Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August and Me || 2016


CURRENTLY 

loving. Summer dresses. I've been craving fall, but SUMMER DRESSES. 
needing. To practice slow. I've become a little bit frantic with my soul and, slow, slow, slow. 
wanting. More time in a day. There's SO MUCH to accomplish before our vacation.
writing. Our Europe Trip itinerary in my travel journal. SO CLOSE, it is SO CLOSE. 
reading. In The Land of Milk and Honey. The second in a series and LOVING it like the first. 
watching. The Summer Olympics. Well, that's what I spent the month watching. 
listening. To The Liturgists podcast. A renewed find that's got me all kinds of thinking. 
wishing. For all the space in my luggage, but thankful for the challenge of smart packing. 
feeling. Productive. I wanted August to be something great and it was. Oh how it was. 
craving. Figs. Figs galore. 
eating. Less carbs. Or at least trying to. I'm feeling five pounds heavier than I want to, so protein. 
drinking. Nutty Caramel K-cups at work. Saves the day every day at 3 PM. 
smelling. My Kenra hair spray. Smells like fruity delight! 
working on. Prayer journals and the extra-special floral globes I've been dying to complete. 
contemplating. Why it took me so long to get an eReader. I'm LOVING the digital books ya'll! 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

I filled in some of the blanks about our foster to adopt journey... And then I gave an adoption update (that'll go up monthly) letting you know where we're at in the process.

There's a new piece in the shop and it's already made a SERIOUS wave with it's goodness. Custom orders ARE the bee's knees (especially if they inspire new product).

#Collaboreads came back with a vengeance and it's begging you to join our online book club next month. (For the next month, we're reading Banned Books and -confession- I'm FINALLY going to tackle the first Harry Potter.)

Speaking of the shop, it's closing down tomorrow and won't be open again until October! 

WHAT I'VE READ



A MUST READ:
The One-in-a-Million Boy
by Laura McBride

You guys. This book.

I'm not a fan of hype around novels -so often it brings my expectations a few steps too high and leads to inevitable disappointment. But this one -it provides.

The illustration of unexpected love between Ona -a centurian- and an eleven-year-old boy scout who happens to be obsessed with numbers, birds, and world records -all things Ona ends up taking on as treasures in her own way after the young boy's passing.  Determined to make his legacy happen, Ona befriends Quinn and Belle (the boy's parents) with hopes they can work together to (1) reach his goals, (2) heal from the loss, and (3) make a world record. The friendships, motivation, and lessons that abound in the lives of the characters in the wake of the boy's death is an important conversation that we need.

This book is unexpected. It's slow in some spots, hard to work through because action is nearly stopped, but the end. Oh how the end justifies every ounce of working hard through those sticking points. Oh how the end brings about heartache because the characters have unexpectedly and blessedly become your friends.

It's a must read. 

Other mentions for the month of February:

Necessary Lies (review) || ★★★ 
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (review|| ★★★
When I Found You (review) || ★★★
The Sellout - for #Collaboreads || ★★★
We are Called to Rise (review|| ★★★
Lily and the Octopus  (review) || ★★★

Three Nifty Things You Need to Know
1. I'm pretty sure God made figs to be stuffed with goat cheese. He made them, stuffed them, broiled them for three minutes, and saw that it was good. Oh so good.

2.  I decided to get myself some new PJ shorts because it's a HOT summer and the two pairs I have aren't cutting it. So, I looked all over the internet and realized I didn't want to pay $20 for a pair of pajama shorts. Target came to the rescue and THESE are the best. They feel like I'm sleeping inside a pillow case with their soft cotton and loose fit. 

3. Let's talk about KindleUnlimited. Jason got me a Fire for our anniversary (yes, it's a REALLY early present), but he wanted me to have time to add some books before our trip, so I signed up for KindleUnlimited AND was thrilled when so many of the books come with audiobooks AND they sync with my Audible account. I feel like a winner -a double winner with the listening and reading and cloud updating! 

Friday, August 26, 2016

On Body Image in the Midst of Infertility


I tried on a dozen outfits this morning. There were several reasons I couldn't wear each one but here are the top three:
  1. This makes my head look bobble-y and weird (while wearing a dress). 
  2. My feet look so small I should tip over (dissatisfaction with my converse). 
  3. I'm not sure I like my shoulders anymore. So let's cover them (while wearing a t-shirt). 
These are critiques I don't often make of myself. Lack of abs, length of legs (freakishly short), and amount of boobs (particularly when I REALLY want to go without a bra) are common concerns. But it's rare that I allow my body to deter me from wearing something. If I bought it, I obviously felt good in it and since I'm not any different in size or shape now, I'm hating these clothes because of emotional circumstance.

Lately, the emotions are making the choice. Lately, I'm struggling with my body. I'm struggling with the way it looks, the creases that call it home, the faint stretch marks that grace the secret places -like on my hips and my chest. I'm struggling with it in a way that's new, frustrating, and unfamiliar. It's a foreign land that's hostile and unfriendly, land that's tiring and laden with emotional bombs.

I've been blaming my scale. I've been saying that the number there is my problem and promising to skip carbs, eat veggies, inhale protein. But I've weighed the same number since our first anniversary -since I dedicated myself to losing the newlywed pounds. I've been that weight, been happy, been proud of my running and working and painting and words.

Back Then, my one hundred thirty-five pound frame was feminine -with some curves and kindnesses- in a way that made me beautiful and proud. A way that was alluring to the man I call mine. A way that laid open with promises of pregnancy and parenthood and opportunity that always looked pretty. Back Then, I didn't expect my Right Now.

Because Right Now, my body is a point of contention, a reminder, a tool that's -at the same time- impressive and incapable. The wound of infertility doesn't lay in the empty nursery or our master bedroom. It's not raw and ragged like tears in public and unpredictable fits of rage. It's silent, secret, almost hidden from myself. It's this body that is apologetically incapable of achieving a life goal.

Body, it isn't you, it's me. It's me and the grief that is tied in to swollen pregnancy dreams. It's mourning and grieving and acknowledging that -YES- a miracle can happen, but it also cannot. And it is here between the news and the miracle, that I acknowledge the Even If. Even if I don't carry a child in my womb, I will call myself His with utter faith and blessed grace. It is here in the Land of Even If that I'm trying to find peace with my fate and love for my body -flaws and all. Because it's this body that is broken, that isn't producing, and I'm fighting to find love while making some semblance of peace with the truth.

I'm relearning to love. I'm learning to love the promises my body can make, even if it's not the promise I find myself desperate to hear. It's this body with its dimpled chin and blue eyes and pointed ears that can promise a resemblance to my Popsicle and to Mama Bird. It's this body with its breasts and belly and acne-scars that can promise another breath, another heart beat, another mile covered and, for now, that has to be enough.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#Collaboreads: The Sellout


It's the day where the (sort of) book club comes back for all the book sharing and speaking! Rachel and I have been busy reading and talking about books... And then a few online friends asked what happened to the beloved #Collaboreads... We didn't have a great answer and, in fact, missed the community of book nerds that gathered here soooo, WE'RE BACK!

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 Wednesday 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!

For August we asked you to read a book written by someone that's a different ethnicity than you. I struggled pinning this down to a single read because there were too many amazing options and HOW DO YOU CHOOSE JUST ONE? But I did.



By Paul Beatty
RIVETING. 
Well, I didn't LOVE and adore this one. I find myself hesitant to say that because I wanted to be thrilled and rave about the goodness that is Beatty's writing. But, the thing is, I DID love his writing. I loved his ability to craft gorgeous sentences that were rife with sarcasm. I treasured his ability to pointedly assess our country's current state of (racial) affairs with small chunks of words.

So why? Why less than love?

Because I adore plot. My favorite novels are plot driven cupcakes topped with the sweet frosting of diverse and developed characters. And, The Sellout falls short in terms of plot. It covers the trial of a black man who has a slave in modern day LA. I looked forward to the premise, was thankful for the conversation, and couldn't wait to eat up the humor. But the book hardly moved in terms of plot. And I found myself dragging along behind the beautiful words wishing for some peak or valley in the action.

I also want to be honest in saying: I was craving a convicting but swift read. I wanted to be swept up in the lives of the characters and ache alongside them, cheer for their victories, and think HARD about the issues at hand. That's not this book: it's a satirical slog requiring you to engage, to be ready for hundreds of thinking things, and, well, I wasn't.

ELEMENTS.
Beatty's humor is what kept me picking up the book and repelled me from it. The prose is perfect; Beatty is a TALENTED wordsmith. I don't want to do a disservice to how honestly great he is at crafting gorgeous sentences. But there were honest to goodness moments after a long day where all I wanted was an easy read. I wanted to get lost in the story and end up 100 pages further along than I was in what seemed like jusst moments ago... And that's the wrong approach.

This book is filled with references to American racial history that spans from slavery days to modern day police brutality. You' d need an extensive understanding of hundreds of years of racial history to catch them all (I know there's more that I missed than I comprehended), but I don't want that to deter you. Google is your friend.

ASSOCIATE.

The Catcher in the Rye. Literally, all I could think of is the humor and dry wit of Holden throughout the course of the novel. I don't know that Holden and the narrator of this book (who never has a name) would get along as friends, BUT their perspective and attitude were ridiculously similar.

Also, Kurt Vonnegut. Anything by Vonnegut -with his satire and tight lines of wisdom- walks in close proximity to Beatty's writing.

And I couldn't leave this section without saying Dave Chappelle. His ability to comment on racial issues in post-racial America while making you laugh is RIGHT HERE in the same circle as Beatty. They're calling our understanding of race into question, pressing us to address the issues at hand, and requiring us to be honest about what's really going on here in America.

DESIGN.

REALLY honest moment: I loved the pink details on the cover. I adored the way it looks like preppy printed lobster shorts, but instead it's (who I consider to be) Hominy Jenkins (the slave in the novel). 

STARS. 

Three. 

While it deals with relevant (and important) conversations happening in our culture right now, it just doesn't go all the way for me. It falls short with the lack of plot and the narrator's humor starts to feel more like shtick than satire... I wish I could have watered it down with a few ounces of narrative movement and it'd easily run in a four-five start circle.

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


Next month's topic we'll see you on 
September 28th! 
And we're going to be reading... 

Banned books! 
(Because it's Banned Books week RIGHT NOW!) 

Here's one list and another of possibilities for you. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Let's Make a Miracle || A Marriage Letter

Dear Jason, 

We've had a month. A month of family trips, hot-as-hell days, and a funeral for my grandpa. I struggled with what to bring to you today, what part to grab hold of and make forever. Then the program that's laying on a counter in the garage nudged me.

I think about what people will say at my funeral more than is socially acceptable. I wonder what it is that I'll be remembered for and then I prioritize my life accordingly. But, after my grandpa's funeral, I've been thinking about what people will say about you. And I know it's what they said about him: he loved his wife good until the very end.

Sixty-nine years of marriage, ten kids, further generations that total more than 100, many professions to be spoken of and what people said about Grandpa Frank was how deep his love for his sweetheart Catherine ran. Truck driver, key maker, marine, father, and yet it was his devotion to her, his place at her side, his fingers entwined through hers that made the lasting impression.

On the drive home I asked what part impressed on you most and you said their love. I said the same. You looked at me with the coy smile that precedes sarcastic words and said, "don't you wish you someone loved you that way?" I didn't have to answer with anything but a hard, honest laugh because we both know: I've got it with you.

I know sixty-four years from now I'll love you more than I do today. I know sixty-four years from now I'll still hunger for your warmth, your strength, your patience. I know sixty-four years will hold kids, heart ache, and hope. I know sixty-four years is a dare to cling, to care, to love. And, it's a dare I'll take as long as it's with you.

I don't think everyone who marries can say -five years later- how every day is better than the day before. I don't think everyone gets to say they chose a winner for all the days of their life. I don't think they enjoy the feeling of a love that grows with each passing sunset.

I can only imagine the depths of a love that's outlived wars and cars and depressions and peaks. Sixty-nine years of marriage is miraculous. And I'm thrilled to be part of the next miracle with you.

How deep and wide my love for us,
am
- - - - - - - - - - -

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.

Monday, August 15, 2016

On Joy as a Writer's Block



I've struggled coming here and putting together words. I don't know if it's the sunshine or the impending life changes or better night's sleep or my rekindled love for reading -or all of it-, but I sit down to write and, instead, bite my nails. My hands are busy, but not in a productive way.

The thing about life right now is it's peacefully joyful.

My dad's passing birthed strength and faith which resulted in a peace we'd craved for the better part of a decade. The pain of learning about our infertility was stifled on the Monday after Father's Day when Jason said he wanted to be a dad sooner rather than later. It seemed the moments where sadness wanted to creep in and take residence, joy simply refused to make room.

But it's hard to write any prolific thoughts with joy holding space for me.

There's a weird sense of bragging when you claim that life is good. It's like good isn't allowed without the rest of us there at the same emotional bus stop. If we don't all ding the bell for the stop called Goodness, then we all stay seated and wait for it to come around some time in the next decade. But that's blasphemy. That's a disservice to your heart.

Sometimes, we're good when everything else seems bad.

My little brother started eighth grade last week. I texted him the evening after his first day to see how it went. I expected a little bit of back and forth about teachers, boring classes, and what he wishes was different in his schedule. Instead, I got one word: good. And I thought about the way we grow up and decide that using "good" in it's solo sense is avoiding the truth.

But sometimes, life is good.

Sometimes there isn't a lot more to say. Sometimes I feel this internal pressure to spend five minutes telling you all the emotions involved in being me at this very moment. But, if I'm honest, I feel genuinely good. For the first time in my life, I have utmost confidence I'm doing what He's set out for me, I have sureness in the Siri that's pushing me forward, and I have a deepest well of thanks in my heart.

So, I mean it when I tell you that things are good.

And, as your friend, I give you permission to feel different; to feel sad, mad, angry, sure, brave, fearful, and the like. Also, I give you greater permission to bask in life that's good -just plain good. More than that, I grant you space to break away, fall silent, and enjoy what's good. But, in the same sentence, I'll beg you to return to tell me about your joy, I'll promise to welcome you the moment you walk through the door, I'll sit piqued by your time spent away with Good.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Five Audiobooks that Turned me Into a Listening Reader



A year ago, I would have adamently denied I couldn't make it through an audiobook. I'd have told you over and over again that I've tried, but they take too long and just don't capture me. But I would be lying.

Because a year ago, I was offered three months of free membership to Audible.com, so I took it. I convinced myself that three free months would be of no risk to me but the wasted listening space. And, goodness, am I thankful I took the leap.

Of the seven books I read last month, four were audiobooks.

The perks of audiobooks are many. They're easy to pop into your ears when you go walking, when you're painting, when you're mowing the lawn, when you're running, when you're making dinner. They're portable and Audible's app is easy to use. They can be sped up, bookmarked, skipped through, and returned (because Amazon has a Great Listen Guarantee).

1. Pretty Baby
by Mary Kubica

One Line Summary: A random sighting from the window of a train leads to the loss and unraveling of two perfectly good women.

The Listening Factor: One of my favorite narrators (Cassandra Campbell) reads this one so I picked it up, the plot is SO TWISTED I couldn't put it down.

Great Time to Listen: While I cooked dinner.

2. The Martian
by Andy Weir

One Line Summary: One man is stranded on Mars and must survive for more than a year before help can return for him.

The Listening Factor: R. C. Bray, the narrator, is amazing, ABSOLUTELY amazing.

Great Time to Listen: While driving.

3. Where They Found Her
by Kimberly McCreight

One Line Summary: A dead baby is mysteriously dumped in a grove of trees by someone living in a small college town full of interesting characters; but who dunnit?

The Listening Factor: Four narrators, each unique in their character and performance. This ensures you won't get bored of listening to a single droning voice the end time.

Great Time to Listen: While I reorganized and purged our house.

4. Year of Yes
by Shonda Rhimes

One Line Summary: The director of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal issues a dare in the form of a novel: spend a year saying yes instead of playing it safe.

The Listening Factor: Audio clips of her speeches (which are part of her Year of Yes) illustrate the way her personal project plays out in the larger context of life.

Great Time to Listen: While I painted.

5. Eleanor & Park 
by Rainbow Rowell

One Line Summary: A sweet romance blooms between two teens who pride themselves on their unique personalities while life tries to draw them together and then push them apart.

The Listening Factor:

Great Time to Listen: While I ran alone and walked Hazel.

And these remain my five favorite audiobooks that (if I were a rereader), I'd listen to more than a single time. Before you go, drop your favorite audiobook in the comments (since I have a credit to spend and all)!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Coffee Date || 27 (A Link-Up)


If we were on a coffee date, we'd be meeting at my office and walking over to get a cup from the new roaster that opened last month. I'd tell you there's no bad pick off their menu and you'd struggle because can I have all the things? I'd get an iced vanilla latte and have to work really hard to not drink it all in a single gulp because their coffee is gold.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd suggest you barbecue your spaghetti squash before you eat it in place of spaghetti. Because the smokey, charred texture is divine and take the goodness of squash up at least a dozen levels. Bonus if you add spicy sausage to the mix and your taste buds do a happy dance.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd probably mention Search the Scriptures. I'd mention it because it's taught me three things about bible study 1. there's no perfect way to do it, 2. sometimes the bible is really hard to understand, and 3. small chunks are far more manageable than big readings. I'd tell you I got it and was shocked when it looked like a text book, but goodness it's breathed some life into my moments with Him.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask about the last three times you've had to say "no". Turning things down -any kind of thing from opportunities to lunch dates to naps in the afternoon- can feel so deeply scary. I'd remind you that the world is still spinning -but really, I'd be saying that to myself- because sometimes saying no can feel like the world will stop and all good things with it. I'd tell you I'm proud of you and inspired by you in the way you handled those moments because I'm not the best at drawing clear boundaries. I'm getting better, but I'm not the best and so, I'd draw off of your experiences.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd recommend these grill sheets. We were gifted a set and HOLY smokes they've changed my grilling game with the way they keep the flames from actually setting fire to my food. You still get the grill lines (which are my obsession with grilling) but don't have the burnt parts. Plus, they're reusable which means you can be a great gift giver with the other two you get!

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess that entitlement is rampant. I'd tell you how I started noticing it in the lives of other people, but then became so aware of it in my own life. I'm so damn entitled. And I'm working hard (and systematically) at removing those assumptions about what I deserve, what belongs to me. This process is disarming and rife with conviction, but, oh, the rewards it will reap.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd want to know about the questions you have about our adoptive process. I'd want to answer them because it's confusing and unique and long-in-the-works. So, I'd ask you to shoot, tell you to pour them out, let me help to clarify and educate. This process is humbling, beautiful, exciting, and heart-breaking; it's a million small actions brought together for a BIG reward. So leave them in the comments, leave them all over the place, because answers are coming.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd double check with you about #Collaboreads. I'd ask if you know what it is (here's the answer) and if you're playing along this month (the prompt is: read a book by an author of a different ethnicity than you) and what you're currently reading (my answer is The Sellout). I'd ask what you loved to read this month and what you hated and I'd probably have to whip out my bullet journal so I could add them to the list.

----------
Join us friends. Join Erin and I in community and coffee and all the kinds of general goodness. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Public Service Reminders v. 4.0


I took Hazel on a walk in the early morning last week. Usually, we go midday when people are out and things are busy so there's no option of letting her loose. But my running partner (mama) is out of town, so on a lonely gym day I decided to give Hazel a walk before the day got too hot. She loved it and so did I. Especially when we go to the hill by our house and it seemed the perfect time to let her off her leash.

She's a great walker always pinned to my left side, so I was excited to see her go, let her run a bit. I unclipped her pink lead and told her to go wild. She stood, stared, still. You're free, I encouraged. Go find something girl. Three steps and she was back at my side, tight against my thigh. She didn't understand how free she could go and be.

It made me think of us. How we're free -free to be career women, to be moms, to be brave, to do wild things- and yet, we're stunned, still, scared to break out of the six foot circle we've come to call habit. I imagine God like me, You're free. So damn free. And we stare.

This is a public service reminder: YOU ARE FREE. 

Free from ifs, ands, buts, ors. Free from labels and boxes and all the other things. Free to be you, to be a doctor or teacher or the country's next president. Free to sit or to move, to eat or to feed.

- - - - - - -

Before I graduated from high school my parents extended my curfew to midnight. I loved the extra taste of freedom, but my favorite part was coming home in the dark and seeing a soft blue glow from my bedroom. I knew I'd park my car, let myself in, and walk upstairs to a room with the bed turned down under my custom neon light.

For my sixteenth birthday my parents gifted me a neon light -a la a restaurant's OPEN sign. It said Just Ducky in soft yellow letters and was framed in a halo of blue. A light that reminded me of the baby we'd lost before my brother was placed, a light that said blessed despite the mess, a light that gave my room a heavenly soft glow welcomed me on those late nights.

That small act performed with unwavering consistency is my childhood. The kindness and care wrapped in a night time routine that included me -despite my absence- always sang a lullaby of love over me. I'd change into my pajamas, wash off my make-up, and curl into bed under the light of that Just Ducky sign.

This is a public service reminder: Small acts make big impressions. 

Nevermind that we're hanging that same sign in the nursery. What an honor it will be to feed a baby under the same blessed blue lights.

- - - - - - -

Flipping on the news is scary. Scrolling through Facebook news is heart-breaking. Open any search page and the heaviness that's there is pain-making. Being alive is hard work. Being alive and watching people die is enough to break our spirits. Being alive and knowing injustice is unfolding all over the world can bring us to a hopeless standstill. And yet, there's no stopping in our future.

Current events are scary. July was an ugly month for news. It was a month that split open, shattered, and covered us in weariness. Suddenly, we were all tired, afraid, and laying in the shadows beside our fellow man. I found myself walking into stores, movie theaters, restaurants and thinking of the possibility of tragedy. I checked out the exits, wondered how it'd unfold, and on. But then someone would smile. They'd hold the bathroom door and smile in a warm kind of way.

And I'd remember: not everyone is bad. In fact, most people are good.

This is a public service reminder: You are the difference in the days of others. 

You don't need me to remind you, but people are carrying hard, heavy things. Let's lighten the load with simple moments of real kindness.

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