January 2020 Monthly Wrap-Up

In January, it simultaneously felt like I had nothing and everything going on. We came home from Mississippi and I got back to work. I went to (my new) tap class twice and had two voice lessons. Kenna came over for dinner; my family came over for dinner; I played with my favorite two-year-old a few times; Mom and I went to lunch; Dad and I went to dinner; I cut eight inches off my hair; and we started a new ladies’ Bible study at church.

I had the most amazing special weekend speaking at, being on staff, and simply attending the virtual Diamonds 2020 conference for Christians who are chronically ill. I’m so proud of the staff and speakers! The conference was a huge blessing and encouragement.

We ended the month by taking a trip to Tennessee with Mrs. Celeste, Josh, and Emma to see the national tour of Bandstand, which is SUCH AN AMAZING UNDERRATED SHOW.

My health continued to decline and was very poor in January, but we actually made more progress in three days than we’ve made in the last four years–getting one definite diagnosis, an additional probable diagnosis, and finally finding medical professionals who are helping me. This is only the start of the journey to further diagnoses and treatments, but I feel very hopeful about my quality of life potentially improving.

This month I’m…

Reading: Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis. Life Is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance, Valorie Kondos Field. Home Work, Julie Andrews Edwards. Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber. City of Savages, Lee Kelly. Serious Eater, Ed Levine. The Library of Lost Things, Laura Taylor Namey. I, Cosmo, Carlie Sorosiak. Inside Mrs. B’s Classroom, Leslie Baldacci. The Last True Poets of the Sea, Julia Drake. Across A Broken Shore, Amy Trueblood. In the Neighborhood of True, Susan Kaplan Carlton. The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater. Once On This Island, Gloria Whelan. 14 total.

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Listening to: Maisie Peters. Thoroughly Modern Millie. You Can’t Stop The Beat, Hairspray. Your Name Is Power, Rend Collective. Wanted – String Mix, OneRepublic. Take This Slowly, The Gray Havens. Fine Line, Harry Styles. break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored, Ariana Grande. Desert Song – Live, Hillsong Worship.

Watching: Spinning Out on Netflix. Izzy Kornblau and Kiara Madisen on YouTube. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (rewatch). Beautiful Boy. The Diamonds conference.

Eating: Sausage and rice. DF biscuits and cookies sent home by my grandpa. At many points, not much–and halfway through the month I switched over to a bland, soft, low-fiber, low-fat, mostly-liquid diet as recommended by the outpatient nutrition department of my hospital. Which is every bit as exciting as it sounds.

Writing: I had a few glorious sessions working on a new YA contemporary novel that I’m super excited to keep exploring. Beyond that, though, not much creative writing happened this month–my health has been a full-time job lately and so any creative energy I have gets put toward the freelance writing of my day job.

What did you do in January?

You’re Invited: Diamonds 2020

Diamonds 2020 is coming up THIS WEEK–and we want you to come!

Diamonds is an annual online conference, hosted by author and spoonie Sara Willoughby (who I’m so grateful to call a good friend of mine), that’s geared for Christians who are chronically ill. The conference is completely free and remote–all sessions are streamed live on YouTube (and then saved) so you can watch from wherever you are. This year, Diamonds is taking place January 23rd-25th–Thursday through Saturday of this week. The theme of the 2020 conference is Fighting Together: Relationships In Chronic Illness.

theme

What can you expect at Diamonds 2020? We have 17 speakers (many of whom are my good friends) who will be sharing sessions, ranging from well-known ministry leaders like Joni Eareckson Tada to normal everyday people who live with chronic illness (like me!). Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are jam-packed with sessions on topics such as:

  • Chronic illness in the workplace
  • How God can redeem your loneliness
  • The benefit of suffering
  • Relationships with people who are not chronically ill (this is what I’ll be speaking on!)

Many speakers will also be doing Q&A’s so you can get to know them personally. And at every session, we’ll have giveaways of products from companies like Vogmask (there are currently 42 Vogmasks sitting in a box in my living room), TeeSpoonie, and Abilitee Adaptivewear. It’s going to be three days of nonstop encouragement and fun! I’m on staff for Diamonds both as a speaker and in other capacities and have been working on our social media, company sponsorships, etc for months. But I’m also SO looking forward to being an attendee and watching the conference with a friend, because the realities of chronic illness have been really discouraging me as I’ve gotten sicker the last several months. The conference is just what I need right now and it could be just what you need, too.

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If you’re coming to the conference, you’ll want to make sure to grab a copy of our study guide. The Diamonds 2020 study guide is available on Amazon as an ebook for free, or as a paperback for just $5.99. Keep the study guide handy during the conference to follow along and take notes with each session.

study-guide

We even have a merch store this year that opens TODAY so you can purchase T-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and more with the Diamonds logo–a great way to remember what you learned at the conference all year long!

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Finally, I want to say that even if you aren’t chronically ill, you’re still welcome to come to Diamonds. The principles shared at Diamonds apply to all kinds of situations and relationships that you can use in your own life. The conference can also help you better support your chronically ill friends and family–because even if you think you don’t know anyone who is chronically ill, statistics show that you absolutely do.

And if you have a heart for this ministry and would like to help cover the costs associated with the conference–such as paying for the streaming platform, formatting the study guide, and helping with Diamonds 2021–you can donate to the conference here. Last year’s conference had hundreds of attendees watching live, with 23,000 people watching the saved videos throughout the year–so your donation is helping thousands of people be encouraged in their walk with the Lord through long-term illness, and they don’t have to pay a thing.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay on top of the latest updates. You can register for the conference and access the full conference schedule by visiting this webpage. I am so looking forward to Diamonds 2020 and am spending this week in prayerful preparation for everyone who will attend. I hope to “see” you there!

Will you be attending Diamonds 2020? Feel free to share about the conference with a friend or family member who might benefit!

2019: Books Read + Movies Watched

There’s nothing I love more than looking back at all the stories I consumed over the course of a year! This year I’m going to include movies in this post as well (although I didn’t watch that many, compared to books–in 2020 I plan to watch a lot more movies).

The official stats stacked up like this: In 2019 I read 154 books and watched 35 movies, equaling about 13 books and 3 movies per month or 3 books and 0.5 movies (lol) per week. For context, I read 153 books in 2018 and 135 in 2017–and while I’m not sure how many movies I watched each year, it was probably way less than 35.

Here’s how my reading statistics for 2019 break down!

Books

This year, I read the least books in June and August, when I read 11 books each (due to moving and fun plans, respectively), and the most in July and December, with 18 each (due to sickness and vacation). The first book I read in 2019 was a childhood favorite, The Cricket in Times Square; the last book of the year for me was a YA contemporary called The Whole Thing Together that I finished last night (it wasn’t that great). And if I got this correct, I think the authors I read the most this year were Brigid Kemmerer (5 of her books) and Elizabeth Enright (5 of hers as well).

I mentioned this last year, but I don’t do Goodreads challenges because I want to just enjoy reading and not feel pressured. So I don’t set reading goals–I just read what I want to read. The downside, though, is that I have to compile my own reading data instead of having it done for me. So, after many hours of work, here are some of my reading statistics for 2019.

First up is how many fiction books I read vs nonfiction. Thanks to a client where I reviewed nonfiction books, I fell in LOVE with nonfiction this year, and I read 44 nonfiction books on my own in addition to 116 fiction books. (The 48 books I read for this client are not listed in my total book count in this blog post, because they were for work–but if you did count them, I’ve technically read over 200 books this year.)

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I reread 50 books this year and discovered 104 new books, which is awesome. Finding new books to fall in love with is my favorite thing ever–well, except for rereading familiar old favorites.

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When you split up the 116 fiction books I read into age ranges, you get 27 children’s books, 14 middle grade stories, 72 young adult books, and three adult novels.

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I also enjoy dividing up my yearly reads by genre. Here’s the breakdown–I read the most contemporary books by far, with children’s literature and fantasy not far behind.

genre

Movies

When it comes to the 35 movies I watched in 2019, they span 11 genres, which is pretty cool–I enjoy all kinds of films, from action-packed sci-fi movies to cute rom-coms to fascinating documentaries. Nearly all of the action movies are Marvel movies; I was trying to catch up and watch all of the Marvel movies in order, but kind of gave up at some point.

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I watched 29 movies at home and 6 movies in the theater this year.

movies

I also watched 21 movies by myself and 14 movies with other people. (No offense to anyone, but I highly prefer watching/going to movies alone!) I included this statistic and the previous one because I think the environment in which you consume a story plays a huge role in your perception of it (this is true for books too, but I obviously always read books alone/at home, haha). It’s about the whole experience–like sitting on the balcony reading a light romance and drinking lemonade on a warm summer evening, or curling up in bed with an epic fantasy while cold rain lashes the window. (My reading/movie tastes definitely fluctuate depending on the season!)

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I re-watched 8 movies and discovered 27 new films. (I’ve been trying to fill in the gaps in my cinematic history. For instance, I’m 20 and just watched Jurassic Park and Titanic for the first time this year.)

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Finally, there were only two movies that I watched twice this year–Thor: Ragnarok and Mona Lisa Smile. (I highly recommend both.)

2019 was a fantastic year when it comes to books and movies. I’m so grateful for all these amazing stories I consumed and the things they taught me. In 2020, I’m specifically looking forward to continuing with my new passion for nonfiction, and also to watching movies more often!

What were some of your favorite books and movies from 2019?

December 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up

The first 25 days of December were documented in Blogmas, which starts here. Basically, work killed me, I did things like voice lessons and doctor’s appointments, and I was able to have a few fun times with friends. After Christmas, my family came to Mississippi to see my grandpa and have enjoyed things like seeing Little Women, visiting with my aunt and uncle, and shopping downtown with a family friend.

This month I’m…

Reading: Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (reread). The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls. The School Story, Andrew Clements (reread). The Astonishing Color of After, Emily X. R. Pan. The Moffats, Eleanor Estes. Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright (reread). Full Circle, Andrea Barber. Notes From A Young Black Chef, Kwame Onwuachi. Wildflowers of Terezin, Robert Elmer. Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich. Queen of Nothing, Holly Black. In the Kingdom Of the Sick, Laurie Edwards. Spin the Dawn, Elizabeth Lim. Heidi, Johanna Spyri (reread). Normally This Would Be Cause For Concern, Danielle Fishel. The Year of Learning Dangerously, Quinn Cummings. Sick Kids in Love, Hannah Moskowitz. The Whole Thing Together, Ann Brashares. 18 total.

Listening to: Maisie Peters. Christmas music. Audrey Assad. I’m Not That Girl, Wicked.

Watching: Captain America: Civil War. The Glass Castle. Elf. The Death Cure. A Christmas Story. The Aeronauts. Little Women. Natasha Bure vlogs, Abbey Sharp’s YouTube channel, and David Dobrik vlogs.

Eating: Burgers and fries. Ham and mustard sandwiches. Banana peanut butter smoothies during flare-ups. Baked potatoes and strawberries. Dairy free biscuits and chocolate pie.

Writing: Beyond plotting my ice skating novel a bit and writing one piece of fanfiction, I didn’t really do any fun writing this month. Work-wise, life was crazy because I started accepting new clients/projects again, and I had to cram four weeks’ worth of work into three weeks. But somehow it all got done.

What did you do in December?