Happy Birthday to The Swipe Up!


Did someone send you this link? Wow, you have good friends. You can get The Swipe Up every single ding dang month straight to your inbox by subscribing! Just click that button below.

The Swipe Up is officially one year old, and like your great-aunt who stands in the greeting card aisle in Wal-mart, painstakingly searching for that ONE Hallmark that will perfectly encapsulate all the tender and hilarious feelings she feels towards you, this one really packs a punch. I even ate cake for it, because a Swipe Up reader, Jinny, sent me a BUNDT CAKE gift card. I was supposed to share with Ben, but he was in DragonCon prep mode, trying to get that bod tight, so I took one for the team and ate both cakes. It felt very on brand for our little newsletter here. The picture below is obviously me pre-cake-eating. I’m sorry it’s so big. I have no idea how to make it smaller at the mome. I just wanted to thank Jinny for sending me cake, so now you all have to deal with what might as well be a life-sized portrait, hanging over your internet mantle.

(Segueway music)
Which is a great time to mention that we’ve (Me. We is me.) changed platforms, got a lil’ branding in the mix now. The Swipe Up got a glow up for her birthday. Maybe some of you are like, why would I subscribe to this now? It’s just a website, so this is like your blog, I’ll just come and visit whenever I want. You could do that, but I’ll also send special updates to JUST subscribers, so you’ll want those as they contain magic and unicorns. Also you’ll see an open thread below (or click here) — feel free to leave comments or ask questions there, if you want!

You’ll note the audio player at the top of this email is new (there are some other new tweaks and treasures scattered throughout). Something I wanted to try with the new year of The Swipe Up is an audio version. It’s basically a podcast iteration of the newsletter: I’ll be answering from the This Month’s Question section, and reading This Month’s Essay. My hope is to maybe do additional audio for you in the future, so consider this a pilot program. This is currently JUST for subscribers, but you can easily put the feed into your podcast player of choice and listen from the comfort of wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Click the link under the audio player that says “Listen in podcast app.”

  2. Smash that “Email me the link” button.

  3. ON YOUR PHONE (this part is really important, don’t click the button on your desktop), open the email and click the button.

  4. Choose your preferred podcast app from the list provided.

  5. Your phone will open the selected app and you’ll see a pop-up, confirming you do, indeed want to subscribe. You do, so click ‘subscribe.’

  6. You did it! Now anytime I publish an audio version of the newsletter, it’ll land in your podcast player just like a regular old podcast. Technology is beautiful.

I hope you like the update to the newsletter! Let’s get into the fun stuff, shall we?

P.S. If you like The Swipe Up, will you share The Swipe Up? I giveaway a lil gift card to one lucky sharer every month. Just make sure you tag me or if you’re private, shoot me a screenshot of your share. Thank you! 🤘

P.P.S. As a reminder, there are affiliate links in this post.👌

We had some great questions from Instagram this month, so in the spirit of birthdays and excess, I answered a few more. Without further ado…

What celeb isn’t that famous but you are very very overly obsessed with? - @lemonadeh
This is the PERFECT time for me to tell you about my deep and abiding love for Robert Duvall, American treasure and recipient of the only fan letter I have ever written. I also have a Robert Duvall spreadsheet where I track watching all his films.

Watching movies with talkers: “it me” or “nah”? - @kaylashunk
I don’t have a lot of pet peeves, but movie-talkers are definitely the Lord testing my Christianity. There’s literally no reason for you to be talking during the movie. Do you have questions? The answers will be revealed during the course of the movie we’re both experiencing. Did you miss a line? You’ll miss seven more if you ask me “what did he say?” Only people who are addicted to chaos talk during movies.

What do you wish people knew about wedding planning? - @beks228
Rent a wedding gown, buy it second-hand, don’t pay full price.
Spend all your money on a photographer and all your energy on a tight contract with that photographer.
If you aren’t having kids at the reception, you cannot ask a child to be in your wedding party.
Be thoughtful about honoring the people who helped make the day happen.
If someone offers you a cash pay-out in exchange for not having a wedding, take the cash.
No matter what you do, in ten years, your wedding will feel dated.
A wedding is great and fun, but as a culture we’ve put them in a weird space as the pinnacle of a woman’s life and I think that’s reductive to women who choose not to get married, and women who do choose to get married! Look for other ways to celebrate milestones as well.

Thoughts on Emma Watson as Meg in the new Little Women? - @b.juliet.b
If anyone in this broken world can play Meg March with a shred of credibility, I believe it is Emma Watson.

What are some practical things you have done to grow in your writing? - @kj_duggan
I read a lot, and all kinds of things. Articles, novels, essays, poetry, research, tweets, anything.
This is going to sound condescending, but I don’t mean it that way at all: writing is the best practical thing you can do to improve your writing.

I also like these books on writing:
On Writing by Stephen King
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron

When you read a book you like and you think: this right here is in the ballpark of what I want to do, go to the back of the book and write down every title in the bibliography. Read those books. Find interviews with the author. Read the books they talk about.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about taste and how you become good at something. I used to have this Ira Glass quote taped to my wall, because it reminded me that figuring out what you want your voice to sound like and discerning good writing from bad writing takes time. I highlighted the parts I think are especially important.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” — Ira Glass

How do you find the good in the really tough days? - @midwestdrawl
I recently hooked up with a spiritual director (if you’ve been here for awhile, the journey has concluded), and the first thing she got me into is the prayer of examen. We’re reading about it together, but the basic shape of it is spending time each evening looking at the things or moments that drew me closer to God, and the things that pulled me away from Him. I really like this because it takes into account that every day has good and tough in them, and helps you sift through both sides accordingly. Someone else asked “I’m in an extended transition phase and often lack a feeling of purpose. Tips for thriving?” and I really feel like the prayer of examen could be helpful in that case as well. You’re creating a living document that chronicles the ups and downs, enabling you to find patterns and draw comfort from past experiences. It’s also clueing you during those times when your faith feels dry or stretched: reminding you: “There is water here.”

Do you have any ongoing internet feuds (real or imagined)? - @ally_castaldo
I’m feuding with all Christian thought leaders who rail against Game of Thrones having never seen it, and I’m also feuding with The Babylon Bee. I’m feuding with you if you refer to yourself as a Christian thought leader. I’m also feuding with Matt Walsh, President Donald Trump, and the Apostle Paul, but for all very different reasons and in a very respectful way (except for Matt Walsh, I think he’s a robot specifically designed to tempt me into sin). Obviously, these are all one-sided feuds.

How do you unplug from social media/stay off your phone? - @elizabethj423
I take weekends off. Kids are also very intelligent about the phone now; they’ve been sold its ills and if they see you pick it up, it’s like, “How come you’re on your phone so much? Don’t you love me? Did you know increased screen time rots your brain?” So that’s also very effective.

Book everyone else loved, but you disliked? - @saf9498
Look, I want to like Sally Rooney’s novels, but I hate them. It’s a subjective thing. I can clearly see she’s a great writer, but I hate everything about her books. She seems mind-bendingly cool though, so I have to admit I’m probably just an old millennial fart.

Best resources (non-partisan) for those wanting to become more politically informed? - @sarah_fisher
I really love Pantsuit Politics (podcast and book). I like ISideWith.com for helping you figure out which candidates you align with most. I like Vote411.org for helping me understand what I’ll be voting on. A podcast like The Daily or Up First are good, quick overviews of what’s happening in the world, and they let you come to your own conclusions about the political repercussions.

How would you advise a 34 year old woman with 5 kids to start pursuing her dreams? - @shelleysmucker
It’s hard for me to know how to advise you because I feel like there are so many variables that could be at play here! Their ages? Do you homeschool? What is your dream? What does it entail? Is it to be a world-class bodybuilder? Is it to write a novel? The vaguest (and probably best) advice I can give you is to start small. Tiny forward movement is still forward movement. My friend Kendra says to commit to something so small, it’s dumb NOT to do it. Whatever it is, if it’s your dream, start making progress, even if it’s laughably (to other dumb people who don’t pursue their dreams) miniscule.

Best kept Birmingham secret? - @haleigh_mitchell
The best Thai food is in a gas station.

What kind of worship songs do you love? - @bayliewintle
Is it old? Does it have four stanzas, but we’re gonna skip the third? Who knows why! That’s just what the Minister of Music told us to do! Does it include a more robust theology than is found in most Biblical Studies courses? I’m here for it. Give me some Fanny Crosby. Give me something out of the Baptist hymnal. I want my worship songs to have an M.Div.

Favorite theologians/thinkers? -
Henri Nouwen, Wil Gafney, Ekemini Uwan, CS Lewis, Francis of Assisi, Soren Kierkegaard, NT Wright, Fr. Richard Rohr, Carolyn Custis James, Julian of Norwich, and Walter Brueggemann.

3 make-up favorites? - @hannahlmorris
Right now I’m pretty into IT! Cosmetics Bye-Bye Pores Translucent Powder, these Real Techniques brushes, and my old standby is the Sephora Rouge Tint in Ruby.

Several of you asked questions that I’ve already answered in previous Swipe Ups, but GOOD NEWS: I transferred the entire archive over, so there’s an entire year’s worth of content a mere scroll away!

What’s a Mastermind Retreat?

Over Labor Day weekend, I went on a little retreat in the mountains with three other women to talk about BUSINESS. I’ve been meeting with my mastermind group online for about five months, and we thought it might be beneficial to have a concentrated time of face-to-face. Turns out, it was.

Several of you asked if I would unpack it more here, so I will!

How did you find your mastermind group?
In peak Enneagram 3 style, I knew everyone in our group separately, and rounded us (we and us here refers to Retha, Jacey, and Courtney) up. I wanted these people to fit three criteria. 1) We could not be intimately involved in each other’s lives prior to the mastermind (the exception for my group was Courtney, who is my dear old friend, but she lives in another state, so I decided FOR MYSELF I would break this rule). 2) Everyone would be an expert in something, but also a non-expert in something. 3) We would be adjacent to each other’s work, but not competitive with each other (whatever that means). The joke is now that we are all intimately involved in each other’s lives…but whatever.

Let’s say I don’t have three friends I want to do this with. How do I find people?
This is hard, because honestly, I’m not sure. There are some mastermind networks you can join, but there’s a (sometimes steep) fee. Maybe there are some people you know online who you think would be a good fit — you admire them, they are doing good work, and you feel like you can sharpen each other. I knew each of them enough to know that they could be trusted with sensitive information about work, and I think that’s important. If you talk about money or analytics in your group, you want someone who will keep that information private, and it may be hard to discern that just knowing someone online.

Do you have a leader?
This is a benevolent democracy, until no one wants to make a decision, then I will.

How often do you meet?
We shoot for twice a month for an hour. We also have a Voxer channel that gets some heavy use in the in-between.

What do you talk about in your regular meetings?
We do our professional highs and lows, and concentrated time on problems or questions we have. Every once in awhile, we do a hot seat, which is one person gets the entire hour for a pressure point. We chat via Zoom or Skype, and we have a recurring set date on the calendar.

So what exactly does a mastermind retreat entail? Is it just a fancier word for “girls trip?” It’s so vague!
This is a fair point. It IS vague, and we DID have an amazing charcuterie, which is a must for any girls trip, so I get the confusion. We used our mastermind retreat to ask a big question about our work, and then talk through our options with the rest of the group. I kind of liken it to picking up a rock on the beach. The rock is a project or an aspect of our work, and the mastermind retreat gave us space to turn that rock over in our hands, look at it from critical angles, examine the nooks and crannies, and decide if it was worth keeping, or we wanted to leave it on the beach. It also gave us:

  • Extended periods of time to think and talk about aspects of our work — you know how you get in a funk or a rut and you just don’t feel like you have the space to critically think about anything? The mastermind helped us untangle some of those knots.

  • A place to float ideas or dreams — it’s great to suggest an idea and get practical encouragement, as well as suggestions for how to make it happen.

  • Immediate feedback — as a Certified Feedback Monster™, I love saying something, and having quick thoughts and reactions to it.

  • Clarifying perspectives — I don’t view the world in the same way as the rest of my mastermind members, and it’s helpful to have additional personalities in the room to voice another side, or to ask a question I never would have considered.

Do you have any good resources for structuring a successful mastermind?
We were inspired by…other people on the internet. We searched “mastermind schedule” and cherry-picked what we thought would work well for us. Here are those links:

How to Plan and Host a Mastermind Group Retreat via Barrett Brooks
How to Plan a DIY Mastermind Retreat via Paper & Oats
Tips for Planning a Mastermind Retreat via Society for Creative Founders

We didn’t stick to our schedule super strictly (this is mainly because I accidentally slept in until TEN IN THE MORNING), so we made some adjustments. But we hit the main high points like we wanted. I also know several people who were already in a mastermind, so I asked a lot of questions for how they structure theirs. Not an expert by any means, but we can mine the collective brain trust and figure it out.

Everything I shared on Instagram this month, in one handy little post.

The Little Women trailer
The Highwomen album
The 1619 Project
Billy Porter Crushes Broadway Karaoke
Greta Gerwig Calls Her Babies Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet A ‘Bonfire’ Together
How To Help Your Anxious Teen by Jessica Thompson
The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King
Apocalyptic Safe Spaces with Elizabeth Bruenig (With Friends Like These podcast)
The Hope Mindfulness app
The Bible Binge QTNA on Patreon
TOMS Desert Tan Leopard Print Suede Kelsey Booties
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pumpkin Cream Coldbrew
Pumpkin Spice Lattes — and the backlash, and the backlash to the backlash, explained
Desk exercise bike
CaptainAhmazing on Instagram
Olive and June
Trader Joe’s Caramelized Onion Dip and Cornbread Crisps (no link…)
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series — seriously considering a recap of what will ultimately be the pinnacle of my fall.

I tend to be the most vocal on Instagram, but hot dang if I don’t love some Twitter. This new section is just a best of my Twitter feed. Some of these tweets have PG-13 language FYI. I promise not to share a tweet that isn’t totally worth you having to look at the s-word.

Fun things from ‘round yon internet.

This Henri Nouwen print from heatherschieder on Etsy is sitting in my house waiting on a frame.

I think I’ve found an everyday tea I can get on board with.

Loved this deep dive into the world of art forgery.

One of my very favorite (Birmingham) artists just launched some of her work as prints. I am particularly partial to this one.

Lisa Whittle’s got another book coming down the pipe and I’m ready.

The fine people at Mapiful helped me make a beautiful map to commemorate my time in the UK this summer and generously offered you a code so you could do the same for a special place of your own. You can enter erinhmoon10 at checkout for 10% off!

My obsession with daily naps grows stronger at every turn. The article gives you 10 tips for productive sleepy time.

As always, you can email me at erin(dot)hicks(dot)moon(at)gmail(dot)com to continue the conversation, offer feedback, or just say hi! Have a great rest of the month, and I’ll see you back here soon! Take care of each other, and take care of yourself. - ehm