Monday, August 1, 2011

Breakfast at Anthropologie

"The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there."

-Holly Golightly

The way Holly Golightly felt about Tiffany's in Breakfast at Tiffany's, I realized recently, is exactly the way Amy Ha feels about Anthropologie. I know it's a mini-obsession and a joke among friends now, but it is pretty profound how I feel about that store. And I've decided it's gotten to the point where I have to think about why. That's me and my over-analytical nature. So I did some thinking, and I feel that it's because the store is completely about creating an atmosphere. Something that speaks without words, maybe to a part of you that you'd almost forgotten was there, a place your childlike wonder still hangs out, waiting to be awakened and delighted again.

You don't have to do the work, they did it for you. All you have to do is whip out your credit card, if you're the type to start feeling slaphappy about money as soon as you walk through those stunning doors. You flip through their catalog, and they're not just selling you (slightly pricey) apparel and home furnishings - they're selling a story.

A story you want to live. And I believe the rooms we live in day-to-day and the clothing we wear are some of the most intimate ways we tell our story. I realize that I've always been interested in interiors and clothing because that's exactly what you can do with them.

Their are countless atmospheres you can make, countless feelings to evoke with a simple image, color, background song. I'm a very sensuous person, and sometimes it helps me recharge to just shut down my verbal side and simply take things in. And the very fact that I can't really afford to shop at Anthro except a few times a year, and then only the sale items, gives me a surge in creativity. I can take their ideas and make them mine, even if I can't take all their merchandise home. I also get the thrill of the hunt when I find that one pair of gorgeous jeans that hasn't been snatched up in my size that's been marked down from $114 to $29.

So is it incredibly shallow to embrace all of this? I mean, aren't there infinitely more important things to think about? Well, yes, obviously. But then, didn't God create us to appreciate beauty and unusual objects, and to have some small part in creating our own story by molding the matter He gave us? To compulsively quote Lewis again, God LIKES matter! He made it!

Love to all!

Monday, June 27, 2011

To Judge and Be Judged

I recently had an experience that made me reevaluate my feelings on what it means to judge and be judged. I was never particularly cool or particularly freaky in school and always managed to stay mostly below the bully radar… and also not to catch the eye of any of the popular kids looking for new recruits. Desiring only a few close friends who actually “got” me, that was a relief on both counts. My family is squarely in the middle class, or perhaps upper middle class range (dunno or care exactly for sure), and I consider myself reasonably un-grotesque to look at. So while I have never been the social butterfly and have experienced bullying at times for my slightly unusual tastes in clothing, or exclusion for being the “baby” of the group, I’ve never truly known what it might feel like to be a social pariah. Until recently. It was a little thing, barely worth mentioning, and the details are unimportant, but I did manage to get a little taste of how it felt to be excluded for something embarrassing and hurtful in my past, something deemed a part of me, never to be wiped out or forgotten. The kind of thing that can make you feel “tainted”— that can follow you like a dark, mocking specter. Or, more precisely, this thing was in mine and my husband’s past, because everything he experiences affects me and vice versa, and neither of us will ever leave the other behind.

We can’t do anything to change the past, and wouldn’t choose to if we could because of all the learning and good things that have come out of our struggles, but that doesn’t mean we don’t remember and feel the pain all over again at times. And at times we find ourselves in the position of trusting, praying, asking that others will not judge or label us for what we now cannot change, and sometimes we find with a sinking feeling that that is just not always going to happen. I’ve even been wondering lately if it’s wrong to ask people not to judge us for what we went through. Maybe they should have the right. After all, my husband did make a hurtful mistake that, though not directly intended to hurt anyone and (I believe) very misunderstood, still did affect other people. But aren’t we all responsible for our response when another person screws up? I’m not saying it is easy. Good ‘ol Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." It’s not easy for me and it’s not easy for anyone else. But still, aren’t we called to do what Christ did for us? As Christians, isn’t that at the heart of everything? As C.S. Lewis said, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."

So to forgive, thank God, does not mean to excuse. What does it mean, then? To forgive, to cease judgment, doesn’t mean that we automatically trust the person who hurt us… but doesn’t it mean at least giving them a chance to earn that trust again? To see a person repent doesn’t necessarily mean that we are certain they’ve changed, or even that we should be certain right away, but doesn’t our faith in God require that we can at least believe it’s possible? I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all entangled in our sin, that we are all tainted. Only, some sins are simply more embarrassing than others. Some people are simply more outwardly functional, or dysfunctional. It’s a noble and beautiful thing to love and fight for the innocent, the victims, and that is something we should never give up. But I thank God that he didn’t die for the innocent. He died for me and the people who hurt me, the people who judge me.

I’m thankful for these experiences of hurt and exclusion now because, ever since, I’ve found it easier to smile at that group of teenage boys wandering around our neighborhood who are maybe just “looking for trouble,” or the pinch-lipped, expensively dressed lady in church who seems to be disdaining everything from the music to the message. And the surprise in the faces of those usually deemed unworthy of compassion or acceptance, who are not even expecting it, has brought me to my knees with remorse. Jesus came to be mocked and rejected and suffer pain that he didn’t deserve so that he could feel what we feel, what we deserve. Now I, in my entirely broken way, can have my tiny share in the sufferings of the only One who didn’t deserve it.

Thanks for reading. Much love.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 30 - 50,189 Words

The title says it all. I broke 50,000 words. I am going to take a breather now, before I begin the editing process.

Happy Birthday, Ransom. I hope you like your present one day, when you're allowed to read it. It's meant to remind you that you can accomplish amazing things if you take it one day at a time.

And I'm very amused by your new preferred form of transportation. As if the neighbors didn't already think we were weird.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 28 - 45,089 words "I Ain't Good-Lookin' But I'm Somebody's Angel Child"

So if I were gonna give up, it would have happened a long time ago. Here I am less than 5,000 words from the finish line, where my prize will be an entire novel written by Amy R. Ha! I'm dazed and tired, past the point of 'hitting the wall' as marathoners do in the last few miles of the race, and I have to say this is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. I will be able to say that I did, in fact, do something I always wanted to do. I realized that I can't simply sit and wait around until I become the kind of person who does these things. I just have to DO them, and then I will be that person. I've ignored many beloved friends and family members, let the laundry pile up, and have generally been letting Vu take the brunt of the parenting duties at times, but all the sacrifices I've imposed on others will pay off on Friday. Right now my 'baby' is not good-looking. In fact, it's not fit for anyone's eyes but my own and Vu's just yet. I have everything I need to work with now though. And to me, it promises to be something I can be proud to share one day.

Now, a quick pictorial summary of other moments I've managed to snatch recently:

And lastly, but very importantly, Vu self-published his long short story/novella, complete with a cover he designed. I'd love to see this story of his made into a movie - it's so atmostpheric. Give it a try!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day 21 - 30,116 words

I'm getting close to the last leg of it, and I'm certain my adrenaline will help me catch up the little bit I've fallen behind. I fell behind for a very good reason: my one of my darling best friends, Jenny, got married to an awesome guy this last weekend. Not to mention that the weekend before that we girls had a little bridal getaway. It was a fantastic wedding, very garden-y and relaxed. And now I'll have to practice calling her Mrs. Jenny Brown. That's going to take some getting used to.
The best thing for my novel so far has been the feedback and support from I've gotten from my sweet husband. He's listened to everything I've written so far (except what I've just written this afternoon, but we'll cuddle up in the hammock with my laptop for another reading session this evening) and clearly seems to be enjoying the story, knowing it's a rough draft. What more could I ask for? I see that he genuinely likes it, and I respect his opinion so much.

I plan on trying to get the manuscript printed up in pseudo-professional style to present to the boys on their birthdays. I don't think it will mean much to Ransom, except possible as a novel thing to flip through or throw across the room, but I'd like to get pictures so I can show him later.

Thanks for reading, and love to all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 15 - 21,745 words

Wooohooo! I'm officially halfway there. Time-wise I'm half way there, anyway. Word count-wise, welllll, I went to a bachelorette party this weekend. The important thing, though, is that I'm only a little bit behind and I'm not falling further behind.

I gave myself nightmares last night, by the way, when I read the chapter I'd written yesterday afternoon to Vu. :) I guess that's a good sign.

I've heard that it's a common mistake for a first-time novelist to create too many characters. I see that I have possibly done that. But I love them all, even this evil ones, even the undead ones. Don't make me axe them! Also interestingly, I've created way more male characters than female ones, even though most of my main characters are women. Hmmm.

I'm looking forward to the rewriting process, when I can once again unleash my inner editor, who is foaming at the mouth and raring to go.

Love to all!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 8 - 13,655 words

The wildest thing happened today when I was writing... everything started to come together. I suddenly saw exactly how to tie together every loose end, random character, and subplot in a satisfying, if not exactly realistic, way. Excited to see if I'll be able to pull it off.

Love to all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 7 - 11,980 Words

It's official, folks. I have survived week one of my insane, four-week novel writing challenge. The document on my desktop entitled Most_Brilliant_Story_Ever has swollen to nearly 12,000 words. The newest development is that I've decided to make myself a 'bible' to keep track of all my characters' names and info. This became a necessity when I realized I'd given two characters the same last name. My brain is a liiiitle fried right now, but I'm having a ball.

Love to all!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 6 - 10,016 words

I'm at 10,016 words today. This weekend was a bigger challenge because of the extra freedom (and all the alluring possible distractions) in my schedule, but I did it. And when I get through tomorrow, that will be the end of week one. It's hard to believe I'm already one-tenth of the way to having my 50,000-word novel. And thank goodness a new character swooped in and gave me a break from my main character, because I was ready to strangle her. :)

According to Baty's hilarious and helpful book, week two is the hardest. This is the time most people stall out, lose steam, and generally want to throw in the towel. Even if I have to get my word count by repeatedly typing, "All work and no play makes Amy a dull girl," though, I'm gonna get it.

I've made the discovery that I actually like to listen to music while I write sometimes, too. I thought it would be distracting but somehow it actually helps me focus. I'm thinking about exploring writing to movie soundtracks next.

Love to all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day Three - 5,038 words

"For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can."
-Ernest Hemingway

*Amy wipes sweat from brow*

Right now I'm thinking I'm writing much worse than I can, but I'm writing.

Love to all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 2 - 3,568 Words

This is the quotation I have pinned to my inspiration board:

"Remember, above all else, your novel is not a self-improvement campaign. Your novel is a spastic, jubilant hoe-down set to your favorite music, a thirty-day visit to a candy store where everything is free and nothing is fattening. When thinking about possible inclusions for your novel, always grab the guilty pleasures over the bran flakes. Write your joy, and good things will follow."
-Chris Baty

This is where I've been writing:

On the desk is a framed post card of my favorite place (The Lone Cypress overlook) and a photo my parents (who have absolutely no doubts about my ability to write a novel) when they were about my age.

And on three other notes that may only be interesting to me, we went to Sunday church for the first time in ages and I decided to be a crazy hat lady:

And we found irises growing in our side yard. They're huge, gorgeous in an arsty sort of way, and smell of this incredibly spicy scent I'd never noticed before.

And my friend Chelsya game me these beautiful ice cream dishes as a house-warming present. I used them as candle holders on my mantel so I could enjoy them every day.

Love to all!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 1

I ended up with 1,806 words today. The minimum for each day is 1,667. It didn't feel that difficult, or even like it took that long, but I'm sure I'll have my ups and downs--days when sitting down to my laptop feels next to impossible. The reason I started today instead of choosing a whole calendar month is that Ransom, my sweet, incredible, brilliant little boy will be two exactly one month from now. This novel is his birthday present. It's also Vu's present, as Vu's birthday is the day after Ransom's.

How did the writing go? It flowed today. I had so many ideas that they're all tumbling out. This is the fun part. There is something about writing fiction that brings a part of me back to life. And there is something about doing something that I had arbitrarily told myself wouldn't happen - writing a novel before I'm thirty - that feels incredible.

Much love.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Ridiculous Task Countdown

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.
-Agatha Christie

So true. And starting tomorrow, prepare to love me that much more. I've decided to start my novel in the new coffee shop in Siloam springs. The plot chose me, the characters have already started haunting my dreams... Nothing left to do but write. And maybe, just maybe, I'll love myself a little more too.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Day After Tomorrow ... Zombies

The day after tomorrow is the day I start my novel. I'm perusing the first few chapters of Baty's book just to make sure I'm ready, although the whole idea really is that you don't have to be ready and you're never going to be. I tried so hard to force one plot on myself but another kept resurfacing in my mind, refusing to let go. Dare I even say it? Zombies. Yes, totally overdone right now (and very well done in some cases - Shawn of the Dead, The Walking Dead), but that's exactly why I have to tackle it. I want to see if I could do it my way, and what my way would even be. I have some character names and a teensy bit of backstory, and Vu finished building my writing desk in the bedroom. Above it I hung a bulletin board and am posting pictures and quotations to help me stay inspired. Hopefully. I'll post pictures on my blog soon. I left my little "blogging" camera at my friend Tracy's house. Thanks for reading, love to all, and share what you love and hate about zombie stories if you're so inclined.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dear Ransom,

I just want to write down the fact that you dance when you like a food you're eating - and I want to make sure you know you got that from me! Yes, it's a little embarrassing in the more fancy restaurants, but it's great to be able to enjoy something on that level. :) Also, you love birds. You tried to make your first bird call this evening, when we were out on the patio having dinner. Not a simple, "tweet, tweet." Oh, no. You tried to perfectly imitate the bird that was loudly chirping over his evening snack at our bird feeder. The words "I love you" will never be adequate for what I feel for you, sweet boy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

CR-azy Writing Project

It's called, No Plot? No Problem! (Don't laugh.) More to come. Starting Wednesday. Will probably take over my blog for a while. Will try to make it slightly more articulate than this post.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Marital Games

I just heard to advice, which was given to someone by a couple who had been married for 72 years, that every couple should have an indoor game and an outdoor game that they play together on a regular basis. Tonight, I am trying to organize mini-golf for me Vu and me. He's totally up for it if we can indeed get our sitter. The indoor game? That's a little trickier. He loves checkers, I love Scrabble, but when I play checkers I get bored, frustrated, and defeated very quickly. Ditto for Vu when he plays Scrabble. I'm leaning towards Scene It, since we both love movies and they're one of the first things that brought us together. I'm excited about trying this - I think it's an amazingly brilliant yet simple way to stay close in new ways.

Thanks for reading. Much love!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's only been recently that I realized how hypocritical I was when I said I didn't understand people who "collected things". I didn't mean to be critical, but I just didn't get what they got out of it. Then it occurred to me that's exactly what my marathon shopping excursions add up to. Do I really need that perfect white dress for spring? No, I have plenty of material to cover my body, even a few dresses. What I liked was the pleasure of the hunt, the joy of coming across the exact object I envisioned, taking it home, and enjoying it in a totally non-practical way. I've been toying with the idea of collecting things other than superfluous wardrobe fodder. At first I thought I couldn't think of a thing I would be that interested in, ready to scour flea markets and furtively check eBay when I had a free moment just to find this one thing. Then it occured to me: Butterflies. Mermaids. Seashells. Creepy ceramic cats. These are just a few of the things I would enjoy chasing down and putting on display. Right now, I'll start with butterflies. My Mom picked me up a scrap of this gorgeous paper in California. I know it will see a bottle of mod podge in the near future, but I'm not exactly sure what I'll do with it. Suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading. Love to all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Need To Knead

"Eaten bread is forgotten." -Thomas Fuller

(And that's why I am posting this today. Because the bread will be eaten soon. It's a good metaphor for my need to keep up with this blog at all. We think we won't forget things, but if we don't record them, we will.)

Our kitchen is far from done - a lot of empty cabinets and a serious lack of the proper supplies abound, but I felt an irrepressible urge to bake bread in it. (And luckily I had a very helpful teacher who was willing to bring all the supplies as well in my grandfather.) There is just something about bread. It seems holy and ordinary at the same time, homely and also beautiful. And many have said far more eloquent things about it than that.

Love to all!

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Do These Two Women Have in Common?

I believe Pride is the number one source of strife in our relationships, and the number one barricade to the power of God in any given life. As I think about the part I play in our family, I realize that I have a huge impact on the happiness of those around me, and that those I love the most may be the the people I am most likely to take for granted. To keep from being a diva, even in one’s own home, is essential.

Each family member, in fact, has the ability to bring the rest of the family up or down. “If Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy”? Well, yes. That seems about right. Since I can only control and improve my own behavior, and my mindset affects those dearest to me, I often try to set about self-improvement. I find my muses for leading an exemplary life all over, but most often in printed pages – fiction and non.

So what do these two incredible women have in common? Besides romantic black-and-white portraits on the faces of my paperback biographies, it might seem not much. But Agatha Christie and Grace Kelly both cultivated one astounding quality that, given each one’s circumstances, seems nothing short of miraculous: Humility. One the best-selling author of all time, the other Hollywood starlet turned genuine princess, each seemed to think herself fairly ordinary. Reading Agatha Christie’s autobiography, I am amazed by how effortlessly she seems to enjoy life and how little she thinks of her own cleverness. Diving into my new biography of Grace, I see similar things. What a strong mind it must take not to have one’s head turned a million different ways by stunning success. How easy it is to feel superior and how hard to remember that we are but dust, and glitter fades. I figure the worst time to try and cultivate genuine, joyful, contented humility is when you’re already a big success, just as when the life crises hits, a strong foundation is crucial beforehand, so I am working on the quality of humility now. I have a feeling this is something that will never be checked off my to-do list, but at least I can become aware of how pride creeps into my everyday existence and do my best to beat it back with a broom.

Practical ways to cultivate humility today? I’ve decided to focus on others, what I love about them. And, of course, any suggestions are welcome.

Much love.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Picnic in Pictures

It's a warm, windy, slightly overcast day. There is something at once dramatic and deeply relaxing about this weather. Swaying in the hammock, if you close your eyes, feels like drifting in a sail boat, the tiny sprinkles like spray from the waves. (Pictures of the hammock we put up are coming tomorrow.) Even though our blanket blew to and fro, it was a great, sunny, blustery memory.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Journal - April 9, 2011 - No Tired Puns About Spring Here :)

What we LOVE about Spring:
Children learning to garden for the first time: Flowers in wagons and the boys who love them:
Good clean/dirty fun:

(and getting him in the wagon for a walk before he even changes out of his PJs)
Eating alfresco:

Thanks to my sweet boy, I'm less likely to waste a minute of this beautiful season than I've even been!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Journal - April 8, 2011 - What Drives Me

"Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." Isaiah 55:1-2
I deactivated my Facebook account. I'd never even considered doing it before, but then, one sunny afternoon, when I dashed inside to check my email and felt that lately all-too-familiar sinking feeling of getting no feedback, I realized something had gone awry. Facebook was supposed to be a tool to stay in contact with a few close friends, share some pictures of my sweet baby and see my friends' important moments. Suddenly, though, I realized it had become a barometer of some sort rather than a harmless tool. If I didn't have any comments, one part of me felt, that meant I wasn't interesting. No longer did it satisfy to have lunch and share a meaningful story with one true friend, I was posting for over a hundred -- some people I didn't know and most of whom I'd probably never talk to in person.

Did I even really care what these people thought? What happened? I realized it wasn't that I wasn't satisfied with a few simple, in-the-flesh friends, it was that I hadn't take much time to spend with real people. That fact, and its consequences, was what didn't satisfy. That was why I was disappointed in so silly a thing as "0 comments". I was annoyed with myself for even feeling this way, but then I decided to take it easy on myself. We do need thoughtful feedback, and genuine encouragement for the things that are important to us. But receiving thoughtful feedback and encouragement comes from the work, and sometimes the inconvenience, of cultivating relationships with real people. I think Facebook is great, but for me, it had taken the place of something much, much better. I realized that, with everything going on in my life the past few years, I had forgotten what it felt like not to be in survival mode, and some of my relationships had fallen by the wayside. Right now, I'd rather write a thought-out, heartfelt blog post that only a precious few read, than hope for witty feedback over the fact that I had grapefruit for breakfast. It may seem more thankless at first, but over time I think it will be more more fulfilling. I can't be driven by things I can't control, such as how many people choose to give feedback. I can only follow what I believe to be my purpose, share my life, and have faith that I will enrich those people God means me to enrich.

Love to all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Journal - April 5, 2011 - Boy Joy!

I love that my husband is the kind of parent that goes far beyond simply meeting our sweet toddler's physical needs. If they're together, they're singing, playing, wrestling, laughing, working together, all through the diaper changes, baths, and mealtimes. I never want to take this for granted. One of my greatest joys in life is to walk in the room and find them simply being adorable together. Here is Ran in the outfit he carefully chose of puffy winter coat + pirate socks, one the, well, head, of his adoring Daddy. I'm glad I am remembering to grab the camera more regularly these days.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Journal - April 4, 2011 - Fruit Island

So in the past several months I've managed to lose about 25 pounds. I still have a little ways to go, but I'm extremely pleased! I'm a very visual person (as my blog exemplifies) and I've found that having an enticing little still life to munch on right in view -- and in reach -- keeps me snacking harmlessly, because I'm gonna snack. :) And I think the apple-corer/slicer thingy is the best invention, perhaps ever.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Journal - April 3, 2011 - Out the Door!

Finally spring is here and we get to spend every second we can out of doors. This morning, we walked right out our door and off a few miles to get breakfast (stopping along the way to let Ran play with the trains at Barnes and Noble). After having lived in Bella Vista and getting used to doing 40 minutes round trip just to get to civilization, this feels like such a treat.

P.S. The trees are gorgeous here in Arkansas in the spring.

Thanks for checking in! I hope you got outside today, too.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Journal - April 2, 2011 - pattern crazy

I am obsessed with patterns. I will almost always take one over a solid, and I don't feel comfortable with things that are too matchy-matchy. (Clearly, from looking at my chairs.) This tablecloth makes me so happy, and at around thirty dollars at Urban Outfitters (and marketed as a "wall hanging") it ended up looking just as pretty and interesting as the gorgeous $100 + table coverings at Anthropologie. The painting in the background is the first in a series of seascapes I'm working on.

Love to you and thanks for reading!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Journal - April 1, 2011 - Lit From Within

I put candles inside my fireplace, in a stroke of genius that is probably not unique to me. I love to see them flickering and not have to mess with a real fire. I try to light them every day, even if no one is around. Why not? Isn't that what our homes are for, not the few times we entertain others, but day in and day out for our own enjoyment and sanctuary?

Thanks, if you're out there. ;)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Journal March 31, 2011

vignette : noun : a brief incident or scene

(There is a story behind the painting to the left.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Journal - March 30th 2011

I love having free reign over my own kitchen these days. I've been making lots of whole-wheat pasta dishes and am addicted to adding organic baby spinach to everything. You don't have to cook it at all, just toss with warm noodles and it's the perfect texture. The much-obsessed about kitchen island makes the perfect serving station.

Ran broke my favorite quirky ceramic bunny, and it's only become so much cuter and quirkier now that I've planted some rosemary in it. I do miss the head a bit, though.

Lastly, Vu has started decorating his man cave. In our bedroom I get to do all the decor, so it's only fitting he should have this. He's finally gotten to frame Indiana and put his favorite painting, along with his favorite hats on the wall. I like walking into "his" room because it makes me think of all the things I love about him.