Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland (4.5 stars)
I read this for the Red Couch Book Club, although too slowly/late to participate in discussions (as usual). If you’re at all interested in creating real unity within and across the Church, this is a must-read. There is a LOT of academic social psychology in this book, but it’s tempered by Christena’s great wit and earthiness. I applaud her for addressing important truths that many Christians are too uncomfortable to talk about, and providing practical solutions.

Magnolia by Kristi Cook (4 stars)
An impulse buy/Kindle Daily Deal that I ended up reading in one sitting. Jemma and Ryder have grown up together, the perfectly-matched progeny of two Southern families desperate to unite in marriage. Unfortunately, for all of high school, they’ve hated each other. As Jemma secretly considers a future away from small-town Mississippi, family crises and a hurricane force her and Ryder to confront their past, and their feelings. This novel is set about an hour away from here, and I’m no country girl, but nothing seemed out of place to me. I liked it a lot. Would make a great ABC Family movie.

Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster by Kristen Johnston (4 stars)
After I heard Kristen Johnston on Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy podcast, I decided to look up her memoir. Brought up in the public eye in a very proper family, Kristen is now brutally honest about the extent of her drug and alcohol addiction and what led her there. In 2007, she was hospitalized in London and nearly died after her stomach literally exploded. It took an infection and rehospitalization for her to realize she was killing herself and decide to change her life. She is insightful, funny, and has the special wisdom of someone who’s well acquainted with rock bottom. Guts is not for the faint of heart, but I couldn’t put it down.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (4 stars)
When Lilac and Tarver meet aboard a luxury spaceship, they don’t expect their acquaintance to last long. Tarver is a decorated soldier and Lilac is the protected daughter of a powerful businessman. Then the ship crashes into a mysteriously abandoned planet, and they’re the only survivors. I see why people call this book “Titanic in space”, but it has some Firefly elements too. The characters and worldbuilding are solid.

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt (5 stars)
After discovering her boyfriend’s secret online life and online wife, Mallory decides to ditch technology and build a new life around a to-do list that her accomplished grandma wrote in 1962: Join pep club. Sew a homecoming dress. Throw a soiree. Find a steady. With the help of her sister Ginnie, she pursues these goals while avoiding anything not 1962-authentic. In the process, she digs up shocking family secrets, finds love in unexpected places, and learns that life in any decade has its pitfalls. This story rang so true and made me happy. When deciding how to rate it, I asked myself, “Did I enjoy this as much as a Rainbow Rowell book?” I did. So, five stars.

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger* (3 stars)
Audra is a sylph, with power over the wind. For years she’s been in hiding, secretly watching over Vane, the orphaned heir of the lost Westerly line. When she accidentally reveals herself, she’s forced to tell Vane what he is and train him for the battle that’s now coming. I mainly picked this up because weather, but overall I’m a little weary of the whole secret-cosmic-powers storyline. I did like the genderswapping here, though.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales* (4 stars)
Elise has always failed at everything she tries, and now she’s even failed at killing herself. In the aftermath, she takes to wandering the neighborhood at night and discovers an underground club, with friendly regulars who welcome her in no questions asked. Drawn in by the charismatic DJ, Char, she falls in love not with him, but with the music. This is a real, solid story of a girl coming into her own. Good stuff.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith (4 stars)
An enjoyable retrospective on The Nester’s 13 different homes and what each of them taught her, along with general philosophical thoughts about the concept of home. I haven’t kept up with her blog in a while, but I still love how warm and encouraging she is. This book was a good reminder to let myself think outside the box decor-wise and be willing to make some mistakes.

The Shelter of God’s Promises by Sheila Walsh (4 stars)
I love Sheila Walsh and am encouraged by everything she writes. This book focuses on God’s promises, each chapter focusing on a specific fear or concern. I read it slowly, usually right before bed so I’d have some quiet time to think about it. It’s a good one to have around for future reference.

Books for January/2015 year to date: 9

* = These two books were actually read in December, but got lost on Goodreads because I didn’t add a finish date. So I’m counting them now!

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General Highlights:

January was eventful in some ways and uneventful in others. On a few days, the weather was decent enough to be outside and blow off a little cabin fever. I attended some Tigers games and the inaugural meeting of a new single women’s group. Some friends and I had an Italian wine-tasting night and decided to dress as Mob Wives, complete with furs. By the end of the night we were having a Beyoncé dance party in the dining room. It was awesome.


My biggest January news is that I’m going to be a contributing writer to the new Memphis Type History blog! To start, I’ll mostly be focusing on personal stories of historic Memphis places and events. If you’re an older Memphian with a story to share, please contact me! I think the ladies of MTH have hit on a great idea that people will be interested in. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time and am very excited.



My three favorite books in January were very, uh, diverse. Nesting Place was a great choice for my first read of 2015 – I haven’t read her blog in a while, but I feel re-inspired to try new things in my new home once I move. (I already painted some candlesticks and might even stain my coffee table!) Going Vintage is an enjoyable YA novel about a girl who ditches technology after her boyfriend turns out to have a cyber-wife. And Guts, actress Kristen Johnston’s memoir of addiction and near-death, grabbed me from start to finish.

(Joey graphic by Irdion)


I’m elated that people are talking about Friends again now that it’s on Netflix! I have Amazon Prime, but I own all the DVDs and have been rewatching Season 3 this month – one of my lesser-watched seasons, mainly because the Ross/Rachel breakup is so painfully real. (I got through the episode this time by watching the version with commentary.) On this go-round I’m kind of relating to Season 3 Monica. Minus dating a millionaire, obvs.

I made it to TWO movies this month: Selma (amazing) and Night at the Museum 3 (just okay, but the ending with Robin Williams was moving). At home, I finally rented Gone Girl and also watched the documentary Girl Rising with some friends.



When I heard Sia’s “Elastic Heart” for the first time this month, I was instantly obsessed. I’m also really digging Alt-J lately – and The Decemberists, to my chagrin, because I’m apparently transforming into a hipster against my will. At least it’s balanced by my love of Fall Out Boy’s new American Beauty/American Psycho. I wasn’t even sick of their last album yet, and now I spend all my running sessions chanting “I CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS I CAN WORK A MIRACLE WORK A MIRACLE OH OH.”

PS: I think Maddie Ziegler is one of the greatest dancers alive right now. She’s 12 years old.


Serial: The Rom-Com.

Around Town:


My dad and I are VERY into the newest restaurant on Overton Square, Belly Acres. He took the whole family there shortly after it opened, and we’ve both been talking it up ever since. I’ve already been back several times and even chose it for a monthly supper club I’m part of – it was my turn to “host.” I think it was a hit!

Alanna, Allie, and I tried the new Maui Brick Oven in Germantown. The only other location of this gluten-free pizza place is actually in Hawaii, so I’m very curious what the story is there.

At Home:

I’m getting ready to list my house for sale (!!!) and will most likely be downsizing, so home life lately has been ALL about cleaning, purging, and reorganization. It feels great, and since I’m already pretty organized, it’s not too daunting a task. My only frustration is getting no takers for things I’m trying to sell. I never seem to be able to make money from things I own – I end up taking it all to Goodwill.



My brother shot an elk on Thanksgiving Day, in addition to a few deer, so my family has more meat in our freezers than we know what to do with. One night I made a stew of ground Italian-style venison sausage, kale, and cannelini beans, and it was so delicious I happily ate the leftovers for the rest of the week. Normally, I don’t even like beans.



On the whole, it hasn’t been the coldest January ever, but warmth is still the name of my game. I’ve been living in my fleece-lined leggings and my hand-crocheted headband from the Uncharted International Loom Shop. On another note, I scored a pair of Joe’s Jeans in Honey fit at Plato’s Closet, and apparently they’re my Holy Grail of jeans. I’ll start looking for more secondhand, since they cost around $100 off the rack.



Little Things Studio‘s typography prints are fantastic. I bought several prints and a hymns calendar before cutting myself off.


The dry air is killing me this winter – I had to get a humidifier and go hardcore with some Shea Moisture raw shea butter lotion. After searching Pinterest for winter hair help, I also did a honey and olive oil mask on my hair, with great results. It’s probably time for another one.

Random Happiness:

Older but still relevant news: a while back, my vet suggested switching my cat Peach from a liquid prednisone to a gel. (She needs daily prednisone to keep her IBS under control.) Instead of trying to force medicine into her mouth and getting it all over myself and my home, I now rub this gel onto the inside of her ear. It takes seconds, she doesn’t fight it, and she’s getting her full daily dose consistently for the first time ever. Result: a much happier, healthier cat and no more lashing-out accidents for me to clean up. The gel is more expensive and I have to go to a special pharmacy to get it, but I don’t even care. Our mutual quality of life has improved a hundredfold. God bless modern medicine.

I’m still loving my new church and feel so thankful to be there. This month I started helping with coffee hour before the Sunday service. My guard is still up about taking on more commitments or even continuing the ones I have, but I do want to pitch in as a new member, and this is something tangible I can do that doesn’t require much extra effort. It’s also a great way to meet people. Plus, coffee.



Isaiah 58:11 is my verse for 2015. I’d been keeping an eye out for Enough-themed verses, but I wasn’t looking for this one. It chose me.


Quote of the Month:

My SIPster Esther shared this with me, and Be The Answer instantly became one of my new mantras. Life-changing.

On The Blog:

It was a quality-over-quantity blogging month. I talked about my One Word choice for 2015, burnout, and friendship, and announced my decision to sell my house in the burbs and move into the city! I also shared about the holidays with my family.

Posts I Loved:

♥ My friend Lindsey is killing it with her What’s In A Woman series, which starts here.

♥ My parish leader Tyler has good insights on New Year’s Resolutions and Why The Old Ones Won’t Work.

♥ Abby at Accidental Devotional: Feelings Need Felt and Not Fixed

♥ Kate Conner: The Things We Take Off at the Front Door

♥ Common themes: Elizabeth Klein on Post-Traumatic Relationship Disorder; Kim Shipley on Relationship Struggles; Paul Heggie on Overcorrecting the Heart. I can relate to all.

Mortal Instruments author Cassandra Clare weighs in on different types of love in response to a reader question.

♥ Amy at The Messy Middle reflects beautifully on her last week with her dad a year ago: This Is Our Passion Week.

What I'm Into

4 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into


Two people isn’t enough. You need backup. If you’re only two people, and someone drops off the edge, then you’re on your own. Two isn’t a large enough number. You need three at least.
– Nick Hornby
, About a Boy

Like most introverts, I need regular one-on-one time with my close friends, but I’ve always liked the warmth of a group of friends just as much. Maybe it started in high school, when after several years as a relative outcast, I was absorbed into the big, loud family of marching band. (A good marching band, as any veteran can tell you, is a little bit like the Mafia. We may have issues amongst ourselves, but beware any outsider who crosses one of our own.) In college, I connected with a big social group right away and later transitioned to another, with my two best friends/roommates as constants. These days, I find myself at the center of a huge Venn diagram of diverse friend groups. I’ve kept most of my nearest and dearest from younger days, and added more circles over time: old and new church friends, yoga and music friends, Scary Internet Friends near and far.

People often tell me I’m lucky to have so many friends. That’s a fact that I try not to take for granted. But when you’re single, with no guaranteed companionship, a large home team equals security. To me, it’s a necessity. I’m loved much more widely and deeply than I deserve, but trust me, I need every drop of it. Friendship is crucial regardless of your relationship status, but I know I wasn’t built for the single life, and I’ll always be aware of the empty space where a life partner should be. I’m convinced – and thankful – that God’s provided this abundance of friends because it truly takes a village to fill the gap. Some days, all of that love and support is the only thing keeping me going.

Here are some reasons why I need a village, and ways in which my village helps me daily. These things could apply to any friendships, but I think they’re especially important for single people.

Availability. When I’m looking for someone to hang out or to go to an event with me, I frequently have to ask at least three people before someone says yes (and obviously the field is narrowed by whatever the event is). Sometimes I still have to go alone. People are busy. It’s frustrating. Aside: coupled friends, your single friends understand that your social time is more limited. When we ask you to do things, we’re not trying to rob your boo of your presence, and we will understand if you need to say no. But we’ll keep asking, because we want to see you. Also, we don’t mind hanging out with both of you sometimes (provided you don’t act sickeningly coupley). In my case, I’m low on male friends, so I enjoy being around my girlfriends’ husbands and boyfriends. Some are thrown off by my inability to provide another man for them to talk to, but most are cool with the fact that I’m cool with being a third wheel.

Diversity. Different friends play different roles in my life. The people I can depend on for a good time aren’t always the ones I can call when I’m upset about something. Some friends can provide an understanding ear on one topic but not others. Some will comfort you, others will give you tough love. Some will get you out the door, others will help you settle down. When you don’t have a go-to person for the ups and downs of life, you need a lot of specialists. (Though I don’t think it’s ever healthy to depend on one person for all your relational needs.)

Intimacy. No, not that kind. The downside of casting my friendship net far and wide is that I sometimes feel alone in a crowd, which is even worse than feeling alone alone. I think, These people care about me to some degree, but do they really know me at all? Do they even want to? Friendships can feel unbalanced if you only share the very lighthearted or the very serious. You need something in the middle, too. I’ve recently realized that sharing random life minutiae with people makes me all warm inside, and I think this is why. I feel loved and happy when friends text me pictures of their tickets to see a band or team we both like, or a bizarre item they saw at Target that would amuse me, or call to tell me their kid just did something hilarious, or they just saw a hawk swoop across the road with a live squirrel in its talons (true story). Of course sharing the Deep Stuff is necessary to build true intimacy, but I think little details like these are really underrated for creating bonds. They mean someone thought of you and wanted to invite you into a part of their daily life that they knew you’d appreciate.

Change. People change and lives change, and that’s as it should be. Even lifelong friends go through times when they’re less close or just can’t be what the other person needs. Having a village means other friends are always there to help fill a gap or ease a sense of loss.

Do you need a village too, or do you prefer to keep your circle small? What pros and cons have you experienced? Sometimes having a lot of friends can be a little exhausting, but on the whole, I wouldn’t trade it.

This post is part of a friendship synchroblog at Little Did She Know. Lots of great takes on the topic over there!

1 Comment + Posted in: friends, relationships, singleness

Red door!

In 2010, after my marriage ended, most people were surprised that I wanted to stay in the suburban house I’d bought with my ex-husband. We’d lived there together for four years, but the thing was, the house was mostly mine anyway. I was the one who’d spent collective months painting trim, doors, and walls, tending the lawn, and planting perennials. Most of my time there was already spent alone. At a time when so much had been taken from me without my consent, I refused to let anyone take away my home too, when I was in a position to keep it. Memories or no memories.

Over the last few years, my house has been my refuge. For a while I called it “The Cloister” because I wanted it to be a place of peace and contemplation for all. (It was also a nod to my unintentionally nunlike existence, though men were always welcome at The Cloister.) My family and I fixed up the house to within an inch of its life. My dad and I spent an entire weekend repainting the exterior. My brother remodeled my bathroom. I had new flooring installed. I’ve replaced almost every major appliance (and, in a freak occurrence, the garage door. Whose garage door collapses for no reason?!?). After years of trial and error, my raised-bed garden is seasoned and settled. My house is totally me, and perfect. My house is done.

Last summer, I noticed I wasn’t really feeling it anymore. I used to love taking a turn around my yard and garden right after work, checking on my plants and generally surveying my domain. I used to feel so happy and satisfied being home and enjoying my solitude. But suddenly, it didn’t have the same thrill. I was itchy for company and excitement. I wanted to be part of something. And everything was happening in town, half an hour away. It had always been kind of a challenge to get friends out to my house, and that bothered me more than before. I felt frustrated in ways I couldn’t explain, even to myself.

At the beginning of last August, I had a massive cusp-of-35 meltdown. I came home late one night to find my cat mysteriously sick, the first sign of the cancer that would take him six weeks later (though my only knowledge then was a vague sense of impending doom), and I fell apart. My dad (Best Dad Ever) came over at 11 pm to make sure I was okay. We sat together on the couch and I sobbed out everything that had been weighing on me. I felt like I had nothing to show for 35 years of life, like I’d wasted my entire adulthood up to this point. I felt like I’d spent the years since the divorce, especially, on a hamster wheel. Other people my age were advancing in their careers, advancing in their relationships, doing big things, and I was still going nowhere without a map. I’d spent so many years quietly unhappy in my circumstances, waiting for divine intervention or direction that everyone had promised would come, and that passivity now looked like a tragic waste. I couldn’t stand idly by anymore. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I knew I wanted something more. Something different. Some action.

“Brens, you’re the boss of your own life. Anything you want to do, you can do it,” Pops answered when I was done talking. “We can do it. This…” he waved his hand to indicate my beautiful home we’d labored over for years “…This is all just stuff.”

It started there, and almost six months later, I’m preparing to to list my beautiful suburban house and move to Midtown Memphis, into the heart of the city. I feel a degree of certainty about this move that I’ve felt about very few things in my life. I’m not even very concerned about the logistics, because I am that sure this is what God means for me to do, and He’s going to work it all out. That kind of trust is so hard for me to come by, I have to believe there’s something to it. Financially, and in some senses practically, this move makes no sense. I’m planning to rent in Midtown (what I’ll be renting is TBD), i.e. exchanging a responsible mortgage for Throwing My Money Away. I’ve taken some crap for deciding not to rent out my house and be a landlord for the next 30 years, therefore Losing My Only Asset. I’ll have higher bills for (most likely) a smaller living space, because Midtown is Expensive and Unsafe.

But I believe there are times in life to put your happiness and quality of life above practical concerns. Right now I commute back and forth from various parts of the city about ten times a week (work, church and social activities, basketball games), and I am exhausted. I’ve hit my limit of eating meals and doing wardrobe changes in my car, or deciding whether it’s worth it to drive home just to be there for half an hour before turning around and coming back. Over time, the driving has been a huge contributor to my burnout. Moving will set me free. One morning last month as I drove into work, I realized, I have a finite number of times left to do this, and such a huge weight lifted off me that I almost cried. I read recently that getting rid of your commute is the happiness equivalent of a $40,000 annual raise. I’m looking forward to experiencing this.

More importantly, I can’t wait to be where the action is. I can’t wait to casually hang out at the cool places I have to plan to go to now, to be able to stop by fun events and go home whenever I want. I’ve been thinking a lot about why single people traditionally live in the city and families traditionally live in the suburbs, and I think I finally understand. It’s about more than just perceived safety and access to clean grocery stores and good schools. The thing is, marriage and family naturally turn you inward. You want to create a safe haven that will nurture your relationships, a hub from which you can go out into the world and to which you can return to each other at the end of the day. The suburbs are great for that. But singleness turns you outward, especially when you live alone. You still need and deserve a restorative home for yourself, but there are no relationships there (other than with pets). Home is less of a hub and more of a charging station. To find human connection, you have to go out. And the city is great for that.

I think for many years, I was subconsciously hanging on to a little piece of my old married identity. I didn’t want to stray too far, because surely I would be “back on track” eventually. Well, not only have I cut the track, I’m tearing it up with a pickax. I’m ready to fully inhabit who and what I am and what I need now, regardless of my past or my future, regardless if it’s what someone my age “should” be doing. I am done living on shoulds and somedays. If this is what giving up looks like, count me in.

At the urging of some friends, I’ll be writing about this transition as it happens. I’m excited about this new chapter of my life and glad to have you guys along for the ride!

14 Comments + Posted in: announcement, family, home, singleness


A couple of months ago, I thought I was depressed. I was living under a soul-deep exhaustion I hadn’t felt in years, the kind where an unbidden I am so tired echoes in your brain constantly. I’d experienced a lot of changes in a short time without a real chance to process them. I’d been busy every night and getting home at 9 pm for what seemed like forever. Every day I woke up thinking, What do I have to do today?, and every day I felt a little more defeated by the answer. In my few hours at home, I’d make a chore list, then flop onto my bed and stare at my phone for an hour. I cried a lot, sometimes for no real reason. My near future blurred into an endless stretch of full planner pages that suddenly felt more like a prison than evidence of a happily active life. After years of constant busy-ness, my tank was finally empty and I knew it. I had no reserves left to draw from and nothing left to give anybody. I wanted to sleep for a week while someone cleaned my house for me and brought me food. I even lacked the energy to feel ashamed that I felt this way with only myself to take care of, on a hamster wheel mostly of my own making. When the harried wife and mother in my head started in, Let me tell you what REAL exhaustion is, I waved her away with a Yeah, whatever.

I thought I was depressed. I’d get better. No big deal.

A couple of weeks into this, the head pastor at my new church announced that he was taking a sabbatical. No crises or scandals, he assured us. He and the elders had just agreed that he was burned out and needed a rest. He read a list of signs of ministry burnout, and even though I’m not a professional minister, I had every single one. I don’t have his exact list, but here are some signs of burnout I’ve drawn from various sources:

– Decreased motivation and productivity
– Increased cynicism/despair/hopelessness about your life, future, and potential impact on the world
– Reduced sense of personal accomplishment
– Reduced ability to deal with stress
– Feeling disconnected and withdrawn from, and easily irritated by, others, including your loved ones and even God
– Oversensitivity to negative comments and/or people not liking you
– Assuring everyone (including yourself) that you will slow down “soon”
– And the checkmate, for me: Sleep and time off no longer refuel you. I’d been trying to relax whenever I could for a few weeks, but it wasn’t helping at all. I’d actually just told a friend that I felt like it would take a month holed up at home to even start feeling rested.

I knew then that I wasn’t depressed in a typical sense. I was burned out. Turns out, burnout is a very real thing and it can take A YEAR or more to fully recover. (It’s kind of like losing pregnancy weight, I guess. You didn’t get there overnight; you’re not going to get back overnight.)

When I shared my revelation with friends, they agreed and firmly encouraged me to take a sabbatical too. Unfortunately, rest for rest’s sake is not a thing in corporate America, so I couldn’t take a real break from work. But I’ve stepped back and de-structured in other areas. I’ve been doing this crazy thing where if I don’t feel like doing something, and it’s not urgent or important, I just don’t do it. I’ve never reached this point before, so this is my first genuine proof that if I’m not always at the top of my game and don’t do everything asked of me, the world keeps turning and nobody dies. I don’t plan to live this way forever (she assures everyone hurriedly), but I’m not going back to the old way either. This is a reassessment of my lifestyle and of what I can reasonably expect of myself. I’ve heard about the Spoon Theory from friends dealing with various conditions. Well, I think I’ve always allotted myself a freaking drawer full of spoons instead of an average amount for one person, and judged myself accordingly.

This week has been my busiest since I scaled back. The holidays are really over, everything is cranking up again, and it’s getting tougher to maintain the balance. I was out late-ish after work three nights in a row – things I wanted to do, but each night I hit a wall early and collapsed into bed as soon as I got home. Dejected, I told Alanna, “My tolerance for activity is really down. I wonder if I always felt this way and wasn’t paying attention.” She replied, “Not necessarily. Your body may be saying, I’ve had it and these are the new rules.”

These are the new rules.

– I don’t have to say yes to everything. I can sometimes say no, and no is a complete sentence. People will understand and will not instantly dismiss me as selfish or boring. If they do, I probably don’t need them in my life.

– I don’t have to be 100% dedicated to every group or organization I’m involved with. It’s okay to miss some meetings or band practices. They will be fine without me. If they disapprove of my “inconsistency,” maybe quitting entirely would do us both a favor.

– I don’t have to keep a perfectly spotless, perfectly orderly home. I used to believe I had no excuse because it’s only me in the house. Now I’m like, it’s only me in the house, and it’s okay if you can tell someone lives there. Also, I need to be there enough to make home more than just the place where I sleep and feed my cat.

– I don’t have to accomplish All The Things every single day. Life is not all or nothing. It’s okay to do things in stages. The end result is the same – it just takes longer.

– I don’t have to post on this blog a certain number of times per week. Lower page views are not the boss of me. I will write when I have something to say.

– If I’m exhausted when I get into bed at night, for goodness’ sake, I can go right to sleep. That book and the latest Jimmy Fallon lip-sync battle will still be there tomorrow.

The good news is, I’m beginning to feel better. I’m thinking more clearly, feeling less overwhelmed, and looking forward to things again. In the past, I’d respond to this slight improvement by jumping back into everything full throttle. This time, I know that would put me back at square one or worse. This is a struggling candle flame, and I plan to tend it very carefully here in the dead of winter.

10 Comments + Posted in: health, life lately, one word: enough

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Is it too late to post about the holidays? Well, too bad if it is, I’m doing it anyway. #rebel

My holidays were wonderful. Miraculously, I was able to take time off from Christmas Eve to January 2. My brother and I had a nice long visit, since he arrived on Christmas Adam and stayed for the duration, but my sister, BIL, and nieces didn’t arrive till the 29th, at which point we officially had Christmas all together. My days settled into a comfortable pattern. I’d get up around 8:00, make coffee, write and compute for an hour or two, then head over to my parents’ and be with my family the rest of the day. Normally when I’m off work for that long, I’m all about maximizing the time and Getting Things Done. This time, I didn’t even try. I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions or worry about anything, and it was just what my worn-out self needed. After just a few days, I felt like I could think clearly for the first time in a long time.


Everyone enjoyed Christmas dinner.


Fifoo had so many gifts to unwrap, she changed outfits three times during the process and had to be cajoled to finish opening presents. She just wanted to play with her new play-kitchen stand mixer (not pictured), which was of course the first thing she opened.


I LOVED my gifts from Debra and Lance – a Gryffindor Quidditch Captain T-shirt (yes I’m holding a broom) and a very true tote bag.

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Kevin saw this print on my Etsy favorites list and decoupaged it onto some wood planks. He also made a really cool cross for my mom out of reclaimed wood and thin rebar. So creative!!


A Very Tennessee Christmas: in our eternal preparedness for the zombie apocalypse and/or Red Dawn, we all received ammo and went to the range together one afternoon to keep our shooting sharp. “They messed with the wrong family,” INDEED.

Fifoo got a little quality time with Peach.


We all went to Zoo Lights – I’d never been – and had a great time despite temperatures in the 20s.

me and my favorite shadow


And of course there was down time with the nieces! Fifoo is two and a half and Baby E is three months. It’s a fun time.

For New Year’s Eve, I broke away from the fam and Went Out for the first time in I can’t remember how long. I went to a party at the Madison Hotel with a group of friends. It was less swanky than advertised and I probably wouldn’t pay that much to go again, but we still danced and had fun, and I was happy to do something different!

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More importantly, after midnight we snuck up to the Madison rooftop – my favorite view in Memphis. Up there, the freezing cold actually felt refreshing. It was a great way to start a new year, one that I hope will be REALLY new and different in exciting ways from the ones before. Here’s to a happy 2015 for all of us!

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Two years ago, I stopped attempting to do New Year’s resolutions and hopped on the One Word 365 train. The idea is that you choose one word to guide you throughout the year, and however that plays out in your life is up to you. For me, it starts with paying attention. I keep my eyes open for the concept in conversations, books, music, movies, the Bible, things that happen to me or my friends. I pin stuff and write myself notes. I look for whatever the word is trying to teach me.

My 2013 word was Focus. It was a concept I needed at the time, but I never got very enthusiastic about it. Last year was a totally different story. I felt strongly about my 2014 word, Alive, and there’s no doubt that applying and exploring it changed my life. It was a rich, exciting, mostly fun word. I was sorry to see it go. Even so, I already knew my 2015 word. It started jumping out at me as far back as last summer, and it feels as right and timely as Alive did.


- As much as is necessary or wanted; in the amount or to the degree needed; sufficient; satisfying.

I am convinced that believing I am enough is crucial for a healthy, peaceful, and impactful life. I’m unhappiest and most self-centered when I feel hopelessly not enough, and sometimes those thoughts beat down on me like a hailstorm. I want to get back to a place of solid, consistent assurance that I am enough, in Christ and in who I was made to be, even when people who matter to me don’t agree and it hurts.

I also want to feel more assured that I have enough for each day. Living from a perspective of scarcity will make you crazy (even though in some cases scarcity is a fact – I still don’t know what to do with this). Big-picture thinking will make you crazy. No, I am not okay with lacking certain things for the rest of my life, but I’m not responsible for the rest of my life right now. It’s time to renew my contentment with the right now. The daily bread. The abundance that’s right in front of me.

(This section brought to you by my guru, Dr. Brene Brown.)

- Something you say when you want something to stop, or to indicate that you understand and there is no need to say any more.

It has come to my attention that I am seriously burned out. I’ve been going nonstop and not building any whitespace into my life for, well, ever, and my entire being is letting me know it has had enough. The insanity has to stop. The holiday break from everything has helped, but it’s going to take more than two or three weeks to get me to 100%. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen 100%. I have to learn how to live fully while also giving myself room to breathe, and how to say no more often. And if I really believe I am enough (definition 1), I’ll feel less pressure to perform, work at being exciting and sparkly, or be The Dependable One in every one of my many involvements. Different strategies won’t fix it – I’ve tried that a million times. I have to be different. I’ve actually made progress with this over the years, and realize it’s a lifelong battle, but a significant shift needs to take place this year.

I’ve also had enough of being stuck in important areas of my life. My patience as I know it has run out. Once I’m revived enough to act instead of react, maybe I’ll know how to get unstuck.

All this might appear selfish and self-centered, but it’s not. I want to help people, love well, and be a positive influence, and I can’t do it if I’m feeling insecure and running myself into the ground. Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, etc.

This won’t be an easy word, but I feel excited and hopeful about it. I also chose a verse for the year, or I should say it chose me (I wasn’t looking for it):


I’ll be writing about my Enough journey throughout the year, and I already have some thoughts. Get ready! And if you’ve chosen a word too, tell me about it.

(PS: You better believe I already have an Enough Pinterest board!)

16 Comments + Posted in: one word: enough


I’m skipping What I’m Into this month in favor of Emily Freeman’s What We Learned in 2014 linkup. Happy New Year’s Eve!

What I Learned in 2014:

Ask for what you want. Sometimes the only reason you don’t have what you want is because you haven’t asked. People aren’t mind readers and can’t help or accommodate you if they don’t know you need it. If the answer is no, you’re no worse off than you were before, and you’re that much braver.

Be your own damn knight. Don’t go into everything guns blazing, but don’t wait quietly and endlessly for someone else to rescue you. You are worthy and able to rescue yourself.

“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.” – Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo. And with every 20 seconds, it gets easier to start.

Real love, or even the real possibility of it, conquers all. Practical obstacles, personality differences, and your established mental picture of the kind of person you want to be with ultimately mean nothing when you find someone your soul recognizes. If that stuff holds you back or gets in the way, it’s not the right person. Bottom line.

Avoiding mistakes is not the goal of life. If you make every single decision based on how safe or wise it is, you’re going to miss out on a lot. I believe there is such a thing as responsible recklessness and it is my current life practice. I’ve lost my fear of getting to the finish line with a few bumps and bruises. In fact, I think it makes God smile, like a parent smiles on a kid who comes in a little roughed up from a day of play. It’s not a sign of failure. If God intended us to get everywhere in a smooth, straight line, He wouldn’t lead us down so many meandering roads. He uses the side roads and the chances we take to shape us into the people we’re supposed to be. Warning: when you start living this way, some people won’t like it, and they will let you know. Let it go.

No one has life figured out. The people you envy and/or look up to, who appear to be clicking right along on successful ten-year plans, are flying by the seat of their pants as much as you are. If you ask, some of them will tell you about it. Truly believing this will be a process for me, but I’ve finally seen enough evidence to start.

There is a time to be the change you want to see, and a time to accept that you can’t be that change all alone. It’s a fine but crucial line.

Love is my superpower. This year I took a StrengthsFinder test. Out of 34 possibilities, my primary strength is Empathy. Deep down, a secret part of me still hoped I had some cool, marketable natural ability I hadn’t tapped into yet. That little hope died when I read the test results. It was my true last call that I am not an impressive wielder of Air, Water, or Earth. I am the Heart kid. But Heart is the glue. Without him, the other powers would be mostly bluster.

I’m trying to stop being ashamed of or apologizing for my capability to love hard (and hide it poorly), over-relate and get over-attached, and see past people’s mistakes to who they really are and meet them there. It’s embarrassing and messy in a world of hipster indifference. It’s easily misunderstood. It can’t get me a job, it probably scares off a lot of men, and it usually ends up hurting me way more than it helps me. But it is my gift, and the world needs it.

What did you learn in 2014?

5 Comments + Posted in: reflections, year end


Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh (3.5 stars)
A graphic memoir mostly taken from Brosh’s Hyperbole and Half blog, including hilarious classics like “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving” and her very honest two-part post about depression. (My personal favorite, “Sneaky Hate Spiral,” didn’t make it into the book.)

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (4 stars)
Franny is a struggling young actress in NYC in the 1990s. With only six months left until her self-imposed deadline to make it big, she’s under a lot of pressure, but all her hopeful career turns are dead ends. Among her assets: a rogue sense of humor, a dayplanner given to her by her loving dad, and two roommates, best friend Jane and sci-fi writer Dan. I really enjoyed this – and love that Franny has curly hair. Styling this mess in the 90s was NOT EASY.

The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions by Jeff Manion (4.5 stars)
Jeff Manion is a pastor who’s been through a lot in both his career and his personal life. Using the Israelites’ wandering in the desert as a framework, he writes frankly and encouragingly about long desert periods in our lives, and the difference between “grumbling” against God and honestly bringing our grief and frustration to Him, while maintaining that he hasn’t mastered any of this himself. I didn’t expect to get so much out of this book, but it helped me tremendously. Highly recommended for anyone losing hope or feeling overwhelmed.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (4.5 stars)
For several years, quiet Emily has been happy to cruise in the shadow of her free-spirited best friend, Sloane. Then Sloane suddenly disappears, leaving her with nothing but a list of daring tasks to complete over the summer. As Emily works her way down the list, a fun new life starts to unfold… but where did her best friend go?

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (4.5 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Thrashing About with God: Finding Faith on the Other Side of Everything by Mandy Steward (5 stars)
This book has been sitting in the to-read pile next to my bed for at least a year, and I’m glad, because it was meant for me right now. In these reflective essays (many taken from her blog, which I haven’t yet read), Mandy discusses her faith burnout after a lifetime in the Church. In a sense, she tore down the scaffolding of her relationship with God and started over from scratch – terrified, but trusting that God’s love was big enough to hold her as she found a new way. While I’m not in exactly the same place she was, we’re on the same page about a lot of things (especially the grace to “let” everyone have a different path), and her words validated things I’ve learned. I seriously stopped highlighting in the third chapter because I was highlighting everything. If you have a “Wholehearted library” of sorts like I do, this is a worthy addition.

Books for December: 6
2014 FINAL TOTAL: 75!!! I didn’t really set a goal, but 75 is a respectable number. Yay!

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1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Went to Hawaii; attended the NCAA Tournament; learned how to hula hoop; bought a domain and a design for my blog; raised the subject of being roommates with a friend; had a triple birthday party; ran a 5K (twice!); witnessed a boss get fired; asked a guy out; got fitted for real running shoes; served on a jury; acquired a blog hater; camped at Kentucky Lake; put a beloved pet down; guest posted for a Notable Blogger; volunteered at a public broadcasting station; got a tattoo; agreed to a blind fixup; watched my football team win a conference championship AND a bowl game; was mistaken for the bride at a wedding rehearsal because we look that much alike.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My One Word for 2014 was Alive, and I’m very satisfied with how it turned out! I’ve decided on my 2015 word and will announce it later, but I’ve been thinking about more practical resolutions too. One thing I want to focus on is being consistent across my relationships and different facets of my life. I think I already do okay at this, but I realize more and more how important it is. And I plan to take more steps in my current general goal of Making My Outside Match My Inside.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
More like who didn’t? My sister Debra, my college roommate Kathy, one of my best friends Caroline, two SIPsters, and several other good friends.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My cat Gandalf, my roommate and companion for 12 years. I still miss him every single day. One of my college friends also died suddenly around the same time. We weren’t really in touch and I hadn’t seen her in years, but back then we were pretty close.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked this year?
A relationship. A home in an area better suited to my life. More time to BE.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
4/23: My BIL Lance’s ordination. 7/4: My best friend Alanna got engaged. 8/1: Came home to find Gandalf mysteriously sick. 9/3: Found out he had cancer. 9/15: The day I said goodbye. 9/17: Left for Hawaii. 10/1: My niece E’s birth. 10/3: My brother’s movie premiere. 10/13: My “nephew” E’s birth. 11/15: Alanna’s wedding. 12/22: The Miami Beach Bowl!!!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Probably leaving my church and finding a new one. It was a hard and scary decision, but absolutely the right one. I’m also happy about my progress as a writer and blogger this year. I feel a lot more confident and capable, and the best part is, it kind of happened when I wasn’t looking.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Spending too much emotional energy on the wrong people/situations.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Other than some scrapes, bruises, and allergies, I was really healthy this year. Yay!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My tattoo and my ticket to Hawaii.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My friends’. Seriously, they are all amazing – as people and in their love and support – and I don’t deserve them. Also, early in the year I got an e-mail from a pastor that was SO affirming and kind, I still cry when I think about it. I only met him briefly, but he spoke God’s love and calling over me and my writing more powerfully than any pastor I’ve actually had a relationship with. God bless that man.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Too dangerous to go there.

14. Where did most of your money go (other than regular bills)?
Experiences – traveling, tickets, and great meals – and I’m fine with that. More please!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Pretty much every good thing that happened.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
The 2014 Soundtrack

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
Too close to call.
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner – thank you, running!!!
c) richer or poorer? A little poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Sleeping and relaxing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Basically living in my car.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my parents and brother here in Memphis. We’ll have “real Christmas” when my sister and her family arrive this week.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?

22. What concerts did you attend this year?
I made it to a respectable number of Levitt Shell shows: Katie Herzig, Old 97’s, the Moon River Fest organized by Drew and Ellie Holcolmb, and my friend Myla Smith’s Shell debut on Easter Eve! I also saw Ingram Hill and Johnnyswim. I was dying to go to Katy Perry, but the tickets were too expensive. NEXT TIME.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
The Mindy Project.

24. Do you dislike anyone now whom you didn’t dislike this time last year?
No, my early impressions of people usually stick.

25. What was the best book you read?
My Favorite Books of 2014. Though I want to add Thrashing About With God by Mandy Hubbard, which I’m reading right now. FANTASTIC.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
HAIM and Banks

27. What did you want and get?
A great new church. Some great new friends. Lots of wonderful things I never thought to ask for.

28. What did you want and not get?
Career progress. Love. More years with my cat.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I’ll just list all the movies I really enjoyed this year: Begin Again, Edge of Tomorrow, Mockingjay, Interstellar, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fault in Our Stars, Draft Day, Frozen, Divergent, Veronica Mars

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 35. I ran a 5K and had a night out downtown with friends. It was only part of my Birthday Week of Awesome! (I’m tempted to keep going with that model and not save it for milestone birthdays.)

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I pretty much answered this already, but my year was satisfying regardless.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
I’m trying to cut the excess and focus more on well-made clothes I really love. It makes life easier.

33. What kept you sane?
My friends, my counselor, sunshine, endorphins, and vitamins.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Jimmy Fallon, as usual.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Michael Brown verdict and everything that followed. At some point I saw a tweet to the effect of, “If you’ve ever wondered where you would have stood during the civil rights movement, you’re about to find out.” I believe this to be true. #BlackLivesMatter.

36. Who did you miss?
My siblings, nieces, and friends far away.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
It was a banner year for meeting great new people! They know who they are. ;)

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
Ask for what you want. And, related: BYODK (Be Your Own Damn Knight).

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Gotta make hay when the sun is shining
Can’t waste time when it comes time to dance
Keeping in touch with the windows down
Dreading this night since the rain hit the ground

Long live the heart, long live the soul
That knows what it wants
No matter how far, how heavy this load
It never lets go.

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