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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.

6 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

Add a Comment + Posted in: book reviews

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General Highlights:

This March, like many others before it, began in Snowmageddon and ended in daffodils and blue skies. My Tigers didn’t go to any tournaments on account of the worst season in a decade, but I enjoyed March Madness anyway – and am still in the top ten in my department’s bracket pool even though I picked Arizona. I attended the baptism of two good friends’ son, and helped another close friend through the sudden loss of her cat. I went to Dan McGuinness for St. Patrick’s Day. I played a fun Night at the Movies concert with the community band. I went out even more than usual (this will be covered below).

But these were sidebars to the central business of my March: real estate. I got two offers on my house. The first one resulted in the buyers walking away after a stressful week of negotiation. The second was a cash offer that arrived the morning I looked at the Midtown townhouse of my dreams. Everything was arranged within 48 hours and I’m moving in just over two weeks. It’s been a whirlwind, and getting out of the burbs is costing me way more than I imagined, but I’m very lucky and VERY READY to be moving on with my life after only six weeks on the market.

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Reading:

I read a variety of memoirs, a novel, and two books so spiritually rich I had to take my time: Soul Keeping by John Ortberg, and Found by Micha Boyett. Highly recommended.



Music:

I’m inexplicably obsessed with “FourFive Seconds” by Rihanna, Kanye, and Paul McCartney (it’s a messed-up world when Sir Paul gets third billing on that track). I’m also liking Aussie indie artist Courtney Barnett, who’s raw yet somehow cheery. Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you.

As usual, you can listen to my 2015 playlist in process on Spotify.



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Around Town:

I crossed A LOT of Midtown restaurants off my list this month. I went to brunch at Second Line and 3 Angels Diner, and finally checked out LBOE and Lafayette’s. I also continued to be a regular at Belly Acres. As in, it’s becoming a joke…

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…and apparently I wear the same sweater every time I go there. What can I say, I’ve lost interest in my winter clothes.

My church parish attended a Grizzlies game, my first of the season (for shame). The Grizz beat the Lakers. I also went to a Third Day concert with a friend. I can’t tolerate most CCM, but Third Day is one of the few Christian bands I’ve always liked. Mac is soooo soulful.



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Products:

I can’t remember where I heard about this packing tape for each room of your house, but it’s awesome! I’ve been sealing boxes with regular tape and then slapping the appropriate room tape across it as a label. The movers will know exactly where to put everything. *explodes in nerdy organizational glitter*



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Beauty:

A few months ago, I ordered Makeup Revolution’s Iconic 2 eyeshadow palette (a dupe for the Urban Decay Naked 2) after reading about it on a beauty blog. I’ve been pleased by the quality and versatility, but I’m a color-loving girl – I can’t do neutrals exclusively. So I splurged on their I ♥ Makeup I Heart Chocolate palette, which is a dupe for the Too Faced Chocolate Bar. The colors are great, and the fun packaging has a nice weight to it and a good-sized mirror. I should never need anything else for traveling! Plus, ordering makeup from London is fun in itself.



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Random Happiness:

I continue to be so happy at my new church, thankful to be among these people and part of what they’re trying to do together and in our city. In my heart, I’m still not in the greatest place spiritually, but church is my lifeline. When I feel discouraged and like God has forgotten me, I remind myself that He (promptly) answered my prayers and SHOWED UP in this very important area when I felt lost and frustrated. I point myself to church as The Thing That Worked Out.

I’ve also felt surrounded by love in the midst of my moving process. I’m overwhelmed by how many friends have offered to help with whatever I need, and actually mean it. Everyone has been so supportive and excited for me, and patient with my self-absorption while I sort out all these details. It’s crazy.

Some friends and I spontaneously went to look at cats one afternoon, and it was fun. I’m still not in a hurry to get a new companion cat for Peach (or totally sure that it’s the right move), but I like that since I’m buying again instead of renting, I have the option. Most of the rentals I saw, if they allowed pets at all, limited it to one. I didn’t like the idea of officially dooming Peach to be alone the rest of her life.



Scripture:

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I’ve been thinking about this story a lot. There’s so much to examine in it. I’ve been like Mary, too hurt by Jesus not showing up “in time” to come to Him right away. I’ve been like Martha, who still tried to give Jesus the Sunday-school answer in the midst of her blunt grief. But wherever I am, I need this Jesus, the one who didn’t sweep Martha’s loss and pain aside and expect her to be satisfied in the knowledge that all would be well someday at the end of time. The one who cried with her and told her, no, it’s going to be well RIGHT NOW. Now stand back while I raise the dead. That is a Jesus who speaks to my soul.



Pinterest Quote of the Month:

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On The Blog:

For my sanity, I’m taking a little step back from the blog until the move is complete. However, I wrote at the beginning of the month about owning your calling and what you are. I also had two posts published at Memphis Type History: one about the Park Cosmorama sign, and one about the history of Normal Station.



Posts I Loved:

♥ Tara at No Need for Mirrors: I Will Never Be Skinny: My Complicated Relationship with Fitness

♥ Local blogger Alex at The Wise Guise: On Jake Gyllenhaal, Drake, and Inspiration

♥ My SIPster Esther on A Hater’s Reasons for Running. (PS, she’s up to over nine miles now, so she’s kicking my butt.)

♥ YA author Jody Casella talks about sabotaging our own dreams in Panicking Over Poetry.

♥ Ruth Rutherford examines us single girls’ Colbie Caillat-vs.-Pink dual philosophy in In a Slump.

♥ Abby at Accidental Devotional: Rilla at the Roller Derby: On Raising Dangerous Women

♥ The great Kate Schell: How to Be Okay When You Are Not Okay

♥ Jamie the Very Worst Missionary: Let Us Pray. (Excerpt: “If you believe in God’s will, but you also believe in Shit Happens, how then should you pray? Or I guess maybe the real question is: Why should you pray?”)

Soulation has had a major positive impact on my life. Dale and Jonalyn Fincher are honest, sincere, and passionate, and they love spirited discussions about topics most mainstream Christians won’t touch. I read all their books and articles and even went to a Gathering in 2013. Now Soulation may have to close down if they can’t get more donors. Please check them out, and tell your friends about it if you like what you see!


What I'm Into

7 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

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My house has been on the market about six weeks. Up until last weekend, I’d had a lot of showings and two offers (which I know is fantastic for such a short time), but nothing had panned out. Meanwhile, the Midtown rental environment was consistently bleak for my preferences and price range. Anything good I saw got snatched up immediately. I’d toured one apartment that could work, but I wasn’t over the moon about it. A week ago, on my daily check of all the housing websites, I felt so bummed I decided to browse the properties for purchase. Maybe I’d find something that someone was willing to rent out to a responsible tenant.

The first property that caught my eye was a two-story townhouse that looked vaguely familiar. As I scrolled through the pictures, all I could think was, This is perfect. Everything was exactly my style, and the complex was completely remodeled a few years ago. No impending large-appliance breakdowns. No garage door to collapse (yes, this happened to me). No worries about the roof. No decor disasters needing immediate attention. There was a patio and a balcony (I’ve wanted a balcony all my life). But the sticker price was a lot higher than my current home. Sighing, I forwarded the link to two friends, adding, “Check out this amazing place I can’t afford!” Then I ran the mortgage calculator on the website, and to my amazement, the theoretical monthly payment would actually be less than many of the so-so rentals I’d seen. (The value of low interest rates: something you don’t know if you bought your first and only home in 2006.) From day one, I’d been dead set against buying again anytime soon. I wanted flexibility and a break from the whole homeowner thing. But none of my current homeowner concerns applied to this townhouse, and it’s in a neighborhood that’s only going to increase in value. If everything was as it seemed, I decided I’d be stupid not to do it. So I asked Lexie, my Realtor, if we could see it on Saturday.

I was supposed to look at another apartment on Saturday morning, but ended up running out of time before meeting friends in the area for brunch. I decided to do a drive-by of the townhouse on my way over. It’s in a historic district, on a street I’d never driven down before that was designed to be one of the loveliest in Memphis. The street is lined with spectacular homes and huge trees that are just beginning to flower, and ends in an actual cathedral (which, incidentally, has a lot of personal significance for one of my best friends). I was crying before I even saw the townhouse. Just the possibility of living in such a beautiful, perfectly located place was emotionally overwhelming. Then I looked at my phone and saw a text from Lexie: We are going to get a cash offer from a retired single lady. She wants to know how quickly you can move. I got chills. I knew in that moment that this was probably happening.

After brunch, I met her to tour the townhouse. It lived up to all my expectations. The next afternoon, we came back with my parents (my dad, who’s been displeased by this whole venture, did an immediate 180 at the words “mortgage” and “gated community”). 48 hours later, I signed papers accepting the cash offer on my house and purchasing the townhouse. It happened that fast. I don’t recommend changing your long-term plans and making multiple huuuuuge decisions and financial commitments within such a short time. Doing this alone has been an intense battle, I’ve melted down several times, and my sister’s multiple daily calls to say I’m doing a good job have kept me afloat. But though I’ve had some terrified moments, I really believe this is what I’m meant to do. The timing and other signs are too obvious to ignore.

I had low expectations of my new life, housing-wise. I figured I might have to live somewhere a little dumpy, with some inconveniences, and I wasn’t thrilled about being beholden to a landlord again. But that seemed like a small price to pay for the change I desperately need. I never thought I’d get to own a place that’s perfect for me, with all the creature comforts I’m accustomed to, exactly where I want to be, exactly when I wanted to be there. I almost feel guilty about it. I feel spoiled. It’s too good.

My friend Myla was one of the first people I told what was going on, and she said, “This is good because it’s proof you can still be surprised by your life.” I love that. I’ve been plenty surprised by my life before, but the overwhelming majority have been tricks, not treats. I’ve been telling God a lot lately how much I need Him to come through for me in some way, that I need to change my life and I can’t do it without Him, but I’m so worn down I honestly had no expectations that He would. When my parents got so excited about this possibility, I dreaded having to deal with their crushed hopes on top of my own. The evidence of years has led me to believe that, for whatever big-picture divine reason, I’m marked for disappointment. I’ve felt like Charlie Brown, running up to the football over and over on the faint hope that maybe this time Lucy won’t pull it away. Well, it looks like I’ve been allowed a kick at last, and it feels like a field goal that could change the course of the whole game.

And: remember how I said the townhouse seemed familiar to me? Lexie figured out why. A month or two ago, the current owner posted it on his Facebook, and a friend saw it and tagged me because she knew I was hunting. I told her thanks, but I wasn’t interested in buying and it was way out of my price range anyway. And now here we are. Life is funny. More to come.



PS: In addition to going through the house-selling and moving process, I’m in the midst of a crazy time and big transition at work. This (plus my Memphis Type History gig) has left me few brain cells with which to tend to this blog, and for the sake of my health, I’m choosing not to force it. Thanks for sticking with me while I take a little break. I WILL be back full force eventually.

10 Comments + Posted in: announcement, memphis, moving

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As I headed home from work on April 27, 2011, I heard on the radio that a large tornado, probably an EF5, had just hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was on its way to Birmingham. When I got home, I turned on the Weather Channel immediately and watched, transfixed, as they filmed the tornado’s approach toward downtown from a hill outside its path. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, live, while the sun shone outside my own window.

Later, my sister called to report that my brother-in-law’s hometown of Cullman had been hit by another large tornado that afternoon. Thankfully, all of his family members were okay and had minimal property damage. With the intense coverage of the Tuscaloosa tornado, I didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of the earlier Cullman storm until I was there for Thanksgiving that fall. Lance’s mom swung by downtown to show me the damage, and sure enough, even in the dark, six months later, you could see the tornado’s path clearly. I noticed on that trip that many households in Cullman were displaying the same professional photo of the tornado with its two funnels, blacker and more ominous than any clouds I’ve ever seen in person. Maybe they wanted a constant reminder of what they’d survived, from what they’d been spared. I probably would.

Kim Cross’s What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley is a chronological retelling of the largest tornado outbreak in recorded history through the eyes of the people who lived it. Cross follows legendary Birmingham weatherman James Spann and his staff; a group of University of Alabama students and roommates in Tuscaloosa, and their families and friends; and multiple witnesses and first responders. Her research is thorough, her interviews are compassionate, and she explains the technical weathery details in a very understandable way. At times, the writing felt excessively dramatic to me… but so was the event itself. Plus, describing a tornado’s destruction poetically in 20 different ways must be no small feat.

Although sad, What Stands in a Storm is a fascinating, suspenseful read that gave me perspective on what the people of Alabama endured that crazy day. I hope this tornado outbreak stands alone in history for a very long time.

Recommended for: fellow weather nerds, Alabamans


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

1 Comment + Posted in: book reviews


We’ve had several ice and freezing rain events in Memphis this winter, but on Wednesday night, we finally got a few inches of snow (on top of an inch or so of sleet). I know you Northerners are already laughing at me, but Memphis hadn’t had more than an inch of snow since December 2011, so this was a big, exciting deal!


It was an especially pretty snow, light and fluffy.


This was the view down the middle of my street at about 9 am before I settled in to work (thankfully I have a laptop and the option of working from home in these situations). So I couldn’t go four-wheeling, build a snowman, or sled down my driveway, but I worked at my dining table so I could enjoy the snowy view. It was a luxury to have time to make myself a real breakfast, too.

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And of course I popped out into the yard a couple of times.

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In the afternoon, the sun came out, but the snow remained. If we had snow on the ground all winter, making everything look crisp and clean and the sunlight brighter, I’d probably find winter more bearable.


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I had high hopes of spotting my yard rabbit in the snow – I saw him at the bird feeder about a month ago, so I know he’s still living under my shed. If he ventured out, I didn’t witness it, but I’m pretty sure I saw his tracks! (And several others’. The size of some animal tracks close to my back door was a little alarming. Maybe a stray cat?)


The rest of the wildlife was out and about, though.



Toward the end of the day, I found Peach purposefully having a moment of summer. So I joined her.


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This morning as I opened the blinds, I noticed a beautiful full moonset in the west. I threw on my boots and a coat and ran out to look at it in my pajamas. Crunching through the snow in the early light made me feel like I was at a ski resort instead of in my own neighborhood.


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If winter is smart, it’ll leave now on a high note!

3 Comments + Posted in: winter

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Milestone: I no longer feel weird calling myself a writer. Even out loud. To strangers. Even when they follow up with, “Oh, what do you write?” and my response is “I have a blog” (though I can now add “…and I write for Memphis Type History,” which sounds slightly more accomplished).

Because writing was never really presented to me as a valid (read: secure) career choice, legitimizing my own writing took me many years. I used to think that since I didn’t have a published book on a shelf, wasn’t being paid to write, and had no guarantee that either of those things would ever happen, there was no point in truly pursuing writing. That would be embarrassing proof that I cared too much about my silly, selfish hobby and, even worse, believed other people might care too. But a few years ago, I started taking halting steps toward progress. The dam broke in 2013, when I took a Story 101 course that addressed wounds and fears I never even knew I had as a woman, Christian, writer. I cried a lot and then I was finally ready to take myself seriously.

While authenticity and humility are really important to me, I think some degree of “fake it till you make it” is unavoidable when you’re first starting to own your calling. If I hadn’t done that, I never would have started. (Some days that’s still true.) I had to fake a confidence I didn’t feel. I had to choose to turn my back on the Regina George-like critic in my head, eternally rolling her eyes and saying, Stop acting like this matters. All you’re doing is talking about your loser feelings and epiphanies. Noooooo one caaaaaares.

Now I can shut her up about 75% of the time. I can approach my writing as work. Good work that I want and even need to do for my own wellness, but work, because it has weight. It means something. It takes a lot of guts to believe this day-to-day, because it repeatedly raises the challenge, Who do you think you are? You can’t believe in the work you were made to do until you know and believe in what you are. I know in my bones, in a way I didn’t a few years ago, that writing is my ministry and what I was made to do. Even though it’s not perfect, God can still use it. Even if I never earn a cent from it, it’s my job. Even if I never have a significant number of readers, I am here to talk to those 50 people. Even when people say my vulnerability is stupid and I should stop caring so much about things, I will brush myself off and continue on. Because writing is my main vehicle for my increasingly sure purpose: to be a voice for the voiceless. Not on a save-the-orphans, end-world-poverty scale, but on an everyday human scale. For those who are still too afraid to speak up and open up (as I was for much of my life). In my experience, isolation and shame are the devil’s greatest tools. We pretend everything’s great and life isn’t hard because we want to look like we have it all together. We struggle with so many of the same things, but we stay alone in the dark because we’re too afraid to talk about them. If I can give someone the courage to bring their own junk out into the light and find hope and healing there, I’m willing to look a little foolish. As the great philosopher Miranda Lambert once said, “Somebody’s gotta walk into the night, and I’m gonna be that one.”

Whatever your gifts are, you don’t have to use them on a huge, impressive scale for them to matter. They already matter even if the only recipients are your family and friends or even just yourself. You can start developing them and taking them seriously right now. You’ll be surprised by the sense of confirmation and fulfillment you will feel. And if anyone asks you, Who do you think you are? or Who gave you permission?, tell them to come talk to me.

4 Comments + Posted in: empowerment, the writing life

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Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter (4.5 stars)
Things are finally sort of normal for Kat, Hale, and their band of teenage thieves after they’ve pulled off two of the greatest heists of the century. Then Hale’s grandmother dies suddenly and leaves the family’s vast business empire not to his father, but to him. When the family butler smells a rat and hires Kat to investigate, she’s torn between finding the truth for Hale’s own good, and protecting her still-new relationship with him. These books are definitely exciting, but I love them most for their picture of what real family is, wherever you might find it.

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close (4 stars)
This novel about a group of friends from college is more like a collection of interwoven short stories. Each woman has her turn in the spotlight: Isabella, the romantic who starts over in a new career; Abby, the child of hippie parents, who falls in love with a classic prep; Lauren, whose “temporary” waitressing job drags on for years; Mary, who finds a great man with a seriously overbearing mother. These stories are funny, touching, and relatable, and Jennifer Close’s prose is just a joy to read.

Next to Love by Ellen Feldman (4 stars)
In a small Massachusetts town in 1943, three best friends marry three men who are about to go off to war. By the end of the war, all of their lives are in pieces. This novel is about how they rebuild (or not) over the next two decades. I felt like Feldman tried to cover too much at times, which came off a little forced and rushed (especially at the end), but overall, the story is well-done.

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (3.5 stars)
Another entry in the “Next Fault In Our Stars” sweepstakes, this YA novel follows Amy, a bright, funny girl with cerebral palsy, and Matthew, a shy guy with OCD, through their senior year of high school and beginning of college. To help her learn about making friends, Amy requests peer aides for her senior year instead of the adults who have always helped her through her daily tasks. She specifically requests Matthew, by whom she’s been intrigued since he challenged her overly-sunny attitude the previous year. Soon their relationship starts taking turns that surprise them both. While some of the plot twists were pretty crazy (I actually saw the main one coming and thought, “Oh, please don’t go there”), I liked Amy, Matthew, and their friends, and appreciated a glimpse into the lives of people dealing with these difficulties.

Books for February: 4
2015 year to date: 13

2 Comments + Posted in: book reviews

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General Highlights:

Here in Memphis, February has been a month of endless winter. We’ve had one ice and sleet event after another, finally culminating in actual snow on Wednesday (although nothing stuck north of the Mississippi state line). My SAD is in full force and I can no longer remember the feeling of sun on my face or what my arms and legs look like under their two or three layers of clothing. Spring, please come soon.

I listed my house for sale on February 13! I’ve had six showings and (update!) one offer, which I didn’t feel good about and decided to decline. But I’m still encouraged to have this much interest so quickly during a time of bad weather, and I still have a strong feeling that I’ll be on my way before too long. Fingers crossed.

I went to Paoli Peaks, Indiana to ski for the first time in 19 years, and I didn’t die!

My first post at Memphis Type History went up! I have another one pending, and a lot of ideas in the pipeline – it’s just a matter of people getting back to me.

Tiger basketball season is winding up. With one more home game remaining, we’re 17-11. Rough year to be a fan, although I probably needed a break from my Jimmy Fallon-in-Fever Pitch-level obsession.



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(image source)

Reading:

My page count was comparatively low in February. My favorite read was Perfect Scoundrels, the third book in Ally Carter’s series about teenage professional thieves. Love.



Watching:

My friend Ashley and I saw American Sniper as part of her impressive pre-Oscar cramming weekend (she went to four nominated movies in two days). I’m still sorting out my thoughts about it; not to diminish Chris Kyle’s bravery or patriotism, but from a gut level, I saw it primarily as a story about addiction. I’d love to discuss with a group.



Music:

The only new music setting off my radar this month was Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” which I heard for the first time on the Grammys because apparently I live in a cave. But I can’t replay it excessively like I do most songs I love – it’s too swoonworthy for my tender heart right now. If I ever get to dance to this with a man I love, I will die happy.

As usual, you can listen to my ever-expanding 2015 playlist on Spotify.



Video:

I shared a shorter clip on Instagram, but here’s the full video my brother took of me skiing!



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Travel:

My parents and I took our traditional President’s Day weekend trip to visit my brother in Evansville. Before going skiing, we ate at Larry Bird’s restaurant, 33 Brick Street, in French Lick, Indiana. (What better place to be on Valentine’s Day??) The food was delicious, signed jerseys were everywhere, and my Tigers were even playing on TV!



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Around Town:

One night, my parish (small group) ate dinner at Trolley Stop Cafe and then went to an art show at Crosstown Arts where one of our guys was exhibiting. It was a great, Memphisy evening. I fell in love with this piece by Yancy Villa-Calvo.



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Making:

I learned to fit a non-fitted T-shirt and cut a scoopneck from a too-tight crewneck (here’s a second tutorial), and now no shirt is safe from my scissors. I had a little fun with an old-school shirt my friend Myla Smith gave me from a Valentine show she played YEARS ago. It was perfect for Singles Awareness Day!



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Wearing:

I decided it was time to buy a second, more fun pair of glasses, so I ordered some green cat-eyes from Zenni Optical. In the end, they cost about $50 because I’m practically blind, but that’s still not bad. I like them and they’re much more lightweight than my Warby Parkers.



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Beauty:

Having run out of the Almay foundation I’ve used for a while, I tried Rimmel Stay Matte mousse foundation and like it a lot! I’m excited to see if it holds up as well in more humid weather.

My complexion has gone rogue, so at a friend’s recommendation, I picked up an activated charcoal face soap from Bartlett Soap Company in my neighborhood. It’s made my face feel much better (although I’m still breaking out a little. What gives?). They also gave me a wonderful citrus soap for being a new customer. I’ll be back!



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Random Happiness:

♥ My brother surprised me with these canvases he designed. One photo is of my grandfather’s canal in Miami and has random words inspired by my post about deciding to move into the city. The other photo is one he took in Alaska several years ago, with lyrics from a song they sing at his church. I’m so touched that he wanted to do this for me.

♥ Allegiant Airlines announced this week that they’re coming to Memphis and bringing a nonstop to Ft. Lauderdale starting at $66 each way! I seriously almost cried tears of joy onto my Twitter feed. This could be life-changing for my South Florida/Memphis dual-citizen family. If the prices hold, we can practically go to Miami any time we want. No more hedging over $500 fares.

♥ I renewed my passport and am now free again to leave the country at a moment’s notice. I’m working on going to Greece in the fall!

♥ I watched the Super Bowl at Alanna’s and thoroughly enjoyed Katy Perry’s halftime show.

♥ My pastor has been on sabbatical for three months (about half the time I’ve been attending my church), and he returned last Sunday. The rest of the staff has been killing it in his absence, but I’m still excited to have him back.

♥ House showings are a great excuse to indulge in flowers. Peach likes them too.

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Pinterest Quote of the Month:

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On The Blog:

Right before listing my house, I posted the final before-and-after shots from eight years of renovations.

For fun, I shared about how I put together my new Filofax planner. I got my ideas from another blog post, so I figured other organizational geeks might enjoy it!

I’ve felt extra sensitive and weary of my singleness this month. I talked about it right before Valentine’s Day (resulting in such a vulnerability hangover that I almost decided to take the post down) and discovered that selling a house and being single produce some similar emotions.

On the faith front, I talked about my Lenten commitment to start practicing a daily Examen. I also addressed our tendency as Christians to assume God is always teaching us a lesson. I’m trying to overcome this.



Posts I Loved:

♥ My friend Lindsey gave men some great tips about what not to do when dating over 30 (especially online)!

♥ My friend Becca kissed Facebook goodbye, and now she’s back with fascinating thoughts on her reasoning and experience.

♥ Amena Brown Owen at Storyline: What to Expect When You’re Least Expecting. This was very timely for me, and I plan to write about the same topic soon.

♥ Glennon Melton and her friend Amy requested letters from readers about their deepest fears and pain. Throughout Lent, they will read these letters to bear witness to people’s stories, and then burn them – the theme is, cool ashes can’t burn us. This moves me deeply. I know I link to Glennon a lot, but she’s quickly becoming one of my role models. One post at a time, I feel like she’s giving me a vocabulary for my purpose in this world.

♥ Random thoughts from Ashley Hackshaw on writing and living well: When Life Opens Up.

♥ Elisabeth Klein provides the exact advice I would give to any woman who came to me with this question: Should I Stay Married or Can I Divorce?

♥ LOL of the Month: Leigh Kramer’s If Your Life Was a Hallmark Movie. Spot on.



What I'm Into

6 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into


My house has been on the market for about ten days now. When I prepared the house for photos a few weeks ago, I felt so satisfied and proud. I could see that it was at its best. Even as I tried to keep my expectations realistic, I was overflowing with optimism that someone would fall in love with it, quickly. It also pleased me to think about giving someone a great moving experience. All the major repairs are done, so the new owners will have nothing to dread or worry about. I’ve kept excellent records and can tell them exactly how to care for (and enjoy) the house and its quirks. I can even leave some things I’ll no longer need, if they want me to. They’ll be happy, and so will I.

The sign went up, the house started showing, and I was introduced to a little thing called feedback. So far, everyone who’s toured my house agrees that it is indeed very nice. A couple of them even liked the price. But they’ve all rejected it over small things that I can’t help – the road is too busy, or they need more space. I fully respect everyone’s right to choose important things based on whatever’s important to them, even if it seems insignificant to others. But it’s near-impossible not to take it personally. The worst is when someone gives a 5-out-of-5 rating, then states that they are Not At All Interested. Those situations leave me staring up at my ceiling at night. Wondering what I could have done differently, aware that the answer is nothing. Looking for a logical explanation that will enable me to check a box and move on, aware that it will never make sense.

That’s okay, I thought after the first weekend. This house is perfect for someone and will make them very happy. These people just couldn’t appreciate what it has to offer. They’re clearing the way for the right buyer, who is on the way. I also reminded myself that the weather has been awful, four showings the first weekend is great under any circumstances, and selling a house takes time. Still, I felt weirdly rejected and downcast. Pretty soon I realized why it all feels so familiar and painful. I’ve been going through this emotional cycle for years… about myself and my singleness. And at this point, it looks like the “right buyer” exists only in my own imagination, a fairy tale I tell myself to keep some sort of hope alive. I know my house will sell, even if I eventually have to compromise or drop the price to make it happen. But a little part of me already feels foolish for believing that everything would come up roses here when it hasn’t elsewhere.

I know God wanted me to see this correlation, and to be honest, it irritates me. Really, God? I haven’t dealt with this enough? You wanted me to experience it from a whole new angle? So I’m praying that He wants to show me a different, happier ending to the story. Otherwise, it just seems like rubbing it in.

4 Comments + Posted in: moving, singleness

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