Friday, July 31, 2015

What I Learned in July



THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF BRAVERY IS RECOGNIZING FEAR.
Our church is studying Proverbs right now and the series started with a sermon on fear. I've realized, so often I'm afraid of mysterious happenings or disasters that I've given no name. This would be fine, except that bravery is only going to happen when I can boldly face those scary shadows. So, I've been working on being honest with  myself about the scary things. Often, I shine light on those dark edges and nothing scary is even there!


THE PURE, UNADULTERATED JOY OF SONIC.
The MOST important part of this is: the waitresses skate to your car. Yes, totally throwback style. You pull up, you order, they skate to your car and have change dispensers on their belts. I mean, tell me that's not the coolest thing in all the land. At 26, I can say, I've finally lived a complete life. (Not entirely true, but please, try Sonic.) And don't listen to the talk about how many calories are involved in one of their blasts because that's not the point here.

STARBUCKS COLD BREW IS DELICIOUS. 
Tried it. Loved it. Now converted. I order it with vanilla and a splash of half and half.

TIME IS A PRECIOUS COMMODITY. AND SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE.
There's only twenty-four hours in a day or there's an entire twenty-four hours each day. It's just about your outlook. See potential or see overwhelm, it's a choice you make. So, see your time as precious, as fragile, as limited and then get after it in each passing moment.

RAIN IS ALWAYS REFRESHING. ESPECIALLY IN JULY.
We had an entire weekend of pouring rain that was glorious. Not simply glorious because of California is in a terrible drought, but because rain is a beautiful, refreshing thing. Jason and I sat in our front room and sipped coffee and watched lightening storms go wild through the cloudy morning sky. Beautiful friends, so beautiful. (And it's inspired a print, but I'm struggling to make it perfect.)

WE MUST REMEMBER OUR ROOTS. ALWAYS OUR ROOTS.
Well, this is simple and just like it sounds but a flower won't bloom without roots. Neither will you.

EMOTIONS ARE GOOD, BUT AREN'T ALWAYS RIGHT. 
The other day someone said some really harsh things to me. I wanted to handle myself gracefully, but my heart seethed with anger. How could she say such mean and untrue things? My brain mulled over all the ways I could crush her back, but my soul whispered a sweet silence in to me. And instead of hurling mean-ness back, I put my tail between my legs and extended grace. It wasn't easy, but I'm thankful for my choice. I'm glad I did the adult thing, even though I knew her mistake. 

What'd you learn this month? 
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And, like every month, I'm linking up with Emily P. Freeman

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Random Thoughts on the Creative Process



I've spent the last few months hitting on my creative process here and there. I've spent them trying to boil down where my ideas start and how I work them out for some sort of semblance of an end. I've really enjoyed the conversations it's sparked and the awareness I've grown as these details were documented. But, just as I settled in to all the way that I make, everything changed.

I opened the shop and messed up the writing routine that I was growing comfortable and cozy in. I have spent evenings alternating between paint and pen. My thoughts are not so much about word counts, but revolve around listings and stats and the next set of quotes waiting in the column of my bullet journal (because that's still the way I'm finding myself organized).

In these changes and fluctuations, I've come up with four new (but not completely novel) observations about my creative process. Observations that I do believe could be relevant and important to your own journey of making.

1. ROUTINE IS GOOD. FLEXIBILITY IS GREAT.
Like I said above, things change. Circumstances, commitments, creative endeavors change over and over again. Each day you could wake up with a new idea or task to conquer than yesterday held. That's the point of the process and it's valuable. So be flexible. But also hold on to a routine. Hold on the essence of routine while changing your tasks like you do your breakfast, lunch and dinner, but maintain the point (in this case, satiating your hunger).

The point is this: use the same concept under different circumstances.

A very practical example of this was switching over from writing the book (which is still in the works if you're wondering what happened) to opening the shop. It shifted me from typing and working through things on Word to painting and writing on paper. I've enjoyed the change in medium, but working to meet a daily word count or editing a specific number of pages is, in fact, irrelevant. However, I must continue to move forward in my process of painting so I started a sketch journal in which I paint, write, draw every day.

2. CONSUMPTION MATTERS.
I used to think if I was scrolling through beautiful art on Instagram I'd be as good as gold. I thought if I got a book from the library that challenged me I'd be destined for better writing. But the feed was disheartening my own aesthetic and the book made me dread that time I spend reading in the evenings. So, I ditched them. I ditched them and tried something new.

I varied my feed and my request list from our library. I didn't waste time looking at art that frustrated me, but instead invested seconds in scrolling through a beautifully curated account of abstract art. I didn't push myself through a book that was boring me to death because there are a million more options out there.

Don't eat empty inspiration. You don't subsist on cupcakes alone (but if you do invite me over because we were made to be friends). And neither will your creativity. Empty inspiration won't bring out the best in your process because someone else said it's pretty or worthwhile.

3. YOU NEED STUFF THAT'S JUST YOURS.
We all understand the importance of Me Time. We know that space and time for yourself is key to sanity. But we don't always apply that elsewhere. We don't think about the way we're making and writing and there isn't any "off time" for our process. There's no book or journal or stack of blank pages that holds our sacred practice, the pieces of us that are unpolished and unprepared, but have a goal of one day being beautiful and public.

So, find a surface where you can create in private. Know that you're not made to be forever in the public eye, but that quiet spaces for your art (whether writing or drawing or painting or otherwise) are important, vital, even process-promoting and life-giving.

4. THINK OF YOURSELF AS A CURATOR.
This sounds mad. I know, sounds like madness. But this is my favorite point on this list. You're in charge of your life -what's in it, what doesn't make it, what's loved and what's hated. Think of your mind like a Pinterest board or Instagram feed. Our minds are our greatest inspiration boards, so it's important to know what your aesthetic looks like?

My guess is some of us are based in black and white, others are white backgrounds with bright objects to draw attention, and more still have a modge podge of randomness. All of these are allowed, but realize this: you're in charge of what's there. Mine happens to look like this as of late:
watercolor flowers | bouquet | wild and free | you are loved | rosemary mule


The trickiest part of inspiration is realizing that something doesn't fit... I mean, putting that board together for this post was like WHOA.

Now it's time for you to share your greatest creative
 revelation of the past few months. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

#Collaboreads: The Unraveling of Mercy Louis

It is joyfully (so freaking joyfully) that time of the month where we get together and review books because everyone loves reading and recommendations (or warnings to stay away from the ones that didn't measure up to expectations). If you missed what #Collaboreads is, you can familiarize yourself here

Short version: Rachel and I pick a random criteria for the book (i.e. Someone's name in the title). You pick your book and read it. Then the last Monday of the month we meet up and talk about our choices.

There's a R.E.A.D.S. review format that we've shared for suggestion's sake (shared in this post), but feel free to review however you're comfortable!

My book (as made obvious by the above photo) was The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parissinen. I'd tell you all about how I came to find the book, but that's all in my review and no one likes repetition. 

Time for the R.E.A.D.S. review
Again, if you need a reminder of how these go, check out this post

RIVETING. 
I only grabbed this book off the shelf at the library because it was on the new releases wall near the front entrance and it had Mercy Louis' name on the cover. Even when I tell myself that I'm not going to pick up any more than what's on hold for me at the counter, I end up coming home with an armful of books. My justification for this one was the name in the title and thus, it's fittingness for this month's #Collaboareads. 


The book had to be returned in two weeks. I always hate those books, always, because the pressure just makes me hate them. But I decided to dive in and I finished the book in three days flat. It was rich in language and character and especially in plot.

The ending had me in tears. Literally, I cried because nothing so beautiful could have been said.

ELEMENTS.
I identified with Mercy, one of the two main characters, in that she is a high school athlete and raised in a very conservative town. She knows the throes of shame -partly caused by the hell fire and brimstone church in which she was raised- and the hunger to explore life beyond the basketball court, church pew, and stilted home she shares with her Maw Maw. 


The novel centers around the perceived consequences of sexual sin according to the conservative church. Being raised in the time of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye", I found myself angry over the guilt trip and deep shame involved in the church's efforts to keep its girls pure. I wanted to tell the high school girls in the novel all about their worth, about the way they're deeply and wonderfully treasured, about how decisions are important

ASSOCIATE.
This has been likened to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and, honestly, I understand the thought there, but I have to boldly disagree. I'd say it's more closely associated with or related to the myriad of novels that Jodi Piccoult has published -but specifically The Tenth Circle


It reminded me of a few books of my youth -Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants trilogy, Hard Love- in the way that they deftly deal with the transitions of girls into teens into women. All of these novels dance delicately and honestly on the line between girlhood and full blown adulting. 

The conservative church and small town vibe seemed to reflect my own upbringing -though my experience was much more mellow compared to that which is in the book. Current conversations about the way the church discusses sex and dating and encourages purity are reflected in the events that make this book equal parts terrifying and fascinating. 

DESIGN.
I loved the nail art of the hands that are on the cover of the book. I know that has nothing to do with anything, but the nails on the girls' hands caught my eye with the Jamberry-style art. It screamed high school (though I'd shamelessly wear them #sorrynotsorry). 


The fraying rope so reminiscent of high school gym class couldn't have been more fitting for every part of the novel. Characters, plot, setting, time -every part of the book could easily be made visual by the rope with no feelings of lacking or missing. 

STARS. 

Four and a half stars. 

My only complaint -literally my single complaint- was the way so many of the issues weren't remotely resolved. I didn't need complete closure -I think books that wrap everything up perfectly can be boring- but there wasn't a shred of relief come the ending. The last four words were beautiful, chilling, and made tears burn my eyes, but there remained a half dozen other things I sincerely wanted to hear more about. 

I guess it's a selfish reading gripe, but this is my review right? 

And, because what's a link-up without a bunch of links? 


And for August, we read: 
See ya'll on August 31st!

Friday, July 24, 2015

how our past comforts our present


I was going through shop stock the other night. I felt unorganized and messy plus wanted to be sure everything I've made is laying flat while awaiting purchasing. So, I emptied the old dresser that's now an Etsy Shop Organizer (novel how we can just redefine things with little to no warning, right?) and stood over the mass of paintings that were now decorating the floor. I looked over the colors and words and felt a strange pit form in the bottom of my stomach.

I'd thought about this moment for months, thought about what it'd be like to pour over the things I've made and the people who've bought them. I imagined it brimming to the top with a special sparkling sort of pride. I thought I'd be relieved to have taken the leap, proud to have handled my first month in a somewhat balanced approach, thankful to stay from the depths of discouragement. Instead, I felt embarrassed.

I looked down at puddles of pink and green paint covering papers and my cheeks burned. I was alone, but I felt naked in front of the world. I felt naked the way I did when I started writing about Popsicle.

I've been struggling to write. I've been pouring so many emotions into the bristles at the end of my brushes that I've set down pen and paper for the time being. It's comfortable that way, but it leaves my writing practice to wane. Words have come to feel heavy and awkward and difficult to manipulate. It's frustrating. But, it's the reality of a life balanced.

When it's time to write, I cruise through old posts to get my mind going. They're posts that grew from a deeply emotional time. They were beautiful, are beautiful still. But I'm not in that place anymore. I'm not there, I'm three and a half years down the road and shocked to recognize the way it's all changed and yet it's all the same. I'm proud of the way I could shed my "life's perfect" shell I learned growing up in church and dance in my life's damaged plans, but I've grown from there.

I'm no longer in a place of worry and fear. I'm not ruled over by grief, constricted by the unknowns of disease. I'm not afraid of death's sting or my God's judgement. I'm in a place that's beautiful and questioning and graceful and thoughtful. I'm comfortable like I am during long runs -with just the right balance of rote familiarity and novel challenge.

The past is what comforts my now.

Those embarrassing pieces -in their amateur composition- and the heavy blog posts -with their soul-breaking truths- provided a foundation. They created a safe, solid place upon which I can continue to build and grow. They are reminders of where I was and beacons that shine on where I'm heading. They're allowed to feel naked and primal -isn't that where we all started?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When the Hustle Overtakes your Inspiration


What happens when you're so busy working hard, being busy that you don't stop and smell the flowers? What's a girl to do when she's strung herself out on acrylic paint and blog posts? Honestly, the girl's to do nothing. She's to sit still and dedicate herself to some hard thinking. She's to remember the reason she got started in all this creating madness. She's to visit the places that make her heart patter. But sometimes the slowing part just isn't comfortable and is, in fact, stifling. So, she's got to find another way.

Creation comes from a deep and wide well in me. It's sort of ever-present, spewing ideas up up and out of me and I just go and do and work and be until suddenly the well has run dry and I'm tired from the fruitless efforts to fill it back up again. I've heard that the way to solve things such as this are to back away and make space or to forge forward until the creative bug strikes again.

Those are two approaches. I've tried each. Backing away leaves me itchy and irritable. Pushing forward exhausts and frustrates me. So I can't dedicate myself to do either with intensity. Instead, like life requires us to do, I have to find a method that works for me. I have to work out where the blockage is and then I've got to gradually chip away at it.

Sometimes this happens fast. Other times it seems nearly impossible, as though all my work at getting over this hump over uninspiredness is never going to happen.

1. TURN OFF THE STIMULI. 
Consumption in creativity is so important. But sometimes you've got to create out of a void. With all the things coming in we can be overwhelmed and chaotic. So turn on some calm jazz or nature sounds and just listen. Let the rhythm and the noises that aren't someone else's work their way through your soul. Something will come out on the other side.

2. RETURN TO AN OLD FRIEND.
In college I was Matt Nathanson's biggest fan. Some Mad Hope played best friend to me through countless finals and paper writing binges. I still to this day celebrate the smoky goodness that is his voice. When my own inspiration is waning, I return to him -often catching myself singing subconsciously along to every single mesmerizing lyric he croons. Find your "friend" and let him be important in the most dire of creative moments.

3. GO THROUGH YOUR JOURNAL.
Art or otherwise, go through them. If you're not keeping a journal of some sort, start now. The ability to create art or words for yourself is underrated. But these sketches and practiced bits of your process can be breeding grounds for future efforts.

4. TURN OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. 
I know, this one's hard. But comparison is the most stifling sources of inadequacy when one's creativity is waning. I used to cruise through my Instagram feed for inspiration when I felt like my creativity was stopped up. This used to work, but with the opening of my shop, it's become a haunting playground of I'm not good enoughs. So, I put it away and am left to my own devices.

5. STRETCH YOUR SOUL AND YOUR BODY.
Get out of your space. I can hole myself up in my creative space for hours. In fact, one day a week I usually do. It's lovely to have a beautiful room in which ideas can begin and blossom. But it's also the same room where I drive myself crazy over the fact that things JUST AREN'T changing. Yes, the same place where I fall in love with one piece hosts the most discouraging thoughts my mind can muster. So walking comes in handy. Walking or running or stretching or anything that gets my muscles moving and my body free.

What are your tricks?
How do you inspire yourself when it just seems too hard to go on creating?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Your Greatest Strength [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 didn't take very many pictures together this month. I struggled to find one of us, something I am grateful to say isn't typical. In fact, I was relieved when we took this picture at the bowling alley, the night before I had to write this post because it was going live the following day. I was relieved, mostly, but there was a little part of me that wondered what happened this month, wondered why we didn't take a few pictures together here or there. 

I think we get lost sometimes. I think we get lost in the fact that we're special because we're us. I think we have all these forces of nature acting on and around us and in the madness of the seasons we forget the way we are uniquely made to love one another. It's our shortcoming, the way we want to be a part of the fun, all the fun, with everyone and then we're tired and we've cut the time for ourselves short. In fact, it's a fault that we have that lead us to fighting with one another. It's a  downfall that sends us into frustrated arguments over how this happened to us again. 

When we were in premarital counseling we had to guess what our biggest struggle would be. They wanted us to say where our sticking point would be found. We looked at each other and guessed money -I think because everyone else was guessing the same. But I don't believe that's our sticking point, I believe it's the place where we have families and friends who are fun and exciting, who invite us places and, of course, we say yes. We say yes and yes and yes. And it's all good, all fun and games until we're exhausted and craving some time in silence with one another. 

Then we argue. 

But this letter isn't about arguing or our issue with time management. It's about the way you so easily forgive me -forgive us. We lay in bed, you rub my back, and we laugh about the way we've fallen into this fight once again. You let me curl into a ball in your arched arm and you rub the ends of my hair between your fingers while we talk about the weirdest things people can say. You don't hold it against me, don't keep you guard up, you forgive and forget in moments flat. 

You said your strength is consistency. I think that's true. You are a consistent example of grace. You are a constant reminder of His amazing grace and the way it has radically changed what it means for us to love and to live. So, be consistent my dear husband. Be consistent and be mine. 

Glad to be in your graces and then some,
Amber
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Next month we're going to talk about:
The Way You See Me.
And we'll be writing, linking, loving on
Friday, August 21st.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And now, my friends, your words and thoughts and letters: 


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

For When the Nightmares Won't Subside...

via

Jason always laughs at the places I will sleep. When tiredness beckons, I have the Sandman on speed dial. Give me a floor of an airport and a jacket to ball up into a pillow and I'm snoring in five minutes flat. Give me a ride in the passenger seat of the car and you can rest assured I will sleep more than wake. I imagine him awake, tired, and staring warily at the soft snores that come from my unconscious self.

The thing about my sleep that's always fascinated me is the black of my nights; a black that is void of dreams. It sounds boring, but I assume that my brain is working so hard in the daylight that upon hitting the pillow my mind is prepared for some down time. I don't mind the restful darkness, often it's refreshing after the color of all my days.

My nights were black until the nightmares started coming regularly. I think the first one was about two weeks ago. It had to do with my mom and I fighting, I was upset, I woke with a heart racing and mean words caught in my throat. I thought it was isolated, but then they kept happening. Different nightmares, the same emotional whirlwind blowing chaotically through my sleeping body.

Last night I woke with tears streaming down my face. I was stuck in Mexico, Jason and my family on a boat away to a beautiful island. Me on shore with a driver's license that said Nina and accusations that I'm an identity thief. I didn't know how I was going to see them again and I cried. I cried and cried until I woke because my face was wet.

I usually fall right back asleep. I usually manage to lull myself back into a beautiful slumber. But I couldn't this time. I laid in the depths of darkness and listened to my heart beat thick in my ears. I laid there and I wondered why some nightmares don't subside.

I thought of the conversation my mom and I had while we ran just the other day. She said, "I hope this whole thing with Dad is our big bang. I hope this is all the heartbreak one life has to hold." I nodded and then I suppressed the urge to knock on every tree and wood fence I could find as we headed back towards the house. Besides being sleepy, I'm superstitious.

I want life to work like that: a big bang and then living. I want to have to work through surviving, reviving, and thriving in a life that's different and new looking only one time in this life. But I know that's not how things work. I know lives that are marked by tragedy in the way the freeway has those yellow lines down its middle. I know lives that are beautiful and dreamy, never shaken and stirred.

So I lay there at 2:00 am, sleepy tears drying on my cheeks and I wonder: what's there to do when the nightmares won't subside?

It's breathing. Simply breathing -the in and out, in and out of your rising and falling diaphragm- as a reminder that you're alive whether you feel like it or not. It's letting your heart beat and your muscles burn. It's knowing you hurt all over, inside and out, because you're breathing. It's letting that sound of air escaping your lungs be your comfort. In and out, in and out, until you're waking to your morning alarm.

Monday, July 13, 2015

cofffee date | 15


If we were on a coffee date, we'd be at Starbucks and I'd be ordering a Valencia Orange refresher because it's so hot out and I need the iced beverage. But also because Starbucks has tricked me all these years by hiding the goodness of it and now they're phasing it out. I'd sort of want to cry while I drink it because I'm dramatic like that, but REALLY STARBUCKS WHY?!?

If we were on a coffee date, I'd try and convert you to beet pesto. I'd agree that the purple is sort of odd at first, but then you put it on pizza and cover it with brie cheese and mozzarella and spicy Italian sausage and you bake it in the oven and then you smile all over because it fills your tummy with the best kind of goodness ever. You can even be a little bit crazy, like we were, and crack two eggs on top of your pizza then delight in the way breakfast and dinner deserve to be best friends. I'd share how I made it with golden beets and it was just as good, but that the color was more odd than the purple of red beets.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd talk to you about death. I know it's heavy and it's weird to discuss this stuff over coffee, but there's something weird about the way death happens. It seems to just show up for some people, sudden and aggressive, while for others it's sort of slow and gentle, almost like it's unsure if it's got the right address. It just baffles me in the mystery of the universe sort of ways. I'm fascinated by it, weirdly, and I'd wonder if there's something in life that just baffles you.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask you what needs prayer and spiritual feeding in your life. I think we're all used to asking "how are you?" and getting the canned answers like "good" or "busy" or "tired, but managing". And, well, I just want you to know that I ask in a way that's deeper than that. I don't want to sit on the surface with you, I want to wade in the water, to be unafraid of the depths, to know that we're here in this together (whatever this is).

If we were on a coffee date, I'd probably giggle inappropriately. I'm full of a weird peaceful joy lately... A peaceful joy that says "Hakuna Matata" and just leaves a silly smile on my face. I'm thankful for it, not worried or wondering when it's going to end, because it's just here and it's unexpected and it's lovely, just lovely. I think that's why I'm busy writing and painting and making and reading. Enjoy, that's my job right now, and it's yours too.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd offer you a love letter. Not the mushy business that we think of as love letters, but the encouraging kind of goodness. It would be written by hand with my favorite pen and probably have doodles around the corners. I'd ask you how often you get a little bit of unquestioning encouragement in your life and I'd tell you that you need more. So, this. This from me to you every week.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd want to know all your favorite quotes. SERIOUSLY. Because I love words and I'm practicing my handlettering and I just love to read (and write) the beautiful things that you enjoy. I'd tell you that I've always (since I was 18 years old) loved this one:
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -Anais Nin
But that I've also been cherishing this:
"Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are." -Anne Lamott
If we were on a coffee date, I'd dare you to try something out of your comfort zone. I'd make you tell me what your task is and then I'd check in with you later about how it's going. I'd tell you that you can't ignore a dare, but then I'd double dog dare you because those are undeniable in life.

Friday, July 10, 2015

why you need to clean out your closet




I'm going to begin this post with a few confessions:

  1. I am a clothes hoarder.
  2. I attach bizarre emotional values to clothes that really don't matter. 
  3. I didn't read the entirety of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
I've danced around the idea of taking on the capsule wardrobe, minimalist closet, in the same way that Caroline from Unfancy does. But I found myself a strange sort of anxious about cutting my closet down to a specific number of pieces. California doesn't lend itself to specific chunks of weather which made breaking my closet into seasons feel more scary than helpful. I knew I wanted to go through my clothes, but didn't know how. 


Really, the book is helpful and interesting, but it's also got a major hold list at the library (because everyone loves organization right?). Then my mom mentioned she had read up on it on Pinterest and I decided to take a stab at doing the same thing. And I was overwhelmed with all the information there. After some serious reading, the KonMari Method seemed to boil down to a few simple, yet important things. 
  1. Take it all out. Everything out of your closet and drawers and cabinets. 
  2. Only put pieces back in that bring you joy. 
  3. Get rid of everything else. 
Now, the joy question can be tricky to work through, but here's a few ways I combined the Capsule Wardrobe and the KonMari Method together to help me decide on what's for keeps and what's for giveaway. 
  1. Does it compliment your figure? Are you trying to lose weight to fit into it? 
  2. Are you remembering happy or sad times when you wear that piece? (If it's sad, let it go.) 
  3. Is it practical for your lifestyle? 
Kondo would not necessarily agree with being practical -she says you can keep things that you love even if impractical-, but I only allowed myself three of those pieces. Everything else had to go. And, honestly, I was shocked at how many things I own, but don't use. 

I got rid of a very large trash bag of clothes and shoes and accessories (like jewelry and purses). It's sat in our spare bedroom for a month and I took out two items that I have reintroduced to my closet. I learned a lot about myself (beyond the three confessions above) in organizing my closet. Here's five things you deserve to know (and will learn) about your clothes: 

1. LOCK DOWN YOUR PERSONAL STYLE.
All of my shirts (minus a half dozen) are black, white, or grey. I had no clue that I hardly ever wear shirts that are outside of those neutrals. My shorts come in all kinds of colors as do my sweaters and jewelry, but my shirts don't. So when I'm itching to buy a yellow shirt from Target because I need it chances are I won't wear it and so it's best remaining on the racks for some other yellow shirt lover.

2. REMEMBER WHAT YOU'VE GOT.
I don't feel like I own the most clothes ever, but I certainly own more than I need (or even routinely wear). So when I took everything out of my closet and put it back in, I had a few pieces that surprised me. I'd forgotten about them and the way I'd loved them so seriously a summer or two ago. I've already worn them in the last two weeks because who doesn't love to spend time with an old friend?

3. REASSESS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THINGS.
Before I started the organizing, I knew my closet didn't need anything and was, in fact, overfull. But I kept all of my things because I had spent money on them and so I might as well keep them. This is a bizarre logic. Imagine if you kept that high school boyfriend who was super cute but not practical because you had dated him for a year. Or you pumped money into a falling apart car because it was your first one and you couldn't imagine being apart.

4. UNDERSTAND WHERE TRENDS PLAY INTO YOUR LIFE.
I am a sucker for trends. Pinterest has the answer to many things -like what's MonKari Method? But it also exposes us to all the quick trends that aren't necessarily going to last any longer than a single season (or even two). I'm good with some of the trends (bright florals, scalloped edges, fun summer dresses), but I'm not going to rock others even as much as I'd like to (crop tops, high-waisted cut offs, lace up sandals). I allow myself a serving of trendy, but not an entire wardrobe of it.

5. BECOME A BETTER BUYER (OR SAVER). 
I'm a sucker for grabbing what's fun and festive off the rack at Target because it's only $14.99. But then $14.99 adds up over and over again. So, I don't buy anything new unless I know that it fits into my style (like, honestly, I'm not going to rock an orange shirt any time soon) or is going to replace something that I've worn out (hi white tank top that's stained).

I'm still on the fence about a few pieces so they're sitting in the purgatory section of my closet until a final determination has been made.

What's worked for you friends? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

what i read in june

The big reading news for June is this: I listened to my first audiobook. Yes, totally did. And talked about it here (go say hi to #collaboreads), but I wanted you to know that I'm a convert. I'm an aubiobook convert because of Helene and her wicked awesome hook-up for some free Audible.com books. 

So, now on to reviews: 
My reading attention span sits pretty solidly at 250-350 pages. Any book much longer than that tends to lose me, to drift on and on with dawdling details and little resolution. I often find myself rolling my eyes and ready to be done at the 300 page mark, sure that all the surprise and emotion a novel could hold must end there. But the Semi-Charmed Summer Reading Challenge says I need to finish up a novel that's more than 550 pages so I had to keep reading and I did.

I did read it all and my mind was blown. I sat on the couch at the end of the book and talked Jason's ear off about the merits of The Book Thief. The richness of the characters, the beautiful heartbreak of the plot line, the honest depiction of a dark time in the world's history had me broken all over the place. Honestly, I was flattened by the terrifying truth contained in this novel to the point that no other book would do. I picked up a half a dozen other books to follow this one up with and just couldn't manage to feign interest (much less be truly engaged in a new cast of characters).

Basically, if you haven't read it, you need to. If you know someone who hasn't read it, MAKE THEM.

(Also, Jason is reading the book right now and has been staying up WAY too late each night because it's THAT good.)

I wanted to love this one. I mean, I really, truly wanted to love this one because I'd heard many good things. I'd heard it was going to be like The Fault in Our Stars but funnier. It's been made into a movie so it's got to be awesome. There's the angst of our high school years -filled with every ounce of hilarity and awkwardness we remember them- melded with the heartbreak of death that comes too early. I knew what I was in for and I was excited.

Except it fell short. It fell really short. Earl, the best friend of the main character, was hilarious but vulgar. The writing was casual -the way a teenage boy would write- to a fault. Every one who's been touched by death in one way or another takes something away from it, something that is profound -even if not completely obvious. But this lacked that and more. I found myself laughing -almost out of embarrassment- at the vulgarity of Earl, but come the close of the novel, I wanted more.

I already talked about this one for #Collaboreads (see here), but I'll just put a little piece in here too. This was grand. I'm a fan of Kidd's writing in general, but this one melded the beauty of history with the wonder of fiction. I mean, really, the main character was a real woman who made a difference in the way our nation handled slavery and women's rights. I found her refreshing, the way she could imagine life in such a distinctly different way than it was in her nation, and inspiring, with her bold and eloquent ability to act on her convictions.

Also, it seems important to share: I listened to this as an audiobook. It was the first time I made it through an entire novel (the whole 13 hours) and found the two narrators to be wonderful. They embraced their roles beautifully and were the perfect balance between rich, white girl and her black slave. The writing is gorgeous, the plot wonderful, and my only difficulty was the narrators didn't talk as fast as my little heart wanted them to because GIMME ALL THE GOOD WORDS.

I know there was a lot of fanfare about this book. I know we're supposed to hate it or love it and have all kinds of big feelings. I know that. But I missed that train and was late to the #Girlboss party. And, quite honestly, I'm thankful for it because I really, thoroughly enjoyed this book. Before you have a heart attack over my poor taste in business books, let me share why: 
  1. I was expecting Amoruso to be annoying and elitest. I found her very approachable and interesting. 
  2. The NastyGal brand does nothing for me, but the woman who started it does. 
  3. This rag to riches story wasn't candy coated, she struggled, she learned the hard way, she succeeded, and now she's sharing. 
I know that many have said her advice is trite and typical. It is. Except she gives it all in the context of her story to CEO of NastyGal and that did it for me. She talked about her days of thrifting, her distaste for the typical 9 to 5, her constant struggle to conform to the roles expected of her. She does it all in a way that kept me interested. I know part of the coincidence is the opening of Amber Thomas Makes and my desire to understand the way other brands grow and create themselves, so I was more interested than normal.

As I finished the book that I'd borrow from the library, I decided I wanted a copy of my own. I felt Amoruso was daring me to work my ass off and chase the wildest dream my little heart can fathom throughout the course of the book. Still waiting on Amazon to drop my copy off on our porch. 

And an update on the reading challenge:
(This month was harder because of the 550 page book I decided to take on, 
but I'm hoping to be done with the challenge next month!)

A Freebie (5 points):  DONE!
              The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison  
A book you have never heard of before (10 points): DONE
              Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews 
A book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years (10 points)DONE
              Little Bee by Chris Cleave  
A book that won a 2014 Goodreads “Best Book” award (10 points)DONE
              #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso 
A book by an author who is completely new to you (15 points)DONE
              Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler   
A book by an author you have read before (15 points)DONE
              The Rosie Effect by Graeme Samson 
A book with "light" or "dark" in the title (15 points):
               The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow (296 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)DONE
               A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas  
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)DONE
              The Book Thief by John Muzak 
A book with an alliterative title (30 points)
              Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (287 pages) 

I had a struggle this month because all kinds of book recommendations came my way and that makes me frantic in setting reading priorities. Regardless, I knocked a couple books off and I'm ending the second month of the Semi-Charmed Life Summer Reading Challenge with a total of 110 points! 

Monday, July 6, 2015

from the heart of me: a newsletter


Do you need a little extra love in your week? Are these small letters a reminder of how you can go and you can do because work is busy and life is hard and the days are long? Because I've got you covered.

I've jumped on the newsletter train. Though I can't really promise you it's going to be much of a newsletter, it will show up weekly in your inbox with some special bits and pieces for you to savor. But really, the bulk of it, the meat, is going to look much like a love letter. Just a dose of love that'll arrive in your inbox every Thursday morning.

It'll be between you and me. Less about the us that is our blog and more about the me that's busy writing and making and being that I'm not dropping the drippy heart-feelings in my every post. You'll get some behind the scenes information, a taste of what balancing shop and blog and job is like, and a monstrous serving of encouragement.

So what now?
Sign up and I'll see you Thursday.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

In Honor of the Home of the Brave


This is random to go up on a Saturday. I don't usually post. But I love July Fourth and America, so I'm celebrating in word and deed. 

My favorite part of the national anthem has always been the part about "the home of the brave". I believe so deeply in the bravery that is weaved into the blanket that is America. Brave is not simply because of the souls who so daringly fight for our freedom here and overseas, not just because of the people who left England to come to a faraway land and establish this country, but because we're all here, together and working hard to show that we love this land.

It seems impossible to talk about the Home of the Brave without acknowledging the tragedies of the last year and without honoring the beautiful victories contained in there too. But, America is pretty damn awesome, even if it's hard to see on the news or in your Facebook feed. Let me share why:

1. We're learning to listen. It's not easy to sit and to respect the voices around us -especially the one's that are so vastly different than ours. We're not perfect, we're learning, but this is the first step (which is rumored to be the hardest).  Efforts to find common ground and speak honestly in kind tones surround us, if only we're brave enough to look around and take note.

2. We're working together. We see problems here and abroad and we aren't afraid to acknowledge them. We want to help, to reach out, to make positive changes in the world around us. Sometimes we fail, but our intention is brave and that's a wonderful reflection of our belief in the worth of all lives.

3. We're cultivating hope. For ourselves, for future generations, for the beautiful world we live in. It's daunting some days when we turn on the news or scroll through our feeds, but we aren't throwing up our hands and saying "it's all doomed". Instead, we're setting goals, we're taking steps in the small (but effective) ways that we can, and we're practicing the brave that we preach.

Our generation of America is defining Home of the Brave in a new and beloved way. Let's spend the weekend drinking sangria, wearing sunscreen by the poolside, and wearing our cutest starred and striped ensemble in celebration of our American bravery.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Speak Up: Independence


Another beginning of the month and we've got ourselves another time where I talk your ear off. This month we're covering INDEPENDENCE. Be thankful I didn't decide to go with a performance of Independent by Beyonce.



And, though I am most certainly biased, I'd recommend you go and enjoy all the goodness that my dear co-host Annie has to offer. 

Here's where it's your turn! 
Next month we're back here on the seventh of August (holy smokes, that's a late first Friday of the month) to chat about restoration. (I think this is going to get tied into hope and, well, we all know how deep my feelings about hope are.)
And now, for my beloved #morethanaframe ladies, it's back on Sunday. The beautiful community will recommence with another six weeks of sharing what's happening in our lives through Instagram pictures (and captions). The themes for the next six weeks are below, hope you'll join! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

what i learned in june


June was a wild month. It started with a heat wave, then came all the kinds of stress at work, then father's day and now we're here. There was the opening of a shop, the receipt of books to read and review, the beginning of a few charitable projects, a hundred mile running challenge, and, well, it's been a month.

I've continued bullet journaling, but when I sat down to write this post I realized that it's been neglected. I've sort of stopped with everything and done all the kinds of painting and designing I can, but that's noT fair to the way my soul loves structure. Regardless, coming up with lessons from the month proved to be a bit of a challenge!

But I did learn things. I did and here they are:

STARBUCKS HAS AN ORDER OPTION IN THE APP. 
Don't hear me wrong -I love going into Starbucks and have made "friends" with the baristas down the street from my house, my mom's house, and our office and I really do enjoy seeing them. However, there's a few times where I am in a rush, but want my Starbucks, but am concerned about the amount of line that could await me. So, I have used the Order feature in their app. And both times I've used it, the drink was waiting on the bar for me the moment I walked into the store. AWESOME.
ENCOURAGEMENT COMES IN MANY FORMS. 
I can't count the ways I've been encouraged over the last two weeks, but I have. It's been rich and beautiful and, honestly, so humbling. From unexpected gifts in the mail, flowers from my mama's yard, praise from my husband, kind emails in my Gmail, I've been encouraged and it just floors me in the most inspirational ways. 

THE RISK IS WORTH IT. 
I've realized the reward of taking a risk is the self-satisfaction. I'm part of an awesome online writing tribe that I'm currently writing with and it's so scary to put words and ideas out for free judgement. But the support and wisdom that comes back is so rich. I thought telling Jason my dreams and him daring me to live them out would be the end of my creativity, but I've turned into a much more vibrant person in it all. So, take the risk friend. 
GOD MAKES BEAUTIFUL THINGS. 
I'm so inspired by the earth and nature. I've been painting globes and flowers galore and I realize I'm just in love with the things God's made. And then I wonder: can I do the same and love me with such endless enthusiasm? I'm trying, but I can say honoring my deepest wishes has really, truly helped me appreciate how much more than a number or size or single word I might be.

CHALLENGES ARE IMPORTANT. 
My mom and I joined a 100 mile running challenge this month. We simply needed to cover 100 miles in the 30 days that are June. She came in second and I ran 27 miles in three days so I could come in third (ended up in fourth). I was proud to have pushed myself, to have done something hard, and to be a little more sore than usual.
CREATIVITY THRIVES IN STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION. 
I'm beating a dead horse here (I know). I dove in deep with the KonMari method last month... Organizing all the spaces I could get my hands on, in our home, and my favorite new space is the closet that is my craft space in our office. I can say the organization makes my brain feel calmer, more prepared to take on the world, and that's exactly what I need. 

ROUTINES CHANGE AND THAT'S PERFECT. 
I talked about my dailies and was doing well with them. Until I realized that I had a few that weren't truly about being productive or creative, it was about checking off a box. The point of dailies is to feed yourself through them, to establish a foundation for your creativity and, well, that's something I'm still working on. 

What'd you learn this month? 
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And, like every month, I'm linking up with Emily P. Freeman

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