Well.

We are making progress, you guys. Slowly but surely my first children’s book, A Boy Named Love, is becoming a reality.

I sent a detailed update to all of the Kickstarter backers last week with all the nitty gritty, including a couple illustration sneak peeks and a look into the process of working with a professional illustrator. You can check it out right here.

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Next step: arranging the entire thing!

Where to place each illustration on the page? Should this word be bigger font than that word? Should this part of the sentence flow to the next page for emphasis? Arrangement with children’s books is so important. I’m nervous about this step, but ready to tackle it.

Dare I say, finished books in hand by August 1st? July 15th? Oh my oh my oh my.

Have a fabulous week, everyone! Talk later. I have a couple fabulous book reviews I can’t wait to share with you sometime soon.
AS

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler

You know how sometimes you just keep passing on a specific book, even though it’s on your list and you definitely do want to read it eventually? You finish one book and then, when deciding what’s next, you look at it and just say ehh maybe later?

Yeah. Well. Why I did that with Yes please for 6+ months I have no idea. I MEAN HONESTLY.

This book is lovely, you guys.

It’s funny. Obviously. But in the smart dry humor kind of way that you almost miss if you’re not paying attention. And dude this is one smart chica. Holy buckets can she write.

Funny, check. Smart, check. Well written, check.

Also: inspiring. YUP.

Amy drops these ridiculous little nuggets of wisdom about career and life and love and parenthood amongst her short and snappy lines. I would have underlined something on every page if I hadn’t read this on loan from my e-library.

End of book result: She showed pieces of her real self. Dirty, messy, and lovely. And now I will support her work forever and ever amen.

Yay for books,
AS

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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Yesterday morning I snuck into my bathroom to get cleaned up and, as usually happens, both girls quickly followed me in there. They can destroy my bathroom in 47 seconds if allowed, but I usually do allow it because if I have to choose between keeping a neat and tidy bathroom and not looking like a disheveled mess all day, I’ll go with the latter every day of the week. I’d rather have mascara on my lashes AND mascara wands all over the floor than, well, mascara in neither place. Undoing the mess is usually number one on my list at nap time.

Anyway.

I am standing in my closet trying to distinguish between the clean clothes and the not-so-clean clothes, when I hear Addy say, “A sticker. Wow, what a neat sticker. MOM! I FOUND A STICKER! It’s so…it’s so…it’s so SOFT!” I peek around the corner of the door to take a look.

She has a small box in her lap. In one hand is a thin rectangular piece of paper. In the other hand, a panty liner.

A PANTY LINER.

Of course.

I leap back into the closet to conceal my laugh. I’m not even sure why I felt like I couldn’t laugh in front of her. I guess I found it so ridiculous and hilarious that I didn’t want her to stop doing whatever it was she was doing with it.

I stand in the closet for a moment not saying anything. “Mom it’s sooo sticky!” she finally says. “Mom. MOM. I think it’s stuck to me.”

There was a brief pause and then, “Oh. I got it. Now it’s stuck on Lela.”

Big sister stuck the “sticker” on little sister. There was now a panty liner on the bottom right side of the back of EJ’s shirt.

I left it there until I changed her into her jammies. I left it there for hours. It made me laugh all day long.

The end.

Motherhood is stupidly, ridiculously awesome,

AS

 

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Well.

As I write this, it’s 3:34 on Monday afternoon and both kids are sleeping. This hasn’t happened in forever, as Addy has taken more of an interest lately in emptying the entire contents of her dresser and banging incessantly on her door than sleeping, and EJ dropped her afternoon nap ages ago, but refuses to push her morning nap up any later than 11am. Let me tell you how delightful that makes the late afternoon. For both girls. And for mama.

Eek.

Anyway, due to weird schedules and teething sleep disruption and a guilt trip about the doctor telling her that sleeping will help her grow big and strong SO STRONG!, they are both out for the count. So I did what I always do when the stars align like this, I stood in the middle of the kitchen with my mouth open, phone in hand, wondering what the heck I should do. I finally settled on watching a DVR’d TLC show, then I ate some potato chips, and then had a good long talk with Hubs about my latest paint decisions for the office, dining room, and master bedroom. I’m a study in productivity, let me tell you.

I finally decided I should seize this Both Kids Sleeping opportunity and write something. So here we are.

Thoughts:

– I had a fabulous Mother’s Day, complete with tons of unstructured and unplanned kiddo time, a Hubs who did all the dishes all day long, and a visit to the evening church service BY MYSELF followed up by a fancy schmancy dinner at Panera BY MYSELF. Best ending to Mother’s Day ever. I got to skip dinner and bedtime routines, plus, bonus: I tried out one of the new broth bowls Panera has been advertising. Verdict: tasted Japanese or something, loved it, very non-Panera-like, very messy to eat, super fresh flavors.

– The Royals won again last night, this time in the wee hours of the morning after a weather delay at the home stadium of their division rivals. We’re number one in our division! I look forward to evenings on the couch with Hubs talking and watching the games more than I ever thought I would. Icy cold Summer Shandy’s certainly aid that effort.

– Albeit a little slow, I’m thrilled with the progress on A Boy Named Love. After receiving and fully editing the rough draft of all the drawings, we are inching closer to having final, full-color versions of everything. I’ve reviewed and approved about three-fourths of them. Can’t wait to share this book with the world. We are so so so close and that simultaneously thrills me and scares me to death.

– I started I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings yesterday. I’m progressing through it slowly because of Maya’s writing style, but finding it fascinating so far. Also feeling a little embarrassed that I’ve never read it before.

– At this very moment, I want to be hugging my babies. I also want to be dressed up in a professional shift, wearing heels and sporting newly colored hair and newly manicured nails. I want to be reading in a quiet room with birds chirping outside and steaming coffee in my mug. I also want to be reading 101 Dalmations and listening to my children scream after pulling each other’s hair.
I’ve made a kind of shift lately in my thinking, and instead of flip flopping back and forth, back and forth between Annie Before Kids (ABK) and Annie Now (AN) , treating them like one or the other, either/or, continually comparing, I’ve found an awareness. A contentedness of some kind. It’s not an either/or. It’s a now. It’s not about looking back and comparing. It’s not about looking forward and planning. It’s about looking down right where we are and loving. Accepting. With open arms and open hearts. With grace. For myself and Hubs and my kids. And everyone.

We can’t have it all. But we can be content with what we have. And we can love it. We can love the heck out of it.

There are aspects of ABK that I sincerely miss (coffee shop afternoons, I’m looking at you. Also: the ease of rescheduling an appointment. Oh my god.), but I’m fine without them. I have stopped comparing AN to ABK in a way that focuses only on the negative. It was a different chapter, and instead of thinking about how someday I’ll get that chapter back, I want to instead look forward to the writing of new ones.

I can’t wait to turn those pages.

For now, this chapter, this one kind of near the beginning, is pretty darn great.

 

Book analogies for the win,

AS

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Happy Monday, friendlies. Good weekend?

For real though. #weekendlove #liveyourstyle

A photo posted by Duck & Dressing (@duckanddressing) on

Ours was good; laid back and borderline lazy. Hubs was in the southeast corner of Missouri with friends, doing country bumpkin type things, so the girls and I brunched and declared big bowls of popcorn as acceptable dinners and spent hours lounging in the backyard. I stayed up way too late watching terrible television I would never admit to enjoying (I’m looking at you, TLC), but I did start a new book, a novel, finally – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It’s flip flopping between two main characters and two time periods telling the story in first person. I’m kind of enthralled with it so far.

I’ll report back about The Girl. In the mean time, here are a few titles I’ve read recently and my thoughts on each:

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (RG is a pen name for JK Rowling.) You know how you can sometimes think you don’t like a book while you’re reading it, but change your mind once it’s over? Yeah. That. Also, I was completely overwhelmed by the number of characters, perhaps why I didn’t love actually reading it. Super creative and, overall, a solid mystery. The style of writing felt unique to me.

Paper Towns by John Green, Looking for Alaska by John Green  Ugh. Green is so talented. He must have journals from his teenage years, as I see no other way he so accurately writes to the thoughts and lives and nuances of teens. I enjoyed Alaska more than Towns. Green’s books are thought-provoking and say so much more than just the words on the page spell out, but Paper Towns went so far that I just didn’t get it. Womp womp. I was happy when closing the cover on the last page of Alaska. I was frustrated when I did the same with Towns.

The Most of Nora Ephron  I’m picking my way through the pieces of this Ephron collection. Some of her political essays from the 80’s and 90’s, couldn’t care less. The experiences she shares regarding the development of the When Harry Met Sally script and the production of the movie, fascinating. Nora was such a beloved writer, I’m happy to be finally experiencing what all the fuss was about. Heartburn, arguably her most famous novel, is the last big piece of the collection I have left.

Fly a Little Higher by Laura Sobiech  I read this on my computer after downloading a free copy from Jen Hatmaker‘s blog on a whim. Completely fascinated by this story, and overwhelmed with the emotion behind it. It was awww. It was wow. It was (sniff)(sniffle)(sniff). It was WOW. HOLY WOW.

A Little Sweet to Cut the Salty by Sophie Hudson I downloaded this on my Kindle, as I wanted to read it before I read what I really wanted to read (huh?), which was Sophie’s newest book, Home is Where My People Are. I was introduced to Sophie via another blogger and author I’ve recently started following, Melanie Shankle. A Little Sweet was entertaining, but didn’t have much substance. Several of the essays did make me shrug my shoulders and laugh about how culture in the south of the SAME COUNTRY I live in can be crazy and different and hilarious. Still planning to read Home.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty I waited ages to jump on the Moriarty bandwagon. Secret didn’t disappoint. Crazy fast read, but that might have been because I read it while on vacay in Scottsdale sans kids and had little else to do but read and sit by the pool, read and sit in the spa, read and stare up at the mountains. Fantastic character development. The plot moved along quickly. Looking forward to picking up another Moriarty title.

Seeing Grey in a World of Black and White by Adam Hamilton My pastor has written ~20 books, and I’m slowly working my way through them. Seeing Grey is organized into neat and short chapters, which was a good thing as this book’s not necessarily a fast read. Pastor Adam’s intellectual approach to faith and religion is fascinating to me. Right up my alley. Love this book for braving so many of the controversial and dividing aspects of the Christian faith and offering thoughtful questions, evidence to support both sides, and encouragement to form your own opinions.

 

So. What have you been reading lately? Anything recommendable? Have you read anything by Moriarty? Have you read Girl on the Train? Or anything by Nora?

In book geekery,

AS

 

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A friend once told me that what readers really want to read from writers is the real stuff. The real life.

I read Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton a couple months ago, recommended it to my sister-in-law, and then said YES! when she realized that Glennon had an event in Des Moines coming up and asked if I wanted to attend.

I road-tripped the three hours north with the girls, arriving in tact albeit a little frayed around the edges.

Let’s just say they decided to have screaming contests. My kids did. Screaming contests while I was still in the car, you know, trying to drive. For several hours on end. It was the best.

Anyway, my parents watched the girlies the next day when we attended the event. I ate a lunch that someone else made on a plate that someone else would wash afterwards, including chocolate cake and hot black coffee. And 1200 of us attendees ate and listened to Glennon speak and I took frantic notes in my journal like I just didn’t care and the entire event raised money and awareness for a charity that saves babies.

It was bliss, is what I’m saying.

I’ve read Glennon’s book, obviously, and I’ve read quite a bit of content on her blog, but seeing her in person was still a feast for my mama soul and writer soul and just my Soul all around. I soaked her in. And I let her words inspire me. Remind me. Because I had been inspired when I read her book, but we all know that inspiration without immediate action is just entertainment.

She talked about many subjects, but one that is still swirling around my head four days later is about the little voice in our head. The one that urges you to do things, sometimes scary, vulnerable things. The one that we often ignore. At least I do.

I believe that that voice is God, or at least something related to God, but whether you share that belief, or consider your voice something that comes from the universe or your own sub-conscious or the burrito you ate for lunch, I’m fairly certain it would behoove us all to listen to it.

Be still, Glennon said. Be still and listen.

Listen to your voice.

And then act.

I’ve been feeling for weeks that I need to do more writing. The narrator in me is constantly writing things, but I’m losing them. They aren’t being recorded and so piff they’re gone. I am convincing myself that the reason I’m not really writing much right now is because a) I have tiny babies and TIRED, b) when/if I dedicate a few minutes every day to work, it should be immediate income-producing work, and writing about my day or my feelings or my whatever is not that, c) TIRED, d) writing is scary, because what if people read it?, and e) I forgot what e was because TIRED.

Those are all good reasons to be ignoring the voice in my head. Strong, valid reasons. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

Also, I can ignore the voice easier if I just stay busy. Have one minute when both girls are occupied happily in the back yard? Do the dishes, Annie! Figure out what we should make for dinner tomorrow night! Write that check and get it into the mail! Finish earmarking that catalog because your home office probably needs a desk and you need to pick one!

Be still, Glennon said.

So I’m trying. I’m trying to try.

Write more, Annie, the voice says. About real life. Don’t overthink it.

So I’m going to.

Hugs,

AS

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What’s inspiring me lately

January 22, 2015

Beyond the obvious (my family), my number one source of inspiration, creativity, and joy lately is my home.

I know! Who woulda thunk it.

My creativity the past couple years has really centered around our home. It has inspired me to paint, craft, create, imagine, re-do, and experiment in ways that have stretched my brain and made me smile. And don’t even get me started on the number of trips to Hobby Lobby. I have never simultaneously hated and loved a store more in my entire life.

I suppose having children and the changes that went along with that – my time, focus, love, priorities – started the shift. I’m not really sure. All I know is that if you told me I had a babysitter coming over in five minutes to take care of my kids and an assistant to take care of my To Do list, I would hightail it to the closest home store and get lost for the entire rest of the day. And I would be swinging through Caribou first for a dark chocolate mocha, but I’m pretty sure that’s a given.

When I wake up, I want to paint something.

When I have a thirty second break during the day when the girls are eating or sleeping or playing quietly, I want to read design blogs.

When we’re finished with dinner and the girls are in bed, I want to pour that glass of wine and wander up to our attic closet to stare at the pile of currently unused decorating accessories, sipping away and scheming which table/shelf/wall I want to attack next and how I can totally remove the back of that frame and paint the inside with that test pot of that grass green color I picked up at Lowe’s last year and then mount that sand dollar I picked up on Kiawah Island in the middle and add it to the gallery in EJ’s room and…and…and…

It’s not just a love of all things home, as I’ve always loved “home stuff.” Before, that love was lived out by the parusal of Pottery Barn catalogs and the twice-yearly jaunts around the local spring and fall homes tours. Today, it looks different. Today it’s more hands-on, involving more personal touches, more meaningful pieces, and even things I thought I would never be into, like creating my own curtains and picking up furniture pieces at thrift stores.

I want to create. Writing is hard for me right now and takes dedicated, forced focus. So my home is the next easiest target.

What’s even better: this newfound love of all things home is bubbling up inspiration in other areas of my life, too. Gifts? Thoughtful gestures? Cooking? Baking? Book selection? Real estate? Marketing? Everything from what I now gift to my husband to what I contribute when attending a dinner party to how I brainstorm our next real estate move is the better for it. I’d argue that even the contents of my Amazon shopping cart are more fun and interesting because of it.

It’s fun. And all of it is yet another wonderful way to embrace the directions my mind wants to go. Our home is new-to-us, needs a full remodel, and is years away from being complete. I’m not a professional designer or decorator. Nor an artist.

New mantra: it doesn’t have to be perfect to inspire. Me or others.

Also: it doesn’t have to be perfectly complete to satisfy.

This is my attempt at hugging it out with our Still Very Brown foyer. Giving love to an ancient IKEA lamp and a picture frame I’ve had since college displaying an Etsy artist’s shot of one of the famous clocktowers in KC’s Country Club Plaza. I smile every time I walk by the silver bowl (purchased at a Minnesota lake boutique) filled with lake rocks (I pick them up. I’m weird.) sitting atop a lopsided pile of books.

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Accidental selfie. #smooth New IKEA mirrors that my daughter helped me arrange and stick to the wall. I think about her every time I see them. Pebbley vase from same Minne boutique, filled with faux cattails. I heart Minnesota lake country. This table proves that. The end.

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Blown up iPhone photos (except second one from the left, which is courtesy of our wedding photographer) printed at Costco, Mod Podge’d onto discount canvas from Hobby Lobby, stamped on top with another canvas and more MP to create a canvasy feel. Moral of the story: everyone thinks the images are really printed on the canvas and everyone and their dog comments on this wall of photos when they visit our house. EVERYONE.

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It is seriously one of the most commented upon things in our entire home, which I think is a riot because, umm, our sunroom looks ATROCIOUS. Not decorated. Not updated. Not…anything. Except for these photos on the back wall, that are really only there because they looked too crazy and distracting on the fireplace mantel where I initially planned for them to go. Seeing the photos reminds me of two things: 1) the memories made on each trip during which the photo was taken, and 2) that Addy helped me hang them up and was SO PROUD of herself for doing so. Worth it. Time not wasted. I think I might actually have pics of her helping, hold on…yup, here they are:

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A (getting there) organized playroom, finally, that thrills both girls to no end. And is grounded by the rose pink rug that used to be in Addy’s first nursery in our old house. #tear The clock was a wedding gift. Fabric is IKEA that I literally just stuck to the wall with tape, but it has leaves on it. I have a thing for leaves. And trees! Leaves and trees are my jam. Framed posters my husband has owned since is his first apartment right out of college.

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Special dates artwork I made in MS Word, colored-in our wedding date with a red pencil, and stuck inside a shadow box we already owned with the glass removed.

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The Tiffany-style lamps over the basement bar wouldn’t have ever been something I chose, but I like them and plan to keep them. I like seeing them and thinking about the history of our home, how it’s ours now but how Ours Now is affected in small lovely ways by It Was Once Theirs. That’s kind of cool to think about. Wine cork S I made while we were still in the old house, because Hubz threatened to throw out all the corks if I didn’t do something with them. During the move I had to transport it in my car, as I was afraid that the 59.7 hours spent gluing the corks would be lost if I tried to pack it into a box for the moving company. I mounted it on black fabric inside an old frame I think I purchased from Michaels five or six years ago.

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Pretty toys make me happy. Vases I once purchased at a small art show before I had children, now filled with said children’s colored pencils, also a happy-maker. A full series of good children’s books, yes please. (Will you marry me, Sandra Boynton? Why do my kids love your books so much? Why do *I* love your books so much? Please divulge your secrets. Thank you.)

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My home is equally a source of and result of my inspiration, which is cool. There are a million quotes about houses and homes and how they mean so much, and I agree with just about every one of them. It’s a special place, this place where we lay down our heads, where we live our lives, where we create.

Hope to share more of it with you soon.

What’s inspiring you lately?

Hugs,

AS

 

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Last week I hit Submit on the withdrawal request from Amazon Payments into my bank account, sending the Kickstarter funds my way direction, where I then immediately sent them on to the illustrator.

Just now I found a fully completed draft of a blog post all about the Kickstarter campaign that I never published. Which means the number of blog posts on one of my most public platforms (this website) about one of the biggest projects I’ve ever launched (the children’s book campaign) added up to: zero. Nice going, Annie! Way to be efficient with your marketing efforts.

This morning we all ate healthy breakfasts and delighted ourselves with a game of peekaboo lead mostly and hilariously by my 10 month-old. I made four loaves of banana bread with my oldest daughter, ate a solid lunch, and never had to issue a timeout or calm a meltdown.

The living room and foyer of my home haven’t seen a dust rag since Thanksgiving and the laundry basket filled with dirty clothes has been sitting in the middle of the dining room since Thursday.

Last weekend I added a new marketing strategy to my efforts to continually grow my Vemma business and I’m feeling awesome about it.

My business is still so small in the grand scheme of things that I’m often overcome with feelings of immense loss and guilt at the amount of money we’re leaving on the table.

Our two rental properties have been (knock on wood) smooth sailing lately, and we’re thrilled with the accumulation of our LLC’s bank account after nominal effort from us.

We’re frustrated that we haven’t made a deal to flip a house or two yet. These deals are everywhere, all the time, and we haven’t found one because…we haven’t tried.

We have lived in our current home more than a year now, and are making progress daily in regards to updating, furnishing, and decorating it.

When I walk in I still see undecorated, unremodeled, barely furnished rooms from 1982 that leave me feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Ying and yang. Up and down. Hee and haw (huh?).

This is life lately, I feel like. For me. For us. (For everyone, perhaps.)

Everything has to do with your point of view and every, single thing and area and person in our lives can be evaluated as something joyfully fantastic or utterly disappointing.

I’m pretty sure this is just what life is. The good with the bad. Appreciating and acknowledging Good while embracing Bad because wouldn’t Good look much less rosey without it? And isn’t that where growth lies? And without growth there is, what…boredom? No fun? Stagnation?

What a yucky word.

I still have work to do in this department, this Embrace All The Things department, but I’m getting better at it. Good and bad. Up and down. I’m getting better at finding contentment – such a powerfully simple word – in both.

I can do it, I’ve found my self-talk saying lately.

I can do this. We can do this. You can do this.

It is what it is; the goods and the bads. For now. We’re growing and changing and evolving and tomorrow the goods will be greater and the bads will be lessened, and tomorrow there will be different goods and new bads. Always. Neverending.

And that’s okay. I’m content about it. More laid back, perhaps. Or just…okay with it all. A feeling of working hard and playing hard and leaving stress where it needs to be, which 99.9% of the time is on the backburner, at best.

Goods and Bads, Goods and Bads, Goods and Bads. Or maybe more like Goods and Not So Goods But That’s Okay.

I’m growing to appreciate them all, and admire the ebbs and flows of life. Family, work, home. It’s a messy and tangled web.

(See what I just did there? The photo of her hair, then the mention of a tangled web? Full circle. You’re welcome, I’m here all day.)

Happy Monday, friends.

Hugs,

AS

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