision of a single elegant repast, artist Henry Stahlhut composed a celebration of the Parisian culture of food, using an assortment of small illustrations of French symbols, food, and wine for the July 1951 cover of Gourmet.

In an entertaining flourish rarely seen today, Champagne cascades into a pyramid of glasses. This June 1952 cover of Gourmet is set in the whirl of weddings; a bouquet of white roses and baby's breath, and silver-wrapped wedding gifts complete the picture.

A revolutionary of fashion illustration, the French-born Georges Lepape was the first to use action and intrigue in his work in the field. Lepape illustrated the first cover of Vogue's British edition. Here, Vanity Fair is wittily shown as the clear choice for sophisticates of the late 1920s.

Helen Jameson Hall created this illustration for the cover of Mademoiselle in November 1936. The subject, wearing a purple plume, headpiece, and white gloves, appears utterly elegant.
This subject reflects the radiance of the summer sun, in an illustration by Helen Jameson Hall that appears on Mademoiselle's cover in June 1936.
The caption on the February 1915 cover of Vanity Fair magazine read 'Ready for Palm Beach.' Clad in the fashionable swimwear of the period, two women preen among the waves, shielded by a pink parasol. This illustration is by A.H. Fish.
*Captions and images from One Kings Lane/Condé Nast

Thursday, July 5, 2012

3 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas

One of the great things about not commuting anymore is that I've started eating breakfast on a regular basis. 

I used to bring a yogurt and maybe some fruit or a granola bar to work.  I'd eat at my desk while checking email.  Or most days... things would get hectic and I wouldn't eat till lunchtime.

Now, I brew some coffee and make a quick breakfast at home...though I usually still eat in front of my computer.

If you need a little inspiration for your morning meal, here's a peek at my recent breakfast rotation.  Even if you commute to work, I realized these three options could be packed up and brought to the office too.

After all, they say it's the most important meal of the day.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?  Any new ideas for me to try?

Vanilla yogurt (sometimes Activia, sometimes greek) + blueberries with a toasted mini bagel + peanut butter

Morningstar Farms Veggie Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits (come frozen, heat up in the microwave)

inside the MSF biscuit... tastes better than it looks :)

Raisin Bran + skim milk + sliced bananas

Monday, July 2, 2012

Life Lessons from a Fortune Cookie


Back in 2005, I opened a fortune cookie that read:

Be patient, and what's best will soon be yours; however, sometimes not getting what you want may be precisely what you need.

I don't remember the meal or exactly where I was when I pulled that little paper slip out of a fortune cookie, but I do know it was my senior year of college and I was going through a break-up, didn't have a post-graduation job yet (okay, it was still the fall, but things were different then!)... and even though I thought I knew what I wanted, life was telling me otherwise.

Be patient.

And it was true.  Everything fell into place with time and work and patience.  I learned about myself, what I wanted and didn't want, how to be strong and how to make mistakes.  I found that I have an amazing support system of friends and family.  I discovered that what I want may not happen right awayor everbut that life was good and wonderful things would come my way, things I couldn't even imagine.

I've kept that quote ever since as a reminder to be patient, to trust, to have faith.

Yesterday in church, the Gospel included the phrase "Be not afraid; just have faith." It was what I needed to hear, just like that fortune cookie when it came at the perfect time.

And what's best will soon be yours.

When it comes down to it, to think that what's best is still ahead in my life is super exciting.  The best is yet to come.  It motivates me to move forward.  As amazing as the past 27 1/2 years have been, I have so much ahead of me.  I can't wait to see what will happen in the coming months, years, decades.

Sometimes not getting what you want may be precisely what you need.

At times, I might not get what I want or what I hope for.  I'll be disappointed, confused, discouraged.  Things may end up being different than what I expect or plan, but I have to believe that it is all for the best.  It is in those instances that I have the opportunity to learn and grow.  It is in those instances that I must trust there's something else in store...that there's a bigger (and better!) plan for me.


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