Hamster Snack

Just popping by with a quick life (book) update: I’m sharing my novel, one chapter at a time, with a writing community to be critiqued and torn apart and fitted back together. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive (like, I cried at work today because one comment was so encouraging) and the help I’ve gotten has strengthened my story so much. There’s still a loooong way to go before its truly polished (I’ve only shared 5 of about 30 chapters), but I am so excited and almost-literally every waking hour is currently being dedicated to rewrites/tweaks/updates/daydreams concerning Solvi and the world I’m building around her.

And sometimes I forget to eat, and then wonder why I feel like I might pass out while carrying my laundry down to the basement, and I find myself in my current situation, which is basically:

eating cheese.gif

Thanks for humoring me during my snack break! Now back to the writing grind…

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Lou Brew Reviews: Alpha Brewing

Do you love sour beers?

If you said yes — perfect! If you said no…that’s fine, too.

Alpha Brewing in the Tower Grove (ish?) area is worth a visit no matter your beer preference. They are known for their sours — the Delphian is amazing, and the Guava Brett will pucker even the most sour-lover’s taste buds — but they’ve got several great IPA, Stout, and Blonde Ale options as well. And some super-fun names. You better believe I tried the Hop, Lock & Drop It, the Troll Wheatwine, and the Fyler Flyer (which gets harder — or easier? — to order the more you have!).

I also really like that they offer a range of pours, so you can create your own flight — and/or just enjoy a *very* small glass of your favorite if you happen to be a lightweight like me. They have your normal-sized pours as well, of course, but I like that I have options, especially if day-drinking.

Alpha also offers live music shows on Thursdays and Saturdays. Their food looked pretty good, though we did not partake — they even have a Vegan night for the non-meat-eaters out there.

Their website claims “It’s not for everyone” but seriously, I think it’s my favorite local brewery. It’s tucked back in a neighborhood near Grand Ave, just out of the way enough to be a hidden gem while close enough to merit an easy trip.

GiftAMeal

Here’s something fun about me: I have a pathological need to know people are well-fed. I order way too much food for company functions and still stress it won’t be enough. While my husband was away this summer on his internship, I annoyed the crap out of him, bugging him about eating quality dinners. I am neither Jewish or Italian, but I channel the stereotypical Jewish and/or Italian grandmother when it comes to (almost literally) shoving food down people’s throats.

Now let me take a quick moment to tell you about the most amazing app I discovered this summer. GiftAMeal is a *free* app you download to your smartphone. With it, you take a picture of your food at participating restaurants (currently in St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit) — come on, most of us already whip out our phones to Instagram that gorgeous plating anyway — and upload it to the app.

Boom. Done.

Someone in need receives a meal.

Just. Like. That.

Literally no sweat off my back. I snap a pic of a meal I then enjoy, and a hungry person in my city gets a meal in their belly, too.

(Just to clarify that last sentence — it isn’t like osmosis or super sci-fi shizz…yet. But a meal is donated because of my picture and that in itself is cool enough for me.)

IF you find yourself in the St. Louis or Chicago area, download this app. There are so many restaurants participating, I’m more surprised when one doesn’t pop up on the app. And, honestly, I’ve started choosing new places to check out based on whether or not they’ve partnered with GiftAMeal.

PS: This works for anything the restaurant offers. Happy hour? A pic of that snazzy cocktail donates a meal. Late night fries? A close up of those golden potatoes donates a meal. Meeting up with twenty of your closest friends? You can each use the app to donate a meal! Go ahead, feel like Oprah handing out prizes.

Are there similar apps or programs in your area? I’d love to hear about them!

 

I’m Me

I’ve had a hard week or two. Nothing super-awful — I gave a presentation for the first time in WAY too many years and to say I was a bit rusty is an understatement. I had such uncomfortable, panicky anxiety building up to it (and I pretty much panic-blacked-out during it)… and I think some residual anxiety stuck around even afterwards because I’ve been catastrophizing all week. I kept waking up from stress dreams and fighting off panic attacks for smaller events coming up.

I know therapy works because I was able to acknowledge my anxious feelings. I was brave enough to sit with the gut-punched sickness and explore the lies swelling my heart. I could even follow the feelings back to the first few times I ever felt similarly, to the heart of the anxiety and understand it in a way I never have.

That in itself is a huge, amazing thing I would not have been able to do at this time two years ago.

Usually, when I start to get really anxious, I ask myself what’s the worst that could happen? This is a really stupid question, because practically — logically — the WORST ending would be death, or getting fired, or something equally dramatic.

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So another thing I realized is I’m not anxious about the worst happening — I’m anxious about the let downs. The discomfort of disappointing someone. Of being seen as a failure. Inside my anxiety, that scenario is worse than death or losing my job or getting salmonella poisoning (which was another small concern this week after a kitchen mishap that led to me ingesting a microscopic amount of raw chicken).

But this time, not only could I half-encourage myself with such mantras as “I’ll survive” or “it will be ok”, I realized I am prepared if the “worst” should happen and I disappoint someone. I have been through this feeling before — and I have let people down in the past. And even if worse came to “worst” and I received a public dressing-down, I know how to pretend I’m fine until I reach the safety of my car or my home or my husband’s arms.

My mental processing — and the anxiety that feeds off it — may not be completely healthy or “normal”, but I am growing. And I found such comfort in being able to see how far I’ve come.

That is a whole lot more background than I initially intended to give for this post; I meant to just say ‘hey, I’ve been a little stressed, here are some tunes that help me’…but that’s the way life goes. If you can relate at all — or anytime you need a little “I am awesome” pick-me-up — maybe you’ll find one of these helpful.

  1. I’m Me – Us The Duo (to remind me I’m pretty great just the way I am)
  2. Who You Are – Madilyn Bailey (best line: “It’s okay not to be okay.”)
  3. Out of Hell – Skillet (this is the best song to tequila-tipsy-jump-around to…or blast in the car and shout-sing out the anxious feelings)
  4. Still I Fly – Roadtrip Romance (most uplifting part: “gotta learn to grow, watch me as I touch the sky…”)
  5. Me Too – Meghan Trainor  (between the sassy beat and the confidence-oozing lyrics, this song is a surefire ego-booster — I don’t care how overplayed it might be)
  6. *Control – Halsey (on the flip side, this one gets me angry at my fears and reminds me “I’m meaner than my demons”)
  7. Unsteady / So Alive – Haley Klinkhammer (This combines two great songs into one that resonates so powerfully with me)
  8. Bird Set Free – Sia (the whole chorus is so beautiful and another powerful thing to belt out)
  9. *You Don’t Own Me – Grace, G-Eazy (Another song that both pumps up the ego and gets me a little angry at the feelings trying to hold me down)
  10. *I’m Ready – Niykee Heaton (favorite part: “over trembling floors, I’m steady. But they’ve written my death already so many times, but this fire won’t die.”)

The whole playlist can be found on YouTube here, or if you’re *really* interested, you can follow my playlist I Am Enough on Spotify for approximately 90 songs of ego-boosting reminders that I am enough just as I am.

What’s you’re favorite pick-me-up song?

Just Shut Up Already

Do you know that feeling when you first meet someone who you just get? You love spending time together and getting to know more about them, and you just freaking adore them? Before you know it, your life is kind of taken over by this person. At first, that’s wonderful — the more of them, the better. But then it starts to wear on you, and you see their quirks for the flaws they are, and you want to roll your eyes every time they open their mouth and you start to feel like you if you have to hear one more time about how they will do anything to find their brother you will stab yourself in the freaking eye with a pen…

Sigh.

So that’s where I’m at in my edits…

I know my story is good. When I first finished, I daydreamed about my characters as if they belonged to some other book by some other author. I fell asleep writing my own fan-fiction, sending minor characters off on adventures that would never fit into the novel (but could find their way into a blog post eventually).

After three-plus read-throughs (and several scene rewrites), I am kind of sick of looking at this story. I have to keep reminding myself it is good. That it has the potential to find its way onto a bookstore shelf. Because right now, it feels like trash. Some of the pages of my manuscript look like a rainbow at best — a rotting, bloody corpse at worst — the black words crossed-through in red and scribbled-over in blue and annotated in green. I’ve reached a point where I’m not even sure my edits are constructive — what if I reduce all the magic to grammatical masterpieces and formulaic sentence structure?

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So I’m taking a break. A week off from Solvi and her quest to reunite her brother with their family. A week where I will over-indulge in the Bachelor in Paradise finale, obsess over fantasy football, and lose myself in someone else’s fictional world. I have a whole list of books on Amazon waiting to be experienced — so hopefully I’ll be able to toss up another book review or two on here soon.

And when I get back to her, hopefully Solvi will be a sympathetic, relatable character once again.

Ephesians 5:25

“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives…”
~Ephesians 5:25-28 MSG

The first time I heard this verse, this way, it broke my heart. I’d all but convinced myself I expected too much from the idea of “true love,” that real life looks nothing like the novels or movies I love. I was ready to settle for a faded out shade of love offered by a boy whose brokenness only sharpened my own.

Then I heard those words, and it captured perfectly what I’d wanted my whole life. Here was proof I wasn’t being completely unrealistic in my hopes for a love that lifts up without first tearing down.

I wrote my favorite snippet on an index card and hung it up over my computer: His words evoke her beauty. And I resolved to believe that sort of love was waiting for me.

It wasn’t some magical, life-altering thing. I didn’t end my current relationship — not right away. I wanted still to believe it could happen between us. And when we fell apart completely, I was hollowed out and worried I’d missed my chance.

When I met my husband, he made it very clear from the moment he said hello that he was interested in me. He wooed me like an oldfashioned gentleman, with gifts left outside my door and little notes just to say he was thinking of me. He made me feel wanted and adored and powerful, and not just with him, or because of him. I felt like the whole world should be able to see me that way, too. I’d never experienced anything like him, and I couldn’t find the words to explain just how amazing I felt.

Sometime in those early weeks, I opened a drawer I hadn’t since moving to my new apartment, and right on top sat an index card a hopeful me had scribbled more than two years earlier. His words evoke her beauty.

That’s how he loved me, even before he’d admitted those three words. That’s how he loves me still, seven years after our first date.

Home Sweet Home

A year ago today, I drove into St. Louis for the first time, full of apprehension and excitement in equal parts. I still remember the feeling I got when I came around the bend and saw the Arch from the highway while still in Illinois. Like my heart had been blown through a bubble wand.

This year has held highs and lows, as time is wont to do, but I am still so in love with this city. It isn’t perfect, but it’s whole-heartedly mine. Whether or not St. Louis is our ‘forever home’ remains to be seen, but I am so thankful we made the leap of faith to leave our family and friends and venture to a place we’d never experienced. I have grown so much in this past year, gaining confidence and settling into who I really am at my core. We’ve made some amazing new friendships, eaten some epic food, and had more adventures this year than I can count.

So here’s to you, St. Louis, and the year(s) to come!