Category: writing

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.

 

I love that scene in the movie The Holiday where Iris is having dinner with her unlikely and charming friend, an old man named Arthur Abbott. They’re discussing gumption in leading ladies on film and he tells her to quit playing the ‘best friend role’ in her own life. She says, “You’re right. That was brilliant. I mean, you’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life, for heaven’s sake!”

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By the way, you should know that aside from burritos and GIFs of SNL-funny-ladies, movie quotes are basically my love language. As a self-confessed movie buff, I sometimes get a lot of flack for watching the same movies over and over. (I also get a lot of flack for using the word “flack”, but that’s a story for another day.)

I do realize that watching one film more than 5 times seems excessive and frivolous, but guys! Sometimes I actually learn things, okay? Plus, it’s like therapy, only better. I get to lie on a couch and sort out important life lessons but it only costs a fraction of the price and I don’t have to put on real pants. I think I’m onto something here.

So is Iris, by the way.

In the story of my own life, I may as well swing for the fences and shoot for the role of leading lady, right?

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Arthur and Iris got me thinking- about stories, and how every good story requires adventure. And every great adventure requires some amount risk and courage.

Now, before we get too flowery and aspirational here, let me just pause.

I get it.

Living “an adventurous story” and being “a leading lady” who “takes risks” is all fine and good and nice to talk about on a Thursday morning. But it takes actual courage.

Courage is one of those words that are fun to say and hard to do.

And finding courage when you lack it can be even harder. 

As I continue to pursue writing, I find myself saying “yes” to all kinds of new, scary, and difficult things. I find myself taking risks, even when I have no idea how it will end. Not because I’m some kind of a badass superhero, but because I’ve simply reached a point where I can no longer ignore the dream and the lure of it’s possibility.

Which is really not like me, by the way, and has led to some extremely anxious, sweaty-palm, nervous-stomach moments when I feel like I’ve suddenly misplaced my courage like it’s a lost set of keys.

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Writing is a bit of a lonely endeavor. It requires a lot of time and space to think, to get inside your own head, and to wrestle the words onto the page. Sometimes it feels easy and fun but other times it feels like you’re clawing your way up a mountain.

Alone.

And terribly unprepared.

With only, like, a couple of carabiners and some ill-fitting spandex shorts. Like Tom Cruise in that one Mission Impossible movie, but minus the multi-million dollar budget and fancy props. Read More…

This may come as no shock to you, dear readers, but I am a simple person. And while we’re being honest, I’m also pretty fearful in general. And okay fine, a little stubborn too.

With every big decision I’ve made in life I’ve waited until I absolutely, undeniably, know in my knower that I’m sure about it. And even then God usually has to spell it out for me with a big sign saying,

Yeah, umm, did you miss the memo on the TPS reports?” 

“JUST DO THE THING already.”  

(Also, yeah, God quotes Office Space to me sometimes. It’s not weird.)

I often need to hear the same advice from ten different people in ten different ways before I’m finally like “Yes! I see it now!”

What can I say? I’m a little slow on the uptake.

Just ask my sister.

She’s 7 years older than me, and therefore at any given time has always been one whole stage of life ahead of me. She’ll always offer up golden nuggets of wisdom like, “Sister. You should never, under any circumstance, wear white athletic socks unless you’re going to a gym to work out or a field to play a sport.” Sadly this is how we would refer to it: “Play a sport”, because neither of us know the first thing about any one sport, other than the fact that they usually take place on a field. (This does not bode well for me in my Fantasy Football league but I refuse to quit playing, because stubbornness, remember?)

Or she’ll say, “Sister. You need to have a micro-planer in your kitchen drawer. What are you going to do, BUY fake grated Parmesan? Absolutely not. You grate it yourself. With a micro-planer.”

Or, “Sister. You’re in your 30’s now. You really should start using wrinkle cream. And for the love of God, wash your face each night before bed! Don’t you know that every time you sleep with makeup on it adds seven years to your face?” Incidentally, I feel that this is a gross exaggeration on her part. Then again, I could wake up tomorrow and realize with horror that I have the face of an 86-year-old woman because of all those times I was too tired to wash my face before bed.

Whenever she gives me advice, I’ll nod in pretend-agreement and then go on to totally ignore it for the next three years or so until I inevitably realize that she was, in fact, correct.

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I recently had the rare opportunity to give my big sister a little advice of my own. She sat on my porch with teary eyes and a shaky voice, questioning whether or not she should pursue a particular opportunity. She wanted it badly for herself, but it felt risky. She worried about failure or looking foolish.

You should know that Sister is a lot like me. We both need God and the universe to make things obvious for our tentative hearts.  We find comfort in the redundancy of signs all pointing to the same thing.

As she explained the details of the situation to me I couldn’t help but laugh, because it was so obvious to me from the outside looking in. I grabbed her shoulders, looked her squarely in the eyes, and said “Sister. YES. Don’t you see it? God hasn’t just opened the door he’s taken it off the hinges. Walk through it!”

By the way, she did, and it I’m happy to report that it all worked out in her favor. Then as luck and fate and God would have it, I soon found myself having a teary, shaky moment of my own. I felt stuck in a creative rut. Writing was something that had always been breezy and fun and casual for me but suddenly it was complicated and difficult. I began to question whether or not I should really even be pursuing this dream at all.

“It all just feels too risky,” I commiserated aloud one day to my writing group.

One of them immediately responded with, and I quote, “Stop it. Get out of your own way. Get your butt in that chair and write. God has apparently taken the door off the hinges for you so start running through it! Go on.”

You guys.

She said my own words back to me, almost verbatim, and I nearly choked on them. If it was redundancy I needed, the universe was surely giving it to me.

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But I’ve got to say, I’m starting to wonder about all this redundancy that I assume I so desperately “need”. (Those are air quotes, by the way. I’m using them ironically.)

I’m starting to wonder if maybe there’s a better way. Read More…

One of the best things about writing has been discovering a whole new community of other writers to connect with. One of these new writer friends, Steve Wiens, is generously sharing his corner of the Internet with me today.

Steve is a kindred spirit who writes to inspire and encourage, but also has a sense of humor, so when he graciously asked me to write a guest post for him I was thrilled and said yes without hesitation. I’m over on his blog today and we’re discussing creativity, the art of writing, and why it’s so important to “kill your darlings”.

Below is a small bit of that post. You can head over to Steve’s website to read the whole piece. And while you’re over there take a look around and show Steve some love! He is a great writer and you won’t be disappointed.

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“For most of my life I did not consider myself a creative person.

Like…at all.

I’m never the one to come up with a big idea. I’m not good at crafty things; not to mention I don’t even care for craft suppliesI cannot paint or draw. I cannot make music. I’m not even a good dancer. Unless you count car-dancing, which, I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m actually very good at because it only requires me to focus on half of my body at one time.

For the better part of my adult life, I’d completely accepted this lie about myself as truth. The lie that I’m not a creative person.

But the truth is, I am a creative person.

There, I said it.

I’m creative with blank pages and words.

And while we’re on the subject, can we just go ahead and agree that all people everywhere are creative in one way or another? I mean, seriously. The God of the universe who wildly, romantically created things like sunsets and galaxies and springtime is the same God who chose, as his grand finale, to create us. In his image.

I’m pretty sure that means we are all creative too, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it or actually do anything with it.

YOU, by your very nature, are creative a creative person!

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The moment I believed this to be true about myself was the moment everything began to change. Suddenly I was allowed in this club. Incidentally, the only way I knew I was ‘allowed’ in was because I decided to be. No one sent me a formal letter of acceptance into the Creatives Club. One day I just chose to take a seat at the table.

I was making my own art and I was putting it out there in the world! And it felt so freaking good.

The only problem was, as soon as I started identifying my words as my art I became rather attached to them. I was suddenly protective over every sentence. Every word felt in some way precious to me because I’d labored over it. I basically fell so in love with the whole process of writing that I completely forgot that editing is a vital part of that process.

I left nothing on the cutting room floor.

Slowly but surely I became less and less satisfied with my work. I would hit ‘publish’ on an essay and walk away with an unidentifiable chip on my shoulder. I couldn’t pinpoint what was bothering me, and as a result I started to struggle more and more with writing. I even stopped altogether for brief periods of time.

The temptation was to ignore the fact that I still had a lot to learn and to whine and complain about how hard writing is, how it takes so much from me, and to wonder why it’s obviously so much easier for everyone else.

The temptation was to resent the fact that making art and having a dream can often look a lot like doing the work…”

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Click here to read the full article.

 

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…

Last year was a big year for me, in terms of writing. It was filled with growing pains, learning, and stretching. I made wonderful new connections with readers as well as other writers that I respect. I found a community of people who love words, who believe in the power of words, and who bleed words onto the page because it’s the best way they know how to process the world they live in. I found my people.

Throughout the year I made writing more of a commitment and a priority, setting aside time to nurture this part of myself. I practiced consistency even when I felt like I was falling short in quality. I wrestled with myself and the gremlins that whispered in my ear. Those gremlins that whisper of doubt, fear, failure, and humiliation. They snarl and hiss and steal away my bravery. They make me feel tender and raw and not enough. They make me question my ability, my delivery, and my sense of even belonging in the writing community at all. They make me feel foolish.

I told you guys, writers are a terribly insecure bunch. Maybe even worse than actors.

I wrestled with myself and I battled those gremlins until I bled words that were real and true and from the bottom of my heart. Then I made myself get up and do it again. I sometimes shared things that were uncomfortable, personal, and that didn’t make me look very good. But they were real, and I discovered that you guys connected with those words the most.

I realized this year that writing is not only something I’m passionate about, it’s hardwired into who I am as a person. I finally had the gumption to acknowledge that it’s not just some inconsequential hobby I have, it’s a God-given dream that’s been tucked away in my heart, maybe for forever? I wonder, how long it was there and how long I was too afraid to see it.

It was a big year because even though I stumbled, I made missteps, and I wrote things that still make me cringe, I kept DOING THE THING.

I learned that having a dream takes work.

And that’s all really great and everything, but something else happened last year, too.  Read More…

“You have to be willing to be hurt by me.” His body language was casual as he said it. He leaned back against the kitchen counter, his hands folded in front of him. But his words were anything but casual. Almost like a plea, they hung in the air between us for a long moment as I froze, absorbing his meaning.

I sat across the room from him at the dining table. The distance between us was short but full of emotional wreckage- the kind that quietly builds up over years and then tumbles out everywhere, touching everything. The tears collecting in my eyelashes finally spilled over onto my cheeks.

My husband is a man of few words. He thinks before he speaks, whereas I tend to throw words around like confetti at a parade. I knew he’d considered his next words because he said them gently and with care.

“I will never intentionally hurt you. But I’m just a man. I’m going to get it wrong sometimes. You have to be willing to GO THERE with me. You can’t close yourself off and leave it all up to me to draw you out. I can’t do that all the time. I can’t be the only one. It’s too much pressure. I want more. I want your vulnerability” Read More…

You guys.

It’s here! We finally reached the end of October. It’s been bananas, hasn’t it? We finally completed this challenge to write everyday for a whole entire month.  I say “we”, because even though I was the one writing, you guys were here, sticking it out with me and reading along. I’d venture to say we’ve both been through a lot.

Immediately after I signed up for the challenge I got to work writing some rough drafts to get me started. I messaged some of my fellow Clumsy Bloggers and said “Well guys, I just wrote a post about bikini waxing, a post about sex, and a post about a television show (Scandal), so it’s pretty safe to say this will either be some of my best or my worst writing.”

In the end, I think it’s been a little bit of both.  Read More…

For a long time I completely ignored my desire to write. It lay dormant, buried deep down in my heart where it was safe. It felt too outlandish to acknowledge it. I knew that once I gave it merit, I would then have to make a choice as to whether or not I was actually going to do anything about it. I suppose ignorance really is bliss sometimes, but that only works for so long.

Slowly and surely I’ve felt God drawing this desire up to the surface of my heart until I can no longer ignore it. It’s been uncomfortable, like a needle pulling a thread up and through, piercing my heart as he weaves it more and more into the fabric of who I am. It’s uncomfortable because each tug of the needle is pulling me in a direction that leads right out of my comfort zone.

When I signed on to take this challenge to write for 31 days straight, it scared me to death because it wasn’t just outside of my comfort zone, it was a million miles away from it. I knew it would be hard. I knew I might falter. But I also knew that I couldn’t keep playing it safe and expect to experience any growth. I knew I needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable if I was going to do this writing thing at all. I needed to lean in.

Tomorrow is the last day of October and this challenge, and while it has been intense, I know without a doubt, that pressure has brought about growth.
Read More…

Today’s guest post is from one of my dear friends, Megan Baker. Megan and I go way back. Like all the way back to high school and the 90’s. From cheerleading and homecoming dances, to motherhood and ministry, over the years she continues to be someone I value and respect. Plus, let’s be honest- there’s just something about growing up in an era of pooka shell neclaces and high waisted jeans (before they were retro) that cements a friendship in a unique way.

She is open, funny, wise, and talented. She sings, she writes, and she has a rare ability to create comaraderie among women. Megan and I were recently having a conversation about “gifting” vs. “calling” and she had a lot of insight on the topic so I asked her to share it here.

Megan writes over at Up, and you can find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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It’s all the rage nowadays to be nurturing our unique gifting and making it our calling. Many of my peers are chasing their dreams, taking life by the horns, and basically rocking it. I see it happening all around me. Sometimes I feel like I’m in that group and sometimes I doubt it.

So how do I know what my gift or my calling is? Read More…