Monday, July 21, 2014

Just five more minutes, ok?

Today starts a month-long experiment for my book (which, I promise - I haven't forgotten and I'm still working on!).  I won't go into all the details as to what it is, but let's just say it involves getting up at 5 AM every morning.  Even Saturdays. 

I'm equal parts excited and kind of dreading the next 30 days, mainly because I'm a notoriously awful sleeper.  If my cat sneezes, I immediately wake up searching for the serial killer who has intruded my bedroom.  I have the sort of dreams that are reminiscent of drug-induced blockbusters starring Bruce Willis.  They don't make much sense, but I usually come out of them feeling like I've been beaten heavily or spent the last five hours kicking the junk out of a German assassin.  I also get leg cramps like nobody's business (they've plagued me my whole life, banana before bed or no banana before bed). 

Getting in bed at a decent time is usually a struggle for me, too.  I typically feel my most creative at oh, 11:30 PM.  My mind just doesn't want to turn off.

So, all my peaceful sleepers - how do you do it?  I'm open to any tips that could send me into Lullaby Land more easily.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Music: When John Mayer Wasn't a Jerk

I think we can all agree that John Mayer is probably a major turd in real life.

But I'd like to bring us all back to another time - a time when John Mayer was just a fresh-faced kid who came out of nowhere and made all college-age girls swoon. 

That's right, I'm talking about Room for Squares John Mayer. 

This is probably one of my favorite songs off of that album - I immediately feel about 20 years old when I hear the opening bars.  Honestly - the whole album is pretty fantastic.

So let's just pretend he was always this guy, ok?  At least for today.

"Back to You" - John Mayer

Monday, May 19, 2014

Song I'm Digging This Week

Mouth to mouth, just seconds by...saved your life again.

"Mouth 2 Mouth" - Kate Havnevik

Thursday, May 15, 2014

April Reading Recap

1.  The Best Horror Stories of the Year: Volume 4 edited by Ellen Datlow

Meh. Some of the stories were pretty scary, especially Stephen King's "The Little Green God of Agony" and "Black Feathers" by Allison Littlewood. But for the most part, I thought they were more weird than scary.
*There's no accompanying picture with this one, because hey, guys - I just realized there's a naked lady in a shroud hovering in the background on the cover.  Toooootally didn't notice that when I bought it.
2.  The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
This book is subtly haunting. When I first started reading it, I thought it was just a glimpse of the apathetically rich society in 1930s England, but after finishing it, I've changed my mind. While much of the book is amusing, there is a tinge of melancholy and regret throughout it. Based a great deal on Mitford's own life, this story left me feeling weirdly sad for her and slightly nostalgic for a time I never lived in.

3.  The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
This could have been so much better. I love the setting and the general plot, but there was so much detail about animals dying (yes, it was true, but still - ugh) that I couldn't enjoy the story.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Morning Rant

Most of the time, I'm in a pretty good mood.  It takes a lot to rattle me, and I feel like I'm pretty patient.

But today is not one of those days.

I woke up annoyed.  I took an annoyed shower.  I was annoyed while I made my lunch.  I had a super annoying commute into work.  Basically, I pretty much hate everything today.

Sometimes the best way for me to get over my irritation with all things living (and not living) is to hash it out.  So here is my morning rant and the list of things that make me want to karate chop the crap out of everything:

1.  I got a dollop of conditioner in my ear this morning while I was washing my hair.  Rage against the conditioner bottle. 

2.  I forgot to set the coffee timer last night and I didn't have time to make a fresh pot.  I've been betrayed by the coffee-maker.

3.  A lady in a blue car tailed me all the way onto the ramp on Memorial Parkway and then when it was time to merge with traffic, she cut me off and then wouldn't make eye contact with me so I could give her my best road rage face, which just made me angrier.

4.  There's a super, overly happy woman at McDonald's who started working in the drive-thru last week.  She sounds like Snow White. The biscuit I ordered was taking a long time, so she said, "It'll just be a few more minutes.  You'll have a hot, fresh biscuit - how exciting!"  No.  I'm sorry.  It's not exciting.  It's 7:15 and I've not had any coffee yet.  Do not put your cheerfulness on me, McDonald's lady.

5.  The dentist I work for shares an office with another dentist, and they have a bowl of sugar-free hard candy at the check-in desk.  Everyone has been munching on it all morning.  Loudly.  Happily.  Did I mention loudly?  My misophenia has been off the charts (that's right, it's a real thing, darnit).

I really feel like a good nap, silence, and maybe some ice cream would make me feel about 99% better. 

But I swear - if people don't watch out, I am going to sit here and sigh a lot.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Song I'm Digging This Week

Whenever I'm alone with you, you make me feel like I am fun again.

"Love Song" (The Cure cover) - Death Cab for Cutie

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pools of Water in Salt Deserts (or, a Really Hard Way to Obtain a Preface for Your Book)

image found on Pinterest

So, hey guys.  I'm not dead.

This is probably a strange way to start a blog post, but the truth is, I know I've dropped off the planet here.

For most of last year, things were...ok. 

I had a job that I didn't really like (leasing consultant at a sketchy apartment complex), but had to have because I was struggling making a living as a private music lessons instructor.  I was really bummed about that whole thing, because I really, really thought God had called to open my own music studio and I was really depressed that things weren't going as well as I had hoped.  I didn't have a dependable monthly salary, and I was feeling desperate. When this apartment job became available, I (very reluctantly) took it, thinking, "It's only for a little while."

To say that this job was a nightmare is really an understatement.  The salary wasn't that great.  My boss was quite possibly literally insane (For real, guys.  Like, crazy doesn't even begin to cut it.).  I had to work weekends, so church was a struggle.  I was still trying to balance as many music students as possible after work hours, so I was always crabby and exhausted.  There was actually a shooting just outside the office and a guy died.  So, yeah.  The work environment was the pits.

Almost every relationship I had was struggling.  For one thing, I was never off work enough to see anyone, and when I was, I found myself spending most of my time with friends and family complaining about the fact that I had to work all the time and trying to explain what a nut-job my boss was.

One morning in November, I showed up for work in a terrible mood.  You know how you sometimes can feel that you're just about to explode?  Like, one wrong word from someone, or even one wonky look, and you are going to completely lose your mind?  That was me.

It all came to a head at around 10 AM when my boss took a personal item of mine and claimed it was hers.  In the course of trying to reason with her and retrieve my belongings from her purse (such a long, weird and ridiculous story that I'm not even going to attempt to go into it here), I lost my temper.

Big time.

I even scared myself. 

Unfortunately, losing your cool in front of a mentally unstable person who also happens to control your paycheck is probably not going to turn out well for you, and she promptly fired me.

That's right.  I was fired.

Just typing those words gives me a chill down my spine.  Nothing like that had ever happened to me before.  I'm a preacher's kid, and part of our schtick is that we really want everyone (everyone!) to like us, so this was like a double punch in the gut.  At that moment, it didn't matter to me that I hated the job or that this lady was possibly related to Satan.  I felt sick.

I drove away from work after turning in my keys in shock.  I called my sister and said, "I was just fired.  Can you please call Dad and tell him so I don't have to?"

And then I stayed in bed for like two weeks.  Literally. 

I pretended to be ok when I was on the phone with my family and concerned friends.  I would roll over, answer the phone, and perkily tell them all how I was applying for jobs (which I was, but really only half-heartedly), and how yes, it really was probably all for the best and how I know God has a plan for me and how I just knew things were going to turn around any minute. Then I'd hang up, crawl back under the covers, and sleep.

I felt like a failure.

"You're 33.  You're 33 and unmarried.  You're 33, unmarried, and childless.  You're 33, unmarried, childless, and unemployed.  You're 33, unmarried, childless, unemployed, and you have a cat.

My family and many other people were super generous and helped me out a ton, but things were grim, folks.

The week before the Big Firing Moment, which is how I mentally refer to it, I had decided to write a book.  I had been pumped.  It was a book about fear.  And now, confronted with a truly scary and depressing moment, the last thing I wanted to do was write about it.

Now.  I've read all those stories where people are in the depths of pity-partying and suddenly, wham! Out of nowhere, there is this huge epiphany.  Life makes sense.  Everything is tied up in a neat little bow, and the end credits roll.

This is not how it happened for me.

The only times I would drag myself out of the house was to go to church.  Church of the Highlands had decided to open a campus about five minutes from my house.  Every time I'd visited the church in Birmingham, I'd loved it.  So I started going to the planning sessions they were having on Sunday nights. 

I found that I really enjoyed just the planning for the new church.  People were really excited to be there. There was a lot of talk about finding your purpose and becoming useful in your life and in other's lives. 

I felt about as useful as Crystal Pepsi.  No one wants that, and no one wanted me.

But the more we met as a community of believers, the more I started to feel small pieces of myself waking back up.  I started waking up before noon.  I started writing in my journal again.  I started playing music for the pure enjoyment of it.

The day our campus held its first official service, I cried through about 3/4 of it, and for once, not because I was sad.  It was like this gaping wound in my chest, which I'd never really even noticed, had suddenly been bandaged.  I started feeling whole again.  I looked around at the other worshipers beside me, and many of them were crying, too. 

I usually cringe when people say things like this, but it's the truth: It was beautiful.

Two weeks later, my friend Ashleigh, who was the office manager at a dentist's office in town, called me and said that after her baby was born (which actually happened yesterday!), she had decided to stay at home with him.  Would I maybe be interested in taking her job?

I met with Dr. Kimbrough for an interview, and he explained that if I chose to accept the job, he wouldn't be there my first week, because he'd be on a mission trip to Cuba.  When he asked what salary I needed, I told him the bare minimum.  He smiled and said, "Oh, we can do better than that, Amanda."

I got back in my car after accepting the job, and just sat there.  All the "cliche" phrases I'd said to my friends and family -- It really had been all for the best. God had a plan for me.  Things had turned around.

One of my favorite books is The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.  A passage that I'd underlined says,

What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.

My pools were and are full of water. 

Things aren't totally awesome and amazing all the time right now.  I'm still crawling out from underneath months of living on tax refunds and credit cards, and that's going to take some time.  I'm working hard on re-disciplining myself on maintaining a more proactive schedule (writing, eating better, exercising again, etc.), and I'm getting there.  It's a slow process. 

But I'm getting there.

One of my big disciplines is going to be blogging more and working on the book, which I haven't abandoned. 

If anything, I have a better preface now.