Tag Archives: reading

2016 Resolutions

You wouldn’t believe how long ago I started this post. What’s that thing they say, about starting things right away when they hit you instead of setting start dates in the near future? Yeah, well, I just knew I wouldn’t have time for some of these things, but I didn’t want to forget the desire either. And I figured if I wrote it down six months ago and it still felt like something I wanted to work toward by the New Year, it was meant to be on the list.

 

What am I hoping to achieve this year? More than last year, I’ll start with that. While I know 2015 wasn’t a total wash (I mean I did get married after all) productivity didn’t seem to be my strong suit last year. There were some legit reasons for that in 2015; death in the family, wedding planning, and an unexpected burst in the photography business, but I think another problem might be the looseness of the goals I set last year. I tend to do best with structure and detail and so by casually saying, “Oh, I’d like to write. Doesn’t matter how much,” I really just set myself up for failure because “writing” can mean a lot of things and while I did “write” things, like plenty more blogs than usual, none of them were the type of writing I really wanted to be doing, which was the storytelling kind. So, here are some specific things I’d like to achieve in 2016…

 
Study for and take CST1 & CST2 tests. In losing my old boss at the end of 2014 and gaining a new one ¼ of the way into 2015, I hit my 10 anniversary of working for the surveying world and finally found the strength to make sure my value (or lack thereof) was noted by the owners. While it saddened me to discover they were oblivious to all the hard work I’d been doing all this time, it made me realize I need to demand their acknowledgement more often if I ever expect to climb a latter of success and income in this business. Being a female surveyor in a world full of men is already against me, but apparently there are ways to make my intelligence and experience known other than by just performance and dedication alone in hopes that someone’s paying attention. My new boss (who’s not so new anymore) said there are several certifications he feels confident I would pass with ease because he sees the level of skill in me and knows that having those certifications only makes me a bigger asset to the company and my future in this field. I don’t think I could take them all in one year, especially since they cost $200 each, but I could probably manage the first two and I really want to make it happen. Not just for the job security it will help me have, or the bargaining tool I’ll have when it’s raise time again, but also just for the pride in an actual organization acknowledging what I already know about myself and my ability to survey.

 

(CST1 & 2=Certified Survey Technician, Level 1 and 2)

 
Read ½ a book a week. Maybe that sounds like a weird goal, but in years past I always said, read X amount of books and that’s become increasingly harder to achieve. And it doesn’t feel good. ½ a book a week should be doable. I should be able to find pockets of time throughout a week to squeeze in at least a half a book. And if I read more than that, great, but I need that half at least. I think part of the reason I struggled to write this year was because my creative well was bone dry. You need to read to write and I just didn’t read enough this year. If I only read ½ a book a week, my overall count of books read still won’t be that great at the end of the year, but the consistency of reading every week should help keep my creative well wet all year long.

 

Write 500 words a week. I missing writing like you can’t imagine. It’s been so long since new words poured from my fingers that I’m not even sure I remember how to write. There were a few moments last year when I felt compelled to write, inspired by music or books I did have time for, but for the most part my creative brain has been a desolate place, completely abandoned by all of my characters. I want to encourage them to come back, to be so loud I can’t possibly ignore them anymore. I want to still believe being a published author one day is an attainable dream I should still be having. 500 words a week sounds like so little. Heck, there used to be a time when I could put out a few thousand in a day. But it’s a starting place to get myself back into the habit of writing and it’s a small enough number that I should be able to find at least a handful of minutes a week to make it happen. Maybe I could try to get back into writing short stories first and then dive back into my novels. I don’t know, I just know I need to make it a priority again, even when photography threatens to steal all my free time.

 

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Learn Photoshop & Other Photography Related Goals. That sounds laughable, right? Even photoshop pros are always learning something new, considering the massive capabilities of Photoshop. What I mean is, learn to use it enough to ditch PaintshopPro and do at least the editing techniques I know how to do there in Photoshop instead. PaintshopPro has been good to me, it really is a decent program for the price, but as my photography wings continue to spread, I know that the edits I could make in Photoshop will be far superior to PaintshopPro and more in line with the level of quality in the pictures I’m already producing. It’s time to make the shift. To help me, I got a giant bible of a book on using Photoshop for photography and even though its size is intimidating, I’m hopeful it will guide me in the right direction so I’m not wasting too much time trying to figure out how to do relatively simple edits while I make the switch in programs.

 

In addition to learning Photoshop, I want to do a few other things this year where photography is concerned. For instance, take advantage of a magazine subscription for Popular Photography I’ve been getting for a year now, but have never read. There might not be actual education in them all the time, but it would serve me well to read about how other photographers do what they do, just so I’m exposed to other techniques I might not have discovered on my own. So, as a goal, I’d like to actually read this magazine every month.

 

I’d also like to test out other lenses and apparently you can rent them from places online to do just that. Last year I took a chance on a portrait lens for 100 bucks and I swear, it changed the way I shot and to this day is probably the best 100 bucks I’ve put into my business. It is easily my go-to lens now, but I know there must be others out there that will wow me; they’re just all too expensive to take the same chance on. I’m glad there’s an option like renting them for this reason and maybe by the end of the year I’ll have discovered a new “go-to” lens that is actually worth a real investment.

 

And lastly, I want to actually make this business more official, with standard rates and logo watermarking. Last year I was often under paid for the effort because I was too afraid to ask for what the work is actually worth and/or people were very quick to take advantage of my unprofessional or amateur outlook on the whole thing, like if I just call this a hobby, then why should they have to pay me for something I enjoy doing? Well, because it meant basically working 2 full time jobs for me and that can break a person. If I’m going to be exhausting every minute of my free time for this, it should at least pay the bills. And while I don’t really want to watermark my pictures, I think it’s a must after I found a few of my photos being used online without any link back or credit to the photographer. Perhaps people would stop looking at them as just pictures and more for the art they are if they’re stamped professionally. Plus, hello easy advertising. I’m still hesitant to do all of this because I’m not sure I can handle a workload much bigger than the one I had last year, but I do think it’s time I take this a little more seriously if I want to keep taking on the work.

 

Master T25 & Other Health Related Matters. To date, there are 3 series of T25 workouts: Alpha, Beta, and Omega, each of which lasts for 5 weeks. I currently have the first two in my possession and while I think it will take at least 2-5 week rounds of each to actually “nail it” I want to get through those first two series and have to buy the third one because my body will be demanding a new challenge by then. I’ve already said how empowering T25 was for me the first time I gave it a shot and I’m positive that will remain true with the other series as they’re designed to be increasingly more challenging and overcoming them will feel like such a huge success. I’m excited to see what kind of weight and inches I can keep losing with this regimen and how it impacts my sleep schedule and overall mental stability. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’ve successfully made it through all 3 series, but I hope by then to be in such a conditioned state that working out is just a part of my every day routine. Now that I’m married, and we’re hoping to be buying a house, making babies is something I have to get real serious about ASAP (since my age will start mattering whether or not having a baby is even possible soon). I want to be one of those women that already works out enough to keep working out throughout the pregnancy. Being older makes everything harder, especially losing weight. I don’t want to work so hard to get to a happy place only to put it all back on with a baby and then struggle to lose it again. If I just stay fit and active, the repercussions of being pregnant shouldn’t be as bad.

 

I also want to focus extra hard on my diet this year, for bigger reasons than just losing weight. About 6 months ago I started to make the transition to a gluten free lifestyle after coming to the realization that gluten had an obvious connection to my IBS and other gastrointestinal issues. During this transition I’ve noticed a huge improvement and comfort level with my stomach problems and just as a whole for my body too. But in cutting it out of my diet so much, it literally feels like I’m under attack if/when I ever give gluten a shot again, say in the form of bread and pasta. My stomach will literally swell to a pregnant looking state and the hours of discomfort that follow are not worth the taste of those once go-to foods. While GF foods are becoming more readily available, they’re not all suitable replacements for things I used to love and some of those things I love just don’t exist at all in the GF world. Those will be the hardest parts of completely cutting gluten out of my diet, but I want to work toward it. The more I read about gluten and our bodies, the more I know it’s just not for me. Outside of it being such a problem for my stomach, it also has a huge impact on people with thyroid conditions, which I also have. I hope by the end of 2016 I’ve successfully made the switch and I’m no longer missing the food of my old life, when I was slowly torturing my body without even realizing it.

 

Go Out & Live Life. I took some pretty significant hiatus’s from the internet this year, some by choice and others because of lack of time, but I learned something in those “vacations” from the internet and it’s that I miss out on a lot of life by devoting so much time to the internet. I spend more time admiring the way other people live their lives than I do living my own and there’s something very wrong with that. In 2015 Heath and I starting bowling once a month, which forced us out of the house and ended with eating out and toy hunting in the wild after. We actually went on vacation with my family to the beach for the first time, despite being offered the trip several times in the past decade. We finally took a bus trip to New York for the day, which is something I’ve wanted to do at Christmastime for as long as I can remember. And the best trip of the whole year was going to Disney World for our honeymoon (which I hope to finally write about soon). As someone who hasn’t traveled much simply because they were afraid to fly, I sure am happy I got over myself finally because traveling anywhere I want seems like a real possibility now. And in doing all these things, in getting out and living life, Heath and I seem closer now than we did even the year before, despite having been together for 11 years now. Clearly date night is an actual beneficial thing and I want to practice it more in 2016. I don’t know that we’ll have the kind of money to take vacations on the scale of Disney again anytime soon, what with trying to buy a house and all, but I want to make it a habit to get out at least once a month to do something with each other outside of our office. And I want to get away on occasion, even if it’s just over a long weekend, so we can escape the pull those computers in our office have on us. I encourage you all to do the same. :)

 
I feel like I’m forgetting a resolution, but this thing is super long as it is and working on these 6 specific things should keep me plenty busy this year so I should probably wrap this up. What are you hoping to achieve in 2016?

 

 

2015 In Review: Books

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I didn’t read nearly enough in 2015; there just wasn’t enough time. Lots of people think I sound crazy when I say that because they’re happy if they’ve read 1 book a year, but for me, reading is a necessary fuel for writing and there wasn’t enough of it to spawn even a single new word. Of the things I did find time to read, I actually read more comics/mangas/graphic novels than anything. My appreciation for the art and their ability to get a story across in less pages than books really grew for me in 2015. I suspect that will continue to be true in 2016 and I’m excited about it. Below is a list of the things I read, in the order I read them. The books are all clickable and will take you to my GoodReads reviews on them if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

 

 

Books Read in 2015…

 

 

 

 

Comics/Mangas/Graphic Novels Read in 2015…. 

 

  • Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 – 5 by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou
  • Eerie Cuties: The Comic Strip Collection by Gisele Lagace & David Lumsdon
  • Eerie Cuties, Vol. 1-3 by Gisele Lagace, David Lumsdon, & Maria Victoria Robado
  • Garbage Pail Kids: Puketacular, #1
  • Garbage Pail Kids: Love Stinks, #2
  • Ms. Marvel – No Normal, Vol. 1 by Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
  • Ms. Marvel – Generation Why, Vol. 2 by Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
  • Ms. Marvel – Crush, Vol. 3 by WillowWilson
  • In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
  • Super Tales of Emotion #1: Swamp of Sadness by J. Salvador
  • Jem and the Holograms, #1-9 by Kelly Thompson
  • Jem and the Holograms, Holiday Special by Kelly Thompson
  • Jem and the Holograms, Outrageous Annual Kelly Thompson
  • Morning Glories, Vol. 1-5 by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma
  • The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi
  • New Archie, #1 by Mark Waid & Fiona Staples

 

 

While I plan to try my hardest to buy very little books in 2016 and actually work on all the books in my already existing TBR pile, I’m always open to suggestions for things I should be reading — especially in the comics department since that’s primarily new to me and there’s SO many to chose from. Feel free to leave some recs in the comments below! :)

 

 

Internet Hiatus

At the end of May I found myself needing a break from this place. Sometimes it’s just too much, you know? Plus, I’d been obsessive over it, spending all my free time on social media instead of doing productive things that actually leave me feeling happy with myself.

 

I told myself I’d just get away from it for June and spend some time reading, which is something I’ve failed at majorly this year. And maybe be able to finally write something after giving myself a much needed dip in the creative well. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up reading all that much, or writing a single word for that matter, and as you can see by the date of this post, it’s August and I’m just now returning. Sort of. But my time away wasn’t a waste. In fact, I was super busy. And not just busy doing things that are or feel like work, though there was some of that too.

 

So what have I been up to? Well, let’s see….

 

I did read a little, but more comics than books. That’s basically been the story of this year. I don’t know what’s gotten me so much more into comics this year than previous years (probably, it’s partly Heather’s fault. 😉 ) but my comic reads and purchases are leading by a landslide. A few of the more notable reads during the hiatus include: Jem & the Hologram Comics, Morning Glories Graphic Novels, and The Haunting of Sunshine Girl Novel.

 

Photography’s been keeping me the busiest outside of my day job, between actual photoshoots and hours of editing. I shot a wedding, a superhero birthday party, a pregnant lady, and a little diva! It’s both weird and awesome how much paid work I’ve gotten photography wise, considering how little I broadcast the business. God’s been good to me this way. As I look toward fall, which is notoriously my “busy” season when it comes to pictures, I’m a little nervous about how I’ll juggle it all alongside wedding prep, but I think I might be able to make it happen with designated weekends for taking ALL the pictures. Sort of like Fall Minis or whatever that trend is… I’ll have more on that later if anyone’s interested.

 

VBS CollageI had two opportunities to work on one of my resolutions during the hiatus. First, I shot most of Vacation Bible School at my church. Not only was it fun capturing all the kids being kids, it was awesome to see how excited they got about Jesus. And just how many of them showed up night after night. My small church saw a record breaking number of 106 attendees! That doesn’t even include all the adults who worked or attended the adult class either. At the end of the week there was a slideshow presented with a bunch of my pictures mixed in. My cheeks were sore from all the smiling I did watching the recap of a great week. I hope I get to do even more next year.

 

 

 

Sharing Table CollageI also finally got to volunteer for the Sharing Tables (aka Soup Kitchen) during the hiatus too. I didn’t take my big camera to capture that, just a few camera phone shots, but it is definitely something I want to commit to every time my church participates. We served the 70-some people that showed up lunch and dessert and then, thanks to the goodness of local grocery stores and everyday people donating their goods, every person gets to leave with a bag of food and necessities to get them through the week. These Sharing Tables are open to them every Saturday and while it was really sad to see how many people have to rely on this to eat and live in general, I am so glad such a thing exists for them. It’s disheartening to see just how many people right around me go without; the veterans, the disabled, families with an abundance of children. Their struggle tugged at my heart in a serious way and I left there feeling both humbled and blessed and really happy I got to serve God this way.

 

My toy collection grew somewhat substantially during the hiatus, but that’s probably no surprise. I was extra excited about all the toys I got in June & July though because for the most part I’d pre-ordered them all months ago and even though they weren’t necessarily slated to release all at the same time, they basically did, leaving me with what seemed like days and days’ worth of toy hauls. Toys received include: Inside Out Funko Pops!, Mystery Minis, and Disney Tsum Tsums, Winnie the Pooh Tsum Tsums, The Breakfast Club Funko Pops!, a full case of Garbage Pail Kids Funko Really Big Mystery Minis, Funko 10” GPK Adam Bomb Vinyl Figure, the 17” Monster High Freak Du Chic doll Gooliope Jellington, and Tokidoki’s Unicorno Series 4! You can see pictures of all them HERE!

 

Some random things I did during the hiatus that are worth noting include: Starting two new subscriptions services in addition to my Loot Crate. One was Nerd Block’s latest venture, Comic Block. I’m still not entirely sure how much I’ll love this in the long term, but I think I’ll probably keep it around until I switch back to Horror Block for Halloween. And I also subscribed to a treat service called Universal Yum, which sends you snacks and treats from different places around the world every month. So far I’ve gotten goodies from Mexico & Japan. It’s been really fun tasting places I’ll probably never get to travel to.

 

My tattoos have changed since the last time I was online. I’ve had two sessions to add color behind the leaves and snowflakes and they finally feel complete! I’m hoping to squeeze one more tattoo in before the wedding, so long as schedules and funds work in my favor. If not, I suppose I’ll have to be patient till next year.

 

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Heath and I went to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Varekai. I’ve always wanted to see a Cirque Du Soleil show, but I guess I was ignorant to the fact that they’re entirely in French. Despite having taken 4 years of honor French in high school, I had no freaking idea what was going on. But it sure was pretty and they’re some crazy talented performers. I think before I make too much of a confused judgment on Cirque Du Soleil as a whole, I should probably see another show first and see if I can follow that story a little better.

 

I actually went to the movies. Twice! As someone who loves film as much as I do, you think I’d go more often, but I just can’t justify the cost and am strangely patient in most cases when it comes to waiting for movies to come out on DVD (probably because it happens so fast these days). That being said, I miss the theater. I used to go A LOT and even though it’s crazy how much it costs nowadays, there’s something about seeing it on that big screen that you start to miss. So, Groupon had a deal and Heath and I just picked whatever looked the funniest, which happened to be Amy Schumer’s TRAINWRECK (and it was perfectly hilarious, btw) and we found ourselves at the movies randomly one day after work. I think it’d been a year since I’d been to the movies so it was odd that I’d find myself there again, for a second time, in the same week. But that following weekend my sister called and said, “We asked Gideon who he wanted to go see Minions (his first theater movie) with, Mommy or Daddy? And he said, “Aunt Sarah,” so I don’t know if you wanted to take him or not, but…” And of course my heart was melting and I was all, “I’ll be right there!” God, I love that kid. He was scared initially, of the bigness of the theater, of the darkness (he’s scared of everything new these days, it’s a phase), but once that screen lit up he was so captivated he forgot all about those fears, he even forgot he had an ice cream sandwich in his hand (and no one ever forgets about ice cream). When it was over he was so excited to see it again on that “Big TV.” And I’m excited about the idea of getting to see kids movies in the theater now, because Aunt Sarah will always be willing to take him. 😉

 

I’ve finally started to panic about the wedding and the lack of planning I’ve done for it thus far. It’s 3 months away now and I’ve only just now locked down a photographer and sort of locked down a caterer, but haven’t decided on a menu yet. There’s still so much to do that even thinking about making a to-do list for it all overwhelms me. I’m sorely regretting not taking this more seriously earlier on in the year. It’s still just going to be a laid back, sort of non-traditional wedding (I keep referring to it as a glorified cookout, but it’s definitely more than that), but that still requires serious effort considering I’m making so much of the decorations and whatnot by myself. I’ve really got to get busy.

 

Ocean City CollageThe most exciting thing I did during the hiatus was taking a real vacation for the first time in ages, to the beach for the first time in over a decade. It was only a 3 day getaway, but it was much needed and oh so fulfilling. My parents had rented a giant beach house and my sister’s family and neighbors came down too. Being at the beach again with my entire family had me nostalgic for my youth and all the vacations we took there when I was a kid. Heck, just being on the boardwalk after so long away from it had all the feels buzzing happily inside me. We did all the necessary, OceanCity things; Candy Kitchen’s Fudge, Fisher’s Popcorn, Thrasher’s Fries, Skee-Ball, and Old Time Black & White Photo booth pictures. We walked a ton and ate a really good seafood restaurant called Hooked, and even got to take home some really pretty blown glass ornaments from the Christmas Village my parents have always gotten their own ornaments from. The waves kicked my butt and Heath and I were both so sunburnt we looked like lobsters, but it was incredibly fun and relaxing. Just the long overdue escape from life we needed. I hope my parents get that place again next year. My camera performed like a champ while we were there, and if you’re interested in seeing pictures from the trip, click HERE!

 

This hiatus was good for me, mentally and physically, and while I did miss the internet a little (Okay, that’s kind of a lie. I mostly only missed Twitter – lol.), I think I need to practice staying away from it a little more often. It’s a bad habit I don’t want to let takeover me again. Because even if I didn’t get all the things I thought I would do done in my absence, I still did a heck of a lot more than I would have had I still been wasting all my free time with it. Stuff that was way more fulfilling than the internet’s ever made me feel. Everyone should take a break from time-to-time. It’s good for you to actually live life, you know? Not just watch how other people are living theirs. 😉

 

What have you been up to while I was gone?

 

 

 

 

2014 In Review: Books

Like everything else that suffered as a result of too much work in 2014, reading took the biggest back seat. For a moment there, I went months without reading a book. MONTHS. That was unheard of in years past for me, and in truth, it made me feel a bit crazy this year. I need the escape reading gives me! While I succeeded in really restricting myself from buying anything outside of my pre-orders this year, I failed at coming even close to my usual reading count of 50-60 books.

 

The list below are the 24 books I read in 2014 in the order I read them, with clickable links to my reviews on GoodReads. Fingers crossed I can tackle far more of my TBR pile in 2015.

 

 

Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings, Book 4) by Jackson Pearce
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs
The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, Book 1) by C.S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, Book 2) by C.S. Lewis
 Hollow City (Miss Peregrine, Book 2) by Ransom Riggs
The Unbound (Archived, Book 2) by Victoria Schwab
Fracture Me (Shatter Me, Book 2.5) by Tahereh Mafi
Ignite Me (Shatter Me, Book 3) by Tahereh Mafi
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Illusion (Chronicles of Nick, Book 5) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Sinner (Wolves at MercyFalls, Book 3.5) by Maggie Stiefvater
What I Though Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Drowned by Nichola Reily
Crash (Crash, Book 1) by Nicole Williams
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, Book 1) by Kendare Blake
Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Misc. Other (aka: Comics)

Afterlife with Archie, Vol. 3 & 4

The Walking Dead, Vol. 132 (LootCrate Exclusive)

Batman, Vol. 36 (LootCrate Exclusive)

On Moxie & Meeting Maggie

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I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between my teen years and adult years I lost the ability to be social. When it comes to interacting with anyone (but strangers are even worse), I am basically crippled. It’s an especially frustrating thing because it’s not like I want to be this way. In fact, it’s the opposite. I want to do all sorts of things I never end up doing out of fear and then I’m left with regret.

 

This year, you may remember, I made a resolution to have a little more moxie. Because my life is slipping away from me fast and I can’t accept being old with even more regret for all the things I’d wished I’d done. So I told myself that if events came up this year around me (concerts, book signings, etc…) I would make myself go, no matter how afraid I was. This promise I made to myself was finally put to the test today and I’m happy to report I passed. But it wasn’t easy.

 

The event I’m referring to is Maggie Stiefvater’s Sinner Tour. For those that don’t know, Maggie is like my writing hero. I’ve never really aspired to be like anyone, ever, but if I could be even a percentage of the writer Maggie is, I’d be happy with life. Her writing ability, dedication to her craft, and overall brave attitude about life is admirable and it encourages me. It seemed fitting that the first author I’d meet be one so important to me.

 

In the weeks leading up to this event, I asked as many people as I could to go with me, thinking it’d be less horrifying if I wasn’t alone. Because it wasn’t just being at this event that was scary, it was actually getting myself there since it was located in the city – the city in which I never wander and certainly not alone, but no one was up for the trip and I couldn’t be mad about that. For a minute there I almost talked myself out of going, but I held onto that promise I made myself. This morning, in preparation for this event, I mapped my drive there on Google Earth, put a bunch of music on a CD for Maggie, and got myself so worked up over going that I almost made myself sick, but I refused to back out. For one, I’d told her on FB that I’d be there and she even replied and two, I’d promised a friend something from the event. I’m not good at breaking promises, especially promises to other people.

 

The drive there was less terrifying than I pictured it. Either that, or I’d gotten myself so worked up before even leaving that I’d exhausted all my nervous resources before it was really time to be nervous. I got there a half hour early and was the 14th person in line inside a bookstore smaller than my entire apartment. It already felt packed with just the 14 of us and then about 100 more people showed up. At least. To make the closeness of so many strangers a more uncomfortable thing for a person like me, the A/C was ancient and nearly useless and it was 90 degrees outside. At one point I was so hot I started to feel faint, like I might pass out of throw up. Thankfully neither happened. I met two lovely ladies (Ashley and Shana, both book reviewers you should check out!)  in the line who nudged my social anxiety aside and helped the heat seem more tolerable. And after some parking space drama, Maggie finally arrived.

 

She parked her Camaro, Loki, right outside the bookstore and a couple of the younger girls squealed which was cheesy and adorable at the same time. Maggie strolled in wearing her signature outfit: a black tank top and boots, removing her sunglasses with one hand and carting a skateboard in the other. She had this air of coolness that made her seem even more famous than she actually is. I was shocked by how much it intimidated me for a minute. She talked for a while before signing, telling stories of her youth and why she wrote Sinner, and then took reader questions and immediately revealed just how regular she actually is. Awkward even, in that perfectly good way. She’s animated and excitable and I watched her in a bit of awe because I can’t even imagine ever having that much confidence speaking to a crowd if/when I ever do get published. I wonder if she was always that personable or if it’s something she’s developed throughout her career. 

 

The wait in the heat once she started signing was rough, but thankfully I was number 14 in line. Actually meeting her went by too fast. I’d only taken my Shiver series, thinking it’d be selfish to take all my books and waste so much of her time, but I wish I’d just brought them all now. She was really friendly, the kind of person you instantly feel comfortable around like you’ve known them forever, and totally understanding of my awkward anti-social self. I told her I was the one that had predicted WhitePantsNovel was actually about Cole on Tumblr so many moons ago and she did that whole, “That was you!?” surprised reaction. Felt pretty cool to come out of my anonymous status finally.

 

I left in the middle of a thunderstorm, never happier to drive in the cool rain. I still feel a little high over the whole experience. Partly because I met someone so significant in my writing dreams and partly because I told myself I’d do something terrifying and I didn’t back down. As lame as it might seem to some, I’m proud of myself and meeting Maggie was the reward for overcoming my fear. All-in-all, an awesome day.

 

Note: You can click through the pictures below. Sorry for the poor photo quality. Unfortunately, my camera wasn’t performing at it’s best. :/

 

 

2013 In Review: Everything Else

At the start of 2013, I made this list of resolutions. Eight things I wanted to accomplish this year. And so let’s check them off….

 

1/2. See – 2013 In Review: Writing

 

3. See – 2013 In Review: Books

 

4. Photography – I’ve touched lightly on this already with that post about the Christmas Card Shoots I did this year, but I can expand on it by saying, I did in fact become more comfortable behind the camera in 2013. I still don’t have the confidence I should necessarily, or all the skills I could have where editing photos is concerned, but I have gotten braver and I have tried harder this year than I ever have before. In 2013 I did eleven scheduled photoshoots – shoots in which I got paid, even though I didn’t ask (and tried to refuse) compensation for. I also shot birthday parties and family gatherings and anytime someone asked me to capture a family moment. I shot a lot food, too (ha!). In 2014, I’d like to continue on this path of learning and finding the courage to continue to step outside of my comfort zone and spread my wings as a photographer.

 

5. Music – I didn’t go to even one concert this year and I regret it immensely. Some of my favorite bands came through Baltimore this year, prime opportunities for me to see them live, and I was too afraid to attend a show alone. I’ve really got to work on this because I can’t be afraid of going places alone forever. I can’t sacrifice something I love so dearly just because I’m afraid of enjoying it alone. I definitely need to work on this harder in 2014. (Also see – 2013 In Review: Music)

 

6. Weight Loss – Surprise, surprise, I didn’t lose 60+ lbs. in 2103. I think total I only lost 20 and who knows if that number still stands after consuming nothing but sugar since Christmas. But, I did generally stick to the “clean eating” lifestyle I set out to. And I did work out with more dedication than I ever have before, 4-5 times a week. I even participated in a 5K this year, the first of many more I hope. After working so hard for a few months and making no progress, I sought out medical advice and found that my thyroid was significantly underactive and have since tried a series of medications to get that where it should be (it’s finally in a good place) and that I was severely deficient in vitamin D (I’m working on getting that where it should be now). Both of these things could and did play a factor in my weight loss efforts and almost immediately after changing up the medication routine, I started to finally see results. I’m hoping that having this sorted out and keeping up with the lifestyle changes I made in 2013, I’ll finally have more success where my weight loss goals are concerned in 2014.

 

7. Baking – Boy did I ever! No, seriously, one month I tracked just how much “creating” in the kitchen I did and in the end it was a whole 7 days worth. That doesn’t sound like a lot in comparison to a 30 day month, but when you think I lost an entire week to just baking – that many hours spent solely in the kitchen – it actually is quite significant. I baked pies and cookies galore, with a few other interesting desserts on the side. I even tried my hand at a few dinners, which is completely out of my realm since I’m not much of a cook, but found myself successful with those dishes as well. Overall, I think I nailed this. My cookies this year were a HUGE hit and my pies were so loved by others that someone actually paid me to make them pies for their holiday celebration. It blew my mind.

 

8. Productivity – I’d say that I definitely made better use of my time in 2013, but it came at a cost, for sure. While I was able to squeeze in a workout regimen with my work schedule (a work schedule that involved more overtime than I’ve ever worked before) and be a writer, reader, baker, photographer, and you know, still spend time with the people I love, IT. WAS. HARD. Not just hard mentally, but physically. I feel like I was more tired this year than ever before (and partly that could have been the medical issues weighing me down, too). I found myself really regretting using the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” because what good was I to anyone and myself if I felt dead already anyway? None at all. So while I definitely did make the best of my time, I think this year I’ve gotta find a better balance of that use of time and remember that it’s perfectly okay (and necessary) to take a day off for nothing sometimes. I saw Sevenly post the quote, “If you’re too busy to smile, you’re too busy” at the peak of my busiest moments and it hit me hard. I was miserable because I had too much going on, like ready to break down and cry. I don’t want to reach that place again in 2014.

 

I’d say as far as resolutions go, I’m pretty pleased with my achievements in 2013. Sure, they could have been better, but they were already worlds better than anything I achieved in 2012 and I’m proud of myself for mostly sticking to my goals. I know resolutions aren’t for everyone, but they are a good way to guide me and so I’m sticking with them!

 

Now… what exactly do I hope to accomplish in 2014? 😉

 

 

2013 In Review: Books

Last year I set a resolution to read 60 books. I’m not exactly sure why I decided that was a doable number, or why I thought reaching that number would make me feel more accomplished, so I’ve decided to not even try to set a goal this year outside of just reading and putting a dent in my TBR pile. As it turns out, I did not reach my strange goal last year, though I did come close. Overall, I read 56 books in 2013 and they are listed below mostly in the order I read them. If you’re interested in which books I considered my favorite, all of the titles are clickable to my GoodReads where I’ve rated and reviewed each.

 

Touched by Cyn Balog

The White Rabbit Chronicles by Gena Showalter

(Alice in Zombieland & Through the Zombie Glass)

Red Run: A Short Story by Kami Garcia

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Easy by Tammara Webber

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Carrie by Stephen King

Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi

(Shatter Me, Destroy Me, & Unravel Me)

Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

(The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, & The Last Olympian)

Reasons I Fell For the Funny Fat Friend by Becca Ann

Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter, Book 1) by Jeff Lindsay

Dead River by Cyn Balog

Inferno (Chronicles of Nick, Book 4) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Breathless: A Firelight Novella by Sophie Jordan

The Walking Dead, Book 4 by Robert Kirkman

Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

The Dead & the Gone (The Last Survivors, Book 2) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

From Baghdad, With Love by Jay Kopelman

Ascendant (Killer Unicorns, Book 2) by Diana Peterfreund

Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris

(Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, & Definitely Dead)

Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler

The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater

(The Raven Boys & The Dream Thieves)

Glimmerglass (Faeriewalker, Book 1) by Jenna Black

Fathomless (Fairytale Retellings, Book 3) by Jackson Pearce

Styxx (Dark-Hunter, Book 23) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Boys that Bite (Blood Coven, Book 1) by Mari Mancusi

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer, Book 1) by Lish McBride

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Educational

Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it by Scott Kelby

The New Language of Toys (3rd Edition) by Sue Schwartz

Comics/Graphic Novels

Jinx by J. Torres

The Dark-Hunters: Infinity Vol. 1 & 2 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Afterlife with Archie No. 1 & 2 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla

 

What did you read in 2013? Anything I should know about?

 

 

Bye October, Hello November

I’ve seriously failed as a blogger lately. I wrote three blog this month and never even bothered to post them (or never found the time, because I was actually quite busy this month). If I’m honest, I think I might kill this blog in 2014 (that is if I can get my website complete by then). This place has just lost its luster for me.

In case you’re curious, here’s what I’ve been up to in October…

I spent 7 days baking this month. Not 7 all at once, but scattered about. When you think about it, though, that’s a whole week lost to baking. Whoa. But it was all for good reasons, even if it wasn’t for my own enjoyment, I’m pretty sure all the people on the receiving end of my treats were happy about it. Here are some pictures of a few of those goodies.

Treats

I didn’t read nearly as much as I’d hoped, and nothing nearly as creepy as I wanted for Halloween either, but I did read three really great books and one awesome comic! (Titles link to my GoodReads reviews.)

October Books ReadVicious by Victoria Schwab
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (library copy)
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
Afterlife with Archie Vol. 1

Speaking of books, I also got some in the mail. One a long awaited kickstarter purchase and two I had no business buying, but couldn’t resist the sale prices.

October Books In My Mailbox
Let it Snow (Three Holiday Romances)
Necromancing the Stone (Necromancer, Book 2) by Lish McBride
Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy

Somehow, despite being busier than normal, I wrote 4150 words in October (yay for working my way back to those 5K days!) and 1K of those words were for a Christmas short story I’m SUPER stoked about. I really, really want to finish this one in time. I feel like it’s going to become my favorite short story to date.

I worked out (sometimes up to 3 times a day) 20 days of October. This is the most consistent workout regimen I’ve done in a long, long time and I actually don’t hate it. But I do hate how slow the process is. Despite being at this now for over 7 weeks and eating super clean, I’ve only lost 2.2lbs. and no inches. I was so frustrated in fact that I went to my doctor about it. She said I’m definitely doing all the right things and that it just might take a little longer for my body to adjust to the change (which isn’t what anyone wants to hear), but she also switched up my thyroid medicine and the time of day in which I take it and I swear it’s already making a difference two weeks in (in fact, I didn’t even lose those 2.2lbs until AFTER the switch). Having a thyroid condition is known to make weight loss even more difficult than it already is and I know this, but I need at least SOME progress so I hope that this switch lets me finally start seeing some results for all this hard work.

Some great new music came out this month and I played the crap out of it, along with a bunch of old stuff like Twiztid and ICP because this always happens when Halloween nears. Songs/albums you should check out for sure include:

Dance Gavin Dance – “Doom & Gloom”

 

Arcade Fire – “Normal Person”

 

The Head and the Heart – “Gone”

 

Plush Soundtrack/Emily Browning – “Close Enough to Kill”
(click the image to listen on my Tumblr because there isn’t a track available on youtube)

This past week I’ve been particularly busy first by helping out at Trunk-Or-Treat at church [PICS] and then by throwing my ‘Sister from another mother’ a baby shower with my real sister while she was in town [PICS]. And on Halloween, my sister gifted me another nephew!

Abel - Halloween 2013
Click HERE to see more!

Abel was born at 8.3 lbs., 19.5” and I’m already so, so in-love with him. After doing a small photoshoot with him in the hospital, I spent the rest of my Halloween with his big brother trick-or-treating. It was one hell of a way to say goodbye to October.

Unsurprising, fall is already turning out to be delightful though I do wish it’d slow down a bit so I could enjoy it more. How was your October?

————

Oh yeah, I have a blog….

It’s been over a month now since I’ve wandered over to LJ. Oops. My apologies for completely failing to blog last month (and keep up with all of your blogs – I’ll do my best to catch up soon). It’s not that I didn’t want to blog, in fact I had several ideas for blog posts, I just never acted on them. Really, it feels like September 1st happened and then suddenly it was September 30th just like that. I didn’t realize how quickly time was getting away from me until it was gone.

So since I’ve failed to do all my usual postings, I’m just going to do a quick summary of September all in one post. I promise to make it as short as possible.

In September I….

  • Threw my sister a Baby Sprinkle for my 2nd nephew Abel (who’s scheduled to arrive on Halloween!). It was extremely overwhelming in the food prep department (12 hours the day before, 9 hours the day of), but overall a beautiful event. You can see pictures HERE.
  • Got THESE awesome books in the mail. YAY for the return of pre-orders!
  • Read 4 books. I really had hoped to read more, but since one of these 4 books was the size of 3 books there just wasn’t time for anymore.
September Reads

Boys that Bite (Blood Coven, Book 1) by Mari Mancusi
Fathomless (Fairytale Retellings, Book 3) by Jackson Pearce
The Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle, Book 2) by Maggie Stiefvater
Styxx (Dark-Hunter, Book 23) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

  • Wrote 770 words. This is shameful, I know. I’m trying a new tactic this month to get back in my 5K game. Fingers crossed it helps.
  • Listened to a lot of random indie tracks. My favorite Music Friday tracks can be heard HERE, HERE, and HERE.
  • Started training for the Color Run. Mom and I get up at 5am to run before work. It felt insane at first, but I rather like it now – even with my forever aching muscles.
  • Went to the Milburn Orchards with Gideon like last year. If you’d like, you can see pictures HERE.
  • Saw the end of two of my favorite TV shows, Dexter and Breaking Bad. I wrote a reflective piece about show endings HERE.

So that’s basically it. Maybe you didn’t really miss much by my lack of blogging. How was your September?

—————–

August: In Review

Really, I don't know how it's already September. If it weren't for my favorite season of the year beginning in September (which will included cooler weather), I'd be complaining about how fast August went by. But I'm so looking forward to fall approaching, I can't be mad.

August was a pretty dismal. I was depressed a lot, for a variety of reasons that included the hot weather, and I failed at accomplishing much of anything. But it is what it is…

Reading wise, I only finished three books. Two really amazing reads and one just so-so. I've had such a bad string of so-so books this year. I guess it had to happen sometime, but I have to admit it kills my desire to read. Anyway, books read:

August Books

Glimmerglass (Fariewalker, Book 1) by Jenna Black
The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, Book 1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Unravel Me (Shatter Me, Book 2) by Taraeh Mafi

*Titles are clickable and take you to my review on GoodReads*

As far as writing is concerned, it was super hard this month. I had a good start to the month and then wrote nothing else worth keeping again until yesterday. I faced a huge bought of writer's doubt for a few weeks, in which I hated everything I've written and considered deleting it all completely. In the end I decided that my problem is really with the prologue and first two chapters (I think they could be merged together and reduced to just one opening chapter) and now I'm resisting the urge to start rewriting and just finish the darn draft first. Anyway, my final word count for August was only 2,190 words. I'm really praying the upcoming cooler weather helps bring back those 5K+ months I had going for me last winter.

Anyway, that's all I've got to report. Hope you had a more fulfilling August than me.