Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days :: Adventures

I have trouble with the word artist. I work with kids every day and we often play matching games. The artist card is the man with a mustache holding a giant paintbrush and easel, right? You know what I'm talking about. Maybe he is Pablo Picasso, although I don't think Picasso had a mustache.

I want to pair this picture with a late twenties working woman who loves and does art in all kinds of eclectic ways. With her writing. As she cooks. With music. And paints -- we're talking watercolors and fingerpaints, here.

I want this to be a match. I want both to be artists, serious artist and me, nontraditional creative spirit.

I've been on a journey to let go of my guidelines for the way art has to look.

For 31 days, I'm approaching creativity with a series of adventures. Every day will be a little different. Basically, you must come in full force and meet every challenge or you can't come along.


You just have to be ready to play.
I'm excited to find out what little surprises are waiting when I go on a month long adventure to let creativity roam free. I hope you'll come along.

It's your turn. Pick a card. Oh, you got stuck with Pablo again? No worries. Pick again...

I'll come back to this post and compile a list with its link to keep track of the 31 days.
Thanks, Nester for inviting us along in the 31 day journey.
Intro: Adventures

Oh, September

Time for Emily's What I learned in September? I should have known this was coming...

I feel like I learned a lot of things, but at the moment, my 31 day brain can't contain them so here is the big five for September. I'm too busy thinking about creativity and art and how to incorporate Pablo Picasso into as many posts as possible for The Nester's yearly writing challenge.

1. I discovered I love art quotes, especially by Pablo Picasso. The man said some good stuff.

2. I found out that Ingrid Michaelson and Greg Laswell are married. Both great musicians. Did other people know this before now?

3. Improv is ridiculous but fun, and my secret desire to be on "Whose Line" is coming true, in it's own miniature way by taking a class.

4. Community is hard but worth it.

5. Everyone I know is having a kid. The baby market is eating this up. Most of this stuff did did not exist when I was little. Please help. I decided yesterday at a beloved friend's baby shower that I need someone to write a blog about what the bare necessities are for babies. I don't have a baby, BUT I think it's needed. It's probably out there somewhere, but where is it? Seriously. I do not know what most of this stuff is even used for....and I love kids. And while mustaches have been big for awhile, this is still just too much.

A bunch of us are going to write for (eek!) 31 days in October. In the past, this challenge has given me a love/hate relationship with the month of October. Keeping up with life is a challenge in itself, so let's throw in writing a coherent post every day. Fuun. I decided my challenge would be to make it nothing but fun this year and let the results play out. Intrigued? Come back tomorrow (or tonight, when we're actually starting) for more.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bring on the Pie...and Yoga

I'm already past my bedtime.

I decide the super late posts have got to go. So do leaks that happen in my apartment in the wee late hours of the night. Oh, and while we're at it, let's just knock out all the seasonal sicknesses, too.

I have little control over y and z, but x, the staying up until crazy late hours writing, as much as I love it, is a slow death. Writers do it all the time, right?

Is this why they often look sluggish or don't leave the house or don't shower for days? This is not the look I'm going for. Have you read this article? It's great and I agree, but I would also add a #4 to people writing. Don't sleep.

Forget I said that.

So I think about doing some yoga, that should help me get to sleep, right? I'm not sure when the last time I did yoga, or any real exercise would have been. I played tennis with the man with supposed vision problems, does that count?

On an unrelated note, it's the first day of fall and I'm trying to usher it in with happiness. I love fall! There I said it. Was that believable?

Okay, I'm leaning toward not disliking fall.

I wish you an enthusiastic start to this much anticipated season, complete with pumpkin spice lattes and lots of pie.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Yesterday's Girl

Dear younger me,
Apparently it's a fun pastime for me to write to you. See here and here in case you forgot.

I even wrote one I didn't send you. Probably the most important one. That figures, right? It was about your body. What I would have told it. Because right now you probably think it's not working right. It's broken. You're broken.

Bet you're dying to hear how it all turns out, huh?

Can't tell you. Sorry.

Promise you don't have to hate me.

You're tough and you can take it. But, because you are 'tough' and you can take stuff so well, you worry people. You have a sensitive exterior at times but you are strong inside. Too strong for your own good right now. My advice to you: let yourself slide a little. 

I know you're afraid of the losses.

But overtime, it's the losses, not the wins that form in you who you are and the tiny spaces you start to see through the dark that gives way to light. Run toward the light.

Even years later, I wouldn't change the story you're living. Wouldn't try and replace painful moments with something else instead. But I'm not sure there's a pretty box to stuff it all in and that's okay.

Not everything you go through in the moment is good, but God does something -- and is doing something -- so much better for it. Redemption comes through way of a redeemed, changed path.

I hate the vicious cycle of pain you live in all the time. When you're older, there are times you try and pretend it didn't matter, but it did.

I can't hide the fact that I want you to find comfort, relief. But, I also want you to know truth. Not just what helps you temporarily.

I want you to find the healing balm for your soul, not just your body.

Don't give up. It's near.

Letters To

Friday, September 20, 2013

Purple Grandma, Yellow Grandma

She had a purple tablecloth.

Purple was her favorite color. Mine, too.

All my life, up until this year when I added yellow. Yellow -- my other grandma's favorite color. These ended up my favorites somehow, too.  I'm not sure if she remembers the yellow. I asked her about it once. My Irish Grandma, I thought you loved green. But yellow suits you. Sunny and warm and constantly making me laugh. She never talked about it after that. 

Purple grandma did. That's where I get it from. All this talking about favorite colors. 

Purple everywhere. Purple jewelry, purple clothes. What else was purple? Now I can't remember. 

Purple grandma. Greek grandma, ready to embrace my Pa Pou's Greek culture and his antics that went along with it. I try to remember the purple tablecloth. To this day, I am certain she made the best spanakopita and grape leaves and baklava. I can still taste them, though as a little girl leaves of any kind were hard to swallow.

When you think of people do you think of favorite colors?

Do you have a "purple tablecloth" story?

Linking with Lisa-Jo and a community of other word lovers for the prompt She



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

For Days When You Don't Want to be a Wall

I'm going to paint a little picture for you.

Every now and then my tennis playing energies kick in and here's what happens:

I go to some nearby courts.

If I don't have a tennis buddy to go with, I am prepared to play the wall.

If the wall is busy, I wait by the wall until it becomes free again, with ever so sly glares in the general direction of those hitting against the wall.

Okay, scratch the last one.

Kind of.

Couple weeks ago I was determined. I hung out nonchalantly by the wall for a few minutes and waited for the older man, with grey hair and long beard, to retrieve a ball, then asked him if I should come back later. He said he had just arrived and we proceeded to chat for a minute about the possibility of hitting around so we could both practice. Then, he asked me the question of all questions:

"Are you like a wall?"

Hmm..never gotten that one before.

I'm not sure I gave him a straight answer, but decided to let my tennis speak for itself.

Miss Competitive can bounce into action when she wants to, and poor old man, he asked me if I could be a wall. So I ran down every ball and remembered what it felt like to play for real, no fear of the other person being able to keep up, no worries what they thought of me. Determined to focus, to play my sport. To keep the pace.

When this happens, I hardly even notice the other person. I could be playing a wall for all I know.

This is how it's supposed to be. Unless you're playing an older man in his seventies (I'm a terrible gauge of age?) and I'm pretty sure I heard someone say he's technically blind. This left me a little confused, but he wasn't bad out there.

Apparently, I made him work for it. He asked for a wall!

Please, no judging allowed. I love me some tennis.

Point of this story: there are some days it feels good to be a wall. Resilience wins the game. Or at least it builds endurance.

There are some days being a wall is hard. It has it's pros and cons, to be sure. But, in tennis-speak (translating to life-speak, which is what tennis does for me), there are days when instead of building resilience I forget how to play, I'm too concerned about the other person, or get stuck in my own head.

Tennis teaches me that there is this ingrained muscle memory I have for doing things the right way because I've been given a model for what the right way looks like.

I had tennis teachers who helped me learn this and even though I am sure my technique was far from perfect over the years and still is, the only reason I have muscle memory is because I was taught how to do it and I kept at it. We are a product of who we look to and learn from.

This Christian walk is the same. We stumble and fall and don't get it right -- a lot. But we have muscle memory bringing us back to the true source because we are taught what it means to look to Someone who was perfect when we are not. We can keep at it over and over and regain strength every time the answer to "are you a wall" is a resounding NO.

We're not meant to be walls. Hold it together all the time people. And that's okay. It's good, good, good to be resilient and strong but we can't build our whole lives on that.

Here's a little encouragement for your Wednesday. It's plain silliness but I think it works:

-Gilmore Girls: Racquet Ball : Serious clarification for those who think tennis translates into all racquet sports. Not true. I played racquet ball once in my life in college and the ball won.

-Little Girl Dancing at Wedding Puts All of Your Dance Moves to Shame

linking with emily today -- come join AND hear about her new book.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Paper Plate Art and a New Park

This week -- a collision of joy and pain.

joy = art on paper plates. painting late in the evening just because. seeing some of my favorite kiddos. pretty lake! finding a new park. pandora dance party. yummy thai food/getting outta town for awhile, God showing up in the midst of dark places.

{my computer is having problems uploading pictures -- you'll just have to imagine all this joy}

Even as I write this, I know the answers I'm looking for, and yet, I'm okay that I don't know them all. I know when I see more pain, everywhere pain, there's a good chance I'm being stubborn and refusing to see and record. See and record. The joy, too. Instead of just being a pain-tracker.

Sometimes I think the seeing is enough, but it's not. I do have to write it down.

The seeing comes easier at least when I learn to stop smushing joy.

I discover joy and pain can coexist even when I like to think they are estranged cousins.

Aren't they?

I forget to see joy that's right beneath me. I think I need to search to the ends of the earth when something beautiful was there all along.
 I am not kidding when I tell you that this weekend I went to a nature park close by me for the first time in almost seven years. I have no idea how I've missed this gem -- me, who loves water and the outdoors and anything nature -- but isn't it telling?

Joy doesn't have to be this abstract concept or something so hard to find. 

But it is hard to find when I make it so.

It slips through my hands and more so, through the hands of time when I forget what's waiting for me right before my eyes. Right in my backyard.

Something so crazy beautiful that was there all along.

What have you been missing that you recently discovered? What simple acts of living bring you joy?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mercy (Note)

Mercy is in my face every time I sit down to click, click, click.

I needed a name for this blog some years ago, and I thought mercy sounded good. I thought mercy made sense. And as my vivid imagination should go, I pictured myself sitting down with a nice cup of tea writing about mercy all the time.

I don't really write about it all that much.


Because I can't find the words? Because I think I have to have the right words? Because mercy feels too big to explain? Because sometimes I have more questions than answers?

Sigh. Bottom line. I know I am in need.

God keeps teaching me I am not just in need if I am hurting and sick (these are true reasons I need Jesus, too though), but I also, very much would go my own way, if it weren't for Christ.

It kind of hit me the other day in a this-sounds-like-a-bumper-sticker but I really don't mean it like that way. I suddenly was hit with a ton of bricks after considering that I might be having an emotional allergy to this current season of my life and this thought came to my mind : I don't know where I would be without Christ.

Yep. Thank you, hard stuff. I love you for that, and please come back another day.

But, in true gerbil on the wheel form at this late hour, this brings me to the point of  people in my life that are easy to love. I don't have to extend my hand out too far or put forth that much energy with them. It's a nice, peaceful kind of love, but it doesn't cost me too much.

God's love isn't like that. It's costly.

Costly, for us humans who like to think we are easy to love, the aim-for-perfection ones. 

Preaching to the choir here. Former perfectionists anonymous, anyone?

Truth is, we are not easy to love all the time and we are not perfect.

Mercy is hard to grasp sometimes.

It's only when I remind myself that I am the one who is in need of Him, just straight up, because of who I am. Because I need Him to redeem the parts of me that are broken, not just by people and life and circumstance, but also my own selfish heart and the ways I think I know better. 


"Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." - Hebrews 4


The thing is Jesus knows our weakness and He knows our suffering. I'm pretty sure I can count on that one; he came into this ridiculously messy world for us. 

Instead of getting all caught up in what mercy is, pray with me that we can get all caught up in Who mercy is.

True or False: Francesca Battistelli is awesome. 

Linking with Lisa-Jo and others. Come on, you want to join!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why I Need You

Life is hard and we need each other. That could be 'enough said' but here's a little more food for thought. This is why I need you people (written but never posted..)

I need you, social media enthusiast, and the one who knows things about pop culture. I just need you, period, because I can't keep up. 

I need you, easy-does-it adventurer, risk taking ones and quick to say yes'er, so I'll remain open to the doors I often keep closed. I need you to be the one to hold my hand if I ever jump from someplace high up, even though I say I'm not afraid of heights.

I need you, athlete, because you inspire me. You remind me someone will win, but someone will lose. Someone will not get drafted. Someone will not get the scholarship. Someone will miss the last shot of the game. I know, this is a real picker-upper. But it's true. And when you keep on playing, you remind me, failure isn't the end.

I need you whose first lens on seeing the world is photography. You help me SEE. You give me hope that I can look up close and mark all as beauty.

I need you, musician, because you help make my world go 'round. You help me to sing along when I am in chaos. You help me to stop and remember the point and Who to praise. You help my feet go lighter and remember troubles are light and momentary.

And I need you, the many, many music-makers that go unmentioned...

I need you, the teenage rappers, the ones I've met, who make lyrics and speak your story and give the world your voice. I need to hear you.

I need you, the girls who know art more than I do. Girls who can run and are fierce. Girls who know how to speak up. I need you to remember you have so much to offer.

Remember you are needed.

Yes, you may need me, too, but this one's for you and why I need you.

linking with emily for imperfect prose

Monday, September 9, 2013

I'm Gone

Today I'm not here. You'll find me over at Amy's.

The place you write is a sort of home, so getting to hang at someone else's place is like going to a sleepover of a good friend in school = so much fun and different and you get a sneak peak into their world. 

Or maybe it's just me. I didn't go to a lot of sleepovers as a kid, so when I did, I thought it was a big deal. 

Guess that's a little something about me.

Join me at Amy's and tell me something I don't know about you.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bowls of Cherries

I want red to be my bowl of cherries life.

The one where the only work I do is writing, so I don't have to stay up until my eyelids droop at night to pound out words. The one where if I work, it's in a field that is actually stable and crunching numbers to stay afloat isn't my other job. The one where I have time to do things in the evenings, like cook good meals and maybe take a walk before it's dark because I will get yelled at by my neighbors once it's dark.

But, I have to put an end to this cherry-living thinking.

Red is an eight sided figure that tells me to stop.


I hardly even like cherries. They are too tart and I don't like the pits and if I'm going to eat a bowl of something red it would be strawberries.

All the time, it's this back and forth battle with what I think I want and what God knows I need.

I can barely see the stop sign.
I started a joy journal, like an extension or continuation of the 1000 Gifts I've been doing.

Although the gifts were teaching me something before to be sure, up until now, I think I've treated it like a homework assignment, something I could scribble down and say I found joy.

My vision is so easily blurred.  

I can't just spot a tulip in the grass and say I've found joy. Maybe it is joy. I struggle through and count it all joy, and in this season, it comes by finding the pink and orange hues in the horizon after the thunderstorm, laughing until I'm crying with a friend, inside jokes with cousins. I'm finding joy comes in the midst of stories and story as joy. And almost always the backdrop is still struggle, not carefree, bowl of cherry living.

I want to see all the tiny specks as joy, the flowers, the trees, the butterflies, but I'm starting to realize that God knows me and grows my faith through connecting together all the beautiful pieces of this journey.

I can look back and I can look ahead seeing the joy that He has laid before me. It's better than what I would choose.

Linking with Lisa-Jo and Emily today.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

9 August Learnings

Happy September everyone! Whew, we are now officially past Labor Day already, which I can safely say since I can't seem to get a post out before midnight. 

All these months are starting to blend together.

Good thing I have Emily's monthly what-did-you-learn link up to keep me straight. Thanks for stopping by as I take a minute to step back into August and be sure to check out what others are up to.
Side note since we're talking about straightening out: everyone has a wedding or shower or another birthday coming up (okay, I know you can only have one birthday a year, but I think that some of you out there are having two birthdays just to be funny) so I'm gonna try super hard to stay on top of dates. My whole life for work has been planning other people's lives and schedules for the past two years or so, and I'm starting to feel like going on a sabbatical sometime soon would be great, so just bear with me. Here's everything I can think of that I learned this past month:

1.  Spoken word poetry. (share courtesy of Amy)

I love this!
I listened to the whole segment one night when I should have been sleeping, and the next morning wrote my first poem since college.

2.  I learned how to stop calling myself a non-artist.

I learned I might never feel ready to do "creative things" that scare me, to mix writing with other art forms, to venture out into my own version of no man's land, but every time I keep believing in these things I'm learning to love, I step on fear a little more (See number one and how I want to do it).

3.  I don't use the phrase Laughing out Loud much.

So? Well, even though I love to laugh, who is really laughing out loud when that phrase is used anyway? If anything, I'm smiling or chucking a little bit, or Laughing On the Inside. But, thank you, Cecilia Ahern and your writing, because I now know the meaning of this in the most inopportune places, otherwise known as the mechanic and the airplane to name a few.

4.  I could be 23 or 93 and I'd still be excited to celebrate another year alive.

I didn't exactly learn this for the first time but I get to relearn it every year -- yay! 
I still love the regular Wednesday, but I have to admit, I love a regular Wednesday + a birthday on top.
Birthdays remind me that the gift of today comes only from God. I love friends (and the fam) who made my birthday special. And, I love my friends' birthdays. Okay, I love anything balloons and parties and friends, period. I'm a sucker for balloons.


5.  Apparently, I'm a bigger fan of JJ Heller than I realized. And Tim Keller. And people whose names end with -eller.

There is not much left to say for this one. I'm tired from all the laughter that ensued when a new friend and I realized some of my music (and now perhaps also reading) habits. So what if I happen to get my CD's and order books from the library in bulk?! And listen to what my friend informed me were "out-of-control" music videos. I like them.

6. I learned that I can keep a list of what I'm thankful for/what brings me joy every day.

The friend from number five gave me this journal dubbed 'the joy journal.' Maybe she wanted to divert me from all the -ellers.

I was keeping track before, here and there, but how easily the joys slipped through my fingers when I forget to take note of them everywhere.

7. I cannot spend time in a grocery store without having multiple, sometimes lengthy conversations.

I enjoy talking to people who work there, mainly. I've known this for awhile, but this month I spent a couple hours at the grocery store for a visit that should have taken me half an hour.
Is this a problem for anyone else who shops at Whole Foods? I'm thinking it might be me, because this also happens at Harris Teeter.

8. I'm pretty sure I know what it feels like to ride in a clown car.

I love my family.

9. There are times I'm not writing because life is crazy or I go visit people (number eight fun), and that's okay.

I like to think I'm writing all the time. In some way, I am. But, I've decided to lose the pressure to have enough to say. I realize I don't have to say enough. I just need to say what I have. I. Just. Need. To. Say. Something. Rather than nothing, rather than holding back. I believe that about everyone.

{are you getting to speak? if not, what's holding you back?}

Much love and grace for fall, Julie