Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Ten of December '13

This is my last post for the year 2013.  While it has been a tad inconsistent, I've had some good thoughts bouncing around on this blog.  To end the year right, I have compiled my top ten list of articles found around the web during the month of December.  Hope ya'll enjoy, have a happy new year!

  1. The Music Never Stopped- This is an independent film based on an essay titled, "The Last Hippie" by Oliver Sacks.  My parents and I were deeply inspired after watching the story of a young man who loses his memory and then finds it again through the deep connection of music and emotions.
     Definitely recommend this one.  
  2. Jeff Goins tweet: "Three things everyone needs: a job to do, a craft to master, and a cause to champion."
  3. Your Life Isn't a Disney Movie....this is a great article for helping women get a realistic look on men and the type of husband they are looking for.  Great for young single ladies to read!
  4. One of my all time favorite musicians/singer/songwriter turned 64 on December 7th!  Enjoy this throwback Rolling Stones article about Tom Waits!

    6. 29 Books to Get You Through Your Quarter-Life Crisis-luckily I've already read one of these!
    7.   Food Inc. - A great documentary about what you are feeding your body. Pairs great with, Animal,           Vegetable, Miracle.  
    9.  OU beat OSU!  ...and just in time for my graduation.
   10.  Christmas!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Book Review

I just finished one of the most educational books I have ever read; fortunately, it was for fun.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a New York Time's Bestseller written by Barbara Kingsolver.  It is Kingsolver's account of her family's journey to eat only locally-grown food for an entire year.  Part research, part do-it-yourself, and part journal, this book is a faucet of information for anyone interested in living a more organic-friendly lifestyle.

Born in Kentucky in 1955, Kingsolver is a well recognized author who has won several awards such as the Bellwether Prize for Fiction and the National Humanities Medal.  She has published many successful books such as The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, and The Lacuna.  She currently resides with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a book with a very interesting layout.  Barbara Kingsolver tells the main story about her families struggles and triumphs that came with achieving their "year of local" nutrition goal.  Between witty narrative Kingsolver provides the reader with her personal research and insights on specific vegetables, food marketing tricks and rules to a farmer's lifestyle.

Her husband, Steven L. Hopp inserts short essays about the political and environmental education of eating local.  Hopp gives dozens of resources where interested readers can find out more information on the subject at hand.

Kingsolver's daughter, Camille also contributes to the book by including essays from a millennial's point of view on eating local and helping out on the family farm.  She also includes delightful recipes and sample menus for each vegetable in its' season.

The three points of view blend beautifully into one thick book of valuable information on everything from gardening to cheese making.  In fact, there were several times where I caught myself taking notes on all the information I was learning through this book.

I loved the fact that  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle covers everything a person can need to learn more about organic eating and shopping local for groceries.  From the practical day-to-day experiences of what a local diet looks like to the research that backs up and supports the families reasons for making this commitment, I learned how achievable a goal like this can be, even for a young adult such as myself.

When I was about half way through the book, I got the urge to watch the popular documentary, Food, Inc.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that everything I had been reading in  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle lined up perfectly with the research presented in Food, Inc.  This reassured me that the research was steady and the actions were compliable.  In fact, I recommend watching the documentary with the book if you read it.

Overall I feel that this book helped me achieve a new way of thinking about how I eat.  It isn't about being an environmentalist or cursing meat, and it's definitely not about slamming the government and living in a dirt house.   Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is about learning the process of food from the farm to your plate, and appreciating your meals for what they are rather than paying five bucks for a cardboard burger you scarf down and never stop to ask what it is or where it came from.

The better educated we are about our food, the better decisions we can make for our health.  Or as Kingsolver puts it, "Eaters must understand, how we eat determines how the world is used."  She is absolutely correct.  One of the most fascinating things I learned was that each and every one of us votes every time we purchase food.  We are either voting yes to local economy or yes to corporate control.  We are voting yes to more fast food restaurants or yes to more Mom and Pop's family-owned businesses.

Although Kingsolver was speaking of food when she explained this, I have learned to see it apply to every purchase I make.  Take Christmas for example.  I bought 90% of my gifts via Etsy, so I could support other artists like myself.  Every gift I bought came handmade from someone trying to make a living doing creative things.  By supporting these individuals I voted yes to personal businesses, no to mass produced good and yes to more art and independent artists.  What we spend our time and money on does make a stand for something.  Find out what you are voting for when you chose to swipe your card at your grocery store or favorite restaurant.  You just may be inspired to make a positive change in your lifestyle, which will make a positive change in your local economy, and ultimately leave a ripple of hope in the world.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls

I was just looking through my drafts page and happened to find this post.  I remember being very passionate about this post when I wrote, but for some reason I never posted it.  This is from May 2012, but I am just now posting it.  I feel the issues are just as relevant today though.  

A week ago, three of my friends and I went to nearby college to watch the showing of new documentary called Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.  Nefarious is a documentary made by Benjamin Nolot to expose the dark secrets of the Sex Trafficking Industry.  Filmed in 2011 and released in 2012, Nefarious is a raw documentary that gives a first hand look of what happens when a society becomes controlled by lust.

The film takes viewers across three different continents as the director takes an in-depth view of trafficking in Europe, Thailand, Cambodia, the United States, and a few other places.  Each city has it's own story and it's own practices, but one thing is secured across the globe.  Sex trafficking is a devastating problem, and it is a much larger problem than most people realize.

Producer, Writer, and Director of the film, Bejamin Nolot, is also the founder and president of Exodus Cry ministries.  The ministry and the film partner together to help shed light on this well-kept secret.  Exodus Cry is an international anti-trafficking organization that aims at bringing hope and healing to the sex trafficking industry. Nolot is the proud father of two and husband to a woman named Lauren.  Together his family lives life in Kansas City, Missouri where they are constantly fighting the battle of modern-day slavery.

While I have only seen the first film, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls is part one of a three-film series shot all around the world.  The second and third films are still in production, but they are projected to be out soon.  In the mean-time, the first film is making its debut by touring around the United States and Canada showing free screenings of the movie.

You heard right, the film is not being shown in theatres, but by host cities and organizations that want to help spread the word about the bonds of sex trafficking.  If you are interested in hosting a free screen you can look at the Nefarious website by clicking here.  But first, check and see if there is a city near you hosting this event.  Better yet, if you want to help out immediately you can buy a copy of the DVD on May 1st and host a watch party with your own circle of friends.

After spending a whole semester researching Sex Trafficking, the disaster upon us was not something I was unaware of.  However, this film put the situation in a whole new light for me by visualizing my knowledge with the subject.  I feel strongly that every citizen should see this film, no matter how little or how much knowledge is obtained on the subject.  From hard facts to real emotion, this film captures every angle of the sex trafficking situation with an intriguing and gripping perspective.  For more information go to www.nefariousdocumentary.com.  

Article first published as <a href='http://blogcritics.org/video/article/movie-review-nefarious-merchant-of-souls/'>Movie Review <em> Nefarious: Merchant of Souls</em></a> on Blogcritics.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Twas the Night Before Graduation...

Well, here I am.  Enjoying another quite night alone with meditation, prayer and thought.  As I sit here contemplating what happens tomorrow I am astounded, amazed, and most importantly, humbled.  In just a few hours I will enter into a new demographic.  The box I check next to "education" will forever be changed.

I joked with my friends about this one night.  The two closest pals I have right now are a little over a year away from this milestone, so I informed them how different things would be after December 14th, 2013.  I told them I'd be of higher quality than them and conversations amongst us would be impossible.  My higher degree of education would undoubtedly separate us until they reach the same pinnacle.  I also told them of how they must change their respect and outlook on me as well.

Fortunately, they knew I was kidding, and fortunately, I know this won't happen.

Last night I had an awfully realistic dream that my entire family, including myself, forgot about graduation.  We were all joined together for the occasion, but somehow managed to completely forget the time and date of the ceremony..TWICE.  Don't ask how this happens twice..it was a dream.

All day today I had that sickening feeling that the dream was real and we were all going to somehow accidentally forget to show up to the ceremony tomorrow afternoon.  I think this stems, in part, from some real anxiety I have about the whole thing.  I mean, I haven't gotten any emails, messages or letters from the college.  Surely they'll send me more information on what to do, where to go, how to dress...a reminder even?

Nope.  The only reason I have any clue where this ceremony will take place is because when I payed my $40 for my cap and gown the bookstore lady handed me a single sheet of paper.  On the top eighth portion of that paper was a small paragraph giving the time, date and location of the ceremony for "Gaylord College."  That's it.

So, yes, part of me has no idea what to expect and that results in weird dreams about misplacing the whole event altogether.

More importantly, I have been sitting here reflecting on my time here at this university.  All but the first three months have been somewhat recorded on this blog, actually.  

Fall 2010
Spring 2011
Fall 2011
Spring 2012
...some time off.
Fall 2013

That's really only 5 semesters.  How strange time is.  In the midst of it it seems to drag on forever, ceasing no end, and then when you least expect it...it's gone.

I think back on all my courses here; most within my major since I covered the basics at a junior college.

I remember my first taste of journalism.  JMC 2033.  That is still the toughest class I have ever had, and for that, it is my favorite.  I challenged myself to learn a completely different style of writing; one that included an AP Stylebook and relentless editing from a red pen.

I remember my first taste of feminism in my "Red Dirt Women" class.  I signed up because I thought I'd learn about Reba McEntire and The Pioneer Woman.  How wrong I was.  The class was about women's rights and being open-minded to liberal thinking.  Although I felt unfairly graded for my religious beliefs, I still passed, and learned a thing or two about the other half.

The most interesting observation on my reminiscence, is that I don't consider this a primarily educational journey.  I wouldn't sell the idea of college for educational purposes, although that has been obtained here and I can do and say and quote many things I wouldn't have been able to had I not pursued a secondary education.

However, I would highly recommend college to my younger counterparts for a different reason: a spiritual journey.  

My time here has been nothing less of that.  From jumping in full throttle to the largest Baptist Student Ministries program in the state, to breaking free of that and finding my own rhythm with the Spirit, I have learned to trust God with my major.  Countless hours spent worrying over what major would get me happiness were eased with peace when I finally let God take the wheel and remind me that he had a plan in everything.
I also learned to trust him with my extra-curricular activities, my family, my friends, and now my future career.

I remember having to deal with criticism from a spiritual superior...twice.  The first time I thought my world was crashing down.  I thought I was being punished for trying to do good.  Fortunately, I hit my knees and God showed me the strength he placed within me and told me to keep being an example for them in speech and in purity.

I remember when my main focus here was to find a rich husband.  You can bet God put an end to that real quick.  "Keep your eyes on me, child," he said.  "I'll take you to joy and contentment if you just trust me."

In fact, it was God who introduced me to my closest spiritual friend, and several others.  I can not count the number of Jesus stories I have listened to and spoken on this campus.  I am so grateful for those times.

It was God who lit a desire in my heart to start this blog, and take it to where it is now and even further.  It was the college classroom that gave me the tools to do this.

This semester has been an interesting spiritual journey as well.  I think the main theme has been letting go.  Letting go of control, and letting go of my plans.  
Letting go of sin and letting go of unnecessary worries.
Letting go of the temporary and holding on to the eternal.
Letting go of man's ways and turning to God's.

Yes, I am hours away from having a piece of paper that puts a lot of worth next to my name in many people's eyes, but I definitely do not have all the answers.  No, in fact, I think I have less answers than I thought I had when I began this journey.  I have learned to love and live and let live.  I have learned that my parents are pretty cool and that I can survive on my own.

I have the world before me, and Jesus by my side.  
No clue where I'm going
but for him I will ride.

To end my speech.... I would like to thank my professors for giving themselves, not just as instructors, but as people and friends and mentors.  I am grateful for my friends, in each season, giving their wisdom, home and encouragement.  I am so very thankful for my parents giving their whole-hearted support and instruction, and for my roommates for showing me unconventional ideas for breakfast and entertainment.  Special thanks to campus ministries for taking me in as your own and showing me my true calling.  But most importantly, thank you to the Lord, for being with me the entire time and making this whole experience worth while.  It has been nothing less than a spiritual journey.  God bless...and....BOOMER SOONER!

Artsy Friday: Ice Cream Painting

Wednesday's post introduced the idea of Etsy and my life as a painter.  Since then I decided I will dedicate Friday's to art and the pursue of all things artsy!

As promised, I will introduce each of my paintings to the blog world over the next few weeks.  Today I would like to make the grand introduction of my art class paintings with one of my favorites.

Ice Cream

The assignment was to paint our favorite food, and the rules were: no paint brushes, and no black paint.  Within a millisecond I knew what my favorite food was.  That delicious goodness that tastes like happiness and lasts about as long as a shooting-star.  

My mouth salivated as I reminisced on the sweet, sugary goodness of ice, cream and milk poured over a wonderful flavor and scooped out delicately into the container of your choice.  (Personally I prefer a cup, but that's no fun to imagine.)  
But what flavor will I do!?  I thought of all my favorites--strawberry shortcake, chocolate chip cookie dough, my Braum's favorite: a chocolate Reese's Mix with whipped cream.  Then their was my McDonald's favorite, the Rolo Mcflurry, and Sooner Rocks frozen yogurt..which got me thinking about Orange Leaf creations and Passion Berry..and well, now I'm getting off subject aren't I?
After much thought I decided on my two favorite BlueBell scoops: Red Velvet Cake and Birthday Cake; a double scoop, in a waffle cone.  And that's what I painted, without a brush or black paint.

The lack of a brush actually improved the painting I thought.  Using paint straight from the tubes and a palette knife for spreading, the ultimate effect of this piece is major texture.  I also had a lot of fun using the drip technique.  The idea is to water down the paint until it just drips all over the place.  There were several points during this process where I found myself standing in a pink puddle of watery paint!  It was pleasing though, because it was just like working with real ice cream.  
I paint-glued strips of newspaper into the background for an added stickiness effect.  You know when you're licking away on a cone and find yourself sticking to napkins, papers, coupons, etc. trying to find something to wipe your hands with.  Maybe that's just me because I'm messy, but kids do it too I swear!
After my professor and I determined the newspaper to be a good thing, I decided to create a 3-D effect and ball up tons of newspaper as even more texture to the ice cream itself.  This brought the treat forward and sent the cone back.
Speaking of the cone, it was outlined with masking tape, painted over and then the masking tape was removed to reveal a white outline.  My signature in the bottom right corner was created the same way. Criss-cross patterns and scratching were contributed to the texturing of the cone as well.  
The finished paintings were displayed at the University of Oklahoma Art College's Annual Chili-Day Fundraiser.  
To see my Etsy listing of this painting, follow this link: https://www.etsy.com/listing/172000177/ice-cream-painting-on-canvas-oil
For more information on buying, selling or anything else, comment below!  Thanks!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Etsy and Bloggers Unite: An Introduction

When I began this semester in August, I was determined to take just one art class for fun.  I had spent three college years doing the hard stuff like business classes and writing courses, all the while painting in my room at my apartment.  Fortunately, working at a coffee shop and reading "The Artist's Way" all summer, I really got inspired to go for it and take that random art class just because I wanted too.

 Because it was my last semester before graduation, my degree checklist only required me to take two courses: my capstone course and an upper-division elective.  This made my goal ridiculously easy to achieve.

So I enrolled in a beginning drawing class, because I knew drawing was a weakness of mine and this was the perfect opportunity to strengthen those skills.  I began drawing class with much frustration and excitement.
Drawing is so much harder for me than painting is.  Much to my surprise, I wouldn't be in that class much longer.

After only two weeks of drawing, I was informed by my advisor that I had already taken the exact same drawing class three years earlier at my local junior college.  She explained that I could stay in the class but would not receive any credit since it was considered a "repeat class."

So I buddied up to my professor and was graciously let into an Intermediate Painting class.  This was big news for me because realistically they aren't supposed to let you in an upper-division art class unless you've first had all the basic supporting classes (about 12 hours of credits.)  Being a PR major I obviously had not taken any of these classes.  In that aspect I was behind.  However, the painting professor looked at my website (haleyhooverpr.com) and was impressed enough with my work that he thought I would excel in an intermediate painting course.

As expected, I completed the course fine.  I learned a lot, struggled some and challenged myself definitely. Just being in the art college opened a whole new side of my brain (the right side) and introduced me to a lot of interesting people.  People who eat, breathe and sleep art.  The culture was so different from my college of origin.  Art people don't care what you think, and they openly admit their quirkiness.  That experience was worth everything to me.

 Over the 12-or-so weeks of class I painted 6 pieces, all of which pushed me out of my comfort zone on the painting spectrum.  From depicting a coming-of-age scene, to using hairbrushes and ping pong balls as instruments, these are definitely some of my more intriguing pieces.

Last week I uploaded 5 of these images to my Etsy store front, (https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheSparklingHippie) and figured up fair pricing considering the materials and time put into each one.  Descriptions are provided under each item entry, but I would also like to describe each one via blogging as well.

 (For those of you who don't know, Etsy is a website created for artists and craftspeople to help them sell their products online.  It was created in 2005 and has now expanded into vintage items and craft supplies.  It's basically free and anyone can join! In fact, I bought all of my Christmas gifts on Etsy this year.  It's a great way to support local initiatives and a person-to-person market instead of the corporate giants blasting through our television sets.) 

In other words, blog readers: I'd like to introduce you to my Etsty store The Sparkling Hippie.  And Etsy followers (few as there are), welcome to my blog, American Honey.

Over the next few weeks I will introduce each of my five paintings from class and drift into sharing other paintings with you all as well.  This is part of a long-term initiative to merge my writing and painting into a business I can live on financially.  Please feel free to comment, ask questions, connect with one another and learn more about the world around you.  I am open to suggestions and trying lots of new ideas so bring 'em on! :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Degreeism & The Call to Love

Don't you love the part when you think you're past something, then find out you're not.  At the beginning of this semester I thought I was going in for a graduation check, but instead found out I needed another three hours to graduate.

Already a month into the semester, my chances of finding a 3 hr credit that fit my specific needs were slim.  I ran home and frantically searched the online database looking for some goofy class to satisfy my degree requirements.  Fortunately, God is good and he led me to an 8-week online course, Intro to Human Relations.  I'll take it!  

Although the class required minimal effort on my part, I still learned a few things.  I learned on my own that Rachel Carson is an awesome role-model (a woman with several degrees,) and I definitely want to read more about her. 

I also learned about the Little Rock 9 and Rosa Parks.  

My eyes were opened to the reality of homelessness and the stereotypes that do NOT match with that.  

The entire class was about social injustice and stereotyping.  From feminism to racism and beyond...we learned the error of judging and how that only separates us and causes unnecessary hate.

For our final discussion in the class, we were asked to describe a social problem that we would like to see changed and describe how we would go about fixing it.  After only a few seconds of thought, my passion blazed with something I had been wanting to write about for a long time.  My post generated so much discussion within our class that I decided to share it here:  


I have a social problem that has bothered me for quite some time now.  I would like to start off by saying that I am obviously not against college or degree programs (as I am in them and have them,) but I am against the value people put in others who have or do not have a degree.
I feel like there is a huge social stigma against people who do not have college degrees.  It is as if we instantly deem them "unworthy" or less in the eyes of degree holders and business corporations.  While a degree can be quite helpful and make one feel accomplished, I in no way think that this deems someone worthy.  A person's worth, ideas, intelligence and integrity does not depend on a million dollar investment in a piece of paper.
A little over a year ago I decided to take some indefinite time off from school.  All I knew was that I needed to be in southwest Oklahoma, waitressing, because that was what God said.  So I moved south with only one semester left in my Bachelor's degree program.  
My family accused me of being on drugs.
My friends from OU dropped me completely and still do not talk to me hardly.
The community I grew up in shunned me and said I was no longer an example to their children.
Professors which I had strong ties with quit replying to my emails.
What hurt me the most out of all this was that I couldn't understand why me being at school changed who I was to other people.  This drove me nuts because I as a person hadn't changed any.  I still read my Bible everyday, I still painted and laughed and watched the same movies.  I loved the same people and ate the same foods, but for some reason I wasn't good enough for anyone anymore.  It really hurt me to see the shallow side of so many people I loved and trusted.  I still cared about all of these people and tried to assure them of this, but they didn't seem to want to hear it.
My parents eventually came around and then some time later I decided to come back and finish my degree.
What's funny is that several other relationships were "miraculously healed" when I made this decision.  
I don't associate with these relations anymore.  I've seen the injustice in the truth.

To fix this problem I think you need a lot more than a campaign informing people that no college is okay for some people, but that would be a good start.  I met so many wonderful people without degrees while I was working.  I consider these people more loyal and closer friends than any friends I have made at college.  I hate people for looking down upon these service industry individuals.  They have more character in one sleeve than thousands of people with money, degrees and fancy jobs.  And as our book pointed out, who isn't one phone call away from being homeless?

I am now 5 days away from graduating.  People ask me if I am excited, and the answer is yes.  Yes, I am excited to be done with school and yes I feel a level of accomplishment for sticking it out and receiving my degree.

But on the other hand I have learned a lot about the value of this thing since my year off.  I have learned that a degree isn't the answer to all my problems.  It is not what gives me value.  A degree doesn't fuel my passion or give me integrity.

This piece of paper will not change who I will end up marrying.
While it may open many doors for me, it doesn't change where I have come from.

I know that I work just as hard without it as I do with it, and my past employers aren't going to treat me any differently because I now have one.  I proved myself by being me. A degree didn't get me that.

I know that when I mention the phrase "bachelor's degree" in reference to me, I am now gaining a whole new level of respect from others.  I will have more job opportunities and I will statistically receive a much higher salary than someone without it.  I will probably gain friends and rewards because of it.  But, thankfully I was reminded about what is important in life when I stepped out of this circle for a year.

I am beyond grateful that I can say I have a degree.  I am blessed beyond measure with parents who paid for and pushed me to finish my schooling.  I treasure the friends I have made at school.  I loved the experiences and had some really fun times.

Norman is a great town and OU is a fantastic, top-tiered university.  If I had to do it all over again I'd do it the exact same way.  Plus, I'd hate to be on the other side of bedlam this year.  Joking.  But seriously.

I'm not complaining, I'm not harboring any anger, and I'm not looking for apologies, sympathies or envies.  I'm just writing.

I write to clear my head and I write to use my voice.

Call it what you want, but "Degreeism," as I casually call it, is a social injustice, just like racism or feminism.
No I'm not going to start a campaign or riot.

I'm just sayin' is all...

I'm sure if you're black you don't like people treating you differently because of it.  If you're a female you probably would be angry if you were refused a position based on your sex.  Stay at home Mom's, do you like it when people think you don't have a "real job"?

My point is that we all must unite in love.  It's like this awesome meme my cousin shared on Facebook the other day.  It points out that we are really all the same on the inside.  We all have feelings, goals, hurts, desires, longings, beliefs, etc.

So let's drop all the titles and love as Jesus does!  You see, greater than our choice of belief, major, or religion, is the call to love.

Mark 12:31
"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
There is no commandment greater than these.

Colossians 2:2
"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love,
so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding,
in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ. 

John 13:34
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:
 just as I have loved you,
 you also are to love one another."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sisterchicks "Take Flight": Devotional Review

A few years ago I found a site called "Blogging for Books."  It is a Christian publishing company that sends bloggers books for free with the promise of receiving a book review in return.  I love this system and am excited to begin using it regularly again.  If you are a blogger you should definitely look into this site!

I have reviewed lots of books before, but never a devotional, so I decided to take a step out of my comfort zone and do just that.  "Take Flight" is the devotional I picked out and am now reviewing.

"Take Flight" is the first of a series of devotionals called "Sisterchicks Devotionals."  Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan are the authors, or "sisterchicks" of the book.  They describe a "Sisterchick" as "a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you are acting like a brat."

The devotionals in "Take Flight" are based around this idea of "Sisterchicks" and makes the series great for a woman-to-woman bible study or friend-to-friend devotional time.  

Robin Gunn is the author of the "Christy Miller Series" and co-author of "Praying for Your Future Husband" (sounds like another book I'd like to review.)  Gunn has written around 80 other books, making her a best-selling author of 4.5 million books sold worldwide.  She now resides in Hawaii with her husband when she is not traveling the globe speaking to the masses.  

Gunn's partner in crime, Cindy Hannan has been by her side for more than 10 years.  Hannan and her husband, Matt have been married 31 years and have successfully raised two children.  

In "Take Flight" Gunn and Hannan take turns sharing lessons on topics ranging from hospitality and friendship to worship and wisdom.  The book is divided into four sections and 3-4 chapters within each section.  Each chapter is laid out into two parts.  First is a short story "From Robin's Nest" then Hannan ties in biblical meaning and application to the story in the second part, "From Cindy's Perch."

The devotional is careful to leave room for the reader to journal her own thoughts, or "peeps" as Gunn and Hannan call it.

Overall the devotional is quite clever, charming and comical.  While I didn't feel especially challenged in my faith, I did catch a glimpse of what biblical sisterhood is all about and how this can and should be a part of my everyday living.  I do feel that I would have pulled more out of it and enjoyed it more had I shared it with my own "sisterchicks."  Perhaps now that I know what the series is all about, I can start my own circle of ladies to share this with.    I suggest the same to other ladies looking for some great fellowship.  

"I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What I Learned by Asking Advice

So you're at a point in your life and you don't know where to go next or which choice you should choose.  What do you do?

Proverbs 11:14
"Without good direction, people lose their way;
the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances."

A little over a month ago I had a quiet time regarding this verse.  After much thought I decided it would be a good idea to get advice for my future from my pocket of wise friends and family.  What I learned was some great "life" advice that applies to anyone entering a new season.  After much messaging, texting and breaking bread with these "elders" of my life, this is what I learned:

  • From a much older and wiser friend to a younger one-"Travel before a family comes along is the way to go, I'd say."  
  • From a wise and godly cousin- "Where your great joy meets the world's great need is where you should be." 
  • Find out what you want, what brings you true joy and ask yourself if you can get by
    (financially) doing just that...if yes, do it.
  • It's okay to make wrong choices.
  • It's okay if the world things you are crazy for following a dream.
  • Another wise old cousin- "You can make money doing what your passionate about.  It may not be easy or a lot of money, but it's possible."
  • Do whatever you want but keep in mind you have to be on your own insurance by age 26.
And my two favorite which I have heard most often and most repetitively from all sorts of faces:
  1. Do what you want to do.
  2. When you find it, you'll know it
Those two make me laugh because they are so simple and true, yet it's one of those things that happens when you aren't searching for it.  

I guess that leads to the advice I would give someone like myself:

Don't worry about it so much, God will work it out for you when he's ready. 

Easier said than done of course.  But that's where the Bible's steadfast truth comes in.  The following chapters are always comforting in times of uncertainty for me:

Philippians 4
Jeremiah 29
1 Peter 4
Psalm 3

And of course, if you're still stressed out, you can always put on some good ol' Otis Redding: 

That song always reminds me that it's okay to just chill sometimes.  

"I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watchin the tide roll away, ooh
I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time."

So smile, relax, have some fun and trust that everything is really a lot more okay than you think it is.  With the big man in charge it can't be too bad in the end, right?  And...don't forget to thank him instead of complaining!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Beauty in Blooming

This picture came straight from my journal a couple days ago.  It was great quiet time with my favorite (and only) Creator.  I was spilling my heart out to God about being "happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time."  I told him my hopes and fears and how desparately I wanted to get this crucial time in my life right.  

I thanked him and blessed him for all the opportunities presented to me.  I told him how fortunate I was to be graduating, and to be so well supported by loving friends and family.  I thanked him for his grace and mercy and his never-ending promise to provide and plan for me.  :)

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my all time favorite verses.  We read over this together and peace was restored to my soul.
"For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord,
'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."

We should take such comfort in knowing that we don't have to have everything figured out and we definitely don't have to do anything but trust God to navigate us on our journey.

22 is scary.  It is a time of transition, and in between place.  We are arriving, but not there.  We are moving but not settled.  Happy but not content.

Hope Kronman puts it extremely well in her 22ish article in the Huffington Post.  

"This, I've realized, is because 22 is the age of in-betweens -- in between adolescence and adulthood, in between relationships, in between this job and that career -- and it's nearly impossible to know who you are when you are still "becoming."

I think the most important thing we can do is keep our focus on God and let him do the rest.  Matthew 22:37-38 says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment."

Also Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well."

That right there sums up what it's all about.  

I know it's tough.  I know you're striving and searching..but keep your eyes on my daughter, I have you in the palm of my hand, steady and stable.  Trust me to shape you and place you where I see best for us.  You are a beautiful bloom, but you aren't ready to blossom yet.  During this season you must trust me to take care of you and nurture you--feeding you all the sweet loves of healing and the Holy Spirit.  Don't force your bloom.  I have the water of life and I promise to care for you daily, letting you grow and become your best; and your best is more than enough for me.  I love you just as you are, with or without all the trimmings.  You are my child and I have created you for such a time as this...   --Jesus

Friday, November 29, 2013

Top Ten of November '13

Hey, hey, hey! It's that time again.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving I have compiled 10 links I am thankful for. This month was about being grateful, getting an early start on Christmas shopping and figuring out life!   Enjoy my list and feel free to add your own below.

  1. Living With Less: America's Quest for Simplicity.  This is a very interesting infograph on how we crave stuff and more stuff yet are never, ever happy.  The graphics give both the problem and the solution, which I think is a nice positive twist.  Well worth the scroll in my books!
  2. Country Sunshine Life: The Master is a great read about the parallels between a good farm dog and an obedient heart to the Lord!  Very creative.
  3. Another great post on being thankful is Allison Vesterfelt's Finding Gratitude Beyond My Circumstances.
  4. Jimmy Stewart is a favorite celebrity at our house, and this is a link my mother shared with me.  It is a poem he wrote about his dog and read to Johnny Carson.  Carson actually started crying after he read it.  Read and Watch.
  5. Calamity Janes OKC shop on Etsy!  I love this shirt and many more I found in this shop. They have tons of cute Oklahoma inspired shirts...these would make great gifts for loved ones!
  6. Though a little vulgar at parts, this video makes me laugh and completely describes life as a 20 something.  #20SomethingProblems
  7. 5 Tips for Marketing to Millenials from a Millenial.  Courtesy, Huff Post.  Great advice.
  8. Bike and Build 2014 applications went live!! http://bikeandbuild.org/cms/
  9. I landed behind this license plate on a Monday.  Gave me a great laugh!
  10. Matt Papa in general is a wonderful, underecognized Christian musician.  Today I am felt with peace as I listen to "Open Hands" on repeat.  Such a great November-Thanksgiving song.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday.  Here's to a month of great finds!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Hotel California"

Last weekend I was working behind my favorite bar, having some wonderful conversations.  One conversation in particular has stuck in my mind.  There were about four of us sitting around enjoying some classic rock n' roll, when the Eagles' hit "Hotel California" came through the speakers.

Everyone sang along at first, but then question was posed, asking what the meaning of the song was all about.

One guy gave a speech about how songs have no meaning, they are all open interpretation for the listener.  That was obviously a good cover up for not having an intelligent guess, but whatever.

An older gentlemen said he was almost positive it was written about an insane asylum.  He referenced the lyrics, "we are all prisoners here of our own device," and "they just can't kill the beast."

I had never really thought about it.  I knew all the lyrics but just assumed the message made sense to everyone else but me...seeing as that is how it usually is.  I figured it was literally about a strange haunted hotel of some sort.  Although the insane asylum guess made good sense to me.

Much to all of our surprise, the song was actually written about the overly greedy culture of America and the dark side of the American Dream.  Don Henley said it was "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles," and later explained how that related to all of America and the greed in the music industry in the 1970's.

The whole song is beautiful in how it really engages all five of the listener's senses.  You can smell the "warm smell of colitas" and feel the "cool wind" in your hair.  I think this is part of what makes this such a successful song.  It is a beautiful creation and it laid the framework for the rest of their album.  The album went on to be #37 on the Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all times.

The song talks about bringing your alibis, having mirrors on the ceiling and being a lovely place--all descriptions of materialism, greed and conceit in our culture.  I mean, it's no secret Americans are known for having too much and never being satisfied.

"And she said, 'We're all just prisoners here, of our own device.'
And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast."

I think these are the most powerful lyrics in the song.  It shows the deep emptiness and longing that comes from craving earthly treasures.  One of the residents literally describes herself and company as prisoners of their own keeping.  There is a church saying that goes with this, "Sin will take you further than you wanted to go, and keep you longer than you wanted to stay."

Greed is one thing Jesus came to set us free from.  No matter how much you gain, you will never be able to "kill the beast."  That's what makes money, fame, and success addicting.  It is empty.

The Bible and The Eagles both teach us to invest in eternity rather than the earthly.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."
--Matthew 6:19-21

Investing in the eternal is a hard concept for me to wrap my head around.  I believe in saving, tithing, and living debt-free.  All of these things require hard work and good, biblical financial skills.  At the same time, we need to be extremely open to giving away everything we have received.  I was recently challenged to come up with ideas of how to do this.  Here are a few:
  • Tip BIG when you go out to eat.  This means above and beyond 20%, which is today's standard.
  • Donate your money to a worthy cause such as a missions group, non-profit organization or charity.
  • Always, always, always tithe first and foremost--AT LEAST 10%.  If you take time to feed from a church, give money back.  These people have families too.  Also it is giving back to God...after all he did provide you the money in the first place.
  • Do not give out of abundance, give regardless because that's how God gave it to you.
I like how Jeremiah 6:13 puts it, "For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely."  

Instead of coveting, grasping and asking for more, try killing the beast with contentment.  I struggle with this daily but the Lord has shown me the way to kill many things is through thankfulness.  If you are thankful and grateful then you will realize you are content.
It is Thanksgiving, ya know.

Action-->"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  

Promise--> "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Keep the lyrics of Hotel California in mind as you walk through your day today. If not you may be searching for a "hotel" that doesn't really exist.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"It's Time"...for What?

The #1 pick from my post "Top 10 Reads for October '13" was a blog-post about the song "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons.  Hello Giggles is the name of the blog.  The post was awesome! I could never compete with that post, and I am not trying too.  Katie Patton (author) did the song justice by proclaiming it an anthem for twenty-somethings everywhere.  I agree.  Both her post and the song have inspired me for a few weeks now, so I have decided that it's time for me to sit down and write about it myself.

Of course, God always has a way of tieing meaningful songs to your heart, and then making you sit and wait for the masterpiece to unveil itself before you truly understand it.  This blog has a lot of that sort of thing goin' on in it, and this song brings another example of such.

"So this is what you meant when you said that you were spent? 

And now it's time to build from the bottom of the pit right to the top,
Don't hold back
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check."

Before I started this post I did a little bit of research, (like every good blogger).  I started by watching the music video.  I didn't understand it at all, but it was neat!  So I googled the meaning of the video and came up with a Huffington Post interview with the songwriter/singer of the song.  In the interview he explains that the bands name and the video are very meaningful to him and his band members, but he is not sharing the meaning with the public because it takes away from the mysterious beauty of art.  

I respect and admire that.

(Dan) also mentions in the interview that he wrote this song right after he had dropped out of college.

What a great time to build...and invest.

Afterall, that is our goal as 20-somethings--or at least it should be.  I deemed "Building and Investing" as the ultimate goal of my twenties after posting my ode to Taylor Swift's "22".  I think I got the idea from a website with financial advice for young adults, but it really applies to much more than just finances.  

After high school I feel like we all have numerous points in our lives where we realize "it's time to build from the bottom of the pit right to the top."  For instance, I'm sure high school seniors and college freshmen totally relate to this song!  In fact, I would be putting it on my playlist if I were that age!  It's the perfect moving-out and moving-on anthem for such a time in your life.

I guess newlyweds could claim it too, or anyone starting a new life in a new town.

My two closest friends right now love this song.  One is getting ready to study abroad for a semester and the other is trying to figure out what she wants to do next.

I guess for me it feels like an arrow confirming my direction after December.  December is when I will be graduating college and taking my first steps into the world with a degree in my hand.

I'm still not sure how that will look.  I've prayed and sought counsel from almost every angle.  While I have received some wonderful advice, I still don't have a direction.

Most people get jobs related to their majors.  I have applied for one that really interests me.  A big part of me wants to take 6 months to just build and invest through bartending and waitressing, while focusing my spare time on monetizing my blog and artwork.  Yet another part of me wants to go work on a ski-lift in Taos, New Mexico or ride my bike across America.  I could also go back to school and get my Master's degree in something cool like writing.

When I sit still I feel like God is telling me to be content and take some time to chill with him. I don't like this so I doubt it.  I think the doubt creeps in because that synopsis won't look shiny or pretty to the world.  In fact, it won't look like I'm doing much at all.  But when I sit still and listen to God, he reminds me of my callings and passions and tells me It's time to begin...

I finally have some time available to focus on being what I am called to be.  Part of me wants to run and hide under something pretty that the world will appreciate.  The other part of me wants to ignore the calling and go do something random.  The problem is, neither of these are what the Lord wants for me right now.  He wants me to begin building and investing, from the bottom up.  This is scary because it takes faith and courage.  Everyone knows a little bit about those fears, but at some point we must stand face to face with them and realize the overcomer within us.

"It's time to begin, isn't it?
I get a little bit bigger and then I'll admit
I'm just the same as I was
Now don't you understand
I'm never changing who I am."

That lesson hit hard a year ago when I was taking a break from school.  I proved to myself and others that I didn't need a degree or a shiny label to be worthy.  Just because I didn't look the way I always had, didn't mean my heart had changed any. 

The same thing comes with growing up.  It's just like the song says...you get a little bit bigger--like you think you're growing and maturing as an adult--then you realize hey, you haven't changed all that much.  You're still the same person, just a little bit older, and regardless of where you are or what you are doing, your core character never changes.  

I feel like this is very important to remember as we are "coming of age."  So many times we stress out all the little details of these decisions--and with good reason!  Every decision we make is ultimately a "life changing decision." But we also must remember that these decisions--actions--choices--they don't change who we are.  They may change our path, but not our character.

Life is always the sum of our choices, but if you are making these choices with integrity and love then you can't go wrong.

23 days till graduation and then it will be Time to Begin...again....and then again later on...and again.

Maybe that is the point of it all.
We have to learn as adults how to adjust to the changing scenes and scenarios of life.  The whole thing is just one big crazy adventure!  Grab it by the horns.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Night Swimming: Book Review

A new joy of mine is wandering through used bookstores and picking up interesting fiction titles.  I guess I haven't really taken the time to read fiction since I was a little kid, mostly because I have always seen it as a waste of time.  However, my summer working at the bookstore really changed my view on this.

 For whatever reason I found a fiction book that interested me and I loved the escape it brought.  I loved going home in the evening and actually unwinding with a book for once, instead of the always-learning-always-growing reading approach I had always taken in the past.

A month or so ago I found a couple of good reads at a wonderful and hidden used bookstore in Norman called "The Book Stoll".  One of those good finds was a book titled "Night Swimming" by Robin Schwarz.  Talk about a wonderful escape from reality!  If it weren't for life getting in the way, I would have finished this book the first night I opened it.  This was truly one of those books that pains you to put it down.

Protege of best-selling author, James Patterson, Schwarz is a new author on the rise.  Originally from England, Schwarz truly is a writer through and through.  Her resume includes writing gospel and being the first ever writer hired at The Kaplan Thaler Group. I am impressed with the later because I know a little bit about that world.  (The Kaplan Thaler Group is owned by Publicis...that's a major advertising and public relations company!)

Schwarz does an awesome job of keeping the novel interesting and surprising.  I kept thinking to myself, "surely it will get boring at some point"  but to my pleasure, it never did.  In fact, the story got better and better as it went!  This is the best kind of book, but it is oh, so rare to find.

In Night Swimming,the reader is pulled into the life of a very ordinary (yet maybe not) woman in a small town in New Hampshire.  When she suddenly gets the news one day that she only has a year to live, she does the unthinkable and wrecks havoc on the mundane life in Gorham.

Her story is one of courage, living and accepting.  Charlotte, I guess I will call her (the main character), transforms from unhappy and overweight to a beautiful, happy go-lucky woman after her own dreams!  I feel like I learned so much from reading about Charlotte.  She is an inspiration to women (and men) everywhere.

Three things I took away from this book: 

  1. "Life is a tasting plate.  You have to try everything...at least once."  This is the advice Charlotte's mother gives her on her death bed.  I love this philosophy and it has instantly been adopted as my own.  I agree whole-heartedly.  Life is short and we ought to try everything we can before we die...no matter how crazy the idea!
  2. When we crave things too much, even good things, they become an idol, and when they are an idol, God does not give them to us, because we want for wrong reasons.  After meeting the love of her life, we read this narration, "But because Blossom (Charlotte) craved love so badly, she couldn't seem to appreciate the gift he gave so freely.  The gift of friendship."  Charlotte had to learn to accept and appreciate herself outside of everyone else before she could truly appreciate and love another individual.  This theme is carried throughout the story as Charlotte learns lessons of forgiveness, acceptance and contentment.  She learns to love and laugh at the little things.  :)
  3. Fear is invisible.  In one particular scene Charlotte wants to sing karaoke but has a hard time mustering up the courage to do it.  Eventually, she breaks through, triumphantly and realizes that fear isn't anything.  "...she had broken through that invisible wall of terror that surrounded her, and lived to tell the tale."  We all have those invisible walls.  They give us anxiety, worry, stress, defeat.  But really, what is it other than an invisible wall we build around ourselves?  Bust through it and do what you desire!
If you are looking for an inspiring, brilliant and fictional read that journeys through self-discovery, spirituality and living your dreams--Night Swimming is definitely the book for you.  I highly recommend it and am passing it along to a friend as we speak!  5 out of 5 stars Robin Schwarz!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Taking Notes

I just got out of my capstone class for today.  Side-note: A capstone class is the last class within a student's major before graduation.  It is typically the hardest because it is supposed to be all-inclusive of what the student has learned in that major.  

Anyhow, today's class was different because we didn't actually do work or visit with our professor.  Instead we had a visit from the dean of our college and had a nice long talk with him.  He asked us the good and the bad from our program; what classes we liked, what classes we didn't and why.  And of course, a room full of Public Relations majors (which is 70% female and 93% outgoing and happy-go-lucky demeanor) gave him more than an earful of opinions, thoughts, experiences and questions.

As all seventeen of us talked and laughed about all the horrible and wonderful experiences from freshmen year to our last week in capstone class, a lot of emotion came a buzz.  It was the emotions of remembering things.  After our worst stories, it made you kinda feel good, ya know.  Like you'd survived something really hard and become a better person because of it.  Oddly enough, after the happy stories you felt sorta sad because it was coming to an end.

It all sunk in at the conclusion of the meeting when the dean asked who was graduating in December and about half of us raised our hands.  He congratulated us and said he hoped we enjoyed our time at the university and can look back at it with fondness and happy memories.  I almost cried!  

I guess each day it becomes a little more real to me.  Like when I got approved for graduation from my advisor I had a small reality check, like wow, this just might actually happen.

A few weeks later I got my cap and gown and really got a reality check.  Oh crap!  I'm graduating in a few months!! Graduating from college?  What am I doing with my life???  Oh, wow I have no idea what I'm doing past December.  I have to find a general direction at least.

And then today, hearing my dean say that was like hearing the words at a wedding but not being at a wedding.  You know that's what they say, you know it has meaning and importance and emotion, but since you are not there you didn't expect it and didn't really know what to feel.  It's not real yet.

I guess I do this with every big life event.  I'm fine till I walk down an aisle...then I lose it.  

High school graduation I cared less about until they told us to line up and start walking down the center of the gym.  Instantly I burst into tears and cried like a baby the entire time.  I was in such shock of emotion I didn't even realize they called me to the stage for an award at one point. ...my classmates were really irritated.  Get it together chick..we're trying to get to these parties.

Then there was my best friend marrying one of my close friends.  It was all business, till I walked down the aisle in my bridesmaid dress.  Yup.  You guessed it.  Instant tears. Not just tears but sniffles the whole church could hear and no kleenex to dry my eyes or wipe my mascara.  It was intense.  I made everyone else cry and everyone afterwards commented on my hysteria.  

Anyways,  I guess we'll see what happens when I walk across the stage at the Catlett Music Center in December.  

...Bringing it back to our discussion with the dean: one girl bravely mentioned the fact that our college (Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication) is really big on 2-3 programs that feature a specific aspect of Public Relations/Advertising.  From the minute you walk in the door you see, hear, or think about these programs and are almost instantly pressured to join and do and be and succeed there.
This girl mentioned that those programs just simply weren't her and she didn't join and wasn't any worse off because of it.  However, she felt looked down upon by certain professors and students for "not drinking the Gaylord koolaid."

We all laughed at the phrase but then quickly all jumped in and agreed with her.  

I was shocked.  I knew I felt this way, but I had no idea so many others did too.  These weren't even girls I connected with that much, but they had encountered the same things I had at college.

I spoke up and shared my story.  I told the dean about how this "koolaid" was one of the main reasons I decided to take a year off from school.  I was right in the middle of the koolaid.  I was succeeding in the koolaid, leading in the koolaid and being praised for my koolaid--but I didn't feel satisfied.  It didn't feel right.  

I felt like a square peg in a round hole, and that was an awful feeling because I had fads and I hate trying to be main stream.   

I didn't cautiously try to be round.  I was just following the rules and doing what my teachers said would make me rich and successful...and it would have...if that were what I had wanted.

A year and some change later and I'm back in the same building, yet with a total different perspective on everything.  

I gained my confidence and now stand firm knowing that I can be happy and successful without being round, or, um, emerged in koolaid.  It took me a rough ride and a time out to realize that, hey, I'm okay being me.  You know, God gave me special passions and talents that he is going to use in a completely unconventional way to bring him glory, because that's what I asked for and that's what he does.

I'm not mad at the college and I'm not blaming them.  Everything happens for a reason, and I needed to learn these lessons in that way or I wouldn't have came to this conclusion.

God knows what he's doing.  Even down to choosing the right college.  

I almost ended up at Oklahoma Baptist University.  I loved it, I really did, but looking back now I know I couldn't have gone there.  I would have been incessantly wondering what the big shots were doing at the big university a couple towns over.  I had to see and experience everything for myself to understand what I did and did not want.  I still don't know entirely what I'm doing, but I do know a lot more about myself, about my calling, and how to reach the goals that line up with those things.

College won't teach you everything, but it is a stepping stone on a journey.

Another girl in our class said that our university recently came out with some research statistics about students' learning.  I could have mistaken her, but I believe she said they found only 20-30% of what students learn in college or high school is taught by a teacher.  The rest is outside the classroom.
I may be graduating with a degree in my hand and a pat on my back, but this was not all about knowledge.  It was about wisdom, and that is one thing I have definitely received with my $24,000 investment.  ....yeah there may have been cheaper ways, but, ya know..it was worth it. ;)

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