Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Wednesday poem

It was so much fun to stretch my creative muscles a few weeks ago with poetry that I decided to do it again! So here's another poem to break up your week:

Reflection
by Amanda Waters

The way I walk
The things I do
The words I say
The way I say them
Compressed into tiny
Thirty pound packages.

Mimicry leads me to
Examination
Self-reflection
I’m reminded to
Pause
Think.
I’m reminded of
Imperfection
Grace

Listen
Breathe
And for goodness’ sake
Stay
Calm





Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I've rediscovered a love for cutting off jeans that just aren't quite working as long pants and turning them into shorts.

2. I'm going to pass on a little librarian pro-tip: if you borrow ebooks from your library (and if you don't, you should start), one of the problems you might run into is that when they're due, they automatically expire and disappear on your reading device. HOWEVER -- if you turn off the wi-fi on your reading device, you should be able to keep reading it if you still need a little more time to finish it. This information is on my mind at the moment because I forgot to turn off the wi-fi on my Kindle and the book I was in the middle of disappeared this morning. Ahhh!!!!! (What Alice Forgot, by Lian Moriarty. And if you've ever read any of her books, you know how hard it is to stop in the middle). Sometimes, you can just go check the book right back out, but unfortunately for me, there's a wait list. Fortunately, the wait list is not too long.

3. The kids and I planted a few seeds in pots in the backyard last week. Tomatoes, cucumber, basil, rosemary. I've not ever tried tomatoes from seeds -- only seedlings -- so we'll see how it goes.

4. I'm almost done with a mini closet purge. It started when I realized it was time to try and sell my double jogging stroller. I hadn't used it in months -- the kids have gotten big enough that running with them in it is more trouble than it's worth. Anyway, I listed it on Craigslist (still hasn't sold, although I finally have someone interested to come look at it) and that inspired me to list a couple of other items that seemed worth selling and schedule a donation pickup for a big bag of clothes and purses. I love clearing out closets (much to my husbands amusement and occasional frustration), and it's even better when I can maybe make $50 in the process.

5. What I'm reading: the previously mentioned What Alice Forgot, and the mystery In a Guilded Cage by Rhys Bowen. What I'm watching: Superstore, Star Trek: Discovery (almost finished with the first season now), and the final season of The Middle (sadly, not as funny as previous seasons of this show, but time spent with the Hechs is time well spent). What I'm listening to: Dave Barnes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Reading...Heirs and Graces


t Georgie is a poor aristocrat relying on her connections to get by -- something not uncommon in 1930s Great Britain. When Georgie finds herself at loose ends, she agrees to do a favor for the Dowager Duchess of Kingsdowne Place. The Dowager's oldest son refuses to marry and produce an heir, leaving the family seat in danger of dying out. When the Dowager begins a search for any living relative that could inherit, her detectives discover that her younger son -- who was killed during WWI -- had a wife and son in Australia. The Dowager sends for the previously unknown grandson, and tasks Georgie with helping Jack learn about life as the heir to a dukedom.
In addition to the Dowager and the Cedric -- the oldest son and current Duke -- the Dowager's daughter Irene and her three children are also living at Kingsdowne Place, along with the Dowager's two sisters, a tutor, and some of Cedric's friends. When Cedric turns up dead not long after Jack's arrival at Kingsdowne there are plenty of suspects to choose from, and everyone is quick to point fingers (with the small exception of the Duchess' sisters, who mostly just want to throw seances every night). 

Heirs and Graces is the kind of book that begs to be read in one sitting, with a cup of tea and some shortbread biscuits. It's a solid mystery with a fun and light tone, a delightful heroine, and a vivid setting. It's the seventh in the Her Royal Spyness series, although I didn't realize that when I picked it up at a used book store. Fortunately -- although I'm sure reading the previous books would have added depth to some of the characters and relationships -- I had no problem jumping in at this point in the series. 

Bottom line: if you enjoy your mysteries cozy, or find yourself missing Downton Abbey, give the series a try.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A (not good) Wednesday poem...

Thank You for Your Time

Introduce yourself
be professional
be conversational.

Summarize
give me the hook
the characters
the plot
the tone
the stand-out, fresh, unique perspective.
But please
for goodness' sake
be brief.

Did someone refer you? 
Have we met?

Don't call your work a bestseller
but tell me which bestseller it's like.
Be confident.
No empty bragging please.

Be cool.

No pressure. 






Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. I'm visiting an old friend this week -- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Some friends decided to read it in anticipation of the movie adaptation coming out soon. They asked if I wanted to read along with them, and I am all here for it. I loved this book! I started my re-read last night and even just a few pages in I was transported.

2. I've gotten really into Instagram the past year or so, and one of my favorite people to follow is the children's book author Sally Lloyd-Jones. Instagram is all about photos (and sometimes captions), and Sally Lloyd-Jones' feed is partly adorable pictures people send her of children reading her books, and pictures of nature or architecture -- the kind of picture you take when you're out on a walk and something just catches your eye. She lives in NYC and travels quite a bit, and looking at her pictures are like going for walks around the world with your favorite aunt. They fill a tiny corner of my soul that loves finding art in the mundane.

3. Needtobreathe (my favorite band) recently announced a new tour by dropping a new song that you can either purchase or stream on their web site. Go listen to it...

So good, right? They're coming to Houston in the fall, right around my birthday, which is when they've been in Houston their past few tours. It's basically a birthday tradition, and I am NOT complaining. If you haven't seen them live, do yourself a favor and find a tour stop near you and get tickets. I could listen to their albums all day long, and they are even better live.

4. I've got an idea brewing...I know, I feel like I say that every week. And it's kind of true. I'm trying to stay tapped into my creative writing gene, and keep up the momentum I started building last year. It's life giving (and actually...John Eldredge talks abut that in The Journey of Desire, which I'm still reading and still loving). I'm also trying to use the kids' time at Mothers' Day Out to see if I can channel some of that writing/editing energy into extra income. It's been slow going, to be honest, which keeps me in an almost constant state of re-evaluating my efforts and focus. And to be honest again, all this thinking has become my excuse for getting as active in submitting my finished manuscript to agents. I'm finding excuse because if I don't submit my manuscript, I can't get rejected, right?

5. And for a little Wednesday inspiration, here's another quote from The Journey of Desire:
"The kingdom of God brings restoration. Life is resotred to what it was meant to be...For it to be good againis not for it to be destroyed, but healed, renewed, brought back to its goodness...When he announces the full coming of the kingdom, Jesus says, 'Look, I am making all things new!' (Rev. 21:5 NLT). He does not say, 'I am making all new things.' He means that the things that have been so badly broken will be restored and then some."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. What day is it again? Yesterday was what felt like my first routine day in a weeks. I wouldn't call myself rigid, and I do like adventure and spontaneity now and then; but my brain thrives on rhythms and routines, so going straight from travel to illnesses was driving me crazy.

2. I like Spring, and Spring in Houston really is beautiful....except for the thick layer of yellow pine pollen that covers everything for a good month or two. I wash a lot of yellow kids clothes in March and April. The saddest thing these days is that it's perfect weather for sitting outside and enjoying our screened in porch. Except...you guessed it. It doesn't help that there are two pine trees right at the corner of our porch. I love the shade in the summer, but man...it's not so much fun right now. That said, I'm itching to get outside with a bucket full of rags and do some cleaning back there. Having a screened in porch is one of my favorite things about our little rental house.

3. Speaking of Spring...Christina's favorite outdoor activity these days is to wander through the yard (or the neighbors' yards) picking "flowers" -- i.e., flowering weeds -- and bringing them home to put in little cups of water all over our house. It's pretty adorable. Also a little messy.

4. We got a new mattress this week! We bought our previous mattress 15 years ago, and while it's been a really fantastic and comfortable mattress...it was time. We're trying out Tuft & Needle, one of the foam style mattresses (the kind that get shipped to you shrink wrapped in a box). We get 100 days to try it out, but I'm currently loving it. And the kids are loving the box it came in.

5. I sped through a young adult book last week that I'd bought on sale for the Kindle a while back (I think I saw a positive review of it somewhere before buying it) -- The Start of Me and You, by Emery Lord. It was a really excellent book, the kind of contemporary teen fiction that balances heavy and light in a way that grounds the story in reality, but doesn't get too dark and depressing (there is a place for dark and depressing teen fiction to be sure, but it's not my personal favorite). The story touches on grief, family, change, and friendship. It's about discovering that life is a journey, and we're not meant to stay in one place. On a personal note, the story has some nice details that speak to my nerdy heart -- lots of literature references, some love for the beloved tv show Firefly, and teenagers that love to spend an evening sitting in a coffee shop reading (hello, 16 year old Amanda) Plus, what's a young adult novel without a little bit of romance, right? And this one is on point.

6. I have to end the list with another quote from The Journey of Desire, which I mentioned last week that I started reading (and am still loving). I've been thinking a lot the past couple of years about what it means that the Kingdom of God is now, not just in heaven ("your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..." And this illustration speaks powerfully:
"For most Christians, heaven is a backup plan...heaven is an investment we've made, like treasury bonds or a retirement account, which we're hoping will take care of us in the future sometime, but which we do not give much thought to at present. It's tucked away in a drawer at the back of our minds while we throw our immediate energies into playing the stock market."

Happy Wednesday!

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. Anyway...it'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."