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Quiet mornings around here are actually “quiet” mornings as I live in an apartment. This apartment is one building with only four units owned by a couple who live in California. They are stunt people in their 30’s. My age.

The couple who live above me have two daughters and, it seems, various step children. Their day (every single one of them including weekends) starts roughly at 6am with the stomping of children, the running of dogs, the doing of laundry and the vacuuming of floors. There are some days I feel slightly less gracious about it than others.

Today it’s alright. I got up early myself to do some chores and arrange some things, so I figure we’ll all just make noise together.

In January I’m going to start working on a book. Just typing that is mildly horrifying to me only because, well. I don’t want to be one of those people who says, “Oh, I’m writing a book” and then it either never comes to be or  it’s cheesy or something. I have no idea if it will be a good book, I have no idea if anything will come of it, I have no idea if anyone will take me seriously when I say, ” I’m writing a book”. I honestly have no idea if I even have any business writing a book.  What I do know is that its something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl,     … actually, it’s something I’ve believed would do since I was a little girl. There was never just the wanting to, there was always the certainty that eventually it would happen.  What I also know for the first time in my life is exactly what I want to write and how I want to write it. In the past when I’ve thought of taking on a project like this it’s always gone fuzzy in my mind at some point because it could never quite take shape. This time I can see it with razor sharp clarity and it’s leaking out of me in ways I can hardly contain.

Good sign I think.

Anyway. I’m going to be doing that and I’m not expecting it to be earth shattering, ground-breaking, amazingness. But as a dear friend encouraged, “Everyone must start somewhere. Everyone must have a first so that you eventually get to your best.”

“A spirit… The undulating and silent well, And rippling rivulet, and evening gloom,
Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming,
Held commune with him; as if he and it were all that was.”
– Phantastes, George Macdonald

Finished The Bone Season, it was one of the best things I’ve read since Discovery of Witches. Now on to Phantastes!

Last night I had a beautiful dream.
It wasn’t one of those dreams that was full of crazy detail, it was more about feeling than it was about detail.

The dream was about someone with whom I am very familiar, someone I care for, and it left me feeling warm and comfortable. It was the kind of warm and comfortable you feel around someone when you have no fears, no worries, no expectations and you know exactly how you feel about one another. I wish I had better words to describe it, but somehow the interaction in the dream, though simple and easy and normal, was really affirming somehow. I woke up feeling more confident about myself. I wish all dreams were like that one.

This afternoon I finished reading The Fault In Our Stars. It’s a beautiful book. Just… beautiful.

There aren’t many things that capture loss in a way that isn’t cheesy, that isn’t so morbid you can barely stand it, or isn’t just completely wrong. That book is one of the few things I’ve found that gets it right.

I played baseball with Shelby, Cash, and Tessa this afternoon. I should say “baseball”. =)

I miss knowing summer as a youth.

It was so nice to wake up the first day of summer knowing that my time was not tied up in anything, that there was plenty of space for time outside and time to read. I would get excited about lining books up and buzzing through them.

Now I don’t line books up, I stack them, which might not seem so different for some, but to me there’s something specifically adult about a stack of books. They sit next to my bedside table (and in my kindle, for in my mind they are stacked there too) and wait for me to have time and energy to get through them. I remember times when I read until late in the night because I couldn’t stop myself, I was so eager to get to finish, to know what the end of the book knew. Now I pick up a book before bed and read until my eyes wont stay open anymore (which is usually an embarrassingly short amount of time).

Knowing summer as an adult means I catch myself standing in the big windows at work, looking out and people in their appropriately summer clothes, running here and there shopping, or coming in to buy things to travel with on their vacations, and wishing I was one of those people.

Anyway, I’m managing to do quite a bit of reading right now, even with all of the frustrations of being an adult in the summer time.

Right now I’m reading through The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for what is probably the fourth time, it’s possible I’ve read it more than that. It’s by far my favorite work of fiction by Lewis. I’m not going to say that every time I read it I learn something new from it, because that’s not true. Every time I read it I come to the  same startling realization that I have forgotten the astounding truths reflected in the story. That somehow, even though they are revolutionary to the soul, I’ve  allowed them to slip away.

One of the most significant of these forgetfulnesses is a story in the book about a man with a red lizard on his shoulder. You’ll forgive me if you aren’t familiar with all the details of the book, you should go and read it, it’s not long. The reader and main character come upon a ghostly man in a struggle with a bright spirit. The ghostly man has a little red lizard on his shoulder that the bright spirit has told him he must allow the spirit to kill in order to become solid and journey to the mountain. The ghost is torn as the lizard whispers in his ear about their attachment and how much allowing the spirit, who’s hands burned with light, to kill him would hurt the ghost and eventually saying that if the spirit killed him, the ghost-man would also die. The ghost struggles, the lizard is so small, he’s been his companion for a long time, and seems not to be a harm. But somehow it seems that at the same time the man knows that the lizard, innocent as he may seem, is sucking the life out of him, and after much struggle eventually gives in, whatever it may cost him, and allows the bright spirit to kill the lizard.

This is the point in the story that I always forget, or misremember, and it’s the most important part.

My mind wants this story to end with the slain lizard revealing it’s true nature as a vicious dragon. It makes sense doesn’t it? Those small things that we become so accustomed to that we fail to see how they have grown and are killing us slowly, but which God can see for what they really are.

But then there you have it… the glimpse of the secret of what our great God can see, which C.S. Lewis was blessed with the ability to recognize and articulate in beautiful ways. The story does not end the way my mind expects it should…

” Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost

‘I know it will kill me.’

‘It wont. But supposing it did?’

‘You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.’

‘Then may I?’

‘Damn and blast you! Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like, ‘ bellowed the Ghost: but ended whimpering, ‘God help me. God help me.’

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and the flung it, broken-backed, on the turf.

‘Ow! That’s done for me,’ gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialized while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man- an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed.  It’s hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the hours’s back. Turning in his seat he waved farewell, the nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as i could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that i must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

The truth that is here in this ending weighed against the ending my mind always expects is devastating.

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“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
— C.S. Lewis

The Hunger Games- Book 1 of 3

At almost 30-years-old I’ve apparently become a fan of teen fiction. I blame this partially on the last couple years difficulties and an extraordinary need to preoccupy my mind with much simpler things.

Twilight, of course, started the movement for me. What else, right? Don’t give me attitude about it either. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece, but that I find peace in reading it, which is of a great deal more importance to me. It’s unrealistic, horribly edited, teaches young girls to expect things from men that they will likely never find in “real life”, and it’s indulgent… so I indulge.

Fortunately with The Hunger Games, written by Susanne Collins,  I don’t have to offer excuses for why an intelligent adult would bother with it. It’s a compelling story and decently written… maybe even better than decently. Keep in mind that the writing style is simple given that it’s audience is young (not that that’s required, simply understandable). I believe if The Hunger Games were written for an adult audience that the writing might be a bit heartier, and possibly more gory.

I realize I’m not giving away any of the plot, at all, but that you can find out for yourself. If you’re in the mood for a bit of good story telling, check it out.

Carmindy of What Not To Wear

I finished off my Beauty Live experience yesterday with Carmindy from TLC’s What Not To Wear and, to be quite honest, found myself with mixed feelings.

Carmindy has been in the industry for 20-something years, does makeup for the victims of What Not To Wear, and is now the author of several books, so I was pretty interested in what she had to say.

She began her presentation with speaking about confidence and how the beauty industry puts pressure on all of us to meet certain (unrealistic) standards, which thus takes constant hits at our self confidence.  She encouraged the women of the audience to take time everyday to practice, what she called “Mirror Mantras” and try to focus on the good things about yourself, rather than tear yourself down by obsessing about what you feel is wrong with you.  Also, Carmindy urged us all to fight the need to compare ourselves to one another and instead use “contagious compliments” to not only encourage each other, but to feel better about ourselves.

I can’t disagree with any of the above, some of it may sound kind of cheesy, but I was rather pleasantly surprised that she would take up a good 20 minutes of her time there to focus on that, rather than promoting her new makeup line, or her new book, Crazy Busy Beautiful.

Unfortunately, things went a little down hill for me when it came to Q&A time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a celebrity hater, but there are some things that I just think people should think a little harder about before they say. While I appreciated what she had to say about confidence and positivity, she kicked off the Q&A session by asking that audience members do their best to address her in a positive way. For example, instead of asking her “What can I do to fix my dark circles” she would prefer you say, ” What can I do to brighten my eyes”.  I get the sentiment here, but I was put off by it for two reasons:

1.) I don’t think it’s quite fair to put these people who’ve come to listen to you speak on the spot and make them feel awkward about asking you their questions because they have to make sure they’re asking the right way.

2.) I feel like it’s not really giving respect to the questions themselves. It’s great to encourage people to be positive and not to tear themselves down, but if what they’re struggling with is severe, hereditary, dark circles, then I feel like they have the right to express that specifically in order to get the kind of answer they’re looking for. “How can I brighten my eyes” can mean a lot of different things and have a lot of different answers, many of which wont help certain types of dark circles at all.

Next Carmindy mentioned several times that it was unnecessary to spend tons of money on makeup and skincare from department stores, when you could get quality makeup from drug stores, and go to your doctor for good skincare. I don’t disagree (entirely) with either of those things, however, Macy’s was hosting Carmindy’s visit to the mall and her book signing, and we were sitting outside of Saks and Nordstroms.  I am well aware that not everyone can afford top of the line cosmetics, I’m also in favor of not spending money where you don’t have to, but there  ways to communicate that without knocking the department stores.

The examples above I just considered to be in poor taste, what really bothered me, however, and what speaks directly to the problem I have with a lot of celebrities, was Carmindy’s answer to a woman’s question about how to treat Melasma.

For those who aren’t familiar, Melasma is a condition (sometimes referred to as “pregnancy mask”) that is common among (but not limited to) women who are pregnant or who have recently been pregnant, which results in dark places on the face (the upper lip for example). The woman who asked the question mentioned that she had two children, one of which she had with her and was a very young infant, and wanted to know how to treat it, and Carmindy’s first recommendation was to get a cream with Hydraquinone in it (she also mentioned getting something with glycolic acid).

The trouble I have with this answer is that, that was the extent of it, and while that might not of been the time to go into a full scale description of the product, Hydraquinone isn’t something that you should just be recommending without offering some cautions along with it. Hydraquinone filters through your liver, and can be damaging to the liver if used incorrectly, but the even more important fact in this particular case is that women who are pregnant or nursing shouldn’t use it at all because it’s dangerous for babies. I feel like the recommendation could have AT LEAST come with the caution to check with your doctor before using the product.

There is, of course, the chance that the woman with Melasma will do her research and see the risks for herself, there’s also the chance that she may go into a store to get something with hydraquinone in it and find herself with a knowledgeable sales person who can warn her. However, it’s possible  that she does none of these things and simply takes Carmindy’s word for it, because if Carmindy said it, it must be true, and  unknowingly run the risk of endangering her health and that of her child’s.

While it very well may be the woman’s responsibility to do her own homework before taking the advise of a celebrity professional, at the same time, I think some responsibility still falls on the person giving the advice, and it disappoints me that people in that sort of position, aren’t more careful about the advice they’re giving out.

For this reason, please take it upon yourselves to ask questions, to do your homework, and to get multiple opinions before you try something. Obviously not everything is going to have serious consequences, but it never hurts to investigate for yourself! =)

I don’t want to end this blog entry on a negative note (ha!), I also don’t want to leave you with the impression that Carmindy is an awful person, I don’t think that at all. As celebrities go, I enjoyed listening to her talk, I thought she was genuine in what she was saying and I’m glad I had the opportunity to sit in on her session.

Hello!  So things have been going well lately, the weather is good, things have been running smoothly at work and I’ve been enjoying my free time playing with my plants and experimenting with things the wonderful people upstairs at Lush have been giving me samples of (which I will go into more detail about in a moment.)

This is my welcome mat. I’m quite proud of it, as should be obvious given that I went to the trouble of posting a picture of it on my blog. I just like it… which is actually the theme of my post today… things that I like. Ha.

A very good friend of mine (you know who you are!) gave me a couple of books called Listography before I left Austin and ventured off to Dallas. One is a life list book, the other is a love list book. I can tell you, at this point I have a whole lot more to fill in in the life book than in the love book, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, it’s a lot of fun, and gave me the inspiration for this post.

On page 125 it asks you to list “things you love and despise” which I had to sit and think about for a while, because if it’s going to go on a master list, it’s got to be the best of the best and the worst of the worst, right?  Anyway, I sat and made my list and I think I’m pretty happy with it right now.

Because I consider some things sacred and because I’m afraid that what I actually despise may be a deeper window into who I am as a person ( sounds horrible, but it’s true!) I’m not going to just copy the list into my blog, instead I’m just going to make a list of some things that I’m really into right now.

#1.) Masks. I would feature a picture of a facial mask, except the one I used to day I deemed inappropriate and I thought this foot picture was much, much, more fun.  Yesterday I went into Lush to grab a big tub of Fair Trade Foot Lotion and the very helpful staff gave me a sample of the Volcano Foot Mask. Being in a really mask-y mood lately, I was more than happy to give it a try. This afternoon I gave myself a spa hour and decided to do the foot mask and one of my old favorites, Ole Henriksen’s Blue/blackberry enzyme mask. One of these days I’ll manage to find a lush product that I don’t absolutely love… I wont rest until I do because raving about everything I try breaks all of my own objective reviews rules. However, the search will just have to continue because I sit here typing this with the softest feet I’ve ever had. Paired with Fair Trade Foot Lotion, this stuff is amazing. I warn you, it smells like you just stepped in someone’s compost pile, and the heating sensation was a little unexpected, but baby, does it feel nice once you get into it. =) (It helps to know that I’m sitting here laughing about that last sentence.)

#2.) My container garden. These are my two most recent additions. In the back we have a Bougainvillea and in the front is my brand new Lavender plant. Both will eventually get better pots, and I think I want a second Lavender plant. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I’m enjoying having plants so much, but I really am having a blast learning about them and how to take care of them. It also makes me feel close to my dad. He’s into plants, he can grow just about anything and when I look out my patio door and see my plants, it makes me think of him and I like that. I may officially be on my way to being crazy plant lady, though. There are moments I find myself talking to them. I’m pretty sure my neighbor caught me telling the Bougainvillea last night that I loved it for making tiny blooms. Mostly I was just ecstatic that not only have I not killed any of them yet, but they seem to be flourishing.

#3.) New spiritual experiences… Last Sunday I had the pleasure of attending Sts. Constantine & Helen Orthodox church. This was quite an experience for my Southern Baptist raised self. I can only imagine what I must have looked like, everything I think and feel shows very plainly on my face, and what I was thinking and feeling half the time was “OMG I hope I don’t do something wrong” and extremely confused. Fortunately the kind elderly couple sitting next to me helped me follow the liturgy and in the end I really enjoyed it. Something that was amazing to me in particular was how close to God I felt in the midst of this experience… not because it was a holier experience than any other church I’ve been to, but because in my extreme state of unfamiliarity, I could hear and feel God in a way that was different, because there was no opportunity for me to just “go through the motions”, I had no idea what the motions were. I felt more aware of what was going on around me and a greater sense of reverence, which I feel is sometimes lost in a lot of modern churches, it was a wonderful experience.

Last, but certainly not least, #4.) Swedish Fish. I include this here at the end because, well, I always like Swedish Fish. Only the red ones though. =)

I’m learning a lot about myself here in Dallas, and I can promise you, that list that I refuse to post of things I despise has definitely seen some additions since I got here. The thing that I’ve finally embraced and am content with is that I don’t have to love it here… which sounds weird, sure. I’m still new, I still can’t get anywhere without using navigation (honestly I still use it to get to work), I still don’t know a lot of people, and I’m still extremely picky about the social activities I choose to engage in (that’s not likely to change), but I understand that I’m here to learn and grow, and as long as I’m doing that, everything else will come along. Things will be alright.

In closing I think I’ll throw in a last minute #5.) Incomplete by Alanis Morissette

I have been running so sweaty my whole life, urgent for a finish line. And I have been missing the rapture this whole time of being forever incomplete.

I finished Dear John yesterday. It’s the only Nicholas Sparks book I’ve ever read. I’ve seen others on the best sellers isle at the book store before, and they’ve always given me a moment’s pause, but a voice deep down in there somewhere would caution me not to pick them up, and now I understand why.

I had a vague idea that some of the things he’d written were sad, but I wasn’t getting the full picture. I never saw or read The Notebook… mostly because I thought it was kind of weird how the girls I knew talked about it like it was some sort of revelation, but again that sense of danger would kick in and I avoided it. Plus, if I’m being totally honest, there was no one cute enough to catch my attention in the film, so I never really had the motivation to see it, certainly not to take the time to read it.

I never would have read A Walk To Remember, but when the film came out I was going through my boy band phase, so all of my celebrity crushes at the time were the thug-polished type.

Shane West

Shane West (featured to the right), thought not actually in a boy band, definitely fit into that pretty-bad-boy category. Don’t be fooled by the I’m-a-bad-ass-grimace/smirk, or the pseudo-stubble going in this picture, Shane West is pretty and so I was more than willing to see A Walk To Remember when it came out.

I went in blind on that one… I had no idea what the plot was, and it ended up being tragic and sappy, but it wasn’t the saddest thing I’d ever seen, and the acting was bad so, again I failed to pay enough attention to what was fueling that voice inside my head telling me to stay far away anything Nicholas Sparks had touched.

Now we get to Dear John. I’ve seen the trailer for it a dozen times. Once again I’ve found myself drawn, not because the story seemed compelling, but because of a celebrity crush… and the fact that I really like the song that they play during the trailer.

With age my tastes have changed, but as this picture clearly exemplifies,  I still have a weakness for the clean, roguish types. Channing Tatum (whose name should have been Tatum Channing because it sounds more like a real name), plays John, and thus caused me to be just curious enough to want to know what the story of Dear John was all about.

I can’t say exactly how it happened that I decided to read the book, other than I just wanted something easy to read and light, and that voice I mentioned before had warned me to at least prepare myself by reading before paying to see the film. So I went to half priced books and bought it. I jumped right in and knew, before finishing the first page of the prologue that I was going to regret it. I knew it the same way I knew, a chapter into She’s Come Undone, that it was going to be the worst book I had ever read, and it was a chunk of my life and time I would never get back. But just like with She’s Come Undone, I forged ahead anyway, because I can’t stand the thought of starting a book and not finishing it.

I’m sure that many of you are Sparks fans, and so I wont go into too much detail trying to tear the book limb from limb. I will admit that I though his writing style was rather weak. I found myself counting the number of times he would use a particular word, which is just down right annoying. And then, in my opinion, the narrative didn’t fit John’s character at all, but alas, it is what it is. What I really want to comment on is Mr. Sparks taste for wanting to put a knife in his readers hearts and then twisting it about 5 times.

I mentioned to a friend at work that I was reading Dear John and she warned me that it was going to be bad and when I questioned why Nicholas Sparks seems to only write that kind of heart-wrenching stuff, her response was, “because we love it.”

Do we love it? Really? I mean, I’m the girliest girlie girl who ever existed, but I like my unrealistic happy endings. Sure I like the occasional tear-jerker, but I like it coupled with romance and warm-and-fuzzies and people not dying after all, or finding someone new to love. I don’t know… maybe I just don’t get it, but one thing is for sure. I will never read another Nicholas Sparks book again.

In the wake of New Moon, and being out until 3am last night, I don’t really have anything of much value to say this evening. I just can’t seem to be ready to fall asleep yet, so this is just me killing time.

I’ve almost got my voice back, which is extremely helpful, and my nose is almost done being red. I’m extremely happy about that, red is not a good color on anything but my lips.

Today I was lucky enough to be a model for my friend/stylist Sandi! I spent 3 hours in the cutest little salon you’ve ever seen being pampered, high-lighted, and cut. Sandi always does an amazing job with my hair, and today we tried some new things an absolutely love it. Changing up my hair always makes me feel brand new all over… it also instantly makes me feel like I need to completely change the color palette I’ve been drawing inspiration from for my makeup and the style of clothes I’ve been wearing. This usually means a shopping binge of some sort, but I’m going to do my best to resist the urge to splurge this time. Besides, I’m fairly certain that in addition to the changes today, we’re going to be adding some purple to my hair in the near future which will mean changing things up all over again.

I suppose at this point I really should go to bed. Goodnight ladies and gentlemen, sleep tight. =)

Me..almost recovered from a cold, but still red enough to make a black and white photo a necessity

 

 

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