Sunday, March 29, 2009

Love & Art

Yesterday, I viewed The Kimbell's new exhibit Love & Art in Renaissance Italy. It wasn't the typical exhibit with just paintings. Instead, the collection included works of art that were given to commemorate special life events. Rather than landscape paintings, the collection opened with portraits of different brides and grooms. In addition to the portraits, other objects of art, like wedding chests, were given as dowries. But among the most ornate in the collection were the trays and bowls that were given to commemorate births. Whole scenes from the Bible might be depicted in the bottom of a bowl. And the colors were breathtaking in spite of being painted in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

This idea of color brightening our lives, and making our greatest life moments even greater, stuck with me. Not being an artist, I thought about how I could add some more color to my life. Immediately, the idea of flowers came to mind.

When I used to watch Three's Company, I often wanted to be a florist like Janet. One trip to a local florist's shop, and I fell in love with the smell of chilled roses that wafted out each time I opened the door to the upright cooler storing the arrangements. But with zero classes on flower arranging offered at school and instead days upon days of practicing math and writing, my florist dreams vanished.

Until this Saturday afternoon.

I stopped by the local flower market and picked up a Texas dozen (make that 15) "cherry brandy" roses, complete with lots of leaves and thorns and some withered petals, all of which needed to be removed. I remembered a simple arrangement that I had seen made at a flower show last spring and decided to mimic it, though technically the bouquet is supposed to be sticking at a weirder angle in the vase than I saw fit to lean it.

Voila! Instant color for my kitchen and den.

But the fun didn't stop there. I had been wanting to try a recipe I found at Christmas for red velvet whoopie pies. So I made them this afternoon for my writers' group. Although I think the original chocolate whoopie pies are better, this is a fun take on an old favorite.

So go on and have yourself a little fun with color!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Let me preface this post by stating that I am not a Metallica fan, but this article about a stunt that they pulled intrigues me as a music lover and a writer. In a nutshell, Metallica showed up at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin last week to play at Stubb's BBQ under the guise that they were "a young band from Norway" that was trying to get a record deal, just like all the other bands at the festival. The only "problem"? Word leaked out about their secret performance, and fans stood in line for hours to get into the intimate venue to see a band that normally fills stadiums when it goes on tour.

The music fan in me loved this because I've often wished that I could still see some of my favorite artists who have made it big play at a smaller venue. Gone are the days of seeing Pat Green at Gruene Hall and the Nat Ballroom, so are the days of seeing Sarah McLachlan at Austin Music Hall. I wish that SXSW would lure famous musicians back to play at such intimate venues, allowing fans a chance to the experience the music up close sans the JumboTron.

The writer in me connected with the incognito part. I'm nowhere near famous, but I've noticed a change in my writing since I started posting on here with my name. When I posted as Bluebonnet In The Snow (BITS), it felt like the moniker alone provided some type of protection that allowed me to be vulnerable. The reader had to make the additional connection that BITS = Alyssa before attributing the words to me. An extra layer of insulation existed between me and the outside world. But once I started posting as myself, I seemed to shut down somewhat. Yet, I still strive for authenticity, even when it might be embarrassing. So writing incognito is a thing of the past. At least on this blog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guest Posting

Today, I'm posting on worship (not the starstruck-American Idol type) over at Morning Coffee with Renae today, so visit me there.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two Truths Revealed

For those of you who commented on my Two Truths and a Lie, here's the truth:

In May 2006 B.B. (Before Blog), after being lured with a first-class ticket purchased by my sister and brother-in-law's frequent flier miles, I temporarily conquered my fear of flying and jetted out to LA to visit them. As an avid American Idol fan, and specifically Katharine McPhee that season, the timing of the trip couldn't have been better: I arrived in time for the semi-final showdown with Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee, and Elliott Yamin. My sister tried her hardest to obtain tickets to the show, but she could only secure tickets to TV Guide's Idol Tonight show, which tapes right before the taping of American Idol.

So we headed to Hollywood early Tuesday morning to stand in line for the show, leaving our cell phones in the car so that we would not have to check them in prior to the taping. Upon arriving, we received instructions on how things roll in the big world of American Idol. One line was for those who held tickets to the actual show's taping, one line was for those who held tickets to the dress rehearsal, and the third line was for those who held tickets to the TV Guide taping. Once we joined the two others in the TV Guide line, we learned that we held prime positions as #3, #4, #5, and #6 (me, Mom, Erin, and Bryan) because we might be called upon to fill seats during the taping of the semi-final American Idol show. However, we'd have to wait until after the TV Guide taping to know whether any seats would be available. So began our waiting from about 11 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

During that time, we watched as fans made posters to use during the show, listened as people lamented how hard it is to get tickets to The Price Is Right, and talked about each other's favorite performers. As we chatted, an official-looking man came through and asked several people who they were voting for. After chatting with them, he gave out a card that said "Taylor Hicks" or "Elliott Yamin," but he didn't hand out a card with Katharine's name on it. Until he got to me.

He asked me who I was voting for, and I told him. Then he asked me why, and I said, "Because she can sing anything she sets her mind to. She's that good." He asked if I could say that with "a little more enthusiasm" on television, and I said I'd try. He then handed me the "Katharine McPhee" sign and said that I would be motioned to the front when we got to the TV Guide taping.

(A few pics of me with a billboard advertising Idol Tonight and the finale; these pics were taken the following Friday when we returned to Hollywood to go sightseeing)

During the taping, co-host Rosanna Tavarez (the lady on the left on the billboard above) asked me several questions about Katharine McPhee, none of which she had practiced with me during the commercial break. But amazingly, I survived and didn't have to do a second take. The same wasn't true for Carmen Rasmusen, a past Idol contestant who was being interviewed about her new record deal and who kept giving out too many details. (I have searched online for a copy of this show, which was taped on May 16, 2006, but it has been "removed due to lack of inquiries.")

After the taping completed, they moved our initial line to the parking lot outside of the American Idol studio (which is taped at CBS, not Fox, for whatever reason) where we lamented the fact that we couldn't call anyone to tell them about the show and waited some more to find out whether there would be any empty seats that we could fill. Approximately ten minutes before the show started, the mother-daughter duo in front of us were allowed in. With five minutes left, we were pretty sure that we wouldn't get in. But to our amazement, they motioned for one person to go in, and my family let me go in. I sat down on the seventh row next to a lady who looked vaguely familiar (she turned out to be Dorothy Lucey, one of the co-hosts of the red carpet show before the Idol finale and the co-host of Good Day LA). Within minutes, I watched as my sister and brother-in-law were escorted down to the third row to sit in Terri Seymore's (Simon Cowell's ex-girlfriend) seats because she had not yet arrived. Within seconds, the show started.

I couldn't believe I was really there watching the show live. After the first song, Erin and Bryan had to move to seats farther back because Terri had arrived. She is actually friends with Dorothy and came to chat with Dorothy and her son during one of the commercial breaks. As she kneeled down by my feet, I admit, I was starstruck. But that feeling was quickly replaced with a sense of awe as Katharine sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" a capella for the first time. (She sang it a second time at the finale.) A definite chill-bump moment.

On the way home from the show, we called and voted several times for Katharine and tried to call friends and family to see if they had recorded the show. Amazingly, Bryan's dad caught my interview on Idol Tonight as he was flipping channels. But he's one of only a handful of people who saw it.

So why the lengthy recap? Because I must not have previously shared this story with all of my friends since the only person who got my two truths and a lie correct is someone who doesn't know me!

I've recapped the list of concerts I've attended here. As you can see, there's no mention of a Sarah McLachlan concert in New York because I've never been there. Thus, #2 was the lie.

So congratulations to Monica @ Paper Bridges for selecting #2 as my untruth!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Just Another Day at the Office

Fortunately for Tweetie, he managed to leave as stealthily as he had arrived.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mary DeMuth Hits the Mark

Meeting author Mary E. DeMuth and hearing her tell her story in person at our women's retreat was one of the highlights of 2008. If you've been following my blog, you'll remember Mary from my participation in the blog tour for one of her nonfiction books, Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, and from my review of her fiction book Watching the Tree Limbs. So it was no surprise that I jumped at the chance to participate in the blog tour for her latest fiction release, Daisy Chain.

Mary's fiction shatters any stereotypes that people might hold regarding Christian fiction. Her characters aren't always nice and sweet. Her characters don't have their lives together. And the stories she weaves won't allow you to read through only a few chapters at a time. Quite the contrary. Get ready for secrets, suspense, and the Truth when you pick up Daisy Chain.

From the start, you'll be unconscious to the rapid page-turning as you welcome Jed and Daisy into your circle of friends. You'll explore their childhood hangouts right alongside them in Defiance, Texas, and begin to work with Jed to solve the mystery of a disappearance. Or maybe several. The people that Jed knows in Defiance haven't always been the way they currently are, and that bears looking into. But just as you don't get to know a person through and through on the first meeting, don't expect to know everything about Defiance and its people right away. Daisy Chain is the first book in the Defiance, Texas trilogy.

My favorite part of Daisy Chain is the amazing prose that Mary crafts to bring her characters and stories to life. It was also fun finding bits of Mary's personal story woven into Daisy Chain. And because Mary has Jesus as part of her story, you'll find Him on the pages as well.

Click on the title to pick up your copy of Daisy Chain and get to know the good folks (and the bad) of Defiance, Texas. Also, be sure to out the book's website, which is a place for sharing secrets. And to find out what other people are saying about Daisy Chain, check out the list of participating blogs here.

[Disclosure: I received this book for free as part of the blog tour.]

Two Truths & A Lie

A major theme through Daisy Chain is secrets. Participants in the blog tour have been requested to share two truths and a lie. So, I'm posting my two below.

1) I have recorded a television interview in Hollywood, California.

2) I have seen Sarah McLachlan in concert in Texas, Colorado, California, and New York.

3) I have attended the semi-final round of American Idol.

In the comments section, leave your guess as to which of the statements is a lie. I'll post the answer on Monday.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The New Dreamer

I've often wondered when I stopped dreaming. Not the kind that occur at night, which I have several times a week. But the kind where I envision my life somehow differently than it is now and take steps in that direction.

As an elementary school child, the sureness of numbers and equations spoke to me, as did routines. I couldn't find direct answers in literature or history, and creating things from scratch in art class, without so much as an example to go by, bewildered me. So I stuck with things with rules and a right answer that was determinable from the information I was given. Those things gave me comfort in a home life that was somewhat chaotic due to a father who battled mental illness.

Then came eighth grade. And for whatever reason, my creativity ignited. I spent hours on the weekend decorating the attendance slips for my teachers to use. I turned simple written assignments in my American history class into full-fledged projects, complete with the answers written in calligraphy on a scroll or a colonial newspaper.

But as quickly as the creative juices started flowing, they dried up. Maybe it was the increased extracurricular activities I participated in or simply the fact that I started my freshman year of high school. For whatever reason, I reverted back to straightforward school work. Yet I had a goal in mind. A goal to graduate first in my class. A goal that I pursued relentlessly, allowing myself little fun for four years until I was able to walk across the stage at graduation and give the farewell address as Valedictorian.

I moved on to college and set more academic goals. More sacrifices of fun, but another goal met. Conquered. Achieved.

Repeat the same process for grad school.

And then something happened. I realized how empty my achievements were. How they failed to define me. And how unpredictable life could be.

My body started not to cooperate.

Things I wanted to succeed at failed.

Little by little, I started to withdraw. To "numb out." I started not even asking God for things I wanted, probably for fear of disappointment after waiting and waiting for some of my prayers to not be answered with a "yes."

And now I look back and can't pinpoint when I stopped goal setting and dreaming.

But the desire to dream has been reawakened with these words from Beth Moore, "You may be one big decision away from breaking the old storyline and starting a brand new chapter of the narrative [of your life]." She also said, "We can protect ourselves right out of our calling."

That's where I've been hanging out. In the zone of self-protection. The one that convinces me to not take risks and to avoid disappointments.

But the story in Esther urges me to get out of that zone and be brave. To conquer my fears. To trust.

Yep, there's that sneaky little word again. It's only March, and it's making itself at home in my daily thoughts. As I begin to find and flex my dreaming muscle, I am sure there's going to be a direct connection to my trust muscle. I think I see some workouts are in the near future. So stay tuned for progress updates. . . .

Friday, March 6, 2009

Speechless Post

This post is brought to you by two words: Strep Throat.

Not only can I not really talk, I don't have the energy to type. I haven't battled strep throat in years, so I feel a bit off kilter. The pain is similar to when I had my tonsils removed ten years ago, and the lethargy is similar to what I experienced when I had mono fifteen years ago. But thankfully I saw the nurse practitioner this morning and started antibiotics shortly thereafter. I pray the healing's on its way!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Name

This evening, I had the privilege of loving on a five-hour-old baby girl. Her sweet head held a full crown of dark hair. Her chubby cheeks glowed as if chapped or sunburned a ruby red hue, which garnered her the nickname "Ruby Red." We latched onto that for a while because her parents hadn't named her.

As the group of welcomers gathered, names flew through the air.

How about Georgia?

Ultimately, her parents settled on Caroline Love though we'll have to see if it sticks long enough to make it onto the birth certificate.

Names mean something. They evoke emotion. Often times, negative feelings.

Remember the name of the kid who teased you in junior high? How about the name of kid who got in trouble all the time? If you're like me, those names don't make the cut when thinking about names for your future children.

And neither do weak names. I like a name that not only sounds strong but has strong meaning. With so many requirements to fulfill, it's a wonder that any child leaves the hospital with a name.

I love that God kept it simple when Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' " (Exodus 3:13-14)

Often I try to fill in the rest of God's name for Him, e.g., "I AM Provider," or "I AM Protector." And though God fulfills all of those roles, He doesn't need more of a name to define Him. He is Who He says He is: "I AM."

So as Caroline Love begins her life on this earth, I pray that she would draw near to I AM and glorify Him with her life. If she'll live out her middle name, she won't go wrong.