Chelle Summer



Michelle Rusk

It pains me when Greg’s team loses (especially only the second game of the season), so much so that I found myself contemplating why on my 26-mile drive home from his school on Saturday. An early season loss isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s used as a learning experience. While my head knows that, I don’t think my heart could acknowledge it on Saturday as I left the field.

But I was quickly reminded of my own experiences in high school as a runner and how they have a deep meaning in how hard I work today. And that’s what I realized bothered me so much about the loss.

As a runner (and as I have written in the past), I worked extremely hard and when I started to experience the success of accomplishing my goals, I saw that if I continued to work hard, I would eventually have more success. There was a caveat to this though– I had a hard time overcoming the intense pressure I put on myself and the negative thoughts that plagued my mind.

Because of that, I never truly ran a race up to my potential. I left high school feeling as if I had wasted many opportunities and promised myself, especially after my sister ended her life three years following my high school graduation, that I wouldn’t allow that to happen again.

Deep inside me, that is probably the base of the fire that is always lit inside me and why I have accomplished all that I have (with still much to come!). That’s what I draw on to motivate me each day through a long list of items I want to accomplish, and what I remind myself of when life events and experiences try to drag me down. I take myself back to that teenage girl on the track or at a cross country course and remember the disappointment I felt all those times I finished a race knowing I had squandered yet another opportunity.

We don’t realize how short life is, but it provides us with repeated opportunities to grow and learn and be more than we ever thought we could be. That’s what drives me and keeps the fire inside me lit.

Kate Spade: The Initial Inspiration for Chelle Summer

Michelle Rusk

Quite honestly, I'm not sure where to begin. Two of my worlds collided today with the suicide of Kate Spade.

What most people don't know is that I stopped buying Kate Spade products partly because she had sold the brand and each time Greg and I went into one of the stores on a trip, we agreed that things didn't look new and inviting.

However, there was a bigger reason than that: I had started to create my own brand, Chelle Summer. Initially I had wanted to call Chelle summer "Michelle L." and when the lawyers came back and told me that Fossil owned "Michele" with one L, they were clear that I could never win against such a large company. I was so disappointed that I had to come up with a new name but at some point I thought of Kate and how awkward it must have been (even though she had chosen to sell it) to see a brand with her name on it while she might not have always liked what the new brand had to offer. Chelle Summer was born and I quickly realized it was a better name than Michelle L., while also allowing somewhat of a separation from my own name.

When I look back on the time when I purchased my first Kate bag (in this photo), I was facing many challenges of my own trying to move forward after a divorce and two moves across the country. What I didn't see then was that in looking at what the brand offered and her style of which I had been aware of for so long (but couldn't afford to buy), I was slowly realizing what I would want my own brand to be. Kate was the initial inspiration for Chelle Summer (with Trina Turk taking the lead later). Kate made me feel that I didn't have to settle for what I saw in the marketplace, that I could create my own items and I also could choose to wear bold prints and colors.

I obviously don't know what led her to take her own life, but with vast experience in suicide over the past twenty-five years I know that there is never just one answer. It was probably a combination of events and thoughts that made her believe ending her life was her only way to find peace. The irony of this is that early this morning on my walk as I was contemplating my own life journey that's following my surgery this past Friday, I realized that for a period of time I'm not going to find peace as much as I would like to. I'm working to embrace some challenges ahead of me (mostly writing related) to fulfill the prayer to God that I've been asking to help me go forward and be the person I'm supposed to be.

I also understand how as a creative person it can be challenging because you're in your own world where sometimes you can think too much. It's why I work hard to balance my life of running/walking early in the mornings where I have several people that I chat with and why I host so many pool and dinner parties. Those keep me balanced while also allowing me to have that time create and be alone in my thoughts.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around her suicide. That's the honest answer. But I also know that life is hard and overwhelming at times. That's also one of the one reasons I post so many blogs and photos about moving forward. I see it that if I have something in my life that helps me go forward, maybe it can help someone else, too.

What inspires you?

Michelle Rusk

When I was in elementary school, I had a Raggedy Ann bulletin board and I used to tack on it that were meaningful to me. In high school, my cross country and track friends and I used to decorate our athletic lockers with inspirational sayings and photos we would cut out  of magazines. At home I took this to another level and used long sheets of used computer programming pages that my sister Karen brought home from college and made floor to ceiling collages, like extended versions of what was in my athletic locker at school.

I continued this theme into college and beyond, always having some sort of bulletin board to hang various items that inspired me. But when I started to create Chelle Summer, my lifestyle brand, I suddenly found I had torn pages from everywhere and nowhere to put them. 

I bought the biggest bulletin board I've ever owned and started to tack what inspires me there. While it might just be a small details in a photo, this why at least I won't forget that small detail.

I believe that surrounding myself with what inspires me is what keeps me going no matter the worries swirling around in my head and a reminder that no matter what happens to me, I need to stay the course and keep focused on moving forward. It distracts me from anything that might keep me from my goals from the day or creating/writing.

The items on the bulletin board are a reminder of what I've spent time collecting to keep myself inspired. I like to think of it as an investment of myself. And what I eventually share with the world.

100 Pages for Lent

Michelle Rusk

I believe that Lent is about finding a way to make yourself better, to do something that challenges you to work on growing closer to God. 

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to this year. In fact, Lent had already started and I still wasn't sure what I was going to do. But then through a series of thoughts and writing, I realized what I wanted to challenge myself to do was write 100 pages in March.

It meant five pages a day during the week when I typically do three with several days off during the month to accommodate life events and schedule changes. It also meant doubling the 50 pages I usually write in a month.

But I believed that it would draw me closer to God because it would bring me the stories I'm supposed to write.

I won't say it was easy– it wasn't supposed to be– and there were days I had to focus harder than usual, or let go of other things I wanted to do, to make sure I had the time to write. Several days I wrote ten pages to make up for other days when I knew things were coming (or didn't know in the case of getting call to do television extra work– it helped that I'd gotten ahead the day before shooting!). 

There was an incredible amount of accomplishment each day that I forged forward toward my goal and also that the creativity kept coming. I didn't lack for material write which helped. And reaching 100 pages felt like a milestone– probably only the second time I've accomplished this in a month.

Finally, it gave me the sense that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing and as I said in my blog two weeks ago, there's thought that keeps coming to me–

"Keep writing and you'll get where you want to go."

I'm now 100 pages closer to that goal thanks to Lent. 

The Hobbler

Michelle Rusk

No one ever could have predicted that I would become a runner. While I was all legs growing up, I wasn't fast (and in those days it was more important to be fast than to have any endurance) and I was always picked near the end for any sort of team game.

But by high school, running took over my life and during my freshman year I paid a price for it with a stress fracture in my right foot. It was a challenging time of my life for many reasons but I bring this up because in January I once again hurt my knee and something from thirty years ago kept coming back to me. 

A year and a half ago, Lilly and I had an accident on the landing of the stairwell in the house. She was flying down the stairs, I was heading up the stairs and we collided– her head to my knee. While nothing hurt immediately the next day I couldn't run. And I didn't run for about two months.  But somehow I survived and all was well. 

Until January. 

I have no idea what happened but somehow I hurt my knee again, this time with no collision. My Chinese doctor cupped it and said it appear to be an old injury because there was no energy to pull out of it. 

Back to walking I went.

This was where my fifteen year old memory returned. With the foot injury, I wasn't walking really well (which led to a compensation injury in my hip) and I remember someone saying to me, "You shouldn't be running if you can't walk."

And it was my friend Art who told me of some advice he found in a magazine a long time ago: that if we aren't professional athletes, we'll have a lot more days of exercising ahead of us. Because of that, we should take the time to let ourselves heal.

So I did. I walked and iced and walked and iced. Finally I wasn't hobbling around anymore, back to walking like my normal self. I started to run a bit. And slowly but surely I'm amping it back up.

I often talk about how one of my biggest challenges is realizing that the world won't end tomorrow, that there will be enough time to do everything. And the same goes for running– I worry that one day I won't be able to run anymore so it's like I want to get as much in now as I can.

However, I have to slow down and remind myself. All is well. I'm right where I'm supposed to be. And once I do that, I can relax. Which probably also helps me heal quicker, too.


A New Year...Where Will We Go?

Michelle Rusk

Happy 2018, Everyone!

While I believe that we can start fresh at anytime, there is something to be said for the calendar rolling around into January 1. We come off the holidays– when we've most likely been busy– and then we get (I hope you did!) a holiday break. The new year rolls around and suddenly it feels like all the Christmas lights and decorations should be put away until at least Thanksgiving. Personally, I usually want to clean out all of my closets this time of year. I feel as if it's time to let go of the old to invite the new to come in.

This year is starting out a little differently than years past have and I'm embracing the journey of my job going half time to free up a large chunk of my daily time. However, we were in Los Angeles for the new year (and managed to get colds as happens sometimes) so I didn't feel like I could truly start the new year until we came home– and put everything away (although we had taken care of the Christmas decorations before we left).

For me, Los Angeles still remains a very inspirational place. I can't explain it except that it seems that I woke up one day when I was about thirteen and knew it was where I wanted to go. I didn't get there until the summer after I graduated from high school and obviously I never moved there. I joke that I only got as far as Albuquerque. 

Through a series of events, I've been given opportunities that take me back there and as we were driving down the 110 after having dinner with friends in North Hollywood, I was thinking how it still inspires me to be there. That's topped with the many signs of both my parents (through songs on the radio and coins) that don't usually happen here in Albuquerque.

Now that I'm home and everything is put away, the lists made to make the most of this opportunity of time I have been given with job going half time just a month ago, the hardest part for me is being patient with myself. There is much I want to do and I know my timeline. My hope is to spend 2018 with my nose to the grindstone and see what kind of opportunities I can create for myself through all my creative means. I want to take advantage of the time placed in front of me– it is a gift– and see where I land a year from now.

I have lists, goals, and dreams. The key is being patient with myself that there will be enough time to do everything, to know that I will land where I'm supposed to be. And to listen to voices which who are guiding me and leading the way.

A Little Disconnection for Creativity's Sake

Michelle Rusk

One of my constant challenges is that I am not where I want to be professionally. Soon there will be some changes in my daily life that I'm trying to remember are the universe's way of helping me to move forward even though it doesn't feel like it in the present moment. It's like I'm stepping backward so that I can take more steps forward.

However, the hard part is making sure I don't think too much because that can easily become paralyzing of all my worries. Instead, my motto seems to be, "Create more, think less." I have a slew of projects and ideas and I have to keep myself from being derailed from worries about money, (will we have enough?), about rejections from my query letters to find an agent (is this really a good manuscript or should I scrap it?), and about wondering if I am on the road I'm supposed to be on.

Social media has been huge for me to be able to share with the world what I create– and also to help other people work through suicide, grief, and feelings of hopelessness. But recently I have come to realize that it's taking up too much of my time and it's also stifling my creativity.

I am not going on hiatus at all. In fact, the only person who will probably notice a difference is me. As I will actually have to spend less time at my laptop in the future, it just means I won't be seeing all the notifications right away Essentially, I'll choose the times I look at my phone and laptop rather than looking at them what feels like all the time. In the past week I knocked out one bad habit I developed when I worked with people overseas– checking my email when I get up in the morning which then led to also checking Facebook and Instagram, too. Now I don't look at them until I'm totally done with my workout and running/walking the dogs. It gives me a few extra minutes in the morning and I've come to realize I'm not missing anything by looking at them so early (especially because most of my email anymore is advertisements).

By disconnecting a bit– and looking less in the evening so I can read more– I will be creating more and have more to share with the world. Again, what looks like a few steps backward is really going take me forward faster. After all, I have swimwear to create and a new manuscript that is waiting to be written.

What keeps you going?

Michelle Rusk

When I was a senior in high school, I remember going through a challenging period that spring. Without looking back into the extensive journals I wrote, what I can best recall is that I was a little worn out on the routine. There was a long day of school and homework and then track practice. And while I was learning how to set goals, work toward them, and accomplish them, it felt a little monotonous.

I remember feeling attached to a television show called "Island Sun" (Hey, I can hear those snickers from here!). It starred Richard Chamberlain as a doctor in Hawaii and I believe he had a son. I couldn't tell you anything else about the show except that those were the days when we had to wait another week to see what happened next. There was no bingeing on anything like we take for granted now.

My wise track coach Marty Bee told me that if that was the thing that kept me going, that was okay. And since then I have always asked myself that during times when I feel depressed, bored, or challenged in some way. There must be something small that keeps us going and we can use that to propel us forward until life starts to feel more hopeful or happy or peaceful (whatever it is we believe we are lacking).

I have always said that I believe we all have an ember of hope burning inside of us. Unfortunately, many times that ember doesn't seem to be burning because of the constant barrage of life events we are faced with. But in times of challenge we should always take a step back and look around us. There is always something we can see or think of that keeps us going. Symbols of hope– that's what I called them when I doing talks about moving forward through grief.

What are your symbols of hope? I asked people. We often forget that it's the little things in life, the sunshine, the change of seasons, the time we spend with people, that keep us going. Sometimes we get caught up in the challenges and difficulties and forget what's right in front of us. 

And once we let go of our challenges and focus on whatever is keeping our ember burning, we realize how much better we feel. And hopeful. We can feel the ember burning brighter.



Positive Thoughts Only

Michelle Rusk

There is a reason I post very little that's negative here on my blog or on social media. It's not about anyone else, but about me and how I realized the negative posts made me feel. 

Some years ago I had a run-in over a payment with the group that handled our health insurance. It was during my first marriage and my then-husband was a sales rep and owned his own sales organization. That meant we didn't qualify for other insurance providers at the time, but there was a state health alliance where we could get insurance and something happened with a payment and to say I was mad was an understatement (I don't remember all the details– testament to how much I try to let go of negativity so it doesn't simmer and boil over). It was during the early days of Facebook and I posted my anger there. 

It didn't take long for me to realize that I actually felt worse by sharing it. Usually we think that by sharing something, we can let go of it. Not always. I felt worse and I realized it wasn't what I wanted to put "out there." 

My life is far from perfect, but I choose to share what I believe are the most interesting aspects of my life: what I create, the fun things I do, enjoying being with my dogs, what it is that makes me happy. We all have good days and bad days and I found that by sharing what makes me feel good, I actually feel better. I might start a day feeling awful because I didn't sleep well (a normal occurrence for the bulk of my life), but by posting a positive message, I feel better.

It's the same when I am feeling tired, but need to run errands. Interacting with people, talking about the weather, just being connected gives me energy I might lack if I had stayed at home trying to keep myself interested in what I need to do.

Many times I've also found that after I've been through a challenge, that I share it here and talk about how I worked through it. I usually don't need to share what I'm going through, however, at some point I might post what it was and how I managed the challenge. That I also believe can be helpful to others.

We all have reasons for what we choose to post and for me it's about helping myself keep focused, inspired, and motivated. I do that with positive thoughts. And positive postings. And know that they can inspire others to be positive and feel hopeful and happy, too.

Where do I go?

Michelle Rusk

I'm not very good at standing in one place. I see that there is too much to do, too much that I want to do. And yet sometimes life holds me in places which quite honestly don't make me very happy. I keep working hard, I try not to let it get to me, but then I reach a point where I'm not even sure if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. 

This might be where I'm supposed to be. I might be questioning everything because I'm confused while standing still, but that also doesn't mean I have to like it. I remember once in a conversation with a priest about something similar to this. 

"You can tell God you don't like it," he said. "That doesn't mean it'll change."

There are times in our lives where we feel like everything is moving forward– maybe not perfectly as nothing ever is perfect– but we can feel the people mover under our feet taking us forward as we also walk forward. And yet there are other times where we maybe don't feel like we're in darkness, but instead at that time right before light appears, before the sun comes up, and yet, there isn't any sun. Yet.

Yes, that's where I am at with many aspects of my professional life. I had long thought that this part of my life would be in a different place than it is right now. And so I continue to create, continue to make the most of each day, and believe that something will breakthrough and major– positive– change is coming. 

Until then? Here I am making the most of it.

Seeing Past Darkness

Michelle Rusk

The photo of this beautiful sunset was taken in my backyard a few weeks ago. I never posted it on social media because no matter what angle I took it at, I couldn't escape the pole or the countless electrical, phone, and cable lines that come from the pole. On social media, we have the choice to choose how we portray our lives and I am honestly embarrassed that my house has one big detractor: this pole. 

My house was built in the 1950s and the city of Albuquerque has never buried these lines. So each time I go outside to take photos, I am constantly trying to find way to avoid the pole and the lines. 

But I know that reality is that I can't erase this pole from my life (at least until we move to a different house) just as I can't erase any darkness I have experienced. It's part of me and part of who I am today. I choose to post photos of what I create because that's what inspires me and keeps me going, being creative. My life isn't perfect and there are challenges I choose not to share because I don't see any reason to share them. I work through them and I stay hopeful that my frustrations will turn into something better. And I keep working hard even though I feel like I'm on a very slow road to get my life professionally where I'd like it to be.

I have written and spoken many times about how I have found hope in the sunrises of Albuquerque, how when I'd ben out run-walking my dog Chaco and– despite the darkness I'd endured the day before particularly of then having a spouse who suffered a head injury– it would feel like the sunrise was a clean slate to a new day. Hope. Darkness can't last forever a friend once said. The sun has to come back some time. 

Several years ago I was reading my high school journals and was surprised to find how much mental pain I found myself in as a fifteen year old experiencing a stress fracture in my foot that kept me from running much the spring of 1987. I have no recollection of having feelings of wanting to end my life, but there they were written in my hand writing. I don't believe that I would have done anything about the feelings, it was just an escape from the frustration I felt and not understanding that the injury would eventually heal and I'd be able to run again (which I happened by that summer).

It speaks to my life though as I work through challenges and losses. While sometimes it's annoying (well, all the time!) that I continually experience these, I try to learn and grow from them. I ask myself what I can to do to make myself feel better. I can look back on the road behind me and see how far I have come.

Last week Greg and I went out house stalking– I had found a house online for sale nearby and we drove by after dinner one evening. When Greg realized no one was living there, he pulled into the driveway and we walked around to the back of the house to see how large the backyard was. I was immediately drawn to a view of the city toward the mountain, one they had neglected to include in the online listing.

"Look at that view!" I couldn't stop saying.

Then Greg laughed and said, "Look up. You're never going to escape it."

And right there in the middle of the view was a pole just like the one in my current backyard. 

I hadn't seen it because I looked past it, just like I look past the pain and darkness to see the light and the hope.

Easter Perspective

Michelle Rusk

I had taken some time on Saturday morning to photograph the dogs– Hattie and Lilly– for Easter. Neither one was happy with me (although after they ran off when I told them we were finished, Lilly hurriedly pushing the bunny ears off her head, they were easily swayed back into happiness with treats) and later I told Greg about how obvious it would be when I posted the photo on social media Sunday morning.

"No one is ever happy on Easter," he said. When gave him a funny look, he added, "Everyone is uptight about something."

Then I remembered the Easter Sundays of my childhood: we were always late for mass. I have no idea why and I never asked my mom when she was alive because she always got upset and accused me of thinking she wasn't a good enough mother. But the church filled up early and it meant we were left standing in the entry way listening to mass. For an hour. 

In that hour I had little understanding of what Easter meant. Yes, I'd taken religion classes growing up, but honestly it didn't mean a lot to me.

Then about six years ago, the same time I had returned to going to mass weekly, I found myself leaving Easter mass wanting to sing, feeling the happiness of coming out of darkness into the light. And each year since then, Easter has come to mean more to me.

I'm sure that I could argue that I'm older now and I "get" it more than I used to but I believe it's just a sense of having traveled multiple journeys of finding myself in darkness and having to seek out light. Each year Lent reminds me that there is hope, that we can get to the light, to the sunshine, that we don't need to be scared.

And a beautiful, cloudless sky– like we had in Albuquerque yesterday– doesn't hurt. 

A Reminder as the Lenten Journey Ends

Michelle Rusk

Sometimes I repeat myself in a blog. A year might go by but usually I find myself writing about something I had shared some aspect of in the past, mostly because I have realized something different about it. And I figure that if I am thinking about it, probably someone out there could use similar inspiration.

I still talk too much in my prayers.

I hadn't thought much about it in quite a while but suddenly at mass on Saturday I realized that I'm like a constant chatterbox when I pray. I'm that friend who gets you on the phone and you only have to say an occasional "Uh huh" (and you can probably put the phone down and make a sandwich without them knowing it) to keep up your end of the conversation.

Which makes me wonder if God is making sandwiches as I pray– or even keeping tabs on several prayers happening at the same time (more likely). 

The reality is that we were taught to say prayers, to ask for what we need/want/desire. There are unlimited numbers of prayer cards and prayers available to us. We were taught to memorize certain prayers growing up.

So how would we know the importance of silence during a prayer?

No one taught me that it's just as important to listen in our prayer as it is to ask. I'm too busy with my list that I forget to listen, too. And while I know that often the answers don't come during prayers, instead we usually find the answers present themselves to us at moments when we least expect them to. It can happen when we are in the middle of something unrelated (perhaps, cooking dinner) or when our minds have time to wander and we aren't thinking about anything in particular.

But if we don't listen– as difficult as that can be because our minds tend to wander when we "rest" during prayer– we'll never hear the answers. It might feel dry to listen during prayer, but remember that it's part of the give and take of the conversation. We don't give God a chance to give to us if all we do is keep asking.


When Things Fall Together

Michelle Rusk

I suck at golf.

Really, that's the best way to put it. And quite honestly, as much as I've dreamed about being someone who can magically glide across a dance floor without a lesson or play tennis so well that I could be a top player, the reality is far from that in everything that I do.

The only reason I can write well is because I've been at it since I was six years old and learned to write. I've talked before about the little books I started to create in first grade and the novel I began to write in high school (which still exists although not in any published form). And I read, read, and then I read more– because there is a correlation between reading and writing well. 

Running was much the same for me: I got somewhat good because I worked at it. And from running came a multitude of lessons, like how to set and achieve goals. Those I parlayed into everything else that I have achieved.

When I took up golf exactly five years ago, I knew it would be a challenge for me. I am especially not good at any sport that involves a ball (hence, why I ran). And it has been a challenge. Now, the reality is that golf is always a challenge. It's supposed to be that way because it's like the Great Pumpkin. We, like Linus, spend our entire lives hoping for perfection in hitting the ball while Linus is still waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

As I wrote recently, returning to the driving range was part of my Lenten journey– one of which I did have a priest's blessing to do because he understands the importance of taking care of our physical selves. Out to the driving range I went and purchased not the large bucket of balls, but instead the jumbo.

Crazy? Nope, not in the least. I knew I wouldn't get anywhere without practice.

But that's where a funny thing happened. I admit that sometimes I miss the ball. It's worse than hitting a bad ball, but it's always been a struggle for me to even catch what's thrown to me so this hasn't been a surprise in my mind. I'd rather hit something into the sand than not hit it at all. 

And yet when I went to hit that first day on the range this spring I felt when my stance was wrong and I would miss the balls. I can't fully explain it, yet something was different. It was as if something inside my mind– that bridges my mind with the movements of my body– finally made a connection five years later.

Then yesterday on another return to the range, I took some time on the putting green and felt the same exact feeling. Some little piece had fallen together. Two puzzle pieces finally found where they interlocked.

Greg and I were discussing on our way home from the range yesterday my challenge with the serger (a type of sewing machine that allows one to make factory-looking seams). I had been making a skort yesterday and it was taking forever because there is a learning curve to not just using it, but also threading it. He reminded me that eventually it will pay off, that it will be easier, that making a skort will be a piece of cake.

But for now it's like golf and everything else I've done: I keep at it even in the face of irritation when it's not going right.

And I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I made the driving range part of my Lenten journey: getting a little help from above is never a bad thing.

An Oldie But Goodie: The Dessert Dog Blog

Michelle Rusk

Note from Michelle: My friend Jim wrote this blog for me in September 2013. As I was going through my Inspire site today, printing off blogs as I get ready to take the site offline, I thought I'd repost it here (sans the photo which I couldn't save)- it also was written just about two weeks after Greg and I met. Enjoy!

This is how a typical conversation with me goes, if a conversation with me can be considered typical. Usually conversations with me are everything but typical. A fairly recent conversation I had with Michelle touched on canned chicken, specifically which kind I should buy. I ended up getting chunked, light and dark in water, if you were wondering. The conversation also included my unfinished PhD, a soccer game, kids, a pedicure, high heels, a time machine, thunderstorms, dogs, pool toys that aspired to be in a future "Toy Story" movie, and an article Michelle was writing for the magazine High Desert Dog. The time machine was a critical piece of our conversation as she needed more time to finish some of her writing.  This is where I offered to help and suggested I write her article about dessert dogs. That was my attempt at humor– desert and dessert– get it?  And of course I followed that up with some more attempts at pet and dog humor until we concluded our conversation with a wrap up of her pedicure.

And, just in case you are starting to wonder about Michelle, this is how my mind works, not hers.  She is very kind and lets me wander where I want over the conversational map until I realize I need to pull it back in. But I also think she might get a small giggle out some of my ramblings. Oh, by the way, she turned down my offer to write the article about dessert dogs for High Desert Dog. That was back in July. Whew!

Imagine my surprise today when she said she needed an idea for her blog, would I write about dessert dogs? This started my mind spinning, spinning all the way back to my creative writing class in college. The only creative part about that class for me were the many creative comments the instructor wrote on my papers in red ink. Getting past that bad memory, I started to think how I could inspire people, like Michelle does, with a story about dessert dogs. How could I spin this?  Do I write about dogs that like dessert? Or desserts that are like dogs?  There are lots of pictures and recipes for hotdog type desserts. Just try a keyword search– dessert dogs. None of it sounded inspiring.  And I am a cat owner; how dare I write about dogs.

So, if you haven’t guessed by now, I am not going to write about dessert dogs. In fact, I really have nothing much else to say. And for those of you who read Michelle’s blogs for hope and inspiration, I know you are hoping for her return. But if there is something to take away from my musings, it is only that I was happy to help her out when she asked. She may not ask again, but that’s okay, too. I was able to step in when she needed help, just like she has done for so many of us. In fact, I think Michelle said it best in an earlier blog, “Sometimes it's easy to forget to ask. The answers are there but we get lost in trying to do it ourselves that we often forget the help that's there if we need it.“  Oh, and try the banana dog.

A Contemplative Time

Michelle Rusk

The Norbertine priest at the monastery here in Albuquerque, where I go for spiritual direction, says that I am in a contemplative time of my life.

I didn't blog last week and I almost didn't blog this week either. I'm finding that I don't necessarily have anything that I feel is worthy of being shared on social media recently. As I wrote two weeks ago, I'm busy because I am creating and keeping myself occupied but I'm finding I'm also in a quiet time of creation where I don't always share what I'm doing, or because I want to wait until some things are completed before I do. I also am at work trying to finish a fiction manuscript that I was struggling with (the "fix" came to me two weeks ago as I began to retreat somewhat into myself).

I believe the best way that I can inspire people is through living an authentic life, one where I take the time to do what makes me happy and share that with others. I have worked with people for many years, helping them through their grief and divorce journeys but after seeing how many people actually do not want to change, I realized that the best way I can help is to do what makes me happiest. 

Fr. Gene also believes that my creative side is tied heavily into my spiritual being and by spending this time creating, I'm being spiritual, too. 

In some ways, I'm not sure where I exactly fit in the world. In other ways, I know precisely where my puzzle piece goes. But for now I'm letting that prayer of finding that place lay out there as I work on moving forward through my list of items to create and a manuscript to finish so I can move onto others.

There might be weeks I won't write here. And other weeks I post old blogs from my old Inspire by Michelle site as we get ready to close it out. And I might choose some recipes from Chef Chelle to post as we get ready to shut that one down, too. But I am here working, creating, being who I am supposed to be. 


Self-Inflicted Busy-ness

Michelle Rusk

There seems to be a trend this year: everyone is busy. 

Now there are people in the world who are actually busy, but I believe the majority of people who say they are busy could probably walk away from their phone or from the television and realize that they aren't that busy after all.

Whatever it is, people say to me, "Well, you're really busy." They usually add this with how much they see I have created which I share on social media. 

No no no, I am not that busy. The fact is, I choose to be as busy as I am for several reasons, mostly because I have more I want to accomplish in my life and it won't happen if I spend all my time lazing around my couch (although I managed to do that yesterday evening during the Bears-Cowboys game which then frustrated me and I had turn the channel, at which time I became tired and went to bed). That was the first time in a long time that I remember laying in front of the television and flipping through the channels.

I call my busy-ness self inflicted because I have so much that I want to do. Life is short and it's fleeting. In recent weeks I've been making phone calls to several people who don't live near me and making sure I catch up with them. I'm making lists for each day so that I am doing what's important to me (besides my daily responsibilities including a full-time job on a military grief research study). 

I know what it's like to see something pass me by. I often used to joke I wasn't going to miss the boat leaving the dock. I know that life can change on a moment's notice, that time can pass so quickly that I'm going to wake up one day and I want to be sure I can nod and say, "Yes, I did everything I wanted to do."

I stopped telling people I am busy when they ask me what I'm up to. Instead, I say, "I'm busy but it's my self-inflicted list of things I want to do."

However you choose to be busy, make sure it's because your time is spent how you want it to be used. I haven't always had that luxury and phases go where my time isn't always mine but somewhere in there I always make sure that there is something for me.


Be Bold

Michelle Rusk

We were across the street the other night for dinner with some neighbors when we got on the discussion about what it means to be bold. And Tim– who lives across the street– asked me the last bold thing I have done. 

I looked to the middle of the dining room table and pointed at the dark chocolate-banana-peanut butter ice cream bombe that I had made and I said, "To some people, trying a new recipe is bold."

But before I could add anything, Tim kindly told me that he thought starting a new business as I have with Chelle Summer is a bold thing to do.

And that's when I added that I didn't think trying a new recipe was bold (I tried three last week- and mostly I do this because I get bored and like to see if I can find recipes I like more than ones I've used in the past). Bold is doing things on a much larger scale, but I realize that not everyone's life is like mine. I have chosen a life where I continue to put myself and what I create out there in the world.

As I write this on late Monday morning, earlier we announced the web site online store is open for business. 

I have been going back and forth in my head about whether or not I think this is a bold move. I will admit that I am a little, no, a lot, scared as I take this forward. I've "thrown" many things out there; some have done well, some haven't. And yet something has driven me to take on this new venture. I keep myself focused on creating the items, (as well as continuing with my writing). I try not to worry about what will sell and when it will sell.

Whether it be bold or not, I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to. The key for me is to remember it's all about continuing to create– whether I do that through writing or sewing or painting– and let the rest go. 

Looking back on the past fifteen years since the publication of my first book, the boldest move at all for me might be learning to let it go and fly on its own while I stay on the ground and keep creating.

Check out the new store here at



Michelle Rusk

Saturday evening we were walking out of a restaurant with a takeout order for our dinner when a woman stopped me and said how much she liked my bag. Of course I was carrying a Chelle Summer bag, but this was the first time in the nearly year since I made the first one that anyone had commented on it when I was carrying one (except my gynecologist when I was leaving my appointment with him, yes, him– obviously he works with a lot of women so I'm sure has learned a thing or two about style over the years).

We had just come from church where one of my prayers on this particular Saturday night was asking to make sure I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing. 

Sewing, like writing, is something that often is done alone. And alone can be good– to a point. I work from home and balance that with walking and running the dogs early in the morning (where I have my "park" community to interact with) and doing errands. I also make sure to break up my day with a swim– weather permitting. And I have my job interviewing people for a military grief research study that keeps me engaged with the participants and the people I work with.

But I'm lost in my thoughts much of the time either writing, at the sewing machine, or cutting at my dining room table where I have plenty of space to spread out the rolls of fabric. While I don't ever feel like there is enough time to create everything I want to, one of my daily prayers is to "stay the course" so that I don't get off track. And because I'm alone, not knowing if what I'm doing is going to be a dud or something great, it's a challenge to keep positive when there is only me to talk to.

In particular over the past week, I've had multiple conversations with people who have told me how much they enjoy seeing all that I'm creating, mostly shared on social media. It's my goal to keep creating and share it, not worrying about the rest (like what happens next!). Hearing those comments helps me to keep going and they keep me reminded that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing: sharing through living the life that I want to have.

To all of you who are inspired by my work, who enjoy seeing it, who tell me how much you enjoy it: Thank you. Thank you for being part of this journey.

The Big Move

Michelle Rusk

After an extremely hot July here in New Mexico, the mornings have cooled into the lower sixties. It's one sign that fall is around the corner. But in August I also see the days getting shorter as darkness keeps with us later in the morning and just a general feel that it's time for school to start as the shadows change.

But I am always reminded of August in Albuquerque because twenty-two years ago this week I moved here as a twenty-two-year-old college graduate heading off to graduate school at the University of New Mexico.

New Mexico was not a place familiar to me much more than my uncle's brother lived here. I didn't intend to stay so much as I saw it a stop on my journey, hoping to continue to head west to Los Angeles, the place where I'd wanted to live since I was thirteen.

Yet twenty- two years later, with a year and a half hiatus where I moved back to Illinois, here I am.

And here I intend to stay. With time spent in Los Angeles, of course.

I know that it was hard for my parents to leave me here, and a Uhaul filled with my belongings as well as many useful items from my grandmother's house because she had died less than a year before (to this day I have more Pyrex glass dishes than Target). My move was only eighteen months after my younger sister's death and it would have been easier for everyone if I had stayed closer to home. But my parents knew I wasn't going to be the kid who stayed close to home. 

While I did try to move back for a time, I realized that I might be a Midwesterner by blood, but I'm much happier here in the Southwest. It seems to fit me better (the vast amounts of sunshine help). A priest I knew back at Ball State said, after I had come back to New Mexico for the second time, "I don't know why you left. You spent almost your entire adult life there."

I came in New Mexico as a twenty-two year old and it has influenced much of who I have become right down to my cooking. 

I won't leave but I also don't forget the journey here.