Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's Your Jam? Pt. 1: I'm Amanda Freakin' Allen.

There's a scene in the movie "Just Go with It" (and let's be honest, it's really Adam Sandler's last watchable comedy, right?) where Sandler's character turns off the *NSync song that his girlfriend is listening to in the shower, and she gets upset, saying, "That's my JAM!"  It's funny in that it shows their age disparity, but we all have one (or, if you're like me, a couple) songs that make us perk up no matter where we are when they come on the radio or iPod.

They're our jams.

So here's the first part in a series of posts about my jams - creative jams, angry jams, happy jams - I've got several, so get ready.

And I want to hear yours, too!

This post will focus on the songs that make me want to be a kick-butt girl.  Not an angry kick-butt girl (that's totally different), but a chick with lots of possibly misplaced confidence.  I usually listen to these songs when I'm getting ready for some important event, or when I need an extra dose of awesomeness.

What's that?  You talkin' to me?  That's right.  I didn't think so.

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.



I'm Amanda Freakin' Allen Jams.

**I mostly have edited versions of my songs on my iPod, but a few are not kid friendly, lyrics-wise.  You've been warned.**

#1: "Bad Girls" - M.I.A.

I don't know why I love this song.  Seriously.  Normally, a slightly monotone vocal would make me violent, but this always makes me want to do karate or something.  Or do my nails while I'm sitting on my speeding sideways car (seriously, what's that about?!). 

Best line: Awwww, Suki zuki...I'm comin' in the Cherokee...gasoline

#2:  "32 Flavors" - Ani DiFranco

This is a pretty underrated 90s gem, in my opinion.  There have been numerous covers of this throughout the years, but the original is still the best.

Best line:  I am beyond your peripheral vision, so you might want to turn your head...'cause someday you're gonna get hungry, and eat all of the words that you just said...

#3:  "Machinehead" - Bush

Just get a me a motorcycle.  Even though I wouldn't be able to drive it and I'd probably die about three seconds later.

Best line: I spin on a whim, I slide to the right...I felt you like electric light...

#4:  "The Ruler and the Killer" - Kid Cudi

I actually realized that I was singing this song out loud on the treadmill at the gym after the guy next to me kept shooting me annoyed looks.  Yep.  I'm that girl.  But this is one of those "I could run 15 million miles and still be FIERCE!" songs.  You have to sing out loud.  Especially every time he says "...the ruler and the killer, bebe."

Best line:  You don't talk, you don't say nothing.  Ok?

#5:  "Gangsta's Paradise" - Coolio

I'm not even ashamed of this one.  I know every.  Single.  Word.  And no matter where I am when this song comes on, I must sing along.  I know.  I'm a legit rapper.  Fool.

Best line:  Everybody's runnin', but half of them ain't lookin' what's goin' on in the kitchen...but I don't know what's cookin'...

What are your "up and at 'em" jams?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

DIY Electric Blanket

I'm definitely not crafty, but I discovered this trick last night.  It worked like a charm.
Materials needed:
1 comfy blanket
1 snuggly, adorable cat (see below)
1 cuddly, sleepy dog (see below)
And you're set!  No electricity needed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Song I'm Digging This Week

You'll never let her go...Why don't you let her go?

"She's So Mean" - Matchbox Twenty*

*You either still like Matchbox Twenty or you don't.  And I still do.  Because honestly, at heart, I'm still about 17.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Daily Failings


Before I go to sleep each night, I have great intentions for the next day.

I tell myself, "Tomorrow, you'll wake up early.  You'll go and work out.  Then you'll come back, take your time making a leisurely healthy breakfast, and read your devotion.  Then you'll get ready and look your absolute best," (i.e. no frizzy hair) "and go to work.  And when you get to work, you'll be a shining example of someone who loves Jesus and loves everyone.  All day long.  And you won't eat any of the cookies that are meant for new residents.  Then you'll come back home, teach your music lessons with joy, eat a healthy dinner, work on some writing, and get to bed early."

FINIS, The End. 

And I turn out the light, fully intending to be that version of myself in the morning.

But then...

The alarm goes off at the early hour I set it for, Bernie and Gilbert stay snuggled into my side, and I think, "Ok.  Maaaaybe just another half hour."

And of course, I eventually get out of bed with juuuuust enough time to get a shower, corral my hair into...something...take Bernie out, drain a cup of coffee fast enough to give me heartburn, and get to work on time.

And then the coworker who is really, really hard to get along with makes me violent and I realize that I'm muttering under my breath while I pound out return emails on my computer.  And since this season is kind of slow in the apartment leasing world, nobody comes in to eat the cookies, so I find myself eating the cookies for them.  You know.  Waste not and want not.

I actually do enjoy teaching music lessons, so that goes just fine.  But then I sit on the couch after they're over eating leftover pizza and watching "The Voice" (is it just me or is Christina Aguilera sliiiiightly more likable this season?) and I stumble into bed and start my list of intentions all over again.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who does this.  And I'm single, so if I had to add a husband and children into the mix, there's no telling how chaotic my nightly list of betterments might become.

These daily failings can make us feel so discouraged, and it's comforting to me that even Paul felt out of control and disappointed in himself a lot of the time - "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15, ESV) 

I feel you, brother.

I'm human, so I know that there's no way that I'm going to go through every day with perfection. 

But I can keep trying.  I can keep pushing towards the goal.  I can keep praying, keep repenting, keep talking to God and knowing that He gets it.  He created me.  He knows more about me than I do, and He knows just what I'm capable of.

He knows my heart.

List or no list.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Kitchen Envy

My kitchen is one of the sorrows of my life. 

It's super small, with outdated cream countertops and pine cabinets (not the pretty pine -- the 1980s pine), scuffed flooring, and two microwaves.  That's right.  Two.  The above-the-stove microwave quit working before I moved in, and rather than replace it with a functioning version, my landlord just bought another huge white one and put it on the counter.  So, needless to say, I don't have much counter space.

I've worked hard at making it a bit more up-to-date by painting the walls a coral shade and accenting with lots of turquoise kitchen pieces, but I know it's never going to be exactly what I want.  Ah, the woes of being a renter. 

Just like everyone else, I have a "someday" list for when I have my own honest-to-goodness house, and this kitchen (found on this blog, which I'm a bit obsessed with) is pretty much exactly what I'd want if I could just straight up copy someone else's style.

I even want the mint refrigerator.

Someday, someday...

A pop of color inside the cabinets (click though for more details!)

Big Chill Fridge

This awesome wallpaper is actually a simple painted DIY! Could be done with any colors

Monday, November 4, 2013

Song I'm Digging This Week

All it takes is a little faith and a lot of heart...

"Stars" - The Weepies

Saturday, November 2, 2013

October Reading Recap

1.  In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
This totally fascinated me.  Larson has a knack for writing nonfiction that reads like an action-packed novel, and there were several moments in this book where I was on the edge of my seat.  Most of the story is centered around the Dodd family, the real-life American Ambassadors to Germany during Hitler's terrifyingly subtle rise to power.  I have to admit, every time I read a book about Hitler and his weird hold over the German people, I always wondered, "Why did nobody try to stop him?!"  After reading this book, it's easy to see just how slowly (and how brilliantly) he crafted his takeover.  Most people thought he was actually charming when they first met him, and Martha Dodd, the Ambassador's daughter, actually went on a date with him (!). 
**Side-note:  For a really disturbing moment, check out the documentary "The Double-Headed Eagle," which is mainly newsreel footage of the Nazi party from 1918 to 1933.  Hitler's speeches are creepily mesmerizing.  It's almost like watching a worship service at a really charasmatic church, the way people are saluting and screaming.  Really scary.**
2.  The Magdalena Curse by F.G. Cottam 

I read The House of Lost Souls a couple of years ago, and I liked how well Cottam writes a horror story.  While this one wasn't as scary, I thought it was a good thriller.  Essentially, it's about a man who offended a witch (who's totally spooky), and she decided to curse his then-unborn son.  It was a sort-of predictable story, but it set a really dark and gloomy mood in the best way.  I'm going to read more of Cottam's work.

3.  Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
This is the first book I've read by David Sedaris, and while I've read a lot of reviews from people who didn't like it, I thought it was brilliant.  All the short stories are written from the viewpoint of animals -- some funny, some really disturbing, but all amazingly well-written.  There were times that I laughed out loud and then times where I had a hard time shaking images from my mind.  I can't wait to read more of Sedaris's writing.
4.  Mile 81 by Stephen King
This is about a station wagon that eats people.  But it's Stephen King, so it was good.  Trust me on this one.
5.  The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn
I read this for the pure nostalgia of reading something by an author I loved when I was a kid.  It wasn't remotely scary to me as an adult, but it reminded me of riding in the back of our motor home and devouring books like this on long trips.  But Wait Till Helen Comes is still my favorite.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I'm writing a book about fear.

image found here

I'm writing a book.

There.  I said it.  I have put it out there.  And now I can't go back.

I'm honestly so nervous about writing this post, because writing those words means that it's not just going to be a vague idea floating around in my head -- it means I have to do something.

And I've really never been great at that.

I've always loved to write.  In fact, before I was 10, I'd written most of - but not all - two "books."  One was a straight-up rip-off of Anne of Green Gables, with the unique and completely-not-even-close-to-the-same-title Green Clovers (but with a boy orphan, so you know...toootally different there) and the other one was a fourth grader's version of a Lord of the Rings fantasy.  If I remember right, the lead character in that story was Belac (which is "Caleb," spelled backwards.  Yep.).

I wrote all through middle school and high school and continued into college.  And then...I just stalled out.  Other than the writing I've done for a magazine here in town and some (sporadic) blogging, I've pretty much given up what used to be my most favorite thing.  I've stopped and started about a dozen projects, but never actually finished anything.  I didn't really know why I would lose my motivation, but I always did.

This past week, I was reading a book, and one of the characters quoted Eleanor Roosevelt.  It's a quote I've heard many times, and never thought much about, but this time, it stuck with me:

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

It suddenly struck me that I couldn't remember the last time I'd done anything that truly scared me.  Now, I don't mean scared me in the sense that my life could be in danger, but something that frightened me because it was out of my character or out of my control.

Fear of looking silly.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of failure.

And then, today, after I walked past my bookshelf and glimpsed a copy of Jon Acuff's amazing book all about punching fear in the face (that's actually the subtitle, which just couldn't say it better), I had a thunderbolt thought:  What if I actually did that?  What if I spent a year doing the things that scared me?  And what if I wrote about it?

What if I didn't talk myself out of something that might be hard, but could also be a lot of fun?

I've told a total of three people about this idea.  Two of them were supportive and made me feel awesome about it.  One, a close friend, said, "Well...I wouldn't buy that book."

While that overly honest comment stung a bit, part of me wanted to laugh.  That's pretty much precisely why I want to write this book.

I am afraid that no one would want to read it.  And deep down, every time I've started a writing project and then given up, that's what I've always been afraid of.

But does that mean I shouldn't try?

No.  It most definitely doesn't.  Because maybe there's someone who needs to read that other people can live a life that's always teetering juuuuust on the edge of fulfillment and purpose because they're afraid of messing up.  I've done that for going on 34 years.  And I don't want to any more.

Healthy fear sharpens our edges.  It makes us grow.  It makes us better.

So.  Before I sit on it for too long and let my insecurity change my mind, here's my idea:

I want to spend a year doing things that scare me.  While I don't think it's practical (or really actually possible) to do one thing every day that unsettles me, I think I could do one or two things every month.

And here's where I need your help.  I need suggestions.

I need you guys to give me some ideas on things that I could do each month to take me out of my comfort zone and shake up my little humdrum life.

There are some guidelines:

1.  It has to financially feasible.  I'm not rolling in the dough, so I need to be able to afford it.
2.  Nothing stupidly dangerous (as in skydiving or base jumping.  Because that's so not going to happen.  Ever.).
3.  This is more about mental fear, not physical fear.  Yeah, I'm horrified by cockroaches, but I'm not going to gain anything by holding one for a minute.  That would fill up about one paragraph, most of which would be "AGGGGGGH!!!!" and "Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh."  Not an impressive literary start.
4.  Nothing morally questionable.  My parents are going to read this eventually.
5.  For those of you who know me really well, I welcome really personal challenges.  I do ask that you don't post those on Facebook or on the comments below.  If it's personal, email me or private message me, por favor.

The goal is to gather suggestions for the next month or so and then to start this project in December, so I could finish the book by the beginning of January 2015.

While I'm not going to post each complete chapter to the blog, I will keep everybody updated with my progress with some excerpts.

So...whew.  Deep breath.

I'm afraid.  But that's the point, right?

So let me hear some ideas - let's start my year of fear!!