summer sky
if you haven't noticed, i've been absent on the AOU blog lately. it's because i've been incredibly busy, and yet it's inexcusable because i left y'all so suddenly. so i just wanted to leave you a little note that the blog is going to be going under maintenance, and gracie, abby and i will be back shortly. basically, what we'll be doing is reevaluating what we're doing here at AOU, creating a new design, and adding a whole bunch of new features that we simply can't wait to share with you! so stick around, and we'll be back with something that should make you smile. 

until then, i leave you with a quote: 
           tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.           anne of green gables
gracie, abby, and jocee.
{pea ess: we're looking for three girls to contribute to the blog! if you're interested, shoot us an email!  thank you all so much for applying! we have picked all of our girls and can't wait to show you what we've done to the blog at the relaunch! get excited, y'all. xx, j.}


take pride

a friend recently let me borrow john green's book, the fault in our stars. honestly, it is an amazing book, and full of so many sweet and sad moments, and a lot of quotable quotes, like the one above. you should take pride in not knowing what's cool, because it makes you different. if you go with what's "cool" than you'll be just like everyone else, which basically goes against your whole purpose. we were each created with a different purpose, to go against the flow, to be creative and unique. so be proud you're not a hipster; be proud you don't go to parties every friday night; be proud of your "uneventful" life.
be proud of who you are.
don't let this world turn you into something you're not, okay darling?
xo, gracie


good night, moon

the blending colors of the evening sky caught my eye through the living room window.
i quickly grabbed my camera and my tripod and headed outside. the sweet orange melted ever so slowly with the crystal clear blue, fading into an inky black. the twinkling lights started to pop up out of nowhere, and i tried to catch my breathe that i had lost while in awe as this scene unfolded. this ordinary, everyday beauty is something i take for granted. the millions of stars shining above my head, it was breathtaking. inspiring. beautiful. unbelievable. i wish i could bottle it all up, and watch them every night. to share this beauty with everyone, to give them some hope and dreams, is a goal that can never be reached. to touch the stars is impossible. but i came to a realization that, although stars cannot be touched, your dreams can. set off for the stars, don't set a limit. because someday, the impossible will become possible. after all, there are footprints on the moon.
xo, gracie 


a letter to myself

You've been hurt. You've been hurt once more by someone you love and it's slowly ripping at your heart. The pain is deep inside you. It only comes out on bad days, and it leaks out slowly, hour by hour, until you feel you must collapse. All those terrible lies the devil has told you come back too. The lies about no one liking you. The lies about you being horrible.

But your day does not stop for you to sit and pity yourself. Your day does not stop for you to sit and cry. Your day keeps on going, and you must trudge along with it. You must brush yourself up, wipe away the tears, and continue on with your day. The pain keeps on, but life keeps on too.

You've got to let go of all your worries. Let go of all the hurtful things you've been told. God is right here with you, urging you on, telling you He's got it all together, and because of that you don't have to. Your worries of not getting to college, of no one liking you, of no guy wanting to marry you, of being alone. They're all dust in the wind. They mean nothing, and in fact they're hurting you.

So though it may seem slightly impossible, you have no choice. You must continue. And it won't be that hard. God will be right next to you the entire time. He's whispering words of comfort to you, telling you to trust in Him for everything. I can't say you'll never feel this way again. You most likely will, actually. But it's much easier when you have Someone to lean on.



clouds outside the window.

i don't remember the last time i woke up and the sky was a solid layer of clouds. when the air smelled of ozone and goosebumps spread across my arms making me regret my decision not to bring a jacket. it hadn't rained, but the air said it was promising. i don't remember the last day like that. and it's sad.

since i've started community college and become used to my surroundings, one of my favourite places to be is in my english classroom. sounds nerdy, i suppose, but it's true. i like the atmosphere. i notice the way people find one seat and make it their own for the whole semester, the silence before class starts and the uproar when someone says what everyone else is thinking. i noticed, one day in class, that there was a picture window at the back of the room. everyday since i found it, i looked at the window and i never liked what i saw. the sun was shining, casting a harsh glow on the cars and the trees, and the sky was a tad bit too blue for the entire colour scheme.

i always wished that one day i would turn around and see clouds. the classrooms were always cold, and my professor most always wore a sweater of some sort, and it seemed to me that it was only fitting for the weather to line itself up. well, yesterday, it did.

the day our first paper was due, our professor had a small presentation for us that required the pull-down monitor. she turned off the lights with a click and instantly the skies grew three shades darker. a fellow classmate whispered in an ominous voice, "it was a dark and stormy night," and the rest of the class giggled, even though i felt a chill running up my spine.

i've always enjoyed weather like this more. i adore sunshine, truly, i do, but there's nothing like the eerie enchantment of a sky looming above the rooftops, tea whistling in their pots, and a good book waiting to be finished. seems like the typical rainy day, but i think those are the best days to do that sort of thing. don't you?



falling slowly down

i woke up. it was cooler than usual, and my room carried the unmistakable smell of rain.
peculiar, i thought, i didn't hear it rain last night.
i rubbed the sleep from my eyes and opened my bedroom door. i felt a chill roll down my arms and to my toes. was i dreaming? why was it so cool out here? texas weather never feels so good this early in september. but i wasn't dreaming. the high was only in the 80's that day and as i stepped outside the air smelled of pumpkins, corn maizes and chunky knit sweaters. 
fall is finally on its way.


words that fill my mind but not my mouth

Here's a journal entry from the other day. I'm not exactly sure if what I said made any sense, but it's just something I felt like sharing.

I’m not entirely sure whether I should receive the words “you’re quiet” as a compliment or an insult. Maybe the giver of words is complimenting my ability to listen and contemplate, rather than give my two cents of everything. Maybe he thinks just a bit more of me simply because I like to listen.
Or maybe the giver of words belittles me in his mind for my apparent unsocialization. Maybe he thinks I have nothing to say. Maybe he thinks I’m bored and uninterested. Maybe he sees me as a nuisance to this conversation, as I’m merely shaking my head and muttering a few words here and there.
One thing you have to understand with me is I have two hundred words but I say ten of them. My mind longs to let out a string of words, whether interesting or not, but my larynx thinks otherwise.
It’s not that I can’t think of anything to say, it’s that I don’t say everything I think. If you traveled into the depths of my mind (which I would advise running far, far away if ever the opportunity arises), you would find me to be a very talkative person. You might even consider me outgoing, which is a word I only used to be described as. The main thing that changed between then and now is my thoughts got louder and my voice got quieter.
I guard my words. I let few people know exactly what I’m thinking, if any at all. Words are powerful in my mind. Few words sometimes tell more than a lot. And so I choose to carefully pick a few words, letting the rest speak for itself. I find no need to continue talking when everything has already been said.
Of course, this is me. I know plenty of talkative people who I admire very much.
Here I am, explaining to you that I say little, while I’m going on and on.
So I shall end this little excerpt here. And while I still haven’t the slightest whether the words I get so very often, you’re quiet, are usually said as a compliment or usually said as an insult, I feel I understand myself a bit better, if nothing else.|



sketchbooks, like life...

This is my sketchbook. Between the pages are memories, lessons learned, miscellaneous photos and prints. Every once in a while, I slow down and pull it out. Sprawling out on the floor, I get lost in the process, and lose track of time.

This book has some sketches that I can hardly bear to show anyone. A sketch that I thought would be a masterpiece is an utter failure... or is it? Sure there are sketches that I wouldn't put on display in a museum, but they are a part of the learning process.  You see, sketchbooks are kind of like life. Some pieces turn out wonderfully, and you want to show them to the whole world. Some make you want to rip them out of the book. But they go together. We make mistakes, but we learn from them. The more mistakes we make, the more lessons we have learned, and the better our artwork becomes. Even the best artists aren't perfect, but I'll bet you that the best ones learn from their least pleasing pieces and work towards something better.

In the end, I know the sketchbook of my life won't be perfect. It will have some halfhearted drawings, some tearstained pages, and a few sheets scarred with one deep pencil scrape after another, all erased in attempt to cover my mistakes. But with the help of the Lord, I may also have some beautiful, abstract, or colorful pieces of art that will outshine the scribbles. I will have learned from my mistakes and created something to be proud of.

So don't be discouraged, my darling! Just because your drawing didn't turn out today, there's always tomorrow to create a masterpiece. Keep your chin up.

I know you can to great things.


p.s. I am sad to announce that in a few weeks, I will no longer be contributing to this blog. It has been such a privilege and an honor writing for you! Thank you so, so much for all of your encouraging comments! You mean a lot to me, lovelies. 


revisiting old memories

school has finally begun at our house, but that won't stop me from thinking back to this summer.
the months of july and august were good to me. our family vacation took place during that time; i got to meet fellow AOU member jocee and the lovely bleah; i went roller skating for the first time in years; shot a wedding... and basically, i had the most wonderful summer of my life. the memories i made are so special to me, and ones i will cherish for a lifetime to come.
oh september, i can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve. be nice, okay? please and thank you.

so how was your summer, darlings? any special memories you'd like to share?
xo, gracie


donuts, music, and passing kansas.

Some adventures are just picture-perfect. Especially when you have Kansas flying by your window.

Why don't you adventure today?




i dabble down thoughts a little here and there. sometimes in moleskines, regular notebooks, napkins, desks, the sidewalk, whatever calls to me. lately, though, i haven't had that feeling; the feeling where i've gotten that bright idea and i just have to pen it down. however, these are from the times that i have had that feeling, so i thought i'd share some of them with you. enjoy. 


mooing cows and feeble fences

Never have I heard so many birds screaming at once. And never was I told the population of birds amongst neighborhoods was approximately nine million.
fly away
  I pretend to be some cool photographer or something as I walk down the sidewalk in my jean shorts and t-shirt. Maybe that's what cool photographers wear. I don't know. 
Though I don't look very cool, constantly shielding my camera and avoiding any water droplet in the area. I was also never told that every sprinkler in the US turns on at 6am.
I pass no one until I notice a woman trimming her bush. Such an odd time to be trimming a bush. Or maybe that's just me. Maybe it's not so odd for people who regularly wake at obscene hours of the day.
I continue on to the park, my giddiness at that glorious sunrise ascending with each step. That's gonna be my shot in a matter of minutes, I tell myself. On and on down the path, seeing only old ladies in slightly awkward hats and toned people running around. I cross over to the grass and head up the hill.
who doesn't want to live on meadow wood
 My shoes soak through from the sogginess of the grass, but it doesn't matter. I can live with wet feet. I'm on the top of the hill now, breathing in the fresh air, looking all around me, and having to wait a minute to take a shot. It's so beautiful and routine and lovely. It's so amazing and awe-inspiring.

 Four shots, then I'm back down the hill, thankful to be back on cement and not standing in an inch of water.
Every step ends in laughter for me. I can't help it, it's just so amazing to be able to walk and breath and feel and photograph. So I laugh out loud. And I probably look like a psychological weirdo to the old lady who just passed me. It doesn't matter though, because today I'm not worried about what other people think of me. Even those old ladies in slightly awkward hats that you know everyone tries to look cool around.
A few trips around each pond, sneaking behind the ducks and snapping a photo before it thinks it's dying, and I'm back on the trail, headed for the loveliest neighborhood. It's full of flowers, and old houses, and cows, and awesome mailboxes. Someday I'm gonna live there.
an awesome mailbox
(awesome mailbox)
"Morning," nods an old man passing by. I reply with a "good morning to youfine sir" giggle, skip.
Sunflowers and feeble picket fences and cows that whip their tails. One cow even seemed to enjoy getting his picture taken. And he mooed at me about seven times within 30 seconds. I liked that cow. Even though he looked like he was going to hurt me. I named him George.
My camera told me I only had 10 shots left, so I decided I probably shoudn't finish them off with pictures of cool mailboxes. Because every mailbox I passed was cool. And I passed a lot of mailboxes.
And now I return home, satisfied and a bit achy and wondering what time it is. Finally reaching the door of my home, I kick my tennis shoes off and examine the blisters I got from walking an hour in wet shoes. Next I pull out my memory card and scan through some of my photos. And lastly, I toast a piece of toast, for toast solves all problems.



pick yourself up off the ground

i sliped the heavy skates on, laced them up, and attempted to walk across the colorful rug to the entrance of the rink.
how am i supposed to do this? i thought. this is impossible!
i grabbed onto the black support railing. other experienced skaters flew past us, round and round they went, laughing and having fun. the music playing was upbeat and dance-able. i pulled myself along the rail, letting out the occasional high-pitched scream whenever my foot slipped or i lost my balance.
don't fall, grace, don't fall. this is fun. it isn't the least bit terrifying at all.
a friend came over and told us to point our feet out and push. i tried applying this new information, and instead panic shot through my body.
i can't do this. nope. this truly is impossible.
just about four hours later, we were skating in the middle, far away from the bar, flying around with everybody else. it felt good, i felt confidant.
and guess what? i only fell down twice, but i got back up. i kept on skating, not afraid of falling down again.
xo, gracie


while silence is lovely, there's nothing wrong with talking it out.

hexagon bokeh.
it's been a bit quiet around here. we've been taking an unannounced break to breathe, reevaluate, and relish in our last few days of summer as school is coming back soon. on my run this afternoon, the sky was darkening and the clouds were growing, and a few browned leaves fluttered to the ground. a chilly breeze landed on my shoulder and the flower buds were beginning to hide. autumn is coming. maybe it's already there where you are, but in central texas, this is a much awaited time. maybe i can wear a sweater soon (one of the little things that we treasure.)

i think that each of us at AOU have been grateful for the silence. if you think about it, life isn't as loud as one may think. i've seen a few movies where there isn't much music, and the conversations are spaced, and while it may seem awkward and dull, it's very realistic. the soundtrack to our lives may not be theatrical, it may not be full of suspense or romance, but it's there. we may not converse out loud, with a friend or the person we love, but sometimes we talk to ourselves. and yet, after awhile, it's nice to get back to the people who care.

so we're coming back, with a new freshness and a new season, and maybe a sweater to boot. 
what are you looking forward to this autumn?
xx, jocee.


DIY look books

Pencils, paper, textbooks... and clothes! It's back-to-school time already (can you believe it?), so my sister and I decided to make a look book with a few different outfits for the fall. This is a sample of our experiment. What do you think? You can make one yourself!

Here's what to do:

1. Brainstorm like crazy. Think of every possible crazy-cute outfit you can make from your wardrobe. Put together some options and lay them out.

2. Gather a few props to make it look like a real catalog, if you want. Props can be super fun-- things like cameras, school books, pencils and paper, nerd glasses, etc. They're all great.

3. Go outside (or inside) and snap away! Have fun with it and get creative.

4. Upload your photos and create collages on pixlr or pic monkey or whatever you use. Add little captions, outfit variations, stickers if you like.

5. Print out your collages and put them together in a book or hang them up in the back of your closet for when you get stumped. Viola!



art journaling

I recently took an online art journaling class & have found my newest hobby. I love art journaling, it's like scrapbooking... but without your personal pictures. My art journal has a music theme. I like creating a page based upon a song lyric, a certain type of music, inspiration I found from music or a song, etc. Art journaling is a great way to unwind and feel creative. (:

xo, Hayley


oh anna sun.

simply a song. and i think that as we reflect on summer (as it's almost gone), we should sing along.
xx, jocee.


a day out

we walked.
we laughed.
we got rained on.
we ate at a local cafe that we just kinda stumbled upon while trying to escape the rain.
we had some fancy but super yummy cupcakes for desert.
and then we went home.

yesterday was our (mommy, little sissy, and i) girls-day-out here on vacation. we spent the day in charleston, which is a super pretty, hipster-filled, lovely city. the day wasn't quite so perfect as i expected it to be, but it was still a fun day in a super fun place.
we should make this a tradition.
xo, gracie


i am alive

life gets so tangled sometimes. my emotions get so complicated that writing them down is utterly impossible. I get so depressed and lonely.
sometimes I try to prove that I've got it all together. but the truth - I most definitely, a hundred percent, for real, don't have it all together.
sometimes I just have to breath. let life find it's way through the darkness it's in. it seems impossible at times. but I have to trust in God.
ya know, I think that's something we here at ordinary utopia strive to foster. sure, life is lovely. it's wonderful and breathtaking and amazing. but it's also hard and terrifying and confusing.
but that part - that hard and painful part - that's what makes the wonderful parts so.. well, wonderful.

i hear birds tweet, i am alive
piano keys pass beneath my fingers, i am alive
i lay awake, i am alive
i breath, i am alive
i close my eyes, i am alive
i celebrate, because i am alive


the woods.

I think I am in love with the woods, especially during the springtime. I love the soft whisper of the wind through the trees, and the creek’s bubbling laugh after a good rain. The smell of fresh wildflowers, the snap of underfoot twigs, the shadows cast by the overhead trees – it’s simply beautiful.

The other day I went walking through these woods, a good friend of mine in tow. We brought our lunches, and had a picnic on top of a fallen tree. {Which, by the way, we affectionately nicknamed “Bart”.} The two of us ate our goodies, all the while giggling, teasing each other, and just enjoying the peace. I leaned back against a tree, with my knees pulled up to my chest. The breeze gently played with my hair and I felt the solid roughness of the bark against my back. I smiled to myself, utterly happy and content. It was at that moment, as I sat there listening to the melody of the woods, that I realized that it’s one of my favorite places ever.

Do you have a special spot?


Words of wisdom

H a v e  l e s s . 
D o  m o r e .
B e  m o r e.

Some words of wisdom.

hugs to you lovelies.


getting ahead.

we all have lives. we all have times in our life where there just doesn't seem to be enough time to do anything and everything. we make commitments, we apologetically decline invitations, and we go and do. and yet, in all that going and doing, in getting things done and checking them off our list, it always seems like there's more to do. and sometimes, we have to apologetically step back from some commitments.

so katie and megan had to.

and that's perfectly alright with us. sometimes, we slip up, too. we forget to post or life just gets in the way, and while we feel bad, it's just something that happens. it's ordinary. i think carlotta put it beautifully: "i don't think i'm behind on blogging, but rather, i feel like i'm ahead on life." and this should be our goal. to be ahead on life. to take risks and learn as much as much as we can, and to share with others so that we can do the same. i guess that's what these girls have done. and i guess that's just how it is sometimes.

now, i'm not saying we should step back completely. i think we should go and do and come and commune and share and kiss people that we adore and try new things to eat and do it all again. i'm saying that while we get ahead, we'll remember to tell the world about it, too.

and that's all i have to say about that.
{pea ess: some new features coming to aou soon! stay tuned!}


spread your wings - be free.

unknown // image 

when we were children, we were free. we had no cares, we had no limitations. our bikes traveled down unexplored, beaten paths. our feet would dance to the music no one else cared to hear. we colored outside the lines. we flew above the water. but as we grew, freedom morphed into a shell of the world's definition. we did not wander. we did not dance and laugh without worry. worldview was no longer a word, but life. even though, a shell would break, and we were no longer bound. we spread our wings for the world to see. we flew once more. we were free. we heard the whisper- be free. be free.

time is short, no? I've found I'm running out of it, see, not making what's most important in life a priority. for this I leave you darlings, making time to spread my wings and be free, hoping you always do the same. thank you to the ladies of AOU and you dearies for allowing me to post here and share my heart. you are all truly lovely. 


The Great Road Trip

I love road trips. Watching the miles fly by, while listening to music and knitting or reading a book.  Sometimes we do riddles or watch movies. Sometimes we do nothing at all. But we always enjoy it. I love stopping places and seeing new things, occasionally leaving a love letter for a stranger.

Do you like road trips?