Category: Goals

You know how Oprah always had those lists of all her “favorite things” that she’d share with America, and then at the end of the show she’d surprise her audience members with all the things by telling them to look under their seats?

Well guys, I don’t want you to get too excited or anything, but I made you a list of my own “favorite things”.

At the end of this post, I would love to tell you all in a singsong voice to look under your seats because “everyone gets humpback whaaaaa-ales! YOU get a humpback whale! And YOU get a humpback whale!”

But let’s all be real here: this is problematic for a number of reasons. Namely, because I’m not Oprah. Secondly, because “humpback whale” is fun to say in a singsong voice, but ironically enough, is not actually on my list of favorite things.

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But I digress. Back to the list. I don’t know about you guys, but I fully plan on indulging myself this summer.

“In what,” you might ask?

Well, all the things.

All the television. All the books. All the food. All the music. All the podcasts.

It might be a little over-ambitious to cram so much delight into two and a half short months, but I can’t help it. I tend to subscribe to the Liz Lemon philosophy in life:

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So without further ado, here is my list of Favorite Things at the moment:

T.V. Shows

  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Because the one-liners are pure gold. They’re always saying things like, “Teeth are the boobs of the mouth!” Or “If I find a job in the classifieds, am I allowed to tell anyone?” They weave the jokes in so seamlessly, you have to pay close attention or you’ll miss at least a third of them.
  • Barely Famous: Because it’s like a new Curb Your Enthusiasm, but with sisters. One is a writer and one is an actress, but they’re both beautiful, funny, whip-smart women who have zero sense of self-preservation in their pursuit of sharp comedy. They poke fun at themselves and it’s brilliant, not just because they’re in on the joke, but because they’re telling the joke.
  • Scrubs re-runs: Because these characters stole my heart and I actually miss them. This is one of those shows that definitely started off wonky but got better and better with time. My all time favorite episodes were when JD dates a girl he really likes, but ultimately dumps her because he can’t stand that she always says “That’s funny” instead of actually just laughing, and when JD confesses he is a poo-fainter. As in, he faints every time he takes a #2.
  • 30 Rock re-runs: Because Liz Lemon is my spirit animal.
  • Outlander: Because I’ve adored the book series for years, and because Jaime and Claire are one of the realest made-up love stories of all time. Don’t even get me started. I could talk about Outlander for days.
  • Fixer Upper re-runs: Because Chip & Jo are everything. Also because Husband and I began flipping houses this year, and even though we’ve seen every episode, we still can’t seem to get enough shiplap inspiration.

Music

You should know that I used to be very cool and hip. (Operative word there, being “used” to, as evidenced by the fact that I just said “hip”, which everyone knows isn’t cool at all.) I used to go to shows at the Troubadour and other hidden little back-door venues in L.A. I used to pride myself on knowing about cool bands before they were cool.

That was a long time ago and while I do still care about music, now it’s more about how fun it is to car-dance to, than how edgy, age appropriate, or popular it is. So basically, yah- I’m a 34 year old woman who “bee-bops” in the carpool lane to that Amy Grant/ Tori Kelly remix of “Baby, Baby” and I don’t care who knows it. Apparently my inner 90’s-church-geek has a strong sense of nostalgia that won’t be denied.

Don’t get me wrong, my playlist is awesome, even though I just spent two whole paragraphs telling you how my taste is music is slipping. Just know that it’s random and fun and maybe even a bit surprising. If you’re looking for some kickass summer jams, I’ve got you covered, with everything from Ice Cube, to The Cure, to Death Cab for Cutie.

So if you’re curious, this is the soundtrack to my life right now. Whether I’m writing, driving, cleaning the house, or cooking dinner, I pretty much always have this playlist on shuffle.

 

Podcasts

  • Rose Buddies with Rachel and Griffin McElroy: Okay, these two are quickly becoming my new favorite humans. This podcast is a husband and wife duo, who not only watch all episodes of The Bachelor franchise TOGETHER (how cute is that?), but they break it down for us each week in a way that’s arguably more entertaining than watching the show itself. Laura has been telling me how funny it is for months, and I wish I would have listened sooner because now I am obsessed. I listen to it as a distraction when I do cardio at the gym and I always wind up cackling like a fool the whole time. People around me are beginning to wonder what’s so hilarious about the treadmill.
  • Hope*Writers with Emily Freeman, Myquillin Smith, Brian Dixon, and Gary Morland. It’s no secret that Hope*Writers has been a huge source of inspiration to me, and the podcasts are by far my favorite element. They’re informative and funny, and for some reason hearing their voices has a calming effect on my frazzled writer’s-nerves. I feel like the angsty kid-sister who’s cooler, wiser siblings are going, “Shh. There, there. It’s going to be okay. Here’s what you do…” Somehow just listening to them makes me feel a thousand times smarter and braver.
  • This Good Word with Steve Wiens: I love this podcast for the diversity. Each episode Steve chooses one word to discuss and it could be anything from Fear, to Sweat, to Creativity. He speaks with all different kinds of people about all different kinds of things, but I can always expect an interesting, thought provoking conversation. I was honored to be a guest on this podcast a few weeks ago. The word we discussed was “Courage”, but we also managed to include faith and fear, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, writing and dreaming, and how to correctly order Taco Bell. So yah, there’s not much we didn’t cover. I made a few confessions and over-shared as usual, but we laughed a whole lot. You can listen by clicking here: Episode 43: COURAGE, with Amber Salhus.

Books

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Okay, this is just embarrassing. My summer reading list needs to calm down already. For months I’ve been ordering and stashing books away for the perfect lazy summer day at the beach, but now it’s just gotten completely out of control. I didn’t realize exactly how many books I intended to read until I pulled them all out yesterday. I’m going to need to separate them into little piles around the house before Husband starts asking questions about how much money we’ve been spending on Amazon Prime.

A lot of these are classics and I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t finished a single one of them yet. But that’s all about to change! Because the whole point of the Summer of Fun is to fill up the tank and enjoy life. For me, one of the best ways to recharge and get inspired is by reading a good book.

Or 20.

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The Summer of Fun is already off to a strong start, if for no other reason than the fact that I’ve at least made lists.

I do love lists.

Almost as much as school supplies.

I’d love to hear what you’re listening to/ reading/ watching! Leave it in the comments!

Love you guys.

 

As you guys know, Husband and I have deemed this our Summer Of Fun.

Sounds amazing, right?

Don’t we sound like such cool, carefree parents? (Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical.)

Well it’s officially our first day of Summer break over here, and if I’m being honest I should tell you that we’re already playing it fast and loose with our definition of “fun”. If you count getting woken up by an early-riser (why, God?), putting out a fight over who gets the last of the Frosted Mini Wheats, answering 47 questions about the plan for the day in a way that does not dash all hope but also can’t later be misconstrued as “you promised!”, and paying bills all before 9:30 am as “fun”, then YES, we are having so much fun already.

The thing is, we did deem this the Summer of Fun, but we don’t exactly have a mile-long list of riveting activities to keep the children entertained for the next 85 days. (I like to call them “the children” every now and then, because it makes me feel fancy.)

Other than a couple trips to the beach, a camping trip with friends (in a trailer, because air-conditioning and coffee pots), and the annual road trip that Amber and I take with our kids, we don’t have much on the calendar.

And you know what?

THAT is fun.

The lure of freedom and all the possibility it represents is the most thrilling thing in the world to me right now.

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For us, The Summer of Fun is mostly about choosing to consciously find and appreciate the fun in regular-life moments. There will be lots of swimming and Popsicles, outdoor movies and late bedtimes, family game-nights and spontaneous picnics in the park.

I guess what I mean is that we will not be standing on our heads and dancing like monkeys in an effort to keep the kids happy. Because everyone knows that ‘keeping the kids happy’ is the biggest booby-trap in the entire world. They would ride that wave until we are fully capsized on the Sea Of Parents-Who-Died-Trying. Read More…

Monday morning I sat in a dimly lit gymnasium, smelling that familiar, musky odor distinct to all school gymnasiums, and I found myself unable to stop crying. Not because of the smell, which was particularly unpleasant, but because I was watching an elementary school Talent Show and it gave me a lot of feelings.

Like, a LOT of feelings.

More feelings than I was prepared for.

I knew I’d get emotional when I watched my daughter perform. I knew I’d feel that strange mix of pride and terror as I watched my tiny tender march out onto the stage and do something big and brave in a room full of strangers and peers. I knew that.

I was ready for that part.

I wasn’t ready for the tears that started rolling down my face 30 seconds into the first act, and didn’t stop until the curtain dropped. I don’t know why, but the minute that first little girl scooted her bench up to the piano and started playing, something inside of me came undone. Read More…

When I sat down at my desk this morning, I fully planned on writing something lighthearted and funny about how I will not be making my children any “summer-fun activity charts”, or “chore charts”, or any other kind of charts for that matter. Because anything that requires me to drive to the dollar store to buy gold star stickers and poster board, create a whole point-system, and then keep track of that system sounds like a lot of work and is quite simply too much for me right now.

To be totally honest, keeping track of anything other than what’s for dinner tonight is quite simply too much for me right now.

Then I was going to write something really poignant about the beauty in the slower rhythms of summer, or how spring has birthed a lot of new life into our household- metaphorically, of course. Calm down. We are having no more human babies over here. Just know that it was going to be a beautiful piece. Read More…

There aren’t many things I’d say I’m an expert at. In fact, if we’re counting, I have precisely two areas of expertise:

1) How To Order Taco Bell. (There is a right and wrong way. There are Taco Bell food groups. There is a system and it works. Ask me how I know.)

2) How To Have Zero Chill.

We’ve already discussed my first and real passion (tacos and burritos) so I think it’s time we dive into the other. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’ve been publicly wrecking myself for years so I have a lot of hard-earned knowledge to share with you.

This one’s for you, dear reader. All of you nervous-talking, big-feeling, over-thinking, off-beat, sensitive, hilarious souls. I got you, boo.


10 Ways To Have Zero Chill


  1. Have no mystery. This is the first and most important rule of having no chill. You may not be coy. You mustn’t allow your thoughts and feelings to remain safely beneath the surface of your calm demeanor. They should be written all over your face. And on the rare occasion that they’re not, you should just go ahead and blurt them out at the first hint of an awkward silence. This way everyone will basically know your whole deal at all times. And side bonus: you won’t have to suffer through uncomfortable lulls in conversation, which are obviously a trigger for you, so win/win! You might feel like you’re living life as an exposed nerve, but that’s actually perfect because it brings us to our next rule.
  2. Regularly suffer from cold sweats, a nervous stomach, trouble controlling the volume and pitch of your voice, and an involuntary crimson blush that starts at your neck and doesn’t stop until it reaches your hairline. Your body will betray you at every turn but that’s okay because YOU ARE A PERSON WITH ZERO CHILL, remember?
  3. Be insufferably hopeful/ constantly worried. This is a double-edged sword because you will genuinely want the best for yourself and others but because you care so much about everything and everyone you live in a constant state of anxiety about how everyone is doing. Including yourself. Have very high standards in choosing your close relationships because you need people who get you. Worry that most people don’t get you, and handle it by replaying every conversation from all angles, wondering what people are thinking, and spending a lot of time inside your own head. But remain ever hopeful, always assuming the best things in life are just around the corner and headed your way. This will be equal parts endearing and exhausting for your significant other, so remember to choose wisely there. You’ll need someone with a little extra chill to balance you out and bring you back down to earth occasionally.
  4. Nerd out whenever you encounter someone you admire. Say the first thing that pops in your head and just keep rolling with it until you run out of words. This may take a while because you’re a nervous talker, so you know, really ride that wave. Ignore that fact that your face is getting hot which means you’re blushing that telltale shade of magenta, and just keep talking. Say all the things! That way you can replay it in your mind afterwards and have lots of instant remorse.
  5. Oh wait, we didn’t mention that yet? Accept that Instant Remorse is your Siamese twin. Get used to her. You know your own mind but you also share a body, so let’s just say it’s complicated. Instant Remorse is always there, whether it’s when you order the wrong thing at Taco Bell (hypothetically speaking, because I would never actually do that), or when you buy the wrong color Mossimo top at Target. Sometimes you will be able to arrive at the right decision a half second before Instant Remorse, but other times she’ll beat you to the punch. The good news is that it’s a constant power struggle. Yay!
  6. Think everything is funny. This is actually the best kept secret about having zero chill. You get to have lots of fun. Sure, you feel all the feels and you worry a lot, but you also know how to cut loose. This is probably God’s way of making sure you survive. You will laugh when you’re happy, laugh when you’re nervous, and you’ll laugh at inappropriate times. You can laugh at yourself, at everyone else, and sometimes you even laugh while you cry. You are able to find the humor in any situation. Laughter is how you cope, how you show affection, and how you suck all the marrow out of life. This is part of your charm. It also comes in handy when finding your person. Odds are, they’ll be a person who laughs a lot too. You can bond over it and then one day decide that you want to laugh about the same things together until one of you dies. Then you can start focusing on number 7.
  7. Embarrass your children. Your kids will adoringly mimic every single one of your quirks, which will take you from pride to dismay and back again 100 times in a day. Don’t worry, this is normal. They will think you are pure magic and a hero until around the age of 9, when in the presence of their friends, they will suddenly think your very existence is an embarrassment. This means you’re right on track. It’s all part of the plan, (more or less). At the very least, it’s a chance for you to teach them not to take themselves too seriously.
  8. Lose your mind every time you see, touch, or smell a puppy. Go cross-eyed, make guttural noises, and get weird. This one is self-explanatory.
  9. Discuss everything with your people. You are the kind of person who needs to talk things through. It helps you to process and sort things out for yourself. But remember to really let it all hang out. Don’t hold back. Don’t be chill or casual about it. Have a general sense of urgency about figuring life out. You may even want to go a step further and discuss everything with the whole rest of the world. Start a blog so you have your own place on the worldwide web to share your inner monologue and really make sure you have no mystery. It is rule #1, after all.
  10. Lastly, (and this one is crucial): OWN IT.  Go ahead and be your full, unadulterated self. Don’t try to edit who God made you to be. You do you. It’s okay. It’s kind of cool, actually.

Last week I left Melissa a 5 minute audio text all about how I’d reached out to an author I admire and how she, in all her gracious awesomeness had actually responded to me. So then then I did the obvious next thing, which was to ruin everything by writing her back with A FREAKING NOVEL all about what I thought and how I felt about writing a book. (refer to rule #4).

“Blurg! Why do I always do this? Why do I always wreck myself?” I wailed into my phone.

She responded with all caps, saying, “STOP TRYING TO BE CHILL. You’re not chill. You will never be chill. You weren’t made to be chill. It’s cool. Be you. You’re amazing. It’s what makes you Amber… And I like that you don’t have chill and say what you feel. It’s real. The world needs more real humans.”

Guys, I think Melissa is right.

It’s better to be real than to be cool. So if you, like me, are a person with zero chill, just own it. That way you get to tell the joke, not be the joke. And that, my friends, is where the magic is.

Can I tell you a secret, dear readers?

Lately God has been whispering to me of big and brave things.

A dream, I guess you might say. One that was always there, but until now has remained safely tucked away in the quietest corners of my heart. I must say, I rather liked it there, where it was unacknowledged and safe, requiring no risk on my part.

You see, I’ve never really been a big fan of risk. I actually happen to be in a very long-term, exclusive relationship with my Comfort Zone. We have an unspoken agreement not to stray from each other’s side.

Yet here I find myself, in a season of change. A season of knowing, whether I’m ready to or not. God is slowly, inexorably drawing The Dream up and out of me. It’s exciting, yes, but also uncomfortable. Like a needle pulling a thread up and through as he sews it into the fabric of who I am.

For me, The Dream has always been writing. This is no surprise. I’ve spoken about it here often, bringing you guys along (whether you like it or not) as I’ve begun to sort this dream out for myself.

Besides, is it really any shock that I would go so far as to write about wanting to write? I am an over-sharing, unfiltered kind of person who feels the need to talk to everyone about everything that happens to me. We know this. Let’s just say I’m working on it and chalk it up to art imitating life… imitating art. Or something like that.

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I’ve shared with you how this writing journey has felt much like a dance, to which I do not know the steps.

How it was slow and cautious at the first, with me learning to trust and let God lead. That I moved more freely once I finally realized that it wasn’t about how I looked as he spun me across the floor, it was about what was happening right there between us. I told you when my heart quickened with the pace and I felt as if he’d winked at me and whispered, “The dance floor is ours. Hold on to me, and let’s go.”

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All the while he’s been pulling that needle, up and through, piercing my heart with The Dream; at each turn leading me further out and away from my Comfort Zone.

At first I only had an up-close picture of the tapestry he weaved. Just this one little square space, two inches from my face. “This spot right here. This is where I want you to work,” he whispered.

I busied myself in my little writing space and I loved it.

I realized in one breathless and audacious moment that I actually had something to offer here.

I could make this space lovely and in turn it could make me come alive.

And then of course, as soon as I started to get comfortable with this version of The Dream (my version), it began to shift and change. It grew. Suddenly that neat little space that was two inches from my face fell away to a tapestry that was much larger and more lovely than I’d ever dared to see. Read More…

If  you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you already know that I secretly (openly) love Taco Bell. Now that I’m a grown adult I realize the folly in this unrequited love affair. I know it’s not good for me. I know there’s something better out there. In my heart I know that Taco Bell isn’t going to enrich my life in the way I deserve, so I reluctantly cut it out for periods of time. I tell myself it’s over. For weeks and even months I manage to quit cold turkey. These tend be terribly bleak, dark days and life in general becomes quite lackluster.

But I rally.

Because like I said, I am an adult.

“I am a strong, independent woman!” I’ll say as I speed past it’s shiny billboard advertisements, remembering to look back in my rear view mirror with disdain. I remind myself how the ingredients at Del Taco are so much better (real cheese!). I distract myself with fancy Chipotle bowls. I even go slumming with cheeseburgers, just to see how it feels. But like any torrid love affair, I just can’t seem to stay away.

However shameful, my love of Taco Bell runs deep and can’t be denied. What can I say, the heart wants what it wants. As a result, I’ve been ordering and eating Taco Bell for the better part of 34 years. Look, I even had a birthday party at a Taco Bell when I turned 8 years old so… I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I know my stuff.

The point is, I’m here to help.

There is a right way to eat Taco Bell and there is a wrong way. There are Taco Bell food groups. There are guidelines that should be followed if you want to get the most out of your $3.00-$7.00 meal. Read More…

I told myself I would write this post in January. I didn’t specify when in January. I tend to be very vague with myself when it comes to deadlines, it works well for us. Seeing as how the year is still technically new I’d say the end of January is a perfectly acceptable time to be discussing my OneWord for 2016. I’m going to go ahead and assume that you graciously agree. You’re cool like that.

As I’ve shared with you in the past, every year I prayerfully choose one word as a sort of theme for that year. Some say it’s a silly notion, nothing more than a glorified New Year’s Resolution, but I won’t be swayed by the haters. I’m sold on this one. The whole concept of choosing one word really resonates with me. There’s something truly powerful about being  honest enough to take stock of my heart and the direction it’s headed.

After all, the heart can be a terribly unruly thing. 

When I’m choosing my word I find myself learning to be quiet and still and unguarded with God. I find myself actually listening for his voice. This practice has been good for me, because I tend to throw a lot of chatter at God.

I use my OneWord as a conversation piece with him. I use it as a filter, a gauge, and a springboard for my attitude and choices- For all those Yes’s and No’s in life that must inevitably be decided.

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Last year my word was ROMANCE. I felt God calling me to let go, in a sense, of all my dreams, questions, and fears, and to focus on stepping out into a romance with him. I felt him gently reminding me that I’d had it all backwards for a while. I felt him daring me to trust him with all of those very dreams, questions, and fears that held me at their mercy, and to see what he would do with them.

It’s been a lovely, painful season of both letting go and drawing near. It’s been difficult to understand and hard to grasp all the ways my God loves me. I’ve been surprised to discover that he’s wildly romantic, that he loves lavishly. I’ve been freed and emboldened by the way that love has changed me. It’s been a slow and cautious dance at the first, with me learning how to trust and how to let him lead.

I realized that it was never about how I looked as he spun me across the floor, it was about what was happening right there between us.

This year is very different. Instead of letting go, I feel God telling me to hold on. As if he’s winked and whispered, “The dance floor is ours. Hold on to me and let’s go.”

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This year my word is YES.

I want to say Yes to the things God is putting in front of me. All of the scary, new, uncomfortable, things. All of the delightful, small, meaningful things. All the new relationships that require care and effort and truth. All of the bigger-than-I’d-imagined- things. All of the smaller-than-I’d-imagined-things. All of the things that I’d normally ignore, dismiss, or say no to out of fear.

I wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed, how many treasures I’ve overlooked, how many missteps I’ve made because I’ve not even looked up to see what he put right in front of me?

I understand that every Yes requires five other No’s. I know I can’t tackle every single thing that comes my way or I’ll run myself ragged. I know I’ll need to listen to my gut and to God and to have the gumption to follow both. I’ll need discernment as I choose my Yes’s and my No’s carefully.

But mostly I just want to be open. I want to quit trying to write my own story. That story is comfortable and easy and dull. I want to say YES to the story that God is writing for me because I know that he doesn’t write boring stories. I want to show up and participate in that version of the story- even though it requires more from me. Even when it scares me. Even when it seems like a mystery. Even when I don’t know how I’ll do it.

I want to open my eyes to the possibility of God’s plan. I want to see it, recognize it, and say YES to the fullness and the risk and the wildness of it all. I want to take the next step without memorizing it first. I want to trust him as he leads me to unexpected places.

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