Monday, January 30, 2012

Project 52: thirty-four

I barely took any pictures this week, thus the somewhat half-hearted photo of my lunch as sole representative for week 34 of Project 52. This feels kind of appropriate. My week was full -- so full -- of good contact with good people, a pattern that's reoccurred throughout these first few weeks of 2012. It's been energising to reconnect with old friends outside of term-time, and to find new inroads into fresh friendships that promise good things in the future.

Queensland has been grey for days, grey and thick and damp and stifling. We've had more rain this January than we did last January -- the month of those fateful floods -- and everything is wet. The damp breeds with damp and creates a kind of breathy claustrophobia that makes me yearn for sun and air movement.

Then there was this weekend, and news upon news of intense grief reaching in and snatching loved ones away from their nests. First, friends of my grandparents and their loss of a grown child. Then, news that a woman who buried her little son only three months ago is now called upon to bury her husband, too. Finally, the incomprehensible report of the tragic accidental death of a five-year-old boy, the firstborn son of a couple we have known since before they were even together, let alone parents. The weight, the intensity, of that kind of grief seems like a heaviness impossible to bear. But that's what I've been praying, in the moments when my prayers make any sense at all.

So that is why having a good photo for my picture project this week doesn't seem that important, not in the scheme of things. And I wonder why I even care that it's too humid or that I have writing deadlines approaching or that I'm going to spend a day with a friend tomorrow, talking and laughing and watching silly movies. But this is life. There's happiness and hard work and silliness and mistakes and hopes -- and sometimes in the middle of it all, there is loss and there is sadness, even the secondhand kind that can only look from a distance at others' sorrows and grieve for their grief.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Breaking rules and making art:

I think my nature as a rule-keeper was cemented at birth. In that first lusty swallow of earth's atmosphere, I became not only a firstborn child -- inheriting a bossy gene I've been trying to work out of my system ever since -- but also a Danielle. Danielle is the feminine form of Daniel, which in the Hebrew means 'God is my judge'. That's some serious motivation for having a strong conscience right there.

Most of the time, a strong conscience and a wholesome sense of right and wrong are a real blessing. Playing by the rules -- sticking to speed limits, not burning copies of DVDs, returning library books relatively on time, not mouthing off to those older than me -- has never been much of a challenge. On the other hand, I seem to have this crazy and generally subconscious need to create rules for my life.

As if the standards of godliness and human ethics and social conduct are not enough, I create unintentional mental lists of rules: rules for being a good daughter; rules for how to pray 'properly'; rules for being a fun aunt; rules for being a really truly writer; rules to put myself in a box and chase my own tail around. Then I lament when I fail to keep those rules. Then I laugh (or pull out my hair) when I realise that I made those rules up; they don't actually matter.

The thing is, rules are mostly great. When they are big -- like state and national laws -- they help life as a society function in healthier, smoother ways. When they are small -- like notes for a design brief or editorial guidelines -- they can actually foster creativity. Working within boundaries may stretch us in ways that total uninhibited freedom never could. If two people were both to offer me a blank sheet of paper and one instructed me to do whatever I want with it, while the other told me to show them something I care about, the second instruction is the one that would get my creative juices flowing. A little boundary can lead to big ideas.

All of which is my long and oddly deep segue into talking about something much more concrete: the fun I'm having with Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal. The staid little rule-keeper in me is very much relishing the challenge of being told to crack the spine of a book, to jump up and down on a book, to give it to someone else and let them do something destructive to it. Let me tell you, I have many self-made rules about the care and protection of books, and most of them involve decidedly anti-destructive behaviour. It's good to be reminded that it's all just paint and ink on a page and none of it will last forever anyway.

Balancing that out, the creative rule-lover in me -- the part that sees a boundary and leaps ahead to get all sorts of ideas on how to work within it -- is enjoying the sparse, simple instructions (in one sense, rules) of Wreck This Journal. They're rules which are open to so many different interpretations that they're not really rules at all. And that makes for fun creative experimentation.

* * * * *


Anonymous -- :D

Thelittlebluefishy -- sometimes it isn't even checking those items off a list that's encouraging, but the mere fact of starting on them and being in the process itself offers so much hope and inspiration. Good luck with your list!

Lauren -- I got them from Target. $2 a pack!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Project 52: thirty-three

-- it's the little things.

* * * * *


Katie -- agreed! Although striking a balance is always my challenge. Often, if I start chores in the morning, I'll just keep on doing odd jobs all day because I've gotten into that Betty Homemaker zone and have trouble switching off and getting into other work. I think I figure I'm already hot and sweaty and my hair is falling in my face, so why not? But a little bit of everything really works so much better!

Un -- and I have you to thank for that ;). One day we'll opshop it up together once more.

Lauren -- let's plan an opshop crawl -- and garage saleing! I'm not sure if I can do this Saturday but we should do something SOON.

Sarah -- it's very rare that I'll ever get everything crossed off my to-do list in the one day. Then again, if I don't make a to-do list in the first place, I don't get anything done.

Staish -- yes! Photo walk!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high:

It's summertime, and the livin' is perhaps not quite as easy as Ira Gershwin made out. But it is full and it is good.

Remember my dreamy Summer to-do list? I've continued to add to it, on various little scraps of paper and other useful internet listmaking devices:
  1. read and comment on my friends' blogs on a regular basis
  2. write letters!
  3. plan a really good daily menu
  4. go garage saleing
  5. spend some sunsets out on the Point
  6. read Crossed by Ally Condie
  7. continue working through Wreck This Journal
  8. start reading Finish this Book
  9. blog about them both!
  10. write an end-of-year-newsletter (it didn't happen last year; boo!)
  11. call my niece and nephew on the phone more
  12. do chores in the mornings rather than in odd snatches here and there
  13. look at Christmas lights!
  14. go to a carols evening
  15. watch a movie in the middle of the day
  16. cook meals for my family
  17. go on a photo walk with Staish (not sure if she knows this is happening :D)
  18. bake peanut butter brownies and other ridiculously unhealthy things with flour and sugar and (preferably) chocolate
  19. get my hands on a copy of Prized by Caragh O'Brien and READ IT
  20. re-read the Hunger Games trilogy
  21. go see the Look! exhibit at the State Library of Queensland
  22. go see Matisse: Drawing Life at GOMA
  23. go on an opshop crawl
Revisiting the list now, I'm amused by its randomness and the juxtaposition of things I feel are really important (like writing letters to far-off friends) close by things that really don't matter all that much (like watching a movie in the middle of the day, just because). I'm also surprised by how many of those little happy things were actually achieved in amongst all the fun and busyness of Christmas and New Year. Numbers 3, 5, 7, 12, 16, and 20, on the other hand, are all currently mid-process.

Of course, I had a more serious Summer to-do list written in my planner, too. It included words to the effect of WRITE THINGS AND SEND THEM PLACES DANIELLE OR ELSE, and while there has been ample opportunity to spend time with loved ones and accept social invitations and generally do nice things, in the between-times I've really been relishing the chance to apply seat-of-pants to chair and work on editing and polishing and refining and sending. Friends, it is ten million times nicer to return to a piece of work after an absence of a day or two rather than weeks or months. You don't waste all that brain and heart time finding your place in the work once more and stifling the little demon on your shoulder telling you that you're really rubbish at this and shouldn't you just go ahead and clean the microwave instead. Not that I'm not scared, of course; you who know me well know that being scared is one of my exceptional (yet very much unwanted) talents. But it's easier to push past the scared when you're actually getting work done rather than merely wishing you could get to it.

And another thing I'm learning: no matter how many words you've cut from the story, you can always cut more. It's like the loaves and fishes, only in reverse -- a miracle!

What's Summer been teaching you?

* * * * *


Un -- man definitely won that one... although it's wild that gets the attention so... who knows?

Lauren -- :D

Monday, January 16, 2012

Project 52: thirty-two

-- man vs. wild.

* * * * *


Laura Elizabeth -- I LOVE this quote and I love the beautiful typography layout of the version you linked to. It's amazing!

Caitlin -- that is a brilliant quote! (PS. It's a pretty cute movie, too).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The secret life of a storyteller:

Ira Glass was excellent.

Let me tell you about it, in a selection of jumbled paragraphs.

Some of you probably know that I generally avoid gigs because I really don't like the idea of celebrity -- this concept of a handful of chosen ones locked away in an untouchable bubble. Look, admire, lust, wish, but definitely do not touch. What I hate most about that stuff is that it takes away the humanness of the person and our interconnectedness as a bunch of people all doing life on this planet. Well, there was nothing pretentious or separatist about Ira Glass. He remained steadfastly away from the pedestal while singing the praises of story and the human elements behind the story. It's what I've always loved about This American Life; it steers away from the facts and gets to the faces instead -- which is very, very cool.

The show, Reinventing Radio, began with a discussion of how Glass & Co wanted to approach radio journalism from a different angle, getting well away from the sensationalised, emphasise-certain-words-for-dramatic-effect kind of broadcasting we all know and only half listen to. But it soon switched gears and we saw Ira the preacher (are we on first-name basis now, Mr. Glass? I feel presumptuous) deliver a sermon on the power of story. He was warm, friendly, and approachable. I expected the show to be fun but I didn't expect it to be quite so funny, as well as just a little bit heartbreaking at times. Above all, I felt that Ira Glass was genuine. The little crack in his voice at the crux of Scheherezade's adventures in Arabian Nights confirmed it: this guy really cares about story.

The show was obviously thoughtfully prepared, yet also casual enough to allow for a little audience participation. Glass even managed to throw the word 'bogan' into his monologue. He needs some pointers as to exact usage, but it was a feat no less.

Glass was generous with his knowledge, experience, and encouragement. As a writer, I was greedy for more information about storycraft, and only wish I'd been able to take notes. He was real about the fact that if you want to be good at something, you have to start by being bad at it. This attitude -- the idea that starting at bad can actually lead to better -- makes the reality of storytelling more possible and more powerful. Ira Glass is testament to his own brilliant advice. He doesn't have the world's coolest radio voice. In fact, he admits himself that it's "nasally". Neither does he deliver flawless orations without skips or bumps. When it comes to the insertion of gratuitous 'likes' into the middle of sentences, Ira Glass and I are, like, total soul mates. But this is what's so cool about him. He's a normal (though admittedly more awesome than average) guy doing something that he cares about, and doing it confidently and well. Good stories told well -- that's the appeal.

One final thing: it was hipster paradise at the Powerhouse. So many slim-fit checked shirts! So many girls in fifties dresses and pixie haircuts! It made Laura and I and our mums laugh, but it was also pretty cool to realise that this thing that you and like two of your other friends love is actually something that a whole bunch of people love and have been loving steadily for quite a while. Nice.

* * * * *


Un -- :)

Laura -- that was my pre-Ira full-of-excitement post. This is my post-Ira-post. Wow. I just confused myself. Thank you for an excellent evening!

Mothercare -- indeed!

Bloss -- oh, when you have faster internet, do try again. I just know you'll fall in love with the stories, as I have :). I continue to find his advice encouraging, too. I think so often we can get bogged down or frightened away from creative endeavour because we think we have to be gifted and brilliant right from the very beginning. It's good to be reminded that there is room to grow. Caring and practicing is the best starting place. Improvement can come from there. So encouraging!
PS. <3

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oh my, it's Ira.

It's no particular secret that I think geeks are cool. Fictional nerds who come to mind include Abed Nadir, Connor Temple, and Riley Poole, but real life nerds are even better. I love their passion and zeal, their single-mindedness, their at-times awkward dress sense, and the fact that they wore hipster specs before hipsters did.

One of my favourite real-life chic geeks is Ira Glass, journalist and storyteller extraordinaire as well as host of probably the world's greatest podcast, This American Life. Tonight, I get to hang out with him (okay, and about two hundred other people) while he talks about life on the radio, being creative, and all of that stuff. I'm even more excited that I get to share the experience with my mum as well as Laura and her mum. The only person missing from the equation -- and she deserves to be there more than all of us -- is Ruth, the lady responsible for introducing me to This American Life in all of its storytelling glory. In a devious twist of fate, she's out of the country while Ira is in the country, which makes me sad.

If you haven't heard of This American Life, you've been missing out. Here are a few favourite podcasts for you to sharpen your teeth on:

The Invention of Money
Fear of Sleep
Act V
Switched at Birth

Ira Glass also said this. It's worth a revisit.

* * * * *


Anon 1 -- I do have excellent sisters. I suspect you are one of them.

Anon 2 -- you are awesome. I suspect you are also one of my sisters.

Anon 3 -- I suspect you are anon 1.

Cara -- what did you think of Prized? I didn't enjoy it half as much as Birthmarked. Too girl-caught-in-the-middle-of-a-love-square, which just seemed cheesy. I did like the new sci-fi twists the story took, though. Also, do you pronouce Caragh (as in O'Brien) the way you pronounce Cara? A friend and I were discussing this very thing.

Hannah -- you can always replace the book element with something else you enjoyed -- favourite recipes or places to visit or holidays or whatnot :).

Samantha R -- me, too! It'll be so fun if I can get it operational -- even if the pictures don't come out all that great.

Katie -- oh, do do! I would love to see what sort of pictures you capture with it!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Project 52: thirty-one

-- this, my friends, is a beautiful vintage Pentax ME Super,
a totally-out-of-the-blue gift from my sister, Lauren.
2012 project: see if I can get this baby up and running.
If not, it's just so pretty to look at.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Eleven in '11

I have a little stash of things that I love with a love that is large in part because no one else knows about those things. However, most of the time I'm more of an unintentional reverse hipster: instead of loving something before it's cool, I love it long after people have stopped remembering it ever was cool. That's why I'm posting a best-of-2011 list now, even though everyone else was doing things like this in December. I make no apologies. I'm a late bloomer.

As per my usual favouritism policy, I won't go so far as to say this list is my Absolutely Positively Top Eleven. I hate choosing favourites and I'd invariably change my mind tomorrow if I went so far as to decree unimpeachable favouriteness about any of these (except maybe items #10 and #11). Therein is my caveat, and here is my list of eleven greats of 2011:

1. [book] Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. This book didn't change my life and I could put it down between readings. But it's stayed with me because of its exquisite characterisation and beautiful writing. Stargirl is everything a YA book should be, and Jerry Spinelli is the man when it comes to fiction for younger readers.

2. [book] Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien. After the 2010 Hunger Games binge, it was always going to be hard to find any YA dystopia that could stand proudly next to Katniss and crew. So far, nothing has come close, but Birthmarked was an excellent story. I felt it needed more editing, but the story was good enough to keep me reading in spite of those flaws.

3. [book] Telling the Truth by Frederick Buechner. There is not enough Buechner in my life -- in anyone's life. This little book was a beautiful, poetic look at the amazing storyness of the Gospel. I reviewed it here.

4. [album] Love & War & the Sea in Between Josh Garrels. Josh Garrels is my favourite new-to-me artist. His music is an incredible melding of exquisite poetry, haunting melodies, a whole bunch of genres that nevertheless makes sense, and a Christ-centric message. I wish I knew how to review music better because his stuff deserves it. Just go listen already.

5. [album] Rehab LeCrae. So I like hip-hop and rap now. Who knew? LeCrae's music is excellent, and the lyrics are soaked in God-truths. This album was a timely blessing for my brain in 2011.

6. [film] The King's Speech, directed by Tom Hooper. I love history and I love films about history. More than that, however, I love films about people. This one ticks all the boxes and was an immaculate period drama that deserves every award it received. Also, we all now love George VI more than we did before.

7. [film] The Help, directed by Tate Taylor. (The book was even better, but this is my cheaty way of recommending them both.) The Help reminded me of how quickly we can forget the breadth of the mistakes that have been made. The race clashes The Help documents were happening just fifteen years before I was born; this stuff isn't old news, and it's told with beautiful characterisation, beautiful setting, and excellent actors.

8. [blog] The Accidental Traveler. Kate Andre's blog was a new discovery for me in early 2011, and I've been so blessed and challenged by it. The internet needs more blogs like this -- humble, sincere, genuine expositions of life and faith and motherhood and mistakes. I love it.

9. [blog] Everyday Isa. I found Isa's blog only a few months ago, but it has quickly become a favourite read. Isa discusses God and creativity and being a girl, and she really knows how to make nice words.

10. [person] Abby by Lauren and James. This chubby parcel of pink and blonde landed on the planet in May, and the world has never been the same since. I never knew people so small could have so much personality. She's beautiful.

11. [person] Daniel by Sam and Andrea. For a little man who's only six months old, already he exudes serenity and is the best variation of the strong, silent type: the strong, silent, smiling type. I have never met a more content little person in all my life. I'm honoured to know them both.

* * * * *


Joy -- yes, that's Lauren's little one. Isn't she precious?

Sarah -- I agree. They're little enough to be cute and squishy, but big enough to have their own developing personalities :).

Lauren -- thanks!

Un -- haha!! GOPEE yourself!

Jessica -- yes. Tongue was firmly in cheek, with a little happy sarcasm sprinkled on.

Hannah -- you are sweet! Thank you, on both counts!

Samantha R -- thanks for your sweet comments on my pics :).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Project 52: thirty

Because nothing says New Year's Eve like a chubby Australian baby sitting on a picnic rug eating sunscreen, am I right?

Project 52: twenty-nine

Christmas dinner in the Carey household.

(I entirely forgot about uploading any of my Project 52 pictures, so here they are now, belatedly)

* * * * *


Maddy -- and the same to you! Yes, it was definitely a lovely time with everyone -- so much laughing!

Carla and Alastair -- you are so right. On an episode of Gilmore Girls last night, Luke said something about how Lorelai was happy but she still seemed a bit sad. "Haven't you ever been around a woman?" was Lorelai's reply. I think growing up is kind of similar.

Katie -- as I hope for you :).

Thelittlebluefishy -- and the same to you! Your profile pic is super cute :).

Staish -- let's understand more, together!

Brenda -- if we could only shift the end of the year to a time less busy than the end of the year! ;)

Jessica -- yay! I'm glad it got to you safely.

Un -- :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


When I was in my early teens, a so much more grown up young woman friend of mine told me how she would meet each new year: at her little writing desk, with candles all around her, scribbling down her reflections on the end of the annum. It sounded amazing, and is probably a large part of the reason I want to get all reflective whenever the year draws to a close.

But new years around here invariably flip over amid a buzz of busyness, leaving little time for journal-scribbling, candlelighting, or serious pondering. It's inconsiderate, really; oughtn't a new year make its entrance at a less busy time than, you know, the end of the year? Nevertheless, even though I sometimes crave a stop-and-pause, I'd rather be living life at the end of the year than just reflecting on it.

Sometimes a new year feels more lonely than anything else. I think I'm an optimist because I seem to expect the best and then get disappointed when my dreams don't come true. And sometimes, the big moments remind me of what's missing from my life, rather than what's already there. This new year, however, there was no room for loneliness or loss. Instead, I was surrounded by my closest people -- my parents, my littlest brother, my sisters, and their adorable precious children.

All of us, the baby families branching off from the parent family, sat around for a big barbecue dinner together. We pulled crackers and read bad jokes and made glo-stick bracelets and haloes, even though the two brothers-in-law swore they wouldn't go out with us if we wore them, even though we swore we wouldn't take them off. The girls won, and the guys accompanied the glowing girls and the children down the hill where we met with hundreds of other locals for fireworks at 9pm. Grammy stayed home to mind the babies, who were sleeping, and Amelia promised she would 'remember all the colours to tell Grammy.'

Home again, the children went to bed and the guys went out for some late-night fishing, leaving my sisters and my parents and me. For just those few hours, and with the exception of my brother Nick in WA, it was like old times again before there were any weddings or babies or people living all over Australia. I wouldn't go back -- I don't think any of us would -- but it was special to be in that place for one evening, and we sat and ate chocolates and watched a movie together and rushed outside when midnight hit, shouting happiness in our own chilled way.

It was a good start to 2012, one that left me more satisfied and less introspective than some new years. I don't have any great conclusions drawn from the months of 2011, only that, as I told friends in my Christmas newsletter, it felt like a settled year, particularly externally. Internally, there is always more to learn. 2011 was the first year I felt genuinely worried about grown up things like financial stability and making preparations for the future. Of course, I've thought about those things a lot, but last year was the first time I really felt them lean toward me in a menacing way. 2011 was also the year I discovered not one but several grey hairs. Do these two events go hand-in-hand? Perhaps.

Life highlights life, it seems, and brings to light everything we are as well as everything we're not. Living with my family once again brought into sharp focus my at times life-sucking sense of insecurity and my failures to truly love as Christ teaches us to love. While I've heard forever that we must find our worth and our identity in Christ, I've never really understood what that meant. "That's just a pretty phrase and no one will explain to me how to do that!!" sums it up, basically. But over the past few months I've been mulling over this whole identity thing, and realising it goes way, way back to creation. Our worth -- my worth, your worth -- cannot stem from what we do or how we act, what we have or what we make, whether we are creative or fabulous or funny or sweet or loving or saintly or brave. Rather, this worth is something quite apart from us, imbued because we are made by a great God who saw what He'd done and called it very good. Nothing we do changes that. It's all about Him.

So this year I haven't made resolutions as such. I'm just praying that I'll understand this more and live it out more. I desire holy confidence and bold love, fuelled by God and in imitation of Christ.

Welcome, 2012. We're ready for you.

* * * * *


Anonymous -- I'm glad it was an encouragement :).

Shaina -- thank you so much for your kind comment! It made my heart leap to get a comment from the lady whose blog inspired this whole Project 52 journey!

Joy -- thank you so much! And all the same back to you :).

Chantel -- yay!! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And do let me know if you give those cookies a try. xx

Sarah -- happy new year to you, too!
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