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 Currently: an unpublished manuscript that I'm doing a paid review for.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.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. Pro-tip: writing your document in the format you want/need it to be at the end, is better than going back and re-formatting. I may or may not be saying this because I realized the other day that I should have been indenting my paragraphs (duh), so now I get to go through 356 pages and fix it (and a few other spacing issues). I knew this. Really I did. But somehow that fact got lost. Well, it's a good chance to catch up on my podcasts, right?

2. I have fully jumped on the leather feather earring bandwagon. It started with one pair that I bought just because they are super cool (at Waterloo Style) Then a pair (also Waterloo) that my husband bought me for mother's day. Then Jamie B. Golden of The Popcast introduced me to The Leather Feather on Instagram, and a cute new pair arrived in the mail this week! I showed Jeremy and he asked me "how many do you have now?" And the correct answer is: "can you have too many leather feather earrings?" No. No you can not.

3. I don't know if it's a personality type thing or just a me thing, but I hate not being able to identify the "why" behind a grumpy/sensitive/funky mood. I always want there to be a reason: I'm tired, I'm stressed, it's a full moon, it's hormones. Partly, I think it's easier to come out of the mood if I know why I feel that way. But some days I have to remind myself that maybe there isn't a reason. Or maybe the reason is so unrelated and unidentifiable that it doesn't matter. And I just need to move on as best I can. If that means hitting the reset button 50 times that day, well....that's just how life goes some times.

4. I subscribed to CBS All Access last week. I've been itching to start watching the new Star Trek: Discovery, which is only available through All Access, but I've been waiting until they've aired most of the episodes so I can maximize my subscription. Bonus: The latest season of The Amazing Race started last week, and it's way easier to watch through the CBS app on our Roku. Win-win! We watched the premier of Star Trek, and it's pretty intense for a series premier, skipping a ton of set up to jump right into the action.

5. I am nearing the end of Oathbringer. Near enough, in fact, that it's getting harder and harder to put down when I start reading -- like, I accidentally stayed up until 1 a.m. on a Monday night hard to put down. Must mean it's good, right? (It is. It's good.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Wednesday list...

1. It's Wednesday! I'm writing a list! We're done bushwacking and have found the trail again. (which reminds me of the time we were backpacking with some friends, and Jeremy was guiding us, and the trail guide he was using was old enough that the "trail" we were following hadn't actually been a trail in a long time. Since Jeremy is great at navigating using a compass and a map, we managed to find our way just fine, but I'm pretty sure a few members of our party thought we were going to end up lost in the woods forever.

2. Do you set New Year's Goals? I was feeling ambitious this year in my goal-setting, and naturally I'm feeling zero inclination to hit the ground running this week. However, since I've learned to approach New Year's Goals with a long-term view (i.e., I've got 12 months to make progress!), I can avoid most stress surrounding typical New Year's resolutions. This year it also helps that most of my goals involve just diving into or making forward progress on existing habits/activities/projects/relationships, etc. My word of the year is "deeper," and it's really the idea that I need to dig in where I'm at.

3. One of my goals has to do with working on doing freelance writing/editing work. The past few months I've been looking for work mostly the way one looks for a traditional job, but I think I've been a bit to scattershot with my approach. I can do anything! For anyone! Give me a chance! So, I'm going to try and focus a little bit -- who do I want to seek out and approach, and how can I hone my skills a little bit more specifically in that area. For example: do I want to focus on trying to find academic clients? Clients in the medical field? Book authors? Business clients who need copy editing of marketing or web materials? Etc., etc. I can hone my skills in  those specific areas (relevant style guides, etc). I haven't quite figured out my focus, but knowing what my next step is helps.

4. A reader friend asked me a few days ago what I'm most excited about reading this year. I couldn't answer on the spot, because my memory (of what books are coming out this year) isn't great, but my initial response was -- my bedside stack. There's a stack of books (three short stacks, to be precise) of books I've been given or picked up at used book sales or Half Price Books, and I'd love to actually dive into them and make some progress there. It's slow going - partly having small children and partly now that I'm doing the reader reviews -- but maybe by the end of the year I can at least half the stack(s).

5. Last but not least, here's a link to short article I found really thought-provoking and insightful about what it means to live a quiet life (such as that described by Paul in I Thessalonians 4:11-12 (..make it your ambition to lead a quiet life...) and why that's so important and yet often counter-cultural.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sneak Peek

I've been working on a novel off and on for the past several years, so the highlight of my 2017 definitely came in December when I FINALLY FINISHED IT (Can you tell I'm excited). Of course, it needs some major editing, and this year I'm planning to dive head first into that exercise in humility known as: trying to find an agent (or publisher). I've got a new creative project I'm itching to start, but in the meantime, I thought I'd celebrate the finish by putting a chapter here. Hope you enjoy it! Happy New Year!

The phone was ringing when I walked in the door. Mama was in the garden, Dad wasn’t home from work yet, and I figured the boys were out in the woods so I threw my keys on the hall table and hurried to the kitchen, hoping it hadn’t been ringing long. And hoping that a certain blue-eyed someone was on the other end.
“Hello,” I said, breathless.
“Hey there.”
My skin tingled. “Hey,” I said, still breathless, but not from the sprint, “what’s up?”
“I’m taking smoke break. What are you up to?”
I set my purse on the kitchen table and leaned one hip against it.
“Just got home from the Wallace’s.”
“The who?” I heard him take a deep breath, and could picture him sitting on Jim and Ruth’s back porch with his cigarette in his mouth and the phone cord stretched as far as it would reach.
I laughed. “The Wallaces. My standard summer gig. Mr. Wallace manages the gas station and Mrs. Wallace works part time doing filing at the doctor’s office so they need someone to watch their kids in the mornings during the summer.”
“Sounds fun.”
I couldn’t quite tell if he was mocking me, but I chose to believe he was making genuine conversation.
“It is. They’re good kids, so it feels like easy money.” I wound the long phone cord around my finger.
“Saving up for your around-the-world ticket.”
I laughed, “You know it.”
We chatted for another minute, then George said he had to get back to work. He asked if I was busy after supper.
“Nope,” I said. “Want to do something?” My hands felt shaky as I said this, completely shocking myself with the bold words coming out of my mouth. Betty would be proud – my mother would be horrified.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Want to just head to the diner for some coffee.”
“And pie?”
“Goes without saying.”
I laughed again. George asked if I had a curfew in the summer, and I said 11 p.m., so he said he’d pick me up at 8 p.m. I think I managed to keep my cool long enough for us both to hang up the phone. But then I proceeded to dance and leap around the kitchen, pumping my arms in the air. I called Betty. She squealed, excited as only a best friend can be, and we discussed what I should wear and all the reasons George was so hot. She told me about the latest sweet thing Phillip said to her, and I took my turn listening. We’d been talking for a while when my mom came in, her face shaded with her big straw hat. She’d left her gardening gloves in the mud room, but she still had a few smears of dirt on her face and arms.
“Hi, sweetheart,” she said, smiling. She pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water. “How was your morning?”
“Great,” I said. “We went to the library and the pool for a bit.” I leaned against the counter and pulled an apple from the fruit bowl. “I’m going to go get coffee with George tonight,” I said.
She raised one eyebrow at me and just stared. I caved.
“If that’s all right with you,” I said. Mom was old fashioned, and I found it was better to just roll with it. Fighting Mom just made her dig in.
“Of course,” she said, proving my point. “You’ll be home for supper then?”
“Yeah,” I said. “He’s coming by at 8 p.m. I told him I needed to be home by 11 pm.”
I went upstairs to tear apart my closet before it was time to help mom fix supper. I was pretty distracted all evening, and I know mom picked up on it. Daddy may have noticed, but he tended to ignore my “moods”, even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t have all that many. I tried to eat, but only managed a few bite of potatoes and half a glass of milk before I was nervously tapping my finger on the table and trying to join in on the dinner conversation. Even with the talking – the boys were full of stories today – I could hear the kitchen clock ticking, like a countdown in my head. Once everyone else was done eating, Mom was quick to remind the boys that it was their turn to wash dishes. They were still groaning and making a racket when I gave mom a quick kiss on the cheek of thanks and tore off up the stairs to get ready.
This time, I was trying to go for a casual “I didn’t really try” cool-girl look. I settled on my favorite jeans, a Willie Nelson tee-shirt, and my red espadrilles. I freshened up my hair and makeup with a quick go at the curling iron and a little more mascara and lip gloss. Mom would probably shake her head at my date attire, but she still thought it was a shame people didn’t still leave the house wearing gloves and a hat. I’d just grabbed my purse when the doorbell rang. I took a deep breath and grinned. There was a crazy good-looking guy downstairs. A college guy. A smart guy. And he was waiting for me. 
When I got downstairs, George was sitting and talking with my dad and brothers about the St. Louis Cardinals. My mom wasn’t around, but I could hear her knocking around in the kitchen. I walked into the living room and stood by the door, waiting for Dad to finish his comments on the Cardinals pitching staff.
“Ready?” I asked, as soon as there was a pause in the conversation.
“If you are,” he said with a smile, standing up off the plaid couch.
“You guys have fun,” Dad said, standing up to shake George’s hand. “See you at 11.”
“Sure thing, Dad,” I said, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Bye, Mom!” I hollered toward the back of the house.
It was a perfect hazy and purple late June evening, the air cooling as the sun set. Fireflies were winking under the oak trees and over the vegetable garden, and I could hear frogs singing in our neighbor’s pond. I took a deep breath as I walked to George’s car, smelling the heavy scents of the lilac bushes by the front porch and the honeysuckle that ran along the back fence. We drove the short distance to the diner with the windows down, talking idly about music and our favorite radio stations. There wasn’t much to choose from in Carlton. We only picked up a few Springfield stations and one AM Christian station run out of the basement of the Baptist church. I confessed that I liked the country station best.
“Ah,” George said, grinning and flashing his dimple at me. “So you’re a country girl. Boots and broken hearts and all that.”
I shrugged. “Might as well stay true to my roots, right?” I said.
“Never pegged you for a rhinestone girl,” he said.
“Well, I prefer the more folksy stuff – banjos and mandolins and haunting harmonies.”
“Oh, you mean hippie music.”
I smacked his arm, but laughed at the same time. “Come on, it’s good stuff! And you have to admit, folk and country music have some of the best songwriters around. I mean…some of those songs really tell a story, you know?”
George shrugged. “I’ll have to take your word for it. I’m more of a rock-and-roll guy.”
“Well,” I said. “Challenge accepted.”
George raised his eyebrows. “I’m ready,” he said.
He pulled into the parking lot at the diner, and I thought about how much FUN it was to talk with George. I’d mentioned that to Betty when I’d called her earlier today, and she laughed over the phone.
“It’s called flirting, you goose.”
I thought about that as we slid into the same red vinyl booth we’d sat in last weekend and wondered if Betty was right. I guess I’d never really flirted before. I’d known most of the boys in Carlton since we were in grade school. When I talked to my friends and acquaintances who were boys it was just relaxed and easy conversation – but nothing to write home about. Not memorable. But with George…I felt fully engaged in the converstion. He made me feel funny and interesting and witty. Was that flirting? From the outside, when I’d watched other girls flirt, it had seemed either fake or forced or like at least someone involved was nervous. I didn’t feel at all nervous with George. Well, maybe a little.
“Coffee?” the waitress walked up with her glass pot and winked at me.
“Yes please,” we turned our mugs over on their saucers.
“Anything to eat?” she asked as she poured the steamy, fragrant drink into our cups.
“I’d like a slice of lemon merrangue pie,” George said. He looked at me and smiled. “Rosalee?”
“Umm… any strawberry pie today?”
“Sure thing, honey.” She walked off to get our pies and we looked at each other. We picked up our conversation about music. I told him about some of my favorite musicians, and he told me about concerts he’d been to. I asked him if he worked on Saturdays, and when he said no I invited him to come over Saturday afternoon to let me expand his musical education. Our conversation moved on to more stories of his year at college. He told me about some of his classes, and how everyone wanted to philosophize during class discussions.
“So far,” he said, swallowing a bite of his lemon merrangue pie. “I’ve managed to avoid it in my Algebra class. But one of my buddies says stay out of any of the advanced math classes, because a lot of them get into theory too…which of course leads to some joker wanting to talk about the meaning of life or something. Or you know…Vietnam. It always ends up there.”
We were both quiet. Talk of Vietnam had a tendency to halt any conversation because everyone either had an opinion or a story or both – it was part of everyone’s life. And I read the newspaper pretty regularly, so I could only imagine it’s presence on a college campus. I thought about what to say to fill this particular silence. I didn’t want to blow off the serious topic if it was something he wanted to talk about, but didn’t want to push it either.
“I think people in general just like to hear themselves talk,” George said eventually. “Especially in college. Everyone thinks their ideas are the most important.”
I tilted my head. “And do you enjoy big deep college discussions?”
He shrugged. “Not really. I’m there to learn and get a degree that will help me get a good job.”
He grinned and leaned across the table, lowering his voice. “Well…I’m also there to…socialize.”
I mirrored his movement and lowered my own voice. “You mean…party?” I asked with my own grin.
He laughed this time. “You know Rosalee, I can’t quite figure you out, but I like it. We should definitely keep hanging out.”
Would he still say that if he knew that half of it was pure bravado, that I was forcing myself to act relaxed and nonchalant and…well, cool?
“You know, it’s all an act.” Did I just say that!?
He raised an eyebrow and stretched his arms across the back of the booth.
“What do you mean?” he replied, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“This…casualness.” I waved my hand in the air as though I were trying to illustrate the word. “I’m not experienced with guys.” Again, why was I playing true confession again? Did I WANT him to stop hanging out with me? I picked up my coffee spoon and put it back down again, my eyes focused on a crumb from my pie.
“Rosalee,” George said, reaching out and touching my hand briefly, causing me look up. He was smiling, but in a friendly way. Not mocking like I was afraid it might be.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’re not interviewing for a job here. No experience necessary.”
I laughed.
“You’re pretty, and funny, and I was intrigued by the wholesome small-town girl vibe you’ve got going on”
Was that a compliment?
He put his hand on mine again, lightly, “I’m still intrigued because like I said, I can’t fit you in a neat little box. I like talking to you. You have real conversations and actually share your real opinions. You’re not fake, and that’s pretty awesome. I’m sorry if I made you nervous.”
I blushed. “Well…thanks.”
He leaned back again, leaving my hand bereft and cold. “Now,” he said, shifting the conversation. “We have 45 minutes and unlimited coffee. I need some background before you start subjecting me to his hippie music of yours. Tell me about your top three favorite singers.”
I smiled.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Thursday before Christmas list...

1. The gifts are wrapped, parties have been attended, lights viewed, movies watched, and music played. Laundry is done (as much as it ever is). The suitcases still need to be packed, but there's time for that.

2. I have a bit of a scratchy throat and runny nose situation today. I'm currently blaming it on the wet leaves and pine needles covering our backyard (where I spent an hour or so yesterday afternoon), but whatever it is, that plus too many late nights is making me brain dead today.

3. I've discovered a quite enjoyable new fantasy series through the book reviews that I'm getting paid to do. The first is called In the Darkness Visible, by Ted Niall. I've read the first two and really enjoyed them. They're quick, action-filled reads, with compelling characters. Like I said, I got paid to review them, but I genuinely did like the first two in the series.

4. A podcast I listen to occasionally called The Art of Simple has had a mini series recently called "What's Saving My Life." The co-hosts basically talked about simple, everyday things making life just a little better or more manageable. Things from a great pair of jeans to good t.v. shows during a family illness, to a new haircut to everyday smoothies. It's been a fun reminder that sometimes the simplest pleasures are the sweetest.

5. I recently watched the 2007 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion (thanks to the loan from my pal Stephanie!), and oh my word, it is amazing. Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel and, in my opinion, the most heartbreakingly romantic. This adaptation wasn't very long -- of course, it's the shortest of Austen's work as well -- but I thought they did an excellent job of condensing the story and portraying the heart and soul. And the actors! I was captivated. Like all of Austen's work Persuasion is nuanced and subtle, and it takes skill to bring out passion and life and depth in the story, which the actors did very well.

I hope the next week or so is full of peace and joy and comfort. For some it's a season of fun and happiness, for others this holiday can be kind of intense and tinged with sadness. I pray that your days are full of of exactly what you need.

"Mountains would have bowed down. Seas would have roared. Trees would have clapped their hands. But the earth held its breath. As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking, in the darkness, he came."      
- from The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Loyd-Jones, quote adapted from Luke 1-2

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Wednesday list...

1. Walmart is really coming through for me lately when it comes to running clothes. I've always had trouble finding shirts I like to run in. Eighty percent of the time I'm just doing easy runs in bone-melting heat and humidity, so I want a tank top that fits in my shoulders, isn't tight around my middle, and is in a comfortably thin (but not see through) tech fabric. Is that too much to ask? Apparently, yes.  So when I found the PERFECT tank for me at Walmart this summer I bought five. A few weeks ago, I also decided having another pair of pants/tights might be nice. I have one pair of tights from Old Navy that I like okay, but they're...just okay. Then last week I found the most comfortable and perfect (for me) pants! They're a jogger style, but more tight fitting than a pair of lounge pants, and made of a nice medium weight tech fabric (let's be honest, I don't need anything super heavy in Houston). They are sooo comfortable. I like that they're not skin tight, but slim fitting enough to be comfortable running in, and the jogger style means it doesn't matter how short my legs are. Unfortunately, I can't find a link to either of these things online, but if you're planning to continue or start exercising anytime soon and are in need of fresh athletic wear, you might find a gem at your local Walmart.

2. Jeremy and I finally finished Stranger Things 2 last week. So good! Sequels are hard -- you can't please everyone, especially when everyone now has expectations/wishes for your show. I, for one, am very satisfied. Was it perfect? No, but nothing is. Here are my top three things I liked about season two (SPOILERS AHEAD): 1. Eleven and Hopper. I liked their dynamic, I liked the fact that Hop isn't a perfect parent, but tried really hard. I liked the reality of seeing what it'd be like to have a hormonal teenage girl with super powers, a history of physical and psychological abuse, and little to no moral training or grounding. 2. Steve and Dustin. I loved everything about this pairing. I loved that the creators surprised me with the tragectory of Steve's character, while still making it a believable (to me) arc. 3. Bob Newman, superhero. So unexpected. When the show started, I didn't trust you -- I kept wondering when the other shoe was going to drop...but it turns out, you were just what everyone needed. Honorable mention to the actors -- these kids (well, the adults too, but that's more expected) are really outstanding, and did such a great job with their characters.

3. I was reminded today that there are 12 days until Christmas. There's a tiny part of me that feels like I should be more stressed. Isn't that silly? We've become so conditioned to look at this time of year as a busy, stressful one, and I've tried the past few years to really intentionally approach the Christmas season with a quiet, mindful, joyful spirit so I think maybe I shouldn't be too surprised that it seems to be working. That said, I really do need to set aside a couple of evenings to address Christmas cards.

4. My parents got us an Amazon Echo Show for Christmas. It's our first Echo, and as expected I am loving the play music feature. We've also used it to call my parents (who also have an Echo Show...this is the main reason for the gift. So grandkids can video chat easily with Oma and Papa) and set timers and check the score of the Houston Rockets game. I'm sure there are a lot of other features I'll enjoy using in the future, but for now it's definitely a fun new toy.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Wednesday list

1. It's rainy and cold here today. I don't even mind the rain too much since it brought with it some cooler temperatures. Of course, that also means that as soon as I finished brewing our typical 1/2 pot of coffee this morning I thought to myself...probably should have brewed the whole pot.

2. Thank goodness for public libraries. I have always been and always will be a public library fan, and while the one closest to us is closed for post-flooding repairs, the one we've been going to in the meantime has a fantastic children's department. One library-related thing saving my sanity these days is the plethora of book recommendations from the staff. In my head I spend lots of time at home perusing books and reading reviews and requesting the perfect list. But in reality, I rely on the once-a-week email recommendations I get based on the kids' ages and theme preferences, and on the display books at the library. I love the display books because I can browse and be spontaneous without digging through the stacks. Three cheers for librarians!

3. I'm finally giving in this week and shopping for a new pair or two of running shorts. I love the ones I have, three out of five pair don't have a draw string waist band, and the elastic is super stretched out, which makes for too much tugging during a run. I didn't feel like shopping at a store, so I bought some online and we'll see how they work.

4. Got my Christmas morning cinnamon rolls in the freezer yesterday Mmmm..... It's become one of those things that really makes me get in the Christmas spirit. I use The Pioneer Woman's recipe (minus her glaze/frosting) with just a couple of tweaks, and it hasn't let me down yet.

5. I read these verses this morning and they've really got me thinking today:
"I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of the world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." II Corinthians 10:3-5
 A perk of my chronological Bible plan is that I end up reading large chunks of the Bible at once, entire letters, for example. I'm struck in Corinthians (the second letter, in particular) about how as Christians we are to be separate from the world -- not physically, but in our hearts and in the overflow of our hearts (our actions and behavior). I think Christians often interpret this in outward ways, but the above passage is, in my opinion, a strong example of how our separateness is about way more than how we dress, what media we consume, what we do or do not eat or drink. It's about our worldview, the very foundation of who we are, about what's in our hearts. THAT is what's really going to set us apart from the world (see: I Corinthians 13). While that applies in so many ways, this example of essentially how we fight/disagree really seems appropriate right now. "We do not wage war as the world does" -- leveraging hate and human power and anger and discord -- our weapons "have divine power to demolish strongholds." Our we fighting the right enemy? Are we speaking in gentleness and humility and compassion (not to be confused with weakness). Are we recognizing spiritual battles for what they are?  Food for thought.

Cheers! (It's the rainy English weather talking)