I’ve wanted to attend the Festival of Faith & Writing since I first heard about it a decade or more ago. In 2014, I was dying to go sit at the feet of Anne Lamott and Susan E. Isaacs, but a flight from Memphis to Grand Rapids, Michigan cost almost as much as a flight to Hawaii. Thankfully, a lot can change in two years. With an improved airline situation, and Christmas money from my parents and grandfather, I registered for FFW 2016.
However, I have never felt less qualified to attend a writing conference. After about a year of upheaval and intensity at work, my brain is fried, and even reflective writing just for close friends has ground to a halt. Though I can easily see the internal and external consequences of not writing, I can’t generate the focus or energy to get back to my old self – let alone progress as a writer. Thinking about my approach to FFW, I didn’t see the point of trying to hide or overcome my “writing depression.” I decided I would go quietly, with open hands and heart, not hustling or trying to prove myself. I was only seeking a little inspiration and mojo (and a faith boost too). By that definition, this Festival was a win. I loved every session I went to, and felt buoyed just being around so many people who love talking about books.
Going to FFW at all was a bucket list item, but I knocked off another one: meeting one of my inspirations, Shauna Niequist (“the sensei,” as Hillary commented). I thought all morning about something meaningful to say to Shauna, but all my ideas made me tear up, and I didn’t want to be the crying weirdo at the book signing. So I stuck to my usual silent fangirling while she signed my old copy of Bittersweet. She did a Q&A earlier that afternoon, and I was encouraged by how similar our writing processes are.
Even though networking wasn’t a priority for me, I met several of my favorite bloggers and had sightings of many more. After picking up my packet first thing Thursday morning, I was wandering aimlessly through the lounge when I was seized by Tammy Perlmutter, founder of my favorite collaborative blog, The Mudroom. She recognized me from Twitter and immediately introduced me to Mudroomers whose posts I’ve been reading and linking to for years. Then she took me under her wing for the rest of the morning. She convinced me to apply to the Redbud Writers Guild and made me promise I would pitch to her by July. Tammy, you’re a wonderful human being. Thank you for seeing me!
I ran into Cara Strickland (one of the people I most hoped to see), and met Sarah from All Manner of Inspiration, who recognized me at a panel for beginning writers. We both participate in What I’m Into every month. She’s great and we ended up sitting together at Shauna Niequist’s talk.
After the first day of the Festival, I decided I didn’t want to spend my entire visit to Grand Rapids on the Calvin College campus. Happily, I had Erin! Erin and I met on LiveJournal* maybe eight years ago and have been friends ever since. She attends seminary at Calvin and invited me to stay with her and her husband while I was in town. Erin was a fantastic and generous hostess, and having her and her place as a home base made my Festival experience even better. Since we’re all into craft beer, we hit up two breweries, Founders and Vivant. Memphis’s craft beer scene is great but still young, and it was cool for me to see what we’re working toward. I knew ahead of time that Grand Rapids is one of the hipster capitals of America, so I also knew I’d feel at home there!
On the last day, I went to hear Sarah Bessey. At the beginning of her talk, she shared about her experience at her first Festival. Her husband had researched Christian writing conferences and sent her as an act of support and love. Sarah knew no one, heard over and over that she needed a “platform” and a “voice” to succeed, and decided by the end of the conference that she was done writing. She knew she would never be the right type of writer or person to fit into that world. As she prayed in her hotel room on the last night, she clearly sensed God saying to her, “You may never be published or known. But I called you to write, and if you write, I will meet you there.” She went home revitalized and started writing just for God and herself. Eight years later, she’s the author of two books and a polarizing and respected figure in North American Christendom. I don’t want a high-profile role like that, but I do need affirmation that God called me to write, and He will meet me there, even if no one else cares. I didn’t come home from FFW ready to take on the world, but I do have a little more spring in my step. And that’s all I wanted.
In summary: 5/5, would go again.
*= I’ve met many of my best and most lasting friends on LiveJournal. We don’t care that the rest of the internet has moved on. We like it that way. ;)
Spring is here! The world is green again!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Also, I registered for TSA Precheck. Over five years, I think it’ll be some of the best money I’ve ever spent!
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.
My cat is still the best.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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!
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.
This Decemberists track has been my new-year anthem.
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!
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.
Typical of January, I spent more time than usual at home lazing around. Rufus was pretty happy about it.
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.
This Jessica Simpson sweater dress, which I got on eBay. I’d love to find it in more colors!
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.
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!
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:
On The Blog:
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!
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.
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
(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!
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
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?
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.
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
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?