Setting aside the ridiculous number of hits from Tupperware sales-ladies on this post and the constant stream of support and awesome comments you provided during October’s 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen series, the following five posts were the most popular posts on the site this year.
This Year’s Pink-Briefcase Top Five
When I started reviewing the statistics to build this list for you, I wasn’t sure if the results would be either helpful or interesting. I quickly discovered that the five most popular posts on the blog were among those of which I am most proud. Here they are:
1. I started off 2014 right with no more waiting.
2. I said some things I’d never said before in This is about religion. Sorry, not sorry.
3. I told you how I felt about this year’s big professional risk in Living the Dream.
4. I shared my silly obsession with the first Outlander book in Not Guilty Pleasures. (True story: I still haven’t made it even half-way through the second book. Hot fires burn quickly!)
5. And, I said goodbye to a community I loved and wrote about healthy relationships and bridge building in Begin Real Reconciliation with a Conversation.
This year has been a lot of things — beautiful and exciting and hard and, well, a little weird. Week by week, I’ve loved sharing this space with you. Thanks for a great year! Here’s to many more.
I’m half-way through my 60-day detail in DC as of this weekend! There are only four work-weeks left until I’m back at home full time with H and Leo.
These past 30 days have been long and busy, but time is also flying by. Half of 2014 is gone. I’m nearly half-way to age 29 (how can I possibly be so dang old?!). Christmas is less than six
weeks months away. In just a few months, it will start getting colder and colder in Chicago, and I’ll have to say goodbye to arms and legs and shoes worth looking forward to wearing.
I’m not ready. There are so many more things I want to do before this year is over. A lot of my internet friends are posting half-year updates, and while I don’t want to go line-by-line through my plan for this year, I do want to say two things.
First, this year I wanted to attack my life instead of letting it pass me by. And for the small things I haven’t. I’m still more likely to watch television than exercise, or to stay home instead of going out, or to blog or tweet instead of making that phone call. (Sorry Mom, it’s just really hard.).
But for the bigger things, I’m really proud of myself. I have been more intentional about saying what I want to do, where I want to go, what I want to eat. I’ve prioritized traveling and seeing friends and doing what I love. And I took a few big risks this year, including that writing boot camp and my writing conference, not to mention saying yes to this job in DC.
Second, I’m starting to feel like my own person (getting older is pretty awesome on that front, huh?) and feel very confident about my skills and abilities. Over the last year I have been so lucky to work with an incredible boss and mentor; his continued support, guidance, and trust have been incredibly affirming for me. I have a newfound comfortableness in my own skin that feels incredible. I’m no longer afraid to let people see how smart I am. (I dream of a world where all women everywhere fearlessly and confidently use their whole selves and full abilities to make our world a better, safer, healthier place.)
That’s where I am right now, and it’s still hard, but I like it. I’m weirdly happy, even though I’m itchy from a crazy rash and tired from constant flights and sick of eating at restaurants and still using my iPhone 4 with weak battery life and low memory. This year is half-way over and things aren’t perfect but I am happy, and that is awesome.
Whew, where did March go? I can’t believe it’s already time to link up with Leigh once again.
WORK. Is that a weird thing to say, that I’m loving work? Well, I have been. I started this month off with a business trip to Florida (thank you America), and have been doing hard, challenging work this entire month. So basically, I’ve been living the dream. [Literally. Working incredibly hard every day is exactly what I want to do with my life.]
FRIENDS. Oh, that’s right, we’re finally using the “f” word here in the Windy City. I’m setting into some very enjoyable friendships/co-workerships in the office, which is starting to feel like a great fit. On March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day, I met up with a half-dozen members of my writing group who also live in the greater Chicago area, for drinks and food and writerly hang outs. I also attended my second Kappa Delta Alumnae Chapter event this month, grabbing dinner and meeting some new women in the city. It’s so nice to have “people” once again.
Oh, and we’re still looking for a regular trivia night and trivia people around the loop/south loop. Just an FYI in case there are any random internet stalkers close by.
CHICAGO. The weather is improving, the sun is shining more frequently and for longer stretches at a time, and I’m just plain loving Chicago. Everything about it — the jazz music and the frumpy coats and the popcorn (oh the popcorn!) and the skylines and the way that the best restaurants use animals in their titles (“purple pig,” “little goat”). My parents were here for a visit and we did basically nothing, but even still — I just love it here. I didn’t think I would, but I do.
READING and WRITING. This month has been all about l-e-a-d-e-r-s-h-i-p. I’ve been reading blogs, articles, and am nearly finished with The Truth about Leadership (Kouzes/Posner 2010). My favorite tidbit from the K&P’s Ten Truths reminds us that being a leader is all about relationships, and that you need to know the people you are leading and have the right kind of relationships with them to lead them toward positive change. K&P teach leaders to know their values and visions for their organization, and to know their people — what makes them tick, what their visions are for the future — and to connect these organizational and personal dreams together. I love it.
ON THE SCREEN. Television has been kind of meh this month, eh? (Shout out to my Canadian readers right there.) I guess Nashville and Scandal are my top choices, but meh. I also really like Blacklist most days but, meh. Nothing is really catching my attention for very long. This weekend we watched several movies, and I’ll give you mini-summaries:
- Divergent — awesome(!) and now I want to read the books right now. I’m going to try to purchase them before my DC flight on Friday night.
- American Hustle — sad but good, with some lovely dresses. Now I love Jennifer Lawrence a little more.
- Frozen — what the what is all the fuss about here? I don’t get how everyone talks about this so much. Meh.
EATING/DRINKING. I’m a creature of habit, and this month I’ve found myself doing a few things over and over. Drinking English Breakfast Tea all day long. Mixing dried cherries, chocolate chips, and raw almonds for my own delicious trail mix. Also, I’ve been cooking from Bread and Wine (Shauna Niequist) a lot. I can’t stop loving that tiny little book.
HERE ON PINK-BRIEFCASE. I’ve been practicing this little thing called speaking up. Just a bit more than normal, but it’s something I want to do more. My favorite posts here on the blog this month are
- My most popular post this month was This is About Religion. Sorry, not sorry. I’m not usually a faith writer, and this might have been a stretch for me, but you all were incredibly awesome. Thank you.
- My favorite post this month was #50daysawriter Update: The Half Way Point. I’ve been working on taking my writing more seriously, and these last thirty-something days have been really positive for me.
- I also joined my writing community for an International Women’s Day link-up about The Girls We Once Were.
Well, there you are. March in a nutshell. April is going to be insane! We’ll be out of town two out of four weekends. I’ll be seeing some of my very best friends; trying on my writer hat for four days straight at a big fancy writing conference; and then pulling my lawyer hat out of the closet, grabbing a blazer (it’s been a while, blazers!), and heading to a legal training at the end of the month. Hopefully I’ll finally get to wear all those new spring shoes I’ve been buying.
NOTE: my friends, our internet has been down to about 10% for days and it is so slow and terrible that I just couldn’t upload any photos for you today. I also couldn’t really preview this post the way I normally do, so if there are typos here or anything looks weird, I apologize — leave me a note and I’ll try to edit them if we ever have consistent internet again.
As I’m typing this post, it’s the middle of the twenty-fifth day of my 5o-Day commitment to thinking of myself as a writer. This won’t go live and you won’t be able to read it until sometime Monday morning, which is technically past the half-way point of this journey and eight hours into Day 26. Let’s agree to ignore the actual math involved in defining the “middle” of a journey the way we agree to accept that television chefs always have perfectly baked final products ready to pull out of the oven and taste at the end of their thirty-minute episodes. The middle of a journey is really whenever you end up stopping for lunch, isn’t it?
I’ve learned a few things about myself, written words and paragraphs in my journal and on my computer, and wasted a lot of time during these first 25 days. I’ve been focused on my writing but also completely absorbed in my actual job, which is keeping me so incredibly busy during these early spring-ish months. My brain is buzzing with stress and deadlines and ideas, and that seems like the perfect mix to me.
- I tried a few coffee shops/writing locations near my apartment in Chicago and have adopted a location three blocks away. There are outlets everywhere, the espresso drinks are delicious, and the coffee shop is operated by some church so I feel better spending $5.00 on something I could make for myself at home. I’m here now, and a poster from an event at the Ryman Auditorium is hanging on the wall that faces my table. I’m sitting in the sun, looking at the words “Nashville Tennessee” and drinking a latte with chocolate, hazelnut, and cayenne pepper. I can’t think of a better way to nurture my creative insides.
- During a ten-day bootcamp with my writing group, I chose a topic for my writing project (even if I’m not quite ready to call it a book), told my writing group what my topic was, and felt the soothing coolness of positive feedback and acceptance calm my nerves. I also mustered the courage to reach out to a few friends about my
sillydream, so I’ve taken the first few steps toward using the “w”-word [writer] with my real-life friends and family.
- I have 4,000 words, notes, and research in a highly rough and scattered word document that has the headings and pagination of a non-fiction book proposal. It’s not actually a book proposal today, but I’m using that structure to sketch out my project. Working in this format is oddly comforting, because it is exactly what real writers do for every book they write. I’ve found the language of the world I’m walking in, and I’m ready now to meet people without feeling like a fraud: I can spend the next five years saying that I’m “working on a book proposal” before anyone that doesn’t know me well might become suspicious. It’s completely normal for that process to take forever and for “real” writers to get distracted for months, discouraged for years, or otherwise lose focus for a long while before getting a final proposal together. I know how to introduce myself and vaguely describe my project, so I’m ready to rent a car and drive to Grand Rapids and meet other writerly people. That goal is officially accomplished.
- My friend Abby has scheduled a public event at the end of the conference in Grand Rapids where my writing group will take turns reading our work out loud. To strangers (and worse, to our friends). While the pre-#50days me would say oh, no, I’m not really a writer and so I will just cheer the rest of you on, the me that is 25 days into being a real writer has [unfortunately] accepted the challenge and promised to find something, anything really, to read. I’m much more driven by external expectations of those I love than my own secret dreams, so I think this is actually the perfect thing to push me during the second-half of this journey: I have an idea and some draft-quality words, but now I need a chapter-ish length piece that is good enough to share, along with a gallon of confidence and a cute new outfit. In the next three weeks I need to finish a draft piece so I can edit it, and then prepare to present it with/to my people.
This effort hasn’t been on my mind every minute, and for the last few days at work my brain has been swimming in deadlines and spreadsheets and official communication materials, but I’m here on Sunday afternoon, as scheduled, thinking about this project. I’m thrilled with how far I’ve come in these first three and one-half weeks and am proud to share with you that I am working on a book/something proposal and preparing a mystery piece to read at my first ever reading as a [writer]. Nothing really has changed just yet, but I am starting to believe my own truth.
Thanks for joining me on this adventure.
Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Lucky Family! AOT
Last Thursday I started on a personal journey, if you want to call it that. I committed to think of myself as a writer and to act as if I believed that I was a writer for fifty days, so that when those fifty days are over I can comfortably wear the label. It’s the fifth day of this adventure, and it doesn’t feel very natural yet.
I asked you for tips, tricks, or suggestions for feeling more writerly. I thought you would tell me to wear a tweed vest or smoke a pipe or drink whiskey in the evenings; to enter into fights on twitter [you know who you are, bloggers of America]; to light a candle and read the New York Times with my coffee each morning. You didn’t. Instead, you all said the same thing: to be a “real” writer, just stop talking about it and get it done. Sit your butt down and write. There were variations in responses, of course, but only in levels of frankness on this common theme.
It seemed unhelpful and obvious to me at first, but already I’ve realized how valuable this advice really is. After five days of intentionally thinking about, talking about, stressing about, or considering the writing life, I’m not actually spending very many minutes putting words on the page. I’ve only written a few hundred words, I still haven’t chosen a project for this period, and I haven’t received any supernatural inspiration. Yet.
According to my research [casually googling variations of “what writers do” over the last week], this is pretty normal. J. Robert Lennon for the L.A. Times (2009) reported that real writers spend around 2% of their lives actually writing words. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t being writers the other 98% of the time. They are just living: thinking and working through the social interactions and complex critical thinking skills that eventually become the building blocks of what they create. Writing requires living.
I wish there were some magic formula for being
comfortable in your own skin a writer, but it turns out that the cape and tights won’t feel right until you pull them on, tuck your feet into those bright red boots, run outside and save someone. Otherwise, you are just sitting around wearing spandex. As a thinker, an analyzer, a “but what about this?” problem solver, getting started isn’t how I like to begin. I want to be ready: to gather together all of my tools and complete all of my training and calendar the milestones and targets before typing that first word. This isn’t going to work like that, but that’s okay. I can take my time and do this however I want to, so long as I’m doing it.
If you’re on a similar journey of finding your voice and style as a writer, or if you just want to watch me fumble around as I do this weird thing I’m doing, I’m using instagram and twitter to catalogue my random writing activities, with the hashtag #50daysawriter. (Is that redundant? Did I just write hashtag twice there? I’m still learning twitter grammar.) It’s mostly awkward so far but kind of fun too.
It’s a little embarrassing how many times I’ve written this to you, how many ways I’ve slid references to my giant failure complex into blog posts without really addressing it. I’ve made bold claims that I’m going to stop thinking of myself as a failure and start loving the life I’m currently living in a dozen half-hearted ways, but so far I’m still just rocking back and forth on life’s teeter totter: At the top, I am so ridiculously relieved that I am working (because others I love aren’t) and that I have a healthy work-life balance and that my job is mostly fun and engaging, but when the see-saw rocks downward I remember that I thought I would be doing something different.
The “L” word still makes me feel like a loser.
I know in my heart that I am where I need to be, but I have to remind myself all the time that this life I’m living is something to celebrate, not something to mourn. Sometimes I have to say it to friends and have them say it back to me, to tell me it’s okay. I know that I’m not the only one, but I often feel alone with this. I fold this idea into so much of my blogging because, while this blog is many things to me and hopefully a few things to you, its chief purpose right now is to remind me that life is beautiful and fun and it’s okay to just be who
you are I am right now.
I loved law school. I’m not one to say “Oh, it was so hard and I’m so glad it is over,” and I’ve never regretted attending. It was one of the best things I’ve ever committed to doing. It made me smarter and more attentive and a better person. Even now, while I’m not practicing, I still did all of the things to be a licensed attorney and I can go back to being a “real” lawyer whenever I want to, if I ever really want to.
I’m getting tired of trying so hard to convince myself that I am awesome and that I am making a real difference by working hard for my country. I am already doing these things and it’s become a bit of a broken record for me (and I’m sure not all that interesting for you, my friends). I’d like for this to become a non-issue for me, but it may be a few more months or years before I can really settle into owning my own life and living it for myself. I struggle to surpass expectations that don’t actually exist.
But I think for recovering people-pleasers and perfectionists like me, we often feel like posers in our late twenties. We’re wearing the hats and carrying big titles on freshly minted business cards but are we really good enough to hold this much responsibility? Friends from school are carrying the lives and hopes and dreams of two, or three, or four children already and I can’t imagine ever being qualified for such a hard and important job. Do you ever really feel like you know how to be a mother, a manager, a professor or scholar, or do you just jump in, throwing ideas at the wall, hoping something sticks? I’m always afraid that someone will look over and see that I’m really not as awesome as everyone thinks. I wonder, if they knew how much television I watched in the evenings, and how rarely I finish the books I’m always buying, if they would still want me to mentor their students, or file their taxes, or write their reports.
I paid real cash monies to register for a faith and writing conference in Grand Rapids in April. And I’ve decided that I don’t want to go to this conference feeling that I’m not qualified to be there. I don’t want to awkwardly shift on my feet or avoid meeting interesting people because when they say “Oh, I write a blog about faith and life and my book is being published in October,” and then ask about me, I don’t have a good enough answer. I want to do whatever it takes before I pick up my rental car and drive two hours and forty-seven minutes around the bottom of Lake Michigan so that, when I step out of my car and into the conference, I believe I am a “real” writer and I believe that I am qualified to engage, network, discuss, and struggle with them to create beautiful sentences.
Tomorrow, Thursday, February 20, is the first of fifty days before my conference begins. This may be a rough-and-tumble sort of commitment, but I’ll be doing “the things that writers do” for each of these fifty days so that I can step into the Grand Rapids community with a few pages I can be proud of, with a project I can discuss, or at the very least with the confidence that I certainly belong at the table. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, but I’m starting this effort off with a Story Sessions writing boot camp and I’ve been thinking a bit about what I want this to journey to include. I have a working list, but before I put it out into the internet world I wanted to hear from you: what do you recommend? What makes you feel like a “real” writer, or a “real” professional, or a “real” mom, instead of just a poser? What gives you confidence in your calling?
I told you on Monday about my big Chinese New Year haircut, and how good it felt to start fresh again. You can understand why my first New Year did not have a triumphant feeling if you saw my January calendar.
Last month I wrote about adding sparkle to my daily life and ATTACKing 2014, but that was pretty hard to implement while battling winter weather and a weak immune system! That’s hopefully all changing now.
As promised, here’s a snapshot of my new ‘do. I took my sweet time sharing because my skin has been so horrifyingly terrible since I started getting sick and I just didn’t want to share that part of my month with you!
I gave up and ordered the new proactiv+ and so far it has helped a lot. It’s a lot more moisturizing than the original formula. I’m one week in and my skin has responded well. If that’s something you struggle with too, it might be worth giving it a shot.
Happy weekend, y’all.