Detour : St. Joseph, MI.

On our way home from a family wedding this weekend [yay Whitney and Jon!] my husband and I took a detour and stopped in St. Joseph, Michigan. We spent our  honeymoon there two years ago and wanted to revisit Silver Beach, which holds a lot of happy memories for us. Sunday was gorgeous : 78 degrees and sunny. The clouds rolled in as the sun was setting, giving us a spectacular lake view that we couldn’t help but capture with some snapshots. The first I took with my iPhone, the rest were taken by Matt with his Nikon D80.

matt in st joe's

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When I was young I didn’t appreciate the natural beauty of Michigan. Then again, most of what I new of the state was southwest Michigan, which really isn’t that spectacular away from the lake. Now though, I love that on our way home to Chicago we can stop and drink in a late summer evening, complete with Silver Beach Pizza and a GIANT waffle cone of Kilwin’s pistachio ice cream :

photo

Inspired By.

It’s the weekend friends, and I’m pretty darn happy about it since I feel like I haven’t really had one in weeks. I’m about to head out for dinner and a movie with one of my besties, and tomorrow I’m going to a 40′s in the 40′s Party complete with pearls, t-strap heels, fellas in fedoras and 40oz Mickey’s for all. Theme : Keep Calm and Carry On, which is exactly what I’m aiming for right now.
Here are some sweet links from around the web this week:
Inspired by Sam’s book arrangement plus these other clever shelves, I rearranged my own collection the other night, and I’ll be posting photos of it next week in my bookish series!
Another encouraging post for bloggers on common misconceptions and ways to deal with them. Note: the comments are as good as the post itself!
Margaret Atwood’s 10 Rules of Writing. My favorite is rule number 8 :

“You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.”

After a post from Jess early in July, I joined her email intervention program and it has really helped scale back my stress during my down time. Now, she’s doing another one for August, and I highly recommend you join the ranks of those that are keeping the office at the office, and home at home.
I’m a firm believer in the Oxford Comma, which is why I absolutely loved this post.
A really interesting [and true to my life] post about Why Our Generation is Afraid to Commit.
Doubt and Devotion? Creativity and Life? It’s All About Balance.
It seems like everyone has their spinoffs of the poster above these days, but this rendition from my friend Kat is my favorite.
And finally, I found this post really interesting, and it has prompted me to ask: how can I serve you better? What would you like to see more of on She Writes and Rights? Guest posts from other writers? More or less of my personal experience? More or less of my poetry? Thoughts on the process of writing poetry? My bookish posts: do you find them interesting or fluffy? Your thoughts are welcome here.
P.S. Looking for a guest posts from fellow writers and creative for the upcoming weeks. I’d love to have you; email me at shewritesandwrites[at]gmail[dot]com.
So keep calm and have a good weekend, friends.

Poem: On Blossoms.

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I’ve been posting a weekly poem for the last month or so, but one has yet to come to me this Tuesday. My poetry is spontaneous, born of a quiet moment or a thought that refuses to leave me alone.
Other poetry is like that for me, too. Sometimes the pieces I come across echo in my mind for days, weeks, months, years, forever. I read this poem in this book a few years ago, and then I memorized it for a recitation in my Oral Interpretation class my senior year in college. It’s been reverberating in my thoughts ever since. Fragments of it come to me in the shower, in the car, on a walk, over the stove, on my porch on sunny mornings, or in the chair next to my mom’s hospital bed, like this past weekend when I found myself wishing for a day like the one Lee describes here.

From Blossoms
BY LI-YOUNG LEE

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward   
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into   
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Do you have any poems that do that for you? Please share.
P.S. Thanks for the well wishes and sweet comments on Thursday’s post; she was sent home today and is probably enjoying a bowl of chicken soup for the first time in a couple weeks as you read this. Much love, friends.
[Image found here.]

Inspired By.

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Hello, dear readers. The weekend is coming to me a day early again, for some bittersweet reasons. I’m making a trip home to Michigan to visit my dear mama, who has been in the hospital since last Saturday. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.
That being said, here is my weekly round-up a day early. [I’ve been trying to consistently post these on Fridays, this and last week not included.]
This lovely lady has been sweet enough to leave a comment or two on my little blog, which led me to find her blog, which put a huge smile on my face from the first click. Whether donating to Oceana on behalf of sharks everywhereleaving positive notes on random doorsteps, or giving away her clothes, her Days of Deeds Project is super inspiring.
Among the many things I’m trying to become more disciplined about, prayer journaling and making time for spiritual rest are my top priorities. I found this guest post from Mandy Thompson really encouraging.
My blog is an important part of my life and I want to see it grow, so I’m trying to be more intentional with my content, my social media and my interactions with my readers. Oh, you too? Glad I’m not alone. Some interesting, helpful advice for us bloggers from Vandelay Design: 17 Tips to Get More Exposure for Your Blog and 5 Common Blogging Problems and How to Solve Them.
On the other hand… blogging can be bad for your writing soul. It doesn’t mean I won’t be blogging, but it does mean I won’t write just for the sake of posting it on my blog.
An interesting post on how to talk with young girls.
‘You Look Great’ and Other Lies. I loved this NYT article about what to say to someone who is sick.
And finally, the lovely image above is borrowed from this heralding post for August, my favorite month. Question : what is your favorite month and why? Are you excited for the coming fall or are you sad to see summer go?
So hug a loved one, down an ice-cold drink, soak up some rays.
Most importantly, have a good weekend, friends.

Life Spilled Over.

I came home last night motivated to get my life our apartment in working order – a clean kitchen, washed, dried and folded laundry, sorted mail, dinner on the table by the time my husband arrived home. Recently I’ve not been disciplined as often as I should be about these things, and it leaves me with a nagging, constant guilt that eventually becomes impossible to ignore.
So I was nearly done making dinner, a quick batch of carbonara pasta, when I realized at the worst possible moment that I had no parmesan. The pasta was cooked and waiting. The zucchini and bacon were already a little overdone. What to do? In a nerve-wracking attempt to salvage my hard work I took the only cheese I had, feta, and mixed it in before I could change my mind. The result? It was not only edible, but oddly delicious. [Note for you culinary nerds that might be wondering: no, thank God, I had not stirred in the egg yet. Not sure how that would’ve turned out. Anyone tried it?]
My dishwashing attempts were likewise thwarted. Aside from the obvious liquid versus dry granules, there are significant differences between dish soap and dishwasher soap. I swallowed my sneaking suspicions and used the liquid dish soap since we were out of the dishwasher soap to save myself an extra hour of washing by hand. Result? My dishwasher was foaming at the mouth, spilling suds all over the floor. You can imagine my surprise as I flipped on the light to grab a glass of water. Perhaps it would have been better if I hadn’t filled the entire dispenser with the liquid soap, but oh well. To my own surprise, instead of freaking out like I’ve been prone to do on several pithy, fleeting occasions lately, I laughed out loud, alone in my apartment. And why not make a slip-n-slide mop the floor while I’m at it? My kitchen floor is now nearly clean enough to eat off of.
There on my hands and knees in the suds and scrubbing away at long-neglected grime, I thought once again about how hard it’s been for me to stay motivated during the last few months. With my mom struggling harder than ever against the cancer and the subsequent treatments and surgeries, I’ve been worried, angry, depressed. I’ve allowed the what-ifs and the should-haves to keep me unsettled, insecure. I’ve let two dominant, separate and equally loud voices to split myself apart, one that tells me,
“Stop forcing the moment and admit your fear. Cry. You’ll feel better.”
and the other that argues back,
“Get up. Move on. Forge ahead. Don’t stop for anything.”
And as a writer, these two voices have left me unproductive and indecisive. One part of me says,
“Write when you want to. You can’t force yourself. Wait for the lightbulb.”
and the other chides my artsy immaturity,
 
“If you’d just make time for your writing on a daily basis, the words will come. Make your passion your priority.”
Which is right? Which is better for me? Which will help me keep going?
With no right answer unveiled, I’ve let my habits become dormant and my emotions ebb and flow unchecked. I’ve been quiet around here, afraid of being too vulnerable, afraid that admitting anything will mean that I’m asking for a pity-party, wary of all the awkward flubs that people make when they don’t know how to handle a person’s grief.
I haven’t wanted to see the silver lining in anything for awhile, far too exhausted and angry to think that good things can come from this, soul-growing things, eternal things. What I want is a healthy, happy, whole family that can think about the next few months, years, even decades without the elephant in the room to block our perspective. What I want is normal, in the here and now.
Maybe it seems silly that screwing up dinner and accidentally Ajax-ing the linoleum gave me some much-needed perspective on my inner battles. But there I was on the kitchen floor, up to my elbows in normal and the residue of everyday life, suddenly and strangely comforted by this awareness: I can’t control any of it. And for once it wasn’t a hopeless feeling, but an understanding that things can still turn out well even if they don’t go as planned. I can work hard, or I can take the time I need to let my emotions run their course. Either way, I’ll be okay.
It wasn’t a sickly sweet silver-lining that obscured the reality I’m facing, just a comfort to know that I can find motivation to do the simple things, be happy in the moment, and still find reasons to laugh about the mess that I am, inside and out.

Poem: A Prayer for the Balance.

I asked to know real Grace.
It is my namesake
and I have a feeling I need it.
Instead,
I fight.
I break things.
I break.

So I ask,
God, what can this mean?

Is it a name,
or a thing that lives and breathes?
Does it pardon me, or teach me that I’ve been wrong?

On Sunday mornings,
I believe that there is more to it than a church pew.

On other days, I am caught.

Between hospital beds
and the place where harsh words are said,
in that precarious, miraculous balance
between life 

and death,

I then feel it sustaining me.

Inspired By.

books and tea

I tear myself away from reading this book to bring you a few inspirational posts from around the interwebs. I’ve been on vacation [glorious vacation!] visiting family in Michigan, celebrating my mom’s birthday, and catching up on rest, relaxation and writing. I’ve worked up some new ideas for the blog, and I implemented a new poetry section here this week.

The following posts, like this time away, have been a breath of fresh air to me this week.

Insecurity kills. “You are worth far more then what you do, so don’t flood the internet with you rantings of what you wish you were.”

What to do when your blog growth plateaus. Guest blogger Adam McLane shares some great tips on keeping up the pace when you begin to feel stagnant. My favorite tip: Read a book.

Sometimes I need this reminder: travel young. It’s important. I know this, because I’ve done it. But sometimes in my nostalgia for good memories, I forget that my hunger to see new places isn’t a misguided need for escape, but rather a yearning for new opportunities to grow. Travel is a necessary discipline.

The best kind of friendship is encouraging, loving and brutally honest. I’m thankful for the friends in my life who share this with me, because like Jon Acuff shared this week, it’s the kind that will help you get better.

Writing a blog: is it about truth, or traffic? It’s easy to get the two confused.

And from Enuma Okoro: For the love of God, Write.

And finally, I’m seeing this movie tonight for the second time in a week… Yes, it’s that good.

Have a good weekend, friends.

Poem : The Zest.

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My fist tight,
I learn to squeeze the lemon
with the same might and firmness that life requires of me.
Whether working with my hands,
fingers sticky with pith and juice,
or working with my head,
thoughts bursting forward toward mind-bending possibilities,
I demand fruit,
flavor,
all that it can give me.
So that when I sit down to rest,
I find the spread delicious,
my self satisfied and spent.

Birthday Blessings.

This Thursday my mom will turn the big 5-0. Birthdays are always special, but this one feels especially victorious. She’s made it through a hard year struggling with treatment after treatment, surgery after surgery to combat her metastatic breast cancer.
And so we thought, what better reason to celebrate this milestone than with a surprise birthday party full of friends, family, flowers and good food?
flowers 2 cakes 1
My aunts [my dad’s sister and his brothers’ wives, and my mother’s sister], cousins and I emailed, called, schemed, and prayed for months to plan the party. And then we baked, and cooked, and whipped, and frosted, and decorated, and talked, and laughed.
bakers
It took a lot of prayer, a lot of planning, a lot of lying through my teeth and maybe more frosting than one body should really consume in one weekend, but we pulled it off. She was surprised!
No one spilled the beans, even though most of the party guests saw her in church yesterday morning. In faith, we refrained from canceling it even though she spent a few days in the hospital last week.
And in faith, we celebrated, thanking God for a beautiful day full of energy and joy and time together.
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the suckrows
friends
hugs
Tina by cakes
It was everything we could have hoped for. I’m a happy, relieved, thankful kind of exhausted.
Maybe you and your family have reason to worry, to wonder what the next few months and years will be like, to think that maybe now is not the time to celebrate. I know how that feels.
But this weekend, all my fear and concern and doubt was replaced by something much more important :
Faith.
Faith to believe that even though it seems like a time to fear the future, tomorrow will be a good day. Faith to believe that life is worth celebrating, even when it’s hard. Faith to believe that He knows our hopes and plans, and He’s working on our behalf.
So, don’t hesitate to celebrate. Do it now. Do it while you can, even if you can’t be sure what today, tomorrow, or next week will hold. Do it together, because family is our best resource for support and strength.
Pray hard. Make memories. Eat everything. And whatever happens, choose to celebrate.

Poem: In Sleep

In sleep I dream of strange things
Closets, lobsters, dead dogs
and old friends
Boats and voices
Vivid colors that fade to black and white
Earnest feelings that ache in waking life.
When I’m tired I wish for sleep
When I sleep,
I fall
Hoping to find something -
A sweet lie,
A vacation,
A kiss I needed -
But always I wake up
And my mind is too revealed.