What I’m Into, April 2014

Wow, April.  I can’t believe it’s over and I can’t believe we survived.  After nearly seven months of winter isolation, I got out and about A LOT in April.  It was incredibly fun.

What I’ve been up to:

We spent a weekend in Washington, DC, with our very best friends.  It was so lovely to see them all and to celebrate birthdays and first-zoo-trips and drink coffee at my favorite coffee place ever.

DC

The following weekend I rented a car and drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Festival of Faith and Writing.  It was weird and awkward and wonderful.  I met some really lovely new friends!

ffw dinner group!

Kristin from halfwaytonormal.com // Brenna from brennadambrosio.com // Emily from emmillerwrites.com // Anne from modernmrsdarcy.com

I loved so many of the sessions, but I really started feeling my writerliness in a session with Peter Orner (a non-practicing lawyer who is an MFA professor in San Fran and is from my city!).  His novel Love and Shame and Love is set in Chicago and is waiting for me to finish up a few other things I’m reading.  I’m so excited to read it.

Love and Shame and Love, Peter Orner

Love and Shame and Love, Peter Orner

Sometime that week we also made it to our first Cubs game at Wrigley Field.  The next weekend was Easter Sunday, and we spent the holiday with my friend Brenna and her lovely family.  One of her three daughters sat in my lap all day (except for the parts where she was throwing up everywhere) and H and I both felt like we belonged.  Brenna set a lovely table as well:

Easter Meal

Because we spent so much time out of town this month, it’s been hard to do all of the things I really love to do — such as staying at home in my jammies and watching lots of television.  I’ve seen the season finale of Scandal but I’m still a little behind on all of my shows (which is probably good since the season finales leave me with nothing left to watch all summer!  I should probably try to spread them out a bit, but I’m pretty sure I won’t.)

Instead of a subject-by-subject breakdown of the month, here are a few random things I’ve loved this month:

  1. Dark Chocolate Chili Almond KIND bars.  Holy cow they are delicious and only 200 calories.
  2. Eating healthy(ish).  It’s a work in progress.

  3. Kappa Delta.  The Illinois-Wisconsin State Day was last weekend and it was so fun to attend!  I’d never been to a state day before and I didn’t know how adorable it would be to see my Kappa Delta sisters celebrate 50+ years of sorority membership.  They are a d o r a b l e.  And also, smart and kind and funny and stylish.  And even more – seriously, there’s more – they had Midwestern accents.  I nearly died of happiness.

  4. Body shop bath products.  On a related note, I won a raffle for coconut-scented Bodyshop products and they. are. awesome.  I’ve never been one to spend a lot of money on fancy shower/bath stuff, but my showers have been quite lovely this past week!

  5. Pitch Perfect.  I mean, I think that movie is on TV every single day, but the thing is: it is hilarious every single time.

6.  FUMC at the Chicago Temple.  I have so many notes in my journal and things to write about how lovely it has been, but without getting into all of that, it’s just basically the greatest church I’ve ever gone to.  I can really focus on the sermons and enjoy the services because I’m not counting grammatical or historical or factual errors or constantly crossing and uncrossing my legs to distract myself from completely inappropriate comments about poverty, race, or gender.**  It’s really what I’ve been needing and I’m so glad we found it.

  1. Edward Gorey.  Do you guys know about Edward Gorey?  I totally didn’t, and then I went to this Goreyesque event and I fell totally and completely in love!  Apparently Goreyesque is a celebration of funny morbid creative things, like a short story written from the perspective of a recently deceased seventeen year old who makes fun of his sister’s vapid friend while watching his sister wrestle with the details of his suicide.  Which was sad and hilarious.

8.  Me.  Is that weird to say?  This month I’m totally into me.  I’m into goal setting, I’m into believing in myself, I’m into my writing and my blogging and my spiritual development.  I’m also into my brain: I went to a lawyer training event one afternoon and for a few hours remembered how fun it is to think about the law and how much I love doing that.  So that’s cool, right?  I’m kind of into me right now, and working hard to take care of my whole self (brain/heart/body).

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for you this month!  How are things in your world, and what have you been loving this month?  Leave me a note here or join the link-up over at Leigh Kramer’s blog.

What I'm Into Link-up LeighKramer.com

What I’m Into Link-up
LeighKramer.com

** I’m not blaming other churches for my inability to fit in, but I am excited to have found a congregation where I can be myself.  If you’d like to let me know that feeling these feelings or thinking these thoughts in church is my fault and not the church’s fault I’m happy to receive that feedback below.  Thanks in advance.  ;)

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.25.2014

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Things I love?  Reasonable people saying reasonable things.  Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why we Must Have Both, is a statement signed by a number of respected, thinking people saying that they support gay marriage AND they support the right of others to disagree without being punished.    And here’s a statement from Dale Carpenter at Volokh explaining how he does and does not agree.

Esther Emery’s Why I Will Not Leave the Evangelical Church Today.  Another piece of nuanced, compassionate writing from my friend in Idaho.

A new series is starting up at Vulture.com and it looks FANTASTIC.  The first post is up:  Questlove on How Hip-Hop Failed Black America.  (h/t to Belle at CapHillStyle.)

Joy the Baker has a story/recipe combo post on her blog, making The Old-fashioned, which is (after a bit of trial and error) her cocktail.  It looks awesome and like it would bring a little extra credibility and sophistication to a night out.

Finally, we’ve got a Writing Lessons post from Emily Maloney that has stayed with me this week.  She writes about how she learned to put into practice the important writing mantra of showing up and getting it done.  Reminds me about what Anne Lamott said at the Festival of Faith and Writing, and a new effort to write words on pages at #6am led by my new friend Ed Cyzewski.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.18.2014

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This Forbes Magazine article introducing a report by the coalition Americans For Tax Fairness that estimates the amount of government assistance awarded indirectly to Walmart.  Their theory is that Walmart is able to make high profits by keeping its employees’ incomes low, and that those employees are able to survive and continue working due to public benefits like food and housing assistance payments.  What makes this theory even weirder is that a huge portion of those food stamps benefits are then spent AT WALMART, thus forming somewhat of a double subsidy to the corporation.  Note: the math/methodology of this report isn’t a perfect science, but it is a quite interesting assessment.  Either way, definitely take a look.

This Festival of Faith and Writing wrap-up piece by my NEW FRIEND(!!!!!) Anne Bogel.  There were some other goods ones too!  Check out the hashtag #ffwGR to learn more about the festival.  I may post my own reflections here, but it’ll be next week which is a little un-timely so if you are interested now, the twitter hashtag is your friend.

This Inc. assessment of whether or not you genuinely love what you do.  I scored 13 out of 15, which means I am “deeply, madly in love with [my] work!”  That’s pretty cool, right?  What is your score?

Last week I read this article at the Harvard Business Review blog and I was like WHAT THE WHAT, if this ever happened to me I would probably quit my job. Basically, one of the CEOs of PepsiCo apparently calls the parents of her Millennial employees to tell those parents just how special and lovely their children are.  This week, my absolute favorite management blog was like WHAT THE HELL.  Thank goodness there are still reasonable people out there on the internet.  And please read the comments here, they are hilarious.  FYI: Your Millennial employees do not want you to call their parents to tell said parents that their children are special snowflakes.  Seriously, don’t.

And finally, for you guys who, like me, aren’t exactly sure what to do when everyone else starts clapping and/or crying in church this week, here’s a little something for you from Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan.

Okay, that’s five!  What awesome things did you read this week? 

 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.11.2014

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  1. The Culture of Shut Up, by Jon Lovett for The Atlantic.

  2. What Abandoning Evangelicalism Does and Does Not Look Like, by Zack Hunt for The American Jesus.

  3. Am I Overstepping When I Try To Be Emotionally Intelligent?, by Alison Green at Ask A Manager.

  4. The recovery puzzle: A new factory in Ohio struggles to match jobs to job-seekers, by Monica Hesse at the Washington Post.

  5. Why I’m Done With Letting Critics Tell Me Who I Am, by Esther Emery. >

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.05.2014

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It’s a beautiful, warm and sunny morning in WASHINGTON, DC!!!!!  I’m spending the day with my favorite people doing my favorite things.  Here are five great reads for your first official April weekend.  I hope you get a little sunshine today, too. 

On building a good-looking work outfit:  Work Wednesdays: Decoding the Mystery, from Belle at Capitol Hill Style.  I have a similar approach to building a great work outfit that usually involves khaki-colored top, khaki-colored sweater, neutral pants, neutral shoes.  It still covers all the important parts but the result is a lot less interesting . . .

On being an internet sensation:  Julie Deneen at Fabulous Blogging with Clawing Your Way to an Online Presence: The Difficulty of Building a Brand.  There are definitely some blog-focused terminology in this post, but it is also an interesting look at how to be a success — and wait for success — in any professional field.

On Following Your Dreams, You Guys {For Reals}, by my friend Esther Emery.  Esther is legit.  This blog post is like When Women Were Birds (have you read that?  It’s one of my favorite books on writing) if you take out the pretty flowers and you turn up the intensity.  Esther is simultaneously super-human and incredibly vulnerable and I really like her.

On that whole World Vision thing:  Evangelicals Punish World Vision for Walking Down ‘The Romans Road,’ by Ken Wilson and published at The Huffington Post.  This is the right kind of approach.  I really, truly believe that more people agree with this response to homosexuality in the church, but they are just afraid to say it because of the social ramifications of doing so.  I wish more Christian leaders would be brave and speak what they think is right the way that Ken describes here.

Before making my views widely known to my congregation, I felt stuck, much as I imagine the leaders of World Vision must have felt stuck before they decided to hire (or more like, not to fire) people in covenanted same sex-relationships. People who like the other employees of World Vision, love Jesus and want to relieve human suffering. In my mini-version of the World Vision leadership dilemma, I wondered, “How can I tell my congregation that I cannot enforce these exclusionary policies without blowing up the church I love?”

On what we keep hidden from friends:  The Splenda Level of Friendship, by Megan Gahan for She Loves Magazine.  I loved this.  It’s reminiscent of what I was saying last week, when I wrote this.

 

This is about religion. Sorry, not sorry.

Here’s the thing. I don’t really believe the Bible is inerrant the way a lot of people do. And I know that writing that down and publishing it on the internet means some people who share my faith tradition will lose respect for me, but I need to start there. I think that reading the Bible brings me closer to God, and helps me to know him better — but reading the Bible also reminds me of the ways people have [mis-]used Scripture to silence me and to silence my brothers and sisters on this planet.

It’s a complicated relationship, for sure. I want it to be less complicated. I want Scripture to bring only joy and not pain, but that just isn’t where I am right now. I haven’t been there for a few years, actually. Life is a journey, and I do not believe we are called to check all the boxes while shutting down our brains. Faith shouldn’t have to be a mental power struggle, where we refuse to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and confusions and doubts and scream out an unthinking “YES” to all the things they say we have to believe. For me, right now, it’s an ongoing effort to seek God’s love and pursue relationship. To follow Jesus. To find the arc of redemption moving in our world and to follow it, and to hope for the redemption that we believe will come. So, while I’m often frustrated or unsure about where I stand with the Bible, I trust that if I am seeking God and trying to follow Jesus, that one day I’ll be in a better place with the Bible too.

I still think I’m a Christian.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I spend every minute of every day seeking God and trying to reconcile with the Scriptures. Because I don’t. Reconciliation with Scripture and communities of faith is something I think about often and hope for. Scripture and faith communities are intrinsically linked to my childhood and my understanding of the world. But I’m not necessarily doing that full-time right now. I think about a lot of other things too.

I still think I’m a Christian.

The internet makes it harder. I read blog posts and articles and comments saying that if you interpret differently the meaning or application of one or two sentences of a certain translation of the Bible, you are throwing out the entire gospel narrative and you can’t be a Christian anymore. And I’m stunned because, holy cow, I wish it was only one or two sentences that I didn’t interpret literally. I wish it were that simple.

This week, with all of the World Vision USA hullabaloo, I read your words, and I felt even more that I didn’t belong. Here I am: I grew up in your world, I followed all your rules, I learned all of your Bible verses, I went to your camps and I graduated from your college, and I don’t belong. I still think I’m a Christian, but if I told you the truth, would you agree? Would you say that it’s okay to be different, to not understand the world in the same way as everyone else, that God is bigger than our doubts and our questions? I’ve heard that before.

But I wonder sometimes — is God only bigger than my doubts and questions because I am a straight, white, married female?

I want to hear you say that the world is full of nuance. I want to hear you say that we can all work with people, live in community with people, shop at grocery stores with people and bake cakes for people who believe different things than we do. I want to hear you say that you don’t believe everyone who thinks differently than you about the world, or religion, or the Bible deserves to live in constant fear of poverty because they cannot find or keep employment. I want to hear you say that each of us finds God and faith on a different timeline, and that it isn’t up to us to save people. That we pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to move within us and our neighbors, and that we love each other while we wait.

Instead, I’ve been hearing you say that a Christian organization that decides to stop excluding certain groups of people from its hiring pool has thrown away the Gospel. The entire Gospel. Now that they’ve changed their minds, I’m hearing you rejoice, slapping hands and taking credit for standing your ground. For the Gospel. And I wonder, what would you say about me, if you knew my doubts and struggles?

Well, now you know.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 3.23.2014

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This post from Jezebel really made me think:  What Life is Like When Getting Your Period Means You are Shunned, by Rose George.

Once again, Kate from Eat the Damn Cake writes something that sticks with me.  This week’s post, What Do Women Do All Day?, is kind of awesome and wonderful and, just like last week’s post about danger and whether you should save yourself or a stranger, sits in the tension that is so much of everyday life.

Richard Beck’s post on being a famous, influential Christian without being a jerk (or, as he calls it, On Christian Celebrity), was incredibly thoughtful.  So much of what I read online is extremes and hyperbole, and this is just good thinking.

Alise has a post up about forgiveness entitled Redemption Only Through Failure?.  She asks whether her marriage that began in an affair with the worship pastor of her church has to end in divorce for her to receive forgiveness and redemption and reconciliation with the Church.  And to be honest, I don’t think there are any easy answers here.

Last but not least, my friend Osheta Moore’s post for A Deeper Story, Speaking Fear, Praying ShalomFull disclosure: I was granted a preview of this post and provided a few editorial comments on the draft about a month ago, and I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to come out because I LOVE Osheta and her voice her is so important to the conversations around race and public safety and how we raise our children and how we make our world better. Please do read this. 

#50daysawriter Update: The Half Way Point

As I’m typing this post, it’s the middle of the twenty-fifth day of my 5o-Day commitment to thinking of myself as a writer.  This won’t go live and you won’t be able to read it until sometime Monday morning, which is technically past the half-way point of this journey and eight hours into Day 26.  Let’s agree to ignore the actual math involved in defining the “middle” of a journey the way we agree to accept that television chefs always have perfectly baked final products ready to pull out of the oven and taste at the end of their thirty-minute episodes.  The middle of a journey is really whenever you end up stopping for lunch, isn’t it?

I’ve learned a few things about myself, written words and paragraphs in my journal and on my computer, and wasted a lot of time during these first 25 days.  I’ve been focused on my writing but also completely absorbed in my actual job, which is keeping me so incredibly busy during these early spring-ish months.  My brain is buzzing with stress and deadlines and ideas, and that seems like the perfect mix to me.

  • I tried a few coffee shops/writing locations near my apartment in Chicago and have adopted a location three blocks away.  There are outlets everywhere, the espresso drinks are delicious, and the coffee shop is operated by some church so I feel better spending $5.00 on something I could make for myself at home.  I’m here now, and a poster from an event at the Ryman Auditorium is hanging on the wall that faces my table.  I’m sitting in the sun, looking at the words “Nashville Tennessee” and drinking a latte with chocolate, hazelnut, and cayenne pepper.  I can’t think of a better way to nurture my creative insides.
  • During a ten-day bootcamp with my writing group, I chose a topic for my writing project (even if I’m not quite ready to call it a book), told my writing group what my topic was, and felt the soothing coolness of positive feedback and acceptance calm my nerves.  I also mustered the courage to reach out to a few friends about my silly dream, so I’ve taken the first few steps toward using the “w”-word [writer] with my real-life friends and family.
  • I have 4,000 words, notes, and research in a highly rough and scattered word document that has the headings and pagination of a non-fiction book proposal. It’s not actually a book proposal today, but I’m using that structure to sketch out my project.  Working in this format is oddly comforting, because it is exactly what real writers do for every book they write.  I’ve found the language of the world I’m walking in, and I’m ready now to meet people without feeling like a fraud:  I can spend the next five years saying that I’m “working on a book proposal” before anyone that doesn’t know me well might become suspicious.  It’s completely normal for that process to take forever and for “real” writers to get distracted for months, discouraged for years, or otherwise lose focus for a long while before getting a final proposal together.  I know how to introduce myself and vaguely describe my project, so I’m ready to rent a car and drive to Grand Rapids and meet other writerly people.  That goal is officially accomplished.
  • My friend Abby has scheduled a public event at the end of the conference in Grand Rapids where my writing group will take turns reading our work out loud.  To strangers (and worse, to our friends).  While the pre-#50days me would say oh, no, I’m not really a writer and so I will just cheer the rest of you on, the me that is 25 days into being a real writer has [unfortunately] accepted the challenge and promised to find something, anything really, to read.  I’m much more driven by external expectations of those I love than my own secret dreams, so I think this is actually the perfect thing to push me during the second-half of this journey:  I have an idea and some draft-quality words, but now I need a chapter-ish length piece that is good enough to share, along with a gallon of confidence and a cute new outfit.  In the next three weeks I need to finish a draft piece so I can edit it, and then prepare to present it with/to my people.

This effort hasn’t been on my mind every minute, and for the last few days at work my brain has been swimming in deadlines and spreadsheets and official communication materials, but I’m here on Sunday afternoon, as scheduled, thinking about this project.  I’m thrilled with how far I’ve come in these first three and one-half weeks and am proud to share with you that I am working on a book/something proposal and preparing a mystery piece to read at my first ever reading as a [writer].  Nothing really has changed just yet, but I am starting to believe my own truth.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

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Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Lucky Family!  AOT 

The Girls We Once Were: My #Jointhestory Link-up

This weekend, on International Women’s Day, my writing group held a link-up where fifty-plus women looked back on their childhoods, their first memories, their earliest dreams and called out to their old selves.  It’s really beautiful.  I wanted to join in, but it just was a little too much for me.

To be honest, my writing group is often a little much for me.  Too many feelings and so much pain.  A virtual room full of beautiful, tragic, sometimes funny redemption stories.  I love it, and it helps me grow, but every now and then I’m just not sure what to do with the whole thing.  I don’t like to clap in church, I don’t really love parties, sometimes too many people with too many feelings all talking at once makes me get clammy and my mouth has too many words all running into it at once but I somehow don’t have anything to say.  I try to keep up, to say something so I’m not just standing silently in the crowd, but those words feel false.  My people deserve better.

So I’m going to just tell it to you straight – that’s the kind of writing I do anyway.  I don’t have a sad story to share.  I honestly like myself now way more than I ever did as a kid.  My parents worked really hard to encourage me to do just about anything I wanted to while the rest of the world pushed in the other direction.  I spent too many years ignoring my parents and covering up everything awesome about myself to fit in. The thing about having musicians or artists or science fiction fans for parents is that they really love it when their kids are super weird.  I just wanted to be normal.

So I only raised my hand when no one else knew the answer, and I hid myself in books so I wouldn’t have to deal with how hard it was to make friends when everyone was talking about how hard those math problems were.  In college I stopped reading for class altogether to cope because when I got too invested in my courses I talked too much, participated too ferociously, and couldn’t pull off small talk about how “hard” or “boring” such-and-such was.  I poured my enthusiasm for learning and leading into my sorority instead of my studies because even my professors would quietly remind me that if I spoke up too often, no one else would try.

Now that I’m not the little girl I once was, I know that this world doesn’t need anyone to pretend to be less smart or less passionate than they actually are. While my writing group has shared poetry and photography and beautiful memories on International Women’s Day 2014, I have one sentence to reclaim only two days too late:  Being weird is awesome.  It’s totally okay to enjoy reading a book more than small talk.  It’s really quite fine to hate playing softball.  Women who are serious, who are better at leading a meeting or planning an event than wearing four-inch heels and giggling, they aren’t boring — they’re going to change this world.

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Take a look at this little weirdo.

Please join me in saluting the beautiful women of my writing group, whose words are available for you over at THE GIRLS WE ONCE WERE link-up.  I know you’ll be just as impressed as I am.

What I’m Into, February 2014

Well, hellooooo, March.  I am so happy to see you!  I am living for spring weather, and I have faith that sometime in March I’ll experience at least one sunny Chicago day with temperatures above 40 degrees.  A faith that can move mountains.  But, before we get too far into March, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share What I Was Into in February 2014.

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Valentine’s Day Weekend!  I made my first batch of home-steamed mussels, we attended a couples cooking class, had dinner at Chicago’s The Purple Pig, spent an evening at an historic Chicago Jazz Club, and grabbed coffee and brownies at a friend’s church’s brand-new coffee venture.  It was a jam-packed, wonderful weekend.

Shoe shopping.  With a gift card from the holidays and my January clothing budget, I was very responsible and purchased cognac flats and heels (the perfect neutral in my opinion), leopard-printed black flats, a new pair of boots to  replace my favorite boots that bit the dust this year, and a new spring-ish bag.  I’ve always worn one favorite pair of shoes until they absolutely fall apart, and I’m excited to try being a grownup and rotating shoes to match outfits.

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Mariano’s.  You guys.  Mariano’s is the perfect grocery store.  It’s a perfect mix of Publix and Whole Foods, with a very low price point.  They have wine tastings on the weekend and you can get sushi or sandwiches or pizza to eat in the store or take home, their butchers are so friendly and will grill up meat for you right there (although, why you would want that I have no idea), their cheese selection is fantastic and their bakery breads are fresh and tasty.  Every time I walk into Mariano’s I think about Heaven.

Kappa Delta.  I attended my first KD alumnae event in Chicago this month, and it was so fun!  I met a few ladies that had definite friend potential, and I was so happy to reconnect with an old friend/advisor who served as a consultant when I was KD president WAY back in the day.  And then, she wrote a blog post in my honor!  It popped up on facebook and I was so incredibly flattered.  Isn’t it wonderful to find such lovely friends in all kinds of places.

On the TV:  Fringe.  I started watching this completely weird show on my sick days in the last week of January.  H got interested and we watched all five seasons together this month.  We barely watched the Olympics because we were so into Fringe.  It is sciency and weird but it has a good love story and if you’re looking for a show to watch as a couple, I highly recommend it.  Although I didn’t love the ending.

Reading:  nothing new.  I’m still plodding along through Blanski’s When Donkeys Talk.  I’ve read a ton of blog posts and magazine articles and such (check back each Friday for the week’s top reads!), but no books have been completed.

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It’s been a long, cold winter, but I’m loving our new city and so excited to spend this Spring and Summer getting to know Chicago better.  Photo (above) taken from Promontory Point, looking north toward Chicago’s skyline.

Well, that’s a quick run-down of February’s highlights!  What were you up to in February? 

 

 

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