Life Lessons from Nancy Drew

I still pore over those hardcover, yellow Nancy Drew books with the same genuine enthusiasm and admiration as I did when I was in elementary school. Nancy, though a fictional character, is still one of my greatest role models. And Carolyn Keene, though a pseudonym composed of several different people, will always be one of my favorite "authors."  

Nancy Drew has been a formative influence since her first appearance in the 1930s. Wholesome, even tempered, and fearless, Nancy Drew is adored by equally kick-butt women like Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Laura Bush. One of the original Nancy Drew authors, Mildred A. Wirt Benson, was fed up with what she called "namby-pamby" girls' books of the 1930s and made sure that Nancy was just the opposite: feisty, charming, and wildly intelligent. 

I also love the inherent old-fashioned texture of the book. I love the Nancy Drew series for the sweet and dated lingo—George, one of Nancy's best gal pals, always says "Hypers!" instead of "Wow!" People are "nifty," not "cool."  Telephone calls (from a payphone or house phone), telegrams, and letters are the mediums of communication. Nancy and her best friends, Bess and George, often stop for lunch at little roadside farms for sandwiches and large glasses of milk. Ned takes Nancy out on dates (though they usually end up sleuthing) and to dances at Emerson College, which I know must be nothing like today's college dances.

And then there's the fact that Nancy gets attacked, framed, kidnapped, robbed, whatever in just about every book, and she still manages to be calm and quick thinking. I love her practical, reasoned way of assessing situations and her innovative solutions to complex problems. Though Nancy has been around for 85 years, her spirit is timeless. Her character has since been modernized, sporting puffy 80s hair in the Girl Detective spin-off series and donning a cell phone in the Nancy Drew Files, but I will always be unabashedly partial to her original character from The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.

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Be Humble

“Ned said, ‘Nancy Drew is the best girl detective in the whole world!’ ‘Don’t believe him,’ Nancy said quickly. ‘I have solved some mysteries, I’ll admit, and I enjoy it, but I’m sure there are many other girls who could do the same.’” — Carolyn Keene, Nancy’s Mysterious Letter

Focus on What's Important

“Chuckling to herself, Nancy said aloud, ‘Romance and detective work won’t mix tonight!’” — Carolyn Keene, The Bungalow Mystery

Exercise Reserve

“Do act mysterious. It always keeps them coming back for more.” — Carolyn Keene, Nancy’s Mysterious Letter

Follow Your Curiosities 

“'When one is intensely interested in a subject, he never becomes tired of it, even on a vacation,' [the professor] said. 'Look at Nancy, for instance. I suppose she was invited up here [to the lake] just to have fun, and now she’s involved in all these mysteries.'” — Carolyn Keene, The Secret of Mirror Bay

Expand Your Skill Set 

“Who knows, Hannah, the trick [horseback] riding may come in handy someday when I have a mystery to solve.” — Carolyn Keene, The Ringmaster’s Secret

Think Clearly; Act Courageously 

“‘But The Clue of the Black Keys is not yet finished,’ Dr. Anderson spoke up, a twinkle in his eye. ‘Not until Nancy Drew has visited my classes at Clifton [College]. I want you to tell my students, Nancy, that the best way to discover treasure is to have an observing eye and a brave heart.’” — Carolyn Keene, The Clue of the Black Keys

Have an Open Mind

“‘And now,’ she added, laughing, ‘I’m ready and willing to take on any new mystery that comes along.’”  — Carolyn Keene, The Clue of the Leaning Chimney

Set a Good Example

“‘You earned it, Miss Drew, catchin’ up with a couple of pirates like Fay and Lane. You taught me a good lesson,' [said the thief].” — Carolyn Keene, The Secret of the Wooden Lady

Treasure Your Friends; Express Gratitude

“The pretty detective gave an exclamation of delight and admired the gift for a long moment…At last she turned to Laura and said with genuine sincerity: ‘The ring is priceless and I’ll always treasure it as a reminder of you—although no one can place a value on a true friendship like ours.’”  —Carolyn Keene, The Bungalow Mystery

Have a Servant’s Heart

“[The suspicious stranger’s] face softened and she stood for an instant, looking intently at Nancy. ‘You’re a good girl to help a stranger like me [when I fell and turned my ankle]. I wish—‘ The woman turned away abruptly.” — Carolyn Keene, The Secret of Red Gate Farm

 

I leave you with one last thought. When researching Nancy Drew history, I stumbled across a compilation of all of Nancy's talents and interests. It was, in short, intimidating and inspiring. 

At sixteen she had studied psychology in school and was familiar with the power of suggestion and association. Nancy was a fine painter, spoke French, and had frequently run motor boats. She was a skilled driver, who, at sixteen, ‘flashed into the garage with a skill born of long practice.’ The prodigy was a sure shot, an excellent swimmer, skillful oarsman, expert seamstress, gourmet cook, and a fine bridge player. Nancy brilliantly played tennis and golf, and rode like a cowboy. Nancy danced like Ginger Rogers and could administer first aid like the Mayo brothers.
— Nancy Drew, Wikipedia

Channel your inner Nancy today-

 
 

P.S.: I just found out about this bookThe Official Nancy Drew Handbook: Skills, Tips, and Life Lessons from Everyone's Favorite Girl Detective, and I'm in love with it. All of the pages are outfitted in blue and yellow (the iconic colors from the original hardcover books), and it has chapter titles like "How to Tap Out a Morse Code Message with Your High-Heeled Shoes," "How to Savor the Important Things in Life, Like a Rich Cup of Hot Cocoa," and "How to Determine a Man's Character by the Shoes He Wears." Interested? Click below to visit the book's Amazon page.

A Season of Rest: Turn Off the Phone

After a month of falling apart at the seams, my soul can now quietly rest. The slowness of each winter moment is absolutely delicious; the peace I am now free to harvest contrasts starkly with a muddy mix of finals, ice storms, and my first-ever B- (really, truly terrifying). With the distress came a season of growth, as my parent’s beloved phrase “character, not comfort,” reigned true yet again. It always does.

Sometimes, though, in the midst of regrowth comes a humble longing for rest and peace. Over the course of the semester I found myself aching for stillness. I so desperately wanted to sit—to just sit quietly, toes gently tucked beneath folded legs, breaths deep and unhindered. I wanted to unclench my anxious palms, upturn them toward the sky, and unleash the stress and goals and grades that I had been vehemently clawing at. I wanted to toss my phone off of the towering yellow brick, and take it for a long swim in the river. I wanted to, for just one quiet moment, simply exist in harmony with the world.

A large bundle of prayers and several broken pencils later, the first semester of my second year came to a close. Joyfully, I zipped up my bags and left for my sweet, coastal home. On one of my first days back in California, my mom and I were driving north along the shoreline, and were faced with the most gorgeous sunset I have seen to date (disclaimer: as a San Diego girl, this is a statement of the highest honor). Since we were traveling north, the sunset wandered along too, gifting us with the most gorgeous twenty-minute sky smeared with thick, pink watercolors, and studded with a fiery thumbprint sun.

A few weeks ago, one of my best friends posted a wonderful little quote that has been clinging to the crevices of my mind:

"We can’t jump off of bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean, because there’s no service on the beach, and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure, and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check in, and hashtag."

As I snapped a photograph of the sun that evening, the quote echoed loudly. Why did I feel so compelled—almost in a reflexive sort of way—to pull out my phone in that moment? Why did I feel as though simply soaking up the moment, feasting upon it with my eyes and storing it away in my mind was not enough? California always gets me thinking.

I’d argue that it’s the bare feet and thick books and warm sand. When I’m home, I’m transported to another life altogether; I see clearer here. I can better see the comicality of the technological age. We are desperately fearful of missing out. Though our desire to share sweet moments with others is innocent enough, the desire tends to be rooted in technological addiction.

We refresh Twitter, only to see that the last 10 seconds have not brewed anything new. We then do the same to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and LinkedIn, all in tandem. We envy what others post, failing to realize that often that was their very goal. We invest time and energy into 140 clever characters, and untag ourselves from unflattering photos. We click and scroll and zoom and swipe until there is nothing new to see, and we’re forced to begin the process again, for fear of being alone with our thoughts for one small moment. We’re afraid of pausing. We are afraid of rest.

If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen. If there aren’t 150 likes, it isn’t meaningful. If there aren’t new friend requests or large handfuls of red notifications, we’re worthless. If there aren’t texts and emails and voicemails, we’re lonely.

 

I want to propose something. We need to set down our phones and wring our hands in panic. We need to feel the constant, tenacious urges in order to see our addiction with clarity.

As we lose ourselves in the lives of other people—their photos and statuses and tweets—our own life passes us by, trying hopelessly to win our attention. We don’t even bother to lift our chins for one small second. We don’t bother to drink in the sunsets, delight in the warmth of the sunshine, laugh deeply, fully taste every bite, dance under the stars, and lay in morning-dewy grass. We are too busy liking, favoriting, commenting, sharing, texting, emailing, tweeting... We have a very debilitating problem on our hands, friends. We all do.

Lose yourself in moments this Christmas, this season, and this fresh, new year. Turn your devices off, allowing both your phone and your soul to rest, recharge, and regroup. Let your eyes be the lens, drinking in the details that no camera can do justice. Turn carefully stitched tweets to clever additions to discussion, delighting instead in the art of conversation. Rest in stillness, without the constant chimes and tones. Tune in to the sprinkled laughter in the next room; listen to the world.

Be peaceful. Be present. Be free.

Good, Old-Fashioned Attention

I am an old soul. While I would also classify myself as a learner and future focused, there are parts of my heart and mind that are firmly rooted in some other soda-parlor, rotary-telephone, saddle-shoe world that I’ve never experienced but always pined for.

Back in February, I wrote about my quirky interest in all things old fashioned:

I belong in the generation of ice cream parlors, soda fountains, and drive-in movies. I want red lipstick and patent heels, a powdered nose and bobby-pinned curls. I crave letters with wax seals, vintage stamps, postmen that walk house-to-house, and mint green convertibles. I so badly want to know how my mind would work without the constant vibration of my iPhone or the siren call of my Mac. I want the simplicity of spending time with the “gals” without the constant distraction of “he texted me this,” or “she tweeted that.” I want to go to the library to do my schoolwork, dutifully researching in books, not Google. I want a flower box and a window seat, with Saturday morning sunlight streaming into my bedroom. I want to wear an apron when I bake, and sit around the fire with family to listen to the radio... I want him to hold my hand and kiss me goodnight on the porch. I want to order one milkshake, two straws (he pays). I want to pull my hair back with a barrette, call blush “rouge” and be allowed to wear a dab of mom’s perfume on special occasions. I want pearls and oxfords. I want matching striped pajamas, and my mom to turn my bed down for me every evening. I want lace-rimmed socks, thick reading glasses, a stack of books, and a reading lamp by my bed.

I belong in a different generation.

 Specifically within February’s post, I spoke of how I craved a life without the constant vibration of my cell phone. This individual thought has metastasized over the last two years.

I absolutely crave creativity, and have a vested interest in entrepreneurship, innovation and progress. I’m naturally curious about everything, and was taught at an extremely young age to be gutsy (though it's not in my nature), to question everything and to think critically. I love technology and the blessings that flow from it; being able to speak daily with my family and best friends back in California is a joy (fun fact: my best friend Kelsey is the one who named this blog two years ago!). The concept of email is simplistic—send this body of text to another—yet brilliant. Sometimes I have to force myself to take a step back and breathlessly gape at the convenience of being able to instantly communicate when face-to-face connection just isn’t possible. There is a perfect fluency to clicking on one article to the next, saturating myself in knowledge, events, and ideas harvested worldwide.

There’s just one thing that I struggle to stay afloat with. I’m just not a texter. Even in middle school (ick, who actually had a good middle school experience?), I was hesitant to engage in the constant text messages and ridiculously foolish-sounding lingo. It’s been eight years since I got my first cell phone and I still feel the same drowning feeling when faced with a sea of unopened texts. Texting is so fragmented. It can be an incredible feat to uncover what someone is actually saying and sift through punctuation clues and emojis and abbreviations—so draining! Texts (and the texters sending them) tend to be quick by nature, as the messages race in and leave me spinning. I can type faster than most (thank you 3rd grade computer class), and could essentially send replies with the same rapidness if I saw it fit. Problem is, I’m a invested reader and deep thinker. I want to fully digest whatever is being told or explained or reiterated to me, turning it over in my mind and making full sense of where I stand. And when my quick-to-listen, slow-to-speak nature isn’t in action (James 1:19 is always the goal) and I’m yet to respond to a text, it’s most likely because I’ve consciously chosen to not bring it on my walk or to class, or I have made the smart choice to not even attempt to text and drive. It’s not to say that I don’t think phones are both advanced and advantageous—I’m not attempting to devalue cell phones at all. I’m just not really attached to this little white rectangle of iOS7 innovation.

Quite frankly, I think my generation’s people skills are rubbish. I hate to use that word because it is so gritty and unforgiving, but I’m tired of spending time with a friend and all he or she is doing is scrolling and scrolling and staring and laughing, eyes glued to the device in hand. It’s unreal how shifty eye contact is these days even with close friends—everyone is longing for the safety of their touchscreen technology to lock eyes with once again. Personally, I see such a stark contrast when I’m in a meeting with an adult rather than someone my own age. Generally with an adult, the eye contact is steady; the topics are various and are stitched with carefully chosen words. There is a certain gratitude stemming from both parties for the other’s full attention. It’s polite, but mostly it’s just expected. Unfortunately, and also generally (controversy is tricky, isn’t it?), I’ve found that conversations with my own peers are disjointed, marked with faux-interest, and bound by a very real inability to make conversation, hold eye contact, utilize body language, think critically, and ask meaningful questions within the realm of face-to-face interaction. This is not to say I’ve mastered the technology-free conversation in the slightest. Especially while writing my frustrations, I see myself in a lot of the scenarios that are streaming through my mind. While for me texting isn’t my devilish, concentration-inhibiting companion, I trip up with the siren call of emails and photos and an endless stream of voicemails (that I really should listen to and sort through).

I guess my personal goal is to find a better balance of my antiquated desire to savor and finesse words, and an unabashed thirst for innovation. While I think there’s a lot of joy that can be harvested from tucking away the cell phone for a while, it would be impractical and arguably unwise of me to call others to try it as well. Instead, I’m going to challenge myself this week to polish the distinction between cell-phone-time and real-people-time. It’s a quest for deeper, meaningful conversations and connections that could easily be missed with my head bent over Instagram as I’m walking to class. I want to sharpen my own communication skills, because the more seamlessly I can communicate with others, the more competent I will be in handling meetings, interviews, friendships, sharing the Gospel, sharing ideas, collaborating and creating.

Put the phone down.

I Belong in a Different Generation

I belong in a time when he would call me on his family’s rotary telephone after football practice in the evenings, as I would sit in the parlor beside mine in anticipation, still in my pleated cheerleading skirt.

He would arrive promptly at 7:00 in order to receive my parent’s permission to take me out. I belong in the generation of ice cream parlors, soda fountains, and drive in movies. I want red lipstick and patent heels, a powdered nose and bobby pinned curls.  I crave letters with wax seals, vintage stamps, postmen that walk house-to-house, and mint green convertibles.I so badly want to know how my mind would work without the constant vibration of my iPhone or the siren call of my Mac. I want the simplicity of spending time with the “gals” without the constant distraction of “he texted me this,” or “she tweeted that.” I want to go to the library to do my schoolwork, dutifully researching in books, not Google.I want a flower box and a window seat, with saturday morning sunlight streaming into my bedroom. I want to wear an apron when I bake, and sit around the fire with family to listen to the radio. I want him to bring flowers and chocolate on Valentines Day, both for my mom and me. I want him to hold my hand and kiss me goodnight on the porch. I want to go for a drive, cranking up the radio with a chiffon scarf trailing behind me in the breeze. I want to order one milkshake, two straws (he pays). I want to pull my hair back with a barrette, call blush "rouge" and be allowed to wear a dab of mom's perfume on special occasions. I want pearls and oxfords, and skirt suit dresses. I want matching striped pajamas, and my mom to turn my bed down for me every evening. I want lace-rimmed socks, thick reading glasses, a stack of books, and a reading lamp by my bed.

I belong in a different generation.

I Beg to Differ

While sitting in a composition class one day, a handful of students raised their hands to discuss the current topic: Is letter writing dead?

Upon hearing their perspectives, my heart sank, and my soul was crushed (slightly dramatic…but basically, their answers were beyond disheartening to my English-loving soul). As it was, the majority of my classmates politely scoffed at  the outdated nature of letter writing. Heartbreaking. My classmates must be delirious to not recognize the value of letter writing, I thought to myself, as I classified the responses into three categories: a polite and not extremely vocal scoffing at letter writing (I begged to differ), an impolite and blunt voicing of disgust for pen and paper (I certainly begged to differ), and the final and only seemingly upbeat opinion—mine, of course—that letter writing is an art.

To begin, let me first express the sheer joy that blank sheets of paper and brand new pens give me (if you haven’t seen it yet, read my first post, My Battle with Consistency). If the excitement of a blank page doesn’t completely captivate your entire being, I then question your sanity. The possibilities of a blank sheet are endless; the mind proves fruitful as ideas flood the page (if I don’t switch topics now, this post will become a perpetual illustration of my affection for possibility).

I am an advocate for making even the most insipid, tedious tasks special. Rather than sending off quick emails or texts (for topics that don’t require immediate attention due to the not-so-rapid nature of letters), I choose to sit comfortably, retrieving a little blue box from my bookshelf. The insides of the box are saturated with hints of colored sealing wax, drips of ink escaping from well-loved pens, colorful envelopes, and stacks of homemade paper of varying textures and hues. However, being that this box belongs to me, there is order, despite a first impression of creative chaos. Each stick of sealing wax is tucked neatly into old, wax-paper pockets meant to store photographic film. Letters received are stacked in chronological order. Postage stamps are organized by price. Wax-seal stamps sit proudly in one corner of the box, arranged by height of handle.

I carefully sift through neat stacks of paper and envelopes before choosing a complementary pair. I seek out my most beloved pen (although, I am currently saving loose change to buy myself a beautiful wooden or marble dipping pen… Check out the ones I’ve been recently pining for at Nostalgic Impressions). Carefully, methodically, cautiously, I copy down the recipient’s address on the outside of the envelope, avoiding any misspellings or errors. There is no backspace button for handwritten letters; correction fluid on colored paper is tacky and fountain pen ink quite permanent. Each stroke of the pen must therefore be intentional. Each word must be meant entirely.

That’s the beauty behind letters; they are strikingly different than quick text messages, ill-thought-out emails, or even the spoken word, which is tossed around so carelessly with such loose meaning. Letters have a special value and worth that not only delights the recipient but satisfies the writer.

Besides the extensive thought put into the writing of a letter, the best part of the “letter experience” is the final step–sealing. In my eyes, I am sealing away my thoughts safely, as warm wax slowly drips onto the envelope. It, again, is a methodical, timely step that is representative of craftsmanship and personality. I moisten the metal of my insignia as I let the wax cool for a few moments I quickly press the insignia firmly into the small puddle of richly colored wax, leaving, in a sense, a lavish fingerprint.