I swear that every word you sang, you wrote them for me.

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I swear that every word you sang, you wrote them for me.

On February 28th I started querying my book.

One month ago, I got my first rejection from a full read. This is what I looked like:

This is what a sad sack looks like.

This is what a sad sack looks like.

The agent who rejected me wasn’t right for me, and I knew it.

Still, that was the day I gave up writing.

I gave up writing good and hard.

I let go of every dream I’ve ever had for publication.

I bought all the double chocolate vegan ice cream, and I binged on Netflix and Irish whisky.

Me. One month ago. For one hour.

Me. One month ago. For one hour.

For one hour.

And then, looking like Augustus Gloop, I wiped my chocolate mouth and got back to my computer to send out more queries.

Last week I got my first offer for representation. Then more and more offers came in.

Today I accepted an offer from my top pick agent.

I have so much to say about this process, but for now I’ll say:

Give up.

Give up everything.

Let it all go.

All the dreams you’ve ever had.

Buy the double chocolate ice cream and watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch under the covers.

For one hour.

For two.

Or the whole day.

And then get that ass back to the computer and do the work that you were put here to do.

Because the only thing that separates you from what you want is getting back up again, and saying “no, Sabrina and double chocolate ice cream isn’t the way we’re going out.”

Actually, on second thought, Sabrina and Chocolate seems like the perfect way to go out…

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Now this is awkward... Really don't know where to begin.

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Now this is awkward... Really don't know where to begin.

Currently Reading: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Two and a half months ago I locked the gates on social media, not for any dramatic reason. Mostly so I could finish writing my novel, but I also shut it all down for a cleansing and a re-building.

But it feels so good to be back sharing with a community, both on and in this blog.

Speaking of finishing the book, I DID actually finish, and I’m actively looking for an agent. Um, ya’ll, this is tough work, the waiting for someone to read and connect with your work, is like waiting for your crush to call, complete with butterflies and self-doubt. Fortunately, I believe that the first step in manifesting your dreams is to let go of the worry—to put your intention and best work out into the world, and then let what’s supposed to happen happen.

That’s easier said than done. So besides the daily hair-yanking out of my hair, here are some things that are distracting me:

  1. Garden Planning: We moved into our home almost two years ago (insane!) and after some serious back breaking digging and tilling, we’re ready actually putting things in the ground as soon as the dirt dries out. Just look at this camilla:

camillia.jpg

2. Buying all of the books. Here are ones I picked up yesterday:

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Shadow of the Night by Deborah Harkness : I read the first book in the All Soul’s Trilogy. While I was waiting for the second book to come out, I forgot about it until the television show hooked me. Now I have to know how this all plays out!

3. New Music:

Warm Human, Ghastly : My friend’s daughter just released a new album, and I’m obsessed. It’s definitely the soundtrack to my W.I.P., which is going back to my darker, horror-esque roots.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

E. A.

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If I spit fire, if I hang high upon a wire, if I pull my heart out...

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If I spit fire, if I hang high upon a wire, if I pull my heart out...

Not much for New Year resolutions.

Even less about those intention words people give themselves for the new year.

How much more am I than one word?

How can I be tied to one word when every day I grow and change?

But I do believe in the commitment to constantly growing, learning and becoming better.

I believe mostly in continuing to ignite the passion and to switch on the power plant that lives inside.

How far can we take our dreams this year?

When I look back on the year, will I be able to say that I was my own best advocate, my own friend and companion?

Or was I my own heartbreaker? My own enemy?

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So measure, measure on.

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So measure, measure on.

Haven’t been here in a while. Took a lot of time towards the end of the year to cut off ties to social media, the daily news, and other non-personal means of communication in favor of both finishing the novel and going deeper into defining what life means to me.

Part of this practice included daily meditation and tai chi. Had some great classes at Long Life Wellness in Cary.

Anyway, I’m no closer to finding answers, but I’m closer to knowing at least some of the questions I should be asking.

There’s no better time of the year than now to take stock and dive in a little deeper. I know that so many people set intentions and resolutions for the new year, but I’ve been so incredibly inspired by The Van Gogh Blues. It’s not just a book about depression, but also how to work through anxiety, creative block, day jobs, relationships and so much more.

I actually keep this book on my nightstand for reference when I feel the darkness pushing in, and the book reminds me to get to work in answering life’s harder questions. For example:

  • “How can I force life to have meaning?”

  • “How can I make life feel meaningful to me?”

  • “How can I justify my life?”

  • “What is the center of a creed I might live by?”

  • “On what operating principles can I base a meaningful life?”

  • “What is my truth?”

These questions, and so many other questions raised by The Van Gogh Blues are a little more difficult to navigate than resolving to go to the gym everyday keeping a daily intention in your head. But at the end of the day, it’s worth the work.

This book and these questions aren’t for everyone. It’s quite possible that you were created feeling incredibly satisfied with pure existence. Rather this book is for those, whether through nurture or nature, the creatives and the innovators, who believe that they are on the only ones who can define their own purpose, meaning and justification for their time spent on this earth.

Also, I really just wanted to stop this site by to share Ghost Forest is my latest music recommendation I have playing on repeat. Kind of creepy, kind of meditative, kind of brilliant.

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How long will I give to you? As long as I live through you.

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How long will I give to you? As long as I live through you.

I’ve been gone for a while successfully learning how to control time.

2018 has been full of moments where time sped up so fast, I could see the end of all of this.

And full of moments that have slowed so deliciously that I believed Earth could have stopped turning all together.

But I’ve found little secrets here and there to make them last if I want, speed them up when I don’t, and most importantly to not be afraid of it, because the truth is that time does not exist - at least not as we know it. At least not according to the clocks we set or the fear we have of it ending.

The most significant way I’ve learned to control time is through daily meditation, which I’ll write more about tomorrow.

Hey, speaking of time, time-traveling movies are my absolute favorite. Here are some of my top three that I can watch on repeat, especially during the holiday season:

The Time Traveler’s Wife

About Time

Midnight in Paris

I guess Rachel McAdams and I have the same taste in movies?

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I don't wanna always play nice, but I wanna feel your heartlines.

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I don't wanna always play nice, but I wanna feel your heartlines.

I've been thinking lately about how much energy is given to the negative spaces. Every time I feel fear, insecurity, frustration towards a person or event, jealousy, want, and desire, I can feel so much energy literally leaving me.

What if I gently and with compassion harnessed that energy for other things - creative, life-giving things? How much energy would I have in surplus to spend on joy and building? 

Lately, as I go on walks with the pups, any time my thoughts would trail off in the way of a negative thought, I intentionally called that energy back to myself, and I visualized my spirit expanding with that energy, radiating out, over flowing into the spaces around me. 

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Want to make these city lights turn off when the day is done.

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Want to make these city lights turn off when the day is done.

Who was it who said we must write removed? Wordsworth? Whitman? Certainly it was one of the Great W writers. 

Life has changed so much in the last few months. Or maybe not all all. Maybe it's just my perception that's changed.

So now that my world is growing small again, I'll ease back into these pages, taking my time in making sense of the beauty and the pain of all I've seen and what I've done. 

All I have to say for now is that the morning hours under the studio skylight are still my favorite, living with a spider who keeps biting my toes. 

I can hear the train in the distance, a train that I'm not rushing to catch. 

And a vintage Alice Hoffman in my hands, whispering her permission to write wildly. 

 

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He's saving them, the savages, with his Higgs Boson Blues

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He's saving them, the savages, with his Higgs Boson Blues

Switzerland has never been in the Top 10 list of places I want to travel, but when my niece decided that's where she wanted to go for her post-high school graduation (when did they start letting babies go off to college?), I figured we should trust her genius judgment and tag along on a family trip. 

Over ten days, we locked into three cities: Geneva, Interlaken and Lucerne, and we did it up, ya'll.

Like we did it up so much, K kept asking: why do you keep singing about riding a bull for 2.7 seconds, because "Live Like You Were Dying" was an ear worm for 10 days. 

So, I thought I'd write a little about each city to entice you to visit this wonderment of a country. 

Day 1 - 3: Geneva. 

I finally understand Hans Christian Anderson and the swan thing! 

I finally understand Hans Christian Anderson and the swan thing! 

To try to beat the jet lag, we took a bus tour of the city to get the lay of the land and figure out how we wanted to spend our days. A bus tour was a great way to see the U.N., Avenue de la Paix, and Broken Chair. Really you don't need to spend a half a day going to check it out. It's awesome, awe-inspiring, but once you've seen it, you can move on. 

However, we did find charming, cobble-stoned, Old Town on that tour, so we made our way to that part of town and got some grub at one of their cute outdoor cafe's before passing out for the night. 

After sleeping in WAY later than I've ever done, K and I had a sweet lunch at the Art Museum, and then made our way to Mont Saleve Cable Car. At the time I thought this cable car was death-defying, but no.

It's not. It's not even close.

The cable cars throughout our trip got much worse / better.

Technically the Saleve Cable Car takes you into France. And with an outdoor restaurant at the top of the cliff serving some of the best French cheeses and baguettes, this is a sweet way to see the city from on high, get your bearings, and relax for a moment before the adventure really begins. 

The Large Hadron Collider map - over 27 kilometers in circumference. 

The Large Hadron Collider map - over 27 kilometers in circumference. 

There was only one thing on my bucket list in Switzerland: Cern. To be in the space where the most brilliant minds are discovering some of the secrets of the universe - God particles, unknown dimensions, anti-matter... it's just makes you feel so small and so large all at once. 

The two-hour guided tours are hard to come by, but I think the free exhibits are the way to go anyway. The exhibits are highly interactive and full of fun technology that really makes physics fun for people of all ages and backgrounds.

So, Geneva was a bustling city and not relaxing in the least. But I wouldn't trade the opportunity to experience that kind of energy. When you're there, you're surrounded by people who are truly working on solving the problems of the world and that energy is infectious. 

For example, while I was eating my 168th croissant and wondering if Taylor Swift was going to host a 4th of July party this year, I found myself sitting next to four women of four different nationalities and four different races conversing about what they can do to help solve the Syrian refugee crises. 

Can I have more of that in America, please?

Please? 

So, here are the logistics of the trip, in case you're interested: 

Night 1: Hotel Manotel. Right in the heart of the city. Very close to train stations and a short walk to Old Town, Geneva. 

Night 2-3: Domaine de Chateauvieux. K and I love staying in the thick of things, but after a few days that can get a bit overwhelming. So, I booked a place just out of the city to give us a bit of a reprieve. Just a ten minute bus ride out of the city, this chateau is immaculate and the rooms have stunning views of the vineyards and the city. They also have a two-star Michelin restaurant w. Chez Philippe. The dinner there probably cost more than our food for the entire trip, but for a romantic splurge, it's definitely worth it.

A few travel tips: 

*That Swiss Alps water is like liquid gold, and it costs as much as the tears of baby seals. Bring a water bottle and refill at one of the many beautiful water fountains throughout the country. Don't order it at restaurants. Even if they DO have tap water, they'll still tell you they have to squeeze it out of those poor baby seals. 

Pregnancy tests, condoms, lighters and M&Ms.

Pregnancy tests, condoms, lighters and M&Ms.

* Don't Uber! The buses and trains are fast, clean, easy to navigate and always on time. Ubers cost too much, IMO. Plus you get to see fun vending machines at the bus stops. 

*Buy the City and Swiss Passes. You can get a day pass that lets you into buses, trains, museums and cable cars, and save a lot of money. 

*Don't buy tickets to places in advance (except to Cern). Despite some extra hot days, we had extreme luck with the weather. We really never ran into lines for anything, so you should be all set even in good weather. 

Below are a few more pics from around Geneva: 

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Take me to your river. I want to go.

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Take me to your river. I want to go.

Typically my husband and I are that annoying childless couple who can just decide to up and go away for the weekend. But this year - with a lot of loss and a lot of personal goals - we've found getting away together particularly challenging.

In fact, we really can't actually remember the last time we were on a vacation together. 

So, on Friday of last week, we hopped in the car and drove two hours east to New Bern, NC for a long weekend getaway. 

At this river front town, we stayed at the The Aerie Inn, ate way too much at Persimmons, discovered our favorite oyster bar seats at Morgan's, and we just meandered in and out of the little shops, antique stores, and up and down the historic neighborhoods. 

While we were walking on the riverwalk on Friday night, we stumbled on a placard ad for a river tour that described the event as eco-friendly and serene. And with this picture of the Captain and his First Mate, how could you NOT want to go?!

Ultimate Relationship Goals.

Ultimate Relationship Goals.

When we arrived for the boat tour on Saturday, we found there was just one other woman who would be joining us. She had a look to her - that look where you know she's in the middle of something real deep. She mentioned how she was looking for a new place to live, and that New Bern was a possibility. 

As we set out on the river, Captain Jack asked if any of us had ever taken a New Bern boat tour before, and I said in typical Liz-oversharing-stream-of-conscious-rambling: "I was just in New Bern a few weeks ago by myself to finish a book, not that I did finish it. But while I was here I wanted to take a boat tour, but I just couldn't bring myself to go without my husband. I know that sounds terrible. Like I should be stronger than that. Like what's wrong with me? I'm an embarrassment to women." 

So, instead of having a boat tour therapy session with Captain Jack, we spent the next hour and a half looking for osprey nests, sunbathing turtles and Nicholas Sparks' ex-wife's house. 

On the way back to the docks, Captain Jack offered to let us steer the boat, and while Ken was guiding us back to the port like a boss, that other woman leaned over across the boat and said to me:

"I heard the words you said about feeling like you should be able to go out on a boat tour without your husband. I lost my husband last year, so please listen to me on this. Don't you dare ever feel badly for wanting to share your life with your husband. Don't ever feel badly for letting him be your best friend. Love him, love him, love him while you got him."

I've never needed to hear something more in my life. 

These are the sorts of every day angels who are all around us. 

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I'd call you now to tell you I'm thinking of you.

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I'd call you now to tell you I'm thinking of you.

My father passed away this week. I gave a eulogy: 

I’ve never known my father as a whole man.

While my mother was pregnant with me, my father was in a terrible accident in the North Carolina woods, and he lost many pieces of himself.

In that accident he lost his dominate hand - the hand he used to play semi-pro golf and the hand he used to play guitar. He also lost his eyesight in the accident - the eyesight he used to write sermons and read voraciously.

To be candid, it wasn’t long after that accident his family was blown apart, too, and he lost the future he had seen for himself.

But my dad was resourceful, and of course he found a way to compensate for all of those those missing pieces- like how he used a hook to pick his guitar and learn to play golf again, or using speech-enabled software for writing and reading.

But there’s one thing that my father relied on the most to compensate for those missing pieces - his heart.

After the accident, my father relied on his heart to create music, strumming his guitar with a hook and a pick.

He used his heart to minister to his communities, caring for the elderly and sick, the imprisoned and the marginalized.

He used his heart to create and build his newspaper business, bringing good news and hope to his community in a world wrought with very, very bad news. He used his heart in performing his magic shows, desperately wanting to make people laugh, often times at his own expense, anything to bring people joy.

He used his heart to find and marry the love of his life, Cathy, the best, kindest person alive to help raise his daughters and give us Clayton - something that I believe is his greatest gift to our family, and something that I cherish more than anything else he’s done.

Since my father relied on his heart so very much, he also suffered greatly through his heart. He felt pain in a way that many people don’t. He felt injustices of the world and regret deeper than most people. 
He felt profound hopelessness and terror through his heart.

My father’s death is shocking to me, not just because it happened two days ago, but because it was heart attack. He wasn’t healthy, but I hadn’t heard about his heart being in jeopardy of giving out.

I don’t understand what’s happened this week, and I’m still trying to come to terms with all of it. But for me, I can think of no more fitting way for my father to leave this world than from too much pressure on his heart.

Because besides living through his heart and suffering through his heart, I do believe my father loved fiercely through his heart.

It’s my father’s heart that I’ll miss the most.

https://www.wileyfuneralhome.com/obituary/gary-smith/

 

 

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There is a crack run right down the front of me.

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There is a crack run right down the front of me.

The judgement of my own work is so precariously perched on a cliff of doom, that I do everything I can to keep solid footing.

There are two frames of mind that can push you over that edge, sending your most creative work tumbling into a ravine of failed tales. 1. Over-confidence / Complacency 2. Self-Doubt. 

Works-in-progress thrive when the artist lives somewhere in the middle of those two beliefs. Some times she'll oscillate between the two extremes, but living in either one of those frames of mind can be the death of originality. 

For this, I'm so freaking careful about talking about works-in-progress. 

There are one of two things that come from sharing your work with other people before you put that final "the end" stamp on it. 

Either

they will not like it. This would cause you to doubt your path, your heart, your mission and your purpose,

or

they will love it, causing you to become complacent. 

Staying in that middle ground of excitable, impossible hope is what drives us back to the page / canvas / floor, day after day.

When my husband and I had tea and cookies with Niall Williams, we talked with him about the dynamic of being in an artistic relationship. He said that it's necessary to protect the work, even from those you love. He told us that when he's working, he has two responses for when people ask him about his novels-in-progress: It's going well, or I'm at a tricky bit. 

Rare creative relationships. 

Rare creative relationships. 

This isn't to say that you don't need people to share your work with. Writing is lonely and can cause you to get stuck in your own head, not able to see the precious moments you have to cut, the underdeveloped scenes, the confusing bits. The greats always had their people to bounce ideas off of: Lewis / Tolkien, Emerson / Thoreau, Kermit / Gonzo. 

There are people who will get your early drafts, your vision. You'll know your creative soulmates when you find them, and when you do, latch on for dear life. 

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That ancient light, weigh on your shoulders.

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That ancient light, weigh on your shoulders.

Humans have to create narratives. Narratives are how we assign motivation. Narratives help us problem solve. In narratives we try to make sense of the chaotic world.

The absolute worst narrative we create is the narrative we give to other people. 

It usually starts within a family structure, where each person is labeled: the smart one, the pretty one, the difficult one, the prissy one, the tomboy... 

Those perceptions and narratives that people construct of us - especially of our deep-rooted families - can be so pervasive that they attach to us like badges. And I see so many of us who don't know how to cut those badges off, and so we try to wear them with pride. 

So the person who was given the character-trait of being a high-achiever, becomes unrelenting in her achievements. The person who was given the badge of difficult, becomes difficult in that self-fulfilling prophesy. The prissy person tries to adapt her narrative into becoming OCD. 

And while I understand why we construct narratives, I wish we could also so see them for what they are: Damaging lies.

Every single one of those narratives is incorrect.

Every. Single. One.

The truth is that you're far grander than any person's flawed, incomplete, imposed perceptions of you. There are depths and contradictions to you that no one could ever fathom.

So, I was walking through this abundant forest, among all of these regal-looking, ancient trees, wondering how I could possibly remove badges that people have pinned on me, and this kind of mantra just came into my head: 

I am ancient,

and I am young.

I am wider than the forest,

and I am taller than the trees.

I am abundant.I am a creator. 

I am love. 

I am love. 

I am love. 

And as I hiked along, I kept repeating this to myself until for just a millisecond I believed it.

For a millisecond I was weightless without the badges, pricking me. For a millisecond I was free. 

If I had a challenge for this year, I would keep snipping away all of those badges and gather together more and more milliseconds of freedom. 

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Dreaming in the lows, I never thought I'd see this high.

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Dreaming in the lows, I never thought I'd see this high.

I have this lovely New Year tradition, wherein I talk to my very best friend of all time.

Okay, I suppose it's not a tradition if I've only talked to her on New Year one time, and this year it took seven days for me to call her. But in my heart I talk to her on New Year's Day. 

She's the one person I want to start my New Year with. Whenever I talk to her, I see the world more clearly, with more hope, and with a sense of belonging. She centers me. And more importantly she makes me laugh. 

Last year on New Year's Day I told her that the book I'm working on would be finished this year.

This year I have the same, exact goal. 

Then I realized that I had the same goal three years ago. 

And the same four years ago.

This made me feel real shit, ya'll. 

So, I'm doing the hard work of trying to figure out why something that's been on the top of my priority list hasn't been completed sooner.

And then it hit me hard, kind of like Sir Dexter Augustus's serious gastrointestinal issues today: 

My work hasn't been a priority. 

Mind you in the last four years, I've been working on a script and finished a draft of another novel, so I'm not saying that I haven't written my little fingers numb. But bringing my work to a conclusion has been a bit elusive. 

But why? What the hell have I been doing with my time? 

Ah, yes. For four years - READ FOUR YEARS - I've been in the mode of establishing a family and a secure home. I've been focused so much on the dating, the engagement, the wedding, the marriage, the house, the establishing, that I've given less time to the work than I've been telling myself I had. 

And this truth bomb - like Dexter Augustus's pungent breath - it's a good thing guys.

Everything I've ever wanted is in these walls - a loving, stable family and a place I do feel as safe and secure as a 5' tall, 115 pound human could. 

Realizing that what I've wanted so desperately for so long has come to this grand fruition, greater than my wildest dreams, I'm good with being a bit delayed on the writing front. 

But now all of that is settled, and I can truly see that my priority can come into getting these projects finished. These books are on the cusp, and I'm so excited to see the structures really come together. And if God, if quantum physics, if love has taken my deepest desire and made it into a reality, what else can He do for another desire - like creating great work? 

I do know many, many of my friends come to me with the hopes and the frustrations that come with being an artist. The missed chances, the incomplete projects, the edits that take too long... and I guess I would ask: can you say that your work has truly been your priority? 

And if it hasn't been, can you be okay with that until it's time to shift it back again? There are more important things in life than art. Not much, but a bit. Family, God, Health and Charity. If you've been focused on any of these things instead of your work, I hope you find some comfort there. 

But now get your ass back to work. You've got some shit to do and the world needs your brilliance. 

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The longer I run, then the less that I find.

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The longer I run, then the less that I find.

Tuesday and Wednesday were identical in every way. It was a Groundhog Day for me. Woke up at the same time, putzed around for the same time, ate almost identical foods, even worked on the exact same project. 

Tuesday was one of my best days. I was joyful and hopeful every moment of the day, even when things went wrong. I was happy just to be working, just to be me.

Wednesday I felt like a round peg in a square hole (which is just a perception and not true). I was drawn to negative thoughts and even kept checking the negative news sites, which I had sworn off. 

It all comes down, in my opinion, to intention. Tuesday, the joy kept every negative thing at bay. Wednesday, the frustration let things escalate to where even Sophie Lynn was getting annoyed.

And so today I'm back at the 5:30 AM prayer and meditation practice, because I can't sustain joy on my own. But I'll tell you, I almost gave up at 5:34.

Our beloved cat believes 5:30 is the optimal play time, it's cold, I can't find my headphones, the little light on my computer cord in the room is glowing so bright, reminding me of all the things I have yet to do, my foot fell asleep, my back started to hurt - I almost just stood up and got on with the day. 

But every time I sit and wait, something magical happens. A shift in my heart. A shift in perspective. The Divine. I've never regretted waiting out a prayer and meditation. 

*Wanted to just note here what I mean by prayer and mediation, and why I don't use one over the other. To me prayer is a talking to, whereas a meditation is a quiet listening. In my practice I use both. I ask forgiveness. I ask for blessings. I talk through problems. But then the time comes to shift to being a receiver - to quieting the mind so you can hear the still voice, so you can feel the shift, so you can experience forgiveness, grace and love. Sure you can chalk it all up to prayer, but I think there's a huge difference in today's lexicon between the two words.*

 

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To keep their little heads from falling in the snow.

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To keep their little heads from falling in the snow.

Yesterday was the best hunkering day of all time. Lit fires, stayed late in the downtown office, cranked up the music, and dug into a couple of chapters. 

I love long hikes, long runs, travel, and any sort of movement so freaking much, but woah am I relishing these moments during the cold snap when we have to stay put and keep warm.

In fact, I have a feeling we'll be doing a lot of hunkering this year. No big trips are planned, no big lavish weddings, no Pope meetings, no big purchases. We're just sitting still and seeing what it's like to live a quiet life focused on building and creating, rooting.

Of course, that's our idea, but what will really happen this year is anyone's guess.

It's just we're expected to keep searching, to keep moving up and on, to keep finding the next best thing. But what if we don't have to search? What if we don't have to force anything or worry. What if worrying and constant planning is just dizzying, crazy-making behavior that keeps us always in a state of want? I'm finally starting to see the brilliance of Phillippians 4:6:7.

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. 7Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

And this is the intersection of science and faith. Even if you have zero faith, neurologically speaking, our consciousness can't function optimally if we're in a state of worry and stress. Inside of us, sometimes locked very far away, we have the answers. We know how to be great writers. We know how to be kind and generous. We know how to be adventurous and successful. We have everything we need. It's all about letting go of control, and unlocking what we already know. 

Here's the experiment: This year I'll work hard at what I love, keep my intentions and my gratitude clear, and I'll let the rest work out as it should without force and without worry. I have three things that I would love to see happen this year, which I'll write down now and keep locked in a drawer.

Let's check in at the end of the year, I'll show you what my 'requests' were, and we'll see how it's all worked out. 

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My life, my love, my drive, it came from (Pain)

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My life, my love, my drive, it came from (Pain)

Spoiler Alert: 

You're in for a year of pain.

Every single day will be littered with pain.

There are going to be failures and missteps, words mis-spoken, words misunderstood. There are going to be fires and violence, burned food, there are going to be people who don't like us, people who like us a little too much, there are going to be new scuffs on the floor, diverted plans, stomach aches and flus, scraped knees, jealousy, hang nails, business failures, rejections, arguments, pounds we can't lose, pounds we can't gain, boring meetings, bad hair cuts, new grays, death, lonely nights, empty coffee pots, traffic jams, parking lot bumps, and nightmares come true, death.

Here's another spoiler alert: 

This year will have an abundance of joy. 

There will be painted sunsets in magentas and vermillion, hands to lift you up from a fall, dances across hardwood floors, magical immune systems, books, books and books, new visions, roaring fires on cold nights, wild oceans, mountain ranges, hot chocolate, hands to hold, friends to make, band-aids with Elsa pictures, new recipes, hugs, cinnamon rolls, swimming holes, towering shady trees, snuggling puppies, art, color, finished projects, acceptance letters, belly-aching laughter, graduations, the snow-covered Earth, another spring, another fall, second chances, births, forgiveness, grace. 

For 2018, I'm rejecting the idea that I can avoid pain. Trying to avoid it will only cause more suffering. 

To be gifted life is to encounter pain, and just being a part of this journey makes every heart-wrenching moment worth it. Once we realize that the cost of living a life on Earth is to encounter pain, we can, like magic, turn that pain into joy and gratitude even on the darkest of days. 

Bumps, scraps, heartaches and all, don't take this away from me. Not yet.  

Not a bad way to start the year!

Not a bad way to start the year!

And here is a gift for you... a little New Years Day recipe I made that's going to send me out for a very long workout - a brioche cinnamon roll pull apart log. I made one for us, one for the neighbors.  For us, we had to bake it almost 15 minutes longer than recommended in the recipe. And then instead of a cream cheese frosting, I used an orange frosting by mixing 1 cup of powdered sugar with fresh squeezed juice from an orange. 

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Kiss me on that midnight street, sweep me off my feet, singing ain't this life so sweet.

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Kiss me on that midnight street, sweep me off my feet, singing ain't this life so sweet.

So, I was watching the Big Family Cooking Showdown yesterday, and during one episode this woman was like "I think I'm just going to make up some flatbread to go with our stah-ters." She just decided to make flatbread, like it's just something someone does just because. 

Of course then I had to try to just whip together flatbread for dinner. 

The food ended up being so good that we could hardly enjoy it because we were just wide-eyed staring at each other that we had made one of the best meals we've ever had. 

I'm going to write what what we did, but there's one component that has nothing to do with cooking times or ingredients. I truly think this meal came out so delicious because we made it joyfully. Cooking brings us together in a common creative endeavor as we nourish each other, and I just really believe that anything you create in joy comes out so much more beautiful. This, too, is one of my goals for 2018, to infuse joy into everything I do, because I know everything I touch will be made better for it.  

Here's are the recipes we put together last night. 

Flatbread Ingredients

  • 3/4 Cup Milk
  • 3.5 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt

Cabbage Ingredients

  • 1 Small Red Cabbage (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion
  • 2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar

Skirt Steak Ingredients (This really is eyeballing the ingredients. You can go wrong with this marinade, so if you want more red pepper or ginger, do it!)

  • Skirt Steak
  • 1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Honey
  • 1 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Tsp Ginger

It takes thirty minutes for the dough to rest, so I started with the flatbreads.

Warm the milk and the butter just until the butter melts, and then I combine with the flour and the salt. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, let sit for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile Ken made up the marinade for the steak. Just throw all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk up! Pound the skirt steaks to an even thickness. Don't worry about them being too then, they'll pull back together when you sear them. Evenly coat the steaks in the marinade and let sit for 20 minutes. I marinated them in the fridge.

Onto the cabbage! Since I had a few minutes for the dough to set and the marinade to marinade, I really put some love into thinly slicing the cabbage and onion. Place a generous amount of olive oil in the pan and toss the cabbage and onion on medium high heat for five minutes. Then add the sugar and the white white vinegar. Reduce heat to low. Cover. Cook an extra ten minutes. 

Then while I made the flatbreads, Ken doll seared the steak. We did this at the same time, but if had just been me, I would have made the steads first, then the flatbreads, because the steaks can rest after cooking.

For the flatbread, cut dough into four sections. Roll each section into a ball and the roll out each section into your flatbread shape. Place a tablespoon of olive oil in small heated pan on medium heat. Place flatbread in the pan for 1-1.5 minutes each side. You should start to see a bubble or two while you're cooking. As you make each flatbread, store them in a napkin or tea towel to keep warm. 

Meanwhile, Ken was searing the steaks on high heat for 5ish minutes each side. Let the steaks rest a few minutes before thinly slicing them against the grain.

That's it! 

Happy New Year Eve! 

Here's a video of a man playing a tiny piano in the rain in the middle of a street. Strange video, beautiful song:

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“You are enough.” These little words, somehow they’re changing us.

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“You are enough.” These little words, somehow they’re changing us.

One of life's greatest challenges - right up there with self-actualization, mastering linear algebra, and getting through James Joyce's Ulysses - is the ability to find and connect with couple friends. 

It's that elusive relationship where all four people would be friends with each other individually, yet together make a power quad (like the Power Rangers but with old-fashioneds and buffalo chicken cheese dip.)

Last night we spent sometime with one of our dear couple friends. We love these two because when we're together the conversation, food, experiences, are all relaxed and full of joy. From the second we met, it's just been an easy relationship. 

We never feel like we have to be anything other than our authentic selves, which is a rare gift I don't want to take for granted.

Isn't that a lovely goal for 2018... to be that rare person who gives space for a person to breathe? To give someone a little corner of the world where they aren't being torn down, but lifted up? This all falls into my overall goal for 2018... creation. Be a world-builder, not just in stories, not just in art, but in friendships, in food, in love, in life. 

Be a creator, not a destroyer. 

These cool cats even let Sophie Lynn tag along with us and bounce off their beautiful walls and bug their adorable corgi. If that's not love, I just don't know what is. 

Now they're about a week and half out from having a baby, and my fave part of the night (besides obnoxiously and constantly feeling the baby twist and turn in mom's belly) was geeking out over the baby's perfect library. 

Of course I've designated myself the guardian of said library.

Baby's got all the staples: Pat the Bunny, Goodnight Moon, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Dr. Seuss, and many, many other gems.

My first order of business is to get the Blue Fairy Book into the mix. 

Which classics would you add to baby's must-have library? 

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If you're going downtown, I might as well be on your way.

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If you're going downtown, I might as well be on your way.

Spending some time this week in my old studio / workspace in downtown Cary. I forgot how warm and cozy it is in that space, like you're just working in one perfect hug. 

I love these days spent coding / building sql skills / world-building next to a dear friend, sharing homemade cookies, meeting my husband for lunch at Pro Epicurean, giving little joyful glances at the sweet twinkle lights and decorated trees along Academy Street as I leave for the day...

these make for the best, joyful days. 

Speaking of planets. (Okay, I wasn't really writing about planets, but somewhere deep inside of my brain, my joy neurons are hyper connected to my Planet Earth neurons), if you want to see a true thriller, a true love story, a true who-done-it... check out Planet Earth, Part II. You can find it on Netflix.  Or you can find it on BBC. 

Anyway off topic, since I've been hanging out downtown, I still wanted to have homemade meals, so of course I decided to I had to make a bread and prove it while working throughout the day... as one does. 

Even though Ken Doll got me a fancy new mixer for Christmas, this newbie recipe doesn't actually need a mixer. It's only four ingredients, super easy, no kneading necessary, but it really is super delicious. Ken said it rivaled Italian restaurant bread, and you know that's some hardcore praise right there. 

Here's the skinny: 

3.5 cups of flour

1.5 teaspoons of sea salt.

One teaspoon yeast

1.5 cups warm water. (115-ish degrees)

Mix flour, salt and yeast. Then add the water. 

Let the dough rise for about 10 hours. (I put it on a little heating pad on the low setting.)

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. In preheated oven, heat a dutch oven for 30 minutes. 

Punch dough down. Roll out onto floured parchment paper, and with super floured hands, roll into a ball. 

Cover dough with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes while the oven heats. 

Transfer dough (with parchment) to dutch oven. 

Cook for 45 minutes with lid. Cook another 10 without until it looks super golden and delicious. 

I hope you're having a sweet end of 2017, loves. I know it's been a rough one. 

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I close my eyes forgetting everything I know.

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I close my eyes forgetting everything I know.

An atom is 99.9999% energy. You are comprised of atoms. Therefore, you are about 0.00001% physical form. So why, oh why, are we always so focused on the physical 100% of the time?

And why don't we realize how capable we are of shifting that .000001% of the physical world? 

I've always been a meditator, but for the last month I've been letting my outer world get smaller and smaller, and letting the inner world get much more vast. I've been making sure to spend at least an hour a day in meditation, and whoa, friend, is that universe of the consciousness more rich than all of the oceans and lands of the physical world. 

And what you encounter in consciousness: love, beauty, and healing... you can bring it back to the very little part of your life that is physical. I don't mean just like emotional healing. I mean actual physical healing from ailments and disease.

If you're interested in learning more about how your consciousness affects your physical reality, how you can heal your body, how you can become a participant in healing the world, I definitely recommend the book "You are the Placebo" by Dr. Joe Dispenza. 

All I can say is that it's working for me. I've never been so healthy through and through. 

Today's title is inspired by "Close My Eyes" by Anna O. 

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