Friday, May 29, 2015

the lessons i learned in may

CREATIVITY THRIVES IN ROUTINE. 
I already told you that I was reading The Accidental Creative and I was fascinated by the ideas in it. Then Erika mentioned the Accidental Creative Podcast and I was like, YES. So I started listening to it, namely the one about The Dailies and The Importance of Rituals. I took up both, made them priorities in my day, and have already felt the benefits in my soul. It's hard not to be creative when you're purposely feeding yourself inspiration. 

CONSUMERISM IS A SILENT DISEASE.
I know it's supposed to be some sort of cute joke when we say we just can't walk out of Target without spending $100. But lately that thought has come to scare me. I don't want to be frivolous with my money, I mean, I do because I love things, but I don't because that's not good for my soul. 

This has led me to returning things that I buy and then get home and realize I don't need, but simply want. The want is deep and dresses up as a need, but it isn't. I hardly need anything but food, water, shelter and God's grace. Anyway, this next month I'm going to try and stop buying them and bringing them home in the first place. 


PATTERNS IN NATURE ARE AWESOME.
I remember learning about Fibonnaci's sequence and being fascinated. What I didn't realize back then is that nature is detailed and organized in all the ways. I found two nests this month -one while I was running at home and one while walking through UVU's campus with Jason. Both blew my mind and made me just, in awe.

AIN'T NO THING LIKE A SIBLING. 
You might not know that I'm one of five kids. There's something about noise in a house and overwhelm that is truly blessed -overwhelming and sometimes exhausting, but blessed. There's something for the way we all understand and lean in simply because of our genetics. Living as part of a thick fabric of awesome people is, well, awesomely awesome.

CALIFORNIA STRAWBERRIES ARE HAPPY BERRIES. 
I know there was a commercial about it being happy California cows, but forget that business. It's all about the delicious beyond compare berries that are being harvested from farms just minutes from the center of our town. I mean, yum.


PRE-PACKAGED SMOOTHIES ARE THE BEE'S KNEES. 
Especially on busy mornings. They're simple to make -seriously they take MAYBE fifteen minutes to assemble- and then take three minutes to toss, blend, and pour. I add kale (or spinach) to all my bags first, then pick my fruit (sometimes it's fresh, sometimes it's frozen). Sometimes I add a few mint leaves or some parsley. Then zip and freeze. Add milk, orange juice, or water and maybe some protein powder. Blend. BOOM breakfast. 

THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A CLEANED OUT CLOSET.
But really, nothing. I have stopped allowing myself to hoard clothes because I have space for them. I realize that I don't do it in any other part of our house, so why my closet? It's been refreshing, I can see what I own and don't have to dig and fight to find what I really want to wear. 

What's the biggest lesson you learned this month? 


With much excitement, I'm linking up with Emily Freeman.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

CollaboReads: A Book-lovers Link-Up





There's something about a good book. 
There's also something about a good friend. 

I have a good friend who reads good books and always tells me about them and it makes me insanely happy. It makes me want to follow her into  libraries and book stores and let her show me how she goes and pulls these beautiful gems from the shelves. She's one of those people who doesn't just read what's popular or highly rated, she grabs things I've never heard of and she reads them and then reviews them. Those reviews make me want to read them. 

Then she sent me one for my birthday. A beautiful book with a lovely note and it warmed my soul. 
Then I sent her one for hers because I could cross my fingers and hope she hadn't yet read one. 
And she hadn't. Hallelujah. 

Then we got to talking about the bookworms of the blogging world. And how we wish there was a way for us to come together and talk about books but still read what we love. We all know the hardest parts about book clubs is when someone else picks a 700 page novel from your least favorite genre. 

That's when #Collaboreads was born. In the small space between we wish there was this and we could make it. Rachel was the mastermind, I was the muscle and you are the receiver of our gifts. 

Meet #Collaboreads: a book lover's link-up. 

We introduce you to (what we believe) is the best and simplest book link-up in the land. It works like this: 

  1. We will pick a random criteria for your book. It'll look something like: published the year you were born or mentions a city in your state or historical fiction about an era you really don't know. 
  2. You find your book. (It's probably a good -or even great- idea to get a library card!) 
  3. Read. -You'll have a month. 
  4. At the end of the month we'll review(ish) our books. Rachel and I will both have places for you to share your links in our posts. 
  5. Repeat steps 1 - 4. 
It's simple. Right? Pick, read, review. 

Because we'll be reading different books, we decided to make the review process a little more stream-lined. So, we made a little mnemonic for the suggested (completely suggested, you're allowed to do it differently) way to do your review: 
Riveting.
What part of the book could you NOT get enough of? 
Elements.
How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns? 
Associate.
What other books are like this one?
If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? 
Design.
You know you judged this book by the cover.
What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 
Stars. How many out of five do you give this book?
Would you recommend this book to a friend? 
We want this to feel fun and exciting. We want you to look forward to your reading and your reviewing and sharing all the interesting (or not so interesting) facets of your book. You can blog, you can vlog, you can be not-a-blogger and post on social media (that's what that nifty hashtag is for). We just want you there. Or here. Wherever you are, we want you.

And like any good link-up, I've got a button for you to use too!

Mr. Thomas and Me

Please join us for the first link-up on Monday, June 29th. 
The criteria is: On the NYT Best-sellers List when you start reading it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Review of my #BlossomVoxBox (& Random Facts About Me)

I'm not sure how I feel about getting free things for giving one's opinion. I mean, I like free things -in fact, I might love them- but I wonder if free-ness impedes on my ability to be honest, to be unbiased, to be sure. I didn't know if I'd feel like a sellout for taking free things and then talking about them, trying to act like a miraculous thing happened and all of the things were the BEST EVER. 

So I set up some rules: 
  1. Only accept items that are appropriate for my lifestyle. 
  2. Never lie about what sucks, but always be kind in my distaste.
  3. Always say YES to what I love. 
  4. Stop if I feel like I have to lie. 
And so, my Blossom VoxBox arrived taking a survey on Influenster's website. I knew they were looking for specific bloggers to represent them, but I underestimated their ability to hone in on what might be fitting to my life (and thus, our content). 

Maybe Doubting Thomas comes in here, but when my box arrived I was thrilled with its contents. And over the following two weeks, my happiness with most of the products grew and bloomed -I suppose, like a blossom. 

Without further ado, my reviews in two forms: (1) picture and (2) word. 
I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

EQUITANCE MOISTURIZER WITH SUNSCREEN (#Equitance):
LOVE. I mean, my heart has not ever been one to set specifically on a moisturizer. As long as it's covering enough to make my face feel smooth without being too thick and contains SPF I'm a happy camper. But since trying this Equitance, I understand how people have favorites.

It's covering, moist, and doesn't make me wish I had more to apply half way through the day. I have skin that's prone to acne in all the ways so I was relieved to use it without any whitehead-looking consequences. It soaks in quickly and doesn't react with my foundation or powder in any way that make me feel cakey or uncovered. Basically, give it a go friends.

BEANITOS CHIPOTLE BBQ (#AllThatInaBagofChips):
It seems important to note I am a self-professed tortilla chip lover. Serve them with queso or salsa or guacamole or plain, I want to eat them all. So when Beanitos were in my Blossom VoxBox I was a little bit worried (and disappointed) because I didn't know how I'd feel about them. But I got home from work one afternoon and was hungry -hangry- while Jason was stuck at work late. I wanted a snack that was healthy, but not overly filling and Beanitos were in the cabinet singing my name.

I dipped them in salsa and ended up inhaling the entire bag before I knew what hit me. The texture of the chips is different than regular tortilla chips, but they're healthier with their fiber content. The Chipotle BBQ are delicious and easy to munch on both salsa-ed up and plain. The Sea Salt (not pictured) were not my cup of tea simply because they weren't flavorful and fun, just chips with an odd texture.

SALLY HANSEN AIRBRUSH LEGS (#AirBrushPerfectLegs):
First and foremost, I love a good tan. It makes me feel strong and healthy and just, tan, but I know the dangers of the sun. Those very dangers are something I have to be especially sensitive to because my dad had skin cancer and my mom's had a few pre-cancerous spots removed. Irish skin be damned. In high school I was a ridiculously dedicated self-tanner, applying the lotion that darkens over the course of the day and has sparkle in it, but as a grown-up, this sort of goodness doesn't work.

I really wanted to love Airbrush Legs. I really, truly wanted to fall in love with the way I felt about healthy, sun-free tanning. I applied it to my exfoliated, shaved legs a few times and hoped it would be a sudden AHA moment of loveliness. But, I felt streaky and sort of orange. I didn't dig the way that I couldn't get it right and when the third time wasn't the charm, I stopped with tenacity and took to SPF and pool time.

NYC CITY PROOF (#NYCCityProof):
It seems important to begin this by saying that I'm an avid Naked Palette user. By avid I mean the three palettes are the only eye shadow I own and use and have purchased in the last few years. They're comprehensive in their colors and easy to apply (and remove) so I've stuck with what I love. So my heart dropped a little bit when I saw the NYC City Proof eyeshadow pencil in my VoxBox.

I didn't know if I even wanted to bother trying it on. But, for honesty's sake, I wore it for a few days. And I enjoyed using it to color the corners and creases of my eyes (something I normally do with darker Urban shades). However, it was too sticky for me, too thick on my lids and made me feel sort of shadow-y dark -unlike any way I do my make-up.

BEAR NAKED GRANOLA (#LiveBearNaked):
I've always loved granola -a trait that I believe was passed down from my dad-, but with the rise of granola makers (and flavors) I've realized I'm a picky granola eater. I like granola to be crunchy, but not so hard it feels like it's going to crack my teeth. I want it to be tasty, but not overly sweet. There's also a perfect oats to nut and berry ratio. When I opened my box I was excited to see Bear Naked's granola, but knew there'd be a high order to follow because of my granola-opinions. I enjoyed the flavor of both packets I received, favoring the Caramel Apple flavor on my acai bowl last weekend.

CLAIROL HAIR FOOD SHAMPOO (#HairFood):
This ended up coming at the perfect time in my life. I happened to buy some shampoo and conditioner that I loved the smell of but were too heavy for my fine (but thick) hair. I didn't want to bother buying more shampoo after spending a small fortune, so I was attempting to stick it out and make stringy hair a new trend. When the happy green VoxBox arrived I was thrilled to have new shampoo (and for free). I love this stuff.

I'm a picky shampoo user. I want a shampoo that has it all: smell, bubble ratio, and beautiful hair. I didn't know if the paraben-free deal would be for me (or as strong as I wanted), but it was and is and will be for my next shampoo purchase. My hair feels clean and soft regardless of how many days it's been since the last shampoo.

In closing, would I do it again? 
For now, yes. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

on this place of peace: the letter link up

Welcome to you, to you and to your words today. 

The Letter Link-up | Mr. Thomas & Me

This letter is part of The Letter Link-Up. They are written 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 with the chance to shed light on your heart. 

While my letters are documenting moments within our marriage before children for our children, you are allowed to write your letter to anyone, on anything with the prompt being simply a loose and suggestive starting point. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dear Jason,

We were once in a bible study where the topic was drudgery. Each week we tackled another way life can drag, heavy and exhausting. Jobs, family, church, money piled up on the cart of living, weighing down our souls. We were newlyweds and heard the conversation, but we were opposed to such rigorous routines. We sat and thought "maybe one day" in wistful, newlywed ways. 

I've always been a girl who has to hide her eye roll when people say the word routine. I think of drudgery when they say it. I loathe the idea of mundane days rolling into one another over and over again. I hear how days have structure and how weeks blend into one another because it's about doing the same thing over and over again and want to die a little bit inside. I hate thinking of daily life as drudgery and yet, it's so simple to feel that way. 

While we were in Utah I heard you talking to your brother. You were telling him about our morning routine. I heard the word and my soul cringed. I was surprised to hear that we're old now, no longer newlyweds, and settled into some daily rhythm. I wanted to laugh and say you were lying, but you hit it head on.

You said I run before the sun, then I play the role of your alarm clock. You said you wake every morning to me bursting into the room high on adrenaline and caffeine. You talked about how we chat as we prepare for our days, often covering the news report I get in my email at some obscene morning hour, then you load up for another morning commute after you kiss me good-bye. I holler "drive safe!" as you head out the door; some days you tell me it's National Risky-Driving Day and I laugh at the predictability of our life together.

I heard the way you talked about our routine to your brother. And I knew you'd got it right.

Instead of feeling sad, begrudged and angry at the boring mundane place that this settled, married routine can be, I found a fondness at the way you described our days. You covered the ritual and routine of our mornings while my soul smiled a radiant, thankful sort of grin. We sat on the wood floor of their living room -far away from home and our dying lawn- and all I wanted was to burrow down into the cozy blankets of our life and feel the warmth envelope me. I wished to be home in our blue-walled bedroom and close my eyes to let the peaceful rhythm of our life to cocoon us.

I've never thought those early moments between sleeping and waking and working as our routine. They are comfort, a threshold, blessed bits of peace before business as usual. As our lives change, our routines alter, our roles transform, may we seek out our place of peace.

Any routine is beloved with you,
Amber
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
For June's link-up: 
Monday, June 22nd

The topic: 

A Lesson You've Taught Me
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And without further fuss, the links for May:

Friday, May 22, 2015

5 Biggest Ways We Rob Ourselves


The other day I was listening to Todd Henry's podcast on "The Dailies". They're his daily practices and disciplines that he says help ensure his creativity. I was fascinated (and sort of terrified) by the concept of making a list of things you are to accomplish every single day barring hell or high water. It stuck with me for a couple of days and then I realized it was worth a try.

I wrote out a list of six daily tasks I am to accomplish without excuse. And I've done well for the last week. But it's brought out a weird awareness in me, a realization of how often I rob myself of productivity.

I've always blamed outside elements for my lack of inspiration. I usually look around and say it has to do with how my bed didn't let me sleep that well last night or my lunch for being less tasty than I was expecting or my coffee for forgetting the importance of its caffeination in the midst of my afternoon slump.

But, if I'm honest, I rob myself of productivity (and creativity) quite often. What's the point of noticing your own thievery without some sort of resolution to stop? Nothing, so I've created a list of how I steal precious time and energy from myself to help in taking that loss back.

Here are the 5 biggest ways I'm a thief.

1. DISMISSING COMPLIMENTS. 
When someone compliments you, hear their words and take them in. We're so busy being our biggest, hardest, meanest critics and often miss the obviously awesome things about ourselves.

I know, it's so painfully awkward to be complimented. But simply say thank you. Maybe even mention that such kind words mean a lot to you. Because they do, or at least they will.

2. HOARDING ALL OUR CONFIDENCE FOR OURSELVES.
The other day my mom and I were texting about a chapter in my book that she looked over. She said she heard me in the words and she believed in the way I have (finally) decided to go about crafting the story line. I was floored and emboldened by her kind words.

In the depth of my being I believe that the best thing we can give one another is a vote of confidence. There's nothing like hearing that someone believes in your passion and your dreams. But we've got to pay it forward and tell the people we believe in how deeply we do.

3. PRETENDING TIME AND TINY TASKS DON'T MATTER.
There are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who see and do the big things and the ones who see and do the little ones. And then, if you don't fall in one of those two groups you're like me, an in between. I see and do things -sometimes big and sometimes small. But I underrate the small things, I pretend like they don't matter. I sometimes spend what I think is just minutes cruising Facebook or  Instagram without thought. Suddenly, a half hour seems to have disappeared into thin air.

The little chunks matter, they add up, what is ten minutes here or there a few times through the day adds up into a half hour or two. And you've just blown a tenth of your waking moments with little gain on that goal you're pursuing.

4. THINKING INSTEAD OF DOING.
I am the Queen of Wasting Time. Yes, I sit and think and spend more time brainstorming than I do writing. It seems productive until I realize that an hour has disappeared into the past and I'm no further along here in the future. I've realized I have to put my thinking in a box and get to work. Even (or maybe I mean especially) when I'm writing.

Sometimes you've got to check your brain at the creative threshold and get to work. The beginning often isn't about quality, it's surely not about perfect, but about getting going. Stop thinking, start doing.

5. SAYING WE'RE STUPID. 
Maybe you don't tell yourself you're stupid, but you do doubt your own genius. You think of something that's cool, then remember that no one will care, people might think it's stupid, and so on. Might as well respond "That's stupid" to yourself over and over again.

The only way people get to invest in our dreams is when (and if) we believe in them.


How do you steal from your own productivity?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

the interplay between light and dark.




As a child I was terribly afraid of the dark. I don't think anyone knew because I felt stupid being so afraid. Once night fell, I would walk from room to room by light switch as though I was a frog hopping across a pond on lily pads. I had a light clipped to the headboard of my bed that I claimed to use for reading -I did read before bed-, but I liked that it continued to shower me with light despite it being night.

Still, as an adult, I find myself on edge in the blurry veil of darkness. My adrenaline seems to climb to an edging on fear level and my pores seem to spike with attentiveness. But, I've also come to treasure the beauty of the transitions: dusk and dawn.

There's something about the pre-dawn light that's charming. It's soft and friendly, floating in like steam thick atop the cold morning air. It's a daily reminder that night has passed, the sun is here again, and another day dawns. It's the same moon and the same sun doing the same dance, but the day is new and promising.

And in the daylight, there are shadows. In the newness, a remembrance of what belong to yesterday. The light is only beloved because darkness falls. The good special because bad happens. The kind cherished because mean exists.

This much is true about life: it takes dark and light to make the shadows so beautiful.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Four Reasons to Fitbit


I've had my Fitbit for a year. A year yesterday to be exact. It all started with a book about a group of women who accidentally start a walking club and, in doing so, rediscover the way they love their bodies and the meaning of friendship. As they walked with pedometers, I found myself fascinated, wondering if I'd be interested in having one myself.

After minor research (read: typing Fitbit into the Amazon search bar), I realized I had several options at several price points. I was interested in a couple things from my Fitbit:
  1. Step count. - I wanted this to be relatively accurate. Seems Fitbit is known for their well-calibrated devices.
  2. Convenience. -Small in size and easy to wear but not required to be around my wrist. 
  3. Price. -Not interested in paying more than $60.00 for the pedometer.
I wasn't sure if this was a passing trend or something I'd be really interested in doing for the long haul, so my criteria was relatively mellow. After scrolling through three or four Fitbit models, I ended up with a Zip. It's the size of a quarter and comes in a little carrying case that easily clips on my waistband or pocket or even tucked into my bra.

Stair count, elevation gain, and sleep monitoring are three of the more advanced features that other models offer. I think they're awesome, but I'm happy with my cheap-y Zip so I just haven't looked at an upgrade.

Four reasons I think you need a Fitbit: 
1. STEPS. 
Seriously, nothing will get you up and moving, taking a lap around your office or apartment complex like this. There is something about the number on that little screen that makes me want to move -even if just another lap out for Hazel to take a bathroom break.

I am an avid runner and was surprised to see how my "rest" days were essentially sedentary. I know rest looks different for everyone, but dropping my step count from 15,000 steps to just 3,500 felt too far for me. So, I find myself asking Jason to go on a long morning walk on Sundays and it's time we're now spending together without phones or computers or any other distractions (not even Hazel). I find those moments together set our week off on a really lovely note.

2. THE APP. 
One of my favorite things is their application. It's on your phone and will sync through bluetooth regularly. I get little banner alerts that tell me I need more steps or that I'm doing a great job. It's a lame little flash across my screen, but it makes me laugh (and walk).

I find the app user friendly and informative. Remember, I have the base model so a lot of the features I could have in my interface aren't there because I'm not interested in them (and they're not being tracked). With a simple sync you have all your day's progress live at your fingertips.
I have enjoyed tracking the amount of water I drink in my app too. It's a simple swipe of the finger to add more ounces. You can track calories too, though I don't because I'm too lazy to food log.

The app also has awesome ways to review your step counts over the last day, week, month, quarter and year. I love to look through and see how I've done over time because some weeks just blend together.



The Daily Goal is automatically set to 10,000 steps, but you can change it to better suit your lifestyle and fitness level (easily done in the Settings tab of the app).

3. EXPLORATION. 
You might not believe it, but you'll walk places you never expected. If I need a thing or two from the grocery store, I walk. If I'm early for Jason's softball game, I take a lap around the park that where he plays. I've walked around malls while I wait for a friend for dinner, around SuperTarget before I settle into my grocery shopping, around the neighborhoods that surround us. There's something about seeing the world without rushing through.

4. FRIENDS. 
You can connect with friends through the Fitbit app. There are challenges available where you can race for the highest steps in a certain period of time (ranging from one day to an entire week). There's a messenger that allows you to write back and forth as well as cheer on the people you're walking with (even if not in proximity).

It seems important you know that Fitbit's customer service is awesome. My mom got a Zip shortly after her Flex died and was struggling with it losing power. She emailed their help department and got a quick response that solved her problem.

*Not an ounce of this post was influence by Fitbit or any free things they might have sent me. In fact, Fitbit has not a clue I've written this. This is for your health, not for any sort of sponsorship or product opportunity. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

on my writer's shelf


I have started writing in our office. I find comfort in the shelves of books filled with pretty words while I write. There's something about knowing they're there, backing me up and reminding me of all the people that have done this before me. But, there's one shelf that holds a special place in my heart and my process.

I call it my writer's shelf.

The writer's shelf is really a spot of inspiration. It's my place to look and see the words and books that made me want to do this. It's a reminder that taught me the way books take us away and challenge our thinking. I have one shelf that I look at when it's all feeling like too much and it makes me smile.

The other evening I was sitting by the shelf, writing as I do, sipping sun tea and I realized it held tools and words that I've beheld many times over. And then I thought of how friends share what they love, in hopes of encouraging one another. And so, I concluded you might wish to know what's on my shelf.

There's lots of good books included (in my humble opinion), so I've broken it up into a few posts. This one is all the fiction that changed me from a reader to a writer.
one | two | three | four | five | six




I fell in love with reading from the moment I could lift a book. Often my mom would come in to check that I was asleep only to find her four-year-old blonde daughter snoring softly under a pile of books. She left me to sleep covered in the words and illustrations of children's books. But just a few years later, my hunger for reading was insatiable. I brought a book with me everywhere: dinners out, family vacations, the schoolyard. I found a comfort and escape by simply toting a book to and fro. That's hardly changed. Though I've found what it is I love when I read: relationships. 

I'm a reader who becomes deeply involved with the people who live between the covers of each book. The way I get caught up in the 
one | two | three | four | five | six













I didn't read a single book about faith until my dad got sick. I guess I thought I had it figured out. Or maybe tragedy just didn't feel relevant when I read it. Or maybe it was some part uncomfortable as I felt like I was flipping through the pages of someone else's diary. I think it was a combination of all of them. But, my book wasn't even fathomed until I read the above six books. Something about seeing the doubts and fears of other people without them being struck by lightening fallen from the heavens opened space in my own life for honest conversations with Him about all my hurts. 

My faith has grown because of dementia. But it was fertilized and cared for by the honest and beautiful words of others: specifically these six. Seeing their kindness to their process and doubts taught me to extend grace to myself. It is this grace that created space for me to be honest about the challenges and frustrations I had with my faith after growing up in church. 
one | two | three | four | five | six 


There is no one I'd rather encourage and instruct me than a person who has been there (where there might be) before and these people fit the bill perfectly. I am fascinated by the routine and process of creation other creatives (not simply authors) have established so I've been spending less time focusing on writing specific instruction and, instead, am looking for "advice" from all who make.

My own creative process (and structure) have come under great inspection now that I'm busy reading about the way others make ideas. I encourage you -regardless of what you make- to look at the way other people do it. I've introduced new pieces to my process and found some fruitful and others very telling about the way I make.

What is on your inspirational shelf? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

coffee date numero catorce.

If we were on a coffee date, we'd be sitting across from one another at Starbucks drinking our regulars. Mine's a double tall non-fat vanilla latte. The barista might know that already because I see her so often. I'd be sort of embarrassed by my caffeine habit, but mostly thankful that she's taken the time to know me.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess I've been trying to be kinder to myself. Doubt and Guilt are loud voices in my life. They write bold, mean things on my soul and I read them over and over again. It's exhausting. I've been trying to be intentional in silencing those lies and focusing on truth. Truth be told: both doubt and guilt are about control. As much I want to be in charge of everything in all of the land, I am not.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you about this curling wand and this heat protection. My favorite waves turn out so much better with these two tools on my counter. The wand is so light and gets so hot but doesn't burn my hair or give it the hot tool smell. I know the price tag is steep, but LOTS of bloggers have promos where you can buy the wand for $40. Search Nume Curling Wand in Google and see what you can find.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask where your energy is going these days. I've realized I tend to subscribe to the idea that life is made for the hustle and it makes me frantic. So, I'm trying to slow down a bit, give myself three things to conquer in a day, and reward myself for good work. It's easy to live tired, thankless lives, but to what end does this bring us? We weren't made to live this frenetic way.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd be wearing these sandals. I bought them in both colors because I'm a sucker for the over the toe strap (and it's detail) and fringe. I might just wear them with everything... Like the boyfriend jeans they've been paired with today or the dress I rocked them with yesterday or the jean shorts they're going to accent tomorrow. Literally, everything.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd prod you for tips on making change kind. I'm not sure why I'm resistant to it, but I am. So, I'm trying to sweeten it, to make it kind, and bring it in like a close friend. I don't want change to be my stumbling block, but instead be an important and loved part of my life. I want to be a person who can embrace what was and what is to come. I want to know that I'm flexible and willing, rather than frustrated and bitter. But, how?

If we were on a coffee date, I've been really focused on the way His record is faithful and it's what defines my future. Earlier this month a song at church sang these words, "I will look back and see that you are faithful. I'll look ahead and believe that you are able." (Turns out the song is by Elevation Worship who I mentioned in my last coffee date post.) Then I read Psalm 52 earlier this month and verse 9 has just stuck with me.
"For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good." 
I'd tell you the truth of this is convicting me. If dementia has taught me only one thing, it is His faithfulness. Sometimes my soul would rather faint than remember His goodness, but I'm trying.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd encourage you to write yourself letters. Buy yourself a journal and just write to you. Dear you and Love, me are powerful things. It holds your feelings and your moments and there emerges themes and thoughts you never even knew you had.

Monday, May 11, 2015

lessons from within the sacred space

If losing has taught me one thing, it's sacredness. There's something about quiet, still space that's only punctuated by a symphony of breath. In the mix and mess and chaos of dementia, I'd forgotten what it means for one's soul to slow.

I am often sucked into the hustle. Even in our visits, when it's obvious he's not subject to life as we know it, I find myself busy chasing him down hallways, trying to fill him in on the details, forcing my agenda on his. I see the roll of words flipping over and over in my head, hoping the right ones will simply settle down on my soul. Often I feel overwhelmed at all the noise and chaos, pure madness floating frantically over the facility's air.

He sleeps more now. And I have to sit and stare at him. It's heavy in there, the air and the feelings weighing down on my soul. I thought it'd make me cry, sort of desperate and pained. I thought I'd get to work, trying to organize what's in his closet or straighten up the few things that lay about here or there. But I sit, still and unmoved. I sit under the heaviness of the air in his room. And it comforts me like a heavy quilt on a cold winter night.

This place -heavy and slow- is sacred. Maybe sacred and hustle are antonyms. And as he's dying I understand the depth of their differences. He sleeps and I sit. He sleeps and we sit, one on the edge of the bed, the other balanced on the window sill. We sit and stare and listen to the breaths that slowly draw in and out of a body I don't recognize as Dad's. This is our sacred place.

It's a place I cannot share with words or pictures because those all fall short. It's a space that's taught me. In those moments of stillness, where the madness outside his room continues while the world keeps on spinning, I realize I'm learning. In the sacred, He impresses the morals I crave upon me.

Though I hold that place dear, afraid sharing it's itty bitty details will spill it out for all to see, it's lessons are plenty. Not one to hold secret the truths of our lives, here are my favorite three:

1. YOUR HUSTLE ONLY MATTERS TO YOU. 
The danger of a "let's hustle" environment is self-centeredness. Though we often claim our hustle is for the betterment of others, it's often what causes us to run right past the very people who need us. I've spent many visits trying to fill him in, to count his steps, to roam all of the grounds. Visits that I enjoyed but left feeling a bit of empty. I've poured myself out, all the details spilling on the concrete path beneath our feet, only to realize he doesn't need my stories. He simply needs me there.

Who is begging for an unadulterated moment with you?

2. DEATH HAPPENS. DON'T BE SELFISH.
I thought when someone I love died I'd be beside myself. I thought I'd fight to hold on to them, to enjoy every moment, to capture what I could of their essence. And I did for a while. I swam as ferociously against the stream as I could, I denied it and ignored it, thinking my cold shoulder would turn death away. But I learned that my struggle was selfish, concerned only with the wishes I wanted seen realized before he was gone.

But in embracing the promise dying holds for him, a promise of no more suffering, no more disease to steal from him, no more emergencies and startling phone calls. As dying happens -as it surely will-, know there is peace. Enter in the sacred space that's a threshold between Here and Heaven. In listening to his shallow breath and looking over his sickened form, I know what's inevitable and I'm thankful for what it offers him.

3. YOU WILL HEAL. 
Losing my dad is the biggest hurt I've ever endured. It felt like being hit by a car and healed without a single ounce of pain medication. The pain is unmatched. Some well-meaning people tell me I'll get over it. But I don't believe dying is something we need to get over now or ever. In fact, I think it leaves a scar, deep and ugly, on our soul.

Like our the tales our physical scars tell, so do the marks on hearts. We have loved and we have lost. We have hurt and we have healed. And we can live to tell the tale.

I dare you to find your sacred places. 
They often look like thresholds where your comfort zone and the great unknown meet. It is there you can still, sit and learn. Yes friends, find them and still and bring their lessons along for your living.

Friday, May 8, 2015

just one word.

|| via ||

Sometimes I don't have the words to say what I want. I think things deep down within my soul and I feel them and name them. I see all the words and letters and punctuation marks and I long to do them justice. I know that I'm capable and I want to give all the people proof of such. I am overwhelmed and nervous, but I start where I am sure of myself. I start by taking attendance.
Joy? Here. 
Fear? Here.
Honesty? Here.
Hurt? Here. 
Faith? Here. 
Hope? And silence. 
I ask for her again and again in tones like Bueller's principal.
Hope? Silence.
Hope? The quiet is like an oreo filled with airy, nutrient-deficient filling.
I imagine this is what it feels like when a parent loses their child among the racks of a store or the primary colored equipment of the park. There's a sureness in the panicked search -a sureness she is here, just tucked away out of sight.

When I started this process of writing a book about hope in October of last year, I thought it would just appear. I figured the story and necessary words were here, within my soul, and I simply needed to locate them. Sure He'd provide and She'd show up and my fingers would magically type out a novel balanced in equal parts heavy and humor, I had confidence. I thought I'd spew my life and heart and faith all over pages of a college-ruled notebook and we'd be somewhere by now.

But in those writing hours, as I sat and prepared and took attendance of all the feelings, she'd be missing. Maybe in depending on her so fiercely, I've scared her away. Maybe in the way writing flows in and out, she floated away on verbal tides. Maybe I'm wrong and hope isn't here in this heart of mine.

Words sit in my brain like loose beads on a table. They sit and wait for me to pick them up and put them together on a length of fishing line. Eventually, I string them together over and over again, edit and cut and paste and format, only to shake my head no a dozen times. I scribble them on paper, type them over my keyboard, draw them with my fingertip on the shower wall. They're there and then they're gone.

Sometimes I don't have the words to say what I want. I worry about what's right and what's wrong and forget life happens in a spectrum. I see all the letters and want to use every last one. I want a sentence that illustrates expert use of punctuation and grammar, a sentence that perfectly displays all the ways my soul feels.

But other times, just one word feels perfectly right: hope.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

the creative process: organization and how i bullet journal

What I've realized in all of the writing and doing and working on creatively is there is nothing like a good organization system. I have eight journals (no joke) with random notes throughout them here and there.

Last week I mentioned that I've been using the bullet journaling system and ya'll asked for more details. Good news is this has been so fruitful for my creative process so I'm dying to share!

I am using this journal from Moleskine. I'm a Moleskine fan and don't know that I'll buy any other journal ever. Except the ones with really cute quotes on them. The things that I love about Moleskine journals are this:
  • The journals lay flat. I am usually repelled by journals that are not spiral bound because the crease and writability. BUT, Moleskine journals -in the soft cover form that I prefer- lay flat, completely, unimpededly flat. 
  • The ribbon is a love. It reminds me of my bible and that's a fond feeling. 
  • I adore the band that stretches around the cover. It keeps things in tight and keeps the pages from getting all bent up and crushed. It also helps to hold in the notecards that I've been taking notes on so I won't lose them. 
  • There's a pocket in the back. I put things in it. And then I forget they're there are get excited when I find them again. 
Before you buy a Moleskine, please note:
The LARGE size is what I have... It's easily fit into a purse or crossbody. It is the EXTRA LARGE that is regular 8.5" by 11" paper. Moleskine's also come in hard and soft cover. I have only purchased the soft, but have heard other bullet journalers swear by the hard. I know that Target and Staples sell Moleskine products if Amazon ain't your thing.

I don't think you can go wrong as long as you honor your preferences (which is the POINT of bullet journaling). 

I started the month using the system that the bullet journaling website mentioned. I decided using their system for a month would allow for me to decide what works for me and what doesn't... I am sure this is a post that could be repeated in another few months with new ideas and advice.

I put together a key (which now seems sort of unimportant because it's so self explanatory) and a table of contents. You will have to get into the habit of writing page numbers at the top of each page... Something that could be tricky, but I've found that I use the table of contents more than I expected so the page numbers have value.
I leave a page for the lessons I learn in the month at the beginning so that I can write things down as I learned them... As I've come to realize: I only wrote out two of my lessons into my lessons I learned blog post. The others have entire posts that I want to write with them. So they'll now be added to my blog post ideas page (or just highlighted to later grab my attention... Jury is still out on that notation). 
This is how the typical spreads of the bullet journal look. I write down the day and tasks I want to conquer before I fall asleep at night... I draw an empty box that I only check off when I complete my task. Most days all of the tasks are finished, but when they're not, I draw an arrow indicating it'll be moved to the next day. (You can see this on the third point on April 23rd.)

I am highly motivated by the check boxes. Highly motivated. And when I get to work I set my journal open on my desk and tackle what's in there (and in my email inbox). Sometimes I really don't want to do something -i.e. change a doctor's appointment-, but then the fact that I can check it off motivates me. If that's similar to your soul, this system is for you. 

Stars indicate things that make me inspired, happy, reflective. They're fun to see as I flip through the pages and I've toyed with the idea of highlighting the stars just so they catch my attention. I don't do them often, but enough to want them to stick out from all the other daily conversation.

Something I learned from Emily Freeman's blog is to always write who said the quote and where you saw it. As you might notice on the right hand page I've starred a quote from Kelly Corrigan's memoir Glitter and Glue that appeared on page 142.

I do wish that I'd been able to get rid of my date planner. But I haven't discovered a way to make the future month plans available to document without feeling like I'm boxing in the current month. So, I invented an important dates page where I can write in the dates that I need to remember for future months. This seems totally workable because I'd be writing down all the dates in that area at a time, but I'll need to check back in with this.

This has pushed me to be more focused on the tasks at hand instead of what's to come. I think that's the point of bullet journaling, to work on what's here and now instead of what's tomorrow or next month's. I look at time as all mine when, in fact, the only moment I've got is now. And so, that's a win.
I know that some people use $ to write down what they need to buy... I'd do the same, but I do all my shopping at Super Target. That means that I get groceries and everything that we need for the house or otherwise at one time, so there aren't any straggler things I have to specifically seek out at other stores. This is convenient, but makes the $ sign completely useless in my system. 

I didn't mind the way the April month was written in a single page (see the second picture above). But I enjoy the way a calendar looks. So I did May like this: 
This has made the month feel a little more simple to look at and interact with. I just counted down the lines already printed on the pages of my Moleskine and then used a ruler to mark where the vertical lines needed to be. Yep, made it official and used a ruler. 

Overall, I totally recommend the bullet journal method. I love that it's not a specific journal you have to buy, but a system that can be tailored to whatever you'd like. I know some people use smaller journals or others larger and so no one looks like the choosy Goldilocks type. 

More than the flexbility of the journal: I'm getting things done. Not in the hustle, hustle, hustle way, but in a way that feels really productive even when there are only two points to a given day. Using a list daily takes away the wonder of writing down 320,392 things for me to and knock out. Instead, I'm prioritizing and using time wisely. 

Any questions? Leave them in the comments 
or shoot me a tweet or email! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

what i read in april

I'm finally making some progress (good progress) on the Read 50 Books in a Year Challenge that I set out for myself in January. I've been behind for the last few months, but I'm gaining on the goal (and making up the deficit) which makes me feel like a winner. April was a month of insanely delightful reading. 

Seriously, insanely delightful. I read 3 books that were impossible to put down. And then there was one that was... A love-hate sort of read. 
I can't begin to put words to the love I had for this novel. It touches on complicated issues -most notably the idea of "gifts from God"- with a grace and beauty that begged me to think and wonder. I was reminded over and over again about the two sides in every story.I was surprise by the way I became attached to the characters -all of them- throughout the book, so much so that at the end, I cried.

The plot is interesting and turns left and right and in between in ways you never expect. Each character came with thick feelings and had me working through my own reactions to their personhood in relation to mine. Personally, I hated one of them, but came to mourn for her as the plot progressed and felt for another, then found myself wondering what her intent truly was in several decisions she makes.

It's a must read. And a can't put it down. So, treat yourself.

Wow. That's how this book left me. I adore Kelly Corrigan's Foreward Medium interviews on YouTube, so I was thrilled when I serendipitous-ly stumbled upon her writing in the library just a few weeks later. The entire book hinges on Corrigan's mother and a quote from her childhood, "Your father is the glitter, but I am the glue." Initially I was nervous that an entire 216 pages could result from a single sentence, but this book is so much more than parent-child relations. 

Corrigan illustrates her childhood while being a nanny to two children who've lost their mother to cancer. I quickly came to adore her affections for these two kids and their family, while cheering for her as she discovers her mother in herself. As a woman who recognizes my mom in my flesh more often than not, I found comfort in her process, felt joy in her fondness, and celebrated the way the words came together in beautiful, relational strokes. 
Oooph. The entire reading of this book was love and hate. Deeply love and then loathe. In fact, I set the book down a couple of times and swore I was done. But then, somehow, I came back. I think it's because Donald Miller wrote it and his Blue Like Jazz was the first book that made me want to write my own story. His transparency that I loved in Blue Like Jazz he continued here. I was blown away by his honesty in talking about his engagement and marriage, his troubled past relationships and the way they formed him as a partner. 

But, If I'm entirely honest, I'm repelled by the name dropping and pre-Madonna writing experiences. I want to be impressed by your life, by your grit and your work, not by the places you go and the people you text. I want to identify with your struggle without being distracted by the way you live. 

The actual content -that which is apart from the distracting, fancy details- is rich. It's convicting and wise. It's applicable and made me think about my own approach to relationships and intimacy (and not even the sexy kind). But, I wished he'd heard himself a bit more, I still felt like he donned the "costume" he said to remove, and I wanted so desperately for there to be more than that for him and his wife. 
This entire book came from a blog post. Yes, a single article that became an ENTIRE novel. Well, it's sort of a charge, not totally a book, but so inspirational nonetheless. I found myself thinking more critically and honestly about the things I create to discourage myself, the procrastination I love to hate, and the deep desire I have to make. It's not about figuring it all out or about having the answers right now, but an encouragement to grasp your process, choosing constantly to move forward in the Must of your life's mission.  

Not only did I love the words and highlight and dog-ear, but the art. Oh the art, the beautiful watercolor art that fills the pages of this book. I wanted to tear out entire groups of pages and tape them all over because they just speak to me all over the place in their color and content. Please do yourself the favor and bring this baby home. 

I'm also thrilled to get back on the Semi-Charmed Reading Challenge train again. I missed out on the winter one (it's so hard with all those holidays so close together in there), but I'm back and excited and GOING TO DOMINATE.

Here's my preliminary list: 
A Freebie (5 points):  
              The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison  (326 pages) 
A book you have never heard of before (10 points):  
              The Man Who Couldn't Stop by David Adam  (336 pages) 
A book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years (10 points)
              Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner  (320 pages) 
A book that won a 2014 Goodreads “Best Book” award (10 points)
              #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso  (256 pages) 
A book by an author who is completely new to you (15 points)
              Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler  (336 pages) 
A book by an author you have read before (15 points)
              Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans (258 pages)
A book with "light" or "dark" in the title (15 points):
               Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman  (262 pages) 
book with the name of a city, state or country in the title (20 points):
               The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst  (261 pages) 
A book with an animal on the cover (20 points):
               A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas  (208 pages) 
A book that is part of a series with at least four books (25 points)
              The Giver by Lois Lowry   (240 pages) 
A book that is longer than 500 pages long (25 points)
              East of Eden by John Steinbeck  (601 pages)  OR A 
A book with an alliterative title (30 points)
              H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald (320 pages) 

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