All posts by Mandy

I'm originally from Southeast Missouri and moved to Nashville to pursue music! OK, not really. I came to Nashville for grad school and stayed. I love this town! My main desire is to use the talents God has given me to serve Him, which is why I currently edit a magazine for teens.

Let’s be us.

Last night, at the close of a long week filled with news reports that saddened and depressed me—the news of Charlottesville, Va., incredibly ignorant comments leveled against a very well spoken DACA student who wrote a well-informed, respectful op-ed piece in the Tennessean— I was aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed. I ran across a post from a journalist I like, Steve Hartman, who has made a living simply telling the stories of regular people from around the country, detailing their struggles, the moments in their lives when everything changed, their day-to-day lives and the acts of service, attitudes and tasks that help us to recognize that everyone—the people next door, that man down the street, that person whose politics you don’t agree with—have a story to tell and something to offer.

Steve hosted “CBS Sunday Morning” yesterday, and took to social media earlier in the weekend to point out that he wasn’t an anchor and never had been and went as far as to admit that he was nervous. He asked for advice on which tie to wear, having bought two since he never wore them, and chose the yellow one, the clear viewer favorite.

As the hours left in Sunday began to wane, Hartman took to social media to thank his fans, not just for their wardrobe advice, but also for their encouragement. “You say I make you cry. But you turned the tables this weekend,” he wrote. “Many of you sensed I was a little outside my comfort zone and wrote things like, ‘You got this!’ It helped. It felt like a team effort.”

But it was Hartman’s next few words that shone a little light into the darkness of this weekend.

A few even said, “You’re one of us!” I thought a lot about that. I thought — who exactly is “us?” Who are all of you who choose to follow, friend, and even advocate for a news reporter? I know from experience how diverse you are. Your backgrounds and political beliefs vary widely. So then who is “us?”
Maybe we’re just the hopeful. Maybe we’re the people who still believe the world is mostly good. Regardless, I’m grateful we found each other.

In a week where there has been so much division, so much us v. them, so much hatred against others because of skin color or immigration status or whatever, it was good to be reminded of the word “us.”

The thing that makes us “us” is our humanity. And when we choose to look at another person and regard them as lesser, we aren’t just hurting them, we’re hurting ourselves. What happened in Charlottesville is wrong; there’s no other way to say it. As a Christian, I cannot condone bigotry and racism. We are made in the image of God, and when I degrade you, I degrade Him.

So this week, let’s live, think, speak and act with an “us” mentality rather than a “them” mentality.

Let’s be us.

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Wedding Week: Day 2

I thought I’d take a look at what I was doing around this time 10 years ago. The answer was simple: getting ready for my brother’s wedding. Happy 10th anniversary, Jason and Amber!

Unfinished Business

Two days until the wedding. Here’s a closer look at my day.

6 a.m.: Wake up because it sounds like my dad is getting ready for work. Am definitely awake when Sophie, my mom and dad’s dog, barges into my room, hops into bed with me, narrowly missing my head, and gives me a sloppy kiss. I laugh, let mom take the dogs away, and go back to sleep.

6:45 a.m.: I get up. Jason’s here. I eat breakfast with him and help him start to hook up Mom’s new printer/copier/scanner. She got if for her birthday. . . in FEBRUARY!

7:30ish: Jason discovers he doesn’t have a USB cord and leaves. I do my Beth Moore Bible study. I’m DAYS behind.

8-ish: Mom comes home from walking in the park with Barb. We talk while she eats oatmeal. She gets ready to go to Curves and pick up food…

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Good Things // 8.11.17

Let’s just say the last two weeks have been a little busy. There’s been fun things and hard things, work things, stressful things, happy things and, well, good things. So let’s focus on a few of those!

  • A former coworker of mine recently approached me about doing some freelance editing on a project she was working on. It had been awhile since I’d been in that particular editing headspace (Bible studies), so it took me a couple of days to respond. But I think it’s definitely a good thing I did. The project we’re working on is so, so good. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence … I think God put this project in my life at this time because He knew I needed to hear, ponder, drink in and dwell on its message. That I needed His truth to seep into my bones and infiltrate my heart. He also brought it to me just as I was beginning a more concerted effort to take on freelance work. I’m grateful for His graciousness in both.
  • Another good thing? I had to have the first session of that freelance project edited and ready to submit for approval by the end of this week. I’m proud to say that I turned in all my stuff last night!
  • I got a new planner that started in August. I love it maybe way too much. Shout out to Emily Ley and the Simplified Planner!
  • Last night, after I finished one last part of the first part of the freelance project, I told myself I could celebrate by making popcorn (yes, in my Cusinart microwave popcorn contraption) and watching an episode of Poldark on Amazon Prime. I  didn’t realize I was on the last episode of Season 2, though! And, if you follow me on social media, yep, I’m still mad at Ross. And a bit at Demelza. But mostly Ross. (Actually, Mac is a little peeved, too.)IMG_0144
  • It’s Friday! I have copious amounts of caffeine in various forms, I can sleep in tomorrow and all is well!

What are the good things in your life this week? Share them in the comments!

The long farewell

I didn’t grow up a Glen Campbell fan.

My parents listened to a wide variety of music when I was growing up. Songs of the 70s. The Oak Ridge Boys. Gospel and Southern Gospel music. Some Simon and Garfunkel, a little Linda Rondstat, the Eagles.

But never Glen Campbell. And truth be told, even if you asked me today, I’d probably only be able to tick off his biggest hits, the ones everyone knows, like “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Gentle on My Mind.”

But Campbell’s brutal honesty about his Alzheimer’s and his long farewell to his fans, well, it captured my heart. A songwriter and singer so talented, so beloved, so known who was willing to be that vulnerable and loved his fans so much he was willing to take the risk—I couldn’t get past that.

Here’s why.

On a cold, damp fall day about six years ago, sometime around Thanksgiving, I think, my dad and I unlocked the door to my grandmother’s empty house and quietly walked through the “back porch” sitting room, past the kitchen and dining room and into Grandma Ruby’s rarely used living room. The house was empty and beginning to take on the look of a long term yard sale as various members of the family worked to go through her belongings.

Grandma’s long farewell had begun years earlier when dementia began to rob her memories. We lost her in bits and pieces. I became a face she recognized and a name she knew, but the face and the name didn’t match anymore. She once told me when I visited, “I remember Mandy, but I don’t see her much anymore. But I love her.”

By the time her long farewell ended in early June of 2011, it was hard to know where in time Grandma lived in her memories. What I knew when she passed away was that she had made a forever mark on my heart. Grandma Ruby would always live in my memories, in my heart.

So that chilly afternoon, when my dad and I stood in her living room, the one with the picture window that faced the south, where the afternoon light would filter in, gilding the furniture and burnish the walls, we stood at the huge stereo console that now sits in my parents’ basement and flipped through the LPs housed inside. I’d recently gotten a record player and my dad wanted to see if any of his old Letterman LPs were still there (they were and I have a bunch of them). But I happened on several Glen Campbell albums and took them home with me.

My dad said they probably belonged to my grandma, so I took them, too. I wanted to hold in my hands and listen to something she had liked, to have a little piece of her at home with me. So that Glen Campbell Christmas album and By the Time I Get to Phoenix came to Nashville.

I listen to the Christmas album every year while decorating my tree. The first year, it was just to find out what it was like. The second was to remind me of her. With the third, it became a tradition.

Last night, when I heard that Glen Campbell’s own long farewell was over, it only seemed fitting to pull out one of the albums and take a listen.

So I listened, to the A and B-sides, with the blinds wide open and the afternoon sun filtering in, gilding the room.

 

And I remembered.

Writing’s not hard, right?

As someone who works as a communications professional and writes every single day, I can identify with this quote often attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

“There is nothing to writing. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

While I may not be sitting at a typewriter, I understand the sentiment. Writing isn’t easy, at least good writing. It’s a craft, and to write well, it takes time, effort and a lot of rewriting.

But unfortunately, when you work in a creative field, especially in a corporate setting, it sometimes seems like everyone has an opinion and advice about your work. Let’s just say, sometimes that can be a little frustrating. So today, I offer to you three things you shouldn’t say to the communications/editorial/public relations professionals in your company.

  1. Why isn’t my title capitalized? OK, guys. Here’s the deal: most journalists, communication and PR professionals use the Associated Press Stylebook to set baseline rules for how to handle specific words, concepts and ideas. Remember when you were in high school or college and your paper had to follow APA, MLA or Turabian? It’s a similar concept and provides consistency so that every piece of content has a similar feel and look. And the AP Stylebook has some specific rules on titles, particularly that they aren’t capitalized unless they are used in front of a name. For example, the title is capitalized in this sentence: Deputy Director Smith leaked the information to the press. But it wouldn’t be if written this way: Smith, a deputy director, leaked the information to the press. So when you see the press release and notice your title isn’t capitalized, take a deep breath. It’s not because the communications department hates you or doesn’t want to give you your due. It’s because we have a set of rules to play by that are designed to make communication clear and concise. And we’re just trying to follow the rules.
  2. Are you sure the grammar is correct? I’m not saying you shouldn’t question something if you think there’s a problem; you should. Grammar isn’t always an exact science, and we make mistakes. Sometimes, you catch a mistake our eyes have overlooked because we only see what we think we’ve written. (And when you bring those mistakes to our attention, please don’t be condescending!) But you should remember that there’s a difference in a grammar issue and a personal preference. Sometimes, what people identify as a grammatical error isn’t; instead, it’s simply a construction they don’t necessarily like or something they’ve been told is wrong, such as ending a sentence with a preposition. Most communications professionals have at least some training in the ins and outs of grammar and have spent years perfecting their craft. Bring true mistakes and typos to their attention with kindness and humility rather than in a manner that seems to patronize their knowledge and training.
  3. Oh, your job isn’t very important. And I don’t have time to help you with this project because my job is important. Yeah. . . that’s not going to go over so well. In a corporate setting, communications can be undervalued simply because its impact is hard to measure, according to a 2015 FastCompany article. But communications covers a wide variety of aspects, from reputation management to social media, community relations and holds much of the responsibility for establishing the voice, tone and public face of the company. So rather than allotting degrees of importance to various roles within the company—with yours at the top—understand we all have a role to play and share your story, so that the communications department can weave it into the greater narrative of the corporation.

Give a gift

Earlier this week, I went to a funeral. During the service, the younger brother of the man we were there to honor stood up to speak. As he stood behind the podium, his voice shaking a little as he spoke about his brother, he looked out at the crowd and locked eyes with a group of men who had been his brother’s college teammates.

“You were his friends and his brothers,” he said. “But really, you were his heroes. And because you were his heroes, you were mine, too.”

There it was: a gift.

On this day of all days, he could have stood behind the podium and let his words focus on himself, the depth of his own loss and grief. But in a moment, he gave a gift to men his brother had loved.

A gift of graciousness. Of kindness.

In our world, it’s so easy to become focused on ourselves, our needs, our issues, our problems, joys and concerns that we don’t see the needs of others. To become so focused on what we want to say next in the conversation that we don’t even listen to what the other person has to say. To be so intent on what we’re doing or what we’re interested in, that we roll right past the friend who is hurting, who simply needs someone to notice.

So this week, rather than to focus solely on ourselves, let’s seek to give gifts. Gifts of graciousness and kindness.

The gift of listening before we speak.

The gift of inclusion.

The gift of patience, respect and honor.

When we find ourselves turning inward and our own needs and concerns become our only focus, let’s ask God to open our eyes to the needs and concerns of those around us so we can give gifts.

Good Things // 7.28.17

For some reason, this week has felt like a month. It could be the days with back-to-back headaches and an attempt to be healthier—physically and spiritually—by getting up at 5:15 a.m. It could just be it’s that time in the life of a university employee when life starts to get a little busier. All that said, I’m happy it’s Friday, and I’m excited students will be back soon!

So, let’s focus on all the things I’m grateful for this week with this week’s “Good Things” list!

  • Professionally, it’s been a good media relations week, with two local stations coming out to cover an event on campus I pitched to them.
  • I took friends to a lunch spot I love, but one they’d never been to. They loved it! (Sometimes, sharing your favorite things with someone makes you a little vulnerable. What if you put it out there and they hate it? Thankfully, that was not the case.) And if you happen to be in Nashville and hungry for lunch, you ought to try Clawson’s Deli sometime!
  • Good coffee. On Wednesday, I had a headache that felt like the back of my head was in a vice grip. I was thankful when I went home and got to eat and lie down for a bit. . . then I realized I had to go buy dog food for my dog, which means going to a particular store because he can only have limited ingredient foods. So, I hopped in the car and drove to PetCo. After I got Mac’s food, I stopped in at a grocery store I love but don’t often have a chance to go to. I came home with delicious brioche bread and a delicious coffee roast I’m enjoying right now!
  • I attempted a new recipe this week, one that I was basically making up on my own. IMG_0115It still needs some fine-tuning, but I think crockpot BBQ peach chicken will be an actual recipe soon!
  • Hope. I took on a freelance editing project last week and spent some time early this week reading through parts of the video transcripts and content. And I cried as I read some of it, in a good way. I think there are times when God brings you to a particular place at a particular time and uses things you don’t expect to speak to you.

Plain and Simple French Toast

It wasn’t until I was a grown-up, living on my own in my first apartment, when it occurred to me that people actually use a recipe to make French toast. My mom never used one, and I followed suit, using as many eggs as necessary for the amount of bread I intended to use and whisking in some milk until it looked right. A touch of vanilla, sometimes some cinnamon, and the mixture was ready to go.

The real key to delicious French toast is the bread. You want a delicious French toast? Use some of my mom’s homemade sourdough bread. Can’t get that? Try Trader Joe’s sliced brioche bread. It is fantastic!

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So here’s how I make French toast, perfect for a weekend morning or to liven up a regular ol’ weekday!

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, cracked and beaten well
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 or 5 slices of bread
  • Butter, 2 tbsp for skillet and plenty for French toast
  • Maple syrup, powdered sugar or other toppings

Directions

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet or griddle over medium heat.
  2. Whisk together eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Stir in vanilla. You can also add in a little cinnamon if you’re so inclined. Sometimes I am!
  3. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, taking care to carefully coat each side of the bread. Allow the excess to drip off before placing each piece on the griddle. Continue with each piece of toast.
  4. Cook in skillet or griddle for about two minutes, then flip. You usually don’t have to cook that side as long.
  5. Serve! I like my French toast plain and simple, with melting butter and warm syrup. But if you want to get fancy with powdered sugar, fruit or however you like it!
  6. Enjoy!

 

If you try this recipe, simple as it is, share about it on social using #UnfinBus!

Good Things // 7.22.17

No, your eyes do not deceive you. It is indeed Saturday, and “Good Things” usually posts on Friday. Let’s just say yesterday was a day full of technical difficulties. But, yesterday’s over and there are still plenty of great things to celebrate from this week.

So here we go!

  • 1fb0d4da2a264b384f0165980fc87d18Last week, I bought a Cusinart silicone microwave popcorn maker at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I’d glimpsed it a few weeks earlier and decided I didn’t need it, but I really, really like popcorn . . . and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. For me, buying popcorn kernels that can be popped rather than prepackaged microwave popcorn bags tends to be a little more cost effective. I had my reservations, but guys, this things works! Granted, I burned my first batch, but the second was delightful!
  • I’ve been trying to reign in eating lunch out a little, just to help my budget a little. This week included two $3 meals in the Caf at work and 3 meals of Baja Burrito catering leftovers. It’s still good on the second. . . and third day!
  • The last few days have been miserably hot in Nashville. I’m not going to lie: I’m super thankful for working A/C!
  • Yesterday, I went to used book sale at a local library. I came home with quite a few treasures I couldn’t pass up, including Lion, Peace Like a River, The Light Between Oceans, A Thousand Acres, While I Was Gone and an 1947 copy of Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking. As soon as I finish Stephen King’s On Writing, I’ll have a wide selection to choose from!
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  • While many things didn’t go quite as planned this week, I can say that I did an interview and turned around a story in two days time, which can be a little hard to do in my line of work. So despite all the setbacks, I’m counting this week as a success!

Editor’s Column: 3 Books Every Writer Should Read

As someone who loves words and can bore others to death talking about the cadence of a well-crafted sentence, I enjoy reading and learning more about writing. On those days when I want to bemoan that in a world full of self-proclaimed best-sellers, self-published novels and books that could have used the careful eye of an editor, these books remind me that I’m not alone or weird for caring.

Whether you want to be a better journalist, blogger or novelist, these three books are sure to help you improve.

1. The Elements of Style

Written by William Strunk Jr., an English professor at Cornell, and E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, this brief book is a quick read with a lot to say. When I was working as an editor , I tried to read it once a year. It’s not a prescriptive style manual, per se, like the Associated Press Stylebook, but it offers plenty of style of advice. What The Elements of Style does best though, is to challenge the writer to seek a clear, concise writing style that packs the most punch. Get rid of useless words or phrases that just add fluff to the story. Use active voice. And most of all, The Elements of Style is the genesis of the phrase I often find myself repeating to the students who work for me, “You have to first know the rules in order to break them.”

2. On Writing Well

Like The Elements of Style, I used to read William Zinsser’s classic was a book I tried to read or at least skim on a regular basis. It’s an easy read and offers plenty of straightforward advice and tangible tips for becoming a better writer. If you want to write nonfiction of any kind, this is a book you need to read. Learn to sharpen your sentences and edit yourself. Writing like any other craft is a process. It’s about getting the story out, then getting rid of all the extra you added in that wasn’t actually part of the story. On Writing Well will help you to realized that writing effortless, flowing prose often isn’t an effortless, flowing process. Take the time to learn more about the craft so you can tell your stories better.

3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Some writerly types I greatly admire first recommended this book to me at a conference several years ago. When I ran across a copy in a used bookstore a few years ago, I picked it up. I added it to my reading list and soon found myself at a time in my professional life when I had little time or energy for reading anything that was not work-related. So, On Writing sat on my shelf, languishing away until I picked it up a couple of weeks ago and dug in. First of all, Stephen King is funny. Second of all, he has a ton of good things to offer about writing. Part memoir, part handbook, On Writing is all about the experiences that shaped King as a writer, as well as the habits and practices he has found to be beneficial. He’s full of good advice (turn off the TV and avoid adverbs), but maybe my favorite piece of advice is that good writers have to read a lot and write a lot. Yep, and amen. I’m in the middle of the book now and expect to offer a full review here in a few weeks, but I can already tell it’s one I’ll be recommending for years to come.

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