Awards. Because it’s Monday.

I need to start out this post by thanking runningafterale, sheilamariegrimes, and alexiskrystina who have so graciously nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award, the Linking Hearts Liebster Award and the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, respectively.

You guys. I’m blushing. I’ve never been good at accepting compliments or awards or being the center of…anything, really. So all I can say is thank you. Thank you for letting me know that this little space of mine resonates with you. I’m truly honored.

Apparently there are some rules one must adhere to when accepting these awards, so I’m going to do my best to combine the three here.

Okay, wait, forget that. Things just got a little too complicated for the current state of my brain (tired, obviously). Soooo….I guess I will post the info and rules of all three awards here, and then pass the awards on to some of my fave blogs when I’m done.

Okayreadysetgo!

versatile blogger award

The Versatile Blogger Rules:

1) Add The Versatile Blogger award photo on a blog post
2) Thank the person (or animal) who presented you with the award and link back to him or her in your post
3) Share seven things about yourself
4) Pass the award along to 15 favorite bloggers. Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Seven Things About Me:

1. I’m a sister to a big brother.

2. I eat quinoa a lot for lunch but I would rather eat pizza.

3. I was never a cake person until I became a pregnant person. To this day, it’s my absolute favorite treat. As long as there’s icing. Good icing. Something about cake and icing together.

4. I left a little piece of my heart in NYC when we moved back to Indiana shortly before Mia was born. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish we would have stayed a little longer.

5. I’ve been known to shop online when I can’t sleep. I don’t recommend this.

6. I don’t have full movement of my left arm so I was never able to do a cartwheel, something I considered grossly unfair as a child. Now it just makes yoga a little awkward but that doesn’t stop me.

7. I love yoga but I don’t go as much as I’d like because yoga’s expensive ya’ll. Videos just aren’t the same. (However, if you know of a stellar yoga video, I’d love to know. Maybe I’ve just been doing the wrong ones.)

liebster-award1

The Linking Hearts Liebster Award Rules:

l. Post The Award on your blog.
2. Thank the blogger who nominated you, and link back to their site.
3. Post 11 random facts about yourself to help us to get to know you better.
4. Respond to the 11 questions the presenter has asked.
5. Nominate 11 new bloggers you consider noteworthy.
6. Post your very own 11 questions to the nominees.
7. Leave a message for your nominees you have chosen.

11 Random Facts:

I know the rules stipulate 11 random facts but I gave you 7 already so I’m doing 4 more here (Look at that, I did math!) because do you really want to know that much about me?

1. My go-to places to shop are Anthropologie, J. Crew, BCBG, Madewell, Shopbop, Gilt and random sites I find while shopping in the middle of the night.

2. For the kids, I like Crewcuts, Baby Gap/Gap Kids, Mini Boden, Tea Collection, Gilt, Zulily, The Mini Social, Etsy, consignment, and random sites I find while shopping in the middle of the night.

3. I used to have pretty great hair. It was full and thick and long and I could go for days without shampooing. Then I had Mia and a lot of it fell out. And then it grew back more limp and greasy than before. Then I got pregnant with the boys and–oh, joy!–hello, hair of my youth. Then I had the boys and it fell out AGAIN and in greater quantities (handfuls at a time) than after I had Mia. It’s still growing back. My hairstylist recently said, “I have to be honest with you, I’ve never seen someone lose so much hair and have it grow back.” So there’s that.

4. My new and long-term goal is to apply a minimalist approach to my home because the toys are starting to overtake it and I can’t deal anymore. Wish me luck.

The Eleven questions Sheila asked are:

1. What flavor of ice cream do you like?

I try to stick to sorbet but I’ll eat anything with chocolate in it if you twist my arm enough.

2. What’s your favorite memory during junior high school?

Nothing. When I picture the depths of hell I picture junior high school. Am I alone in this?

3. Do you like to sing? Why or why not.

I do but usually Mia tells me to be quiet so she can sing by herself.

4. If you could vacation anywhere on planet Earth, where would you?

Why are we limiting ourselves to planet Earth? Okay, fine. Italy. Or France. Or Ireland. Or a beach. Any beach with some sun will do.

5. What started you blogging?

Muddling through the trenches with infant twins will test your sanity. I needed an outlet. Shortly after the boys turned one, I felt this fog lift and for the first time in a long time I was able to see the beauty of these three little people I have been blessed with. My goal was to capture that joy in this space, hence the name Joy, Lovely Joy.

6. What’s your muse?

My kids (see number 5)

7. How far away is your farthest follower?

I have no idea. I try not to concern myself too much with who’s following me and how many followers and hits I get. I’ve found that when I do my writing becomes stifled and more about what might appeal to the masses rather than what I’m feeling at that time. My favorite posts have been ones that I write from the gut, with little planning and editing.

8. Do you still have a dream?

I do. Several.

9. Was there a teacher in school who made a difference in your life?

Yes. A journalism teacher in high school. He was more of a mentor to his students than a teacher. He doesn’t teach anymore but he’s involved with the local school system. A lot of us still keep in touch with him through Facebook.

10. What makes you laugh?

My kids. My husband. My friends. Funny movies. The Mindy Project. Modern Family. New Girl.

11. Can you see yourself in five years, and where?

I see myself with an 11 year old daughter, 7 year old twin boys, and a dog (because they’ll wear me down eventually). Hopefully a little less skin around the waist and a few more laugh lines around the eyes. I want to be successful in some capacity but first I want to define what that means to me. I want to be a minimalist (or at least more minimalist than I am now), and I want to still practice being mindful of this moment right here right now.

VeryInspiringAward

Again, I’m supposed to write seven random facts about myself but I’m going to assume you’re all sick of me by now and just cut to the blogs I’m nominating. I love the blogs listed below. If your blog is one of them please have your pick of which award you’d like to respond to (you’re all worthy of all three). If you go with the Linking Hearts Liebster Award, use Sheila’s questions that she passed on to me. Happy Monday!

Bluebirdsunshine

The Joy Underneath

Here Now Brown Cow

Cobwebs, Cupcakes and Crayons

Now at Home Mom

Revolutionary Pie

Mom at Work

Love Each Step

Fluffy Bunnies

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Write One True Sentence

write one true sentence

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” -Ernest Hemingway

The most difficult part of writing is the writing. It’s the showing up every day, putting down a word and then another until miraculously, the words you’ve strung together complete a sentence, possibly even a coherent thought.

My thoughts over the past week have been broken, spliced, interrupted by grief and anxiety and stress and doctor appointments and we STILL don’t have the nebulizer that was promised to be delivered over a week ago, which wouldn’t be an issue except for the fact that now they’re sick and not sleeping well and filling our nights with sounds of gagging and hacking and crying because THEY CAN’T BREATHE.

Boston broke me down. I turned inward, held my babies close, got lost inside my head for a while, but I don’t think I’m any different than most. All of us tip-toeing around our days until we find our footing again. And honestly, if it wasn’t clear from the paragraph above, it wasn’t just Boston.

But I’m here now and I’ve realized something. I need to show up. I need to begin with just one sentence. I’ve heard that in developing a routine — showing up at the same time everyday no matter what — you develop a sort of reflexive muscle to the act of writing. That in creating this practice, the act becomes automatic. I know this but I have a hard time implementing it, always waiting for inspiration, always fighting distractions, when all I need to do is sit down and write one true sentence.

I need a plan. I need a focus, a goal. I need time-management skills and possibly a minimalist room with a view of the ocean and a fat Buddha silently willing me to breathe and write. Breathe and write. I don’t have that room but I think I might have found something to help with the time-management issue. If you struggle, like me, with keeping focused on a task or goal (doesn’t have to be writing), check out the Pomodoro Technique and Goal Streaks. I haven’t actually tried either one yet, so if you use them I’d love to know what you think.

A little right-brained luck

Mia’s school does this thing called Math Challenge. All classes in all grade levels participate and each time they pass a level they get a small prize (a pencil, an eraser, etc.). When they’ve passed all three levels their name appears in the weekly newsletter sent out to parents. Mia doesn’t know this yet, but she’s inherited my half-brain. As in, we are all right-brained.  Our left brain is either missing completely or just doesn’t care to show up most of the time. And when it does show up, as in, Hey, let’s sit down and come up with a monthly budget! Won’t that be fun? My right brain is all Um, okay, sure I guess…Ooooh, look at how those numbers almost spell blue, and isn’t it poetic the way the sun streaming through the window slants across this spreadsheet? Let’s go look at the clouds…

I failed algebra in high school. Twice. I’m not proud of this, just simply stating a fact so you can fully grasp what Mia is up against. Tell me to write an essay on Shakespeare and it’s done in twenty minutes. Give me a story problem about trains leaving different stations at different times, traveling at different speeds, and I’ll chuck that thing in the garbage.

Mia, oh Mia. She’s tried for months to pass level one of Math Challenge. And every week she slumps through the front door, pulls out her sheet showing which problems she’s missed and walks it straight to the garbage. She really, really, reallyreallyreally wants to pass Math Challenge.

*************************************

Zach grew up on 23 acres of woods, and to hear him tell it he combed those woods as a boy, hunting four-leaf clovers. He never found one. Not one.

The other day Mia went outside to play in the backyard. She returned a few minutes later with a bouquet of dandelions and this.

four leaf clover

The next day she passed level one of Math Challenge.

For Boston

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ~Fred Rogers

Every night I lay in bed and thank God for my blessings. No life is without struggle, without pain, without obstacles and dark days, but still I have been blessed. Oh so blessed.

When I read Lindsey Mead’s post yesterday, I was struck by her proclamation of a feeling of “it’s our turn” as I have always felt this way. I say always but that isn’t so. This feeling took root after 9/11 and only intensified after having kids. I inherited my mother’s anxiety (though I think I’m better at masking it somehow), and so I’m always waiting for “my turn”. For the nightmare to become the reality, for the darkness to cast shadows upon my light.

There are some who chastise the media for overdramatizing and sensationalizing events in order to captivate an audience when what we should be doing is acting. I can’t say that I agree completely. Sometimes, as with the Boston bombings, I’m not close enough — physically or emotionally — to connect to the horror without stories and photos. Putting faces to names sparks the fire that calls me to action, and most of the time that action is to pray.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for Boston, for those whose lives are forever altered — sending up my voice with my whole heart. And though it’s only one voice, I know that it joins thousands singing the same hymn, and maybe our collective voice will be strong enough to push back some of the darkness, allowing for more light.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ~Fred Rogers

I’m still waiting for “our turn” but I haven’t lost faith in humanity. Look for the helpers, for those whose hearts carry them into destruction. As a friend on Facebook pointed out, as a nation we do not run from fear but straight into it. Perhaps we are all owners of an ingrained courage that comes with having been born to the land of the free, home of the brave. Brave indeed. We cannot control what happens but we can control how we respond, and that is how we conquer hate. Look for the helpers. Love is stronger.

Fashion Photography: Inspiration for Writing Fiction

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. ~Coco Chanel

What I love most about fashion is the rich history and storytelling through photography. One of my favorite forms of art, fashion photography, for me, is a theatrical dreamscape where imagination can play — the images like visual writing prompts hinting at a narrative that begs me to ask, “What’s the story here?”

Vogue Sep 2011

suitcase girl

Anthropologie catalog August 2011

yellow couture gown

In terms of inspiration for writing fiction, I’m drawn to the more fantastical photography. My fiction tends to be rooted in reality but I love to explore the boundaries between truth and invention; what’s real versus what’s maybe not so real. For this reason, I actively seek out Tim Walker‘s photos when searching for inspiration. I swoon.

Tim Walker fashion photography

Tim Walk fasion photography

Tim Walker fashion photography

RED Valentino Fall 2012 Tim Walker

Tim Walker dresses in trees

And then there are images where a character practically jumps off the page, commanding me to tell their story.

anthropologie wicked queen character

beautifully wicked

Tim Walker girl

otherworldly

Life Magazine 1952

I want to know her story (Life Magazine c.1952)

If you’re a writer of fiction: Other than traditional writing prompts, from where do you pull inspiration?