Monday, August 30, 2010

Modern-day Idolatry

Ever bowed down and worshiped an idol? Ever exalted a piece of wood or stone to god status? Ever sacrificed a belonging of personal value, or given of your time, or chanted prayers to it?

Neither have I.

But this morning, I looked directly in the face of an idol and it stared back with gray-blue eyes that looked an awful lot like mine. I groomed my idol carefully and offered it food and coffee. I took my idol to work and paid more attention to it than my job at times. I took my idol home and took care of its needs before my household chores, my husband, or my Bible. I placed it in an elevated position in my priority list, right next to my other idols of Entertainment and Laziness.

God, please forgive my Self-Centeredness.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Death and Birth of Dreams

Sometimes, I just want to pinch myself to make sure this is real.

There are only two or three dreams of mine that have not come true in one way or another in the past few years. I still am in awe that so many others have. I don't know why. I'm certainly not the prime example of godly living at every moment of my life. Complete honesty? Most weeks, I read my Bible so rarely I have to search for it on Sunday morning.

So why has He decided to bless me? I suppose it is because God doesn't operate on our "fairness" scale, and I'm glad he doesn't. I'm glad He loves me, a sinner saved by grace, despite all my weaknesses and failures. He knows I don't deserve it, but He gives His grace anyway. Thanks, Lord!

Still, I look back at the past five years and recall when I began this blog I was desperate for a job, in debt, with no love life, no prospects, and only my family and a dream of a business to get me through some of the hardest moments of my professional life. I clung to God and held onto hope that He would provide. I questioned so many things during that period of my life. There were times when I just didn't even know what I believed anymore. Anxious, guilt-ridden, angry thoughts swirled around in my mind at night. Thoughts I wanted to pretend didn't exist. Thoughts that drove me to read my Bible and pray even more earnestly for God to help me through it and to help me through and forgive my moments of unbelief.

My confusion and fear was driven by the things that I wanted desperately as long as I could remember: love, acceptance, freedom to make my own choices, opportunities for running a successful business, and the real hope for a genuine relationship that would lead to marriage, family, and security.

You know what had to change first? My attitude. God used my situation living with my parents to gradually bring me to the realization that I was using my helpless position to live on my own to humble me and then to convict me of my pride and rebelliousness. Sure, the rebellion didn't come out in dramatic ways, but I knew it was there, and that was all that I needed to know. I had to repent, and I had to accept that God had me there for a reason, and I had to accept that my way wasn't the best way. Once I understood that, I began to grow.

At first, the gradual opening of my heart continued with friends. A move back to the Nashville area introduce and re-introduced me to the people who would shape my life for the better. Friends who encouraged me and challenged me to grow as a Christian. Friends who accepted me for who I was. Friends who reached out and gave me a hug when a hug was most needed. Friends who gave me the ability to grow. And then, friends who inspired me to take the risk of looking for love.

I honestly wasn't sure if I could believe that I would truly one day fall in love. I started opening up to the possibility of talking to guys and accepting an offer of a date, should one present itself, but it didn't. The closest I came to a date that year was talking on the phone to a young man who was a friend of a friend and was traveling around the United States raising support to be a missionary. He truly had a heart for the Lord, and it made me glad to see his passion for ministry. We became friends, but we both knew it would go no further than that. There were other guys I came in contact with, of course, but none of them stepped forward to get to know this shy yet outgoing introverted girl with a bag full of dreams and hopes. Twenty-five and twenty-six went by and the likelihood of finding someone to share the best years of my life with seemed very slim, indeed. It wasn't until a dear friend suggested I stop avoiding "getting out there" and try online dating that I had my first date ever. At twenty-seven. Yes, you read that correctly. I had an interesting experience with online dating, complete with a crazy first date story, then having to crush the hopes of an over-eager would-be-suitor, experiencing ifrustration, holding on to the "perfect" guy for me only to realize he wasn't and surviving the breakup of a long-distance quasi-relationship, to unexpectedly meeting the real perfect man and slowly falling in love.

Meanwhile, I had had to come to know the shock and horror of true loss when my mother died from cancer, and shortly thereafter pick myself up from the pieces of a broken career and move forward in hope that there was something better out there for me.

And then it was like God turned on the green light. Love. Marriage. Getting out of debt. Financial security. A work environment that isn't toxic. Business plans falling in place. Professional encouragement. Things I had longed for for years, happening in rapid succession.

It's almost too much to absorb. Why now? Why me?

All I know is that I need to continually rely on God and to respond to these blessings with a grateful heart. I fail every day; I know that, but God is faithful.

What of the dreams that I still have? There's only a few left ... seeing my writing in print at a major publisher, starting and maintaining a successful business so that I may one day quit working full-time, and having and raising children who will trust Christ as their Savior and live for Him and make a difference in their world.

And you know what? Because I have looked back and seen the path He led me down to fulfill other dreams, I am confident He will bring this path on to see those fulfilled, as well, and if He chooses to allow those dreams to die, He will raise up others in their place ... dreams that will become the desire of my heart ... dreams He has placed there and will bring to fruition until the day he calls me home, the day my final dream will come true: to live in complete freedom from sin, forever, because of the sacrifice and forgiveness of my Savior.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Assumptions About Life

I attended a training class event based on a book called Shake That Brain! at my place of employment yesterday, and walked in to find toys on tables, name tents that we wrote our favorite movie character on instead of our own names, and a trainer that donned a smile-on-a-stick at the end.

Obviously, this was not your average class.

We questioned assumptions. We turned negatives into positives. We dreamed big. And we had fun doing it. (I even got my very own smile-on-a-stick and creeped out a coworker with it later on.)

It also got me thinking about life and the assumptions we make about ourselves, our surroundings, our people, and even our careers or plans. It's so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and not rise above it by persistence or even sheer audacity. We lose sight of the creative solution in favor of the tried-and-true. We shy away from the difficult and new and cling to the easy and familiar. Isn't sad that sometimes the older we get, the less fun we think we can have and the more resistant to change we become?

Thanks, Joel Saltzman, for shaking things up.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mockingjay and Me

NOTE: This Post Contains Potential Mild Spoilers

I bought a book Tuesday, picked up some dinner to-go from Cracker Barrel (even got the plasticware so I didn't have to do any dishes), and sat down on our couch with Mockingjay, the third book in a trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I only took one break from 6:30 pm until 11:00 pm, and that was to drive to Starbucks and pick up a (decaf) Toffee Nut latte and chat with Daniel on the phone for about 30 minutes before sitting back down on our couch once again. It was that good. I highly recommend you read it!

There's been some debate on review of this novel if it was a worthy ending. People on the Facebook fan page have either loved or hated it. There doesn't appear to be very much middle ground. If you're wondering, I fell into the "loved it" category, but I do see the merit of the arguments from the "hated it" side. They maintain that the book did not develop the main character, Katniss, that despite being a triumphant game player (read: being tossed to the lions in an arena kind of game), she is still a helpless pawn of warring factions, even at the end. I disagree. Could her final realization and claim of independence have come sooner and still moved the story on? Yes, I believe so, but the author's plotline is achingly consistent with how I would believe a 16 year-old would react and grow under the circumstance with which she was presented. Perhaps I identified strongly with Katniss. Perhaps I saw in her a bit of me, and a bit of others I know. Perhaps I felt her inner and outer battle keenly, knowing there could be situations I face in which there is no good answer and at every turn you are chased by an enemy and your only instinct is to just survive--no matter what.

Her story is like a re-occuring nightmare I have every now and then when the pressures and stresses of life creep up on me. I am young, helpless, sometimes even shoe-less. I am running, running, running. There is an evil presence behind me. Someone I must, at all costs, avoid. Someone I try at every turn to desperately outwit and hide from in a spot he will not look, because I've been running so long I can barely move, and I know that shortly I will collapse. I need to survive. I need to survive ...

... and then I wake up, shaking.

Mockingjay is that dream, except one thousand times worse. In my nightmare, only my own life is at stake. In the Hunger Games Trilogy, the lives of everyone Katniss loves and comes to know are at stake. In Mockingjay, the lives of everyone in her small world are at stake, and she is the pawn in a war game that threatens the very existence of humanity. Try those pressures on for size.

What would you do? Would you rise to the challenge? Or would you sometimes run scared, sometimes break, sometimes lash out in anger, sometimes fail miserably? Katniss does, and I would too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Things I Can't Stand

I may not be a designer by profession, but I started out as one, studied to be one, and spent the better part of my childhood years doing things that only a designer with an eye for things to "look right" would do ... like organize the play blocks by shape and size, or know the difference between pink and peach (at age 3.)

In short, design is one of very few things in which I feel completely comfortable making snap judgments. For instance: that sweater is hideous. Or: move that picture over a couple of inches. Or: that table is completely wrong for this room.

I may not sing the praises of this team vs. that team, but I sure will argue this font vs. that font. I won't tell you I'm not comfortable with your attitude if I'm feeling nervous or intimidated, but I will tell you if your butt looks fat in those jeans. I'll try to see things from your perspective, but not if your perspective is that Precious Moments characters should be featured on your walls, or that a collection of deer heads is the most attractive mantle ornament out there. Just fair warning.

With this in mind, let me share a list of Things I Can't Stand. Some of them aren't even design related. You may be familiar with a few of them (as I've certainly mentioned them before,) and you might relate to them, but perhaps not ALL of them. So I hope you enjoy this bitter list, or better yet, cringe with me. If you disagree, I'm sorry to hear that and will graciously step off your toes. But I'm still right. ;-)


1. Knotty Pine ANYTHING. If it isn't a hunting lodge or part of a wooden shrine to the 70s, it's got to go.
2. Geese with clothing and bonnets. You know what I'm talking about.
3. Hangers facing different directions in the closet. Daniel and I had a recent conversation about this. It's a pet peeve of his, too. Thank goodness we are hanger-direction-compatible.
4. Cords. Just ask my husband. I am a real cord-Natzi. They clutter things up and look ugly and you can trip over them!
5. Pictures that aren't aligned well on the wall. I don't care that you wanted to hang it on a stud. It's driving me crazy!
6. Camouflage in the living room. Not even a jacket. I take that back, camouflage anywhere other than the forest when you're hiding.
7. Ruffles with lace from the 80s. *shudder*
8. Comic Sans. Period.
9. Floral stationery or prints that aren't sleek and modern. I don't know why, but this makes me think of dusty fake floral arrangements. You know, the kind that sit in tired hotel foyers.
10. Movies where cussing is used like punctuation marks in every sentence. Ruin a perfectly good plot, why dontcha?
11. Knock-offs that don't even bother to change anything other than the quality of a piece. Way original. Way to go.
12. Knick. Knacks. Everywhere. *cringe*
13. Monochromatic belongings. Unless, of course, it's a personal preference. But if you can't throw in an extra color here or there ... it just seems so bleak.
14. Weeding. I'll never be a horticulturalist. I'm doomed to a life of pebbles and porches and brick pathways. I'd love to have a garden or a landscaped plot, but I just don't have the patience.
15. Speaking of patience ... TV commercials. If it doesn't make me laugh or salivate, what's the point? Let's get back to that show in progress, please. I'm a busy woman.
16. Peas, lima beans, and sweet potatoes. I've tried. I really, truly have.

What's your list?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Nashville Sunday Adventure!

Daniel and I went exploring on Sunday. We realized we hadn't gone past a certain point on the road we travel to get to our YMCA and so we traveled down it a little further. I was expecting perhaps a gas station or mini-mart, but what we discovered instead was a pleasant surprise. Not even 15 minutes from our house are two famous tourist attractions! Can you guess what they are from the pictures?

First, we saw Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre (note to self: must go to a show sometime soon, so we know what we'll be subjecting visitors to in the future), and then a short ways down the road was none other than the famous Loveless Cafe! I couldn't resist the pull of the old motel sign, or the promise of little quaint shops that surround the cafe. Daniel humored me and pulled into the only parking spot we could find and then--holding hands and feeling a bit like tourists--we browsed the Trace Bikes shop, Ruthie Cherrie Fine Art gallery, and, much to my delight, a second branch of one of my all-time favorite gift and oddities shops, the Curious Heart Emporium, where you can pick up Robot Monkey tissues (or was it Monkey Robot?) that are guaranteed to wipe snot from your face. After all, it promises to do so on the packaging, and packaging is always true.

We finished our exploring with a quick look around the Loveless store. We didn't purchase any of the country ham, honey, or spiced tea mixes. We did, however, walk out the door with a delicious root beer and the first Dr. Enuf drink that I had seen since living in East Tennessee. I think it has a new fan--Daniel, who had never heard of it before!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chandler & Price? *Swoon*

If only I had a workshop, $800, a moving crane, and a truck. Oh, and the knowledge to restore and operate this treasure I just spotted on Craigslist. I've been a long-time lover of letterpress stationery and it's always been a dream of mine to take a class or two on how to use these lovely printing machines. Women (and men) like me all over the country have snatched these machines up over the past ten years or so, as letterpress has experienced a regeneration of sorts.

So, yes, *swoon.*

If only!

Nashville, TN + Raleigh, NC Indie Jeans Companies = Southeastern Denim Love

Okay, as you all are well aware, I'm a huge, huge sucker for any DIY, craft scene, or small manufacturing success story. It makes my entrepreneurial heart go pitter-pat. Well, today, folks, I have to share not one, but TWO success stories of an epic nature that makes me even prouder to be a transplanted Yankee turned Southern gal.

Within the past two days I ran into two tales about high-end, detail-oriented, back-to-roots jeans that have taken the fashion world by a storm. Each of these tales is based right here in the Mid Southeast.

The first tale comes from none other than my very own adoptive home town--Nashville, Tennessee. Out of a non-descript converted gas station, the company Imogene + Willie has risen out of obscurity in the past year to being sought after by celebrities (according to this story, Gwyneth Paltrow wears their denim.) Their story has been featured in Southern Living, Garden & Gun, and even the New York Times Magazine. The owners have a family background in denim, and their passion shows in their work. Currently, their jeans sell in their Nashville location and an Austin, Texas store called Stag, but two years ago when their idea for a company was in its infancy, they sold 250 limited-edition pairs of jeans to their e-mail contact list to finance the start-up. Hmmmm. Sounds like good to me! Might have to borrow that one. If you get an email from me in the next year, you'll know where I got the idea.

I wish I had an image to show for the Imogene + Willie brand, but you'll have to go to The Nashville Scene's current issue or click on the link above for it, as I don't have permission to just indiscriminately post shots and they don't have a web presence. They're worth a look, though! 

The second tale is just a long day's drive away in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the denim is just as meticulously crafted into men's jeans that have been flying off the shelves of none other than Barney's in New York City and Los Angeles. This couple, much like the first, are passionate about what they do, but what really stood out to me is the Cinderella story of their success. In their video interview, they say that they started literally from nothing, selling off some personal items to buy their first three machines--which they knew nothing about--and installed said machines in their near-empty apartment. Now they have hired at least a dozen people to help them assemble their jeans, but they still personally sign each pair with a black Sharpie to indicate just how seriously they take the quality of their work. If they can't sign off on it, they won't sell it.

Raleigh Denim: Handcrafted in North Carolina from David Huppert on Vimeo.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I admit I've been feeling a little lost without my friends lately. We're still settling in here in Nashville, so the majority of our good friends live either out of town or out of state. Getting an opportunity to spend time with them is precious. So this week has been a blessing, indeed!

Last night we had friends over for dinner. This sounds pretty normal, except this was a milestone for Daniel and me! This was the first time we had had dinner guests over for the sole purpose of hanging out, eating, and enjoying each other's company. I believe we've housed and fed my dad and brother on a couple of occasions, but this was an actual dinner party. I sent out a text invitation, it was accepted, and we scurried about to clean up the house enough that our guests would feel at home despite the row of packing boxes and miscellaneous furniture lining the back wall of the very dining room in which we ate our food.

It was even more special since we not only got to see one of my best friends (and a former bridesmaid in our wedding), but also her new boyfriend, whom we hope to see again soon. The four of us enjoyed a laid-back meal and hilarious conversation, and I relished the opportunity to use our kitchen to be all domesticated and cook stuff for four people. (Daniel helped clean, washed dishes, took the trash out, and changed out the toilet paper roll in the bathroom for me. And he made some awesome coffee.) It was a wonderful, relaxing evening, one I hope to repeat soon.

Tomorrow, we'll get to hang out with another friend who is a fellow theater fan. We're heading out to Centennial Park for Love's Labor Lost, this year's Shakespeare in the Park production. I can't wait! Daniel and I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to attend this free production, so when our friend suggested it, we didn't require too much convincing!

And then there are the friends I haven't gotten to see this month, but I have had the sincere pleasure of holding conversations via email. I adore a good email conversation for those moments at work when you just have to get your mind off of things for a minute or two. It makes my day!

So glad for our friends. They make life sweeter!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Surf City, Here We Come!

We have an exciting event ahead of us. My cousin and her fiance are getting married at last, after a long engagement that spanned the length of our marriage, engagement, and some of our dating, as well! I'm so happy for her and him. They're a wonderful couple, committed Christians, and just all-around great people. Her smile and outgoing nature wins anyone over, and his witty sarcasm makes me laugh every time. I've only met him once, but I could tell he had won over our entire family instantaneously.

En route to their wedding in Southern California, I'll get a chance to spend time with my own hubby on a mini-vacation, and to enjoy the company of my father and youngest brother who will be enjoying the vacation with us. We're going to hit up IKEA (yay!), the beach, quaint shops, a pier, and hopefully some tourist-y places, as well. In the midst of the fun, we'll stop to celebrate their love in a cool 73 degree evening. Hooray! Relief from the Southern heat, at last!

Have I mentioned I'm excited? 'Cause I am. A lot.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 09, 2010

Nashville Craigslist Used Furniture Finds

I haunt Craigslist on a regular basis and make it a hobby to find great pieces with strong lines and good bones. They may or may not be the most expensive versions of more famous pieces, but these are at the least reminiscent of designs that have withstood the test of time and are now waiting for new homes. I'd buy the credenza in a heartbeat if I could.

1 - The history of the "Jenny Lind" spool bed is fascinating and many collectors and decorators seek this item!

2 - A mantle with character is very shabby chic. It would add instant character to any wall.

3 - A mid-century modern credenza that could make a great comeback as an entertainment center!

1. Queen-sized Jenny Lind style spool headboard $75
2. Antique mantel $70
3. Mid-Centruy Credenza - $325

Paring Down to Minimalism. Or, at the Very Least, Functionalism.

The theme around our house lately has been “if you don’t need it, throw it out!”

It’s amazing how much stuff one accumulates in a lifetime, or even a year. As Daniel pointed out recently, he and I share a minimalist aesthetic, but we just have too much stuff to live that way. We keep trying to go truly minimalist, though. Perhaps the small space of our townhome will help us conquer that. (Let me qualify that statement: we have a minimalist aesthetic but a functional necessity for “stuff” because of the sheer number of reference books and/or craft supplies we require for our respective livelihoods or moonlighting entrepreneurial activities, not to mention the cooking utensils necessary for the cooking sessions we enjoy!)

He threw out stuff when he moved out of his parents’ house. I threw out stuff when I moved out of the house I shared with my former roommates. We both threw out dozens of trash bags of papers and things we no longer had room for or wanted when we moved out of the apartment. We gave away several carloads of usable items to Goodwill. Yet we are still throwing things away and adding them to yet another “Goodwill” pile. Seriously. I feel like someone who should be on that show “Hoarders.”

We worked on our craft room over this past weekend, and at last the sorting and throwing away is paying off. Even as we continue to pare down to the true necessities, we are putting up shelving and unpacking the supplies we use or will use on a regular basis, along with the artwork and doo-dads that mark moments of our individual (and joint) histories. It’s a great feeling to know that in the very near future, we will be living in our home, and not just unpacking it.

Other than the joy we will experience upon unpacking the last box at last, I am really looking forward to filing my bits of paper and story ideas and scribbled outlines for writing that I intend to get to one day. For the past 15-20 years of my life, my writing has been filed away in moving boxes, sometimes staying in those very same boxes for years until the next move. This move is IT. Those papers will finally have a home in a filing cabinet, and the manuscripts in progress will have their very own document boxes that match our decor. I’m so thrilled!