Friday, October 30, 2015

what i learned in october


I really love the month of October. But more than October, I love November and so I'm thrilled to have the first coming in just two days. Right now though, let me tell you about the awesomeness that was October.

1. FAMILY IS GOD'S GREATEST INVENTION. 
This is broken record learning, but after a thirteenth birthday party of paint-balling, hibachi grill dinner, and night of playing Pie in the Face, I couldn't ignore the pure joy that just streams out of my little ears. By blood and marriage, the hearts that surround me (and share names with me) are the bee's knees.


2. DOING IT ALL WITH YOUR ALL ISN'T IMPORTANT. 
I'm not condoning slackerism, but I am sprinkling some grace all over you. Some days I just don't want to do it all, just can't imagine doing it all, but feel like I have to. After coming home from my girl's weekend in San Francisco I was tired and fighting a brutal cold. Making dinner one night sounded like the worst thing ever so I made nachos. Simple, cheesy, carby nachos that were celebrated by Jason as the best dinner I've ever made. Turns out I need to lower my own expectations of myself.

3. 99% OF THE TIME THINKING IS WORST THAN DOING.
My dad always said this to me when I was in high school and dreading homework or sports practice or breaking up with a boyfriend. He'd smirk and say, It's the worst because you're thinking, instead just do it. And so I would and it wouldn't be as bad as I was catastrophizing. This is still the truth, but I just forgot for a while.

4. BRAVE IS A CHOICE, NOT A GIVE-IN. 
I've always thought adventurous, brave people had a special kind of DNA. I thought you were born brave or not. And I was born not. But then life dared me to climb a scary, uphill sort of mountain and I've survived. And now I realize, I made the choice to be brave: to grow, to keep on, to live boldly. This looks different every day and for October it looked like renting bikes and riding many miles to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. It was just as glorious as one would imagine.


5. EVEN I CAN LOOK HAPPY WHILE I RUN. 
I can't count the number of races I've run on my hands. But I can tell you how many happy running pictures I've seen of myself: 0. Until the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco because HI HAPPY RUNNING AMBER. And, to compound the greatness of this happy running girl, this is in the last half mile.


6. I LOVE TO WRITE AND TO PAINT. SO, I WILL DO BOTH. 
I wrote the book and then I got scared and I packed it away. I've mentioned this before, of course. But the hang-up is, that book sits and haunts me from the drawer where it hides. I know the purpose and reasons behind the book, but I'm ignoring them and they're chasing me. I opened the shop as a passion project, but also to ignore the book. Then I was presented with the opportunity to write as part of an anthology AND to create the cover. Here it is friends:

The book is on Kindle pre-sale RIGHT HERE
And then I realized: my two creative efforts can and will come together for a grand picture of goodness. So, the book is coming back out and meeting my paints. Let's do this all over again friends. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Linking up with Emily P. Freeman.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

the importance of the ache

| via |


I was looking over shop statistics the other day and felt a burn in my chest. I had just finished scrolling through Instagram for inspiration, was in the middle of getting into the mind-set to create, and then as I set about the digital space of my shop felt a small burn that quickly became a big ache. I was jealous and sad and disheartened and ready to give up.

It felt a lot like wanting to have a baby. That fever that comes over your whole being when you smell the sweet, freshness of a new babe's skin sort of sensation. I looked at the globes and prints taped up around my studio and ached for more. I ached for the end-game. I ached to be there and not here where I've still got so far to travel. I ached to call myself accomplished, instead of trying.

We're an instant gratification generation. I've heard it said a million times. We want to try a little bit, exert ourselves over a sprint and be there, but work isn't like that. I've seen that in my peers -a few months of trying and then annoyance over a lack of recognition. It makes me want to grab their shoulders with my nubby little hands and tell them: life isn't immediate in its disaster or its reward.

So, we sit in our current and stare at our future with the ache. We're annoyed by the ache, but the ache is important. It's a scabby, sticky glob of passion that's weighing on us, that's tiring and terrifying and yet, it's vital. It's the future contained inside of us.

The ache is important. It's the womb waiting for a babe, it's the dreams written down and taped up on the wall, it's the notebooks of handwriting waiting for a publish date, it's the paint wet and sloppy on the white face of a canvas. The ache is the moment we must note as it says we are here and ready, alive and willing, full up and prepared to pour out.

Acknowledge the ache, let it hurt, then respond by the only means necessary: put in the hard work from now until the ache is gone. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

#Collaboreads: And Then There Were None

Boo! #Collaboreads has snuck back up on us once again! And this month we're tackling thrillers and horror (or mysteries) that were published before 2010. I mean, there's some serious random criteria for you! 


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!

This month I decided to throw it way back and grab a classic mystery from the queen of mystery herself: Agatha Christie. 





RIVETING. 
This book was tricky for me because I'd heard so much about it. It was originally published in 1939 and has run it's course through a half dozen different titles due to changing norms of political correctness and language. The history of the book might be what was, in fact, the most fascinating part to me, especially as I look at the way we as a nation and culture are redefining the appropriateness and usage of particular words. 


ELEMENTS.
It's important to mention that the beginning of this book is confusing. There are ten characters, all who are introduced to you right off the bat, and it can be nearly impossible to tell them all apart in as they're being rattled off in the first chapter. But, they come into focus and develop into distinct people as the plot of the novel gets started. Don't be discouraged, please don't be discouraged.

I found myself relating, most heavily, to the attitude in the house as members are slowly murdered (I mean, this isn't a spoiler by this point, right?). There's a swing of emotions from shocked to angry to concerned to paranoid and, well, I think the swing is similar to the way I felt upon my dad's diagnosis. There's a sort of unknown hunter in life (our cause of death) and so it is the same in the novel. I guess this is a beautiful example of a microcosm, but it just didn't go complete Lord of the Flies for me. 

ASSOCIATE.
All I could think the entire time was how much the movie reminded me of Rat Race. Total throwback to my childhood movie selections. But the premise was so familiar. Of course, And Then There Were None doesn't end in quite the same way Rat Race does, but the similarities are not lost on me.

I also felt parts of the novel were so reminiscient of Twelve Angry Men. The arguing and logic and clashing of each person's particular past all while in the pressure cooker of a particular setting (in one a jury room, in the other on an island) were obvious connections.

DESIGN.
The cover didn't do a whole lot for me, but it's Agatha Christie the queen of mystery! I wanted to love it, really I did, but just couldn't, didn't, won't.

STARS. 
Two.
The book was good, but not great. It was interesting, but not as nuanced as I was excitedly expecting. There was a little quippy rhyme in the beginning that ended up foreshadowing in the most obvious way the entire plot line and, well, I enjoy some surprise.

And now, you talk about all the words you read: 

Next month we're meeting on
November 30th!
And we're reading
Non-fiction.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Four Things I Learned in Four Months of Etsy Shop Ownership




On June 21st, I opened my Etsy shop. On Father's Day of 2015, I jumped into a world that I couldn't even have guessed would grow me and shock me and bring me to a newer, more beautiful place in my life. I didn't know I could be so brave or bold in making art and selling it. I hadn't a clue this could be such a rich part of my life. But, alas, it all is, and I'm thrilled. The last four months have taught me four huge lessons.

1. I AM WORTH IT. 
Pricing is so hard. Pricing is the hardest thing about shop ownership for me. I know what I want to be worth, but don't know how to reconcile it with being affordable. I know I want to make a profit, but don't think about Amber Thomas Makes as a big money maker. So, I'm working really hard to strike a balance. I'm trying to find a place where my earnings add some extra cash to our bank account while my passion for making is flourishing.

2. GRACE IS IMPORTANT. SO VERY IMPORTANT. 
Everyone is human -every business man, every sales employee, every customer service representative. This is hard to remember when we've been disappointed by a product or service. I believe in honest interactions and truthful reviews, but these don't have to be done with viciousness.

I've been the frustrated friend, buyer, user more times than I can count. But, after being on the receiving end of a harsh interaction, I have caught myself taking a breath and seeking grace before I'm rude and hurtful. This isn't easy, but it's important.

3. LANGUAGE IS TRICKY AND FLUID.
I'm a big believer in say what you mean and mean what you say, but sometimes you don't even realize that other people don't hear what you wrote. I've had two orders that have gone by the wayside and it's all because the specifics weren't clear enough. Literally, I assumed that customers just know what I mean in my listings but they don't! If nothing else, the shop has taught me to be clear and communicative.

This lesson has bred a realization about assumptions we make -in buying, making, and living- daily that affect our experiences and, thankfully, brought me to ask questions when something isn't crystal clear. This is humbling, so very humbling. 

4. ART IS REDEMPTION. 
This sounds really big and bad, but the point is: I started blogging because I wanted to tell stories and, in turn, hear them. I write because I enjoy the way meanings are part of a net that surrounds us -I subscribe to the believe that no man is an island. And so, when I launched the shop I worried about what would happen to the blog and my purpose here. Honestly, the stories and heart that have poured into my Etsy inbox are so deeply heartbreaking, beautifully raw and, just what I needed.

I've made pieces to commemorate deaths, to celebrate beloved pets, to foster greater faith, to share in 60 years of marriage and to bring out the big picture purpose in one's life. I've been allowed to come in and do such things, been afforded a grand opportunity to hold dear another person's memories. And I've just come to understand that art can be the phoenix we so desperately wish to watch rise from the ashes.

And so, I've taken you practical and emotional here. I've gone deeper than I imagined and just about blown my own mind trying to put these four months into words. But you've made it and you've learned the four things I've learned. But better, more fun for you, is the four month anniversary code I have to offer you!

Use the code "FOURSCORE" for 10% off 
of your order that is $15 or more! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

on safe places: a marriage letter

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. While I am spending my letters documenting moments within our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us without them, but you are allowed to write your letter to anyone, on anything with the prompt being simply a starting point.

This letter is one in a series of letters I write to remember mundane moments of my marriage that would otherwise slip away. I write with a dedication to hold tight to him and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment. The chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds is a much loved and added bonus. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -








Dear Jason, 

A book I am reading talks about the way cities have words. Each city gets a word -noun, adjective or verb- to hold and have and live out. The book went on to share words for different cities in Italy. Words like sex and power and succeed and achieve. These words give a sense of the places they describe. And then, the main character had to decide on a word for herself. 

I wondered, what word would speak to my place. I wondered how I am seen, felt, and perceived. Then I thought of you and your word:

Shelter. 

We, as humans, have three basic needs: food, water and shelter. We need sustenance and we need safety. I cook and fuss providing for our hungers and thirsts. But you, much grander, you are my safety in this adventurous (and at times unpredictable) life. 

You are the patient fort, standing firm and uncomplaining, while I am the hawk out hunting for inspiration to bring back home as the sun sets. Out I go, flying and determined, while you continue to create a safe, welcoming place in which I can settle my tired soul. 

Every morning you dare me to go forth and find; every night you inquire about the day's treasures. This process gives me life. And so, I promise I'll be the cook, if you'll be my shelter. 

Always inspired in your graces, 
Amber
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Date for November's letter: 
Monday, November 23rd

The topic: 
The Power of Missing
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And your turn: 

Friday, October 16, 2015

When Your Prayers say Please.



I remember hearing beautiful prayers in church and wondering how holy one needed to be to pray with such flourish. Peppered with Lord Father and salted with a small chorus of whispered affirmations and so emotional, the prayers stunned me.

My appreciation for those people with their gorgeous prayers quickly became an intimidation in my own prayer life. I spoke simple, plain sentences to God -who had no fixings like Father or Lord or Almighty sprinkled atop His name. It felt like offering The Cat in the Hat to a literature professor in the wake of their radiant review of Dante's Diving Comedy in it's original language of Italian.

And so, I gave up. I gave up on a thriving prayer life, on being a prayer warrior, on bowing my head when it came time to close out service. I just couldn't. And so I didn't. And I haven't. I haven't for decades.

Until the other night, I laid in bed and hoped so deeply for His answer that I prayed. Very short prayers that dance on the edges of waking and sleeping and say "please, please, please" over and over again. 

"Please, please, please" my prayer said. "Please, please, please." 

Unspecific and simple. Boring and mundane. Comfortable like cotton. That was it, all I had to offer, all I could muster at 2:00 in the morning. The darkness lay over me like a thick vintage quilt, giving me an unjustified sense of secrecy. "Please, please, please." 

For what, specifically, I do not know. For what, I have a million answers. But He didn't ask me what came before the staccato of my pleas. Instead, He sat and He rubbed the crescent of my back. Not literally, I don't sense Him in such physical, wonderful ways. He rubbed down my back with cool night air and He lulled me to an unconscious place. I woke in the morning refreshed, but my spirit continued those simple prayers. 

"Please, please, please."

The three words, open and endless, have allowed Him to provide in His most-knowing, most-assuring of ways. Please has delivered me kind, honest emails. Please has brought me a quiet sort of inner peace. Please has afforded me a comfort in my body. Please has kept a strong husband's arm along the top of the couch behind me. 

And so, I continue to say "please". I say it desperately, kindly, humbly. I say it hopeful, faithful, sure. I say it knowing one day I will follow it with "thank you". 

But for now, please.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

coffee date | 18

If we were on a coffee date, I'd order a caramel cold brew from Starbucks. Still, I'd order a drink on ice in the fall because California has revolted from all weather-related rules and we're running the air conditioning all night to stave off the ninety degree heat that remains after the sun has gone. I'd suggest bringing our dogs and walking them as we talk because why not?

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you I painted myself a new journal. I've struggled to get back into bible study since taking my month off of it in September. I have sort of withdrawn from putting down words and so, nothing like a new, painted piece to encourage me to settle down and write. (Maybe some morning pages will be born in there.)

If we were on a coffee date, I'd admit I'm still broken up over The Civil Wars' split. I know how long ago was that? But I am. I've tried to cleanse my wounds with the likes of Iron & Wine, Mumford & Sons, and so many more but there is no fix. So, I just keep listening to their Tiny Desk Concert and Field Recording in hopes the loss will get easier. (Let's be honest, it won't.) 

If we were on a coffee date, I've been celebrating the Dying with Dignity Act signed into office in California. I have lots of feelings about it (and everything else), but I'm unimaginably grateful other families won't have to lose their loved ones in the way we have for the last six years. I am proud to know people in our state will have a chance to say loving and missing and losing words in peaceful, planned moments. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ugly cry. I wouldn't really be able to tell you why, because I don't really know why, but I'd cry in shoulder-shaking ways. I'd blame in on PMS because that stops all questions and comments and warrants great sympathy, but really, WHY AM I CRYING LIKE A HOT MESS IN STARBUCKS? And why did I cry like a hot mess on Sunday in church? Seasons of tears happen, I would say.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd recommend a NuMe curling wand. I've recently fallen back in love with it, learning how to wave my hair in the most effortlessly ordered way, appreciating the soft curls in the bathroom mirror. I'd tell you to Google it before you buy because some blog is always running a promotion. I got mine for $50 flat. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd say #morethanaframe is making a return and beg you to join. Cassie and I have been missing the community, we've been emailing back and forth and, it is time. So, watch Instagram for reminders of the weekly prompts and get started with us on Sunday, then join, please join. And if you've never heard of #morethanaframe, find the important bits of information here.


If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask you where your life needs slowness. I think we've been taught to live fast or slow all the way. There's no lukewarm, no in between, no half way. And that's the greatest disservice we can do to ourselves -requiring fast or slow, all or none. So, where needs to slow so other parts can rush ahead? What can take a backseat to other, more dominant pieces? 

Monday, October 12, 2015

When You're the Good Part of the Internet


Sometimes the online world scares me. I've cruised around enough Huffington Post articles and Buzzfeed lists and forums to know that bad things can happen behind the glowing screen of a computer. I understand how strangers' words and unkind thoughts can sting and settle into your soul leaving a deep aching hurt. Bad things do happen.

But I get itchy in my skin when I hear someone talk about the evil of the internet. I want to share all the "but this" and "but that" stories I've got tucked in the Love-for-the-Internet-People file of my soul. I want to tell them the internet hasn't made people bad; it's just one place bad people do their thing. It's like the one table at lunch time in elementary school or the girl's bathroom in high school or the water cooler in the office kitchen. Bad people will find a place to do bad.

It seems important to say: there's bad in everything. That's part of the brokenness. It's the brokenness that brings bad things down on good people. It's the brokenness that seems to overwhelm us in the middle of the night. It's the brokenness that is longing for healing and kindness, but vigilantly watching for the bad things.

I have seen the bad, but lately, I've been unabashedly overwhelmed by the good. I've written vulnerable, deeply sacred things here in this space with the hopes of community and I've got so much more. I've been encouraged here. And I've had the glorious opportunity to be an encourager -something I don't believe comes naturally for me. So, I've grown.

It's a balance, the good and the bad. A balance that's delicate and troublesome and can quickly feel impossible. It's a balance that seems to suck us under a tidal wave of bigger, badder forces. But you're choosing the good and that's kind of you. So kind of you, in fact, I wrote this whole post to say just one thing:

Thank you for being the good.

You have a choice to be bad, see bad, participate in bad. And yet, you don't. For that, I say thank you, thank you for being the good in the internet because it's days like September 30th where your words are a balm to my achy soul. You have rallied around my family, praying, emailing, just reminding us how thought of we are and, while I haven't said it much, thank you for pouring into our weary souls.

And so, it's our choice to be the kind, the good, to spread smiles from the edges of our keyboards.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Stuff and Things and Stuff and Things



Life is kind of a blessed chaos lately. With birthdays and trips and emotions and life as it is, things just feel like a whole lot. And I've been struggling to slow my roll and breathe a bit. I caught myself in a frantic hustle (again) and instead of allowing that crazy cycle to rule, I've dedicated myself to slowing and savoring.

In wake of intentional slowness and savoring has come an awareness of my poor habits of consumption.

I thought eating was the only place I needed to worry about nutrition, but that's a lie. Truth be told there's a more important consumption: what's fueling your soul. From your soul comes your art, your words, your creative self. From your soul comes your love and your life, and the moral is: feed yourself well.

(Actually, I wrote about this for The Hummingbird Life, but lessons always have to be learned a half dozen times because I'm slow to remember.)

So today is a glimpse into the things that are nutritious in my soul:
And I'm reading, like always, but this month I'm reading about spiritual journeys -both fictional and not- because I need to hear those tales right now. So, my Currently Reading pile has these stacked in it: 
Laughter, too. Laughter is important, allowing yourself a deep belly laugh and a soulful smile can rock your day. So laugh dear friends. Laugh at the silly things you can find online like
  • These sweet football Pee Wees who have their priorities straight. (via YouTube)
  • And, if you have not already seen the wonder that is Whine About It on Facebook, this will serve as your introduction and as a finale in this post for your weekend: 

Ep. 23: The Worst Things Abot Fall
Posted by Matt Bellassai on Wednesday, October 7, 2015
What's your inspiration? What's all the nutritious kinds of inspiration for your soul?  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

When Your Faith is Small, but Your Hope is Large.



A dear friend wrote about me last month. She said I have a frail faith, but a tenacious hope.

I read that and sat with tears in my eyes and a swollen heart. She said what I've spent years wrestling through and hiding carefully. Because I've spent nearly fifteen years worrying about my lack of faith, worrying about the way it destines me to hell, worrying that one small stone will land me flat on my spiritual face. I've worried about family members and friends who seem sick of His work, wondering if they will drop kick faith into another time and place.

Faith is easy to do when life is good. I know because I did it. I was happy to read my bible, thrilled to be #blessed, and constantly talking about how great is our God. It's easy to say faith with a smile on your face. But faith doesn't usually slip joyfully between sobs, it doesn't look beautiful when it's tear-soaked and bloated by loss.

And so, when dementia came, faith was placed in a waterproof Ziploc on a top shelf and kept safe. It was placed so high I can barely see it when I'm standing on my tippy toes. I don't want faith to be ruined for those looking on. So I bring it out like fine china, share it on those special occasions that happen once a month here on this blog. I mean what I say in those posts, just like I pour my heart into the turkey and stuffing served on our formal dinnerwares.

But it's not the whole story. It's the highlight reel of my Christian life. 

I don't know what I think about God's plan in the mess that's life. My heart shatters over the heaviness of our world, the way loss happens in such enormous ways, the general mess that we -in our free choice- have made. I want to know why He doesn't clean it up a little bit, why my pleas for peace aren't heard, how all the bad things can one day be good.

I am angry, deeply angry, that He hasn't freed my father from his disease. I don't understand the suffering we've all witnessed over the last six years, the brokenness that we're feeling, the sickness is so damn ugly. I want God to be in those places with His hand extended and gentle, but I feel squished, nearly crushed in the filtered air that fills the facility. I lay down at night exhausted from the load we bear and wonder who got the light yoke because mine is a soul-crushing burden.

I don't feel a deep, unwavering faith. Childlike, sure faith does not belong to me. And so, I read her words and sigh in relief. The gig is up.

My faith is tiny. It's so small sometimes I can't see it. It's shaky and scary and sometimes it's crumbling from beneath me. It's cracked and crusted over and all the times I've tried to paste it back together I've failed. I keep trying to hide it in my pocket because it's so small, but then it gets covered in lint and I struggle to clean it up again. My faith is a messy, tiny scrap.

But my Hope. Oh Lord, my Hope. 

It's big. It's from the east to the west. It's larger than the stars in the sky. It's a Hope that knows the number of hairs on my head and cherishes them. It's a Hope that sees the scars on my heart and says "be healed" before I know I'm broken. It's a Hope I can hardly understand because it pursues me harder than any Nicholas Sparks' romance could fathom. It's a Hope that rocks my world with the way it is always falling down over my dry soul like rain on California soil.

My Hope is strong and brave and sometimes so enormous I cry. My Hope is what tears me from bed before the sun rises and reminds me to do this day justice. My Hope is big like the sunset -pink, orange, and colored like sherbet. My Hope says, "live boldly, honestly, abundantly because you are all of those things and more." My Hope calls me Beloved and Precious and Dear in the kindest, gentlest of ways. My Hope knows about my faith, yet it draws me in close and tight, smells my skin, kisses my cheeks and bundles me up cozy in the crook of its arm.

And so, I hope with deep and utter confidence that Hope will grow the mustard seed that's my faith.

Monday, October 5, 2015

what i read: september








I didn't even realize that I'd read five books this month. I had not a clue that I had the ability to consume so many words and plot points and characters over the course of 30 days. But alas, I did and I partly thank the wonderful vacation we went on for the extra time to read -though not as reading-ful as I thought it would be before we left. Without further chatter, let's get to the reviews: 




There are not enough ways to praise the goodness that filled the wonderful pages of Lizzy and Jane. After reading Dear Mr. Knightley by Reay and loving it, I had high expectations for Lizzy and Jane. Expectations that might not have been entirely fair. But, I was not disappointed, but actually impressed because Lizzy and Jane blew Dear Mr. Knightley out of the water.

Part of my impression might have been the way the themes contained within the book danced so sweetly in the arms of many current circumstances in my life. It came so close to home, in the way a coffee date with an old familiar friend does, and left me in a puddle on the floor when it was done. The characters were rich and raw, the plot heavy and delightful, the writing pure.

And now, after writing this all out, I want to read Jane Austen's classics (or take another stab at them) so I can appreciate these books even further. Also, I have The Bronte Plot on pre-order because Reay's writing is pure bits of awesome!

Let me start this review with a WHOA.

I loved and hated this book. I loved the dark, macabre plot and the mystery of the characters. McCreight creates rich personas throughout her novel, drawing you in to the chaos after the storm has hit. You can't stop, seriously, because you need to know more. However, it goes on too long for me. There's a point where the drama is now mundane, the pain is now typical, and the struggle is overdone.

This is a literary technique, I realize that and I understand why it's helpful to McCreight's tale here. But, nonetheless, I was aching for the end and some answers to the litany of questions that came to the surface throughout the course of the novel. It's a book that's fascinating, challenging, and requires you to think about the way there's so much more going on behind the scenes of our lives.

So, yes it's good and twisty and interesting, but no I wouldn't pick it up again.

I have always adored dear Jenny, the author of this book, and I followed along for the months leading up to her publishing date. It felt like a friend traveling along the nine months of pregnancy and finally getting to visit with the sweet babe that we'd all awaited for so long when this sweet novel arrived in the mail. And, finally,t his month I took Jenny and her cast of characters on vacation with me. 
The characters in These are The Moments are your next door neighbors, your high school friends, the people who have been in the background of your life for decades. I found myself smiling at the book, thankful for the way I knew these people and was, at one point, one of them myself. It felt like reading through an old season of Saved by the Bell in the familiar, coziness the 


Part way through the book I wanted more from the plot, twists and turns that would blow my mind which might reflect the dark, psychological thrillers I've been picking as of late. But the end comes and the story is good, the characters happy -if not in the way one might expect- and I needed that feel-good novel in the midst of all the macabre words I've been consuming.

This is a zombie, young adult novel. No one told me that and I feel like I need to tell you so that you're not all confused when you start to read it like me. The zombie factor would have completely turned me off to the book, would have kept me from ever picking it up, much less read it's 400 page entirety. But, this book was amazingly shockingly wonderful.

While the plot wasn't really my gig -with the zombies and the fighting between them and humans-, the characters were so rich. They were full of beautiful kindness and authentic flaws that bred a deep and wild care. I found myself deeply drawn to Melanie, a zombie-human hybrid, with her naivete and innocence despite the bacteria that transformed her into a zombie.

Though the plot wasn't entirely in my reading wheelhouse, The end is hard, sad, and yet poignant. I was floored at the unexpected joy I felt over the gracious end that closed out an otherwise gory and (somewhat) graphic novel. There was a gorgeous silver lining as the cloudy confusion of the book slowly unwound and revealed the truth depth of Carey as an author.

I read this while in the trenches of death with my dad and, while I wasn't sure I'd be able to appreciate Oliver's experience alongside my own, found so many moments of recognition in her story. The irony of her husband's career and his own death were undeniable AND her ability to lean into the humor of it all resonated with my own experiences.

Her love for the man she married was gorgeous, important, and life-giving despite the difficult dealings of death. Oliver's memoir seems to be the ultimate proof that there is, in fact, much life after death. She highlights the trials of bereavement while lending some practical ways to move forward with life -even through the missing.

I found myself laughing and crying, cheering her on and, in turn, rooting for my own family. It's a definite recommendation for those dealing with death themselves and a reminder that life -in all it's heartbreak- can still be good to us.

** I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for review. All opinions are my own. ** 






I read and review this for #Collaboreads which you can find here. No need to blab on even longer about any one book!

Friday, October 2, 2015

speak up: fear


Here we are at the beginning of October (that fact blows my mind). I'm thankful for the new month, thankful for the way that California is pretending like fall might actually start to settle in over the dry, hot ground that we're calling home. But mostly, I'm thankful we're here and we're talking and this month it's all about fear.


And, this month, I'm especially thrilled to tell you to get over and hear from Annie because the girl has spoken major truth into my soul the last couple days and it's stripped so much of my bravado from me. It's a blessing to know this girl (even though I sometimes wish she wasn't so good at convicting me).

Next month we're going to write about
Gathering!
(what a perfect thing for the season we enter November and December) 
See you on November 6th!

And lastly, most importantly, let's hear it from your sweet souls:

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