The written word can be erased…not so with the spoken word. -Anonymous
This is going to sound morbid…at least that’s everyone’s response when I tell them why I decided to take my blog “next level” (yes, I’m laughing at MYSELF as I type that!) I wanted to make sure that my kiddos knew the stories behind our Christmas traditions and, narcissistically, I wanted to make sure they heard them in my voice…FOR ALL TIME. I mean, that’s the kind of loving mother that I am after all.
Readers who know me, often say that they can “hear” my sense of humor when they read my posts. My close friends laugh at the snide little inside jokes and hints that I drop in my writing. My family likes to point out that I can’t hide my snark (that’s up for debate as far as I’m concerned.) Still, as a former broadcaster, I know that tone and inflection add that something extra to a story. A simple pause, deliberate whisper, or a mere lilt goes a long way. In this age of text messaging and Twitter, the spoken word’s value goes up tenfold. Thus, the podcast.
I’m a big believer in the podcast. I have several favorites. Everything from news, politics and pop culture to social media theory and all things NPR. It’s storytelling magic and I’m always surprised (sometimes pleasantly and other times not so much) to put a voice with a name. According to Forbes magazine, at least 112 million Americans have listened to podcasts…and that number continues to grow. A constantly connected culture, we can listen in our homes, cars, at the gym and beyond!
Let’s be real. Truly excellent and iconic writers…we’re talking the BIG NAMES, let their words speak for themselves, but some of us (like me) could use a little help sometimes. Connecting with an audience is a core principle of writing…and thanks to the podcast, it’s never been easier to solidify that relationship. Besides, even Shakespeare would have jumped at the opportunity to create a podcast. Writers are so vain.
My favorite things often have a story behind them…. –Amy Sedaris
As 2014 winds down the countdown to New Year’s Day 2015 begins. It’s at this time every year that we’re all subjected to the top news stories, songs, movies, television shows, etc. of the past twelve months (just in case we forgot.) We’re also treated to the “best of” and “worst of” inventories for just about every subject under the sun. And since we’ve already suffered through the roll call of Oprah and Ellen’s favorite things, I thought it was time that I got into the act with a list of my own (never mind the fact that I’m not a talk show host or a celebrity!) So enjoy (or is it endure?) a few of MY favorite things from 2014 🙂
Favorite Song: “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors This upbeat song hit my radar this spring and really spoke to me as a call to approach each day as an amazing blessing. I wrote about this song in a previous blog post and labeled it my personal “walk up song” for 2014. This fun little anthem encourages one to be young, to see each day as a new opportunity, and to wholeheartedly believe in the limitless possibilities of good and joy in this life. It’s a toe-tapping, high energy, nonsensical call to be AWESOME each and every day.
Favorite Book I Read: “Sundays in America” by Suzanne Strempek Shea I came upon this book by accident or sheer laziness (you decide.) My daughter and I happened to be at the local library during an unusually heavy downpour. We had already finished up in the children’s book section, when the thought of facing the rain seemed idiotic (a lifelong Kansan…I knew it would let up in 5-10 minutes.) So rather than get drenched, we moseyed over to the religion section of the library and this little goodie caught my eye. It was the subtitle that really sold me: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith. In journal form, the author offers up insight as she sets out to visit a different church every Sunday for a year. Her journey takes her across every region of the country, including Hawaii. As a self-proclaimed “Church Nerd,” I found this book to be very eye-opening, offering up moments of hope and reflection while inciting a few sad and squeamish realizations about the Christian faith and how it is received and perceived. An easy read…fellow “Church Nerds” should make it a point to check this book out.
Favorite Item Purchased: Fire Pit Let me start by saying that I am both equally terrified and mesmerized by fire! Yet nothing soothes my spirit like hanging out around a fire pit. Watching the flames dance around under a star-filled sky is my ultimate idea of relaxation. No item that we have purchased in the last year has brought this much excitement to every member of our family. While the kiddos have enjoyed having friends over to share in the fun, they seem to be just as content to hang out with their Dad and I. And I’m all for anything that brings everyone together for an evening (with minimal bickering, of course!)
Favorite TV Show: “The Middle” The kiddos first stumbled upon this show in reruns and I wasn’t exactly hooked (at first.) In fact, I was more insulted than anything. Somehow, my children got it into their little brains that our family was just like the fictitious Hecks and that as “Mom” I was relegated to the “Frankie” character. This scatter-brained, (often times) sad excuse for a mother was supposedly me? No way! I refused to accept such a role and couldn’t believe my kiddos could put me in the same category. Yet, over time I came to appreciate this TV family. In their own unique way, the Hecks love each other, look after each other, and in so many ways this imperfect family is absolutely relatable on a number of levels. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I still find the “Frankie” reference insulting (let the record show that Sue is my favorite character,) but 2014 has brought about a new appreciation for “Frankie” and this dysfunctional (yet adorable) family sitcom. You can find it in reruns on a variety of channels, or for new episodes check out ABC on Wednesday nights.
Favorite Snack: S’mores Okay, since we now have a fire pit, s’mores have earned the top spot for favorite snack of 2014. While traditionally I am a nachos kind of person, s’mores have gained prominence as the treat of choice. Funny thing is, that while I could probably eat a pound of nachos…I generally just want one s’more. Maybe that’s another reason to eat more s’mores! One little tidbit of advice that I will offer up…we’ve discovered that regular size marshmallows work best. They toast quickly and provide the right proportion of marshmallow to chocolate to graham cracker ratio. After experimenting with campfire (extra-large sized) marshmallows and marshmallow squares, we’ve discovered that these varieties seriously affect the ratios. TIP: If you just want toasted marshmallows go BIG or square, otherwise for traditional s’mores regular-sized marshmallows are best. Yummy 🙂
Favorite Product to Hit the Supermarket Shelf: Peet’s Coffee As a coffee lover I am pretty much Starbucks all the time. However, whenever I visit the San Francisco Bay Area, for me it has to be Peet’s Coffee. Later, when I found out that they sold Peet’s at the supermarkets in Northern Cali…well I just had to have that AND buy enough to bring some home to Kansas after a trip. Now…you won’t believe what I found on the supermarket shelf? Peet’s Coffee in KANSAS! People, this is exciting!!! This coffee is so amazing…strong, rich, full flavor…perfect 🙂 I went through a bag in a blink and I can’t wait to buy more–locally! Hooray, hooray…such a happy day! Jump on to their website for supermarket locations near you. http://www.peets.com/
Favorite Podcast: Freakonomics My husband first introduced me to Freakonomics a few years ago. He came across the documentary on Netflix. Later I found out about the book and the blog. Finally, I discovered the podcast! For “News Nerds” like me this is awesome! Freakonomics is the product of a journalist and an economist. Together, they uncover the hidden side of everything (their tagline, not mine.) Both educational and extremely entertaining this is my weekly go-to for information and insight. Each podcast is about 40-45 minutes long and they cover a variety of topics. A little something for everyone.
Favorite Place to Shop: Ulta I have loved playing with make-up since I was a teenager. So as I near 40, you would think that I would be over it. NOT! Enter Ulta, the make-up mega store. It has just about every make-up product known to (wo)man, in every shade imaginable, and at prices to fit all budgets. I could spend hours in there. As far as make-up goes I’m pretty traditional and extremely conservative, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to look. Orange lipstick, green eyeliner, purple fingernails…yes, I am intrigued (even if I’d never have the guts to wear any of it!)
Favorite iPhone App: Tadaa SLR I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet knows that I love to take photos. Now that our phones are our cameras, this makes taking pictures easy and a full-time hobby without all the gear. I have tried and use a lot of photo apps on my iPhone, but this year’s stand out is Tadaa SLR. With features that let you adjust the focus and depth, blur with precision (it also includes all the standard editing features) this app makes me feel like a professional photographer (even if it’s only in my head!) Seriously, at only $2 this is definitely an app worth having and it’s so easy you’ll wonder what you ever did without it! HONORABLE MENTION: Wal-mart Savings Catcher because I am a mother on a budget!
Favorite Lesson Learned: GOD’S CONSTANT PROVISION. I could write a whole book about this line alone! Going into 2014 I knew there would be one big hurdle for our family life. (In fact, I heard that little voice as early as December 2013.) And just as surely as I had been warned, these things came to be. Without going into too much detail, let me say that God has provided time and time again. And He has provided in ways and with means that I would never have expected and all in His perfect timing. Whenever I should have been stressed out and overcome with worry/fear I knew and felt God’s presence. I’m sure it was maddening for those around me to see that I wasn’t worried (heaven knows I found other things to worry about!) But let me tell you that we always had what we needed exactly when we needed it! Friends, God is good–all the time! I won’t pretend to know God’s plans or why I needed to learn the lesson of provision, but I am grateful for it and I know that it serves a larger purpose in our family’s faith walk.
That pretty much sums it up! Like the popular song from the Sound of Music…these are a few of my favorite things. Well, 10 of my favorite things anyway 🙂 Would love to hear about some of your “best of” or “worst of” items from this past year.
Looking forward to learning, growing and discovering new things in 2015!