Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Linkage

Happy Friday! I am ecstatic about this coming weekend. I hope you have something equally wonderful to anticipate.

For the writers and readers, here is some eye-candy.

Joel Miller writes a gentle reminder about God's answers.

This letter on marriage from Reagan to his son is touching.

Leadership Freak offers some tips for those of us trying to be braver.

I love applying literature to life. This Wall Street Journal article featuring Atticus Finch does just that.

Finally, some laughs for anyone living or working in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Barely Crafty: Quote Jar

Some of us are artistic, gifted to use things like paper and ribbon and wood with skill and ease. Those lucky individuals live in a happy world of adorable crafts. The rest of us just wish we were like that.

The Barely Crafty posts are for those of us who like pretty things, who are long on inspiration and aspiration, but who are a bit short on talent and time.

A friend of mine gave me a Quote Jar the other day. It was an inside joke, filled with lines we used on each other. But the gift itself is no joke. It is a beautiful jar with diamond-shaped etchings, reminiscent of another era and wrapped in a yellow ribbon and a dear reminder of our friendship.

Really, though, anyone could make one of these and turn it into a beautiful gift or keepsake. Even someone who is Barely Crafty.

Barely Crafty Piece: Quote Jar
Supplies: Jar with lid, construction paper, ribbon

1. Buy a beautiful antique or antique-looking jar from a thrift store, antique store, Hobby Lobby, or Target.
2. Cut two or three pieces of construction or crafting paper into 3/4" x 4" (or thereabouts) slips.
3. Write inspiring or funny quotes or Bible verses on the slips.
4. Places the slips into the jar.
5. Tie a ribbon that coordinates in color with the paper around the jar.
6. Give the jar as a memorable gift or place it somewhere where you can reach in anytime that you need some inspiration or encouragement!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Of Books and Gift-Cards: A Discovery

My book stack had grown a bit thin, so I visited Amazon to see what I could do about replenishing the supply and continuing to progress through my book list without breaking the bank.

Suddenly, I noticed a suspicious link on the right side of the screen. One of my painfully expensive textbook purchases appeared below the words "Sell back your copy." Underneath this catchy line was a tempting "Gift Card Value" and a hefty little sum. Could it be? Could I sell my boring expensive ugly textbooks back for more than just peanuts and actually get more books, better books, prettier books in return?

Creative Commons License: The Best Days Are Not Planned by Marcus Hansson on Flickr.

The process seems sinfully simple. I clicked "Trade in Now." and followed the three or four breathlessly easy steps. I printed off the label. Tomorrow I shall purchase an envelope from the post-office, assemble the package, mail it, and wait in suspense.

Supposedly I will receive a pleasant little sum into my Amazon account in return, money that can be applied towards resupplying my bookshelf!

Too good to be true? Maybe. Chronicles to be continued.... 

I'm fascinated by this deal. Am I the last one to discover this little gem of a trade? How do you expand your library without bruising the budget?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Dear Mom,

You bundled me in pink snowsuits and tied my hair in pink headbands and sang to me and took me for walks and set up playdates and fed me baby quiche. From the first moment you showed me that the world was big and exciting and full of tastes and colors and people and charm and beauty and adventure.

You read me book after book after book after book and two and a half decades later I can still hear your voice reading Goodnight, Moon andI'll Love You Forever. On the surface life is more complicated now but the moon still comes up and every night the world still goes to sleep and I know now more than I did then that you really will love me forever.

Years later we read other books together, grown-up books, and you are still the best person to call when I need to rant about a British novel. 

Sometimes when Daddy had to work into the small hours of the morning you would let me stay up late into the night with you while you worked on projects to make our home beautiful. You didn't know it at the time, but you taught me that some things, like beauty and the people you love, are more important than sleep.

You taught me long division and made me painstakingly write out the steps. Divide. Multiply. Subtract. Compare. Bring Down. Over and over and over. I'd want to move faster and skip the steps and then the numbers would come out wrong and you'd remind me that steps can't be skipped. Sometimes now I get frustrated and want to hurry and then life gets tangled and I remember again that, in life like in long division, sometimes steps can't be skipped.

You taught me how to bake and reminded me to level the flour because sometimes the directions need to be followed exactly. Now I bake in a kitchen far away and I subconsciously tap the measuring cup and level the flour just like you showed me, carrying your words into every loaf of bread and batch of cookies that I make.

You made me pink cakes with rosebuds and blew up colored balloons and set beautiful tables for every one of my birthdays. You made sure my dress was just right for every recital because you know that every girl needs to feel like a princess, not once, but many many many times.

You made me practice when I didn't want to because sometimes little girls and big girls too have to follow through when they don't feel like working. "Feel the music, Emily," you would urge. And I remember every day that I can still make art right where I am even when I would rather  be doing something else.

I remember the countless times that people remarked that I looked like you. I loved it when people said this because I knew that you were beautiful and I wanted to be just like you. I still do.

From you I learned how to use candles and cloth napkins and mascara. You've taught me to send thank-you notes and take hostess gifts and how to make people feel welcome even if the food is served on paper plates.

You never tolerated sulking and knew that the best antidote to bad moods was action and movement and service and laughter. I remember that, on days when I just don't want to get out of bed or face the world or try, on days when I just want to stay under the covers alone where it's safe. But you're always right.

And sometimes we argue because that's what happens when you raise someone as strong-willed as yourself. Sometimes I wonder if you really knew what you were getting yourself into when you decided that motherhood was the most important job in the world. And I wonder if, in the dark of the night, you really think it was worth it.

Deep down I know that I scare you sometimes. That sometimes you are afraid that I might just be a little too reckless, too headstrong, too naive, too optimistic. That sometimes you wonder if you did something wrong.

But really, I'm the one who should be scared. You give away love and grace with unconditional abandon every day of your life. And I don't know that I have what it takes to do that. 

There's nothing riskier or scarier or more reckless than giving away your life for imperfect people. But you do that every day of your life.
Sometimes I wonder if I can ever love a man and children as faithfully and well and completely as you have loved Daddy and me and my brothers and sisters. But if I do, it will be due to nothing more than to the grace of God and your example in front of me every single day.

You've given me books and dresses and piano lessons and time and cupcakes, but mostly, you've showed me what it really means to love. 

Thank you, Mommy. I love you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

May's Goals

April was a good month in many ways, but a little rough on the goals front. 
  • If different combinations of vegetables and pasta count, I definitely tried three new recipes. Otherwise, this was not a month of culinary creativity.
  • I did not hit my blogging goal of 15 posts. Not even close. This month was not a good month for blogging.
  • Although I did not finish Sandition, I did finish The War of Art, Seth Godin's Graceful, and What's So Amazing about Grace. Progress.
  • Annotated bibliograhy finished, proofed, sent, and graded. Only two classes left until I receive that elusive M.A.!
  • I did not clock five hours of practice. But May is a new month.
  • I wrote one, not ten thank-you notes. One is better than none I suppose. I also have yet to begin my journal of gifts. But I purchased a new set of notecards; hopefully gratefulness will abound in May.

Goals for May:

  • Cook three new recipes and make a meal for someone else.
  • Write 15 blog posts
  • Complete C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man, Jon Acuff's Quitter, Jane Austen's Sandition, and another book.
  • Practice 10 hours
  • Send ten thank-you notes and begin a journal of gifts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Friday Linkage

The bibliography is done and this girl's love-hate relationship with grad school is on hold until June.

This weekend I am going to rest, sleep, read, take care of everything that piled up over the last couple of weeks, spend time with friends, and enjoy being momentarily free from the constraints of deadlines.

I hope your weekend outlook is equally bright. Here are some links for your weekend browsing.

As just another high-school age victim of the Scarlet Letter assignment, I found this author's article about the reward of reading good literature a poignant reminder of the world's need for books. She writes, "We rely, despite considerable counterevidence, on those who weave words into laws and sermons and stories, vesting them with our hopes for the sentence that can perform the sacramental task of imparting life and grace and faith in things not seen. The ancient Hebrews regarded utterance as a sacred gift: every spoken word was shaped and borne on the breath of life, each breath a gift of Spirit. A high view of language is essential..."

"Trusting God with My Story" makes me uncomfortable. In a good way. Read it. Then read it again. Then drink some coffee and think about your story.

This is a hilarious breathe of fresh air for anyone who has ever graded anything, but especially for the world's English composition teachers.

Here's a witty commentary from Mancredible on communication between men and women for which Halfway Down the Stairs provided plentiful if not always productive input.

Humility is one of those virtues that begs many hard lessons. It's a difficult path to tread in today's world, and especially in the fast-paced self-advertising environment through which today's young professionals slug. Here's some encouragement.

Is anxiety holding you back? Try acting naive.