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.

Good Things 2.16.18

Truth be told, when I got up this morning, I didn’t really have any desire to write a blog post called “Good Things.” The school shooting in Florida, watching some friends try to help a child through a tough situation, not knowing how or exactly when to help people. . . it’s just been a heavy week. And I wondered if I even had any good things from the week to report.

Turns out, I do.

This blog series started as a way to practice thankfulness, and it turns out that sometimes thankfulness is something you have to continually do. It’s also sort of like a doctor practicing medicine—you have to do it when you feel like it and when you don’t.

And more than often, in those don’t-feel-like-it-times, He reveals even some of the smallest things you have to be thankful for. So here we go!

  • 636476776807162666-Slate-Slow-Burn-Podcast-ArtSlow Burn. At some point last week, a friend of mine was asking for podcast recommendations on Facebook. I’m always looking for new podcasts and she and I have similar interests, so I “listened in,” so to speak. Someone suggested “Slow Burn,” which is a Slate podcast about Watergate. It’s no secret that I like history—but I listened to the entire first season in a week. It’s well done and interesting and I may listen to it again on a long drive when the episodes won’t get so broken up by me getting to my destination. Next season will be about the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Can’t wait to listen to history I lived through!
  • Ceiling fans. So guys, I’ve seen it posted that Nashville hit 70-plus degrees yesterday. It was muggy and warm, but it’s also February and who is going to turn the a/c on? So all day long, the office was stuffy and uncomfortable. Last night, I thought my house was better. . . until I woke up at 4 a.m. and was hot and grumpy. Thank goodness for ceiling fans!
  • 1a29f2950c606cd99b1a380be15aa076--make-mistakes-lukAmazing amounts of Olympic coverage. So guys, back in the day, high school Mandy loved figure skating, particularly pairs figure skating. And my favorite pair of all time was Gordeeva-Grinkov from Russia. They first won gold on the Olympic stage in Calgary in 1988, which I don’t remember, but they won gold and my heart in Lillehammer in 1994. I loved them so much that I’m pretty sure they’re on a poster collage I made that hung on my bedroom door in my parents’ house for years. A year after that win, Sergei died on the ice while training in New York. I was heartbroken. I’ve kept up with Katia since then. My mom and dad bought me the memoir she wrote about her love story with Sergei. This year marks 30 years since their gold medal turn at the ’88 Olympics, so NBC Sports aired a retrospective talking with Katia and she and Sergei’s now-grown daughter, Daria. I missed the segment on Wednesday because I wasn’t at home, but thanks to Hulu and the backlog of Olympics coverage, I was able to watch it last night. Daria has Sergei’s smile and for some reason that makes me happy.
  • Doughnuts. It’s my coworker’s birthday and we’re having doughnuts. It doesn’t have to be much to excite me!
  • Hope. In days when it feels so dark, it’s good to know that hope is not lost. That my hope is in a Person (Jesus) and not circumstances.

Mac and the hidden food

Hey, guys! It’s me, Mac!

I finally wrestled this computer away from Mandy so I could write a little on the blog. I mean, I have things to say, too, and she’s not very share-y when it comes to this blog.

Is share-y a word? Yeah, whatevs. I’m a dog. I’ll say what I want.

So I wanted to tell you about this thing I’ve been doing that really confuses Mandy. It’s kind of fun to confuse her, so maybe that’s why I do it, but anyway. I eat this special canned dog food. Canned because I refuse to eat anything else and special because I have all these allergies, and I have to have a limited ingredient diet. I also take a pill for that every day. Mandy seems really conflicted that she has to buy a prescription allergy med for her dog, but who cares?! I certainly feel better.

Anyway . . . Mandy feeds me my food twice a day on a small plate thing. My favorite thing in the world to do is to try to bury my food. Sure, I’m inside and I’m tossing imaginary dirt on top of that food, but still, it’s fun. When I want to take it up a level, I like to take my toys and flip them on top of the food so I don’t have to look at it.

Mandy finds it so annoying and weird that I’m pretty certain she Googled it. I’m going to check the history on this browser just to see. She thinks it’s some innate dog behavior, that when I’m not necessarily that hungry or don’t want my food right now, I try to hide it so I can eat it later. Kind of a doggy food bank of sorts.

Let her believe what she wants. All I know is that now she has to figure out how to wash all that limited ingredient dog food off my Santa Claus squeaky toy and that makes me laugh!

In Search Of

Last month, I introduced a monthly blog series that would follow my attempt to learn more about my family line. In particular, I’m interested in exploring my maternal line. Truth be told, so far, I haven’t been able to get back any further than my great great grandfather, Henry Bumgardaner.

So as we take this little trip through my family history, I wanted to introduce you to a few of the people we’ll meet along the way, starting with my maternal grandfather, Francis Marion Bumgardaner.

My grandfather, known by F.M. or Marion, was born on Sept. 2, 1922. He was born in a small town in Southeast Missouri called Painton. Whenever we would drive by there on my way to visit my grandparents, I would wonder exactly where that little house where he’d been born once stood. Census records confirm that by 1930, my grandpa, about 8 years old, was living in St. Louis with his family. Every time we go to St. Louis, my mom points out the exit for the street we’d always believed he lived on as a child.

But by 1935, the Bumgardaners had moved back to Southeast Missouri. His parents must have divorced sometime during this period, though I’m not exactly sure when. By 1936, my great grandmother had remarried, and my grandfather soon had two half sisters.

My grandfather left school around 10th grade. It wasn’t a choice he necessarily wanted to make; he would have like to continue his education, my mom always told me. But the family needed an extra income, and Grandpa left school to earn his way. By 1941, he and my grandmother, Pauline, were married and by 1943, he had enlisted at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis and was on his way to serve in World War II. He spent time in France, I know, but much of my knowledge of this time in his life comes from family stories rather than documented facts. Records list his enlistment date as 1943 and his release in 1946. My grandmother gave birth to their first child, my uncle, in 1944, and bought the house where they lived for the rest of their lives.

All of these things combine to form a historical record of my grandfather, but let me tell you a little about the man. My grandfather probably wasn’t the easiest person to love. He had a temper, and he was opinionated. His temper cost him a few jobs. Their home wasn’t always the happiest of places, either.

Not long ago, my mom and her cousin were talking about how they had been scared of him as children, and I listened in wonder. I never found my grandfather scary, but there is a difference in being a man’s child and his only granddaughter.

There was also another difference. My grandfather became a Christian when my mom was in high school. The grandfather I knew was a man who was by no means perfect, but he had been changed. To me, he was kind and loving. He was the hardworking man with calloused hands who got tears in his eyes when my mom had me sing a song for him, the first solo I’d ever sung at church.

He was a mechanic and a woodworker. He’d spent a lot of time remodeling that house my grandmother bought while he was “across the Pond” in World War II whenever they had scraped together the money to do it.

Soon after he retired from years of working as a mechanic, my grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer. He died when I was 13.

I wish I’d had more time with him. Time to ask him questions about my family line, his time in Germany and France, his thoughts on a book he was reading (he, like me, loved to read). After he passed away, I learned that he’d also written some poetry. I’d like to talk to him about that, too.

I can trace the paper trail. I know where he was living in 1930 and 1950, when he died and where he’s buried (next to my grandmother at the foot of Perkins Hill, next to Perkins Missionary Baptist Church, across the street from my aunt and uncle’s house). But there are all those moments in between that I don’t know. How he felt when he first saw his children. What it was like to come back after those years abroad. What made him proud or sad or happy.

I got a glimpse at a few of the answers to some of those questions, though. Because I know, without a doubt, that when he looked at me, he was proud and he was happy. I never doubted that he loved me, and, that, I guess, is a gift in itself.


Here’s a post I wrote about my grandfather several years ago on what would have been his 89th birthday: September 2.

Good Things 2.9.18

Well, guys, we made it through another week! It’s been a busy week full of lots of activities, but it’s still been good. Here are a few of the “good things” I’m celebrating this week:

  • It’s FRIDAY! I firmly believe in making every day special, and I think Fridays are a good enough reason to celebrate. The prospect of sleeping in, even if just a little, is  reason enough for me to smile!nbc-snapchat-winter-olympics-2018-pyeongchang
  • The Olympics kick off tonight. I’m a huge fan of the Olympics (it’s even a category of posts on this blog!), and I’m ready for the next two weeks. While I’d say the Summer Olympics are my favorite, I do enjoy ice skating, skiing and all the other wintertime sports, too. (Except curling, which I don’t get at all.) I’m interested to see how these games play out!
  • I’m a HelloFresh subscriber, and I got my latest delivery this week. I often skip deliveries because of the pace of my life, only getting a both about twice a month. Because of the holidays and getting back into the rhythm of life in January, it had been awhile. This week, my picks included spinach ricotta ravioli with chicken sausage and tomatoes (I already made it, and it’s delicious!); rosemary-crusted chicken thighs with mashed potatoes (YUM!) and Southwestern stuffed peppers, which I am looking forward to. I’ve learned I like some things I’ve always thought I hated (sweet potatoes) and enjoy not having to go to the grocery store as often.
  • One of my responsibilities at work is producing a quarterly magazine for the university. The latest issue, the President’s Report, hThe_Greatest_Showman_posterit mailboxes this week. I couldn’t be happier about the way it turned out!
  • I saw The Greatest Showman last weekend. I’m a sucker for musicals, so I was predisposed to like it, but I loved it. I’m not someone who often feels to compelled to clap for a movie (something that happens in Nashville on the regular. . .) but I did for this one.
  • My friend Mindy gave me some coffee to try last weekend and I’ve brewed a couple pots this week with it. It’s fantastic!



Book Review: A Piece of the World

If you’re interested in reading this book yourself, I’m giving one away! See the contest info at the end of this post. 

First, a few admissions. I am one of those people who never took any sort of art appreciation or art history class in college. No memorizing paintings and sculptures and talking about the meanings behind the artist’s choices.

(Truth be told, I did have some sort of art appreciation requirement. To fulfill this requirement, I took a class called Jazz, Pop and Rock, and I have never regretted it.)

So while I may have a passing knowledge of artists, I don’t know a ton about art. When it comes to American artists, I can probably count the number I know anything about on one hand. But during my first year in grad school, when I was living in my first apartment and out on my own in the big world, I ran across Andrew Wyeth.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how . . . but I was at that moment we all come to at

My favorite Wyeth painting, “Master Bedroom.”

some point. When we want our home to have art but we don’t have the money for real art, so we turn to prints. I was a big fan of a website that sold framed art prints at the time and somehow, I wandered into a collection of Wyeth’s work. And it captivated me for reasons I could not explain. I didn’t necessarily want it hanging on the walls of my home, but I kept coming back to look at it again and again.

So when I read a description of this novel, a fictionalized but highly researched backstory of Wyeth’s most famous painting, “Christina’s World,” I couldn’t resist adding it to my reading list.

510xUSTE02L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Christina Baker Kline’s book, like Wyeth’s art, leaves you a little unsettled. Maybe it’s because of the setting (the harsh winters of Maine play a big role) or the lead character (Christina, who has a debilitating chronic illness), but the novel left me a little unfulfilled. It’s a beautiful novel. Kline’s descriptions, dialogue and the insight into the narrator’s mind and thoughts are flawless, but it’s also bleak, a bit unforgiving and harsh.

But so was Wyeth’s work. And those Maine winters. And Christina’s life, in many ways.

But the character’s life—and in the turn, the novel—are also beautiful in their own ways. Wyeth’s paintings are arresting in their starkness, and so is this novel. Kline doesn’t go on for pages with anything that feels out of place or unnecessary. At the end of the book, you’re not left wondering why a certain scene or conversation was in the book. They all have a purpose, and they serve them well.

If you’re looking for a book that’s basically a Hallmark movie on paper, this isn’t the novel for you. If you’re looking for a book that explores the inner workings of a woman who feels in many ways trapped in her world, then read on. If you want to read something that won’t make you think, don’t pick this one up.

In some places, the book was a little hard to read. Christina is considered an old maid. She is lonely, and her life is marked by this Great Disappointment of a man. To protect herself from further hurt, she insulates herself more by becoming more and more insular, bitter and hurtful, even to those whom she loves most. As someone who sometimes struggles with the fact that she is single, it was a reminder of the attitude I don’t want to have!

In many ways, Christina, the main character and narrator, lives an insulated, isolated life. We catch glimpses of her life, ranging from childhood to old age, throughout the novel. Frankly, the jumping back and forth proved confusing to me. Time shifts are clearly denoted, but I could never remember which Christina we’d meet in those time periods, whether young or old.

So much imagery and tools are used to show the stark nature of Christina’s life. The separation and burden her illness causes her, the stark white house up on the hill, the lack of electricity and modern conveniences later in her life. But Christina herself also reveals the insular nature of her world. She’s continually reminding you how things are like poems or lines in books she’s read, showing that her world sometimes isn’t one she has experienced physically, but rather vicariously.

In the end, I think A Piece of the World is a book I’m happy I read. It’s beautifully written and well-constructed. But it’s also a bleak book, with happiness in bits and pieces and a lot of tragedy and unhappiness. Somehow, I think Kline has achieved a novel that points to the same themes that make Wyeth’s work so beautifully arresting and disturbing at the same time.

It’s definitely worth the read, just don’t go into it thinking you’ll feel uplifted at the end.



Want your own copy of this book? I’m giving away one copy of the Kindle version! Enter here.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Feb 13, 2018 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules

Closing the door

I help with the arts ministry at my church, working with the teens. The goal of this ministry is to help the children and teens in our church see how they can use the arts and their gifts to glorify God and encourage the church. We spend a lot of time on musical things, which is great because I love singing, but we’ve also delved into writing, photography and other artistic endeavors.

This spring, we’re working on a project that will combine photography and writing. We’ve challenged the kids to write about a moment in their journey with Christ and then take a photograph to go with it.

So, to kick things off, I shared mine with them this week. It’s all about how God led me to leave a job I loved to take a chance on a job that he opened the door for me to have.

I knew the door was closing, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. 

This job, these people I loved like family, this work with its eternal focus—it would all continue. But it would continue without me. 

God had opened the door that allowed me to serve here for a season, but He would also be the One to close that door. 

I had known for months that the door was closing. I had cried. I had prayed. I had held on so tightly that my fingers were about to slammed in the door. For more than a decade, God had allowed me to do work I loved alongside people I respected. But quietly, He had begun to move me toward the next step, inching the door shut even as He made a way for a new adventure. 

I didn’t know how or when exactly that door would finally close, but at some point, when all my protests had grown silent, I felt His peace. In the quiet, I knew with certainty that the Lord who led me there would lead me on to the future. 

I had mistakenly believed that this job, this work defined who I was. But what God taught me as He closed one door and opened another was that He knew me better than I knew myself. That his plan was better than mine. 

He closed the door. 

And when He opened a new door, He led me to a place where I felt joy and purpose in ways I never could have imagined. 

“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
—Jeremiah 29:11

Good Things 2.2.18

So, it’s a little later than I usually post and you probably thought I’d forgotten about our little weekly get-together. But alas, I have not! It’s just been a bit of busy day. So let’s get on with celebrating the things that made this week special!

  • My employer recently added a new benefit, Smart Dollar. Truth be told, I didn’t want to do it. I’ve always been reticent to do “money” programs, mostly because I think I don’t like being told what to do. . . and I don’t want to have to admit that I haven’t always made great money choices. I admitted here a few weeks ago that finances were something that consistently caused me stress, so when the opportunity arose, I knew I had to take it. I went to the info session and signed up. I’ve been using the budgeting tool and hope the info helps me to be less anxious about finances.
  • I got in the habit of grabbing breakfast on my way to work one day a week. For whatever reason, I stopped several months ago. But yesterday, I was running late, it was a gloomy day and I needed a pick-me-up, so I stopped in at one of my favorite places, Dozen Bakery. Their blueberry muffins are my absolute favorite, and they serve Crema coffee. DELICIOUS!
  • hulu-live-tvI cut the cord on cable last weekend and chose to go with Hulu with Live TV. For me, the switch has been mostly seamless. I still get to watch all the shows I want to watch, have more sports channels than before and by donating to PBS, I get access to all the local NPT and Masterpiece shows I like. I may add the Hallmark Movies channel on Amazon Prime in the future, but for now I’m happy. Even if my live CBS station on Hulu wasn’t so great this morning.
  • It’s been a weird week of odds and ends at work, with me tacklings tasks on lots of various bits and pieces of my job. Even though it’s felt disjointed, my planner seems to say that I’ve made progress.
  • I got a haircut and color yesterday from Elliot at Aura Salon. He does such an excellent job on my color that everyone thinks it’s natural! (Which makes me laugh and laugh.)
  • I get to hang out with a few friends tomorrow for a brunch and then we’re going to do a little crafting. We may sound like little old ladies, but it will be fun. And with our lives going in so many different directions, it will be good to get to hang out and see one another.

100 Words on old doors

I drive past the house often. A 1950s brick house in a nondescript subdivision in south Nashville that sits catty-cornered on a corner lot. The one with the outline of a door that once upon a time, some owner decided to brick in. The doorway is gone, but the outline is still there.

Every time I pass, I wonder. Did he walk out that door to mow the yard? Was that the way she came in after a long day at work? Who were the people who lived here, who walked in and out that door every day? Are they remembered or forgotten?

Their memories and the bright details of their stories may have faded into the background, but the outline still remains. They were here. And their lives mattered.

130 words

Bonus post: Book 31

I had all these intentions of announcing the final pick for my 2018 reading list last week, but as often happens, life got in the way. But, alas, I have made the selection, and today’s the big announcement.

Drum roll, please!

51Bs3nWoAOL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Book number 31 on my 2018 Reading List will be. . . . Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Nominated by one of you, this book grabbed my attention. As an introvert, I’m a listener and a thinker. When I speak up about something, I have likely thought about it for a really long time or think what I have to say is important. Being the center of attention is something that makes me incredibly uncomfortable, even though there is a part of my personality that desires a good job to be acknowledged. I’ve often worried that my introverted nature makes people think that I don’t understand or

In our world, which seems to prefer extroverts in many ways, I’ve often worried that my introverted nature means people overlook me or that I need to play against type and promote myself more.

Susan Cain’s book appears to speak into a lot of that. I can’t wait to dig into it!

Thanks, Bailey, for the suggestion!

Let’s be the church.

In December 1997 when the Heath High School shooting happened, I was finishing up the first semester of my freshman year of college. Located near Paducah, Ky., Heath High School was a familiar name. My family sometimes drove to Paducah to shop, especially around Christmas. About a two hour drive from my hometown, Paducah was the halfway point on the drive from the bootheel of Missouri to Nashville.

My college years are punctuated by school shootings. In my sophomore year, Columbine happened. When I heard the news, my mind instantly flashed to a classmate we’d just interviewed as an assignment in my first journalism class. She was from Littleton. In the days that followed, I was glued to the news coverage, terrified, shocked, confused. It made the horror of our world and our own capability for evil become more real than they ever had before.

The violence didn’t end there. Virginia Tech. Northern Illinois University, Newtown. The list has grown long in these 20 years. And for those cities, small and large towns and college campuses, the horror of that day leaves a scar that never fully heals. Time in these places are now starkly marked by “before” and “after.” Everything is different, and it will never be the same. Innocence is lost, and evil indeed lives here.

Another city was added to the list this week: Benton, Ky. Located so close to my hometown that our local new station covers the city, Benton is a small town in southwestern Kentucky. My brother spent two summers working at a camp near there, attending church in Benton. What Benton made me realize, perhaps belatedly, was that this violence could happen anywhere. Down the street from my house. In my hometown. At the school my best friend’s kids attend. Where my sweet kindergarteners from church go.

Evil indeed lives here. In this world that is so capable of breathtaking beauty and awe-inspiring moments of true human compassion, evil is also very real.

I had to turn the coverage off this week. As someone trained as a journalist, I want to know the facts, but I find it hard to not become emotionally involved, especially when this tragedy happened so close to my hometown. I can’t not imagine the depth of loss, the grief, the sadness carried by those affected.

I want to live in a world where there are no more alerts about mass shootings that scroll across my phone. I wish that cycles of abuse and poverty and addiction and more didn’t trap people in their currents and pull people under their waves. I wish we as a society truly focused more on putting others first rather than getting what we want for ourselves.

I wish for a better place, but wishing rarely makes anything better.

So I will work for a better place. I will be kind when there is no reason to be kind. I will ask God to help to open my eyes to those in need and help me to see how He would use me.

So instead of allowing this moment to become one defined by partisan politics, believers, let’s be the church. Let’s mourn with those who mourn. Let’s pray as we’ve never prayed before. Let’s love and serve to the best of our ability.

Let’s be known by our love and shine some light in one of our country’s darkest moments.