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.

lit’rally just some tumblr laughs for you.

I’m about to leave for an out-of-state wedding and don’t want to leave you guys with nothing for a few days, so here’s literally just some of the funniest things that have come across my Tumblr feed over the past few days.  (Sue me.)

(Sorry about the wonky formatting.  I’m too tired to fix it, lol.)

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this is the best thing that’s come out of the civil war premiere and if you don’t think so well fiGHT ME.

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this isn’t funny or anything i just love these two men so much

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in the midst of all the SADNESS that happened this past week on GGF, THIS GEM HAPPENED.  mandy is a treasure.

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look at these two derps.

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srsly tho

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yes i made this.  i’ve suddenly become downton abbey trash and idk what to do with my life anymore. (except watch more downton abbey.  duh.)  (NO SPOILERS, GUYS.  I WILL SUE.)

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srsly tho.

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domhnall gleeson as general hux is my one weakness.

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Finally… this isn’t funny, but it’s two of my favorite things and just… G A H.

Okay, this was literally the easiest blog post I’ve ever done because it was just stealing other people’s stuff.  lolz.  Your regular posting will resume next week, including a GUEST POST!!!

can i sing? YOU DECIDE.

I’m writing this beneath literal and metaphorical blankets and blankets of shame and nervousness.

I entered a singing contest.  The winner gets to sing ‘The Secret of Happiness’ at the musical it’s from, Daddy Long Legs.  And a personal singing lesson from the musical’s star, Megan McGinnis.  Excuse me while I go die.

Below is my submission.  If you like it, vote for me.  If you don’t, vote for someone else.  (My personal fave is Lilli Babb.  Vote for her.)

Special thanks to my girl, Katelyn, for filming it and helping me remember the words.  ❤

*decides to stick with hiding behind a laptop and disappears under blankets again*

how the presidential election is like captain america: civil war.

civil war.jpgIf you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that I’m a huge Captain America fan.  I don’t even call him Captain America – he’s always been Steve to me.  I’ve been in love with him ever since he said he was waiting for the right partner back in 2011.  Since then, I’ve seen all the movies he’s in (including Ant-Man), done extensive research on his comics, and even read some of them.

So, yep, of course I’m gonna go see Captain America: Civil War.

(Speaking of, DID YOU GUYS SEE THE NEW TRAILER THAT WAS RELEASED YESTERDAY???  It killed me.  My ghost is writing this because I am dead.)

Recently, I’ve been surveying a lot of my friends to see whether they’re on Team Cap or Team Iron Man (which, if you don’t know, is the basic premise of the movie).  It always surprises me how many people are Team Iron Man because I’ve always disliked him.  In my opinion, he’s too prideful and his “redemption” never lasts.  (I love Steve because he’s got good morals and fights for what’s right ’til the end of the line.  #TeamCap)

Team iron man.jpgWhenever I try to ask people why they’re on Iron Man’s side, they always say something like, “Well, he’s cool and he’s got great weapons and he’s rich so he can do anything so he always wins.”  And I always reply, “Yeah, but he’s a jerk, so why would you be on his side?”

Their actual stances in Civil War hardly ever come into play in these conversations.  It’s always based on the other movies we’ve seen the characters in and why we’ve liked them in the past and how that influences whose side we’re on.

It hit me the other day that this is almost exactly what’s going on in the presidential election.  Uninformed people are backing certain candidates because of their qualities or their likeability factors, as if the candidates’ stances are an afterthought.  (This is the only reason I can think of that so many people are for Trump – he speaks a language that the general public can understand… plus some insults.)

(Side note: All of this question-dodging and rambling by all of the candidates just reminds me so much of Aaron Burr in Hamilton!  “Talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”  “He’s not very forthcoming on any particular stances – you ask him a question, it glances off – he obfuscates, he dances.”  And people liked him simply because “He seems approachable – like you could grab a beer with him.”  {And, yes, I’m total Hamiltrash.  But that’s another post for another time.})Team Cap.jpg

When I thought about it, the only reason I was on Team Cap was because I love my precious Capsicle liked him.  I didn’t care what his stance was, I just knew that I liked him and his morals and, because of those, he was probably right.  (So I kicked myself in the face and researched what Steve’s side is in Civil War… and whatdya know, I’m still on his side.)

Of course, Civil War isn’t nearly as important as what’s going on in the political realm, but the two seemed alike to me.  Just like we don’t need to be on Tony Stark’s side because “he’s cool,” we don’t need to side with a candidate simply because we like him.  What are his morals?  What does he stand for?  (And if he stands for nothing, what will he fall for?)  How does he act in the debates?  How does he handle opposition?  What are his stances on things that are important to you, such as immigration and life and war?

Anyway.  If any of that made any sense, let me know what you think in the comments!  If you’re an American past voting age, who are you voting for?  More importantly (lol jk), whose side are you on for Civil War???

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No of course this post wasn’t an excuse just to post about Captain America as much as I can why of course would you think that???  : P

year in review: 2015

Well, it’s that time of year again.  That time of the year when I put off writing my big “Year In Review” post and then eventually do it and become overwhelmed by all of the amazing things that have happened during the year.  Which is probably going to happen again this time.  (EDIT: It did but now I’m just glad it’s all over.  HA.  I wouldn’t change anything that happened in 2015, though.  I have been changed for the better and for good.)

2015 was a big year for me.  Honestly, I think it was one of the most challenging and growing years I’ve ever gone through.  (And hopefully it won’t be the last because I know I need to grow in a lot of areas.)  My family had to go through a lot of hard things, and I had to go through a lot of hard things.  I’ve also done some pretty amazing things, too.  From seeing my book (slowly) sell copy after copy, to watching my relationships with certain people grow or change, to doing some of the most comfort-zone-stretching things I’ve ever done…  It’s been incredible.

I’m really glad a year only has 365 days (with the exception of leap years), because I don’t think I could handle 2015 if it had even one more day!  SO READY FOR 2016!!!

But before that, I’d like to look over some of the things I’ve done this year.  (And I don’t care if you read this or skim it – it’s mostly for me, anyway.  Lol.)

January

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me at the beginning of 2015.  wish i could go back and tell myself a few things, namely to brace myself and shut up.

I think January was a pretty chill month for me.  I rang in the new year with a sick Katie and Grace Unplugged.  (The rest of the family went to a friend’s house and I stayed home with Katie, which I didn’t mind because I’m lame and enjoy being home alone.)

I kept my head down and studied for a few different tests, babysat kids twice a week, and read a few really good books.  (Speaking of books, here’s my Goodreads Year In Books if you’re interested!)

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right before we left.  (also before we were almost late because i got a flat tire.  and no, i didn’t cry over it.  why would you think that. *facepalm*)

Most importantly, my younger sister and I went to see Newsies with a group and it was FANTASTIC.

Notable blog posts: ‘in this moment, life is good’ and ‘2k15 reading challenge’ (which I didn’t end up completing – LOL!).

February

February brought a lot of the same – studying, reading, and nannying.

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random adorable picture of jenna (almost 2)

Early in the month, we had a “Courtship Conversations” conference/Q&A thing at our house.  Three couples got to share their courtship story and then answered questions from the audience (we had about fifty people over!).

On Valentine’s Day, we had some friends over for pizza and a movie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, because duh).

Shortly after, my parents went on a two-night anniversary trip and left my siblings and I at home alone overnight for the very first time.  We ate junk food and stayed up way too late crying over Monk and it was beautiful.

We got hit with a snowstorm sometime in February and took in a family for a few days one week, then a few more days the next week.

Notable blog posts: ‘actively waiting.’

March

The most exciting thing that happened in March happened later in the month.  After taking an Ethics final, I officially became a Junior!  After like a day of celebrating, I started studying for my next test.  No rest for the weary.

We celebrated two birthdays as a family – my baby sister’s 2nd and my baby brother’s 15th.

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morgan and i before the event.

Oh, and I also went to an author event at a library with Morgan Huneke and sold a grand total of one book.  Yay!  😄

Notable blog posts: My official introduction to The Art of Letting Go (which I wrote because I had a lot of new followers or because I didn’t think I’d officially introduced it yet or because I wanted to divert attention from my newly-published novel… anyway, I was excited, so I wrote it).

April

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me, james, and hannah after the last performance.  so. much. fun.

April brought in a new experience for my brother and I – something we still think about a lot.  The college near us did Into the Woods and James and I (and my bff) were in the ten-piece orchestra.  We rehearsed with the cast a few times a week, and every night the week of the performances.

I also started reading The Ascendance Trilogy in April, and the first book, The False Prince, quickly became one of my favorite books of 2015.  (It was right in the middle of about three or four really stupidly lame books, so that made it even better.)

(I’m really glad I got a lot done in these first few months and no notable drama occurred (well, it did, but it happened slowly), because God knew the second half of 2015 would be really hard for me and my family.)

Notable blog posts: A fun interview with Hayden Wand after the release of her novel, Hidden Pearls.

May

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the kids i babysat (minus the one in the top right).  (and the shirt-matching was unintentional.  of course, my children will all match all the time.) (NOT.)

During the end of April and the beginning of May, I did one of my biggest babysitting jobs ever (rivaling the infamous Florida one in October).  I babysat four children under twelve for five days (overnight, too), while their parents were in Italy.  Seeing as I hadn’t stayed at home without my own parents until a few months before, I was justifiably nervous.  (And the parents were in ITALY.  AS IN PLANE-RIDE AWAY.)  We had fun, though, and I look back on those days with fondness.

I didn’t do a lot of school in May.  After my CollegePlus coach (who I still love dearly) quit early in the month (with no warning whatsoever), I wasn’t able to study almost at all.  LOL.  The school I did do, though, was the beginning of my first “official” college course – a fiction course from LSU (which I quit for a month and a half after I got a horrible grade on my first assignment, setting the pace for the rest of the course).

My dad was gone for about a week, so we did what we always do when he’s gone – watch a ton of girly chick flicks.  I watched Easy A and The Devil Wears Prada for the first time, cementing my love for Stanley Tucci.  (Gosh, I love that man.)

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ISN’T IT CUTE?!

I also wrote a lot during this month, mostly on The Art of Letting Go.

The most exciting thing that happened was that I cut my hair super-short for the first time since I was like ten.  It had gotten so long and I just started hating how long it was and how much of a hassle it was.  I wore it up all the time.  Finally, I was just like, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”  So I got it chopped off AND I IMMEDIATELY LOVED IT AND I STILL LOVE IT.

Notable blog posts: ‘5 things i learned while watching four kids for five days‘ and ‘just keepin’ it real.

June

June is when everything changed.  I got a new coach and started studying more, read more, wrote more, matured more, and stressed over church more.

My dad was one of the elders in our church, and everything regarding that started going downhill.  Without going into much detail, differences between the elders became harder to deal with and offenses occurred.  Nearly every Sunday, we came home and talked about the sermon.  Church consumed my family’s life – and not in a good way.  It became a drudgery and a drain, which isn’t what church should be.

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my sisters and i took my cousin on a girls-only shopping trip for the first time while we were together.  i think it’s going to have to be a tradition!

We spent a super-fun week early in June with my grandparents and cousins, and had a blast getting to know them better.  It was relaxing to be able to get away from all of the drama.  However, when it was over, we were sucked right back into it again.

With the announcement of gay marriage, I voiced my opinion and didn’t care what people said.  My opinion hasn’t really changed and I still believe that, yes, we live in a fallen world; but Who’s still on the throne?  (Recently, though, I’ve come to the realization that the Supreme Court really shouldn’t have had anything to do with people’s personal lives.  Why is it their business if two men or two women marry?  They need to be concerned with other things like the debt crisis and the shootings overseas and here in the States.  [end unintentional rant])

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still my favorite picture of me and hannah, even though my hair is defying gravity.  isn’t she pretty?!

During the last few weeks of June, my best friend left for two weeks, leaving me able to help plan a surprise party for her.  On the day of the party, we went out to eat and get dessert, then came back to “watch a movie.”  The surprise was nearly ruined by a friend we saw walking as we drove back to her house (long story), but she was totally surprised by the friends who were waiting back at her house.

Notable blog posts: The above post on gay marriage and my first book-related fangirly and ranty posts – my favorite and least favorite books of the first half of 2015.

July

I thought June was intense… and then July came.  Oh, boy.

More of the same happened – reading, writing, nannying.  I blogged more, too, which is something I’ve been wanting to do literally since I started blogging back in 2009.  I started sharing my opinion more, and writing about things that I couldn’t get out of my mind (see my Deep Thoughts tag).

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we sent this picture to my parents to let them know that we’d finally gotten there safely (albeit super late). (ISN’T MY BROTHER SUPER TALL?!)

My siblings and I took our first big trip by ourselves halfway through the month.  We drove all the way from our house in Georgia to Indianapolis, Indiana for WITAlive, a singles’ conference by Whatever It Takes Ministries.  (They did a marriage conference that radically changed my parents’ marriage – and our family’s lives – in 2014.)  We had such a good time, and learned so much.  I examined my relationship with God more closely than I had in a long time.

After going to WITAlive, I decided to become more real with people.  I didn’t want to hide behind a facade anymore.  I knew it never worked out – for myself or for people I observed around me.  I never insinuated that I was perfect (far from it), but I knew that I wasn’t being real with people, and that had to stop.  I’m pretty sure this became apparent on my blog, as well as in real life with my friends (especially with my church friends).

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basically what we did the entire weekend.  filter courtesy of instagram, which i got right after WITAlive.

Over the end of July and the beginning of August, Katie and I went to our first vacation by ourselves.  We organized it with a friend from NC, bought food, and made reservations at a campsite in SC.  The weather was perfect, and we had an amazing time doing whatever we wanted.  (We even ordered pizza the first night simply BECAUSE WE COULD.)

Notable blog posts: So. Many. Blog. Posts.  I ranted about Christian fiction, I wrote a follow-up post because I wasn’t done ranting, I talked about cussing in books, I wrote about finishing The Art of Letting Go, I wrote about the WITAlive conference and what it means to be “Open, Broken, and Free,” and I ranted (again) about writing – this time about ten things people shouldn’t say to writers.  (I told you I started writing more.  This is one of my proudest blog months.)

August

Oh, August.  Golly Pete.

For one, my normal babysitting job changed slightly, which was a little bittersweet for me.  I was able to finish up a few more courses, but focused mainly on the fiction course (which I still have a love/hate relationship with).  I read a lot of really good books in August – mostly rereads – and I started editing my novel (really re-writing, though).

It’s also notable to mention that, sometime before or during this month, one of my regular babysitting jobs dropped because our schedules didn’t correlate anymore.  I’ve missed it ever since.  : (

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shortly after we left our church, i read a book at starbucks for the the first time and it was all i ever dreamed it would be. the fact that God could give me happiness in such a dark time is just astounding to me.

Halfway through August, we decided that the church situation wasn’t working anymore.  August 16th was our last Sunday, and although we knew pretty much as soon as church started that we were going to leave, we didn’t tell anyone until the next day.  Honestly, we were all so heartbroken that it felt like someone had died.  We were relieved to be rid of the stress, but we knew we’d miss it.

Right around the same time, I discovered Dan and Phil, and Sleeping at Last (mainly through his song ‘Saturn,’ which, coincidentally [or not], just came on in my Amazon Music Library).  (Then I discovered this Captain America fanvid, which I still cry over regularly.)  Coping with the church stuff meant (besides the obvious prayer and regular conversations with my family) binge-watching Dan and Phil, random movies (and TV shows like Monk), studying a ton, and listening to a lot of music.  And basically doing whatever I could to get my mind off it.

Notable blog posts: ‘the beauty of life.

September

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look i’m covering up my ugly beach hair!  (jk my fingers were unintentionally in the way.)  (meh.)

My family needed a break from all of the drama (or an official end of the church drama and the beginning of our family’s new life), so we bumped our beach trip to the beginning of the month, instead of later, when we usually did it.  And it was relaxing and fulfilling and amazing and we all had such a good time.  I read five books in that week and it was beautiful.

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9/1/15. half intended, half coincidental, FULLY AWESOME.

September was also notable for me and my siblings because it was the month my we started reading the Harry Potter books.  A lot came out of this (good things and bad things), and it’s interesting to note that this happened right after we left our church.  (Although it’s not related at ALL, it’s almost a symbol of everything we were going through at that time – being more free in Christ and dwelling less on the things we can’t do as Christians and more on the things we get to do as Christians.)

Also, a friend introduced James to Twenty One Pilots, who introduced it to my dad, who introduced it to me, who introduced it to Jenna.  And now the four of us are hooked.  😄

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feelin’ 22.

My best friend started a relationship with her boyfriend, which changed a few things in our relationship.  Not bad things… just different.

We planned an awesome 22nd birthday for my sister Katie with some of our new friends and old friends, and it was fantastic.

Probably the most exciting thing that happened that month was the fact that most of my family left to go to vacations and conferences, leaving my dad, me, and two of my siblings home alone for a week (and then my dad left, leaving me in charge of my siblings).  Needless to say, we had a blast.  What happens when Ashley’s in charge… will probably never happen again because starting a movie at 1am after watching a stupid movie sounds great but doesn’t end well for anyone involved.

Notable blog posts: ‘on convictions (and harry potter).‘ (More like an essay than a blog post… nevertheless, I am proud of it.)

October

October was a slightly more chill month than the last previous months.  We visited a few churches, did some school, and mainly just tried to lay low.  No more drama, if we could help it.

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me and the three children i babysat.  we had SO much fun together (even though my smile looks totally fake).

Later that month, I went with my mom and dad to Florida, where they were going to help out at the next WIT marriage conference and I was going to babysit some of the counselors’ children.  I dropped them off near the airport, met one of my “charges,” and drove three hours to a house to meet the other two children.  Four days later, I drove three hours back, met my parents, and drove the seven-hour drive back to my house.  It was pretty insane.  And very adult.

Notable blog posts: My first book review

November

November was a little more stressful, but that’s due to school and other stuff, such as Mom and Dad’s new ministry.  We jokingly say that they traded one ministry for another, but it’s the truth.  Almost as soon as we left our church, they had couples coming to them for help with their marriage.  Soon they were meeting with people they didn’t even know.  (I think we’ve counted seventeen couples total.)  We’re doing a marriage study at our house every Friday night and it’s been going well!

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my siblings and i got to put up my grandparents’ christmas tree on thanksgiving day, and this is still one of my favorite pictures i’ve taken this year.

We’ve also really enjoyed seeing what our community of believers is doing, and have visited a lot of neat churches.  We’re content to just keep visiting, though, and don’t really feel the need to join one.

I also started becoming obsessed with Hamilton during this month, which was a good and a bad thing.  : P  No regrets!

Despite my best friend’s relationship status, I realized sometime this month (or during October or even earlier) that I didn’t feel the need to be in a relationship.  That was an incredible feeling for me because I’ve always struggled with that area of my life – feeling like I’m not complete without someone.  But I am!  At the WIT conference, I was reminded that I’m complete in Christ and I don’t need a boyfriend to fulfill me.  (This feeling drifted away a bit during the holidays, but it’s since returned even stronger and I’m so grateful that I’m finally satisfied in Christ.)

Notable blog posts: ‘currently,’ my thoughts on God’s Not Dead 2, my top five favorite Christian films (which is Important because I’ve been wanting to do this post for a while but have never been able to narrow down my list), and my thoughts on the Captain America: Civil War trailer (which is also Important, for obvious reasons).  (I also wrote about being thankful when it’s hard, and got a lot of very sweet encouraging comments, which made me even MORE thankful, so thank you!)

December

Ahh, yes.  Now we come to the end of the year.  From family drama to friend drama to normal holiday drama, this month has been insane.  My best friend broke up with her boyfriend (which eventually caused our first fight [which I totally started]), and a few other friendships are rocky.  (Speaking of, this is the first year I’ve ever had a fight with one of my friends, first time I ever felt genuine disgust over someone I know personally {nobody who reads this blog – don’t worry : )}, and one of the first times I’ve ever heard something awful said about me behind my back.  All within a few months.  So… yay for firsts and yay for this year and YAY FOR NEXT YEAR.)

Moving on to slightly happier things, earlier this month, I developed my first crush in a while, which was… interesting.  (And speaking of firsts, it was the first time I ever told anyone about who I was crushing on.)

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this is the picture i posted on instagram on my birthday.  because it was this baby’s birthday, too.

Also, I turned 21.  : )  Full disclosure (and for anyone who’s wondering), I tried champagne on my birthday (and disliked it), and my first drink at a bar (at my mom’s insistence) was sweet tea.  So… yeah.  Pretty good indication of how my “legal” life will go.  NO WORRIES THERE.  😄

I thought my friends had forgotten about my birthday or didn’t care because everybody was busy and couldn’t do anything with me, BUT LO AND BEHOLD, they had planned me a SURPRISE PARTY.  (I have the best friends ever, guys.)  It was book-themed, and all of the food were references to all of my fandoms, and everybody gave me books, and I had just THE BEST TIME.  I could write an entire post about it, but you probably don’t want to hear it.  : P

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ALL OF MY FRIENDS CAME AND IT WAS SO MUCH FUN.

 

(I did tell all of my friends that I couldn’t have imagined that at my 21st birthday I’d be wearing skinny jeans and eating food mentioned in books like the Hunger Games trilogy and Anne of Green Gables and Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series… which is still weird to me, but mostly because it shows how much I’ve changed in the past few years and how far I’ve come since being that annoyingly works-based Christian I was even three years ago.  Incredible.)  (And I could write an entire post about that, too, but you probably don’t want to hear it, either.)

And then Christmas happened and I got many lovely things (including books and clothes) and gave many lovely things (including books and clothes), and my siblings found out we’re GOING TO DISNEY IN FEBRUARY HUZZAH (MAGIC POWERS).  This is exciting for obvious reasons PLUS the fact that I haven’t been since I was six, so yeah.  WAHOO.

Notable blog posts: my Christmastime Is Here blog series, a post about my birthday and reviewing my ‘21 before 21‘ list, and hello oh look oops I’m a Star Wars fan now.

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So… now that it’s December 31st and the year is finally over, I’m left thinking about how INSANELY QUICKLY this year went by, but also how insanely slowly it did, too.  I spent so much of this year stressing out about stuff (friendships, church, school), and not enough time being content with just living in the moment and seeing the beauty of life.

This year, I’ve become a little more observant.  I’ve always tried to think the best of people, and since that slipped me up earlier this year, I’ve tried to look at people more realistically.  Maybe it’s made me more cynical, too, but I think it’s changed me for the better.  I know that there’s more to people than what meets the eye, and that there’s more to people than they’ll ever tell you.  Everyone has secrets (and everyone has regrets).

I think next year I’d like to learn how to love people more, how to love life more, and, most importantly, how to love God more.  My relationship with Him has been really rocky this year, and I’d like to go back to my first love, now that a lot of the distractions are gone.  I feel like the beginning of 2016 will be a lot of rebuilding for me, especially where my relationship with God is concerned.  I’ve changed a lot over the past year, and I don’t want to lose sight of Him in the midst of all of the changes.  (I saw something on Tumblr that said, “2015 was my character development year which means 2016 is strictly action and story progression and i don’t know about you but i’m excited” and I feel like I relate to that a lot.)

Because of this, my verse for the year is one that has always been one of my favorites.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORDand on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

I feel like, in the middle of everything that’s gone on in the past year, I’ve lost my love for Christ.  I want to regain it in the coming year.  : )

And that was my 2015.

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continuing the tradition of year-end bathroom selfies with pachelbel.  : )

currently… {cheeky li’l update}

Hello, my lovelies!  Haven’t given you an update on me in a while, so if you’re interested, read the following.  (And if you’re not interested, well, go away.)

I’m Currently…

Listening to:

  • ‘Hello’ by Adele.  INSERT ALL THE HEART-EYED EMOJIS.  Guys, this song is just so beautiful.
  • Hamilton: The Musical.  *sigh*  I love alternative music, and Hamilton’s blend of rap and classical music is just perfection.  I think I found this musical before it got popular (while it was still off-broadway), but the soundtrack wasn’t out yet, so I listened to the clips that were available, loved it, and then forgot about it.  However, since the soundtrack became free with Amazon Prime (aww yiss), I’ve been slowly working my way through it.  Guys, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius.  (Obligatory Disclaimer: This musical does have some language, so be advised.)
  • Sleeping at Last.  (Which, if you’ve read my past ten or so posts, you should know that already.)  It’s my study music because I can just get lost in the beauty of it and golly pete, is it beautiful.

Watching:

  • Lovely Little Losers (hence the title of this post).  I’m staying away from Love’s Labor’s Lost, just so I can keep the ending as spoiler-free as possible.  The last ten to fifteen episodes have been so feelsy and I had to take a break for a while because I couldn’t handle it (and, of course, the episodes I waited to watch were the re-introduction of MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE CHARACTER, JOHN, WHO I HAVE MANY FEELINGS ABOUT).  I have no idea how many episodes this series will be, but we’re already waiting for #69 and I can tell that the end is near.  *cries all the tears*  (Obligatory Disclaimer the Second: This also has a lot of language and a few homosexual characters.)
  • The Peanuts Movie.  This should be under “watched” because I’ve only seen it once, but whatever.  It was so cute, guys.  Like my childhood flying across the screen before my eyes.  (And I’m still in love with Linus, so that’s not weird at all.)
  • The clips from Mockingjay: Part Two.  I am not ready.
  • Star Wars.  My siblings want to watch all of them before Force Awakens comes out, so I’m “watching” it, too.  (From behind a book, mainly.)  But I’m definitely going to see Force Awakens because (1) It’s gonna be huge, (2), It’s got Domhnall Gleeson in it (who is Phil as in AWESOME PHIL FROM UNBROKEN and Bill Weasley as in AWESOME BILL FROM HARRY POTTER), and (3) Hello, duh, the Civil War trailer is going to be released before it.

Reading:

  • Harry Potter.  Lots and lots of Harry Potter headcanons, too.  The fandom’s nuts, guys.  Even more nuts than the Sherlock fandom, partially because the second series is going to premiere next year (!!!!!).  I just finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which has been the longest one so far (nearly 900 pages).  I have so many feels about this series.  I think I nearly cried over something HP-related every day of last week.  (Yikes.)
  • Three books for a fiction course I’m taking from LSU: Great ExpectationsAll the King’s Men, and The Bean Trees.  Of the three, Great Expectations confused me the most, All the King’s Men was the most inappropriate (but I still enjoyed most of it), and The Bean Trees was my favorite.  Here’s a quote from it for you: “Mi’ija, in a world as wrong as this one, all we can do is to make things as right as we can.”  (Estevan said this and I think he’s one of my new literary crushes because he’s just awesome.)
  • The Girl on the Train.  Umm…?  Don’t know what to say about this one since I’ve never really read a thriller (although I’ve watched my share of Hitchcock films).  I read most of it yesterday and will probably finish it tonight, so look at my Goodreads page if you’re interested in my thoughts.
  • Other than that, I’m just trying to catch up on free reading because I’ve gotten like eight books from the library but have been reading so much for that course (and then slowly making my way through OotP) that I haven’t been able to read much.  I’ll get there.

Feeling thankful for:

  • Where God has my family right now.  It’s been a really hard few months (and this year has brought about the most change in my life since we moved to Georgia), but we’re almost on the other side of the hardest part, and we’re all really happy now.  Long story short, we were in a bad situation that we needed to get out of and, now that we’re out of it, we’re seeing just how bad it was and we’re really grateful that we got out when we did (although we should’ve gotten out like a year ago).
  • Where God has me right now.  I went through a few months of being really discontent with where I was earlier this year (especially with my lack of a love life), but I prayed through it and asked God to give me complete satisfaction in Him (which has been my prayer for a while now), and really I think He has.  For the first time in a while, I’m not really not looking forward to the holidays because of my lack of a significant other.  In the last few years, I felt sad that I couldn’t share all of the wonderful things about this time of year with someone, but I’m really, really happy to be single right now and I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and my birthday and Christmas more than I usually do because I’m not worried about not having someone to share it with.  SO.  All that to say, I’m really content, which is a relatively new feeling for me, and I’m really enjoying it.  : )

Writing:

  • The re-writes of most of The Art.  I’m a little over halfway through, and it’s going really well.  I haven’t gone over (or even read) most of the earlier chapters since Camp NaNo of last year (because I never edit during NaNo and I was so caught up in publishing Nikki that I didn’t have time to work on it), so it’s really interesting to read it a little over a year after I wrote it.  And I think it’s safe to say that this is my best work yet, so YAY.
  • Some Christmas stuff for you guys, which include my second fanfic ever, so that’s exciting.  *wink*

And I guess that’s it.  I’ve been nannying a ton (like, a ton), and I took my first roadtrip by myself a few weeks ago (don’t think I’ve mentioned that), so I’m definitely starting to feel like an adult.  (YIKES.)

The next few weeks are going to be kind of crazy for me (on top of all of ^that^, I’ve got concerts, MOCKINGJAY2 {!!!!!!!}, Christmas concerts, my birthday, and a few other random things), but I’ll try to stay on top of posting.

What have you been doing lately?  If you’ve been reading or watching some of the same things I have, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

review – the lord of the rings: the musical (repost)

I’ve been listening to this music again and it reminded me of how great – and underrated! – this musical is. The new tour will be huge, guys. Trust me. 🙂 (I haven’t had too much time to write posts lately, so this is a repost. Never fear, I’ve got posts in my head, so they’re coming.)

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“There’s a road calling you to stray.” – ‘The Road Goes On,’ The Lord of the Rings: The Musical

When I tell my friends that there’s a LotR musical, nine times out of ten, they say, “Wait, WHAT?! How can you even have a LotR musical?! It’s impossible!”

Actually, no, it’s quite possible. It’s been done. And it’s amazing.

(Note: I’ve only listened to the soundtrack, which is the foundation of this review.)

The Story

Act I

news-graphics-2007-_638437aThe half-Elven maiden Arwen sings the prologue, urging those to whom she sings to trust their instincts (“Prologue” (‘Lasto i lamath’)). In the region of Middle-earth known as the Shire, Bilbo Baggins, an eccentric and wealthy Hobbit, celebrates his one hundred eleventh birthday by vanishing from his birthday party, leaving his greatest treasure, a mysterious magic Ring, to his young relative Frodo Baggins (“Springle Ring”) . The Ring is greatly desired by the Dark Lord Sauron, who could use it to conquer the world, and must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom in Sauron’s country of Mordor. Frodo and his friends Samwise Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took set out along the road that leads out of the Shire (“The Road Goes On”). Meanwhile, the corrupt wizard Saruman also desires the Ring (“Saruman”).
At the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the village of Bree, Frodo and his friends sing and dance for their fellow guests (“The Cat and the Moon”). With the assistance of the Ranger Strider, the four Hobbits escape pursuit by the Black Riders, servants of Sauron, and safely reach the Ford of Bruinen (“Flight to the Ford”). Awaiting them at the Elven settlement of Rivendell is Arwen, the beloved of Strider, whose true name is Aragorn, heir to the kingship of the Lands of Men (“The Song of Hope”). Arwen’s father, Lord Elrond, calls a Council of Elves, Men and Dwarves at which it is decided that Frodo will carry the Ring to Mordor. The Fellowship of the Ring sets out from Rivendell: Frodo and his three fellow Hobbits, Aragorn, the human warrior Boromir, the Elf Legolas, the Dwarf Gimli, and the great wizard Gandalf the Grey. Arwen and the people of Rivendell invoke the holy power of the star Eärendil to protect and guide the Fellowship on its journey (“Star of Eärendil”). In the ancient, ruined Dwarf-mines of Moria, Gandalf confronts a Balrog, a monstrous creature of evil, and falls into the darkness.

Act II

inside-lord-of-rings_t614The Fellowship takes refuge in Lothlórien, the mystical realm of Galadriel, an Elven lady of great power and wisdom (“The Golden Wood”, “Lothlórien”). As their journey south continues, Boromir attempts to take the Ring from Frodo; Frodo and Sam flee from the rest of the Fellowship, and Boromir falls in battle. Gandalf returns in time to intervene at the Siege of the City of Kings, where the Lands of Men are under attack by the forces of Saruman and the Orcs of Mordor (“The Siege of the City of Kings”). Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are joined on their journey by Gollum, a twisted creature who long possessed the Ring and desires to have it for his own again. As they approach Mordor, Frodo and Sam sing to each other about the power of stories (“Now and for Always”). Gollum is moved by their song, but the evil side of his personality asserts itself and he plans to betray the Hobbits (“Gollum/Sméagol”).

Act III

elvesIf Aragorn can defeat the forces of evil and reclaim the kingship of Men, he will receive Arwen’s hand in marriage (“The Song of Hope” (Duet)). Galadriel casts spells to protect the forces of good in the final battle (“Wonder”, “The Final Battle”). Frodo, Sam and Gollum reach Mount Doom, where the Ring is destroyed when Gollum takes it from Frodo and falls into the fire with it. Aragorn becomes King and marries Arwen (“City of Kings”), but Frodo, wearied by his quest, and the great Elves must leave Middle-earth forever and sail to the lands of the West (“Epilogue (Farewells)”). Bidding farewell to their friend, Sam, Merry and Pippin resume their lives in the Shire (“Finale”).  (from Wikipedia)

503817976_1904edc655As you can see, LotRM follows the book and, in some cases, is more true to it than the movie trilogy. In some ways, however, it’s a little different. For instance, there is no Eowyn character (or Faramir – and all the Faramir Fans say, “Nooooooo!”), and the roles of Theoden and Denathor have been combined. (I know, right?) However, other than that, the story is the same. It’s really amazing how they pulled it off on stage, in front of a live audience, for 492 performances.

Unfortunately, the musical tanked due to money and budgeting issues and a few minor accidents on set. As one reviewer put it, “Stripping away the beautiful sets, lavish staging, seventeen lifts and three revolves, LotRM was at its base level a confused, plodding, dull selection of scenes from the books – with the occasional moment of brilliance, just as a reminder of how good the show could have been. The challenge of adapting all three books (over nine hours worth of film) into one three hour long stage show (incorporating songs and circus style staging) was simply too great – and the result was plain for all to see.” It was a huge job to undertake, and I think everyone involved should be commended for their efforts.

The Music

I discovered LotRM in early 2008, bought the soundtrack soon afterward, and have been hooked on it ever since. The tunes get stuck in my head – which is delightful – and I’ve been trying to master the many fiddle solos in ‘The Cat and the Moon’ ever since. My sister and I bought several highlights from the album, which I will review below. If you only have a short amount of time to “try out” this musical, I’d recommend these songs.

‘The Road Goes On’ is one of the first songs in the musical. It starts out with Frodo and Sam, then Merry and Pippin join in, then the Elves and Rangers join in, and it just gets bigger and bigger.

‘The Cat and the Moon’ is the song that Frodo and the other hobbits sing at The Prancing Pony, and it’s one of the most toe-tapping songs I’ve ever heard. My siblings and I have done many a jig to this song, and my brother and I have even played it and danced around a fire once. It’s that kind of song.

‘Lothlorien’ is another favorite. Legolas starts it, then he is joined by the other elves. Galadriel (wonderfully played by Laura Michelle Kelly, of Mary Poppins: The Musical fame) comes in for a solo in the beginning of the second verse. (The first day I was able to hit all of her high notes, I nearly jumped for joy!)

‘Now and For Always’ is arguably my favorite song in the entire soundtrack. It depicts the friendship between Frodo and Sam to perfection.

‘Star of Earendil’ is one of my new favorites. It wasn’t among the “highlights” that my sister and I bought, but it definitely should have been. It’s Arwen’s solo and quite beautiful.

‘Wonder’ is the last of my favorites. It’s one of Galadriel’s solos and such a pretty song. (It’s one of my go-to songs when I feel like I need to sing something big and powerful.) ‘Shine forever, beacon of light! Blaze in the air, vanquishing night!’

In Conclusion

LordOfTheRingsMusi_1774259cAlthough the musical didn’t do very well, I commend everyone’s efforts. Ever since I first heard about the musical, I’ve wanted to see it. When it officially closed in 2008, I was heartbroken. However, now that it’s being revived for a world tour, I’m looking forward to seeing it! (WOOT!!)

This musical is highly, highly recommended and I think every true Tolkiendil should see it – or, at the very least, listen to the music.