Friday, June 27, 2008

Book Giveaway: Messy Spirituality

I'm a mess.

I tell this to my sweet, understanding husband sometimes - like when I'm overly upset or freaking out or just plain cranky. Then I sigh and get a hug from Josh.

Although he tries to convince me otherwise, I know it is true.

I AM a mess!

Life is hard and confusing. I don't have much figured out. If I appear to "have it all together" it is truly an act. I'm always behind on laundry, don't cook as often as I should, and struggle with consistent email correspondence with friends. As I'm mentioned, I rarely have the discipline to follow through on things I would like to do. And I continue to struggle in my walk with God.

I don't think I'm alone here. I've spent time with my family while grieving over my Opa's death and I've seen it there. It is a part of deep conversations with true friends. I've read other bloggers talk about it, too. Shauna Niequist writes about it in Cold Tangerines (and those are my favorite parts.)

Messy is a part of life. I'm learning - slowly - to embrace it.

Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli explores this topic with regard to God and faith and grace. You can use the widget below to both find out more inforation as well as read the first few pages.

AND the publisher (who just happens to also be my employer) has given me 10 copies to giveaway on this blog! All you have to do is agree to write a short review of the book on your blog or on Easy, right?

But, the fun continues!

After all the reviews are posted, I'll randomly choose three winners from the reviews for the following prizes:

1st winner: $25 Target Gift Card
2nd winner: More books - I'll post a list of 10 favorites, and you choose 3!
3rd winner: More books - I'll post a list of 10 favorites, and you choose 2!

So, here's how it works:

1. Leave a comment on this post letting me know you'd like to participate! Be sure to leave your email address if it's not linked to your name. If more than 10 of you are interested, then I'll do a drawing for the winners of the free copies this Tuesday, July 1st. (If you don't win one of the free copies, you can still write a review and be eligible for the prizes.)

2. Write a short review of Messy Spirituality and post it on your blog by Wednesday, July 30th. Then comment on blog when you've done it! I'll post all of the links here so that we can read each other's reviews. (If you don't have a blog, you can still participate. You can post a review on and be eligible for the prizes.)

3. On Friday, August 1st, I'll announce the winners of the prizes here.


Email me at jjbrown611 at yahoo dot com.

**This is open to anyone and everyone who reads this blog! Are you a blog "stalker" that doesn't ever comment? It doesn't matter - join in the fun! Or are you a family member who likes to read, but doesn't blog? Please feel free to participate!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dirty Dancing on Oprah

Okay, I've LOVED the movie Dirty Dancing since I was a teenager.

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

And of course I love THE DANCE. I like to dance in my chair like Baby's sister Lisa when I hear this song.

And then when I heard that a cute couple took the time to learn this song for their first dance at their wedding reception, I HAD to check it out on YouTube. WHAT an idea! They nailed it. And 4.7 million views later, I think others agree.

So today I was watching Oprah - wait, can I admit that? Well, I work from home and often have the TV on for background noise. My interest was immediately piqued when Oprah mentioned Dirty Dancing and YouTube, and I was excited to watch the stars of the YouTube video - Julia and James - actually perform the dance right there on Oprah's stage. How exciting. (And holy cow I would be so nervous if I were them!)


Who else put PATRICK SWAYZE himself walks on stage! EEK! Not only that, he cuts in on James and dances the rest of the song with Julia. Can you only imagine?!?! Dancing THAT SONG - all classic moves included - with "Johnny" himself?

I don't think I've ever laughed out loud in sheer joy and clapped at the TV (especially when Oprah is on) before. But there you have it. I loved the moment so much I had to share it with you all.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Favorite

There is something about this verse - it keeps cropping into my thoughts. It has long been one of my favorites, and always seems to speak to me, no matter what the circumstances.

In the messy-ness and busy-ness of life, it is a gentle reminder of God's goodness and faithfulness.

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103:1-5

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm Totally Short On Time Today, But

Here are some random updates:

1. I did buy a new phone (at a gouging price, I might add) but I've lost the numbers stored in my old one. Grr. So if you call, please leave your phone number in any voicemail you may leave me. Just in case.

2. I've lost 4.6 pounds!

3. We visited friends in Milwaukee this past weekend, and really enjoyed it. Friends (both from IU and from Josh's high school) = fun. Milwaukee = fun!

4. I have my yearly doctor check-up today. I hate those.

5. Our family computer (you know, the one with all of the pictures saved on it) won't turn on.


It is Monday morning. 6 is all I can do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More on Opa

Just wanted to share that yesterday's Grand Rapids Press had an excellent article about my Opa and his involvement with the resistance in WW2. It makes me really proud to be his granddaughter.

Nazi Resister John Witte was dedicated to family

Monday, June 16, 2008

In Loving Memory

John Witte

My Opa (the one that wrote me the letter) went home to be with the Lord this past Friday.

Loving husband

Father of 9

Grandfather to many

Hard worker

Dutch immigrant

Member of the Dutch Resistance during WW2

Loved his family, his church, and his Lord

Always cheated at cards when playing with his grandkids :)

See here for more about his incredible life.

He will be missed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm In

That was what went through my head the other day when I read this blog post.

As I think I've mentioned before, I'd really like to lose a few pounds. I don't think I'm overweight or anything, but it would be nice to slim down just a bit. Especially when I've seen the number on the scale (not to mention my pant size) go up a little bit each year since I got married three years ago.

It is a trajectory I'd like to curb.

I've tried to do the Weight Watchers thing on my own a few times. I have all the materials - the books, pamphlets, and "Point Counter" slidey things. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the system, WW awards every type of food a point value, and then gives each person a certain number of points allowed for each day. My magic number is 21. Each time I ate something, I looked up the point value in a very book, wrote it down, and kept a running count of the day's points.

And without fail I got pretty bogged down in the details. It really is an obnoxious and tedious process, but I didn't feel like forking over the cash to sign up and (even worse) go to weekly weight loss sessions at a WW location.

And then I read that I can join Weight Watchers online! And they have a nifty website that keeps tabs on food for me. It is excellent - I can type in the brand of spray-on balsamic dressing I use, and it immediately pulls it up, along with the point value. And it just so happens that one has a point value of 0 - score! And meals that I often eat? Well, for breakfast I often eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal (with milk) along with coffee and a little sugar. I can save that to my little website as a "meal" and pull it up quickly whenever I eat it. Foods that I eat often? Easily find-able. Ahh... wonderful.

May from Good Girl Lit even goes so far as to call it a "Girl Video Game." I don't know that I would go that far, but I am pretty impressed.

Granted, I'll still have to watch what I eat and record it each day. But now that I've invested $65 for 3 months I'm going to get my money's worth, dang it. And now that I'm armed with meal suggestions, easy point tracking, and the motivation to exercise (more points, baby!), I'm excited to see what happens.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Anniversary Gift

My cute hubby did a GREAT job on my anniversary gift! We're usually pretty practical gift givers, which suits us just fine. But jewelry is an extra-special treat. My birthstone is a Sapphire and Josh knew I've quietly harbored a desire for this kind of a ring for awhile now.

He did an excellent job. I love it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

3 Years Today!

In honor of our third anniversary, I'd like to share some wedding moments with you all.

First, the details (Aletha-style!)

Couple :: Josh + Jessica, 6-11-05
Ceremony + Reception + Catering :: First CRC + Frederick Meijer Gardens + Applause
Photographer :: Dusty Brown
Cake :: My Aunt Thressa made it
DJ :: I don't remember, but he wasn't anything too special

My mom and I had SO much fun planning this wedding. Josh lived across the country from me at the time, and didn't have much input! We had a 5 1/2 month engagement, and worked super hard to get all the details in place in such a short time. But it worked out wonderfully and the day was almost perfect.

My sweet dad!

You can't tell from this picture, but it was about 95 degrees in the church. No A/C! We actually put tubs of bottled water around so people wouldn't faint. But my mom's sisters spent the night before tying pink ribbons to them, so they matched.

Yay! We're married!

I had to pick rose petals out of my dress in the car on the way to the reception! But I loved the look of them.

We did a "candy buffet" (thank you Martha Stewart for that idea) as our wedding favor. Each guest got an empty takeout box at their seat, and had the opportunity to go and get it filled with their favorite pink candy. It was a hit!

We had a lot of help from friends to get the room set up. They did a great job!

Handsome groomsmen!

And beautiful bridesmaids! Three of these girls will get married themselves later this year!

The happy couple :)

We're here!

They did a great job with my bouquet - I loved it.

Dancing to our song: Your Song by Elton John

Oh my goodness, it was such a happy day. Delicious wedding details aside, it was wonderful because I got married to my very best friend.

And we've had an amazingly blessed and happy three years together.

To celebrate tonight, we're taking the dog to obedience school (yes, we're that cool!) and then going out for dinner. I can't wait!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wow Moments

This past week I've had quite a few "wow" moments.

As in, "wow, that was a long time ago" or "wow, I'm getting old." I do realize, dear Reader, that it might sound funny (and perhaps obnoxious) coming from someone who has yet to cross the "big two-five" line. But still...

1. Josh and I went out for Mexican last week and I broke a retainer bracket by eating an extra-hard tortilla chip. It brought me back to being a young teenager FINALLY getting braces taken off my teeth. The orthodontist then put on permanent retainers so my teeth wouldn't move back, and ever since then I've lived with little wires attached to the backs of my front teeth. And then it crossed my mind:

I got my braces off a full 10 years ago!

I'm now at a point in my life where I can clearly remember a decade ago. And I felt pretty grown up at that big braces moment, if I can recall correctly.

2. We drove through Ann Arbor this past weekend to visit friends in Saline (nearby town), and thought:

It has been over 3 years (4 for Josh) since we were in school and lived here in Ann Arbor.

It actually seems quite a bit longer than that - almost like it was a dream or a different lifetime.

3. In just a couple of days we'll celebrate our anniversary (more on that later!) and we've been thinking:

Have we really been married for 3 years? Where HAS the time gone?

If I Haven't Called You Back,

Don't be upset.

This past weekend I dropped my cell phone -

into the toilet.

It hasn't recovered.

So email may be the best way to reach me for the next couple of days.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I Need Some Advice

Please leave your comments below! I'd appreciate your help on a couple of things:

1. Can somone fill me in on what Skype is all about? Is it only talking verbally to others on the system? Are there instant message capabilities?

2. And what about LinkedIn? Is it a "grown-up" version of facebook? Do I need to ask others to be my friends?

I had a customer invite me to both of these today, and I don't really know a ton about them. Does anyone use either of these?

3. If you could choose between a Toyota Prius Hybrid and a Ford Escape Hybrid, what would you pick?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Say Goodbye To Hollywood

[Other possible titles for this post: Califo.rnication (just as a joke, I promise!), California Girl, and California Dreamin'. There are lots of songs about this state.]

So I was at a big book trade show in Los Angeles this past weekend with work. The weekend, for me, has been broken down into two parts: great moments and bonehead moments. (Wait, I think that could be said about most weekends, but anyway...) Bonehead might be a stretch, but there were certainly lessons learned during this trip.

So here you have it:

Favorite Moments

5. Just cruising around town (in the pimp'n ride you see below.) No, I wouldn't choose LA as a place to live, but there is a certain amount of excitement to drive down Sunset Boulevard and spot the Hollywood letters up in the mountains.

4. In N' Out Burger, baby! I managed to get in two meals in the four days I was in town. About a month ago I had a severe craving for one of these guys, but alas, there were none closer than Utah. I got my fix this weekend, however.

3. Star-spotting! BEA is a place for actors/television personalities-turned-authors to show up and promote their new books. I saw Ty Pen.nington (very perma-tan, perma-grin) and Alec Ba.ldwin (who even looked at me!) while strolling around. Saturday night I even got to go to a party where many more stars showed up. I was like, what AM I doing here? This is nuts!

2. Getting to know my co-workers. Yes, I realize this sounds kind-of weird, but I now work offsite and don't get the chance to get to know people. There were a few there that I hadn't even met before. I think it is important for me to get to know work people on a quasi-social level. It helps me to understand what they do (and vice-versa) and I think can lead to working better together.

1. Meeting my cousin Rebecca and her cute fiancee out for dinner! They selected a great french steakhouse in a trendy part of LA, and I loved getting to spend time chatting with them over our delicious food. I hadn't had the chance to meet Mike before this, and I really like the guy. What a catch, Bec! Can't wait for the wedding later this summer.

Bonehead Moments/Lessons Learned

5. How to say "we're not interested in your book" to wanna-be authors. It sounds mean, I realize, but there are lots of people (some crazy, some not-quite-as-much) that want to publish books. Not all of them will work for us - actually most probably won't. One guy from a fellow publishing house relayed how conversations sometimes go, and he hit the nail on the head.

First of all, they're super excited to talk to you and make immediate eye contact. This is how you know they're not a bookseller in the first place. Then:

Wanna-be Author: I'm looking for someone to publish my new ero.tic novel.
Us: Do you realize this is a Evangelical Christian publishing company?
[awkward silence]
Wanna-be Author: Well, this a very spiritual ero.tic novel.

Yeah, not so much.

4. Always bring cash with you when you travel. You'll need it for parking, tolls, tips, valet parking, and cab fare. How did I miss this, or think $20 would cover me when I made my first ATM stop?

I took the fiscally responsible route of parking my rental car in the garage across the street from the hotel (which cost $16 per day instead of $40). So far so good, right? Until I was 3 minutes away from needing to pick up my boss and his boss for an important party, and the attendant wouldn't let me out of the garage because I didn't have cash to pay for the parking. Seriously people - who doesn't take a credit card in this day and age? So, on the verge of panic, I called my boss and asked if he would just meet me down there. Embarrassing enough. But then who comes to bail me out? His boss. *Sigh*

On a related note, it WAS pretty funny to drive up to this posh party in a Cobalt, sandwiched between Rolls Royces and BMWs.

3. Ask your female co-workers what to wear. I had asked about dress code to only guys, and was told to wear a suit the entire weekend. I didn't bring anything else, and was bummed to see my female co-workers in cute dresses and skirts all weekend.

2. Leave in plenty of time to get to LAX to catch your return flight. I had three hours before my flight left and thought, hey, I have time for one more In N' Out! See #4 in the last list. Well then I got caught in LA traffic (who'd have thought?) on my way to the airport. After a completely exhausting four days I didn't handle the stress well. Here I was, pulling off the expressway just an hour before my flight was scheduled to leave. After filling up the car with gas, getting yelled at by a guy after I refused to give him money, returning the car, and hopping on the shuttle bus, I was greeted by the sight one NEVER wants to see when running late:

A super long check-in line.

But, praise the Lord, the plane was delayed and both me and my luggage made it on no problem.

1. Bring flats when you know you'll have to stand a lot. Remember these shoes? Well, they sure were cute - for about 4 hours. By about 2pm on the first day of the show I was DYING. Yup, they were terribly, terribly painful. And of course, I had failed to bring back-up shoes. So on a break from booth duty I took a cab to the nearest shopping center (after walking an additional 3 blocks to find an ATM) and bought myself a pair of cheap $20 black flats. Pure bliss.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I returned home from LA last night (well, 1:30 this morning) about as exhausted as I've ever been in my life. I've been there since Thursday, and it was truly a non-stop buzz of constant activity from morning until night. Not to mention a ton of fun.

Today I slept in until 11 (which technically IS only 8 am in California) and greeted my cute husband coming home for lunch with a sleepy grin a half hour later.

Me: I'm still so tired.

Josh: I can tell.

Me: So glad I took the day off.

Josh[smiling indulgently]: Now you can sleep around all day.

[odd silence]

Josh: Uh, I mean, uh, sleep around here all day.

More on my Californian adventures tomorrow. At this point I'm still in need of a shower and a change of clothes. Or maybe another nap.