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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.

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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.



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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

1 Comment + Posted in: what i'm into

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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!

Add a Comment + Posted in: book reviews

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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.

Add a Comment + Posted in: aunthood, family, travel

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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

2 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

apr15-peachbalcony

General Highlights:

April was a very eventful month. After going through the entire selling and buying process in three weeks’ time, I moved to a beautiful townhouse in Midtown on April 16! On top of the upheaval of packing, tending to repairs and accounts, making a million decisions, and signing a million papers, I also had a big transition at work. My department was taken over by another department. I’m still doing the exact same job, but we have different bosses and a different focus and most of our processes have changed. Friends usually cringe when I tell them this, but so far, most of the changes have been awesome and I feel energized and hopeful. That’s major progress in two of my three predetermined Enough categories, and as Meatloaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

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I’m really thankful for all the support this month. Troops of friends showed up to help me pack, bring food (so appreciated when I couldn’t locate any of my food), take things off my hands, and exclaim over my new home. Others repeatedly talked me down from the ledge in stressful moments (selling and buying homes as a single person is HARD). Everyone seems genuinely excited for me, and I feel loved. When you don’t have the standard big life events that traditionally evoke support and celebration, it means a lot when the people you care about acknowledge and appreciate your milestones. Special shoutout as always to my parents, and to my sister Debra, who called to check on me EVERY DAY and always concluded, “You’re doing a good job.” Some days, that affirmation was my lifeline.

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Reading:

I read a whopping four books this month. Here are three of them. Loved the first two, liked the second. They look pretty together!



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Music:

No new jams, but I’m still very into alt-J. I loved their Coachella set on Sirius XMU and am excited that they’re coming to town in October! Who wants to go?



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Around Town:

My friend Wes was in town for Easter weekend, so a bunch of us went to the Redbirds/Cardinals exhibition game and to multiple cool places around the city, including the new Rec Room on Broad, which is such a great concept. After moving, I started establishing myself at the neighborhood hangouts immediately. My first meal as a Midtowner was at Central BBQ, because it’s important to kick these things off right. The next week, I took an extra day off to unpack, and Myla and I lunched at the new Aldo’s Pizza location in Cooper-Young. I love it. The rooftop is fantastic, and the place was so new, they didn’t even have a sign out yet. #hipster



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At Home:

Much more new-house stuff to come, but a few of my favorite things thus far: my beautiful kitchen; the dressing table I’ve wanted all my life and found on Craigslist (it’s handmade!); makeshift high heel storage in my over-the-stairwell closet.



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Wearing:

I took out my summer wardrobe and packed the sweaters away after I moved, but quickly realized it was a little soon. (Wishful thinking.) I also feel meh about most of my stuff, and the pieces I do love are looking worn. However, this new clearance skirt from Old Navy is making me very happy!



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Products:

My cat was not happy about the packing up of our old house, and she expressed it as pets often do. After a few days’ panic over the destruction of what was now essentially someone else’s carpet, I bought a spot steam cleaner off Craigslist. It was worth every penny – my stress level went down immediately. So far there’s only been one incident on the carpet in the new house, but I still feel better having this in my arsenal.



Beauty:

In February’s What I’m Into, I mentioned the Rimmel Stay Matte foundation I was trying. After a few weeks I decided it wasn’t working – when you’re still breaking out at 35, you need REAL coverage. (This is also why I can’t use mineral makeup.) I searched my go-to, The Budget Beauty Blog, for recs and settled on Maybelline Fit Me Matte. It’s far more effective than the Rimmel, with the same shine prevention, and I plan to stick with it for the near future!



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Random Happiness:

My brother was also in town for Easter weekend. Hopefully he’ll be back for a longer visit sometime in May.



On The Blog:

To preserve my sanity during my move, I took a vacation from everything but work. Therefore, I didn’t post here for almost three weeks, the longest silence in the history of this blog. And you know what? Nobody died and you’re still reading! Thank you all! I did share about what I’ll miss about my old home, and this week, thoughts on being home at last.

At the Memphis Type History blog, I wrote a piece about Sam Cooper of Sam Cooper Boulevard fame. He was an interesting and accomplished man. I interviewed both Cooper’s daughter and former Memphis mayor Dick Hackett for the story, and felt like a legit journalist. Memphians, I welcome your local history questions! I’m hoping for lots of inspiration now that I live in an actual historic district. (Seriously, how cool is that?)



Posts I Loved:

♥ Leanne Penny: Prayer Is Hard, Chili Is Easier.

♥ Abby at Accidental Devotional: How to Be Counter-Cultural. (It’s not what you think.)

♥ The brilliant Hannah Brencher: Death of a Game Player. (Also, from her If You Find This E-mail blog: Orbits.)

♥ The fabulous Alison Gary: Smug. GET IT, GIRL.

♥ Allison Vesterfelt at Storyline with a revolutionary relationship thought: Don’t Try To Be Humble. Just Try to Be Yourself. (This post made me cry.)

♥ Two excellent posts on singleness: You’re Not Going That Way at Just a Trace, and Success at Little Did She Know. I’d like to hand out copies of Cara’s post to anyone who wonders why I struggle so hard with feelings of failure.



What I'm Into

6 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

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Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. – Anne Lamott

Looking at pictures from last summer makes me a little uncomfortable. Underneath my smiles, I can see the soul restlessness and itchiness that started to take hold around this time last year. Suddenly, I wanted things – some easy to articulate, some not – with such intensity that the lack of them sometimes made me feel like I was coming out of my skin. I had a growing awareness that the life I’d lived up to that point couldn’t cut it anymore. The era of quiet contemplation, safety, and solitude was over. I was ready to usher in a new era of excitement and adventure. To get messy and take risks. To be swept away by the unexpected. I was the very personification of a John Green quote. But I wasn’t living in a John Green book, and I didn’t get the plot I was looking for.

By the time fall set in, a few things had changed for the better. But the adrenaline of the summer had altered me, and I knew I was just getting started. I was more and more sure of one thing: I had to move. I wasn’t going to get anything I wanted sitting out in the suburbs. From then on, a part of my consciousness was always pointed toward Midtown, and when I listed my house in February, it pretty much took over. And you know the rest of the story.

I’ve lived in my new Midtown home for about ten days, and friends, life inside the loop is good. So far, it’s everything I hoped for and more. The first stretch was rough: my movers arrived 3.5 hours late and finished moving me around midnight; then, despite careful labeling, I couldn’t find even the most basic things. Including food. But after a real shower and a night in my own bed, I woke up that Saturday morning with a deep sense of peace and lightness I’d honestly forgotten existed. For at least a year, something in my soul had been thrashing around all the time, like a bird throwing itself against the bars of its cage. While I slept well for the first time in my new home, the door opened and the bird flew free. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew the weight in my chest that had become my normal was gone. Gone. Just like that.

Around 4:00 on my moving afternoon, I was alone at the old house, beginning my long wait for the movers, while my mom went out to get drinks. I noticed an older lady pacing in front of the house, briefly wondered what that was about, then returned to my business. There was a knock at the door. When I opened it, the lady was on the other side. She said, “Hi, I’m Linda. I just bought your house.”

I’ve mentioned before that I thought my buyers were probably going to rent out my house. I have nothing against renters – I planned to rent myself before all this happened. I just wanted someone to personally love the house the way I had, and it seemed doubtful that anyone would. A landlord seemed far more likely to blaze through, rip out my beloved plants, and paint the whole place builder beige. A renter seemed more likely to go, “Eh, this isn’t mine anyway.” I’d accepted this, but it made me sad. It was the only thing I lacked peace about in the move… and then Linda showed up in search of some important mail. I liked her immediately. In one short conversation, I got answers to all the things that hadn’t added up about the sale. I found out she would be living there herself, was very excited about it, that she planned to sew in my sewing room and loves plants. She looked right at me and said, “I don’t want you to worry about your plants.” In that moment, she was God showing up in the flesh, unmistakably holding out His hands and saying, Go in peace. It was the tying up of the last loose end, and the second moment of this year when I knew God loved me, because it was such an obvious and unnecessary blessing.

Right now, everything about my new life is exciting and magical. I’m prancing around and singing the joys of city life like Tracy Turnblad, and my first trip to the Cash Saver felt like going to Disney World. My new home is exactly right for me, and I’m not discouraged by the challenges of downsizing and having a more open floor plan. To people who move a lot or make huge life changes as a matter of course, I probably seem like a crazy person. So you moved across town. Big deal. But this is much bigger than a simple move across town. This is my declaration, my claiming of who and what I am right now, not who I was or who I once hoped to be. This is about a home I chose for myself, free of ghosts. This is about knowing I’m in the right place at the right time, and as a result, feeling actual hope for my near future. In a long half-decade of disappointment, this is the first really big thing that’s gone right. My spiritual eyes have grown accustomed to the dark. Now I’m blinking, disoriented, and don’t quite trust that I’ll be allowed to stay long in the light. But while it lasts, I’m going to enjoy it for all it’s worth.

12 Comments + Posted in: changes, hope, moving

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With less than a week to go until my move, I’ve been reflecting a lot about what I will and won’t miss. When I first thought seriously about moving, I had a vision of a nice family who would love my house and be happy there – who would build on all my TLC and fulfill what I had originally intended the home to be for myself. I hope I’m wrong, but based on what I know, my buyers don’t fit that bill. They’re likely buying it as an investment property and may not feel much connection to it at all. That makes saying goodbye sadder, even though I’m so ready for this change. So I want to pay tribute to a few things and rejoice in my coming freedom from others.


Things I Will Miss:

My hammock and trees (pictured above). In my backyard are two maple trees perfectly spaced for a hammock. Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours there. I may write more about my hammock later.

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My flowers. Eight and a half years ago, the only “landscaping” at my house was a few scraggly boxwood hedges, which we tore out to plant azaleas. (I’m against plant murder, but I’d always wanted a row of azaleas, and someone took the boxwoods and replanted them elsewhere.) Almost every plant on my property was chosen, planted, and nurtured by me. I invested in perennials I thought I’d enjoy for many years to come. I’ve planted a hydrangea, roses, hostas, peonies, a gardenia, daffodils, hyacinths, salvia, and lilies. My favorite summer-evening activity used to be taking a turn around the yard to admire everything. I’ve put so much love and work (and money) into my plants, and the possibility that the new owners might just rip them out breaks my heart. Hopefully that won’t happen and they’ll bring joy to someone new this summer.

My vegetable garden. Again, this raised bed has been the work of many years. For the last several springs, my dad has gotten advice and special soil for me from the owner of Bartlett Nursery. I’m going to miss that tradition.

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My custom master bathroom, and walk-in closet. Both things of beauty that have made me very happy.

Living close to my parents. This arrangement would be disastrous for many people, but it’s been pretty good for me – and so convenient when siblings are in town. We’ll have to be more intentional now about seeing each other.

Having a garage. Especially in winter – I hate scraping the windshield.

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City Hall Park. Many memories have been made in this park down the street. It’s where I started running and where I first met my friend Elizabeth. I’ve gone alone, with friends, with friends’ kids and even my niece. A bagpiper used to practice there on Saturday mornings and you could hear him from blocks away. I love the pictured grove of trees so much that I took this series of photos of them in all seasons.

My yoga class. I’ve attended yoga at the nearby community center for almost eight years. Thankfully my yoga teacher and friend, Paula, has another class in town that I can switch to, but it’s a lot larger and has a different vibe.

My deep freezer. There’s no space for it in my new home. But my brother is taking it, so I might get it back someday.

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My yard rabbit. He’s lived under my shed for about a year. I last saw him in February right before a big storm and don’t know if he’ll come out to say goodbye before I go. I wish I could take him with me.


Things I Won’t Miss:

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Living in my car. No more long, daily commute to work, church, downtown, Overton Square, etc. I’ll only have to deal with our city’s endless road construction when I go to community band practice or to my parents’. I’ve been given the gift of time!

Yard work. So much time. So much dirt. So much frustration over machines that suddenly break down or won’t start at all despite being fixed repeatedly.

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Birch trees and out-of-control plant. Lest you think I adore all plants unconditionally, I’ve been annoyed by my birch trees since I moved in. They drop pollen-heavy pods in spring and shed crunchy leaves relentlessly throughout the summer and fall. Meanwhile, I don’t know what this shrub on the side of the house is, but it needs constant pruning to keep it in check. If I wasn’t against gratuitous plant murder as aforementioned, I’d have gotten rid of it long ago.

Sirens. I live on an established corridor for emergency vehicles. I fully expect my new street in the heart of the city to be quieter.

Taking my own recycling to the center. I worried about where to put my large recycle bins in the new place before realizing I wouldn’t need them. In the city you get weekly recycling pickup. Woo hoo!

And the most important thing I won’t miss… Isolation. I’ve had a few friends near me in the burbs, but I don’t see them a ton. And for the most part, no one who doesn’t live in Bartlett wants to drive out to Bartlett. Seeing friends usually means planning ahead and going into town. In my new place, I’ll be in the middle of everything. I can hang out spontaneously and without it being a huge deal. Friends will want to come over. I CAN’T WAIT.

7 Comments + Posted in: changes, home, moving

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Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (4.5 stars)
I’d never read Micha Boyett’s blog or poetry until I read this memoir, but she’s a kindred spirit. Having grown up planning to do Great Things For God, she now struggles deeply with whether her small life as a wife and mom is Enough. Inspired by the practices of Benedictine monks, she works on applying their philosophies to her everyday life and faith. At first I was a little wary that this might be a Mom Book I couldn’t relate to, but that was not the case at all. Boyett is a fantastic writer and her words will refresh your soul.

What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley by Kim Cross (3.5 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?: A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems by Rhoda Janzen (4 stars)
I haven’t read Janzen’s first memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, but I still tracked with this second installment. It’s exactly what the title indicates. Practical and intellectual by nurture and trade (she’s a professor), Janzen finds herself dating a Pentecostal man’s man and falling in love both with him and his church community. Their support becomes even more important when she finds out she has breast cancer. This is a weird thing to say, but I feel like she strikes the perfect attitude about having cancer – positive yet realistic. Overall I related to and was inspired by her guarded openness and willingness to experience new things.

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (3 stars)
I’m still not sure what to make of this novel. It’s straight-up magical realism, so if you can’t suspend your disbelief and embrace the hippie woo-woo, you’re not going to like it. But it is a beautifully written story of twins, Noah and Jude, who’ve become estranged due to family tragedy and misunderstandings. Both are artists, and I loved all the stuff about art and the creative process.

Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg (5 stars)
It took me almost a month to read Soul Keeping because it was so profound. John Ortberg expounds on the importance of the soul to every aspect of our existence. Much of the wisdom he shares comes from his longtime mentor, Dallas Willard, who died in 2013. I really needed this book and will revisit it in the future.

UnSweetined by Jodie Sweetin (3 stars)
As a member of the Full House generation, I couldn’t resist checking out this memoir by Stephanie Tanner herself, Jodie Sweetin. It wasn’t what I expected. She does share some fun gossip about the show, but her story centers on her nearly-lifelong cycle of drug and alcohol abuse. Having begun a demanding acting career at a very young age, Sweetin never felt like she got to be a kid or figure out who she really was. When she had her first drink in high school, it gave her the sense of confidence and identity she craved, and several long, destructive benders followed. But after two marriages and a few rounds of rehab, she’s now a mom and is determined to stay sober for her daughter. This book made me sad, both for her and for all those who struggle with severe addictions. It’s such a hard road to walk.



Books for March: 6
2015 year to date: 19

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