Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. "Back to life...back to reality..." We were on vacation last week, a trip out to Atlanta to visit some good friends. When we planned our trip we were looking at just a long weekend, but it was so much cheaper to fly out for a whole week we decided to just make a vacation out of it. And really, it's hard to beat a family trip that involves both fun and friends. We relaxed, played outside, went to playgrounds, the Children's Museum and the Georgia Aquarium, played cards, ate good food, and of course had lots of great, leisurely conversations (as an aside...sometimes leisurely conversations feel like such a luxury, and something I want to prioritize in my life). We got to meet new people, and unexpectedly got to visit with some other friends who now live in Charlotte. I have a full heart!

2. A full heart is good because I also have a little kiddo who has some kind of sickness. I'm praying hard that I've sprayed enough Lysol around the house to spare the rest of us. Sometimes, my brain likes to play tricks on me and convince me that if I just did all the right things my family could avoid all illnesses. Ha! Except that we don't live in a bubble so...I have to give myself a little truth pep talk and humbly remind myself that illness is just kind of part of life.

3. I started reading The Journey of Desire, by John Eldredge - a recommendation and loan from the friends we visited last week. It's thought-provoking and I'm enjoying it a lot so far.

4. Speaking of stories, I've also been slowly making my way through the new Star Trek: Discovery series on CBS All Access. The tone is somewhat cinematic, and similar to some of the more intense and dramatic seasons of Deep Space Nine. Discovery certainly started off with a bang, and I wasn't quite sure what direction they were going to take, but it has the heart of Star Trek -- compassion, curiosity, adventure, relationships, and asking big questions through small stories -- so I'm here for it (I have less enthusiasm to the visual re-imagining of the Klingons, but I guess that was inevitable).

5. I'm searching for an agent at the moment, but have also started a new story. It's in the newborn stage at the moment, and while I'm thinking it's going to end up being a young adult novel, I'm not one hundred percent sure. I know it has siblings, friends, and music. I'm not breaking any new ground, but as a creative writing professor once told me -- there are no new stories, just fresh ways of telling them. I've also been trying to think of other ways to use this blog besides just an outlet for my random thoughts every week and the occasional longer book review. I'm toying with the idea of finding weekly or bi-weekly creative writing prompts and playing around with those on here, just to use my writing muscles in a slightly different way.'s just the start of a thought.

p.s., here's a quote from The Journey of Desire that I keep thinking about:
"Christianity is not an invitation to become a moral person. It is not a program for getting us in line or for reforming society. It has a powerful effect upon our lives, but when transformation comes, it is always the aftereffect of something else, something at the level of our hearts. At its core, Christianity begins with an invitation to desire."

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I ordered new glasses and prescription sunglasses last week, and should be able to go pick them up tomorrow. I'm more excited than normal because my current glasses have big scratches in each lens, and I don't love wearing contacts every day the way I used to. I'm also excited because I branched out and got reddish frames for my everyday glasses.

2. One of my kids brought home a full-sized Hershey's bar with their school Valentine's ( an aside, who is giving full sized Hershey's bars to preschoolers???). I ate a few squares Monday and then put the rest in the baggie to have another day...yeah, I ate it all Monday. Sorry kids! (not really)

3. A friend of mine got a tattoo for her birthday this week, and it's got me itching to get another one. I've got an idea for what I want next, and I've even settled on where. Now I just need to save up the money (or maybe wait and ask for my birthday).

4. The past few weeks, I keep thinking "I'm going to write a nice, long blog post. Something semi-deep or thoughtful." But honestly, the past few weeks my creative brain has been going too many directions, and by the time I sit down to write some kind of leisurely blog post...there are no more ideas in my head.

5. This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash was absolutely fantastic. Descriptive prose, compelling characters, and a deep sense of place. Right now I'm reading a book for Indie Reader and it's...not my favorite, to say the least. I've got Audacious by Beth Moore next up on my list for non-fiction, and for fiction I'm looking at  Reading the Sweet Oak. It's a library book sale find, so I know basically nothing about it except I liked the cover and the blurb on the back sounded like it was worth trying out for a dollar.

6. Jeremy and I saw two movies in the theater this month! I can't remember the last time that happened. The first movie was almost an accident -- we'd scheduled a babysitter, but then our plans fell through. We didn't want that babysitting to go to waste though, so we decided to see a movie. Jumanji was exactly the kind of fun entertainment I expected, and truly laugh-out-loud hilarious. The second movie was Marvel's Black Panther, and it was amazing. Even if you don't like superhero movies, it was still amazing. From top to bottom -- visually stunning, well-plotted, great character development and dialog, fantastic action scences, thought-provoking themes, and the actors! I liked every minute of it.

Happy Wednesday!

p.s. full disclosure, the links above are Amazon affiliate links, meaning I get a few pennies if you decide to buy one of those books through the link.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. Is there a term that is to technology what a black thumb is to gardening? If so, I may have one. This past week my Kindle broke (maybe have gotten stepped on my a child, but I have no proof) and I lost my phone in a Walmart on a Saturday.'s good and lost. I really just hate spending money on new stuff when the old ones were perfectly fine. And it's a little sad since that's the only Kindle I've ever had -- it was a gift from my parents, and I think a first or second generation. So on the bright side, you could say it lived a full and useful life.

2. I just finished a fantasy series last week: The Elk Riders series by Ted Neill. It's one I mentioned a few weeks ago -- a series I've been reviewing for IndieReader. I enjoyed the last book quite a bit, despite the fact that the ending wasn't quite as wrapped up as I'd have preferred. I don't mind an open ending, but there were some plot lines and story arcs that felt a bit abandoned. Overall, though, if you like fantasy with great characters and lots of action it's a good one. I also finished a re-read of A Wrinkle in Time, which I don't think I'd read since junior high. Still loved it! Even with (or maybe because of) the dated references and tone. I'm interested to see how they adapt it for film, especially with a modern audience. My next fiction read is This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash. I'm also planning to pick up Beth Moore's Audacious, which has been languishing on my nightstand.

3. I wonder how long it will take my kids to realize that their non-crafty mama is not going to be putting together cute and/or elaborate Valentines for them to take to their friends/classmates. I wonder when or if it will bother them that I'm pretty content with just cute cards.

4. You know what I miss -- mix tapes. (Or mix CDs). For personal enjoyment, of course digital playlists are much easier to put together. I guess to be more accurate, what I miss is the sharing of mix tapes -- putting together a curated list of songs that mean something special and handing it off to a friend. Sharing your thoughts and feelings in a unique way. Sure, you can share playlists, but it's harder because not everyone uses the same platform to listen to music: Spotify (subscription), iTunes, Amazon, platforms I don't even know about. Maybe it's not as difficult as it seems to me. Maybe I just need to get some tutoring.

5. Speaking of music listening...what do my music-loving-non-iPhone-using friends use to listen to music on their device of choice? Specifically...what do you use to listen to music that you own? Even more specifically...what do you use to listen to music that you bought such a long time ago that it currently resides on a flash drive and on a CD? Right now I mostly use the Amazon music player app because that's where I buy most of my music, but sometimes I wonder if there's a better solution.

Happy Wednesday!

p.s. the book links are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you happen to buy through the link I get a few cents back from Amazon.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Reading...Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

3367956 My friend Rita sent me Hotel on the Corner of Bitter And Sweet after I gushed about a book she'd recommended to me months ago (The Girl in the Blue Coat, which I talk about here). I remember when it came out, because it was very popular at the public library I worked at, and one that I actually handed off to patrons on occasion, although I'd never read it myself. I'm so glad Rita sent it though, and put it back on my radar, because it's a beautiful, quiet book about a difficult and complicated time in history.
Henry Lee is a first generation Chinese-American. In 1986, he is recently widowed, the father of a son who is about to graduate college and with whom he wishes he had a closer relationship. One day, he's walking home through Seattle's International District, and witnesses a discovery made by new owners renovating the old Panama Hotel: a basement full of belongings stored and subsequently abandoned by Japanese-American's interned during World War II. The Panama Hotel, standing between what was once Seattle's Japantown and Chinatown, now a possible resting place for some of Henry's most closely held, bittersweet memories. 
The story is told half in 1986, and half in the 1940s, and the height of World War II. It tells the story of a boy who is both too Chinese and not Chinese enough and whose father diligently follows the war between China and Japan. Of a second-generation Japanese girl whose family is proudly American, but viewed with suspicion and hate. It's the story of unlikely friendships, divided loyalties, fathers and sons, and jazz. It's a story of the fear of a people at war, of miscommunication, love, and commitment. Although I knew that Japanese-Americans were sent to internment caps during World War II, this story makes those facts more personal, tangible, and consequently heartbreaking; yet it's also a story of hope.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a fantastic read for anyone who likes historical fiction, family stories, or coming of age books.

p.s. full disclosure of trying something new: if you order anything through one of the Amazon links, I'll get a tiny kickback through their affiliate program. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Wednesday list....

1. Jeremy and I are headed out to a marriage retreat this weekend, and I'm maybe a little more excited than I should be. But the last time we stayed someplace overnight just the two of us, it was at Sooner Youth Camp last summer so...not actually just the two of us.

2. I know in many places it's still the dead of frozen winter, but we've had some beautiful weather this week (our reward for living in Houston during July, August, and September) so I've been dreaming of growing things. I need to buy a bigger planter to re-pot a peace lily, so I figure I might as well maximize my time at the garden center. When it comes to gardening, I tend to want to focus on vegetables and herbs which in our rental house means a container garden, which I've done in the past. Lettuce, spinach, rosemary (which I've NOT had luck with the last few times I've planted. Some kind of pest. But I really, really want a perennial rosemary plant), basil, and maybe chives and mint. I've never grown summer squash in a pot, but I might give it a try this year. I'll plant tomatoes for summer. Other than my little collection of edibles, there is a shady corner of our yard that was landscaped at one time, but is currently just a haven for weeds. So I'd like to figure out something to put there aside from a gigantic pile of mulch (which may, realistically be what happens).

3. I mentioned that I wanted to focus my 2018 reading on my at-home unread book pile (plus the books I review for Indie Reader), but I broke my rule already today and got a library book.'s been on my to-read list for a while: The Last Ballad, by Wiley Cash. I absolutely ADORED A Land More Kind than Home, and am in the mood for some literary southern fiction. That and A Wrinkle in Time (I scored the last copy at my local used bookstore!) are up next on the docket.

4. It's a complete coincidence that I started writing my random blog lists on Wednesdays, which means it's also a coincidence that it's the same day new episodes of one of my favorite podcasts -- The Popcast with Knox and Jamie -- come out. But it's a very happy coincidence. And speaking of...they're doing a live show in Dallas in May and I snapped up two tickets as soon as they were available, and told Jeremy -- don't make any plans for Cinco de Mayo, because we're going to Dallas.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Wednesday list....

1. Remember how last week I said I was feeling unfocused and mentally off. Yeah...turns out I had a stomach virus. On the bright side, my house is super clean now.

2. We've got two new books in heavy rotation at our house right now: Quest, by Aaron Becker and I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan. Quest is a story with no words, an invitation to each reader to harness their own creativity. The illustrations are beautiful, straightforward enough for readers to tell a simple story, but detailed and thoughtful enough for more imaginative storytellers to get tell a story more intricate and expansive. It's a companion to Journey, recommended to me by my friend Melissa. I like that my 2 and 3 year old find the book captivating, but that it would also be enjoyable for an older reader too. In a very different vein....I Stink! is a little day-in-the-life book about a garbage truck who's stinky, loud, and confident of his purpose and place in the world.It's funny and fun to read -- which is a big plus for me -- and offers just enough potty humor to appeal to kids, but not so much that it's annoying or inappropriate.

3. In case you don't know, I grew up in Missouri and that's where most of my family is from and still lives, so my Midwestern roots go deep. Those roots are what I blame for my obsession with blankets. Y'all. I live in Houston, Texas. But I have enough blankets to keep a family of six warm through a Midwestern winter. But you know what? I'm not sorry. To be honest, most of my blankets are quilted or crocheted by a family member, pieces of history and family that I can literally wrap around myself, and that's part of the appeal. It's part of why I'll keep collecting blankets (the other part is because you NEVER KNOW when you might need a blanket for something).

4. Speaking of Midewestern roots...when we reach the end of a season of family sickness, one of the first things I want to do is throw open all the windows and air out the house. My Houston born-and-raised husband humors me when the weather cooperates, but I can tell he thinks I'm a little weird. To be fair, in Houston it's generally either A) too hot B) too humid C) too pollen-y D) or that one week a year when it's too cold. It got me thinking -- is this idea of "airing out" the house a Midwestern thing? A family quirk? Anyone else get those urges?

5. My kids got balance bikes for Christmas -- little bicycles with no wheels. You just use your feet to push along the ground, like you do if your riding a scooter. I was first introduced to them through my friends Ryan and Nicole, and the idea is that kids can learn to balance before you give them pedals, and often they can skip training wheels or not have to use them as long. Right now, they are loving them and now that the weather's nice again we've been taking them out almost every day on increasingly longer trips through the neighborhood. C is already starting to balance on hers, and even though poor M's legs aren't quite long enough to actually sit on the seat, he straddles it and walks/jogs along like he's riding it.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Wednesday list

1. I posted a mini review (more like a handful of thoughts in a list, naturally) of Oathbringer over on Instagram yesterday (if you're on Instagram you can find me @amandamrwaters). An even shorter summary: really, really good.

2. So what's next on the reading list? Currently: an unpublished manuscript that I'm doing a paid review for. It's a collection of essays written by an adult with ADHD, who has children with ADHD. It's very engaging and interesting so far. As far as fiction, I'm headed out tomorrow to search for a copy of A Wrinkle in Time so I can read it before the movie comes out in March (so excited!!) and I might pick up At the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a novel that a friend sent me a couple of months ago.

3. The insert for my Crock Pot cracked the other day. I had a roast cooking in it and came into the kitchen to see liquid all over the counter. I can pick up a new insert for less than the price of a new one, but I've got to first figure out how to get the burnt on meat juice off of the heating part. So far I'm just shuffling pot around my kitchen and ignoring it. I know the smart thing to do would be to salvage what I can, but my first-world self just wants to throw it away and start again.

4. Have I mentioned Milk and Honey Tees here before? It's a small t-shirt business that sells the cutest shirts. (and they're really soft, and comfy, and well-fitting too). I have one I bought last year and wear all the time. She came out with some new shirts this week, so I snagged one (Weak Made Strong). Can't wait!

5. I'm feeling really unfocused this week. What day is it? What's happening? Can I take a nap? I don't know if it's the weather (cold) or the fact that our routine has been off this week and the kids and I have been home for two days (icy roads) or if it's a January post-holiday thing. Well. That's the way it goes sometimes. I've decided to just roll with it. At least, that's what I'm telling myself today.