Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cold Tangerines

As I'm digging through cutouts of magazines, photographs, and little snippets of things trying to find what truly inspires me and qualifies for inclusion on my fun little project--my inspiration board (see post below). It's appropriate, for multiple reasons, that I mention the book Cold Tangerines as one of the deserving things that have inspired me. Or maybe the author, Shauna Niequist, herself should be the one who has inspired me rather than just the book.

Shauna grew up the daughter of Bill Hybels, one of the founding pastors at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. Her life growing up was probably nothing ordinary at most times, living in the spotlight of being the daughter of a megachurch pastor and feeling a little expected to live up to some kind of standard as most preacher's kids do. She writes in her book about flying to Paris, France when she was in eighth grade--by herself--as if this is part of any normal childhood. She was used to traveling with her dad around the world, and so opportunities of the like were nothing out of the ordinary.

Despite her not-so-ordinary upbringing, Shauna is, deep down inside, still an ordinary person, just with extraordinary God-given talent to capture words like fireflies on a summer night, putting them in little jars to share their light. Cold Tangerines is a collection of essays written from her personal life experiences--from stories about college to stories about marriage, having a baby, working at a church, quitting working at a church, past struggles with weight, tragic loss, the joy of a bright red fall tree, jealousy, forgiveness, true community, and what it means to find joy and contentment in the little things in life. The stories in her book come to life and seem to be relevant with everyone who comes in contact with them, even though they are her very own experiences.

We've all been in these places in life...not the exact same stories, but the deep-down-underlying emotions and flaws that lie within us that Shauna so honestly lays out for us. She openly says that writing, for her, is like getting naked in front of people. And she truly bears her soul and all its parts in this book, and that's what is inspiring.

If you haven't read this book, you need to! This week is the one-year anniversary of its release, which is an exciting thing to celebrate for a writer! When you write and put things out there for others to read and critique, you are putting yourself up for criticism. But just as you open yourself up to criticism, you hopefully find that someone, somewhere, has gained something from what you've contributed to this world of ours.

I had the privilege of spending time with Shauna when we invited her to Lincoln for our annual High School Girls' Retreat called Awaken this past February. We spent some quality time talking about life and writing and the future and her son Henry and food, often over meals. Just last week, when I was in Grand Rapids for a college fair, I met up again with Shauna and her little boy, Henry, for breakfast at an adorable cafe, Marie Catrib's. It was refreshing to see her, like an old friend I'd known for years.

But I say all of this just to encourage you to pick up her book. It is an honest, raw, unique collection of essays that you'll find yourself cozying up to, reading in sections or all at once, feeling like you're having tea with your best friend, maybe even crying because it seems like she's got a window into the deepest parts of your character flaws. Her book is like comfort food and a security blanket. It reminds me that, yes, I'm normal. I'm not the only one who struggles with this and that, and I'm not crazy for being jealous of someone and wanting them to trip and fall. With a good amount of laughter included, Shauna captures real, honest, ordinary moments in life and helps you to find something extraordinary within.

So, as a somewhat distant friend of hers, I'm giving her a plug to anyone who may not have read this book yet. Also, check out her blog...it will give you even more insight into who she is and her most recent posts are from the experiences throughout the first year since Cold Tangerines was released. You'll also find that her current project is a book that will be called Bread and Wine, and she'll be focusing on the community that often happens among people in the presence of food.

Go get a copy of Cold Tangerines. You won't be disappointed. You might just want to buy a copy for everyone you know. They make great Christmas presents!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

inspiration boards, pt. 1

A few of my friends and I have a group blog that we use to share thoughts with each other and no one else, and one of my friends mentioned something that came about on the Oprah episode where she hosted author of Eat, Pray, Love, Liz Gilbert. They talked about making "hopes and dreams" boards--creative collages of things that inspire, invoke happiness, and resonate with you. My best friend Amanda suggested that we do this, and I'm going to take it a step further...I want to encourage anyone who is reading this to make one.

I think it would be really cool to share pictures of our completed inspiration boards at some point in time. I googled them and found a few sites with pictures of boards, suggestions for making them, and one flickr group specifically for these pictures! For those of you who enjoy creating, organizing, and dreaming, this is something you'll love to do. I consider myself a creator, an organizer, and a dreamer, but it's something I need to challenge myself to more often. I tend to think about it, want to do it, but I don't put it into practice nearly as often as I should.

So I'm making an inspiration board. I'm going to gather clippings, artwork, colors, poems, quotes, beautiful photos, creative fonts, designs, travel destinations, song lyrics, and anything else I can find that makes me dream more. Anything that will make me smile just to look at and will inspire me to be more creative.

If you need some help finding some ideas or inspiration yourself, here are some sites:

Resources for Writers...

Simple Mom Blog/The Creative Family

Inspiration Boards blogspot...

Hope these help...if not, google it and see what you can find! But it's your own, so be creative! I'm looking forward to starting mine! I'll post pics of it when I'm done...that will be Part 2!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


So, I've decided that my blog needed an update.

After looking through tons of backgrounds and such, I decided most are way too busy and chose this one. I hope you like it!

Let me know how it looks...I always need second and third and fourth opinions on things.

Monday, September 22, 2008

i just have to ask...

This is coming right out of left field...but I just have to ask.

Is anyone with me in thinking that in Rihanna's song "Disturbia" it sounds like she's saying "Disturbula?"

(And these are the ridiculous thoughts that keep me up at night...)

This is the year...

Every year on my birthday, I say "This is going to be the year." I've noticed that I actually say this each birthday as well as when the New Year begins. Yesterday (the 21st) was my birthday, and once again I've decided that this year will be the year. The year for what? I'm not sure. But it's going to be a good year, I've decided.

I said farewell to being 25, and ironically, to summer. My birthday is officially the last day of summer. September 22nd is always the first official day of fall. It seems right.

While my age doesn't change a whole lot about me, I know that it does symbolize one more year of life for which I can be grateful. 26 years of growing into who I am. It's hard to believe how quickly time has gone by. It seems like just last week I was in college, and the week before that I was dancing my heart out in Streatorettes in high school, and the week before that I was that nerdy junior high girl who wanted to start her own "Babysitters Club," and not long before that I was a naive little preschooler playing on stilts made out of coffee cans at the ABC Nursery School.

And now, here I am. 26 years old. College graduate. Admissions Counselor. Traveler. Networker. Music-lover. Wannabe writer. Wannabe photographer. "Aunt Mandy." Single, twentysomething. Daughter, sister, friend. Indecisive. Creative. Anxious. Loyal. Curious. Explorer. Seeker. Believer. Follower of Jesus.

How many ways can I describe myself? It's difficult for me, because one-word phrases can't capture a lifetime of memories. The stories and memories of my life are my life. And for those, I am grateful. They define me. The ups and downs, my past and future, and right now. This is me. 26 years old, and I can't be anything other than grateful for who I am and striving to always become a better version of that.

So with that said, this is going to be the year. Goodbye 25, hello 26!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

and the craziest day ever award goes to...


In Louisville. Right now about 230,000 people in Louisville are without power, and it's the strangest thing to drive through a city you're only semi-familiar with when stoplights and streetlights are not working. And then when you try to turn down a street but can't because there's a massive uprooted tree in the way, it gets just a little confusing. And we're still without power right now, might I add...thank you for laptops and "borrowed" wireless signals...

I'm in Louisville, KY this weekend and through Wed. morning for some college fairs, and I came for the few days prior to stay with my best friend Amanda and her husband Adam. We went to church this morning and when we came out, it was eerily windy--particles blowing in our eyes, branches falling off of trees, garbage cans being knocked over--and then we started driving down the streets. Had no idea it was quite as bad as it was...the wind was up to 73 mph and I saw several massive trees completely uprooted, at least 3 different places where very large tree branches fell on top of cars, and countless roads blocked by giant tree limbs and entire trees.
The strangest part about it was that there was not a single drop of rain. In fact, it was partially sunny outside, but just really windy. I've never seen anything like it. I've witnessed bad thunderstorms and seen the effects of some damaging tornadoes, but this was really different...
And now it feels very Armageddon-ish. No lights in many sections of town, but random areas have power. Every restaurant that has power is crowded, and ice machines are out everywhere for those filling up coolers to rescue the food in their freezers and refrigerators. I went to the gas station tonight after the youth group event @ Southeast and tried to get gas. They're running out at the few that have power, so after waiting for the drops to slowly pour out, about 20 minutes later, I had almost 3 gallons and was at $11.40. I quit. I'll get it tomorrow.
Anyway, check out these pictures. My friends Dawn & Brian (friends of Amanda & Adam's, actually, but now friends of mine as well...) took these pictures today after we left their house in the Highlands where there was a ton of damage.

p.s. sorry for the lack of paragraphs...for some reason blogger wouldn't space my paragraphs as i typed.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

rain, rain, go away...

I just remembered the old Garbage song (circa 1995), "I'm only happy when it rains..."

I'm so not happy when it rains. Unless I have nowhere to be except curled up on my couch in sweatpants, a hoody, and with good movies and ice cream and popcorn.

And I'm so not a fan of the end of summer. (I'm also so sounding like a valley girl today with the way I'm writing...) I go through this, write about this, every year when the seasons change, but I cannot say it enough. Summer is just too short. It doesn't mean I don't enjoy fall and the wonderful things that autumn brings. But when Autumn slides in without giving Summer a fair goodbye, I'm not extremely happy about it. Last week, Lindsey and I made a list of the 10 (which became 12) things that are good about fall to remember on days when I miss summer. It's hanging in my office on a pink Post-it, which makes it official. Here is our list:
  • Chili (preferably my dad's recipe) and homemade soups
  • Scarves
  • Hoodies
  • Hot apple cider and caramel apples
  • Bonfires (even though I never really go to any...)
  • Pumpkin flavored things...(pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie blizzards, my mom's pumpkin bars, pumpkin spice lattes & frappuccinos, etc.)
  • Good candle smells (particularly Autumn Walk by Gold Canyon...)
  • It's almost time for Christmas music
  • End of summer sales
  • Non-frizzy hair
  • Colored leaves
  • Sheri's good food (which is year-round, really...)

These things get me through the fall, but they certainly don't get me through the long winters of central Illinois. I might enjoy fall much more if it led to something better, but I always know what's coming next...dreadful cold. I think some year I'll fly south with the birds.

I'm trying to learn to enjoy this season, but with the rain today it's hard to. Technically (and ironically?) the last day of summer is on my birthday (the 21st...hint, hint), but it feels a whole lot like fall right now. I can smell it in the air...it's earthy and the breezes are crisp and less humid. It's cooler, darker, and the evening sunsets paint the sky with warmer shades of gold and pink and purple and blue. Right now, those sunsets are my hope for autumn.

I hope the rain will stop and the sun will rise, shine, and set...reminding me again that there really is beauty in the fall.

What do you like about fall? I need some more reminders!