Category Archives: Life

The Stranger

Do you sometimes wonder who you are? Do you sometimes feel like the world’s biggest poseur?
My love of boots if no secret and this year I added two new pairs. Shearling boots and cowboy boots. I love them both but in some ways neither are me.

My tunic sweater, leggings, & shearling boots. I love the outfit but wondered if I only looked like a caricature of a “stereotypical white girl”. And no I don’t like pumpkin spice lattes.

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Over Christmas we went to Texas and I got to meet two my writing friends. I showed up wearing an outfit that’s totally me and not. I wore my cowboy boots (feeling a bit poseurish wearing them in the Lone Star State), my Purdue hoodie that is rather steampunk in design (me all over again), and skinny jeans (me, me, me). I wore a Purdue t-shirt, but my original choice was a t-shirt in the shape of Indiana that says “Home”. I laughed that this shirt says to a Texan, “Hello, I’m from a state the size of your panhandle.”

Hoosier by birth. Boilermaker by the grace of God.

Hoosier by birth. Boilermaker by the grace of God.

I also added two pairs of Converse All-Stars to my shoe collection and a green “Geek Girl” t-shirt. These are more articles of clothing that are me and yet not me. I may have the funky green and black glasses, but I’m not quite a hipster either. Maybe because I’d rather wear contacts and look like a newly turned vampire than allow a picture of me in said glasses. Also, since I didn’t own Converse in the eighties that somehow I’m not allowed to wear them in the twenty-first century.

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Then there’s my faux-leather motorcycle jacket($29.99 at TJ MAXX) and grey engineer boots. That’s not me either. I haven’t ridden a motorcycle, ever. There are my fitness clothes, but I’m not one to run around in athletic wear. It goes on, gets really sweaty, and is peeled off as soon as I finish my cool down stretches.

So if I’m not a cowgirl, hipster, or stereotypical white girl (with a preference for non-fat lattes, extra foam), what am I? Obviously not a biker chick or athlete. Maybe I’m not just one thing. But several. My favorite outfit is the one I wore to church today. Black turtleneck, houndstooth skirt, tights, and ballet flats. Sixties mod is definitely one of my favorite looks.

My day in and day out “uniform” is a turtleneck, long-sleeved t-shirt, or sweater, skinny jeans or corduroys, and boots. I’m also someone who likes to dress for the occasion. I wear dresses and skirts to church. I wear dress pants and tailored shirts when I have to work in the office or go on business trips. In the field, it’s Carhartts and work boots. And I find running is a whole lot more fun when I’m wearing a bright top and cute running skirt. Did I mention that I love brightly colored running shoes too?

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Do you have a go-to look? What about an outfit that isn’t quite “you” but you love anyway?

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Candle in the Wind

Candles are an ever popular gift. While Christmas is over, we have an entire year of birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day plus all of those random hostess, thank you, and shower gifts.
I received a Diamond Candle as a Christmas gift from my sister. I’m not one to spend money on candles or jewelry. Diamond Candles are a fun concept. You get a soy-based, scented candle. Mine is apple cinnamon.

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When you burn it down about one quarter, you get a foil pouch with a random ring valued from $10-$5,000. Here is mine. They’re various sizes. Mine fits my index finger perfectly, which is what I hoped. I have a wedding ring and a couple of other rings that fit my ring finger.

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Mom received one too.

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If you’re into more traditional candles with unique natural scents, Ellie Brook Designs makes elegant soy-based candles. We gave out several as Christmas gifts.

Seize the Day

Carolyn Arends’s “Seize the Day” has been my anthem since my days traveling through the Midwest for my first job out of college. As I wrote in my post last week, I already try to live like my days are numbered. Because they are; some will live to 100  and some will die tomorrow. Or today. I write this post with a heavy heart. A young woman I’ve been praying for passed away this morning. While there is joy she’ll spend eternity in health, I mourn for a vibrant life numbered with barely two decades on earth.

As part of the launch of A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes, we are writing about what we would do if we only had a year to live. This isn’t something I’ve spent much time pondering. My grandmother lived to one hundred and my grandfather just turned ninety. My other grandparents lived long lives too. My parents are in their sixties and plan vacations around Rails to Trails bike paths.

But I was recently touched by someone who didn’t have a long timeline. Last year, I lost a friend who left behind a husband, children, and a model of how to make the most of your days. She showed me in real life how to spend days, hours, and minutes with the utmost abandon. Her intentionality to leave a legacy for her family was inspiring.

So how would I spend my last year? My infinitely practical mind went to what I would have to do: work, shuttle the kids, do laundry, and keep the kitchen from becoming a chemistry experiment let alone the bathrooms [shudder]. Not to mention making sure my husband and children would be taken care of after I was gone.

But what would I want to do? That’s where I had to go with this.

If I could choose my last year like Parvin does, it would involve being able to have financial provisions for my family to take off the entire year. I’d travel the world. I would want to have as many new experiences as I could with my family. I’d make sure I visited my extended family, especially my parents, my sister, her family, & my grandfather. I’d visit aunts and uncles. But mostly, I’d travel with my husband and kids. We’d try as many exotic foods as we could. We’d visit as many places as possible. And have as many experiences as we could. My dream experiences would be:

  • Taking my family to Yellowstone. We’d have to camp at least one night, stay in a cabin, and spend a night each in Lake Lodge and the Old Faithful Inn.
  • Go on an Alaskan cruise and visit the interior of the state, Kenai Peninsula, and Dawson City, Yukon.
  • See a Broadway play; this might be the only time I’d consider leaving the kids. It would be special time with my husband but the thought of days without my kids with such a limited timeframe is painful.
  • Visit Prince Edward Island (the only Canadian Province I haven’t visited).
  • Go skiing with my sister’s family, probably in Colorado but I’m not picky.
  • White water raft and water ski – two of my bucket list items
  • I would travel to South America – Machu Pichu is the top of my list, and I’d want to visit hot springs in Chile because I wrote about them
  • I want to spend time in England, Ireland, and Scotland because London is all I’ve seen of the UK and never visited Ireland. And haggis is a bucket list dish.
  • Spend a few days in Paris then take a train to the French Riviera. I’d spend those days in France eating, eating, and eating some more. And I’d do nothing but lie on the beach once I hit the Mediterranean. Well, I’d eat.
  • I’d also make sure to go to Germany. Because if there’s anything I love more than French cuisine, it’s German cuisine.
  • Which brings me to the next stop, Japan. I’d have to visit Okinawa where I spent the summer of 2003 as well as the mainland. Another place that I’d fuel up on awesome food. And visit an onsen (bathhouse) something I didn’t do when I stayed there the first time.
  • I want to go to Greece, Turkey, the Holy Land & Egypt (so I could say I visited Africa). To visit where Paul spread Christianity. Walk where Jesus walked. And if you know me, the pool at Bethesda would be one of my Jerusalem stops. I have a bit of an obsession with hot springs.
  • I’d travel to Australia to make sure I visited all continents. Also, who doesn’t want to go to Australia? I might even get up the courage to SCUBA dive. I’m kind of claustrophobic, but if I’m going to die anyway why not expire seeing the Great Barrier Reef.

I’m pretty sure I have more days planned than a person could do in a year but maybe it’s because the thought of such a limited time terrifies me. There’s so much I want to experience, that I feel limited by a lifetime that could easily span forty, fifty, sixty years. Or I could die tomorrow.

If I do die tomorrow I have two wishes, someone scour my hard drive and shape up my stories so they can be published posthumously and play The Newsboys’ “Breakfast Club” at my funeral. I’m sure the older people will be horrified, but it’s the message I want to leave.

SIDE NOTE: I told my 10-year old about the assignment. He said: Break the clock and live longer!

Both my son and I know our eternity is secure, but we want to make the most of the time we have here on earth. And it’s not just eating exotic foods and crossing items off a bucket list. It’s living each day for God. It’s being Jesus to those around us. Being His hands and feet. And with that, I hope to leave this world a little better place whether or not I ever see Machu Pichu or eat haggis.

What would you do if you only had one year to live?

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How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall —— her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out.

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Connect with Nadine Brandes on her website (http://nadinebrandes.com)
Facebook (http://facebook.com/NadineBrandesAuthor)
Twitter, (http://twitter.com/nadinebrandes)
Goodreads (http://goodreads.com/nadinebrandes/)

And speaking of limited time: There’s less than 10 days left in her prize giveaway!
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/N2MyNDRlMzE3YWMwNTQ2MWU4N2M2MzJkYzY2N2IzOjEy/

 

New Year’s Day

Can’t go wrong with a little U2 to start of 2014. So I’ve set some goals for this year. Not resolutions but goals. I’m working toward being a better me. I’ve set goals in nearly every facet of my life. Ones to make me a better wife, mother, engineer, writer.

About 6 months ago, I decided to food journal and lost a few pounds (about 5) and gained them back. Curses to the South and it’s deep-fried yumminess. On top of the extra holiday food from Thanksgiving through New Year’s we drove through the Southland on our way home from vacation. One simply does not travel through North Carolina without eating BBQ or Louisiana without eating fried oysters. Although I consumed mine in Mississippi. Close enough. Anyway, this normally consumer of healthful fare enjoyed one too many things dipped in batter and only one run in 16 days.

Oh right, I neglected to mention the same girl who has a “Running Sucks” pin on her Pinterest fitness board took up running somewhere around Thanksgiving. I went from 0 to 5K in about 3 weeks. A few weeks earlier, God blessed me with a workout partner through a “random” (yeah right) Facebook post. We’ve been going strong for a couple of months now. And just last week, I got an invite to join a fitness team with a bunch of fellow teleworkers. Sweet! I’m working on becoming a leaner, meaner me. And loving it. Who knew?

Another blessing last year was a mentor through my church. My mentor is a perfect match for me.

In October, I went to a work conference.

In November I did NaNoWriMo.

The highlight of my year was going to the ACFW Conference in September and meeting all but one of my fellow Scriblerians. We even picked up a new member. When I thanked my husband for spending the money and time for me to go, I asked what I could do to thank him. He told me. It’s G-rated, I promise!

This is where you scratch your head. So what does this have to do with goals?

Well, all of these aspects of my life have quantifible goals. I have set goals and have accountability partners. There’s the request my husband gave me that ensures we spend a certain amount of time together. I have similar goals for time with my kids.
There are my fitness goals. Did I mention the teleworker team is for a competition in various categories like number of steps? I also have my fitness partner. I can’t let her down by not showing up.

There’s the work conference that inspired me to set professional goals. Ones I control.

I have writing goals for writing, editing, and social media.

My mentor from church gives me inspiration to spend time in God’s word whether or not I share with her my struggles and/or triumphs. Also, I chose to be in a Bible study so I’ll have homework for daily study.

Check back with me in December to see how I did. Judging by the way I use my Fitbit, I’m wired to meet and beat goals. But also have days and weeks where, I don’t do so well. The good thing is, I can mentally reset and go forth and do better. And that fried oyster weight better go away!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I love Christmas presents. Giving. Receiving. Shopping. Wrapping.

One of my fondest Christmas memories was my annual trip to the mall with Dad. I saved my allowance to buy my parents and sister Christmas gifts. We usually ended up at Osco to buy Mom a bottle of Cachet cologne. Don’t judge. It was the early 80s.

I used to make presents for my grandparents. Painted sun catchers, salt dough ornaments, and later counted cross-stitch towels. I’m pretty sure Grandpa’s nativity scene still has a lopsided, multicolored clay star sculpted by moi, circa 1979.

My love language is gifts and truly it’s the thought that counts. Over the years I’ve gotten big presents – a bicycle, opal ring, tennis racquet, SLR camera, and iPod Touch.

But it’s the sentimental ones that make me the happiest. The study Bible my parents gave me when I was in college. Last year for my birthday, Dad compiled hundreds of pictures of the first 40 years of my life, made a Ken Burns effect slideshow and burned them onto two DVDs.

My maternal grandmother gave me her mustard seed necklace. It was the one item of hers I wanted because it reminded me how she showed Jesus to others and to me. My paternal grandmother gave me an egg separator that was a promotional item from the store where my grandfather worked. It was a utensil I didn’t have, Grandma didn’t need, and tied me to the the grandparent I lost in my teens. These are two of my most-prized possessions.

One year, my husband gave me pearls for our anniversary. It was an extravagant gift but that he conspired with a co-worker to get them was what made them even more precious.

And this year we did Christmas with my in-laws early. Twice they nearly brought me to tears with their gifts. My son wanted a floor pillow like his cousin had. When my mother-in-law found out it wasn’t available, she made one.

My son's super-soft custom made floor pillow

My son’s super-soft custom made floor pillow

The other item was one of my gifts. One that spoke her love more than words. She made a binder (lime green, of course) and printed out my blog posts. Not only this one but The Scriblerians and Samie Sisters where I also blog. For her to take the time and honor my writing is better than any material gift. Although, I’m beyond happy with those gifts too.

My blog binder

My blog binder – The cover is my avatar for The Scriblerians

As we approach Christmas and reflect on the gift God gave us, His Son, think about gifts you can give of yourself to others. A random act of kindness to a stranger. Taking the time to sit down and watch Christmas shows with your family. Include your kids in your Christmas baking. Go caroling. Volunteer. Part with an item of special significance to someone.

Baking with a 5-year-old isn't efficient or tidy but it's totally worth it.

Baking with a 5-year-old isn’t efficient or tidy but it’s totally worth it.

What is one of the most meaningful gifts you have received?

Video Killed The Radio Star

Five year old me typing next to an adding machine didn't know she would become an engineer and fiction writer.

Five year old Gretchen typing next to an adding machine didn’t know she would become an engineer and fiction writer.

If this is a post about phones, why not Jenny (867-5309)? Because this post is about changes in technology. When I was born, my parents only had a black and white TV with a dial. Granted, within a year or so we got a color TV, with a dial. Where do you think “don’t touch that dial” came from? Our phone was of the rotary variety and my childhood recorded on 8mm film. By the time I graduated from high school, we had VHS and Betamax VCRs, both with corded remotes, a camcorder, and I received a CD player for my new dorm room. Fast moving technology considering I saw my first CD in 6th grade.

Fourteen years ago, my husband and I bought a 32-inch TV for our new home. We thought it was huge and it’s still the biggest one we own. None of our TVs are flat-screens. Maybe next year.

As of yesterday, I took another leap into technology. My freebie flip-phone slipped out of my pocket on Saturday and didn’t resurface. It was in the plans for me to upgrade in a few months, so we replaced my phone with a new iPhone 5c (lime green, of course).

I love receiving technology for gifts. I had a Handspring PDA then a Palm IIIc (with Wi-Fi) and now a Google Nexus tablet. Most of my career, I’ve used a laptop. The funny thing is when it comes to telephones, I’m not a high-tech girl. Except for the dorms, I didn’t have a phone in my room until I graduated from college. I was one of the last people to migrate from an analog-digital phone. I rarely talk on the phone and just started texting a year ago. If smartphones were just phones, I’d probably never get one.

While videos didn’t strike a fatal blow to radio music, cell phones are turning home phones into an endangered species.

Are you high tech, low tech or somewhere in between?

What my 5 year old would use to play writer and engineer.

What my 5 year old would use to play writer and engineer. Or maybe she’ll go straight for the iPhone.

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