Signature Style :: Summer Hair

You know it's been an exciting week when I have a Facebook update and a blog post about my hair. I asked my stylist that I wanted to channel my inner Zooey Deschanel. I think she delivered.

I got bangs. And new shoes. The Nordstrom sale is deadly this year. 
Shoes :: Louise et Cie via Nordstrom (ON SALE) // Jeans :: Joe's via Nordstrom // Top :: Modcloth // Ring :: Kate Spade // Earrings :: Lauren Conrad via Kohl's // Necklace :: Charlotte Russe // Necklace :: Kate Spade // Watch :: Fossil // Lipstick :: NARS 'Schiap' via Nordstrom (ON SALE) // Nail polish :: Butter London 'Fiver' via Nordstrom

I think it's safe to say that I am most definitely not a fashion blogger, though I have to say that I try!

Note that this post includes affiliate links, which means that I may make a commission from any purchases made via these links. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!


How to be Charming :: Summer Styling

I don't know if it's as hot by you, but it's been reaching the nineties around here lately. I've been living in this cool(ish) part of California's Central Coast for the past four years, so I'm not necessarily used to these high temperatures! That being said, I'm taking full advantage of summer styling these days. 

I remember the days of wearing far too little when I was a teenager, even in the middle of the spring. I can't tell you when I changed, but I haven't even worn a spaghetti strap dress in years. I don't want to say that I have rules for dressing in the summer, but I at least have some tips on how I TRY to stay charming while still staying cool. 
1 // Wear the appropriate underthings. 

I mean, I want to say obviously, but it's somewhat sad how often I see women my age with their bra straps hanging out. I know...to each their own, but this is definitely something that I try to be aware of when dressing for the day. And it's not just my bra that I consider either - if you're wearing tight bottoms, evaluate whether or not you want everyone to know exactly what you're wearing underneath. 

2 // Remember your toes. 

I mean, any excuse to get a pedicure, right?! I only wear sandals if I know that my toes are pretty enough to be seen. 

3 // Sun protection is always classy. 

I LOVE my sunhat. My mom thinks it's silly, but I will use any excuse to wear it. In my opinion, the sun is the perfect excuse to cover up a little bit more. There's just something so ladylike and different about a big sun hat - I love it. 

4 // Embrace feminine fabrics.

Nearly all the dresses I wear in the summertime are made of some super soft, feminine fabric. The first that come to mind are silk (obviously) and linen, but even seersucker (can't lie - I love it!) and chambray are favorites for the warmer months. Oh, and I'll take anything in a light fabric, like Georgette, with ruffles!

5 // Skirts are your best friend.

Let's be real - we all like to be cool down under. And while men may be able to strut around without their shirts (not that I'm complaining), women get far more options to stay cool in the summertime, in my opinion!


Summer Party Planning Pt. 3

Oh my goodness you guys, I can't even begin to tell you how much fun I had planning this party. It's truly an amazing thing to be friends with other creatives, who love the idea of planning a fun summer party just as much as you do! I'm so thankful for each and every one of them - for Daniele, who helped me plan and let us use her backyard, not to mention took the AMAZING photos of the party - for Amy, who turned the bougainvillea in Daniele's backyard into the most beautiful summer arrangement - and for Seasons Catering, for providing one of the most delicious meals EVER. Robert created an addicting watermelon mojito, which we polished off a little too quickly...

Really, this was a good one. 

I knew from the start that I wanted to use the bright colors and funky prints that Pier 1 has available for my party. It is summer, after all (if the temperatures didn't tip you off already), and I wanted everything to feel airy and fun. Daniele's pool and fireplace were the perfect backdrop, and it definitely wasn't difficult to dress it all up.

We ended up staying outside long after the sun went down, enjoying the fireplace and the lanterns and candles from Pier 1 (my favorite way to decorate). I don't know that I've ever had a more perfect start to my summer!
Photos :: Daniele Rose of Lavender and Twine // Florals :: Stella Bloom Designs // Food :: Seasons Catering

Compensation was provided by Pier 1 via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Pier 1.

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Find what speaks to you.


Life, Lately :: How is it July?

Things have been busy. If you haven't guessed by the lack of posting in the past three weeks, things have been really busy. 

It's not just my blog that I've been absent from; I haven't really been around social media much lately either. It's a combination of busy (however much I hate that excuse) and just, well, lack of inspiration. So, here's a little bit of life, lately. 

1 // We moved. I know I've been somewhat vague on this point, but here it is - we've moved back in with my parents. Long story short, we needed to break the lease on our apartment so that we could move in time for Robert's internship to start. Our landlady, knowing our situation, let us know that someone was interested in moving into our apartment (thus letting us break our lease), but we would have only a week to move. We found out that we were moving on June 11. By June 18, we were saying goodbye to our first home together. 

It's been interesting, moving back. With the exception of summers home from college and a little less than a year after I graduated, I've lived on my own. Thankfully, my parents understand our situation, and it isn't completely like I'm a teenager all over again. But there are five adults living under one roof for the time being.

2 // It's wedding season. For the past few years, this has always been my excuse for a quieter summer around the blog parts, and this year is no different. Though I have fewer weddings this year than I have in the past, they seem to be much bigger and more complex than normal. This past weekend was particularly rough, and I'm very thankful to say that my clients are now married and that wedding is done with! I wasn't sure that I would survive the day, which ended up with my assistant in the emergency room (she's okay!), but I did. Barely. 

3 // Just, general anxiety. Those two things above, combined with other unavoidable circumstances, mean that my anxiety has kind of peaked. I will be honest and say that I've restarted my anxiety medication (I'm not ashamed), but it doesn't always help with highly stressful situations and events. I've found myself retreating in a lot of ways, when difficult clients arise or our financial situation becomes apparent. I'll be honest - between the move and work, I've lost my appetite and lost weight. Believe me, I'm trying. 

In good news, however, I have a publication date for the re-release of my book! I can't wait to share that with all of you!


Summer Party Planning Pt. 2

Ever since I moved into my own apartment over four years ago (I lived in a dorm before that), I LOVED the hunt. You know, the treasure hunt for little things or big things that come together to create an intentional, cohesive space. It doesn't matter if they're from the flea market or garage sales or the mall; I love creating an eclectic space that is just...me.

The same goes for when I'm planning a wedding or a party. The key to creating an event that is uniquely you is to do that treasure hunting; to not just settle on whatever you think will work. It's a combination of patience and the ability to see a space before it actually comes to life. Believe me; I struggle with both of these, but that doesn't make it any less fun!

When Pier 1 asked me to do a little hunting for the perfect summer party, I knew I was in for a treat. Pier 1 has always been one of my favorite places to shop for my home, and they have the best items for a fun summer! Everything from games to furniture and candles and dinnerware, they truly have everything you could want for summer entertaining. 
I knew from the start that I wanted to do something with color, and they definitely have plenty of that! I spent hours in the store, playing with patterns and mixing colors and prints; I have a feeling the employees thought I was crazy, but I wanted to make sure everything was just right. And I have to say - I have feeling it was!
Those blue plates above inspired my entire party, and I can't wait to show you all how it turned out! It's definitely different than the photo above, but that's the fun in it - exploring different ways to use the same items. We had a great time last week with friends, eating amazing food and just celebrating summer. And it was beautiful. 

Compensation was provided by Pier 1 via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Pier 1.

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Find what speaks to you.


A Love Letter to a Home

Dear Apartment 212,

You weren't much to look at when we moved in. Your carpet was already a little dirty, and the windows rattled when the train passed by, but we were thankful for you anyway. You were willing to take a chance on us, two soon-to-be newlyweds who had no idea what the next four years had in store for us. But as we grew, you grew with us. 

We filled your walls with pictures from our wedding and flea market finds and a few handmade projects. Eventually you went from a shell of a little apartment to a place we could call home, watching as we started school and new jobs and eventually a business. Your kitchen was my laboratory, and you never minded when I experimented, and sometimes failed. You welcomed our friends with open arms, and taught me that entertaining wasn't about providing the most elaborate meal or prettiest table, but about the stories we shared with one another. 

You were our shelter during the most difficult moments in our marriage, reminding us that we're in this together, that we couldn't just run home to our families instead of sticking it out. Because as much as we've loved you, Apartment 212, home isn't these walls that have seen the best and the worst of us. Home is wherever we're together. Thanks for teaching us that. 

We have to leave now, and we won't be back. Now your rooms are filled with boxes and the stuff we've collected over the years, as we decide what to throw away or keep or donate to someone else who needs it. This Sunday will be our last family dinner in your dining room, and maybe we'll take a break from packing and sorting to light a candle and eat a meal and be a family, with you, for the last time. 

Much love, forever,
Joelle & Robert

Maybe I'm being gushy-sentimental, but moving is so much harder than I thought it would be. Not because of the actual moving part, but because of what we're leaving behind. As soon as I realized that we would be leaving our home sooner rather than later, I thought we need to take pictures! We need to document our home! But then I realized, isn't that what this blog is for? I've been blogging for over four years now, and for the FIRST time, I'm seeing how amazing it is to have a scrapbook of my life. As I leave one home for another, I know that I won't forget this place. And I'm very thankful for that. 


Untitled for Now

What happens when you are in the midst of some serious blogger's block, but your writer's block seems to have disappeared? You post something you've already written but have yet to share, of course.
“I’m not in danger!” she yelled. The ocean was silent and the highway was silent and the words ricocheted off of the hills behind us. She wrapped her arms around her torso, as if she were holding herself together. “I’m not in danger,” she said again, much more quietly this time. 

I swallowed. My heart hurt for this girl. She was so conflicted about all of it, that was obvious, but I didn’t even know what it was. “Please, just tell me what’s going on. Why are they after me? Who are you? Maybe I can help.” 

I could almost hear the thoughts churning in her head. It took a moment, but eventually she let go of herself and sat up straighter. She gazed straight ahead, to where the half-moon sat on the horizon. I could see the light reflecting in her eyes. 

“Please trust me,” she said, still looking out over the water. “I’m not in danger. I’ve never been in danger, ever. In my life. And though everyone sees me as this weak little girl, I can promise you that I’m much stronger than I look.”
- An untitled novel by Joelle Duff

I suppose it's safe to say that I'm just feeling inspired again.


Thoughts on Writing + Some News

I wrote a book. This isn't news to most of you - I wrote this book and self-published it way back in February. Since then, quite a few people (read: thousands) have downloaded it and read it, which is still completely surreal and fucking absolutely terrifying. 

Writing for me has always been a deeply personal thing. I didn't really think of anybody else when I wrote my story, I just wrote the story that was floating around in my brain. And I honestly don't know if I ever really thought I would actually let anybody read it, let alone THE ENTIRE WORLD. Holy shit. 

That's why writing is a terrifying thing for me. The unknown, the reactions of complete strangers (meaning, not those who actually know me or like me). Writing reveals a lot about a person, whether it's through a blog or a book. I firmly believe that you tell a person's biggest fears and dreams and insecurities and loves, just by reading in between the lines. And I've put it all out there, laid my soul and my heart bare for the world to decipher and pick apart and criticize

I didn't don't write with other people in mind. I really don't. I sit in front of my computer, sometimes for hours at a time without typing a single letter, attempting to put what I feel in my heart into words. Hitting publish on that book, and honestly, hitting publish every. single. day. on my blog posts takes a leap of faith, a suspension of that small voice in my head saying you don't know what the hell you're doing. It's part who cares what they think and part I do have something important to say that gives me the courage NOT to take down my posts after they've been published. But before then, when I actually have to hit publish? I don't think. I just do. 

I don't have tough skin. I'm an introvert. To the enth degree. I hate confrontation. Criticism, in any form, has the potential to make me break down. Being embarrassed shuts me down. And negative feedback is one of my biggest fears. I know, odd profession I decided to get myself into, right? Believe me, I'm thinking the same thing right now.

But you know what putting myself out there has the potential to do? It has the potential to reach people I never knew existed, and create relationships based on common values and loves and experiences and insecurities. Taking a chance might break me, but it probably won't. Someone may say something nasty, once in a blue moon. But for every critic, I have a hundred supporters, more than willing to help build me back up. For every negative comment or review, I have a dozen more, telling me how much they love me and my stories. 

I'm a firm believer that you won't get anywhere worth going in life unless you take a leap of faith.
If I hadn't taken that leap of faith; if I hadn't been willing to put myself out there, even at the risk of criticism and all those other things that absolutely terrify me, I wouldn't be where I am. 

I'm excited to announce that I've signed a contract to have my book, Breathe Again, published by Amazon Publishing's imprint, Montlake. I'll be working with their team to re-release my novel, hopefully this summer. So excited to start this new journey, and to share it with all of you!


Try the World :: Rio de Janeiro

And it's one of my favorite times of the month! For the past few months, Robert and I have been getting a Try the World box - a subscription box full of goodies from around the world. We've already visited Paris and Tokyo, and this time we're traveling to Brazil
In this box :: Predilecta, goiabada (guava dessert) // Madrugada, cha de erva-doce (anise tea) // Santa Helena, mendorato (Japanese style peanuts) // Santa Helena, pacoquita (peanuts sweet) // Reservas de Minas, geleia de morango (strawberry jam) // Bananinha Cremosa, banana bar // Ducoco, coco ralado (shredded coconut)

I have to say, getting this fun little box in the mail is always a treat. I haven't had the opportunity (yet) to travel much in my life, so it's nice to have a bit of the world come to me sometimes. I really loved this box, especially the jam (I love strawberry jam, probably more than I should), and those Japanese style peanuts are always delicious. It's interesting - we've gotten tea in every box so far, which I'm definitely NOT complaining about. It's just always so fascinating to see how the same concept is interpreted in different parts of the world, without ever having to leave my little apartment!

This box was sent to my home in exchange for a review and write up, though my opinions are completely my own. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!


Signature Style :: a Blue Tutu

When I went out to discover my signature style a few years ago, I had only one rule: only buy things that I absolutely love. No more buying items just because they're on clearance or whatever. I wanted the things in my closet to just be me. So, when I see something that I do absolutely love, I obviously have to figure out a way to make it my own. 

I'm always browsing shops online, just in case there's something I want, and last week I saw this skirt. I bought it without a second thought, and I'm so glad I did!
Skirt :: Modcloth // Top :: Forever 21 // Shoes :: Vince Camuto via Nordstrom // Purse :: Kate Spade // Necklace :: Kate Spade // Earrings :: Forever 21


How to be Charming :: Formal Living

Like so many young women, I am infatuated with Paris. To be clear, it's a justified infatuation - I spent a summer in college discovering this beautiful city, studying art history and generally getting lost in the incredible streets of Paris. 

It was only recently, however, that I found Jennifer Scott's first book, Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris. She brings up a lot of really good points about French living, and while I can't get behind everything I've read so far, there is one point that really intrigues me. 

Chapter eleven of the book is titled Live Life as a Formal Affair. Just the name of the chapter piqued my interest, and reading her arguments supporting living a more formal life really got me thinking about how casual I tend to live my life. 

This isn't to say that living a casual life is bad; I think it just goes back to living a life with intention - for me, at least. It's so easy for me to just throw on a pair of jeans without thinking about it in the morning, or ordering a pizza because I have nothing in the fridge for dinner. These things don't require a lot of premeditation, which essentially means that I do them without thinking, really. I guess that's part of the reason why I decided to go for my #byebyebluejeans challenge - to live intentionally, even if just in this little way. 

While the points made in the book for formal living may be slightly too formal for my Southern California upbringing (she is talking about France, of course), I think there are a few ways I'd personally like to incorporate this idea into my daily life, if possible. 
I DREAM of having a beautiful living room, like the one above, with no television or clutter.

1 // IN MY HOME. Thought I live in a little apartment now, I do have an American dream of buying a house for myself and my family. It doesn't need to be a big house, necessarily, but I've always loved the idea of having a designated space for entertaining. I grew up in my grandmother's house, and the first room you came upon when entering through the front door was a formal living room. I don't see this much anymore, but there's something appealing, to me, about having a space in my home that's for more formal purposes, such as entertaining guests. There's no television in this room, just some nicer lounge furniture and maybe a way to play music (we had a record player in my grandmother's living room - which was so fun and novel for younger me). 

2 // SUNDAY DINNER. For the past few years, we've enjoyed a slightly more formal Sunday family dinner. It usually involves a more complicated meal than normal, like roasted chicken or pot roast. I almost always spend at least a few hours in the kitchen on Sunday evenings, and will likely make a dessert to go with it. While Madame Chic served three course meals to her family (which included legitimate courses), I think I might be alright with just keeping this tradition up in my own home. We often use cloth napkins and our nicer china as well, so it feels like I'm throwing an elegant and intimate dinner party, although it's almost always just my husband and myself. 

3 // USE YOUR BEST. Jennifer has an entire chapter in her book dedicated to this, but I do think it applies to this idea of living a more formal life as well. I touched upon it above, the idea of using my best china and napkins for Sunday dinners, but I think it can, and should, apply to every day as well. It means bringing out my best crystal vase for the flowers I just picked up at Trader Joe's, or wearing my best lace underthings with a pair of jeans to run errands. I love this idea of using my best, always, because it just makes life feel more luxurious, even if it is just another Monday. 

Though I'm sure there are so many other ways I can incorporate formal living into my less-than-formal existence, I think these are a good start! It's all about just being more intentional, and creating a charming life that I love.

Note that this post includes affiliate links, which means that I may make a commission from any purchases made via these links. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!


There's Always Time for Coffee

At one point in the past few years, Robert and I turned into grown ups. And as grown ups, we like to do grown up things, like host dinner parties and drink coffee every morning. We really are those people who can't start the morning without a cup of coffee.

One thing that's developed in our kitchen naturally over the years is our coffee station. Really, it's a hot beverage station, but coffee does make up 75% of our hot beverage consumption, so, well, coffee station

It's nothing too fancy, but it definitely ensures that our morning cup is readily accessible, thus ensuring that our day at least starts out right. We don't have anything fancy, just whole milk and sugar, or maybe agave syrup if we're feeling especially brave. We do grind our beans every morning, so our grinder is essential, and we still use the coffee maker I bought my freshman year of college. It's nothing much, but it's a little corner of my kitchen that I love. 
That heart mug is Robert's - it turns red as it heats up. He drinks out of it every. single. morning.

Summer Party Planning

I'm a hostess by nature. I LOVE throwing parties and having people over for dinner, but there's something about spring that really isn't conducive to entertaining. I mean, we're so busy during the holidays that I suppose it only makes sense to take a few months off after the new year, but I've been itching to get back into things. 

This upcoming Monday is Memorial Day, which is the unofficial start to summer, and I couldn't be happier! I'm so excited to spend more time outside and with friends, drinking margaritas and BBQing. Though summer isn't my favorite season of the year (that would be fall, of course), there's just something about this season that makes me so...happy

So, when I was asked to throw a summer party with Pier 1 and Spotify, all I could think was is this really my job? And then I emailed them back and said YES! Of course I would throw a summer party for my blog!

I've had a few weeks to think about what I'm going to do, and I just can't wait to see it all come together! One of my dear friends has an incredible backyard, and she was kind enough to offer it up for my party. I knew from the start that I wanted to use bright colors, so the blooming bougainvillea that grows along her fence is the perfect backdrop. Combine the fuschia of the flowers with some cobalt blue and a little tangerine for good measure, and I think I might just have a vision
1 // 2 // 3

Side note: It's part of my job, sure, but it's still so difficult for me to put together design boards sometimes. I just have this vision in my head that hasn't been brought to life yet! That's not a bad thing, I suppose. It just means this is my chance to create something new. 

I'm still in the beginning stages of planning my party, but I have a basic overview of what I'd like to do. I want it to be casual and fun, with good food and great company. I think I might just be on my way!

For those of you creating your own summer party, I put together a little Party Planner for you to print and plan with! Download it by clicking the link below.

And because no great party ever started with boring conversation (or a salad), I've put together a little summer play list to share with you as well! I'm one of those people who associates songs with moments of my life - almost every season has a song to go along with it. I knew that my summer playlist for 2014 needed to be a combination of all my summer playlists for the past...13(?) years? Enjoy!

Compensation was provided by Pier 1 via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Pier 1.

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Find what speaks to you.


Bye Bye Blue Jeans

I never really announced this little project here on the blog (it was more of an Instagram announcement), but I figured I'd share a bit about what it's been like to say goodbye to my blue jeans this month. 

As part of just...being in a rut over the past few months, I decided to change a few small things, to see if they'd make any difference in my life. One of those things was to embrace my femininity a little more.

It's an abstract concept, so I knew I needed to have a measurable way of doing this. Thus, #byebyebluejeans, my May project to only wear skirts and dresses. 

So, how's it been?

Not that difficult! I'm wearing a maxi skirt in the outfit above, and it's almost more comfortable than a pair of jeans. Sure, it isn't all that fancy, but I've realized that you can dress down a skirt just as much as you can dress up jeans. Not only that, but I actually have a lot more options by wearing skirts and dresses than if I wore pants. I really only have two pairs of jeans (I don't really wear any other type of pants anyway) that I was wearing in rotation nearly every day, so I have much more variety in my wardrobe these days.

I'm also wearing things that thave been just sitting in the back of my closet, waiting for someday to happen. Well, it's now someday and I'm wearing them! I figured if I haven't worn a dress or a skirt by the end of the month, not including more formal or cocktail wear, it's going to the Goodwill.

Just because I'm wearing a skirt doesn't necessarily mean that I'm predisposed to actually getting ready in the morning (read: hair and makeup), but it does make me feel slightly better about my appearance. If only because I'm not just throwing a pair of jeans and a tank top - I actually have to put a little thought into my outfit for the day!

I haven't been all that great about documenting this project, but I think I'll start taking photos of my favorite outfits to share with all of you. And even when this month is over, I don't really see myself going back to wearing jeans every day!

Oh, and just in case you're wondering - I've only "cheated" once, though I think my lobster shorts are a perfectly acceptable way to break the rules!


Monday's Mantra

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I actually had a pretty relaxing weekend, which hasn't happened in far too long. We saw Godzilla on Friday night (SO GOOD) and then I went to CLU's commencement ceremony to see Emily graduate. Saturday night was spent with family, celebrating my aunt's birthday, and Sunday was lazy. Much, much needed. 

Things have been...busy and overwhelming lately, so I really needed to just take a step back and focus on some other important things in my life this weekend. Namely, my home and family. And myself. 

I searched for quote for this week's mantra for a while, but I knew that this was it as soon as I found it. 
Happy Monday friends!


5 Years Later

I graduated from college five years ago this weekend. It's seems surreal to think that I've been out of college longer than I was in college, especially since school had such a big impact on my life. I suppose it could be cliche to say that college changed me, but it would be untrue to claim otherwise. 

I've told the story more times than I can count - I was a shy freshman, so shy I had zero friends. I didn't get along with my roommates because they didn't have the fear of God stricken into them every time they encountered a social situation, and college is basically one big social situation. I remember walking to the Mexican restaurant near campus every Friday night, and bringing it back to my dorm so that I could eat my burrito, alone, while watching TV. I was one of those students in the library at nine o'clock on a Saturday night, because I had nothing else to do. 

Eventually I got better. Robert followed me to Cal Lutheran a year later, which brought me out of my shell a little. I started participating in classes, and my professors actually noticed me. I made the terrifying decision to start applying for different activities on campus, though rejection was always my biggest fear.

I felt encouraged to start participating, not because my school made me feel like I should, but because they thought that I could. They were gentle with fragile me, though it was terrifying at first.

I truly believe that it was my school, my peers and my professors and the administrators on campus, that changed me. I went from shy freshman with no friends to giving a speech at my graduation. Five years later, this is the first time I've actually looked back at that speech. 

Good morning CLU family, and congratulations fellow graduates. We are here today to celebrate the achievements that we have accomplished in these past few years and look forward to the successes that we will undoubtedly have in the future. Before we look back at our time here, however, let’s thank those who helped make our education possible. Will all the graduates here join me in thanking our parents, family members, professors, and the administration and regents of California Lutheran University.

Four years ago, I was sitting in my high school stadium, watching my friends and classmates get up and give their graduation speeches. Four years ago, I was satisfied hearing them speak words of congratulations and recount the endless memories we shared from the previous years. I came to CLU completely content staying in that position of following others; however this school derailed that satisfaction when I was forced to confront the fact that every single person here has leadership qualities in them, including myself. It’s the price we pay coming to a liberal arts college: we are challenged to develop the traits within us that we are afraid of. And we have all accomplished this goal, albeit in a variety of ways.

We became leaders the moment we first stepped foot onto this campus, through community service projects and involvement fairs. In the years following we became athletes, senators, presidential hosts, RAs, PAs, club presidents, and choir members. We studied abroad and participated in Habitat for Humanity projects. Through these roles we were able to become leaders not only on the Cal Lu campus, but leaders within our community, and, essentially, the world. The opportunities for growth at this school have been endless, and we have all developed qualities through these opportunities that we may not have had we decided to go somewhere else.

For most of us, life at CLU hasn’t just been a collection of classes and lectures, but about all of the things in between. Continuing education outside of the classroom has always been a value of this university, and it has been a collection of these experiences which have allowed us to grow and flourish in a community that is welcoming of all people.

When looking back, we will remember painting the rocks, going to Chuck E. Cheese for Club Lu, and worshipping with the Lord of Life Congregation on Sunday evenings. But beyond these things, we will remember the friends that we made and the lessons we learned, because while we learned so much from our professors, we have learned just as much from each other. These experiences can’t be fully expressed through a diploma or GPA, but they will be remembered through our continual friendships and, of course, Facebook.

When I moved onto this campus as a freshman, I had no idea what I was in store for. I knew classes would be tough and living with a roommate even tougher, but I never knew that being here would change who I am. When I came here four years ago, I never imagined that I would have the confidence or opportunity to plan ASCLU-G retreats, compete with the Ivy League at Harvard National Model United Nations, or mingle with donors and regents at different events on campus. And I don’t think any of us expected the overwhelming chaos and tremendous amount of fun we would have at the indescribable I truly believe that we have been prepared by this school for whatever our futures have in store for us.

Regardless of what and who we become, we have been given the gift of integrity and hard work and have developed a passion for serving others. I think that these qualities which have been entrusted to us exemplify those required to live in our world today. So, regardless of our major or the activities we involved ourselves in while here, we have those things common. We will always be a family because of the education we received here.

Standing here is bitter-sweet because I know that I will never again have a class in the humanities building or sleep in a room in Grace hall, and if it weren’t for these things I wouldn’t be the person I am today. But I feel better knowing that I am prepared for what lies ahead, because we will not only leave this school with a degree, but with the confidence and character to continue our leadership beyond of this university. So, congratulations, class of 2009, and would you all please give each other a standing ovation.

Five years later, it still is bittersweet. I can only remember pieces now, of my dorm rooms and classes and Friday nights at Club Lu. I remember being so scared at living on my own and so nervous for my college classes. But I do believe it led me to where I am today. It's all part of the process we call life, but those four years will forever be in my heart as some of the most challenging, inspiring, and best years of my life.

It also just so happens that tomorrow will be the first commencement ceremony I've attended at CLU since Robert graduated in 2010. I am BEYOND proud of Emily, my assistant and, more importantly, a dear friend. I'm feeling especially sappy today, but I will be posting next week on what a humbling and incredible experience it has been to mentor this sweet, talented girl for the past year and a half.

Congratulations Emily, and congratulations to the class of 2014!

And now, because I couldn't not post a collage of pictures from my time at Cal Lutheran.