thescorpionrules

A few hundred years in the future, as global climate change leads to increasing shortages, war wipes out most of the population that hasn’t already died from lack of viable water. In desperation, the United Nations appoints an AI, Talis, to find a way to save what’s left of humankind. His solution: nuke a series of major cities to get everyone’s attention, then take over the world and keep the peace himself. His strategy: make war personal by taking a hostage child from each world leader while they’re age five to eighteen. If any leader declares war, their child’s life is forfeit.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, has grown up in one of these Preceptures, with the heirs of the world’s kingdoms and confederacies as her de facto family. She works and studies hard, flies under the radar, and tries to be realistic about her chances of surviving to her eighteenth birthday. Then Elian, a new hostage from a newly formed nation, arrives at the Precepture kicking and screaming. His nation borders Greta’s, and she knows immediately that their countries are going to war; both of them are going to die; and she’s not ready to die before she’s ever really lived.

So many books have claimed to be the next Hunger Games. The Scorpion Rules really is, in its own way. It’s not exactly dystopia; there’s no rebellion, and Talis is the most likable, entertaining robot overlord ever, like a Terminator created by Joss Whedon. But it’s suspenseful, disturbing, pulls no punches, and takes the road less traveled by at every fork. There is a love triangle, but it’s not the kind you’re used to, and really it’s part of a big love pentagon which I found pretty understandable under the circumstances (and which doesn’t drive the plot).

In addition to being a novelist, Erin Bow is also a physicist, and it shows. The science in this book seems pretty solid. I hadn’t read any of her work before, but I’m on board for more of her nuanced, darkly hopeful writing. The Scorpion Rules is one of my top 10 fiction books of 2015, no question. I stayed up way too late reading it several nights in a row, and in fact, I’m already in the mood to read it again.

Recommended for: Anyone who likes to read and isn’t freaked out by what I described in this review

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Lucky me!!

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babaluveggietacos

Over the last year or so, my cooking mojo has dwindled to almost nothing. Living in Midtown makes it even easier to go out with friends (someone’s running a special every night) or grab something on the run. When I do eat at home, it’s usually a salad or an omelet, something I can throw together with minimal effort. However, I still get occasional flashes of inspiration. Such was the case last week when I tried the veggie tacos at Babalu and thought, I must replicate these at home ASAP. It was easy to do. I took note of the ingredients listed on the menu and Googled a recipe for chipotle dressing. It’s not a perfect translation of the tacos, but the results were delicious. Here’s what I did:


Copycat Babalu Veggie Tacos
Serves 4.

Taco Ingredients:
1 pack small corn tortillas (blue if you can find them)
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 container of mushrooms
4-5 radishes
Small bunch arugula or spring mix
1 cup corn (I forgot this)
½ red onion (unless you’re allergic, like me)
1 block cotija cheese

Chipotle Vinaigrette Ingredients: (from here – this makes a LOT of dressing)
1 ½ cups canola oil or other salad oil (not olive oil)
½ cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 ½ chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I couldn’t find these, and substituted another jarred hot pepper)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper


Directions:

1. Slice the zucchini and squash in half. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little oregano. Grill skin-side down until browned.

2. Slice the mushrooms and radishes (and red onion, if using). Sauté in olive oil until they look cooked. Add the corn during the last couple of minutes.

3. Combine the dressing ingredients, except for the oil, in a blender or Magic Bullet. Add the oil gradually. Or totally forget that dressings are supposed to be emulsified and blend everything at once. It’ll still taste good.

4. Retrieve the squash from the grill and slice it up. Grate the cheese. Heat the tortillas.

5. Combine all the veggies in a large bowl.

6. Assemble the tacos: dressing on the tortilla, then the grilled veggies, then some arugula. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Yay!

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flowergarden15 (1)

After weeks of plotting, planning, and visiting every garden center in town, I finally finished my flower garden last week! It took about six weeks in my new place before I was even ready to think about the garden. By then, the spring planting season was over, and interesting plants were more difficult to find. But I managed.

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When I moved in, the entire landscape area was covered in rocks. My mom helped me clear most of them to one side, under the balcony, where I park my bike and which doesn’t get enough sun anyway. We created a line of demarcation just past the bike, leaving me with a roughly 4×10 blank slate. A few weeks later, my dad and I installed pavers around the front and side perimeter, and plastic edging along the back and other side to protect the fence. We filled it in with bagged soil and mulch. Even without plants, I was thrilled by how much better it looked.

For my own records and for anyone else who enjoys flower talk, here’s what I have:

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One Rose of Sharon (althea). I lost the tag, but I think it’s the Lavender Chiffon variety. In trying to determine the color, I just found numerous gardening threads with horror stories about how invasive Rose of Sharon is. This is news to me. In any case, it’s beautiful and has abundant flowers, so I’ll keep a close eye on it for the time being instead of ripping it out. (I foolishly planted lemon balm at my old house, but managed to keep it in line over several years, so I think I can handle this.)

Three “Ruby Stella” daylilies. The flowers are burgundy with yellow centers. Unfortunately, they got really wilty and dropped their flowers right after I planted them, so they might not bloom again this year.

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Three lantana. Two “White Trailing” and one “Confetti.”

Two phlox. They haven’t bloomed yet, but the flowers should be lavender. I chose some with mature-looking foliage and one of them is already putting up a stalk.

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One “Black Knight” butterfly bush (buddleia). Last time I bought a butterfly bush, it dried up and died within a few weeks, so I’m very happy to see this one thriving!

One “Balmy Purple” bee balm. It’s blooming well.

One “Julia Child” yellow rose bush. Considering the small area I’m working with, a Knock Out rose seemed like a bad idea. I wanted a real, special rose bush that will keep to its own space. I was already leaning toward a yellow rose, and when I saw this one named for one of my role models, that was it. (It looked great when I brought it home, but some of the leaves already have black spot. UGH WHY.)

One lily of the valley. This is another plant I love and attempted at my old house with zero success. I put it in the shadiest area, against the front fence. Right now it’s just two puny-looking leaves sticking out of the ground. We’ll see what happens.

These are all perennials (with every trip, I told myself, “One-time expense”). I may add some spring bulbs in the fall, or fill in with some annuals next summer, but for now I’m happy with this. It was exciting but intimidating to start with a blank slate. I had to think about how the heights and colors of the plants would work together – I didn’t want it to look chaotic. Even so, the overall concept evolved one plant at a time. I ended up sticking to shades of purple, with some white and pink/red and the splash of yellow. The garden area only gets morning and early afternoon sun, so I took a risk planting mostly sun plants. But so far it seems to be enough sun for them.

I also specifically chose a lot of butterfly- and bee-friendly plants to help the declining bee population. I’m serious… if more people don’t start helping the bees, the impact on agriculture is going to be huge. Look it up. :)

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In my custom planter, brought from my old house, I have some begonias and a “Miss Bateman” clematis. This climbing flower was slow to settle in, but I swear one vine just grew an inch between Sunday and Monday. Time to upgrade the trellis.

In a pot by the door, which is a shaded area, I have a “daisy” gardenia (not pictured). It was cheap and I couldn’t pass it up, and it seems very happy there. On the other side, I have a baker’s rack with some potted herbs: basil, oregano, mint, and one jalapeno that’s having a bad time. Oh well. Can’t win them all.

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I couldn’t give up growing vegetables entirely, so I have two tomato plants in pots: the classic “patio” tomato, and a cherry tomato. They’re doing great!

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And that’s the urban garden report!

4 Comments + Posted in: gardening, home

summerreading-beach

APRIL

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (4.5 stars)
At the L.A. estate sale of a big-name actor, set designer Emi finds a letter to his estranged daughter, with instructions about her inheritance. The letter leads Emi and her best friend to his granddaughter, Ava. I’m having a hard time summing up the rest of the plot, but I will say there’s something magical about it. It’s about family and destiny and following your dreams, with equal shades of Cinderella and Kathleen Kelly, and characters you’ll enjoy spending time with. FYI, the main romance in this story involves two girls, but the thoughtful observations about love are universal.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (4 stars)
A unique novel that jumps around among perspectives and in time, before and after a pandemic that killed 99% of the population. Our protagonists are, in the words of the Goodreads review, “a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors,” and their common thread is a rare comic book series called Station Eleven. The story is slow in parts, but the complex writing kept me hooked. Like one of my all-time faves, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, this is sci-fi where the sci-fi is just a backdrop to the real story of the heart.

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas (4 stars)
In the second Veronica Mars novel, Veronica investigates an assault at the ritzy Neptune Grand (and teams up again with Leo), Keith and Cliff continue to fight Sheriff Lamb’s corruption, and LOGAN IS LOGAN. Love (and LoVe)!!! I’ll keep snapping these books up as long as they’re cranking them out. (BTW, I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’ve just been made aware of a new Veronica Mars re-watch podcast.)

Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams Into New Beginnings by Sheridan Voysey (3 stars)
Voysey is apparently well-known in Australia as the host of a Christian radio talk show. After he and his wife struggled for ten years to have a child, they decided to leave everything behind and move to England for a new adventure. I empathized with their grief and frustration, and was encouraged by the hope they’ve found in the midst of disappointment.


MAY

Those Girls by Lauren Saft (2 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Divergent Thinking: YA Authors on Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy by Leah Wilson (3.5 stars)
For Netgalley; review pending.


JUNE

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick (3 stars)
This is equal parts the memoir of a never-married 40something woman, and a reflection on/biography of the five historical “awakeners” she’s adopted over the course of her life – Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton. At times I was fascinated, and I highlighted a lot. There aren’t enough books about singleness as a valid, empowered life choice. Her thoughts about singleness in the context of a creative temperament are also interesting. But at the same time, I got a little weary of the navel-gazing and “Woe is me, men love me and I just want to be aloooone.”

Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe by Erin S. Lane (4 stars)
I won a copy of this at Cara Meredith‘s blog! Erin Lane examines her own history with the Church and community, and how the true meaning of belonging is changing on a large scale (especially with millennials). Very insightful.

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt (4 stars)
Holly is only 16, but her recently-late grandfather left her in charge of their family’s legacy and livelihood, the Rose of Sharon wedding chapel in Vegas. He also left her a sealed letter to take to Dax, the grandson of his rival chapel owner next door. After discovering her chapel is in danger of foreclosure, Holly throws herself into saving it, and also finds herself falling in love with the enemy. It’s a fun, warmhearted story that touches on some serious issues. However, I have to admit I didn’t love Dax like I was clearly supposed to. Something about him just rubbed me the wrong way.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (4.5 stars)
Reagan is hitting the road on tour with her megastar best friend, Taylor Swift Lilah Montgomery, known to her as Dee. She and Dee are both excited to leave recent heartbreaks behind and embark together on a summer of fun and distraction. When a PR crisis results in clean-cut singer Matt Finch crashing their party, sparks fly between him and bad-girl Reagan, but she struggles to keep him at a distance. As the summer goes on, both girls learn to let love in again. Despite the celebrity setting of this book, it felt really authentic, and I loved that the girls’ solid friendship is the real center of the story.

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton (5 stars)
Glennon Melton is becoming one of my present-day heroes. She’s funny, passionate, humble, grace-filled, and REAL. I shed many tears over this book.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach (4.5 stars)
The lives of four disparate high-school seniors in Seattle are thrown into chaos as an asteroid approaches with a 66.6% chance of annihilating the Earth. It’s The Breakfast Club meets Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. As you might expect, some bleak and rough stuff happens, but there’s also humor and hope and great insights. So good. (Note: I have a serious thing for stories about people who only have a short time to live (or think they do), so they start doing everything they’ve always wanted to do, stop being polite, and start getting real. The psychological implications of this are not lost on me.)


Total for April, May, and June: 12
2015 year to date (halfway point!): 31

And now I’m almost up to date on posting book stuff! GOLD STAR FOR ME!!!

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memylapoolew

General Highlights:

I’m a summer girl, and I made the most of June with pool time, beach time, patios, and frozen treats!

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I had two visitors this month. I actually didn’t know Hannah before she stayed with me the first week of June – she was the sister of a friend who needed somewhere to stay while she attended training for her job. Happily, we hit it off right away and had a fantastic time together. I was sad to see her go! Then, my longtime friend Esther visited me and Alanna last weekend as part of her Farewell Tour before she moves overseas! Confession: I’m friends with all of these people Because of the Internet. It’ll change your life.

fathersday2015

For Father’s Day, I took my dad to brunch and to Bass Pro to pick out a gift. He’s difficult to buy for, but this approach was a success! I’m thankful for every Father’s Day I get with him.

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Most importantly (and sadly), I had to put my cat Peach down on June 5. She had been sick for a long time, we were both at our wit’s end, and the vet agreed there was nothing more I could do for her. I’m sad, but relieved that she’s no longer suffering. Losing both of my cats within a year has been rough. Still, I’m trying to make the most of being petless for the first time in thirteen years, and am taking a pet break for the near future.



books-june2015

Reading:

I read a respectable quantity this month, and especially enjoyed Lindsey Leavitt’s The Chapel Wars; Tommy Wallace’s insightful pre-apocalyptic novel We All Looked Up; and the collected works of Glennon Doyle Melton, who is quickly attaining guru status for me.

I also continued working through Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey. It’s taking me fooooreeeeeverrrr, not because I’m bored, but because it’s so profound.

And yes, I’m three months behind on non-ARC book reviews. Eventually I’ll post the entire backlog at once.



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Watching:

My work held a raffle for a preview screening of Jurassic World and I won tickets! I am not a Jurassic purist, and LOVED the movie for exactly what it is. I’m planning to see it again before it leaves theaters. And Chris Pratt racing through the jungle night on a motorcycle among his pack of raptors: YOWZA. I also saw Melissa McCarthy’s Spy with my dad. It’s foul, but really hilarious, and the most blatantly feminist comedy I’ve ever seen.



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Music:

The new Florence + The Machine is LEGIT.



Video:

I can’t embed it, but yesterday the Grizzlies released a short film about beloved player Marc Gasol, by locals Craig Brewer and Justin Timberlake. If you want a glimpse into what Memphis is about and what the Grizz mean to this city, watch!



Travel:

I went to Alabama this month to see my sister and her family, and we took a side trip to Panama City Beach!



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Around Town:

I’ve lived in Midtown for two and a half months now, and every single day I pause to appreciate how lucky I am. It’s so easy to participate in whatever’s going on nearby or downtown. For example, I can go to more summer movies at the Orpheum – like Clueless, which I attended in costume (aka something I totally would have worn in high school and would still like to today). It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, and I’d been ridiculously excited about it since the schedule came out.

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Esther joined Kathy, Daniel, and me last Saturday for the first annual Tiger basketball Alumni Game on campus at the Field House. Almost every beloved Tiger of the last 20 years was in attendance, and I was BESIDE MYSELF. After the game (which was so much fun – it was close until the very end, when the younger guys pulled ahead of the older guys), the players had a short meet-and-greet on the court. I was so starstruck that Esther had to steer me around and keep other fans from skipping ahead of me. I got to meet Joey Dorsey, my second-favorite Tiger of all time (he was our big man during the 2007-08 runner-up season), as well as two other recent-ish faves, Wesley Witherspoon and Geron Johnson.

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My #1, D.J. Stephens, was also there, but I’ve met him before, so I had to prioritize. :)



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At Home:

My dad helped me frame my small garden area with pavers, and I’m slowly filling it with flowers! I’ve never gotten to start with a clean slate before. It’s exciting, but a little intimidating. I have to think carefully about how the plants will complement each other, both now and in the future. Hopefully I’ve done an okay job. I’ll write a garden post when I’m done planting. Meanwhile, I have herbs, tomatoes, and one jalapeno in pots!

I’ve resumed experimenting with Popsicles (I use these molds). This ginger-mango Popsicle recipe is delicious!



Random Happiness:

Last Sunday marked one year since I walked through the doors of my church for the first time (or, I should say, the school where my church meets). I’m so glad I did. I feel more thankful all the time to be a little part of what God is doing there, and happy to have found the Christian Island of Misfit Toys at last, where I can be the Charlie-in-a-box that I am.

I’m not exactly celebrating this, but I got on Tinder this month despite my well-documented disdain for online dating. Summary/understatement of the year: it was a decision I had to make for the sake of my overall well-being. Well, it’s been a good experience so far! I’m going on dates and talking to some interesting guys, which is all I’m shooting for right now. Maybe I’ll write more about it soon (I’m still a little touchy about the whole thing), but overall, I recommend Tinder if you’ve also had bad experiences with the serious/expensive dating sites. The simplicity and low pressure is exactly what I needed, and despite what you may hear, it’s fairly easy to identify and fend off guys who are just looking for a hookup.



Pinterest Quote of the Month:

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Posts I Loved:

♥ Samantha at Moving Peaces: The Scramble

♥ A beautiful, sad story from Kerry Smith: Of Days Fading.

♥ Kelle Hampton: Creating Inspiration, Disguised But Breathing

♥ Allison Vesterfelt at Storyline: Why I Keep Blogging When It Doesn’t Change Lives

♥ Stories from the Brooke: I love you. I know.

If You Find This Email of the Month: You’re the Girl




What I'm Into

5 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

thosegirls-laurensaft

Those Girls by Lauren Saft may be the nadir of the Gossip Girl generation. This YA novel follows three high school juniors: Mollie, the anorexic mean girl with the trophy boyfriend; Veronica, who will proudly sleep with anyone to get attention; and Alex, the “artist” and comparatively good girl, who’s hung up on her best friend, Drew. Though the girls claim to be BFFs, their relationships are barely holding together under their rising tide of insecurity, resentment, and self-destructiveness. Things aren’t great at the start of the story, and they just keep getting worse. Veronica has absentee parents, and is newest to the trio and still feels excluded by Mollie’s and Alex’s long history. Mollie feels threatened when Alex suddenly joins a rock band and makes new friends. Alex is in emotional hell after foolishly fixing Drew up with Veronica. All three girls allow guys to treat them like absolute crap, treat each other like absolute crap, and deal with their serious problems by partying as hard as possible. Midway through my reading, I went out with a friend and told her I didn’t think I could finish this book because it was so depressing. Then I came home and basically speed-read the rest on the faint hope of a little redemption. It was a fruitless quest.

Lauren Saft is a decent writer, and I’d give her another chance with a different type of book. Her portrayal of general female insecurity rings especially true when she shows the same event from different perspectives – one girl feels exposed and ill at ease doing something, while the girl who’s watching envies her and thinks she has it all together. But I found the girls of These Girls completely unlikable, and was deeply uncomfortable witnessing their downward spirals. I wanted to sit them all down and demand that they get some self-respect, rehab, and therapy. (Yeah, my maternal instincts manifest through fictional characters.) In the end, the only character I was rooting for was Drew.

Recommended for: people who enjoy/are not depressed by The Bling Ring, or pretty much anything on the E! network


I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Even REALLY honest reviews like this one.


PS: I have several book reviews to burn off, so you may see more of them than usual in the coming days!

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pcb15 (3)

I hadn’t visited my sister and her family since last fall, right after my baby niece was born. So last weekend, I flew back to the world’s smallest airport in Dothan (seriously, I’ve seen Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets bigger than this airport) to kick off a fun visit!

Before Debra was a wife and mom, we used to go on special Hermanas Only trips together. I think the last one was in 2008 or 2009. So I was very excited when we were able to get away to Panama City Beach by ourselves for a night and a day! Some generous friends of Debra and Lance let us stay at their condo a few blocks from the beach. We got to PCB around dinnertime and headed to Saltwater Grill, a local place I selected via Yelp. Debra didn’t quite understand this, so after I mentioned a few times that I’d heard this or that thing on the menu was good, she exclaimed, “FROM WHO??”

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I was very happy with my macadamia-crusted grouper and the best twice-baked potato I’ve ever eaten. I don’t even want to know what they added to it. Probably a pound of butter.

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The next morning we spent several hours at the beach. I can’t think of many occasions in my life when I’ve gotten to hit two different coasts within a few weeks! Of course, I stayed in the water until the last possible second despite the strong undertow and threat of sharks.

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Before heading back to Dothan, we had to stop by my favorite ice cream place at Pier Park. They have key lime pie ice cream and make their own waffle bowls, and I’d been thinking about it since the last time I was there.

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The rest of my visit was a relaxing blur of niece time and hanging around the house. Fifoo is now three going on thirteen. We took her shopping with us on Saturday, and she was a champ! Debra and I kept swinging her between us as we walked, and one time I didn’t hold her hand tightly enough and she almost flew across the mall. Of course, she was fine and thought it was hilarious, as did a lady nearby who witnessed the whole thing. Debra and I laughed so hard we almost had to stop walking.

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I accompanied Fifoo on the carousel and there were no unexpected events. *gold star*

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Baby E is almost nine months old. She’s attuned to Fifoo like a plant to the sun and learning everything quickly as a result, which is pretty normal for a second child, but I think the bond is stronger because they’re so close in age. I’ll be shocked if E isn’t walking before her first birthday. She’s already in twelve-month clothes anyway and has extremely long legs. After Debra sent me the stats from one of E’s recent checkups, I replied that I’m looking forward to watching her set a new vertical jump record in the 2033 WNBA Draft.

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Visiting my sister always recharges me. No matter where she lives, no matter the circumstances, when I stay in her home, I feel relaxed and cared for. I know I’m accepted and loved just as I am. Everywhere else in my life, I have to-do lists and expectations. But if all we do for several days is watch favorite reruns and HGTV shows together, it’ll be a good time, and I don’t have to do anything. One of the few benefits of living far apart is this sense of escape and cocooning when we are together. It’s a rare and necessary thing. I’m thankful Debra and the girls are coming to Memphis in just a few weeks, because otherwise it would have been really hard to leave.

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PS: Thanks for continuing to hang with me through this blogging semi-hiatus. I never, ever thought I’d stop writing things of substance for this long. I could offer a lot of excuses, but they all boil down to the fact that changing your life is very time-consuming, and so far this year (and longer) has been one change after another. I have so much to do and process that my brain just doesn’t work the same way it used to. In general, I feel a little muddled and overwhelmed. I’m trying to look at it not as a permanent loss of focus, but a necessary transition period with different priorities that will eventually birth a more Wholehearted me. I’m just doing the best I can every day, whatever that looks like.

1 Comment + Posted in: aunthood, family, travel

peachtribute (1)

In the summer of 2005, I had one cat, Gandalf. I loved him dearly, but wished he were a little more affectionate and a little less aggressive. When I visited my then-in-laws with my then-husband of less than a year, I was surprised by how docile their cat was. Not long after we got home, I saw a Pet of the Week news segment about how cats are often happier in pairs. My ex noted the gleam in my eye and said, “I think someone wants another cat.”

So one August day, we set off to an animal shelter in search of the friendliest cat they had. We considered a few fluffballs and even (briefly) a cool bobcat. Eventually I sat down, and a tiny cat with unusual coloring launched herself into my lap, rolled around, and started rubbing her head all over me. I looked at my ex and said, “I think this is the one.”

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For a couple of days, she didn’t have a name. The shelter had called her Kelli. I tried out Lucy (as in Pevensie), but it didn’t feel exactly right. (Aside: My now-best friend’s cat is named Lucy. Alanna and I wouldn’t meet for another few years, and her Lucy wasn’t born yet.) That Sunday night, my then-brother-in-law commented, “She’s peach-colored. How about Peach?” Peach looked right at him and meowed affirmatively.

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Everyone who ever met Peach commented on how sweet and beautiful she was. From day one, she was the Extrovert Cat to Gandalf’s Introvert Cat. Her characteristic behavior at the shelter turned out to be more hyperactivity than affection, though she was very friendly. She loved to be petted, but hated to be held or picked up, and rarely stayed still long enough to cuddle. When she wanted something at any time of day or night, she’d just start chewing on you – a habit that persisted all her life. She especially loved toes. She was generally more playful than Gandalf and sometimes liked to chase a ball. In contrast to her personality, she was quiet vocally and rarely meowed above a squeak. Oh, and PS, the socialization totally worked.

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Peach was almost a year old when I got her, so I never knew what her kittenhood was like, but I suspect she spent most of it on the street. My dad called her “Street Cat.” If I let her, she’d happily lay on my car all day. She was also an excellent hunter. One day last summer, I’d let both cats into the garage for a while and left the house door cracked so they could get back in. I was in the kitchen cutting up a watermelon when I heard a scuffle at the door. A minute later, Peach strolled through the kitchen with a live salamander hanging out of both sides of her mouth. I froze, then tossed both of them back into the garage, told them to work it out, and shut the door. When I checked back later, the salamander was gone. I choose to believe she let it go – it was way too big for her to eat.

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About four years ago, Peach started throwing up abnormally frequently. The vet said her mouth was rejecting two of her teeth, so I had them removed, but pretty soon the throwing up resumed and got worse. For almost a year, I tried everything I could think of to help her. I switched both cats to (expensive) grain-free food. I bought probiotics. Hundreds of dollars’ worth of tests showed that other than a total inability to keep food down, she was perfectly fine. By January 2012, she weighed six pounds and was so sick I was about to give up. Only then did the vet suggest we try giving her prednisone. She improved and gained some weight immediately, so by process of elimination, she was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease.

Some cats with IBD live a healthy, normal life on meds. Some can even taper down to an occasional dose. Peach was never one of those cats. I had to manage her treatment constantly, and she never regained her full health or energy level. One fix after another proved to be nothing but false hope. Over the last six months, between the loss of my other cat and the packing up of my house, she got noticeably more distressed and lethargic. But after I moved into my new place almost two months ago, she perked up drastically and I hoped this was the change both of us had needed. She seemed much happier… but again, it was only temporary. Soon she was losing weight again and I was cleaning up messy accidents four times a day. A new, great vet recommended B-12 shots that had no effect whatsoever. Still, I was too close to the situation and had been dealing with it for too long to see that it was time to throw in the towel. My family had to sit me down and tell me that she was looking very rough and I needed to think about letting her go. So I started preparing myself. I’d always expected some Incident to let me know it was time, but I realized that with this type of condition, eventually you just have to decide that enough is enough… a sad application of my One Word that I never saw coming.

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The Incident came anyway, last Monday. I arrived home from a trip to find an epic disaster that took me an hour to clean up. I knew Peach and I had finally reached our mutual breaking point. The next day I called the vet, who agreed that there was nothing else I could do for her. So on Friday afternoon, I said goodbye to my Peachy of almost ten years. As sad as it was, I feel totally confident that it was the right decision, and relieved that she’s no longer suffering and we’re both free. The way I see it, I got three bonus years with her, because I really didn’t think she’d make it the first time.

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Losing both of my cats in the span of nine months (on top of everything else that’s happened in the last few years) is rough. A new friend commented, kindly, that I must be a strong person to handle this so composedly, but I told her it’s not so much strength as experience. I know this place too well. I know the drill of powering through the necessary awful thing, of making a double-bind choice, on my own. I feel like I’ve spent my entire 30s so far taking emotional knockouts and staggering up from the mat only to get hit again. I know it’s all part of life, and of course there have been happy times too, but I’m beginning to have serious objections to the frequency and intensity of hits I’ve had to take. I don’t know how many more times I can get back up. But that’s another post.

As weird as it feels to be alone alone, I have no immediate plans to get more cats, or even a dog or rabbit. Someday I will, but it makes sense all around to take a break. Freedom is the name of my game right now, plus I’m still too traumatized to risk another high-maintenance pet. I’m also trying to enjoy having any flowers I want in my house, knowing that objects will stay where they are, leaving food and drinks unattended, and other small luxuries.

And I see one other silver lining. It probably sounds crazy, but after a lot of reflection, I’m positive that I would not have decided to move when I did if my cat Gandalf hadn’t died. He was the best pet I’ll ever have, and losing him so suddenly was my final push toward making a big change. I’m hoping that the timing of this loss, of nothing tying me down, will also somehow lead to something positive and purposeful. I guess we’ll find out.

8 Comments + Posted in: cats, grief, memory lane, one word: enough

This What I’m Into is so late that I probably shouldn’t even post it, but too much happened in May for me to let it slide completely. Buckle up!

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General Highlights:

May is officially the best month to live in Memphis, and this one was better than most. I’m so glad it was my first full month of Midtown residency! I kicked it off by attending all three days of Music Fest for the first time in a decade with my friends Kelsey and Gwen. The weather was beautiful all weekend, which has never happened in my recollection. BEST MUSIC FEST EVER. More to follow on this.

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The following week, Gwen invited me to my first Memphis in May International Gala! It was fun to get dressed up and hang out on the Peabody rooftop.

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The Grizzlies were in the playoffs again and the city was united again in the spirit of grit and grind. Myla and I first cheered them on from her couch (or, as her husband called it, “the cheap seats”) and then we and Alanna went to Game 4 against the Warriors, which the Grizz sadly lost. The masks are for our civic hero, Mike Conley, who deserves his own folk song to be sung in bars for generations. (If you doubt me, check out this Sports Illustrated article.)

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As always, MIM closed out with the Sunset Symphony, which I attended with several friends and my parents and brother. I’m disappointed that they’ve decided to end that tradition after 39 years. We’ll see what they come up with next year.



Reading:

It appears I only finished two books in May (good grief) and they were both for review, so they’ll get their own posts later.



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Watching:

Since I don’t have much time for TV, I tend to add intriguing shows to my Hulu queue and then forget about them. One night I watched the finale of Last Man On Earth (still making up my mind about that show), and at the end it shuffled to the latest episode of Jane the Virgin. I’m glad I was too lazy to get up, because I LOVED IT! It’s funny and heartwarming, and over-the-top on purpose. Plus, a truly ensemble cast is one of my favorite things. I also had no trouble following the story despite jumping in so late in the season. I’ve since gotten to the end, and !!!!

Also, XOXO to Hulu for saving my favorite show, The Mindy Project! I’m sure my Twitter followers are also thankful since I was posting a lot of Mindy tributes to cope with my grief.

At the movies, I saw the new Avengers and Pitch Perfect 2. Loved both.



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Music:

At Music Fest, my favorite shows were Paramore (of course), Jenny Lewis, Ed Sheeran, and Bleachers. I also saw (in chronological order) Lenny Kravitz, Lecrae, Lindsey Stirling, Hozier, and St. Vincent. Bleachers did a cover of Kanye’s “Only One” that I wish was available for download – that’s a great song.

A couple of weeks later, I got a last-minute opportunity to see Beck at Mud Island with Kelsey. It was the best Mud Island show I’ve ever been to – they’ve made some improvements at the venue too. I never realized before how weirdly attractive Beck is. I love a self-aware geeky man.



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Travel:

For the first time in my life, I got to do my own thing in South Florida for a weekend. My friend Wes and I went to the beach a lot, ate good food, saw amazing art, and went to a baseball game. It was very relaxing and low-pressure and just what I needed.

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Around Town:

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Myla and I attended Friends Trivia at Schweinehaus AND WON!!! The two of us beat out over 30 other teams! I was so excited I briefly considered adding “Memphis Friends Trivia Champion” to my resume…. #achievement

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For Mother’s Day, my mom and I rode our bikes to the Brooks Museum to see a photography exhibit, then around Overton Park to the Bike Gate and then to the Square for an early dinner at Lafayette’s. She’s thrilled about me living over here, and I’m happy to have her support and participation in fun things.



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Wearing:

I feel meh about my entire summer wardrobe, but in a month’s worth of bargain shopping, all I found were these two pairs of VERY comfortable shoes. Oh well.



Pinterest Quote of the Month:

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On The Blog:

I posted ONCE in May and it was a One Word update: Enough, Seriously.

I also wrote about the historic Memphis Bicycle Co. for Memphis Type History. The liquidation sale was a really cool experience.



Posts I Loved:

♥ Last year, Sarah Reck let me beta-read her latest novel, The Rules of Summer Camp, and I LOVED it. Now it’s available on SwoonReads for your poolside or beach enjoyment!

♥ Kelsey Munger: When Self-Care Means Not Apologizing

♥ Emily at The Waiting: Eating the Elephant

♥ Lindsey Coates: Dear Rebel Wilson

♥ Katee Forbis: The One About Superfans

♥ Hannah Brencher: I am not the point.

♥ Kate Conner: On Loving People Who Are Hot Messes




What I'm Into

3 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

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For the past month, I’ve watched countless walkers, bikers, and runners stream by my gate in my new neighborhood, but haven’t had time to join them. This week, I needed to check on the hours of a business up the street. I also felt a little stir crazy from being sick and needed to move around. So I decided to stroll there and back. At a slow pace, with no music to distract me, I soaked in the details of all the beautiful old houses along the way. I exchanged smiles with the many other pedestrians I passed. I stopped to listen to a singing mockingbird. At some point on the return trip, I felt a sense of stillness and space – a few moments’ break from being cluttered up to my mental rafters. It was a relief to know I can still experience that. It had been a while.

The Year of Enough has been declaring itself loudly in this move. I dropped almost everything when my old house went under contract, repeating the excuse that I needed to get through the move and then I’d get right back on track. But after a month of residence in my new place, I’m still taking life one day at a time. There are still packed boxes in every room, and almost nothing on the walls. Between settling in to a different type of space, and my workload hitting its most demanding level in thirteen years, I just can’t chase hard after anything else. I’m not even ready to think about going back to community band, especially during our busiest time of year. I’ve barely even picked up a book. My commitment to church activities and community isn’t living up to my original intentions. I want to spend intentional time with friends old and new but fail to initiate plans. I’ve become That Person who RSVPs the day before. Worst of all, I haven’t been writing – here or anywhere. In that area especially, I feel like I’m in a rushing river, clinging to a rapid, and with every week that passes, I fall off and drift further down the river, increasing the distance I’ll never be able to make up toward personal goals and being a “successful,” productive person. For the sake of my health, I choose not to hustle. Then I go out with friends, and enjoy the city I love, and sit on my balcony for a while, and the little voice inside says, See, you DO have time to hustle, and no one respects you anymore, because you’ve stopped taking life seriously.

When you boil it all down, my main reason for moving to Midtown was to be happy and free. What a selfish, scandalous thing for a Christian to admit. But God encouraged me in it at every point in the process. It’s already one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I am confident He endorses it. So, after everything I went through to get here, why am I in such a hurry to weigh myself down again, especially with some things I’m not even sure make me happy anymore? My basic needs are covered. I work hard. I’m still trying to love and help people well in a day-by-day way. And when I’m not listening to that little voice, I have peace like a river in my soul, and I’m very happy. Maybe it’s okay to let that be enough, at least for a while. Maybe it’s okay to look at the path right in front of me and do what comes naturally instead of trying to force it. Maybe I’m still somehow useful as I am right now, still going somewhere despite my current lack of drive and focus. And maybe people will still like and care about me even if I’m a little messy and not making it a priority to do everything right.

I loathe the term “season.” It’s become smarmy Christianese to me, because it’s often both invalidating and falsely hopeful. But sometimes it delivers much-needed perspective. A season of lowering the pressure and enjoying life doesn’t mean I’m wasting my life. I also shouldn’t feel guilt or shame because my life is, on the surface, fun and easy right now. To the wives, moms, and caretakers, maybe it looks like I’ve moved into a nonstop party. But I’m not going to ruin my suddenly light heart and light feet by apologizing for them. We are all laboring under our own burdens, mine happen to be less obvious, and I will no longer deny myself things purely to look holier or more responsible.

I went through a similar “season” the summer after my ex-husband left. I had a strong impression that I should relax, not worry about long-term plans, and enjoy whatever happiness God brought my way – anything that helped me feel good about life. I had worked hard for a very long time, and it was time for a “vacation.” I took it, and no one died. Well, it’s been five years, I’ve been through another (more mysterious) dark time of the soul, and I’ve had another fairly significant life change. Maybe I’m due. May it be enough.

8 Comments + Posted in: changes, faith, one word: enough, rest

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