Monday, September 18, 2017

A Monday list

1. I'm procrastinating on a chapter I need to finish on my novel. Which, seriously, I know I've been saying since the spring is almost done...but it's really almost done. I think now I need to do a little organizing work, which may be distracting me from finishing this chapter and one other that I know for sure I need to write. But I also need to see where there are gaps in the story. What I thought I told, but didn't. I need to wrap up the ending -- put a bow on it and all that. I really hate writing endings though. And by hate, I mean...I'm not good at it. Even ending blog posts is often a struggle.

2. I joined a knit-a-long on Instagram this month. It's a gorgeous lacy shawl pattern and wool-silk blend yarn by Treasure Goddess (the knit-a-long is sponsored by her and The Sexy Knitter). A lace shawl is something I've never done before, but something I think suits the climate of Houston a little better than some other knitting projects. Plus, the group knit aspect of a knit-a-long makes it more fun and gives me a good place to ask questions if/when I run into a tricky part.

3. The kids and I went to the Tomball Farmer's Market on Saturday, and had a great time. It was a little hotter and more humid than I would have preferred (not abnormally so for September, sadly), but we got some yummy looking produce, grass-fed beef, popsicles, and locally roasted coffee beans that I haven't tried yet but am really looking forward to. We also ended up stopping at a little splash pad on the way back to the car, which was probably the highlight for the kids.

4. I keep obsessively checking the weather waiting for another break in the heat and humidity. It's better than it was a month ago, but we had such a nice week or two earlier in the month (right after the hurricane) that I'm anxious for a return of those cooler and dryer mornings. Oh well! I'll survive.

5. I just started a new book today (I finished one this weekend, but I'm planning on writing a review of it later so I won't say much about it here). It's fantasy, and one that I'm reading for review. So far I'm only in the prologue, but my first impression is....I hope they tone down the overwriting a little. I'm also trying to decide if I want to dive into an audio book this week since listening to an audio book is a lot of fun to do while knitting -- which I'm doing more of, per number 1. A couple of people have also recently recommended tv shows that sound really good. I know I don't actually have to pick one or the other, but sometimes it's nice when watching/reading time is limited to not feel quite so pulled in too many directions.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When 1 + 1 does not equal 2

Information is everywhere, and you can access information in almost any way you can imagine. As a librarian, I'm predisposed to think this is a great thing. As a librarian, my mind also jumps to all the complications of a seemingly endless and easily accessible well of information. How do you know what's reliable? How do you get what you need easily and quickly? What's the best format for a particular piece of information? How do you preserve it, organize it, make it available? How do you decide what's worth keeping (and organizing for that matter)?

When I became a parent, the one thing I knew was that I didn't know anything. I was eager to learn and eager for information. Pregnancy, giving birth, taking care of a baby, raising a human being. I knew next to nothing, and my first instinct was to want to know as much as possible. And anyone parenting in this age of information will tell you that there is just so. much. advice. out there. You could go broke buying baby books and child rearing books, and all of them are going to contradict each other. Add to that blogs and web sites and parenting articles published in nearly any online publication imaginable. Add to that the way parents used to get advice: friends, neighbors, parents.

It's a lot. And sooner than I expected, I stopped my never-ending quest to have the perfect amount and blend of parenting knowledge. For one thing, it's overwhelming. But what I've begun to realize is that the overabundance of parenting advice and information can lead to the assumption that there is one right way to do things. One perfect formula that will give you the results you want. Only one problem with that:

Kids are people too.

Crazy concept, I know, but when I can remember that my kids are little human beings, it helps me to keep a little perspective. Perspective when the kids are tantruming...or fighting...or reaching milestones at their own pace....or taking their time with potty training....or not sleeping the way I think they should sleep. Kids are people too, and those little personalities (or big personalities) and preferences and thoughts and desires result in a lot of variables. Is seeking advice a good thing? Sure. But I've realized I'm a whole lot happier if I spend less time reading about what everyone else is doing, less time looking for "expert" formulas and more time loving on my kids, praying for them, and just getting to know them and finding out what makes them tick.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. I finished Buried Heart, by Kate Elliott this week. It's the third in her Court of Fives trilogy (I wrote a review of the first one here). I very much enjoyed Buried Heart, both as a story in its own right, but also as the conclusion of the trilogy. I was a little worried at one point that Jessamy (the main character) was about to do some things completely out of character, but in the end she was true to herself and the ending was very satisfying. Overall, I thought Elliott did a fantastic job of creating a rich and vibrant world for this trilogy, characters that were compelling enough that I cared what happened to them even if I wanted to smack them upside the head more than a few times, and a plot that never dragged or felt forced.

2. Kiddos start Mother's Day Out this week (we're calling it pre-school because it's easier to say and close enough). Should be a fun adventure!

3. We had cool front move through today and it feels FANTASTIC outside! We played at the park this morning and couldn't have asked for better weather. Probably should have taken advantage of the good weather for a run...but there's always tomorrow!

4. I'm reading a ghost-busting middle grade novel right now -- it's for a review web site that I'm going to start contracting with on occasion. $15 to write a short paragraph review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads. It's my first one, and part of me feels a little weird. There can be a stigma that paid consumer reviews (those posted on sites like Goodreads and Amazon) aren't "real," because there's a temptation to be falsely positive, but I've been instructed to be honest, and as long as that's the case I can't think of anything unethical about it. Plus, it'll be good experience to be able to add to my freelance writing resume.

5. Once I finish the paid-for review I've got a couple of library books to dig into -- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, a sequel that I keep forgetting I haven't read yet. We'll see if I can read them before they disappear!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Wednesday List....Hurricane Harvey edition

It's been a weird few days. Maybe you've heard about the catastrophic weather event happening in South Texas? To recap: Hurricane Harvey, hitting the coast at a category 4 and moving very slowly inland where it decided to camp out over Houston and dump record breaking levels of rain on the nation's fourth largest city -- a place that is prone to flooding under normal circumstances. Thousands stranded and displaced. We have been very lucky -- our neighborhood got some high water in the street, but houses remained dry. Streets and buildings and homes not far from us are flooded, but we are okay. Of course, it's the kind of few days that generate a lot of thoughts to process, and you all know how I like to best process things...

1. I've mostly spent the past four days feeling extremely grateful. Grateful that my family was together and safe, that we had power and water and food and even a luxury like working Internet. I've been thankful for first responders, community volunteers, meteorologists, and friends and family who check on each other. And a special shout-out to the two meteorologists to run www.spacecityweather.com, providing factual, current, non-sensational updates and forecasts. 

2. While there have been some disheartening accounts of people behaving badly, it's been inspiring to see and hear people rallying around each other and reaching out to neighbors in a very broad sense of the word (have you heard about the Cajun Navy? Yeah, that's just pretty awesome). Stressful circumstances can bring out the worst in people, but they also bring out the best too. 

3. There's nothing like a natural disaster to remind you that your not in control. It's an exercise in trusting God and leaning on Him. 

4. Along with being out of control is that feeling of being helpless. Of watching heartbreaking news footage or hearing the reports of damage and flooding and knowing it's not over by a long shot, but knowing there's nothing you can do at this moment. But sometimes one of the best ways to help is by staying out of the way and not adding to the chaos (especially when you've got two toddler/preschoolers in to think about). So I wait, knowing that one day the sun will come back, and opportunities will pop up for me to get my hands dirty, and I simply pray that I will see them and jump in with both feet. 

5. It's hard to think about life beyond the twilight zone bubble, but I know we'll get back to regular day-to-day life eventually. We'll stop watching too much tv (sorry kids). On a side note, I didn't finish the book I'd started which surprised me a little -- we've had a lot of extra down time, but not as much with keeping routines somewhat normal for the kids, plus I'm rewatching Friends right now too -- but I'm about halfway through Buried Heart, by Kate Elliott. Things are getting good!

5. I've been really touched by all the friends checking in on us, some I expected to hear from and some I didn't. Each text or message was a real bright spot. 

Please keep praying for Southeast Texas, and hug your loved ones today!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. We have family visiting from out of town this week! I always love family visits, especially when they are long enough to be leisurely.

2. The littlest munchkin turned 2 yesterday (thus the family visit). It surprises me every time I think about it! But I hear that's how it goes with kids. He's a pretty cool kid (even with the beefed up toddler emotions). He's funny and silly and affectionate and joyful.

3. Reading-wise: I read Girl on the Train recently. More accurately, I read the first two-thirds and skimmed the last third. I was spoiled on the ending, and while that doesn't always mean I don't finish a book, sometimes it does. Overall it was was a pretty good mystery, but not my favorite. After I finished it I shopped my own bookshelves and finally picked up a book someone had given me to read several years ago. I gave The Heart is a Lonely Hunter a solid chance, but it's going to be a DNF for me. Party of my problem may have been the writing style -- it was written in the forties and the phrasing and style felt a little clunky -- but nothing really sparked my interest enough to keep going. It wasn't really depressing, but definitely leaned toward melancholy. I have a guess that any book written post WWI and pre-WWII probably leans that way, and if I were feeling scholarly I might seek out a large sample size of books written during that time and put my theory to the test (I mean...think about Hemingway). But I'm not feeling all that scholarly so....

4. I picked up Buried Heart, by Kate Elliott, the third in a trilogy I'm looking forward to finishing. I'm also slowly working my way through Business Boutique by Christy Wright and would like to get started on my pre-release copy of Finish, by Jon Acuff. Naturally, with all these books I want to read, I'll probably waste time re-watching episodes of Friends on Netflix.

5. I'm pretty much over summer. Let me rephrase that: I'm over sweating and trying to keep my house from being run over by bugs. However, the reality of living in Houston is that we've still got a ways to go. So I'll say it and take a deep breath and then accept reality and try to find some silver linings (like the nice long growing season in Texas and the plentiful and cheap fresh and delicious produce). Because there's no point in getting too worked up over something that you can't change.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Monday list

The past two days I've felt alternately angry, sad, and helpless in the face of hateful, racist, violent words and demonstrations. I know that the rally in Virginia isn't an isolated event, just a large and high profile one. It's a heartbreaking reminder that there are people who, for whatever reason, have let hate and anger and fear take root in their hearts. Who don't believe that we are all created in God's image, and that our differences are what make our world interesting. It's a reminder that people all over the world believe the answer to their problems is the existence of someone else -- someone "other" -- in the same space. We see this conflict played out time and time again, but it gets no less devastating. So here's my list for today, the things I'm reminding myself...

1. Pray. Pray like I BELIEVE it. Pray that people's hearts would change in the way that only Jesus can change them. Pray for Christians to be bold, compassionate, loving, and humble.

2. Pay attention. Pay attention to any opportunity I have to be a light in this dark, dark world. Maybe that's reaching out to a neighbor, giving time or money to organizations already fighting the good fight, teaching my children one day at a time to be loving and respectful of all people, or speaking out if I hear someone saying things that are hateful.

3. Follow Jesus to the best of my ability, in the circumstances I find myself in. The reality is that I will do more good occupying my own space well than in fretting over what I can't do at this moment. Am I loving my neighbors well? Do I see an opportunity to bless a friend struggling with grief, to take a meal to a sick neighbor, to be kind and friendly to that kind of weird person at church who is feeling lonely and outcast?

I think I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the fact that I don't know what it's like to have such hatred focused at me, and because of this words often fail me. I don't want to spout platitudes or be condescending in an effort to mean well, but what I will say is that I am sorry, I am angry, I hurt for you, and I can't imagine how you're feeling. I hope I can live my life in a way that is the opposite of hate.

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the worlds' goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." I John 3:16-18

"Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, 'With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?' Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,' says the Lord; 'I will place him in the safety for which he longs.' The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on teh ground, purified seven times. You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. On every side the wicked prowl as vileness is exalted among the children of man." Psalm 12

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Monday list

1. I took a big dream baby step today: I bought a domain name! Because I'm not in the mood to reinvent the wheel, www.amandaloveswords.com is now mine, all mine! And after way too much reading and a few attempts to make things harder than I needed to, I redirected the domain to this existing blog. One day I may try to develop an online portfolio -- which would require a bit more of an advanced web site than a simple blog -- but in the meantime, I think the simplified domain name looks a little more professional when I'm trying to do writer/editor/proofreader-type networking.

2. I've been in the mood for a true rainy day, and got my wish this morning. Granted, because it's August in South Texas that means that it's going to feel like a literal jungle outside, but it is what it is.

3. I started The Girl on the Train this weekend (the book). It's not the kind of mystery/suspense novel that I usually gravitate toward, but a friend read it and passed it on, and if someone I know physically hands me a book to try, I am more inclined to at least give it a go. (which reminds me that it's been at least three years, maybe more, since my friend Rita gave me a couple of books to read, and I still haven't cracked them open yet. Oops. Of course, one of them she said she didn't like, which isn't exactly motivating).

4. July seemed to last forever, but now I'm wondering how we're a week into August already. The kids are going to be starting a two-day-a -week Mother's Day after Labor Day, and there are a couple of other things going on that first week of September. So I think the forward-thinking-looming-deadlines-giant-list-making is taking my gaze off of the every day here and now.

5. Last week the kids and I checked out a little local used book store that's just a few minutes from the house. They had an adorable little kids section with big floor pillows and a little table and chairs, and now Christina keeps asking to go on a "bookstore adventure."  Because I was trying to manage the kid chaos (and explain to Christina the difference between borrowing books from the library, which we do every week, and buying books from a bookstore) I didn't really look around the adult section too much, but it seems to have a pretty decent variety, especially for a small store. I'm looking forward to making another trip soon.

Happy Monday!