What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?

By Angela Noel

May 18, 2017

Almost a year ago now, I sat agonizing over my first blog post. I’d convinced two or three brave souls to let me profile them. Each had placed tremendous trust in me, but I worried. Would the words I put on the page both honor my subjects and connect with readers?

As a few people read that first post, then a few more, I felt the rush. My heart pounded in anticipation every time I checked the stats. Ten people. Then twenty. A hundred. Matt French, the subject of my first post, liked it. His friends and family liked it. That’s what mattered most, right?

But the more I read other blogs, and the more research I did to understand what “success” for a new blog should look like, the ickier I felt. A few months in, after I’d faithfully posted each week, I remember reading a piece from another blogger. She lamented she had only a “small” following–10,000 views a month. I felt shame. If she was disappointed with 10,000 what did it mean that 1/10th of that number visited mine? Clearly, something was wrong. Continue reading “What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?”

Come Play With Me: A Writer’s Wish

By Angela Noel

May 11, 2017

Words, Come Play With Me

Sun-warmed pine reminds me of home and mountain vacations. I want to write like evergreen smells.

My husband’s heart beats steady and strong when I lay my head on his chest, ear pressed against skin. I want to write like his heart sounds.

My son sighs when he snuggles into the crook of my arm for bedtime. His contentment and mine fuse like a warm blanket. I want to write like these moments feel.

Clean water rushing over my hot toes cools and tickles. I want to write like the water flows.

The petals of wildflowers on tender stems weave and nod when bees visit or wind blows. I want to write like these flowers play.

After three hours of errands, a tired glance at the mirror reveals inside-out pants. The snorts of my laughter scare the dog. I want to write like life is laughing with me. 

Creators weave unique tapestries with universal threads. We mine the diamonds of memory to touch the divine.

Your turn: What are your favorite things? What diamonds have you found?

Write a Love Letter: How you Can and Why you Should

By Angela Noel

May 4, 2017

To feel love and to express it boldly without expectation of return requires tremendous courage. The word courage originates from the Latin word for heart. Not the organ itself, but what it represents–the living room for our feelings. In my original I Want Your Love Letters post I ask readers of my blog to pen a letter to anyone he or she loves or admires–friend, teacher, lover, mentor, parent, bus driver, coach, sibling–anyone. Each writer of a love letter demonstrates the essence of heart. Every one of the letters makes me smile and fills me with a kind of quiet inspiration. And I want more.

For this post, I’ve gathered these letters together to celebrate the writers and their loved ones. I also want to invite others, like you, to contribute your love letters to the collection.

Write a love letter and I’ll publish it on the You are Awesome blog. It’s as simple as that. Continue reading “Write a Love Letter: How you Can and Why you Should”

Amish Friendship Bread: More Than Just Delicious

By Angela Noel

April 27, 2017

My mother-in-law, Karry, makes a bread that tastes like the intersection of pound cake, cinnamon sugar donuts, and the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. It’s so good, my son wanted me to save some so he could invite his friends over for a slice, and my husband and I had an uncomfortable stand-off over who should eat the last piece. (He won—but only because I didn’t tell him I wanted it. I just stared at him while he popped the crumbly, chocolate chip-studded morsel into his mouth.)

This evanescent bread, a variant of Amish Friendship Bread, has a mission beyond being delicious.

Surprising no one, I hungered (pun intended) for more. Continue reading “Amish Friendship Bread: More Than Just Delicious”

How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story

By Angela Noel

April 6, 2017

“How’s your son? How’s Jackson?” Danny asks me, almost every time we meet. Danny and Jackson have something in common. They’re both “only” children. Often I’ve wished for a better way to describe my son’s lack of siblings. Being an only child has cultural baggage for both child and parent. Even the way we describe only children, as if they are by turns selfish and lonely, feels messed up to me. Particularly because my experience with the sibling-challenged has universally been positive. Several friends of mine grew up without a sibling. Each of them are among the most independent, generous, outgoing, thoughtful people I know. Danny is no exception. Continue reading “How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story”

Creating Community by Reaching Out

By Angela Noel

April 13, 2017

I practice hot, sweaty yoga. I love the quiet, dark room filled with other people. We start and end each session in savasana, or corpse pose. The yogi leading the practice provides an intention, the only voice in the room, as we begin. He or she might share a quote, a song lyric, a poem, or a riddle. I’ve both giggled, and allowed tears to flow. There’s something about yoga that opens up possibilities in me.

No competition. No expectations.

Akin to a spiritual revival, the bunch of us sweat together, breathe together, slurp quantities of water after six sets of chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed staff pose) together. But this feeling of community doesn’t happen by accident. Continue reading “Creating Community by Reaching Out”

Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth

By Angela Noel

April 6, 2017

“You know,” my dad said from his living room in California, “for that You are Awesome thingy you do . . . maybe you could ask people about speaking truth to power.”

“Tell me more.” I held my phone to my ear, enjoying a peek of springtime sun three-thousand miles away.

“Well, in my career (he’s retired) I never really gave much thought to whether I should say something, I just said it. And it got me in trouble, even fired. But, it’s really important. Especially now. So, I want to know how people do it, and do it well.”

Separated both by geography and sometimes ideology, my dad and I do agree on many things. We both, for example, believe societies big and small–families, workplaces, neighborhoods, countries–need healthy, well-informed debate by people that care. We believe respectful discourse among equals brings clarity, if not agreement.

But, there’s that whole power thing that mucks things up.

Continue reading “Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth”

A Creative Career in Four Acts . . . and Counting

Guest Post by Pamela Asbury-Smith

March 30, 2017

Act One: Motherhood to Quantico

High school and jobs, college and career choices. Perhaps it’s the era into which I was born but I wasn’t expected to go to college. In fact, I was told I wouldn’t need it because I’d just get married and have children, whereas my brother would need a college degree to support the family he would one day have. I did get my MRS degree–I also got a divorce after two children and had to go to work.

My brother never married, never had children. Irony of ironies.

Without any marketable skills aside from typing and ambition, I was able to land an exciting job as a clerk-matron in a small police department. My sagging ego needed that infusion of power. Continue reading “A Creative Career in Four Acts . . . and Counting”

Where are all the Wonder Women in History?

By Angela Noel

March 23, 2017

Late one night, as I sat around a high-top table for a snack after a long flight, a co-worker told me about his relative, a history teacher in Russia. “He’s had to re-learn history a few times,” he said.

“Huh?” I replied. “What do you mean “re-learn history?”

“Well, each time some new guy comes to power, they change the history books.”

Mind. Blown.

Don’t be naive, Angela, I hear you saying. This can’t possibly be all that surprising, can it?

On the one hand, it’s not.

When I was a kid, Pluto was a planet. Now? Not so much. But whole swaths of history revised? Good guys become bad guys and vice versa. History books, I’d always thought, were supposed to be agnostic of politics. Just the facts, right? Continue reading “Where are all the Wonder Women in History?”

Why We Should Stop Being Polite

By Angela Noel

March 16, 2017

I was in college when the first Real World by MTV crashed into our living rooms.  What happens “. . . when people stop being polite and start getting real?” the show asked.

Interesting question . . . only I don’t think they ever answered it. In thirty-two (and counting) seasons, have we seen a whole lot of “real?”

Drama. Yes. But, real? Continue reading “Why We Should Stop Being Polite”