April 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
I don’t know if it’s a part of getting older, but I’ve been trying to get it together lately.
Meal planning. Cleaning regularly. Making my bed every day. You know, adulting.
I’ve actually found great relief – and I think this is the getting older part – in forming and maintaining these habits. I don’t cringe when I walk into the kitchen. It’s relaxing to come home after work. I don’t worry I’m spending too much on food.
The apartment doesn’t smell like litterbox.
Having two adult roommates (yes that is a total of three adults) means that sometimes, especially in the morning, maintaining good habits is a wild dance.
This morning I felt like I was doing pas de chats and soutenus to get everything done and leave early for a dental appointment on the other side of town. (Another adulting win!) I was feeling pretty pleased with how well I was dancing, too.
I made breakfast the night before and ate it peacefully, sitting down.
I had time to make and drink coffee.
I made my bed!
Did I mention I also took a shower and washed my hair?
I packed my crockpot chicken that had simmered deliciously all night, and made a salad to accompany it, and packed two snacks – one for mid-morning, one for afternoon.
I washed all my dishes because I didn’t have time to unload the dishwasher – I was watching the clock very closely.
And – the piece de resistance – I scooped the litter box.
Yes, I was quite pleased with myself.
Almost whistling, I marched out the front door promptly at eight with work bag and delicious packed lunch in tow.
I started to pull out of the parking lot, and I know what you’re thinking – she’s out of gas.
But I wasn’t!
I gave the clock another trimphant look as I started to jam out to some great morning tunes:
My appointment is at 8:00.
8:00 AM. Today. NOW. TWO MINUTES AGO.
And the dentist’s office is twenty five minutes away.
From a soaring height to a crashing fail. It’s still a little sore. Even though they were so nice and they still had time to take me even though I was ridiculously late; even though the appointment itself took only 10 minutes because the Lord in his infinite wisdom blessed me with teeth I hardly need to take care of (he knew I’d forget to floss); even though I got to work earlier than I even originally expected; even though I was 100% prepared for the meeting I was supposed to lead when I got there.
It still smarts.
It’s just nice to feel in control of your home life, you know? That’s how I know I’m officially “adult.” I need control. I can’t sleep on the couch or roll with the punches. I gotta have my routine.
I have to admit, I felt all kinds of embarassment and shame at not being able to something as simple as remembering that arriving at eight does not equal leaving at eight. I really like to pat myself on the back for getting things together as well as I have, even though it’s not perfect, because it’s all so contradictory to the absent-minded scatter-brained haphazard essence of my person.
It’s a lesson in humility. And grace. The world didn’t fall apart because I was late for my dental appointment. My world didn’t even fall apart.
It just kept on turning.
April 19, 2016 § 3 Comments
I was driving home the other night after hanging out with my parents – because, you know, I’m 26 and that’s how I roll – and the Styx album I was listening to ended. My state-of-the-art 6 CD changer switched over to Switchfoot’s “Beautiful Letdown.”
Oh yeah. What a classic.
There are some albums that stick with you. Yeah, there are plenty of albums that you play on repeat for a couple of months and you’re sure it’s the greatest album ever (“their songs sound like how I feeeeel“) but eventually they’re forgotten in the wake of your next musical discovery. They’re not definitive. The definitive ones never get old. 10, 15 years later they’re still your favorite. They’re still life changing.
You know what I’m talking about.
Your definitive albums are probably different from mine. I’m not talking about “The Best Albums of the 21st Century.” I’m talking about the albums you turn to as a faithful intimate friend. Your identity is some how intangibly tangled with them. Music can do that, you know.
What are yours?
I wanted to gather mine, but I have so many “favorite” albums I had to give myself parameters. They had to have been released in my timeline (no oldies), they have to be at least five years old as of 2016, and they have to have no more than one song I skip when I listen to them.
In no particular order, these are the seven albums I consider most enduring and definitive to me.
“Beautiful Letdown” by Switchfoot
It’s just the best of the genre that defined my teen years. “Beautiful Letdown” came out just as I was becoming aware of alternative rock. Like all Switchfoot albums, “Beautiful” combines literary allusions with a poetic cry for a life of greater meeting. Plus plain awesome music.
Why it’s definitive: It ignited my love for alternative rock and opened up a world of philophical songwriting.
“Continuum” by John Mayer
I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who did not agree that “Continuum” is John Mayer’s best album. This bluesey is rife with mournful guitar licks and raw self-reflection.
Why it’s definitive: Because angst! And blues! It still cuts deep to this day. This album nurtures my love for the melancholy.
“Who We Are Instead” by Jars of Clay
Jars of Clay changes up their sound often, but they prove their musicianship by doing it so excellently. I am a long time JoC fan (they were my first concert). This album is musically simplistic with an Americana gospel vibe.
Why it’s definitive: It’s just damn good songwriting.
“Come On Feel the Illinoise” by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan is brilliant. His genre defies description. “Illinoise” is rich and lush and orchestral and catchy. The more you listen to it the more insane and complex you realize it is. 5/4 time signature? 9/8? Are you crazy? Yes, yes he is.
Why it’s definitive: It was my first exposure to Sufjan and thus my first exposure to eccentric complexity done right. It inspires me to push boundaries and be as weird as I feel I am
“21” by Adele
I think this album is probably definitive for all of us. It’s not her first album but it is the one that swept the world and the Grammys. Inanity, vacuity, and formulaic songs often top the charts, but Adele changed our lives.
Why it’s definitive: Besides recognizing “21” as a gold standard for songwriting and vocal performance, I painstakingly taught it to myself as vocal practice and take songwriting cues from the classy piano riffs. I’ll never be Adele, but she’s my age, and her brilliance and talent inspire me.
“Beautiful Things” by Gungor
“Beautiful Things” is actually not my favorite Gungor album but it was my first one. It’s lovely and complex and heartbreakingly beautiful. Gungor broke the mold for “Christian” music, praise the Lord. There’s so much lame music out there, but Gungor’s creativity and skill teach us that if you’re going to glorify something with your music, your music better be glorifying.
Why it’s definitive: Gungor exemplified what I already believed: incredible musicianship and wild creativity is honoring and glorifying to God. Discovering this album convinced me not to settle for ordinary, in the music I listen to or the music I write.
“Begin to Hope” by Regina Spektor
Again, not my favorite album by this artist, but my first. “Begin to Hope” never gets old for me, and it’s a palatable introduction to Regina’s wonderful weirdness.
Why it’s definitive: “Begin to Hope” introduced me to Regina and her off-the-wall vocal techniques. She’s one of my main influences when I write music!
There are other albums I wanted to put up here but forced myself to keep it at seven. These are albums that really influenced me and still influence me. And they never, ever get old.
April 16, 2016 § 4 Comments
I came here to write.
My favorite coffee shop. I have a tab here. I’m a regular. Everybody knows me. (But to be fair, most of them knew me before they opened the coffee shop.)
I came here to write, dammit. Where are the ideas? Where’s the excitement? Where are the rushing waves of creativity?
They’re probably still asleep in my bed.
I wanted to write for an hour today. Just to start a habit. Be consistent. Prevent myself from forgetting projects, or from not blogging for a month.
All I want to do is nap.
I wouldn’t call it writer’s block. Creativity is a fickle friend, though. Sometimes it’s so intense I can’t stop. New stories, new posts, new songs.
Sometimes it abandons you without word. You stand alone in the cold.
You sit in a coffee shop surfing pinterest.
It’s not that I don’t have things I want to work on. I have a lot of things to work on, to finish, to edit, to start.
I force myself to work at my job, why can’t I force myself to work on my passions?
What do you do when your dear friend abandons you? When your brain is half asleep and no amount of coffee will wake it up?
When the door to that beautiful, magical place is shut?
April 14, 2016 § 2 Comments
I love the United States. I really do. It’s easy, in an election season, to get disillusioned and disgusted by the pandering of politicians and make a grumbling threat that “I’m moving to Canada!”
(I actually really love Montreal and I’d totally live there.)
But at the root of it all, I love my country. I love the diversity of culture and skin that fills the identity of “American.” I love the vast national parks and farmlands and the acres upon acres upon acres of rural countryside. I love the pioneering psyche that still infects our culture.
I think as United Statesians we can’t really understand the deep, core heritage that citizens of more ancient nations feel for their country. It’s an amor patriae that we as a young nation – a hodgepodge nation – can’t have yet.
But we each have our own patriotism, a collection of meaning that swells in our hearts when we think of America. The differences in our collections are what cause so much political dissent – but I’d argue they’re also what makes our country unique.
Patriotism to me is the Independence Day parade in my hometown growing up. It’s rallying early in the morning at a parking lot with all the other floats, my parents putting us on their party float. Ears stuffed with vaselined cotton balls to drown out the shrill of the steam engines in the parades, throwing candy to people gathered on the sidewalks downtown, and watching with awe the cowgirls and cowboys that rode their horses at the back of the parade (no one wants to step on horse poo, you know).
Followed by a big cookout with all our friends at my grandparents’, whose mountain-perched house provided the perfect hillside viewing of the fireworks – from the county fairgrounds all the way to Lenox Square in downtown Atlanta.
One year for Memorial Day my dad got fighter jets to fly low over the parade. My sister and I rode in the back of Humvee, and all the brick buildings shuddered as the planes roared overhead. The Army also fills my meaning-collection of Patriotism. Attending solemn ceremonies, the swish of the colors swooping across the hushed grounds. Segeants shouting commands, unintelligble to me, that pierce the silence like shots. How do they all move so perfectly in unison?
I was mailing some things the other day and had to use a profuse amount of stamps. The generic American flag stamps say USA Forever on them.
Not really, I thought. I always default to overly logical when presented with sweeping sentimental statements. The USA isn’t going to last forever.
No nation is perfect, and no nation is permanent. To think otherwise is…fanatical.
I can shrug off election hysteria, because the USA is not my homeland, and neither is the president – or any political figure – its savior. There will never be a good enough leader of the USA to make it perfect, or make it last forever.
Nothing can do that. And nothing should.
I believe this world is very much temporary, and that a perfect world awaits – one where there isn’t any more pain, no more brokenness or sorrow, and no injustice. The world as it was meant to be.
And I believe my role – our role – in this imperfect world (and this imperfect nation) is to bring relief and joy and justice where we can. To fight for it, when necessary; to advance a little bit of ground against evil; to awaken hope for that world that we know, deep down in the depths of our hearts, is how it should be.
March 20, 2016 § 3 Comments
Some mornings are just those mornings. We all have them!
That’s when my delicious eggs-in-a-jiffy recipe has just been a lifesaver.
I make these almost every day. It keeps me full till lunch!
When I fed these to the hubby, he couldn’t believe they were eggs!
My kids ask for breakfast at every meal so they can have mom’s famous egg scramble!
(Of course I don’t feed it to them every meal, haha, though it would be easy enough to, haha.)
This meal is so quick and easy to make you can make it in the same time it takes to make a pourover or a press coffee.
I guess if you’re vegan you can modify it by using chia seeds.
What really makes it is the EVOO! I love that rich taste with the creamy eggs. Mmm!
And of course a little bit of sea salt. The coarser texture of sea salt over table salt really makes a difference.
I think the best part of this recipe is it’s only three ingredients.
Yes, you read that right! Three!
OK I think I’ve talked up enough now that I ought to give you the recipe!
This is a great recipe for beginners but I think seasoned chefs will enjoy its beautiful simplicity.
Feel free to share this recipe with your friends or on your blog! I just ask that you credit me as your source and link back to my blog.
So without further ado…
Two eggs, raw
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Sea Salt, to taste
Place a non-stick pan on medium heat. Add roughly 1-2 TBS EVOO, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Crack eggs directly into the pan. Scramble with a fork. Once thoroughly scrambled, add a pinch of sea salt and use a silicone spatula to gently fold the eggs until they come to a creamy but not dry consistency. If desired, add freshly ground black pepper, hot sauce, bacon, scallions, garlic, or mushrooms.
Disclaimer: I do not have a husband or children.
Disclaimer #2: This post is a joke.
March 14, 2016 § Leave a comment
I did it. I kindled.
If I’ve been absent from blogging for a week it’s because I was caught up in a new short story idea. I’m sorry – I can’t do both blogging and fictioning at the same time. Not and have a job.
I’ve loved writing fiction since elementary school – starting with a turkey named Tom whose true love got eaten at Thanksgiving while he was in hiding. (Spoiler: next Thanksgiving he didn’t hide. I was a morbid child.) Some switch flipped in college, though, and I stopped writing fiction. Maybe it was all the writing I had to do for my history degree – maybe it was that writing facts was being hammered into my brain week after week – or maybe it was that I found new delight in writing a snarky opinion column for my university’s newspaper.
I didn’t spend much time on fiction, other than jotting down cool ideas, until about a year ago, when a friend of mine asked me to join her on a project.
Since then I’ve done NaNoWriMo and started working on multiple short stories. Suddenly, I love writing fiction again. That selfsame friend who invited me on her project, encouraged me to do NaNoWriMo, and encouraged me to try short stories (my favorite genre to read), self-published a story on Kindle last week.
That prompted me to philosophical consideration: should I, too, try self-publishing?
You can tell how much I respect this friend by how much I take her advice and copy her actions. (We’ve been writing buddies since middle school. We even had a writing club called Inklings. 10 points if you get that.)
I decided that, at this point in my life, playing around with self-publishing would help more than it would hurt. Maybe someday writing will be my livelihood (I can only hope), but right now it’s just my hobby.
So I churned out this little ghost story.
It’s inspired by the creepy lake I grew up on (a flooded valley, a la O Brother, Where Art Thou); an old swimming hole where my grandfather grew up; and the evocatively named “Lake Lurleen” off I-20 (who is Lurleen? So much mystery.*).
There’s just something unspokenly eerie about lakes in the South. I’ve also always felt that the South is a more ancient place, with pockets of stuck time and old legends. Like in the rush for Reconstruction, things got left behind.
Because you are a faithful reader, you get a wee excerpt of the story:
I hesitated at the lake’s edge, thinking of cottonmouths. The sun was going down anyway and it wasn’t as hot. I had to do it, though. I’d challenged her. I’d set myself up as fearless and if I didn’t follow through I’d be “that city kid.” It was bad enough that when I would get back to school at the end of the summer my friends would make fun of my “hick” accent I’d picked up.
I pulled my shorts off and then my shirt, bare child chest reveling in bravery and the setting sun. It was still plenty hot, and my clothes peeled off like a snakeskin. I was standing in just my britches by the water.
“You scared?” she said behind me, taunting me back.
“No way.” I waded in. God, please don’t let me get bit by a cottonmouth, I prayed silently, closing my eyes to make my prayer more fervent and acceptable to God.
If you want to read all of Sarah Gray, you can find it on Amazon under my penname, E.J. Gandy, with a lurid and enticing description full of dramatic cliff-hangers to tempt you.
*Wikipedia tells me it’s named after Lurleen Wallace, Alabama’s only female governer. The magic is gone – I never should have Googled it.