year in review: 2017.

After organizing my shoes on the new shoe racks I requested for Christmas (insert “I’ll never get pregnant before marriage” joke here), ya girl is back at it again with the blogging.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to continue blogging on a regular basis, and I’m going to start with this, my annual year in review post.

Honestly, this post holds a special place in my heart, as do all of the others, and I really do it more for myself than anyone else.  It’s amazing to be able to look back at the last year and think about everything that’s happened in my life and how crazy how much can happen in just five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.  (Because that’s how you measure a year.)  ((In addition to measuring in love.))

I knew going into 2017 that it would be a crazy busy year, and one full of change, but I don’t think I could’ve imagined all of the change that would happen outside of the obvious.  One of the biggest and most life-changing things happened when I least expected it (isn’t that always how it goes?) and I can’t wait to see what happens with it in 2018 (and onward).

Anyway.  Let’s go.

January

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i’ll always look back on these days of running errands and visiting the library with these two little munchkins with fondness.  {1-26-17}

After my first actual Christmas break since I was in high school, I started back on school with my final two courses – my Liberal Arts Capstone and a Jane Austen course.  I thought both would be fairly simple.  Turns out Jane was a breeze (thanks, years of watching period dramas for fun!!!!!).  The Capstone, on the other hand…  *laughs through tears*  To be completely honest, it was the hardest semester of school I’d ever experienced.  I cried more in those three months than ever before.  Due to stress, I ate way too much ice cream and got incredibly bad acne.  For the first time ever, I considered quitting and dreaded getting up in the morning to study.  The only thing that pushed me through it was the fact that I was close, and if I could just finish, I knew I’d be able to conquer anything.

And I did, praise the Lord.

In addition to this, I discovered a lot of new things.  Dear Evan Hansen came early in the beginning of the month.  Life.  Changing.  Listen to the soundtrack – and watch a bootleg, if you can find one.  I also discovered a brand new show (Teen Wolf – hello, you weirdly beautiful show) and, through obsessing over said show, found my best friend.  The show was a gateway to conversations about growing up, maturing, being a young adult while still living at home, and relationships – all incredibly easy because we’d known each other for almost eight years and had the same upbringing.  After drifting away from someone who I’d previously called my best friend, it was so heartwarming to find someone new.  Since then, we’ve created so many memories together and have stretched each other in so many ways and I can’t imagine myself without her.

I also blogged about how scared I was to start writing, which turned out to be not so scary after all.  After that, I worked on my novel several times a week at Starbucks or at home or in my car or wherever I could find a power outlet (because my laptop battery suuuuucked), until finally finishing it at the end of March.  (And then starting up again as I started submitting queries.)

Minor notable events: I met Veronica Roth and got a signed copy of her latest novel, Carve the Mark, and started going to a college age Bible study that was one of the highlights of my semester.

February

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the true marker of the beginning of our bestfriendship – geting each other matching hoodies.    {2-24-17}

I got a Facebook account during this month and I’ve never been more disgusted and intrigued.  It’s like a car crash – you’re horrified but you just. can’t. look. away.  I take frequent breaks from it and rarely scroll through my feed because of it, but it’s led to many good things (I wouldn’t have a few of the best people in my life if I didn’t have it).

I also struggled with a long-time crush during February.  (Stupid love month.)  It’s hard being so sure that you and a guy would be a great couple when he barely knows you exist.  After several prayers and seeing him way too many times, it finally went away.  It was for the best, after all, and I learned a lot about myself and relationships through it.  I wish I hadn’t gotten so obsessed and let him take over so much of my brain, but it’s all over now and we’re friends.

I also cried over my Capstone a lot.  Dang that professor.  He told me not to worry about my grades (after not grading my papers for literally weeks) because that was “childish.”  I’ve only close to legitimately hating someone once before (a teenage girl who made such a horrific impact on my younger sister that she still lives with the consequences years later), and I don’t want to ever come that close again.  He taught me a lot, though – like to always remember that people have feelings, that people are always capable of rising above impossibly dreadful situations, and that self-care is something that everyone needs.  (Meanwhile, my Austen professor was an absolute gem, and the entire class enjoyed a very lively discussion of Austen’s works and other historical novels – complete with memes.  It was an easy A course and I adored every moment of it.)

I did take a weekend off to go to a retreat in the mountains with my WITAlive friends and it was a blast.  I made so many new friends and developed deeper connections with friends I’d made before.  It was phenomenal and I’ll cherish those memories forever.  I also started volunteering as a small group leader at my church and grew to love all of my little sixth-grade girls dearly.  Other things of note: I attended a 20’s themed 20th birthday party for two of my dearest friends, one of the highlights of my year.  I also saw Newsies in the movie theatre with my friends (twice) and it slayed my life.

March

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making salads and watching a tv show over lunch became my safe place – my haven in the craziness of school.  {3-24-17}

March started off with a bang – my first royalty check.  For the first time, my career as a writer finally felt real.  People had bought my book and I heard from a lot of them that they enjoyed it.  WHAT A CONCEPT.

I also got Rather Existential™ about finishing college.  As the schoolaholic I was, I had no idea how to have a life outside of school.  Especially in that last semester of college, where all of my time was devoted to finishing my capstone, I clung to the hours I spent in my room on my laptop, writing pages and pages of this massive final paper.  It was so hard and took so much time and stressed me out so much, but I didn’t want to let it go.  After eight years of finding my identity in my schoolwork (because I didn’t have too many friends in high school and sunk much of my time into being the best at school that I could), I didn’t know how to be myself outside of it.  I distinctly remember letting myself sink into fear and God revealing through His word that I shouldn’t be afraid of the future – three times in one passage after a particularly hard day of letting go of the reins.

And then, before I realized what was happening, it was March 24th and I was submitting my final paper and then going to a friend’s house to shoot his guns.  I remember unloading a semi-automatic rifle (with impeccable accuracy, I might add) on a certain target while screaming, “This is for you, professor!!!”  That was a good moment.

Also during March, I went to DNOW with my group of sixth grade girls from my church and enjoyed it immensely, and saw my first play at the massive theatre in my little town (Tarzan) and fantasized with a friend about acting.  (Little did we know, we’d be on that same stage with some of the same people only a few months later.)

April

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some of the sibs and i at james’s state robotics competition.  {4-7-17}

This month started out with two of my best friends surprising me by driving all the way down from Virginia to hang out with me and my siblings.  We drank too much coffee and played April Fools Day tricks on people and they consoled me when I started freaking out about not getting a passing grade on my big final paper.  (I ended up passing, though.  It just looked like I hadn’t passed because he still hadn’t graded papers that I’d submitted a month ago.  Classic.)

My brother started competing with his robotics team, and I watched like the proud mom friend/sister I am as his team went all the way through to the world competition in Houston.  (They ended up getting third in the world.  Yeah, he’s pretty smart.)  Another time I felt like a mom was when I took the twins I’d been nannying for two years to their Easter party at a farm, complete with bunnies, an Easter egg hunt, and adorable clothes.

My world was slightly rocked when I found out that a good guy friend liked me and wanted to see what would happen if we explored being more than Just Friends™.  After twenty-two years of never hearing that any guy had even the slightest bit of romantic interest in me, it was a lot to handle.  (I actually got the text as I was telling my parents – half jokingly, half seriously – that I repel men.)

Towards the end of the month, my entire family went to Houston with my brother for a week for his robotics competition and I volunteered to stay home, hold down the fort, watch our new puppies (!!!), and cover both Katie’s and my own nannying days.  I was a little disappointed that I could only watch the competition via livestream, but it was honestly one of the best weeks of my life.  I saw Matilda with my grandma, invited my best friend to spend a few days with me (watching movies and episodes of Teen Wolf and being awful influences on one another and basically being way too domestic), dyed my hair blue, and spent many hours talking to aforementioned guy.

I also submitted my first query letter, went to another author event with my best bookish friend, and declared my best friend love for my bestie (who’d just done the same in a totally separate conversation).

May

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my sister and i at the twins’ preschool graduation.  so many happy tears.  {6-11-17}

Continuing my inclination to be a mom with no children, I spent several hours in early May helping one of the twins pull her loose tooth out.  It took an entire afternoon of both Katie and I assuring her that it wouldn’t hurt, promising her candy, and hugging and kissing away her sobs.  The tooth finally came out and the little girl told us she wished she’d done it earlier.  (Smh.  Listen to me, child!)  As this was the last month of picking them up from their preschool – as Katie and I had done for the last three years – I held moments like this close to my heart.  I’m not ashamed to say that I sobbed at their graduation along with the other moms I’d gotten to know over the last three years.  I still miss getting parenting and relationship advice and obsessing over This is Us with those moms and can’t wait to have that again with my own kids.

One of the most exhausting weekends of my life – mentally, emotionally, and physically – happened during this month.  I ended things with the guy after a month of getting to know each other, helped my family move out of the house we’d called home for the last six years (the longest my siblings and I had ever lived anywhere), and unpacked boxes and cleaned and organized a few rooms in the new house while my mom was gone the afternoon after we’d moved in for our Mother’s Day present for her.  After barely getting any sleep, I remember crashing on the couch for a few hours after cleaning the new house, completely dead to the world.

One of the best things that has ever happened to me happened during this month.  When my family moved into our new house, my sister and I moved into the basement (which we would later start paying rent for).  We each have our own room, a shared bathroom and closet (which my parents were able to copy exactly from the master bathroom – perks of building a house, even though it took over a year – #BLESSED), and our own living room/kitchenette.  We decorated the kitchenette like Luke’s from Gilmore Girls (complete with an adorable coffee mug shelf just like his that holds thirty mugs), and just got open shelving installed by a neighbor this past week.  After living on the first floor, directly off the kitchen and living room, and sharing a bathroom with two sisters (which doubled as our guest bathroom), living down here in the basement has been nothing short of heaven.  Sure, I can hear thumps from the school room directly above me, but it’s infinitely better than what I had before.  We still don’t have wifi at the new house (and probably won’t for several years), but it’s so gorgeous and has so much potential.  My family is so happy here and we’re all incredibly blessed.

I also organized my college graduation party, and was so happy that all of my best friends came – even some friends from out of town, who we explored Atlanta with in the days after.  One of my favorite things was sitting in a circle with the 20+ people who came (I’ve never been one for big parties and firmly believe in quality over quantity) and hearing about their first impressions of me.  (One was actually sad that I was so in love with Captain America… looking back on the last few months of my life makes me want to laugh and say “Joke’s on you!”)

After moving to our wifi-less house, I started downloading episodes of shows off Netflix while I was at church so I could watch them during the week.  I made it through several seasons of The Office this way, which I’ll forever link to mornings spent drinking coffee and bingeing shows, happy to not have the stress of school or a full-time job (yet).

June

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krispy kreme drive-thru after mamma mia with these crazies.  {6-14-17}

So began another month of watching shows in the morning, nannying in the afternoons, and questioning my existence.  Looking back, I realize how blessed I was to have those peaceful moments before starting a full-time job in November, but, in those weeks, it was a struggle to see the good.  I applied for jobs and never heard back, wondered if I could find another nannying job (as the one I’d done for the last few years was swiftly coming to an end), and wished I had the structure of school.  In my hours of unexpected free time, I read books, edited my novel (The Art of Letting Go), got tons of constructive criticism on it, and finally – finally – started submitting query letters to agents.  That, by far, was one of the best things I did last year, and something I’m still very proud of.

I also met my long-time friend Heather from Australia that I met through this blog (hey, girl!), and am currently looking forward to spending a few days with her next month (!!!).

During this month, I was able to enjoy visits from several different friends who lived in different states.  I also went to our old house to steal the wifi and watch the Tony awards (feeling incredibly inspired by the fact that all of the nominations for best play were debuts and sobbing my eyes out when the cast of Dear Evan Hansen – especially Ben Platt – swept the awards).

My sisters and I won lottery tickets to see the touring production of Mamma Mia!, and we dragged my brother along (although he later admitted he enjoyed it).  I had a bite of a Krispy Kreme donut for the first time in seven years and nearly cried.

One night, I went to visit a good friend at a local theatre and watch her work on a play – a kids’ summer program put on by some of Katie’s theatre friends.  I brought a book to read if I got bored, but was asked to fill in for one of the actresses (who, a few weeks into rehearsals, still not shown up).  I was happy to oblige.  I worked blocking with this friend, read the other girl’s lines, and kept having to correct “we should do this” to “you guys should do this.”  At the end of rehearsals, the director looked at me and said, “You know you’ve got the part, right?  Is that okay?  Can you do it?”  And that, my friends, is how I got into theatre.  I was an outlier – five years older than the oldest person in the cast and one of the minor characters, with only five lines of my own – but I had such a blast.  I warned them that they were literally never getting rid of me after that, and, judging from the last few months, it’s been insanely accurate.

I also got my diploma and tassel in the mail (perks of getting my degree online), bought my first (five) succulents, started re-reading Before You Meet Prince Charming (Lord Jesus give me strength), got a Peter Pan phone case, watched Band of Brothers over a week with my brother, finally started losing weight (!!!!), started watching Riverdale (the soapiest of soap operas and yet I was so obsessed), had the first of many sleepovers with two of my best friends, and hosted my first immersive Clue night (where my cousins and siblings and I dressed up as Clue characters as we played Clue – still one of the best ideas I’ve ever had).  All in all, a packed month.

July

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me and some of the baby cast of beauty after our last show.  {7-30-17}

In July, we spent a week at my grandparents’ house for our annual cousin camp – give or take a few days because of work.  I finished the last few episodes of the first season of Riverdale while snuggled up in my sleeping bag and also worked with my grandma for hours on cardboard cars so we could have a “drive-in” movie.  We watched one of my grandma’s old high school math students reprise his role in Beauty and the Beast in a local production after first seeing him play Lumiere ten years before, which was incredible.

My sister and I also spent nine days working at a vendor during AmericasMart in Atlanta.  After waking up at five-thirty every morning, driving an hour, staying on my feet from eight in the morning to six or seven at night, then driving an hour back home… I think it’s safe to say I almost died of exhaustion.

Later that month, some friends drove up from Florida for the weekend to see my brother play the Tin Man in a local production of The Wizard of Oz.  I also went with one of them to the Fox Theatre to see Idina Menzel in concert.  She’s such a diva but it was so worth it!  I also kept working on my novel and sending out query letters, but faced more and more rejection.  Now I no longer feel better whenever people tell me that “J.K. Rowling submitted to twelve publishers before getting one!”  Yeah, come back when you’ve submitted to more than thirty and only two have asked to see more (before turning it down).

In the end of July, Beauty of the Century (the kids show) opened, and I spent every night at the theatre for a week (tech week, but often we’d just sit on the stage after the kids left and talk for hours).  Four shows in one weekend, then it was over.  I will never forget that experience.  Trying to keep thirty kids quiet backstage while the show was going on affirmed that, but it was more than just the craziness – it was the family that formed in those weeks, which was something I hadn’t experienced in such a long time.  I was a backstage mom for those kids, and I still love each and every one of them.  And there’s just something so exhilarating about being on a stage and being part of a story that plays out, in real time, before an audience… which is why I started to think seriously about auditioning for a that a new friend was a part of, especially after he said that it involved stage combat.

August

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baby bestie & i.  {8-1-17}

I ushered in this month by spending three days with my best friend, getting my hair cut seven inches shorter, and going to a baseball game at the new baseball stadium in town with friends.  My bestie also introduced me to bubble tea, and after looking through pictures, I’m craving it again.  (Thanks, Karlee.)  We also went to see a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was put on by the production company that would later do Treasure Island.  (The cast included a few people who I’d met during Beauty, and some people who I would later consider some of my best friends, even though I didn’t even know their names at the time.  Crazy how that happens, isn’t it?)  In line with theatre stuff, I also attended the awards show for the theatre that had hosted Beauty, since my brother had been nominated for an award as the titular character in The Pied Piper of Hamlin, the kids show from the previous year’s summer program.  (Again, people were nominated that I barely knew and would, in less than three months time, become more dear to me than some people I’d known for years.)

The twins started kindergarten and attended an after-school program during the days I usually nannied, so I inadvertently found myself with even more free time.  It was a struggle to let go at first, because hanging out with these adorable small children every Tuesday and Thursday had been my routine for the last two and a half years.  I’d lost my little buddies… and my only source of income.  To say that the months following were downers would be an understatement.  To make up for it, I started babysitting at a Classical Conversations co-op once a week.  It wasn’t much, but I took what I could get.  Meanwhile, I looked for a new job.

To distract myself from this aspect of my life, I decided to audition for Treasure Island.  If I couldn’t have a job, I could at least have some structure, right?  It helped knowing that several of my close younger friends were auditioning as well.  I prepared a monologue (the opening scene of Dear Evan Hansen, plus a little more from later on) and did it.  My hands shook the entire time and for several minutes afterward, but I did it anyway.  After the monologues, we read selections from the play.  I got to read the part of Doctor Livesey and instantly connected with the character.  Two of my younger friends and I had plans to go rock climbing afterwards, so we had to leave early, but I left wishing and hoping and praying that I could get the part.  To my complete and utter shock, after an entire afternoon and most of an evening of waiting with my fingers crossed… the cast list came.  I’d gotten a part.  A supporting lead (the doctor character I’d read for) with ninety-two lines for my second play – not too shabby!  And not just lines – the way the play was orchestrated, most of it was narration by Jim, Captain Smollet, and, yours truly, Doctor Livesey.  I had massive paragraphs of narration, facing the audience, in a spotlight, including the opening monologue of Act 2.  I instantly freaked out, wondering if I could even do it.  But I was determined to try – and, more than that, incredibly excited.

My siblings and I also started hosting a movie night sleepover every few weeks with some friends to introduce them to Harry Potter.  It’s been super fun, especially since we were never really allowed to do sleepovers when we were younger.  It’s also pretty great having a space of our own to do this!  I won more lottery tickets to see the touring production of An American in Paris (making it the third professional musical I’d see this year – #blessed), so my sister and I went with some of her friends.  It was more ballet-focused than I’d thought, and absolutely stunning in every way.  I also started learning French, killed four MASSIVE spiders within the space of two weeks (I’m not kidding – they were about four inches long and I’ve got the pictures to prove it), spent another week watching action movies with my brother, and sat on the roof of my Volvo wagon to watch the eclipse.

An agent also asked to see my entire manuscript and, although he later turned it down, it was a great feeling.

September

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look at these small children.  {9-7-17}

Rehearsals for Treasure Island continued – including the amazing Saturday combat rehearsals – and I started making more friends from the cast.  Going through my pictures to remember what happened in those months reminded me of those first texts, friend requests, Instagram notifications, and little things I’d tell my best friend about them.  I also started asking for advice on how to subtly flirt with a certain cast member because of his Captain America shirt.

I started taking my younger friend to and from rehearsal every week, and we’d sit on her porch swing at night and talk.  Those hours spent talking with her until I had to drag myself away built up our friendship more than it had in the last six years that I’d known her and formed some of my favorite memories in this season of my life.  She’s seven years younger than me, but she’s one of my best friends.

Halfway through the month, my family went on our annual beach trip – something we’d skipped the year before in order to go to Disney instead (meaning we hadn’t gone in two years and were long past due for a trip).  We had so much fun sitting on the beach, reading, watching TV shows and movies, and just spending time with one another.  My siblings and I also took a few afternoon excursions by ourselves and felt super basic with our frappucinos and quality Instagram pictures.  During this beach trip, a friend from church decided to set me up on a blind date, which I hesitantly accepted and scheduled for a few days after I got home.  (That story is too long to share here, but suffice it to say that the date went well but then he ghosted me.  Oh well.  I’d finally had my first date.  Check that off the bucket list!)

I distinctly remember texting a friend that, in the hours before, I’d (1) gotten an email from an agent asking for the first fifty pages of my novel, (2) started prepping for an interview the next week, (3) scheduled a blind date, and (4) memorized lines because “on top of all of this craziness hey why not star in a play.”  The agent later turned down the novel (recently, actually) and the blind date flopped, but I successfully memorized all of my lines and (three interviews and many tears later) got the job.

October

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our gentility trio.  {10-12-17}

Ahh, yes.  The month where everything changed.  In this month, I got asked out for the first time, successfully co-starred in a play, auditioned for another play, and got a job.

My friendship with my theatre friends deepened, we had a night that will forever go down in Elliott Family Lore as the Bonfire of Love, and a friend (and former castmate) was killed in a car crash and I found out about it right after being sick and right before auditioning for Miracle on 34th Street.  (I’m not kidding – being sick, finding out, and auditioning all happened in the space of about an hour and a half.)  Because of that (and because I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted), I thought I’d bombed the audition.  There really wasn’t even a part for me, as the lead called for a woman in her thirties and the other female parts were very minor “elves.”  I’d promised my mom a few days before that “even if I auditioned,” I wouldn’t have to be at every rehearsal.  The next morning, I woke up to an email with the cast list.  I’d gotten the lead.  This time, I had a hundred and fifty-four lines.  Again, not too shabby for something I’d done on a whim.  This time, I freaked out for a solid week (during tech week for Treasure Island) before finally deciding that if I’d gotten myself into this mess, I might as well try my hardest to make it through it.

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bonus pic bc i still love and adore this cast.  {10-13-17}

Rehearsals for Miracle started three days after Treasure Island closed, which was quite the whirlwind.  I hated leaving my Treasure Island friends I’d grown to love so much, but I was happy to make new memories.  A few of my favorite memories from Treasure Island include my Sexy Ben Franklin outfit, eating pizza at 2am with my new theatre besties after closing night, and listening to “I’m Still Here” from Treasure Planet at least once on the road to every rehearsal.  (There’s also that time I chucked my gun into the audience on closing night… but we won’t talk about that.)

Other random favorite memories were shopping with two new theatre friends, visiting the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern to see MacBeth with my sister, a theatre friend, and my Miracle director, meeting my love interest for Miracle in a roundabout way (and hiding from him, obviously), going on a date, and enjoying a fun Halloween party.

November

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rehearsing the final scene (feat. our makeshift bench, my post-work outfit, and several onlookers who wanted to experience the adorbs).  {11-17-17}

Ahh, yes.  NaNo.  I started the month with such high hopes, thinking I’d be able to participate again.  But, sadly, no.  I got ten thousand words in, then started working full time (with an hour-long commute – without traffic).  There went that idea.  I’m still going to finish that book, though.  Slowly, surely, over the next few months.  Looking forward to it, actually.

In the space of a weekend, I drove down to Florida with my sisters, participated in the most stressful wedding ever, visited several friends, came back to Georgia, hammered out six thousand words of my novel in an afternoon (before going to the Fox Theatre to see the cast of The Avengers do a benefit read-through of Our Town – ALL THE HEART EYES BECAUSE MY LIFE. WAS. MADE.), and started training for my new job – a receptionist position at a car dealership.  It’s been almost four months and it’s been a struggle sometimes but I mostly love it to death.

Other than working ten hours a day, my life circled around rehearsals for Miracle, Christmas prep, maintaining my social life, and deepening friendships.  The last week of November was ridiculous because I’d get up at 6:30, leave for work early to beat traffic, work ’til 5pm, fight traffic for an hour and a half all the way up to the theatre, rehearse for three or four hours, drive thirty minutes home, sleep for six or seven hours, and get up to do it all again.  It’s a testament to how amazing my theatre friends are that they would still hang out with me after seeing me stressed to the point of tears.

December

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my best friend and my wifey.  {12-10-17}

December was a whirwind.  Miracle opened and was a rousing success, much to the relief of myself and my costars.  I was able to get all of opening day off, so I spent it at the theatre figuring out how to do my hair, finishing the set, buying flowers for all of the backstage moms, and trying not to have a nervous breakdown.  Saturday gave me a real taste of what it’d be like the rest of the time, with leaving for work at seven in the morning, working 8:30-6, booking it to the theatre and only making it an hour before curtains, and then doing the show.  Craziness.

There were so many little stories of things that happened during Miracle that would take an entire blog post to tell, but by far my favorite is when I literally ended the very last show with a bang.  After the most romantic scene in the entire show, the lights went dark and everything was completely black.  One of the tech guys hadn’t been there, so the table in the apartment set was on the wrong spike tape.  Not a big deal – during the scene, I’d just skirted around it.  This time, however, I’d forgotten that there were chairs.  Instead of going in front of it like I had the entire rehearsal process and every single one of the six shows before, I went around back.  Tragically, since I’d forgotten the chairs, I ran straight into one, knocking it over before tripping over it.  I held in my laughter as I crawled offstage, then fell in the wings, laughing hysterically and trying to explain through whispered gasps what had happened.  What a memory.

Another favorite memory of December is when my best friend from Iowa who I’d met on Pinterest a few years before but hadn’t met in real life yet flew over and spent an entire weekend with me.  Even though she brought the snow that cancelled all of my birthday plans, two shows, and knocked out the power aND WATER FOR OVER FORTY-EIGHT HOURS… I still love her.  We had such a blast hanging out together ranting, draining our laptop batteries to watch movies, reading books, and FaceTiming friends.  We ate my birthday cheesecake by candlelight – a lot less romantic when you remember that you can’t brush your teeth afterwards… or flush the toilet… or wash your hands…  Anyway, the events surrounding my birthday were pretty fantastic, even if my actual birthday wasn’t that great (minus Natalie, of course).  We did end up getting to do an impromptu sleepover with my other best friend, and it. was. amazing.  (Mostly because we had light and heat and queso and a John Krasinski movie on the big TV.)  If anything, it reminded me that people who see me at my absolute worst and still love me are worth keeping around.

Other favorite memories from December include keeping our Ben & Jerry’s ice cream outside in the snow to keep it from melting completely, showering at a friend’s uncle’s house (because they had both power and water – PRAISE THE LORD), doing a photo shoot with my two bestest friends in the world on our last day together, knowing I’d made it through one of the worst days of my life on my second-to-last show day with applause (affirming my love for that famous Wonder quote – “I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives” … especially on that particular day), absolutely crushing the last weekend of Miracle, getting bOTH A TRAMPOLINE AND A TOASTER OVEN FOR CHRISTMAS LIKE HELLO BEST CHRISTMAS EVER, and enjoying much too much time with my best friend eating pizza, ranting about life’s problems, and encouraging the h*ck out of one another.  Oh, and I also went on more dates than I can count (with the same guy obviously who do you think I am), so that was also very fun and also a story for another time.

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hello, annual picture-in-the-bathroom-mirror tradition.  (feat a new bathroom and a new crochet’d whale keychain.)  {1-28-18}

All that said, this year was incredible.  I started off the year knowing it would be a year of change but I had no idea just how much would happen.  I went from not knowing what the heck I was doing and yet moving forward anyway to realizing that I’m on some sort of sled going down a snowy hill and it’s just getting faster and faster but I don’t actually mind because it’s super fun???  Sorry for the weak metaphor but that’s what it feels like.

I asked for character development and got it in 2016.  I asked for story progression and got it in 2017.  So, in 2018, I’ll ask for more of both, because Lord knows I need both.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you.  I love rereading these posts over the years and I’m more than happy to share with whoever’s still out there reading this blog.

Excelsior.

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i now have a college degree.

IMG_6465 (2).jpgWarning: Rambly angst ahead.

I have no words.  I submitted my final paper over a week ago and I’ve been waiting for my final grades before I posted anything.  Well, I got my final grade today, and I still don’t know what to say.

The main drive I had in the last four years of my life is gone.  The massive, stressful weight disappeared this past weekend as my grade slowly trickled in.  I felt it leave as I sunk to the floor and looked up at my friend from Virginia who showed up on my doorstep.  She told me to stop being irrational because of course I’d pass.  And she was right – I did.

And with that main focus leaving, I’m sitting here on my bed, lukewarm cup of coffee in hand, wondering, Well… now what?

I talked to my coach for the last time this past week and we talked about how much had changed over the last four years.  I’ve become a better version of my eighteen-year-old self – not different at all from that wide-eyed, still-trying-to-lose-her-baby-fat teenager.  I’ve got a better taste in music, I’m more confident, my people skills aren’t amazing but so much more apparent, and I’ve gotten a lot better at covering up the midnight-study-sessions-induced bags under my eyes due to my improved makeup skills.  And that’s just the non-academic stuff.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a good taste of my post-grad life this past week.  Instead of writing papers through sleepy eyes, I watched documentaries.  Instead of rushing home from doing errands to see how many distracted hours of school I could get done while simultaneously trying to nanny, I sat on the floor at the library and colored an apple tree with my charges.  Instead of cramming as much study time as I could in the quiet hours while Mom was gone with the littlest two at homeschool PE, I gave her a much-needed packing afternoon and took them myself.

While I’m pretty scared of the future and whether or not I’ll waste this newfound freedom, I’m also incredibly excited.  I hate change but I love new beginnings, and that’s what gets me through the ever-changing chapters of my life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to enjoy my first rainy day with no school in sight.

being a college student is…

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{for le blog aesthetic // not mine.}

curling up in places too small for you and closing your eyes for just one more minute.

writing papers at midnight and then being horrified at your incomprehensible “logic” the next morning.

constantly wondering why your coffee cup is empty but not having the motivation to refill it.

spending your hard-earned cash on ice cream because your professors make you cry.

always just wanting to lay down on the floor.

generally wanting to lay down in general because you’ve never been this tired in your life.

worrying about cell phone bills, car insurance, food, budgeting, grades, social life, etc all the time.

finding new study music all. the. time.

in that same vein, finding new tv shows to watch.  (and sometimes they’re disney shows and that’s okay.) (meaning i discovered boy meets world while i was in college and honestly it helped me get through it.)

junk food. so much junk food.

developing weird ways to learn the stuff you’ve gotta learn.  (need to learn the kings and queens of england for your western civ class?  say no more.)

watching your friends get into relationships???  and get engaged???  and get married???  AND HAVE BABIES???

constantly wondering what the crap you’re doing with your life because of the above.  (“oh, that’s right.  i’m getting an education.  which will help me… how?”)

losing motivation.

gaining motivation.

meeting new friends.

saying goodbye to old friends.

setting aside hours a day to psych yourself up for something because adulting is hard.

taking tests.

sobbing in your car because you failed tests.

celebrating with junk food and movies because you passed tests.

being scared about moving on because sweet buttered crumpets, you’ll have to really adult and enter *gulp* The Real World.

moving on, despite whatever happens, because this is your education and DANG IT, you’ll get it done.


i only have a few weeks of school left.  i’m trying to live in these moments – to really relish them, despite the mixed feelings they bring – because i’m such a schoolaholic that i know i’m going to miss them.

today’s my baby sister’s birthday.  she’s four.  i distinctly remember living at a friend’s house while her adoption paperwork was going through, discovering pinterest while trying to figure out this college thing.

i’m totally scared at the prospect of a school-free life.  i’m obviously still going to learn (hello, french lessons), but it’ll be different.

more than that, though, i’m excited.  i’ll have a more flexible schedule, i’ll be able to live without a major stress-inducer in my life, i’ll have more writing time, i’ll be able to get a job without worrying about having enough school time…

saying goodbye is always hard.  but saying hello is such a bright, optimistic new opportunity, and i’m totally ready to see what i’ll greet in the next few months.

coffee session | some things i’ve learned recently.

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(for le blog aesthetic / not mine)

You know the drill.  Grab a cup of coffee, listen to some music, and let’s have a chat.  (My side of the conversation is below; feel free to share yours in the comments!)

*sips coffee*

So my sister got some toffee nut syrup from Starbucks a few weeks ago and y ‘ a l l.  It’s so good.  Makes her mad when I “borrow” it, but it makes my coffee soooo yummyyyyyy.  (Why yes, I am drinking it right now – why do you ask?)

*sips coffee again*

I have a coaching call in literally one minute but I’m here writing out this post and if that doesn’t say something about my time management skills, I don’t know what will.

What’s a coaching call, you ask?  WELL.  CollegePlus – Lumerit, SORRY – is a distance-learning thing, and the thing the company does to keep you on track is give you a coach that calls you once every two weeks to chat about your life and your schooling and how it’s all going – and, most importantly, how you’re handling it all.

{musical interlude while I do my call}

Anyway, my coach is amazing and I love her to death.  She’s my fourth coach because I had three coaches in a year and let. me. tell. you. – that was not fun.  But she’s an angel and I think I love her best out of the three.  If I pass my last two courses (fingers crossed because they’re a little harder than I thought they’d be), I’ll be finished in March and that’s kinda sad because I’m going to miss talking to her every few weeks!  Plus she’s getting married, so that’s pretty dang exciting.

*sips coffee*

(it’s actually the next day and i’ve got coffee again and… yeah.  me in a nutshell)

So the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack came out the other night and oh my gosh.  It is all kinds of wonderful.  Seriously, I don’t know that I’ve related to a musical so much.  It’s so needed, too.  Such a beautiful, beautiful thing.  Listen to it.  If you’ve only got time for one song, listen to this one.  And really listen to it – turn it on, put headphones in, close your eyes, and just sit for a minute.  It’ll make you day a million times better.

I stayed up ’til after 1am listening to it when it came out, first laughing and dancing and dramatically lip-syncing in the bathroom and then sobbing while curled up in my bed with the blankets over my head.  Because that’s just the kind of musical that it is.

*sips coffee*

Like I mentioned before, college is hard.  I knew that going into it, and all the courses I’ve done have been different kinds of difficult, but… dang, these last two.  I’ve cried more over these than I have over any other course in my entire four years of college – which is kind of a lot because I don’t get stressed too easily.

I’ve always been super hard on myself, and have always had high expectations for myself, beating myself up inwardly if I didn’t meet those expectations.  I’ve always known that it’s probably not best for me to do that (LOL) but I’ve always let it slide because how else will I do anything well?

WELL.  All of the stress – courses, moving, trying to finish a freaking novel – came to a head over the last two-ish weeks (hence why I haven’t posted anything in a while – sorry, guys).  And it was bad.

Because I used to not get stressed too easily and then I was stressed literally all the time, I had to figure out how to take care of myself.  Definitely not by lowering my expectations for myself – because how stupid is that – but by not beating myself up in addition to everything else that’s putting pressure onto me.

SO.  While I certainly do. not. have. the. answers. (as evidenced by the fact that I still get stressed easily and will most likely cry over these courses again next week – looking forward to it), here are some things I’ve learned.

First and foremost, ask God for help.  Literally, this is the best thing you can do.  I think worrying is just being blinded by your own incompetence, so it’s a great idea to lean on the One who is good at everything, right?  Ask God for help and He’ll guard your heart with His peace that passes understanding.   Approach His throne with boldness and He’ll give you grace.

Second, figure out what’s giving you the most stress and see if you can relieve some of the stress.  Is your room a wreck but you don’t have time to clean it?  Do it in steps: Make your bed one day, take five minutes to pick up all the clothes the next day, spend ten minutes on it instead of on Facebook the day after that (which should be the first thing because we all need reasons to stay off Facebook these days).  Family member making you stressed?  Get out of the house, if only just to spend some time in the backyard or something; use headphones to shut it all out for a little while; or, better yet, encourage them to get out of the house.  (There’s almost nothing better than having an entire house to yourself.)  School giving you trouble?  Find someone who can help, work on it in spurts, set deadlines for yourself, reward yourself.

Which brings me to my third idea, the one I’ve been learning the most about recently:

SELF. CARE.

This is literally one of the best things you can do for yourself.  I’ve found that it’s mostly talked about in the realm of people who have depression, mental illnesses, self-harm issues, or other issues like that, which is kind of a shame because everybody could use it.

I’m so glad I started to learn about self-care personally, because it’s changed how I cope with things.  Instead of just bottling up the stress and pushing forward and never giving myself a break, I know how to deal with it in a better way now.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned how to reward myself when I’ve done my best by taking breaks after a long study session and curling up with a good book or guilty pleasure show.  (I’m halfway through the second season of said guilty pleasure show and halfway through the book I’ve been rewarding myself with.)  I set aside a day a week to work on my novel, which is a good idea because it needs to get done, it’s part of my massive final project, and it’s getting me into a good routine for when I’m done with college and can focus solely on my writing.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t work hard anymore.  Far from it, actually.  I’ve found that making myself take breaks has made me work even harder – and better.  My writing has improved, my focus has improved, and my general attitude towards life has improved.

Plus, it’s always nice to have unexpected blessings, like spending the day with a good friend or your mom surprising you with gluten-free cupcakes.

All in all, my life has been pretty crazy lately, but mostly in good ways.  I’ll probably be here less, but I’ll come back when I can.

Have some laughing babies.

excerpt | the art of letting go.

You guys are amazing and so sweet and I love you all dearly and because I love you, I’m going to give you an excerpt of The Art – the opening scenes.  *Jeremy Jordan voice* But first a story…

I worked on my novel for three or four hours at Starbucks last Friday and – y’all.  Y’allllll.  It was actually so much better than I remembered it.  The little things I loved about it, the general idea of it in my head – all of it was still there.  Obviously, there was a little to work on.  Wording that I rolled my eyes over, phrases that just needed to be cut because my readers aren’t stupid (and I hate it when authors write down to their readers and don’t want to become one), etc etc.  I got through the first two chapters, reworking the beginning to include a scene I wrote for a course last semester.  And it turned out pretty dang good!  I’m really excited about continuing to work on it over this semester – and not nearly as nervous.

So, I was going to write an update post on Sunday (because I was busy watching La La Land, meeting Veronica Roth and getting her to sign her newest book, Carve the Mark, for me, then talking to the owner of a bookstore about working there – as you do on a Saturday).  But then I got my first grade back from one of the last college courses I’m doing (the TESU Capstone, which is kind of a big deal)… and it was pretty bad.  Not only that, the professor said he was “personally disappointed” in me.  To say the least, I was pretty low for a few days.  That night, I ate ice cream and watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which was amazing), then, the next day, got back to my school again.  I had to focus really hard on the next paper – a ten-page literature review *rolls eyes* – but I got it done and the immediate pressure is over so I’m back to write this super late update.  (Also, a friend of mine read The Art and loved it, so that makes me feel a whole lot better.  {pleasedon’thatemeforgivingittoher.})

AAAAAAANYWAY.  It’s been a rough week but it’s almost over, and in celebration of that (and, again, as thanks for being such amazing followers), here are the opening scenes from The Art of Letting Go.  Enjoy.  🙂


The Art of Letting Go | Chapter One – April 12th, 2012.

My eyes flutter open at six-thirty, and I lie there, watching the sunrise slowly light up my room, waiting. Five minutes later, right on cue, my phone buzzes. I smile, roll over slowly, and pick up my phone.

‘Morning, Peach! <3’

My smile widens a little and I yawn before replying, ‘Good morning! Get your workout in?’

The reply comes seconds later. ‘Yep. So ready for Friday!’

‘You’ll crush them, babe.’

‘No duh! Now go get ready!!!’

I drop my phone on the bed beside me, sit up, and stretch. Good morning, world! I toss the decorative pillows back on my partially-made bed and head downstairs, cautiously looking around for Dad. He’s not around – probably already at work – so I check my social media while my single cup of coffee brews. When it’s done, I bring it upstairs and start on my makeup, thinking about my outfit and the day ahead as I brush and blend.

I put my earbuds in, even though I’m the only one in the house – what can I say; it’s a habit – and start up an episode of Thyme Traveler on my phone. I’ve already seen all of the available seasons, so I’m rewatching the whole thing before the next season starts in the fall. I make sure to pick a more lighthearted episode. The last time I did this while putting on my makeup, I watched a season finale and cried. Mascara went everywhere. What a mess, I remember, grinning.

Twenty minutes later, I glance at the clock beside my bed and stop the episode before I get sucked in any more. I finish up and quickly pull on my favorite pair of jeans, then switch them out for shorts, remembering how warm it’ll probably be. Yanking a tank top over my head, I slip into some sandals and pull my messenger bag over my shoulder. I barely have time to transfer my coffee to a to-go cup before running out the door.

I drive to school with the radio up and the window down so the wind can blow in my hair. I’ve done this nearly every day of my junior year and I know it’s made a vast improvement on my perspective on the day. With a little over a year of school left, I can’t imagine not doing this every day. How hard is it to just leave the building you’ve spent most of your waking hours in for the last four years? More than that, to leave and head off into the unknown? True, I’ll spend the next four years after that in another series of buildings… but it seems so different. So much more adult.

My grip on the steering wheel tightens, but I force myself to take deep breaths to try to relax.

I stop at a red light and close my eyes. I’ve got David. We’re going to college together. Everything’s going to be okay. It’s not that big of a deal. Time to grow up.

I open my eyes and mouth this over and over again as I drive the remaining mile. It’s become my mantra over the past few weeks. David helped me with it. Every time I feel the anxiety start to rise, I just repeat it a few times. It usually helps. As David’s graduation date approaches – and mine still remains a year away – it’s getting a little harder. But David is always there to calm me down.

He really is the best boyfriend a girl could ask for, I muse, finally starting to calm down as I pull into the parking lot. I make a mental note to buy him something special on our date tonight.

I enter the building, a smile on my face. The halls are overrun with teenagers, all laughing and teasing and kissing and shouting and running, standing in poorly-formed circles or small groups. All are enjoying a few final moments of freedom before the bell rings.

“Daniella!”

I feel a hand on my arm and turn with a smile. “Hey, babe.”

“Morning, Peach,” David says, wrapping his arms around me. I bury my head in his chest, inhaling the sweet, spicy smell of his cologne. “Sleep well?”

“Mm-hmm.” I close my eyes, soaking in the moment. I could stay here forever.

The moment ends a few seconds later when I finally pull myself away from the security of David’s arms. The cheerful, warm-and-fuzzy feeling stays with me, however. It always does.

We walk down the hall towards our lockers, side by side. This is how we first met. Daniella James and David Jamison. Our lockers have been next to each other ever since I changed schools two years ago. David was the first person to greet me, the first to help me find my class, and the first to make me feel welcome. We’ve been friends ever since. Last year, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I’ve been in a constant state of bliss ever since.

“Are we still on for tonight?” he asks, taking my hand, his fingers entwining with mine.

“Of course,” I answer, swinging his hand back and forth and feeling myself get hypnotized by his Jolly Rancher green eyes.

“Good.” He flashes that billion-dollar grin of his that lights up his entire face and, in turn, the rest of the world. I smile back, once again realizing how lucky I am.

“Think you’ll win the game on Friday night?” I ask, letting go of his hand to get my geometry book out of my locker.

“Absolutely.” He folds his arms across his muscular chest and leans against his locker, facing me. “Peachtree City High has been an easy win for the past four years. I wouldn’t count on anything changing.”

“Me, neither.”
“And you’ll be cheering me on from the sidelines, right?” he asks with a wink.

“Absolutely,” I reply, shutting my locker door. I spin the lock and turn to face him, tilting my head a little. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

David’s smile softens and he leans forward to rest his forehead on mine. Then, he whispers, “That’s why I love you.”

In an instant, I melt. “I love you, too.”

David quickly kisses my forehead before straightening up. “See you at practice?”

“See you,” I reply.

He waves and vanishes into the crowd. I smile and watch him over my shoulder as I walk away. Suddenly, I feel my books being knocked out of my hands. “Hey!” I exclaim, staring at the books.

“I’m so sorry,” the guy replies, kneeling down to pick up my books.

I recognize the head of hair below me and roll my eyes. “Kyle, you’re such a klutz.”

Kyle looks up, relief plainly written on his face. “Oh, it’s just you.” He grins sheepishly. “Sorry, Danni.”

I put a hand on my hip and raise my eyebrows. “Just me? Excuse you.”

“I was worried that it was, like, some new kid or – even worse – a hot girl.”

Excuse me?!”

Kyle stands and puts the books back into my hands. “You know what I mean.”

I squint and lean into his face. “I hate you.”

Kyle smiles with that lopsided grin that is uniquely his just as the first bell rings. “Same to you. Hey, are you gonna be able to come to the photography showcase tonight?”

I frown slightly and start walking towards class. Kyle keeps my pace beside me and waits expectantly for an answer. “Why would I come, Ky? Besides seeing your beautiful photographs, that is.”

“Well, that, obviously, and because you’re a cheerleader and that’s what they do – come to photography showcases and cheer for their favorites. Right?” I laugh and he elbows me. “Right?”

“Right,” I say, checking my phone. A second later, I put my phone back in my pocket and elbow him back. “If I can get off work early, I’ll come. Eight, at the library?”

“Yup,” Kyle says, stopping in front of a classroom. He waves to someone inside, turns to me, points his index finger at my face, says, “Be there!” and saunters into the classroom.

I roll my eyes and head off to class.


Thoughts???

year in review: 2016.

{this post is finally done.  i feel like it’s taken me forever to write it, and it’ll take you almost as long to read it.  so i’m sorry, and if you read the whole thing… bless you.}

Can we agree that 2016 was just an all-around bad year?  I mean this for the world in general.  So many deaths and shootings – not to mention the atrocity that was the US presidential election.

{Side Tangent: In a previous draft, I said something about Carrie Fisher being okay.  Well, that’s not true anymore (for Debbie Reynolds, either) and I don’t know how to process that.  I’ve thought about it a lot and I think the reason there have been so many celebrity deaths this year is because God’s reminding us that our time here is so limited.  When we were young, we felt so infinite.  The days were long and death seemed so far away.  But that’s not true.  I’m not going to remind you to spend your time wisely because I know you’ve heard it before.  So just… cherish it.  And know that we’re all a little less infinite than we think we are.}

My personal year wasn’t quite as bad, and I think it ends up fitting with my year-long prayer, taken from this song:

“God, it has been quite a year-
I’ve lived a little bit and I’ve died a little more.
I know that I’ve asked it before,
But please let the scale tip here in my favor.”

I think it has.  This year has been full of disappointments and things that stress me out (pretty sure I had a full-on anxiety attack back in July and let. me. tell. you – that was not fun).  Even so, this year has been full of really good firsts – first crush I’ve told people about, first trip to Universal (and two trips to Disney whattheevenheck), first girls-only trip…  It’s been good.  Though I’ve had my fair share of bad things, I know I’m better for it.  While I wish some things hadn’t happened, I’m glad they shaped me into the person I am today.

Regardless of how terrible the year has been, at least we made it this far, right?

As always, this yearly review is mostly just for me to look back on throughout the year, and you can read the whole thing or just skim it.  (And, if you’re interested, here are the links to the other years I’ve done: 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015.)

January

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my siblings and i // first day at disney

February

  • Studied a heck ton, nannied a heck ton
  • Younger siblings went to a retreat, so I had a special time with my older sister and my parents, watching movies that they’re not allowed to watch yet and talking about Stuff.
  • Hosted a single-girls Valentine’s Day party (where we ate cookies and watched Julie & Julia) and chaperoned (from afar) as my sister got roses from a guy.
  • Discovered About Time – aka one of my favorite movies ever.
  • Went to Disney World for the first time in 15 years with the fam
  • Met the Taylors
  • Studied: American Lit CLEP (1/16-2/16) // Principles of Marketing CLEP (2/16-3/16) // BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16)
  • Read: More Happy Than NotThe Help, and Me Before You
  • Favorite Blog Posts: my thoughts during a Starbucks study session and my unplanned Valentine’s Day series – twelve ships I ship, a mushy snippet from my novel, and my thoughts on love

March

  • Again, studied and nannied a heck ton
  • Bought Jordan Taylor’s album (because I felt more connected after meeting him, duh)
  • Rediscovered Sherlock (long story)
  • Freaked out about all of the Mother’s Day posts on Instagram, only to discover that it was just Mother’s Day in the UK.  (However, since I was out of the house, I bought flowers and surprised my mom with them.  I’ll definitely be doing that again this year.)
  • BECAME A SENIOR
  • Ups and downs with my sleeping habits (definitely something I’m going to fix next year)
  • Discovered Downton Abbey and Mission Impossible
  • Watched the livestream of Daddy Long Legs, one of my favorite musicals
  • Uploaded first video to YouTube (you’ll have to hunt it down bc I’m not leaving the link here LOL)
  • In charge while Mom & Dad went to a marriage conference for a week (during which I watched too much Downton Abbey and stayed up too late)
  • Studied: Principles of Marketing CLEP (2/16-3/16) // BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16)
  • Read: The Boxcar ChildrenFar from the Madding Crowd, Frindle, A Thief in the Theater, Red Rising, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikryand The Bronte Plot
  • Favorite Blog Posts: my big post about my thoughts on Harry Potter, my “flatmates” story, my thoughts about romanticizing the past, and my 5-years-in-the-making blog post, “movies i don’t like.

April

  • Watched the High School Musical movies with a friend
  • Went to the first wedding of the year (and first since 2014, I think)
  • Started watching more movies by myself (bc I’m tired of waiting on my siblings and bc I have a brother whose opinion we have to consider) (movies include 17 Again, 13 Going On 30, and Napoleon Dynamite)
  • Literally have a note in my journal that says “2pm-3pm – Question Everything.”  Basically, yeah.
  • Discovered The Great British Baking Show.  HECK YES.
  • Had coffee with a friend and talked about her recent engagement, told her I didn’t have any guys in my life and wasn’t going to be interested in any until I graduated, Discovered A Guy that night (again, long story)
  • Officially met one of my new best friends
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16)
  • Read: Roomies, All the Bright Places, After Youand Golden Son
  • Favorite Blog Posts: my uber- nostalgic “favorite childhood movies” post, the snippet from my novel, The Boy and the Theatre Girl, and my ranty defense of CollegePlus students
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me & the twins

May

  • Submersed myself in blog posts about singleness and contentment due to aforementioned guy
  • Changed DSST after studying for a month (a first and a last)
  • Texted aforementioned best friend’s younger sister (with whom I’ll become good friends but won’t meet ’til September)
  • Learned how to cheat the system with college coursework – aka befriend the prof and say yes when she lets you submit part of your novel instead of several different assignments.  FISTPUMP.
  • Started a tough time with one of my best friends (drama goes down)
  • Dad’s intern arrived for the summer
  • Started officially going to a church
  • Discovered Friends and Taylor Swift (entire discography instead of just the ones on the radio)
  • Made a summer bucket list for the first time
  • Enrolled in Thomas Edison State University
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16) // BYU’s Creative Writing (5/16-7/16)
  • Read: Golden Son, The Raven Boys, and The Rest of Us Just Live Here (which I loved enough to review on my blog as well)
  • Favorite Blog Posts: my reasoning behind taking off my purity ring (which got so much more feedback than I ever expected ohmygosh), my review of the gloriousness that was Captain America: Civil War, and my addition to the flame war behind that random dude’s “open letter to Rey” (which by the way, lemme say again, ugh)

June

  • Younger sister graduated from high school and we have a pretty awesome dance party
  • Taught myself how to play ukulele
  • Started going to Starbucks with my sister during the second hour of church (since there isn’t a Sunday morning class for college/career young adults)
  • Discovered Waitress during the Tony Awards (Hamilton won the other 11!)
  • Surprised with a weekend visit from one of my best childhood friends
  • Gave in to the stereotypes and got a Snapchat
  • Broke ground on our new house
  • Drove back and forth with my sister instead of staying at our grandparents’ for a whole week like we usually do (a first)
  • Had two entire days to myself, in which I did school, watched movies, cooked lunch for myself, and blasted Imagine Dragons
  • GOT A FRIKKIN LETTER FROM LIN MANUEL MIRANDA
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing for Children and Adolescents (2/16-6/16) // BYU’s Creative Writing (5/16-7/16) // Marriage and the Family TCEP (6/16-7/16)
  • Read: The Rosie Project, Extraordinary, and The Rosie Effect
  • Favorite Blog Posts: fangirling about tøp after being a fan for a year and a short story I wrote for school (“my best friend’s brother”)
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our awesome car on the way back from WIT

July

  • Studied and wrote like crazy
  • WITAlive again, this time without my older sister and with a car of friends (and I was a co-leader at a table this year!)
  • Wrote some poetry for the first time (including a sonnet based on Gilmore Girls)
  • Watched my “little” brother star in The Pied Piper of Hamlin at a local theatre
  • Had a movie date with a friend every two weeks or so (during the entire summer)
  • Witnessed the beginning of my sister’s relationship with my dad’s intern
  • Finally started accepting and actually loving my body, even its flaws… and it wasn’t until then that I started losing weight
  • Forgot to journal for two weeks, so I completely don’t know what happened except I know a lot of studying was done and a lot of books were read.
  • Studied: BYU’s Creative Writing (5/16-7/16) // Marriage and the Family TCEP (6/16-7/16) // BYU’s Writing in the Social Sciences (7/16-9/16) // BYU’s The American Novel (7/16-9/16)
  • Read: Salt to the Sea, The Vintage Book of Contemporary Poetry, The Art of the Personal Essay, Imaginative Writing, The Marriage and Family Experience, If You Find This Letter (which became my favorite non-fic book by the fifth page and I literally bought four copies to give to friends for Christmas – seriously, READ. IT.), and Everything, Everything
  • Favorite Blog Posts: another post about love & waiting & purity & stuff, my first post on writing advice (“what do do when {you think} your writing sucks”), and another snippet from The Boy and the Theatre Girl

August

  • Dad caved and finally got Netflix for us – YESSSSS
  • Started reading classics for my lit course and developed a deeper appreciation for classics
  • Went book shopping one Saturday with my sister (to two bookstores) and then had a fries taste-test – a day that will be remembered with fondness in both our hearts
  • Took my “little” bro to his first co-op and greatly enjoyed getting stuff done so early in the day (although I didn’t enjoy getting up so early)
  • Hosted a surprise sleepover for my friend (my first sleepover since I was six)
  • Started meeting new friends at our new church
  • Figured out the situation that caused the anxiety attack back in July (something I highly recommend – figure stuff out, guys; save yourself the stress; even if you do. not. want. to, it’ll be so much better in the long run, I promise)
  • Repaired more friendships – YAY
  • Had some bro time with my “little” brother while our sisters went to a camp for a week (we watched movies without them #oops)
  • The Furies happened (and we continue to talk about feminism and movies and relationships and generally just kick butt in all areas of life and I’m so happy to have such a close-knit friend group like this)
  • Blew through so many classics in such a short period of time – such a good feeling
  • Volunteered to play in an orchestra concert… the day before
  • Shared my testimony for the first time in a class at church
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing in the Social Sciences (7/16-9/16) // BYU’s The American Novel (7/16-9/16)
  • Read: The Coquette, Hope Leslie, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Scarlet Letter, Benito Cereno, The Outsiders, Life in the Iron-Mills, The Problem With Forever, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Washington Square (DANG THAT’S A LOT OF BOOKS)
  • Favorite Blog Posts: fangirling about Stanley Tucci, a peek into my life, and some rambling thoughts about Friends and the validity of your opinion.

September

  • Started the month out with my car breaking down.  Yay.
  • Nannied three days in a row – including a 9am-11pm day (which was my favorite day of the three because I took the kids to see Pete’s Dragon with my sister and then put them to bed early and watched movies ’til their parents got back)
  • Started watching Stranger Things with my sister… at 11pm at night… all by ourselves…  (protip: not a good idea)  (still, we finished the show within a week)
  • Hosted some friends for a weekend and had an absolute BLAST
  • Saw a friend star in You Can’t Take It With You
  • Went shopping with some girlfriends and actually bought something.  And not just anything.  A DRESS.  I DON’T EVEN KNOW.
  • Got baptized : )
  • Started practicing music with friends for two weddings (and started calling ourselves The Last Page)
  • Introduced some friends to Lord of the Rings (which they loved, obviously)
  • Cut my hair super dang short (and loved it)
  • GOT A NEW PHONE HECK YES
  • Stopped journaling (haha whoops)
  • Studied: BYU’s Writing in the Social Sciences (7/16-9/16) // BYU’s The American Novel (7/16-9/16) // Marketing Communications TCEP (9/16)
  • Read: Ethan Frome, My Ántonia, Marketing Communications, Absalom Absalom, Pale Fire, and Writing in the Social Sciences.
  • Favorite Blog Posts: blogged the results of my summer bucket list, talked about bad boyz (even though my opinion on Jess Mariano has changed so much because he turned out to be the best guy for Rory), continued to ramble about love & feelings & stuff, and rambled about life in general (which y’all liked so I started doing it more)
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failing at a jumping pic with ‘the last page’

October

  • Started a course on theatre which is just *heart eyes emoji*
  • Started planning my very first girls-only trip with The Furies
  • Gilmore-bounded with my frens (which is honestly still one of my favorite events of the entire year)
  • Introduced my other siblings to Stranger Things
  • Lost enough weight to fit loosely into a dress that didn’t fit me a month before *sunglasses emoji*
  • Played in two weddings with The Last Page (twas lit)
  • Had an impromptu brunch with people who came in for aforementioned wedding and hosted almost twenty-five people
  • Deepened friendships and fell in love with people in general
  • Started planning a watch party with friends for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (obviously including soda and Chinese food and poptarts and all kinds of junk food)
  • Scott Gordon Patterson (Luke from Gilmore Girls) liked our Gilmore-bound picture (!)
  • Did Halloween for the first time in over a decade (thank you, younger adopted siblings)
  • Again, studied and read like crazy
  • Studied: BYU’s Intro to the Theatre (10/16-12/16) // BYU’s Playwriting (10/16-12/16)
  • Read: Writing in the Social Sciences, The Strangeness of Beauty, and Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour
  • Favorite Blog Posts: fangirled over Stranger Things, made a list of songs that make me happy, and rambled about life again

November

  • Studied like crazy – including writing three plays (!!!)
  • Talked to dozens upon dozens of people about the presidential election
  • Voted in the presidential election for the first time (but not my first time voting)
  • Read books on top of my car overlooking the mountains (heck yes I did)
  • Visited a friend at his college with my sisters and another friend and talked about hard stuff for over four hours (“It’s rough all over“)
  • Bashed around Charleston with mah girls
  • Visited a friend for a week, in which I stayed at their house and basically became a member of their family
  • Went to a movie theater and watched a recording of Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet
  • Went to Disney and Harry Potter World at Universal – and had an absolute blast
  • (Charleston, becoming a member of another family for a week, Hamlet, and Disney/Universal all happened in the same twelve days and it. was. magical)
  • Had the Gilmore Girls watch party with my frens
  • Studied: BYU’s Intro to the Theatre (10/16-12/16) // BYU’s Playwriting (10/16-12/16)
  • Read: The Cherry Orchard, Anything But Typicaland Hamlet.
  • Favorite Blog Posts: expressed my thoughts about the election, converted a play I wrote into a short story (and y’all loved it, which just makes my year), and offended some people after writing about courtship (lolz whoops)

December

  • Finished my schoolwork the day before my birthday – HUZZAH, AN ACTUAL CHRISTMAS BREAK FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THREE YEARS!!!
  • Turned 22
  • Watched Return of the King with friends for my birthday
  • Basically just chilled for the entire month.  Read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies and TV shows, but mainly just lived.  I made cookies and brownies with my baby siblings twice, and cleaned the kitchen and my room a lot.  It was really fun to just relax and live life without the pressure of schoolwork looming over my head.
  • Went to a young adults Christmas party at our new church and had such a great time
  • Realized that my blog turned seven – w h o a
  • Celebrated Christmas four times – with each of my parents’ families, my family, and an extended family Christmas (and had my sister’s boyfriend do Christmas with us, so that was An Experience)
  • Went to my grandparents’ house for an extended weekend before New Years and partied hard with my cousins and aunt & uncle (who talked with my siblings and I about stuff for hours upon hours, which was a blessing)
  • Rang in the new year with friends and a headache
  • Studied: BYU’s Intro to the Theatre (10/16-12/16) // BYU’s Playwriting (10/16-12/16)
  • Read: The Bad Beginning (Series of Unfortunate Events #1), If You Find This Letter (re-read bc I bought four copies for friends and wrote in them like my friend did for me), and Crosstalk
  • Favorite Blog Posts: hosted a Christmas movie marathon because I love movies and posted some Stucky fanfiction (part one / part two) that I wrote a few years ago

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    le fam (+ sister’s boyfriend) at church on christmas day


Whew.

Honestly, it always blows my mind whenever I write these posts and look back at all of the amazing things I did.  (And hOW DANG LONG IT TAKES ME OH MY GOSH.  This one took me several sittings over several days – and I know I didn’t over everything.)

Anyway, I’m always so blown away with what I’ve been able to do in a year.  Even though the year was ridiculously crazy at times, I wouldn’t trade any of the craziness for the world.  Even though the year was rough, it still had some amazing experiences for me.  I invested in friendships more than I ever have before (including at three people who are 5-8 years younger than me), I’ve learned more about relationships (the good and the bad), and I’ve learned to be authentic, to be honest, to give second chances, to know when to stop pouring myself into toxic relationships, to let go of grudges, and, obviously, I’ve learned how incredibly far I have to go.  I know I won’t ever get there, but it’s nice to look back on a year and know that I’m a better person than the selfish idiot who wrote last year’s Year in Review post.

2017 is going to be incredibly interesting and I can’t wait to see where God leads me!  My word of the year is “excelsior,” and I explained why on my Instagram, so I’ll just link to that and keep this from getting any longer!

Can’t wait to see where God has me at this time next year!

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continuing the tradition of taking pictures of myself in the bathroom mirror on new years day even tho i didn’t feel like putting on makeup or doing anything to my hair or fixing my christmas nails but i won’t apologize bc this is how i look kthxbye

coffee session | grades & gilmore girls.

img_4202A few weeks ago, I needed to write a blog post, so I literally just got a cup of coffee, sat down, and wrote whatever was on my mind.  Apparently you guys loved it – which was good because I did, too.

So guess what.  It’s happening again.

I was thinking last night that I’d make it a regular thing (maybe not every week because that never works for me, but definitely more than once), and then I got an email from a friend linking to an article about coffee + friendship and it was wonderful and beautiful and made me so grateful for my friends who fellowship with me over coffee and it reminded me of that post I wrote – fellowshipping over coffee with my bloggy friends..

So here I am.  Grab a cup of coffee, play some music, and let’s start.  (Oh and read that article at some point. It’s great.)

*sips coffee*

I woke up this morning to notifications that a few of my BYU papers had been graded. 100% on both – one being that scene that I posted the other day.  TALK ABOUT YAY.

I love writing, guys.  I love creating worlds and people and circumstances in my mind and watching them make their way through my mind and onto a computer screen.  And I love getting good grades, especially when I’m maintaining a 76% in another course because I got a really bad grade on a test the other day – AN ELEVEN-QUESTION TEST.  LIKE, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GET A GOOD GRADE ON THAT?!  Ugh.  *breathes*

It’s fine.  After I saw that grade, I closed my laptop and watched a stupid TV show on Netflix and let me tell you what – it was exactly what I needed.  Totally recommend being in the moment and being present and all of that… but know that you have freedom to unplug and take a break sometimes.  It’ll recharge you more than you think.  (Eyy puns…)

Let’s see… what else have I been doing?  (Besides school lolzzzz, emphasis on the zzzz.)

I just started the first of my annual fall reads – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I can’t recommend it without a disclaimer for language, but it’s definitely one of my favorite books of all time.  It just screams fall – and it contains one of the most relatable heroines ever… and one of the most swoon-worthy guys I’ve ever read.  The other’s The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly, which I absolutely adore.  It’s a retelling of Little Women.  What’s not to love?!  Anyway, that happened.  And I’m reading it while wrapped in multiple blankets and drinking hot tea, so that’s fun.  I’m going to have a ton of free-time this weekend, and I’m greatly looking forward to blasting through it (and sobbing at the end again, like I always do).

Another thing I did today was watch Blimey Cow’s latest video.  TALK ABOUT HASHTAG RELATABLE AND RELEVANT OH. MY. GOSH.  Go watch it.  Now.  I’ll wait.

What else?

*sips coffee*

One of my favorite writers, Hannah Brencher (READ HER BOOK), sends out a massive encouragement email every Monday, and it’s half the reason my Mondays don’t suck as much as they probably would without it.  (Seriously, get on that email.)  Here’s a quote that I really appreciated:

People won’t feel valued– like their friendship is pertinent to you– if you never have a reason to need them.

Friendships and relationships are built on need. Trust is built because the two of you are vulnerable enough to let some walls down and actually need each other to show up. Before that need comes in, you are just two people who like the company of one another. It is when we humble ourselves down to the realization that interdependency is essential that we uncover a true relationship.

I’m so grateful for friends who acknowledge a need for me.  So often, I feel just “meh” – like people don’t need me in their lives, and they do little more than tolerate me. (Obviously, when I step back, I see that that’s not true… but sometimes I can’t help but think it for a moment.)

And then I read things like Hannah’s email and that Verily article and am reminded that I have wonderful friends who not only like hanging out with me, but want to do it – so much so that we plan things months in advance sometimes.

I’m currently planning a trip to Charleston with two girlfriends – my first girls-only trip that doesn’t include any of my family members whaaaaattttt – and then a spontaneous trip with one of the friends to Tampa, where she lives.  I’ll be there for over a week.  As the kids say, it’s gonna be LIT.

And then there are times when my friends and I don’t plan things months in advance – sometimes it’s merely hours in advance.  I’m still reeling over something I did with my sisters and some friends the other week – something we “HEY LOOK AT THIS LET’S DO IT” planned the night before “it” was going to happen.

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l-r: lorelai, rory, sookie, luke, paris

We Gilmore-bounded at Luke’s.

If you’re familiar with Disney-bounding, it’s basically the same thing… except Gilmore Girls-themed.  And as a promotional thing for the Gilmore Girls revival (AAAAHHHHH), two hundred coffee shops across America transformed into Luke’s for the day.

The one nearest to my house was 45 minutes away, but that didn’t stop my sisters and I from getting up at 6:30 and leaving the house by 7 to hightail it over there.

WE HAD SUCH A BLAST, GUYS.  Everybody there was a fan of the show.  It was like a mini-Comic Con – BUT SOLELY FOR GILMORE GIRLS FANS.  They had everything set up like Luke’s – and they even had Gilmore Girls playing on TVs around the coffee shop.  (I have a video of everyone singing the theme song and then letting out a massive groan when the internet cut out halfway through the song.)

My friends and I went our separate ways later that morning, but got together again that night to practice music for two weddings that weekend – and basically all we could talk about was the morning.  It was so ridiculously fun, and definitely ranks on my top ten list of memories for this entire year.

(And obviously we’ll all be doing it again when the revival comes out next month.  Duh.)

Well.  I need to go do some school now.  Hope you enjoyed reading this – and let me know if you want more!