Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A Wedneday list...

You may or may not have noticed a slight slow down in activity on the ol' blog here. Summertime isn't as disruptive to our routine yet as families with kids in full time school, but it's still a different kind of rhythm around here lately.

I'll admit though that the best disruption to the regular routine has been novel editing. Sounds weird, right? Who loves editing their own work? (not me!) But it's a good disruption because it means we're getting that much closer to book birthday! I still can't believe it most days.

Never fear though, in the midst of summer chaos, travel, and editing, there's still plenty of good stuff to share...

1. What I'm reading...
This month the theme was quality over quantity. I read The Bird King, by G. Willow Wilson; Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen; and Two Like Me and You, by Chad Alan Gibbs. The Bird King was an atmospheric, fairy-tailesque fantasy set in the time of the Inquisition. While the themes felt a bit heavy handed at times, the characters were fascinating, layered, and really compelling; the  setting was vivid and unique; and ultimately I really enjoyed it. If you're looking for something more contemporary and fun, Two Like Me and You had me laughing out loud and compulsively turning the pages. Two teenagers help an World War II veteran escape from his nursing home and travel to Paris to find his long-lost love. I mean. It was fun and fast-paced -- a perfect summer read. I'm trying to work my way through my physical book stack, and have books by Matthew Quick and Jojo Moyes to pick up next.

2. What I'm watching/listening to...
I am currently listening to a lot of Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars) newest album Front Porch. It has a lovely, mellow, lazy river vibe, and I think Joy Williams' voice is just beautiful.

3. Something I'm grateful for...
The kids have been taking swiming lessons this summer, and I am so grateful not only for the resources to send them to classes, but also for how much they are enjoying it and how much they're learning. They are noticeably more comfortable in the water this summer than they were last year.

4. A little inspiration...

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." - Galatians 6:9-10

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Wednesday list...London edition

A week ago today Jeremy and I were enjoying our last day of a week-long trip to London (minus one day in Reims, France), and it just seemed appropriate to savor the experience in this way...

But first -- a HUGE shout-out to my parents and my niece Grace who watched our littles while  we were away and made the trip possible. By all accounts everyone had a fantastic time, and it's such a blessing to know the kids got some quality grandparent and cousin time. I know not everyone has family who can or will do this kind of thing, and I am immensely grateful for mine.

Bonus shout-out to Chad and Christin Paradowski who hosted us in their flat -- staying in a proper neighborhood is the way to go sometimes, especially in a big city like London.

1. Food is a big part of traveling for me -- new foods, unexpected finds, or just relishing delicious favorites in new places. Memorable experiences include steak and ale pie, pints, Indian food, mango lassi, pastries, tea, cappuccinos. The neighborhood pub, London's oldest pub, Dishoom London, Saravaana Bhavan, and the most delightful and delicious French restaurant we could have dreamt up (that creme brulee...).

2. Choral evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral was a highlight of the week for me. Not only was it beautiful, but it was meaningful as well. The priest made a comment that really stood out to me: inviting us into a "river of worship" that has gone on centuries before us, and will continue long after we are gone. What a good reminder of the scope of God's kingdom.

3. The British Museum and British Library are favorites, fascinating and inspiring. One fun thing that stood out at the British Museum was looking at a display of an ancient Greek civilization in an era that inspired one of my favorite book series (The Queen's Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner).

4. The World Cup. Going to a World Cup soccer game has been on my bucket list for several years, and the US women's team is on fire right now, so what a time to get to go!

5. One of my goals on this trip was to visit at least one bookstore, and the internet delivered a fantastic recommendation in the used bookstore Skoob Books, everything you want from a good used bookstore. In a similar vein, a wrong turn led us to Orc's Nest, the most delightful game store, a tiny, one-room-with-a-loft game store crammed with everything from family board games to Dungeons and Dragons books and everything in between.

6. The right pace. I could go on and on, but I'll end it here: this trip reminded me of how much I enjoy a trip when I remember to balance doing things with simply enjoying the place I'm at, realizing that I'm never going to be able to do ALL THE THINGS, so why not take the time to enjoy the things I do get to do. Take the time to linger over a good meal, take a walk along the river, and sit in a park on a sunny day (thank you Greenwhich for being beautiful).

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to travel with Jeremy, and can't wait to dream and plan our next adventure!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

A Wednesday list...

1. What I'm reading...
It's been a good couple of weeks for reading, both in quality and quantity. The first was Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal, a charming Regency-era novel set in a world of magic (think, Jane Austen with magic). The good news is that it's the first in a series (The Glamorous Histories), and I'm itching to pick up book number two. The second book I absolutely devoured was Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. Station 11 opens on the first day of the apocalypse: the day a super-virus becomes a pandemic that wipes out 99 percent of the world's population. It's a character-driven, atmospheric story about the lives of a handful of loosely connected people, both in the weeks leading up to Day 1, and the years afterward. My favorite part is the time spent with The Traveling Symphony, a troupe of musicians and actors post-apocalypse holding on to art in the middle of a time where art could be scene as unimportant, summed up in the slogan they've adopted from a Star Trek quote: "Survival is insufficient." Next on the docket is more Glamorous Histories and a historical fiction novel I picked up at the local author fair a few weeks ago.

2. What I'm watching...
Sneaky Pete season 3 dropped on Amazon Prime a couple of weeks ago, and Jeremy and I wasted no time in watching it. I love this series so much, and season 3 was just as fantastic as I hoped. I read a review that said each hour long episode feels like 15 minutes, and that is so true. The writing is tight, the acting is superb, and the stories balance the craziness of the con with things like family drama, what it means to love, the fallout from bad choices.

3. What I'm grateful for...
Today, I'm grateful that I got to run outside (as opposed to on the treadmill) this morning, even in the summer-time South Texas humidity. On the other hand, I am so grateful to have a treadmill now, because in the summer it's quite difficult for me to keep to a consistent running schedule and the treadmill makes it possible for me to run more than once or twice a week.

4. A little inspiration...

I discovered this Instagram account @writtentospeak (otherwise known as Tanner Olson) during the writing challenge I participated in a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. Olson's poems are brief, but really thoughtful. You can also check out his work on his web site

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Soul Orchard

"Soul Orchard"
by Amanda Waters

She traveled the world, searching for connection, conversation, and the perfect pastry. She walked with a table and two chairs strapped to her back, and when people asked her why, she answered "expectation." She was Johnny Appleseed sewing seeds of beauty and nourishment, and leaving a legacy of thoughtfulness and wonder.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Wednesday list....

Y'all. Last week was about 25 years long, so I missed my typical creative post. This week a lot of my creative energy is being funneled into a fun Instagram challenge, so we're going to stick to regularly scheduled programming and I'm hitting you with a list of things I'm digging. Enjoy!

1. What I'm reading.
I'm currently reading a sci-fi space opera called Enemy Immortal, by Jim Meeks-Johnson; and I just finished a light and breezy book of essays by Lincee Ray called It's a Love Story. I've got a big stack of library books waiting for me when I finish Enemy Immortal, and I went to a local author fair at a neighborhood bookstore last weekend and picked up a historical fiction novel that looks really interesting.

2. What I'm watching.
Jeremy and I spent the last couple of weeks watching Umbrella Academy on Netflix, and I thought it was fantastic. It's the story of a dysfunctional family of orphans in superhero wrapping. It has a highly stylized aesthetic (it reminds me a bit of early Quentin Tarantino), a nice mix of action and quiet interpersonal drama, and a top notch cast. There's a character who is a 58 year old man stuck in the body of a 12 year old boy, and I never of that actor as a 12 year old, he did such a good job.

3. What I'm grateful for.
At this very moment I'm grateful for high speed internet access and the ability to stream music all day long. It's also grocery shopping day, and I am always grateful for our local HEB grocery store. I told Jeremy the other day that if we ever move, I'm going to miss HEB the most.

4. A little inspiration
"The effect of Jesus' giving of his own life; the example of love, non-retaliation, the kingdom way of confronting evil with goodness; Jesus' taking of the world's hatred and anger onto himself; and beyond all these, the defeat of the powers of evil, the blotting out of the sins of the world, the love of God shining through the dark clouds of wickedness -- all of this is now to be seen around the world. It is seen not only in the millions who worship Jesus and thank him for his death, but in the work of healing which flows from it; in reconciliation and hope for communities and for individuals."
 - N.T. Wright

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Wednesday list...

Yes, I know it's Thursday. Just go with it.

1. What I'm reading
Unsurprisingly, I follow a lot of literary-adjacent accounts on social media, so when poet Mary Oliver died a few months ago, my Internet was chock full of quotes and snippets from her poetry. So, I checked out Evidence: Poems from my local library, and it proved to be a delight. Mary Oliver writes poetry that is really accessible, and I found that reading a poem or two a day was like the literary equivalent of eating a small piece of dark chocolate, or the perfect cup of coffee or tea. I also recently finished The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, by Joshua Hammer which was a fascinating look at the rich cultural and intellectual history of the Mali region, the various political and religious conflicts that have threatened to erase that history and heritage, and the people who worked to preserve that heritage. The author is a journalist, and that background comes through in his spare and succinct writing, but I think it served the story well, allowing the story and place to shine.

2. What I'm listening to:
I've got the new album by Johnnyswim -- Moonlight -- on repeat right now. It is just so good.

3. What I'm grateful for:
There's always so much to be grateful for, but today I'm particularly grateful for conversations with friends.

4. A little inspiration:
I have a twofer for inspiration this week. The first is a blog post from author and podcaster Emily P. Freeman. It's a really thoughtful essay about regret, particularly as it relates to making decisions. I have a tendency to look back and analyze decisions I've made and waste a lot of effort thinking of all the things I could have done differently, so her words really spoke to me.
How to Handle Regret: When Your Next Right Thing Turns Out Wrong

My second bit of inspiration comes from Mary Oliver (I'd give you the whole poem, but that's copyright infringement, but I think this little taste is still worth it)

"...Sometimes I need
        only to stand
             wherever I am
                  to be blessed."

--excerpt from "It was Early" by Mary Oliver

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Meet a new character

I've just started working on a new story that I think might turn into a novel, but I've taken a break from the narrative to write character profiles of a few of my main characters and get to know them better. Just for fun, here's a snake peek at one of them. Enjoy! 

Hickory (Hicks) Aaron Phillips 
The first thing I should tell you is why I haven't just started going by Aaron. I mean...I'm a freshman in high school. I'm pretty sure I could dig in my heals and make everyone start calling me Aaron. Well. I could ask my parents and they probably would. And my friends would. My older sisters June and Daisy would most likely laugh at the request and there's no way I could make them do anything. That's not the way the whole youngest sibling thing works. But here's the truth -- in eight grade, the baseball team was playing an away game and after the  game, the team went to get dinner at a diner in town. The waitress at our booth was smokin' hot. Like, we could barely form sentences hot. She asked our names and when it got to me and I said "Hicks," her eyebrows went up and she grinned. "That's a really cool name. Like, it sounds like a rock star name or something." So basically, that was the the end of one day going by my middle name.  
Here are some other things about me: 
 I have a mom and dad and two older sisters. My Dad's a preacher who decided before I was born that he was called to serve rural churches, so I spent most of my childhood in a few small towns in Tennessee and North Carolina. When my middle sister Daisy started high school, we moved to a slightly bigger town, and one only a an hour or two away from Greenville, NC. I didn't mind super small-town life too much, but I can't say that I'm upset to live someplace with, you know, a movie theater and more than one restaurant.
I love Marvel comic books and super hero movies, baseball, music with red-hot guitar riffs, playing drums, fried chicken, cinnamon chewing gum, camping,  and -- don't laugh -- romantic comedies. I know, I know...but I have two older sisters.  
I dislike football, deli meat, cake, heavy metal music, getting up early, cats, growth spurts, bowling, and feeling like I'm going to be permanently stuck in the friend zone.