Friday, August 30, 2013

The #SayYesProject: An Introduction

I love to say no. Truly, my mind fills itself with What If catastrophic scenarios that throw me straight into terror mode and NO burns within me. Sometimes, I do say no. It's followed by an immediate regret. A realization that I should, I deeply want to, despite all odds I need to say YES. 

Let me share what saying yes has done for me. 

One time I went zip lining with Jason. Then I stood on a tight rope hundreds of feet up in the trees (harnessed of course). I loved and adored it so much, we did it again. Yes once turned into yes again.
Once I ran down a pier in the pouring rain with my family. We were soaked, but happy. Smiles outdoing the weather. Another time, I sweated my ass off with those same people hiking to the top of a random mountain in San Diego, loving it and doing it again and again.
One time I said yes to a boy about a cruise. We hadn't been dating long, but he wanted me to take the chance and travel. First, I said no. And insisted on it. Then, months later just before it was time to go, I said yes.
Once I said yes to the top of the ski slopes. My legs burned with nerves and tired muscles, but I slipped and slid my way to the lodge where I felt accomplished and promptly ordered myself a gin and tonic. I did this with the man I love who happened to be more nervous and less sure than I...
Once I said yes to drinking a fourth of a bottle of fireball and eating a hamburger and fries in my bed after a weekend chock-full of country music. The worst hangover ever followed, but the laughter that filled the following morning after my shenanigans made every head-pound worth it.
Once a boy asked me to marry him. And I said yes. Haven't regretted it a day since... Even when I had to beg him to wear tacky, but celebratory shirts in Mexico with me. Oh, if he only had a clue. 
Convinced yet? 

Friends, here's the #sayyesproject summed up for you:

When you want to say no, or when you do say no, change your answer and try yes. Then, enjoy it. Or dread it. Or hate it. But, be glad you said yes. Be it to a night out, a new food, big or small, adventurous or mundane, just change your answer. 

Instead of saying no, just say yes. 
Take a picture.
Or just commit the moment to memory. 
Then share it.
On your blog. 
(There'll be a link-up on September 14th -gives you two weeks!)
On Instagram. On Twitter or Facebook.
Make sure to use the #sayyesproject hashtag so we can keep tabs on each other. 

Most importantly, share to inspire someone else to say yes! 
Here's a button for you to grab and use as you wish. 
Right click and save image or use the code below.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Believe: A Fly-Over of My Faith

I didn't expect there to be such a reaction to my I believe post, but as I've been going through my week God laid I Believe: Take 2 on my heart. That's born this post: my faith in a fly-over, drive-by setting.

It's by no means completely documented here and, quite honestly, it's ever changing as far as the details go.

Mainly, the point is I believe deeply 
in a powerful, glorious God 
who loves me endlessly and, as a result, 
has changed my life profoundly over the years. 

(BTW: all typographic verses can be found here, though each is linked to it's individual spot on their site)
I believe 
Jesus died for my sins and yours too. 
In God's love -vast as the space from the east to the west.
Grace, mercy, and goodness are becoming on everyone.

I believe 
His gospel is centered around His love for us, not our failures.
We all want to know the whole story now, but that would take the fun out of faith. 
Christianity isn't all black and white, but is mostly grey.
I believe 
In God's goodness as well as His timing (that sometimes seem to be conflicting).
In the power of prayer to change one's heart as much as the circumstance. 
The trials we undergo are most formative to our faiths and our lives.

I believe 
I sin more than I don't. 
Said sin doesn't change a bit of His feelings about me.
You're a sinner too and His affections for you are unchanging. 
I believe 
I am forgiven.
More than I'm forgiven, I'm loved.
You're forgiven and loved too. 

I believe 
Love can erase gaps in generation, race, culture, location.
Love and relationships are more important than legalism and obedience.
A heart is best filled with affections for Him and others than a list of rules and obligations.
I believe 
Homosexuality is a sin.
Condemnation, a judgmental spirit, and self-righteousness are sins too.
In marriage -gay or straight.

I believe 
Christian or not -we're all walking contradictions.
(5 points if you've caught the reference here) 
Judgment feels easier than love, but love gives life to beauty while judgment simply hurts.
We're allowed to disagree. The disciples didn't all agree with Christ and He loved them all the same.
I believe 
In equality under Him -regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Jason and I can lead our home as en even team and still honor God.
In families bonded by love, not by obligation.

I believe 
Saving sex until marriage is best -logistically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Not waiting doesn't make you dirty, used, or broken 
-we're all that way because we're human, not because of sex.
Sex is for more than just making babies.
I believe 
In obedience to Him, to elders, to work.
There's times in life where you respectfully and inquisitively question what came before you.
Those times are often called growth and maturation. 

I believe 
As hard as I try a gentle and quiet spirit is not descriptive of mine. 
My soul is beautiful despite being ornery and stubborn. 
Standing strong is more becoming than being a doormat.

I believe 
The bible is overwhelming in wisdom, truths, and tales.
The internet is a legitimate bible reading tool.
Growing up in church doesn't make you more like Jesus. 

I believe 
Worship takes many forms, but the kind that comes in the form of words speaks powerfully to me. 
Church looks different to each of us. The important part is God and community. 
Words have the power to heal and inspire while also being able to hurt and damage. 
I believe 
He made me for just what I'm doing 
-for writing, for marriage, for sarcasm, for a life passionately pursuing His love and yours. 

I believe 
He made you for just what you're doing
-for writing, for reading, for loving, for a life passionately pursuing His love and mine. 
Mostly though, I believe 
We're -you and me- doing a damn good job in trying to honor Him and that He'd concur.
That we're going to get it wrong more than right, but He's still God.
Love wins: His, yours, mine, ours. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Tale of the Tat

Today we bring to you the Tale of the Tat.
Like the Tale of the Tape before a good MMA fight, but not as short and not ending in a brawl. 

The short of it: I'm in love with the ink.
More importantly (in my head), so is Mr. Thomas -the man who told me several times that there's to be no more tattoos.

Here's the before. Pardon my nosy heathen, Hazel, who's sniffing all over my stretchy, stretchy pants.  
My artist, Joe, was fantastic. He had my stencil completely drawn and prepared as soon as I walked in the shop. My appointment was at 11:30 and the actual tattooing was well underway by 11:45.
I felt nervous, until he got going. Then I felt excited. And his calm, easygoing attitude made it simple to relax and enjoy the process.
I sat for five hours. And Joe did his thing. Breaks only to change the needles. Which was my time to hit the bathroom and take progress pictures... Because what's a blogger to do! 
The whole process was fascinating beyond belief. I've never had such a large piece done and the extensive shading is new to me. That picture looks bloody but it's mostly black and red ink. 
(There was some blood, but nothing scary)
He taped me up and I headed home. (Puppy butt photobomb!) 
I waited the hour he told, then came time to share it with Jason. 
And we were both surprised with the beauty of it. 
The details are amazing. Though they aren't captured quite as much as I wish here. 
The cross is beautiful and the same as my dad, mom, and bub's. 
The infinity sign at the foot of the cross is understated and precisely what I wanted. 
The roses look black in the center, but are closer to red and pink... It'll heal lighter. 
The sparrows (the significance of them is here) flying above the cross are perfect, Sailor Jerry style. 
But my favorite, my absolute favorite part: Humphrie the Hummingbird.
He's beautiful -minty, turquoise, just beautiful
I adore him. 
This girl is thrilled. And, I can't wait to see it settle in as it heals. 
And, in the midst of it, I enjoyed time getting to know a man who's life revolves around ink, around skin, around stories. We talked about ultra-marathons (he does them!), books, family, art and our love for it, and God. Like the tattoo says, I felt God there, present, and providing a moment of conversation about Him with someone I wouldn't expect... I imagine there will be more where that came from with such a public piece like this to start such chats.

Friends, wherever life takes you, whatever you love, 
go there and seek Him because He will show up. 

5 Reasons I'm Glad I Rushed a Sorority

I swore up and down until I was blue in the face that a sorority would never be the place for me. I was sure my conservative, rule-following, nervous about large groups of women self wouldn't find it, much less find a place to call home in the madness that is college. Then sophomore year came around and I still hadn't made any good girl friends. I was disappointed and felt lonely about returning to school. That is, until my (real life, blood) sister encouraged me to rush with tales about the shenanigans and bonds and memories and resources that her sisters were to her.

I'll give it a go, I resolved. And so I did. I found a group of golden-hearted women who enriched every part of college and so much of the life hereafter. But, like any good blogger, I narrowed it down to five of my favorite reasons I'm thankful I took that crazy step into Greek life:

1. Pride in a group and a cause.
I had no idea when I first got bid card that I'd come to bleed wine and blue (or so we say). The pride I felt in the accomplishments of our chapter in my three years of membership is something I hadn't felt as part of a group previously. From our philanthropic surf competition to our chapter pride on campus to our sports teams, I was excited to cheer alongside my sisters. Wearing our letters felt like flashing a family name, something I came to hold near and dear to my heart (even now, three years graduated).

2.  Mastering the art of improvisation.

From Thing 1 and Thing 2 to Jessie and Woody to Sandy and Danny, I learned how to improvise. College isn't the place where budgets abound, but costume parties are the bee's knees and so you learn to (in the words of Tim Gunn) "make it work". We're not headed to costume parties as often as we were back in the day, but when one does arrive, you can bet your tush we go all out with what we've got in our closet. 

3. Proof that I could have girlfriends.

I was one of those girls that always said I just got along better with guys. I was also one of those girls who said that to make up for the fact that I felt like I couldn't connect with other girls. And that made me sad, discouraged, lonely. My sisters -all one hundred of them- taught me that I could not only make, but love and cherish girlfriends.

4. Friendships that last outside 
of parties, classes, and study meetings. 
One of my sisters brought her son over to our new house about a month ago. Did we have any idea at our first fraternity-hosted party that we'd be sharing our families one day? No. Not one. Did we think we'd live just a few minutes from one another and wishing for double dates? Nope. Did I think my brother would intern under another one of my sisters? No way. Would I realize that I'll always look forward to the silly texts and Facebook messages we send back and forth? Uh uh. Not that either. But, I do. These women were a very large part of formative years in my life and, well, they shall stay that way.

5. Mr. Thomas.

Not every one of my Greek sisters met a man and married him, but many did. Your social calendar quickly becomes full of activities sometimes as sisterhoods and more often as coed events. From fraternity rush week (que: Amber and Jason's introduction) to theme parties to serenades, there's all kinds of coed goodness. Still to this day, I believe I wouldn't have happened upon Jason without the common interest of our Greek affiliations.

Moral of the list and associated stories: my sorority enriched, not only, my college experience but my life and I'm pretty damn sure it'll do the same for you.

Questions about rushing: let me know. 
Did you love your sorority? Leave a little comment sharing your favorite parts. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Man-Approved Vodka Sangria

With the upcoming three day weekend to close out summer's fun, it's vital to celebrate the day by the pool with good ol' American burgers and awesome drinks. These sweet "sangria" mixed drinks are sure to provide the refreshing sips while you get your last summer tan. 

Best part: we've got options. 
Try it red, try it white. 
What's important is to try it. 

Even better best part: These drinks were man-approved.
The boys said they'd prefer rum or plain ol' vodka in it, but that it was tasty.
Girls, that means you can pull this off for a couple's party!
Wine -red, white, or both
Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka
(we've done these over a couple times using 
peaches, nectarines, blueberries, and even cherries)
1. Slice your fruit into bite-size, wine glass friendly pieces. 
2. Pop your cork and pour your wine.
3. Add a shot (or two) of whipped cream vodka.
4. Cheers! 

(Do be warned: too much of the whipped cream vodka can be nasty because of its sweetness.) 
We loved the white.

Cheers summer lovers!

Tale (and pictures) of the tattoo coming tomorrow... In the meantime, you can check it out here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

How a Tattoo Changed my Goal in Friendship

On Sunday I start the physical process of acquiring a beautiful, artistic, meaning-laden tattoo on my upper arm. It will end at my elbow after a few sessions of ink-filled needles and sitting still -at least, as far as I can imagine it now. This beginning, like most others in life, marks the end of an era. A fifteen year period where I created a prison in which my personality had to reside.

It all begin in fifth grade. At the ripe age of ten, I was picked on at school for the first time by not one or two, but a group of the popular girls. It was very public, very embarrassing, and very much established a scar upon my personality. In those moments of ridicule (that persisted until graduation from high school), I learned that shame and disappointment were strong and scary emotions. For years, I sat in a confining mental box avoiding any occasion that could lead to said emotions.

At twenty four years old, I've fueled many relationships in the same way. I don't want to be a disappointment. I want to be liked for every bit of me. I want to be a perfect friend to her. So much so, I'd beat myself up over small, seemingly forgettable awkward moments. I'd lay awake at night retracing mistakes in my day wishing desperately for a do over button.

Then, in early August Jason gave me an early anniversary present. He said I'd look beautiful with the art I so longed for on my body. He told me he'd cherish the meaning behind those tattoos just like me. And, he said to go for it. So I started the hunt for an artist whose work I love. And I found him. Then we booked the date: Sunday, August 26th.

I've gotten push back from family and friends. For every one that's excited about the decision, another isn't. But, it's my body. And the man who enjoys my body loves it too. And the God who made my body doesn't have a problem with it (in my humble and not always correct opinion). And if He does the blessing in life is His unfailing grace, His unchanging love, and His apparent bend toward art. 
(Here's another post in the making)

As a result of the ink to come on Sunday, my take on relationships has morphed into a new and freeing thought process. I no longer need to be held hostage in my friendships. For the first time in a hell of a long time, I'm doing something for me and it's a beautiful moment in which to savor and bask. Previously, I'd feel guilty, talk myself out of the want, and attempt to move on from my own frustration with my lack of back bone. But lately, I've broken the cycle.

I can hop off the tight rope teetering between my opinions and worry about their thoughts of me. Through this I am freed to bring an authentic genuine me to the table and it's up to you -friends, family, readers- to love it or leave it. And, I won't be hurt either way because being free to be me allows me to breathe and with breath I have life and with life I have opportunity for more -more friends, more faith, more adventure, more love.

Oh sweet freedom! 

Through this new confidence in bringing me to the table, I have come to terms with what I've got to offer and where I can grow. And, those realizations are beautiful in themselves. I can only imagine how the growth from them will look.

You see, I can't promise perfection or a disappointment free friendship. I know we won't agree on everything and that I'll contradict myself at times. More times than not, you'll be greeted with sarcasm and a joke, though you can enjoy a deep conversation on my behalf, too. You're going to get the good with the bad as a whole package deal.

I can promise loyalty like a dear dog. Honesty like a child. A struggling prayer warrior who'll lift you up as often as she remembers to talk to Him. Laughs like a comedian, but not as dirty. Pouty puppy dog face texts.
Homemade quilts for special occasions. A faithful date for cocktail hour. Adventure in the form of spa days, pedicures, and shopping trips. Tears as a result of laughing fits, since ugly crying really isn't my thing. Funny faced pictures -preferred over glamour shots. A listening ear with (sometimes) encouraging words. 
A love for trying something new, even if it's a one and only time basis. Fashion advice: like, knee length camouflage sweat shorts. Shared knowledge of the science behind dry shampoo. Vulnerability that is sometimes lacking, but an area I'm working on desperately. A homemade dinner when you're having a tough time or just really freaking hungry. 

So, I invite you. 
Be free in friendship with me.
And, if you don't like the bad, you don't get the good.
Tough luck, ranger. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Liebster For Me and Now For You!

 So, what is a Liebster?  The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Isn't that sweet? Blogging is about building a community and it's a great way to connect with other bloggers and help spread the word about newer bloggers/blogs.
This means someone, Caley, believes I'm an up-and-coming kind of girl. And that encourages my, sometimes, faint heart. 

Did I mention it's Caley's birthday? Yep, and that's how I'm finally coming around to this! 

 Happy Birthday beautiful girl! 

Once you have been nominated for this award, there are a few rules that you have to follow:
  1. You're required to answer 11 questions that the blogger who nominated you has set.
  2. You then need to state 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. You then need to mention other bloggers/blogs that inspire you or that you enjoy reading and nominate them.
  4. Once you have nominated other bloggers, you then need to set your own 11 questions for them.
  5. Once you have been nominated, thank the person that nominated you and post a link back to their blog if you feel so inclined.
Caley's Questions for ME! 

1. When and why did you start blogging?

I started blogging in college after stalking a couple of family friends' blogs for a while. I decided, I like to write, I feel like I have interesting things to say. What the hell? Why not start a darn blog? So, we are here. 

2. Who are your 3 favorite blogs, and why?

Brittany, herself. Seriously, this woman doesn't know me in an everyday way, but she gets me. And I love it. Plus, she makes me laugh and it comes from deep inside my gut. 

Don't Quote the Raven. She's not only completely hot and hilarious, but she's got beliefs. And she owns them. It's so admirable. 

Bloom. Oh, Nicole. Her heart for God is beautiful and encouraging on days when I'm wanting to be nothing but grouchy. 

3. What is your honest opinion - good and bad - about my own blog?

The good: You. Seriously, you're authentic, genuine, and so good about connecting with others. Not all who blog can do so. 

The bad: South Africa is so damn far away and you make it look so good. Girl, I'd hop on a jet plane if I had a month off of work and some jet fuel to get me there. 

4. What are your 3 hobbies?

Obviously, I want to list blogging, but you know that, so don't count it as one of the three. First, running. Second, reading. Third, whittling small figures out of butter cubes.

Are you reading this really? Nope, because you didn't just get hung up on the butter cubes. And it's a lie. A bold-faced lie. But really, third, mixing cocktails and hanging out in my bikini poolside.

5. Name a song that best describes you.

Who Are You When I'm Not Looking - Blake Shelton

6. Describe your first love - partner, family, friends, pets.

Obviously, my Popsicle. Because, what girl doesn't love her father upon exiting the womb?

Otherwise than than, Arthur. The faithful black lab that my parents bought when he and I were just six weeks old. Yes, a puppy and a baby simultaneously. They called us "The Twins" even though he was black as midnight and I a toe-headed blonde. He was dear, sweet, and the perfect bit of trouble too. 

7. What is your favorite girls' name and boys' name?

Oh, names. Trey Aldo for a boy. Pretty sure that'll be my son's name. (Jason actually likes this one too!)

Girls' names... We don't agree much there. I love Ruby, Hazel, Lucy, all the retro-chic names. Jason says they belong to old ladies and our babies don't deserve that. So, the jury remains out! 

P.S. I know this didn't ask what I'm going to name my kids, but I answered it like that anyway. Clarification: NO THOMAS BABIES ARE ON THE WAY. 

8. Describe your ideal evening.

Two good books -one for me and one for Mr. T-, a beer for him, a glass of red wine for her, and our comfy, cozy bed. We're old souls deep inside and love to find ourselves reading side by side before our slumber each night. 

9. What is your view on sex before marriage (eeek, out of the comfort zone here!)?

My view is we didn't go there until we were married. And it worked for us that way. I'd recommend it, I think it makes relationships more simple, but no less emotionally bonded. I know what the bible says about sex, but I believe that waiting is good for more than just Christians. 

10. Do you think we would be real life friends, and why?

Sure. Why not? You've got a cute kiddo, you're a babe-alicious blonde, and your love for God inspires me. Yes, let's be friends. (Does being Facebook friends make us real life?) 

11. Name your favorite holiday destination, and why.

Cancun. All inclusive bars, the beach with warm ocean water lapping on the shore, and all the memories of the trip there where we were engaged... Adios America, Viva La Mexico! 

And now my 11 facts about me (some you may have heard many times before!):

1. I cannot sleep without a blanket covering my ears. I don't know why, but I've decided it's impossible.
I grew up in an Evangelical church environment, for years I was terrified of God and hell. That's no way to live.
3. My dad taught me to drive a classic John Deere tractor on my 14th birthday and it's my secret talent. 
4. I love tattoos. Partly because they are rooted in memories with my dad, partly because they're beautiful, permanent, and art. 
5. I hate the texture of mushrooms.
6. I had two imaginary friends as a kid. Tyler and another boy (whose name I forget). They ran by the car when we drove places. That's the extent of our memories. 
7. My butt chin is my favorite part of my body. 
8. Both of my arms are double jointed. Push-ups look weird when I do them. 
9. My hometown is on a fault line in California so I grew up with earthquakes. There's something about them that reminds me of how powerful God is and, instead of being terrified of them, I enjoy. (Weird?) 
10. Louis Armstrong and Tracy Chapman have voices I cannot get enough of... Thus, you can bet their music will be mixed into every playlist I've made. 
11. Colored paper clips make me happy. 

I am awarding the following talented ladies and their blogs for this award:

And my 11 questions for my mentionables:
1. Your all time favorite book... And why? 

2. Did you have an imaginary friend as a child? If you did, tell us about said friend. 
3. What song is you? 
4. If you had to live in a decade other than the current one, which would you choose?
5. Beauty product you can’t live without.
6. Are you a morning person or a night owl? 
7. What is your favorite season of the year?
8. Your favorite meal. 
9. Three favorite online shopping websites.
10. Which Justice League hero are you? 
11. Post it notes or push pinned papers? 

Can't wait to read everyone else's answers!
Go ahead, visit all them dolls. 
And, if you're not listed above, but want to participate, just do it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Believe

Being from a small town, I've seen how based on appearance, associations, and occupations people are categorized. These (bizarre in my humble opinion) groupings come with an accompanying set of beliefs. We all know (though we don't necessarily acknowledge) that just because people look different (or the same) doesn't mean they think different (or the same). So today, I do as Raven and Helene did and I make my beliefs known. 
I believe
Self confidence is a constant battle -one I hope to win more than lose.
Weight is just a number (though, some days I don't believe that at all).
Beauty should be determined by personality, heart, and passion -not make-up, hair, clothes, weight.

I believe 
Eating healthy is important, only 80% of the time.
Rewarding yourself is done with cookies, cupcakes, and a good Heffenweisen (orange on rim).
No recipe is worth more than 10 steps or two "active" hours.

I believe 
Cake is how you celebrate.
Wine makes a body strong... Or is that milk?
In sun tea, spicy bloody marys, and bacon.
I believe 
Couples can have a healthy sex life without PDA.
Sarcasm is a love language.
Good sex comes from a great emotional connection.

I believe 
In worst case scenarios.
Dreams don't come true, they get blown out of the water by the awesomeness of life.
The human will can overcome more than we expect.

I believe 
In well-utilized swear words.
In handwritten notes -thank you or otherwise.
Beautiful hand writing and fun doodles make notes pretty regardless of subject matter.

I believe 
Dogs are good for the soul.
A good dog is a disciplined one.
Nothing says comfort like a snoring puppy.

I believe
In spa days that include massages and good food and sun by the pool.
Some days it's better to choose the lazy morning snuggle than to hit the blacktop or weight room.
Water works miracles on skin, breath, and tummy aches.

I believe 
Any celebration worth having includes dancing all night.
I'm best at cutting a rug in heels.
No one looks dumb dancing -except in pictures.

I believe 
In early morning exercise.
I'll never be able to work out in a gym without someone directing me. (Minus the cardio)
Sore, tired muscles are happy muscles.

I believe
Everyone's got something to bring to the table.
We undervalue ourselves -comparing our worst to their best.
It's easy to be scared; it's hard, but beautiful, to be brave.

I believe
Sewing, painting, and drawing are life-giving.
Good writing gives life to deep, seemingly indescribable emotions.
Life's too short to read bad books.
I believe 
In a strong cup of coffee in the morning -and the afternoon.
In working hard and playing just as hard.
A glass of red wine is good for the heart and the soul some days.

I believe
In dry shampoo, mascara primer, and eyebrow wax.
Nothing beats a natural look.
Big hair is better hair.

I believe
Country music has a song for every situation life may bring.
In singing along at the top of your lungs -in the car, during a shower, AND in public.
It's important to listen to everything, because inspiration comes in the unexpected.

Mostly though, I believe
In the power of grace, the beauty of mercy, and the expansiveness of love.
Jesus died for my sins and yours too.
No matter what I do, God loves me all the same.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Things I've Learned by Taking Selfies Every Damn Day

I'm a fashion plate (highly questionable statement)... So much so, I've decided to share my clothes pairing skills on my Instagram most days of the week.

No doubt, posting pictures of my outfits was super awkward at first... And it showed in those pictures. Then I joined the #coasttocoastchallenge that occurs every Tuesday and Thursday... After much love, I decided to branch out. Turns out I learned a thing or two!

1. Don't stick your butt and boobs out with an arched back. Push your hips forward in line with your shoulders and stick out your neck. 

This'll actually make you look thinner. And not quite so... sexy. Plus, once I read somewhere that the more uncomfortable you feel in your pose in a picture, usually the more flattering it looks. Oh, that's just dandy... Let me get my right foot behind my left ear and see how good I really look.

2. Having a photo every day helps keep you aware of your body. Things starting to fit tighter? My guess is it isn't just your shoes. Or water retention. 

3. Mix up the wardrobe baby. It's a challenge not to wear the same seven outfits on repeat (which I'm apt to doing)... And I don't work in an office where I have to be all fancied up or even half way decent so the pictures help keep me out of yoga pants and running shorts on repeat. 

4. Make-up is fun. Especially when you try and mix it up. Something I haven't done previously. 

5. People enjoy seeing you smile at them. If even just in a picture.

I used to take shots with my head cut off because... I could? Then a friend asked what my face looks like on top of the outfit... And mentioned she'd like to see the hair and makeup that finish my looks. Ummm, really? Somehow that had never crossed my mind.

Truth be told, people don't smile that much, so I'm one smile they have insured.

Mostly though, I've learned that I love to look at myself. I'm just as self-involved and self-interested as the next girl. The instant gratification that comes from my beloved "LIKES" and comments and questions can quickly become a drug of sorts. While I don't know that I'll stop posting outfit pictures, I have started thinking about what's behind them. Am I doing them for me to feel better? Is it to ensure followers? Why?

Right now, I tell myself it's because I like to keep track of cute outfits (truth, they have a folder in my phone), but will that continue to hold water? ...I can't promise. They'll keep coming because, for now, I'm enjoying it. But there may be a day when I mature beyond the self-involvement that they are and when that day comes, it'll be time to redefine my Instagram

Friday, August 16, 2013

I Drop the Knee, Lift the Foot, & Fit the Shoe

Though this story doesn't involve washing feet, 
my mind wandered to Christ and his habit of foot washing. 
How he, too, stooped, fussed, cared.

"When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. 
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, 
you also should wash one another’s feet. 
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, 
nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
-Matthew 13:12-17

May we bend to wash the feet of those around us whether they understand or not.
Even the disciples questioned Christ's act of foot-cleaning, 
yet it didn't stop him. 

I dipped my head and dropped to my knees when his flip flops were no longer suiting him. He needed others. So, we change. He holds my shoulders like a child, steadies himself as I guide his once agile feet clumsily into his beloved loafers. I rise, look him in the eyes, and seek his approval just as I have the last 24 years.

How, despite all the loss and change, can I remain so much the same? Though many of his defining traits have slowly, yet completely, dissolved into a thing of the past, my daughter's heart remains intact. A visit is good when I feel I've done right by him despite his inability to express approval -or, conversely, disappointment.

As we walk laps through his building and its attached grounds, I fuss over him as a daughter hosting Thanksgiving might do. Not that I'll know what that's like. Dementia made life what I never expected: a string of opportunities missed, replaced by a rash of difficult, defining relational moments. And, while I'm determined to see the glass as half full, there are days I can't help but hurt for the stolen memories.

He will never be Pops to my kids. He won't sit at my table impressed with the Christmas dinner I've prepared. He's not going to answer my parenting questions in that dry, love-filled way he always answered everything. His advice won't fill my ears whether it's asked for or not. He can't instill good table manners, undeniable work ethics, or a love for puns in my children (I know, I can in his honor, but please stick with me here).

While he lives within my soul, some days my heart longs for him to be present, aware, and sarcastic because that's what he always was to me. He wasn't perfect, far from it. But he was handsome, in spirit and in person. He wasn't blemish-free, far from it. But he was marked by integrity, in work and in life. He wasn't sensitive, far from it. But he was devoted, in love and in faith.

So, I stoop humbly before him changing his shoes. Ensuring his feet are snug in his favorite loafers. Steadying him as I request his other, uncovered foot. He obliges. As I stand, I make eye contact seeking the approval behind his baby blues that are mirrored in my own face. Those eyes remain blank, unaware, yet fixed on mine, as if there's a slight recognition of his genes.

And, as the little girl desperately seeking dad's approval, I resolve I've got it. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Life Currently {August Edition}

Here's a new mid-month check-in I'll be doing. Found the essence of the post here and now working on making it more Mr. Thomas & Me style. Forgive us while we figure ourselves out here. 
...wearing my new favorite turquoise sandals. 
...asking myself why I didn't buy another pair of said sandals in another color.
...reading Where'd You Go Bernadette? 
...watching the end Real Housewives of Orange County season and feeling over it. 
(in all truth, I'd prefer to sit through a season of American gypsy weddings.)
...trying to keep on the clean eating train. 
...eating cottage cheese with chopped veggies and sriracha. Mostly though, sriracha.
...drinking red wine. It's my new love and it makes me feel so adult.
...going through's Blog workbook. 
...loving honey goat cheese. Have you met it? Heaven on earth tongue-feel for you, folks. 
...hating dementia. Oh wait, I've said that before? At least I'm consistent, right?
...discovering the vastness and amazement that is the Influence Network
...enjoying the late evening sun. If only I had a porch to sit on and enjoy that light, that breeze, my wine. 
...ruminating about this Incourage devotional that has changed my approach to God for the last few weeks. 
...feeling awe-filled. Not to be confused with awful. God's doing big things with me right now. 
...hoping to be like the Lee and Morty one day. I'll dust, I promise, if Mr. T fusses over my safety.
...listening to jazz. Louis Armstrong has stolen my little heart.
...thanking Brittany for her beauty. Inside and out. 
...wondering what life will happen this month. A month is a long time and lots of life happens between the 1st and the 31st. 
...finishing the Gospel of Matthew and moving on to Mark. 
...starting to miss small groups and doing life in an intimate context.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Power Songs for Blog Writing According to Amber

We've all got mixed tapes we put together. You know, Eye of the Tiger and Lose Yourself for the gym. Katy Perry's Last Friday Night and at LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem to get your pumped at Party Time. Some Robin Thicke and Bruno Mars to spark some romance. Know what I'm talking about?

What about when you're tackling a tough topic for the blog? One of those posts where you're as vulnerable as you are alive and it's scary. A time when your words are itching to be heard and you need the strength to feel it, type it, then let others respond. Oh yes. This is for then.

Mumford & Sons: White Blank Page

Macklemore: A Wake (Featuring: Evan Roman)

Kacey Musgraves: Follow Your Arrow

Jack's Mannequin: Dark Blue
Dark Blue (Album Version) by Jack's Mannequin on Grooveshark

The Spill Canvas: 3685
3685 by The Spill Canvas on Grooveshark

Tracy Chapman: Fast Car
Fast Car by Tracy Chapman on Grooveshark

They're all over the place as far as era, genre, lyrical content. But, they've all got this authenticity that I can only hope reflects in my writing (especially because there's no way in hell I'm a singer outside of my car and my shower). 

What songs get your thinking, writing, sharing? 

Monday, August 12, 2013

For those times when you need to be broken.

I talked about being anxious one time. And I thought, this is fun to remember and to reminisce on in order to help others. Then, just when I thought the anxiety issues were all buttoned up, the "What If's" moved back onto Peace of Mind Avenue bringing with them a trail of exhaustive thoughts. 

These last couple of weeks my tendency to worry has reared its head in scary, momentary thoughts. Like, as we walked into the movie theater on Saturday night and I thought, for just a split second, what if another massacre happened here? Like stepping onto an elevator and cold sweating as soon as the doors begin to close because what if it malfunctioned and I got stuck in that car in that concrete shaft with no where to go, or, even scarier, if the chain snapped and I free fell to my death. Like what if Jason gets in a horrible accident on his way to work and they can't figure out to call me to let me know where he is or how he's doing.

Though these thoughts are nothing more than fleeting, they're long enough to be recognized by my anxiety-prone heart. As my brain goes out on a rogue limb just for shits and giggles, my heart is troubled and terrified. I know my anxiety won't get me anywhere but the Land of the Exhausted, Frustrated, and Crazy, so, this time, I'm going to acknowledge it now. Now which happens to be before the rituals and bleach, the insomnia and avoidance, the disinterest and apathy. 

While worry won't heal my dad, there's this small part of my heart that believes worry and clutching to everyone else precious in my life will keep them safe. I desperately cling to my family making sure they're being safe, taking care of their minds and their bodies while working my hardest to show them how special they are to me. 

I read a quote once:
"There isn't enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which will live there." 

Previously, I chose worry and hosted that life-sucking bugger for years. This time I'm pursuing faith. I'm choosing His words, His truths rather than my rituals, my lies. As I drove to work this morning I wanted to fall into my old, needy habits and talk to someone on the phone or listen to talk radio (voices filled with meaningless chatter calm me). Instead, I listened to Him. Well, a song about Him. 

The words rocked me to my core. 

I am broken at Your feet //
Like an alabaster jar //
Every piece of who I am //

Laid before Your majesty //

Sometimes I need a reminder that I'm broken. Anxiety is just that. So, I lay myself down and let Him put the pieces back together. I let Him renew my essence while I rest at His feet. And, for the first time, I'm good with this broken, tired, neediness that requires me to be dependent -no longer on myself, Mr. T, or my family- but on His skilled hands. 

Very practically, this looks like turning off the news for a bit. Disengaging from all the local scariness going on in our small town. Very realistically, this looks like being honest with my family and friends about my fears and triggers. Being vulnerable in spirit and in heart (something that doesn't come naturally for me). Very honestly, this requires me to focus on Him and His promises and His words rather than on my wishes, my take on current events, my fears. 

Reminding myself daily that I can't keep bad from happening, but I can choose where to set my perspective. I can have a heart ruled by terror and paranoia (which I happen to do so well) or a life that delights in His light and easy yoke. 

Who better than to close with an encouraging challenge, but C.S. Lewis himself.
“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. 
There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. 
Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. 
But trying in a new way, a less worried way
Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. 
Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, 
but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way 
because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” 

Mere Christianity (emphasis added)

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