Wednesday, September 30, 2015

what i learned in september

1. HOW TO PICK AN AUDIOBOOK.
I've really struggled to get into Audiobooks up until the last few months. I bought one and just ached the entire time. I bought another and couldn't stop listening. There's a science to picking out the right audiobook and I've realized it's this:

  • Don't listen to a book that you're planning on being DEEPLY inspired by. You'll want to highlight and such so get the print copy. 
  • Listen to the preview and have feelings about the narrator's voice. If it's annoying, DON'T BUY IT. (I did this once and holy painful ten hours.) 
  • Branch out into genres that you wouldn't typically read. Having a science fiction novel read to you is entirely different than having to listen to it. 

2. YOUR QUALITY OF FRIENDS MATTERS THE MOST. 
Jason's birthday was in the beginning of the month and at the last minute we threw a little UFC watching party. We invited five random couples that only had us in common. As the last people were leaving Jason looked at me and claimed the party as the best one yet. I believe it's because we don't have a lot of friends, but the ones we do choose to have are so damn awesome.

3. TEA TREE OIL IS A MIRACLE ACNE HEALER.
I have bad skin. I've had bad skin since high school and it's only been cleaned up by antibiotics and heavy duty prescription skin creams. Six months ago I wanted to try and stop the drugs to see what would happen. The acne returned with a vengeance. Then a friend posted about how tea tree oil made a huge difference in her skin and I decided to try it. I'm not an essential oil convert by any means, but my skin is clearing up and those deep, nasty pimples are disappearing.


4. BLUE MOON WAS INVENTED AT A ROCKIES GAME.
I love Blue Moon but believe it needs an orange slice in it to be really legitimate. Those are two facts for you.

5. I HAVE A TASTE IN BEER: FARMHOUSE ALES.
Basically cloudy, unfiltered ales that are blonde in color just stole my heart. Add interesting flavors like chili or lemonade and I'm thrilled. Or don't and I'll still praise you. Honestly though, I encourage everyone to do a brewery tour of a beer-loving area. Try all the kinds and figure out what you love because it's an awesome experience that's sure to be full of amazing people, PLUS you'll learn all kinds of things about beer that are fascinating and (not vital to life) important.


6. ADVENTURE IS A PERSPECTIVE, NOT A STATE.
I've always thought of adventure as a place we go or a task we do or something we sign up for, but it's not. It's about your mindset. Like when Jason wants to hike and I want to do anything but that. Or when it seems fun to go into a cave (and extensive trail of caverns) inside a mountain which is truly a nightmare. It's a choice (and not always an easy one) to treat the task at hand as novel, exciting, and worthwhile.

7. THE PICTURES ARE ALWAYS WORTH IT.
During our Denver stay I was dealing with major Fat-Face-Syndrome. You know that mental issue where you look at your face in every selfie and see fatness. Well, major issue for a few days on the Denver trip. It could have derailed the many picturesque moments at hand, but I decided I wanted pictures to go with our memories and so, no fat face was going to stop that. It's been less than a week and I'm already so thankful for those shots because Jason looks thrilled in every single one.


8. VELODROME BIKING IS THE BEST SPORT.
Imagine chess on wheels with 45 degree angles for gravitational pull and you're there in the stadium. There's really, honestly no words for this other than we went to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and loved it. Then at the end of our tour the guide mentioned the Collegiate Biking Nationals going on at the velodrome down the road. We swung by and it was empty, between race sessions, but were encouraged to come back at five. We did and had to fork over $10 a piece to watch the sport. Thank goodness we did. Three hours later we were shivering and starving so we left, but we are forever fans.

9. COLORADO IS A BEAUTIFUL, EXCITING, KIND PLACE.
We fell in love with Golden (where the Coors factory is) and wanted to cancel all the other places on our trip so we could spend days on end there in the mellow vibe, hiker friendly, beer drinking town. Alas, we couldn't, but Golden will always, always hold a special place in our hearts. If you're considering a trip let us tell you to GO. And if you live there, let us tell you thank you for being a kind-hearted, lovely people.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Linking up with Emily Freeman

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My dad's birthday is tomorrow.


My dad's birthday is tomorrow.

I wasn't going to write about it, just let it pass by as another day on the blog and mourn inside the building that has his name on it's side. I was going to stick to the schedule that blogging has -one that sticks to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I wasn't going to cry. I wasn't going to remember him in health. I wasn't going to let his day be marred by sadness.

But his birthday is tomorrow and my feelings are large, heavy, cumbersome, deeply sad.

I wasn't going to tell you about how he's alive, but so close to death. I wasn't going to say that it kills me the way he's not dead and yet he's so gone. I wasn't going to admit my faith is small and tired, but my hope is strong and sure. I wanted to paste a smile on my face while I wore a Reese's peanut butter cup shirt like his favorite one and be done with it. I wasn't going to let his day be anything but good.

But his birthday is tomorrow and I'm terribly heart-broken over that fact.

I wasn't going to share about this gray zone where you're celebrating his birth while hoping for his death. I wasn't going to say that I hope it's easier when he's in heaven. I wasn't going to say that I beg God to take Him from us because I've told myself it'll bring peace. I wasn't going to give a voice to the way I lie in bed at night and wonder if it'll be sad and hard always. I want to think death brings peace, but peace doesn't exclude the searing way it is to miss someone, does it?

His birthday is tomorrow.

And as he dies, I realize it's moments such as these that brings us to life. As he's disappeared from our lives over the last seven years, I cling to the photos I love, the cards with his square writing inside, the lessons buried deep in the safest spots of my soul. He dies and, in that, I learn how to be alive.

So tomorrow is his birthday, his sixty-third, and I mourn.

I mourn the bright, bold man he was. I mourn the dry, stern dad who raised me into the woman I am. I mourn the tattoos we share, the afternoon we spent together in a dark shop, the ice cream we ate while the needles colored in between the black lines. I mourn the ways I reflect him -our dimpled chins, our short legs, our thick hair. I mourn him because mourning means I am alive. Profoundly, wholly alive.

Tomorrow, eat the cake, have the whole milk in your latte, and remember to celebrate.

I wasn't going to tell you to do life bigger tomorrow because I don't want to without him here to party with us. I wasn't going to encourage everyone to celebrate because sometimes what we're remembering is so hard for us. But, do it, I dare you. Join us in our joy and our grief, in our memories and our moments.

Tomorrow is his birthday and it's destined to be happy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

collaboreads: liars, inc.

Holy, holy, holy. September is gone and here we are. Here we are once again with books we've read and big opinions to share. 

If you missed what #Collaboreads is, you can familiarize yourself hereShort 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 found an article that claimed to share some books with me that were like 
Gone Girl. You know those articles that say things like: If you loved  Gone Girl you must read these. I'm a sucker for those, because I was a sucker for  Gone Girl  and so I read and looked over the list and requested a few from my library. 

A week ago I got the text that Liars, Inc was in and waiting for me, so I did. I finished it in four days. Yes, four days of CANNOT PUT IT DOWN sort of reading. Although, this will review is much like the book, full of twists and shocking at the end. 

RIVETING. 
Honestly, every ounce of this book is riveting. Every time I sat down I read fifty plus pages, even on those nights when I was exhausted and truly just wanted sleep. The action was undeniably fascinating, the characters interesting, and the issues addressed by the book kept my attention throughout the novel.

The twists and turns in the plot continued to keep me turning the pages -although Stokes was different than  Gone Girl in that she turned some of the ways you expected only to veer completely off course in a few paragraphs.

ELEMENTS.
I didn't relate to the characters. I didn't relate to the plot -in specifics. But the book deals with the complicated and fascinating issue of adoption (in an undeniably eerie way) and that was something that kept me reading. It gave life to one (or more) of those worst case scenario thoughts you might have when thinking about adoption which I found myself engaged with more than I expected.

ASSOCIATE.

I could be obvious and say Gone Girl, but I'm not going to because that's a cop out. This book was complicated in the reminders it held for me. BUT, it did remind me of a few other storylines I've been exposed to in both print and television: 

  1. Hyacinth Girls: in the lying and chilling reality of the behind-the-scenes stories that happen in everyone's lives. 
  2. One Tree Hill: No spoilers here but, unexpectedly this held a connection for me. 
  3. We Were Liars: I mean, the titles are obvious. But also the interplay between teens and adults, the difficulty in relationship, and then some.
DESIGN.
The cover was lovely with it's balance between greyscale and neon, but it didn't particularly reflect the story to me. That's okay because I picked it up regardless... But I might have made it look more like a collection of pictures and videos upon a desk to reflect the story in a more direct way. 

STARS. 

Three.

I know, you expected more right? I enjoyed the flaws in each of the characters in the book. I was fascinated by the plot line and the way Stokes moved from Point A to Point J with little to no issue. BUT, I just didn't love it the way I thought I would. Maybe it's because it's Young Adult and I wanted more, maybe having teens as the main characters was hard for me because of their immaturity, maybe I need to move on from these thrillers. Regardless, three stars.

Next month we're meeting on
October 26th!
And we're reading
Thriller or Horror published BEFORE 2010.

And now, you. You speak and share:

Friday, September 25, 2015

the first ever Mr. Thomas & Me reader survery


After four years of blogging and all kinds of change, it seems time to ask our readers (both old and new) what brought them here and what keeps them around. No better way to ask your opinions than an anonymous (unless you choose to identify yourself) reader survey!

I won't take more time from you than that, other than to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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And for those of you who are struggling to get it work in post, you can launch a separate window with the following button:




Really, I'm serious about being thankful because without you, this blog is just me shouting into a corner of the web like mad. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

when brokenness is overwhelming


I'm really heartbroken over Aylan, the Syrian boy who drowned in the waters off of the Turkish coast. I know there's lots of conversation about the validity of the story and the reason his family was attempting to run from the torture in their homeland. But his death in the water and resulting body on the beach, the way he's a small reminder of a huge hurt in our world, broke my heart.

I can't stop wondering about the families of the cops who are dying in our country. I know there are bad people out there, some of them in uniform, but I also know losing a parent is a searing devastation. I think of their wives, husbands, kids, parents who are mourning the loss of their public servant. Their deaths in the land they want to protect leave me speechless and aching.

I get emails from a friend in Baltimore who is watching her city split in two. I know it's a choice by the people there who are hurting. They're all aching and so, they bring ache upon others beside them. Her heart breaks for the city that she loves, she wants to see restoration and yet, brokenness remains.

I tick off the days of September and see Popsicle's birthday looming. He will be 63. He should be celebrating with us, insisting on cake and opening presents. He should be demanding special treatment for all of his birthday month, but instead he is gone. He is gone from us in spirit, but his frail, sick body remains here, tearing our hearts into a million little pieces of brokenness.

The brokenness is overwhelming. It's terribly heart-breaking, giving us jagged edges and down-turned eyes. It's wearing on us -our hearts, our souls, our faith.We're waking in the dark of night and wondering where the relief comes in. We want to help, but the problems feel so big, so enormous and we seem so small.

Hope enters here. 

Hope enters here. It says, you are small, very small. But your DNA is small too, tiny really, microscopic. It is small and yet it defines you. It's the pieces that come together and stop us from bleeding. It fills the cells that heal us, growing over our wounds and leaving us scarred.

Be the DNA of healing for our brokenness -full of care and tenderness. Move there and do what needs to be done. Don't think too hard, but act out of the intrinsic information that fills you.

So be small, very small, microscopic even, but be small and definite.

Monday, September 21, 2015

letter link up: on compromise

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 make up the prompts for each of these letters and write them out a month beforehand. I have learned by now (nine months into this year) that each month I'm signing up to learn something new from you. I know whatever word I type out will become a word redefined over the course of the next thirty days and this month was no exception. 

I threw a fit on our trip to Denver. You wanted to hike and it wasn't that day yet. I dread hiking for a reason that remakes unnamed and unknown. As soon as we're a ways out I smile and laugh and talk through all the random things that come up when you're away from it all and lost in the hills. I dread hiking and so I say it is not time.

You ignored my fit, stopped in a bike shop and asked for the nearest trailhead's location. You drove me there, it was steep and high. You tied on your shoes, I mine, and off we went with water bottles in hand and phones in our pockets. 

I've always imagined compromise as two rams butting heads on steep rocks. I imagine them backing up and running into one another over and over again. One eventually gives up, full of head ache and exhaustion, while the other has their way. I've always imagined myself as the more stubborn of rams, butting and pushing until I win. 

But you win. You win often because you compromise in subdued ways. You're silently strong, waiting out my emotional storm, ready to pat me on the back when the job is well done. You allow me to wind up, knowing I will come down, and then you offer a high five. You don't meet me there with my angry stance and battering ways. Instead, you let me put on a show and you watch as I empty myself out. Then, when it's safe and I'm tired, you pick me up and push me on. 

You win and I learn -a win for me too. I meant that promise I made on the side of the mountain outside Boulder; that promise about learning to live a little bit more patient and compromising the way you do. Remind me of it often sweet, stern soul. 

Thankful always to give up my will for ours,
Amber
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Next month we're going to talk about:
The Safe Places
And we'll be writing, linking, loving on
Wednesday, October 21st.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And now, my friends, your words and thoughts and letters: 

Friday, September 18, 2015

how to avoid a frantic hustle



I've caught myself in a frantic, nearly running pace more times than I really wish to admit over the last few weeks. It usually starts with a cup of coffee and me looking over my To Do list. I see the few things there and decide to add a few more. Suddenly the list is ten items long and I have two hours before I'm expected to be somewhere. 

The sane choice would be to put some of those tasks off until tomorrow (certainly they don't all have to be ticked off today), but I do the crazy thing. I start running to and fro, attempting to accomplish everything, not really engaging or enjoying anything. In the midst of the chaos, I'll hear my breathing in its quick and tired bursts, sweat dripping down my brow, hair a mess upon the top of my head and realize I'm making myself frantic.

So, I've been trying to stop myself from that habit. From that habit that's going to die really hard and be difficult for me to purge completely. However, I've found some tricks that have helped me. 

1. LIMIT YOUR TO-DO LIST TO THREE IMPORTANT THINGS.
My mom calls these her MITs or Most Important Things. You're only allowed to have three. They are your non-negotiables for the day. These must be completed before you lay down to sleep at night OR maybe sleeping well is one of them. There's no requirement of importance to these. The only rule is keeping the list to three.

2. BE AWARE OF YOUR PACE.
This can be tricky because a lot of us have desk jobs where we sit most of the day. But hear me when I say this: your near running walk, your elevated heart rate, your full bladder that has to be ignored, your hungry belly that has to grumble because you're too busy are all signs of frantic pace. Now that I've mentioned it to you, you'll get stuck with this in your head. I promise because it happened to me. Slow down. Slow down with a deep breath and thirty seconds of eyes closed.

3. THINK ABOUT TIME BEFORE YOU GET STARTED. 
Yes, schedule things out -even roughly- in your head before you get to work. Sometimes they will go smoother than you expect, other times they'll be hot messes of not-finishing-anything, but often you'll be able to estimate the time required to accomplish your tasks. Laying out your tasks with the time that you've got to work helps you keep yourself on track, away from Facebook, and grants you productivity without the feeling of emergency rush.

4. REVIEW DUE DATES.
When I make my To Do list for the day I don't delineate by the time something is due. I don't take any part of the deadlines into consideration because I'm busy with an entire conglomeration of things I want to accomplish. So, I've started to take a step back to look at the entire calendar of the month as I'm prioritizing. Somehow having the month watching me as I watch my list reminds me that there's more time than just today.

5. MAKE TIME TO EAT AND DRINK AND PEE. 
This points back at tip number two, but when I'm worried about getting ALL THE THINGS done the first thing that drops off my list of To Dos is eating and drinking and bathroom breaks. This is dangerous because I quickly become thirsty and hangry and work suffers really quick. Don't set yourself up for failure like that. Just don't do it. Instead, lay out time to take care of yourself. Rumor has it, when you take care of yourself the other things come to fruition in a far more wonderful way. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

a look inside my book journal



It was a few months ago when I decided I wanted to keep a book journal. I'd seen a few book journals floating around the internet. There's the Moleskine Book Journal or the Reading Journal For Book Lovers and yet another The Book Lover's Journal. I read reviews and did my research about the layouts and contents within each of the books and found nothing that seemed entirely suited to what I want. So, I invented my own!



It seems really overwhelming. But let me break it down into the bits and pieces that were so important to me.

I wanted a book journal that promised me lots of flexibility and years of use, while presenting me with a way to organize the books I work through over that course of time. This means I needed:
  • Lots of pages
  • No specific letter organization (I hardly read books with Q or X titles)
  • A table of contents or the ability to make one
  • A page holder (like a ribbon)
This seemed easy enough, but I quickly realized book journals seemed to come with an inherent lettering system. Pages were labeled and tabbed so that navigation was easy and natural. However, I feel limited by the thought of eight pages allotted to each letter of the alphabet because I read all kinds of books that start with A, R, S, T and few with Q, U, X or Z.

So it seemed I needed to create a journal of my own. And between my love for the Moleskine Hardcover Notebook and my new business venture, this seemed written in the stars.


The blank pages allowed me to set up the journal however I wanted to which is lovely, but is also overwhelming. So, I did some research and checked Pinterest for book journal layouts. I found this one from Modern Mrs. Darcy so helpful and a great template for me to start designing my own Moleskine. Meld that template with bullet journaling's approach to tailoring your journal to yourself and we're here!

I started with a Table of Contents. Because I didn't want to allot a certain amount of pages to each letter or try to guess what letters work where, I decided to number all of my journal's pages and list each book by title in the alphabetical Table of Contents. This is not perfect because the books will not be in alphabetical order on each page, but I'm okay with that.

The trickiest part (so far) for me is remembering to put the book and page number in the Table of Contents each time you list a new one in the journal.


I wanted to be sure any future reader of my journal understood my approach to the book journal, so I listed my Notes & Rating rules in the front of the journal. I quickly realized there's a certain attitude that goes with each star that's assigned to a book and I want to be sure I'm on the same page as anyone who lays eyes on my bookish opinions.


I recommend writing down your rules. If you don't finish a book, what happens? How many pages do you owe a book before you put it down? Do you have a certain amount of time you allow yourself to read a book or no?

There were certain things that were important to include in my review. They are:
  • The title and author
  • The stars (as laid out by the Rules & Ratings page)
  • Date of publishing and number of pages
  • Date started - Date finished
  • How I found my book (via blog, Amazon recommendation, friend, library, etc) 
  • Favorite quotes with page number
  • My thoughts and reflections on the book
And so, this is how I laid it out: 




It seems really overwhelming. But the real task is writing down the things that are important to you, then laying them out in a way that's comfortable and easily managed by you. This might take some trial and error, but alas, it's not brain surgery.


So, hit me with the questions, with each and every one of the questions.

Want a book journal of your own (with your own personalized design)?

And, if you keep a book journal, tell me what's in it. What did I miss? What else should I add?

Monday, September 14, 2015

coffee date | 17




If we were on a coffee date, I'd hope it was cool enough for you and I to have something hot to drink. I'm not a fan of pumpkin spice lattes (never have been), but I do love warm lattes and the way they feel like fall in the hot trail down to your stomach. I'd probably add vanilla syrup or maybe caramel to mine because we're friends together for the morning which is grounds for celebration.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask you about your feelings about autumn. This is a highly controversial season, or so it seems, and I wonder where you lie in the conversation. I love calling it autumn instead of fall. And I want to dance under the changing color of the leaves. I adore cooler weather and wearing scarves and boots. But I also adore the sunshine and pool time of summer. Autumn always marks the end of the lack of routine in my summer days and, well, bittersweet.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you the spender-saver complex is a real thing. I used to be a spender. After four years of marriage and a house purchase, I've become a saver who can't remember what it's like to spend without guilt. I guess, I say this all not to be scary or to complain, but to admit that it's hard to find the balance in the middle of the black and white spectrum. Conservative, liberal. Creative, logical. Try-hard, graceful. The middle is a tricky place.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd mentioned Moroccan oil. I'm sure you've heard of it and maybe put some of it on the tips of your hair before heat treatment. But what I didn't know until (fairly) recently was their entire line of wonderful smelling hair products. My recent favorites are their Gold Glimmer Shine, Luminous Hairspray, and Thermal Protect Spray. All smell lovely, all add some body and wonder to my hair, and all come in the beautiful turquoise and orange packaging Moroccan oil is known for.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask if you get my love letters every Thursday. I pour myself into those, sort of like a coffee date every week, and it ends up spilled all over your inbox. The last three weeks' letters have really rocked my soul and I invite you to let me into your Thursday morning routine. So, here's the chance if you haven't. I promise not to bother you, and if I do, unsubscribe and I won't be sad.


If we were on a coffee date, I'd encourage you to write out your dreams. Maybe they should go in your bullet journal or on your blog or hung on the wall in your office. It doesn't matter where they go or what they say, but write them out and look at them. I promise it'll inspire you and draw you onward. That's wonderful, so wonderful.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd thank you for being here in this time and space with me. Friends come and go. They're here for now, but not always for later, and I'm trying to be intentional here with you in this right now moment. You're dear and special and an encouragement in my life. And, though we might not always be in one another's lives, you're here now and that matters.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, Mr. Thomas and Me will receive a small compensation from your purchase. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

what i read in august

Now that all the celebrating that marks the opening ten days of September is over, we can return to regularly scheduled programming. Programming that talks about my favorite things and seems to attract the greatest buzz. Programming like BOOKS. Oh, and like the coffee date that's coming next week. And then, the week after that, we'll write letters to those we love because who doesn't want a love letter? But for now, books.

I really enjoyed this book when I listened to it. So far it's my favorite of all the audiobooks that I've purchased. I couldn't put it down, couldn't stop listening, and, in fact, carried my phone around in my pocket so I could listen to it over speaker.

I don't know that I'd have read this. Actually, I wouldn't have made it through the first 100 pages if I'd read it. There's lots of thick scientific conversation that I'd have got hung up on and just given up. But, BUT the narrator of The Martian audiobook was fantastic AND the main character, Mark Watney, was hilarious in the driest, more sarcastic of ways. The plot was good, fascinating, but really tied in with a lot of space race conversation that is happening worldwide.

But, the thing about this book that's the MOST interesting is that it was rejected by a whole bunch of publishers. So, Weir decided that he loved his novel and believed people would too so he published it chapter by chapter online. And people did love it. In fact, they loved it so much it caught the attention of a publisher who went on to purchase and publish the novel. (Thanks Lindsay for sharing this with me!) The confidence alone require in all that makes me love Andy Weir.

I know there's a movie coming out. I saw the trailer for it and I was sad to see Mark has a family and the being away from home dynamic is going to be added because, while he missed earth in the book, Mark was single and just really lovable. I think adding a family dynamic is more suitable for Hollywood, but isn't particularly something I'm a fan of.

I finished the book AND THEN THERE WAS THIS IN THE NEWS.



Well, fancy that. Two hugely positive ratings in one month. Who knew that was going to happen? Not I. But let's talk about how much I thoroughly and deeply loved Dear Mr. Knightley .

This is the first novel I've read by Katherine Reay (though I have Lizzy and Jane out from the library and next in my pile To Read) and I was not disappointed in any part of her work. She's a wonderful writer with a gentle, beautiful, approachable way to words. She points at and references the classics of Jane Austen and others with such ease that I want to try and read them again. She brings the characters from their places in olden day tales into the modern sphere, applying them to daily life in a way that removes all the intimidation of Classic Literature.

But more than that, Reay dances around and through some really challenging topics: family, adoption, and entering adulthood. She handles all the pieces with grace, giving each of them the attention and detail they deserve without boring you half to death. You're cheering Sam, the main character, on, while wishing you could help her in more practical, deep ways. You want to see her succeed, but often find yourself worrying about Sam being her own biggest stumbling block.

It's a must read, really. But it's especially relevant for those of us trying to find our way in the land -oh wait, that's all of us isn't it?
I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own. 

I've got a fascination with the psychological thriller type of books. I see the words troubled or dark or misunderstood and I just need to read it. So, when I logged into the Blogging for Books request page and saw Hyacinth Girls I was beside myself. It was fate. And, for the first half of the book, I was thrilled with what fate had declared for me. Frankel's writing was addictive, the characters rich and deeply troubled, the story line fascinating to no end. But then, the middle of the novel came and I found myself not as interested. Maybe it was the switch in perspective, but I lost my deep hunger to know what happened in the character's pasts and what stood in their future. 

Regardless of my feelings about the plot, Frankel captures the way childhood forms adulthood while illustrating the effects a parent's decision has on their child -accidental or not. The consequences of action -or lack thereof- reverberate outwards until the very end of the novel (and perhaps beyond). Small bits and pieces that felt lacking or rushed in the plot were certainly not where my focus centered at the close of the novel. Instead I've spent days thinking about the power or our words, the damage done by labels, and the way I can perpetuate kindness (rather than injury) in my future. 

There was an eerie feeling about the way we don't know everything about anyone but ourselves. Frankel illustrates how vulnerability and honesty is important and valuable, but is carefully balanced between any two people. And then I wondered the way I portray things to be no-big-deal that are, or vice versa and then WHOA. 
I read this one for #Collaboreads and wrote all the details about it here. But, of course, wanted to remind you of its goodness.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, Mr. Thomas and Me will receive a small compensation from your purchase. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

honored to be yours today and always.


Four years ago a pastor dunked you under the water of my mom's pool. He declared you renewed. He then asked you to help in baptizing me, your future wife. It was four years ago today we stood in that pool and I fought tears and our families watched and photographed while we began twenty-four hours of declaring all kinds of crazy, beautiful love.

We promised ourselves to Him. Then we ate greasy bread sticks, sipped on cool beers, and you even let me cry a little, sentimental cry under the beautiful lights strung outside my parents' house. We were to be married in twenty-four hours.

That day, September 10, 2011, went by in a blur of laughing and crying and joy and love. It was madness from the morning run I shared with my mom, to your puke on Bub's shoes outside El Torito, to stumbling over vows that I wrote for you. It was joy from the moment I hopped out of the shower to get my hair done to pinning my grandma's buttons on my bouquet to my mama's wedding pearls around my neck to the moment my parents and I walked off the step of their front stoop. It was laughing and crying, joy and love.

I remember little from our wedding night -patchy bits of memory pieced together by the pictures. But I do remember this: we spent as much of the night as we could on the dance floor. It seems appropriate, an homage to that night in that bar when you danced by and I happened (by luck) to catch your baby blue eyes. I felt like our wedding night was disappearing into thin air, and it was, but that's life.

Now, four years later, I see we never stepped off that dance floor. We, in fact, turned our lives into a constant give-and-take, follow then lead, fast song then slow. We've orchestrated beautiful music and established a grand, polished oak floor that has room for many. The friends come and go, dancing a few songs here and there. The family a staple out there, always in the periphery with blurry smiles and bright eyes. And then there's you, my dance partner for always, the leader when I'm not able, the most proficient of twirlers and dippers in the land.

No one could put up with my bumbling feet like you. And for that, I'm always thankful and willing to spin a few more times. May we dance from here into tomorrow, teaching future generations about the joy of a tune and the importance of a jolly jive.
Thomas, 
Happy anniversary of Amber and Jason Thomas Day. 
May we dance hands grasping, hearts bursting, and eyes locked until forever comes. 
Honored to be yours today and always,
Amber

Monday, September 7, 2015

raise your glass to hard work and sass.

I think labor gets a hard time as of late. I think it's really good to be really invested in a passion you love -your hustle, let's call it-, but your day job that isn't glamorous and might be located in a dusty trailer on a dirt lot is the dirty little secret you love to keep. There's those ladies online with the perfect, fun, creative lives that make your heart swoon with appreciation while it squeezes tight with deep emerald envy.

Why can't we travel the world on a dime like those travel bloggers? How do we get to making and selling pretty things like it's our job -only only job? When does the fun part of online business come into play?

It's beautiful that we're allowed to see into the lives of the online businesses that come before us. But, we're not there yet. We're here balancing our Office Manager job titles and our evening cocktails of Martha Stewart acrylic paint. We're trying to make time for our lives and our passions between our sleeping and working hours. It's not glamorous. It's not always fun. It requires great amounts of determination and sass.

So, look at those inspirational women who've made it. Watch them as they pave the way for us. Then, do your work.

Do your work at that place where you're professional. Then come home and do you work full of passion.

But let's leave work until tomorrow because today we celebrate. 
Today we raise a glass because you're made up of hard work and sass.

Friday, September 4, 2015

speak up: some advice on doing work

Another month, another lovely opportunity to get in front of the camera. And this month we're talking about work. More specifically, I'm talking about putting in the hard work. Marriage, day job, writing, painting, working out. All the working, that makes up our days and nights and all the time in between. Let's get started:

Of course, I'm going to recommend you get over to Annie's blog and see the grand things she has in store for you. Girl's a fount of wisdom.

As I mentioned in the video, I collaborated with Skye Light Creations last week and she blew me away with the amazing pictures she snapped. Check our work together out here (and if you're in CA, get in touch with her).

Next month (how are we already talking about October?) 
we'll be talking about FEAR. 
See you on Friday, October 2nd! 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

you're on fire

This is an impromptu letter to the boy born tomorrow. The boy who grew into a man and stole my heart between the ocean and the bay. This is an impromptu letter to the man whom my soul loves.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Jason,

You're a whole lot of hotness. I know, you think I'm flirting with you the way I do in the mornings while you wake and I get ready for work. But, I mean this in a way that's bigger than that.

I mean the way that you are a constant source of inspiration. You won't hold the title of inspiration comfortably. In fact, I'll turn around and you'll probably be trying to pass it around to any and everyone else in the room. But that humility and willingness to serve behind the scenes is what sets you ablaze.

You want to carry the heavy things, point out the brightest spots, cut apart the wood that's too stubborn for me. You are quick to sweep up the mess that's sticking to the bottom of our feet, jump up from your spot on the couch to hold a couple wet paintbrushes because I've forgotten I only have two hands. You look at the canvases hanging in our office and tell me they're beautiful, but try this or that color instead. You read the words I'm hung up on and tell me I can figure it out.

You used to try and give me answers. Now you just lend me some heat.

You aren't passionate in the way that I am. You aren't hot and cold, dying to defy all the odds, but instead stay warm and constant. You're an old home built to keep the heat in, standing in a quiet confidence while new construction happens.

You house a fire that's silent and strong. It feels minor to you, but you are ablaze. It's a fire easily unnoticed because it's always there and burning the same way. Your heat is constant, keeping everyone warm and together, huddled in thankfulness for you.

I'm the most thankful because this is a place I get to gather every morning and night.

Happy birthday Thomas.
I'm thankful you were born to be my lifelong flame,
Amber

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