Apr 162014 Posted in Dear Beautiful Girl11 Responses

Dear Beautiful Girl – Hashtag Starbucks

Dear Beautiful Girl -

“Dadadadadadada,” you say, charging the window with those eager baby wobble legs,  scaling the couch with notable skill and something almost like grace, turning back to grin widely at me as you point a chubby finger at Fave’s blue Volvo pulling up.

“Dadadadadadada.”

Dear Beautiful Girl - Hashtag Starbucks

How proud you are to know a name, to have a sound to put to a face that links up brain sparks and heart leaps and tongue twistings and sends them shooting out into the air for me to hear and understand.  What a miracle, these little connections, this massive leap.

“Mama.  Mmmmmmama.”

Something I couldn’t possibly love more about you is the way your baby babbles sound so distinctly perfectly like words you aren’t really trying to say.

“Are you ready to go?” I ask.  ”Putin.  Putin.  Baba button icing wardrobe Putin.”  No more mornings with Jon Stewart for you, savvy girl.

Dear Beautiful Girl - Hashtag Starbucks

“Starbucks!” you accuse a flock of geese as we pass them.  ”Starbucks button button!  Motto!  Farce!”

How I will miss the nonsense of these strangely sensible sounds, when your tongue and your mind sort things out and talking becomes just another thing that you do, and listening becomes a privilege that I remind myself of in my rougher moments.

“You, little girl, are my very best of things,” I whisper.

“Starbucks,” you assure me, “Hashtag starbucks.”

Dear Beautiful Girl - Hashtag Starbucks

And so we go.

Girl of Cardigan

 

The images in this post are by my new friend Ashley, who is challenging her subjects to allow her to capture their honest, messy, flawed and lovely actual lives.  I adore the idea, and the images that came from our day with her (I’ll be sharing many more of them in weeks to come).  For more of her gorgeous work, or to get an early look at the rest of our shoot, visit www.weenoblog.com

Apr 052014 Posted in Just Words5 Responses

Photographs and Memories

I just received an incredible gift in the mail from my friends Shane and Tia of Images by Brant, who were guests at our wedding three years ago.  Today, a disc arrived from those sneaky wonderful folks, full of lovely, perfect, grainy black and white captures that I’ve never seen before, and they make me feel like I’m looking at something magical and ancient and precious, and I’m crying all over the place, and so grateful, and I wanted to show them to you.

What a gift to have a memory augmented long after the fact.  Lovely, lovely, that.

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Photographs and Memories - Girl of Cardigan

Shane and Tia – thank you.

Girl of Cardigan

Apr 042014 Posted in Read Along5 Responses

Spring/Summer Read Along – Beautiful Ruins Halfway Chat

Confession: I finished the book.

But this is not a finished book review.  This is a halfway through book chat, and a chat needs you.  Here are my thoughts to start us off:

Beautiful Ruins Read-Along - Girl of Cardigan

Story: I adore the setting of this novel – I want to be there.  But I’ll admit that this book is slow to grab me.  I enjoyed the read, but found it easy to put it down and walk away – never quite got sucked in.  I tend to love stories that jump around between characters and time periods, but for some reason, this device in this story is keeping me from diving all the way in.  That said, the time period, the setting, the charmingly screwed up characters – swoon.  I want to vacation in this book immediately.

Characters: I love Pasquale.  Love him.  Love the way his name sounds when I say it out loud (who knows if I’m saying it correctly :) ), love his humanity, love that he’s written with some pretty massive baggage and flaws but still reads as noble.  I dig him.  I find myself routing for Claire, just because I want to grab coffee and a bagel with her, and I adore the visual in my mind of Michael Deane, both past and present – Hollywood in all its young ambition and terrifying resistance to age.

Here are my questions for you, and I’ll chime in in the comments:

What is the moment you first connected with the story?  Why?

Which thread is most compelling to you?  Which character’s voice are you hoping to find when you turn the page?

Which thread could you do without?  I find that I don’t care about Burton much, for example, but I dig Shane and his Donner story thread.

What do you love?  What’s getting on your nerves?

Which character do you connect with personally?  Why?

On a scale of 1-5, how many stars would you give this book so far?  I’m a solid 3 all the way through, but you don’t have to agree with me one little bit.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below – if they don’t show up, shoot me an email at girlofcardigan@gmail.com and I’ll go save you from the spam filter.

Girl of Cardigan

Mar 312014 Posted in A Good God13 Responses

Take Strength, Have Courage

Hello, friends whom I love.

You all know I’ve been running on a bit of a creative empty lately, but I have been writing, and I wanted to share the call I wrote for yesterday’s service at Imago with those of you who might find it encouraging to read, as I found it to write.  When I’m tired, my heart reverts to wanting to write small words about the bigness of God – when I start there, the other stuff tends to follow.  And speaking of other stuff, our first book chat on “Beautiful Ruins” is coming up later this week, and this month there will be lots of talk of spring, first steps, risk taking, and some chickens. Yup. Chickens!  Such Portland.  

For you, with all the hugs:

I used to fall all of the time.

There’s a scar on my left knee, still pink and raised and a little bit violent a few decades later, from the time I leapt off a playground onto a bed of jagged rocks without even stopping to consider my fate. There’s another on my wrist from an innertube that my youth pastor chased as I, and it, went off a small cliff and into a river. When I was twelve, I walked across a tightrope from an abandoned ropes course 200 ft above a ravine, without a harness, just because I felt like it and my mom wasn’t around. I didn’t fall. But I could have.

I used to fall into people, too, reckless childhood me, smiling fearlessly at strangers and yelling “God Bless You” with passionate fervor to playground bullies like it was the most powerful weapon in my arsenal. I used to give bold pieces of my heart to people who didn’t deserve them. I used to believe with the innocence of a child that my God was with me, and that was everything, and that was enough.

At some point, some unspecific period between the freedom of my childhood and the crippling self-awareness of my late twenties, I stopped falling. I pulled my breakable body safely in away from the windows, sealed my wounded heart in a padded box away from nasty words like “risk” and “wild abandon” and “courage.” I began to play my game a little closer to the chest, just a little bit safer, just a little more control. Because the more we learn of the darkness of rejection and humiliation and the pain of broken bones, the larger the distance we want to cultivate between ourselves and their jagged edges. The harder we’ve lived, the more we yearn for things to be comfortable, to be easy, to be safe.

I used to fall all the time, and I was never afraid. But the more desperately I try to control my story to keep from being hurt or denied or embarrassed or abused, the more I can feel the fear closing in around my ankles and pinning me tightly to a place where I am immovable, untouchable, where I cannot feel.

The more I scramble to protect my safety, the further I feel from the God who can save me.

Because my God? My God is a pillar of fire, an echo off of mountains, a great sea divided and a destroyer of the enemy. My God is a challenger of souls and a giver of mission and he is wild and wonderful but he is anything but safe. And this life that he offers me has little to do with my comfort zone and my breakable bones and everything to do with clinging onto his strength like a lifeline as he asks me to jump, to fall willingly into the unknown blessings and perils of His story, His courage, His incredible, incomparable life.

You are not promised infallible bodies, unbreakable flesh, or unwoundable hearts. But your God, the God who parts seas and rains fire and sends his angels into battle with heavenly swords that cannot be conquered – your God is with you. Your God is with you, and your God is mighty to save. Lean into his strength this morning. Let His promise be your courage and his presence your permission to let go of all you’ve been fearing and fall, wildly and wonderfully, into his rescue. Let your worship be surrender. Let your mighty God be your strength.

Girl of Cardigan

Mar 232014 Posted in The MotherHood, Wear Your Baby4 Responses

What to Wear (Your Baby In) – The Ring Sling

Hello and welcome to part two of our babywearing chat!  Today is all about ring slings.   Side note: “ring sling” is one of my absolute favorite things to say.  Try it.  Go on.  Out loud.  Feels good, am I right?  Okay.  Moving on.

A ring sling is a modified version of a traditional carry called a rebozo.  A rebozo is a one shoulder carry in which the baby or toddler sits belly to belly at your front, on your hip, or sometimes even on your back (and sometimes front facing out – more on that later.).  With a ring sling, the traditional rebozo knot has been replaced by a set of strong metal rings, making the sling a little easier to adjust and get in and out of quickly.

Here is a dramatic picture of a rebozo knot:

What to Wear (Your Baby In)- The Ring Sling - Girl of Cardigan

And here are the ring sling rings:

What to Wear (Your Baby In)- The Ring Sling - Girl of Cardigan

Ring slings are great start-to-finish carriers – you can use them from birth until you can no longer convince your child to go up in one, whenever that may be.  However, because the weight of the baby is on only one shoulder, they aren’t as comfortable for long term wearing with a heavier baby or child.  We use ours primarily for shopping trips – it’s an easy in and out of the car carrier.  I also love a ring sling for days when I like or need to feel “pretty” – they are more aesthetically graceful that buckle carriers, but with the same ease of use.  Winning.

Ways to acquire a ring sling:

Purchase a ready-made sling: Retailers like Sakura Bloom and Maya Wrap sell well-made slings that are readily available, easy to order, and will certainly serve your purpose.  There is also an abundance of small sellers on Etsy and elsewhere.

Things to consider: 

Shoulder – Some ring slings come with padded shoulders, and though some like the extra padding, I personally feel like it limits what can be done with the sling a touch.  Some retailers will also give you a choice between pleated or gathered shoulders – a choice that is truly about personal preference.  If anyone you know has a sling you can try, do, and see if there is a babywearing group near you that may have a few different shoulder style you can test out.

Size - Some manufacturers offer ring slings in sizes small, medium, large, xl, etc.  The size refers to the length of the fabric.  If you are very small, you can still use a large sling, but you will have a long tail of extra fabric.  Busty or plus-sized mamas will be happier with larger slings, and as a tall mama, I like having some extra length, because pretty.

Safety – If you chose to purchase a sling from a small Etsy business or a work at home maker, please request proof that they are complying to current safety standards, and do not compromise on weight of fabric (must be bottom weight – thin quilters cotton is not a safe fabric for a ring sling, though might be sturdy enough in multiple layers) and the safety of rings (rings should be one solid piece with no welded join, and safety tested for weight bearing – craft store rings are not trustworthy, and those rings are holding your baby. Most sellers who are invested in making a quality produce will use rings from SlingRings.com).  Seams should also be doubly or triply reinforced.

Purchase a wrap conversion sling: Wrap conversions are ring slings made from a short woven wrap.  The above shoulder and safety considerations apply, thought they will most often be sized in centimeters or inches instead of s/m/l.  Wrap conversion slings are trickier to find and purchase – local babywearing groups and The Babywearing Swap on FB, or the swap boards at thebabywearer.com are good places to start.  Some retailers of woven wraps also sell the wraps as slings – I like this one.

Purchase a wrap and have it converted: If you buy a short woven wrap (size 1 or 2), you can send it off to a converter to have it made into a ring sling.  Many converters will also accept other woven or bottom weight fabrics.  Sleeping Baby Productions is definitely the most well-respected of these converters.  I recently had the shoulder of my Maya Wrap redone and the old rings replaced by Jan of SBP, and it’s fantastic.

Make your own: Ring slings are one of the easiest baby carriers to DIY.  If you choose to make your own sling, please be sure you’re using a non-stretchy, bottom weight fabric (heavy linen, osnaburg muslin, dupioni silk, something that feels like PANTS, not like a shirt).  Quilters cotton is pretty, but it isn’t sturdy enough to haul your precious kiddo around.  You can use it as a tail accent, though!  It’s also worth it to order your rings through slingrings.com – they’re affordable, ship quickly, and are safety tested, mom tested, kid approved.  Plus great color options.  Worth noting that the price is for a SET of rings.  You’ll get two.  If you order two sets, you’ll get four.  So on and so forth.

Jan of Sleeping Baby Productions is sort of the go-to authority on ring slings, and this is her page of tutorials.  Should give you a good start for ring sling DIYing.  Have fun times!

Purchase rings and use them with your short wrap for a no-sew ring sling: Here’s an easy tutorial.

Bottom line: I sort of think everyone should have a ring sling, even if it only comes down to the “feeling pretty” factor.  Because babywearing shouldn’t have to be unflattering, and postpartum is already a world of tricky.

A note: using a ring sling takes practice, but it gets much, much easier as you go.  In the beginning, adjusting the rings feels stiff and awkward, things are too loose or too tight, your rings will be too low, and you’ll be frustrated.  Practice.  Watch videos.  There is already a wealth of wonderful YouTube videos on how to use a ring sling, but, of course, we made one to show you how we use ours.  Other smart things to search on YouTube if you’re curious: Ring Sling with a newborn, Ring Sling Buddha Carry, Ring Sling Back Carry, How to Thread a Ring Sling.  Want to see pictures of people using ring slings?  Sakura Bloom’s Instagram feed is stunning – @lovesakurabloom.

Here’s our goofy video, from us to you. It includes sound that refuses to sync with lips and one impressive meltdown from Fabes. Don’t worry, she bounces right back.

Ask me your questions!

Girl of Cardigan

 

 

Mar 172014 Posted in Just Words, Love, The City, The MotherHood28 Responses

First Steps – A Letter to You

I came home last Saturday evening exhausted and cynical, wearing the day-stale clothes of a weekend conference, a commitment made in the spirit of rest and me-time and a nice little break that left me feeling less refreshed than hollowed, or weary, or perhaps simply bored.  I came home, came to our ill-fitting front door and unleveled floor boards and Fable’s magnificent crooked smile, and her daddo let go of her hand.

And she walked.

She walked – tiny, hesitant, wobbling steps that we have waited and wished and pined for, and something in me shouted “Yes!” in its loudest breaking swelling voice.  Yes to this moment, yes to uncertain first steps and the slowing of the world and the perfect focus that is this small, magnificent happening.  Yes to this place, with its cracked ceiling and narrow hallway, yes to this man and the way that he gives and gives and gives some more, yes to this tiny, trying, incredible, unsteady girl.

She is taking her first steps.  And I am taking mine.

These steps, these motherhood-entering steps, have been shakier than I planned them.  I have waited all my life to be in this season, and it has thrown me off balance to find myself restless, distracted, exhausted, struggling to engage.  More often than I care to admit, I am lost in my phone, or missing first discoveries as I scramble to Instagram them, or swallowed up in email when I should simply be swallowing the fresh air of spring and a tall glass of something sweet and the perfection of this piece of time.  I find myself craving balance and rhythm and space.

First Steps - Girl of Cardigan

It is worth mentioning, also, that I love you so.  So often, my inbox and social media pages are filled with sweet notes from you, and I cannot write well enough to tell you how much I appreciate your generosity, your stories, your willingness to reach out and share yourselves with me.  I treasure them.  I carry them.  I think of you – I see things that remind me of your letters in stores and I remember your names.  Those of you who have been here for years and years, the beautiful hundreds of you who arrived on that crazy November day, you are my village, and I am grateful for you.

This sounds like a goodbye letter.  It isn’t one.  Nobody is going anywhere.

Well, except, perhaps, outside.  Because, since November, I’ve found myself wrestling with all kinds of thinkings – new opportunities, so many chances to say yes to doing more, writing more, selling more, making actual dollars.  I’m really good at saying yes to more.  But I don’t want to be another blogger selling you my idea of perfection, winking at you the suggestion that perhaps you’d look thinner in these fabulous shoes, or sending pictures of our sponsored adventures cavalierly into your inbox so you will hurry up and have them too.  Those things have value and a place, but this isn’t it.

This is, and has always been, our place – yours and mine, the safest of corners where I say to you “Things aren’t so perfect, but isn’t it lovely?” and you whisper back “Yes, yes, imperfect is perfect after all, here’s a beer and a cupcake,” and we hold hands across these silly invisible wires and feel a little more like ourselves.  I want this to be our secret clubhouse, alway, just ours.

So there will be no ads.  There will be no sponsors, unless they are my dear friends and are offering gifts to you (I’m not cruel, after all).  There will be no selling, except the selling of the idea that we are better than our imaginary wars and should all probably lighten up and go play a little.

In return, I’m asking you to help me give myself permission this spring and summer to let things slide a bit.  I need space for adventure and long walks and I want to write words to you that mean something, that come from itchy fingers that simply cannot wait to tell you all the wonderful things they’ve discovered, and not so much the sort of words that come from staring angrily at my screen trying to figure out how to get at least two posts up this week.  This season, I want to worry less about post frequency and Facebook stats and page views and more about growing strawberries and counting wobbly toddler steps and creating stories to tell you when we meet here.

I’ll still be here.  We’ll still have book club and babywearing and letters to our beautiful girl, but maybe a week will come where I need to check out of the internet, and there will be only quiet and sunshine and peace.  And maybe I will be a bit slower to respond to your letters (though I will, I will, I always will), or maybe I’ll write you a flurry of things all at once and you’ll frantically try to figure out how to stop getting my email notifications and the stupid subscription service won’t let you cancel (annoyingly likely).  But I hope you’ll stay.

First Steps - Girl of Cardigan

Maybe, in the still spaces and the quiet gaps, you’ll write to your own beautiful girl or boy, and you’ll think of us as you plan adventures, and we’ll all be glad for freedom and irresponsibility and the magic precious passing of time.  Maybe you’ll go outside and grow things, or stay inside and grow them, or simply grow.

She is taking her first steps toward balance, my girl- and I am taking mine.

Girl of Cardigan

Mar 142014 Posted in Read Along5 Responses

Spring Read Along: Beautiful Ruins

Hi friends!

I’m so excited to announce the first book in our spring/summer read along – excited mostly because it’s all loaded up in my Kindle and I’m DYING to start reading it.  (Speaking of Kindles, how do you guys read these days?  I finally caved into the convenience of being able to read in the dark and get library books instantly over wifi when I was lost in those first months of newborn haze, but I’ll be honest – I miss book smell like, whoa.)  Anyway, moving on:

Beautiful Ruins Read-Along - Girl of Cardigan

 

You voted, and Beautiful Ruins was a clear winner.  I’m ready to escape to the frickin’ Italian coast, I tell you what.  I’ll be checking in mid-April with thoughts on the first half of the book, and we can debate and discuss in the comments.  Between now and then, feel free to start your own chats about the story on the Facebook page, or shoot me an email with your thoughts.  Mid-May, I’ll wrap it up with a book review and ask you for your reviews as well, if you’d like to share them.

Go get the book!  Buy it from your local corner bookshop, or borrow it from the library if you can – I did!  :)

Next week on the blog: more babywearing series (all about ring slings), and some thoughts on wobbly little first steps.

Girl of Cardigan

 

Mar 122014 Posted in Mom Jeans1 Response

Mom Jeans: Notes from Marie

Mom Jeans is a collection of thoughts on personal style from mothers of young children all around the world. Some are fashionistas, some would call themselves the furthest thing from fashionable – all of them are wildly beautiful, and all of them inspire me. Enjoy!

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style - Girl of Cardigan

I’m Marie Nohr.  I’m married with one son. He is 1 1/2 years old.   We live in Santa Maria, CA.   I just started my own company back in February of this year.  So I am a full time entrepreneur and full time stay at home mom.

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style from the Mommyhood - Girl of Cardigan

momjeansstyle-page001

My style is modest and comfortable without sacrificing trends. I also love thrift stores and DIY outfits. I love hi-lows and always have, even before it became popular.  There are a lot of farmers out here and not a lot of great shopping. If I want to shop I have to go to LA or the closer cities of Solvang or San Luis Obispo. Or shop online. I visit Canada because I have family out there.

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style from the Mommyhood - Girl of Cardigan

momjeansmommy-page001

Since becoming a mom, my biggest challenge maintaining my style was the fact that I donated ALL my small clothing, because I thought after gaining over 65 pounds that I was NEVER going to fit into my favorite jeans. Then my husband got promoted and we relocated, and we now only have one car I walk everywhere with my son.  I am back to my college weight. GO ME! The other challenge is wearing something my son can’t pull on and cause me to flash anyone. Cowl necks are a no-no as I have to bend down a lot.

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style from the Mommyhood - Girl of Cardigan

momjeanssecrets-page001

My favorite go to 1st are always the clearance racks when shopping. Then I scope out the other deals. My Favorites stores are Kohls and Papaya. I avoid stores like Forever 21 and Wet Seal- but I can’t lie but I do have a few pieces from there. I recently purchased a cute owl lace shirt from Papaya that I absolutely love. My favorite current favorite shoes are from Kolhs Clearance Candies brand blinged with colorful rhinestones. My favorite thrifts stores are one in Canada called Value Village and one here in Santa Maria, CA called New Image. My favorite thrift store find is a Ralph Lauren Dress that I found in Canada. I also love the black and white chiffon top that I altered to 3/4 sleeves. It was a thrift store find but had a big yellow stain on the sleeve. I constantly browse Pinterest and shopbop.com even though my wallet doesn’t allow me to shop them. Haha- maybe I will once my business takes off.

Mom Jeans: Notes on Personal Style from the Mommyhood - Girl of Cardigan
I also make a lot of my skirts and dresses. I recently started making them now for my Etsy shop- the aqua skirt above was hand made by me. (Editor’s Note: Marie also creates the nursing ponchos from the giveaway we did a while back, which I love.)

Hair style: I used to rock the one-sided bob but now I wear it long and in a pony tail that my son thinks is a rope. If I don’t put it up he pulls out a handful of hair. Ouch. I am working on getting him to stop that. But I did recently switch to natural hair products found on Etsy.com but discovered a store in Anaheim called Lush. I finally found a product that I can use to wash my hair every other day without having to wear a hat in between – the Shampoo Bar made from Juniper. They also have a minty conditioner also in the form of a soap bar. Their dry shampoo is AMAZING too. It is not a spray and helps keep oily hair at bay.

Interested in participating in our Mom Jeans series, or know someone you’d like to nominate?  Send an email to girlofcardigan@gmail.com.

Girl of Cardigan

Mar 062014 Posted in The Lists17 Responses

What Should We Read? (Spring/Summer Read Along Nominees)

Books were my first love.

I was the kid who used to get in trouble for reading when I should have been doing other things, like walking or listening to my mother or eating my food.  I’m still a little bit that kid, and I know some of you are too, so I thought it might be fun to get ourselves on the same page (see what I did there?) by hosting a little Spring/Summer Read Along.

I don’t have time for actual book clubs, so the plan is to do an online, lazy person’s (or busy person’s, I suppose) club.  We’ll choose four books and give them two months each.  The first month, I’ll do a little post on my thoughts so far, and we can all chat in the comments about what we love and hate about the first half of the book.  The second month, I’ll post a review, and you can all share yours in the comments.  In-between blog posts, there will be random chats on Facebook and Twitter.  We will try to keep spoilers to a minimum, or paint them neon, or something.

I’ve narrowed it down to 15 books for us to choose from, all of which are on my list for one reason or another.  There’s a one-sentence explanation of each choice below.  Please vote for your top four by commenting on this post – and may the best book win.  Or may the odds be ever in your favor.  Or the force be with you.  Whatever.

Spring/Summer Read Along - Girl of Cardigan

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes: Two strangers come together in an unlikely relationship that seems to leave everyone who reads about it doing ridiculous ugly cry.  4.34 star rating on Goodreads.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: Epic story (many characters, different timelines, death, love, life) set on the Italian coast (swoon).  3.72 stars.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: Classic, I’ve never read it, and the movie is coming out this year.  Also, I had this as “Maddening Crowd” early, because that makes more sense.  Must read to find out what a madding crowd is.  3.86 stars.

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro: A group of 30-somethings get together at a beach house with their kids, and everyone who reads about it gives it tons of stars.  4.5 stars.

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot: About a young girl in the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army.  3.72 stars.

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior: Wildly loved and hated look at the effect of parenting on, um, parents – I’m curious what all the fuss is about.  3.99 stars.

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver: Poetry.  I really need to read more poetry.  4.15 stars.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch: “In The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch expertly moves the reader through issues of gender, sexuality, violence, and the family from the point of view of a lifelong swimmer turned artist.” — there you have it.  4.16 stars.

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald: See explanation for Far From the Maddening Crowd.  3.83 stars.

California by Edan Lepucki: Post-apocalyptic story of marriage and survival and people are FREAKING OUT about it.  Whopping 4.53 stars.  Granted, it isn’t actually out yet.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn: Still don’t know if I loved or hated Gone Girl, but I’d read Gillian again, and this movie will also come out this year.  3.89 stars.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Haven’t read it since high school – that’s a shame.  Who cares how many stars – it’s Pride and Prejudice.

Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman: A novel about snatched babies that will become a movie this year (the novel, not the babies), like everything else, apparently.  3.55 stars.

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue: Donoghue’s Room is one of my favorite books ever, and she wrote another one.  3.67 stars.

Family Life by Akhil Sharma: Highly anticipate novel about an Indian family, due out this spring.  4.5 stars from the people chosen to review it so far (so, ya know, his friends dig it)

What’s your vote?  Hate all these choices?  Feel free to nominate your own!  If a book gets enough nods, I’ll add it to the list!

Girl of Cardigan

Mar 042014 Posted in Dear Beautiful Girl24 Responses

Dear Beautiful Girl – Once Upon a Time

Dear Beautiful Girl -

I have watched grown people aim nasty glares at a children in princess dresses, then hurl charming judgements in the direction of their mothers:

“Those stories are everything that is wrong with girls today.”

“You shouldn’t let your daughter watch that garbage.”

“You should teach your girl to value her mind and her potential.”

“You are feeding her lies.”  

Are there bits of truth in these unsolicited accusations?  Certainly.  But my love, there is also so much more.

In this city, the city that your Daddo and I love and have chosen for you, we have no shortage of soapboxes.  There is a powerful division, here, between the right and the wrong, the healthy and the damaging, the oppressive and the uplifting, and you will be faced again and again with those who want you to believe that there is only one telling of all stories, only one right or wrong way of looking at things, only things that will hurt you or save you and nothing in between.

Sometimes, these people will be right.  Some things are black and white, true or false, real or make-believe.  But most things?  Most things live in a half-way space, a middling ground where they can be transformed by your perception, your abilities, your passions, your heart.  Most stories are only just stories, and how you read them is just as important as the words on the page.

Cinderella, having had so much taken from her, gave what little she had to her tiny friends – used her limited resources to clothe and feed and nurture them, after hours spent scrubbing and serving and being belittled – she gave, and she loved.  She cultivated hope.  She dreamt crazy dreams (attending a royal ball?  Please.) and worked hard, stitching together found-ribbons and discarded beads, taking the time to build something beautiful for herself, to give herself the best chance.  She wasn’t too proud to accept help when it was needed and offered.  She had the guts to go to a party where she didn’t know anybody, all by herself, and when a prince asked her to dance, she had the confidence to say yes.  And sure, she married that prince and therefore got out of her dingy attic digs and into a castle to live happily ever after, but she’d never have met him – he’d never have known she was there to “save” – if she hadn’t been brave, and strong, and worked hard, and been kind, and held hope.  The prince didn’t save Cinderella – she knew what she wanted and she did everything she could to get it.  That girl got herself out of that attic, and she did it in adorable shoes.

Don’t get me wrong – stories are not perfect.  We are imperfect people who write imperfect tales full of imperfect characters.  There are some stories I’d rather you didn’t fall in love with, some lessons I’m not sure I’m keen for you to learn.  But I don’t care a lick if you want to grow up to be an explorer, scouring the world for new discoveries and cultivating your independence, or a scientist who juggles raising a family while pouring over gene sequences and patterns and hope, or a princess who rocks incredible dresses and desires little more than falling in love and finding someone gallant with whom to share her life – be any of those girls, be all of them, be brilliant and beautiful and stylish and smart and nerdy and fantastic and athletic and brave and humble and gentle and all of these things at once or whichever of them you choose, but more than ANY of them, be the girl who sees more in the story.

Be the girl who sees more.

Grow up to be the kind of someone who recognizes her power over story and situation.  Be the kind of girl who can see beyond the surface and seek out beauty even when it’s hidden, discover value in the darkest patches, eek out a glimpse of worth where others have overlooked it.  Be the girl with the imagination and creativity to take a story and make it her own, tell it her own way, and choose to see the good and the right and the potential.  Be the girl who doesn’t dismiss another girl as vapid because she loves fashion, or as boring because she loves books, or as bossy because she longs for success and leadership, or as foolish because she longs for love and companionship.  Be the girl who rips people out of their boxes and holds them up to the light.

Snow White, having been kicked out of the only home she’d ever known by a jealous and mean-hearted queen, wasn’t afraid to befriend people who were very different from her.  Not only did she befriend them – she showed them love and hospitality.  She supported and encouraged them, as they did her, and she created a new situation for herself.  She trusted.  She gave people the benefit of the doubt.  And sure, eventually she took an apple from a stranger and fell into a deep dark sleep, and sure, a prince kissed her and carried her off to live happily ever after, but she’d never have met him – he’d never have known she was there to “save” – if she hadn’t been open and accepting and forgiving and resilient and a little bit fierce.  The prince didn’t save Snow White – she valued people, and they in turn valued her.  That girl got herself out of the spooky woods, and she did it with a smile and a song.

It matters, this ability to see more.  It matters, because there will be seasons in your life that aren’t perfect – seasons that seem shallow and stuck and wasted, seasons during which it is hard to see yourself as anything more than victim, than failure, than broken or foolish.  Be the girl who writes down the painful words of the stuck places, reads them aloud to herself, and dreams up new ways to hear them – new ways to shout them so that victory and intention and always, always love echo into all of the irritating plot twists, the unexpected villains, the vain and fading happily ever afters.

We begin with fairytales, but ultimately, we wind up the tellers and believers of our own stories.  Remember Who is writing yours.  Remember that your story is part of a much bigger, beautiful, endless and magical one.  Remember that you can tell it any way you like.

Dear Beautiful Girl - Once Upon a Time - Girl of Cardigan

And when they try to tell you that you must take sides, must be black or white, must be pretty or smart, must be whole or broken, must all or nothing your way through life in the business of being one or the other – be the girl who tells them a story.  Be the brilliant girl in the ruffly gown who stands in the middle and whispers “We can be both.  We can be all.  We don’t have to be one or the other.”  Grab fast onto hesitant hands and pull them to each other.

Tell them a story, beautiful girl.  Tell them your story.

Girl of Cardigan

 

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