not a tale of love and devotion.

This is The Amazingly Improbable Celia.

Why improbable? Because her face and her body don't really match up: she stole the face from a pug, and the body from a beagle, and no, it really isn't that cute. (The photos... well, they make her look good.)

She has a rude sense of humor, lies through her teeth, and is even lazier than I am. I spent a lot of time with her recently, calling her as many names as I could think of, and then rhyming them all in a long ballad of Celia-ness. (Not a flattering song, but oh-so funny.)

She doesn't have many good qualities, but I will give her this much: In spite of my not-especially-warm reception of her, she still wanted to sleep curled up at my chest, staring at my face.

Which was kind of endearing.

And I just might admire that kind of insane, blind, foolish devotedness. Just a little.

Or, I don't know, maybe she just wanted to bite my nose off, as soon as I closed my eyes.

(Wholly undeserved. After all, she was the one who devoured The Joy of Cooking, not me, I don't care what she told you.)

But even in that case: I'd have to admire her cunning.

And her general Celia-ness.


i'm not always so good with pep talks.

The significant, life-forming times are the dull, in-between times. -- Jan Karon

Sometimes I get homesick for the way things used to be. For faces that are more home than any house is. For patterns and moments already past.

For the feel of a certain kind of night (the velvet fog, the street light tenting down, that one path, the paper coffee cup, remember?). For the smell of a particular day.

And sometimes I get homesick for things that haven't happened at all.

Do you ever get this way? It's the beginning of a storm, the start of a trip, or maybe the first crazy itch an insect feels, before it wriggles right out of its skin.

I'm gearing up for something, something big. Many somethings. Not all with names and faces, and certainly not all have endings in sight.

In fact, there are no guessable endings at all.

I find myself saying the same things over and over in conversations. Do you get this way too? I hear my own voice echoing around my ears later: We'll see, I keep saying. We'll see, we'll see, we'll see.

Just to switch things up, I also say: I'm learning a lot!

It's in a perky voice, too, and I wonder who I'm trying to convince: my listeners, or my own stubbornly scared self.

Maybe I say, I'm learning a lot, to drown out the little whine that begs, but could I please just learn one thing at a time?

Do we need seventeen lessons all thrumming along at once? Because I'm feeling just the littlest bit sore and tired.

I don't like that whining voice.

Because of course, I am learning. Each day has more in it than I can hold, and I spill over, all the time. All this thinking, pages and pages of writing, all the reading I'm doing, the wondering, going in circles that are sometimes familiar and sometimes not.

The air is extra-charged, and any moment the spark will come, will set everything off. Maybe burn off all this mist, and then I can see clearly. (We'll see.)

I usually don't mind learning. But sometimes, I don't want to we'll see, I want to know. To have learned.

To get out of the car at the end of the road, stretch my legs, get the crick out of my back, and smile and smile.

Poor cowardly heart. Poor cranky brain. 

Sometimes I don't want to grow anymore. I just want to settle. ... It's one more reason to love (already-written, already-published) books. When the suspense is too much, you can skip ahead, can't you? Skim a bit, get the feel of things, and head for the finish line?

But I know I'd regret it, I'd hate it, if I turned around now.

What happens to the bugs that decide to stay in their old skin, all zipped up and buttoned down tight? Do their little insect brains blow up?

Sounds like a nastier fate than being tired.

Besides. I can just go make more tea, right? Right.

And then keep going, somehow, somewhere. We'll just have to see, right? We'll just have to see.

(Because I think, eventually, eventually, and by the grace of God, the view will be well worth it.)


a summer 100

Hula Seventy is good at so many, many things. One of them is appreciating summer: she always inspires me to love summer better. (And on ugly humid days, I need the inspiring. Not today, though. Today's been perfect.)

Go peek at her list, and the rest of her lovely blog, and get your summer off to a yummy start.


what's still there.

The Source of Stories was a hole or chasm or crater in the sea-bed, and through that hole, as Haroun watched, the glowing flow of pure, unpolluted stories came bubbling up from the very heart of Kahani. There were so many Streams of Story, of so many different colours, all pouring out of the Source at once, that it looked like a huge underwater fountain of shining white light. -- Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie

How can I describe it? A moment impossible to catch, even as it happened, and a sensation I don't know the name for, though I've felt it before.

And what called it out? Some kind of alchemy, brought about by the Illinois highway, through perfect wheatfields and growing corn, the old watertowers, the clouds tangling at the horizon.

Maybe the music (Mumford & Sons, Freelance Whales) lately doing dances in my ears. Maybe because my busy full brain was sitting back in exhaustion. Detaching for a while, and letting go of all it held.

And there it was.

If Salman Rushdie didn't talk about a Stream of Stories, I'd think I was crazy. (At least now if I am crazy, I'm in elite company.)

I could literally feel its presence on my skin, the otherness of its air, and my eyes tricked me into seeing it, flashing in and out of the shadows beside the road. Real glimpses of impossible places, keeping pace with our car.

Rushdie calls it a stream, and I agree. Though this time, it was a river: fast, cold, and deep. I've felt the current of it before, and best of all, that giddy conviction that there are stories there for the drinking, thousands and thousands. Some have my name on them, and they're looking for me.

And if there was a way to reach them, I'd have stuck my fingers out, my hand riding the wind, and I'd have trailed my fingertips in it...

For now, it's enough to know it's still there. Under the exhaustion, busyness, recent conversations, errands, activities, distractions... it's still there.

Fast and cold and deep.



a book crush, the dream discussion, and #10. (at last.)

So here's a new book for your summer list, especially if you're an artist, a dreamer, or a candlestick maker...

I admit, it's not my usual kind of recommendation. A book about business, Christian media, VeggieTales, success, failure... not my typical cup of tea. And I thought it was an okay book, until I hit Chapter 21: "Dreams, Part II."

Which is currently changing my life.

Phil Vischer, obviously enough, created VeggieTales. Watched it get really really big. Watched it die. And in the end, he learned a lot about business management, creative enterprise... and dreams.

It's the dreaming thing that got to me.

I've dreamed of writing for as long as I can remember. I was a good student all through school, a super good student. Give me a tough assignment, I double-dog-dare you. I worked hard; I did well. And when I graduated, I came home to write, determined to change the world.

Or at the very least, the young adult section of every bookstore in the U.S.

(What can I say, I'm modest. Ha ha ha.)

Over the last five years, I've worked hard. I've got drafts of three novels, in various states of disrepair. I've learned a ton about characters, pacing, plot, setting, dialogue...

I also decided that my identity was that of Girl Writer Taking Over The World. My sense of worth depended on how well work was going. I loved the books I was writing. I also hated how crazy I felt, how exhausted I was, and how it felt like these books would never be good enough. Ever.

I knew I was working against myself somehow, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. (Hence #10 on The List: my attempt at quelling the noise in my head.) And I was pretty sure that if I just worked harder, it would all be good.

Enter Phil Vischer, Me, Myself, & Bob, and Chapter 21. Where Vischer talks about a lot of crazy things, super-crazy. He talks about Christians and their dreams of changing the world for God. And a lot of what he says sounds just like me. Exhausted, driven, determined, Girl Writer me.

Crazy things. Like:

When people of great faith in the Bible don't know what God wants them to do, they don't just run off and make stuff up. They wait on him.

I've actually read that before. I've read this chapter before, nodding my way through. I know what God wants me to do: how many times have I said I was called home to write? I sincerely believed that, and I still do.

But what to write?

That's where I made stuff up.

Then he said this:

The Christian life wasn't about running like a maniac; it was about walking with God. It wasn't about impact; it was about obedience. It wasn't about making stuff up; it was about listening.

Maniac. That rings a bell. So does "impact." And "making stuff up."

He asks if we serve our dreams, or if we serve our God. And he also says of himself:

My ambition, my dreams, my misplaced sense of identity and value were dragged kicking and screaming up onto the altar. And now they were dead.

Like I said, I've read this chapter before. I always flinched away from those sentences, but this week, this week it feels like something's unraveling inside me.

Something that, surprisingly, I don't mind losing as much as I thought I would.

Misplaced sense of identity and value? Hmm. Hmmmm.

God is enough for you, Vischer writes. But you can't discover the truth of that statement while you're clutching at your dreams. You need to let them go. ... The impact God has planned for us doesn't occur when we're pursuing impact. It occurs when we're pursuing God.

Over and over, Vischer talks about walking with God. And waiting on God. Waiting. That's what got me. Wait? I don't want to wait for anything. I wanted to write a brilliant novel in one year flat.

But this week, that goal has fallen away. All that running uphill, all the urgency and frustration... those crazy ambitions are unstitching in my heart.

And here's what I'm left with: if I write at all, I only want to write the book God tells me to write.

I don't mean that in a silly way--like there would be a cherub sitting on my shoulder, dictating every paragraph. That's not what I mean. But I want to be still in the midst of my writing life. To be still, and to listen, and to wait.

I don't want to keep chasing every novel idea that comes along. I want to write the book I'm supposed to write. It's actually that simple, that strange, and takes effect immediately.

My June plans are still in full swing: I'm still journaling, reading, doing those writing exercises. I'm also praying a lot more, and feeling the burden of my writing life slip from my shoulders. And can I just say: that's a huge relief.

So that's summer. Tending the soil of my writing life. Being faithful to still put my time in, practicing, and listening. I don't know what's coming next, what seeds there might be in this soil. But I'll keep watering it and waiting, and we'll see.

I feel free. Excited. And free.

Recommendation: Frankly, you don't even have to read this whole book if you aren't interested in VeggieTales. Just skim it, get the gist of it, and then slow way down at Chapter 21.

Read every word, my dreaming friends, and I promise it will change you.


right this moment.

I am wearing socks, which is confusing for my feet. They thought they were in flip-flops from here 'til October, but no.

It's cool outside and in, and it puts me in the mood for cozy things. Coffee. Lap blankets. Quiet music on the radio. It's a day to have a dog curl up on your lap, but no dog. So I'm wearing the socks.

I'm awake rather earlier than usual, and the day decided to celebrate with a thunderstorm. I love how the sound of rain feels so companionable. A nice old-fashioned chat with the sky, that's what I'm having.

It's pouring. Plenty of thunder, a fabulous morning for Noah. In fact I can see myself with him, at the edge of the ark, squinting into the rain and waiting for that feeling of lift-off. I'm saluting him right now with my coffee.

Noah definitely had a dog, I'm sure of it.

I'm catching up with some of my favorite blogs, like Joy the Baker. Please tell me you read Joy the Baker. She makes me laugh so darn hard, I want her to be my best friend. And all her recipes are swoon-worthy, truly.

And then there's the lovely habit. I haven't been by in so long, so I'm catching up, piling all those gorgeous images and words in my head. ... It's hard, actually, to describe just what kind of mood habit always puts me in. Something exhilarating, yet quiet at the same time.

... Makes me want to have twelve kids, an uproarious garden, fantastically casual dinners (on a huge pine table), grass-stained knees (again), a ramshackle house, and a pretty sweet camera. Makes me want to not worry so much. To laugh with my mouth wide open. ... Not to mention, find even more time to read and time to write. Um, and more rainy days. And more sunny ones.

Something like that. (How many hours in a day would that be? 48? Or 60-ish?)


Well then. The storm is finished, and light is soaking through the window. My socks and I are off to my writing chair, eager for a good day of work. A lot of questions on my plate today, and heck, maybe there will be a few answers. 

Who knows what will happen? Because it's a Tuesday.

And Tuesdays--even with socks--are full of promise.


it's ReLove-ly.

In all the commotion of late May and early June, the wonderful Squirrel & Serif hasn't gotten much of my attention.

Which is to say, I haven't done anything with it. At all.

(Probably this is something that savvy businesswomen do not admit on their blogs. Probably I am not a savvy businesswoman. Fair enough.)

I've been trying to comfort myself by saying it is truly meant to be a hobby store, created for the love of knitting, the joy of making things for other people, and--why not--a fun way to earn a little money.

And I tell myself that it's perfectly understandable that the store has taken the back seat, with everything going on. (And not just the back seat, really. It's been put right out of the car and is sitting on the roadside.)

Two road trips to Louisiana, graduation ceremonies, and then even more ceremonies, loading that moving truck on the hottest day of my life (maybe), all kinds of goodbyes (ack!), and then, finally finally trying to resurrect a writing practice. Which is, after all, what I'm supposed to be doing all this time.

Nevertheless, I've felt a little panicky. So much neglect of the poor store!! What's going to happen to Serif the Wonder Child, my knitting alter ego? In fact, where is she, with her lists of brilliant ideas, her unending romance with yarn stores, her wizardry with the knitting needles?

If I can just find her, she would be undaunted by the idea of knitting in hundred degree heat. She'd be undaunted by knitting at all.

Because I really don't want to let the store go. I still love Etsy and will sing its praises to anyone who asks. Just browsing the site makes me happy--I feel like I could be a better person if I look at enough items. I'd certainly have better style. I get lost in all the treasuries, and I think I've taken their taste test twenty times.

(This same feeling slaps me in Anthropologie, until I'm downright giddy. And--while I'm confessing--I almost didn't leave a perfectly tiny model apartment at Ikea. Seriously. I wanted to move in.)

So a few weeks ago, I launched what I'm calling The Etsy ReLove Project. It's like I'm revisiting all the reasons why I love knitting. Snuffling through my knitting books. Cruising through the creative happy blogs I love. Brainstorming.

Trying to avoid the inspiration myth. (You know the one. It says you have to be inspired before you write, or cook, or clean, or knit, or ... I don't know, floss. It's a complete lie.) But at the same time, I'm trying to reinvigorate that part of my brain, find that knitting time again, recover the creative energy that's a part of me, somewhere.

We'll see where the ReLove Project takes me. I have high hopes and long lists, so how could it go wrong? I'll get there. Somehow.

So I guess this is just a long note to say: Please don't give up on our little store. Because I haven't.


writer in progress: homesick.

It is the gift of all poets to find the commonplace astonishing. -- Margery Sharp

So it's been busy. A busy week, a busy month, a busy year so far. Busyness. Bleck. It's like the opposite of writing. Dashing about at a million miles an hour, versus letting words drip onto a page.

No surprise, then, that writing has pretty well tanked these last two months. They have been wonderful months in their way, full of family and celebrations and joy and change. But then when I sit down to work, all my brain has is a slideshow of past events, or far worse, a gently hissing static.

Which is when I start asking myself bad questions, like, Why am I writing anyway?

But last weekend I had a brilliant conversation with a good friend, and we were talking about rest. Rest. Just thinking about that word makes me want to breathe differently.

Anyway, as we talked about what recharges us, I felt my vision for June shifting. And I started asking myself, with a very different tone, So, why am I writing anyway? Why do I write? Why is this part of me, what do I love about it, what's so great about words?

So instead of whipping myself, my writing life, and my novel back into shape (my usual tactic), I decided to try a different kind of strategy. I'm putting the novel aside temporarily, and I'm going back to basics this month. As in: really basic.

Like--writing exercises. I haven't done writing exercises in an eon! I usually despise them, but all of a sudden I'm thirsty for miniature writing challenges... working my way through this lovely book and its sequel. I love Monica Wood's perspective on the whole writing life: she is so cheerful and sound.

Also, I'm getting reacquainted with journaling. How did I let journaling go, for pete's sake? No idea, but somehow it turned into a burden, when I felt obligated to do it.

Not anymore. I've been sitting by the window, letting myself ramble across the pages, talking about anything, anything, anything. Just writing for the bliss of solitude. Putting one word after the next for the sheer joy of it. Such a luxury, really. And if I'm writing about the view out my window as the sun sets, and if I'm sipping a glass of wine, well, so much the better.

And then reading. Oof. I've so let my reading life slide, and it's horrible! How can you write novels when you forget the intoxicating feeling of being swept away in someone else's world? Encountering their characters, and being encountered in return?

I'm firmly convinced of reading's importance in a writing life, and yet it's so hard to make time for it. It feels too much like relaxing, like something I should just wedge into my day at the very end... not anymore. I'm giving myself acres of time to just sit and devour novels.

So that's June. And I'm giddy about it. ... Can ya blame me?

Because I do love writing. So very much. I've missed these basics, and it's good to come back to them, good to come home.


i couldn't agree more.

Here's a little Bach for your morning:

Without my morning coffee I'm just like a dried-up piece of roast goat. -- Johann Sebastian Bach

Ha ha!! Who knew he was so funny?

Cheers to all my fellow roast goats.


listapalooza 5: let's go back.

When you're a kid, everyone talks about growing up like it's the prize destination. And, well, yay for growing up.

But I've been watching my niece and thinking about how awesome childhood can be, and I can't help thinking: there are some things I gave up that I didn't want to give up.

You know what I mean?

So here's some of the stuff, the ideas, and the habits from childhood that I want back.

1. my imaginary friends. (Oh wait. I write fiction. It's kind of the same.)

2. my popsicle stick collection: it was truly huge. And felt so useful, except ... it wasn't.

3. stickers. We don't have to outgrow stickers, do we? I don't think we do.

4. naming the trees in the backyard

5. keeping spiral notebooks filled with one-page stories... I really should bring back the whole one-page story idea.

6. my repertoire of handclap rhymes. Where did they go? Probably pushed out of my brain by utterly useless things, like chemistry equations and memorized lists of history facts. Pfft. Who needs it. And now that it's time to teach my niece handclap rhymes... I got nothin'.

7. expecting to walk on the moon. I was so sure I'd get there one day. Now? Now I think I'll just stick to waving at it.

8. I used to plot my escape from any room that I was in. Just in case I became a spy and that habit would be useful. So... where's the air duct I could crawl through, or how would I break a window, or what could I do to cover my footprints... yeah. Haven't thought about that in so long...

9. my habit of hiding random notes where I thought strangers might find them

10. dreaming about what amazing, life-changing secrets could be hidden in our attic

11. those awesome gel sandals... kids' clothes are so fun!

12. keeping massive lists of names I would give animals, if I ever happened to find, say, a hedgehog or wildebeest I could call my own.

Because you just never know.

And that's what's so awesome about being a kid.