{Octoberfest is my blog event in which I attempt to write every day during the month of October as a pre-cursor to Nanowrimo in November. Welcome to the insanity.}

Whenever I listen to Steven Curtis Chapman I am instantly transported to a car. The white Chrysler van with the single sliding door, the other two mini vans my family owned, the eggplant (ugly) truck that my dad traded his mid-life crisis car for, the various Hondas we’ve had. They all blasted his music at sometime or another.

Every time we moved as a family we played “The Great Adventure”. We played it loud and screeched the lyrics until we were hoarse, getting the lyrics wrong as often as we got them right. It was always the start of our next great adventure. I’m not sure when it became tradition, actually. I just know it happened.

“Signs of Life” was the song that was playing the first time we, as a family unit, saw my oldest sister a little toasted after drinking one too many strawberry daiquiris during a memorable Fourth of July. With four of us squeezed into the back of the truck, going to watch the fireworks from the mountains of Colorado, she burst into tears. “This is such a sad song!” We all paused before laughter bubbled up.

“What Now” was my song in high school, when that was my catch phrase. It was also the song that got me through the long, lonely nights of my freshman year during the fights with my flatmate. “Speechless” was another that helped me through that dark time. I would play them as I drove alone in my little red Dodge Neon (the little engine that couldn’t) and sing with tears in my eyes.

My mom and I went to a SCC concert shortly after “All Things New” came out and saw him perform so many of my favorite childhood songs. It was a pretty great night. We sang songs the whole way home.

My favorite song is probably “Dive” though. We came up with motions one day in that ugly truck with my dad. He’s so serious a lot of the time, I cling to the memories when he was just silly with us. “The river’s deep, the river’s wide, the river’s water is alive” was belted as we gestured wildly, startling the drivers on either side of us.

Now, in China, I don’t have a car. I just close my eyes and imagine that I’m back in those protected spaces. It’s the perfect bit of nostalgia in my day.



I stand alone.


Noise surrounds me.

I can’t hear.

Where are you?

Is that your voice?

Hard to tell.

But no…

It’s not you.

I know that voice.

It’s me.

Was I always so loud?



Be still.





Shanghai Seder

For those of you who don’t know, the Seder is the Passover dinner. It means “the order”. It is a tradition in my family that I believe I’ve spoken of before, but this year was my first time I’d ever thought of leading one.


Being in Shanghai can sometimes be the worst when I miss my family. I avoid speaking to them when I miss them, because it just makes it worse. This year, I was thinking of my family and the lack of Seder in my life at Easter and I proposed to my small group leaders (Emily and Angus) that we do one. Emily’s response was, “You’d have to lead it.”

*Loud swallowing noise* I get nervous about leading. I seriously know the Lord’s presence in my life when I lead because I suck at it and somehow people always get something out of it.

The Haggadah (the telling) makes leading the Seder easier, but I was the only one who had done it before and I wasn’t sure what I needed to clarify. Emily is always helpful to have around because she asks questions for the group, when she knows people don’t understand.

It was decided we’d do it and I’d lead if Emily would be the mother and light the candles and speak bad Hebrew. We told the group, got food sign ups going and it was a set event.


The day before I was going to shop for matzah. Someone had told me that Avocado Lady had it and so I hadn’t worried. However, as I sat at my desk checking off a mental list a horrendous thought crept its way in. What if she didn’t have it. Where would I find matzah in Shanghai??!! I began to frantically search on the internet for places that had it. I came to realize a few important things. There were a few places for Jews to worship in Shanghai, which is cool. I learned quite a bit about the history of Jews in China. And I learned that none of those places had an internet presence AT ALL. Searches for stores or restaurants that sold matzah were futile and I began to slowly panic. WE COULDN’T HAVE A SEDER WITHOUT MATZAH. LIFE WAS OVER.

I am the queen of hyperbole in all forms. Finally I started emailing. I emailed the three synagogues I had found online and I began to email every restaurant that served matzah ball soup. They had to make the balls from something right? After I emailed everyone I could think of, it was time for class and I pushed it out of my mind with a prayer. The Lord would provide, even if I had to make the matzah myself (I had bookmarked several recipes, just in case).


After three or four classes my email “ding”-ed. It was from Tock’s Deli. The lovely lady informed me that they used matzah meal, but they got it from a store. And that store had Wechat. I WAS SAVED! She told me that they had boxes from last year’s Seder but that they wouldn’t get the new stuff until April to get ready for Seder this year. I was thrilled. I searched for the shelf-life of matzah online and found that generally it lasted for two years. BRILLIANT. I decided to taxi my way over there and she kept the shop open for me to get there and take a few boxes off her hands.

A big box and a little box was ¥100. That’s a lot of cash people. But I was so overjoyed to have found it, I didn’t care. I waltzed out of there and dashed home to make charoset with one of my new kindred spirit friends, Maddie.

The next day I made chicken with another kindred spirit friend, Pekka (who I discovered, is a culinary genius despite all his modesty) and we got all the remaining things we needed. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I remembered that we’d need cups to hold the salt water and added it to my mental list of things to do.


Literally seconds after I remembered, Taisa sent me a voice message saying that she had brought home some mouthwash sized cups in case we needed them. I started laughing and messaged her back that Jesus knew and I had a specific use for those. Eggs, parsley, horseradish, etc made their way into two large bags and were carted by my Finnish friend to Taisa’s.

I was so exhausted by this point, I could have collapsed. Not joking. I was having some serious emotional mood swings that I somehow kept covered with a happy face and some light hysteria. It may have come across as me being manic. Plates were readied. I rested for a bit. Then all the food began to arrive.

Sam brought couscous and a delicious Indian chicken/rice dish. I made broccoli. Lydia brought mashed potatoes. Everyone brought wine. Deji brought sausages. Taisa also made this amazing apple crumble that looked soooo good. We hid it all in the kitchen for later and my heart began to feel light. People arrived. I settled. More people arrived. I took a deep breath and called for their attention.

The start was awkward. I wasn’t sure how to do this really, but I managed to get through the introduction with important history. No one else had done this, so I took some time to explain the words, the history, and made sure to read the parts that we normally skipped.  I tripped over my tongue a few times and laughed with everyone when we drank before we were supposed to. We drank wine, we spoke together, we read Scripture. And right before dinner, Nessa walked in. She had been sick and seeing her made my heart feel even more than I already did. I wanted to cry.


Then we ate. Oh my goodness, we ate. It wasn’t kosher. It wasn’t what I normally ate at Seder, but it was some of the best food I’d ever had. Taisa, Sam, and I rushed to throw dishes into the microwave to reheat and bring them out for the masses. More people arrived. Finally I found myself on the floor looking and listening to all the beautiful people in my life. And I realized my heart wasn’t light anymore. It was full. Full to the brim with love and joy and contentment.

God was in that place in every conversation. He was showing love through the gestures, the words, the laughter, the smiles, the quiet moments, the wine, the hugs, the food. And I can honestly say I’ve never felt so full of all of the good things.

I posted on Facebook that it was the best day of my life. I know, better than most, that writers shouldn’t use hyperbole often. Superlatives are not for us. “Best”, “worst”, “favorite”, these are words that should be used sparingly and I don’t. I use them all the time. Because I’m a fickle creature and my favorite shifts like the wind. The best and worst are defined by my circumstances, not by any other standards. However, this day really was the best.


I have found a family here. I don’t know any of them very well. Some of them just got here and are leaving very soon. Some have been here for years and have put up walls because so many people come and go in their lives. It doesn’t matter. They are my family. Because I’m coming to realize that knowing someone well doesn’t mean much when it comes to God’s family. We are brothers and sisters. Period. That means acting like it even when we don’t know each other. Even when we don’t necessarily like each other. On good days, bad days, and all the gray days in-between. And my Rhema Reign group acts like this most of the time.

I don’t know if words can convey it all to you. I doubt it. But, dear readers, God is here. He is present in my China life. He is present in Shanghai. He is always with me and I don’t think I needed the reassurance more. Thank you, my beautiful Shanghai family for a night above all other nights.

Next year in Jerusalem.



12 Ideas – thanks Gail

My gorgeous sister drew this picture. Isn't she talented?

I’m reading Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine and this was a prompt. I came up with 12 ideas for future stories. I’m going to post them as written here and you can decide if they’re good. If you want to hear more about one, or really like one, comment and let me know! If you think you could write an idea better, take it. I’m sure there’s room in this world for more stories.

  1. All lady werewolves. Because women can handle more pain than men and it doesn’t make sense to me that werewolves would be primarily men due to the pain of the change.
  2. A girl teleports and mind wipes a ship of 30 people to different destinations – when she returns memories they each know where one person is located.
  3. The tale of a scarf that falls of a 20th story clothesline in Shanghai.
  4. A 25-year-old works part-time as a hostess and discovers how to break out of herself. (I never said they were interesting ideas…)
  5. Stephen & Magnolia – witches in a strange world. She has to save him from a dragon.
  6. A young man paints portals to various worlds and accidentally falls into one and forgets what his world looks like.
  7. A flower is found to cure cancer but can only be grown underground…
  8. A young Nicole’s journey to God.
  9. A high schooler wants fame but finds he/she prefers invisibility (Or original ideas…).
  10. Single life of a 25-year-old virgin.
  11. The Jane Austen Kappa Kappa Book Club
  12. The Houghton Hall Bookies – girl magically transports friends when she reads aloud in college setting

What think you? I realize some are stale, but I quite like a few…

NaNoWriMo 2014

So I decided to do it. I’m writing a plethora of short stories about awkward encounters. It should be fun. And yes, many will come from real life examples.

I’m not really good at short stories and I’m not really good at real life situations. So this should be an interesting NaNo for me. I’m excited and terrified. I only have one week to think up awkwardness. If you have an awkward encounter you’d like to volunteer for writing fodder, comment below. If you want to join Nanowrimo, or learn more about it, ask questions! Also, see all my posts under this tag!

It really is a glorious time of year

Excerpt from my first chapter…



This was such a stupid idea. I lay still, trying to slow my breathing. One misplaced pant and I would be caught. I heart the footsteps nearing and my heart beat faster, louder, at least to my own ears. If I moved or shifted in any way the lifeboat would tilt and give me away. The sailor, whoever he was, walked past and I almost sighed in relief. I waited until the only sound I could hear was the waves lapping on the sides of the hull.

Slowly I crept out. Silence was impossible to achieve, with my coordination, but I was as quiet as possible. The Persephone was a gorgeous ship and had a simple layout that allowed me to navigate it with relative ease. I bumbled around a bit until I found the guest quarters. I silently thanked Freddie for offering free drinks to the crew in exchange for stories of times abroad. The ship was deserted, with the exception of the two men on the watch.

I opened the first door, my breath held in anticipation, and smiled at the sight of all the trunks. Jackpot. After a quick glance around, I nicked the lantern off the wall and stepped into the room, closing the door behind me. Holding the lantern high, I noticed that trunks lined every wall. They were held in place by rope which was tied to hooks in the walls. The only space in the room was taken up by two open trunks in the center. The area was only big enough to allow one man room to change, but I was small enough to keep to the sides and curious enough to try climbing around one trunk to see what was inside. I smiled as I examined the loot. This was going to be easy. One entire trunk was full of feathers. They weren’t the short kind found on birds from Rynia. These were fine, expensive plumes from the rare birds of Alorca, the island Rynia had been at war over for ten years. Alorca was rumored to be the most beautiful and have the most exotic of everything. Birds included. And these were beautiful. There were shades of every color. I reached out and stroked one, aware that my fingers were filthy. They were so soft; it was worth it.

I pulled myself back and looked into the other trunk. It was full of clothes. I shifted a pair of horrendous yellow hose and a piece of red caught my eye. I grabbed it gingerly and could only stare at the envelope. The handwriting that addressed it to a ‘Prince Nestor’ was all too familiar. I swallowed convulsively. I looked back toward the door and listened, but I heard no one. Carefully I inched the crisp white stationary out of the envelope and read the invitation. A roaring filled my ears as I read and I have no idea how much time passed before I heard the footsteps tramping toward me. A loud, whiny voice accompanied the tramping and my brain began screaming for me to move. A quick glance around told me that there was no place to hide except for the top bunk of the beds provided. I blew out the lantern and gently moved it to an inconspicuous place beside the clothes trunk.

“I must have something that matches.” A nasal voice said almost right outside the door. I scrambled up the ladder and lay flat on the top bunk, grateful that they were nailed to the wall. The door creaked open and two heads appeared in the doorway, illuminated by a lantern that one held.

“Frederick, I told you that I needed to be perfect. The very idea of appearing uncoordinated in front of those sailors. It’s intolerable.” His voice made me wince. Was this Prince Nestor? I hoped not.

“Of course sir. My mistake.” A deep, monotone came from the other man. His servant I presumed.

Leave quickly. I prayed. I clenched my fists tight in frustration as the one I dubbed Nestor began to slowly shift through the feathers trunk. And the invitation crumpled in my sweaty palm. I had to bite my lip to keep from gasping. I looked down at it, but it was too dark to tell what the damage was. Neither of the men below seemed to have heard it, but I wasn’t going to take chances. I slowed my breathing, determined to make myself as invisible as possible.

“Here it is. Come. We’ll make it back in time for a new round I think.” Nestor led the way out and the door closed behind them both, leaving me in the darkness. I wanted to cry. I had almost been caught. If I wasn’t careful going out I would be. I let my eyes adjust, then sat up and carefully climbed down the ladder. I felt my way to the first open trunk and grabbed a fist full of feathers, stuffing them in my sash.

My clothes weren’t exactly clean; I could smell my body odor from the last few days lingering on them, but I wasn’t as bad as Freddie or Scruff. The part of me that was used to being pampered always rebelled at the thought of the layer of dirt that covered me when I lived here. But I couldn’t be picky and still fit in with my family here. They would murder me. So I dealt with the stench and the dirt and the weird looks from passerby’s. I knew that I fit in somewhere, and that was enough for me. For now.

I smoothed out the letter as best as possible and tucked that into the waist band of my pants. I took a moment to revel in the fact that I was wearing them. Normally, I had to wear dresses. I wasn’t allowed the freedom of breeches for even a second back home. Scruff let me wear what I want here. It was a beautiful thing to me.

I listened for a minute before opening the door as quietly as possible. Getting on board the ship had been relatively easy, because I could watch the patterns of the watch and slip on in between the two men’s rounds. Now, though, I was trying to get off and I had no clue where either sailor was. I would have to tread carefully. I closed the door and set off, staying in the shadows as much as possible. This was something I had watched Freddie do multiple times. He was practically a shadow himself, almost invisible, when he wanted to be. I made my way to the deck and waited, crouched by a coil of rope. I couldn’t see who was by the wheel, but if someone was up there they would catch me. So I listened. I closed my eyes and began filtering out all other noise. The waves lapping, the men on the dock, the creak of the ship all went to the back of my head until I came to the noise I was looking for. The footsteps of one of the men. He was a ways from me, so I didn’t need to panic yet. But there was no sign of the other. I opened my eyes and crept along the rail, keeping my eyes on where the deck rose. I almost froze when I saw him, leaning against the wheel, but I kept moving. If he saw me being still wouldn’t help. I sighed in relief when I saw that his eyes were closed. Ten feet to the plank. I would make it. I tiptoed down the plank and nearly burst into tears. I had made it.

“You! Girl! What are ya doin’ there?” I turned and saw an older man coming towards me. He must have seen me come off the ship. I sprinted toward the tavern, intent on getting away.

“Hold on a minute lass! Come back here!”

I heard him behind me and picked up speed, landing on the balls of my feet and pumping my arms forward. There was a large crowd coming out of the tavern, causing me to weave around them. I caught Freddie’s eye and grinned as I zoomed by, moving into the street beyond and toward our make-shift home. I couldn’t hear the man anymore, but I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. I had done it. I had stolen something. I had taken feathers that didn’t belong to me. Blood pumped through my veins, spreading the exhilaration throughout my entire body. I leapt into the air, high on my victory, and kept going. I had never felt more alive than at that moment. I didn’t care that I might be followed, I only cared about getting back. What would they do if they found me anyway? Arrest me? They wouldn’t dare. There was nothing I couldn’t do.

Jane Austen ABC’s


I decided to just come up with these. I’m sure you’ve heard some of them (or all of them) before.

is for Austen. Duh.

is for Bertram. Edmund Bertram is the hero of Mansfield Park.

is for Collins. A more awkward man you’ll never meet.

is for Darcy. Swoon.

is for Emma. She’s a bit of a pill.

is for Frank Churchill. He’s a selfish douche.

is for George Wickham. CAD! SCALLYWAG!

is for Harriet. Naive, but sweet.

I is for Isabella Thorpe. A false friend and naughty child.

is for Jane Bennett. Sweet and lovely as always.

is for Knightley. Swoon again.

is for Lizzie. An idol to us all.

is for Marianne. Emotional and spontaneous.

is for Northanger Abbey. Creepy and full of ghosts. And vampires.

is for Osborne. As in the Osbornes of The Watsons. It’s a little known work of Austen’s.

is for Persuasion. My favorite Austen novel.

is for Quaint. Like The Bennett’s house or life in the country.

is for Robert. As in Mr. Robert Martin of Abbymill Farm.

is for Susan. Lady Susan is another unfinished Austen novel.

is for Tilney. Mr. Tilney is such a flirt.

is for Uncle. Sir Thomas Bertram is Fanny’s uncle in Mansfield Park and therefore important.

is for Viscountess. The Elliot’s are related to the Viscountess Darymple. It’s awkward.

is for Wentworth. Strong, silent, perfection.

is for FairfaX. As in Jane Fairfax. Because no names in Austen’s world start with X.

is for Young. The evil Mrs. Young helps Wickham in his lecherous activities.

is for EliZa. Because Z’s are also unpopular. Eliza Williams is Willoughby’s first victim.

My 10k1Day Journey (aka The Final Day of NaNoWriMo)

I started this morning at 11 AM. I hadn’t slept well the night before due to the ongoing ear infection that had been plaguing me for a few days. I knew with a sinking heart that I had over 10,000 words to write. I started with 39,553 words written. I accepted the challenge and chose to to take it 2,000 words at a time. When I hit my first 2,000 words, I took a break to decorate my Christmas tree with my family. Isn’t it pretty?



I wrote and then drove a little with Marissa. I was annoyed because I knew that I had SO MUCH TO WRITE. So when I came back at 2PM I settled down in this comfy chair and began to write. I was comfortable, I was warm, I was writing. It was good. Then people came over to watch television. They put Star Trek on. It’s like chocolate for me. I love it and it’s great so I stayed in the television room and watched. Somehow I managed to write quite a bit. I couldn’t tell you how much. Finally I moved and finished my last couple thousand words as my wonderful, darling little sister, Marissa, massaged my head and did my hair. I asked her to leave for my last 500. Those last words before you hit 50k are precious. They are the last moments of a marathon race. Exhilarating, exhausting, and singular. I needed to finish it alone. And when it was done, I felt no different. There’s a tiny bit of excitement that’s inside, bouncing around, but that’s it.

I chalk it up to the fact that I didn’t actually finish my book. I wrote 50k. The funny thing is that my word processor, Scrivener, told me I’d hit 50k but the word validator on the NaNo site said that I hadn’t, so I had to write a couple extra hundred words. In comparison to what I’d just finished it was nothing, but kind of discouraging. So I wrote my last couple of words and validated them.

And then the most beautiful screen appeared before me.



Yes. I am a winner. I wrote over 10k today. CRAZY RIGHT? But here’s the proof:

Look at that last day! Woo, that's a lot of words...

Look at that last day! Woo, that’s a lot of words…

Today is an awesome day for writers. Congratulations to all those who crossed the finish lines with me. For those that didn’t, you have written more words than you would have otherwise and that, in itself, is a victory. I’m not done with my novel, so I can feel half of your pain. I fully intend on finishing though. I have so much left to go.

I have to say that the most surprising scene I wrote was the last one. My MC, Margaret (who prefers to go by Meg), finds herself distracted by her oldest and best male friend. I wasn’t intending on writing a romance for my MC. But there it was and it was awkward and funny and I kind of loved it. I’m pulling for them guys. It was totally natural too. I’m not trying to force it. It’s nice not to try and push two people at each other. I’m doing that with Marcus and Leyla because they belong together, they just don’t know it yet.

I’m excited to continue my journey and even more excited that it won’t be full of days like today. No more marathon days! WOO!






One Week In

I’m doing fairly well. I’m at about 9,500 words and I should be at 11,666 after today, but I choose not to despair. I choose victory. I choose to be…


That’s kind of my new thing. I’ve been hash tagging it all over the place and most of my friends must be confused, but that’s all right. I want to swashbuckle with my pen and write some stuff.

So my book has a title…sort of. It’s called The Ascension of Margaret. Something embarrassing is about to happen. In roughly 10,000 words I’ve introduced my characters very poorly and set up the basic plot which is about to get much more complicated.

I think it’ll be fun. My main character, Margaret (or Meg as she prefers to be called) thinks she’s a super good spy-like person, but she’s not. The only reason she’s gotten away with so much is parental neglect. And the fact that she’s a royal intimidates some people. She does have excellent sewing skills though. I think I wrote that in to make up for my lack of such awesome skills.

This is the first story I’ve written in the first person. I like it though; it’s fun to be a person instead of writing about a person.

Alright, enough of this, I must go write. I’ll update you again soon, dear reader! Wish me luck!

It’s that time of year again…


Here we go again…

So I know many people are like, “Nicole…you do this every year. Ever since you started this blog. You’ve only won once. WHEN WILL IT END?!”

The answer is never. I will Nanowrimo until the day I die. Yes, that is extreme. And yes, I did just make nanowrimo a verb. Deal with it.

I am once again attempting to write my princess story, with a lot more prep this year.

This year I have construction paper, permanent markers and poster (read: character profiles and a timeline). Oh, and post-its. SO MANY POST-ITS! Over the next couple of weeks I will be refining my plot and characters as much as possible before the big day…November 1st. On that day I will leave my editor at the door and begin something terrifying and wonderful. I will be writing 50,000 words in 30 days. (Although my ACTUAL goal is roughly 65,000 words…we’ll see how that goes).

I am SUPER DUPER excited because I have Wrimo buddies this time! My friends Luci and Hattie are doing it in Chicago (Right, Hattie?). Luci’s book is gonna be AWESOME. I know because I’ve read parts and already I’m blown away. And here in Virginia I will be joined by my friends Bethany, Jess, my sister Grace, and…my dad.

Yes, my father, the Lt. Colonel. The PhD. The All-Powerful Tyrant of King George will also be attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days and making a general fool of himself like the rest of us. It should be interesting.

What can you expect from me during this hectic time?

Absolutely nothing. I disappear from the face of the planet when I’m doing it right. So expect no posts. Look not for remnants of wit on this blog. I will not be here. Er…well…I probably will, because procrastination is a part of the process, but I probably won’t make any sense.

On that note, I will be pre-writing a few posts to publish in the future.  (I actually wrote this one yesterday…shhhh.)

And I’m sorry that this is the first in a month. You know I would never actually leave you, right?


Have you ever stepped out of your house and felt you stepped into a picture? All around you the wind blows, and you feel the chill of autumn in the air. The ground is still wet from the thunderstorms that afternoon and the sky is covered in waves of clouds. There isn’t a break to see the sun as it sets, and so the colors are muted and the world is awash in the strange glow of twilight.

As you get in your car, you notice that there’s just enough light to see through the trees. It looks romantic. The road is framed by forest, which always looks perfect, but now it looks like a hiding place for lovers in the night. You can see him in your mind’s eye, placing one last note in the hole he carved in the tree especially for the purpose.

Then you see it as you approach your destination. The break in the clouds that reveals the most beautiful colors as the sun waves goodbye. Orange, red, purple, pink. They intermingle and make the world seem more magical than it was mere seconds ago. Parking is agony because you know that you have to walk away from it. And when you come back out it might be gone. You try to make it a short trip. Run in, grab stuff, pay, run out.

It’s darker now. The tragedy of losing the light is offset by the knowledge that someone else, somewhere is gaining it. Someone is watching that sunrise and feeling the same wonder you felt as it set. Dark purple still fills the sky and you watch as the color disappears all together. Is there any other feeling like it? Is there any other aspect of nature that makes you feel the same way? You hope that it happens again tomorrow, but know that perfection like that is rare. And you’re glad that you were blessed enough to enjoy it.