Monday, August 31, 2015

#collaboreads: we were liars

It is with so much excitement that we gather and celebrate that time of the month (not THAT time) where we get together and review books because reading makes you smart and so we need mile long lists of Books To Be Read. 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. Takes Place in Summertime). 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!



I've been meaning to read We Were Liars for a while. It's been on my To Read list but was consistently knocked to the back burner by books that I had from the library that needed to be returned or just seemed more interesting to me than this one (because when you own something it's not as interesting as what's new). So it sat and I heard all the feelings different people had about it and I wondered what I would think. But still, I didn't pick it up. 


Then, I was taking longer to finish the two books that I had from the library and #Collaboreads was sneaking up on me. I finally grabbed two books that were summer time set last Sunday and gave myself a week of reading assignment. This one was shorter and had better reviews on Goodreads, so I started it. 

RIVETING. 
The first time I sat down with this book I read 70 pages. It draws you in. I don't know if it's the characters or the plot line or the lack of clarity about all the bits and pieces, but I needed to know what happened in order to understand what was happening. This meant I struggled to set the book down. Thankfully work came and sleep happened, though I was extraordinarily caffeine dependent with the late nights I was pulling to get through this one.

Even if the macabre story line isn't for you, it's nearly impossible to set the book down and walk away without a hint of curiosity pulling at the edges of your mind. I didn't want to like the characters or care for them (and for the most part, I didn't) but

ELEMENTS.
I didn't identify with the characters in that they're extraordinarily wealthy teens. But I did identify with their hearts. I saw my teenage self struggling with the larger structures and politics of the adults that were part of my community. The way the Liars (a group of four teens) sees the holes and flaws in the relationships of the adults in their lives was refreshing to me. 

Money does ugly things, I've seen it in person and in tale, but no story holds such poignancy as We Were Liars. This is the ultimate tale of money's destructive nature within a family. I did find myself wondering if the plot line came from somewhere real (though I know it's fiction) and what it would be like to live in an Old Money situation as is portrayed in the book. Pressures and expectations abound with the money working as a manipulator and, well, this book is an exploration of how that effects the relationships between family members. 

ASSOCIATE.
It'd be easy (and so trite in the way the book world works right now) to compare this to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison. 
That wouldn't be wrong, in fact, I agree. It was reminiscent of Dare Me by Megan Abbott, another YA novel that deals with teens making trouble, though (as I remember Dare Me) it feels like a stretch. But I think there's better, closer cousins floating around in the literary world. 

There's an element of Gossip Girl in it all too. Maybe it's the teens, the richness, the way money doesn't offer love which is so much what we crave, but there's an air of Gossip Girl. An air that transported me back to the summer days of devouring those books in the air conditioning of my parents' house. 

But, more than that, I thought of Jodi Piccoult's Leaving Time more than a few times. The characters, the struggles, the plot line, all sang the same tune of Leaving Time. Without being too much of a spoiler, I can say both times the plot twisted in the bizarre and unpredictable way it did, I was shocked. There were signs offered, foreshadowing allowed, and yet, I had no idea until the big train of a plot twist leveled me. 

DESIGN.
The cover reflects the story -murky, confusing, yet somewhat recognizable. The colors of the ocean that on there were lovely (I have a soft spot for ocean tones), but the blur of it all is perfect for the cloudy story you quickly find yourself lost in. 


I haven't done this before, but the book had it's own design inside. The chapters were short and plentiful, lending a feeling of quick, staccato movement to the plot. Lockhart's decision to cut the plot up and change the format of her writing -from traditional paragraph to pseudo-fable to poetry- kept me wrapped up in the otherwise unpredictable and (almost) difficult to follow (with the sheer amount of characters) plot line. 

STARS. 

Four.

I want to give it a five because it was thick and rich and fascinating. Lockhart managed to move between several formats of writing with no distraction or skip in movement.

In fact, I changed it now.
FIVE stars. 

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



This month we decided to do something special.
A special thing called GIVING AWAY FREE STUFF. 
And, of course, it's a free bookish thing from AmberThomasMakes.
Nothing like a hand-painted book journal (I'll be showing how I use mine later this month) and watercolor bookmark to keep your reading habit beautiful and fun.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And for September we read: 
Back to School.
Literally, anything surrounding school or learning -fiction, nonfiction, ANYTHING.
See ya'll on September 28th!

Friday, August 28, 2015

what i learned in august

This post is a few days early because Monday is #Collaboreads, but I thoroughly enjoy reflecting on my month by running over the lessons I've learned. Thus, we make it a few days early and hope I'm not missing anything major over the weekend (which is going to be packed full with the start of Jason's birthday celebrations).



1. TAKE A BIKE PUB TOUR.
I love a good adventure and also a good drink. But when I looked up the bike pub tour prices my heart sank at their cost. I did what any good internet user does and looked the company up on Groupon to be rewarded with an AWESOME deal where four of us could ride for less than the price of two passengers. And I immediately bought it. We had a great time, tasted amazing beer, and totally bonded with the eight other passengers who were celebrating a guy's birthday!

Also, that guy in the sunglasses that is smiling at the end of the bike appears to be enjoying himself. Little did he (or we) know that in 3 minutes he'd pass out in a bar after throwing a dart through his toe. Imagine our surprise when we were looking through pictures on the way home and realized the Dart Dude was captured!

2. PURPLE SHAMPOO IS A MUST FOR BLONDES.
My hair stylist mentioned it to me the last time I was there. She told me how it keeps the blonde white instead of yellow, less brassy and more sassy. So I bought some off of Amazon and it's been six weeks. I use it once a week (rather than every time I wash my hair) and have been SO surprised at the way that it's kept my hair fresh and blonde. Plus, it is actually purple and watching the shampoo run down the tub is all the kinds of fun.


3. NEPHEWS ARE THE BEE'S KNEES.
We are enjoying having my sister and her family near(ish) to us for a while by being a part of everything we can, especially a pirate birthday party for a two-year-old. I heart those two little boys so much, so much more than I ever knew was physically possible. They're giggles and stories and obsession with Arg-Be-Garr brings me there to their place. And then I wonder what kids of my own will do to my heart and soul. Ooph.

4. WHEN IN DOUBT, WRITE IT OUT.
My book journal, my bible study journal, my bullet journal. I'm writing all over the place (that is completely offline) and it's been a really delightful process. Getting thoughts down, even simply about the books that I'm reading, is good for my soul (and my sanity). I thought that opening the shop might bring me out of my love for writing, but it's opened up a pressure-free space for me to work with words for my own love and use.

5. BE HONEST. 
I know I learned this when I was five. But the best thing I did for myself this month was write my post on Wednesday. I had been hiding my hard time with God in a closet. It wasn't for fear or for frustration or lack of faith... It was just a comfortable place where I was enjoying myself. But then a few emails with a dear friend tore my heart up, she said "yes Amber you've been through the wringer and you're still radiating joy." I wanted to die right then and there because I'd convinced myself a joyful heart couldn't live within a hard time. But it did, it does and I have life yet to live, so I decided to be honest. And it's a lovely place to be.

6. TIME WILL MAKE YOU LIKE YOUR SPOUSE. 
I bought four vintage globes in a row and Jason told me no more. He forbid me from adding any more spherical models of earth into our home... Until the other day. I came home with two new globes -one on a pedestal and the one pictured above. I was a little bit nervous what Jason would say, but I was prepared to be in trouble if he was really upset. Instead, we got home and I showed him the globes and he loved them. He loved where they were placed and how they added to the room they are in. Yes, you become more like your spouse with time. 

If you watch YouTube regularly or have a Facebook or ever cruise Buzzfeed, you'll realize some of the biggest viral hits seem to defy logic and science. Well, Outrageous Acts of Science brings together a group of very intelligent and interesting scientists to talk about the physics and chemistry and all the other forces of nature that make the most fascinating YouTube videos possible. (This might very well relate to the point above because Jason adores this show and once it's on I can't stop watching.) 

8. WHEN YOU NEED TO FINISH A ROOM, SCHEDULE SOMETHING. 
I have been meaning to update my art room... It's been there waiting with piles of things that want my attention. But I've been busy trying to make and do and create because decorating a room doesn't make money. But then a friend asked to come snap some pictures of my space... And I realized it was a mess, not an inspiration, so I redid the space. I changed up the bookshelves and moved around my work, I put my globes on display and my canvases in waiting within eye shot. Now it feels more me, more comfortable, more beautiful.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Linking up with Emily Freeman (Come Monday)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

in this dry season

I'm in a period of exhaustive, dry faith. My spirit is experiencing a drought almost as severe as California. I'm in a season where I'm done wrestling with God and now sit disinterested in Him. I hear His words at church and read His words at home. I love what they say, but I wonder where I fell through the cracks and out of His careful hand. 

I think of my ailing dad and I want to shout out to Him that He's missed us. I think of the way He raises the dead and heals the lame and I wonder what happened to our portion. I wonder if death will be a balm to our wounded souls or if this season will drone on forever. I know the latter is a lie of a weary soul, but I wrote this with no promises of seeming sane.

Though we are struggling in open communication -He and I-, I feel faithful. I know He is alive and well, working and doing, being and making, extending and caring. I know I'm still His, no less than I was yesterday, no more than I will be tomorrow. But I'm a selfish, stubborn bit of flesh that's giving off the cold shoulder while waiting for His provision. I feel like a child, full of unfettered faith and busy throwing my fit. Thankfully, He is a Father most patient. 

I question the way some seasons end so quickly while others drag on forever. I wish for a hint about His plan in it's completeness. There's deep pain in parts of this transition, rampant frustration in the consistent hurting, searing grief as life might hold. I know I am not any farther from Him because of this time. I know His presence is all present, always pursuing. But, I'm taking some space from the pressure of doing and being and saying all the righteous things. The season feels less daunting, less fear-filled because I've been honest. 

In this season of dry faith, I find myself lying in wait. I feel like an animal of prey, lurking quietly along the lowest parts of the landscape, eyes fixed on all the things between here and the horizon. Any change, any small movement, any detail out of place heightens my senses, brings me to a full sprint in pursuit of what might just be mine. I'm still and frozen, hoping to see life unfolding, but remembering my success hinges on my ability to be unseen. 

I'm hiding. Carefully hiding because I don't know the answers or when the rain will come. My projections about what's next and when He'll take my dad from this place and what healing will feel like for some very damaged souls are so off-based and confused. I am the weather-girl of my own world, pretending to have scientific sureness to predict the future. But, like the weather-girl, I am wrong mostly. I say sun and it pours. I say rain and drought. I call winter and summer falls. 

It is here in this hiding that I can hunt. I lay, silent and secret in my need for His provision. I'm begging for even infinitesimal signs that I still matter to Him. I'm a jealous soul longing to know He's got my serving of sustenance. And, from the dark depths and scary shadows of a dry time, I see His affections gathering. They're His Beloveds coming in close, extending arms and emails chockful of kindness. Small pennies laying prone on street sidewalks, all bedraggled and corroded, green in their age and experience. Scribbled words on white paper wrapped tight in an envelope behind the bent door of our mailbox. Roses blooming once, twice, and a third time over. 

In this dry place, His refreshment is evident to me. I know He's got to be looking close, paying attention, providing care because these women are His hands and feet, these pennies a fleck of His heart for me to hold, these letters drenched in the deepest of His love. I like the state of California wait for that big storm to come and water to cleanse the soils of my soul. Until then, I will be here, still and hopeful, ever-vigilant, prepared to feast on the crumbs that present themselves to me. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

fresh in heart.

|| via | For 10% off, use "DEARDIARY" ||
It's about this time every month I get itchy. By the time the twenty-fifth rolls around, the month feels stuffy and closed off like the windows need to be thrown open and some fresh air let in. I sit in the warm stuffiness for a few days and wait. But then around the twenty-seventh the sitting becomes full of frantic energy and I start to pace around craving a new month.

I see the mid-twenties number and I spend the next few days waiting, being annoyed the way the days seem to tick by so slowly. I wish away this month and the way it's not picking up on my brush-off techniques. I'm  bored with its content and ready for the newness that the first promises.

I know I'm wasting the closing of the month wishing for the next one. But I've convinced myself the best time to start is always later, when the slate is clean, the page perfect. I'm positive if I fill my days with plans and promises for tomorrow time will pass faster.

But alas, this isn't how time and life works.

It ticks the same as always, carefully rounding the face of our clocks, the sun spinning gently around the planets' orbits. My soul not bearing any difference on the laws of time and space. The impossibility of changing the universe leaves me with only one choice.

Change my heart. 

So, I'm practicing what it means to start now and here. I'm teaching myself I can begin new at 2:51 PM or on Wednesday. I'm remembering a direction change is allowed in each and every moment, not just reserved for those perfect beginnings.

A turn of the page, in it's crisp freshness, is about choice, not

Friday, August 21, 2015

letter link up: the way you see me

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,

I got an email from a wise, married woman once. It said,
"I see the way he looks at you and I know this is for life." 
It was an unexpected surprise in my inbox, a beloved reminder that I am beloved, a bit of dearness I have starred and sitting there in Gmail for a rainy day. Sometimes when I think about her words, I find myself wondering what part of your gaze is made up of forever.

You have always said you knew I was a woman worth marrying the very first night we sat on bar stools at the dirty kitchen counter in your Salem Court house. You looked at me then, in the same way you look at me now. From those early days you said you knew some man would be lucky to call me his wife. I don't know that you knew you'd be that man, but I believe in those first meeting moments you got the forever look in your eyes.

I'm sure that piece has grown over the last six years. Slowly we grow together increasing our inside jokes and retracing the awkward steps of our early dating days. We connect over chilled beers, breakfast burritos, and chocolate chip cookies, our eyes resting comfortably upon one another. I think it's there, in the history and the present and the future that we develop forever eyes.

Sometimes I want to step out and watch you look at me. Sometimes I wish I could see the forever part in my own gaze over you. But none of those thoughts hold a candle to the way your gaze taught me how I'm beloved.

I find myself hoping other women get to experience this. I wonder who brings them the lesson about being beloved. I thank Him for the way marriage teaches us precious, life-breathing things.

I'm beloved by you. I'm beloved by Him. I can see it in your eyes.

You're the loveliest man in the land,
Am
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Next month we're going to talk about:
On Compromise
And we'll be writing, linking, loving on
Monday, September 21st.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And now, my friends, your words and thoughts and letters: 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

the creative benefits of a flat lay




I've always adored the flat lay trend that fashion Instagrammers often use to show off what pieces they'd put together for different occasions. There's something about seeing clothes and accessories without any distractions that makes for such a purposeful photograph. I then saw it happening in other ways with food or crayons or books or flowers.

The first flay lay I posted was a composition of strawberries on a cutting board. They made me smile a bit, but also jogged my mind. I enjoyed moving the berries around, chopping them to different sizes and setting them up in different shapes. I realized, I was creating in a way that was different, casual, and still important.

So, I've quickly become addicted to flat lays. I've made them here and there and everywhere. I've used them to create characters for a short story I'm writing and to bring together colors that I just can't stop swooning over. I've realized the flat lay offers more benefits than a pretty picture and lots of likes. Benefits that look like:


DOCUMENTING YOUR PROGRESS. 
All those pages you've covered in red ink edits and the paintings you just finished tearing through are begging for you to treasure them. You deserve to pat yourself on the back a time or two for your progress and what better way to do so than to spread out your work. It promises an instant reward as you get to pour over the distance you've traveled rather than a focus on how far you feel you've got to go. 

RECOGNIZING TRENDS IN YOUR LIFE. 
Trends come and go, the dictionary tells us that. And so, things come in and out of our lives and our interests at a fast and furious pace. I've found that as I'm pulling together a flat lay the things that I'm currently loving sort of explode into obviousness. Right now it's black and white and red all over, it's books and typography and color on black backgrounds, it's our white farm table and the wide cracks between its planks. This too will pass, but for now I get to appreciate it because I see the trend. 

MORE THOROUGH CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. 
I'm writing a short story with a dark, mysterious, starving artist of a woman. I was struggling with her personality and her image so I made a flat lay for her. The dark background reflective of her history, the color choices in the frame particular to her role in the tale. I see her there, even though there isn't a person. 

ADDING PERSONALITY TO PICTURES. 
Sometimes I add myself to typography pictures by including what is on my desk or table at the moment. Obviously, I wish my pictures always had a cookie and coffee in them, but they don't so the picture is quickly made into a temporal piece. There's something so lovely about seeing a solid truth (you owe it to yourself) and what you're loving now. 

ROLLING OUT OF A CREATIVE RUT. 
When I get really bogged down in the creative process, I pick a color and pull together a flat lay that demonstrates it. I move the pieces around until the rolls of tape and the mint boot all come together in a way that's comfortable to me. Not pictured are the discarded objects that are stacked on the table outside the frame. 

It all boils down to this: When making a flat lay there are conscious decisions about what's included, where the shot cuts off, how the colors and textures of the pieces interact with one another. And in realizing the thought process behind your picture, you are making art.

Monday, August 17, 2015

the tattoo: my feelings two years later

Two years ago, I got a tattoo for our anniversary. I'd spent two years explaining to Jason that I knew exactly what I wanted on my arm and that I could promise to rock it confidently for life. Two years ago I went to church on a Sunday morning, fueled myself with Subway, and sat for five and a half hours while a bearded man filled my brain with ultra-marathon knowledge and my skin with permanent ink.

I haven't regretted the tattoo over the last two years. I haven't wavered about my decision in the face of much opposition about girls and tattoos. I haven't lost my love for the art that's there and yet I haven't itched to add anything major yet. I did add our anniversary (a palindrome) in Roman numerals.

But, I have thought a lot about what I know now, and what I might have told myself -the girl with hidden tattoos- about a piece that's most certainly public. I'd have warned her of a few things, shared some facts, and rested some fears. And I realized, that might be some of you, wishing you knew what it felt like later, how the permanent ink changes your temporary. And this is what I'd say, to her, to you:

1. THOUGH THE ART IS PERSONAL, EVERYONE'S GOT AN OPINION.
They won't always share it, but sometimes they will and you'll feel ashamed in the face of their stark opposition to your skin. It's okay to just smile and nod for fear you might bite their head off.

2. NO ONE WILL ASK WHAT IT MEANS.
It's there to be seen and most people assume what meets the eye is everything. There's more than meets the eye -tattoo, person, book, picture-, we all know that, yet we don't explore that more-ness.

3. IT FADES AND YOU'LL HAVE TO GO BACK.
It took two years to go back and get touch-ups. You felt like the color had held up well, until he was done and you felt like the tattoo was all new and strange to you with its boldness.

4. YOU'LL STILL FEEL FEMININE.
Women -especially of older generations- will tell you it's masculine (even if it's floral and colorful) and claim you won't ever look right in a beautiful dress again. And, they're wrong. You'll look different than they did in a gown, but you'll pick something that brings out the beauty in the artwork and that is beauty in itself.

5. VASELINE HELPS WITH HEALING.
I know, there's fancy stuff and recommended stuff, but the biggest issue with skin when it's healing is the itchy dryness. You want to scratch and then that can pull out the pigment. So apply vaseline to stop the itch. They make it in cocoa butter scent now and, delicious.

6. YOU'LL MISS IT IN THE WINTER.
Sleeves are practical and warm and necessary in the chill of winter. You'll wear them constantly. And then spring and summer will bring the sun and you'll get to fall in love with the tattoos that have been hidden for months. It's like a present to yourself every year.

7. IT GETS HOT IN THE SUN.
Remember when you're a kid and you put black and white fabric in the sun. Then you touch it and the dark fabric is hotter because it sucks up the sun's energy. Well, that's the same with your skin. The dark shoulder gets hot. So keep it covered in sunscreen because it'll burn faster too.

8. IT WAS WORTH IT.
The pain, the time, the money. You'll love it more as time goes on, you won't experience regret, and sometimes strangers will stop you to tell you that it's beautiful instead of chastising you. Those moments are always worth it.

I know it's so hard to decide which side of the do-I-really-want-this-tattoo? fence you're on, but my philosophy is this: it's the best worn, most viewed, constantly available art one can buy. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

coffee date | 16


If we were on a coffee date, I'd make you walk to Starbucks with me and try a grande cold brew with vanilla and toffee nut syrup and a splash of half and half (which you can put in yourself at the sugar stand). I'd warn you that the caffeine will go straight to your head and make you feel like taking on the world, which isn't a bad thing. You'd fall in love with cold brew and I'd give you good news: you can make it at home.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask you about your book policy. We all have one, we just might now know it. But this is mine: I owe a book 50 pages. If by page 50 the book cannot draw me in, I owe it not another word more. Life is too short to read books that suck and so, I don't. But you, what's your policy friend?

If we were on a coffee date, I'd recommend this foundation and this powder. I know, they're not fancy or particularly researched in being the right thing for your skin. But they're affordable, convenient to get (I always pick mine up at Target) and they feel good on my skin. Never caked or heavy, but always covering. Yep, I'd recommend them and then want to know what mascara you use.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you we were built to be spurred on, to be pushed and motivated by those around us. I'd tell you that boundaries and self-preservation are important, but sometimes life drops people in who tell you how much the world needs to hear and see the things you have inside of you. So you do, and your life explodes in the firework-y good kind of way. I'd ask if I could be that friend for you or if you could dedicate yourself to finding that person (or community of people) because you deserve it.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess that bible study is still dry and difficult for me. I'd admit that I scroll through my Instagram feed sometimes and see all those days I was dedicated and interested in the words He holds for me and they feel so long ago. I'm sure it has to do with dementia and dying and living and trying to reconcile it all, but I also think, I just feel burned out on being faithful and that thought scares me.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd dare you to bring back a childhood dream that'll turn you into someone new. The shop has been a redefining for me. It's been a reminder of the childlike love for art and paint and color that I let slip away in the logistics of life. It's brought new meaning to boring days and a burning desire to create back into my soul. Maybe that's part of what's overshadowing my bible studies.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd get all heated about "the hustle". I'd tell you that we lie to ourselves about needing the chaos and control and constant input and output. I'd tell you that I spent last weekend creating in a completely self-fulfilling way. It was fun and beautiful and ENTIRELY for me. Something I hardly do. It was restorative, a time we hardly afford ourselves in this day and age. I'd tell you to drop the hustle and busy words because those people always look so tired and angry.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd beg you to bring authenticity to your brand. Because, let's face it, the brand isn't ending here or there or anywhere. But you can redefine it and drop the perfection and color choices that are overwhelming our ability to simple live and be and do. I'd beg you to be the person He intended, not a collection of colors and things, but a person with the mess and rough edges that make each of us so wonderfully unique.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Dangerous Thing about Branding


I started blogging in college. My first post was published seven years ago on a blog that's long been a thing of the past. I started blogging with a passionate heart and naive mind. I jumped in the way I thought I could, without a clue of what was to come. Sometimes I think of that blog and I cringe, it was so wishy washy, so wanting, so desperate. But I was a curator back then, very aware of what I loved in a blog and the life that appeared on its pages.

I wasn't aware of the way people edit and filter and portray. This was pre-Pinterest, before Instagram, when Facebook was for people with .edu at the end of their email. It was when blogging was about being in our space on the internet when guests arrived, not yet the times of trying to draw people in from other spaces and places and hoping they'd stick around.

That was seven years ago.

Now we're not just bloggers writing into a small corner of the internet, now we're entire brands. Our names, our hair, our style, our homes, our approach to work, our lives are branded. They're pulled together in particular ways in order to for constant online display. We assign ourselves a family of colors and a font. We carefully stitch ourselves and our realities into square frames for a feed, into 140 characters of purposeful interaction, into niches and categories. We've redefine ourselves into a life concerned better described as cohesive than relatable.

It's beautiful the coordination of it all. It's fun to lay flat a dozen turquoise things simply for the composition of a picture. It's delightful to arrange a dozen beautiful flowers against a white background and smile at their beauty. It's wonderful to interact with an entire online community over a C.S. Lewis quote shared on Twitter. It's beautiful and admirable and fun which is the reason that branding is dangerous to boot.

It's dangerous in the way that our minds then our souls then our entire life is easily captured by our decided brand. It's the way our blog turns from a tale about our life into the driving force. We filter our choices through the cohesive look we wish to project. The danger arises when our brand becomes our life rather than our life determining our brand.

I leave you with this: be a brand, a beautiful brand because I want to look on and enjoy. But be real too, know that the mess of your life is part of the beauty of it, the little pieces of imperfection bring out the wonder of the wins.

I dare you, dear friends. Let your life determine your brand.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Importance of a Sketch Journal (especially if you're a writer)





A few months ago I was listening to The Accidental Creative podcast and one episode talked exclusively about sketch-journaling. My mom heard the same one and mentioned that I should try it. I didn't think much about the concept until I got really stuck in the writing process. Then I remembered the podcast mentioned that switching from words to pictures can lead our minds to different places. I didn't entirely believe it. But, why not give it a try?

Fast forward to today. I sketch regularly in that journal I started about eight weeks ago. I flip through the blank pages and see spots where inspiration started and grew, see my story line ironing itself out, and then end up with a new idea to jot down.

I know the writers in you are leery, but let me give you some reasons (because we all love reasons).

IDEAS NEED A PLACE TO GROW AND DEVELOP.
Creativity can so often feel like a puzzle where you've got a bunch of pieces but it's just not going together as you imagined. So, this Some pages have a simple word or phrase or object that I want to make into something more. It's there, I'm thinking on it, but it's not time yet. Thankfully, it's kept in ONE place and can easily be paired with other things. Like, the black-eyed susan that I can't stop doodling on everything or the quotes that jump off Pinterest and right into my life.



IT'S THE PERFECT PLACE TO PRACTICE.
I've always been fascinated by the Pointillism movement in art. You'd know it best by this piece. Those people are made entirely of dots. And I've always had a fascination with bringing together my style with the bold lines and filling it entirely with dots. It's fun. But I'm not at a place where I'm completely in love yet. So, what's the answer? Practice. Nothing like the blank pages of a sketchbook to learn how to create shadow and shape and texture.


DRAWING ACTIVATES YOUR BRAIN.
I know, I used to say I couldn't draw either. I think we all have a capacity to draw -we all did it as children. It's just now, as we've matured, we have an idea of what good drawing looks like and what constitutes bad drawing. It does't matter if your drawing is good or bad, it's going to change the way you think about and approach writing. I know it sounds crazy, but try it. Draw out your plot in simple, light sketches. Then watch as you imagine things changing and moving.


IT'S INSPIRING LIKE INSTAGRAM.

As a writer, I love Instagram. As a blogger, I love Instagram. There's something about the visual scrolling through my feed that leaves me hungry to make beautiful sentences and vibrant paintings. The next few times you feel uninspired, do a little bit of scrolling and see what happens. I promise pictures help, they'll spur you on, even if you just write a little imaginary story in your head about what's happening there in that frame. The same thing will happen to your sketches.


IT'S ANOTHER WAY TO PROCESS YOUR DAY.
I had a really, truly frustrating day at work last week. It was a day where kindness was forgotten, grace was thrashed, and it brought everyone to their fighting stances. I wanted to extend myself in a way that was kind, but was met with brashness. And I heard my mom saying, "You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar." I tried to be honey, though I'm sure I came up short. But it became a page in my book, a page that was turned and made the past in a book that I get to close. Physically, that's a blessed feeling.

Another beautiful surprise is the times when the ideas you come up with turn into real life things like these:
It doesn't always happen (I can't tell you how many pages in that journal will remain ONLY in the journal), but there are occasions where the art is fun and purposeful and worth bringing out into the public.

Do you sketch journal? 
Are you going to start if you haven't already?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Speak Up: Restoration

I changed my approach to Speak Up this month... Mostly because I don't want to be boring or repetitive every month. And because I saw Lindsey doing this on her own blog and so I binge watched her stuff and realized that I needed to try. 

So, meet Speak Up gone daily life:
I have no idea why YouTube chose THAT picture to be the cover photo, but it's sort of delightful. 
Here's a small recap of the five tips to restoring your creative self: 
  1. Get out of your normal space. (Bonus points for making things with your pets.)
  2. Learn something new like gardening or knitting or badminton. 
  3. Have a drink. (Highly recommended this cold brew coffee that you DIY.) 
  4. Break the routine.
  5. Consume something cool like music or a good book. 
And, like always, I must encourage you to listen to what my favorite creative mind, Annie, has to say because she's awesome. 

Next month we're going to be talking about:
WORK. 
(as in labor, as in the holiday we'll be celebrating on the 7th!)
See ya'll here on September 4th!

Last, but most importantly, it's your turn. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

what I read in july



I felt like I didn't read anything this month. I think my brain's been sort of mushy and distracted, but the last week found me with a greater sense of intention in setting aside some time to read... Which led me to finish three books (and an audio book) in one big productive swoop. 

I read some good stuff and some not so good stuff, all of which I've detailed here in this post for you! Let's get the stars and reviews started: 


I have to confess this before I even begin with a review: I couldn't finish this book. I picked the book up from the front shelf in our local library because the cover was gorgeous. I loved the bright colors and could only imagine the beauty that was held within it's pages. So, I brought it home and started it. Then set it down and didn't pick it back up for weeks on end. And it waited and waited and waited. Until I finally decided I needed to give it another go. 

By page 100 I just wasn't deeply engaged. This one walks along the same lines as Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl as well as The Fault in Our Stars in that the main character, ___, has cancer. It's different in the fact that he's English and living in a hospital wing for kid's with cancer undergoing treatment where he meets Amber. She's entertaining and he's precious, but the plot line crawls along. It crawls and crawls to the point where I can't maintain my attention. At page 150, I decided to give up and return the book to the library. No reading time should be dreaded and, truth be told, I was dreading to sit and read this novel. 
This doesn't hold any truths that you haven't already heard... Mostly because you can find pinnable images of these all over the internet. It's a book I took FAR too long to pick up and read, but I'm thankful I didn't write it off just because I'm late to the party. Now that I've zipped through it, I realize that it was permission to myself. It was wonderful to hear some simple encouragements about the creative process and growing up as a curator of your craft.

The pages have few words and are often decorated with fun, simple art, but the points Kleon makes are important reminders of who you are in your creative life. I found myself pleased at the way I am who I am at the place I'm at right now, even if it's not as far along or developed as the people I'm walking alongside. It has me motivated to work hard at being me, instead of working hard to impress others with myself. It's all a process -slow and rewarding and sometimes painful, but all important work.

I recommend buying this one. It's not expensive and the points are valuable. It's simple to pick up and flip through when you're feeling a creative block... THAT is worth the cost!

I picked this audio book as my ;listen for July because I was a huge fan of Girls' Next Door in high school. Kendra, Holly, and Bridgette were fascinating to me. I was most interested in Holly and the way she'd sit in the frame of the screen with glazed over eyes. I wondered if she was aloof or bored. I questioned the way she was portrayed, often wondering if she was more intelligent than a smiling blonde in lingerie. I wasn't devastated when her and Hugh broke up, but instead curious. 

When Madison went on to enjoy all kinds of success in Las Vegas, I knew there was more to her than her role on Girls' Next Door. So, when she announced the release of Down the Rabbit Hole, I was looking forward to checking it out. And I am glad I did. Madison is intelligent, she was vulnerable and immature in her time at the Playboy Mansion -something she's very honest about throughout her novel. I enjoyed the peek into the roles of the women in the mansion as well as the inner workings of Playboy politics. 

That all said, the content was long-winded. There were lots of minute details shared that were interesting, but there was a plethora more that I didn't have the slightest appreciation for. I guess my expectations might have been a little bit too high, but I longed for some connections between the deeper implications of her choices and the happenings within the mansion's walls. 

I'm conflicted about this book. I've been conflicted about it since I finished it last weekend. The conflict is this: I loved the conversation about addiction and Green's many revelations into the mind of addicts BUT I couldn't stand the way the book ended. Basically it was like this (SPOILER ALERT) ... and they all lived happily ever after. Green tackled a hard conversation in a beautiful way, but it felt like she sort of backed off as the novel came to a close. 

I know there are lives and stories that end happily ever after, but the twists and turns and tangles of this novel were many. Having friends who are living in the damages that lay in the wake of addiction, I found the fairy tale ending of Summer Secrets to be so different from what life often holds. I am a believer of the way that fiction can stand outside the confines of reality, but I also wanted Green to illustrate the way addiction can be damaging just as she did in the beginning of the novel. 


I read this for my #Collaboreads challenge. You can find the full review here, but these two words are what's important MUST READ. 

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If you'd like to join in next month's #Collaboreads challenge, the criteria is 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Some (Not That) Important Things About Me


The other day I posted a picture on Instagram with a random fact about me. I got over a dozen comments with random facts back and they have stuck with me... Now when I see some of the names from those comments floating around the web I giggle and remember how that person get 100% on their first grade spelling tests or this other girl writes using her thumb more than her fingers.

Why do random things like that stick so well? I'm sure there's a scientific theory that names such a phenomenon for us, but I didn't take that psychology course in college (though I did take the abnormal psych and psychology of addiction courses).

Regardless, I wanted the first Monday of a new month to be interactive and fun because Mondays are hard. Here are eleven random (no so) important things about me:

1. I learned to drive a tractor when I was fourteen which is when the law says you're allowed to drive tractors alone. Unfortunately for me, my dad decided to wake me at 7:00 AM to give me lessons.

2. Project Runway has always been my creative muse. I'm afraid it'll stop airing and my ability to make things will disappear.

3. Hazel is insanely protective of me. If Jason stubs his toe she could care less. If I get hurt she won't leave my side until she's positive I'm going to survive.

4. I've (accidentally) cut off the tips of three of my fingers. Only twice did I end up in the hospital. The third time I decided I was capable enough to stop the bleeding at home.

5. Grocery shopping is my least favorite chore. I love cooking and eating, but the buying of groceries is a pain and so I won't go to the store until our fridge only has a jar of pickles, a jar of olives, and a cube of butter in it.

6. My three favorite words are: macabre, abacus, and golden. I don't use the first two very often, but I love saying them and spelling them and the way they sound.

7.  I was a night owl in college. Now, I'm an early-morning person (and that's not just because of coffee).

8.  It is impossible for me to spell chief, rhythm, and relieve right the first, second or third time I try. Thank goodness for spell check and the red squiggle.

9. The more I write, the more I struggle getting their, they're, and there right. I pretend it's because my brain is working too hard to worry about those bits and pieces, but it's probably because I'm over-caffeinated.

10. I love flavored bubbly water -the kind that's completely unsweetened but is full of bubbles. I think the fact that Jason hates it makes it more valuable to me because I can claim it as mine and only mine.

11. I wanted to go to college in Texas, but couldn't stand the thought of being that far away from my littlest brother who was 5 when I graduated from high school. I'm still a complete sucker for his ideas any and every day of the week.

If you've read all this, you're a winner. 
You've won a double dog dare from me that requires you to tell me something random about you.

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