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General Highlights:

October was a month of brides and babies. I got a new niece, E, and a new “nephew” via Caroline, one of my best friends! My friend Esther got married (and our old adult ballet class had a little reunion at the wedding). I also helped throw a bridal shower and a lingerie shower for my best friend Alanna, who’s getting married in two weeks.

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After almost a year of anxiety about it, my house got a new roof, covered by my insurance and put on in one day. I’m still amazed by how the whole thing unfolded and God’s provision. NOT having to spend $10K on a roof will change your life!

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Reading:

The monthly book list posted yesterday – all my flight time this month meant a lot of reading! My three favorites were Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline; 5th Wave sequel The Infinite Sea; and Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoir Leaving Church.


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Watching:

Thanks to my sister, I finally started watching Gilmore Girls this month. Friends have told me for years that I would love it, and they were right.


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Music:

It just came out on Monday, but I’m obsessed with Taylor Swift’s 1989. No shame. Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 5, and 13. You can listen to my ever-expanding 2014 playlist on Spotify.

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I found out at the last minute that Johnnyswim was coming to town, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in years. If you ever have a chance to see them live, GO. They’re incredibly talented and seem like incredible people. I don’t make proclamations like this often, but I knew they must be believers because the Holy Spirit was just radiating from them. Crazy-sounding but true… and something to aspire to.


Video:

I hadn’t seen Sia’s “Chandelier” video, but when my sister, BIL, and I started watching an SNL skit spoofing it, we stopped and watched the original first. I suggest you do the same – it’s awesome in its own right!





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Travel:

At the beginning of the month, my mom and I went to Evansville for the premiere of a documentary my brother made for Uncharted International. It’s called Ang (the Burmese word for home), and he filmed it in Myanmar last summer. I’m so proud of him!

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Then I went to Orlando for work, but I was just in meetings all day for two days and then came home. No shenanigans! The following week, I flew to Dothan to meet my new niece.


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Around Town:

I saw Once at the Orpheum this week with my friend Ashley. I didn’t know much about it going in, but it was magical and the music was fantastic!

In my continuing spree through the restaurants of Cooper-Young and Overton Square, I tried out Greencork (awesome) and Schweinehaus this month. Good times.

I’ve missed Memphis Madness the last two years, so I was excited to go. It’s basically a citywide pep rally for Tiger basketball. Sadly, it was a little meh this year – featured performer Rick Ross brought all the excitement. The Forum charging for tickets and not letting people move down to better empty seats didn’t help the situation. Neither did the fact that we only have three or four returning players. I’m trying not to let this cast a shadow over the season for me!


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Wearing:

I needed good white and gray cardigans, so I snatched these up at a Banana Republic outlet for 70% off. There’s nothing revolutionary about them, but I cannot stop wearing them. I’ve already asked my brother to go back and pick up whatever other colors they have.

One of my brother’s best friends just got silkscreening equipment, and one of his first projects was this family lobstering logo Kevin designed. We all LOVE these shirts, and word is my uncles are practically wearing them daily.

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Oh, and I busted out last year’s Starbucks cup costume for my Halloween concert last night with the community band! Tonight there’s a costume contest at Tiger Lane before the Homecoming game, and I had started making a “bikini” from team logo fabric to go as a Tigers Sexy Sheet Ghost. But I would have had to sew it all together when I got home last night at 9:30, and I was just too tired. Maybe next year.


Pinterest Quote of the Month:

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On The Blog:

With lots of traveling, things demanding my attention, and general exhaustion, writing has been difficult this month. But I posted about being an introvert raised as an extrovert, took you on a tour of scenic lookouts and LOST filming locations on Oahu, told the story of my new (and only) tattoo, and participated in Hollywood Housewife’s One Day photo project.


Posts I Loved:

♥ Paul Heggie: Go On and Tear Me Apart (Paul is killing it these days – check out his whole blog.)

♥ Jonalyn Fincher: Consent Is Complicated

♥ Jamie Wright Bagley on the importance of empathy: Stability Central. (I took the Strengths Finder test a while back and Empathy is my primary strength, so I’m learning all I can about how to make the best of it.)

♥ Danielle Carey: “Be more attractive.”

♥ Beautiful poetry from John Blase at A Deeper Story: The Pledge We Make

♥ My friend Lindsey on beginning a prison ministry: A Sobering Moment

♥ Hollywood Housewife: People and Love (I’ve had to relearn this hard lesson many times)

♥ My friend Bethany on the myth of the 50% divorce rate: When A Myth Actually Matters

♥ Sorry I can’t go a month without linking Glennon Melton, but: What If Your Life Is Already The Best Thing?

♥ LOL of the Month: The Life of Bon: The Art of Kissing


What I'm Into

2 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

book-leaves

Relativity by Cristin Bishara (3.5 stars)
After moving cross-country with her dad and in with a stepfamily she barely knows, Ruby is burdened by all the losses she can’t change. Her mom died in a car accident when she was young, and now she’s lost her best friend and secret love, George. When her scientific curiosity is piqued by a mysterious tree near her new house, she discovers it’s a portal to nine alternate universes. As she finds surprises in each one, she feels more and more driven toward the perfect universe – one where her mom is alive and she and George are together. But she might lose them all in the process. This was a refreshing story, and I liked how unapologetically smart Ruby is. Get it, girl.

God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals by Susan Bulanda (4 stars)
I downloaded this book months ago when it was a Kindle daily deal, and now that I’m dealing with the sudden loss of my cat, I was interested enough to read it. This is a pleasant, well-researched summary of everything the Bible says and implies about animals. Bulanda has a lot of good insights that I hadn’t heard before, and a lot of reassurance about God’s care for and value of His creatures. I found it really comforting and will probably reference it again in the future.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline (4 stars)
I read this for the Red Couch Book Club (but, as usual, too late for the discussion). I knew it would change my perceptions about the fashion industry in ways I might not like. Cline examines our society’s growing addiction to fast fashion and ever-lower prices, and shows us how it’s affecting the whole world. She illustrates the decline of quality clothing over the past hundred years and goes into Chinese sweatshops and Dominican fair-trade factories. Overdressed is a more engaging read than I expected, but it’ll make you uncomfortable. I was already trying to be more mindful about my clothing purchases and this gave me a big push.

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols (3.5 stars)
At fourteen, Leah decided flying was her ticket out of the trailer park. Now eighteen, she has her first pilot’s license and is still working at the same small airport. The kind man who taught her to fly has died suddenly, leaving behind two grieving sons to keep his aviation business together. Grayson, the more rebellious of the two, has always intrigued Leah – but he threatens to fire her if she won’t date his brother Alec, no questions asked. This novel is a (slightly disturbing) love story, but it’s also an unflinching look at the realities of serious poverty, and how much ambition and luck you need to get out of it. I’m slowly reading all of Jennifer Echols’ books and continue to be impressed by her range.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4 stars)
Two years ago, on her family’s private island, something terrible happened to Cady. Ever since, she’s been crippled by severe migraines and has lost most of her memories of that summer. When she finally returns to the island, her two favorite cousins, and her true love, she’s determined to piece the mystery together. That’s all anyone should know about this going in. I’ve heard so much hype about it that it couldn’t possibly have lived up to my expectations, but I was hooked and duly impressed.

The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2 stars)
It pains me to say so, but with each Moon book, I’m wishing I’d stopped at Life As We Knew It (which is still amazing). This fourth volume is the bleakest yet. Little brother Jon, now seventeen, lives in a safe enclave with his stepmother and half-brother, while the rest of the family lives as slave laborers in a neighboring town. The entire story is a Lord of the Flies-esque downward spiral of class warfare, inhumane treatment, and horrific deaths. I do think we need occasional reminders that we could all turn savage under the right conditions (so we won’t), but this was so awful that I almost gave up on it. There are glimmers of hope, but in their world, they wouldn’t be enough to keep me going. (Apparently Goodreads agrees.)

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor (4 stars)
When she was ordained in the Episcopal Church, Barbara Brown Taylor envisioned a long, fulfilling life of ministry. With fatigue setting in after about ten years in an urban congregation, she takes a church in rural Georgia. But even in a peaceful town, her soul becomes increasingly troubled and exhausted. This is the story of how a woman in love with God and His Church ends up with more questions than answers, and has to deconstruct her faith to find it again. I recommend it to anyone in professional ministry or any believer feeling disillusioned. If nothing else, you’ll find reassurance that you are not alone.

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson (4 stars)
I reviewed this here.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey (4.5 stars)
When we left Cassie at the end of The 5th Wave, her rebel alien boyfriend had blown up the aliens’ military compound, allowing her to escape with her brother, her high school crush, and their platoon of child soldiers. The bulk of The Infinite Sea centers on Ringer, one of the platoon who goes on a scouting mission from their new “base” and ends up in one impossible situation after another. This sequel didn’t grab me quite as much as the original, but it was compelling and ended with a twist I thought about for days. Well played, Yancey.

Books for October: 9
2014 year to date: 63

2 Comments + Posted in: book reviews

On October 1, my second niece was born! Since my sister and I are very close, I’m thrilled and emotional about a second generation of hermanas. When Niecy was born, Debra and Lance lived much closer. But now that they’re an eight-hour drive away, it was too complicated for me to be there for this baby’s birth. Instead, I flew down to Dothan last weekend for a good visit with the whole gang.

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Since Niecy is no longer alone in niecehood, from here on out her name on this blog will be what she happily calls herself: Fifoo. Fifoo is now maturely calling Debra “Mom” and pushing her baby doll in a swing. She seems excited to be a big sister (unlike her mother, who at almost the same age asked when our parents would be taking our little brother back to the hospital). I realized this trip that I have to start being careful with my influence, because she picks up whatever Mom and Aunt B do! She was quick to notice my new tattoo, prompting a discussion about how it was okay for me to “draw on myself” because I’m a grownup.

I didn’t think any baby could possibly be chiller than Fifoo was, but Baby E has accomplished it in these four weeks of her life. She only cries when she’s hungry, and is totally content to be held and look around for the rest of her conscious time. I spent several happy hours this weekend cuddling her while Debra and I watched Gilmore Girls.

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First on the agenda for this visit was the church fall festival. Debra made these amazing Care Bear costumes out of felt and terrycloth jumpsuits! I just put together a felt tummy for myself that morning and put my hair up in “ears.”

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We took Fifoo to an event at the mall to get her picture taken with Disney princesses and other characters. In the end, she only consented to one photo with Doc McStuffins, but we had fun and counted 31 Elsas while we waited in line.


We also went to a church chili cook-off at someone’s farm.


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On my last day, we went to the Dothan Botanic Gardens to see an exhibit of creative scarecrows. My favorites were the Ice Bucket Challenge scarecrow, an impressive Shrek and Fiona with pumpkin heads, and an unintentionally hilarious “Dreams Do Come True” scene featuring a little girl looking into her future as a headless bride. I mean, I’m assuming it was unintentional… otherwise that’s some dark stuff for a kids’ scarecrow display!!


Spending a few days with these guys was good medicine. I’ve been overextended and a little depressed lately, but at Debra’s I felt happy and relaxed, ate well, and slept better in a house with a newborn than I do alone with one hyper cat. I was sad to leave, but thankfully we’ll see each other again at Christmas!

3 Comments + Posted in: family, travel

Once a year, Hollywood Housewife does a linkup where you document the minutiae of your daily life for one day. I participated last year and thought it would be fun to do so again! Although the action was ongoing on Instagram, I saved up my pictures for a blog post – mainly to keep people from unfollowing me en masse.


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6:21 am: Stumble out of bed after snoozing four times. Yes, my alarm clock is ten minutes fast. I started that in high school, and now my sense of Morning Time is too messed up to go back.

7:00 am: Makeup drawer, unedited! I continue to dream of a real vanity.


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7:15 am: Coffee and my current go-to breakfast smoothie: one frozen banana, coconut milk, almond milk, almond butter, flaxseed, honey, and a dash of chai spice. My dislike of eating the same things too often doesn’t seem to extend to breakfast (or what passes for breakfast on a weekday). I’ve stuck with this smoothie for several months now. While drinking it, I enjoy my daily few minutes of the Today show. The Orange Room is usually my cue to get out the door.


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7:30 am: As it happens, today is the day I’m getting a new roof! The workers arrive at 7:00, and by the time I leave, giant chunks of my roof are flying off. I feel sick watching this and am glad I don’t have to be at home during the process.


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Morning commute: time, temperature, and tunes.


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8:00 am: Arrive at work. Constants: my bird of the day calendar, and the dry-erase board I live and die by. My work centers around the sale of hotels and I have to be able to reference deadlines easily.

10:30 am: On weekdays, I usually wear glasses until around lunchtime, then put my contacts in for the rest of the day. It’s my compromise of my eye doctor’s “four days a week” contacts recommendation, and so far everything is fine!


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12:45 pm: Lunch: a very exciting Lean Cuisine and my current favorite drink mix. I don’t eat in every day, thankfully.


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1:00 pm: Hey look, it’s a beautiful day outside!

1:50 pm: Almost done Putting In Work at the fitness room. Fall Out Boy’s “The Phoenix” is rocking my running world this week.


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Outfit of the Day! We had a jeans day today. This combo of skinny jeans and wedges, which I haven’t tried before, makes me feel inexplicably perky and cute.


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3:00 pm: After about a month of insanity, my inbox is pretty light at the moment.

5:00 pm: I wore my favorite jacket in to work last week, and have forgotten to take it home every day since because it’s so much warmer when I leave. Today I finally remembered! No more shivering in the mornings!


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5:45 pm: My yoga class (which recently switched to Wednesdays after seven years of Thursdays) got canceled, so I had time to go to Caroline and Matt’s to meet their new baby boy! He’s adorable, and I can’t wait to be his cool Aunt B who lets him eat too much ice cream and stuff. ♥


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6:30 pm: HEY THERE, NEW ROOF! I can’t believe they did the whole thing in one day and didn’t leave a trace. It looks fantastic!


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7:00 pm: Dinnertime for Peach and me. I can’t bear to have salad again, but I need something fast, so I throw together Edamame Rice Bowls (er, Bowl). From memory! I’ve gotten terrible about cooking real food for myself and want to get back on track soon.


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Dinnertime reading: For some reason my Kindle won’t download either the new library book or the Netgalley I’ve sent to it, so I flip through the new Elle that just arrived. Of the MANY magazines I never subscribed to that arrive at my house on their own, Elle is my favorite. I LOVE the gray-and-pink dress and the cutout top on this page. Keep dreaming, me.


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7:45 pm: Real life: time for Peach’s daily dose. She seems a little bummed today, but perks up later.


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8:00 pm: How many vacuum cleaners does a one-human, one-cat household need? I splurged on the Dyson Animal two years ago when the Hoover started making a horrible noise, then ended up keeping the Hoover anyway because the Dyson wasn’t cutting it on carpeted areas. Full disclosure: I have a THIRD, handheld vacuum for upholstery. This is me.

8:30 pm: Lately I’ve gotten accustomed to streaming Spotify in the shower. I just bought a converter to plug my phone into my iPod speaker, but my protective phone case is too thick on the bottom for the plug to work properly. Result: LIVING DANGEROUSLY.


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9:00 pm: Crafty Hour in front of the Grizzlies preseason game! I had a craving for a hot cup of tea, so I’m enjoying some Earl Grey sent to me by Erin, and a cookie.


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10:45 pm: Wrapping up my day in the usual way: stretching, my main man Jimmy Fallon, and what I’ve started referring to as “Peachy Adoration Time” (she pounces on me the moment I head for the bed).

Thanks for following along!

7 Comments + Posted in: life lately, linkup

girlsparkler

My life has been a nonstop flurry of activity since I was a little girl. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t hustling from one thing to another, and don’t know how to live any other way. I probably would have been content to read, draw, write stories, and ride my bike on my own every day of my childhood. Instead, I dreamed and contemplated in stolen moments between ballet, T-ball, Girl Scouts, and church involvement. When I started marching band at fourteen, I was allowed to drop most other things, but band was so all-consuming that it didn’t make me any less busy. At home, my family ragged on me when I spent quiet time in my room, or wanted to be alone for a while. I was supposed to be outgoing, do and experience as much as I could, participate in family life. Quiet down time – or rest – equaled laziness and social awkwardness. Meanwhile, kids at school gave me a hard time for being more interested in books than talking most of the time. Because I didn’t know any differently, I accepted that my introversion (though I didn’t even know to call it that) was a flaw to be overcome. The price of the overcoming was constant mental and physical exhaustion. One memorable day, I came home from practice, went to bed at six PM, and slept straight through to the next morning. But it never occurred to me to question or change anything.

I don’t share my story angrily or to cast blame. My parents had good intentions and succeeded in making me a more outward-facing and well-rounded person. But I was in my late 20s before I understood that the type of recharging I’ve always needed was not only legitimate, but also shared by about half of the population. That needing unstructured stillness to sort out my thoughts and feelings, needing not to be doing something and around people all the time, didn’t mean I was a lazy weirdo. It meant I was an introvert. I read Quiet and other introvert-power manifestos and felt validated. I learned to listen to myself and to scale back… a little.

But too often, I’m still that girl who powers through until she involuntarily collapses into bed at six PM – and now I’m the one making myself do it. I love people and going out and being involved in as many things as possible, but sometimes it’s not what’s best for me. I struggle to see free time to myself as a valid choice instead of a lack of options. The harder I push myself, the more my mood, health, and creativity suffer. But I have an innate Fear Of Missing Out and can’t seem to accept my own limits. After a lifetime of playing an extrovert, I don’t always know how to turn it off. I’m unsure whether I’m acting out of my true self, or my conditioning, or how different they really are anymore. Being where the action is energizes me… for a while. Then I hit my limit and want to go home. Being at home by myself is relaxing… until loneliness takes over. I can flip from give me some space to no one loves me anymore in a second.

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Introvert Shame, with its shoulds and oughts, is entrenched in my heart. It’s powerful, and singleness makes it worse. Singleness means I honestly have to seek out and maintain community, because I won’t find it in my home, and it usually won’t come to me. However, I’m really thankful for my friends who stay friends even if they don’t see me frequently, who can be happy hanging out without going out, who also think an occasional night on the back patio talking over a bottle of wine is a good time. Especially when they’re willing to hike out to my house in the burbs to do so.

Singleness also means that if I’m not out there and on as much as possible, my singleness could be my own “fault.” The dating scene is an extrovert’s game, in which seeming boring is one of the worst fouls you can commit, and I’m only capable of sparkling effusively for so long. Eventually, I burn down to the metal wire of me. It’s an ongoing battle to believe that that is enough, in general, even if it’s not enough for some people. I am enough, and the right person will see me even if I’m not the go-to life of the party. And even if no one ever sees me, somehow that’ll be enough too.

I’m still figuring out how to respect and honor my inner introvert. Every time I think I’ve got it under control, I have another little crash and burn that proves otherwise. It’s a long road, and if you’re walking it too, I salute you.

12 Comments + Posted in: extracurriculars, personality, singleness

rare-bird

On September 8, 2011, Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s two kids went out to play in the rain with friends. Her twelve-year-old son, Jack, fell into a flooded, fast-moving creek and did not survive. Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love is an account of the accident, the aftermath, and Anna’s grief process over the following year or so as she lived out every mother’s nightmare, trying to put herself and her family back together.

If you’ve ever unexpectedly lost someone precious to you, you will relate to and feel validated by Rare Bird. Anna is despairing yet hopeful, faithful yet furious, and she doesn’t sugarcoat any of it. She perfectly illustrates how deeply it sucks to be a walking cautionary tale, to be the tragedy inspiring everyone around you to hold their loved ones closer (which is one of my lasting emotional imprints from my divorce). I’m thankful for her honesty, not only in admitting to her own raw emotions but also in talking about mystical experiences that might sound a little crazy to those who haven’t passed through a deep valley. I got chills as she described Holy Spirit-y things I’ve never talked about much, and felt reassured even years after the fact. I also nodded along with her words about how loss changes relationships, and you may be surprised by who does and does not show up for you – a side effect that doesn’t get much press.

Rare Bird is wrenching – I felt wrung out when I was finished and even cried on a plane reading it. But it’s also a beautiful story of a remarkable boy and his remarkable mother, and I was glad to bear witness with them.

Rare Bird is available now in bookstores and online. You can also find Anna at her blog, An Inch of Gray.

Recommended for: Anyone who’s experienced loss, or who wants to help and understand someone who has.

See also: Invitation to Tears by Jonalyn Fincher and Aubrie Hills; Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman




I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review program. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

2 Comments + Posted in: book reviews, grief

tattoowithfilter

Confession: I found my tattoo on Pinterest.

As my friend Melody said, it could have been “the biggest Pinterest Fail ever.” It wasn’t.

I saw the picture about two years ago, a nautilus tattoo on the inner side of a woman’s heel. The caption grabbed my attention: “The nautilus shell consists of ever-larger chambers in which the sea creature lives for a while until it outgrows them. Once it grows a new, larger chamber it cannot go back to the previous ones; they no longer fit. It has no choice but to move on. Yet, the old chambers are still a part of who they are.” I liked that so much that, even though I was sure I could never commit to having one image on my body for the rest of my life, I pinned the picture. Once in a while I’d go back and look at it.

Over the course of this year, my Year of Alive, I’ve warmed up to the idea of a tattoo. I can’t articulate all the reasons why – it just seemed like a natural next step. Still, I doubted I would ever actually do it. So permanent! But at the end of August in the Keys, I discovered that my aunt (previously ink-free, like most of my family) had gotten a large cross tattoo on her shoulder blade. As I talked to her about it, I suddenly knew I wanted to take the plunge too – and I knew when and where I wanted to do it. From the bow of a boat, several miles off the Seven Mile Bridge, I texted Bethany, “Crazy idea: do you know of any good tattoo parlors in Hawaii?” She replied, “I HAD THE SAME CRAZY IDEA.”

During the few weeks between Miami and Hawaii, I played devil’s advocate with myself about the tattoo. But the more I thought (and prayed!) about the meanings of the nautilus, the more sure I was that I should get it. As I’ve mentioned before, my “life verse” is Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. I chose this verse, or it chose me, when I was eighteen. (There’s a stepping stone in my parents’ backyard with “Philippians 1:6″ pressed into it as proof.) Through all life’s changes since then, no Bible verse has been more applicable. More often than not, I feel like I’m falling behind, losing ground in faith and as a person. My progress is never good enough for me. But this verse reminds me every day that God is on the case and will never give up working on and in me in this life. Onward and upward. It hit me one day as I drove to work that the nautilus shell is the perfect symbol of that concept. It’s also a symbol of the strength and independence I’ve gained, a reminder that I don’t have to and in fact cannot force myself back into chambers I’ve outgrown. I will continue to need new, bigger chambers until the day I die, and it’s a good thing.

Plus, you know. The ocean.

In Oahu, we stayed on a Marine base. I was counting on Bethany’s Marine friends to recommend a good tattoo place, and the group consensus was 808 Tattoo in Kaneohe. On the last day of the trip (planned so I wouldn’t miss any swimming time), I called to make an appointment and no one called me back for hours. Then I was sure I wanted to go through with it, because I was so bummed that it might not happen. I knew if I went home without this tattoo, I would never get it. Who gets a shell tattoo in Memphis? It wouldn’t make sense. This was meant to be part of my Hawaii experience.

Thankfully, they were able to work me in that evening. Originally Bethany and I were going to get inked together (she already has one piece, a purple bird on her foot), but she left her sketches at home. I was still glad to have her there as my advisor and moral support. When we arrived at 808, I showed my artist the picture I’d saved from Pinterest and he printed a stencil. I felt a little dumb for wanting the exact same tattoo in the exact same place, but all the nuances worked for me. I wanted it on my left foot, not my right… because in marching band you lead with your left foot, and I will always be a marcher in my heart (dorky but true). And I wanted the end of the shell facing up, not down, for the same general reasons you hang a horseshoe upside down. It seemed more positive.

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The actual work only took ten or fifteen minutes. I’d been warned that this part of the foot (and the foot in general) is one of the most painful places to get a tattoo, and I won’t lie: IT HURT. I may or may not have been repeating Eowyn’s “I fear neither death nor pain” in my head. But I also won’t lie: I felt like a badass. I didn’t cry, I didn’t make a lot of noise, and I only sort of crushed Bethany’s hand. And when it was over, I had exactly what I had wanted for a long time!

"NOT A JOKE!" I advised on Instagram.

“NOT A JOKE!” I advised on Instagram.


I’ve been home for two weeks, and I’m loving my tattoo more and more. I am so happy I did it. In addition to all the reminders I chose it for, I’m finding that it also reminds me who I am. When I hang up a frustrating call at work, for example, I glance at the shell and it seems to tell me, This does not define you. You may be compliant on the outside, but you are tough, and your spirit is still free.

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People are already asking me if I plan to get more ink, the same way they ask if I’m going to get another second cat. In both cases, my answer is the same. I have no current intentions to do so, but I won’t absolutely rule it out.

8 Comments + Posted in: milestone, one word: alive

whateverlife

I loved Julie Cross’s Tempest trilogy, a time-travel story with heart. Her follow-up, the standalone Whatever Life Throws at You, is contemporary and non-supernatural but boasts the same type of likable characters – rough and tough on the outside, marshmallows on the inside.

When Annie Lucas’s dad gets a job offer as a pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals, she practically forces him to take it. To Annie, getting both of them (and her ailing grandma) away from her flighty, usually-absent mother is worth any upheaval to her own life. On her first day in Kansas City, she has a meet-cute with Jason Brody, the wunderkind pitcher her dad is there to champion. Despite his womanizing ways and checkered past, she still feels drawn to him. But as they get to know each other (against everyone’s advice), that public image starts to fall apart. He starts playing up to his potential. The Royals start winning for the first time in decades.

Meanwhile, Annie deals with a lot of drama on the homefront – her own as well as that of her friend Lenny, daughter of one of the Royals’ star players. I appreciated the depiction of real, complex family problems instead of obvious Afterschool Special stuff.

I don’t know much about the behind-the-scenes environment in professional sports, but the PR crises and day-to-day lives of the players, staff, and their families in this book felt very believable. I also love the fact that life is currently imitating art with the Royals’ playoff run (Julie addressed this on her blog yesterday).

Whatever Life Throws at You was released yesterday and is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Recommended for fans of: baseball, good father-daughter stories, Veronica Mars (there are similar qualities)


I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Lanai Lookout

Until I got to Hawaii, it didn’t occur to me that I could take a tour of locations where LOST was filmed. By then, my friends and I were already booked. Besides, one tour claimed to visit 22 locations in two hours, and after only a few days on Oahu I knew that to be impossible. But we were already planning to drive around most of the island one day, and several of the stops on our list turned out to be LOST places! However, note that not all of the following places were on the show.

I’ve seen a few LOST reruns, but haven’t done a full rewatch since it ended in 2010. Luckily, Caroline, another of my best friends, just finished one. So I texted her photos throughout the day, and after squeeing, she’d remind me exactly what happened there. Teamwork!

Lanai Lookout

We drove down from Kaneohe to our first stop, Lana’i Lookout, on the southeast side of the island. These beautiful cliffs are barricaded at the top by a short wall and “DO NOT GO PAST THIS POINT” sign, over which everyone climbed happily. Also blocking the way was a man with a parrot. The parrot’s name was Jackie Chan, and he has been in two movies. I know this because his owner repeated it to each of us individually and tried to extort $5 for photos. But with such an amazing view, who cared? Oh, and this is where Desmond killed Kelvin after he came out of the Hatch.

Halona Blowhole

Halona Blowhole

The Halona Blow Hole, while absolutely gorgeous, didn’t quite live up to its advertised wave action. Or, as we put it, “That blow hole kind of blew.”

Makapu'u Lookout

Makapu'u Lookout

Turning the southeast corner of the island, we stopped at Makapu’u Lookout, because how could you not?

Chinaman's Hat

After a stop for sushi back in Kaneohe, we proceeded to Chinaman’s Hat. This little island was on my own list of things to see and I was very excited!

Chinaman's Hat

On our way up the North Shore, we drove past Kualoa Ranch, a very popular LOST location. But it’s private property and we didn’t have time to take the tour.

Banzai Pipeline

Here’s Banzai Pipeline, one of the most famous and dangerous surfing beaches in the world. I have to assume that it was an unnaturally calm day there.

Waimea Falls Botanic Garden

Our next big stop was Waimea Falls, which is inside a large botanic garden where many movies have been filmed (including Catching Fire). On LOST, Kate and Sawyer found some bodies here, and it’s also where she and Hurley “landed” on The Island after the second plane crash.

hawaiib-1

The garden itself was beautiful. We had to walk about a mile through it to get to the falls.

Waimea Falls Botanic Garden

Waimea Falls Botanic Garden

Waimea Falls Botanic Garden

Waimea Falls Botanic Garden

Aside: Bethany and I were also planning to jump off a famous cliff at Waimea Beach. Honestly, neither of us particularly love jumping from high places, but it seemed like a YOLO Hawaii must-do. While Google Mapping us there, I read a review that began, “Be sure to jump at high tide. Jumped at low tide, shattered my tibia and fibula.” The story continued for a while, concluding with, “Still a great experience. Would jump again.” Despite that encouragement, being unsure of the tidal situation, we decided to cross that activity off the list.

After the falls, we stopped in Haleiwa at the famous Matsumoto Shaved Ice.

Matsumoto Shave Ice, Haleiwa

THEN we headed to Mokuleia Beach, aka THE CRASH BEACH from the pilot! I’m pretty sure we were down the beach from the actual filming site, but it was still very recognizable. And breathtaking.

Mokuleia (LOST) Beach

Mokuleia (LOST) Beach

Mokuleia (LOST) Beach

Mokuleia (LOST) Beach

Mokuleia (LOST) Beach

We stayed until the sun set. On the way back, we pulled into Camp Erdman, a working YMCA camp that doubled as The Others’ village. Bethany and I totally geeked out over the familiar yellow cabins. Unfortunately, it was dark, kids were going to actual camp activities, and my water shoes had blistered my feet so badly that I couldn’t put them back on to sneak around the premises. Still, just seeing the camp from the van was very satisfying.

Others' Cabins (YMCA Camp)

And that was our DIY LOST tour of Oahu!

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artist unknown

artist unknown


I Love the 80s by Megan Crane (4 stars)
Since Jenna’s fiance dumped her, she’s coped by indulging her obsession with the 80s – not hard to do, since she works at an all-80s music channel. Her greatest passion is rock icon Tommy Seer, who died mysteriously in 1987. While changing a light bulb during a lightning storm, she’s magically transported back to several months before Tommy’s death, and into the life of her aunt Jen, who worked at the same music video channel. After playing a role in one of the band’s most famous moments, Jenna finds herself involved in Tommy’s life and decides to try to save it. Needless to say, this novel requires total suspension of disbelief, but it’s a lot of fun.

Whatever Life Throws At You by Julie Cross (4 stars)
Downloaded from Netgalley. Review to come later.

I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron (4 stars)
I saw this collection of essays on my library’s Kindle site and decided it was past time to start reading Nora Ephron. She’s a writer’s writer with lots of interesting stories and insights!

Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date by Katie Heaney (4 stars)
In this hilarious, wise, and honest memoir, Katie Heaney shares her romantic history or lack thereof – from her kindergarten crush to the last guy to break her heart. Anyone who’s been single for a long time should love it!

Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love & Karaoke by Rob Sheffield (4 stars)
In Love Is A Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield told the story of his young marriage and the sudden loss of his wife. In this new memoir, he tells how he found a new love – and karaoke. It’s kind of rambly, but I enjoy his ramblings!

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (4 stars)
When Lucy and Owen meet in an elevator during the NYC blackout, their chemistry is obvious immediately. But after knowing each other only a short time, they both move away in opposite directions. Though they communicate only through sporadic postcards and try to move on with their lives, they can’t seem to forget about each other. This novel is a little disjointed and longer than it needs to be, but it’s heartfelt, and I give it 4 stars purely for emotional reasons.

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen (2.5 stars)
A novel about four women who accept a college friend’s invitation to vacation together at a beach house in Jamaica. All of them, including the host, are hiding secrets that start coming out in unexpected ways. It’s very soapy with lots of plot twists. I’m a Pekkanen fan, but this was my least favorite of her books. (Though it has similar themes to Outer Banks by Anne Rivers Siddons, which to me is the epitome of good soap.)

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker (3 stars)
Clementine is spending her sixteenth summer on a boat with her parents and sister, sailing down the Mississippi River. So she has plenty of time to think about her recent estrangement from her best friend and how everything went wrong. When she meets James, also sailing with his dad, his friendliness and cheer starts breaking down the walls she’s built around herself. This is a cute story with a unique setting, but for some reason I wasn’t in love with it.

Books for September: 8
2014 year to date: 54

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