Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June's Fabulous Finds

Heavens! How is June already almost over?




This is a month that I look forward to every year, because in June my family stays in a beach cottage in Corolla, North Carolina for one whole week.

I felt like I was lightyears away from everything, and I even deleted Facebook from my phone (more on that later), to truly take a break. A big part of my real job requires comparing and optimizing our brand against what other folks are doing.

It was nice to take a step back and remember that life isn't about strategizing. It's about enjoying, creating. And helping others enjoy and create, too.

So, with that, here are June's Fabulous Finds!



What I'm Reading 

online

For my writerly people, Jenny Bravo has completed a full website redesign and it looks fantastic. Jenny is one of my best [internet] friends (those buddies are real and deep and most often involve sending some sort of Snapchat selfie on the regular).

Fun and games aside, she's created an incredible online community for writers who feel a little stuck. She came into my life at a perfect moment, and I will be a forever-fan.

authors

I'm twenty-odd years late to the party, but a friend of mine gave me the first two Harry Potter books to read while I was on vacation. I didn't realize how invested I was in the characters until I cried at the very end when Griffyndor won the house cup.

I didn't write spoilers because, come on, it's been 20 years.

Side note: took a sorting quiz. Where my Hufflepuffs at? 

What (We're) Bingeing

Started the new season of Orange is the New Black. It's one of those that are NSFH (not safe for husbands). I have to watch it bit-by-bit when he's not around because he doesn't enjoy it.

And also, I'm bingeing (more like purging) myself from Facebook. The week it was absent from my phone (and still is) I realized how often I checked it and how addictive those little red notification numbers are.

I was worried that I'd feel out of touch or lonely if I wasn't interacting with my friends there. I did miss a few updates from in-laws re: my brand-new nephew, but other than that, the enterprise was still there when I returned home to my laptop. So, in a way, I guess I'm un-bingeing? Does that still count?

What We Watched

The Tony Awards: All three glorious (mostly, except for Spring Awakening, I'll go there) hours of it.

Finding Dory: all kinds of adorable. Who knew a baby fish could have that much emotional power over you? I suspect witchcraft. PIXAR = Ravenclaw, am I right?

The Lobster: all kinds of crazy/creepy/general horribleness. Listen, I'm all for pushing boundaries, but please do not let this well-marketed freak-show trick you into seeing it. It was an indie/psycho trainwreck. And I'm a glass half-full sort.

Who I'm Following

Jamie B. Golden of the Popcast. I can't get enough of this woman's witticisms.



Who can resist?

What I've Spent Way Too Much Money On

This t-shirt.

And this. Lip color for days!

What I'm Listening To

After the Tony's (yes, we're on a first-name basis), I've been taken aback by the Waitress soundtrack, written by the incomparable Sara Bareilles. Mainly this song:

And, seriously, this one. So beautiful.


What I'm Writing

I'm taking a stab at an e-book. More to come, but essentially it's a collection of essays about "redemptive dating." Here's a snippet of the introduction:

We live in a world full of stardust and fairy tales. 

For so many of us they start in the beginning, our first steps taken alongside stories that open with a “once upon a time.”


But then, our late-twenties hit us. We enter a world that, perhaps, has always been real to us, but comes a little more into focus. We graduate from college. We leave communities that we didn’t realize were integral threads in our making.

The pixie dust settles and we realize we can no longer fly.

And even though Pixar is becoming better and better at telling stories through lifelike characters, we’ve always known these stories aren’t real. We are bright, educated and independent women. We can vote. We can break through glass ceilings. We can become a presidential candidate, and we can certainly tell the difference between animation and real life.

So, why is the rest of the world so worried about us?

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Courage it Takes to Press "Enter"
& the Friends Who Help You Get There

It started last Saturday night.

This pressing. This feeling of overwhelm and the inability to get a good, deep breath in while I was asleep. I leaped out of bed, ran to the living room and threw open the sliding door to our balcony and stood there.

Taking quick breaths. Breathing fog as thick as cotton candy.

This had happened before. Once in college. Another time in graduate school. This feeling that something – this unfinished task, this unfulfilled dream – was chasing me. Gnawing at my heels.

You're not there, yet.

You're crazy to even try.

There are others out there. Doing the same thing. Only better.

Most days, the good days, I can recite a Bible verse. Read a few chapters of a Shauna Niequist book. Maybe throw on a few Bethel songs for good measure. And I speak to these thoughts like how I speak after I've fallen down:

I'm good.

I'm okay.

I'm not hurt.

Just a little banged up.

If I don't talk about it, I'm fine.

But the heat of the moment, the middle of the night caught me off guard. I yelled my husband's name and he stood beside me in the dim light of the living room. Watching me, sleepy, concerned. We watched a few episodes of Frasier together, the cool blue light from the television sparking our tired faces awake.

Until we drifted off. Too tired to be afraid to fall back asleep.

These late twenty-something days are busy with work, and words, and phone dates and emails and scheduled Tweets and Bible studies and rehearsal and running schedules, and meal plans and laundry loads and somehow, yearning to pursue writing. To have time to carve out moments of the day just to sit and get lost. In words. In launching them into the blogosphere.

And yet, still feeling that in so many areas, I'm letting the people I love down. By not being there. By trying to meet goals and deadlines in the sanctuary of the after hours. By shooting off texts that feel half-baked. By missing birthday parties because something came up. By feeling that no matter what, it's never enough. I'm not doing, I'm not being enough.

All the while feeling guilty that this season, with lack of any real struggle (apart from first-world problems) has been stressful.


I've thought about going back to counseling.

It's the first step, isn't it? Thinking about doing something?

And while there's no condemnation for going to counseling (I'm a big fan, and a firm believer that everyone in their early twenties should go, just to check-in), there's something more to it that requires a little more...thought this time. The thought of going back. Again. Retreating.

It's making me stall out.


I remember the woman I was when I went the first time. I'd entered a relationship with a boy who was engaged to someone else. It wasn't me. It wasn't who I wanted to be. It wasn't who I thought I'd become when I was a little girl.

I was fed up with myself and my choices. And I wanted to understand why. Why was I living and behaving this way? What was it about myself that made it a game to see if I could hurt others in the late, lonely hours?

I wanted to understand all of it.

So, I went. I cried. The hour flew by. And I went again, and again, and again. Once every week. Then every other week. Then maybe once a month. Until things were right. Until I was strong. And I truly believe that what I learned from sharing and unearthing my struggles with a stranger-turned-friend.

Now, life looks completely different. I'm figuring out life with a forever-partner. I have a job I enjoy. Friends I adore. A church community that loves and supports me - and gives me opportunities to love and support them back.

And I can't figure it out: why this unrest? Why this feeling of not living up to my potential? Of letting everyone down? Why the resistance? This person could help. This person could alleviate the emotional pressure. This person could remind me to breathe every once in a while.

I have the email drafted in my inbox. My fingers have hovered over the "enter" key for the past few weeks. And I'm lucky to have friends who encourage me to press "send." To begin a new journey without shame or doubt.

Even with this blog, there have been times when I've hesitated to push publish. Knowing that I'm sharing one of my more vulnerable moments. Knowing that I might regret what I say. Knowing it might be too much.

This is definitely one of those moments.

But I know that so often, we all need a gentle push, a nudge, someone saying that it's okay. It's okay not to have it all together, no matter what your life might look like to the outside world. No matter how dependent you are on your reputation, or resting on the fact that you've healed from one wound, and are trying to ignore another. For the sake of being fine. For the sake of feeling accomplished.

I'm here to say, just as many of my friends have coached me: just press send. Press enter. Publish. Whatever it is. Start the healing journey.




And don't forget to breathe.


 

photo credit: via photopin (license)

photo credit: Little Sister via photopin (license)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

May's Fabulous Finds

Hello Friends! Starting a new series here (I've been doing a lot of that lately. Hmm). Since it's almost summertime and the livin' is easy, and because personal revelations don't always happen on a weekly basis (wink, wink), I thought it'd be fun to share some of my favorite things to fan-girl over the past few weeks.

Enjoy these fabulous finds for May!




What I'm Reading (online, authors & otherwise)

online
I've been gleaning all the wisdom from Jacey Verdicchio's blog. I enjoy listening to her point of view on her weekly podcast, but I especially appreciate her words and her passion for living intentionally. Follow her for her weekend benedictions alone. You won't be sorry!

authors
My small group is wrapping up the final chapters of Rachel Held Evans' Searching for Sunday. It's been a very raw and open read. Rachel, true to form, puts it all out there. I've also been enjoying a work of indie fiction called Now and Again, for those of you looking for a fun, low-pressure read.

& otherwise
A happy dance for the chance to beta read a manuscript from one of my writer friends, Laurie Tomlinson (*my encouragement and writing buddy through the dragging nine-to-five hours, and who I have to thank for the title of this series). This woman makes it all work with a freelance job, two little ones, a pup and is a total knock-out on top it all.

I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to disclose about her work-in-progress, but it's delightful, honest, and everything you'd want an inspirational work of fiction to be.

What (We're) Bingeing

Anyone who is in a long-term relationship (marriage, dating, friendship, siblings) knows that the decision to start a new series together is not an easy one. G and I completed the final episode of LOST a few weeks ago. And since then, we've been a little, for total lack of better word, lost. Too soon. Not ready to move on.

We've been buffering our evenings with a few episodes of Girl Meets World. And tossing around the idea of either watching Frasier all the way through together or starting Prison Break. If anyone has any suggestions on what we should start next, please, for the love of quiet nights in, suggest it in the comments.

What We Watched

More than likely on a Friday night, you'll find me and G at the movie theatre splitting a coke and hogging popcorn. There are two within walking distance to our house. Coincidence? No. Strategic? Absolutely!

Our top indie pick of the month is called Sing Street. It was written by the same team who put together our all-time favorite, Begin Again and Once. Great music. Fabulous acting. Wonderful storyline. Just try to listen to Drive it Like You Stole It without tapping your foot. It's impossible!

Jungle Book was another favorite of the month. G and I will ask each other, "do you have a language?" throughout the day (super cute scene if you've seen it). So much nostalgia. Amazing voice-acting. And the story does everything you want the story to do as you're sitting there.

Who I'm Following

You know how you sometimes follow people on the internet because you think you'd be friends in another dimension? I've loved following the Honest Brush the past few weeks. I found her on Instagram and I've been captivated by the images she paints and posts.

What I've Spent Way Too Much Money On

This dress. These earrings. And too many pairs of mesh running tights from Target.

What I'm Listening To

To be perfectly honest, not much is turning over on my Spotify playlist other than the Hamilton soundtrack.

This podcast, featuring my darling sister and aspiring television writer, Amanda Morad.

What I'm Writing

Chipping away at the old novel that's been about three years in the making. I'm calling it Bylines (at the moment), but it's gone through at least six iterations and plot structures. It's hard but it's so fulfilling when you enter the place where you're not thinking, you're dreaming, and you're putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and just entering this new world.

Here's a snippet of a scene I've been working on:

     Forty five minutes and two glasses of pity wine later a text blipped her phone awake.
     Here :)
     “Hey Jacobs,” Michael called through the passenger window of his car as pulled up to the curb. The lights from the dashboard illuminated his face wide with mockery. “Long time no see.”
     Jordan pulled her peacoat closer to her chest and clamored down the sidewalk to his red Nissan. He leapt out of the driver’s seat and circled around the passenger side to open the door for her. She blinked. “You don’t have to do that.”
     “Nonsense,” Michael said as he gave a little bow. “If I’m going to be treated like your personal chauffeur, I better act like it.”
     "Hilarious," Jordan took the hit with a flat expression. She was in too precarious of a position to let her pride leave her stranded in the middle of Charlottesville. Michael slammed her door and gave it a double-pat before circling around to the driver side.
     “So,” he entered the car and snapped his seatbelt in place. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this evening?”
      “It’s nothing,” she sat in the bucket seat.
      “Nothing, huh?” He drummed his thumbs on the edge of the steering wheel. “I tack on an extra 200 miles to my per diem today and that’s what I get?”
      “Afraid so.”
      “It didn’t have anything to do with that guy you were talking to after the game?”
     “What guy?”
     “Buckle, please,” he nodded before checking over his shoulder and pulling off the curb. The engine let out a soft purr. Jordan forgot what it was like to be in a car where the gears didn’t grind and pop together like nuts in a food processor. “I might be new to the Richmond-Times, but I assure you. This ain’t my first rodeo, cupcake. Spill.”