Monthly Archives: November 2013

Operation Christmas Child

Do remember what it was like as a kid to wake up on Christmas morning and run to the Christmas tree to find piles of gifts and presents stacked around it?

Do you remember what it was like to tear the wrapping paper off a gift, so excited to find out what was inside that you felt like you just couldn’t unwrap fast enough?

Do you remember the smile that came to your face and the joy that filled your eyes when you found out that you’d been given exactly what you wanted?

I’m sure most of us have happy memories similar to those. But for many kids around the world, Christmas morning is just another day. No tree. No gifts. No wrapping paper. Many of them have never received a Christmas present in their entire life.

One organization is working to change that.

Operation Christmas Child, founded in 1993 as a ministry project of Samaritan’s Purse, sends shoeboxes full of gifts all around the world to give to children on Christmas Day. Not only are children presented with shoeboxes full toys, clothes, school and hygiene supplies, but they are also presented with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, either through a live presentation or a booklet written specifically for them that tells the Gospel story in their native language.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has distributed over 100 million shoeboxes to boys and girls in more than 130 countries. That’s a lot of joyful Christmas mornings!

I love this organization and the work that they do. I love to imagine the face of the child that receives the shoebox I packed for them.

I imagine which toy they’ll pick up first.

I wonder if they’ll share with their friends and siblings.

I imagine which part of the gift they’ll like best.

But most of all I love that I’m helping to spread God’s Word and love to people around the world.

If this sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, now is the perfect time! Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week is November 18 – 25. You can find out more information on their website like how to pack a shoebox and where to drop your shoebox off. You can even watch Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty pack his own shoebox!

While Operation Christmas Child has a ton of great gift ideas on their website, today I’m going to show you what I put in my shoebox.

First choose whether you want your gift to go to a boy or girl, age range 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. I chose a 5- to 9-year-old boy. Next, purchase your gifts, then you’re ready to pack.

I packed my gifts in a plastic container about the size of a shoebox because I figured the kid can use the plastic container, too, and it won’t deteriorate as quickly as a cardboard shoebox. Either choice is fine, though. You can also wrap your box/container, but I’m the world’s worst gift wrapper, so I opted out. I don’t want my kid receiving an ugly box!

Operation Christmas Child, shoebox

Step 1 – Get ready to pack your gifts. I used an empty plastic container similar in size to a shoebox for mine.

Then I gathered all my gifts and laid them out, trying to create a mental picture of how they would best fit in the container.

Operation Christmas Child, shoebox

Step 2 – I lay out the gifts I’ll pack in the shoebox. I included a ball, coloring book and crayons, two shirts and Hot Wheels cars.

All packed!

Operation Christmas Child, shoebox

Step 3 – After packing, unpacking and repacking several times, I got everything to fit in the box!

Once your box is packed, you’ll need to attach a label to it, noting the gender and age of the child it should be delivered to (you can get your labels here). I didn’t get a photo of this because I printed and attached my label in a hurry one morning before church. Sorry for the fail!

You can also make a shipping donation to print a special label that will let you track your box. I think this is a great idea! I can’t wait to see where my box ends up!

So there you have it! Such a small effort on your part can make such a huge difference in the life of a child.

Will you pack a shoebox this year?

(And in case you think you’re too busy, you can build a shoebox online! No excuses. 🙂 )

Wanderlust

Does anyone else besides me think “wanderlust” is a strange word? For some reason, I really don’t care for it.

Regardless of how I feel about the word, I definitely have the condition. I love traveling. (But let’s be honest, who doesn’t?)

I’ve been very blessed over the course of my life thus far with amazing travel opportunities. I jaunted around Europe for three weeks in 2007 with the Kansas Ambassadors of Music (being a band nerd has its benefits!), spent several weeks in Guatemala in 2010 shooting a documentary photography assignment, and I lived in southern Spain for almost two months in 2011 for my college internship. I’ve also traveled around quite a bit in the States.

And I’ve found that no matter where I go, I always enjoy myself. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place I didn’t like. There is always beautiful new scenery to see and photograph and fun adventures to be had.

Just typing this out is stirring up the wanderlust in my soul. (For real though, somebody needs to coin a new term for that awful word.)

I was talking with a coworker several months back who also has the *ahem* wanderlust, and he told me about his goal to visit three new places per year. They don’t have to be far off lands, just a place he has never been to before.

I thought that was such a great idea, I adopted the goal myself.

So where did I go this year?

Let me tell you. It will be like a digital field trip!

1 – Shreveport, LA
One of my best friends and I were alone in town over Memorial Day weekend this year. All of our other friends had abandoned us for their own holiday travels and we decided that they couldn’t have all the fun. So on a spur of the moment decision, we packed our bags and drove six hours to Shreveport to take in the annual Mudbug Festival. We listened to cajun/zydeco music, walked around some neat art vendor booths and ate both our weights in crawfish, boiled taters and corn on the cob. It was wonderful. I’m all about any trip that involves tasty local food!

Crawfish at the Mudbug Festival

Yes, I ate all of this at the Mudbug Festival. It was so much food but so delicious!

2 – Chicago, IL
I spent the night on the floor in O’Hare once because of a flight cancellation, but I don’t count that as having visited Chicago at all, so this summer was my first official time in the city. I went for a work trip and got to attend BlogHer ’13 (so cool!). Most of my time was spent at the conference, but a coworker and I got in one morning sightseeing. We went to Navy Pier, Millennium Park, The Bean (of course) and listened to an orchestra’s rehearsal at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park. There are so many things I wanted to do and see that I didn’t have a chance to this time (like the skydeck at Willis Tower) that I have a big list of adventures for my next visit.

Navy Pier, Chicago

A view of Chicago’s skyline from Navy Pier.

The Bean, Chicago

The Bean!

The food on this trip was out of this world phenomenal! Of course we had to have true Chicago-style deep dish pizza. We went to Lou Malnati’s and I gorged myself on the famous local fare. I can tell you that deep dish pizza is definitely as good as everyone says it is. Put it on your bucket list if you haven’t tried it yet!

My favorite meal by far, though, was in the restaurant adjoining our hotel. It’s called Mercat a la Planxa and it specializes in Catalan-inspired tapas. I hadn’t had tapas since I was in Spain and I was so extremely excited to have them again (maybe a little too excited. I think I may have freaked my coworkers out with my enthusiasm.). We ordered a ton of food to share and I loved everything. From the arroz a la cazuela (saffron scented broth with Maine lobster, chicken, chorizo, rabbit, shaved artichoke salad and piquillo aioli) to the datiles con almendras (bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds), I was in gustatory heaven. I need to go back to this place. Soon. Like tomorrow.

3 – Taos, NM
I hadn’t taken a vacation from work at all this year until Labor Day weekend. My mom had been asking me to go with her to Taos, New Mexico, and while I thought that New Mexico sounded like a strange place for a vacation, I agreed to join her. And boy were my preconceived notions incorrect! New Mexico is amazing. The scenery is mind-blowingly gorgeous and there were plenty of fun things to do. We saw some neat art shops downtown but spent most of our time hiking the mountains.

Taos, New Mexico scenery

A few snapshots from my trip to Taos, NM. They don’t even begin to do justice to the beautiful scenery.

My favorite meal was at a pizza joint called Pizaños. The restaurant had a back deck overlooking the mountains, so of course, my mom and I ate outside despite the chilly breeze. I chose a pizza that was popular with the locals called, The Taoseño. It was covered in Italian Sausage, mushrooms and green chile and it was divine.

Pizaños, Taos, New Mexico

Dinner with a view!

I don’t know where I’ll go next year. haven’t planned anything yet, but this is a goal I definitely want to keep up with. If you have any suggestions of places to go and/or things to eat, I would love to hear them! What are some of your favorite places?

Adventures in hot yoga

Several months ago, one of my friends asked me if I’d like to try hot yoga with her. I said yes because I was seriously bored with my current workout routine, but in the back of my mind I was secretly thinking that hot yoga sounded a little strange and I wasn’t quite sure what I had agreed to.

“Isn’t yoga kind of new age-y?”

“I don’t think I’m the yoga type.”

“If I do yoga, am I going to turn into a hipster?”

“Just do it, Kristy. You need a new workout.”

And then my first day of yoga went like this:

5:55 p.m. – I walk into a blazing hot room, grab a yoga mat, a block, and a towel, and sit down in front of a humidifier. I immediately start to sweat.

6:00 p.m. – Class– or to be politically correct, I should say the practice– begins. We come into child’s pose.

6:01 p.m. – “This is nice,” I’m thinking. I mean, I’m sweating profusely, yes, but laying face-down on a mat and breathing slowly is kind of relaxing.

6:05 p.m. – We’re doing sun salutations, or something like that, and I’m pretty sure I can’t sweat anymore.

6:12 p.m. – Just kidding, I can sweat more. I literally watch sweat beads come out of my legs and roll down my shin bones. I don’t think I’ve ever seen sweat come out of my legs in my entire life. I’m slightly concerned.

6:30 p.m. – I’ve fallen over about 20 times by now. Evidently I don’t have the perfect balance gene that everybody else in the room seems to have. Why am I so wobbly? Why does everybody else look so graceful?

6:34 p.m. – We’re in dancer’s pose and sweat is rapidly dripping from my outstretched elbow and creating a nice little puddle on my stinky yoga mat.

6:35 p.m. – I slip on the sweat puddle. Fall down count increases to 21.

6:50 p.m. – “How much water is left in my body? Can’t be much anymore. How in the world is it possible to sweat so much? My clothes are soaked and I’m going to shrivel up into a prune any second now.”

7:00 p.m. – We “come down” and I’m ecstatic because I think it’s over. If I could jump for joy, I would. But I feel half-dead at this point, so I stay face-down on my soaking, slippery, staaaanky mat.

7:01 p.m. – Psych! It’s not over! Now we’re doing abs.

7:05 p.m. – The only thing keeping me going right now is my inherent, and slightly insane, drive to conquer a challenge. My body is screaming, but I don’t quit. I must defeat the beast.

7:10 p.m. – Corpse pose. It sounds horrendous, but right now those are the most wonderful words on the planet. Corpse pose means it’s over for real.

7:15 p.m. – We roll out of corpse pose and into a fetal position. Several drops of sweat roll down into my ear and muffle my sense of hearing. I would be grossed out but I’m too exhausted to care about anything at this point. And that includes my mascara-smeared raccoon eyes and my dangerously frizzy hair. “I look hotter than Beyonce right now,” I tell myself. Denial is bliss.

7:20 p.m. – We’ve bowed and said “namaste” and people are getting up and walking out the door. I can’t get up.

Eventually I made it home and fell into bed and woke up feeling surprisingly not sore the next morning. As much as that first day killed me, I recall the exercises and the poses almost fondly. “Wait, am I smiling?”

Evidently I took a liking to hot yoga for some reason and I’ve been to almost every class since. I’d even go so far as to say that yoga days are some of the best days of my week now.

Yes, I’m crazy. I know.

What about you? Have y’all every tried any kind of crazy exercise?

Claim to Fame

Have you ever heard of John Brown University?

Unless you know me personally or we went to college together, I’m gonna guess probably not.

JBU is a small private college in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Aside from being ranked #1 Best Value among Southern Colleges by U.S. News and World Report, JBU has one other claim to fame.

The Toilet Paper Game.

20131107-221812.jpg

What started in 1980 with a few rolls of pilfered toilet paper thrown onto the basketball court by some crazy college kids has turned into the best technical foul in all of college sports.

Every year, hundreds of fans armed with hundreds of rolls of TP pack Bill George Arena for JBU’s home opener. There’s the dimming of the lights, the introduction of the players, the handshakes, the pep talks, the tip off, and then… the first points of the game for the JBU Golden Eagles, which triggers an immediate explosion of flying toilet paper.

See for yourself.

 

JBU gives up a technical foul as a result of the TP’ing, but it’s definitely worth it.

Now the TP Game is pretty exciting in and of itself, but the spectacle has garnered national attention over the past few years. It’s been featured on  Yahoo! Sports, ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” CBS Sports, and even Buzzfeed. Yes, Buzzfeed!

And let me tell you, anytime anybody from a small town makes national news about anything, it’s a big deal. It gets the townsfolk all a flutter. We talk about it for weeks. But then the talk dies down and life keeps moving and the Golden Eagles usually go on to have a pretty good season.

But for that one night, those few moments, we become the most exciting arena in college sports.

Renewal

renewal, leavesIt has been over year since my last blog post. That makes me sad. I miss blogging.

I miss creative writing.

I miss writing for me; not for work.

Recently I’ve watched some of my friends find their place in the blogosphere like Jenny of Wonderfully Complex, Terra of Ahoy Friend and Elizabeth of Oak & Oats. Their blogs are beautiful and engaging and have, in part, inspired me to blog again.

But before I make this official, I have to get a few things off my chest.

1) I’m scared I won’t have enough time to devote to my blog. Actually, that’s a lie. I know I won’t have time for this blog. There are not enough hours in the day for me to do everything I need and want to do. My actual fear is that I won’t make blogging a priority. Sure, I might stick with it for a few weeks, but when life gets busy and push comes to shove, I’m afraid I’ll give kskristy the ol’ heave-ho.

2) I’m kind of afraid that I’ve “lost it.” And by that I mean my blogging voice, my stories, my ability to turn a mundane day into a thoughtful and engaging blog post that people will actually want to read.

So…

There are the problems.

And here are the solutions.

1) Like I said, I have to make blogging a priority. I need to put it on a schedule. Because I know me, and if I don’t put things on a calendar or a to-do list, they won’t get done. Right now I plan to post three times per week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (definitely got the idea for this from Jenny!).

1.5) I’m also toying with the idea of filling in the other days of the week with a photo post. No commentary, just pictures. I got this idea from Terra. She and her best friend live hundreds of miles apart, but each of them share one picture a day as a way to stay connected and show the other what their day was like. I love, love, love this idea! While I won’t photoblog with a friend, I want to try to post one picture that shows a small glimpse into my day.

2) I’ve come up with a theme– a message that I believe in and something that I want to help guide my writing and my voice.

It’s {in}joy every day.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always looking on the bright side of things. I believe there is beauty and joy in every moment of every day, even if circumstances are less than ideal. Hence, {in}joy every day.

So there it is. Let’s get this thing started, shall we?

I’ll see you back here on Thursday!

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