Friday, March 27, 2015

What I Loved This Week

Happy Friday!!!!!!!! I'm pretty excited because next week is my spring break at the preschool, so the arrival of the weekend is very much welcome.

Here's what I've found and loved on the Internet this week:

In the Blogosphere:

Susannah from Simple Moments Stick has launched her own Etsy shop!

Elizabeth at Oak and Oats has her last post in her Instagram photography series! This week she's talking about use of color.

Bonnie from The Life of Bon does a book club each month, and for March we read Yes, Please by Amy Pohler. It was AMAZING! Also, I'm co-hosting the book Unbroken with her for April. I can't wait! Then, she also wrote this fantastic post on authenticity.

Over at Donald Miller's blog, he had a guest blogger share how he finally "gets" why his son wanted a tattoo.

Jackie Jade from Jade & Oak shared some tips on how to make your blog stand out. 

I've been following the blogger Paul Agone for a long time now, and he has a book coming out! It comes out next month and you should pre-order it.

My good friend and former co-worker wrote a post about unfollowing people on social media, and it was completely perfect.

Amber from Mr. Thomas and Me wrote this beautiful letter to her husband this week and it made me swoon.

Nadine from East & Blog shared about her insecurities of wondering if she can accomplish her goals. Something I've been thinking about a lot too.

Brittany from Pines and Palmettos talked about how hard it is to make friends.

On the YouTubes:


In our video letters this week, I discussed making friends.  Then Laura shared her top 3 road trips ever.

A few weeks ago, my friend Katherine challenged us to make videos about self-worth. Sheryll had an AMAZING response in her video.  My response is here.

Patrick Pho did this awesome parody video with his car.

The fantastic Gary C did a wonderful video discussing forgiveness.

Christina of PolandBananasBOOKS had a book talk about We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist and I really think I need to read this book. Like... REALLY BADLY.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Love Letter to Glee

Dear Glee,

I know it has been nearly a week since your final episode aired. If I had been a better blogger I would have planned ahead and posted this a week ago before the final episode. Or at least had it ready for Monday morning. But alas - I am not a good blogger. Just ask my readers. But please don't take this as any lack of affection.

I remember the first time I heard your cover of "Don't Stop Believin'." It was in the middle of the summer and I had taken the youth of small town Missouri on our yearly excursion to 6 Flags. It was the end of the day and we were waiting for a few of the teenagers to get off of a roller coaster so we could head home when I heard the "Da da da da da da da da Just a small town girl..." over the speakers. I thought "Is this some kind of new High School Musical thing? But that doesn't sound like Vanessa Hudgens. Huh." This wasn't an insult by any means. I love me some HSM.  Little did I know...


Don't judge readers, you know you love HSM  too. We're all in this together!

Flash forward a few months. I was talking with my friend Laura one day and she asked "Have you watched that new show Glee?" I told her I had heard about it and had been intending to give it a try, but just hadn't yet. She told me I had to watch it because this show was basically me as a TV show.

Poor Laura. She had no idea what was created because of that conversation.


What can I say about Glee now that it's over? I'm sitting here on a Thursday morning and I'm thinking to myself "Glee isn't on tomorrow night, what am I supposed to do now?" Those of us die-hard fans (Gleeks) have gone through a lot over the last six seasons. Ridiculous covers of songs, inconsistent writing at times, actors dying (CORY!!!! WAAAAAHHHH!), characters changing sexuality every time you turn around... yeah, you can say we've been through a lot. Let's be honest, not many of us have hung in there and lasted this long. But we are a fandom of endurance, let me tell you. But I love it.


Here are a few of the reasons I love you, Glee, so much (if you haven't seen the final episode
/season, consider this your spoiler warning):


- I was able to watch covers of songs from musicals - and it was "cool!" Glee let musical theatre take the spotlight and show people that yes, Broadway is pretty freaking amazing and you should love it too. 

- Actual Broadway performers were allowed to take the spotlight and make a name for themselves. Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Johnathan Groff, etc. While some people may have heard of Idina and Kristin, but some of the others? Unless you're a Broadway nerd like me, they didn't get much attention. Now, because of Glee, they could take the spotlight and grace the world with their voices.

- I loved seeing their take on popular songs each week. I avoided watching/listening to the new songs before the episodes aired at all costs because part of the fun for me was being surprised at which song they would pull out of their pockets to somehow twist into the plot (sometimes it was perfect other times... not so much). I can genuinely say there are some versions of songs where I truly love the Glee version better than the original. 

I'm looking at you "Teenage Dream." Let's be honest - when Kurt walked into Dalton Academy and saw the Warblers and met Blaine for the first time, that cover blew us all away. THEN when they reprised it in season 4 with an emotional acoustic version? Beautiful.


Which brings me to my next point...

- Oh, hi there Darren Criss. 


For the record, I was a Darren Criss fan long before he was on Glee. I watched A Very Potter Musical and I remember being all "That guy playing Harry Potter is really cute. Wait... he plays guitar? Wait... he wrote the show? Wait... he covers Disney songs too???? WHO IS THIS AMAZING PERSON THAT I MUST MARRY SOMEDAY?"

Needless to say, when I saw he was going to be on Glee, I was pretty excited. Now, he gets to be on Broadway and basically do whatever he wants.


- But look at all of the other young actors/singers who got to have a chance! I loved being able to see new talent and letting them start their own careers. It'll be interesting to see where the rest of the cast ends up.

- I loved the humor of Glee. I loved how ridiculous it was and how they always made fun of themselves and the actors and plot lines and how it was just plain silly at times. I can genuinely say I literally LOL'd every episode.

- Sue Sylvester. Need I say more?


- Rachel Berry. I know not everyone liked her - and I get it. She was obnoxious and annoying and awful. But I loved her. I loved how much she wanted to be on Broadway and how she endured all of the bullying at school. I loved her drive. It was who I wished I was brave enough to be... just maybe a bit nicer. Especially towards the beginning. What I noticed though was how much I cared about her ending. 

In the last episode she sang a song written by Darren Criss (he actually wrote it FOR her and had always wanted to write a song specifically for Lea Michelle) called "This Time." It was beautiful. I remember thinking about Rachel and my thoughts about her character. I wanted her to be happy. I wanted her to succeed on Broadway. I wanted her to learn and grow as a person. Then I realized - which guy she ended up with was the last thing on my mind. I cared to an extent, but not really. 

I was Rachel and Finn all the way, don't get me wrong. But in a weird way, Rachel without Finn was almost a good thing. It's rare when the main female character in a major TV show can walk away at the end and her love life isn't necessarily at the forefront of your mind. 

For the record, the more I think about Rachel and Jesse St. James ending up together the more I like it. I had always wondered what it would be like if they actually gave them a chance. I could write a whole blog post for that. But I'll spare you. That's what Tumblr is for.


- And finally, since this blog post is long enough and people who don't care about Glee quit reading long ago, your message of love and acceptance. Yes, at times it was cheesy. Sometimes you were off point. There were topics and issues you could have handled better. But it all came from a place of innocence and wanting people to accept each other for who they are. So many fans were inspired by the diverse cast and the many messages this show gave. 

I think Sue Sylvester said it best in the last episode. She was talking to Kurt and Blaine, and she said how she may not have always agreed with them, or how they went about things. BUT, it got conversation going and she didn't even know she had an opinion about certain things until she met Kurt and Blaine.

That's what's important I feel like. You don't have to agree with everything. You don't have to like how people go about things. But it got you to think, didn't it? It got conversation going. Conversations we need to have.

So, thank you Glee. Thank you for the music, characters, crazy plots, and helping us all to get the conversation going and learn to love and accept one another.


Love,
Emily


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Books I'd Like to Revisit From Childhood

I've been a lover of books since before I could remember. Just this weekend, when I was carpooling with a friend I've known since elementary school the topic came up. They mentioned how they remembered me back in school and how I was constantly reading and always had a million points for the Accelerated Reader program. Which... why wouldn't you want to have a ton of points? If you got over 100 you got to go to Haunted Trails. Basically... a spooky version of Chuckie Cheese, but better.

Yet, when I try to think of my favorite books from when I was a kid, I had a hard time remembering. I think part of the novelty of my reading all of the time was because I was good at it. I read quickly, and since I couldn't play sports and such, I just kept reading book after book. While I'm sure I thoroughly enjoyed them, I feel like I didn't really "get" why reading was so awesome until I was older. However, I was able to think of some books from my childhood which truly stood out.

Midnight in the Dollhouse by Marjorie Filley Stover

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I still have my original copy from when I read this in the fourth grade. This book was awesome. It was about this girl during the Civil War who broke her hip and had to stay in bed for three months. (Something I could relate to.) To keep her entertained and not just wallowing that she couldn't run around with the other kids, her brother built her this massive dollhouse and got a family of dolls to go with it. Naturally, when the girl was asleep the dolls would talk to each other and have adventures. I then bought my own dolls and named them after the ones in the books and I like to consider it my early form of fan-fiction.

Meet Molly by Valerie Tripp

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This really is for all of the American Girl books because my sister and I were addicted to them as kids. We had all of the books for Felicity, Kirstin, Addy, Samantha, and Molly. I think we had some Josephina too - but by the time she came around we were growing out of the books. I still have my Molly doll. She was the best. She was a picky eater (like me), had a huge imagination (like me), wanted to be pretty and glamorous but was pretty much just awkward (like me), made her friends do crazy and ridiculous things they didn't want to do (like me), and was bad at math (like me). These books I'm pretty sure is the reason why I now love anything WWII.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madelene L'Engle

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I read this book in 6th grade for my reading class and it was my first venture into real sci-fi/fantasy books. Obviously, I loved it. While I had always liked the books we read for classes in school, this was the book where I learned that the books we were required to read could actually be ridiculously awesome. 

The Outsiders by SE Hinton

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If I remember correctly, I also read this in 6th grade. (Or was it 8th? I had the same reading teacher for both grades so the two years gets mixed together in my brain.) It was the first book I read that was a legitimate YA book where it didn't feel like it was just required reading. Our entire class got into it, and hearing that the author was only 16 when she wrote it, only encouraged my crazy dreams of being an author.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

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This is another book where I have my original copy from the 5th grade still sitting on my shelf. For being a wimpy 5th grade girl- this book was intense! It was also my first glimpse into novels about kick-ass girls who weren't just from the American Girl series. Charlotte was 13, the only woman on a ship sailing to America (I think?) and then was accused of murder. CRAZY! I remember crying when it got too intense and had my mom read it to me in the kitchen.

Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman

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I don't know why I loved this book so much. I just remember going to the library and asking for it all of the time and being really sad when I had to be on the waiting list. I read it out loud at the preschool not long ago and it was awesome.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

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My third-grade teacher read this book out loud to us and I remember being completely enthralled with this fox who helped save his town. I wanted to see the movie but never got around to it.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

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Speaking of my third-grade teacher, she also read this book out loud to us. I found a copy on Amazon a few years ago and ordered it, and it was even better than I remembered. One of my all-time favorite Christmas stories ever. 

Voyage on the Great Titanic by Ellen Emerson White

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This really represents all of the Dear America books I could get my hands on as a kid. I loved historical fiction and I thought the idea of having diaries of girls in the past was pretty awesome. I picked the Titanic one to feature because well... who didn't have a Titanic phase as a kid in the 90s?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess

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When I was a kid, my uncle had gotten my sister and I this huge book of Dr. Suess stories. As an adult, I've now found editions of it still around at Barnes and Noble and give it as a gift for baby showers. However, I feel like The Grinch is the only one I ever really read. Or at least that was the one I read the most. It's still one of my favorites and I love both movie versions.

What books did you love as a kid? Are there any that you still read? Do you read any of them to kids now?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Making Friends is Hard

Over the weekend I went to a wedding. It was a lot of fun - but it got me to thinking about making friends and being in social situations as an adult vs. when we were younger or in college. I shared my thoughts in my weekly video to Laura this week:

Friday, March 20, 2015

What I Loved This Week

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful week. Once again, I have compiled some of my favorite blog posts and YouTube videos that I've read/watched this week. I will note, some of these were published before this week, but I just hadn't had a chance to read or watch them until now.

In the Blogosphere:

- Brittany of Pines and Palmettos challenges what we consider praise here.

- Over at The Write Practice, they shared why fairy tales never grow old.

- Elizabeth over at Oak & Oats is still killing it with her Instagram photography series! This week the topic is perspective. 

- Erica Jaquline wrote a BEAUTIFUL piece on kindness on Wednesday. I know this is a topic I've been thinking about the last few years, and this past week (thanks to seeing Cinderella) and she captured it wonderfully. You can read it here.

- Then Taylor, over at The Daily Tay, has another fantastic post! This week she talked about explaining Bloggers on Instagram to Non-Bloggers on Instagram, and it's hilarious and right on point! #thestruggleisreal

- Everyone must have gone to see Cinderella because they're all talking about kindness! Amber from Mr. Thomas and Me also wrote her take on the topic, here.

On the YouTubes:

- In case you haven't heard, the author Terry Pratchett recently passed away. If you are interested in reading his work, Kirsti, of A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings, made a video of her recommendations of where to get started. You can watch it by clicking here.

- If you're a book nerd, you'll love this video from Carrie Hope Fletcher! If you didn't know, she's coming out with a book this year. (Available in the UK in April, here in the USA in August.) She was able to go see how her book was being printed and it's just so awesome!

- Since starting to play the ukulele, I've been watching more and more videos of people playing theirs and finding fun covers of songs. I LOVE this mash-up of pop songs from Doddleoddle.

- Did you hear that I love Glee, I LOVE Darren Criss, and Glee is ending tonight? Yeah. Those little things I talk about ALL THE TIME? Well, Darren Criss (my future husband) wrote a song for the final episode and talked about it in this interview. Basically, I will die of weeping tonight.

- The Snark Squad ladies have been doing vlogs this year and it's fabulous. This week they talked about guilty pleasures and it was perfect.

- Do you love fancy Italian food? (AKA - fancy Mac n Cheese?) Watch this. 

AND the Paper Towns trailer was released this week! I enjoyed the book, although not as much as The Fault in Our Stars. I kind of wonder if I'll enjoy the movie more though. You can watch the trailer below:


And Christine from polandbananasBOOKS did a discussion on the trailer.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What If

My friend Kim and I sat at Panera like we do nearly every week. My massive and clunky laptop next to her sleek little two-in-one tablet. Our teas rested in our hands as we took sips. (Mine was some mango thing for those of you who are following my quest to find a tea I like.) We've been writing buddies this year and we read each others pages and give feedback while catching up on life and bouncing around ideas. I hadn't gotten much done this past week. I had intended to have a chapter ready to go for our writing date, but when I had sat down at my laptop to write it, nothing came to my mind. I shared with Kim my goals for the book and a general timeline of when they would happen. We agreed if I stuck to it, the goals were 100% doable.

Okay, it's not Panera. I took this at Starbucks this morning.
But I had tea and I was writing. So, it works.
"But what if it's not good enough?" I asked. "What if my ideas aren't creative enough? What if the characters are too shallow? What if no one wants to read it?"

Kim considered my question for a moment. She then gave me wise words from her mom.

I just want to say - I love Kim's family. I'm not only friends with her, but her older brother, his wife, her younger sisters, her mom, and her dad. They're pretty fantastic.

"If you're going to spend so much time worrying, then you might as well spend time thinking about the other stuff too. What if it is creative enough? What if the characters aren't too shallow? What if everyone wants to read it?"

It's not a brand new concept. Thinking positively. It's common advice. But, this time it made me think. How much time do I spend thinking about the worst that could happen? It wouldn't hurt to think about the best that could happen.

I feel as though lately this has been the attitude I've been going into this with. While applying for jobs I can't help but think "They probably won't hire me anyway..." Or I have a wedding I'm going to this weekend and I think "It's going to be annoying and awkward and I won't have anyone to talk to." Or the Les Miserables audition I have coming up next week and I keep telling people "I'll probably just be in the ensemble..." Or I think about dating and talking to a guy and I'm all "It'll just be awkward and they won't like me anyway!"

But what if it's not that way? What if it is my dream job and they do hire me? What if the wedding is the best weekend ever? What if by some miracle the director thinks having a female play Enjolras is a brilliant idea? What if that guy does like me and it's the first of many dates, or even "the one?" (If there is such a thing.) What if?

We could drown ourselves in thinking about the negative what ifs. We can think of how it all could go wrong. We could dream up of the worst possible scenarios where we face the worst rejection of our lives.

But we can also dream of the best scenario.

Tyler Oakley talked about this once in a podcast. He was doing a podcast where he was giving advice and one of the questions he was given was (from what I'm assuming is a younger fan, probably high school) about what to do if they like someone or want to ask them out. Tyler flat out said "Just say hi." He had read a book about this very concept that you have to just go out there and try. Usually, if you compare the worst case scenario to the best case scenario, the best one outweighs the worst. Then, when you go for it, even if the result falls somewhere in the middle, it's okay.

So, this week, I want to try and be brave. Go for the audition. Fill out the application and send in the cover letter and resume. Ask out the guy. Enjoy the wedding. Write the novel.

You never know, right?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Things I Loved This Week

I decided I wanted to try and share some of my favorite posts and links I've found throughout the week. Other bloggers do this periodically and I used to share other people's blogs and posts all of the time. For some reason... I just stopped. So, starting on Monday, whenever I found something I really enjoyed I copied and pasted the link to this blog post. Enjoy!

In the Blogosphere:

Kirstie from Melbourne on my Mind, did a review/recap/fangirling over Jupiter Ascending:  http://www.melbourneonmymind.com/2015/03/movie-monday-jupiter-ascending.html

Nadine from East &, shared how to find your "creative sweet spot": http://eastandblog.com/2015/03/how-to-find-your-creative-sweet-spot/

Amanda of Musical Poem, is giving away Evian facial spray!:  http://musicalpoem.me/2015/03/09/why-every-makeup-bag-needs-a-facial-spray/

Elizabeth from Oak and Oats is doing this fantastic series on phone photography (specifically Instagram) and did a great post on lighting: http://www.oakandoats.com/2015/03/lighting-instagram.html

Taylor of The Daily Tay did this really funny, but also kinda adorable "Boy Behind The Blog" post:
http://www.thedailytay.com/2015/03/the-boy-behind-blog.html

On the YouTubes:

In my letter to Laura this week I had some of our college friends say hi:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIV7KwjSPss

In Laura's letter to me this week, she went to the mall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsojeVpol9c

The family who runs the Epoddle channel did a great video about little kids and how they mispronounce words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy5Hg2QbnQg

My friend Sheryl did the #Fail Tag!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5NGhxS5EUA

And finally, my friend Stephen is doing some rebranding for his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itOyoIGB7pc

What have you been loving on the Internet this week?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Created to Create Together

This past weekend, after church, two of my friends and I went over to the main campus (the service we attend is at a movie theatre, then our church has a traditional church building we call either the "main" or "north" campus) to meet with the music director to rehearse for the next week's service. My two friends had sung for worship services in the past, and last month I had played my ukulele. Our music director was excited to get all of us together to play one day.

What happened that afternoon was magical. Granted, it could have been several factors. The fact we are all good friends and have known each other for years probably played into it. We know each other well, act ridiculously silly around one another, and have no qualms about spending an extra few hours away from home to hang out. It was also daylight savings time, so we were all still sleepy and yet on our second, third, or maybe even fourth cups of coffee. It also could have been that we've all been playing and singing music for years. While I may have only been playing ukulele for a little over six months, I've been playing music since I was nine. I'm sure the other women in our little foursome have similar stories.

We laughed, had fun, played, sang, and bounced around ideas. The singers blended together so well we couldn't tell who was who. We threw another instrument into the mix. Someone suggested different riffs to play in instrument solos. Different harmonies were added in.

Our music director was so excited she said, "this is what being in an actual band is like. Working together, making your own arrangements, being creative."

It was exciting. Most worship teams are only able to get the songs, maybe have one or two rehearsals before Sunday morning, then lead the congregation. (In fact, the first time I played for my church I was only able to rehearse the morning of.) Nothing is wrong with this. The purpose of the worship team is to lead the congregation in singing and worship. That's what matters.

But, being able to truly collaborate and having the opportunity to create something great, it's a gift.

Earlier that morning, one of the points our pastor brought up having the Spirit of the Lord in us and how part of that is having the God who created everything in us. A Spirit of creativity. It's a topic I tend to think about a lot, so it was nice to hear one of my pastors having the same thoughts.

There's a lot of wonder and thought about what it means to be "created in God's image." In Genesis, when it says God created man, it says, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). It's confusing because it's not about what we look like. It's God... he doesn't necessarily look like anything. So what does it mean we're made in his image?

I have two ideas of what it could mean. The first is what one of my professors in college would say. The "us" in the verse, is the Holy Trinity. (Father, Son, Holy Spirit.) Not just a single aspect of God. All three parts of him. Also, God is love. We're made to be in relationship with others and to love and to have those part of us. We're created to be in community.

I also think we're created to create. The entire Bible begins with God being creative. Making things. Thinking stuff up that hadn't been there before. God invented creativity. I think he put that spirit in us as well.

So, imagine what it's like when you put the two things together.


So many times we think of the creative process being a solitary one. Especially for writers. Locked up in a cold room somewhere (maybe in Paris) with fingerless gloves typing away at the keyboard until their masterpiece of a novel is completed. Which, maybe for some writers that works. I believe one of the Bronte sisters (forgive me for not remembering which one right now) was in fact incredibly solitary but was able to create a beautiful piece of literature.

But for most of us, I don't think it always works that way.

As we were rehearsing on Sunday, we were working on this one song "Because He Lives (Amen)." It's a newer song and two of us had only played it once the previous month. It was a great song. There was something about it which brings everyone in. My friend then noticed who had written it.

It had been a collaborative piece. When she looked at all of the names, they were the names of the greats. The people who had changed the game of worship music back in the 70s and started the whole contemporary worship movement. There were names of musicians who are still changing the game now. They all had come together to write this song.

Amazing things happen when creative people get together to make something.

It's why I get so excited for my writing dates with friends so we can help each other with our novels and bounce ideas off of each other. It's why so many bloggers and YouTubers love to do collab projects with other people. It's why I think I'm in love with listening to covers of popular songs or mash-ups of pieces of music. Or when I worked in the church office we would take over each others offices and sit for a while and just brainstorm ideas for the pastor's sermon or a Bible study or class we were getting ready for.

Yes, sometimes we need to be creative alone. I can't have someone write my novel or my blog posts for me. An artist can't hand over their paint brush and let someone else do it for them.

But ultimately, I think part of how we were made is so we could be creative together. Even if you don't have the same faith or theology as I do, you have to admit, something magical happens when creative people get together to make something.