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Monday, June 30, 2014

Naivety & Cynicism: Finding a Balance.

I can remember sitting in some sort of church service when I was really young and hearing a missionary talk about starvation across the world.  Hearing statistic after statistic about kids who die from starvation made me incredibly sad, and I remember lying in bed that night wondering what could be done about it, when I had an incredibly idea.  What if everyone in the world boxed up our leftovers, then we could all send our food to the starving people so they wouldn't be hungry anymore.  The thought made me so happy, and I truly believed that at 7 years old, I had figured out a solution for world hunger.

As a child, that's just how I thought.  If enough people gave a homeless man money, he would save it and wouldn't have to beg for money anymore.  If I was nice to a friend that was sad, they wouldn't be sad anymore.  If I helped my friend clean her room, then her parents would be happy and they wouldn't get divorced anymore.  In the mind of 7 year old me, you could do something to fix anything.  Every problem had a solution.  That's just what I thought.

And then, I didn't.

Be the change you wish to see.  I don't think anyone accomplishes this better than children, without even knowing they're doing it.  As a kid, you just do what you want.  If you're tired of playing with one toy, you stop playing with it and get another. If you're tired of hanging out with someone, you call your mom to come get you.  If you don't like where something is, you move it.  Due to innocence and naivety, you don't worry that something may go wrong, that it may not work, that other people may think less of you.  You just recognize that you want something to be different, and you do something about it. You come up with solutions to problems--both your own and others--and act on those ideas.  Why?  Just because.

And then, you don't.

Somewhere along the way innocence is replaced with knowledge, optimism for realistic expectations.  You realize that you can't fix everything, so you decide to stop trying.

A box of leftovers isn't going to stop world hunger, but you know what might?  A group of adults who choose to think like the kid-version of themselves every now and then.  People who look at a problem and don't think about how big it is, but instead think about what they can do about it.  People who know it may be naive to try to change things, but who choose to try anyway.

Can you imagine how full of life you would feel if that's the way you chose to look at the world?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy to be Alive, Because: You're Mine For Life.

23 years ago today, my favorite human being was born.  Happy birthday to my babe!

1.  I have someone to take these types of pictures with:

And these types of pictures with: 

2.  I get to wake up and see my best friend every morning.  Cliche?  Duh.  Absolutely true?  You bet.  And he brings me coffee every morning.  Boom.

3.  No matter how many times I tried to imagine what this season of life would be like (a lot of times, by the way), I never thought it would look like being married to the hardest worker who is just as passionate about my dreams as his own, living 17 stories in the sky downtown, and spending nights adventuring and then coming home to a little fox.  It's nothing like I thought it would be, in all the best ways.

4.  I get to do life with someone who knows me, pushes me, makes me laugh, brings me flowers, knows just when to bring home pizza and wine, and walks my sissy dog.  That, my friends, makes a good life.

5.  I am about to have the best weekend ever celebrating the love of my life.

Cheers to 23, my love!  It's gonna be a good one.

What made you happy to be alive this week? 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How To: Make the most of Your Writing Process.

For me, writing comes in waves.  Some days I'm killing it--can't get the words down fast enough, having to pause and jot down ideas on my phone because I'm having so many and I don't want to forget them, absolutely killing it.  And then there will be weeks at a time where there's just n o t h i n g.  No ideas.  No inspiration.  Weeks where I stare at the page and wonder how in the world I've ever managed to write anything in my whole entire life, much less a book.

What I'm learning is that if you want to make the most of your writing, you need to treat both of those times the same: the days of inspiration and the weeks of drought.  You do this by having a process.  What works for everyone is different, but these are a few things I've found that work for me. 

Start things off already inspired. I have a pinterest board full of words and quotes that inspire me.  Taking the time to scroll through those or read a chapter in a book I love gets my mind in a creative place.  I think, "I want to write words like that!"  And so I do.  Or, I try to.  Which, for the purpose of this post, is quite good enough. 

Set goals.  Have some sort of idea about what you want to come out of this writing session.  Whether that's a certain amount of blog posts you want to write, a number of pages you would like to fill, or a set amount of time you want to write for.  Having something to strive for will keep you from slamming the computer shut or throwing your notebook at the wall.

A hot drink.  Or a cold drink, if it's too hot.  Either way, something that tastes good that you enjoy, but that isn't going to be distracting.  For me, food is incredibly distracting, but a mug full of my favorite coffee inspires creativity. 

Set the mood with scents and sounds.   Find a candle that makes you happy and buy five of them.  I mean, just one works too.  I just bought this pretty thing and it's kind of like having unlimited candles in whatever scent you want.  Vanilla really inspires me, but it has to be vanilla-some-kind-of-cake, not just vanilla.  If I'm going for a relaxed environment, I mix vanilla and lavender.  And in the fall, I can crank out some serious pages to the smell of pumpkins and cinnamon.  

As far as sounds go, you just have to figure out what works for you.  A lot of people can write along to music; I cannot.  The words just distract me too much.  If you're like me in that sense, here are some resources you may like: 

Ommwriter.  This pretty much blocks off your entire computer and allows you to write without distraction.  They have a selection of neutral + inspiring backgrounds and noises you can choose to write along to.

Coffitivity.  If writing in a crowded coffee shop inspires you, you can bring some of the ambience home with you.  There are a few apps and websites for this, but this one is my favorite. The conversation is muffled and they also included realistic sounds, like clattering spoons and clanking mugs. 

Noisy Typer.  You can make your keyboard sound like a typewriter.  And that's just fantastic. 

While this is by no means a magic formula, I've found that if my process is the same when I'm inspired as it is when I'm uninspired, the inspired days seem to come along more often. 

How do you make the most of your writing process? 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dreaming, Failing, Glory & Glitter.

"Don't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling." 

I've seen those quote around forever, from canvases in Anthropology to inspirational pinterest boards.  I love it, and it does inspire me to think about my dreams.  But I don't think it's the size of my dreams that scare me.  For me, dreaming is the easy part.

Don't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.  Or a lot bigger.  Because you can, and you should.

Don't be afraid of chasing those dreams publicly.  Because the opinion here that matters the most is your own.

Don't be afraid to tell people about your extraordinary dreams.  They will either respond with belief in you or by telling you it's impossible.  One will warm your heart and the other will warm the fire in your soul, fueling you to prove them wrong, prove them wrong, prove them wrong.

Don't be afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone.  You will never be able to chase the adventure of your dream until you do so, and the alternative is living with bitter regret at what could have been simply because you were scared to get a little uncomfortable.

Don't be afraid to be unsuccessful.  Don't even be afraid of failure in epic proportions.  Because when you do fail, and you and your dream crash and burn in a spectacular cloud of glory and glitter, you will do so having tried, having tried, having tried.

Spectacular failures don't exist without spectacular efforts and spectacular experiences.

So don't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

And don't be afraid to chase, to tell, to prove, to step out, to fail spectacularly, to try, to succeed.

Because you can, you can, you can. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Happy to be Alive, Because: Jason Street & The Magic of Beginnings.

1.  It's Friday.  This has been one of those weeks where I've had to put the tips I talked about yesterday intro practice many times.  I'm so glad it's the weekend.

2.  This beauty lives on my counter now.  

pretty wax warmer

That's a wax warmer that looks like a mason jar with a gold lid.  In other words, someone, somewhere has designed a wax warmer just for me.  Now my house smells like lavender and vanilla all day long.  Win, win, win.

3.  I've been watching Hart of Dixie.  How did I not know about this show?!  I started watching it because Jason Street is in it and I will watch anything that has anyone from Friday Night Lights in it on pure principal.  I'm kind of just pretending that it's his life post-Friday Night Lights.  AKA, I'm just waiting on Tim Riggins to show.

Tim Riggins Gif

4.  Trips to Hobby Lobby and new fabric. 

polka dot fabric

I'll be back on Monday with some new headbands, and I'm pretty freaking excited about them.

5.  This:

quotes about new beginnings

Cheers to Friday and the magic of beginnings!  What made you happy to be alive this week?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How-To: Turn a Bad Day into a Good Day in 30 minutes or Less.

how to have a good day

1.  Take 5 minutes and just have a terrible, no good, awful, bad day. 

In LOST--the greatest show of all time--Jack has a unique way of dealing with fear.  He allows himself five seconds of being terrified.  He counts to five, letting the fear consume him as he does.  But when he gets to five, he doesn't allow himself the privilege of being afraid anymore.

Wallow.  Pity yourself.  Think of all the reasons you're having a bad day and how you'll probably never have a good day again.  Throw the biggest pity part of the year.  But when your five minutes is up, stop it. 

2. Change your perspective, literally. 

Change locations.  If you can't move to a new location, move to a different spot in the same room you're in.  If that's not an option, take a quick walk.  If you're stuck at a desk, rearrange the things on your desk to give yourself a clean space.  Just do something that will make your view different for at least a few minutes.  

3.  Make a list of 5 happy things.  

This can be a mental list, but I like to physically write down a list of happy things.  It doesn't have to be serious; no one else is going to see this.  Just list the first five happy things that pop into your mind.  

4.  Have a process that you associate with being happy and calm. 

Drink a cup of coffee or tea. If you're at home, paint your nails or put of comfy slippers.  Light a candle.  Take five minutes to do something small that makes you happy but doesn't interfere with the rest of your day. 

Since some bad days tend to strike while I'm working, I always have a mug and teabag in my purse.  It takes less than two minutes to fix a cup of tea, and then I can be back at my desk doing something that makes me happy without disrupting my work.  

5.  Keep on going with your day. 

The worst thing to do when you're having a bad day is to simply write off the rest of your day.  It's not time for yoga pants and wine yet; the day can still be salvaged.  Treat it like a new day and get stuff done.  It's hard to have a bad day when you're too busy being a productivity beast. 

And when all else fails. . .there's always the humor section on pinterest.  

What do you do to turn a bad day around? 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Some Things are Non-Negotiable: 3 Movies You Must Watch.

"Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you.  And that's why we're all interested in movies-those ones that make you feel, you still think about.  Because it gave you such an emotional response, it's actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way." 
-Tim Burton

I love movies.  I love everything about them.  I love going to the theatre and getting popcorn and watching previews.  I love renting a movie and curling up on the couch.  I love that you can become completely attached to characters and lost in a story that lasts only an hour or two.  I just love movies.

Because of my love for movies, I have a lot of favorite movies.  But there are three that you absolutely must love if we're going to have any chance of being friends.

1. E L F .

Elf Movie Quotes

Let's just go ahead and get this one out of the way.  Christmas and Will Ferrell. . .hello.  What's not to love?  If you are able to let the Christmas season pass without watching this movie, I feel very sad for you and I'm sorry that you have a sad life.  And if, for some insane reason, you haven't seen it yet, don't worry.  I will be back the day after Thanksgiving to remind you that it's time to watch it.

Best Quote:  "You sit on a throne of lies.  You don't smell like Santa, you smell like beef and cheese." 

I actually think it's impossible to pick a best quote with this movie, but that's the one that makes me laugh the most.

2.  R E M E M B E R   T H E   T I T A N S . 

Remember the Titans Quotes

Oh, this movie.  I think that everyone should have to watch this movie at least once.  I'm not a football fan, but this isn't just a movie about football.  It's about hard work and racism and teamwork and joy.  It's also the reason I cry every time I hear the song, Ain't No Mountain High Enough.  

Don't be tricked into not seeing this because you think it's a movie about football.  Because really, it's not.

Best Quote:  "People say that it can't work, black and white.  Here, we make it work every day.  We still have our disagreements, of course, but before we reach for hate, always, always, we remember the Titans."

3.  E L I Z A B E T H T O W N .  

Elizabethtown movie quotes

This is my favorite movie of all time, ever ever ever.  It's a beautiful story about life and failure and death and love and pretty much everything else in-between.  It also has the most incredible soundtrack of any movie I've ever seen.

It's one of those things where I don't even know how to begin telling you why you should watch this movie, because it's so amazing that it blows my mind that you may not want to watch it.  So please oh please do yourself a favor and watch it immediately.  There is no time to waste here, people.  It's time for your life to truly begin.

Bonus:  It's on instant-watch on Netflix.

Best Quote:  "No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy.  A motto of the British Special Air Force is:  'Those who risk, win.'  A single vine shoot is able to grow through cement.  The Pacific Northwestern salmon beats itself bloody on it's quest to travel hundreds of miles upstream against the current, with a single purpose.  Sex, of course, but also. . .life." 

What are your non-negotiable, must-watch movies?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy to be Alive, Because: Stars, Summer, & Coffee.

1.  I saw The Fault in Our Stars.  It was beautiful.  If you're on the fence about seeing it, read this.

2.  We now live in a tiny studio apartment.  This means when I wake up, my entire apartment smells like coffee.  Which is a beautiful thing.

3.  It's officially summer.   And by that, I mean it has been officially summer to me since May.  I have no idea when summer technically starts, but since I am now an adult with no summer break, any day that is warm and free is dubbed summer.

4.  The entire fourth season of Pretty Little Liars was released on Netflix on Tuesday.  In other news, I have four episodes of Pretty Little Liars left. . .this pretty much covers my reaction to every single episode:

5.  Days of creativity.  I made a necklace this week of my favorite summer colors.

Why are you happy to be alive this week?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

5 Reasons You Should Absolutely Go See The Fault in Our Stars

Whenever something is surrounded by as much hype as The Fault in Our Stars  has been, there appears a whole tribe of people who instantly become too cool for it.  Who will boycott it due to it's immense popularity.  I'm still trying to figure out how depriving yourself of something you might really enjoy simply because so many other people enjoyed it makes you cool, but that's a talk for another day.

Until then, here are five reasons why you should not join the tribe of boycotters and why you should absolutely go see The Fault in Our Stars. 

1.  To be reminded that you have a pretty dang good life.  Sometimes we can get really down and out over things like flat tires or the size of our paycheck.  It's good to put yourself in a place where you're able to get out of your head and realize that your life with flat tires and small paychecks is actually pretty amazing in the grand scheme of things. 1a. It will also remind you that even if you have problems, life can still be good.  Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that if a cancer-ridden teen can find a way to be happy, so can you.

2.  It will make you remember how good love can be.  And as you leave the theatre, you will promise yourself that you will settle for nothing less than extraordinary, beautiful, life-changing, eternal love.

3.  It's a real-life story.  I cannot tell you how many times I've heard some variation of this in the past year or two:  "Why does every movie have vampires or zombies in it?  Why can't there just be normal movies again?"  Well, here you go.  A movie with humans that are 100% human and no extra-terrestrial creatures.  So go see it.

4.  It's really freakin' beautiful.  John Green writes in a way that is almost poetic, and that really flows over into this movie.  It's full of lines so beautiful, you're going to want to have them tattooed on your body.  You probably shouldn't.  But if you do, send me a picture. 

5.  You're supporting YA literature.  As something chasing the dream of making it as a YA author, I love the idea of supporting other YA authors.  And while you may think that this movie doesn't really need any support because obviously John Green has made it huge as an author, I think it still counts.  Sarah Dessen (also a YA author) tweeted on this subject:  "A rising tide lifts all boats."  If you want more YA movies--hello, who doesn't--go see this one!

But please, for the love of everything that is good in this world...READ THE BOOK FIRST.

Are you planning on reading/seeing The Fault in Our Stars? 

Monday, June 9, 2014

f i v e y e a r s

I met Christopher when I was fifteen.  And when I was seventeen, five years ago today, he asked me to be his girlfriend. 

Except he didn't.  He actually just said, "I like you.  Maybe we should start dating."  

You can imagine how many ways I dissected that one when I got home.  Maybe.  Maybe.  Maybe?   M a y b e.  

Despite his choice of words, we've been dating ever since.  

I hear a lot of people say they're so glad they didn't end up with their high school boyfriend, or that they're a completely different person today than they were in high school, so their relationship then would never work now. 

We're both completely different people than we were in high school, but we grew and changed together.  Senior year and graduating high school and choosing colleges and figuring out how long distance works...we did that together.  Since that day five years ago, Chris has been a part of every change, every big decision, every heartache, every accomplishment, everything.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  He's been my best friend through it all, and I think that's the most important thing.  Because best friends laugh together.  They cry together.  They figure life out together.  And that's what we've been doing for the past five years. 

And now, some fuzzy pictures from high school.  We were still working with the iphone 1, people. 

This is from the first iphone that had the front-facing camera.  We had no idea where we were supposed to look.  I have approximately three months of pictures where our eyes look like this because we were looking at our own faces instead of the camera.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Happy to be Alive, Because: Liars & Anniversaries.

1.  My friend Katie reviewed my book on her blog.  Such an honor to have someone write about my book who had no obligation whatsoever to do so!

2.  Remember this post from last year?  It'll be eight years on Sunday.  I'm so excited to celebrate!

3.  Speaking of years, this Monday marks five years since I started dating Chris.  It's so weird, I feel like it's been way longer than that and I also feel like there's no way it's already been five years.

This is what true love looks like, folks.  Santa hats and elf ears.  And no, it was not Christmas. 

4.  I read We Were Liars this week.  And I actually don't know if this makes me happy or not.  Has anyone else read it?  If so, you know what I'm talking about.  Either way, it was exceptionally written.

5.  It's Friday, I'm off work, and I'm going to spend the entire day making new products for my shop.  Hello, perfect day.  I can't wait to launch this new stuff, I'm super excited about it!

So tell me!  What made YOU happy to be alive this week?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Beauty of Fiction: A Response to Criticism.

Remember when I talked about peaches and criticism?

Well, I saw my first negative review.  And since I'm writing this post, I think we can all agree that I'm not quite as far along with the whole being okay with negative feedback as I would like to be.  But, the reason this person hated my book was because it wasn't realistic enough.

And you know what?  I'm not upset about that.

Fiction is beautiful because it allows you to escape to a place where everything isn't exactly as it is in your current life.  When you read a fiction book, you're able to escape from where you are without ever leaving your couch.  And that's pretty spectacular.

Reality has a place in fiction, absolutely.  But the precise amount of reality that belongs in any given story?  I don't think that amount exists.  And truthfully, I don't think I want it to exist.

I love getting lost in a story.  And more times than not, it's a fiction book that I get lost in.  Okay, all the time.  I'm not educational enough to get lost in reading non-fiction.  And do you know why it's easy to get lost in reading fiction?  Because you know it's not true.  And somehow, by knowing that, you give yourself permission to get lost in it, and maybe even believe in it.

The book that I wrote may not be is not one-hundred percent realistic.  And I like it that way.  That is why I love fiction, and that is why I wrote fiction.

While I was writing my novel, I had the chance to speak to an accomplished novelist that I really admired.  I asked her what her biggest advice for writing a book was, and she responded, "Read.  A lot.  And then write something that you would want to read."  Such simple advice, but it struck me as genius.  I love reading fiction, I love reading YA fiction, and I love reading YA fiction that I can get lost in without it being so realistic that I stop and fact-check the story.  So that's what I wrote.

Sure, I could write a story about a girl who drools on her pillow and who wakes up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom because she drank too much water before bed.  I could include every time she washes her clothes or changes the sheets.  I could write about a girl who doesn't go to dinner with a guy she just met, because that's not very realistic.  Yeah, I could write a book like that.

But it wouldn't be a book I would want to read.

With contemporary YA fiction, I think there's a line between reality and the magical mystery of fate that you need to land just a little on either side of.  It's different for every book, but I'm proud of how I landed on that line.  I'm proud of the balance of my story.

Because it's one I would want to read.

Do you read fiction?  Do you prefer it to be more realistic or more fictitious? 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Conversations with My 91 Year Old Grandma: Boyfriends & Cigarettes.

91 and as sassy as ever. 

My great-grandma recently turned 91, and when I called to tell her happy birthday, she cracked me up with the candor she spoke with.

She answered the phone by saying, "Yep.  I'm gonna die soon." And then laughed and laughed like she had shared an old joke and not a sad statement.  So I changed the subject and asked her about her life.

About her love life:

Me:  Grandma, do you have a boyfriend?
Her:  I will NOT get into bed with another man, do you hear me?  I haven't been in bed with a man since my husband passed and I plan on keeping it that way.
Me:  Grandma, I don't think anyone is trying to make you get in bed with them.  You can just go out for coffee.  Maybe dinner.
Her:  Ha!  No thank you.  Pause.   But you listen:  I could if I wanted to.  It's not like nobody wants to be my boyfriend, because they do.  They definitely do. 

Life Advice: 

"Do good.  Read your Bible.  Listen to that feeling in your stomach.  And never, no matter what, smoke one single cigarette ever.  It's when you smoke your first cigarette that everything goes bad."

It was so precious to me, because one, I'm twenty-two.  The days of feeling pressured to smoke my first cigarette ever are pretty far behind me.  And two, she's such a beautiful soul and truly sees things in that simple light:  If you do good and don't smoke cigarettes, life will be pretty good for you.


"I never knew I had so many friends until this year.  You won't know who your real friends are until you get really old.  At my age, all the glitz and glamour is gone and you can't really do much for other people except be their friend.  So if your friends call and come see you and invite you over, it's because they really are your friend.  They want to be around you because they love you, not because they love what you can do for them."

And then she wrapped up the conversation in the same way she started it:

"Yeah, I'm gonna die soon.  But don't you be sad for me.  I've lived for a really long time and had a really good life.  God has been so good to me.  I don't want anyone to be sad for me, because when you get to be my age, death isn't so scary, it's friendly.  Because so many of my friends have died, I know I'll have some great company when I get up there.  I haven't seen my parents in so many years, and I know they'll be waiting on me.  And did you know it's been over 30 years since my husband died?  So don't you be sad for me, because I know he's up there.  He maybe just barely made it in, (he smoke cigarettes, you see) but I know he's there.  He'll be waiting to see me again."

My grandma has spent the past 30+ years loving the same man that she married.  Avoiding "the bed" (or just coffee) with other men.  She has been devoted to him long after death did them part.

"Don't be sad when I die.  I won't be sad.  I'll get to see that man again.  Oh, what a beautiful day it's gonna be.  Right Chelsea?  Don't you think so?

Yeah, Grandma.  I think so.

Have you ever had conversations like this with any of your grandparents?