May 2021 Monthly Wrap-Up

In May I enjoyed working with a lot of new clients on some exciting projects, and I was also able to spend a lot of time with my family. This month I had three voice lessons and went to two of Joshua’s baseball games. I had a four-day at-home medical test in addition to three doctor appointments and one infusion, and struggled with losing more independence because of my health. I also fit in quite a bit of fun stuff in May: I spent a day with Grace Anne (!); we had a family Mother’s Day dinner; Brooke and I went out for coffee; I went to graduation at Joshua’s school, spent the night at the house, and Dad and I went to a Gwinnett Stripers game; I went to a fellowship lunch at church; Andrea came over; we went bowling with the Coxes; I went to my pastor’s house for lunch with some friends after church; and my family came over here for lunch on Memorial Day.

This month I’m…

Reading: Fighting Forward, Hannah Brencher. Everything that Burns, Giselle Trelease (DNF). Kate in Waiting, Becky Albertalli. Fully Alive, Susie Larson. Love A La Mode, Stephanie Kate Strohm. The Queens of Animation, Nathalia Holt. Girls’ Club, Sally, Sarah, and Joy Clarkson. Call Down the Hawk (reread) and Mister Impossible, Maggie Stiefvater (reread). 100 Days of Sunlight, Abbie Emmons (reread). Beyond Awkward Side Hugs, Bronwyn Lea. Kisses and Croissants, Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau. The Beauty in Breaking, Michele Harper. Ballplayer, Chipper Jones. Keep My Heart in San Francisco, Amelia Diane Coombs. Luck of the Titanic, Stacey Lee. 16 total.

Listening to: fire, Jordy Searcy. Supply & Demand, Wilder Woods. We Do Not Labor In Vain, FAITHFUL. whywhywhy, MisterWives. City of Angels, Damian McGinty and Cozi Zuehlsdorff. Another Place, Bastille and Alessia Cara. Funeral, Maisie Peters and James Bay. Float, HARBOUR. The Wire, Patrick Droney. survivin’, Bastille. Halfway Up, The Brook & The Bluff. Range Rover, Ben Rector and Steve Winwood.

Watching: The Frey Life and Colleen Christensen on YouTube. Gilmore Girls seasons 1 and 2. Thor Ragnarok (re-watch).

Eating and/or cooking: Pulled pork with butternut squash zig zags. Trader Joe’s soft baked peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Banana bread with extra banana. Pretzel bagels with scrambled egg whites. Tostones. Mini PopTarts. Chicken and rice bowls with homemade pico de gallo (my current obsession).

Writing: This month was my last month with a client that’s made up almost half of my monthly income for going on two years now. After phasing them out, I jumped back into the swing of marketing, and things kind of blew up (it was one of those months where I’d groan and say “can people please stop offering me work” every time I opened my inbox). I ended up working with 12 clients total this month (counting retainer clients, old clients, and new clients) and making more money than I’ve made in a long time. I was able to work on some really exciting projects for dream clients like Chewy and Healthline. It was stressful and physically difficult, but made me feel excited about my career in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. Outside of work, this month I wrote 30 letters and received 24. I also did volunteer work with People Hope, Diamonds, and DSN.

Loving (this section is BACK!): Morning Brew and Marketing Brew. Everything that Made Me Happy in April, Tea Stained Adventures. I Ate the Shawn Mendes Bowl the Way Shawn Mendes Intended, Vulture. San Francisco Giants Outfielder Drew Robinson’s Remarkable Second Act, ESPN. The Youth Prepare for #Summer2021, A Glorious Summer They’re Unlikely to Get, New York Times. Costume Designer Mitchell Travers Teases IN THE HEIGHTS Looks, Talks Eye-Popping Career & More, Broadway World. Etcetera #15, A Farm Girl’s Life.

Buying: Birthday washi tape. Silly Putty. Two floral masks (lol, right before restrictions started easing). A Six of Crows laptop sticker. The Frey Life’s new “Take the Next Step” t-shirt. A new journal. A computer (that was not in the plan for this month, but it had to happen and I love my new-to-me MacBook Pro).

Grateful for: Broadway is coming back! Seeing a doctor who has some of my same medical conditions. Friends who can spot when I feel like bursting into tears even if I think I’m hiding it. My library buying all the books I ask it to (still not over this!!!). Needing less sources for a project than I thought. Baseball and vaccinations. The little girls at church making me cards. Summer storms.

What did you do in May?

My Journaling Routine + The Four Types of Journals I Use

I’ve always loved to journal, from the green folder I started scribbling in when I was 10 right up to last night when I sat on the couch in front of Gilmore Girls writing my way out of a tired week and a prickly mood. You know when people ask what one item you would grab if your house was burning down? My answer is ALWAYS my filled journals. They’re irreplaceable and I regard them as one of the most valuable things I own.

I searched my apartment looking for all of the filled journals I could find and came up with 26, including my current journals (although only six of those 26 were main journals). Just for fun, I decided to put them on the scale. They weighed 12.40 pounds!

My journal routine has taken some time to nail down. For several years, I would write what I did each day in one journal, and then I would use another journal to take notes on sermons and write out prayers and things like that. But over the past few years, I’ve fine-tuned the different journals I use and what I use them for. Currently, I write in the following journals on a regular basis:

  • One Line A Day journal
  • Gratitude journal
  • Bullet journal
  • Journal

(Yes, I’m aware I have a lot of journals–I always have trouble picking and choosing which ones I’m going to pack for a trip and which ones I’m just going to catch up on when I get home. I used to take brand-new blank journals to Colombia because I was scared of taking a filled journal and then losing my luggage or something.)

I typically end up writing in at least one of my journals every day. I treat journaling the same way I treat reading: I don’t force myself to journal, it just naturally happens. I thought it would be fun to do a quick breakdown of my current journals, what I use them for, and what I like about each one. Let’s get into it!

One Line A Day journal

I’ve been using a One Line A Day journal (Amazon) since February 2019, and I absolutely love it! I normally catch up on this journal every 2-3 days and write a few quick lines about what I did each day. It creates a Timehop-like situation that’s a fun throwback (well, sometimes–other times it just brings up bad memories, lol). It also comes in handy as a fast and easy way to find exactly what I was doing on a certain date if I ever need or want to know.

Gratitude journal

I’ve been writing in a gratitude journal for about six months. My only stipulation for myself here is that I have to write a minimum of one thing I’m grateful for each day (specific things–tangible ways I saw God’s goodness in my life that day). Some days I write multiple things, but I add at least one each day. The notebook I use for this is a notebook my dad got from his work.

Bullet journal

Hanne made me a bullet journal at the beginning of 2020, which I absolutely loved! (The journal itself came from Michael’s.) She made me monthly spreads for each month in 2020, including things like monthly goals, books I read that month, and a log of my medical appointments. Now, I primarily use my bullet journal to keep track of letters I’ve mailed and received. However, I’ll sometimes also use it to make fun lists–mostly lists related to books, like books I want to reread or books I own and need to read (ha. That one is pretty long).

Journal

I saved the best for last: my journal journal! I use my beautiful leather-bound journals to write about whatever’s happening in my life that I need to process. Often, I’ll brain dump into my phone notes during the week, and then on the weekend I’ll sit down and transcribe things into my journal. I normally end up writing in this journal once a week–sometimes more often.

I used to treat my leather-bound journals the same as my One Line A Day journal; I’d essentially transcribe my daily to-do lists into my journal. But ever since I started just writing here and there about what was on my mind (which I think was sometime in 2019) instead of worrying about getting down every detail of every day, journaling has been so much better.

I’m almost done with my current journal, and as I was looking through my empty notebooks and journals, I realized I don’t have one to use next (I do have blank journals, but no leather-bound ones like I use for my journal journals–I’m very picky about what type of notebook I use for each type of journal, lol). So, I think a trip to Barnes and Noble is in order… which makes me extremely excited because the journal section at Barnes and Noble is my favorite place in the world!

It’s taken me a few years to sort out all my journals and their various purposes. But I really like the journals I’ve settled on! Outside of my journals, I have lots of other notebooks I use to record various writing things, work things, chronic illness things, etc–these are just my personal journals. (I’m definitely not lacking in journals and notebooks, lol.) Journaling has always been a natural part of my life and looking back on my old journals is so much fun!

Do you journal? What types of journals do you use? Let me know all about your journaling routine in the comments!

Hope in the Dark Launch Tour

I’m so excited to announce that my sweet and talented friend Hannah Wright is releasing her debut novel, Hope in the Dark, later this month. If you like Christian historical fiction, you’re definitely going to want to check it out! I had the privilege of interviewing Hannah to learn a little more about the book and her writing process. Keep reading to check out what she has to share–and stick around to the end of this post to learn how to preorder her book.

Tell us what Hope in the Dark is about and what inspired you to write it.

Hope in the Dark is about a young lady named Elizabeth Matthews who has just moved out west to Featherlight, Idaho from the home that she grew up in North Carolina. Although North Carolina was comfortingly familiar to her, she was left with a broken heart and a determination to not trust a man again. 

Samuel Bryson has grown up in Featherlight and he is honor bound to provide for his widowed mother and siblings. He is determined to live up to his own expectations of being just like his father and he will let nothing get in his way. And that includes marriage. 

The two soon become aware of suspicious criminal activity going on around them. Newly hired school teacher Elizabeth and Samuel find themselves desperately searching for answers to the suspicious criminal activity around them. They find themselves thrown into facing their worst fears… and each other. In the midst of many unknowns, will they find the courage to do what God is calling them to? 

What aspect of this book are you most excited for readers to discover?

I think I’m most excited for readers to discover the theme of God’s love. Elizabeth and Samuel both have struggles and they have to realize just how much God loves them and that they can trust Him through every situation. Also, I’m so excited for people to meet all the characters! 🙂 

What’s something that has surprised you about the publication process with Hope in the Dark – something you didn’t expect, whether good or bad?

Hmm… I think one thing I didn’t expect was being able to connect with some amazing people through the process of self-publishing. God definitely blessed me with the most amazing editor and cover designer and it’s just so awesome thinking of how He had me meet them. I definitely realized that I can’t do self publishing on my own and the Lord brought some good friends into my life to help me with the process. 

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Haha well my family is in the process of moving so I definitely don’t have a set routine! 🙂 But my routine lately has been I wake up and try to spend some time with God before having breakfast. Then I’ll usually check emails and start on whatever I have to do that day, when I was writing Hope in the Dark over quarantine, that was when I would write usually. Then I’ll have lunch and then in the afternoon I might work some more or just chill if I am finished with my to do’s. I try to exercise a couple times a week, (that definitely doesn’t always happen haha), but I might do that in the afternoon. Then I usually have a snack and relax a bit before dinner. After dinner I like to watch some YouTube to relax before bed. If I get in bed early enough I like to read! 

What are you writing next?

Well, I’m not for sure yet if I’ll write it next, but I’m working on plotting a Christian fantasy novel! 

Any advice for other writers?

Well, I definitely need suggestions too!  I really like the quote “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” If I had one piece of advice, I would say pray about your writing and ask God to help you craft the stories that He wants you to tell. Have fun and really enjoy the writing process. Write stories that you would want to read. Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself for your first draft, just write your story!

Hope in the Dark comes out on May 25th. Click here to preorder your copy. You can also follow Hannah on Instagram to keep up on all the exciting book-related news. I’m so excited for Hannah and can’t wait for all of you to read this book!

April 2021 Monthly Wrap-Up

April was a difficult month. Medically, I had a few crises and my overall health/daily symptoms got worse, leaving me with a rollercoaster of emotions to process. This month I had four medical appointments, three infusions, and two procedures. I spent two weekends at my family’s house, went to four of Joshua’s baseball games, and had one voice lesson. I also managed to spend a fun day with Brooke, go to a coffee shop with Kenna, have a finger food night with small group, have Kenna over for lunch and an online retreat, go out with Kristen and Margarita, and go to a “Vivaldi by Candlelight” concert in Atlanta with my dad.

This month I’m…

Reading: Ace of Shades and King of Fools, Amanda Foody. The Nightmare Thief, Nicole Lesperance. Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising, Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom, and Rule of Wolves, Leigh Bardugo (all rereads except for RoW). Salt in my Soul, Mallory Smith. Beezus and Ramona, Beverly Cleary (reread). A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver. Leonard (My Life as a Cat), Carlie Sorosiak. 13 total.

Listening to: Waking Up Easy, Lime Cordiale. Life Keeps Moving On, Ben Rector. Roses, The Band CAMINO. You Are Gold, The National Parks. Cover Me In Sunshine, P!nk, Willow Sage Hart. Canyon, Ellie Holcomb. April in Paris, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. Eliza, Jayna Jennings. Just Tell Me, Alexa Cappelli.

Watching: The usual YouTube suspects–like the Frey Life, Kiara Madisen, and Linda Sun. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. Doctor Strange. JOJO RABBIT. And, Shadow and Bone on Netflix (seeing one of my all-time favorite worlds come to life was an absolute DREAM and involved much squealing–more here).

Eating and/or cooking: Lemon sugar cookies. Molasses cookies. BBQ chicken zucchini nachos. Cookie dough Luna protein bars. Protein oatmeal. Strawberry yogurt. Honey nut Cheerios. Ozery Bakery cranberry orange morning rounds.

Writing: Work-wise, some things are shifting around. I’m getting back into the swing of marketing–which feels good–and taking on some new clients. I wrote 32 letters this month and received 30. I co-led a virtual DSN meetup, had some Diamonds meetings, and volunteered with People Hope. I also did Escapril (well, mostly just for the first part of the month). I ended up writing eight full pieces and drafting four more, making for 12 completed days total before life went off the rails and I didn’t finish the month. But I’m really glad I did at least part of Escapril. It reminded me that just because I don’t feel well enough to write very much (outside of work) doesn’t mean I am no longer capable of writing.

Buying: A cyclamen (houseplant). A cane. Way too many new shirts, plus some earrings. A Gerbera daisy.

Learning: How to just take the next step.

Grateful for: People (mostly my mom) who have been driving me everywhere. April in Georgia. Colorful new clothes. How good it feels to write and journal and watch movies. Friends who drop everything to call you and pray aloud for you while you cry. Winning a book in a giveaway. A surprise friendaversary gift in the mail. Feeling the sunshine on my skin. Baby bunnies. Milo the goat (#IYKYK). Laughing hysterically about stupid things at 9 PM. Everyone who has prayed for me and sent me encouraging notes. And overwhelmingly grateful God gave us music and story and art.

What did you do in April? What’s one thing you are grateful for about this past month? Any plans for May?

My thoughts on the Shadow and Bone Netflix show!!!

***This post contains spoilers for the Grisha trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, Rule of Wolves, and the Shadow and Bone Netflix series.

If you know me, you know I’m complete Leigh Bardugo trash. Always have been, always will be. One time back in 2017 I had a conversation with her about the Hamilton references in Crooked Kingdom (yes, they’re there and they’re 100% intentional) and it was pretty much the best moment of my life. Kaz Brekker is my all-time favorite fictional character, period, bar none. When I first read the SoC duology many years ago, I saw myself in him in deeper ways than pretty much any other character ever, and the ways I relate to him have only increased as time goes on (I use a cane now too, but sadly mine is not lead-lined, Fabrikator-made, or crow-topped). Don’t even get me started on the perfection of Bardugo’s other characters and her exquisite worldbuilding and the twisty turny heists.

All of this is to say, I’ve been waiting for the Shadow and Bone Netflix show to come out for a very long time–and having just finished the entire show, I absolutely could not be happier. (I pushed myself through the fatigue and headaches and brain fog to watch all eight episodes in three days, which is quite a feat for me because I really struggle to watch TV shows.)

I’m too tired to write an eloquent, well-thought-out blog post about everything I loved about the show. So instead I’m just going to share a bullet point list of some thoughts I had and then we can squeal about it all in the comments together. (Because there was a LOT of squealing going on during S&B, and during the Grishaverse reread I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks. Just ask my cat.)

Also, please appreciate this tweet that I personally think is absolutely hilarious but has only gotten 12 likes:

(I also want to preface this post by saying I’m not overlooking the problematic elements of the show. While I’m not qualified to speak on this, here’s a Tumblr post with some good tweets on how the racism toward Alina was handled in the show.)

Okay, carry on:

  • First of all, the casting was just *chef’s kiss*. Kit Young made me fall head over heels in love with Jesper more than ever before. Freddy Carter brought Kaz’s rock salt rasp to life. Jessie Mei Li embodies Alina–literal sunlight–in the most beautiful way. I could go on. Zoya and David and the Apparat didn’t really look how I pictured them (Zoya’s bangs just make me think of Samantha the American Girl), and while Danielle Galligan did a great job as Nina, I’d be remiss to not mention the fat erasure that went on there. (Seriously, it wouldn’t have been that difficult to cast a plus size actress.) But overall, the casting was absolutely brilliant–every single actor on the show was talented, lovely, and just so so perfect.
  • Ben Barnes is FORTY YEARS OLD?!! I Googled it because I thought he must be getting old by now, but I didn’t know he was THAT old! (yes forty is very old to me) After I found that out, all I could think about every time he came on screen was how old he is.
  • I was really pleased with how they did Kaz’s limp. I was watching carefully to make sure the cane was more than just an accessory, and I appreciated how he was in visible pain without it.
  • If you want book Kaz, may I direct you to the church scene. Everything about that scene just SCREAMS Kaz Brekker. (For the most part I think his character was pretty true to the books–although Pekka’s men were holding him skin to skin in one of the first episodes and he didn’t really have a big reaction to that? I was wondering if there would be any flashbacks for any of the Crows to get a little more of their backstories, but they said virtually nothing about Kaz, so if you didn’t know the books you might be left hanging. Like, it was obvious why he uses a cane, but they never addressed his gloves.)
  • I think they did a really good job melding Alina’s story and the Crows together! It was fun to have fresh Crows content that still incorporated those favorite characters. Although it did make my brain hurt a little bit trying to figure out the timeline.
  • So, is Baghra immortal too???
  • Also, how could anyone ship Alina with the Darkling? I just don’t get it, lol. And I definitely could’ve lived without seeing the two of them groping all over each other. “Stupid choices,” indeed. Mal isn’t perfect but the Darkling is literally an immortal creep. You can’t get much worse.
  • Also also, I have to know: Did Leigh help with the makeup?! (Major props to the costume and makeup teams, whoever they were!)
  • I know I already mentioned how good Kit Young was as Jesper, but he deserves his own bullet point! I’ve always liked Jesper–I’ve always loved all of the Crows–but Kit had me laughing out loud every time he came on screen. His charm and swagger was perfect for Jesper and I think he’s made Jesper my new favorite character. Like, when he’s admiring himself in the mirror? You KNOW Jesper would do that. And the part where he goes “was that sign damaged before?” I was DYING! Also, I was wondering if the show would reveal that Jesper is Grisha and they did touch on it a couple of times (in the laundry fight with Ivan, and when he fixed Kaz’s cane) (this is leading me into a whole other point about the Easter eggs that only book fans would recognize, but I’ll stop now).
  • And the friendship between Jesper and INEJ??? Also deserves its own bullet point, because it translated SO well on screen and made me really really happy. Like, she trusted him enough to ask him to kill someone for her. I just.
  • (If you can’t tell, I’m pretty much only here for the Crows, lol. I also thought it was interesting seeing the Crows out of their element–Ketterdam–and in so many different settings. And before the Ice Court job, so before they met Nina and Wylan and Matthias.)
  • Even though Zoya didn’t get a lot of on-screen time, they showed her character arc throughout the show really nicely. (THAT’S YOUR FUTURE QUEEN OF RAVKA, PEOPLE!!! I STILL AM NOT OVER RoW, I’M SORRY!!!)
  • Also, the CINEMATOGRAPHY. It was so, so, so well-done from that aspect. Just beautiful.
  • The soundtrack too!!! I will definitely be utilizing the soundtrack to write some otherworldly novels in the future. It was absolutely glorious. (However, every time I look at Shadow and Bone images online I immediately get the main melody of the Narnia soundtrack stuck in my head. I mean, Ben Barnes. Can you blame me? Also, the parts with Matthias and Nina wandering around in the ice and snow wearing furs just scream LWW. Haha.)
  • And the VFX! Honestly, every aspect of the show was just so well-done and it created an amazing immersive experience.
  • I really wish we’d had Wylan and Nikolai in this season! There were already so many other characters to keep up with, though, and I know it didn’t fit with some of the timeline. I’m super excited to see their casting in the future (assuming we’ll get more seasons? I think things are looking pretty good considering the show is #1 on Netflix this weekend?). Mostly I’m just ready for Jesper + Wylan banter haha. (I thought we were going to get Wylan in this season when Jesper started talking about wanting an explosions expert? Like I thought they were setting that up? But I guess not.)
  • Speaking of characters, I think we all know who was the real MVP of the TV series–Sankt Milo of the rails, the emotional support goat. Saving our nervous farmboy Jesper, saving captive Mal, what can Milo not do? Milo the goat always understood the assignment.
  • David THREW THE ACTUAL SHADOW AND BONE BOOK AT JESPER, I REPEAT, HE THREW AN ACTUAL COPY OF SHADOW AND BONE AT JESPER
  • The Caspian-esque hair in the Darkling flashbacks. Hahaha.
  • I have apparently been saying SO many words and names and places wrong for the past five years, but if you know me that really should be no surprise.
  • I liked how they incorporated Inej’s faith–both in obvious ways like her conversations with Kaz about the Sun Summoner, and in smaller, more subtle ways that showed how her faith is such an integral part of who she is.
  • While we’re on the topic of Inej, the scene where she divested herself of all 14 knives (which were all actually hidden in Amita’s costume!) had the same energy as Jace pulling out all his weapons before he went into Dorothea’s house in TMI hahaha. Is there a name for that trope because it’s my favorite thing of all time.
  • Also I’m lowkey disappointed we didn’t get to see Kaz rip a man’s eye out. Just saying.

Phew, okay, I just read back over this and it’s a lot. Sorry not sorry for the aggressive amount of caps. Hope somebody enjoys my post-Shadow and Bone brain dump–please come fangirl with me in the comments!!! I’m so, so, SO pleased with how the show came out. We’ve suffered through so many terrible screen adaptations over the years; we were due for something good and this more than makes up for all the others (looking at you, Percy Jackson).

Finally, I’ll leave you with this tweet from Emma Lord that pretty much sums up my life right now:

Have you read Leigh Bardugo’s books? Have you seen the Netflix show? (You really should read the books first but if you’re a new fan from the show, we can still be friends 😉 Please fangirl with me in the comments because I am the epitome of “head empty no thoughts only shadow and bone.” Ok going to sleep now!

March 2021 Monthly Wrap-Up

I struggled my way through March, physically and emotionally. The beginning and end of the month were happy, but the middle was rough. Things were very overwhelming and defeating–but I’m proud of myself for how I kept getting back up and pushing through. In March I had three medical appointments; four infusions; and four medical procedures/tests. I had two voice lessons; went to a couple of Joshua’s baseball games; and went to small group once with my parents. And I fit in some other fun things, too–like spending the night at the house for Dad’s birthday dinner; getting coffee with Andrea; going to a train museum with Kenna and Lindsey; getting pizza on Pi Day with Dad; Kenna coming over; going to lunch with the ladies from small group; getting coffee with church friends; going to our anniversary celebration at church; and weekly phone calls with Brooke as well as one with Sara, one with Olivia, one with Bethany, and one with other friends.

This month I’m…

Reading: An Affair of Poisons, Addie Thorley. Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren. That Sounds Fun, Annie F. Downs. A Vow So Bold and Deadly, Brigid Kemmerer. The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue, Karina Yan Glaser. A Pho Love Story, Loan Le. The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna. What Doesn’t Kill You, Tessa Miller. Eat A Peach, David Chang. Left Turn to the Promised Land, Rachel Starr Thomson. A Place to Hang the Moon, Kate Albus. Efren Divided, Ernesto Cisneros. The Hatmakers, Tamzin Merchant. The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett M. Graff. Pavi Sharma’s Guide to Going Home, Bridget Farr. 15 total.

Listening to: This Hozier album (especially Jackie And Wilson). Say My Name, Beetlejuice. Share Your Address, Ben Platt. Would You Be So Kind, dodie. Girl, Jukebox The Ghost. Pierre, Ryn Weaver. The Lotto, Ingrid Michaelson, AJR. Roses, The Band CAMINO. Stop, Anthony Ramos. Tea for Two, Scott Bradlee.

Watching: The usual YouTube suspects–The Frey Life, Linda Sun, and Monica Church, plus Turning the Tables, Emma Topp, Alexmary Fayiga, and Rachel Kim. Gilmore Girls season 1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 (rewatch).

Eating and/or cooking: Chocolate peanut butter Nut Butter bars. Brown Asian pears. Vans protein pancakes and waffles. Turkey mustard sandwiches with cherry tomatoes and pita chips. Mini bagels. Key lime ice cream sandwiches. Plant based Ensure shakes. “M&M” cookies.

Writing: I got back into the swing of marketing this month and it felt really, really good. I was also interviewed on a podcast about freelance writing. Outside of work, I officially joined the People Hope volunteer team, and co-led my first Dysautonomia Support Network meetup. I also wrote 41 letters and received 20.

Buying: Capri pants. Catnip bubbles that my cat cares absolutely nothing about. I also finally bought a bunch of stuff for my balcony–an outdoor rug, some plants, and some string lights–which I’d been wanting to do for a year!

Learning: About defeat, resilience, and how to get back up and keep going when I don’t even care about trying anymore. How to manage my expectations for what my body can do. How nothing that’s eternal will change. And how to deal with bitterness.

Grateful for: A hand-me-down cat tree that my cat is still absolutely obsessed with weeks later. Daffodils everywhere and a friend who drives 40 minutes one way to bring me some. The days of gorgeous 75-degree spring weather. Having balcony picnics again. Feeling excited about new directions to take my business. Friends celebrating hopeful things with me, and friends noticing when I’m not doing well mentally. The birds who live at my apartment complex now (there were none until recently). Friends who can’t stop giggling during prayer. Seeing how far I’ve come and feeling supernatural peace. Life-giving, refreshing weekends. The stimulus check (hahaha just being real). Getting out of my reading rut. That first bite of food after being NPO. My church and everything that has been redeemed. Being able to drive. And so much more.

What did you do in March? What are you looking forward to in April?

Tour of My Mug Collection!

I became obsessed with mugs around the time I moved into my apartment, and I haven’t slowed down one bit. It’s becoming a problem, actually–as I was taking the photos for this blog post, I counted up all of my mugs and discovered that I own, ahem, 46 mugs. Yes, I realize I have a bit of an issue.

Besides the occasional cup of Good Earth sweet and spicy tea, I mostly just drink ice water out of my mugs. Being only one person, you’d think I wouldn’t get through all of these mugs, but you’d be surprised: I use many different mugs each day. (Just ask my family, specifically my mother. They’ll happily complain about how I get a new glass or mug every time I come into the kitchen for a drink.) I spend way too much money on mugs and I fully realize I don’t need 46, but they make me so happy every day! So, here’s the official tour of my mug collection.

I have three sets of mugs (four mugs each) that came with the dishes I bought at Walmart when I moved into my apartment. I only have a couple of these mugs in my mug cabinet, though, because of space constraints. I use the blue mugs (along with the blue plates) for breakfast. I don’t really use the Corelle mugs, but I use the other white mugs at other times of day.

I have two Harry Potter mugs, which is so fun! One is shaped like Hedwig; Hannah got it for me at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando years ago. I don’t really use it, though, because it’s not very functional to drink out of. The other one is a Marauder’s Map mug that was a Christmas gift two years ago.

I have several mugs that I’ve picked up while traveling. Grandpa bought several mugs when we went to Alaska, and this one lived at his house for a while before I decided I wanted it and took it home. I love my Myrtle Beach mug with the sea turtle; it’s beautiful (especially on the inside) and functional (I have a thing about mug handles–they have to be just the right shape and size). I also got this adorable “Happiness Comes in Waves” mug in Myrtle Beach last fall.

I have two mugs from Chattanooga: this tiny blue mug that I got at the Mountain Memories gift shop, and this tin mug from the Southern Belle Riverboat that Brooke bought me on another trip a few years ago (I don’t really use either of these mugs because they’re so small).

I have several mugs with writing or quotes on them. I absolutely love my navy mug that says “Celebrate the small victories,” my gray mug that says “Be still and know,” my red/brown mug that says “Thankful and grateful” (which Kenna got for me), and my speckled yellow mug that says “So very blessed.” These all came from either Hobby Lobby or Target.

I also have a “Never been better” mug (from Abbie’s merch shop for her book 100 Days of Sunlight); this mug that says “Love” (it has a hole in the handle for a little spoon; Kenna gave it to me in a care package when I was sick last winter); and this mug that says “Hope” (which Andrea gave me, also when I was very sick last winter–it’s the perfect shape and size).

I’ve had these three mugs for years, before I moved out and became obsessed with mugs: A bird mug with Philippians 4:4 on the inside, a The Dog mug, and a mug with two H’s on it. I’m not sure where any of them came from. I don’t really use them that often because, well, I have more exciting mugs now.

My Liquid Spoons mug from Spoonie Sister Shop is always a fave! And although the handle is a little too small for my liking, I love this little white mug I got last year for $5 from Crate & Barrel (Hanne has this mug too). I also recently received this Diamonds Conference Staff mug as a gift for being on staff.

Brooke gave me this cactus mug a year or so ago with a plant planted in it. Predictably, I accidentally killed the plant, so… now I just drink out of the mug. The white mug with the green wreath and H came from Hobby Lobby last summer (annoyingly, the handle is on the left and the print is only on one side, so you can’t see it if you’re holding the mug with your right hand).

These are two of my favorite mugs because they’re so big! I got the tan striped mug as a raffle prize at the Write2Ignite conference a couple of years ago. And I got this blue handcrafted ceramic mug at Marshall’s for $4 in December 2019 with Andrea–what a find! It’s the perfect shape and size that I like my mugs to be; it’s extremely functional. For that reason, it’s the only mug I ever use to drink a cup of tea.

I love the way this Moscow Mule copper mug looks, but honestly, I don’t really use it because it makes the water taste a little funny. The “Who needs Turkish Delight when you could have tea?” mug came in the June 2019 Pixie Dust book box (a Narnia-themed book subscription box which I believe has been discontinued).

We can’t forget about my Christmas mugs! I have a red “Holly jolly” mug that just comes out at Christmastime, plus a white “Joy” mug (from Hobby Lobby) and blue camp-style “Gratitude” mug (recently purchased from The Frey Life) that I use year-round.

Kenna gifted me this cat mug for Christmas last year. It’s so cute and also nice and big, making it highly functional–just like I like my mugs. I also bought this literary cat mug recently at a bookstore on a shopping trip with Kenna. Was it tailor-made for me or what?!

I recently bought this wildflower mug from Etsy. My grandparents had a set of sheets with a print like this for years, and I’ve been looking for a comforter with something similar. So I thought I would just continue with the trend and buy all things wildflower. Finally, I also received two mugs for my birthday a few weeks ago: This moon phases mug from Kenna, who knows I love all things involving the night sky, and this beautiful friendship mug from Mikayla.

And that’s my current mug collection! My mugs make me smile every day. Do you have a favorite mug? Tell me about it in the comments!

February 2021 Monthly Wrap-up

Whew, February was quite a month. I had three medical appointments this month, one infusion, and one round of labwork. Two of the medical appointments were with new specialists that I’d been waiting to see for a long time, and while they were good, they were a lot to process. Overall I felt pretty anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated, and defeated about medical stuff/my health in February, and I felt so physically unwell that it was difficult to process those emotions and handle the medical admin side of things.

My birthday was this month and I actually really enjoyed it, which was so much fun! Over a Thursday-Sunday, I spent the night at my family’s for my birthday dinner; Kenna and I had a lunch and shopping day; and my family celebrated Valentine’s Day. Other things I was able to do in February: run fun errands with Joshua; have weekly phone calls with Brooke (and one with Sara!); hang out at a coffee shop with some people from church; go to small group with my parents; have Kenna over; go to a bakery and a ballet with my dad; and be a background actor in a short film. I also had a tap lesson (SO good to be back!) and two voice lessons.

This month I’m…

Reading: Sensing God, Joel Clarkson. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (reread). City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire, Cassanda Clare (all rereads, and I can’t put into words how much I enjoyed my foray back into the Shadowhunter world). The Lion of Mars, Jennifer L. Holm. Every Moment Holy, Douglas Kaine McKelvey. A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea And Tomorrow, Laura Taylor Namey. You Have A Match, Emma Lord. Scavenge the Stars, Tara Sim. Wolf Hollow, Lauren Wolk. Roman and Jewel, Dana L. Davis. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Bette Bao Lord (reread). From the Desk of Zoe Washington, Janae Marks. The Green Ember, S. D. Smith. Payback, Kristen Simmons. 19 total (you can tell how badly I’ve been feeling by how many books I read in a month–in February I apparently averaged 1.5 per day, lol).

Listening to: The Greatest Showman. My “cooking in the kitchen late night” playlist (it’s a very specific vibe). Anchor, Novo Amor (and its song radio). Glitter & Gold, Barns Courtney. Carry On – Acoustic, Young Rising Sons. Gimme That Sunshine, Animal Island. False Confidence, Noah Kahan. Take Yours, Matthew Mole. u suck and Emotions, Emily Bear. John Hughes Movie, Maisie Peters.

Watching: The usual YouTube suspects: The Frey Life, Kiara Madisen, and Katie Mack (plus Samantha Rios, and all the good Tom Holland content we got). To All the Boys: Always and Forever.

Eating and/or cooking: PB&J toast with plums. Thin Mints. White chocolate macadamia nut Luna bars. Honey garlic chicken breasts (with zucchini and rice because that’s all I ever eat). Spaans lemon coconut cookies. For my birthday: Pork carnitas, chocolate pie, cinnamon sugar air fryer donuts. For Valentine’s Day: Homemade pizza, sugar cookies.

Writing: This month I wrote 42 letters and received 36. I messed around with writing some chronic illness liturgies. And I also completed training to be a volunteer with Dysautonomia Support Network, which didn’t actually involve any writing but seemed to fit into this category.

Buying: A new bookcase for my bedroom. A “Love grows here” sign to go by my kitchen sink. Lots of stationery stuff, from Etsy and Michael’s and the Dollar Tree and a bookstore. Target goodies. New placemats. A second cat scratcher for my cat (which she has proceeded to completely ignore). Goodies from Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and Lidl. A literary cats mug. A ring from Etsy. And way too many books.

Grateful for: 70 degree weather. Clients being flexible with deadlines and workloads. Doctors who are knowledgeable and prepared. My kitchen, my bedroom, I just love my home. Catching up with long distance friends. Seeing dogs (like the one who lives downstairs and greets me from its balcony, or the two-month-old dachshund in a yellow raincoat). Medical receptionists who help you navigate the phone maze. Learning more about storytelling from multiple different standpoints. Friends who buy you chocolate. How my cat has been sleeping curled up against my back. And I’m extremely grateful for the people who give me the accommodations I need so I can continue to do the things I love at least in some capacity.

What did you do in February? What’s something you’re looking forward to in March?

January 2021 Monthly Wrap-Up

The Diamonds Conference took over my life this month and I loved every minute of it. I’m on staff for Diamonds as social media manager and sponsorship coordinator, so this month was packed with staff Zoom calls and virtual speaker coffee hours and a million different tasks to make the conference happen. I’m also a speaker at the conference, and this year I presented a live session (with a Q&A) titled “A Deeper Walk With God,” facilitated the prayer session with Bethany, and co-led a small group breakout discussion on singleness and chronic illness with Kenna. The weekend of the conference (a Friday through Sunday), Kenna ending up coming over to my place every day and we hung out and watched the conference together.

Besides Diamonds, I really didn’t do much this month; at one point I was at home for almost two weeks straight. I canceled some plans because COVID cases have just been so bad here, and because I was feeling pretty badly too. I started out the month with a two-day medical test (which required me to isolate prior to the test). Other than that I had a nice break from medical appointments this month. I had a couple of voice lessons, ran some errands I’d been needing to run, and I did get in a few fun things, too: I met my pastor’s wife for lunch, Dad came over for dinner, Kenna and I got takeout and had a baking night, and Andrea and I met for coffee.

This month I’m…

Reading: Dust, Kara Swanson. Where Is God When It Hurts?, Phillip Yancey. The Line Tender, Kate Allen. Fly Like A Girl, Mary Jennings Hegar. Walk The World’s Rim, Betty Baker (reread). Mosquitoland, David Arnold. The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, Daven McQueen. Love and Luck, Jenna Evans Welch. The Other Side of the Sky, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. A Place to Belong, Cynthia Kadohata. A Time For Drums, Ann Rinaldi. And Arrow Is the Sun, Baylea A. Osborn. The South’s Okayest Writer, Sean Dietrich. Woven in Moonlight and Written in Starlight, Isabel Ibanez. 15 total.

Listening to: Mean Girls. Drive, Oh Wonder (incessantly, 24/7). Rise Up (Lazarus), CAIN. Across the Sea, The Sweeplings. The Elements, TobyMac. Feel Like This Forever, Leucadia. Wild Life, OneRepublic. the end, MisterWives. King of My Heart, Bethel Music.

Watching: The Frey Life, Cambria Joy, and Daniela Fernandez on YouTube. Boy Meets World season four. Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

Eating and/or cooking: Pistachios. Mandarin orange chicken. IQ Bars and pears. JOJO’s Chocolate. BBQ chicken zucchini nachos. Pork chops and roasted sweet potatoes. Heavenly Hunks. Chicken sausage. Sweet and salty shortbread cups.

Writing: Outside of work, I spent the majority of my time this month working on Diamonds tasks–my session, schedule spreadsheets, endless emails, and more. I got really behind on letters and missed not being able to write as many as usual, but I wrote 35 and received 44 (and had fun starting to make Valentines).

Buying: Fun stationery goodies at Michael’s. Reusable mesh produce bags. A wildflower mug. Valentine’s washi tape. New release YA books (which was so fun because that’s something I never do).

Grateful for: The days when I had enough energy to be productive. Waking up from a nap to my bedroom flooded with pink light from the sunset. Friends who are not chronically ill, but seek to learn more about chronic illness. Book mail. Long text conversations with friends about books (ones we’re reading and ones we;re writing). Getting the second stimulus check. My kitty being snuggly. Being able to watch TV. Texting with my grandpa. Making fun plans for next month and later this year. Rainy days and my favorite tea. All the good books in the world. And everything about the Diamonds Conference.

What did you do in January? What’s something you are looking forward to in February? Let me know in the comments!

This or That Book Tag

I saw this tag on Soph’s Book World blog and thought it looked fun, so I wanted to give it a go!

Read in bed or on the couch?

In bed, always. Fun fact: I never read on my couch. Like, ever. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever opened a book on my couch. I normally only read at night right before bed, so I just get in bed for the evening, read for an hour or two, and then immediately turn out the light and go to sleep.

Read at night or in the morning?

As we just established, lol, definitely at night. Sometimes I read in the car on vacation or in bed on a lazy weekend morning (the latter of which feels like an unspeakable luxury). Or I’ll skim a few chapters of a nonfiction book while I’m eating. But usually, I only read at night. I struggle to focus on a book during the day because there are always other things I need to be getting done.

Male main character or female main character?

It really depends on the book! Usually, female; I love a strong female lead. But I’ve read a lot of great books with male main characters. And I’m not opposed to dual POV’s, either (especially if one of those POV’s is Rev Fletcher or Kaz Brekker).

First person POV or third person POV?

This one depends, too–but in general, I’d say first person (and when I’m writing, first person for sure). The only problem is that then I can never remember the main character’s name, lol.

Trilogies or quartets?

Trilogies. Three is just a nice solid number. A lot of the time with quartets, I feel like the author dragged out the story longer than it was meant to go.

Libraries or bookstores?

Both?! I realized recently, after going to a used bookstore last fall and a Barnes & Noble around Christmas, that it had been years since I’d been in a bookstore (which is terrible and sad). I have a library literally one mile from my apartment and I typically swing by multiple times a week to pick up books on hold. So in real life, I go to the library far more often. But for browsing, there’s nothing like a good used bookstore (or a corporate chain, I don’t discriminate).

Books that make you laugh or make you cry?

BOTH! Make me do both!

Black book covers or white book covers?

I like colorful book colors, but if it’s going to have a neutral base, I think I’d say white (although this really depends on the specific genre/book).

Character-driven or plot-driven?

Character-driven. You can write thirty pages about the characters going to the grocery store, and if they’re strong enough characters, I’ll want more.

This tag was so much fun! If you want to do it on your blog, feel free–and answer your favorite question here in the comments!