Quote from Fangirl by Pandanemar
Vortex and Timestorm by Julie Cross (4.5 stars)
The second and third books in the Tempest trilogy begin with Jackson’s training as an agent of Tempest, the time-travel division of the CIA. Having erased his relationship with his girlfriend Holly in order to protect her, he’s shocked to discover that somehow she’s an agent for the other side… and that’s really the least of his problems. These books are a crazy ride to alternate realities, a Norwegian maelstrom, and the year 3200, but Jackson’s solid bonds with his family and friends keep them grounded. Recommended for anyone who loved Fringe.
Please Excuse My Daughter: A Memoir by Julie Klam (3 stars)
I looked up Julie Klam because she’s Jancee Dunn‘s best friend, and I enjoyed reading about her in Jancee’s books. Like Jancee, Julie grew up in a loving, lively family, but she did so on an estate in upstate New York. Raised as a pampered princess, her journey to independent adulthood was long and tough. I related to her frustration at not being raised for the life she’s living, even while recognizing a lot of it as First World Problems. I also liked hearing about her work on the David Letterman show and Pop-Up Video (where she met her husband).
Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me by Jan Meyers Proett (5 stars)
Jan’s first book, The Allure of Hope, is one of my go-tos. Here, she shares bravely about her own history and continues her wise musings about beauty, hope, disappointment, and grace. I highlighted about half of this book and felt reassured and encouraged.
You Found Me: God’s Relentless Pursuit to Find You by Keith M. Robinson (3 stars)
Keith Robinson is my brother’s pastor and friend. In this memoir, he shares the gospel via his own life story and faith testimony. Since he works heavily with youth, the book is sort of geared toward young adults, but his story is moving and inspiring for anyone.
Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff (4 stars)
Mila, an intuitive British tween, travels to upstate New York with her dad to track down his missing best friend. This short, tightly written mystery (possibly more middle-grade than YA) is a little mundane on the surface, but Meg Rosoff is a Jedi master of the English language, and she makes no mistakes. Worth reading for any writer.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (5 stars)
It’s 1999, and Lincoln’s job is to monitor staff e-mails at an Omaha newspaper. He falls in love with movie reviewer Beth through her flagged e-mails with her best friend Jennifer – but, realizing the creepiness of the situation, feels helpless to have a real relationship with her. Besides, he got his heart broken nine years ago and hasn’t dated since. But then life starts happening to him, and anything starts to seem possible. I can’t quite explain why I loved this story so much, other than it was exactly what I needed at this moment in my life, and chock full of insightful quotes. I think anyone can find something in it that resonates.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (5 stars)
In the Simon Snow fandom, Cath is a celebrity, author of the most popular fanfic around. But to everyone at the University of Nebraska, she’s just a socially awkward freshman. Separated from her twin sister Wren and worried about her manic-depressive dad, now living alone, Cath isolates herself with her writing. But she’s occasionally forced into the real world by her boisterous roommate, Reagan, and Reagan’s boyfriend (?) Levi, who just keeps hanging around. Again, I related to Cath and loved the realness, rawness, and ultimate hope of this story. LOVED. IT.
Books for July: 8
2014 year to date: 40
My sister and niece visited for almost a week! We went to parks, the pool, and the zoo, and generally had a great time. One of my best friends, Alanna, got engaged on the Fourth at Turner Field in Atlanta (her fiance is a big Braves fan). The wedding will be in November, and I’ll be a bridesmaid and have already chosen and bought a gorgeous dress! Oh and I had a relaxing Fourth of July (my favorite holiday). Instead of hosting a party like I usually do, I chilled out at friends’ houses. It was a nice change.
Read and Reading:
July was an unintentional Rainbow Rowell fest. Having loved Eleanor & Park, I finally decided to read Fangirl, and it swept me away. Immediately upon finishing, I bought her debut novel, Attachments. I couldn’t stop reading these books and couldn’t bear for them to end. RR specializes in witty, likable, real characters who want to love, but feel too broken and/or weird to really believe love can happen to them. Can I get an amen? I’m holding off on Landline, the last of her current canon, just to have it in my back pocket.
I’ve finally joined Clone Club! A while back I caught some of an Orphan Black marathon on TV and always intended to watch it for real. Now I’m working my way through Season 1. Tatiana Maslany’s Emmy snubs are truly inexcusable.
Manhattan premiered on WGN Sunday night and I already love it. It’s about the scientists of Los Alamos and their families. You really get a sense of the ethical dilemmas these people must have dealt with, and the impossible situation in which they found themselves. Also: Olivia Williams (Adelle from Dollhouse) is in it! Always good to see a Whedon alum.
Begin Again is an excellent movie with catchy, solid music. I already want to see it, well, again. I didn’t even recognize Adam Levine in it until he started to sing (but I’m not a fan of his… I once famously told my sister that he looks like he should be named Vinny and run a smuggling operation). And Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are solid. I don’t get the general hate for Keira – she’s been great in several of my recent-ish favorite movies (e.g. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World).
I went on an Ingram Hill bender after discovering that they’ve released three more albums since I last looked them up, and they are all sooo good. IH is a local Memphis band and I’m excited to see them in concert next month!
A few songs that made me stop and think “This is legit” in July: John Mayer’s cover of Beyonce’s “XO”; “Latch” by Disclosure feat. Sam Smith (great for getting ready to go out!); “Don’t” by Ed Sheeran; and Ariana Grande’s “Problem.” I’m late to the party on the last one, but when she hits that “Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoooooooouulders,” the world instantly improves.
You can keep up with my ever-expanding 2014 Playlist on Spotify.
A FIRST: I made a wearable skirt in one afternoon, start to finish! YAY! The fabric is from the clearance table at Hancock. It’s actually the second skirt I’ve made from this tutorial, but the first one turned out too poofy to wear, though I think it could be fixed by a more skilled sewist. I’d link to the tutorial, but apparently the blog has gone private (thankfully I wrote down the basics for future reference).
When I was in college, I had a large collection of Sinful Colors nail polish. It was cheap and their colors were very edgy for the time. Once I had an income, I was lured away by the siren call of OPI and Essie, but Sinful is slowly regaining my loyalty. They’re cranking out perfect dupes of higher-end colors, and according to some beauty-magazine test, their current formula is more durable than Chanel’s. At $2 a bottle, I can’t say no to that. I only wish it was available at CVS!
Home & Garden:
We had a storm during my sister’s visit that damaged one of the maple trees in my backyard. After so many bad storms over the years, I don’t know why this one took out some major limbs. My dad took care of one big branch that fell into my neighbor’s yard, but I had to hire an arborist to retrieve another big branch stuck high in the tree. Not only did he take it out and re-balance the tree, but he also pruned my other trees whose excessive branches were driving me crazy. I’m so happy with the results, I almost don’t mind paying the bill!
My garden is plugging along. It’s not the best season ever, but I have tomatoes!
Last winter I saw a pin of a plastic kiddie pool made “in-ground” with pavers around it. I wanted to do the same, but couldn’t figure out how I’d lift the pool out of the hole to empty or clean it. The idea of a kiddie pool was stuck in my head, though, so I finally went to Wal-Mart and bought the smallest pop-up kind they had. I spent a delightful afternoon in it on Fourth of July weekend.
I’m continuing to train for a 5K on my birthday, just a few weeks away. My goal is to run the whole thing – I’ve always run and walked in intervals before. (REMINDER: until several years ago I couldn’t run AT ALL.) I’m up to about 2.5 miles. Woo!
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
I just spent a weekend at Kentucky Lake with my parents and brother! Next month: OCEAN TIME.
On The Blog:
If you’ve been around the blog this month, you know I’ve been a little emo and restless. Don’t worry… it’s mostly growing pains. Even when I want change, I don’t handle the “limbo” phase well. I wrote about rainbow-chasing and disappointment, doing vs. being as it pertains to calling, and blazing your own trail in life. (A friend’s review of the latter post: “That was intense.” LOL)
Posts I Loved:
♥ Chelsea Batten at A Deeper Story: Blue Valentines
♥ Paul Heggie: Knowing What You Want
♥ Glennon Melton at Storyline: You Don’t Need More Talent or Time. “The most important quality in a writer is her certainty that she is not special.”
♥ Sarah Siders: What to Do While You’re Waiting
♥ Danielle Carey: The Warrior Virtue
♥ Kelli Conners guesting at Little Did She Know: Paddleboard
My parents bought an RV earlier this year. They and their friends, who also have RVs, have camped all over the Mid-South. I took my first trip with them last weekend when we met my brother at Kentucky Lake/Land Between The Lakes! In accordance with the incredible summer we’re having, the weather was perfect. Hot enough to enjoy the lake during the day, but cool enough to enjoy sitting outside in the mornings and evenings.
We camped at Hillman Ferry, which is on the far north end of Kentucky Lake. None of us had stayed at the lake before and didn’t know much about the area. Next time we’ll probably go further south, closer to the bird sanctuary and bison and elk range that my parents and I would have liked to see.
Hillman Ferry does have hiking and biking paths with some pretty scenery. A doe with two babies lives in a field near the paths, and we saw her both evenings. I was able to get pretty close!
But of course, we spent most of our time in the water. I performed my annual demonstration that I can still water-ski, thus renewing my license to stay in my family. (I’m mostly kidding)
And of course, there were some circus tricks.
Kevin and I took the Jetski over to experience The Quarry, Kentucky Lake’s primo party spot. It was worth a visit. Almost every college and frat house is represented in the graffiti. Party on, Wayne and Garth.
The beach area was prettier than what I’m used to at a lake.
My parents befriended a couple whose campsite was right on the beach. As we were leaving, we noticed that they had at least ten hummingbirds around their hummingbird feeder. I’d never seen anything like it!
We camped a lot as a family when I was a tween. I wasn’t a fan (I used to sleep in the car instead of the tent – the one rebellion within my grasp). Camping still isn’t my #1 favorite activity, but I now see the appeal of getting away to the wilderness once in a while. RVing is also a vast improvement over tent camping. I’d go again!
It’s been years since my last Curly Hair Post, and I have some new recommendations! I know we curlies are always on the lookout for new products and ideas, because our hair care is no simple task. (I’m a low-maintenance girl in a high-maintenance body.)
As part of a slow gravitation away from chemicals and junk, I’m using more natural hair products. Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat shampoo and conditioner have been my choice for a few months. The shampoo feels amazing on my scalp and doesn’t dry out my hair as long as I alternate it with something more moisturizing. For that, I use Organix Moroccan Argan Oil shampoo, conditioner, and deep treatment. However, I’m almost out of those and might try their new Coconut Water or Sea Mineral Moisture next.
I’ve parted from my beloved Marc Anthony Curl Envy Cream in favor of an organic shea butter leave-in conditioner. Beautiful Curls is consistently the cheapest (though I’d still like to try Shea Moisture). Since I made the switch, my hair truly feels healthier and has a more natural texture.
For styling, I’m still in a committed relationship with Tresemme Bouncy Curls gel. I can only find it at Wal-Mart these days, but you absolutely can’t beat it for under five bucks. I also like Tresemme heat styling spray.
Recently I was given a couple of bottles of Aveda Be Curly Curl Controller. Don’t mind if I do! Ironically, it makes my hair a little wilder than I prefer, so I don’t use it every day. But it’s all-natural and smells INCREDIBLE. I would use nothing but Aveda products just for the smell if I had a million dollars…
Not pictured is my faithful finishing touch, Herbal Essences Set Me Up Spray Gel. I need something to provide a little additional hold without stiffness or stickiness. Most spray gels are just regular-weight gels in a spray bottle (do they think we won’t notice?), but this one is airy and perfect. I dread the day they discontinue it.
Aside: after hearing about DIY flax seed hair gel from my sister, I bought a pack of whole flax seeds intending to make a batch. I still haven’t taken the plunge, but if/when I do, I’ll post about the experience. It’s bound to be entertaining!
I’m on my second Conair Infiniti Cord-Keeper hair dryer and have no complaints. The diffuser that comes with the dryer is great, but when the teeth inevitably break off, I get a standard replacement diffuser at Sally Beauty. I’d like to hear from anyone who uses a fancy expensive dryer – do they really make a difference?
Other than a standard wide-tooth comb, I use no other styling tools. My hair hasn’t been straightened since probably 2008, when I went to a Ouidad salon in Ft. Lauderdale for their famous “carve and slice” haircut. That haircut brought me to a new level of acceptance of and appreciation for my curls. I’ve always hated how differently people respond to me with straightened hair, anyway – the once-overs from guys who usually look through me, the “You look so much better!” exclamations. Like I’m suddenly a more valuable human being because my hair is more socially acceptable. It may seem silly if you haven’t experienced it, but embracing your natural curls can be a sensitive and almost political choice for people of any color. DON’T LET THEM TAME YOU!
PS: If you’re in the Memphis area and need a hairstylist who knows curly hair, contact me and I’ll be happy to refer you. I’ve been with mine for years and she is a diamond in the rough. If she ever leaves town, I might have to move with her!
My vegetable garden’s been in the ground for about eight weeks. We’re having one of the wettest, coolest summers on record, and as a result, this year’s garden is noticeably smaller and less fruitful than last year’s. It’s a bummer, but there’s not much I can do about it other than fertilize. Who knows, it might take off in September!
First, the good news: the tomatoes are cranking up! I’ve harvested a few cherry tomatoes and a couple of Romas, and the Better Boys are starting to come in. My dad set up my Florida weave system for me. I intended to use heavy metal stakes (the kind they use for traffic signs), but they’re expensive, and I already had this PVC pipe, which works just as well and won’t deteriorate. Anyway, I keep adding twine as the plants grow. So far, so good.
First big tomato!
The middle part of the garden is struggling. My squash plants drowned almost immediately. I’ve lost several bell pepper plants (including a replacement for one original plant), and the ones that remain are barely clinging to life. True to its usual form, only the jalapeno is actually bearing flowers. My eggplant’s flowers keep falling off, but it looks healthy and I think it may get going soon.
The cucumbers are thriving and flowering all over the place, but no actual cukes yet.
In other plant news:
♥ I have a handmade wooden planter in a shady spot near my front door. This year, I splurged on three Kong coleus (colei?) for the planter. They keep getting bigger and more gorgeous, with lavender cone-like flowers in the middle. I love looking at them.
♥ My gardenia bush got fried by our cold winter. Loss of a plant generally isn’t a big deal, but to me, this is no ordinary gardenia. I planted it the week my ex-husband left, and over the years I’ve felt a symbolic bond with it. It’s my version of Valancy’s rosebush. In fact, it’s come back from the mostly-dead once before. Once it was clear that last winter probably did it in, the only thing I could do to help it was cut it all the way back to the roots. Still, I had very little hope. So I was surprised and thrilled a couple of weeks ago to see these tiny leaves shooting out of the roots! It may take a long time to branch out or flower again, but LIFE REMAINS.
♥ About a year and a half ago, I planted tiger lily bulbs in my front garden bed. We had them at the house I grew up in in Hickory Hill, and they just say home to me. Well, last month they finally bloomed!
Nature makes me want to dance! And so does this dress.
So what we are saying is this: you have no guarantees, but dream anyway. You will hurt more if it doesn’t work out, but your laugh will have a more rapt quality to it. You’ll feel the sting, but your face will glisten with the fresh dew of presence. You will love more, you will feel the air in your lungs, you will feel boulders of sadness on your heart, but you’ll be alive. And you’ll be okay. Saint Bartholomew said, “Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain; what you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.” Exactly. Jesus did not say, “I will rescue you out of your disappointing world.” He did say, “The thief comes to steal and destroy, but I have come that you would have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
– Jan Meyers Proett, Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me
What did he have to mope about, really? What more did he want? Love, he could hear Eve saying. Purpose. Love. Purpose. Those are the things that you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don’t happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?
- Rainbow Rowell, Attachments
I am trying to remain fully alive to my hopes and dreams without losing my mind. It’s harder than you would think. I’ve been wondering how many times, how many years, you can bear unfulfilled hopes before their weight starts to crush you. How do you keep affirming them without bitterness creeping into your heart? How do you create a steady baseline of joy that’s not dependent on anything changing for the better?
I need to be reminded again and again that having an open, alive heart means that you will get hurt. You’ll be disappointed and make mistakes. You will crash and burn. Sometimes you won’t know why it happened or what you’re supposed to learn from it. You’ll be freshly reminded of what you’re missing. You may need time to pick yourself up again. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you took a brave risk, and you’ll be a more complete person because of it. To quote another Rainbow Rowell novel, “I look like this because I’m alive. Because I’ve had experiences.” Having experiences often leaves us worse for wear, but in some mysterious way, it brings us closer to the abundant life Jesus talked about.
I feel restless, itchy for positive change and hopes fulfilled, and I still believe I must be somehow on the brink. I’ve heard many women say that late in labor, there’s a moment when you feel like you just cannot do it anymore, and that means the baby is about to be born. I’ve believed myself at a similar point many times before. History shows that I have always been wrong. But this time, something is about to be born. There’s too much electricity built up in me. It has to go somewhere.
You can also check out my Alive Pinterest board. ***
I’m turning 35 next month, which seems like a good age to declare that Normal is never going to happen for me. Regardless of my future, my chances at a traditional life are officially in the rearview mirror. If I marry again, it won’t be like marrying a longtime friend in my early 20s – we’ll already have decades of separate personal histories. If I find a career I love, it’ll be like Chandler Bing switching to marketing in Season 10 of Friends, not the informed plan of someone who knew what she wanted to do at 22. If I become a mother, via adoption or biology, I’ll be an Old Mom with an established general cluelessness about child-rearing. If none of those things ever happen, that’ll be a whole other challenge.
It’s time to stop looking at and judging myself by a framework that’s no use to me. Time to shake off the shame, burn the map, and take the machete.
I think I was always destined for a Plan B life, because it’s authentic by nature, and so am I. Much as I sometimes wish otherwise, fakery is not in my bag of tricks. I can’t convincingly pretend to be other or better than what I am. I’m hopeless at playing it cool. I can’t maintain an illusion of having it all together. I tried for years, back on the Plan A track, and it wore me down to nothing. But in Plan B, there’s no hiding the fact that I’m perpetually flying by the seat of my pants. Everyone is, in fact, but I’m too far gone to cover it up. I’m permanently out of the game.
However, I tend to exchange it for a new game – acting like Plan B is one big exciting adventure. Sure, it can be, but more often it’s a heavy load of uncertainty, false hopes, and dead ends. It means hacking through the jungle with no confirmation that you’re headed anywhere good. I’ve felt so weary of it lately, too weary to be the Eowyn I want to be. I need to give myself grace and freedom in the weariness too.
I need to surround myself with other machete-wielders. Blazing a trail by yourself is too large and lonely a task. I need regular reassurance that I’m not some pitiable anomaly, but am valuable right where I am. I want to be inspired by lots of different examples of a purposeful, fulfilling life. I don’t think you can ever have enough. None of us are meant to do this alone, and I’ve been trying for too long.
I’m winding up a visit with my sister and niece! They got here last Friday. Here are some highlights:
A small-plane pilot friend of my dad’s took us to DeWitt Spain Airport because Niecy loves planes. She took to the controls immediately. My dad, who’s worked in aviation for most of his adult life, was thrilled.
My brother was also here over the weekend! All three of us are only together a couple of times a year. We missed my BIL Lance, who’s at church camp this week.
Niecy has been having a blast with Nanny and Poppy.
Debra and I enjoyed a long lunch with Caroline, one of my best friends. They’re both due in October, just two weeks apart!
We hit the pool at my parents’ friends’ house. I must say, it was a big upgrade from my backyard kiddie pool.
Niecy paid her first visit to the ice cream (wo)man! She chose a rainbow push pop.
Yesterday we went to the zoo to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and free admission day.
I probably won’t see Debra again until Niece #2 is born. It’s tough being so far apart, but I’m thankful for these times with my hermana!
I can’t believe this summer is more than halfway over, and there are still so many things I want to do. Even as I try to convince myself all fun, spontaneity, and possibility will not end with the summer, I want to be sure I’m making the most of it. So here’s my Summer Second-Half Bucket List:
- See at least one movie at the Orpheum (The Princess Bride and the Grease sing-along are both coming up!)
- Make a Jerry’s run
- Watch the Perseid meteor shower. I always intend to do this and never do.
- See Begin Again (I’ve heard great things) and Boyhood
- One more Peabody rooftop party
- At least one more Levitt Shell show
- Ride my bike more often (I haven’t hit the Greenline in months)
- Plan and execute an awesome triple birthday party for myself and two friends (details still pending)
- Run the Elvis 5K on my birthday
- Go to the Weezer show at Snowden Grove. They’ve been one of my favorite bands since college and I’ve never seen them live.
- OCEAN TIME.
I would prefer to enjoy these things in good, fun company, but this is my commitment to myself to go alone if I have to. Do you have any incomplete summer bucket list items?
Today over at A Peek at Karen’s World, I’m sharing one of my family’s favorite funny stories. It all happened in August 2008, when we got caught in a storm while boating and had to take refuge on the mysterious island of Boca Chita…