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