a few announcements (and a confession)

Hello, my loves!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Over a month, in fact. I’ve read that in order to be a successful blogger, you should post on a regular basis.

Welp. I have broken that rule many times.  But the blogging gods are obligated to forgive my absence, because I have some pretty damn good excuses.

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First, an important life update: Drew and I bought a house! We were hoping to buy a home sometime this year.We moved at the beginning of June, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect…it’s just that moving requires a lot of cleaning and packing and unpacking. It’s been an exciting–yet exhausting–few weeks; while we love our home, there are some maintenance issues that need to be fixed. Like, ASAP. And then I can finally put my design knowledge from all those episodes of Trading Spaces to good use.

Then–because when it rains, it pours–the real trouble began. About a week or two after moving, my car’s transmission died. After a few Google searches, we realized that a new transmission–and a few other related repairs–would cost more than my car was actually worth. (A 2006 Mazda 3 with a dead transmission? Not a hot spot for lots of cash money, folks.). I made plans to donate or sell it, and Drew and I came to terms with using one car between the two of us.

For a couple of weeks, carpooling worked extremely well. I pass Drew’s office on the way to work, so I’d drop Drew off in the morning and pick him up on my way home.

Then, one fateful day, when I was FIVE MINUTES AWAY FROM DREW’S OFFICE, I got into a car accident.

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Fortunately, everyone involved was safe. It just meant that Drew was stranded at work for a couple of hours, and that we were officially without a car. Currently, we’re using a rental car (yay, insurance!), but the insurance claim has finally been settled and I successfully sold my car. Our house still needs some work, but we’re in a much better place–mentally and financially– to handle it.

We also visited my family in Missouri over the Fourth of July holiday! We celebrated our family’s July birthdays, too. I did start writing this entry over the weekend…but I didn’t get very far. Basically, I was partying too hard to blog.

In other news…

I’m excited to announce that I am now a prose reader for The Cerurove! It’s a lovely literary journal that you can read online; the editors were kind enough to publish my flash fiction piece for their second issue, and so this community has a special place in my heart. We’re currently accepting submissions–we’d love to read your work!

These days, much of my writing time is dedicated to poetry. One day I read the news and did what any sensitive artist type does: I wrote about it. The result? I’m working on my first chapbook manuscript. It’s a critique and love letter to America, and it is both very difficult and very easy to write. I have no idea if or when or how it will be published–but I promise that it’s actively in progress. At the very least, I will one day share my work here.

Needless to say, blogging hasn’t been on my list of priorities.

But I also find myself frustrated with the blogging world. Everything–from the writing to the photos to social media–has to be perfect. You need to know your audience. You need to build your brand and use it to your advantage.

The problem is, I don’t know what my brand is. Am I a book blogger? An author and poet? A wannabe travel writer? A social justice advocate? An occasional theologian? In my mind, these things are intertwined; reading and travel feed my empathy, which affects my politics, which affects my faith, and on and on it goes.

This line of thinking does not fare well in hashtags or algorithms.

I don’t have the time or energy to build a better website; nor do I want my content to be perfectly curated.

I want to write.

I want to be me.

When I first started this blog, I wrote about whatever I wanted. I liked knowing that people read my posts, but at the end of the day, it was all for me. It isn’t the way to build a successful blog, but I find myself longing for this carefree freedom. Perhaps this inherent brandlessness was my brand all along.

I do have another post planned for my Read and Resist series, and I’ll definitely write about our trip to Iceland. In the meantime, I just want to discover everyday, ordinary magic. ❤

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ring in the new year

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Photo by Tessa Rampersad on Unsplash

We made it.

We actually made it through 2017.

I don’t need to remind you that 2017 was an exhausting year, right?

Even on a personal level, a lot happened–I mean, I got married, which is a pretty big deal.

But in the wake of extreme political turmoil and anxiety, the Internet has decided that 2018 is about LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE. Or, as my friend Chris put it, “SPICY BUSINESS, 2018.”

Take that as you will, but for me, spicy business is all about living your best and most adventurous life.  I’ve already gotten a new tattoo; yesterday, my friend and I took a yoga class at a local cat shelter. If that’s not spicy business, I don’t know what is.

 

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Usually, I’m extremely skeptical about New Year’s resolutions. The reasons vary: I hate how we act as though we can only set goals on the first of the year; I resent the fact that most resolutions fizzle out by the end of the month; and I tend to think that New Year’s Eve is an overrated holiday.

But there was something about 2017 that made me reflect on the past, as well as the wonderful things to come. Here’s what’s on the horizon for 2018:

A new home.

Drew and I are planning to stay in Atlanta, but we have been toying with the idea of our future home for a while now. While I do love our current house–it is full of so many memories and so much laughter–Drew owned it before we even started dating. This year, we hope to move into a home that we choose together.

And maybe I’ll get my Beauty and the Beast-esque library.

Adventures with people I love.

Drew and I had an adventure-themed wedding because we think our marriage is an adventure…but we also want to see the world together. We’ve been talking about visiting Iceland for AGES, and today, we booked a flight for August.

We’re also planning to join our friends in New York, so Drew will finally be able to experience one of my favorite cities!

Later this year, my mom and I are planning to spend a weekend in Asheville, and I still need to visit Xan in Chicago. It’s turning out to be a busy year, but how could it not be?! There are so many places to see! (#SPICYBUSINESS!)

A regular yoga practice.

Exercise and I have never had the best relationship. I hate running and most forms of cardio; gyms make me self-conscious at best and anxious at worst; and, to be perfectly honest, there are just other things I would rather do. Binge watching Netflix is just more fun, okay? LET ME LIVE.

Enter yoga. My first introduction to yoga was during a high school P.E. class, and since then, it’s been a constant in my life. An irregular constant, but a constant nonetheless–whether it was on our Wii Fit or a YouTube video, yoga has always appealed to me.

Because of this irregularity, I know that my body functions much, much better when I take time to move and stretch. When I start complaining about back and neck pain, Drew suggests that I start doing yoga again. And he’s always right.

But yoga is a spiritual practice–it rejects the idea that the body is inferior to the spirit. I often need to remind myself of the connection between my physical body and my spirituality; after all, I believe that God created our bodies and wants us to take care of them (not to mention that bodies are especially significant to Christian theology). Where better to practice this than on the mat?

Writing.

There are times when writing feels as natural as breathing: I get inspired and knock out a poem or a blog post in record time.

But lately, writing has been more like swimming. I’m racing against the clock, pushing through the deepest waters, and my lungs are screaming for a chance to exhale.

I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid of sounding less eloquent and poetic than I’d like and I’m afraid whatever novel I pursue will die with the five thousand other stories that are rotting in the graveyard of my hard drive.

So, I make things easier on myself.

I leave everything undone.

I know that this is not a good reaction to fear. It isn’t good for anything, except making myself feel worse as the year goes by.

This year, I want to remind myself that writing is not only my passion, but it’s also a process. It’s often a slow process. But that’s okay, because I never want stories to end, anyway.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

-Shannon Hale

What else?

Less burnout. More tattoos. More magic. More books. More light. More love.

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Happy New Year, sweet friends. I hope and pray that it’s one of the best. ❤

Art, Activism, & Apathy

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I was once told that I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

It doesn’t take a plethora of scientific studies to prove that artists are sensitive (though many studies have).

At risk of sounding incredibly cliche, I find my own sensitivity to be a blessing and a curse. If you are having a bad day, I’m a good listener; I’m also fairly decent at reading other people’s emotions. I feel deeply and fiercely, and most decisions I make are made with my heart.

Emotions are also kind of a pain in the ass. Sometimes, I am brought to tears just because Drew said something really nice. For instance:

Me: I’m afraid I’m going to trip while walking down the aisle.

Drew: That would be hilarious. 

Me: What the hell!? No, it wouldn’t! 

Drew: I mean, I’d laugh, but then I would just think, “That’s the woman I fell in love with.”

Me [eyes shining with tears]: AWWWWWW. 

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So, yeah. I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

That’s why I write, and why others paint or make music or dance. Art has a funny way of helping us understand and appreciate this beautiful, messy thing called life.

Perhaps this hyper-sensitivity is also why art so easily lends itself to social justice. If sensitive artist types like myself are already FEELING ALL THE FEELS and then catch a segment of the evening news, we’re going to start feeling even more feels. And, like everything else buzzing around our minds, those feelings have to go somewhere.

That’s why I continue to write. There are plenty of stories that are just for me, and there’s something beautiful in that, too–but I will have truly answered my call to create if my words can help make the world a better place.

In the past, I wrote about social justice and politics sporadically; in other words, I wrote about justice when I didn’t know what else to do. Words were the best way–the only way–I knew how to change myself and the world around me. I took my anger, threw it back at the world, and said, “Ha! I made something beautiful. You can’t hurt us anymore.”

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
― Cornel West

After the 2016 election, I vowed to do everything I could to stand for justice and social change.  I would march. I would call my Senators. I would write letters to Donald Trump every day.  I would stay educated on every single bill. Most importantly, I would write. God, I would write. Because that’s what I was put on this earth to do, dammit.

This is a promise that is impossible to keep, even for a girl who feels too much and too hard. You see, the problem with feeling so many things at once is that you are in danger of burning out. Fast.

Not that my exhaustion stopped me. I called my Senators. I prayed every day and started writing more articles about justice. I wrote letters and Tweeted up a storm.

But I had started to feel numb. Everything I did felt useless. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called an ‘activist,’ because I was just calling politicians and writing on my blog that barely reached a hundred people. I hadn’t started writing any thought-provoking dystopian novels or anything, either. I listened to the news, and instead of heartache I felt hopelessness. I was angry, but I was no longer surprised. It was a familiar reaction, really–how many of us catch a news story about a shooting or a terrorist attack, shake our heads, and change the channel?

That might be the scariest thing of all: that tragedy and injustice strike, and we aren’t even surprised.

We should be. We should be shocked to our very core. This is not how the world was meant to be. 

***

A few months ago, my pastor taught a sermon on compassion fatigue. He explained that thanks to the Internet, we are bombarded with information every second of every day.  We can only process a certain amount of information at once, so our empathy fizzles out. We stop caring.

That Sunday, I realized how tired I was. I had stopped caring, and I didn’t feel like myself. Emotions may be a pain in the ass, but I would rather feel too much than nothing at all.

Rest was long overdue. I took a short break from social media, and listened to the news a little less. I was less weary, and I started to FEEL ALL THE FEELS again.

And, once again, this proved to be a blessing and a curse. This past week, I was in tears after reading the news and scrolling through Facebook. I was worried about healthcare and heartbroken for my transgender brothers and sisters; it had already been a stressful week without another blow from the government.  My empathy was back in high gear, but so was my hopelessness.

“I’m just so angry and sad,” I told Drew. “No matter how many calls we make or letters we write, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

Drew paused, and then in his thoughtful, wonderful, Drew way, he said something I will never forget: “Sometimes, you don’t fight to win the current battle. You fight to win the next one.”

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I do not write this little blog entry as a how-to, or an advice column, or even as a promise for myself–but I do write this as an encouragement to my fellow artists and hyper-sensitives.

We cannot afford apathy. We need your emotions–every single one. We need art to light up the world. We need fierce compassion so we can love the least of these. Stay sensitive. Empathy is indeed a blessing, even on the very worst days.

Pain is a part of life, yes; it’s unavoidable in this broken, brutal world. But we’re a part of this life, too, and that fact alone means that we are not powerless.

Listen to the aches of your heart and keep creating, whether you bake or write or paint or dance. The world may not need you in order to keep spinning, but it desperately wants you–because there are future battles to be won.

A Poem/A Prayer

Due to my overactive imagination, there are some days when I have thousands of ideas for blog entries, article pitches, and stories. In the literary world, this is a blessing–but lately, it doesn’t feel that way. Call it procrastination or laziness if you must, but it doesn’t change the fact that I often feel frustrated and overwhelmed because I have no idea where to start.

When I do write, it’s even harder to tune out my inner editor or keep myself from cringing when I read past publications. As I am sure you can imagine, this strips writing of its joy–the very thing that made me want to write in the first place.

 

This week has been rough. I originally planned to write a post regarding the shootings… but when I sat down to write, I went to poetry instead. It has been so long since I have written a poem–I almost forgot how wonderful and comforting poems can be.

I decided that this is the best home for it. Consider it a prayer for all of us.

 

 

i am

a poet,

or maybe an artist.

      (it doesn’t matter.

       call me whatever you think

       sounds more romantic.)

i am

a dreamer

a starry-eyed wordsmith.

             (i think

              ‘starry-eyed wordsmith’

               sounds more romantic

               than ‘wannabe writer.’)

on a typical day,

i agonize over everything important

and potentially pretentious,

like oxford commas

or blog aesthetics.

             (is that witty enough for twitter?)

 but one extraordinary day,

 the smell of ink will

overpower that of gunpowder.

              (and maybe stories

             will save the world.)

my god,

what an anomaly that will be.

              (no one told me

              that it takes such courage

              to write.)

 

Have a lovely weekend, my friends. ❤ May you always create whatever brings you joy.

a small update

Why, hello there! I have returned from my (unintended) hiatus and come back to the blogging world with more cat pictures and Pokémon references that you ever thought were possible.

I was shocked to see that it has been almost a month since my last blog post. In my defense, July has been a bit of a whirlwind. For one thing, Drew and I have a July anniversary. And we both have July birthdays. AND Pokémon Go was released, so catching Pokémon has obviously been a priority.

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AND DID YOU KNOW THAT ALL MY DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE?!

 

I’ve been adulting pretty hard, too. In addition to my part-time bookstore job, I’ve been working  with The Storyline Group, a publishing company based here in Atlanta.

It’s been wonderful. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and in college, I fell in love with the entire publishing process–from book proposals to meticulous editing sessions. Making a book is a truly magical process, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

 

Between my two jobs, various writing projects, and my insatiable bibliophilia (i.e, buying books faster than I can read them), books have become an even bigger part of my life. I didn’t know that was possible, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So–what’s next?

How about:

living the #GIRLBOSS philosophy; French and Spanish lessons; books upon books upon books; cuddling with Constable Chubs; learning how to bake; Pokémon Go adventures (you’d be surprised how much fun you have, and how many people you meet); new travel destinations; coloring sessions; writing novels; watching this blog grow; yoga workouts; reuniting with old friends and meeting new people; rescuing animals; finding a brand-new wardrobe; and serving at church.

I know there’s no way I can do everything at once. There’s more happening in my life at this moment than there has been in a long, long time. It’s a little overwhelming, because I’ve never been the kind of person that thrives on  a hectic schedule.

In spite of the craziness, it’s been pretty awesome. I’m healing the parts of myself that were a little beaten up, and I’m moving forward.

But like everyone else on the planet, I have days when getting out of bed feels like a task worthy of an Olympic medal. Mornings still aren’t my thing, and I feel like I am totally unqualified to be an actual adult. But I’m starting to realize that that’s okay–who said there were any rules for adulthood, anyway?

To make a long blog post short: I’m doing wonderfully. I hope you are, too. ❤

 

Why I Write

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At some point or another, all aspiring writers are told that it’s a less than glamorous life, and that we will face countless rejections over the course of their lifetime. We are told it is very difficult to make a living as a writer, and if we do manage to pull it off, there isn’t much money involved– because J.K Rowling is the exception, not the rule.

We create blogs and participate in National Novel Writing Month. We slave over drafts and try our best to silence our inner critic. We research self-publishing and agents and wonder how we will ever be heard when so many people are waiting for the same thing. We take our words and submit and submit and submit until we finally see our name in print.

We keep writing.

And we wait.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Knowing all this, it’s a wonder I still write at all. It would be much, much easier if I had chosen a different path.

But that’s just it, isn’t it?

In many ways, writing chose me.

I love words. I love how I write faster when I get excited about an idea, and how my handwriting becomes more and more unreadable. I love the click-clack of my keyboard and listening to my writing playlist. I love my Scrivener outlines. I love writing so late at night that I’m the only one awake. I love stories, because when you get to the heart of a fairy tale, it’s just another way to tell the truth.

I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else and still feeling so unbelievably happy.

I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else when my heart is hurting.

I write because I believe God hears prayers, but He also reads letters.

I write because I don’t want people like me to feel so alone.

I write because it’s fun.

I write because it’s therapeutic.

I write because sometimes it’s the only thing that feels effortless, and sometimes I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life.

I write because the world can never have enough books.

I write because I have something to say.

I write because it’s who I am.

I write.

I won’t ever stop.

On Blogging

I have a confession to make: I am not good at finishing things.

As a writer, this is kind of a problem. I have countless drafts that have gone unedited and uncompleted, and ideas that have been in my head for years but never put on paper.

Blogging is no exception. When I was in high school, there were several blogs I would check on a daily basis, and I toyed with the idea of starting my own. I made accounts on WordPress and Blogspot that have since been forgotten. After college, I decided to try again: I kept a blog while I was in Spain, and attempted another while I was searching for publishing jobs. I abandoned the first because I told myself it was ‘just for the trip’; the second was forgotten because depression has a tendency to leave you incredibly unmotivated.

Quills and Crystals is the fist blog I have stuck with throughout those years, and while this is a project I absolutely adore, there are times when I ask myself if I should be doing something different. I don’t have a particular goal in mind, or even a theme; I just write whatever strikes my fancy at the time. And yes, there are several ideas in my ‘drafts’ folder that I have not yet written.

Looking back, I think the main reason I abandoned blogs was because I was so paralyzed by the thought of having the perfect blog right away. I read my favorite blogs and forgot that they, too, probably started blogging on a whim and had to figure out what type of writer they wanted to be.

That’s where I am now: this beautiful beginning of simply writing from my heart and sharing it on this vast space we call the Internet.

It’s not always easy. I’m a relatively private person, and so I often wonder if I’ll regret writing about deeply personal experiences. But art exists for the soul, and writing–blogging or otherwise–is my way of making sense of the world. Art also exists so that we know we are loved and understood; if I can write anything that makes you feel less alone, I am happy to share it here.

Aside from the challenges of personal posts, blogging can be difficult because there is so much I want to say. I could talk for hours about tattoos, or the awesomeness of Genesis, or Disney princesses. I could also talk for hours about feminism or politics. While Facebook is a battleground for opinions, this blog is a place where I can coherently write and process information.

Blogging can open so many doors for writers, and I’d be lying if I said my career wasn’t part of my motivation. But this is also my heartspace; when I don’t journal, I come here. For once, I am not trying to find a box to fit into. I’m just trying to be me, and that comes with a great deal of introspection as well as whimsy.

So, if you are along for the ride, thank you for reading. Thank you for your kind words and letting me connect with you in a way only the Internet can provide. I think I’ve finally started a blog that’s here for good. ❤