Monday, February 29, 2016

#Collaboreads: The Giver

BOOKS. Books, books, books. Books and more books with a side of books. That is what we're talking about today. Because what is good in life if there isn't a book about it? Nothing. Welcome back for another month of #Collaboreads! Rachel and I are thrilled you're here, but first:

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!


When Rachel and I picked Classics as our criteria I had convinced myself that I'd be reading Bronte or Austen or Steinbeck. I promised to be dedicated to reading some literary cornerstone that so many of my book-loving bloggers rave about, but then I just couldn't find a comfortable reading place within them. So, I opted for a book that my middle school brother is currently reading as required material through his school.

By Lois Lowry
RIVETING. 
I know that reading that's assigned in school is typically annoying. Often we reread the books that were assigned to us in school later and love them deeply. The Giver stole my heart. It absolutely stole my heart. Lowry writes beautifully, but simply and her ability to weave a story is rich. She gave the world a cast of characters to both love and hate.

The way Jonas is "gifted" with the ability to see colors and hold memory absolutely rocked my soul. I adored the way Jonas came to love color, seeking beauty in his surroundings, and I just wanted him to start painting things so I could fall more deeply in love with the novel.

ELEMENTS.
I wanted this book to be far, far longer. I know why Lowry ended it where she did and I'm thankful she didn't take the plot so far that it grew tiresome. But man, oh man, I wanted more, more, more. My only solace in this: the series.

Yes, I loved The Giver because of the way Lowry ended it, but it took on new and beautiful promise because she followed it with three more books. I'm thankful to her for that. Thankful she didn't end the books and drop the characters off all of our radars, but hopeful she continued to give them life. (I have Gathering Blue out from the library to be read.)

ASSOCIATE.
As a fan of dystopian novels that is far too in love with the world-falling-apart and coming back together in a far-too-organized fashion, this one ends up with well over a dozen relatable books and movies. But, there was something about Jonas that reminded me so much of Katniss Everdeen. Their ability to see when the rest of their world can't brings me a deep-seated joy.

I also thought often of The Book Thief and the hunger for knowledge. The power of books being highlighted in a book itself makes my heart patter and keeps me engaged. I've always been a fan of books and the way these novels have me thinking about what it would mean to now have free access to knowledge the way we do.

DESIGN.

The only gripe I'd ever have about The Giver is the size of the physical book and the nearly microscopic font inside its pages. Thankfully, my mom loaned me her copy which was an average size book with wonderful margins and average size type. I don't wear glasses when I read, but at the end of a long day of computer work, it kills me to try and read miniature words on small pages. 

STARS. 

Five.

I love, love, loved this book just as much as everyone on Instagram said I would. I'm looking forward to the second book in the series (Gathering Blue) and can't wait to update ya'll with my thoughts!

And now, it's your turn to talk about all the books that filled your month!


Next month, we're linking up on March 28th and we're reading 
Memoir
Good luck picking just one!
See you in a month!

Friday, February 26, 2016

February and Me || 2016

|| hand painted watch from Jill Makes ||


CURRENTLY 

loving. Old Navy rockstar jeans. Supposedly, they're mom jeans. Well, I feel like a HOT mom.
contemplating. My WHY in all things lately. Why do I do this? Why? Why? WHY?
deciding. To do it my way. There's so many rules about blogs, shops, social media. I'm saying no thank you. 
smelling. My make-up brushes. This cleaner makes them smell like a dream.
writing. All over the place. I've started a journal again and SWOON.
reading. Station Eleven (per Abigail's recommendation) and The Rescue Artist.
watching. Survivor. It's brains vs. beauty vs. brawn this season and I'm hooked!
listening. Sia's This is Acting. Rhianna's Work. Being Boss podcast. East of Eden audiobook.
craving. Pineapple. And this Cake Donut protein powder I got and LOVE.
remembering. The first days as Jason's girl from seven years ago. SEVEN YEARS. (Thanks to Facebook Memories.)
wishing. For rain. Rain means snow in the local mountains and we've got a trip planned...
needing. To see some life in my new garden beds. I planted everything and I WANT VEGGIES. No one's ever called me a patient girl.
wanting. Some graphic tees. I love the way they're styled on Pinterest lately, but I own ONE.
eating. Noosa yoghurt in ALL the flavors, but especially the coconut.
drinking. Iced coffee. It's like summer in CA, so coffee is cool and strong, please.
feeling. Grace. I'm reminding myself gentleness is a skill, not a given.
working on. A new line for AmberThomasMakes. Finishing touches for launch NEXT week.





IN CASE YOU MISSED IT 

It's been two months since Popsicle died and I miss the man something fierce. 

I'm trying not to be as into things and instead into people and holiness and life. It's hard. 

Also, I wrote about marriage and Making a Murderer at the same time. #doinghardthings


WHAT I'VE READ

I'm changing up the way I review books because I want to make it more interesting and not so, intense.
YOU MUST READ:
Gold by Chris Cleave 
I was tentative in reading this after devouring Little Bee. Cleave's writing is gorgeous, rich, unique and it's only made more lovely by his characters. Cleave manages to draw them into real people, as though we know each in the cast, without muddling the story line. And so, I picked up Gold at the recommendation of a friend.

Initially I was convicted by the ever competitive, never taking a break Zoe while identifying with the "family woman" that was Kate. I began to notice the deeply competitive bones in my own soul, the way I love to win. But why? The competition between the two girls runs the length of the novel, even until the close of the very last page.

The pace of the novel was what made it pure magic to me. The first two thirds are slow, rhythmic, with short spikes of action. It feels like it's dragging along at times, you're begging Cleave to drop tragedy or joy or ANYTHING on the characters. But then the last 100 pages hit you and you can't look away. It is here that I realized: Cleave mimicked the pace of a velodrome race. Not only did he mimic it, but he rocked every ounce of pace that he could. For that alone, the novel deserves five stars.

But the rich connections and flaws in the lives of Zoe and Kate seems to emphasize, reveal, and morph what it means to be competitive. The novel holds layers of cliche lessons, but it begs you to look into your own motivation and definition of success.

Other mentions for the month of February:

The Giver (for #Collaboreads) || ★★★★★
Far Far Away (review) || ★★★
Pop Painting (review) || ★★★★


WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE SHOP

Mini globes happened this month. Oh my soul I'm so thrilled about how cute the little, precious things are. There are two in the shop that are pre-painted and two in my studio that are awaiting a custom purchase. GET ON IT babes. 
I've started working with a local printing company so painting doesn't become a chore. They make gorgeous things happen for me and now I can list original pieces at lower prices. Win-win. 
And for making it through to the end, you get a sweet little gift from me (or at least a discount code). Use "FRIYAYINFEBRUARY" for 10% off your order of $15.00 or more!
(The code is only live through the weekend.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Work Days and First Dates || A Lenten Post



I stopped writing things down in my bible study journal months ago. I stopped writing them down because I didn't want to have to work that hard when each day felt immensely exhausting on my emotions and psyche. In those days the thought of picking up a pen and putting it to paper seemed insurmountable -might as well have dared me to scale Mount Everest.

So, I did what was preservative and stopped.

Then Lent. 

Then Lent came and begged for devotion, for some semblance of communion between Him and me. I made a plan, picked a guide, and banged around in the half light of estrangement. I knew I'd picked an uphill battle. I knew I had hard work to put in and a challenge on my hands. I wondered if I would spend Lent enduring, fighting to sit and focus on the two pages I have to read in my devotional every day, biding time until I have to struggle through ''normal" bible study.

I've come down hard on myself in the last week. I see a fifty percent success rate in my daily meetings with Him and I hate the thought that I'm walking the fine line of failure. I'm struggling with the temptation of abandoning all efforts with the excuse that this thing called Faith is legalistic and damming. But I won't allow myself to settle in to that exhausting camp of Believing.

It's that black and white, right and wrong, up and down, holy and sinful system of seeing the world from which I've broken free. It's that hellfire and brimstone threat I no longer hear. It's the home where grace and mercy divorced from religion and rules but the fighting still happens over which plates belong to who. And I, no longer a young child blindly wishing for reunion, have walked away.

I'd like to say Lent has made me new. It hasn't. But it has made me willing to work.

So, I'm working out what it means to be in love with this process again. I'm attempting to fall head over heels for the work of being communicative with God. And, while it's still clumsy and nervous like a series of first dates, it's not painful anymore. We're asking each other the awkward questions about jobs and purpose and dreams. We're still learning when to talk and when to listen, sometimes picking at our cuticles in the long quiet spaces.

And, with this slow-pace to a love place, my standards have changed.

For today, I'm simply celebrating that we're no longer talking about the day's weather.

Monday, February 22, 2016

On Life Sentences || A Marriage Letter



Dear Jason,

Hello?
Hello.
Yeah?
Yeah.

We're eight episodes deep in Making a Murderer and have found ourselves invested in the fate that Steve Avery faces. We worry justice won't be served because all odds are against him. We are aching for him to be exonerated, but we know the world doesn't promise us anything. And as much as we wish for Steve to be free, we constantly talk about how his nephew, Brendan. 

We know Brendan isn't the brightest bulb. We yelled as he was interrogated for four hours. We talked over the mishandling of his minor self. We threw our hands up when he admitted to guessing what the cops wanted to hear in his confession because we wanted more for him. We wanted to warn him of the life sentence he was signing up for unknowingly. 

And yet, we were just like him. We married at the ripe age of 22, just a few months after I finished college. We married with little to no life experience and a heaping load of faith in the process. We walked down that aisle with smiles on our faces and heavy-beating hearts. We promised wild things like sickness and health, poverty and wealth. We kissed and communed as husband and wife just before we danced through the night. We were brave and prepared, confident in the bond we shared, but we didn't know.

We had no clue about the answers we were hoping to be in one another's lives. We were ignorant of the trials those first years would hold. We smiled and hoped we could say the right thing at least a couple of times. We had the house and dog and kids behind a white picket fence sort of dreams. We set timelines and goals and missed more than we accomplished. We guessed how to be a husband and wife, sometimes throwing hands up in annoyance of our wrong answers. 

We agreed to a life sentence. We said yes to waking up next to one another for all the rest of our time. We nodded and thought of the meals and miles and homes we would share. We promised to hold and to cry and to laugh as a team. We imagined every romantic comedy in the script of our marriage. And then, we learned that our life sentence holds stomach flus and bacterial infections and sad days and even death. 

We learned that with love comes loss, with health comes illness, with naivety comes wisdom. We learned that there's garden beds and hospital beds and death beds in store. We learned the promises we made were hard to keep and yet, we dedicate ourselves to the cause every morning. We learned we're just as dim as Brendan, sometimes just guessing which way to head next. And, in knowing that, we're thankful to be a pair in this sentence we're serving. 

I'm so blessed to be your cellmate. You're more than I deserve and then some. 

Yeah? Yeah. 
Amber

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.

Friday, February 19, 2016

On Scarcity || A Creative Process Post



I stopped talking about creative process almost six months ago. It was about the same time I switched from writing all the time to balancing between paint and words. It was when I volunteered for life to surprise me by opening the shop and the doors that came with it. And, whoa.

There's a lot to say about changing up your creative endeavors -even if you're simply switching back to something you grew up loving. There's even more to say when you jump from a creative process that feels mastered (which is just a feeling and not a fact) to a new and strange attempt at making.

The last few weeks have been full of new opportunities and a drive to be further engaged with other creatives. It's led me to join new Facebook groups, to seek out creative and small business podcasts, to read books about what it means to be a maker. All of it has drawn me from within my safe studio space and into a greater context of art (and writing and blogging and speaking).

It's made creativity into a community rather than a silent realm of my life. 

And in hearing, digesting, engaging with new concepts and creative endeavors I've come up with deeper feelings about what comprises the creative process. And the first one is a severe disagreement with one popular opinion about how creativity can run out, can be lost, can leave us before it's realized. No, go away with those thoughts. 

Creativity is not scarce. It is not moody or broody or willing to walk away from you. It is not a finicky fairy angry about your choices or your office space or the amount of time you have available in any given day. It is not a tenuous relationship that needs constant pruning and maintaining and romancing. It isn't a lover that will leave you because you haven't got the looks and the sense of humor you once had.

Creativity is a muscle. Sometimes it's strong and brave and willing to lift the heavy weight of hard work. Sometimes it's weak and mellow and wishing to stay in bed for the day. Sometimes it's lean and stretched and operating at capacity. Sometimes it's covered in a layer of adipose tissue that keeps it hidden from view. But like muscle, it's always a part of you -an undeniable and vital bit of your person.

Framing creativity as part of your DNA allows for freedom in your process. It promises the opportunity of growing stronger, gaining momentum, and moving forward. It turns your inspiration into fuel, instead of into pressure. It opens vast fields of making, instead of trapping you in a maze with a carrot bobbing overhead.

So go and make. Put down words, spread paint across a canvas, paste together photos and paper. Turn on the new Sia CD and sing while you do beautiful work. Mess up a time or two, paint over the same piece a dozen times, fill that blank page from the top to the bottom.

Go and put your muscle to work. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Coffee Date | 21

If we were on a coffee date, I'd be drinking a Blood Orange sweet tea from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf while two boxes of their Costa Rica K-Cups sit at my feet. Those K-Cups are Jason's favorite -I think it's because he fell in love with coffee there-, so I buy them in bulk when I can. I will corroborate his story in saying, the resulting coffee from said K-Cups is fantastic.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd say let's walk. Because I've sort of waned in my walking, step-counting frenzy and I miss the movement. I really, truly do. Plus, my birthday is coming and I want to dive into the more intense FitBit life with the (to be released) Alta model. Also, walking is healthy.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask all about your Lent philosophy. Not because there's a wrong or right, but because I'm a curious soul that loves Lent despite my not-so-Catholic upbringing. There's something about observing the emotional journey that is Christ's last forty days that rocks my soul. This year Lent feels especially relevant, deeply poignant, and I'm leaning into that so hard.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you I started listening to East of Eden. So, I decided to get an Audible membership after Helene offered a discounted three months on her blog. I thought I'd cancel as soon as they were over but now -a year later- can't stop with the audiobooks. There's certain novels I just can't read through -mainly classic literature- because I get hung up on the formality in the words and sentence structure. BUT, when I listen to them, I can't stop.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd encourage you to send some mail. It can be so task heavy to find the card, to write the words, to buy the sames, to locate the address, and the like, but hearing from the receiver that you made their day while their kids were sick and life felt so exhausting validates every ounce of the effort you put forth. So, do it. You don't know when it'll arrive, but somehow it seems to show up at just the right moment.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd admit I'm struggling to find the life-blog-shop-faith balance lately. I wish that once the balance was found it would never leave because I hate the constant struggle. But, humility is important in life and the way that I've been leveled by managing my own schedule and time is an honest test. I'm learning patience and grace, humor and hard work over and over each day.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd marvel about blessings. I asked God to open doors for me. I am not so much a go-getter when it comes to approaching others about my work. I want a larger resume, a greater portfolio and a better awareness of my making, so I'm -essentially- biding time. So, I asked Him to open a door that would be undeniable to walk through and on the other side sits a dozen other doors that are begging to be visited. I'm thrilled and overwhelmed. As they say, when it rains it pours.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask how you prioritize and balance. I'd want to know what you do when there's so many doors open and so many opportunities calling your name. I'd beg you to tell me what it is you're balancing and how. HOW? HOW? HOW?

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Comfort of Things


I'm trying really hard to be content these days. Or maybe I mean, it's really hard for me to find contentment as of late. 

As a child, I carried around a tattered and disgusting blanket. It was shreds of the beautiful thing it started as by the time a man at the car wash grabbed it and tossed it in with the other rags he'd used to detail the seat. Yes, my beloved blanket was gone under the guise of a detailing cloth. 

I was devastated and sure I'd never sleep soundly again. I cried to myself in a bed that felt lonely without those stinky scraps of cotton to call security blanket. I didn't know how I'd manage without it. But I did. Actually, I upgraded her to an old sweatshirt of my mom's that I stole from her closet when she went away for a weekend with her sister and mom. 

I wrapped that sweatshirt -in all it's over-sized glory- around my body. I took it to bed over my pajamas, wore it while I watched morning cartoons, and shed it only to change my shirt really quick. The attachment grew and that blanket was my comfort in the absence of my mama. 

All this to prove: things comfort me. 

This isn't new to me as evidenced by my scrappy shreds of quilt and sweatshirt gone security blanket. But, in the emotional chaos of the last few months, I find myself begging things to make my soul cozy. Amazon, Target, and all the regular offenders offer all the things I could ever need or want or simply love to put in my cart. 

I'm trying to find a comfortable place that balances things with needs (and an occasional want). 

It seems I should have a challenge here. Something that says I won't buy anything for the next 30 days or that I will purge my closet down to 30 items per season or devote myself to minimalism. But, I don't want to set myself up for failure or for frustration or for any more to work through in my mind. 

So I'm just going to promise to write it all down. 

The aching moments, the deep longing, lists of the things I want but don't need will be devoted to paper with pen. I guess I've promised to find contentment through confession. As though committing each of my whims to a physical place might allow me to breathe a sigh of relief. It is putting those words down will strip off that decades old sweatshirt that's tattered and smelly and no better at providing me with comfort than a concrete floor.

When I can stop worrying about how to hide my dirty comfort sweatshirt, my guess is I'll run into Him. I'll stop being so distracted by my embarrassment and start engaging with comfort that is real, deeply rooted, and not contingent on this season's latest trends. It'll be cozy in a way that feels like a childhood home, like risotto topped with fresh shavings of Parmesan atop, like flannels washed dozens of times.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Ache & Hope of the Next Forty Days

Print via Amber Thomas Makes.

Lent starts today.

I'm thankful for this season in a way I never knew possible. I'm thankful for the promise and the Hope and the faith and the Life that was established through this season. I've always celebrated this time of year because it's so beautiful, but -in doing so- ignored the tragedy that comes on that fateful Friday marking the end of Lent.

This time of year is the opposite of Advent, where the frill and sparkles run rampant. There's no tiny promising babes, virgin mama bellies, and fun surprises wrapped in ruby red paper. In comparison to the magic of Christmas, Lent is average, normal, just another series of days. Lent is humdrum, plain, arriving suddenly in the middle of an already busy week.

We suddenly realize Lent is here when it's Wednesday morning and the woman behind us in Starbucks has ashes on her forehead. We realize it and hastily throw together our fast for the next forty days (acknowledging caffeine is off the list because we've already got our grande mocha latte).

Lent begs us to let it be more than a fast. It wants out of the Friendzone and access to the depths of your spirit. It pleads for us to linger just a little bit longer beside Him and His promises. It sings a lullaby over our crazy-making hearts, a lullaby that's offering us slowness.

This year Lent says slow down instead of abstain. 

Lent's different this year because of the weight and the hurt that is walking alongside death. I think back to the last forty days with my dad. Forty days that were long, jittery, full of bittersweet. Forty days that had us asking about the timing of his end, wondering what dying could hold, wishing the fullness of peace is upon us.

And then I zoom in on those last forty hours. Those last forty hours filled with starving questions and begging souls. Forty hours baptized in salty tears and bookended with joyful praise. Forty hours full of good-byes exchanged between staff, family, and his departing soul. Forty hours that cracked open my heart and left me wondering how to clean up the mess. Forty hours spent thinking on the disciples' role.

How did they live through those last forty days? They knew -details and timing and the story was there. We knew he was dying, just like the twelve did. But they missed it -the plan laid forth in parables and tales fell on deaf ears.

We knew the promises of Heaven, the ache of seven years' suffering,  but the suddenness of death nearly broke us in two. And I know, that split happened in the dozen hearts of the disciples. As we sat and held vigil in the small facility room, we could only hope our space was enough. And in those final days, how the twelve must have felt.

I wonder: how did they walk alongside his death for forty days?

Lent is brutal and gorgeous. 

It's heavy with encouragement, laden with faith, breaking open our spirits and souls.

May we feel it all -the ache and the glory- over the next forty days.

- - - - - - -

I've forgone the fast this year and replaced it with dedicated daily time with Him. I'm still struggling there, still hurting in the quiet contemplative moments with Him. And so, I am reading Coming Home (a free printable download from Edie Wadsworth over the next 40 days), if you care to join.

Monday, February 8, 2016

What I Read in January



Well, January was a strong, beautiful start to my read 52 books this year challenge with five marked off the list in no time. I actually managed to work my way through 2 and a half audiobooks (one that'll be reviewed for February because I've still got a large chunk to listen through).

I feel like I'm more critical this year -or at least this month. I struggled with boredom and lack of depth in several of the books. Maybe I crave poignancy after the emotional few months filled with big life events over the last three months. Regardless, here's my thoughts and reviews about January's reads:

This was hard to make it through. I know that sounds the opposite of three and a half stars, but -truth be told- this was one of those books that is so sad, so tragic, that you can't stop reading despite your deepest desire to do otherwise. You read because you need to know that it's going to be better, to end well, to be more than just a really, deeply sad story. You read so you can sleep with the knowledge of someone's happily ever after. 

And it did. It came out at the same time James Frey's A Million Little Pieces made it's entrance onto the reading scene, but I'd never picked it up. I knew there was going to be talk of drug addiction and alcohol dependency. But I wasn't aware of how tragic a single person's life could be. I had no clue I could hold such hope for a woman I don't know, a woman who's life resulted in a bestselling beautiful book, but I did. Oh how I did.



I couldn't make it through this one. I've tried twice -once from our local library, a second I purchased from Amazon. While the language is beautiful -I was introduced to new words that I loved-, the writing confused me. I found myself reading pages over and over again in an attempt to understand who was talking and what in the world they were talking about. I wanted to understand, to slowly gain an awareness of Wilbanks' writing style but no. No beans or better understanding for me.

And so, I put it down after a lively Twitter chat about how many pages you owe a book before you toss it by the wayside.


Goodness I wanted to love this one. I wanted to be deeply invested in Kitty and her recovery from the list of tragedies that life served her in a single swoop. But Ahern just couldn't get the story moving fast enough for me. The characters weren't deep and rich, so I hoped the plot could pull me into the depths of caring. It couldn't. I just didn't connect or care, but instead worked to get through the book.

The redeeming value was Kitty's conversation with another character about the death of his wife. A few poignant lines resulted. Lines that were applicable and beautiful in the context of my own life (and the loss of my dad), so I couldn't drop below the half way mark. This is an easy read and maybe would have ranked higher if I'd been lounging poolside in my bikini. Alas, I was not and the book ranks middle of the road.



I read this one for #Collaboreads. You can check my feelings out over here. Did you see that February's challenge is to read a classic novel?

When I saw this book in Blogging for Books listings for review I was thrilled. First, I hadn't heard of it. Second, it is PERFECT for my month of February goal. So, they kindly sent it my way for review and what a wonder. This isn't your typical watercolor for beginners publication, but is, in fact, a gorgeous collection of art for you to peruse. Each piece credits the artist and covers a skill or tactic used to apply the paint to paper.

I found myself thrilled at the turn of each page because I had no clue watercolor was so diverse (seriously, I've always thought it couldn't be clean, tight lines on watercolor pieces.) The beauty and practicality found throughout the book kept me turning page after page. I don't know that this would be for everyone, but it's certainly for the bible journaler, the painter, the art lover in your life.

Why'd a dock it half a star? Because I wanted this to be bigger so I could keep it on my coffee table as a conversation piece. It's too small for that, more of the size of a picture, and that's just not big enough for my coffee table book goals.

* I received this book from the Blogging for Books program for review.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Recent Romances







So, I've fallen in love with making. This isn't a new love for me, but it's (still) new for me to talk about it, to get to share what is deeply capturing my heart and creative efforts. I can't seem to stay away from the beauty that is 

LETTERING
Okay so here's one lettering course. It's cool because it comes with video AND with lettering sheets. Releases on Valentine's!  (Also, I LOVE the girl way the girl who made it writes.)



Or, if you're not wishing for classes, there's these sheets of brush lettering practice like you did as a kid in school when you learned cursive. I love how there's the shadow to trace and the price point is obviously lower than the more involved class from above. 

The pens that I love are these. They only come in black, but they're PERFECT for learning because the brush part isn't oo soft OR too hard. I struggled a lot with the other options.

WATERCOLOR
This search in YouTube has TONS of awesome watercolor tips and tricks... Some are more basic while others are rich and interesting (I actually have this saved at home and watch through them while i paint). I haven't found a channel that I love which... Sucks. 

These are my FAVORITE set of watercolors that are the most traditional. The color is rich and beautiful. The other brand I love has a more gel-like quality which makes it low to dry (and easy to smear). 

I use this paper pad. You can easily use it for both the lettering AND the watercolor. Plus you can decorate the cover (which I've been meaning to do to the one that I have). 

I love watercolor pens. This pack of three is AWESOME and the little tanks on it are AMAZING.


OTHER THINGS I LOVE RIGHT NOW  Here's a dog collar shop. I get Hazel the wide collars in large because girl's got a neck on her that needs to be downplayed just a smidge. Plus, the collars come on time and are wonderfully durable. 

My mom suggested I use this make-up brush cleaner the other day when I was complaining the terrible soapy shampoo that is nearly impossible to get out of the bristles of my brushes. 

I've been struggling with my Instagram lately, so I decided to check out Helene's course* (finally) and I can't even begin to tell you how much content is flowing out of that woman. Whoof. I'm hoping it'll pan out in my Instagram game in the next couple weeks. 

Got my ATM website up and running and I've got to say, I'm thrilled. 

And lastly, I HAD NO CLUE AVOCADO TOAST COULD BE SO DELICIOUS.  

So, what are you fancying as of late? 

*This is an affiliate link, but my opinions about Helene's course are my own. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Conversation about Missing


Technically, I work for my parents. 

I work for the company my dad started and my mom now owns. I don't work for them in the traditional boss-employee relationship. A long-time employee considered family member and I work together to keep the ship sailing in the right direction, fighting tides, and weathering storms. The job is casual and wonderful and extraordinarily flexible. No one watches over my shoulder, I can make decisions without worrying about the bureaucracy of office politics, and I get to take my dog to work. I love my job. I love the men I work with. I love the family I work for. 

But, love doesn't always soothe the thankless days. It doesn't calm the angry customers on the phone and rude office women and impatient superintendents. It doesn't answer the calls I get complaining about operators'driving and arguing over footage discrepancies and impatient requests for insurance certificates. It can't tell me I'm wrong when, on those days, I think I'm doing worse instead of better. 

It is on those days, on those days that I feel a deep, dull ache while I sit in our small office. It's an ache that says: I miss my dad. 

I don't miss him in intense ways very often. I guess because we were losing him for so long. But on those days when the world is short in patience and grace I just wish he'd come back and set everyone straight. On those days the "If Dad was here..." train seems to promise a one way ticket to wonderful and yet, I can't find afford the purchase price. 

It's these times when I miss him so sincerely that I treasure him most. I grow protective of our memories and want to cry, punch and act like a four-year-old in the tornado of emotions that comes with our loss. It's these days that remind me the pain dulls but never disappears. As I sit in the office and know the the feelings are driven by a deep, dedicated love for his legacy. A legacy that got shit done regardless of how hard, impossible, frustrating, and unsure the end seemed. 

So, I pour an afternoon cup of coffee and address the issues, one by one. I focus on the tasks in my To Do List slowly ticking them off in my bullet journal. I call the offending employees and try to be kind and stern. I apologize to the disappointed customers. I stand up for the numbers and charges on the invoice in question. All the while I watch the clock moving ever-slowly to that four o'clock hour.

It is on these days, I drive home near tears. I listen to Cinderella and remember the way he insisted on twirling me at our wedding. I hear him telling me his one and only feeling is hurt and realize mine is too. I wish he'd tell me to hold my knife and fork the right way just one more time. I drive home and I wonder what he'd have thought of our home, of our future kids, of the way we've started tackling this life. I wonder about the way it'd look if he was here. I question where I'd work and what I'd do. And I imagine how hard he'd roll his eyes when he found out I am making money off the art he said was crazy. 

I don't cry on these days. At least I don't cry until Jason's home. Then I melt into a puddle of pure missing. I welcome him with puffy eyes and a snotty nose. He's patient and kind and says he's been missing him too. And then he pours two glasses of wine and flips on the Bachelor because nothing cures missing like fake reality TV. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Magic of Watercolor and Prayers





A beautiful prayer is like a delicate watercolor painting hung from your grandmother’s wall. It’s careful and attentive, proud of its detail and depth, cherished because of the place it hangs and the person who owns. It captures your attention for hours, though you don’t realize such time has gone by, begging you to fall deeper in love with each ounce of effort imbued upon its surface. Yes, a beautiful prayer draws you near, begs you deeper, and brings color to the black and white of life.  


The thing about watercolor is the detailed ways pigment and paper dance under the influence of water. It’s the way the simple, everyday pieces come together in a divine romance that makes art. And, I believe, prayer is the same. It starts with small words and commonplace pinings of the heart that are transformed by our longing, trusting spirit. Like watercolor, the combination comes together and creates art.


Because maintaining a prayer life is a creative endeavor.

And so, I’m spending the month of February bringing together watercolor and my conversations with God. Pigment and paper and prayer life will dance in glorious. I've made no rules for myself, but that prayers and paint are united daily in worship of Him. I want there to be no pressure other than the work of coming to Him every day in conversation and praise.


Maybe there'll be some beautiful art. Maybe I'll be more comfortable with prayer on the other end of this. Maybe I'll fall further in love with Him during the most lovely of months of the year. The only sure thing is February holds goodness for me and that fact makes me ready for another 29 days of 2016.

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