And I Read: 2017 Edition

In January

I obsessively listened to the Liturgists podcast.
The word “hygge” entered my life.
I went back to college after 13 years away.
I plotted a novel about a Honduran-American girl.
The Well celebrated their first “Worship-versary.”
I struggled with children’s Bible stories.
Corey brought home a new kitten, Tegus.
I turned 35.

And I Read

Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
The Trespasser by Tana French
Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue
Return of the River: Selected Poems by Robert Sosa
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
Beowulf
The Lost Husband by Katherine Center
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

In February

I went to Honduras for a long weekend.
Haydn participated in the Lift-a-thon at school.
David had an honor choir concert.
Two of my cousins died in a house fire.
I went to my friend Linda Jackson‘s book signing.

And I Read

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe
*Let Justice Roll Down by John M. Perkins
Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Dubois

In March

I took midterms.
I had the flu.
Haydn got his braces off.
The boys went to Winter Jam with the church youth.
Corey went with David to a choir event in Hattiesburg.
Haydn turned 15.
We had a yard sale at The Well.

And I Read

Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson
*Dream with Me by John M. Perkins
Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Jesus Freak by Sara Miles
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
Maci McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green
Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
One by Sarah Crossan
*Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr

In April

I binged the S-Town podcast.
David had a choir event in Jackson.
Corey and Haydn went to see Savannah.
The boys went to 6 Flags on a youth trip.
I had an epiphany involving science.
Corey and I spent an entire day out together.
We had a petting zoo at work.

And I Read

Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Gulliver’s Travels/A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast
Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave
Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
Timekeeper by Tara Sim
*Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
*Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson
The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato

In May

My 4yo class “graduated.”
Savannah turned 17.
David turned 13.
I prepped for and took finals.
Haydn and I went to SC for a week.
David and Corey went to my nephew’s graduation in Florida.
Carrie and I went to see The Producers at Sumter Little Theater.
David left to spend a month with his Grams and Pawpaw.
I started working afternoons with school-agers at the daycare.

And I Read

Soul Chant by Asia Rainey
*This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
*Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott
The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell
*Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Still Life by Louise Penny
*The Fever by Megan Abbott
*A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

In June

I took Spanish II and Intermediate Algebra at NWCC.
Wayne replaced a part on my car.
Corey went to annual conference.
I had a poem published in Tipton Poetry Journal.
I left to spend a week with Leila.
Corey and Haydn left for Honduras.
David went to band camp at ICC Fulton.

And I Read

*Denton Little’s Death Date by Lance Rubin
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
*Home by Toni Morrison
*Dear Idjeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
*The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
*Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Have You Seen Marie by Sandra Cisneros
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (reread)
*The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzales
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
*Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

In July

Carrie and I went to a Honduran restaurant in Memphis.
I came to the end of Deconstruction.
I took Spanish II and College Algebra at NWCC.
Corey did a wedding in Brandon.
I scribbled poems for my verse novel between classes.
I finished summer classes with a 4.0.

And I Read

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny
*Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum (reread)
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

In August

David got braces.
I created a sort of Butter Beer Frappe at Starbucks.
A spider bit me twice in my bed one night.
I threw myself into finishing my verse novel.
Haydn made the dress-out list for Varsity football.
The boys began 8th and 10th grades.
I started working with the full-time 4s in the afternoons.
I helped with tailgating at an OBHS game.
I toured the University of Memphis.
The Well held a big back to school party.
There was a solar eclipse.

And I Read

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
*A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
The Philip K. Dick Megapack by Philip K. Dick
The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
My House by Nikki Giovanni
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

In September

I participated in a poetry “unslam” and did well.
I attended the Ink Festival in Tupelo.
Haydn went to homecoming with his friend, Bree.
Haydn walked in the homecoming parade.
I had some heart rate issues and changed some meds.
I started covering the front desk at work three days per week.
Corey took Haydn to an Andy Mineo concert.
David got first chair in band.

And I Read

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
The Myth of Equality by Ken Wytsma
*The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Love Suicides by Chikamatsu Monzaemon
*The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
Fantomina by Eliza Haywood
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
*Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
*Casting the First Stone by Kemberla Lawson Roby

In October

Carrie Bull and I went to a World Communion service in Memphis.
Tom Petty died, and I made Haydn listen to his music.
David had another choir concert.
Bert and Gayle drove down for a visit.
I aced my midterms.
I drove to Tupelo for an open mic and Corey met me there.
I revised my verse novel.
I volunteered at a mobile consulate and practiced Spanish.
The boys carved pumpkins.

And I Read

*Too Much of a Good Thing by Kimberly Lawson Roby
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
*Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
*My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Junie B. Jones espía un poquirritín by Barbara Park
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
*Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman
*Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan J. Stradal
*Chemistry by Weike Wang
After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

In November

I took off work early and drove to Tupelo for Open Mic Night.
I bought a dress because it made me feel like a sci-fi princess warrior.
I met with my advisor at Memphis.
I wrote a short story for Creative Writing class.
David was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society.
I registered for classes at Memphis.
Our boy kitty, Tegus, disappeared and never came home. 😦
I wrote a final paper and took four finals.
We took in a rescue kitty and named her Edna Millay.

And I Read

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
*Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Teeny Little Grief Machines by Linda Oatman High
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
*The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
*Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
*The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander

In December

I studied for and took my Spanish final.
I paid my Memphis tuition.
I missed a couple of days of work with strep throat.
I started pre-writing for my new novel.
I did some reorganizing at my desk at work.
I was awarded an Associate of Arts from Northwest.
I Christmas shopped and wrapped, etc.
We visited Savannah in Montgomery and saw Star Wars.
We went to Blaine for  New Year’s.

And I Read

*Brutal by Michael Harmon
*The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
*Beartown by Fredrik Backman
*Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

 

Total: 124
Audio: 37
Non-Fiction: 19
Poetry/Verse: 22

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10 Songs to Make You Brave

I don’t listen to music very often, not like I did in high school and college, when every song on the radio had some meaning to me. All of them reminded me of a person or place or event. I dated band boys and swooned when they sang to me on stage or wrote songs based on my poetry.

Nowadays, I rarely know the songs on the radio. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts more than music. I’m not sure when that happened, but it did.

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I don’t dislike music. As a matter of fact, music is one of the most powerful magics on earth. Music is an audible miracle. But it isn’t a miracle I can manipulate, so maybe it scares me a little. Words that paint pictures and shape ideas are magic too, but they are a kind of magic I know something about. I can make magic with words. I can’t make squat with music. I’m tone deaf and baffled by my 11-year-old’s ability to pull notes out of thin air.

Recently, I was shopping with a friend, absent-mindedly picking through Target clearance racks, and she mentioned creating a mood CD as a gift. I’ve done that before, and it’s really fun to collect songs you think will match where someone is in life.

Or where someone needs to be.

I cannot manipulate music, but music has always been able to manipulate me. It can change my mood.

With this in mind, I’ve been playing my son’s favorite tunes on a speaker via Bluetooth in the mornings. He struggles with mornings, and if Christian rap will help everything run smoothly, I will endure Christian rap before I drink my coffee. That is how much I love my child.

Recently, I even stumbled upon an app that indexes your iTunes account, dividing your songs into playlists by mood. The app is called eScape. According to its algorithms, the vast majority of my music can be labeled depressed, stressed or aggressive, followed closely by excited, happy and bored. Only a whopping nine songs fell into the peaceful or chilled categories.

This isn’t a new concept. It’s right there in the Bible, in 1 Samuel 16: Saul’s advisors said, “This awful tormenting depression from God is making your life miserable. O Master, let us help. Let us look for someone who can play the harp. When the black mood from God moves in, he’ll play his music and you’ll feel better.”

As I march into 2016, I have been thinking a lot about daring. I want to be brave. I want to take risks. I want to chase the dreams I have dreamed forever and the new dreams God gave me in 2015.

It’s like I’m writing a character in a story, and that character is me, and that story is one where the protagonist fights the battle against herself and the obstacles life throws at her, and she doesn’t just win, she stands on the mountaintop, flag planted, and claims her life as her own again.

I want to be her, and I am going to be her.

When I write a character in a story, I try to get inside her head. I want to think how she thinks and feel how she feels. One way I do that is to create a playlist of songs I think fit where she is within the bounds of my story. If I’m struggling to get inside a character’s head, I play her music and I find her voice there.

If I’m writing a story where I am the protagonist, and I want the protagonist to be brave, to be fearless, to be on a mission to conquer the world and become everything God intended her to be, then I need a bunch of songs that make me feel daring.

Not being a music person, as I explained at the start of this post, I decided to call in reinforcements. I asked my Facebook friends, including many of you, to tell me what songs make you feel daring.

I’ve chosen ten of the songs that will be going on my personal playlist for 2016:

10 SONGS TO MAKE YOU FEEL BRAVE

  1. This is Me,” Demi Lovato – Teeny bopper Disney movies can offer a lot of wisdom.
  2. Brave,” Sara Bareilles – I think the name says it all.
  3. Defying Gravity,” Idina Menzel – I adore this musical, and when I hear this song, I am taken back to how I felt watching it unfold on stage.
  4. Fight Song,” Rachel Platten – Words aside, there’s something about the beat that makes me want to shake my fist and climb a mountain.
  5. Oceans,” Hillsong – I listen to this in Spanish. Since learning Spanish is a big part of my “daring” this year, I think that makes it fit perfectly.
  6. Brave,” Moriah Peters – I love a strong female voice.
  7. Girl on Fire,” Alicia Keys – Again, I love strong female voices. There’s nothing wrong with male singers. I have a bunch of songs by men in general, but it seems this particular playlist is pretty heavy on daring women.
  8. Make Me Brave,” Bethel – The lyrics are a lot like “Oceans,” but it has a different feel that makes it its own.
  9. Born to Fly,” Sara Evans – This song always makes me feel happy. It makes me ache to follow my dreams.
  10. Dive In,” Jennifer Knapp – This is a song I play often. It reminds me to dive into my own life, to quit “standing on the edge of myself.”

Honorable Mention: “Sing, Fight, Cry, Pray, Laugh, Work, and Admire” – Pieter Embrechts (from which I learned that bewonder is Dutch for admire, and how gorgeous is that word)

So, what songs would be on your “daring” playlist? What songs make you feel brave? I’d love to add them to my list.

 

*originally published on Middle Places

Moving: from Overwhelmed to Organized

I hate packing.

I get overwhelmed when I pack for a move. All of this stuff has to go into boxes, and usually I’ll have some odd bit of space left in a box and nothing that makes sense fits in that space. Everything in the box goes to my son’s bedroom, but nothing else in his bedroom will fit in the area left. So I stuff something random into that extra space, because there’s no need to waste cardboard real estate. I want to fit it all into as little space as possible.

Then there’s the never-ending feeling. I pack five boxes, look around the room, and cannot tell I packed anything at all. It’s like stuff magically materializes on the shelves as I empty them.

I sit here this morning, hands dusty and nose stuffy, because the boxes I am packing into have been in a closet in our garage for the last four years. This entire move feels unreal to me. There have been so many other anxiety-inducing situations in my life this year, I haven’t had time to be nervous about a new town, new people, or new challenges. The challenges I am facing right now are plenty, thankyouverymuch.

Terry Pratchett said it best: “This isn’t life in the fast lane, it’s life in the oncoming traffic.”

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Let me share with you a few of the ways I am managing (or attempting to manage) the overwhelmed feeling.

Lists: I love lists. I keep daily reminder lists on my phone and enjoy tapping completed tasks. For the sake of this move, I bought a small pink notebook and used a sticker from my craft supplies to make a divider halfway through. The first half of the notebook is where I’m listing everything I need to do in the weeks leading up the move. If it pops into my head, I write it down. The second half of the notebook is for tasks I must complete once we move.

Procrastination: I am giving myself permission to procrastinate certain tasks. I know, that sounds backwards, but there’s method to my madness. When I think about EVERYTHING I need to do this summer, I get so overwhelmed I struggle to breathe. To conquer this feeling, certain tasks are moved to the second half of the notebook I mentioned above. These are things I COULD do now but it won’t be a problem if I do them in July instead.

Soul-Feeding: This will look different for everyone, but for me it includes a lot of colored pencil art in my journal, reading bits from the book of John, purposeful breathing exercises, and curling up in my recliner with a good book. I’ve also started using Stress Away essential oil on my wrists most days and burning scented candles and I went to the theater to see a fun show with a friend. I promise you, laughing hysterically with a girlfriend WILL improve your outlook.

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

On a more practical note, if you have any amazing moving tips, feel free to shoot those my way. I could use help in moving from overwhelmed to organized.

 

*originally published on Middle Places

Your Favorite Thing

What was your favorite thing to do when you were ten?

I think about this question from time to time and it has been following me around lately. Middle Sister Dana wrote about summer earlier this week. She talked about recapturing the magic of the season, and it struck a chord with me.

We’ve had a rough year with a lot of changes, both good and bad, happening. Parenting has been difficult, to put it mildly. My stress levels are through the roof and I have tried all sorts of things to gain some peace. Many of you shared your own suggestions for calming an anxious heart, and I posted about them. I tried quite a few of those ideas, and some have helped.

If things go as planned, my oldest son will be spending the summer with his grandparents. He and his brother need a break from one another, and I need a break from their fighting. On top of that, we are moving to a new town, and change is hard on my oldest. This way, he gets to skip the stress of the move itself.

I want this to be a summer of healing. I want to learn to breathe again.

And that brings me back to my original question: what was your favorite thing to do when you were ten?

My Favorite Activities As a Ten-Year-Old

Riding my Bike – I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for a good deal on a bicycle. I really love the beach cruiser style. Maybe I can ride with my youngest son. We can explore our new neighborhood. I also loved rollerskating and, eventually, rollerblading, but that isn’t as easy to make happen. So I will stick to two wheels for now.

Library Trips – Dad would take me to the library where I would borrow his card, because then I could check out 25 books instead of just 10. This was before Goodreads and book blogs and Net Galley. I had a few favorites (Sweet Valley, Babysitters’ Club, Choose Your Own Adventure) but I mostly picked up books because the cover or title caught my attention. I think I will do some of that kind of reading this summer. I will have a new library in which to wander and new librarians to get to know.

Drawing – I wasn’t particularly talented, but I liked making marks on paper. I went through a dress designing phase. I doodled clothes everywhere. I colored in coloring books. I tried to copy the art from my grandmother’s walls. It was fun. I’ve already returned to this with my journaling Bible and Praying in Color.

Writing – I had a cheap chipboard desk that sat by my bedroom window. I vividly remember writing contemplative poetry while watching the pine boughs sway in the wind. Were those poems good? Not in a literary sense. But they helped me think, and they stilled my mind. Lately, I have been writing poetry again. I tend to set it aside while writing fiction. For the summer, I am returning to verse.

What about you? What did you love to do at ten? Is there anyway to add a touch of that back into your adult life?

 

*originally published on Middle Places

Refill, Please?

It has been a hard week in the Truett house, and I’ve thought a lot about the Middle Places April theme, (re)Plenish. How do I replenish my spirit when it feels emptier than empty? I shared a little about why last week, and before that post even went live, a related event sent me spiraling into a black hole.

Oh how I wish I could signal a waiter and say, “I’d like a refill, please.” Off the waiter would go and before I knew it, my cup would once more overfloweth. Since no mystical waiter made himself available, I turned elsewhere.

I asked my Facebook friends to tell me how to relax. I was too keyed up to be still, but I wasn’t focused enough to be productive. I was sleeping fine, but when I was awake I was wrecked. My Facebook friends came through for me, as they always do. Here are some of the things they shared, summarized, in case they may be helpful for you when you face a similar rough patch.

Guided Meditation: Some of you are tuning out already, but hear me out. I am a contemplative, and I like silence. But when I am at this level of anxious, no amount of will-power can keep me still and silent for very long. I need a little help, and That. Is. Okay. Finding guided meditations that work is a hit or miss experience. I listen to the beginning of a few YouTube offerings before settling on one, and I have been using them before bed, but I may try one in the mornings as well. For the sake of making it easy on you, I found this website devoted to guided Christian meditations. So if you are worried about accidentally worshiping another God, there are options that will let you relax and try a new experience without fear. I bet a quick web search will turn up other resources as well.

Color: This suggestion comes in many forms. There is my favorite Praying In Color, which I am pretty sure Sasha has posted about before. There are zentangles, which have fascinated me recently. I may try one of these today. Also, of course, there is the old standby of coloring book and crayons. You just can’t go wrong with that. I have a Lisa Frank book full of cats. And I am not ashamed.

Make/Do Something: Of course, Middle Sister Sasha suggested this, our wine corn/scrabble tile queen. But others did as well. Susan said to get my big muscles moving with a little yard work. Jorie mentioned weaving wire, and Dolli suggested doing a small household task, like cleaning out a drawer. These activities have the benefit of giving you a concrete accomplishment to tuck under your belt. You feel a little more capable when you are finished. I took this advice by catching up on my Project Life albums.

Listen: My sister-in-law suggested listening to music that fits the mood I want to be in instead of the mood I am in. This is a good idea. When I need a pick me up, I will often turn on 90s pop on Pandora or just play “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” on repeat. My friend, Jennifer, suggested a jacuzzi tub with nature sounds. I don’t have that tub, but the sounds are a good idea.

Other suggestions included essential oils/aromatherapy (I have been wanting to try these), drinking beer while watching Animal House (funny Jeff), tapping (rhythm is soothing), reading the Bible, Yoga (which I love and miss), going outside, deep breathing, etc…

And, of course, eat ice cream and call a friend. You can’t beat a few hours with a good friend for stress reduction (Thanks Izzie).

 

*originally published on Middle Places

10 Things About My Writing

There is a lot of non-writing stuff going on in my life right now, and I am struggling to focus on much of anything. But my little blog was feeling neglected. Inspired by the lovely Tara Sim, I am going to share ten random things about my writing…

1. In between fiction projects, I focus on poetry. I think of it as a sorbet between courses. I truly believe my poetry makes my fiction better. Recently, I have been using the poem-a-day prompts from Poetic Asides to help me jumpstart my muse.

2. I dream of writing a series for kids, and I have the first manuscript already written. It is called Via & Fia, inspired by my best friend’s two daughters, Olivia and Sophia.

3. I go through phases with writing locations. I wrote most of my last completed manuscript sitting on my bed, but I did almost all of the revision work in my husband’s office at the intern’s desk. I also write in a recliner a lot, and I wrote one whole book at a desk in my kitchen.

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4. People buy me journals and I love journals. But I don’t do a lot of longhand writing. My hand cramps really quickly. I do usually write poetry by hand. I do that during sermons pretty often, and I like having a journal in my purse at all times. My journals are full of everything from poems to prayers to scenes for whatever book I’m working on.

5.  Most of my fiction somehow involves poetry. The last book relied heavily on Edna St. Vincent Millay and the book before that wrapped around “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” (Emily Dickinson).

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6. I have one manuscript that includes a dark brown cocker spaniel named Steven Tyler. In my dreams, someone tells him about the book and he laughs and I get to meet him.
7. When I finish a book-length project, it takes me a while to recover. I get to the point I am sure I will never have another idea and never feel passionate enough to start a new story. And then I hear a voice in my head and I have to write it down and before I know it, I am deeply engrossed in another project and feeling all alive and happy again.

8. I have a concept I want to use for a grown-up novel. I have a lot of the details worked out in my head but the very idea of writing something for adults makes me short of breath. For now, it will wait. I have details but no character talking in my head to give it voice. Once a character speaks, I will be able to work through the fear.

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9.  I struggle with what to read when I am writing. I can’t help but be influenced by whatever I am taking in, so I like it to be far away from what I am writing. I read poetry while writing fiction. I will read nonfiction work related to my story’s theme or details. I will read fantasy novels and mysteries… whatever is different.

10. I also struggle with reading while revising and editing. I find myself taking the books apart instead of enjoying them. This last time, I cured that by reading Mercedes Lackey. Her stories are so far from what I write, it is much easier to disappear into them.

It had been a while since I did a list post. They are always fun. Anything else you’d like to know 10 things about?

Things I Brought Home from Seattle

  • A billion Instagram photos
  • Somebody else’s razor
  • A deep sense of grace being lived
  • A new kind of respect for my dear friend, Liz
  • Memories of conversations with holy women
  • A twist to my yearly theme
  • The humbling knowledge that a published book will not fix me
  • Two parking tickets
  • An even deeper love for my girls
  • Cravings for real cherries
  • Notes for a future book
  • Notes for the current book
  • New eyes through which to view the South
  • An adorable owl bag
  • A small wooden keychain from Bali