Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem

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2014 Reading List

160858050I read some great books this year! I didn’t surpass last year‘s number, but I sort of also rediscovered listening to music for a couple months. Still, I guess 27 books isn’t too shabby.

A lot more fiction has seeped into my reading list the last two years, which still kind of surprises me. But Audible just makes it so much more easy to fit books into my schedule, and enjoy them, so I’m welcoming it.

Here’s my 2014 reading list:

  • Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
  • A Path Appears by Nick Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Undaunted by Christine Caine
  • We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • Doctor Who by Stephen Cole
  • Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth
  • Star Wars by George Lucas and Brian Daley
  • The Locust Effect by Gary Haugan and Victor Boutros
  • Snake Oil by Becca Stevens
  • Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
  • No Compromise with Slavery by William Lloyd Garrison
  • Where Am I Eating? by Kelsey Timmerman
  • Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
  • The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  • Divergent series by Veronica Roth
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Yes, again! The audio version is superb.)

I was sort of in a “classics” mood this year and tried to also do A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Um, maybe I’ll revisit them in the future, but they’ve been abandoned for now. Is it me, or is Dickens hard to read outside of A Christmas Carol? Will I have better luck with David Copperfield (book, not magician ;) ). And I remember liking Tom Sawyer, so maybe Huck’s just not for me. Or maybe I’ll just stick to the movies and plays.

Anywho, this is the list of who had my ear the past 12 months. What about you? Anything I should add to my 2015 list?

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Clarify: 2014 in Review

180471960My word for 2014 was CLARIFY. Once I decided on this word, I put it on a Post-it and stuck it to my bathroom mirror so that I would see it every day. Some days it drove me. Some days it haunted me. And some days I just wanted to rip it off my mirror.

As I’ve been mentally preparing for this blog post over the past few weeks, I’ve been unsure what to write. I kept putting off even thinking through it for fear I would have no answers, nothing to say. Did I actually CLARIFY anything? Finally, upon reflection, I think I did.

I use verbs for my words of the year so I can think of them as motion, action. But so much of this year felt like I was stuck or going backward. Momentum felt out of my reach or something for another day. I’ve had chronic health issues for two and a half years. I can’t begin to describe what it’s taken from me: money, time, relationships, spirituality, memories, life. More than I ever could have predicted. As my health has progressed, or I guess lack thereof, I’ve just felt less like me.

But then there were those precious moments where there was a spark. A contrast to the rest of the time around it.

I watched movies like Begin Again and Wish I Was Here and they inspired me.

I had a four-hour conversation with Jason about justice.

I laughed till I cried with Heather, Matt, Rudy, Lisa, Chris, April and James over a game of Taboo.

I rejoiced as my friends Amy and Collin said, “I do.”

I reflected on life with Kristi and Patti.

I held the newest son of Daron and Margaret.

I planned events to help educate people on modern slavery.

I watched the Olympics.

I attended conferences.

I had honest conversations with Stephanie and Emily.

I had a long-overdue dinner with Michelle, Ben, Karen and Patrick.

I welcomed Katie back to the U.S.

I visited California…twice this year. (Currently my favorite state.)

I sung at the top of my lungs to the Wicked soundtrack. (Because who doesn’t?)

And so many more…

Those moments were different. They were bright spots in the day or week. They made me come alive, and feel like me again. It was if I was made for those moments. And those times helped me CLARIFY.

When I was in California the second time, I had dinner with Patti and Kristi, two women I met just months before at The Justice Conference in February. Between the three of us, we span three generations and backgrounds. And we have some great conversations as a result, CLARIFYING conversations. One of the things we talked about was each of our ages and what it meant to get older at that age. For me, turning 38 this year, I said I think I just continually grow into myself more. I feel like I’m always becoming more of myself, the me I’m supposed to be. And I guess that’s part of the wisdom “they” say comes with age. I’m so grateful for it. In some ways, I’m a very different person than I used to be. And in some ways, I’m the same. But I know I’m continually refining me, and it’s a lifelong process. There are days when it’s just plain not fun, and there are days when it’s an adventure I can’t begin to describe.

I crave more of these moments; moments that give me joy and purpose. So, for the rest of 2014 and in the future, I will strive to collect more CLARIFYING moments.

It seems simple enough. We all desire these moments, even if we don’t fully appreciate them when we’re living them. But I want to appreciate them more. I know they are limited, and I want to cherish them. It’s important to remember, though, that we must have the contrast to give them weight. So much happens in between errands and doctors’ appointments and work and responsibility. It’s up to me to take advantage of them and get more of them on my schedule, or at least be open to their possibility.

So, I’m not sure I gained a lot of concrete answers this year, but I believe I did CLARIFY a few things, and that’s a lovely gift to end 2014 with.

“We move forward. That’‍s the only direction God gave us.” – Gabe, Wish I Was Here

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Happy Thanksgiving!


May you have full bellies and warm hearts this Thanksgiving!

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I’m Buying HOPE, JOY and PEACE This Holiday Season

This is a repost of a blog I did last year about this time because it’s a message that still resonates strongly with me, and I hope it will with you too. May your holiday shopping be full of hope and happiness for all.




A few months ago I read Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma. I wasn’t expecting the book that it turned out to be, but it was still very good. It sort of turned out to be a Bible study on justice. I would definitely recommend it, and not just for those passionate about the issue like me, but even for the mildly curious. I learned a lot and will be marinating on it for a long time to come.

There were a few things mentioned in the book that stuck with me, but none more than what I wanted to share with you now. Did you know that it costs approximately $21 billion to get clean, safe drinking water to everyone in the world? If you weren’t aware, almost 1 in 7 of the world’s population doesn’t have access to this most basic need. $21 billion. I know, right, it sounds like a lot—like a whole lot! It sounds like scratching our heads and calling summits and raising money and finally reconciling ourselves to the fact that $21 billion is impossible to find in a world drowning in debt. Sometimes it sounds like giving up.

And then I found out…

The National Retail Federation estimates that over $600 BILLION will be spent in November and December this year. I’m sorry, what? That’s just this season. When I think about it, that makes me sick. In fact, the contrast in those two numbers has literally haunted me since I’ve read the book.

I think about people I know that rush around trying to buy gifts, any kind of gifts, for the people on their Christmas list. Mostly those are close family and friends, but usually there’s at least one obligatory gift on there as well. I think of gifts that aren’t bought out of need, but out of courtesy. I think of the stress so many people feel when it comes to the holidays. It seems to be more about putting anything under the tree that caring about what it is, as long as you’ve checked that box.

Something. Has. To. Change.

I love the holidays. I love the chill in the air, and the warm drinks. I love watching Christmas movies. I love decorating my apartment. I love seeing twinkle lights go up everywhere. And I love buying gifts. Gift giving is one of my love languages. It makes me happy to see the look on people’s face when I give them a gift. In fact, the anticipation of seeing their faces when I give them the gift makes me happy! I have always tried very hard, whether it’s a birthday or Christmas, to find the perfect gift that will make the recipient smile. It’s a challenge that I relish.

And, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it. But the last few years, ever since pursing justice myself and learning more about supply chain and slave labor, I’ve tried to challenge myself in a new way. I try very hard to find not only gifts of meaning, but gifts that do good or do not perpetuate slave labor. I’m also an environmentalist, so I try to cut down on packaging and reuse when possible. So, really, I thought I could pat myself on the back from up on my high horse—until I read those statistics.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to do more. I can’t completely give up gift-giving, because I love it so much, but there is more I can do. For one thing, I can help educate you. What if we all started buying differently? What if we started contributing more and consuming less? What if we took a hard look at the real difference between shopping and giving? What if the presents had real meaning, not just for the recipient you know, but those who created it or will benefit from the purchase? What if?

Here is an awesome video by Advent Conspiracy to help illustrate. In fact, they have a lot of great personal and church resources to help you explore this idea. I’m looking forward to reading their book this season.

As I said, I don’t have this all figured out, but I’m trying. I want to contribute, not just consume. I want buy better and think better and live better. And even more, I want that for everyone else. I want it for you, and those you know, and those around the world who don’t have clean water or adequate shelter or who live in fear. We all share this world.

The holidays are a season of hope. Hope, joy, peace—we see those words written on everything this time of year from cards to commercials. What if they weren’t just platitudes? What if we added those to our Christmas list? What if, when we started buying gifts, we kept those three words in mind? Will the things we buy this season promote hope or joy or peace? If not, then let’s not buy them. Find a better alternative. I bet there’s one out there.

Here are a few places to help you get started:

Purchasing on Amazon? Use Amazon Smile

Purchase with Purpose


Not For Sale Store

Better World Shopper

Greater Good

Free to Shop

World Vision Gift Catalog

Fair Trade USA

Ten Thousand Villages

Charity Water


Living Water International

International Justice Mission Gift Catalog

Notes From a Thoughtful Life

The Good Shopping Guide

Ethical Consumer


There are so many more, though, so keep looking! And if you need to go the department store route, you could even institute your own TOMS-esque one for one model. For example, if you give someone a shirt, donate one as well. Challenge each other to be better, think creatively and give more.

Give gifts that tell stories, and write yourself a new one in the process.


And here’s a great article from the TODAY Show about families who try to put more meaning into gifts and the holidays.

Here is another from LearnVest, a money budgeting site if you’re looking for a more frugal point-of-view.

One more from journalist/activist, Nick Kristoff, whom I greatly admire.



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Comfort Music

469198881The past two months have been busy. Crazy busy. Insane busy.

And while I usually (read: almost always) listen to Audible books in the car, I just couldn’t do it the past couple of months. I typically like to listen to books that inform and educate me, because that’s probably the only way I’ll pick the book up. Sometimes I throw in a fiction book for good measure. But this time, I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t fit anything else in my brain. I didn’t even want to follow a storyline. I wanted to zone out (while driving safely, of course). So I turned on my iTunes shuffle and let the music wash over me.

I couldn’t believe how comforting it was! It was like manna from Heaven pouring out through my sound system. I rediscovered an old friend, a best friend. I listened to songs and albums that made my heart happy. I sang (way) out loud, relived old memories, cried fresh tears, laughed all over again and generally just enjoyed the moment. It was a fun surprise with each new song that popped up. And it helped get me through the last two months.

Thank you, music, for being part of so many great memories. I look forward to more of those moments.

Here are some of the songs and albums that drove me to my happy place:

  • Any album by Caedmon’s Call, especially the early stuff
  • Begin Again Soundtrack
  • Chasing Daylight by Sister Hazel
  • Continuum by John Mayer
  • Effortless by Rita Springer
  • Elizabethtown Soundtrack
  • Fly by Dixie Chicks
  • Fortress by Sister Hazel
  • Galore by Guster
  • James Taylor’s Greatest Hits
  • Heavier Things by John Mayer
  • Journey’s Greatest Hits
  • Any Broadway Soundtrack
  • Little Voice by Sara Bareilles
  • Live Under Lights by Sandra McCracken
  • North Point Live
  • Resurrection by Nichol Sponberg
  • Room for Squares by John Mayer
  • Sacred Space by Steve Fee
  • Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings by Counting Crows
  • Saturday Night Music Club by Sheryl Crow
  • Somewhere More Familiar by Sister Hazel
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland
  • Somore by Guster
  • Together: Songs for the Soul
  • U2: 18 Singles
  • Wide Open Spaces by Dixie Chicks
  • 7:22 Live

What makes your list?


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