Monday, August 26, 2013


I should be cleaning.
I should be rushing around with a vacuum and a swiffer and pretty scentsy things to reconstruct my little house into some remnant of a put together home. Because, you see, my mom is coming to visit Wednesday (YAY!!!!).  I'm suddenly sixteen and scrambling to get my room cleaned up before mom comes home from errands. That panic. I have it.
And that panic tends to make me shut down and avoid the important things.
However, I did build a bookshelf today. Ghetto bedroom entertainment center made of boxes we have no more! My bedroom is legit. FINALLY.

I should be cleaning.
But instead I'm here . . . because I can be.
Because I want to be.
Because I like it here.

Sometimes, days are not at all what you expect.
This weekend was supposed to be filled with adventure and decorating and goings on. Instead, we ran errands, which I love doing with Chris for some odd reason. I love holding his hand in the parking lot and laughing at ridiculous items for sale. I love the looks he gives me when he knows I'm giving him my penny-pincher face. I love that I can tell, just by watching him, when he's found what he wants and there's no changing his mind. But, really, I LOVE GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE.

 I understand, now, why some women do nothing but shop. You just have to get out.
Typically, shopping is one of my least favorite things. That might change because, you, see, when you're alone, indoors, maybe even outdoors, walking through your neighborhood (or, in my case, the entire town . . . because it's just that tiny), but it's the same space. 
To go out, into town, is a whole new thing. To see new faces, look at new things. You CRAVE newness, even if it's just a tee shirt. 
Plus it's new colors. I adore colors. I drink them in. Colors. Beautiful bright little things that they are.

Found these delights on the side of the road, growing proud and bright and solitary, while I was walking the dog.
I adore the flowers out here. They're everywhere. Old blooms, new blooms, all the time.

So, this weekend, we shopped for things we needed (like hiking shoes! yay!) and Chris laughed at my I-don't-want-to-spend-the-monies agony (I'd like to say I'm a bargain hunter, but the truth is that I'm just miserably cheap when it comes to buying for myself . . . I'm a flippin charity buying for others).  We drove up a mountain on the tiniest, windiest, one-inch-out-line-and-you-tumble-to-your-death mountain roads to scout out a new hike (score! Fremont Peak, here we come!).  

We didn't get things done.

But we went out. We held hands. We laughed. We reflected on how perfect the "Tron: Legacy" soundtrack is for driving through mountains (Don't believe me? You should try it). We scrounged for food because we definitely need more groceries and kept forgetting to drop by the grocery store because mountain drives are more important. We played video games and talked expansions. We were nerds. We were adventurers.

Now, we're back at real life and I do NOT want to vacuum.
But I'll do it anyways. ;]

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Netflix Wins: North & South, Mushi-shi, Frasier, and The Life of Mammals

I've decided that I should try to put all my time in front of the TV to good use. Kind of. Maybe?
You see, I know how frustrating it is when you finish a decent series on Netflix and you just don't know where to go next. I watch a little bit of everything, so, hopefully, as I review four of my new favorites, I can help give you some new viewing ideas.
And, in return, you tell me some of yours! Yay for movies and series!!!

For this installment we have:

I'm a sucker for BBC mini series. Really, I am.
I opened up North and South not knowing what to expect. I was HOOKED.  It's a four-part series about the Hale family who moves from their pleasant parsonage in Southern England to the industrial North.  Within two minutes of meeting factory owner John Thorton, passionate Margaret Hale has decided she hates him. And, folks, it is ON.
She thinks he's harsh and heartless. He thinks she's arrogant and without a clue. And, wouldn't you know it, that's not the case AT ALL.
Ok, so this review makes it sound like any shallow romance. It's NOT.  There's great depth to the characters and the issues of social justice and welfare in the time period. Basically it's Pride and Prejudice with a cause. You see the issues of the upper class, the plight of the lower class, and how they all fit together. The growth in both Margaret and John is really well done, transforming the characters slowly and believable through a shared series of events. You pretty much know where this story is going, but the suspense is great. I couldn't wait to turn on the next episode to see how it all played out.
And Richard Armitage, people? Oh my goodness. More please.
The whole cast is fantastic, but RICHARD ARMITAGE. Brooding has never been so sexy.
If you enjoy period pieces, Victorian Britain, and anything resembling Jane Austen, turn this on and enjoy. I adored every second of it.
Now I just have to find the book!

I confess: I love anime. I just do. I find some of the most creative and well-written stories hidden within Japanese animation. It's a wonderful escape and a feast for the imagination.
Mushi-Shi is a collection of short stories surrounding invisible creatures between flora and fauna--"mushi"--that are tied to all life. The entire series feels like an anthology of ancient folk tales attempting explain problems and illnesses by attributing them to these bizarre creatures.  
Ginko is a "mushi master" traveling historical Japan, searching for exotic mushi and aiding those who find themselves pestered or plagued by the spirit creatures.  Sometimes the stories are happy little vignettes, others not even remotely. It's hard to tell how each episode will end.
It's a beautiful mood piece--the music and artwork are simple but wonderfully fitted to each scene and emotion. Sadly, Netflix only carries the English dub, but it's not too bad.  I look past English dubs WAY more easily than the hubs does--he won't watch anime unless it's in Japanese.
Considering how short each episode is, I thought the characters were pretty well developed. Their feelings and decisions make SENSE in a world that is both fantastical in concept and gritty in its reality.  You feel for their struggles.
If you want an escape into a realm of fantasy, I highly recommend Mushi-shi.  At twenty-six episodes only twenty minutes long, it's not a terribly long watch, but it's worth it.

Julie used to tell me how she would sneak into Chris's room late at night to watch Frasier with him. Chris continued to recommend it, so FINALLY I checked it out.
It was worth it.
At some point, I will learn that Chris is almost always right.
You know, I tried really hard to come up with a time when he wasn't right and I couldn't think of one. But I'm sticking with "almost" anyways.
Frasier Crane is a successful radio psychiatrist dishing out advice to the citizens of Seattle despite the fact that his life is kind of falling apart. He's newly divorced, his widowed father just moved in, and his married brother has a crush on their physical therapist. Plus, his dad's dog won't stop staring at him.
I love the juxtaposition between Martin--Frasier's tough and practical ex-cop dad--and his two sons who would rather discuss fine art and opera than watch a football game. Beer is out of the question--Cabernet Sauvignon is far superior--and, if you must partake, PLEASE use a coaster.
The dialogue is witty, and the characters are hysterical but entirely human.  Good writing and humor is never goes out of style . . . even if Frasier's mullet in the first seasons drove me batty. Thank goodness some hairstyles die and never come back.
If you're looking for some laughs with a sprinkling of sophistication, check out Frasier.  It never fails to put a smile on my face

David Attenborough's The Life of Mammals
I ADORE documentaries, especially nature documentaries, and ESPECIALLY nature documentaries by David Attenborough. Something about his voice . . . I don't know if the documentaries are just plain BETTER than others or if his pleasant voice only makes it seem that way. Either way, he's a winner.
The Life of Mammals involves ten episodes categorized by the different feeding habits or habitat of a mammal group (insect hunters, plant predators, opportunists, etc.)
Each one is filled with stunning photography and just heaps of information all delivered conversationally by Sir Attenborough. It's almost as if we were only discussing the mating habits of hedgehogs over tea instead of viewing an educational program. 
What, YOU don't talk about lions, bats, whales, and hedgehogs over tea and biscuits? How astounding.
No really, I laughed out-loud at the hedgehog scene. Because, um . . . SEX. I'm a twelve-year-old boy sometimes, I swear. (and um, on that note, these documentaries aren't shy at all about that whole mating thing . . . just in case you were considering putting little kids in front of the screen. Animals hunt, kill and mate. Circle of life and all that jazz).
 I loved this series. Every minute of it. I have learned that if a documentary has David Attenborough's name on it, you've discovered a real gem. 

And those are four of my top choices (there are SO many that I love, but I thought I'd start with a handful of more obscure ones and maybe work my way into the more popular titles).

What are some of your favorite Netflix picks?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Part 2: And the Moon Danced

Read Part 1

It's my sophomore year of high school, 2003, and summer is approaching.
I think it's spring but it feels like summer. It's hard to tell in Florida. 

I'm in Julie's room, changing into my pajamas after swimming, when Julie bursts in. "Julie! Gosh! I'm not dressed!"
I'm too modest for my own good. No, really, I won't even change in front of my own sex. It's pathetic. Thank God I get over that after a week in college.
"Get over it! Put clothes on, quick! If we're fast, Chris will take us to go watch a lunar eclipse!"
"Yeah! So hurry up!"

I scramble into my clothes, try to comb my hair, and follow Julie out into the living room where Chris and Joe are waiting.  "See! I told you we could be ready!" Julie says. "So, we're going now, right? Right?"
Chris smirks. "Sure, fine."
Julie squeals when she's excited, like a child at Christmas. She's almost sixteen, but she's so petite she looks twelve, maybe younger.
Then there's me--everything feels too long, the wrong shape. But my braces are off, finally. At least  I have that going for me, if nothing else.

At the surprise party for my sixteenth birthday.
You know, I really loved that hat.
And, funny story, see the fellow in the top row on the left? That's my future brother-in-law.
More on that later.
 Boys don't speak to me so I assume they don't see me.
Apparently, I'm a bit wrong.

Because, you see, Chris has seen me. Something about my eyes caught his attention that first night, when he woke up from a nap on the living room couch and saw this stranger with his sister (he tells me years later). Suddenly, whenever I'm around he grows bewilderingly nervous and shy. He hides it well--cool, collected, uninvolved--and he makes a habit of staying out of sight. The day I meet Joe, he hopes that Joe doesn't see me, too. Joe gets all the girls, you see, with his charm.  Usually, Chris doesn't mind, but, he thinks this time he might.
I've been told I should like Joe, and, in all honesty I do.  Julie has convinced me that he's everything I had hoped for in a guy. She's talked him up something lovely, even though she said he looks like Orlando Bloom and that was an outright lie.
But there's something about Chris that makes my heart pound and my palms sweat. Something I can't push out of my mind. He's all wrong for me, with his gaming and his quiet.  I need noise, don't I?
Maybe. Maybe not.

So . . . one day, Chris's female friends were super bored and decided to clean him up, take off the glasses, style his normally scruffy head of hair, and make him model.  For him, it was torture of the highest level. That smirk? That's his "I'm going to kill you all when this is over" face.
He would kill me dead several times if he knew that I had posted this picture.
But I love it, so I'll take that risk.
Do you see why I couldn't resist, people?

"Well, if you're ready hurry up. We're meeting Ande and Alyssa. I don't want to miss it," Chris says, and we follow him outside to his Ford Bronco. It's an army green clunker, but I haven't seen a car that cool before, not ever.  Climbing inside that bucket of bolts was like entering hollowed ground.  Sheltered as I was, I had never been in a boy's car before. What a little thrill it gave me. 
I still hold a soft spot in my heart for Broncos, just because of that night.

The moment the doors close, Chris hits the gas, and, man, can that truck move. Joe fumbles with the dials on the dash, and music roars out of the stereo.  He and Chris are yelling and headbanging, fists held aloft, like men charging into battle.
It's not the music you'd expect twenty-year-old boys to mosh to. It's not death metal, punk, or rock 'n; roll.
It's an Irish Penny Whistle.
Screaming its cheery little tune. And the boys are screaming with it.

I want you to picture it, picture that moment. Here we come around a corner, far too quickly, Julie and I tumbling into each other, Chris and Joe's collection of empty Yoohoo bottles rolling and clinking under our feet. Joe is chugging from a bottle of Canada Dry pop, and the music is so loud it's pounding in our chests.  Celtic music.
Music you do a pleasant, skipping jig to on a happy day.
They've turned it into a testosterone-charged battle cry.

I'm scrambling for my seatbelt, laughing, because I have never seen anyone act so wildly  but be so cool at the same time. 
In that moment, Chris and Joe are the coolest boys I've ever seen. No one could compare to the road warriors of the penny whistle.

They didn't speak to us, but we fussed at them for the driving. I can't remember what I said, but I was so nervous and excited that I'm sure it was idiotic.
Probably entirely true, but sounded idiotic.

Chris and Joe being Chris and Joe
He still has that orange vest and the afro stashed in our closet.
Because you never EVER know when you'll need to pretend you just escaped the 70s

We finally pull up into an empty field in the middle of the woods, but you can hear the highway on the other side of the trees.
I know, it sounds really bad. If this were a horror film, this is the moment when some serial killer pops out and destroys us all.

Luckily, it's not a horror film. It's my life, which, apparently, is less exciting and considerably less bloody.

Instead of leading us to our doom or slaughtering us, Chris hops onto the roof of the Bronco and begins drumming.  Joe accompanies him, beating on the hood of the truck. It's like a weird moment from that musical with the trash-cans, Stomp. Different tones, perfect rhythm. Oddly musical.

I applaud. I can't help myself.
I say something stupid about liking all music except Michael Jackson, and Joe refutes me saying that, if I like all music, then I would like the King of Pop, because disliking him would make my previous statement false. He's logical and philosophical and all that jazz.
I'm mortified so I shut up for the rest of the night. Actually, I'm still embarrassed about it. My former humiliations cling to me for years. It's been ten years, and I'm still, "Gah, why was I so awkward!?!"

And, before you stone me, let me be clear: at sixteen, I had only ever heard one song by Michael Jackson: the music video for the "Free Willy" movie. I was so encased in an anti-media bubble that I didn't fully understand who he was, only that he looked like a bug-eyed corpse in a wig. That scared me.
As an adult, I fully recognize his musical genius.
But he still looked like a scary bug-eyed corpse in a wig.

We wander to a clearing--their old backyard, I'm told, and, one day it is my backyard--and I stub my toe on a pine cone. I can still smell the damp, swampy air, hear the mosquitoes buzzing in my ear and the frogs chorus. I don't mind though.  I stand close to Chris, just to try it, feel him almost smiling, staring into the night.
And a woman jumps on his back, hooting like a banshee.

Moment ruined.

Ah, he has a girlfriend. Or an almost girlfriend, I think, and inch away, hovering closer to Julie. We are outside observers, after all, tag-alongs on an event not intended for our company. I best remember my place.

Chris catches the excited female--Ande--and tries not to grimace. Alyssa appears quietly at her side, and the four young adults begin to chatter,  the two high schoolers forgotten. These four have been friends for years, a friendship that continues to this day. Good people.

Ande just happened to have jumped on Chris when we were both unconsciously trying to make a move on the other.
Kind of.
LOOK--if you're shy, breathing the same air as your crush is "making a move."
And I was doing all kinds of moving that night.

Adam, Chris, and Joe, then Alyssa and a girl who is not Ande . . . I'm not sure who that is . . . aren't I dreadful???

We wait and watch for the eclipse, but it's an overcast night. Tonight, the moon appears, disappears, appears once more, and disappears again. I don't know how long we waited, sweating through our clothes, sucked dry by insects.  It may have been hours, it may have been twenty minutes.  But the eclipse never appears.

Or, maybe it did, and you couldn't tell because of all the stupid clouds. The moon winks at us again and again. It knows what's going on even if we don't.

I have no idea that Chris finds a "brightness" in me, something he can't keep out of his mind.
Chris has no idea that I can't push him out of mine either, that I'm beginning to wonder if Julie is rooting for the wrong crush. That I like his sweet, thoughtful quiet more than chattering charm. That, for once in my life, I find myself liking green eyes more than blue.

Chris and Joe drop us back off at Julie's house, where we scurry off giggling to bed.
The next morning, Chris's door is shut, as it usually is.  I stand there, wanting to knock and say thank you. Thank you for such a very fun night . . . but I can't make myself do it. The words catch in my throat, and I just can't.
So I do what seems the next best thing. I tear out a piece of notebook paper and begin to scribble a thank you.  I sign it, "Your sister's twerpy friend" and slide it under the door.

What I don't know is that he sees it.
That he reads it.
And then he keeps it.

He doesn't know that I never forget that night, that little kindness.
That, in our following English class, I write about it as one of the best nights of my life.

I write him several notes over the next year--thank yous for driving us, for lending us things, for treating us like people and not pests. Thank you for seeing me, I keep trying to say and can't. 
What I don't know is that he tucks them all away in a safe place.

And he saves them all.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August Edition of Literary Junkies

  I've never done this link up before and am eager to give it a try! Books are fabulous and bookish people even more so! Here we go!
 1. What are you currently reading? Tell us about it!
I'm actually working on two at the moment--one for day time reading and one for before bed.
During the day, I'm working on All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy.
I fell in love with McCarthy when I read The Road three years ago, so I thought I'd try one of his older works. McCarthy is definitely a man's author--there's little description of emotion, appearances, or locations, you know all the stuff that matters to a woman. Instead, he describes the things important to our young, male protagonist: the smell of horses, the way a woman's hair falls across her back, the landscape, what he ate for dinner--these things. It's jarring at first, being thrown into a story with no explanation, but that's part of its brilliance. I'm loving this story of the misadventures of a runaway as he rides from Texas to Mexico then finds ways to survive. There's even a little bit of a love story. I can't wait to finish it! 
 My nighttime reading is Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson. 
I don't know how to categorize this book: it's not fiction, but it's not really nonfiction, either. It's not self-help or even strictly religious. It's more . . . reflective? Wilson has written his thoughts on the miracles in the tiniest pieces of life, found beauty in what we often find the most insignificant, and then uses that to put the human life in perspective.  It's touching, thoughtful, challenging, funny, and, honestly, quite beautiful.  How would you live if you realized nothing was too small or meaningless? That there's beauty and adventure in the tiniest things?   

2. What is one book you think every person should read at least once in their life? Why?
 Hmmm . . . I honestly don't know . . . there are so many good ones . . . I think . . . Maybe . . . It's a tie between The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  All three of them, in some way, have challenged the way I look at life and people. Plus, they're just wonderful books.
 3. Do you think you could ever write a book? If so what genre would it be?
When I was 12, I started writing a book. I wrote and edited it until I was sixteen. I still toy with it and plan to rewrite it, perfect it, if you will. To be honest, I hate the idea of failing it--failing to write well, failing to tell the story, to pull it all together. It was a fantasy. If I ever really do rewrite it, it will still be a fantasy :]

4. Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you look for the same things in an audiobook that you do in one you'll read?
I LOVE audio books! Two of my favorites to listen to have been The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (GREAT mystery) and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (Hilarious! And read by Tim Curry! Huzzah). 
In both audio and print books, I look for good writing, great characters, and an engaging story. For specifically audio, however, I HAVE to have an awesome narrator. If the person reading the book does a lousy job, it draws you out of the story and all you can focus on is how grating the voice is.  For instance, once, during a road trip, my family tried to listen to The Trumpeter Swan by E.B. White, read by E.B. White. Oh dear me . . . The man can write, but he can't narrate at ALL. We had to turn the story off before the first chapter.
5. Can you suggest a book of each type for others to try:
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Nonfiction: Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Fiction: The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain
Romance: I'm not really a romance reader . . . at all . . . does that make me less of a woman? But, I suppose The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern would count--there's a definite love story there, even if it takes you half a book to reach it. Plus it's a great read. 
Classics: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Young Adult: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pinnacles National Park

A couple of weeks ago, Chris and I randomly went hiking, just drove, found a park, and walked the hills.
So, last Sunday, we decided to try Pinnacles National Park and took the Moses Rim Trail, a trail of "moderate difficulty."
Peeps let me give you a warning: unless you're a super hiker with repelling equipment, you don't want to take any of the "strenuous" trails. Chris and I aren't necessarily experienced hikers and I'd like to think we're not out of shape, but the trails get steep and rocky.  Still, it's AWESOME. Beautiful views.
The Moses Rim Trail takes you through Bear Gulch caves. I was so excited about these! Being from Florida, I had never seen caves before--these weren't like the ones you see on wilderness specials, but they were pretty cool. The trail then takes you out onto the reservoir. From that point we could have turned around and taken the path back through the caves OR continue up the mountain and go back through the woods, coming out where you began.
We took the way up and around, mainly because I didn't want to walk down this teeny, tiny staircase. There were some spaces where the rock wall jutted out and you had to somehow avoid the wall while moving forward and not falling over the guardrail, which, several times, seemed far too short to save you from falling to . . . something . . . injury?
My fear of heights kept telling me "death death DEATH!!!"  but that probably wasn't a possibility . . . unless I broke my neck . . . which, I guess is always a possibility so . . . well . . . Bottom line: High places--I don't like them. At all. Nope. The handrail is my bff like totally for sure. Seriously. Handrail = awesome.
Meanwhile, Chris is strutting ahead, goading, "You know what's REALLY fun? Not holding onto the rail. You should try it. Come on, let go!"
"Chris, I will KILL you. KILL. YOU." 

The reservoir . . . and the Asian tourists we kept running into . . . there were quite a few tourists, which made going up and down that tiny staircase complicated. 
Some of the trees were covered in this red substance. Really awesome looking.

That teeny, tiny little pine tree made my heart glad.  Just so tall and proud and little. :]

If you ever choose to do Pinnacles, it's so worth the time and the heat.  Be sure to have a trail map because the trails do branch off.  Chris is all about "exploring" the hike, which is great, except that the last time he tried exploring on a hike, I ended up screaming the entire time because I was afraid we were going to get lost or eaten by alligators (at Lake Jessup, that's a REAL possibility since those suckers are twelve feet long).  This time around, Chris is trying to scale mountains, squeeze through cracks, and just run off in various directions while I'm begrudgingly trying to keep up, worried that, once again, there's a real possibility we could get lost, die, and no one would find the bodies.
Melodramatic? Me? Heavens no! Why do you ask?

In the end, the hike took us roughly three hours and four bottles of water (ALWAYS have water an sunscreen handy for these kinds of excursions).

When my mom comes to visit in a week and a half (YAY!!!) we are totally planning on taking her to Pinnacles. Can't wait!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Clean up, Clean up . . .

Anyone else remember that song from Pre-K?
"Clean up, clean up! Everybody everywhere! Clean up! Clean up! Everybody do your share!"

Now it's stuck in my head . . .
And probably stuck in yours . . .
You're welcome.

The blog wasn't the only thing that got cleaned up today

Every once in a while, I get this sudden itch to reformat the blog.
It will hit me late at night, just as I'm starting to drift off, and half-conscious me is like, "Oh my gosh! Great idea! We'll move this and this aaaaaandd zzzzzzzz . . . "
Unfortunately, what you fall asleep thinking about, you usually wake up thinking about.

So, for HOURS I edit and upload a snazzy new background, change around some colors and images, and then . . . in the end . . . I sigh and reload the old format.
The one that I've basically had since my junior year of college when my blog was still on Xanga (gosh, anyone use Xanga anymore???)
I'm trying to decide if this is a case of "Leave well-enough alone" or "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
I'm desperately hoping it's the former.

We did update a few things:
  • Transferred my reading list over to Bloglovin'
    It's taken me a couple weeks to get used to the Bloglovin' format, and now I really enjoy it. I love that it's easily accessible on both my computer and as a smartphone app. However, it seems that posts I like or read on my phone don't seem to translate to my account when it's on PC.  Anyone else experience this?
  • Switched up the Topics menu
    Changed it from labeled photographs to an ombre sidebar. Loving how crisp this looks! Plus it's blue . . . I love blue . . . You don't understand my love for blue . . . Well, maybe you do . . . It's good stuff, blue.
  • New Header
    Loved my header with the little bubble pictures of Chris and I, but in an attempt to streamline things, I felta bit out of place.
    So we're trying simple colored text for now. The way I see it, if I have a bright blog background, do I really need a bright header? Hm, maybe not. Let's see how long this lasts . . .
  • Cleaned up the sidebar
    Yep. Lots of stuff has been sent away.
    I'm thinking about allowing adverts there instead? I know I'm not a really popular blog (ok, so I'm pretty much unknown . . . all right FINE completely unknown), so spots would be free.  I'd want to do a sponsor feature every month to give some lovely peeps some publicity.
    Plus, I mean, seriously, what a fun way to meet people :]
    Any thoughts on that idea?
I'm thinking I should update my profile and the "Yours Truly" pictures . . . but that's for another day.

I love all the crisp, minimalist blog designs that are so popular now. They're popular for a reason! They're clean, crisp, and easy to maneuver. There's no wading through oodles of pictures, blinkies, bright colors, or distractions. It's BOOM!!! Here's what I have to say,  read about me here, and here's how to find me and other peeps. THE END.
I've tried the minimalist design a couple of times . . . and they just always felt too . . . mellow? simple? It felt like I had seen someone in this AWESOME outfit and decided to wear it myself,  but once I tried it on it just didn't fit. That doesn't mean the outfit wasn't great to begin with; it just didn't look right on me.
I NEED a pop of color. I need something a little lively. I keep trying to inch towards the minimalist look, but we're not there quite yet.

I've always really enjoyed messing around with webdesign. I'm not at all what I would call a designer--I don't have the tools to create images and wouldn't know where to start if I did. I can't rattle off html codes as if they were my ABCs (I mean, I know a few, but I can't create that from scratch at ALL). Still, it's pretty fun for a novice :]  I guess the blog will just always be a "work-in-progress." 

Those of you that sell blog designs:
How did you get into it? Are there any programs you recommend? Is it still a fun hobby? 

What do you think?
Should I add free adverts for other blogs on my sidebar?
Or should I leave it alone since I don't currently attract heavy readership? 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Part 1: When I fell for what I shouldn't

You know the old adage: "Boys marry women like their mothers, and girls marry men like their fathers." You go after what you know, the familiar.  It's not a law set in stone, by any means, but there's a grain of truth in it.

I, however, was told the exact opposite. 

I was about seven and sitting in our car waiting for my cheeseburger-ketchup-only-PLEASE at the Burger King drive-in.  I don't remember what we were talking about, but, apparently, it had something to do with espousage because my father said, "Sarah, you'll probably marry someone more like your mom . . . or your brother, since he's so much like her."
Surely I had just been handed a fate worse than death.
"But I don't want to marry someone like Matthew! He's annoying!"
I hope Matt poked me or pinched me or something right then and there. Seven-year-old me deserved it.
"Sarah, that's not nice. And, well, you're quiet and your brother and mom are both outgoing. You marry your opposite."
There was no way. None. Not ever, not ever ever EVER times infinity.  Yuck.

Actually . . . now that I think about it . . . I think my four-year-old brother and I were arguing about who got to marry Dad when we grew up . . .  Kids brains are scary, funky places, I'll tell you what.
Luckily, we BOTH gave up on that idea PRETTY QUICKLY. Phew.
That could have been REALLY awkward. Dodged a bullet there, didn't we?


Still, what Dad said stuck--I should marry my opposite.
Being a hopelessly romantic child (thanks SO much, Disney -_-), I was ALWAYS on the lookout for my Prince Charming.  I knew my destiny was some chatty class clown, the kind who can't help but be friends with everyone, the one who doesn't know a stranger and can make you laugh with just a wink.
Someone to talk where I was silent.
Someone whose charm covered all my awkwardness.
Someone so full of life I never went back to my bookish corners.
Opposites and all that jazz. Destiny.

Isn't it funny when Destiny doesn't look at all how you imagined?

At fifteen, I went with my new best friend to a concert.  We stopped by her house to grab something (I don't remember what, but it was a big deal because her dad was pissed that we might be late), and, inside, there was this body collapsed facedown on the couch.  It was just this giant mess of hair mushrooming out of what must have been a head, face buried in his arms.  I was terrified.  Not because I thought it was dead but because it was most decidedly MALE, and cute male, on top of it.
Cute males are the most frightening specimens of the teenage animal kingdom. Why, I don't know, but they put me in a cold sweat every time they were remotely in sight. .

So, this guy.
This cute guy with too much hair and big yellow green eyes like I had never seen before. 
This enigma.
The best friend's big brother.
I hated the cliche, the age-old tale of a twittering, adolescent female falling for her friend's older sibling. I had always sworn I never would. It was shallow and stupid and just blech.
But none of my friends before this had older brothers like THIS.
Oh, be still my heart.

He didn't speak unless spoken to, but he had a ready smile. His sisters adored him because he was kind, and his great-grandmother favored him because he was clever. He played guitar and video games with his second-cousin-once-removed, staying up til all hours of the night drinking Yoo-hoo and eating canned spaghetti straight out of the can.  Sometimes they talked religion, philosophy.on the importance of Han Solo shooting first. My friend tried to convince me I should be falling for the cousin--outgoing, witty, never a stranger, an ideal match.
Her brother, on the other hand, was quiet, funny, talented, and a bit of a pessimist.

He was EXACTLY like my daddy.
Too alike. Off limits. Do not pass GO, do not collect two hundred dollars, thank you very much.

So why didn't he leave that little corner of my mind? He just kind of settled there, built himself a comfortable nest and strummed guitar anytime I glanced at another fellow. He was a mental squatter of the worst and most delightful kind. I wasn't sure I wanted him to leave.
But he should . . . shouldn't he?

Sometimes, when he'd show us some new internet cartoon or play video games, I'd stay a little longer than the others just to feel the air crackle. I was so thrilled, so nervous, just to sit there in silence and not be sent away. He let me stay. He didn't necessarily speak to me, but, sometimes, he'd smile at me--not long or deep or wide, just this quiet glance as if he almost liked that I was there. 
I was all jitters and pounding heart. Oh, be still, be still, be still.
Adolescent crushes are some of the most powerful, silly things, aren't they?

Once, I do remember speaking to him. He let his sister borrow a pair of sunglasses, which were then passed to me (SCORE). When it came time to return them, I just hovered by the kitchen counter, staring at him on the couch, watching television. I tried to force myself closer, even just by inches, and couldn't move. My palms were sweaty and my heart was raising, and, finally, I mustered every ounce of courage I had and slapped them on the counter.  "UmmmhereareyoursunglassesChriskthanksbye," I burst out and literally RAN for cover in his sister's room.

Smooth moves.
I have them.
By the boatload.
You can't handle my moves.

Miracle of miracles he didn't laugh at me. He didn't make fun of me. He stayed.

And, in my own way, so did I. Despite all of my expectations and prophecies, I stayed.
Against all odds, I fell for the musician who was too like me--too quiet, too nerdy, too still.
Opposites did not attract.  How bizarre.

But, I suppose, there's more of that story for another time, isn't there?

Photo by Isaiah Eyre

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Sacrifice of Safety

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I have the words "He's not a tame lion" stamped into a bracelet  I often wear. I adore words--these words, especially--and I wanted them near me at all times.

Mr. Lewis is one of my heroes--he has written stories that have clung to me since childhood. I don't think they'll ever let go, and I'm quite content holding their hands until my dying breath. It's a rare book that grows with you, a book that you enjoy at five--curled up next to your dad as he reads it aloud before bed--and again at twenty-five. I've gone through the Narnia series three times (it's time for a reread) and Til We Have Faces four. Each time, I take away something else, some deeper meaning, some new lesson that pulls at my heart. Sometimes, it makes me cry, and that, my friends, is a medal of accomplishment very, VERY few things earn.

So, when I decided it was time for something new, I ordered the bracelet, thrilled to see those words, "He's not a tame lion" embedded in the leather. Every Lewis fan loves the quote, loves it because it's true. 
"'Course, he isn't safe. But he's good." 

I used to wear those words because it reminded me that life was an unpredictable adventure.
You see, up until recently, my life had been very well planned. Oh, sure, there were things that didn't work out the way I had hoped--I'd still love, one day, to live overseas long term . . . and, you know, be a mermaid . . . --but, for the most part, things fell into place.

And then they didn't. 

And you know what? That's okay.
In fact, it might even be "good."

It doesn't always feel that way--sometimes, it feels very much the opposite. There are dark days and dark feelings, there are hurts and tears, but, in the end, there's something new.

Sometimes, you realize that there truly is something BIGGER than you at work. That the hard things HAVE to happen to grow you. If I run away from everything dirty and pinching and unpleasant, how do I grow? How do I become stronger, wiser, and gentler if  I'm not challenged?
To turn any lump of element into Art, it has to be chiseled, heated, and molded. Pieces are taken away and new bits added.  They are stripped away until they are almost unrecognizable.
Of course, they are still THEMSELVES. You can't take ivory and turn it to glass or transform clay into gold. They are always themselves, deep down. The raw element has simply been refined into something beautiful. It has reached its full potential. 

The pain is not the end.  The marks may remain, but we only pray that it's for the better. It has to be.

I know a woman who let pain grip her for far too long. She remains engulfed in her own victimization and chose to shut out and wound those who truly love her.  She locked away all hopes of happiness because she wallows in her miseries. She created a realm of glass expectations--if anyone inches out of line, her world shatters. So she takes out her little black book, makes a note in bold, bleeding red letters, and sees only imaginary flaws and her own pain. The world and those in it are stripped of their loveliness.   To earn back her favor is impossible. . Then she sits alone in her home and scoffs that no one comes to her door. She doesn't understand that she's chased them all away. 

I feel the pain, and I see two roads:
  • I can feel it, I can hold it, understand it, weep with it, and then release it to Someone so much kinder, wiser, and greater than I. Then, it's not only mine, and He can open my eyes to beauties I never knew. Some things can only be seen through the lens of pain.
  • Or I can wallow and make ticks in my little black book, close all the doors and lock away my heart because, oh, it hurts so much.
"He's not a tame lion."

I used to wear the words to remind me that there is an unpredictable "adventure in the great wide somewhere."
Now, I wear it because there is pain, but that is not the end.

"‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good."

There is pain.
And there is Goodness.
There is something bigger, brighter, and greater than I can ever imagine.
And sometimes, it hurts. Sometimes, it tears you open, bleeding and weeping. Then you heal. Very likely, there will be pain again, perhaps from the same wound, perhaps something else entirely. Torn apart and sewn back together. Again and again.
We wear our scars. 


Our world has changed, and our hearts are beating with a new rhythm. Our pride crumbles piece by piece. We love deeply, despite the risk, despite the agony.


I am not safe. I may never be. To be safe you lock yourself and your feelings away. It's small, and it's dark, and it's lonely. But it's safe.

I don't want a life that is SAFE.
I want a life that is GOOD. 

And isn't that worth the price of pain?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


 If you are brand new here, I advise that you skip this entry all together.
By saying that, I've probably doomed you to read it, curiosity being the pokey, insistent thing that it is.
I ask you not because I am horribly embarrassed by the content. I mean, I am, a little bit. I'm a very open person, but I can never tell how open is TOO open when it comes to the lovely interwebs. At the same time, I do not believe that one shouldn't be authentic--I should not pretend life is all daisies and posies and sunshine if, in fact, there are thorns and thunderclouds.
I don't know about you, but, personally, I REALLY dislike blogs where they portray their lives as constantly perfect. Mine certainly is not. Oh, sure, I've highlighted the good stuff on here just like everyone else, but, sometimes, things are very hard.

I'm usually a cheery blogger. I've been told I'm quite funny, and I know that I'm quirky with an odd way of saying things. I find joy in little phrases and little discoveries. I love life. I love LOVING life.

However, this is not one of those days. We recently went through something very hard, something I've been very honest about. This entry is a continuation of that. I felt things inside that had to come out, and they are not pretty things.

If you do not wish to read something that sounds whiney, perhaps melodramatic, and at all sad, don't read any further. Go to the left sidebar and click the picture labeled "The Hubs" or "Misadventures" or even Friday's Letters. Those tend to be amusing.
Don't read this. This is . . . it's very unlike me.
Or maybe it's the really real me, and that's less pleasant than I want to admit. I haven't made up my mind yet. Are we truly ourselves when we are sunniest or stormiest? Do we really want to know?

I'm very afraid this entry will give you the wrong impression.
I'm not usually like this, really.

If you, however, are a regular reader or one of my family or friends from across the country, I suppose you can read on.

I'm very sorry it's not cheerier.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The English-wannabe who went up a hill but came down a mountain

When Chris and I went hiking two Sundays ago, the film title "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain" continually ran through my mind due to this conversation.
Me: "Chris! Look at this view! We're on top of a mountain!"
Chris: "A mountain? No way. Sarah, this is totally a hill."
I blame my pancake, flatbread FLAT Florida roots for the confusion. It was high, and it had a view. To me, it was a flippin mountain. The end.

Chris and I are not what true hikers would call "hikers"--we don't pack backpacks full of wilderness supplies, wear special boots and cargo shorts, or go for days and days over unmarked obstacles to reach our mountaintop (for real) goal. We would like to be, eventually, but, for now, we're the kind who randomly decide to go explore on a Sunday afternoon in t-shirts and converse sneakers.

Because we CAN, gosh darn it.

And so we did. Just, out of the blue, found ourselves at Coyote Lake Park.  It was a grand time.  I kept stopping to take pictures, much to Chris's frustration, and singing songs like "The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music" and "The Colors of the Wind," which drove him batty.  But we had fun. We spotted two hawks, a doe, and her fawn, and just enjoyed being out in nature ....

...and, you know, sharing our plans for the zombie apocalypse ....

  And, from then on, we began discussing survival and battle plans . . . because you never really know when you might be attacked by hordes of the starving undead or greedy pirates . . . or stuff . . . Right?

While everything else was dried up, these little white flowers were blooming EVERYWHERE.
There's always something bright if you're looking for it.