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I think sometimes it’s important for us to write stories that are painful for us to write. 

Stories that feel like they’re wrenching themselves from our very souls. 

Stories that hurt a little too much because they’re real; they’re what we’re actually feeling deep inside. 

I think it’s important because there is going to be someone who reads that, and thinks I hurt like that. They’re writing about me, how did they know. 

And there is something so important about that connection that we, as the reader, make with the writer. 

I recently read a book by Donald Miller- possibly my favorite writer of all time- and in this book he wrote about how it felt to be so heartbroken that it feels like your chest is ripping open and you’re bleeding out. He wrote about the visceral, physical pain of heartache. 

I cried when I read that; I sat in the living room in the dark and sobbed. 

I cried for Don, because it broke my heart to read about his pain, and I cried because I know what that pain is like. 

I cried because I know what it’s like to hurt like this. You’re writing about me, Don, how did you know. 

And in a way I felt stronger after that. 

Twine wrapped antlers lined the ceiling. Some were old, at least as old as Granddad could remember. It was cool in the basement, dim and smelling of earth and potatoes. I found myself there often, eyes tracing the curves of each tine, letting the hum of the woodstove fan and the creaking of the settling house overtake the storm of thoughts. It was somehow easier that way, to stand under the earth, away from the cold air that tried to push snow under the door, and the grey skies. I was twenty-one and had lost everything.

The little house was on a hill, looking down at the wind-ravaged sea, and I knew I had heard a song about it at one time. Music was an anchor to me in those days, and I would let the melancholy strains of folk and bluegrass sink into the weathered boards of my attic room while the muslin curtains were gradually soaked through and crusted with the salt breezes. It was February in New England and the sun couldn’t find its way through the pale clouds. I was twenty-one and had a hole in my heart and silver rings on my fingers.DSC_0272

Rings that were tight in the mornings and loose in the evenings and became tangled in my waves of pale auburn hair when I twisted it into a knot at the crown of my head. The red came from Granddad. There were still traces of it in his carefully groomed beard, trailing out from sea-weathered skin to mingle with the silver-white.

He had mom’s eyes, that crystal clear between blue and green, and on days when I couldn’t meet his gaze he would open all the windows, and let the fire blaze, and bring in kittens from the woodshed. They were wild, windswept little greylings, but they would sink tiny claws into his woolen trousers to scale him like a tree, and they would settle, curled against his chest, cupped gently in salty, hook-scarred hands.

He would smile, fine lines reaching from the corners of his eyes to the ginger-grey temples, and more often than not I found I could look at him again. I was twenty-one, and had a house full of the elements and a gentle old man and his kittens.

It was a Friday that changed things. I didn’t know it was the fourteenth, and if I did I wouldn’t have cared that it was Valentine’s Day. To me it was just another of those days. The ones that were harder than most. My hands shook when I tried to do careful things, and despite the drafts of wind that drove sheets of rain across the sky I couldn’t stop opening the windows. Granddad kept the stove well stoked, his Wellies a familiar creak on the stairs while I washed dishes and let salt cake on my hair and dry lips from the rain and wind coming in through the open windows.

On days like this we would pry open a jar of home-canned clams and make chowder and corn pone. Lay out the linen napkins, stoneware bowls and pewter spoons as nice as though they were fine china and silver. We wouldn’t know what to do with china and silver anyways, Granddad always reminded me, and I always agreed, relishing the rough edges of the stone under my fingertips.

A storm rolled in, darkening the late afternoon prematurely, but the windows stayed open. At some point I had managed to explain, my words strangling me, that they suffocated me sometimes when they were closed. So open they stayed, and we never needed to talk about it again. I was twenty-one, and felt anxiety from closed windows, yet drew solace from the lashing storms.

Granddad was on his little wooden stool in the corner of the kitchen, peeling potatoes with a paring knife. I set the cast-iron pan of pone on the back of the stove to keep warm, and then faced the storm darkened window over the sink to begin dicing the peeled potatoes. Granddad brushed the back of my neck softly with his knuckles when he leaned past me to set some potatoes in the sink, and that’s when my hands started to tremble almost violently.
DSC_0267    He didn’t notice, went back to his quiet stool and the kittens that twined round his wool-wrapped ankles, and I squeezed the blur from my eyes and tried to make the knife in my hands stop shaking. The next thing I knew there was a red-streaked potato in the sink and I was staring down at a slick, crimson smear of opened flesh on my palm. It was a testament to my numbness that I didn’t respond to the instinctual urge to stem the flow of blood and apply pressure to the wound.

I turned then, my breath starting to hitch in my chest as I held my shaking hands out in front of me. Blood slid in sluggish rivulets down my wrist and my other hand fumbled to press on the weeping line, sending a red-stained ring tumbling to the floor with a muffled clink. I watched it roll across the boards, before it finally settled tremulously, leaving droplets of blood in its wake.

A kitten slipped from Granddad’s lap to pounce on the tainted silver, only to shake its paw in annoyance at the viscous liquid that clung to its silken fur, and it was that sudden movement that caught his attention. His gaze rose to me immediately and he tensed on his stool, though he made no move toward me, instead letting a potato roll from his fingers back into the basket. His brow wrinkled with worry, but he just looked at me, and I knew he was waiting for me to ask.

To ask for help, something that had stuck in my throat for months, strangling me with the prospect of frightening vulnerability. I looked at the person who had been just waiting, with open hands, to catch me when I fell, and felt my eyes fill. I cut myself, I whispered, and those hands were suddenly close, cupping my face briefly, catching my elbow gently to turn me back to the sink.

A clean towel found its way into my hand, careful pressure causing a shock of not unpleasant pain to shoot up into my arm, and I let my fingers instinctively curl to grip the worn fabric tight. The tremble had bled from my hands all up through my arms and into my chest, and I could feel myself shaking. I was twenty-one and a cut on my hand was breaking me more thoroughly than the touch of loss.

Granddad was talking, and only when I looked up at him did his words register with me. –not bad. He was saying. It’s not so bad. You’ll be alright. It’s not bad.

Only it was, and I couldn’t escape the fact. My heart had in it a sharper ache than the sting on my hand, and it was only now spilling out, after months of my not knowing what to do with it. Letting it out had never seemed an option until now, and that realization struck a bitter chord within me, forcing a tiny broken sound from my lips.

My grandfather wrapped his arms around me then, trapping my bloody hand firmly against his chest, and I finally let myself give in. The wind lashed no less fiercely at the open window, the elements still inexplicably determined to remove us with no trace that we were ever here. I was vaguely aware of kitten paws on my feet and a tiny, warm body pressed to my ankle, odd details standing out vividly as I gave in and released the pain of loss.

I was twenty-one and was learning to let go.

Twice I have aspired to participate in this phenomenon which is called NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. That is, the month of November. If you haven’t heard of it, the idea is to set a word goal for yourself, and using the provided website and other participants for encouragement, pound out a novel in one month. Suffice it to say I failed miserably both times, barely reaching several thousand words.

It was discouraging, making me feel as though I must not /really/ want to be a writer, if I can’t make myself just sit down and write. Both times I became frustrated with myself, and probably ended up hardly writing for weeks afterward, due to being burnt out on trying to make it work; trying to force myself to write something that I hadn’t even worked out a plot for. Ultimately, it felt like I had failed before I even began.

I refuse to do that again.

It is a wonderful idea, and it works for very many people, but not for me. Just because something is a good thing, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for you personally. While self-enlightenment does tend to be a bit of an overstated thing these days, it is important to recognize things about yourself and how you work- physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually- as to live in a way that is wholesome, healthy, and beneficial to you and those that you care about.

That said, this November I will not burden myself with the goal to create. Creating, for me, shouldn’t be a goal or a deadline, it should be a pouring of soul into words and images.

So. This November, what I’m going to do instead is complete the 30-day Minimalist Challenge. Day one, you get rid of one thing. Day two- two things. And so on and so forth. I have always been way too materialistic, and it’s starting to clutter up my life, my living space, my mind, everything. I have too many things that fall under the category of “I’ll make something with it someday” or “It might be useful to have around someday”.

It will more than likely be a bit of a challenge, I fully acknowledge that, especially because lately I’ve been working hard to adopt more of a minimalistic lifestyle and therefore have already been getting rid of things left and right. I still have too much stuff though, so this November I’m letting it go.

I’m letting physical belongings go, and I’m going to try and let circumstances that are beyond my control go as well. I’m going to try and let crippling doubts and worries go. I’m going to let go of a performance based lifestyle and instead do the things that need done and that I love to do simply because that’s what I want to do, and that is what’s best for me. I am going to let go of my fear of being vulnerable. I am going to let go of the notion that circumstances are anything but what they are simply because I am met with disapproval or disdain.

So there. I’m letting go of the things that honestly matter much less than we generally think they do, and I’m letting go of unfair obligations I place upon myself to try and be someone. I am someone. Maybe I’m someone who forgets to brush my teeth, and binge-watches Netflix, and says things I shouldn’t to people who may or may not deserve it, but I am someone.

I don’t need to “better myself'”, I just need to do things that are better. Like letting crap go.

I will be cataloging the things I get rid of, and will probably post updates here on how things are going, how it’s affecting me mentally, etc.

Peace- A

eucharisteo

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No. 1 Reason Why I Got A Tattoo
I like how they look, plain and simple.
I think they’re a beautiful, artistic way to express yourself, and in many ways they’re a lovely form of expression on the part of the tattoo artist. It takes a lot of talent, patience, practice, confidence, and I admire them for that. I think that tattoos (if they are tasteful, and not obscene or disturbing) should really begin to lose the “evil” reputation that they seem to have. Having a tattoo in no way, shape, or form has any effect on who you are inside. It is simply an outside decoration of our earthly bodies.

No. 1 Reason Why I Got THIS Tattoo
Eucharisteo. It’s a fairly revolutionary way of thinking about life. What it means is this:
“A Greek word meaning thanksgiving, to be thankful.
Envelopes the Greek root word charis meaning grace, and the derivative chara which is Greek for joy.
He took the bread, and knew it to be a gift and gave thanks. We too participate in eucharisteo in communion and in life if we so choose.”

Courtesy of the Urban Dictionary. Yes, it has its uses.
So basically, the idea of eucharisteo is that when we live with Grace, that enables us to be Thankful, even through the trials in life, and from the thankfulness comes Joy.

It’s a beautiful idea, and one that has completely changed the way I look at life and live from day to day.

So that’s why I got a tattoo that says eucharisteo. Every single time I see that, I will remember. Every time. Every day.

The nest and flowers? Well, the nest because that’s what is on the cover of the book that taught me about eucharisteo. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. And the flowers because I thought they were pretty.
And that’s pretty much it.

Disclaimers: I will not regret my tattoo ever. I do not care what it makes people think of me. I do not care what it will look like when I’m old.

Don’t Be Afraid

Life is just too dang short.

You forget that, and you hold back. You get nervous, or scared, and don’t do things that you should do. You don’t say things that you should say, because you’re afraid that the time’s not right. But if the time’s always not right, then when will it be?

You have got to stop waiting. It’s time to be amazing. Even if being amazing only entails being glad to go to work. Or being thankful that you’ve got the things that you have got.

You’ve got to be amazing because if you don’t start sometime, you’ll only have a few years left to be amazing. And I know that you’ve got plenty of amazing to add to this world, so how can you keep holding that back?

If you compare the things that scare you now to things in life that are truly terrifying, you might start to realize that it’s silly to be scared of those things. You might start to realize that it’s easier than you think to conquer those fears, and when you do you’ll be able to look back and laugh at how silly you were to fear these things.

And so I urge you, next time you become scared of something, and you wonder if maybe you shouldn’t really be frightened, decide that you don’t have time for this. Fear does not control you, or any part of your life.

Decide that the time for being afraid is over, and be amazing.

Life is too short to be afraid.

DSC_0326_DxO

Writer’s Block.

It’s not what you think it is. It’s not where you think it is. It just doesn’t work like you think it does, like it sounds like it ought to.

It’s terrible, that much is true. Claustrophobic, frustrating, stressful, depressing- the works. When it’s there, you feel like it will never end, like you will always have this inability, this ineptitude, to actually write your thoughts down and communicate like a literate, intelligent person.

Here’s the thing.

It’s a mental block, but like I said, it’s not where you think it ought to be. It’s not blocking the words from flowing around in your head. It’s not keeping you from thinking of beautiful adjectives and gloriously structured sentences. I mean, sometimes it does, but usually not. They’re all there, in your head, banging around something awful, creating a racket that you’re surprised can’t be heard outside your mind.

So get this.

How this “block” causes trouble, is by keeping the words from flowing through your fingers. It traps them in your already panicking brain, and mixes them all up and makes a mess, and even though you try as hard as you can, there’s no way to make them sprout from the end of a pen, no way to string them together on the keyboard, and they’re all just… there. Wanting to come out, wanting to trip across the paper, or the screen, wanting to make sense, to reach out and grab people right by the brain lobes and scream “look at this” and mean something to them, and touch their hearts like only the right words can.

But they’re blocked.

Just… drifting little words, and after a while they start to dissipate, fade away into the recesses of your stressed mind, and sometimes a blankness follows. Sometimes the block is stubborn enough that after a while there’s just nothing left. No words, no sentences, eventually no desire. Blankness, and you wonder why you want to be a writer, and you wonder what you were thinking, and you worry that you can’t write well anyways, and you worry that your words never touch anyone, and no one really likes it but maybe they just say they do to be nice and-

Blocked.

Writer’s block screws with your head, no doubt about it. It makes you doubt yourself, lose faith, become depressed, a myriad of things, or if you’re like me it just makes you irrationally angry and restless and more than a little hysterical.

So I’ll finish with a good thing, because there is one.

Writer’s Block doesn’t last.

Let me say that again.

Writer’s. Block. Doesn’t. Last.

Okay? So get that into your head right now and try not to forget it because I promise, I promise, it’s true. And I’m speaking from experience here. It may last days, weeks, maybe only hours, but it will end. It won’t be when you want it to, it won’t be like you expect it to be, but it will be wonderful, and you’ll know it when you see it, trust me.

It will hit suddenly, and you’ll probably be doing something, maybe something important, like sleeping, and you’ll all of a sudden realize that if you don’t have a pen in your hand right now and a paper to word-vomit onto you’re going to spontaneously combust. There’ll be just as many words and ideas in your head as before, when the block was there, but this time they’ll all be clamoring at the entrance, all trying to spill out at once, and your hand won’t be able to keep up with them, but they’ll all come out anyways, all messy and misspelled and beautiful because my gosh you’re writing again and it’s working and it feels so so amazing and there’s nothing quite like it in this whole wide world.

Amazing.

It’s amazing, that’s all there is to it. Impossible for someone who doesn’t write to understand completely, but that’s okay because obviously their talents lie elsewhere, and that’s just fine.

But all you writers out there, just remember, it ends.

Otherwise known as a Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Tart.

DSC_0072Yeah, you read that right. I made it over the holidays, and it was flipping amazing, let me tell you. It didn’t last long enough, as per usual in our household, but it was really amazing with the pumpkin pie liqueur we had…

DSC_0077And since it was the beautiful holidays, I had access to a perfect little setting for my gorgeous tart pictures.

DSC_0080So, what we’re looking at here, is a basic tart crust, a layer of orange custard, a massive layer of orange/chocolate ganache, and finally chopped hazelnuts on top (which unfortunately I forgot to toast before putting on)

DSC_0085But it was amazing anyways. So there. I would make it again in a heartbeat, and really should some day.

This has been another Food Blog.
Peace out, homies.

-A

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