Tuesday, November 26, 2013

And still I dream...

I dream of being far, far away from here. I dream of peace. And quiet. A stillness that lasts, stretching on for days. I dream of hearts and dear faces that light up over cups of coffee. I dream of time to myself. To do with as I please. I dream of a place of my own, a little nest I call The Bird House. I'll make one big meal on Sunday and eat it for days. By myself. Possibly in tube socks. I'll be able to pick up a book, snuggle in, and actually finish it. And then maybe after a good long nap, or a string of ten or twenty, my fingers will start to itch with stories... with characters that have been so wretchedly shooed to the back burner for the time being. And I'll have time to weave their tales together and take pride in the work I care about most. And I'll be free. Free to do what I want, when I want, how I want, with whoever  want. Free as a bird. Planning trips to France, popping champagne with friends, laughing with family, reading, writing, running, humming, and I'll be me again. And I hope I'll always be grateful and I hope I'll always show it and be quick to love when it's not easy and quick to help when things get hard. And I'm hoping and willing and dreaming it comes sooner rather than later. I know adversity is a good thing in the end. I get that this is essential and temporary. But man, oh man, I'm dreaming of better days. Days that seem so impossibly out of reach. And still I dream...

"Keep your head up, keep your heart strong." - Ben Howard

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • Rifle Paper Company Notebook. I've been eyeing the botanical trio ever since I saw them online and lo and behold they popped up at my local Target. Splurge! No questions asked. I've just polished off another Moleskine and while I was a bit hesitant to switch it up after all these years, I'm absolutely loving it.
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. My dear friend Anna recommended this to me. And friends, when Anna suggests something, I count it as gold. So I didn't wait for my tiny library branch to get it. I just bought it. One chapter in and... I don't know if she's psychic or if we just rubbed off each other a lot back when we were living under the same roof in Edinburgh, but this is exactly the kind of read I need right now. 
  • Crêpe Suzette OPI Nail Polish. Confession: I'm not actually wearing this right now. I just hope I get around to it this week. Because it looks like fall and I simply can't get enough of that.
  • Mini Eiffel Tower. Snagged this trinket from my grandma (I think) way back and... I'm just France-asizing... *le sigh*
  • Shells. Random, but I happened to empty out a purse the other day...
  • Southern Ground Music & Food Festival Lineup. My little sister and I met up in Charleston for this this past weekend and it was amaaaaaaazing!!! Not just because it was my first weekend off since starting work here at the beginning of August, but because my sister's such fun, the food was incredible, and the music was stomp-tastic. The Wood Brothers and The Head and the Heart blew me away and gave me chills, but Zac Brown, the man himself, left me slack-jawed. So I'm just gonna leave this here and reminisce... 
And while I'm reminiscing, I might as well tell you I've had Zac Brown on a constant loop ever since I left. Just trying not to focus on themes like love, family, friends, and simplicity rather than getting overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS awaiting me when I got back. "Jolene" is the song I'm playing into the ground, though, so we'll call it this week's lullaby.

What's on your nightstand these days?

Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

P.S. I promise- hold me to it, now- to post something other than my nightstand this week! Heavens to Betsy! This blog is accidentally monotonous!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • Apple Ale candle. This scent is maybe a little too sweet, but in small doses, a little too sweet is pretty nice.
  • Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate. I used the no sugar added kind and then sprinkled the whipped cream with a little cayenne pepper. It's lazy meets Chocolat! *shrug*
  • Mini pumpkin. Thanks, Mommy Moo! Come back and visit soon! Side note: I. LOVE. PUMPKINS.
  • EOS Blueberry Acai Lip Balm. Yet another surprise from my mom. So sweet. Blueberries for Sal was one of my favorite books as a kid, so blueberries are kind of my thing. So thoughtful!
  • Shall We Dance. Folks, I've been looking for this movie everywhere. Everywhere. For two years. Lo and behold my local Barnes & Noble just happened to be selling classics at half price this week! Fate!!! I first saw it on TCM last night and discovered it to be the source of classics like "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." The story has all the old Hollywood black-and-white charm you might expect, but "They Can't Take That Away From Me" makes the movie. It's why I bought it. Honestly. When Fred Astaire stands behind Ginger Rogers on the docks in New York City and sings, "The way you haunt my dreams. No, no, they can't take that away from me," and she just stops... and then when her eyes well up with tears and you know she's in love with him after he croons, "The way you've changed my liiiiife!" OH MY GOSH! *hands over heart* It's just one of my favorite movie scenes EVER! Also, I want to be Ginger Rogers. Just had to be said.
Well, of course, now that I've gone on and on about it, it should come as no surprise that this week's lullaby is Fred Astaire's timeless "They Can't Take That Away From Me." I've always loved this song (I have no less than eight different versions in my music library), especially Sinatra's (and I loooooove Sinatra), but this one takes the cake. Knowing the love story behind it, hearing Fred Astaire's voice just warms my heart like a good cup of lazy man's Chocolat hot chocolate.

Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • Petit Écolier. When I eat these, I'm sitting at Mme Chauchat's dining room table. I need to be at her dining room table.
  • Lady Grey Tea. Been drinking this with a splash of milk and sugar like my teacup is bottomless.
  • Secondhand Lions. I need about a thousand comfort movies this week. This one's been a family favorite for ages, but I never had my own copy till I saw this peeking out of the $5 bin this weekend. Just the most endearing story there ever was or ever could be.
  • My latest painting. I did this little canvas over at Ali's on Sunday. For an hour, I just got to switch my brain off... and it was glorious. This is the kingdom in a story she and I have been working on for years. So I was escaping in more ways than one! I'll do a closeup soon!
  • Mexican Pumpkin Candle. When my sister Katy told me these were buy one get one at World Market this week, I was out the door immediately. Looks and smells like fall! Isn't the tin wonderful? 
  • Letters from friends. With 'Happy Autumn!' written on the envelope? The loveliest!
And with that, I'm tucking in with this week's lullaby, "Know Me Well" by Roo Panes.

Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

365 coffees

On October 1st, I started a new project. As part of my 101 things in 1,001 days list, I'm finally tackling the 365 photo a day challenge. This is probably meant to start on January 1st, but... Oh well. It makes me feel just that much more human to have one tiny little thing I can do every day. After talking with Ali, she decided to join in too! So while she's taking a picture of her tea every day, I'll be taking a picture of my coffee. Because... "mommy" needs her coffee. "Mommy" will have her coffee (or nine) every. single. day. Of course, now I'm wondering... how many ways can you photograph something you take pretty much the same way each morning? Is this too boring? Whatever! I'm accomplishing a thing! I am doing a thing! I am not failing at a thing!

October 1, 2013
October 2, 2013
October 3, 2013
October 4, 2013
October 5, 201
October 6, 2013
October 7, 2013
How about you, dear readers? Any little projects up your puffed sleeves? (sorry, I've got Anne of Green Gables on the brain... it's a fall forever thing)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • Honeycrisp Apple. I'm pretty sure I could have bought a small country for the price of three honeycrisps, but I'm also sure it was totally worth it. Tastes like fall! Eeeeeep!
  • Chocolove Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate. This is not what resisting temptation looks like.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I'm so embarrassed to admit this, but... I've never read these books. Trust me, it pains me more than it pains you! But with the ever-so-slight turn to cooler weather, that magic of autumn, I just had to let this world be a part of it. I've just started The Magician's Nephew and every line is like taking a bite of Turkish delight for the very first time. I'm in love. 
  • Marshmallow Fireside Candle. So many fall scents are crazy overwhelming with all their spices, but this is sweet and light. A very pleasant surprise.
  • Que Bella Mud Mask. Planning on using this the next time I draw a bath (tomorrow night? *fingers crossed*). But yeah. Teatree and witch hazel? It sounds like something from a fantasy novel! So naturally, I snatched it up. I'll let you know how it is!
I put this song on first thing almost every morning, but it's also in heavy rotation at night. Really it could count as every week's lullaby, but this week I'm finally letting you in on it. "Raising Cain" by Gregory Alan Isakov. It'll change your life.

Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Terrible idea... Don't you just love those?

The quote is from Under the Tuscan Sun (which I luuuuurrrrrrv for inexplicable reasons (I want to remodel a villa in Tuscany, ok?!)) and while it wasn't necessarily a terrible idea... You know what I love? Last minute decisions. I made one last night and it involved some major SWERVING of the ultra cool mini van. Here are the results:

Some people think it's really cheesy. But I've been documenting where my feet have wandered off to since college. And you know what? "I like corny. I'm looking for corny in my life." Anyway...

I was walking along thinking, 'It's amazing what you can do with twenty minutes! Why have I never done this before?' All that rushing around? This is what I need in between. A breather. I'd walked down for a stretch, eyed the clock and saw it was time to turn around, and when I did...

AHHHHDFKSJDFLKSJDLFKSDL!!!!!!!!! There was a rainbow! I started squealing. I threw my hands up in the air. I began laughing. Maybe did a jig. Said, "Oh God!" over and over, because I just couldn't believe it. And then I squinted a little harder and saw that...

It was really a double rainbow! A DOUBLE RAINBOW! Man! God is good. It was such a special moment. Normally, I'd have been holed up in a coffee shop passing the time, but something made me turn to the beach instead and I'm so glad I did.

I only wish I'd had a proper camera on me to capture it all better, because every which way looked sensational.

I mean...


So I just want to encourage you to be impulsive! Really! If you hear a little voice telling you to turn in the opposite direction or order something different or smile at that complete stranger, just do it and see what happens. Who knows? You might find yourself ankle deep in the ocean, staring down a double rainbow.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • Divergent by Veronica Roth. So this is apparently mandatory reading when you live in a house full of teenage girls. I've been zipping through this this week as per their insistence. And while it often loses me a bit, it somehow pulls me back in quickly enough to avoid abandonment. I'm very nearly finished and while the main character's just found herself in a life or death situation, my only real fear is what will happen when I turn the last page... It was the quietest girl in the house that handed this to me and it's literally all we talk about. What will we talk about now?!
  • Hilton Head postcards. I'm slowly but surely mailing these suckers out. The scene on this one in particular? That's my daily commute now. I. love. Spanish. moss.
  • Zucchini Brownie. Hey, if I have to hide vegetables in desserts to sneak these kids their daily serving, I'm going to do it! I know it sounds odd, but these. are. divine. They are so chocolatey, my girls asked if I'd added Nutella to them. Ha! You will never know!!! Just kidding. I am an open (cook) book. And while the boys turned up their noses at first, I can tell you now that half the pan was gone in 30 minutes flat. They weren't the prettiest things to look at since I had to spread the stubborn icing with my fingers *cough*, but who cares when they taste this good? Zucchini brownies! Who knew, right?!
  • Leaves mini candles from Bath & Body Works. Ughhhh!!!!! Just give me all the fall scented candles! Sure, these only wound up on my nightstand on their way to the bathtub, but... boy, do they smell good! Pumpkin shmumpkin! 

The new hand-me-down nightstand is a bit hard to photograph being an oval and all, but... I don't know, I kind of like it! My other one is in complete disarray as is the rest of my room, which is slowly but surely coming together. Hopefully I can share it with you sometime soon! But anyway, it's been such a long time, tell me what's on your nightstand these days! 

Need a lullaby tonight? I've had a couple dozen in rotation this week- all these worn ballads just fit so well with the seaside- but the standout has to be Matt Corby's "Resolution." How is his voice even real in this song? Ugh. Stop... Don't ever stop. 

Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

P.S. Ah! It feels so good to write these posts again!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lizard! LIZARD! Sloth! SLOTH!

Warning: this might just be the most incoherent babble you've heard all day.

I try not to throw the word hate around too much lest it lose its poignancy, but I hate lizards. HATE. What you call irrational fear, I call perfectly justifiable SCREAMING BLOODY MURDER WHILE STANDING ON THE KITCHEN TABLE. Living on an island, there are all kinds of slithery creatures that I inevitably come face to face with on a daily basis. It's pretty gross.

This weekend, I was rolling the trash can back up to the side of the house, when I stopped three feet away from the gate. Just a sudden *gasp*/*HALT* moment. Something felt horribly wrong in the universe. Had I left a teenager somewhere? Had I stepped outside without any clothes on? No. There was a lizard on the gate latch. A lizard. A! LIZ! ARD! It was hiding on the side of the handle closest to the gate, but I saw its creepy-crawly little feetsies peeking around the edges. But then, the green little demon creature pulled itself around and actually turned its head to look at me with its beady little demon eyes. Oh it was disgusting! It was so so horrible! It saw straight through to my lizard-hating soul and made my insides burn with images of all the wretched things it was going to do to my house as payback. Needless to say, I ran away with the speed of an antelope with a pack of lions at its heels and abandoned the trash can for a few hours till it felt safe again.

I know this is a weird analogy, but just bear with me here... There's a lot going on in my life. Good, bad, ugly, just... a lot. And it's mostly good, I've got to say! But wrangling ten teenagers takes it out of me. I'm exhausted all the time and when I'm exhausted, I tend to get sloppy. Like maybe my first reaction when plans change is a negative thought. Or a kid will say something rude and instead of thinking, 'He's 14, he doesn't know what he's saying!' I find myself crying in my room. This is what last week looked like. Just a whole lot of feeling tired, overwhelmed, challenged, and, I hate to say it, but bitter. I'm not proud of it.

So when they were all off at a tournament this weekend, right after I'd stared down a green stealth monster from the pits of Hell, I had a thought... Why have all these mishaps and misunderstandings seemed so bad? So omnipresent? And I realized... I was allowing them to be a metaphorical lizard in my life. I let the dread seep in so deep that I was hypersensitive to it, maybe even looking for it even if I didn't have that feeling that something was about to go wrong. How messed up is that? Fearing hiccups and a smart-mouthed jumble of raging hormones is no way to live.


I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but I am going to do something about it. And I'm starting with, why don't you start looking at the good things like a "good lizard"? But since there's no such thing as a good lizard, let's go with... a sloth. Like a magical sloth! Just like I have an irrational fear of lizards, I have an equally irrational love for sloths. Which came looooong before Kristen Bell took all the sloth-loving credit in this world, mmmk? GOSH. But back to the sloths... Man oh man do I love them! I like to think that if I was anywhere near a sloth, I would just feel it! So that's what I'm doing. I'm looking for sloths instead of lizards. I'm making time for sloths (bubble baths), I've got my eyes peeled for sloths (tirelessly happy dogs on the beach), I'm anticipating sloths (homemade frappuccinos with Ali), I'm hoping for sloths (impromptu One Direction dance parties in the car with my girlies), I'm starting to do more and more sloth things to keep me nice and rested and sloth-y. And maybe I'm just going to start being somebody's sloth. I'm going to be someone you can count for a little bit of sloth; a compliment, a cookie, a hug, a listening ear, whatever it is. I want the people in my life to feel like I'm there for them even if it's just in spirit, anticipating their needs, wishing good things for them for them before they even tell me what's going on their life. 

What I'm very inarticulately trying to get at is... what if we started living like the trees bordering this road called Life were full of sloths instead of lizards? What would that kind of living look like?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I was listening to Rick Steves...

So those little things I was telling you about? Well one of them is "Travel with Rick Steves," which is a radio show I discovered a few weeks ago as I was driving around listening to NPR. Of course, the name Rick Steves is one I'm quite familiar with, but I never knew he had a show. Lo and behold, I stumbled across it and he and some guests were discussing artwork in Ireland. Hello! I love Ireland. I was instantly hooked. I groaned pulling up to the house; I didn't want it to be over. So I ran inside and discovered that you can download all his shows in podcast format on iTunes. Hallelujah!

Not only does he have interesting guests discussing interesting places (three topics per episode), but every time I listen to it, I'm reminded of someone in my life. Some of my best travel memories and dreams have special people attached to them and I always find myself writing little notes to the people I'm reminded of after listening. I think that's what sets this show apart. Listening to it is such a treat. Honestly, I can't recommend it highly enough; I'm riveted every episode for more reasons than I can count.

So when my family came to visit this weekend, 50% of what came out of my mouth started with, "I was listening to Rick Steves..." It's got all my creative juices flowing whether it's mentally planning out a future trip thanks to wanderlust or finding story inspiration in the charming tales of B&Bs related by listeners calling in. In short, it has me thinking of things other than tennis and hormonal teenagers. It's an escape. Don't you just love those? Things that remind you of what you have an appetite for?

One from the archives! Here we are on some cliffside village in the South of France wayyyy back in 2007.

As you all know, my best friend Ali lives just down the road from me. Adventurous, quirky, bold, and brilliant, she's always on the same page as me and is, thus, my travel buddy of choice. Together, there's no stone we'll leave unturned i.e. no awkward experience to be shied away from. I distinctly remember chasing after her down the streets of Paris as she chased after American tourists, trying to find out where they'd gotten their pizza. They ran away from us very fast, thinking we were gypsies. I mean... because of course they did! Even a humbling lesson on how to order our first adult drinks in a cramped bar in Edinburgh was the stuff of legend. It's ridiculous mishaps like these that make us roar with laughter as much now as they did then so great. And she and I have a little travel-related project tucked up our sleeve that I hope very much to be sharing here soon. A creative outlet! I can't tell you how excited I am!

So thank you, Rick Steves, for a little shove in the right direction! But man oh man... what do I do with all this wanderlust?!

P.S. Let me know if you give the podcast a listen!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

les petites choses

Well! Needless to say I have not yet perfected this juggling act. Me time? What's that? It sounds positively delightful! If I can steal an hour- nay! five minutes away for myself, I consider it a triumph. Exhausting as all that may be, I have come to savor these stolen moments even more. The little things are so much sweeter to me now. 

The little things I love most all seem to start and end at the beach, or rather, the ocean. I like to stand there, take out my headphones, and just look out and feel small and big all at once.

If it's a day where I've guzzled down three cups of coffee to no desired effect, the waves crashing at my feet rejuvenate me like some fountain on youth. More and more, I'm trying to incorporate this into my daily routine whether it's quiet time, my morning run, or a nice long walk with my best friend. I love it there. I love it, love it, love it. Ah! Just leave me there, will you? I want more evenings that look like this...


Other than that it's getting library cards, making up frappuccino recipes with Ali, squeezing in a classic film, fro-yo runs with the girls, the boys asking for advice or how my day went, new Coldplay songs, Skype dates, and peanut butter. And so I'm magnifying all these tiny little things so I don't fall under the weight of all the big things. Some days even positivity takes an enormous amount of effort and energy, though, so wish me luck with those silver linings! 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm Mr. Napkin-Head!

Ok, not quite. But you know that bit in The Holiday? "I'm a guy who reads parenting books and cookbooks before I go to sleep. I spend my weekends buying tutus. I'm learning to sew. I'm Mr. Napkin Head! I'm on some kind of constant overload..." That. Replace tutus with tennis balls and I'd say that's pretty spot on. Because somehow, in a seemingly random yet entirely deliberate course of events, I became responsible for a pack of teenagers. Their meals, rides to practice, live-in support system... it's all me. And being a 26 year-old who was just asked in the binder aisle at Staples if I was in middle school, I can only say what. the. heck.

Life is crazy. Preaching to the choir, I know, but it seems to be the motto of this year and this summer in particular. Hence the terrible lack of posts! I'm sorry! I've just been treading water ever since I got here. But who am I kidding? I am still treading water! No wonder you start with babies! Suddenly being responsible for ten teenagers? This is equal parts I-am-having-so-much-fun-getting-to-know-them-and-this-is-my-non-desk-job-and-eat-my-dust-this-is-fantastic and dear-God-what-have-I-done-I-cannot-do-this-and-you-must-be-joking. There were tears in the beginning. Many, many tears. But I've been so blessed. Challenged each and every day, every single hour, but blessed. It can be awkward and frustrating; I'm so used to it just being me and the weight of this responsibility is staggering. And, yes, sometimes I find myself crying over eggplants (side note: because I'm always seizing the opportunity to quote Bridget Jones' Diary, "To Bridget who cannot cook, but who we love just as she is!"). But then I'll randomly have a breakthrough... Like tonight I found myself drawing out the quietest girl in my little brood and it was lovely and encouraging and it made me so excited to be doing what I'm doing. Building relationships, making a positive impact... It makes the not being easy so worth it.

And let me tell you... the amount of story inspiration I'm getting from being around these tireless kiddos 24/7? It's insane! I'm just marinating in their highs, lows, hopes and dreams, and everything that makes them tick. And, gosh darn it, when I finally get this schedule figured out and can pencil in some quality me time, my pen will be a thing to be reckoned with!

Anyway, just wanted to check in after an absurd hiatus with some happier news and also... A DESPERATE PLEA FOR EASY PEASY RECIPES! Have I been living off the same five recipes for the whole of my twenties? I always thought I was a pretty decent cook, but... creating weekly menus?? Not so much. Anything in a slow-cooker would be just graaaaaaaaaand! Help! Gracias! Ciao!

P.S. More soon! I mean it and I promise!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

a time for everything

1 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,

    a time for war and a time for peace.
-Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 

As everything continues to feel like it's happening all at once, this passage has been a real comfort to me. The past few weeks I've been making changes, preparing for a new life down South. I've been full of anticipation, daydreaming of of all things new; friendships, old fashioned bicycles, salty sea breezes, and sunsets. Every conversation screamed life. And then, just like that... my grandma passed away. 

I never once heard my grandad call her Gloria. She was always his "Gogie." And I always loved that.

After a lifetime spent on opposite ends of the east coast, I was blessed enough to spend the past two years just half an hour away from her. For as long as I can remember, she has been a golden example of the kind of person I want to be. She was relentlessly generous, quick to smile, invested, always sunny. In short, she lived that simple life I'm hoping for; one centered on faith, family, friendships, and a sweet tooth for the little things. She demonstrated love. I can't think of a single life event she wasn't there for, always making the long trip down from Pittsburgh. She made everyone feel special. Even sitting across from her in a crowded diner, splitting a plate of french fries, her eyes sparkled as she told me old stories and made me feel like they were secrets just between the two of us. It's one of my favorite memories of her. I just remember hearing her talk about her youth and meeting my grandad and thinking, 'Wow. She's really something,' hoping that maybe someday someone would think the same of me.

It's easy to look at the life she led and the person she was and be completely overwhelmed. I've admitted it before and it's no different now even though I know she had 61 years on me, but I struggle with comparisons. It seems ridiculous that I would even fleetingly compare my chapter in life with the final page of hers, but there it is. I'm flawed. Right down to my core, I long for all that she had; the love story, the family, her ability to instantly make you feel at home, the magic touch she had with soups. And it's hard not to look at all that and not be frustrated with that feeling that I'm just... stuck. Perpetually stuck. Like I'm never going to be like that. Like I'm always going to be on my own. Normally I wouldn't share this because it's just plain embarrassing to show how messy your heart is, how broken you are, that you're struggling every day, but I feel like... I should for some reason! I don't know! As a single lady, it's all too easy to wallow and quote Bridget Jones' Diary: "I suddenly realized that unless something changed soon I was going to live a life where my major relationship was with a bottle of wine... and I'd finally die, fat and alone, and be found three weeks later half-eaten by wild dogs." If you're in my shoes and this kind of thought never crosses your mind, then let's hang out, because I'd like that to rub off on me! I want so badly to get un-stuck. How do you get the kind of life you want when it seems to depend on so many people other than you? When you're not exactly the one in control?

And that! Right there. That's my weakness. It doesn't depend on me, it doesn't depend on other people, it rests entirely on God's shoulders. How quick I am to forget. Not only that He has me right where He wants me, but that there is truth in those words. "There is a time for everything." Life can feel like it's happening all at once, but there's a season for every little thing. There's no rush. After all, the passage goes on to say... 
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it." -Ecclesiastes 3:11-14
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Everything. Every. single. thing. Time flies, time crawls, but God is the time-keeper. He has planted holy desires in your heart for a reason and when-- when, not if-- they are fulfilled, you will understand the utter perfection of His timing. If the desires of your heart come from God, why do you fear and tremble? God is love and love never quits, so you do the math. Side note: I'm preaching to myself here. 

The life I want is not the prize. A partner and witness to my life is not the prize. God is the prize. Through all these changing seasons, I will take heart and focus on that. Some days it might feel like I'm being dragged backwards, going in the direction completely opposite to the one I'm hoping to go in. But an arrow must be dragged backwards in order to go forward, released at precisely the right moment to hit its mark.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." God's ways are lovelier than mine. He's proven this time and time again. He has given every cause for rejoicing. The life of a loved one, a family that surrounds, friends that support, the promise of His unfailing faithfulness. He has an everlasting love for you that you cannot fathom, a way carved out for you that is far and above your wildest dreams. Trust it. Trust Him. Be still. Be at peace. And just be the kind of person who's really something. Because you are. You already are.

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." -Exodus 14:14

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

a simple life

That's the realization I've come to over the past few weeks... I want a simple life. A full-to-the-brim life packed tight with good people, good places, good food, good plans and intentions... but simple. In the past two years, I've accumulated a lot of grand clutter in my life. But with that life-changing, "Ok, God," when it came to making the decision a few weeks ago not to go to grad school, there came a word loud and clear above the rest: simplify. So while I let Plan A shift into focus, I took a little more and much needed me time away from the blog.

When I say everything happened at once, I mean everything. I've cried more in the past few weeks than I have in the whole of the past year; happy tears, confused tears, delirious, and grief-stricken. So much was being orchestrated at the same time and I couldn't tell what was going on, but the skies are clearing up now and I've got to say... It looks so good! The short story goes like this: I turned in my notice at both jobs and, thanks to a tip-off and recommendation from my best friend Ali, I now have a job working with teenagers lined up in August back down South where I belong. Last week, I was standing on the beach in Hilton Head with Ali, who I hadn't seen in person for a ridiculous three years, watching the sun rise. We stood in the waves and the morning light before I set off to accept the job offer and I just burst out laughing. God was having a cheeky 'I told you so' moment with me, triumphing in His Plan A for my life. And I was so overwhelmed with His faithfulness. All things came together; He had orchestrated it all in such a short amount of time. His plan was infinitely better than mine. Obviously. I had no idea that this was what I wanted, but on that beach that morning, I saw it was exactly what I needed. Good people? Check! Good place? Check! Happy? Check! etc.

Things are finally starting to settle down a bit, so I just wanted to check-in and say, 'Hey, I'm alive!' yet again. Thanks for hanging in there with me and for all your prayers and encouragement! Hopefully, I'll be around a bit more in the near future when the bulk of the chaos subsides. Until then, let's raise a toast to sweet tea, starry nights, BFFs, and beach sounds. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • Soft Moleskine Ruled Journal. As I recently told you, life's been a little crazy lately. So I've been documenting all these changes like mad. Still a long way to go yet, but I love the process. I've always been partial to these journals; this one's my... fourth? fifth? I love cramming them full of everything from movie tickets to fortunes and general paper-y clutter.
  • iTunes Gift Card. I've definitely been in a musical funk recently, but after this vacation... ahhhh!!!! Inspiration! Must buy all the songs!!!!!
  • Fighter Plane Gummies. These were part of the welcome bag for out-of-towners at my friend Danielle's wedding. I mean, she just married an Air Force pilot, so these are pretty perfect, right? Also... I just ate them all while writing this blog post! I'm a little hyper!!!!
  • Pineapple Crush Candle by Tyler Candle Company. My friend Anne gave this to me for my birthday last week. How sweet! No really, it smells really sweet! The scent lingers long after it's lit and I really like that, I must say. Plus it smells like her place and makes me think of her, which is also nice.
  • Maybelline Baby Lips Grape Vine. I know, I know... But I'm obsessed with these! At first the deep purply shade scared me off, but really it goes on like balm and doesn't make a glaring difference in my lip color. It's just lovely and smells good too!

Thanks to my handy iTunes card, most of the music I've purchased recently has been upbeat pop. So lullabies are few and far between this week. If I had to choose one, I'd say it's probably "The One You'll Find" by Shane & Shane... Actually that one's upbeat too! Ah well. Sadly I can't find a link to the whole song anywhere, so you'll just have to trust me... and download it! I wouldn't lead you astray, I promise.

What's on your nightstand these days?

Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

and the peace

And so... it turns out my own life is riddled with PLOT TWISTS. For being a writer, I really am terrible about guessing what happens next in a story. I'm always shocked. Always. It's a bit embarrassing, really. So the fact that the same turns out to be true in my real life is no real surprise, but still a shock to the system. Something happened last week and it was a doozie. And now it's time to explain my radio silence...

Now I can finally tell you that all the cryptic blog posts of the past few months were regarding making a decision on whether or not to go to grad school this fall. I was accepted into an MFA Creative Writing program in New York City and after dozens of pro/con lists, too many sleepless nights to count, and enough tears to keep the Titanic afloat (minus the whole iceberg bit), I sent in my deposit and called it a day. I began making all the arrangements, getting in touch with anyone I've ever made eye contact with for their New York connections, taking on a second job to save more money... All the while, losing more sleep than ever.

In the middle of my vacation last week, I went to New York and visited the school. And just like that, every alarm bell in my head and heart began sounding off like crazy. I had this terrible foreboding feeling, one which I can only identify as the Holy Spirit, saying that the whole grand scheme was incredibly wrong for my life. I remember when I was deciding which regions to list as my preferences for teaching in France after graduation and having the same unsettling feeling. I chose to ignore it and then wound up in the Bomb Shelter. And I think we all know how that went! It wasn't New York, it wasn't the school or the program. It's just that there are two very important things I took away from my experience in France: 1) there is something to be said for gut feelings and 2) God knows what's best for my life better than I do.

Later that night I took my mom to Hillsong, which is the church I'd planned on joining upon moving to New York. In the days leading up to the trip, I'd been praying Philippians 4:7. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." And what were they preaching that night? Philippians 4:7. After months of inner turmoil, everything became clear and still. I had wanted so badly to make something-- granted, a good thing-- work, but it wasn't something I'd ever felt called to do. I'd wanted an out from my life in Baltimore and I concocted the most elaborate escape route possible. In my vanity, I took a lot of pride in sharing my glamorous plans with others. But one thing remained throughout the whole process and that was unrest. I had never been at peace about it. Not once. And then in the midst of a river of tears and snot (you're welcome) in the very last row at Hillsong, I handed my own selfish will for my life over to God's perfect will for my life. I still don't know what that is, but I'm at peace. There's a bit of confusion floating around to be sure, but I'm also filled with a peace and relief that truly surpasses my understanding.

So there you go! I'm still trying to process yet another life-changing decision, but... I believe God has good plans for me. Writing will always be important to me and I hope you know that I don't need an MFA to write. What I need is Christ and the path God has designed for me. As for what comes next, I got nothin'. But there's beauty in obedience even when everything else is unclear. I don't believe in Plan B. I believe in Plan A. This-- whatever this is-- is God's Plan A. I'm looking forward to it more than I can possibly say and I guess I just wanted to say... I hope you are too!

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." - Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • Howl's Moving Castle. This is one of the first films I saw when I first moved to Baltimore, thanks to a glowing recommendation from my cousin, and I've been looking for my own copy ever since. So when my friend Sarah showed up on my doorstep with it as an early birthday gift, I STARTED SCREAMING! Best!! This story has my heart; everything from the plot to the character flaws to the visuals and voices are golden. I've had this on in the background as I pack my bags tonight and I've been swooning over the score like mad!
  • Kate Spade Gold Doodles Pen Necklace. I've been a sucker for Joan's style on Mad Man since the moment she graced the screen. So naturally, I couldn't resist splurging on a gold pen necklace like hers a while back. This is one of my few staples and I've been giving it some unabashed favoritism this week.
  • Tazo Organic Apple Red Tea. I don't know why this stuff is so hard to find up north, but my mom is constantly bringing boxes of this to me whenever she visits me up here. The pesky cold weather is hanging on for dear life, so I'm still indulging in a cup every night. This taste will never get old! It makes me think of home...
  • Salted & Roasted Peanuts With Shells. There's just something the process of snapping the peanuts out of the shells that makes me enjoy them so much more! Oh man... makes me want to go to a Braves game! *tomahawk chop*
And the lullaby this week? "Shoot the Moon." I can't tell you why, but I've been on the biggest old school Norah Jones kick recently. The whole Come Away With Me album is so comforting, I just want to melt under my covers and... zzzzz...

Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Le sauvetage de Paulette

As I think I mentioned earlier, this weekend I'll be flying home for my friend Danielle's wedding. I couldn't be more excited for her! She's been there for me in good times (Hanson concerts) and bad (rubber bands on braces) and is always up for a laugh whether it's huddled over the stove making crêpes in our chef-ly PJs in the middle of the night or chasing down Draco Malfoy look-a-likes at midnight Harry Potter book releases. She also happens to be my only known collaborator to date on a finished work of fiction, so I thought it might be fun to share it with you before the big day. 

I am referring, of course, to our 11th grade masterpiece for French Three, Le sauvetage de Paulette. "Saving Paulette" was our answer to the assignment to write a children's story in French. As weekly verb conjugation quizzes would attest, this was one of the few things we could really brag about in that class. We made everyone else look bad mwahaha refused to let the teacher keep and I'm so glad we did! While it's peppered with grammatical mistakes, I've always loved this story. It warms my heart so much; not just because of the story itself, but because of who I wrote it with. Danielle and I penned the nautical adventures of a brave fish named Pascal and his quest to free his little sister from the gum ball machine she accidentally swam into. 'Twas a perilous journey...

Oui! Arg!

But things turned out all right in the end... Probably due to Danielle's magnificent coloring skills!

Maybe I'm biased, but I really love Thierry the turtle's spectacles! 

One day, I would love to both write and illustrate my stories. One day, I would really like to have a getaway with Danielle to tweak this a bit for publishing. With a little McFlurry magic, surely that A+ will translate in the real world, non?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

just one of those things

My memory is about as existent as my betrothal to Robin Hood. It's nothing personal, but if you remind me of conversations or events dated a week or older, chances are that I'll have no idea what you're talking about. It's why I'm so good with names and your double-cupped half-caf venti 6 pump sugar free hazelnut soy latte extra hot with no foam. 

But there's one thing I do remember and remember well and it's something my mom told me not so very long ago. Not so very long ago, I was living at home, recuperating after a year gone wrong in France. Far from the shadow of the bomb shelter and a foreign roommate who yelled at me for not drinking expired milk, I had thought that I couldn't sink any lower than where I'd been. That things could only go uphill from there. And I was wrong. My post-college character building exercises weren't quite finished as I spent some hellish months job hunting with the same kind of success I have in performing, say, a triple axel. If you need it spelled out for you: I'm from Georgia, y'all. What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is an ice skating rink? It was a disaster. More to the point, I was a disaster. Over time, 'Why can't I land a job?' morphed into 'Why can't I open this jar of olives?' which devolved into, 'Why am I such a failure?' I was embarrassed and discouraged, beaten into a rock bottom I didn't know existed outside of the bomb shelter. And being terrified of what people would say about me with my fancy useless college degree and terrible luck, I was very good at tuning people out.

Then one day I was in the car with my mom. I, surprise, don't remember where we were or what we were doing. But she must have gauged how heartsick I was, because suddenly she was telling me to look at the rearview mirror. "Do you know why it's so small compared to the windshield?" she asked. I probably said nothing. "It's God's way of showing us to focus on the future." That got my attention. I'd spent so much time agonizing over the decisions in my past that had gotten me to where I was that I couldn't see what was right before me. That I was young and healthy with a bright future ahead, that God had good plans for me, that I had a more supportive family than a girl could hope for, that time hadn't run out to reach for the moon. 

A lot has changed since then. Good changes did come. But I still find myself thinking about what she said to me back then all the time. All. the. time. Because it's useful to look back sometimes, yes, but your life depends on looking ahead. 

So Happy Mother's Day, Mommy Moo! For all your pep talks and chicken and hot peppers, thank you. ILUSMM!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. I picked up this middle grade novel on my last library run after hearing nothing but complimentary things about it. This tale about four sisters on their summer vacation certainly has its charm. Their camaraderie and bickering takes me back to trips crammed in the back seat with my two sisters like it was yesterday; each relationship is vivid and unique to the next. I particularly love the youngest, Batty, who goes everywhere in butterfly wings. I'm determined to like this novel, but it's a bit more slow-going than I'd prefer having just hit the halfway point.
  • B'more Bill's Dills Fire Garlic Pickles. Halle-frick-frackin'-lujah farmer's market has returned and with it the pickle man and the best sear-your-tongue-off pickles in town! Stand back, because my mouth's basically a flame thrower!  I'm obsessed with these. Obsessed. I swear I go through a pint a week, crying as I try to eat them in quick and very unwise succession. When I was a kid, I used to ask for pickles for dessert. Now that I'm older, there is no ask; just do!
  • Come To Bed Red Butter Nail Polish. Moonlighting as a barista, I'm not allowed to wear nail polish... but they didn't say anything about my toes! I've been lusting after Butter nail polish for what feels like an era and my sister Katy just treated me to this bottle in anticipation of The Great Gatsby (Gatsbyyyyy!!!!). Ah! She knows me so well. This gorgeous shade of red has ousted all the others for the top spot, reigning over all my other reds. It's so quality, I feel like quite a flapper!
  • Mayura Headband. Thanks to my handy birthday-month coupon from Anthropologie, I was finally able to splurge on this just in time for my friends' Gatsby party this weekend. I'm so delighted to have this in my collection of, you know, four other headbands! Honestly though, I think this is a piece I will treasure for a long, long time; the color goes with so much, it easily dresses up an outfit, and it's just fun. I can't wait to wear it to the premiere this Friday!
  • Strawberry Lemonade Crystal Light Liquid. A few squirts of this stirred into a glass of water and you've got yourself a refreshing and calorie free treat for spring. Yum!
You may call my lullaby this week a cheesy cliché, but I don't care! Not a smidge. I've had "The Book of Love" by Peter Gabriel on repeat, clutching at my heart like I'm hearing it for the first time over and over. But I can explain! I'm in my dear friend Daneille's wedding next weekend and am going to another after that... Ahhh wedding season! I've got love on the brain. So naturally I'm thinking of the best proposal video in the whole wide universe and weeping freely over it just thinking about it! Ugh. This song plays at the end and... and... *sob*...*pats splotchy face dry*...*replay*...*sob*... etc. What's your lullaby this week?

Sweet dream, moonbeams!

Monday, May 6, 2013


Congratulations! Congratulations, self! Congrats. Congratty-grats. Congrats on...
  • being stressed!
  • worrying yourself to the point you're losing hours and hours of sleep each night!
  • crying quicker than a heroine in a Thomas Hardy novel!
  • perfecting your ICE QUEEN glare!
  • being the one who takes it out on everyone else!
  • talking more obsessively about life-ruiners like fear and doubt than life-ruiners like Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston!
  • focusing so much on all your concerns all-at-once-and-all-the-time that you can't remember to take the butter out of the microwave and add it to the cookie dough! 
  • your hot mess self!
You know what's not attractive? All these things. You know what I am right now? All these things. I kind of have to laugh so I don't cry. Over the past week, I've had this sneaky feeling creeping up from my gut that I've been playing the part of someone even I don't want to be around. It's not cute. I know in the blogging world there's this understanding that I'm supposed to cast you all under this glittery magic spell of believing I do nothing but lie on my bed reading children's literature, penning the next great one from the perch of my windowsill, and prancing around with such lightness of foot that you just might wonder if I've been sprinkled with pixie dust. Maybe it's my lifelong antithesis-of-Pinocchio-esque-behavior or the writer in me that needs to over-share tell the truth, but... oh how I hate to break the spell... this is not the case!  

Truth be told, it can be overwhelming to think of all the things I'm not. I'm not organized, I'm not prepared, I'm not on a clear path, I'm not always generous or thoughtful, I'm not someone who remembers birthdays, I'm not capable of making my way through a Julia Child recipe without calling my mom. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. Some of these things are out of my control (Julia!!!), but there are others that I've personally provoked into stampeding over my life like a herd of wildebeest, trampling my spirit till I'm virtually unrecognizable. It's toxic! And I don't want to be full of not; I want to be full of am and will be. I want to congratulate myself for being full of hope about tomorrow instead of full of doubt. Perhaps I can't change the situations causing me such restlessness, but I can certainly change my thoughts and behavior.

"Far from what I once was, but not yet what I'm going to be." I love this quote. I love it because there's value in taking a moment to look back and have a breather. Even if looking back is a little painful. This time three years ago I was living in "the bomb shelter" in France with the sad remains of a dream kicked stone dead, nursing the most homesick heart, and the absolute loneliest I'd ever been. Compare that to where I am now and my current lot in life doesn't look so bad. It's easy to forget that certain hardships are a privilege. Certain hardships are a choice. Certain hardships give us character that matters and work to mold us into who we're going to be. So, if for no other reason than that right there, can't we take a hint from Nat King Cole and just "Smile"? Find ways to not get so overwhelmed by the big picture and take little steps to work towards change, of course, but freaking taking a chill pill and smile! After all... *sigh*... "This too shall pass."

And now, because I'm not someone who can resist a Disney pep talk and because I am just this cheesy...
Ah! I feel so much better. Asante sana squash banana! Remember who you are!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • Moisturizer Green Apple ChapStick. I kid you not, I keep one of these everywhere. There's one at the desk, one in every jean pocket, for each purse, under the bed, on the bed, on the windowsill, and on the nightstand. It's smooth and yummy, to be sure. But I have a sneaky feeling that my obsession with it derives from the apple flavored lip gloss reference in McFly's "Little Joanna," which is one of my favorite songs. And I don't mean favorite in the same way everything's my favorite. I'm talking top 5 favorite and, thus, mega influential. Obviously!
  • Eiffel Tower Forever 21 Necklace. How much can you love a piece of jewelery that cost less than $2? I'll tell you: beaucoup! I'm wearing this all the time these days. Tout le temps! As if I really needed a visual to get me France-asizing... *le sigh*
  • Salted Caramel Pretzel Skinny Cow Bar. Ice cream? Chocolate? Salted caramel? Pretzels? Suffice it to say that I spend at least 67% of my day in heart-fluttery anticipation of this nightly treat.
  • Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver. Trying to be more proactive about reading more of the genre I'm interested in writing most, I picked up this middle grade novel at the urging of a friend. It feels like it's been a while since I really liked a book (two months is a long time in book years, okay?), but by the end of the first paragraph, I was hooked. I can't put it down! The writing style is precisely what I aspire to. It's warm, but not too rich, and the way the author shows you things instead of telling you is remarkable. I find myself scribbling down her delightful turns of phrase right and left and the three main characters leave me feeling like I've got a gooey center rather than ribs and assorted organs. Looking forward to reading much more from this author!
'Dreamy' is the word I most associate with my lullaby du jour, "Come Back When You Can" by Barcelona. Their whole Absolutes album goes hand-in-hand with one of my stories, but this song gets my daydreaming about it churning at full steam. And I'm not just saying that because I have an affinity for any song with "ohhhs" in the background... But it certainly doesn't hurt!

What's on your nightstand these days? Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

P.S. You might have noticed that there was no 'mardi muse' yesterday. Having just started a part-time job on top of my full-time job, I've decided that I just want these nightstand posts to be the scheduled weekly posts on this blog. Maybe that will change in the future, but that's the way it is for now. I will still be squeeing about fictional characters and obscure inspirations on a regular basis, though, never fear! xx