mar16-happyrainbow

 

General Highlights:

Spring is here! The world is green again!

mar16-introkimmy

I painted a Kimmy Schmidt-inspired shirt for International Women’s Day (March 8) and loved the result! Since it’s green, I also wore it to a St. Patrick’s Day pub run with Breakaway. (On a related note, I bought new shoes that will carry me through my half-marathon, so it’s time to get serious about training.)

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My sister and nieces came to town during their spring break! Debra and Baby E were only here for a couple of days, so I took a day off at the last minute. We went to the Children’s Museum, had lunch, and hung out at my house (both girls love Rufus, or as Fifoo calls him, Fruit Salad). Aunthood is the best.

mar16-introfam

My brother visited for Easter weekend. We made our usual Belly Acres run as a family on Saturday. Easter dinner was elk and lobster courtesy of him and Pops. On Sunday, my mom and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which I enjoyed way more than I expected. It’s actually a great look at how real love – romantic and familial – changes throughout life.

 

mar16-books

Reading:

I loved Andrea K. Host’s indie novel And All the Stars a few years ago, so I finally picked up Stray, her first installment of a trilogy (also involving aliens). Stray has one of the slowest plot builds I have ever experienced, yet I couldn’t put it down. I’m only holding off on book two because I can’t spare that kind of time again so soon. I also finished Amy Plum’s End/Beginning duology, which is a fresh, interesting application of a lot of the usual fantasyish YA tropes.

Invention of the Year: This month I discovered Library Extension, which instantly tells you whether your library has any book you’re looking at on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. My system for marking to-reads is now obsolete and I couldn’t be gladder about it.

 

Watching:

I’m about halfway through Fuller House and enjoying it for what it is! Having read UnSweetined (not ashamed), I like that they pulled some of Stephanie’s evolution from Jodie Sweetin’s own life. She’s definitely my favorite character this go-round.

 

mar16-music

Music:

I’m surprised to be saying this, but Demi Lovato is killing it. I finally broke down and bought Confident this month, along with Sia’s This Is Acting. “Cheap Thrills” is my jam (and Sia is my Lady Gaga). I’m also obsessed with the Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify.

 

mar16-aroundtown

Around Town:

I went to Cookies on Tap, where Girl Scout cookies were expertly paired with High Cotton’s in-house brews. Meanwhile, Wiseacre put on a running and yoga event named after my favorite beer, Gotta Get Up to Get Down. I’m glad I went, but would have enjoyed it more if the wind chill hadn’t been in the 40s.

One weekend I went to Slider Inn twice in 24 hours. It really is one of my favorite places in Memphis – I was actually still excited to go the second time!

My friend Christina and her husband just moved to South Florida. We all went out on the town last weekend and surprised them with a Funfetti goodbye cake. I’m going to miss her a lot, but at least she moved to a place I already visit regularly!

mar16-aroundtownsc

I organized Supper Club this month at Bhan Thai. It was a beautiful night to be on a Midtown patio, the food was delicious, and everyone had a great time. Yay!

 

mar16-happyspring

At Home:

Here’s your glimpse of spring in Central Gardens and your monthly Rufus. This spot on the mantel is his new hangout. I guess he can see a lot of birds up there.

My Dyson Animal vacuum isn’t doing the job on my hardwood floors, so I impulse-bought a Bissell Power Edge for a fraction of the Dyson’s price, and so far I’m thrilled with it! For the first time, I can walk barefoot through the downstairs without stepping on any cat litter or tracked-in crud.

 

mar16-food

Cooking/Eating:

I’ve been craving red bell peppers constantly. ??? At least it’s a craving that leads to a lot of healthy meals!

Kelsey told me about Love Crunch granola. I got addicted and can’t go back to the cheaper stuff.

 

mar16-making

Making:

I wanted a spring wreath, but wasn’t feeling pastels or fake foliage. This design (seen on Pinterest, of course) spoke to me and was also Lent-appropriate! It took less than half an hour to make.

 

mar16-happyprk

Random Happiness:

In March I made a decision I never thought I would make: I’m getting PRK! Due to a problem with my eye a few years ago, I am permanently banned from all-the-time contacts wear. This becomes problematic when you’re thisclose to legally blind and have to remove your glasses to do your makeup, shower, etc. I decided I was finally willing to consider a scary but routine eye surgery rather than grope blindly for Q-tips for the rest of my life. After a lot of research and an intense four-hour consult last Friday, I am on the books to get new corneas in June. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about my experience. Stay tuned!

My March Madness bracket is 3/4 busted, but I’m still in the top 10 of my work bracket pool and second place in my bracket pool with Emily. Not bad considering I hardly knew anything about any of the teams this year!

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

mar16-quote

#YearOfLight

 

On The Blog:

I haven’t written here (or anywhere) since February’s What I’m Into. I know. It’s not okay. However, I’ll be at the Festival of Faith and Writing next month and would love to meet blogger friends. Hit me up if you’re going!

 

Posts I Loved:

♥ Abby Norman at The Mudroom: God Isn’t Asking You to Bleed Out

♥ Ruth Ogles Johnson in the Memphis Flyer: Just Say “No More” to the War on Drugs 

♥ Peggy Kelley: Peace Like a Metaphor

♥ “The roads of this world are paved with the broken hearts of triers everywhere.” Ivan Strong Moore: Moses in Zootopia

♥ Coffee Snob: My Faith in the Dark 

♥ Angie at My So-Called Chaos: Making Your Own Closure When There Isn’t Any to Be Found

♥ Unexpectedly encouraging: Life of Bon: 13 Things That May Not Be True About Having Children 

 

What I'm Into

8 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

feb16-beachrock

General Highlights:

I’ve suddenly realized it is now light before and after I go to work. The worst is over, guys. We made it! While I’ve had plenty of good times in February, I’ve been working extremely hard at work and am just trying to survive each day, and most of my nights and weekends are booked in advance. I’ve had very little time or energy for writing, reflecting, reading actual books somewhere other than an airplane, binge-watching Fuller House, or just sitting and being. I feel frayed. But here’s a rundown of all those things I’ve been doing!

 

feb16-hotchoc2

On February 13, I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in Nashville!  It was 19 degrees at the starting line, and I was legitimately concerned about frostbite in my toes until well into mile 2. But aside from being so cold, I felt really good and strong, and at no time doubted that I could do it. My sister and brother were waiting at the finish line, along with Kelsey, who ran the 5K portion with me. I’m glad I did this race, but I don’t think I’d do it again. It was just too cold. Since the run went well, I went ahead and registered for my first half-marathon in May! WHO EVEN AM I.

feb16-hotchoc1

This month I committed to raise $500 for Operation Broken Silence toward their upcoming documentary about the crisis in Sudan. My friend Katie from church will be traveling to Sudan as part of the filmmaking team. To learn more about the project, and the situation in Sudan, and/or make a donation (every little bit helps!), you can visit my fundraising page.

 

feb16-books

Reading:

I’ll eventually get around to real reviews, but here are the five books I read in February, most of them on a plane as aforementioned. They were all pretty great. (Luckiest Girl Alive was my least favorite, but also the one I’d most like to discuss with someone.)

 

feb16-music

Music:

I was in the front row for Sister Hazel at Minglewood Hall on Friday! I’m not a superfan, but I enjoyed the show and was impressed with their new stuff. I also liked the opening act, the Christian Lopez Band.

 

feb16-aroundtown

Around Town:

This weekend I attended Volunteer Odyssey, a fun charity event with lots of creative cocktails to try. I went with my usual group and then ran into half of Memphis Twitter and other local friends at the event. It was a great night (and also gave me a chance to pull my thrifted Norma Kamali dress out of the back of the closet)!

My friend Chasity and I went to Friends trivia (we’d both played before), where we tied for third place despite our collective encyclopedia-level Friends knowledge. Trivia is getting fierce around here.

My church held an Ash Wednesday service in partnership with a few other small churches. It was my second year to attend. I never received ashes growing up, and I find it really meaningful.

 

feb16-nashville

Travel:

When I decided to do the 15K in Nashville, it was largely because Kelsey and Wes and I already had plans to go there that weekend. We checked out some craft breweries, had lunch with my BFF from college and her husband, went to an Unknown Mortal Orchestra show, and hit up a couple of honky-tonks. It was a good time. On Sunday, I went to church and lunch with my family, all of whom were also in Nashville for the weekend (did I mention my sister and her family have moved back? :)). Fifoo was my Valentine.

feb16-myvalentine

The following weekend, I went to Miami for my distant cousin Tim’s wedding. He and Karey have been together for many years, and we were all happy to officially accept her into the family! It was the best wedding I’ve been to in a while. I also got to hang out with my mom, grandfather, and multiple cousins, and enjoy a good amount of beach time. I really needed it and was not ready to come home.

feb16-cousins

feb16-miami

Also, I registered for TSA Precheck. Over five years, I think it’ll be some of the best money I’ve ever spent!

 

feb16-fooddrink

Cooking/Eating:

I finally tried the beer sampler at Boscos on President’s Day. It was not for the faint of heart, but now I know what I like there (plus, I had help). Also, one night at Bangkok Alley, I got my sushi tempura-fried at the bartender’s suggestion. 5/5, would eat again.

 

feb16-rufus

Random Happiness:

My cat is still the best.

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My yoga class is becoming a group event. It’s fun to bring friends to the class I’ve gone to for eight years.

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

feb16-quote

 

On The Blog:

I hit a new low and posted here zero times in February (see above re: stress and burnout), but I did write a guest post, Tickets to the Game, for Kelsey Munger‘s self-care series. Big thanks to Kelsey for inviting me to participate alongside heavy hitters like Abby Norman and Cara Strickland – insert Wayne & Garth “I’m not worthy” gif here.

 

Posts I Loved:

I put together this list last week and untagged the posts in Feedly, and unfortunately the list has mysteriously disappeared. So this section is taking a hiatus this month. Sorry!

 

What I'm Into

4 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

brenda-tigerbasketball

A few months ago, Kelsey Munger invited me to contribute to an upcoming blog series about self-care. I took one of the last slots. After observing the posts for a few weeks, I e-mailed her and asked, “Would it be too weird if I said my self-care is basketball?” She replied, “I was actually hoping you would write about that.”

Today, you can read the result of that conversation at Kelsey’s blog: Self-Care: Tickets to the Game!

I recommend checking out some of her brave, insightful writing while you’re there, like her viral post I’m Tired of Being a Christian.

Add a Comment + Posted in: Uncategorized

jan16-sunrise

General Highlights:

Happy 2016! It’s been a slightly roller-coastery month, but it’s early enough for me to keep insisting that this will be MY YEAR.

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#seenonmyrun

Running was a major theme of my January. After running 10K for the first time on December 31, I registered for a 15K (the Hot Chocolate in Nashville next month)! Then I hurt my knee. During my week of forced rest, I figured out that I probably have an IT band problem, learned and implemented some stretches and longer-distance running tips, and ran eight miles last Saturday with no trouble. Fitness-wise, I feel stronger and more capable than I ever have in my life. As long as the 15K goes well, I’m planning to run my first half in May. Woo hoo!!

jan16-snowday

Last week I enjoyed my first Midtown snow! Even though the “storm” was much less severe than expected, most of the city (including my workplace) shut down anyway. It was the first true snow day I’ve had in a long time.

 

jan16-reading

Reading:

I tore through all ten Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy stories in one weekend (a high-maintenance task since my library’s limit is three digital books). Simon has always been my favorite Infernal Devices character, so I was happy to see him get his due. As you might expect if you know his previous story arc, these stories have a lot to say about identity, both personal and relational. Great stuff.

I also read the prequel novella to my bloggy friend Rachel McMillan’s upcoming novel, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder. Her girl detectives are brave and likable, and I’m excited for their full debut!

 

kimmy-nofilter

Watching:

I finally got Netflix, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt surpassed my high expectations. I’m working on a Kimmy-inspired post for all of us who have emerged from a bunker and had to navigate a new world. Stay tuned.

 

Music:

This Decemberists track has been my new-year anthem.

 

jan16-aroundtown

Around Town:

I watched the Grizz beat the Pistons, had a great romp through Sheffield’s Antiques, and went to a car show. I’m also excited to see American Idiot at Playhouse on the Square this weekend!

 

jan16-furniture

At Home:

This month I got two long-needed pieces of furniture! I’d been looking for a new chest of drawers for months, and my friend Christina found the perfect one for me on a resale forum. The sellers said it’s really old, and I’ve gotten confirmation from people in the know that it looks circa 1920s. Meanwhile, my dad built this custom shelving unit to house Rufus’s litter box in my downstairs bathroom. It’s exactly what I wanted! My friends all exclaimed over it, and I told my dad he could probably take orders for more. He’s considering it for his retirement.

jan16-rufuscollage

Typical of January, I spent more time than usual at home lazing around. Rufus was pretty happy about it.

 

jan16-cookingeating

Cooking/Eating:

1. This sweetened almond/coconut milk blend changed my breakfast smoothie game forever. 2. I had my first Earnestine & Hazel’s soul burger – another item off the 100 Things to Eat in Memphis list! It was delicious (but my stomach took days to recover). 3. My pho addiction continues. One day I ate pho for lunch AND dinner, at two different places.

 

jan16-pinkdress

Wearing:

This Jessica Simpson sweater dress, which I got on eBay. I’d love to find it in more colors!

 

jan16-beauty

Beauty:

Once or twice a year, I indulge in a Makeup Revolution order. Their stuff is amazing quality for a great price – it’s the shipping that kills. These palettes have been on my wishlist for a while. BTW, they reimbursed me for the highlighter palette since one of them got broken on its transatlantic voyage.

 

jan16-hermanas

Random Happiness:

My sister, BIL, and nieces have moved back to Nashville after several years in southern Alabama. I drove up for part of MLK weekend, and am thrilled that I can now visit easily anytime!

jan16-catgame

I’m not much for phone games (I even quit Words with Friends years ago), but Neko Atsume makes me smile. It’s not action-packed – my three-year-old niece was like “But what do the cats DO??” It’s just a little dose of joy.

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

jan16-quote

 

On The Blog:

I wrote about my experience on Tinder, and about my One Word for 2016, Light.

 

Posts I Loved:

♥ My SIPster Bethany did a hilarious GIF story about her first, AND LAST, marathon experience.

♥ Emily Austin: We Really Should Do This More Often

♥ Mark Manson: Your Goals are Overrated

♥ Clare Bruff at Femsplain with a name story I related to: My Twice-Changed Name

♥ Elora Ramirez: Why Your Creativity is Hiding in the Shadows

♥ Heather Strong Moore: If We’re Talking Bodies

♥ My high school bandmate Willie Gillis and his wife Angela lost almost 400 pounds in two years, and they were on the Today show this month!

 

What I'm Into

2 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

bootsgirlsittingalone

 

Last June, around the five-year mark of my Perpetual Singleness, I decided living like a nun was no longer acceptable to me. Even nuns have priests in their lives; I had one single male friend. All I wanted was to meet guys in an organic way, getting closer to people already in my orbit, but it never happened. Having navigated my own field of post-divorce emotional land mines years before, I could no longer stand at the edge of the relationship field, wondering what bombs lay buried out there. I was past ready to figure some things out and have stories to contribute when friends talked about their love lives. For my own health, I needed to meet some guys and go on some dates, and I really didn’t care how it happened. So I took the path of least resistance: Tinder.

My only previous online dating venture was a disastrous stint on eHarmony in 2012, which resulted in zero actual dates. Tinder appealed to me because it was fast, free, and low-pressure. At first I was skeptical of its shady reputation, but a few friends had met decent guys there, proving it wasn’t exclusively for slimeballs. I created a profile on a Sunday afternoon and had a date by Friday night! Over the next few months, I went on a lot of first dates and a few second dates. At first, I just wanted to meet new people and have fun. Feeling attractive, interacting with different men, and seeing proof that some good ones existed was good for me. But the shine wore off quickly. I texted for hours with matches I never even met. I learned that some people approach online dating and Craigslist purchases the same way: express interest, make arrangements, then bail at the last minute with no explanation. I learned that negging is very real. Many of my matches commented on my non-toothy smile almost immediately (extra offensive/confusing since they’d liked me based on looks). “You have a very unique smile.” “What’s wrong with your teeth?” “Do you HAVE teeth??” I also received hasty requests for nudes despite the fact that my profile stated both “I love Jesus” and “No hookups.”

All told, only three guys I met on Tinder were worth mentioning. One was sweet and fun to be with, but after three dates I had to admit I wasn’t feeling it romantically. One was smart and interesting until our interaction turned into a job interview. One, the only match I felt instantly fluttery about, showed me a wonderful time on a summer evening and never called me again. I would have been happy to remain friends with them, as all my girlfriends have done with guys they’ve casually dated. But it didn’t work out that way, giving me another reason to feel defective when I had hoped to find some healing and encouragement.

By October, Tinder held no joy for me. Rather than an adventure, every date was a requirement to put on my game face for a stranger I’d likely never see again. I had to develop a pre-date decompression ritual of cranking up “Gangsta’s Paradise” in my car and rapping every word like I meant it. I realized this wasn’t working for me anymore. I could do light and casual for a while, but I’m still a relationship girl by nature. I also need adequate time to warm up to someone and decide if I want to be in a relationship (and in my world, that also means deciding if I want someone touching me). I felt no closer to that ideal than I was before. When would I get to excitedly anticipate seeing a guy I really liked, instead of always feeling anxious and tired? When would I reach a point of inclusion in each other’s lives and knowledge of each other’s friends? That was the problem, really; my only worldly connection with any of these guys was a mutual right swipe. We had no Venn diagram, just an intentional, manufactured connection totally separate from our regular lives. I realized online dating was pulling me away from my goals and the people and activities I enjoy. It had become a detractor, not a contributor. I looked at the big picture, and decided I had more important things to do than keep trying to impress Random Dude of the Week. So I quit. When I deleted my Tinder profile, I felt zero regret, only relief that I could now get back to my life.

In the span of just a few years, in my demographic, online dating has transformed from a source of shame to basically the only way anyone dates. So quitting Tinder returned my love life to its previous nonexistence. It’s possible that I had a meh Tinder experience simply because I met the wrong people. My affections strike as rarely and brightly as lightning. When I really click with someone, it doesn’t matter if I met him in a Dumpster. But the consumerist framework of dating apps makes it tough for me to get there. I want to gradually get to know a whole person who also sees and respects me as a whole person, instead of trying to make quick judgments while protecting myself as a commodity. And that aspect of online dating is the same whether you’re on Tinder or Christian Site-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. They might prioritize different commodities, but you’re still not a real person, a friend or even someone a guy happened to talk to at a bar… you’re primarily a list of features and statistics. I’m pretty sure that if I die alone, it’ll be because I couldn’t get on board with that.

Since last summer, various readers and tweeps have asked me about my Tinder experience. It’s taken me several months to get this to come out right. I’m not sorry I tried it; it was the right decision for me for a while. I had some happy moments and nice dinners. I learned things about myself and what I want to do better in the future, which is helpful. I’m not even saying I won’t try one of the other apps, because I will eventually feel the itch again to have something instead of nothing. But it’ll never be my first choice, and I don’t have any answers or solutions. I’m just a flawed human doing the best she can, still wishing for a real, permanent partner in crime and life – but still making her way without one.

10 Comments + Posted in: dating, singleness

light-intropost

 

2016 will be my fourth year of participation in One Word 365. The practice of adopting a word for my year, instead of a list of specific resolutions, gives me a little purpose without a lot of pressure. I see my word as a guidepost, both for the year and for long-term growth. I’ve learned if I need a concept enough to sit with it for a year, it’ll probably stick with me longer than that. So I choose carefully, considering what I need and what I think God wants me to focus on. 2015 was a difficult year in my heart, and I wanted a fresh word for 2016, a word that conveyed newness and hope. After rejecting a few ideas, I found it.

 

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. – I John 1:5-7

The first word that you ever spoke was: light. Thus time began. For long you said no more. – Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve grown tired of smoke and mirrors. I yearn for the clean, well-lighted place… This is the honest way I want to live and love and write. – Amy Poehler

Still there are darkened places deep in my heart
Where once was blazing light, now there’s a tiny spark.
Oh glory, come and find me. – Paramore

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

 

Light

(n.) brightness from the sun, fire, or electricity

My Florida upbringing made me a child of light. I soak up sunshine like a plant and battle SAD with a sun lamp all winter. I’ve always needed a lot of light to be happy and healthy. Sunlight, candles, campfires, twinkle lights… these are all connected with good times.

(n.) understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment; spiritual illumination by divine truth

I’m naturally pretty honest and transparent, but over the last couple of years I’ve thrown a lot of unresolved problems and heart-things into a dark room and shut the door. Nothing sinister, just stuff I got weary of wrestling with. It’s also scarier than it used to be to talk/write openly about my thoughts and feelings – I’ve gotten more defensive and untrusting. But living in the light means being real about my fears, messes, and mistakes, at least with God and myself… and being with people who value my particular light and bring their own to the table. I also hope for spiritual enlightenment this year, more light on my path to give me direction and understanding.

(v.) become illuminated; ignite

I want to be a light in dark places, a candle lighting other candles. I believe encouragement is one of my gifts, but feel handicapped by darkness. It’s really hard to give hope to others when I don’t have much for myself, or energy when I’m burned out and not operating at full strength. I want to be re-illuminated and fully alive. I want to see light win here and now, not just in glory by and by.

(adj.) having little weight, not heavy

My life is carefree on the surface, but I’ve carried some burdens for a long time. I want to shake off the ones I can shake, somehow develop a lighter heart about the ones I can’t, and generally eliminate stuff I don’t need (both literally and metaphorically).

Common usage: bring something to light; in a different light; the light of someone’s life; the lights are on but no one’s home; light a fire under someone; see the light of day; cast light on something; the light side of the Force; light at the end of the tunnel

 

What really excites me about this word is its abundance. Like light itself, the concept of Light surrounds us and permeates our culture. It’s so rich that I really struggled to narrow it down enough to write this intro. I’ll have plenty of reminders of it and new angles to consider. Most of all, I like its life-giving connotations and the idea that it’s something I’m open to receive, not something I have to strive for. Bring on the light!

PS: Follow my ongoing inspiration at my Light Pinterest board!

4 Comments + Posted in: one word: light

book-187876_640

 

As If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew by Jen Chaney (4 stars)
This is exactly what the title says, and if you love Clueless like I do, it’s a delight. I read the whole thing in a day.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (4.5 stars)
Rainbow Rowell’s previous novel Fangirl (my favorite of her books) included a lot of fanfiction about a Harry Potter-esque character named Simon Snow. Later, she kept thinking about Simon’s world and how she would write it as herself, not as her character Cath (does your head hurt yet?). Carry On is a funny, fresh, self-aware, totally Rainbow take on all the hero’s journeys we love, centering on magician Simon Snow (“the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen”), his whip-smart best friend Penelope (in the Hermione role), and his snotty possible-vampire roommate Baz. I loved it.

The Martian by Andy Weir (5 stars)
As most people already know from having read this and/or seen the movie, the titular Martian is Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind on Mars when he’s presumed dead during a mission abort. The story bounces around among him, his departed crew, and the people back on Earth trying to save him. It is fantastic. I won’t lie, I was kind of crushing on Mark Watney, though some of that may be the Matt Damon influence.

 

December books: 3
2015 Final Total: 65

Add a Comment + Posted in: book reviews

iceland-mebasalt

 

Last December, Emily Freeman hosted a What I Learned linkup. I’m not sure if she’s doing it again this year, but it helped me to reflect on the lessons of my year, so here’s my 2015 edition.

 

I am not an entrepreneur. This is not a cool thing to admit in 2015, when building and hustling for your brand is, like, the only way to be a creative person (or even a person). For a long time, I assumed that my goal should be to reach a point where I could make a living independently, whether by writing or something else. I compared myself to people doing this successfully and always came up short – because it’s a true apples-and-oranges situation. It was freeing to realize I’m just not made to build and hustle. It wouldn’t make me happy. In the song of life, I am the harmony. I am the glue. I’m meant to find something I genuinely believe in and use my gifts and energy to help make it happen in partnership with others. That’s not sexy, but the world needs it, and me.

I’m a hipster. Fine, I give up. I live in Midtown, eat and drink local, wear hipster glasses, listen to hipster music, and attend a hipster church with hipster coffee… and I love it. As long as I don’t pick up the worst hipster trait of believing my preferences make me better than everyone else, I guess I can live with it!

Waterproof mascara > regular mascara. Thanks to the sleep mask I have to wear, my eyelashes have become very straight, i.e. I’ve lost the only curls I had that were culturally desirable. So I’ve been on a Holy Grail eyelash curler/mascara quest. I’ve never liked waterproof mascara because it’s hard to remove, but for whatever reason, it holds a curl noticeably better than the regular kind. My current pick is Maybelline The Falsies.

Basalt pillars, in Iceland or elsewhere, do not taste like salt.

If you live in a multi-story home, you need two of everything you use frequently. I have upstairs and downstairs scissors, candle lighters, Clorox wipes, etc. Also: you can never have too many phone charging cords.

♥ “Sometimes love does not look like what you had in mind.” – Anne Lamott

It’s okay to change. I’ve changed so much in the last couple of years that sometimes I hardly recognize myself, and sometimes that terrifies me, especially in a spiritual sense. Aren’t Christians supposed to be steadfast, unchanged by experiences or the world, always relating to and understanding God in the same prescribed way from cradle to grave? I’ve been living with an undercurrent of fear, angst, and the sense that even though my core love for Jesus has not changed, I must be going off the rails.

About a month ago I attended a talk about faith and creativity, in which my pastor mentioned several famous bands who experienced a major transformation at the height of their careers. They created albums that everyone loved, then went through a difficult time that resulted in a rebirth and completely different sound. The new sound was just as brilliant and valuable as the old… and they had to tear down and then rebuild in order to find it. The transformation wasn’t wrong or a mistake, even though some people didn’t like it. It was the plan. This example helped me more than anything else I’ve heard this year. It was icing on the cake that one of the bands/albums he referenced was U2’s Achtung Baby, one of my all-time faves. Also, achtung means attention, or caution, like something is dangerous. I’m ready to be a little bit dangerous. ;)

It can take a long time for all the pieces of the story to come together. Both in writing and in life. And that’s not my fault or failure either, even though it often feels like one.

It’s okay to walk away. I said something similar last year, and it’s an ongoing lesson. Due to both nature and nurture, I tend to hold onto things and force myself into molds long past the expiration date, in the name of stability, responsibility, and sunk cost. I continue to get better at recognizing, accepting, and moving forward when something isn’t working anymore (or just needs tweaking). Sometimes Being Content! and Making Fetch Happen! is really beating a dead horse. You can stop trying. You can say enough. You don’t need a defensible list of reasons why.

 

What have you learned this year?

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Here are my top ten fiction and nonfiction reads of 2015! I didn’t even rate all of these five stars, but I chose them based on 1. enjoyment and 2. how much they’ve stuck with me. A book can be very good and/or enriching and not possess those qualities. Rather than summarize them all again, I’ve gathered them into the common themes that I seem to prefer.

 

FICTION

bestbooks2015-fiction

 

Epic Amusing Metacommentary: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow; Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Everyone Feels Small in Space: The Martian by Andy Weir; Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer; We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Emotional Nomads: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel; Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour; Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Spunky Heroine Having Fun: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan; Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

 

NONFICTION

bestbooks2015-nonfiction

 

Wholehearted Library: Rising Strong by Brene Brown; Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Melton; Never Broken by Jewel

Lives of My Celebrity BFFs: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling; Girl Walks Into a Bar… by Rachel Dratch; Wildflower by Drew Barrymore; Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles

Faith Journey: Soul Keeping by John Ortberg; Shirt of Flame: A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux by Heather King

What’s Wrong with Our Society: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

 

What books did you love this year?

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brendainiceland

 

I’ve done the same survey every year for longer than I’ve had this blog. Past iterations: 2010 // 2011 // 2012 // 2013 // 2014

 

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Ran more than five miles; snow skied and enjoyed it; attended a gala; became a blood donor; sold and bought a home on my own; briefly reigned as the Friends Trivia co-champion of Memphis; got on Tinder and dated random strangers; went to Iceland; rode 17 miles in the Midnight Bike Classic; visited the National Civil Rights Museum.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My OneWord365 for 2015 was enough. I have a lot to say about it, but here’s a quick summary: Enough is a concept I’ll be learning and wrestling with for the rest of my life. I did not master it in 2015 – my personal sense of enough-ness is battered and bruised, and while I successfully declared “enough” in a few areas of my life, I made little progress in others. This year was a starting point, if anything. Barring unexpected divine intervention, I’ve chosen a word for 2016, and I WILL talk about that after the new year.

3. Did anyone close to you have a child?
No, and this is so unusual, I feel paranoid I’m forgetting someone.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My ten-year-old cat, Peach. No one of the human variety.

5. What countries did you visit?
ICELAND!

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked this year?
Love and purpose.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
February 13: my house went on the market. March 21: saw my new home for the first time and knew it was the one; got a cash offer on my old house the same day. April 16: closed on both places and moved. June 5: put Peach down. July 11: my wonderful housewarming party. September 16: brought Rufus home!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
9. What was your biggest failure?

After some reflection, I think these questions have the same answer: I gave myself amnesty in 2015. I’d hovered around burnout level for most of 2014, so this year, I did what I needed to do to stay above it. After my move in April, I thought I’d be back to full throttle in a month, tops, but it never happened. My current schedule is very relaxed compared to what it’s been for most of my adult life. I’ve gotten better at quitting activities, saying no, and/or staying home without an excuse. Around the time I moved, I also realized I could no longer keep up three “jobs” – my paid full-time job, freelance writing, and regularly writing this blog. Obviously the first one isn’t optional, and it’s also zapping my creative energy for the other things. So my writing has suffered. I hate that, and it’s been detrimental to me, but I’m trying to have faith that it won’t always be this way.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Two bouts of hardcore laryngitis (which I’d never had before), and water trapped in my middle ear for a month after a dive trip. Other than that, I feel great and am thankful for my good health!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Aside from my house, my original Hillary Butler painting; my new living room rug; and a humidifier.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My mom’s. She spent much of this year going back and forth to Miami to help care for one or both of her parents – usually my grandma, who has been extremely difficult to deal with. She’s also been incredibly supportive and encouraging of my decisions and who I’m becoming. I feel like we’ve learned a lot together this year, and it means everything to know she’s not disappointed in my non-traditional life. And it’s even more special because it wasn’t always this way. I’m thankful for her and our relationship.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A lot of dudes on Tinder. I’ve had a post about my Tinder experience (and why I quit) sitting in drafts since October, so I won’t elaborate right now, but trust me, Tinder Nightmares is real. Also: Donald Trump.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel and concert/event tickets. I’ve made good on my intention to spend more on experiences and less on stuff.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Living in Midtown; going to Iceland; the Tiger Basketball Alumni Game in July; starting to write for Memphis Type History; my (extremely slow) running progress; getting a new cat; MEM’s new direct flight to Ft. Lauderdale; the Tigers going 8-0 in football; my sister and her family moving back to Nashville (which will happen next week!!).

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd. See also: My 2015 Soundtrack (which doesn’t include that song, but I did name my Iceland photo album after it).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
Happier on a surface level; sadder on a deeper level. About the same. Slightly poorer (but I don’t regret it).

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Yoga. Praying. Writing. Reading (my book count is down).

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Competing.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I’ll spend it here in Memphis with my parents and brother.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
No.

22. What concerts did you attend this year?
Third Day; Paramore, Jenny Lewis, Bleachers, Ed Sheeran, Hozier, and St. Vincent at Music Fest; Beck; Switchfoot and NEEDTOBREATHE at Moon River Fest; Rob Thomas; alt-J with San Fermin

23. What was your favorite TV program?
The Mindy Project. Thanks again to Hulu for saving it!!

24. Do you dislike anyone now whom you didn’t dislike this time last year?
Yes.

25. What was the best book you read?
Top-20 book post is in process.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
alt-J, as I have said before.

27. What did you want and get?
A fresh start in a home that exceeds my expectations. A new healthy, happy cat companion. Lots of fun adventures with people I love. Some dates.

28. What did you want and not get?
A kiss. A boyfriend. Something else important.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I only had time for the heavy hitters: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, and Mockingjay Part 2. All awesome.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 36. I went to church in the morning, and later had dinner with friends on the patio at Slider Inn followed by fun and games at Rec Room.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A sense that my life is meaningful and going somewhere.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
I pared down my wardrobe this year and am continuing to simplify my style. I recently noticed I have a lot more leggings than I used to. I also officially gave up on any non-denim pants ever looking good on me, and discovered Joe’s Honey Fit is my Holy Grail of jeans.

33. What kept you sane?
The support of my friends and family.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I went suddenly and unexpectedly heart-eyes over Ed Sheeran. It must have been “Thinking Out Loud.”

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Is it me, or was 2015 overloaded with passionate political issues? Too many to name? I will say, my political opinions have shifted pretty drastically over the last couple of years. Many times in 2015 I found myself having a strong emotional reaction to events and thinking, “Oh wow. I guess that’s how I feel about that now.” It’s alarming but also kind of exhilarating.

36. Who did you miss?
My siblings. But my sister and her family are about to live much closer!!

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I met many wonderful people this year, but I have to give extra props to my friend Hannah. She came to Memphis at the beginning of June for a weeklong work training. About a month beforehand, she asked if she could stay with me. I barely knew her – I’ve been online friends with her sister for years and she was the one who suggested the whole thing – but I was up for a visitor. Well, when the time came, Hannah arrived to a distraught, weepy hostess and a sick cat’s last days. I felt terrible that she had to witness it all, but her presence and companionship that week were such a comfort to me, and we actually had a great time together. I’ll always be thankful to her for that. PS: during her visit, she had a mutual feelings confession with a longtime friend… and they got engaged last week!

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Reinvention is not automatically a detour, downfall, or mistake. It’s often not only okay, but also necessary and part of the plan. (Thanks to my pastor and U2 for that one.)

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Another day older, everyone you knew
All chasing bells and ahead of themselves
And you know you can’t move.
One step forward, step right back
Run for the hills, honey, run for the hills, honey
Run for the hills, don’t look back.

Want to live like an animal, by the skin of your teeth
Put your good face on, you’re fooling no one
You’re a jackrabbit underneath.
One step forward, step right back
Run for the hills, honey, run for the hills, honey
Run for the hills, don’t look back.
– San Fermin

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