Paperless Post: An (honest)ly excited review

paperlesspostcollage

July is always a crazy month for our family. All four of our children have birthdays within nine days of one another, we generally attempt/execute a family vacation, and the growing season on our hobby farm is in full swing. Thankfully, my husband has time off from the busyness of the school year so we can tackle everything together but still… a lot of life happens in those 31 days.

This year, our summer has the addition of my 10-day mission trip to Paris, which means we have a little less time to fit everything in. A few months back, my husband and I pulled up our calendars and realized we only had one available weekend to throw our annual family birthday bash for the kids. Gulp.

Thankfully, a collaboration request from a company called Paperless Post popped into my inbox last week, offering their design invitation services in exchange for a blog post. Problem solved. I immediately sat down and started perusing birthday invitations.

Here’s the low down!

Paperless Post offers well-designed, on-trend email invitations, cards, thank yous, stationery, and flyers. The idea is similar to what you’d find at evite.com, but with a much more elevated selection of graphics and designs.

Of course that lovely design comes at a price; beauty isn’t free here. However, it is reasonably priced. My eight emailed invites cost 48 coins (their version of currency) to make, which put cost in the $12 range.

Following my rabbit trail of reason/rationalization, if I bought a box of 14 invites at the store, I’d probably spend $6-10 plus mailing costs. If I made photo invites and printed them, I’d be looking at somewhere around $20 plus mailing costs. If I sent a plain text email, I’d risk my guests doing what often happens to me: losing the invite in the mass of 3000 some odd emails that live in my inbox. (I’m not kidding. It’s my online version of hoarding.)

Bonus: the emailed invitation comes with the option to add directly to a calendar, which is a lifesaving feature I’m always grateful for.

What’s great?

Aside from invitations, there are plenty of other great design offerings. I particularly liked the thank you note section, the personal stationery section, and the fantastic birthday card section (perfect for people like me who desperately want to BRING BACK BIRTHDAY CARDS!!! but never actually have any of said cards to mail.) Being able to choose from a great selection of script-type fonts was another huge bonus, as was the fact that I didn’t run across any ugly designs. Seriously.

Also, no ads (yet). Bless you, Paperless Post.

What needs improvement?

The coin idea is a little strange to me. I’d rather not have to check a table that converts dollars to coins every time I add or detract a feature from my projects. I would also love to see a print-to-paper option for more of the designs. They currently offer that service for wedding invitations, stationery, and a few holiday cards, but it’s pretty spendy ($50-$100 for 20 pieces of stationery or 20 holiday cards) and isn’t available (that I found) for cards, thank you notes, or standard invites. I understand there are probably limitations with printing small batches… I’m just saying it’d be nice to purchase 20 really cool birthday cards to have on hand.

Overall

Paperless Post is a great online invitations+more service that provides timely, trendy design offerings at a reasonable price and value.

Meanwhile, I can mentally cross off birthday invites from my future to-do list without ever having to write them in. Score.

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(This is, as you may have guessed, sponsored content. Here’s the deal. I will occasionally share products and services I think add value to life, and/or that I would have organically used without any prompting. Note that all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. All images courtesy of Paperless Post. Collage built at Fotor.com.)

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Stories of Dark and Light: Hooking up with Night Driving Synchroblog

night drivingIt was dark the spring of my sophomore year of college, even though daylight savings time had bartered sleep for sun and the streetlights of Christian community artificially lit the campus where I lived all night long.

That year, dark did a strange thing to me.

Time stopped.

I mean this in the truest sense. In my world, time stopped passing normally. My anxiety was one of reverse chronophobia – instead of hours passing too quickly, they became painfully slow. Days seemed to widen and spread like the mold on the last few pieces of cheap bread I had in the kitchen cupboard. Hours that were not spoken for by class became a gaping chasm where I laid in my bed, pretending to read with my face to the wall.

The clock became an obsession. Twenty minutes in the shower. Ten minutes to get ready. Five minutes to eat breakfast. Seven minutes to walk to class. Class. Class. Then Break. A dreaded break. Where would I go? What would I do?  I’d plot where I’d walk, how long it would take me, and how to avoid eye-contact. Each move had to be calculated, or the wheels of my strange anxiety would hit pavement and I’d speed onto a highway of full-blown panic.

No one knew.

It was too hard to explain, and I didn’t really get it either. I didn’t know about triggers, and how easy it was to fall under the dark spell of depression. Meanwhile, the rest of my world was busy moving forward – something my anxiety with the clock prevented me from doing.  Other classmates excelled. Friends made new friends. A boy from another school that I’d had a deep friendship with told me he saw us always, and only, being friends.

I spent hours in my bed, clutching my bible like some sort of holy talisman. Sometimes I read it. Sometimes I just held the green canvas cover to my chest and mumbled intelligible prayers about wanting to wake up three hours later,  feeling normal.

And there, on the bottom bunk, staring at the brown metal springs of my roommate’s bed above, God did something strange. He held me. Quietly. Solidly. He pointed me deep into the Psalms, where I found David, a writer who seemed to understand how I felt in the pit and tangle of my fear.

I read. I read and I slept. My dip into depression was not deep, lasting about three months, though they were literally the longest months of my life.

Alone in my room, I read until I knew enough about God to believe what He told the writer of an Old Testament book called Ecclesiastes – that there was a time for everything and that somehow, time was not the enemy I made him out to be.

That spring, I also took a poetry class. I didn’t know anything about contemporary poetry, but I fell headlong into a world of metaphor and simile that threw me another means of rescue. My professor Judy encouraged me to submit my work to the campus literary journal, and my first published poem buoyed me to keep pushing into my darkness, prying into what it meant, and why it was happening.

I tell you this because I believe everyone has a story about dark and light. These are stories that deserve honor and space in our worlds for what they can reveal, and the ropes they can throw us.

Addie Zierman’s Night Driving is one of those stories. It catches you whole, packing you along with her carefully labeled totes and snacks and two small boys, and drives you down the interstate in a frenzy of giddy, winter escape. It makes you laugh with along with her wit and wisdom about gas station coffee and hotel pools, and think deeply about faith and the places you run from.

Night Driving is a perfect spring read, a realization that even a seasonal escape cannot bypass the reality that faith, like all living things, must endure the necessary dark and barren stretches in order to once again show green signs of life.

ANDDDDDDD… it releases today, which means you can buy it NOW at places like Barnes and Noble or IndieBound or Amazon.

Go ahead. Get one. You can thank me later.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Truest, by Jackie Lea Sommers

OK friends. Listen up.

For those of you who have book lists, I recently finished reading a new title that deserves a spot. Preferably at the top.

It’s called Truest by Jackie Lea Sommers, and it comes out September 1st. (Although I maaaaayyy have gotten to read an ARC before then. While eating a bowl of cherries. Don’t hate.)

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Now, I know books are subjective, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a list of reasons why you might possibly appreciate this book as much as I did. Ready?

IF YOU:

  • Swoon over stories that do justice to the glorious complications of young love
  • Have ever sorted through questions of truth as it intersects with faith
  • Appreciate characters that cease to be characters after a few pages and start to feel like friends
  • Have any sort of a soft spot for poetry at work in real life
  • Use a thesaurus on daily basis
  • Are sick of vampires

THEN PLEASE. Read. This. Book. And then share it with someone you know. Because books love hands, not shelves. Well, I  mean, they do okay on shelves. That’s probably a reasonable second option. I digress.

So what’s it about, you ask? Right. Check out this amazing infographic.

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Now, a word about YA (young adult) lit. Truest is categorized as YA, and here’s why that’s great. This a solid, graceful-yet-realistic story about high school age kids as they approach difficult, life-changing circumstances. Sometimes the choices they make are good, and sometimes, they’re not. And then they have to deal with the consequences, just like anyone would. In short, the storyline of Truest revolves around seventeen and eighteen-year-olds, but the questions and issues they are dealing with could happen at any age, to anyone. So if you don’t consider yourself a usual YA reader, think again. This one’s worth a genre-jump.

Convinced yet? 🙂 Let me help some more.

Available for pre-order at:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Books a Million
Fishpond

IndieBound
Kobo
Powell’s
HarperCollins

Better yet, buy locally! For those of you in the Twin Cities, check out:
Addendum
Wild Rumpus
Red Balloon

You can thank me back by posting your favorite new, old, or upcoming good reads in the comments below! Happy reading!

Book Review and Giveaway

Breaking news. I found time to read a book. Second, I finished it in three days. Third, it was a memoir about terrorism, Islam, and Jesus.

Did I throw you for a loop? Sorry – no talk of parenting and kid food and toddlerisms today. I’m a little too ramped up.

cover_bookinfoI don’t normally get so involved in what I’m reading, but Son of Hamas has woken up something in my life that feels like it’s been sleeping a little too long into the morning. It reminded me that God’s word is living and active. That it has the power to change the course of history. That one man inviting another to a bible study in the dusty streets of Isreal can, literally, save the lives of thousands.

These are strong words, but author Mosab Hassan Yousef  thoroughly backs them up with account after account of how his life changed from reading a New Testament and ultimately coming to know God the Creator.

The cover proclaims Son of Hamas a “gripping account of terror, betrayal, political intrigue, and unthinkable choices.” It certainly is that, but there’s another side to the story I wasn’t expecting. Son of Hamas exposes not only the beating heart of a much-feared organization – it exposes the truth about the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. The author realizes firsthand that peace will not come through talks and diplomats and warheads and borders.

Peace will only come through Jesus.

I know. I’m a Christian, and even I think that sounds a little trite. But Yousef made sense. If Hamas did not have Isreal to fight, they would find someone, or something else to be angry at. Someone would be wearing the wrong head scarf. There would be a bad price at the market. The root of their problem was self-righteous anger, anger that they believed Islam supported – by all measures and costs.

In a neighborhood bible study, Yousef details the first time he realized that the cure for anger could be found in the teachings of Jesus. Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).

Yousef references this verse after he returns to prison for the second time, noticing with shock that since reading Jesus’ teachings in Matthew, he no longer harbored anger at his captors. As the book progresses, readers see the author basing more and more of his decisions on what he’s read in the Bible instead of the teachings of Islam, and how God blesses him for it.

green-princeI’m not a political junkie, but as the book progressed past its slower, historical background beginning, even I started to recognize names and events. However, what I recognized even more was the quiet yearning that stood off the page as Yousef realized how much his life was changing simply by reading a New Testament.

As a whole, the book read more like non-fiction than memoir (a fact that I attribute to knowing that English was not the author’s first language) but still kept me turning pages past eleven o’clock, which is a pretty big deal in my world. AND, it’s now a documentary called The Green Prince. Intrigued? You should be. The trailer for this movie was what sparked me to read the book in the first place.

Now it’s your turn! Do you need something new to usher in your fall book-reading season? My giveaway for Son of Hamas starts today and ends Sunday. Follow the link below to enter the drawing! (And keep your fingers crossed that I figure out how to use Rafflecopter.)

Son of Hamas Rafflecopter giveaway

Son of Hamas was provided to me for review by Tyndale House Publishers as part of their blogger network.