Friday, November 28, 2014

25 absolutely awesome christmas post ideas


Now you're done with Thanksgiving and your food coma is wearing off, the faint smell of Douglas Fir and the sounds of "Silver Bells" means Christmas is on it's jolly way! But holidays and the rushing to and fro can make blogging ideas hard to come by... No worries, we've got you covered with this list of Christmas post ideas (that we'd like to think are a bit unique!).
  1. You are headed to a Christmas cookie party, but as a cookie. What are you? And what's your recipe?
  2. Talk about finding out Santa wasn't real. How did it happen? What did you feel? 
  3. How do you countdown the days until Christmas? Tell us about your advent calendar.
  4. Share a tradition you want to start in your own home one day. 
  5. The most dreadful part of the holidays is... 
  6. When do you start thinking about the New Year? And what is it you think about? 
  7. Share your holiday shopping tips. 
  8. Throwback to your favorite Christmas cards. I can think of one where I'm dressed as an angel that's blog-worthy. 
  9. What does Advent mean to you? 
  10. An open letter to St. Nick, Frosty the Snowman, Jack Frost, Mrs. Clause (or the like). 
  11. Holiday decor home tour. (Because you know we want to see it)
  12. Talk about your holiday celebration. Is it Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa? How does your family celebrate? (think of this as an opportunity to educate others on your take)
  13. If you could design your own flannels, what would they look like? And why? 
  14. Give this, Not that Gift Guide 
  15. Write about your holiday card philosophy. When are they best sent? Do you include a letter? Is there always a picture? Pets or no pets? Professional photo or Instagram frame? 
  16. How do you balance between your family and your in laws? Share your peace-in-marriage tips.
  17. What do you HAVE to have before Christmas is considered official
  18. Let's have a Christmas Hot Cocoa date. What are you stressing over, loving, needing, wishing, wanting this Christmas season? 
  19. If you were Santa, what would you want to find on the plate awaiting you at the bottom of the chimney? 
  20. What holiday decor do you collect without apology? And why? (Ours is the nativity scene)
  21. What is your Christmas music policy? When is it allowed to be listened to? What are your favorite artists? Hymns or more recent songs? 
  22. What books are on your literary Christmas list this year?
  23. If your year was going to be encapsulated in a snow globe, what would be included inside? 
  24. What parts of the Holidays is stressful to you? And how would you change things to make the pressure less intense?
  25. Every family has an odd, interesting, unique Christmas day tradition. What's yours? 
We're going to spend our weekend decorating the house for the very first time! Cheers ya'll!

Monday, November 24, 2014

saying thanks [a marriage letter]


Jason, 

We've had one of those weeks they warned us about in premarital counseling. One of those weeks where we just can't catch our rhythm  where homeownership and it's responsibilities weigh on us, where life's circumstance is heavy and we're tired of carrying the yoke, where we both want to cry out in frustration, but we've got our game faces on. We've had one of those weeks. 

And we spent more nights being tired and annoyed with one another than I'm really willing to admit. But then we decided our marriage is number one, is more important, is the most life-giving than any of the troubles and circumstances we were trying to tackle. We decided it's not about who's right, who's wrong, or where life started being unfair but instead, we decided, our marriage comes first. 

We stood stressed out in our bedroom before work. You were tying shoes, I was applying makeup. And we said "our marriage is more important" back and forth. We both breathed blessed sighs of relief, exchanged good byes kisses and high fives and then we moved on. It wasn't simple in the beginning, but it was in the end. 

Finally, that night, I asked for what I'd needed for days. I admitted I'm spoiled, that I can't stand when we're off, and that I needed your dry humor and sick wit back. I told you I wanted to laugh hard about The Colbert Report and compare notes over Cops and sip Starbucks Christmas blend from our mismatched mugs. And you laughed, and you joked, and you just did as you do. And I didn't say it in those moments, but thank you. 

Thank you for deciding what's important with me. Thank you for saying this yoke is too heavy and letting me take some of the load. Thank you for making mistakes with hands so busy holding one another, there's nothing left to point out blame. Thank you for belly laughs and TV dates and surprise selfies on my phone. Thank you for being easy on my heart and soul and, most obviously, on the eyes. 

A spirit of thanksgiving is easy with you around. 

Always grateful for you and to be yours,
amber
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
These letters are the brainchild of Amber C. Haines and her husband, Seth. While they take a break from writing them, I'm choosing to continue on my own. I write to remember mundane moments that would otherwise slip away, to hold tight to him, and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment, plus the chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds otherwise.

Friday, November 21, 2014

evernote: a review



Let's begin with this fact: Evernote didn't know I was writing this. They still, in fact, might not have a clue that I have so many opinions about their application. But, alas, I do.

However, I was introduced to Evernote by no other than Jason Thomas. I was complaining about writing blog post ideas all over the place and he mentioned he used it for making notes when he'd come up with a resolution for a problem at work, or to make a list, or keep things he needed to remember later. I thought this was novel, his recommendation of an app, so I downloaded it. And was overwhelmed by the way I needed to learn how to use it.

I ignored the app for a while, finally uninstalling it when I could just use Notes in my iPhone. Until one fateful day when Nicole from Treasure Tromp shared that she used the app regularly, emphasizing the way that it syncs between all her devices and her ability to organize all the tidbits she put in there with relative ease.

I decided, another try was worth my time. But this time I downloaded Evernote EVERYWHERE. On my MacBook, my PC at work, and on my phone. I challenged myself to find a use for it privately, professionally, and for this blog. And that turned out to be easy. To Do lists at work (complete with check boxes) were made easy, grocery lists at home became interactive and no longer forgotten on the kitchen counter, and a Mr. Thomas and Me notebook was created.

Then came the book writing endeavor of 2014. I had used Scrivener previously for blog post series scheduling, but realized it was challenging because of the lack of interfacing between my multiple devices and it's book-screenplay writing perfection. And, with ease of use book-writing dreams, back to Evernote I go.

Nearly 35,000 words later, I can say: Evernote was what worked for me in a dozen different ways. I won't bore you with How To's (because, really, you just have to practice with it) or the little nitty-gritty, but I will tell you for the most part Evernote gets a two-thumbs and one-toe up.

A few important facts to mention:
-My entire manuscript is in Evernote. Every last bit of those 35,000 words are contained in Evernote's cloud for my access from any computer.
-I have spent a solid two hours every evening in the Mac Evernote interface. That is where the majority of my experience is -sorry PC!
-Evernote has an online interface too. You can access your notebooks from ANYWHERE as long as you have a computer and internet connection. DO YOU KNOW HOW AWESOME THIS IS?
-I'm still surprised by how helpful some of the features are now that I'm invested in using their system -cough, tags, cough.

[PROS]
1. THE CLOUD
I don't have to worry about losing my manuscript in part or whole because Evernote's got me covered. Boom, peace of mind.

2. CONSTANT SYNC
Saving is a thing of the past. Evernote syncs automatically for you, so there's no such thing as losing even a minor sentence. It also updates the moment you start up your computer or log on to their website so don't sweat about having the wrong version at any time.

3. THE ONLINE INTERFACE
I actually like the look of their online interface the best. White, clean, super simple and not the least bit distracting. It almost feels like writing into OmmWriter but without the music.

4. WORD COUNTS 
Yes, the word count is always available as well as when the note was created and when it was last touched/edited/made different. I like numbers -especially during #NaNoWriMo.

5. VOICE NOTES AND PICTURES
You can add in voice notes (so helpful when driving) and pictures as well as clippings from the web or your email if so desired. I can tell you that I've used all of these features in an inspiration note that I keep in case I'm feeling dried up and sick of my own thoughts. All these functions are available on your phone, computer, and through the internet version.

[CONS]
1. ALL TOGETHER NOW
Notes can be organized into notebooks (cool) but then the notebooks don't pull together something cumulative what is filed within it if you need. This can be frustrating when you're, say, writing a book and you want to see all the words together in one giant file, but don't want them to be stuck there.

2. FORMATTING
You can't set up to be double spaced -something I need when I'm staring at a screen for hours and the lines of text start to run together. Evernote will hold the format from a word document, but it's a pain in the ass to copy, paste, format, copy, paste back.

3. DOCUMENTS ONLY 
Things like tracking your word count can be a little bit difficult if you're trying to calculate changes in your totals or individual chapters or all the things. I wish I could pull together a spreadsheet (maybe you can in the Premium version -I haven't yet made that commitment).

So you're convinced? Then get over there and get it
Or you know how to use more features than I? SHARE. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

let us give thanks.

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On a our weekly Sunday walk, Jason and I noticed a house all decked out for Christmas. Santa inflatables, white-lighted reindeer, and a candy cane trail covered their entire front yard. The house was trimmed in white icicle lights and a bright ornament wreath hung proudly on their front door. It was undeniably jolly but seemed out of place among the beautiful golds and reds of the autumn leaves.

"They've skipped the time where they're grateful. That's what that house says." 

An observation that had crossed my mind, best spoken by Jason as we continued down the hill. We silently soaked in what he'd said. That is until his next joke and my side-splitting laughter. But those words stuck to my soul, they reverberated over and over again, making me think: is skipping thanks the new cool thing to do? 

It seems to be true. The stores dropped Halloween candy and are now covered in garland, tinsel, and fake trees. Where there was costumes spooky and sweet, there are now ornaments sparkly and unique. From October to December, who is this November? From give me treats to where are the presents, we don't stop to breathe in the spirit of giving thanks. And my heart breaks.

I am biased. I love Thanksgiving deeply. The food, the family, the movies, the puzzles, the drinks, the pie, the leftovers. I immerse myself in that single day spent feasting on all good things. But with the feasting of my body, there's a deep feast within my soul. A soul that consumes so tirelessly day in and day out seems to stop, to rest, and to sit thankfully. It seems to soften around the edges, less concerned with what's next, more delighted in what's now. And that, that is thanks.

So let us stop. Let us forget the lists, the holiday to-dos, the cards and the carols. Let us slow down the rush to have all that Christmas shopping done, to find those best Black Friday deals, to chase down the perfect picture for this year's Christmas card. Let us stop the skipping and instead, let us say thanks.

Let us mark the next week (and one day) saying thank you. To our Starbucks barista, to our boss, to our spouse, to our mailman, to our Target cashier, to our siblings, to our neighbors, to our trash man, to our parents. For things big and small, important and not, paid for and free. For kind words and kinder actions. Let us say thanks. 

Let us remember all we have: our health, our friends, our homes, our pets, our food, our nation, our cars, our yards. And instead of seeing the bills and the runs and the responsibilities that come with each of these, let us say thanks. 

Let our souls step out of the hamster wheel and into the quietness of the void that is these two November weeks. And in that void between Halloween and Christmas, that void we hear as a time to be busy. Let us be still, be content, be filled because we are: complete, full, blessed beyond belief. Let us say thanks. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

you're halfway through #NaNoWriMo, now what?


Well, you aren't the only one half way through #NaNoWriMo, I am too. And that means that we've experienced the high that we're doing this, making it happen, and we're going to make it to 50,000 words by the last day of this month. Or so we hope. We've also experienced the WHY DID I EVER DECIDE TO DO THIS? mess of doubt that's like a plate of spaghetti all twisted around each other and impossible to sort out.

But now that we're half way and we're fighting fatigue. We're feeling sort of bored with how hard our word counts can be to reach and trying not to turn into complete hermits and haters of the world because of this fact.

I contend: I have some solutions for you. And for me, actually.

READ WHAT AWESOME WRITERS SAY ABOUT WRITING. 
Who better to encourage you, provide you with sage advice about process, point out their greatest mistakes than the authors that so many people love to read? No one. That's the answer: no one.

I can attest to the greatness of two of the following books. The other I'm preparing to work through in the second half of this month.

Suggestions: 
Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
On Writing - Steven King
Zen in the Art of Writing - Ray Bradbury 

WRITE FIRST THING IN THE MORNING. 
Literally first thing. Before you look at social media, before you drink coffee (or maybe while you drink coffee), while you're still in pajamas. This is when your mind is freshest in the course of your day, it's when your mind isn't yet wrestling with To Do lists or meetings, appointments or pressing bills. Just write. 

SKIP THE TYPING AND DO IT BY HAND. 
Write with your hands. Be it in a notebook, on a napkin, in your planner simply write with a pen on paper. This feels old school and sort of ridiculous, but it makes you intimate with the words, often drawing words out of you that you didn't expect or may not have realized were in there to be shared. 

PRINT OUR YOUR WORDS AND CUT, TAPE, REARRANGE. 
I've done this once (see above picture) and have a second print out in my schedule this month. Basically the thought is this: you need to understand the physical composition of your novel. Print your novel, tape chapters (as you intend them to be for now) together, then line them up in relation to one another. Keep scissors handy and look through your general ideas and tales within your plot. Cut. Rearrange. Tape. Then take sticky notes and note what you need to fill in the holes -then fill them. 

MAKE A PINTEREST BOARD. 
Sometimes looking at images and quotes that inspire your novel is helpful. I know -but then I have to make the board- do that instead of stalking your ex-boyfriend on Facebook and LOOK THERE, you've got yourself a mood board for you next murder scene, or hot date, or hopeful tale. 

LISTEN TO A PODCAST
I know, I already talked about Serial, but Podcasts (and TedTalks) are awesome sources of inspiration. Maybe you're storyline has crime in it or deals with women's rights or is attempting to inspire readers to understand the sources of their hope. Either way, see what other smart/thoughtful/interesting people think on your thing -whatever your thing might be.

Other Inspiring Podcasts
This American Life (they make Serial too)
The Joe Rogan Experience (he interviews some awesomely intelligent people & is intelligent himself)
Stuff You Should Know (I mean, self explanatory. But TONS of interesting content)

YouTube Videos I Watch When I NEED Inspiration
"Royals" Cover by Alex Boye
Why We Tell Stories - Phil Kaye TedTalk
Kevin Durant MVP Speech
Learning from Dirty Jobs - Mike Rowe TedTalk

DRINK COKE ZERO OR COFFEE OR TEA OR CHAMPAGNE. 
I think the champagne is supposed to wait until the end... But treat yourself to something you love to drink. It'll keep you awake, isn't going to get your hands dirty like eating might do, and, well, you're working hard so why not?

SEEK COMMUNITY. 
I've found amazing inspiration in two places lately: the sprints of #madwritersunite and the boldness of #fireworkpeople. Writing within community makes this individual process feel less lonely and exhausting. So, find friends, link-up with people, search through the #NaNoWriMo hashtag. Whatever you do, don't be shy and hermit-like. 

And with that, get back after that word count baby! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

coffee date number eight

If we were on a coffee date, we'd be sipping Costa Rican coffee fresh from our french press with homemade cinnamon-brown sugar syrup to boot. We'd be sitting at our dinner table -my new favorite perch in our home- and sipping out of over-sized mugs.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you about Hue leggings. That I own them in corduroy, in leopard, in striped denim, in cotton and I just can't get enough. They go perfect with everything and they are cozy warm for fall and winter (at least here in California), so you should get some too. They have butt pockets so they're useful and aren't too booty-licious.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask what you're reading. This reading mission I made for myself has transformed me into a voracious reader. My shelves are still full of books To Read, but I'm never closed to what I should be looking at next. Right now I'm reading Outlander at the recommendation of Lindsay (be careful you'll fall in love with her) and, well, I'm truly, deeply enjoying it!

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess that my writing has sort of consumed my mind. I've realized early morning and late night are my writing hours, so I'm trying to make space for my mind to be creative by keeping a journal around in those moments of genius. Thankfully, Jason is a patient man and doesn't mind the click of my keyboard while he watches The Colbert Report. Also thankfully, we celebrate my word count by watching Cops.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd recommend the Nehemiah bible study from SheReadsTruth. My mom and I got the study pack and have been going through it, but they have everything online if you'd like to do it for free. It's empowering and encouraging and just pure wonderful. It's got me contemplating my legacy, my community and my heart in working for the glory of Him. Those aren't light things, but then again, they're fun to ponder and pray over.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share about my new love for time in the kitchen. I'd remind you that once I had thought about being a food blogger and I cooked new recipes all the time. Well, I fell off that bandwagon and into a schedule of cooking the same fifteen recipes on rotation. But then I started using Pinterest to make my weekly grocery list and Jason is loving it... And, quite frankly, I am too.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd spill about how thankful I am for my body. I don't know what's happening to me lately, but I look at all the things my body does -from running to lifting Hazel into the car to thinking up 2,000 words to read most days- and I'm feeling really, deeply thankful. And, well, I hope you feel that way too because it's easy not to feel that way especially with things like pant sizes and scales and calories to haunt us.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd thank you for your friendship. Not just because it's November, but because you're awesome and, well, you enrich my life and encourage me. Lately, encouragement has been my motivation to keep on keepin' on at this writing thing.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

#NaNoWriMo and THE BOOK

When one posts on a Thursday, it's a special occasion.

When two dear friends (Raechel and Juliette) invite me to talk about THE BOOK, it's a special occasion.
Writer's Block

When I take the time to edit my vlog with questions I make up, it's a special occasion.

So, today is special. And occasional. And let's be friends for the next seven minutes and seven seconds.

Now you're brain is like a mushy oatmeal made up of inspiration and hope and all my dramatic faces.

Links for ya'll.
National Novel Writing Month website
Juliette's blog and Rachael's blog (the hot hosts of this link-up)
Annie told me about elevator pitches. (She's so incredibly dear to me)
Lindsay's post on the dumpster cat who deleted her manuscript
Evernote -MY FAVORITE APP EVER (Thanks to Nicole from Treasure Tromp)

And with that: I am out. Or off. Or done.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

a space in which to mourn


The road marked Dementia has been one we've been on for years. It's run down and covered in spiky shrubbery that implants right in that sensitive spot in the middle of one's shin. For years, we've trudged along, hand supporting hand, heart tangled in heart, waiting for that moment it dead ends into that place called Death.

We move, aimlessly, spinning in circles and disorienting ourselves until the path becomes clear all over again. We follow his lead -though he's unaware of his leadership- sometimes heavy in his wake, sometimes lightly skipping beside him. 

We've spent years visiting, gently holding his hands, moving together through the halls and the gardens. We let him babble on, pretending to hold a conversation with non-words.

That is until the visit where he seemed to be stopped mid-journey, mid-path. He was stopped, he laid, and he slept. As we entered the room I heard his soft snores, they said slumber, slumber sweet soul. And I cried. I laughed and I cried and a noise unrecognizable escaped my lips. 

I turned to see Jason there, to remind myself he's present. He stares at me -trying to glean what happens next. I cover my face, head bowed, as the snores remind me he's alive despite what I see. A dozen drops of salty sadness before my arms itch for purpose. I rifle through drawers trying to match up his shoes, to find that hat my mom mentioned was missing. 

The snores fill the room despite all the commotion outside. I hear them and thank God he's some kind of alive. Outside, I need out, I need sun and the garden. My legs want some space that this room doesn't offer. So I touch him, I rub his sternum softly and beg him to wake. He snores. 

I rub with more effort, his eyes crack and there they are the color of the sky. Lunch, I tell him, food, good and warm. A faint smile, then snores. More snores. All that movement must be exhausting, we agree. Continuous physical effort wears even the healthiest soul down.

He sleeps. And we wait suddenly large in the small room. Outside, I need out. So we go, just Jason and I, out under the sun, around the green grounds, comforted simply by the walking sounds of the other. We walk the grounds without him, sit, talk, suddenly mourn. 

We try to wake him again. Two more times in fact. No luck. Some words, babbles, and then snores. He's exhausted, no surprise, and, in fact, so are we. We tell him goodbye, that we love him, that it's all going to be okay with him. I gently squeeze the thin, wiry hand. 

We load in the car, realizing we've been there for over an hour. Our bodies aren't tired. But oh our dear hearts. It is then I realize grief needs stillness and space to dance upon the bits and pieces of your broken heart.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Popsicle, 

There are no words for the way I miss you or how much of life you've taught me in my 25 (and a half) years. There is no way to tell you how far your ripples spread in this big pond. 

Words cannot do it justice Popsicle. Not even mark a scratch on that immense and concrete-hard surface. Instead, I will show you all the days of my life.

Love,
am

Monday, November 10, 2014

on radio silence



Writing a book looks beautiful -paper mounds, highlighters, a rainbow of pens, coffee mugs, plates of crumbs. It looks beautiful and messy with all the notes and rewrites and bits and pieces of novel thoughts -it looks like life. And, like life it can feels clunky, ill-fitting, slow and frustrated.

There's that first draft: pure shit. It's heavy, mundane, drudgery. It's embarrassing, terrifying really. It's the worst thing you've ever gone and written, makes you wonder what ever possessed you to tackle this sort of task, shakes your confidence to its core and begs you to just give up already.

Then there's all the drafts after that: ombre drafts. Each version gaining a little bit more clarity, looking more lacy and beautiful, no longer sack-dress. Each version blossoming slowly, but definitely from ugly duckling to gorgeous hawk-bird, awesome in feather and flight.

And one day, there's an end. A book that is read -if you're lucky by someone more than your mother and best friend- and cherished and maybe even quoted in a beautiful graphic on Pinterest.

Writing a book is a growing process that looks exhausting, soul-sucking, and, yet, rewarding -like life. It's hard, it's easy, it's charming, it's devastating. And like life, it's individual with no two experiences identical but with so many moments communal.

My process has been silent. The radio is on, but He's not transmitting. And in the beginning when he wouldn't talk the silence terrified me. It left me sad, pouty, purely indignant of His presence because I want His words to shower down upon me.

I mentioned my disdain for silence once. How it makes me desperate and honest and vulnerable and afraid. I feel like He's sitting, looking, taking it all in and I don't want to know His conclusion. Because I've convinced myself that in noise, He won't see my flaws and mistakes. In noise I can distract myself from His face when He sees my competitive tendencies, my judgmental words, my poisonous jealousy.

But like that book that's best read, contemplated, and edited in the kind of deafening silence that burns in your ears, so am I. His concentration isn't foiled by noise, but my listening is. His ability to see me for the hot mess that I am isn't mussed up in the airwaves, but my reception of His loving, constructive tone disappears.

The comfort of noise is ignorance. Radio silence is bare, stripping me of distraction, requiring my patience. Hope, erasure and reworking, red ink, notes in the margins, and sentence long mark outs. The process of perfecting happens quietly, painstakingly. It's exhausting, soul-sucking, and, yet, rewarding.
- - - - - - - - - - -
Thank you to my muse and the inspiration behind this piece: none other than the gorgeous (inside and out) Juliette -who is better than Romeo's. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

what i read: october

I'm prouder than proud to say that three of the four books I read this month were on my shelves prior to October 1st. That means that I'm three books deeper into my shelves which, I feel, makes me a reading my shelves champion (humble pie). 
This month's reads were absolutely amazing... And the worst book I've read since I started doing reviews. So yes. Also this month Taylor released an AMAZING new album that I love (and that's saying a lot because I loved her early stuff, then skipped out on Red, and now I'm all about 1989) so she's going to be the GIF provider of the month!

|| via ||
By: Jojo Moyes 

"The thing about being catapulted into a whole new life--or at least, shoved up so hard against someone else's life that you might as well have your face pressed against their window--is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are. Or how you might seem to other people."

I read this book in six hours. And I wept.

Those are really the two important things you must know. Also, it's a great price on Amazon and I just can't recommend it enough. It's not a love story in the way we know love stories. It ends happily, but not happily ever after. You will cry. But it will change your perspective.

I mean it when I say, there are no words to describe how wrecked this made me, how beautiful the story was, how much I just want everyone to read it and understand.

Did I tell you you have to read it yet?

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By: Herman Koch 

"Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life."

Imagine Dinner with Shmucks meets Fight Club. Sort of.

Anyone who's read more than two of my reviews knows I am not one for low marks. But this book earned it. Originally written in Europe, it has now been translated to English, and I'm blaming some of my boredom on the difference in cultures between there and here. But I just couldn't stand the main characters, or the plot line, or how SLOW the entire novel moved.

I also hated the way the "little (which was actually anything but little) problem" was handled which made me further despise every single character in the novel. So, maybe, instead of reading this one, go ahead and pick up a copy of Me Before You.
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By: Anne Lamott

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.” 

I think every blogger, writer, wannabe should read this. Screw Blog Inc and the formulas and pick this up immediately. The moment you hit a block, you feel your creativity wane, you lose your heart for your words, this is the answer.

For years I've been a fan of Lamott and all her raw, beautiful ways, but this insight into her work and process reminded me we're all human and struggling through the mess -even literary ones. She gives you techniques and prompts to work with and through, while reminding you that telling your story is an art that only you can master.

Who cares what you're writing or wishing to write, this has got just the wisdom, encouragement, advice you crave.
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By: Jodi Piccoult 

"I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it to the corner of the room—but eventually, you learn to live with it.”

Jodi Piccoult has longtime been a favorite author for thriller-crime-law novels. Her ability to write beautifully and educate is astounding and exciting and fun as a reader and a thinker.

After reading almost a dozen novels by Piccoult, I was certain this would be the time I'd be able to predict what came next... Wrong. This is different than any that I've read from her previously, entirely lovely and made me wish it didn't end, but shocking. Piccoult touches on hot button issues with grace and artfulness. Her ability to draw you in, connect you to her characters, while educating you is immense.
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Also, how does Taylor always look so good in red? I just look all splotchy and sun burned. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

garage doors and learned love

This is a before picture. 



"WHAT. THE. FUCK?" It slips salty and bitter through my teeth and drops black like oil onto the garage floor between us. His arms are stretched upward, he's holding the garage door that's managed to come out of its tracks and is now hanging, limp in a paper-like crumple.  

He stares at me in disbelief, but says nothing back. He blinks as though his eyes are blurred and vision broken, looks heavenward and, yes his worst fears are confirmed as the door still hangs just feet above his head, dependent on his support. How the hell does a garage door just come off the rails, all twisted and turned, without wheels on one side? We're silent, surveying the scene, shocked in the aftermath of the unexpected accident. 

"Where'd that glass come from?" I can hear the cocktail in his voice -equal parts panic and annoyance. He won't let go of the door -it seems to be hanging by a thread-, but he's moving around the garage, trying to find the glass-spitting source. 

I see it. The window. It's shattered. I point, tell him to steer clear of the glass. It's slow, blurry, awkward in that garage with that door hanging heavy and unsettled like a black storm cloud above us. 

Last Friday I wrote about how I wouldn't spend my life with anyone else but him and meant it. But what are words without actions? We dared shitty accident sort of luck to come and find us. Sunday night -post-wedding date, post-no electric for the afternoon, post-fun night out together, it came in the form of a garage door gone rogue. A garage door that's been a pain in our house since the moment we laid eyes on it. A garage door, off the tracks and breaking our little homeowners' hearts.

Suddenly, it clicks -we're a team and, right now at 9 o'clock on a Sunday night, we've been called into cooperative action. The oily, mean words and harsh tones have been soaked up and replaced by an urgency to make this mess right. To clean up the mess together. 

Futile efforts. Tired arms. Weary souls. We stood in our bedroom on opposite sides of the bed, silent as our hands worked subconsciously folding, hanging, sorting through laundry. The night is tense, awkward, silently dreadful of the bill to come. Neither one of us wants to mention the cock-eyed, crooked metal door all folded and crinkly downstairs, or the way our safe place feels vulnerable more creepy jack'o'lantern missing teeth than homey home. 

The fresh fall cold seems to creep into the house fiercely in the dark of night. He's snoring softly, I'm laying awake after another nightmare about that damned door. I want to touch his arm that's resting in an L above his blonde hair. I know it'll feel strong, cool, yet radiate internal warmth. But it'll wake him and, right now, sleep is his comfort. 

Three years married and I've realized: we are learning how to love each other better each day. Instead of hostile, white-hot anger, there was pure shock, followed by honest teamwork. Instead of placing blame and seeking fault, we gathered together in silent reverie for the home we've come to love. Instead of tense words and cross thoughts, we folded clothes, managed to do what could be done, waited impatiently for the truth morning light -and a garage door specialist- might hold.

It seems we're doing marriage justice -at least that one Sunday night. 

Jason,
Knowing my luck this is the one post you'll read this month.
Thanks for being my husband.
Even the shitty parts of life (especially those that come with home-ownership)
are dear to me when they're with you.
You're so deeply dear to me.
X O,
am

Monday, November 3, 2014

novemBRAVE. and thankfulness. and a cocktail of challenge.

October was one of those months that was really slow then really fast. The first half of the month crawled along productively, but oh-so-slowly. It may or may not have had something to do with an impending vacation coming that made things feel less than flying by, but I was proud of myself because I didn't wish that pace away.

I found myself embracing the slower-moving days, enjoying the evenings where there was space for writing and reading and being creative, starting to sit around the bonfire with Jason sipping on glasses of red wine. We're so fast these days, so connected and moving and trying to knock just a FEW more things off our list -myself probably being the worst offender. So I'm trying to keep remembering that slow is okay, that the tortoise finished the race too, that it isn't all about efficiency and getting THERE first.

That said, this year has disappeared into thin air. Being here in November, the second to last month of 2014 (well, every year actually), I almost don't know what to do with myself. I'm feeling excited about the prospect of a new year on the horizon, but I'm also in shock that the holidays are so rapidly upon us. I'm thrilled to think about what 2015 holds for Mr. Thomas and me, but I'm reverent and cherishing the beautiful things that 2014 had for us. It's a delicate balance this life thing, isn't it?

In lieu of being B.R.A.V.E. in a very overt way this month, I'm doing things a little bit different. I cherish the way Thanksgiving and gratefulness take over the entire month, instead of being a staccato mark at the end.

My goal for the month is to be thankful, say thank you, remember gratefulness. 

This is simple, really, but so easy for me to breeze over, sort of ignore or forget, and, well, everyone loves feeling and knowing they're appreciative. So my posts will include little ways in which I am living out my thanks. Not just notes (though there will surely be those), but actions, meals, moments in which I'm really, truly living out thankfulness.

This feels like a cocktail of B.R.A.V.E.-ery. A big, old cocktail.

What are you favorite ways to be thanked? 
What makes me feel most grateful? And appreciated? 

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