Thursday, February 28, 2013

Big News.

It is with a grateful heart for an incredible three and a half years that I announce today the end of my season at my current job with All Pro Dad.  It has been a sweet journey from being there for the very first event supporting my Dad and Coach Tony in their dream of encouraging Dads, to being a volunteer through middle school, high school, and college to the fateful day they allowed me to come on staff here and further the mission full-time.

It has been a great, great, great season for me here.  I have loved my incredible coworkers, the opportunity to meet so many new people, and the sweetness of working alongside my Dad several times a year to further a cause so close to both of our hearts - families.

Even though the Lord has called me elsewhere and I'm ending this part of my career I hope and expect that my relationships here will stay much the same. Although, I guess I won't have to wear a Britney Spears style headset when I come back to events as a volunteer now! I look forward to returning to my role as head cheerleader and dedicated volunteer in the months to come.

A huge thank you to all of you who have been a part of these three plus years - what a blessing this season of my life and career has been.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wardrobe Revamp - Part One.

A few weeks ago over California Pizza Kitchen deliciousness I was picking the brain of a friend who had recently met with an image consultant. Have any of your readers done this? I'm intrigued.  The more she told me about having a professional help her go through her closet and purge the things that she doesn't wear, don't look good on her, or (this is so me) she shouldn't have purchased just because they were a 'good deal' the more curious I became.  Then she talked about getting makeup, hair tips, and practical ways to take her look up a notch and I was just plain jealous!

After further mulling this over, it might be something I save up and pay to do myself in the not-so-distant future but in the meantime I thought, I don't have to wait for someone else to tell me some of these things.  I know a few pretty basic things I could already be doing better at.  For starters, despite having a pretty sizable  accessory wardrobe I rarely wear jewelry.  I have a tack rack that hangs heavy with fun necklaces, two shelves of bangles and scarves, a shelf dedicated to hats, and a container of clutches 2 of which still have the tags on.  That being said - the most I do on a given work day is switch my purse out to a matching one (oh friends, I can't even tell you about my purse stash yet).

So, I called in a friend Sunday night to help me purge.  I forked over my cell phone, open to the ebay app and while I purged she posted.  One benefit to having worked for consignment shops for years is that I know the value of brands and I know what sells.  So, my sweet friend Kayla diligently hung up my clothes, took pictures, and posted them to ebay with my the prices I suggested so I could recycle the things that don't flatter in hopes of using the money to buy things I can't live without.

I left no stone in that closet unturned!  I purged shoes, bags, jewelry, workout clothes, lounge wear, jeans, dresses, tops, even 'unmentionables' (don't worry, those didn't make the ebay cut).  Then I sat back for a few days and enjoyed the bidding.  Ok fine, I OBSESSED about the bidding.  There's something incredibly fun about watching things that don't do you any favors sell for more than you paid for them (let's be real - you all already knew I'm a bargain huntress with a knack for coupons).  But as the dollars rolled in I got excited to be putting packages in the mail daily and racking up money for new, wisely chosen items.

I scoured Pinterest and enlisted the help of several friends picking out outfits I could create with items from my own wardrobe or with the help of a few pieces I should add anyway.  Reading Lauren Conrad's Style book also gave me some ideas of what ammo I wanted.  Then as I shopped with Meagan in Indiana and then with Kayla again in Florida I didn't buy a single thing I couldn't honestly say I LOVED no matter how cheap it may have been.  It turns out a $5 ill-fitting shirt is still ill-fitting when you get it home.  

So part one of revamping this wardrobe was really two parts - the great purge and the recycle of the old to fund the new.  I managed to make a couple hundred dollars quickly, with minimal effort I might add, and that was a great start to my restocking expeditions.  Also, I'm trying (key word: trying) to take a less-is-more approach to clothing anyway.

In closing I will add it's been really fun to get feedback from the purchasers of my purges on ebay.  Many of you may remember I lost a considerable amount of weight two years ago so many of my purges were things that I hope never to fit in again but they found happy new homes across the country and that's been really rewarding for me as well.

Don't worry - part two isn't far behind.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weekends Away.

I had no idea how badly I would need a little weekend away with friends when I booked my cheapy flight to Indiana four months ago.  But these past four months have been action packed and I can say with complete honest that this weekend really morphed from the intended agenda to what ended up being an incredibly timely and perfect weekend away.

I was supposed to depart for Indianapolis Thursday night so I could spend a little time with two of my favorite guy friends before I headed south for the remainder of my self-proclaimed long weekend.  But I guess the ice storm of the midwest had other ideas because my flight was cancelled and I found myself here in Tampa Thursday night.  I took the time to relax with a book and a few chores and get my mind right for the weekend ahead.

Friday morning I caught a flight to Indy to meet up with my sweet friend Meagan.  Meagan and I met our freshman year of college in the photography lab where we were both, at the time, photo majors.  After our freshman years our paths took elsewhere (her to another college and mine eventually out of art school and into Social Work which of course isn't what I do now either, go figure) but we stayed in touch throughout the years thanks in large part to Facebook.  It's really been in the last two years that we've gotten really close, though.  I am so grateful that our friendship really stepped up in a time in both of our lives where we wanted and needed that.  Meagan has been an incredible friend and encouragement to me and in so many ways inspires me.  What a blessing she is.

We spend Friday afternoon at the outlet malls.  We've both been doing some purging and it's time to replace and revamp our wardrobes (except another post related to this at a later date).  But we had the best time and we ended up both finding perfect jeans (which we both bought 2 of) and matching sweatshirts (which you will observe in one of the photos below).

We came home to a delicious meal cooked by Meag's sweet husband Tyler.  Talk about the star treatment - a homemade meal right off the bat!...and that boy can cook!

Saturday morning we got to relax at home, drink smoothies, and talk face-to-face instead of our usual 6am-10pm texting routine.  We also headed to Drake (Meagan and Tyler's 5-year-old son)'s basketball game.  If you've never watched 5-year-old's ball you're missing out.

Saturday night they took me to meet some of their friends at a birthday party (yes, I'm a party crasher).  They have the sweetest friends, I loved getting to know them.  There's something extra special about meeting your long distance friend's other friends and just getting to be a part of their lives and relationships for a weekend.

Sunday we headed back to Indy a little early to have lunch with my sweet Momma.  She is THE best, truly.  And I get so spoiled when I get to be with my close friends and my family in one place.  For that, I am so grateful for Indiana which is home to so many of my favorite people.

(note: matching sweatshirts here)

After these sweet pictures my Mom and I got a little alone time parked in the cell phone lot and then I hopped a flight home to Tampa.  It was so fun to get a little face time with her though and to pray with her in the car about the coming seasons in my life, her life, and the lives of each of our precious family members. This year promises in true Christensen fashion to be a busy one.

I came back Sunday night so grateful for the Lord's provision of wonderful friendships and time away to recoup, renew, and refresh.  I am excited for several upcoming weekends away with friends.  I would hop a flight to see friends just about every weekend if I could get away with it (slash afford it).  Ok, now that talking about it is making me miss sipping coffee with these fine folks, I'm going to sign off this post.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

A New Kind of Dating.

If you're a pretty hardcore social media user you may have caught that near the beginning of 2013 I read a book called 'my yearlong search for a new BFF'.  I heard it about it on Goodreads and thought, 'that looks good' but I honestly didn't expect it to teach me anything.  But as I read Rachel's story of her yearlong search for a new best friend after relocating to Chicago I figured out - I really related to her.

I spent more time than ever preparing for 2013.  Really analyzing where I'm at in my life and where I want to be and getting some ideas down on paper to get there. Every year I get a little closer to building the life I want and this year it's back to relationships.  One of the things I really recognized about my life is that I'm surrounded by great people and I've found some amazing ways to pour into other people's lives but where I'm slacking off is investing time in people that will pour into me.

What do I mean by that?  What I don't mean is that I'm imparting some kind of awesome wisdom onto other people - so don't read that in what I write.  What I mean is that I've got a few people who are maybe a step or two behind me in their adult life that I'm talking through some of the big decisions I've already made (moving away, buying a house, getting debt free, launching their careers...) but I even though there are plenty of people in my life ahead of me (married, kids, traveled the world, started businesses... etc) I haven't invested the right amount of time in soaking up some of their awesomeness.  And even more than that, I've only let a VERY limited amount really know me.

And so, as I read Rachel's search for a new BFF I thought - I need to take some of her advice about finding friends. I need to give this a shot.  Well, Rachel went on 100 friend dates in a year.  She literally courted friends.  She called them up, asked them out, met them places, and tried to figure out if they were the right fit.  Gosh was she brave!  Some of them had hilarious outcomes and some were just kind of blah.  She even asked/allowed people to set her up and tried finding friends on the internet! But she learned what she did and didn't want and she kept going until she got some desirable results.

During the week I spent reading this book at the gym I got invited on MY first friend date in quite a while.  The funny part is, after reading this book, it actually FELT like a date.  I put entirely too much thought into whether this girl I'd actually wanted to hangout with would think I was 'cool' and I even spent a solid 20 minutes picking out my outfit (then thought: who am I?).  I believe I even tweeted about this.

Since you're probably dying to know - it went well.  And we've continued to hangout since.  And I've continued to take initiative to spend time with and get to know new friends with the potential to be great or lifelong friends (I hope).

I share this because from reading your blogs, facebooks, etc I know that I am far from the only one who finds herself feeling like she's back in elementary school from time to time wanting to say, 'so, do you want to be my friend?'.  Being from the facebook generation I think we sometimes get lost thinking 'well I KNOW all these people' but feeling like we still don't really have people we're sharing our lives with.  Finding the right people to 'do life' with on the day to day is huge.  And even though I have had some of those people for years now, I really needed to pursue more of those kind of relationships, with the right people, here in Tampa.

And so, I'm trying out this whole dating friends thing, and I admit - I'm kind of digging it.  And for those of you who will undoubtedly ask if I don't tell - yes, the book was worth reading.  But whether or not you're a reader, give the principle a try if you're finding yourself in need of a few new friends or even a new BFF.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Weekend Recap.

This weekend was a weekend for celebrating!  My sweet friends Jessica and Mike are headed to Cancun to get hitched this week and sadly I couldn't go with them BUT I did get to celebrate Jessica's last unwed weeked with her and friends on a pirate cruise!  Props to her for coming up with a unique Batchelorette celebration idea!  It was a beautiful sunset and champagne cruise and we had so much fun...

                    (also, I ran into 2 of my friends from Indiana who were on the same cruise!)

 (the beautiful bride to be and the girls)

(Pirate ship dance party - the best part of the cruise by far!)

Sunday I got to celebrate another sweet friends new baby girl!  I'm so excited for Paige and her growing family and it was so sweet to meet baby Corrie.  Sadly, I'm a loser and I didn't snap any pictures during the baby shower - but I did have a blast seeing all the lovely ladies from my church.

Along with celebrating friends this weekend I got back into my couponing groove, got organized to entertain guests twice this week, and caught up around the house. I finally feel like I have my feet underneath me from Africa.  Whew.

Happy Tuesday - and sorry my weekend recap is a day late but I had to tell you about the pirate cruise!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Do Good.

I saw this shirt the other day that said 'do good' on it and for some reason the rest of the day it didn't leave my mind.  Do good.  What exactly does that mean?

As I'm exiting the time of the year in which I've finished working on my goals for 2013 I've had much to think about.  I can safely say 2013 will be a big year for me in many ways.  I have a few surprises and tricks up my sleeves and I look forward to sharing the journey with you here as I go.  But as I plan my next year I keep wondering, what's it look like to do good?

See, as a believer I try not to be too caught up in 'works'.  I don't believe in karma. I don't think I'm going to earn my way into heaven.  I don't think all the 'good' I can ever do will save me.  But I desire to be someone who lives a life of purpose and whose relationships and time leave behind a legacy.  So in that sense, I want to 'do good' this year.

So here's what I've narrowed it down to, for me.  Picking a few people to really invest my time, my energy, and my effort into this year.  One such friend I'm working with on her goals this year and I'm proud and excited to announce she's one payment away from being credit card debt free and on her way to paying off her education - I am literally thrilled.  After a few months of meetings, brainstorms, ideas, and even helping her find ways to make some extra money I look forward to celebrating every victory with her in 2013.

You know me, I always bring everything back to relationships.  So to me, 'do good' means investing in people in the right way and giving of yourself, your time, and your talents this year.  Find those couple special people to invest in this year and do some good.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Togo 2013.

Ok, let's talk about Togo.  I want to do break these posts up, so this post will be about the actual trip - later I want to share with you a little of what I studied and felt like the Lord taught me while I was away as well.  But today, let's just talk about the highs and lows and in's and outs of the actual trip.

So, I left Friday morning to fly to New York.  I may have mentioned before that I didn't know anyone going into this trip other than my leader but I quickly met Darren here in Tampa and so by the time I boarded the plane I already knew my first friend (little did I know, one week later he'd be reviving me at the boarder crossing and become my lifesaver).

We flew from Tampa to New York where we met the rest of our team and after a long period of waiting boarded a flight from JFK to Accra, Ghana.  After landing in Ghana we would travel over 5 hours by bus (with 2 stops to fill out border paperwork) - finally arriving in Togo on Saturday night.

Sunday we attended church, locally.  You all would have loved my trying to sing along the in the local language (note the hymnal below)...

We spent Monday - Thursday on our building project.  To give you an idea of our day - we woke at 5 am, did a quiet time, had a cup of coffee, and was on the work-site by 6 am.  We'd work 6 am- 8 am and then break for breakfast.  Work from breakfast to lunch, break.  Then from lunch til 3pm.  After that we'd shower up (you'd be amazed how dirty we got), had dinner, did a group devotional time, and I tried to drum up nightly spades games, of course.

Before I get to the pictures of the work-site here's a little scoop: we went to lay the foundation (primarily block work) for an aquaponics center.  We built 9 vegetable tanks, 8 fish tanks, and on the ends of the fish tanks, small tanks for waste which will fertilize the veggies.  We're building this on the campus of a school for the blind and they will be able to eat some and sell some of the fish and veggies that will be farmed within the system.  The tank will hold about 8,000 tilapia total and I'm still not sure which veggies will be grown.  But you get the idea.  Here's some visuals:

We finished our work on Thursday so Friday was our free day.  We spent the morning touring the hospital and I tried for the second time ever to give blood.  Someone should have told me before I signed up how much bigger the needles they use in Togo are...then I would have known to fake sick beforehand but I succeeded:

 Yeah, this happened.

 After the initial needle part it wasn't so bad.

 This shows you, fancy the facilities were. Yes, that's our blood going onto a stool on the floor.

We even got a shirt.

For the rest of our free day we hiked up to 'the castle' as we call it but it's actually called chateau.  

That was pretty sweet, and I took tons of photos.  And then we went to a local waterfall and played.

Since we got food poisoning later this same day, the pictures end here.  Although I took about 400 so I'm sure I'll share more along the way, especially of the scenery in Togo.  But this kind of gives you an idea of what we were up to while we were there.  This trip was very much a service based trip, the goal of which was to build something lasting for the community to encourage the missionaries and the gospel in Togo.  We didn't have a ton of interaction with individual people while we were there (that's been one of the big questions I've been asked).

One other occurence worth mentioning is that I was described by a Becca at the school for the blind for her classmates.  Since we shared the same name it was a perfect fit for me to be the volunteer.  What they didn't tell me is how...thorough this process is, including a full body pat down with detailed description! If only you all could have seen my reaction when the hands went before the neck!

As I said before, at a later time I will be sharing more of what the Lord was really laying on my heart while I was away but I wanted to start by giving you a little taste of the trip.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Spring Travels.

I know, I know I just got home and I haven't even caught up on laundry or cleared my desk of paperwork but I have to share how excited I am for the rest of my spring travels.  Partly because as a belated Christmas gift I finally got a large across body bag:

(image from

I'm so excited to try it out for the first time in just a few short weeks when I kick off a trifecta of spring travels with a trip to Indiana.  I know what you're thinking - I JUST saw my parents at Christmas. Well sadly for them this Indiana trip isn't about them - it's for friends.  I'll kick the weekend off with two of my favorite boys in Greenwood, followed by 2 days in Seymour with favorite former photography classmate and her sweet family, lunch with Candy at her new place of employment (if only my work had a cafeteria - can we get on that?), and possibly a quick bfast with my parents before it's back to Tampa Sunday afternoon.

I've shared before that one of my favorite things about budgeting is that it keeps my funds up - including my travel fund.  I bought this flight to Indiana during a super sale (less than $75 each way) just because and now, 4 months later, I'm thrilled to be going - even though I expect I will freeze near to death.  From Africa to New York to Florida to Indiana? My poor body has no idea whats going on.

Ok so, that takes care of the excitements of Feb (Africa in Jan, Indiana in Feb...are you keeping up?)... well, I'm just getting warmed up!  March will be taking me on my second annual Easter trip to see my sweet baby niece (who's actually getting quite big).  I can't wait to spend the weekend with my sister Rae, bro-in-law, and Noa up in North Carolina at the end of March.  I'm also hoping it will include a coffee date with Jo and Mia.

That sounded like the perfect spring to me until the Southwest Sale struck again and tempted me into booking a flight to a city I've ALWAYS wanted to see and one of my closest friends - Auburn!  That's right friends I'm grabbing my boots and heading to the great state of Texas where big hair reigns supreme. Austin in April? Don't mind if I do.

It's going to be an exciting spring and I'm looking forward to checking - 'Visit one new US city' off my goal list for the year early in the year (and possibly a second in September).  Not quite sure what excitement May will hold yet but I can promise you this year isn't going to be dull.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hello America.

Well, I've been back in the states just over 48 hours now and I will openly admit - there is no place like home.  While I wouldn't trade a minute of my experience in Togo last week I will say water pressure, a real bed, fresh sheets, clean feet, and fresh food sure are treating me right.

I only have a few quick minutes this morning before I head into the office but I wanted to say a whole-hearted thank you to everyone who prayed for me while I was in Africa last week. I cannot begin to express my gratitude.  The night before leaving to return to the states 8 people on our team acquired food poisoning and after spending the night hugging the toilet and praying the for the rapture - we still had to travel 30 hours home.  I have never experienced being that sick or that exhausted (including nearly passing out cold at customs trying to cross the border) and I literally pep talked myself by reminding myself how many of you were praying for me back here in the states.  I felt every single and prayer and they gave me the strength to make it home.

It's wonderful to be home and I can't wait to share with you more of my adventures on the other side of the world.  For now, still recovering and getting back in the groove of every day life.  Trying to play catch up with close friends and the fam.  But many pictures are headed your way soon.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Learning to Be a Morning Person.

This is an ecky topic, isn't it?  Most of us have thought at least a time or two - ' I wish I would get up early and ....'.  Fill in your own needs here.  Workout. Read my bible.  Pack my lunch.  Be on time.  I don't think I'm really a morning person or a night person to be honest.  My perfect day would include sleeping until 8 and being back in bed with a book by 9pm, so maybe I don't have a pleasant part of my day?

It was funny that I started this year without really specifying it as 'wanting to be a morning person' but knowing in my mind somewhere that's what I was trying to accomplish when one of my coworkers, Daniel, told a group of us he's learning to be a morning person.  I thought, oh my gosh, me too!  And it really is that, learning.  It's a process.

Daniel gave me this great article about this that I recommend if you've been thinking the same thing.  But he and I have been comparing notes along the way and now, a month in, we both agree - we're loving it!  The first few days were a little brutal.  I've started getting up 2 hours before I have to leave the house for work.  This has had quite a few positive results:

1. I have not missed a single day of my bible reading.  Not one.  I haven't skimped out on the Lord or thought 'maybe before bed' or fallen behind a single day.  And I love it.  A week in I was already waking up excited for my morning reading instead of thinking 'no one will know if I don't go down there and read that bible'.

2. I haven't been late to work once.  Not that I ever really was late.  I could count on one hand the times in my whole working life (of 12ish years) that I've been late and every time has been for a reason (and of course, with a call).  But now I don't feel like I'm running out the door still trying to put my shoes on only to realize when I get to work, I forgot my lunch.  I'm actually walking out the door calmly and ready for my day.  I'm digging the effects that's having on my sanity and my work life.

3. It's helping me reach all of my goals.  Ok, that sounds cheesy but it's actually true.  One of the suggestions in the article I put my stamp of approval on is writing.  I don't sit down and write a dear diary entry everyday (or ever) but I do make notes from my readings, where I'm at with my goals, and what's inspiring me to get where I want to go.  It's had a profound effect on my success over the years and even more so this year as I'm already crushing most of my goals.

Leo makes some great suggestions for how to work towards being a morning person. I've been wracking my brain to see if I have anything profound to add. I guess mine would be to have a place you go when get up.  I have two, honestly.  I have a reading chair in my room that I love to curl up with a throw blanket (which I always have handy) and do my reading and writing there.  In the mornings though, I often read downstairs on my couch because it's close to my coffee pot and let's be real - this not-so-morning-inclined gal needs her caffeine to be worth anything.  But I think having a place you hop out of bed and go to be with your morning routine is wise.

Also, I would recommend NOT starting by getting ready for work.  Your morning routine seems to take the exact amount of minutes you have available no matter what.  So if you start with that, chances are you won't have the time or clear mind to really do what you set out to with your morning.  I head down to meet with my coffee, bible, and moleskin with my pjs on and my hair a muck.

I guess the burning question you're probably feeling now is - is it really worth it?  I think I can speak for Daniel and I both when I say it has been.  Absolutely worthwhile.  I am in love with the new routine and with the difference in me, my goals,and my accomplishments that an extra 45 minutes in the morning is making.

So, I will cheers you will a sleepy face and a giant mug of coffee (this mug was a gift from my Mom for Christmas and is literally HUGE) and say - best of luck to you.  It's a marathon not a sprint.