On Making Time To Write

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

This post has been sitting around in my drafts folder since April 14. I've come back to it a few times to polish it up and I've finally decided it's time to share it here. Whether you are a writer or someone trying to make time for something else, I hope this post inspires you to stick with it! 

The writing life has a huge appeal to some people. The thing about writing is that it takes time. You have to sift through your ideas. You have to give your undivided attention to the task of arranging and rearranging words until an idea turns into something that can be passed around. No piece is ever truly finished even though you always have to make the call to move on and work on something else at some point.

I get the most joy out of finishing a first draft. I know it's good if it leaves me feeling a little breathless. The panic doesn't set in until after the final round of edits happen and I turn it over for someone else to read. All of a sudden, it doesn't seem good enough. I wonder what they'll think of my work and of me and if handing it over was really such a good idea after all. Which is ridiculous. The very point of writing is that people will take what you've written and enjoy it in their own way.

In a lot of ways, it seems as though my time in this town has made me a writer. I've used the time and routine that life here has granted me to push myself as a writer. To put myself out there. To hand my work over. To welcome people who know me in real life to this space (and to not be totally weirded out when they find their way here on their own).

There's a man from church that referred to me as "the writer" for the longest time. I didn't know how to feel about it at first, but then I realized that there was nothing wrong with that title. Last summer, I was out with my brother one day and a guy that was looking to hire him, turned to me and asked if I was a writer. I still have no idea what prompted that question, but for some reason, he asked it and I fumbled with just how to answer him. Back in February, I found out that someone I'd known of for quite a while is a writer. After I asked him about it, he didn't miss a beat before asking me if I write.

Writing has been a big part of my life ever since I can remember. It was something I did, but that I tended to keep to myself. It's a solitary activity. Something that you don't assume people will understand. Somehow I never gave it up. I kept at it. I didn't let my own doubts or fears choke it out. If I'm honest, writing isn't something that I decide to do, it's basically something that I must do. It's part of who I am.

I read about people's writing routines and how they make time to write and I feel foolish sometimes. There's the woman who pays someone to keep her children for two 3 hour chunks each week so that she can go write. There is Marina and her resolve to write for 12 hours each week during what would have otherwise been spent on a club that she didn't get into. And then there is me. I spend a fair amount of time writing. I have a notebook that I take with me when I have an idea in my head and expect to have some time to get it down on paper.

If I'm honest, I think about these years that God has granted me and I want to be able to look back on them knowing that I used them well. I want to make replacements of my own. I want to set aside time to write and I want to USE it.

The writing life appeals to people who know what it is to BE writers. They have teachers and friends and people telling them that they have to write and they know it's true.  My friend Jeremiah said something the other day that I haven't been able to shake...He said that it's so easy to write and yet even easier not to. And he's right. When you're a writer, the words come. Give yourself a quiet hour and a piece of paper or a Word document and you'll be able to crank out 1500 or even 2000 words on ANY given subject. They may be junk, but they'll come. For people who write, writing is easy. Creativity feeds on creativity. Inspiration will come in the shower, at a stop light, in the grocery store, in the garden, and sometimes even in your sleep.

But, Jeremiah is right. It's even easier not to write. To let the days turn into weeks where you don't get anything down or where you don't go back to what you wrote in order to turn it into something better. To keep what you've written to yourself and to let it die in a dusty old notebook or some forgotten folder on your computer. It's easier to come up with excuses of things that you could or should be doing instead of writing than it is to set aside time to write and to discipline yourself to make the most of that time.

Here I am...With all kinds of spare moments to work on a novel or on essays that I could submit to contests and literary magazines. With something that is some kind of gift. With the opportunity to be the writer that God seems to have made me to be. I don't always know what kinds of words I should put down or what kinds of stories I should tell. Here's to making the time and using the time and doing what it is we've been put here to do. Whatever it is, we can't take the easy way out. We've got work to do.

What's the thing that you are called to put time into?

Just Because

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 20, 2017

I'm having a little issue with blogger and my trusty laptop again...So, while I have picture posts and a birthday post and an essay and more on faith to share, this morning, I'm just writing from the hip. I hope you don't mind. I have a feeling you don't because these are the kinds of posts that I love to read when I head to other people's blogs.

This weekend was an eventful one! Tech week turned into opening weekend and we came out on the other side with a house that's in pretty good shape, food in the fridge, and none of us down for the count. Plus, the show is going SUPER well. I call that a win!

Over the weekend I also...

* Found out that I tied for 2nd place in a writing contest I entered back in March!

* Had a minor emergency involving maggots AND didn't throw up (the dog drug something out of the bushes).

* Read in the sun...ate in the sun...had ice cream in the sun.

* Saw a man in a dress/romper situation. (WHY? I ask you...)

* Said "thank you" to a credit card machine.

* Finished reading a book I've been working on for nearly 2 whole months.

* Cooked up the first of the "summer" dinners (hot dogs, Alton Brown's mac and cheese, baked beans, and watermelon).

* Got out of the car in an "I wasn't planning on getting out of the car" outfit and grinned like an idiot as I walked around looking for my Mom. (A junky tshirt and a pair of Gap sweat shorts from the late 90s as well as my old Adidas sandals that I can't bring myself to throw away...I know you were wondering!)

* Chose the next book for my book club to read.

I told you it was eventful! Aside from attending opening night and enjoying SO MUCH SUN, the highlight of my weekend was the ceremony for the latest writing competition I entered. When I wrote the essay back in February, I wasn't sure that it was good enough. I didn't know if people would be able to "get" it. It was one of those pieces that was easy to write which sometimes means you're not giving it all you've got. Apparently, it was alright. Another thing that caught my by surprise was the fact that the person that I wrote about was sitting next to me at the ceremony. That is not something I expected to happen as I wrote the words on that Friday afternoon in February. I shouldn't have been surprised...God has a way of bringing the right people into our lives at just the right times.

Here we are. May is almost over, every day feels more like summer. Almost every evening reminds me of a night at the beach. Our routine is about to change around here again. I've got a trip to SC coming up FAST. In the meantime, life is purring along just like it always does. More on that later.

How was your weekend?

What have you been reading lately? 

DIY Iced Lattes

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You guys, I've been making cold brew coffee for SIX years as of this summer. I remember when everyone was getting into it and I honestly didn't know that there were still people who don't know how to do it...You learn things on the internet. This week, I learned that there are still people who don't know how to make their own cold brewed coffee.

I also learned: That wind currents and the temperature of the ocean control humidity. That there are apparently cold coffee BREWERS. That Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and Johnny Mercer all have versions of the song "Accentuate the Positive" out there. That there are 14 books about the Wizard of Oz. That Lukas Graham is a young white guy. 

Back to the cold brew coffee thing. Cold brew coffee is great. From about May until October, I almost always have a little jar of it tucked away on the top shelf of my fridge. I've been known to mix it with chai tea, sweetened condensed milk, Hershey's caramel syrup, or some homemade toasted marshmallow syrup (along with milk and ice, of course). 

All you need is coffee, water, some kind of strainer, a spoon, and a couple of glass jars.

You ready for this?

I don't have pictures of the process, because I think you can handle it on  your own.

Cold Brew Coffee

1 c. coffee grounds (I use Folger's Columbian Roast)
4 c. cold water

Place coffee grounds and water into a glass jar with a lid. Give it a few shakes and set it on the counter where you will let it sit for 8-12 hours or overnight.

Once the time is up, place a fine mesh strainer over the opening of a second glass jar and slowly pour the coffee into the jar through the strainer. (Our coffee pot has a basket that doesn't require filters, so that's what I use.) Use a spoon to scoop any remaining grounds into the strainer and very gently press the grounds with the back of the spoon to release any coffee that they have retained. Discard those pressed grounds. Pour the coffee back and forth between the two jars through the strainer a few more times until no grounds remain.

Place jar in fridge where it will keep until the coffee is used up. You'll find that this coffee is less bitter and yet stronger than regular coffee. Use about 1/3 cup cold brew coffee for a 20 oz. iced latte. 

* * *

Before I let you go...You're probably going to want that toasted marshmallow syrup recipe. Right? I have my friend Jayda to thank for getting me hooked on this at home version. I looked and looked for one and as is usually the case, somebody else googled it and found JUST what I was after. Thanks, Jayda! I owe you big time.

The original recipe makes more than I'll ever need. So, I make a small batch of it at a time.

Toasted Marshmallow Syrup

1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, and water in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, let simmer 2-3 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract.

Let cool completely and then transfer to a small glass jar (I use a tiny little pimento cheese jar) and store in fridge. Use about 1 1/2 tsp. syrup for a 20 oz. iced latte. 

* * *

Okay, now I've done my part in helping those of you who are still buying your cold brew coffee find a way around all that madness. Feel free to play with the coffee grounds to water ratio. I certainly have! 

If you need latte making tips, that's even easier than all this brewing and syrup making. It goes like this: Add syrup to your cup, top with coffee, top with milk (leaving room for plenty of ice), STIR, add ice, ENJOY.

Now you know everything I learned on the internet this week and a few things I learned in the 6+ years before that. 

What's your coffee story?

What did YOU learn on the internet this week?

The Way I Always Do

Monday, May 15, 2017

April 11, 2017

Back in April, I tagged along with my brother and sister and a few of my sister's friends on a hike. It was the first really warm day we'd had and the trail was buzzing with people. My sister and her friends meandered along while my brother and I took the lead. We stopped every now and then so that people could take pictures or look over the edge or do whatever it was they wanted to do with a short break. 

Somewhere along the way I decided to look for ferns. I didn't know why I wanted to find some so badly, but it seemed important. I told my brother that the woods don't seem like the woods without ferns. Things were really green and there were all these little yellow flowers everywhere, but I couldn't find a single fern. 

I shrugged my shoulders and let it go. We hiked on until we came to this clearing where we decided to set up a hammock and take a long break. My sister and her friends messed around with the hammock while my brother and I climbed around on the rocks. After a while, I took a seat in the sun and my brother took the camera to snap a few shots. 

I was keeping an eye on him, the way I always do when we're out and about, but eventually I lost sight of him. He had climbed down into a dip in the rocks. All of a sudden I heard him yell, "Ferns!"   He came back into view and held up the camera signaling that he'd found my ferns and had taken some pictures of them. I smiled, the way I always do when his sweetness reminds me just how much he loves me. 

Ferns remind me of summer camp and hikes and my grandparents' front porch. They remind me of the cool shade of the woods and nights spent going back and forth between the porch swing and catching lightning bugs. They remind me of growing up and growing old. They remind me of who I am and where I've been. They remind me of days gone by and days yet to come. Maybe that's why I was so set on finding some.

We found some ferns. We finished our hike. We smiled and laughed and took pictures. We made memories. 

A month later, I'm still thinking back on them. The way I always do. 

5 More Things About Me pt. 7

Friday, May 12, 2017

July 17, 2012 
I thought it would be fun to do a reading edition...So, here are five reading related facts about yours truly. Enjoy and be sure to share some facts of your own about YOU! 

Sidney Chambers is my literary crush. He takes theology seriously without being uptight or proud about it. He loves jazz. He cares about people. He's just an all around GOOD guy.

Rhett Butler, Mr. Rochester, and Delores Umbridge are the characters who upset me so much that I had to put the book down until I was ready to face them again. They didn't ruin the book for me, but each of them came close.

E.B. White, Mary Higgins Clark, Madeleine L'Engle, and F. Scott Fitzgerald are the top four writers who inspire me most. They are all very different, but what they have in common is a knowledge about how people think and a willingness to write honestly.  

The Beautiful and Damned, Persuasion, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Outsiders are classics that I think everyone should read. It's never too late to dig into the classics. If they've intimidated you, begin with something written in the first half of the 20th Century. It's a great place to start!

Literary fiction, mysteries, thrillers, theology, and biographies are my go-to genres. Every now and then I'll pick up something else, but more often than not, these are the books you'll find floating around my house and car and bag.

What are some reading related things about you that I probably don't know?

On Faith

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

April 11, 2017
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be had.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking he did receive him back."
Hebrews 11: 17 & 18

Faith is a word that carries a lot of meaning in the mind of the Christian. It is by faith that we became Christians. It is by faith that we attempt to live. It is something that we admire in one another and esteem pretty highly as far as virtues go.

We know people who pray about everything from parking places and food to the church around the world and concerns in the lives of people that they know. We know people whose every word of advice comes straight from Scripture. We know people whose very countenance is like a breath of fresh air. We know them and we long to be like them.

Last week, I had three different conversations about faith. As it usually goes when a theme shows up, I didn't go looking for it. Three different people brought faith up and had specific things to say about it. I listened and smiled and tucked the conversations away. Abraham came up multiple times, so I went digging for his story. We've heard it so many times and encouraged one another with it, but it was time for me to go back to look it over with fresh eyes.

Abraham's life illustrates the hand of God in the lives of His people. God tells His people to have faith and then He shows them how. He tests that faith and, if I'm honest, I don't know exactly what that testing looks like or how to recognize it. I only know that I know faith when I see it and that faith in the face of real life is absolutely beautiful.

Abraham believed. His faith prepared him to obey. Time and time again, he didn't know how it was going to work out, he only knew that it would. And that's what we need. We need to be patient. We need to believe. God will make a way, even when there doesn't seem to be any way. What is meant to be, will be.

There's more to this theme and we'll come back to it another day. For now, I just wanted to get some words on faith down. I don't know what you're going through or what you're waiting on. I don't know what God is calling you to bear or to enjoy. But, I know this: God means for His people to be men and women whose lives are marked by faith.

He may keep you waiting. He may call you to endure more than you think you can. Faith is about looking to God no matter what. It leads to obedience and peace and joy. Circumstances can really mix us up, but remembering that they are all in His hands means that we can face them with our chins up and shoulders straight. What is meant to be, will be.

May we have the faith that looks to God and to the day at hand with confidence in His good plan. May this faith stir up the kind of obedience that delights in God even when that seems hard or impossible. May our waiting and enduring and enjoying and obeying make it possible for those around us to say of us, "By faith ______, when ______, ______." It's been said of many before us and will be said of many after us. God is seeing to it. Remember that.

Whose faith do you admire? 

The Great Seal Release

Monday, May 08, 2017

Alright, we're skipping ahead to the night of March 30. The day of was pretty fantastic and we'll come back to that, but for now...We're in for a little more beach time. I was spending the week with my friend Shauna and we didn't have a lot planned because we mainly just wanted to hang out and CHAT in person. She got an email about a seal release that was happening and asked if I'd be game. Little did she know, my once-upon-a-time-marine-biologist-wannabe-self was ALL IN. 

This particular seal was rescued off of the coast of New Hampshire and shipped up to MA to be rehabilitated. It came to them scrawny and injured and left fat and happy. I'm not really sure why it wasn't kept in NH or released there for that matter, but these are not the kinds of questions you take the time to ask when you're standing in a mob of people eagerly awaiting the moment a single seal crawls out of a dog crate and into the ocean.

We picked up Shauna's nephews and niece and made our way to the beach where we snagged a front row seat. We kept the kids entertained the best we could and before we knew it, Seal Diamond had arrived. The crowd parted and the ladies lugged the crate down a little closer to the water. This happened to be my very first time witnessing anything like this, but everyone else seemed to have done it before.

The seal came out of the crate right away and seemed to know just what to do. They had boards ready JUST in case, but he looked this way and that and then headed straight for the water. Within 3 minutes, he had completely disappeared.

We took the kids back to their house before heading back to Shauna's house to finish prepping for the spa night we were having for Hannah. On the way, we saw a rainbow. As the road twisted and turned and the trees came and went, we worked really hard to spot it over and over again. At one point Shauna's niece proudly exclaimed, "I can't see it anymore! It's CAMOFLAGED!!!" We all got a laugh out of that. She's TINY, but she has all kinds of words to say. The boys were pretty quiet. I had met them when they were little and I was surprised to find that their personalities really hadn't changed at all. 

The seal release was a success. It was fun to reconnect with a side of myself that I usually keep tucked away living as far away from all things "marine" as I do. 

What's something you wanted to be someday when you were a kid? 

Have you ever witnessed a rescue animal's release back into the wild?

Looking Forward

Friday, May 05, 2017

March 29, 2017
Every now and then it's fun to take some time to think about things that we are looking forward to. I think it's safe to say that Kiki is the one who got me started on this. I don't do it alllll the time, but when I do, I'm glad that I did. It's a short-term bucket list of sorts.

I'm looking forward to...

* Reading the rest of C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy.

* The first swim of the summer.

* Planting my garden.

* Taking a trip to SC. I never travel. Except for when I do.

* Some seriously HOT days. I'm a freak and I can't wait.

* The first iced toasted marshmallow latte of the year.

* Hearing the results of the writing contest. UPDATE: I placed!!!

* Taking naps in the sun again.

* The next time Jay comes to town.

* Reading MHC's newest release.

Your turn! What are some things you're looking forward to?

Currently: May 2017

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

May 3, 2017

We made it through winter and then winter-spring and now summer is coming! It's been a while since I've shared a "real life" update...We're still in The Queen's Cottage and we've settled into a way of life that isn't too shabby. In fact, it's mostly really, really great.

In the last six months we've had soooo many people come through this little postage stamp of a house. There have been movie nights and game nights and birthdays and rehearsals and just because drop ins. If you open the doors and invite them in, they'll come. Your house can be small. Your carpet can be green and your furniture can be mismatched. There can be boxes stuffed into every corner. They don't care.

This month is going to fly by and when it's over, I'll be entering into a summer that I think may be the last of its kind. I'm trying not to think about THAT too much, so that I can focus on making the most of it instead! My youngest brother starts classes at the college this fall which is mostly really exciting, but also means BIG changes are coming as fast as ever.

In the meantime, it's May and I'm currently...

Baking: Brownies, coffee cake, cinnamon biscuits, birthday cake (more on this tomorrow), and chocolate chip cookies. There have been so many occasions to celebrate lately!

Listening: The Help soundtrack. These songs. The Happy Hour podcast (thanks, Shauna!). I think FLAME is going to get some serious playtime this month! 

Getting back into my garden. Being creative with meal plans. Grocery shopping on Friday afternoons. Getting "abducted" by Jay for a day. Bowling for the first time in YEARS (and doing alright). Taking time to let people in. The nights I spent reading Fitzgerald's letters. That summer is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!

Planting: I'll be putting my seeds in the ground in the next week or so! It's been a few years since I've tried a new veggie. I really want to do a salsa garden. Do I break my rule and introduce more than one new plant at a time???

Remembering: My grandparents. That, as J.I. Packer wrote, "We are to order our lives by the light of His law, not our guesses about His plan."

I'm linking up with Anne and Nancy!

What are you baking, listening to, loving, planting, and remembering these days?

Blog Design: The Process

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Once my list was made and my goals and assignments were laid out, it was time to decide on fonts and colors for everything. This was both fun and totally frustrating. Scrolling through pictures is super easy, but you've got to narrow it down.

I made folders and started collecting images. I searched for fonts and kept track of the ones that seemed promising. And then I sorted. I ended up with three main theme ideas and built a vision board for each one:

Beach Theme

Rainy Green Theme

Favorite Picture Theme
The process of coming up with each board clued me into the exact direction I was headed. If you notice, the fonts were the first thing I decided on (I used the same fonts on each board). The colors were all strong, yet muted earthy tones.

As I look around the design I settled on, I realize that I didn't end up going with any one board. Instead, I selected a little something from each board and wove them together to create a look that I'm pretty happy with.

If I'm honest, there are still some things that I would like to fiddle with. I go back and forth with the shade of purple that I chose and I really miss the pops of navy. I never did find a font for the body of my posts that I ADORE.

When I started this series I said that I was so happy with my re-design that I haven't changed a thing since then. The thing about blogging, like pretty much everything else in life, is that there can always be a better thing. We can get things JUST the way we want them and then we begin to see that there is still room for improvement. The thing to do is to do your best, to not be afraid of messing things up, and to be satisfied with the way things turned out.

That's what I did and I'd encourage you to do the same!

Did you make an inspiration board for your blog?

Do you have any suggestions for THIS blog of mine?

Walking to Nowhere

Monday, May 01, 2017

I've been reading a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald's letters this month. Most nights before bed, I've closed the curtains, turned the lamp on, and settled into bed for as much reading as my mind will allow. Not surprisingly, this is not one of those books that causes my eyes to get droopy. I've stayed up until close to midnight more often than not because reading one more letter turns into reading ten more. 

As I've read the words he wrote in his letters, I've learned so many things about him (he gave writing advice to anyone he thought would accept it, the fiction he wrote really was inspired by his life, when he went to Hollywood he worked on "Gone With the Wind", the writing life was a struggle for him, and I could go on, but I'll stop there). I noticed that there are phrases that he would use again and again (stupid-got being the strangest). I've come to admire him more than I ever have before and that's really saying something.

Reading his letters has had me thinking about all kinds of things. As is always the case when I read anything he's written, I've been taking some time to examine my own writing and the effort I put into it. I've read over some of my old writings. I've read drafts out loud to people willing to listen. I've laughed and nodded my head and even shook my head in disbelief over some of the things I've put down on paper. And I've noticed that there are phrases I use again and again. 

The one phrase that comes to mind is the one this post is named for..."walking to nowhere." I'm not sure when I first came up with it or what inspired it, but I know it goes at least as far back as 2014. Those three little words carry so much meaning and for some reason I like the way they go together. 

Today, we're taking a trip back to Massachusetts for one of my walks to nowhere. The day was gray, but the rain had let up and I was faced with a day alllll to myself. I did something I NEVER do and went on a very long walk by myself. The trail was the same one I would walk with Carol and Shauna and Hannah and Bonnie and Laura and whoever else wanted to go when I called MA "home for now", so it was familiar, but that also meant that walking it alone seemed strange. 

I wandered (that's another word I use A LOT) through the neighborhoods and followed the winding roads that make for the shortest path to my favorite part of the trail. I kept my eyes and ears open for anyone looking to cause trouble. I decided I would continue my walk as long as there were at least two people in sight. There was an older couple that granted me the courage to carry on with my walk and though they'll never know it, I'm grateful.

You ready? Let's go...

I held off on going back to MA for a long time. Too long, if I'm honest. I didn't realize it until I was sitting in my old bedroom at the top of the stairs on the last night of my trip, but I couldn't seem to bring myself to go back because deep down I knew that it would mean I would have to leave again and that just wasn't something I could face. 26 and one of my best friend's wedding turned out to be the motivation I needed. 

MA is a place dear to me for so many reasons. It has come to be a place I associate with some major work God has done in my life. This walk is another piece of that puzzle. 

Are you one to take long walks to nowhere? 

What's a phrase that you find yourself writing all the time?

Is there a place you associate with God's hand doing work on you?