You Are Full

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In the last weeks leading up to my 28th birthday (God Willing), I've been pondering truths that I, up until recently, rejected. When I was a kid, I had highly ecstatic dreams of finding a prince charming, and settling down. For years, although I would never admit this to myself, I grouped up finding the perfect someone with graduating from college and soaring in my career. It meant my worth, and the difference between having a life on track, and having a life that some would come to pity. But this year, God has taken me through a journey where I'm forced to admit my true feelings, and recognize that my thinking did nothing but aid in not living a confident, assured life. This is not a post to whine my whys, whos, and hows. This is not a post to assure you that someday your prince will come (though, it's true). This is not a post that will 'teach' you to cope with your single life, though I sure hope you're inspired. This is a post that will hopefully encourage you to do one of the hardest, most exhilarating things you will ever do: To believe that what you need, you all ready have.

You are already full.

I first took in this concept whilst watching a Zoe Saldana interview*. She oozed so much confidence in the place that she's in that I couldn't help but long for the same thing. It hit me like a bolt...this is it. What I've been missing. It felt both wrong, and like power on my tongue: I'm right where I need to be. The next day, God sent Psalm 23: 1a (GNT): "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.", and I knew that the whole self aware, toiling journey of 27 was to arrive at this end. I am already full.

This subject does not have to be about your single life. It could be about the career that's taking longer than you would like, your prayers that seem unanswered, that one thing that you think would change your life...suddenly make you a brand new person. In my early twenties, I coped better. I had an unwavering hope that regardless of what the world thought, God would send my future husband. But the funny thing about time is, it can either age you elegantly, like wine or cheese, or it can settle as a green bitter taste in your mouth. In the presence of other couples, I've often felt...What's wrong with me? What's so great about them that they've been blessed, and I haven't? What can I learn from them? How can I change?

There will always be areas that we can grow...areas we can improve upon. But it seems that majority of these questions, at least for me, stem from deeper insecurities. Insecurities that whisper lies in your ear: No one would want you. Look at you, over 25 and still single. Do you really think a man will be good to you? Blah Blah Blah Blah. For you, the lies may be different: Do you really think you're worth anything? You'll never achieve this or that! You'll never be like her. One of the main problems with this world is that by its own rules, you will never be enough. You will always need to frantically search for the next thing that will carry you through this unspoken competition that everyone seems to play. The fight to show the world that you can have it all: the career, the body, the fashion sense, the handsome guy, 3.5 kids, and all before you're thirty.

But who set up these rules?

It seems to me an endless conveyor belt of never measuring up.

Real Truth: You are already full. You have everything you need right there. You are in the exact place you need to be, whether challenging or joyous. You have everything you need to soar. You're strong enough. Fast enough. Beautiful. God has given you everything you need to live your life abundantly right now. If you're single, at the moment, you don't need a man. A man won't fill whatever void you may be sensing inside. After all, a man has his own issues and battles as well. If you don't feel full, seek Jesus. He wants to make sure you never have to look to the right or the left for approval again. Embrace who you are. Move with God in regards to the things you want to improve on. Improvement is productive, and will always be wonderful. Just don't let the improvements rob your today. Don't continue to pine for this, or that, because one day you might wake up and find ten years have passed. Time that you're missing because of that one thing you don't have yet.

And when you realize that you're whole right here, right now...the very thing that you were so desperately searching for will be waiting right in front of you.

*This Interview has adult subject matter.


Vinyl Stories: Blossom + The 20/20 Experience

 photo DSC01874_zps90a5b886.jpg One. Blossom
A record player is otherworldly to me. Presently, we have all of the basic materials to create sound, loads of other things doing the job for us. But everyone else born, at least, one hundred years before us seemed to create it out of thin air. I'm flummoxed at the concept that when etchings on a shiny, flat disc meet with a needle whilst spinning on a turntable, it can fuse to become sound. For the past few days I've been eying my new record player, that I affectionately named, Blossom, like a child in the Museum of Natural History eying the massive Great White. How does it do it? To which my father replied, "Just play the damn thing!"

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Two. Vinyl
What is it about vinyl that makes me feel exclusive? Like I've been invited to a subterranean  speakeasy where all of my favorite virtuosos come to entertain? Perhaps this is how my mother felt with her crate upon crate of albums by the likes of Earl Klugh, The Beetles, and The Carpenters. This is what our generation has been missing. Obtaining music today is as easy as the pile of change littering your purse at the end of each week. It's lackadaisical because we don't really have to do much to find it. We miss out on the physicality of music, what with our whisper-sync, and iPod touches that reduce the fullness of it to a smattering of zeroes. But imagine the time when finding a record was finding what would become an heirloom someday. Rare, chanced upon, collected in boxes, filling basements, and the undersides of beds. It's lush and rich and luxurious in its exclusivity. I'm sure it's the same for our sparkling youth who have, most likely, never seen a cassette player, but want to try their hands at the original zine: the mix-tape.

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Three. The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake
When I pondered the idea that I might someday own a vinyl player, I also immediately knew that my first record would have to be by the wonderful Justin Timberlake. As I did during its CD release, I leered at the large monochromatic square full of Justin allure and shiny gold lettering.

When I first played it, I had no idea what I was doing. Its speed was a tad bit too high, and with Justin's strong falsetto, it's not long before he sounds like a chipmunk. I had no idea how to fix it, until I discovered that fiddling with the little screw to the right of the turntable, and adjusting the tone knob helps loads. With my newly acquired knowledge, I tried it again the next day, and it was quite a surreal experience hearing earthy crackles before "Mirrors", or a tinny whine straight through "Don't Hold The Wall". Songs like "Pusher Love Girl" and "That Girl", however, sounded right at home. Each song seemed an octave higher than those flowing through my headphones, but I was fascinated. The lulling whine may perhaps be a sound synonymous with record players, but I also thought it could be the result of our synthesized beats filtering through an analog base. And then I thought of Gatsby. Baz Luhrrman's portrayal of course.

I thought of being alive in times past, with a finger-waved bob, in a Chanel shapeless dress, listening to Justin Timberlake. The two don't seem to connect at first, but listening to him on vinyl is like eavesdropping on a beguiling conversation between two eras. This album is an invitation to be young, in love, alive, and elegantly sexy. It's fresh and familiar. A modern classic lovers album.


Seafoam Summer: 10 Ways I plan to make this the Summer of My Dreams

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Although its one of those colors that seem to come around every Spring/Summer season, this year it has gone viral. Mint. Sea foam. Cucumber. I've gone batty over these dreamy shades of green, and if I could paint my world this color, I'd totally take up the opportunity. To me, it holds many qualities that I want to embody my life: creativity, calm, beauty, delicacy. It reminds me of acoustic songs, and weekend getaways, DIY projects, and time with family and friends...thus I have named my summer goal list after it.

Every summer, I ponder how I can have a summer likened to those cheesy, coming of age stories, where the heroine gains a greater sense of self, snags the guy, and engages in fun serendipities along the way. Yet even with these desires, I usually just let the season pass me by, and by the time I realize it, its time to find my coziest brick colored sweater. This year, I hope to be more proactive. Here are some ways I hope to make this summer magical:

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Intimacy With God: I discovered this band called Imaginary Friend. I have no idea if they are Christian, but as I listened to one of their songs called The Well one evening, I felt God speaking to me through it. I felt Him say that I should share the abundance of what He has given me with others, unquestioningly, and that in this act I will fall in love with Him. The chorus goes: "The one I love, is falling for me now...", and I just began to ponder, what if even as I often wonder when my true love will come into my life, my truest Love of all is pondering the same of me...when I will stop looking to other people, places, and things to fulfill me. I want to know this God who did not shun trouble, hardship, and persecution because He loves me. 

Gratefulness: I admit that I have had my head so occupied with me me me, and the things that I want and don't have, that I hadn't taken a pause to think on how great God is, and how He's blessed my family and I. Most of what I obsess over not having, are things that aren't even necessities. Not for joy. So, I want to take this time, by God's grace, to begin anew, with a revitalized sense that I'm where I'm supposed to be, no more, no less. 

 photo IMG_20130519_135748_zpse5bc512f.jpg Sartorial Bliss: I want to tackle the basics: Drink more water, take on the discipline of exercise, develop and skin care routine. I want to practice wearing high heels (because my body constantly rebels against me in this regard). I want to thrift more, for quality, one of a kind pieces that have character and tell a story. I want a closet of skirts with banded waists, and dresses/blouses that make me feel as if I've stepped out of a Russian Fairy-tale (e.g. Ulyanna Sergeenko). I hope to hone my vintage style.

Appreciate Family/Friends: I tend to be a hermit of a person. I'm so used to being in my own space/my own mind, that I admit,it must take a toll on my friends and family. This year, I want to work on that, and really appreciate them, spend time, and get out of myself. Along with this, I also want to be of help to strangers. To come out of myself and realize there's an entire world around me.

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Learn My Camera: I, brimming with excitement, purchased a Sony- DSC-HX20V to use during my Photo a Day project this year, and so far its going awesomely. I love this camera, and the amazing things I've captured with it. But I want to really take some treasure worthy photographs, and learn how to use the manual setting, which seems more daunting than not! If you would like to see more of my photographs, I post them to flickr under BraveAmberBeats. Are you doing a photo a day project? I'd love to see your photos!

Live a Song: I haven't sang in a really long time, and this has taken a toll on my voice, but I want to jump back in again. I want to get out my ukulele, and play to my hearts content. Perhaps make some more videos. What's more cheerful than a ukulele?

Host a Dinner Party: I'm not sure if any of my American readers feel the same as I do, but I think the concept of a dinner party is a bit dimmer here than it is in other parts of the world. Or perhaps, its just dim here in New York. Everything is so fast, it seems many don't take the time to make meals, let alone have a dinner party. It seems when we do have parties, they're usually catered or in restaurants. The time I spent in Wales opened my mind to the dinner party. It doesn't have to be fancy, but should include sincerity, and fun. A gathering of a small group of friends/family, a home cooked meal, Wine/Rose/or something else sparkling, and great conversation. I want to make this happen!

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Britta Cooks: There's a cookbook/memoir called Lunch In Paris by Elizabeth Bard that I started reading a while back. Anything about Paris is gold in my book, but I also loved how at the end of each crucial section, she includes an accompanying recipe. The first recipe alone was mouthwatering enough to inspire me to want to try out many of the dishes scattered throughout the book. Why not? While I do this, I hope to record and photograph each recipe in a book as a memory.

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Appreciate My City/Travel: Though I would love to at least go on a weekend getaway, I'm not sure I will, but if I wanted, I could really jump into some new discoveries right around me. I've been blessed to live in one of the greatest cities in the world, so why look elsewhere? My cousin, Ash, and I have already discovered a quaint little cafe to frequent, now we'll find some other places to have adventures through. I want macarons at Laduree (because we have one now!!!!), strolls through the Met and the Frick, gritty escapes downtown. Maybe I'll even discover a great record shop here.

I Want a Vinyl Player: Yep. I've found one in Urban Outfitters that's calling my name. I've already named it Blossom, and God Willing, I;ll see some good times with it!

That sums up some things I would like to sink into this summer.


Hermyownee- My Little Eggling

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Happy Summer, Kindreds!

I pray that your year has been filled with endless wonders, treasures, and scars that make you beautiful and strong!

During a recent visit to Kinokuniya, a fabulous Japanese bookstore, I spotted this little guy near the register, and could not resist leaving the store without it! I've cracked its shell, and look forward to watching it grow into a fragrant bouquet of lavender. The thought of growing something out of a delicate little egg warms my whimsy heart.

Every year, I imagine summer to be a time replete with a magic and splendor all its own if you simply let it. Nights under stars, bonfires, the smell of sea salt on the air, blinding colors, taffy, rollercoasters, laughter, first kisses, and songs that tie it all together like a charm bracelet. The magic of my summer begins with these little buds.

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I started reading a novel called Flowers in the Sky by Lynn Joseph about a girl who's heart lies in growing a garden that reaches the clouds. I've never really given myself a chance to exercise a green thumb, and never thought the chance would meet me in the shape of an egg. But, this is how I want to meet my summer this year. Doing something that is creative, and not merely internal. Who knows the smiles each bunch of lavender may reach?

I have a list of things I'd like to take on to proactively celebrate the wonder of summer, and I'm happy that the start of it involves the germination of a little flower called Hermyownee (yep.)

Hugs, Love, and Prayers for you my lovelies!

mood music | Chasing Ghosts by Imaginary Friend


The Simmering Romanticism of Singleness

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Why is having an amazingly full life contingent upon having a mate? I've pondered more now than ever before. I can see how someone who has already been blessed to enter courtship would view this as true--But, what of those of us who have entered into a later stage in life (whatever stage you are in), and have yet to connect with eyes that are different from our own, at the right place and time? Shall we abandon all hope for a life full of worth and passion?

I've decided that twenty thirteen is the year that I stop pining for romance, and instead think of what romance already envelopes my life. What if there is a simmering romanticism in singleness because the adventure is ours and ours alone? Though the calling of being with someone carries it's own weight and courage, what if that path is an easier life, and those who forge this life on their own, an act of bravery? Not a lifestyle to be pitied.

Those who know me know that I've imbibed romance from a babe, believing that life without such cannot be born. But, I've realized that the Lord purposely knitted my life partially the opposite of what is ideal. And even more, He completed me (and you) {Colossians 2:10} so that when a good man does come around, I will not look to him to perform a task that is not humanly possible. Placing all of my hopes and dreams on his shoulders. I've come to think that because God has completed me, and not allowed me to cross paths with the one I think I need, perhaps, he is not who I need to have an unbelievably romantic life. When I think of romance, aside from the obvious chivalric picture synonymous with the term, I think of passion, living in the moment, going for this life with every bit inside of you. Of connecting with people, whether, on a romantic or platonic level, in a way that could change lives.

What if the romanticism of singleness is that, if we're doing it right, we get to impact and connect with more lives than just one. This year, I embrace the blessings that God has given me through singleness: The world is wide and mine for the taking. I can unfold a map and fly on without restraint. I can steep myself in reveries that need only God's approval, and dedicate life to achieving them. I can cause wide smiles to  crease the faces of strangers and never take a break. I want to travel to Brittany, a coastal town in France, and make a best friend. I want to perform one hundred ukulele videos because each one is a kickbox with fear, and I'm winning. Most importantly, I've a life to spend giving God glory, this will never change. I have a novel to write and stories to tell, and I'm sure that you are teeming with an adventure to rival The Lord of The Rings.

There is a marvelous statement by J.R.R. Tolkien, that not all who wander are lost. I cannot wait for my true love to come before I see and seize the beauty all around me. Maybe "having it all" isn't always what we thought it was. Perhaps it is whatever you make that "all" to be. As you're waiting for your great love, don't forget to take off your shoes and race into the glorious foaming surf.


"I Wouldn't Trade Her For Gold": Reliving Once The Musical

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Last sunday, was beyond magical. My mom and I, tucked under scarf and hood, made our way through masses that swarm Broadway on any given day. Misty rain did not deter us, though I do wish I didn't wear my new dress...nevertheless, it's beautiful to dress for something wonderful.

Before I start, let me note that I am not the musical sort. The thought of spontaneous bouts of song disturbs me a little. But I love music, and all of its various forms. Once, the musical, stoked an even greater love for music in me.

My mom and I were blessed to obtain front row tickets through a raffle given where I work. Upon entering the theater, we were welcomed to a pre-show where the actors jammed on stage with their guitars, mandolins, violins, and quite gorgeous voices. They filled the room with an energetic fusion of Irish and Eastern European sound all leading to a passionate solo by 'Guy' played by Steve Kazee. His voice is raw, deep, and pure as crystal. I literally had chills going down my arms as he sang the opening tune, 'Leave'. 'Girl' played by Cristin Milioti stumbles upon him singing this, and begins their journey of awakening his purpose. Cristin is wonderful, her voice clear and bright, as her sparkling personality. Kazee and Milioti together are a masterpiece. Both are very subtle in their approach so that I often forgot it was a performance at all. It's something to watch a world construct right in front of you that is both apart of you, and without.

This musical is stunning and poetic from the setting (an Irish Pub) to an ensemble cast who invites us to get to know them through their music. Unlike many musicals that seem to jump at the chance for spontaneous bouts of song, Once plays more like an episode of Storytellers on VH1. We follow the characters intimately, discovering their music as they reveal it. The set list is so gorgeous that I couldn't leave without the soundtrack...no matter the expense!

I may be the only person who has never seen the film. When I was an Undergraduate, one of my writing professors said, after reading an extract of my novel, that it reminded him of Once. I was, at first, fearful to watch. But after seeing the musical, I feel reaffirmed in my project. That if something like this can exist, an be loved, then my novel can rise above whatever insecurity and hopefully find a home in someone else's heart.

Perhaps I should have watched the film first, because it may be really hard to top this performance. (I can hear all you Once lovers pushing me towards the film. I know. I'm going :-).


Highlights of 2012: Music

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This year has been quite an awesome year for musical discovery. Here are my top musical inspirations discovered in 2012:

The Best Part by Paul McDonald and Nikki Reed: Surely they have to be my favorite discovery this year. I'll confess that the thought of movie stars taking a detour into music makes me a bit... *shurggs*, and this is a shame because I must miss so many excellent artists. Ever since discovering that Nikki Reed wrote the indie film, Thirteen, I've been a bit fascinated by her. When I found out that her and her American Idol contestant husband, Paul McDonald were collaborating to make an album, I had to give it a taste. The Best Part is a smooth blend of country, folky, blues, and their voices coalesce so beautifully. The EP is calming and smooth, my favorites being, 'The Best Part", "Goodbye", and "Bouquet of Lies". Nikki has a humble stance on singing, having been encouraged by her husband that they should take this step. Her voice is so different from what I imagined: clear, pure, with a raw beauty to it that calms and intrigues. How adorable is it to take on an artistic project with your loved one? This is totally a dream of mine. I love these two, and sincerely hope that this is not the last collaborative project we see of them. 

Yuna: My discovering Yuna is actually a delightful little story. Earlier this year, I took little Nikki Fierce (my purple ukulele) into Guitar Center for re-stringing, and stopped at the bag check. The man behind the counter looks over my shoulder, blinks as if taken aback, and says to the person behind me, "Hi! I love your new single." A happy voice laced with shyness replies, "Thanks. Thank you so much." Of course at that moment, my attentions are piqued. I love new artists and the thought that one stood right behind me?... Score. The woman behind me and her friend commented that they thought Nikki was cute, and I couldn't help but brim. I finally got a good look at the woman I would discover is Yuna, a Malaysian artist making a smash in the US for the first time. Her sound is eclectic, fun, romantic and dreamy. The best after work, and ready to chill music ever.

Moonbeams by Sareena Dominguez: This girl is artistic, beautiful and poetic. Her sound is acoustic and gentle, with a touch of rain. I call her music my "rain" music, not because it's sad (though some tracks are a bit heavier), but because her music has the same affect of hearing rain fall on a tin roof (thank you, Norah Jones) the night before your day off. I found myself wanting to keep listening for beautiful poetry, and was not disappointed. Favorite Tracks: "Moonbeams", "Ghost", "Stop Saying Sorry", and "Unwoven"

IU- I know I'm not the only person to have recently jumped on to Korean Dramas (Thank you, Netflix), especially with the latest surge of K-Pop. Amidst my discoveries, I started watching Dream High, which I must say is such a great series surrounding students who hope to make their dreams of superstardom come true. Each character is so talented, it's awesome. But IU...she is brilliant. She plays a quirky, romantic outsider who is incredibly endearing. Show aside, she has already been dubbed Korea's 'little sister'. One song of hers from the Dream High Soundtrack called "Someday" makes me smile everytime. It is a pop song with a jazz smoothness that keeps me listening. I'm of the vein that all music, no matter what the language, can move you, and Someday proves my point. IU's voice is so beautiful and mature. It would be awesome to see this girl make a splash internationally. 

The Hunger Games Soundtrack: I was delightfully surprised when  the first installment of the beloved series was portrayed in a realistic, Appalachian way. With this addition comes the wonderful folk sound of the soundtrack. I had no idea that I loved Folk/Americana music until I listened to this soundtrack. Favorite tracks: "Safe and Sound" by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars, "Tomorrow Will Be Kinder" by The Secret Sisters,  "Rules" by Jayme Dee, and "Just A Game" by the wonderful, Birdy. They could've made this soundtrack really pop and gushy because it's adapted from a young adult novel. But, I'm happy they chose depth instead.

Red by Taylor Swift: I know that she is met with a mix of wonder and chagrin, but I'm happy to have fallen onto the Taylor train with this album. I've always admired her as a lyricist. Unlike those of my generation, and many of todays' artists, Taylor has somehow made it okay again for young women to be young, to dream, to long to take a walk with the guy who has captured their attentions. She holds the ability to write what I believe many of us still dream about.  Taylor has some really beautiful songs showcased on Red. Begin Again made up my mind to purchase the album. Other Favorite Tracks: "Starlight", "Sad Beautiful Tragic", and "The Last Time" a duet with Gary Lightbody.

What were your favorite sounds this year?


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