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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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

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!  XD

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.)

Short hair

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.  XD

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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.  XD

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.

~~~~~~~~

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.  : )

year in review: 2014

Wow.  When I think back on all of the things God has done in my life in 2014, I can only say one thing about this past year: WOW.

It’s been so crazy.  Absolutely insane.  I’ve done more this year than I have in my entire life.  I’ve had more opportunities, more blessings, more trials, and more responsibilities this year than ever before.  I know I’ve been changed for the better and for good because of what’s happened.

~January~
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  • My older sister, “Arwen,” left before the New Year to help a mother of four who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, leaving me as the oldest at home.  She would be gone through June.  (The mother is doing much better, praise God!)
  • A good friend of the family passed away suddenly right after New Year’s Day, leaving behind eight children.  Prayers for their family would be appreciated, as the one-year anniversary is coming up.
  • A calendar event at 11am on January 1st simply says “Discovered coffee.”  This is probably more accurate than I’d like to admit.  🙂
  • Started working with my second CollegePlus coach after my first coach started maternity leave.
  • Started covering for Arwen with her two-day-a-week nannying job.  Promptly fell in love with the kids.  (The first day I picked them up was that big ice storm down here that you might have heard about.  You know, the one where all the Northerners laughed at all the Southerners for freaking out?  Yeah.  I’d like to see all of THEM try to drive on icy roads – that can’t really be fixed because we only have five ice trucks for the entire STATE – with two scared toddlers in the backseat.  My car spun out, but I saved it from crashing and killing the three of us.  It was insane.)

~February~
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  • Left for a week-long trip to Kentucky and Ohio.  Visited the Creation Museum again and stayed in Maysville, where Rosemary Clooney was born and raised.  My siblings and I still frequently reference all of the crazy things that happened during that trip, one of the better stories being that I finally got them addicted to Boy Meets World.  We watched an entire season in less than a week.  (We also got to watch a lot of the Sochi Olympics, and I really enjoyed seeing Meryl and Charlie compete!)
  • Struggled through my least favorite CLEP so far – Western Civ I – and finally finished it after two months of study.  *facepalm*  I took a week off after I passed it with flying colors (how that even worked out is still a mystery to me – I failed SEVEN practice tests and rescheduled it five times).

~March~

  • Started with my third CollegePlus coach (in less than a year).  Still working with her and love her to bits and pieces!
  • JellyBean’s first birthday and first Gotcha Day party!

~April~
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  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out.  Feels ran rampant.
  • Nailed down my degree choice – Humanities with an emphasis on English and writing courses.
  • Started the first Leadership Course with Dr. Jeff Myers.  LOVED it.
  • Arwen came to visit.  We went to a wedding (my dad’s first that he officiated) and saw The Lion King.

~May~
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  • Although still pretty hectic, May became one of my more normal months.  No major things happened, and I focused on studying and editing Becoming Nikki.
  • Invited myself to ride with a friend and her family to Texas for the CPE3.  Plans are not laid down for several months, but I kept my fingers crossed ’til they are.
  • Started a new blog, feelsy feels, with Eva and Miss Jane.
  • Became a Sophomore in College.

~June~
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  • I and a few of my siblings volunteered for the children’s program at a homeschool conference, including being leaders of groups of children and participating in several skits.  Needless to say, we had a lot of fun.
  • Started the second Leadership Course.  Didn’t love it as much as the first one, but I still enjoyed it.
  • Failed my first CollegePlus test.  😦
  • Traveled to Texas with Mom to get Arwen.  I drove fourteen hours total, including one six-hour streak.  I started reading the Hunger Games trilogy (for the first time) the day we left and finished it in less than a week.  Again, feels ran rampant.

~July~
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  • Participated in NaNo for the third time, starting The Art of Letting Go based on an idea I got during the trip to Texas less than a week before.  Surprisingly, I still won.
  • My siblings and I went to Camp GrandmaHoney at our grandparents house with our cousins and, as usual, had a great time.  While we were there, I found out that the nannying job is mine for the keeping – YAY!

~August~

  • Started playing with the Reinhardt University Symphony Orchestra for the sixth year in a row.
  • Started talking to Morgan about helping me publish Nikki.
  • Hosted my first piano recital.  Both of my students played marvelously, and we had a night in while the parents went out for a double-date.
  • Discovered my hero, Louie Zamperini, after reading Unbroken for the first time.  I promptly started recommending it to everyone I know.

~September~
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  • Traveled to the beach with the family, have a blast for the first time in a long time.
  • Studied for and passed a test in five days.  🙂
  • THE CPE3 HAPPENS, WHICH WAS THE MOST AMAZING FIVE DAYS OF MY LIFE.
  • Found my best friend, who had been right under my nose for the past four years – I just didn’t know it because we never really talked.  All it took was a twelve-day cross-country trip.  Now we’re besties forevah.
  • Traveled for most of this month – home only eight days out of the entire month.  O_O

~October~

  • Started doing study dates with my BFF every Thursday before my nannying job.
  • Finished editing Nikki at three in the morning before my deadline, sent it off to Morgan, officially started the publishing process.  (!!!!!)
  • Passed the CollegePlus test I’d previously failed – WIN.

~November~
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  • Decided not to do NaNo in lieu of the fact that I knew I’d be swamped with publishing stuff.  (Boy, I was more right than I thought.)
  • Auditioned for a play, even though I didn’t get the part.  (Now I’ve got the acting bug.)
  • Played in my first wedding with Arwen.  It goes really well!

~December~

  • Attended a Hunter Hayes concert.  : ))))))))))
  • Graduated from being a teenager – YUSSSSSS.
  • Published my first novel, did my first blog tour, got my first paycheck related to my novel.  Things haven’t calmed down since.  🙂

So, yeah, my life has been pretty crazy over the past year.  So much happened in such a short amount of time!

IMG_4554Looking back, I still can’t believe all the things that have happened.  All the firsts, all the lasts, all of the memories and friends made…  It’s been a crazy ride.

My verse for the year was Joshua 1:7-9: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

It’s been pretty amazing to see God work through this verse and make it so real to me in the craziness of the past year!  Yes, a ton of things have happened, but God has been so faithful and has given me strength and courage to do all of the amazing things I’ve been able to do this past year.  I’m so blessed!

Can’t wait for even more craziness in 2015!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Whoa.

To say that 2013 just FLEW BY would be a HUGE understatement.

One minute there, then it was gone.”

Let’s say it whizzed by and leave it at that.

I did a ton in 2013. A lot of new things, and a lot of old things.  We had a few deaths in the family, and we had a few new arrivals. My family laughed a lot this year, and we also cried a lot (especially this past week, when I said goodbye to my older sister for the next few months).

2013, for me, felt like a year of discovery.

I discovered Aaron Tveit, Tom Hiddleston, Samantha Barks, Star Trek (I’m a bigger fan of the new movies), completely fell in love with Marvel movies, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Boy Meets World, Wicked, NEW YORK CITY, Hunter Hayes (thanks to my fellow CollegePlus-ers), and books.  Yes, I discovered books again.  I read more this year than I have in the past two years, and it’s been great! Oh, and I also discovered coffee.  Previously, I only drank coffees that were heavily sugar and chocolate (like Starbucks’ Java Chips – yummm…).  Now, I drink hot coffee on a regular basis – thanks to the extremely cold camping trip we went on a few months ago where the only hot thing available was coffee.  I don’t know if I should be happy or not…. Now I’m just hyper.  😉  One more thing – I discovered this cutie pie.  She’s my roommate now and it’s no secret that she likes me best.  😀

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More than that, 2013 was a year of discovery about God and what He wants me to do with the gifts and talents He’s given me. Earlier this year, I honestly thought I didn’t have any talents.  I mean, yeah, I play the piano and violin and write, but I always felt daunted by the fact that there were tons of people out there who were better than me.  Now, I realize that was a horrible mistake. God gave me the love of music and creativity for writing, and I’ve been blind to the fact that He gave me these gifts for a reason. Even if there are people out there who can play Beethoven or Mussorgsky better than me, I need to use the skills I’ve been given to the best of my abilities and let God do the rest.

In 2013, I finished my first novel. It was crazy. (Right now, it’s in the final editing stages and then it’ll be published.  That’s even crazier!) I also started another novel in 2013, this time armed only with characters and a setting – not time period, no plot, nothing.  Recipe for disaster, I know.  I wanted NaNo to be a challenge – and for any of you who followed my blog or emailed me or talked to me at all during last November, you’ll know how much of a challenge it turned out to be!  Thankfully, I won NaNo… and now that novel, Sneakers and Hot Fudge Sundaes, is in the final writing stages.  (I’m doing pretty evil things to my characters.  It feels great.)  I’ve discovered that character-driven plots are the best… even if you don’t know where the characters are going to take you until you’re halfway through writing their story.

In 2013, I started college and graduated from high school. In that order.  (#homeschooling_rocks)  I’m looking at an English degree – to pursue all of my writing fancies.  I’ve already got eighteen credits!  With the help of CollegePlus’ Navigate, I’ve been able to sort through all of my random thoughts about where God has called me to serve Him and discover what He’s called me to do.  I’m not sure about where this will take me in the next few years, but, hey.  That’s okay.

In 2013, I discovered that it’s okay to not know where God wants you to be. The important thing is to obey Him – sometimes blindly – and trust that He’s working out your life.  Trusting Him blindly was a lesson I learned just this past month when we were deciding who would go to help out this family.  It wasn’t until I said, “Okay, God, I’m willing to do whatever You have for me,” that I truly felt at peace about the whole idea.  I still had no clue if He wanted me to go or not, but I felt like He would reveal it in His timing and, if He wanted me to go, I would go and trust that He would give me the strength.  (As most of you probably know already, my older sister went.  She’s having a great time and I can already see how God ordained everything.  She’s really the perfect person for the job.)

2014 already looks like a year of stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’ve already had to do things that I, honestly, would just rather not do.  However, as “Number One” (as my dad now calls me… thanks a lot, Daddy), this is my responsibility now.  Arwen was such a good example of what the oldest does – help Mom out, pick up after others’ slack, and be the peacemaker.  Now this is my job. (GAAAAAH!!!  WHERE’S THE PANIC BUTTON?!?!?!)

For the past few years, God’s given me verses to live out through the year.  I’ve tried to look at things through these verses and it’s changed my perspective a ton. This year’s verse is Joshua 1:6-9.

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God gave me this verse about a month ago when I was panicking over going to live with this family or not.  The last part gave me strength. (And so did all of the reminders to “Be strong and courageous” – because everybody knows that when God says something in threes, you’d better listen!!) Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that I kinda-sorta-slightly forgot about these verses up until Sunday, when my dad asked me to move my car, which was blocking our family car, which would take my parents and older sister to where Arwen would be living for the next few months.  I pulled it out, backed onto the curb, and waited for my parents to pull out.  They were talking to my younger siblings, so I turned on the radio while I waited.  Guess what song was on. ‘Courageous’ by Casting Crowns.  Me: Oh, yeahhhhh….  Wow.  I’m speechless, God.  Thank You for that reminder.  (And then the waterworks started to flow as I watched my sister leave for the next few months.)

So, yeah.  The past few days leading up to 2014 have already been a roller-coaster (and I hate roller-coasters)… but that’s okay.  I’m learning to let go of my wants and desires, reach out for others’, and step outside of my comfort zone.

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This is me.  No idea what the next year has in store for me (except maybe some pretty insane fangirling over Captain America: The Winter Soldier).  Strangely, I’m okay with that.  It’s a scary thought, but, hey.  As long as I lean on God and remember everything He’s shown me, I think everything will be alright by this time next year.

After all, I like a challenge.

2011 In Review

WOW!! Is it just me, or has 2011 flown by?! Goodness gracious me, I feel like it was just a few weeks ago that we were watching An American in Paris and paused it to watch The Ball drop.

2011 has been a mixture of good and bad, and I can safely say that it was mostly good! Here are a few highlights of my year…

  • January – The Ice Storm – how could I forget it?! We were at a funeral in Mississippi when it hit and came home right in the middle of it. We visited my grandparents and, on the 15th, got to see Beauty and the Beast at the Fox Theater in Atlanta! Whoa… what a good musical. I absolutely loved it!
  • February – I attended TeenPact for the first time, and boy, was it an experience! I got to spend time in the Georgia State Capitol, interview lobbyists, and talk with a lot of my friends! Yes, there was a lot of homework before the four-day class (including writing a bill and analysing a bill that was pending at the time), but I had a great time!
  • March – My younger brother turned eleven, a friend got married, and I went to a one-day conference called Passion for Jesus, which was very good. I also started a house-cleaning job with Arwen, which has proved to be a very well-paying but tiring job! : )
  • April – A good friend had a birthday and we visited them, which was a blast! Arwen and I also played in our 2nd Spring Concert with the Reinhardt University Orchestra. (Please don’t ask what we played… I can’t remember.) April also ushered in a loooong journey to yard perfection as we prepared for Arwen’s graduation in June.
  • May – My adorable little brother turned two! He’s getting cuter every day! My sister turned thirteen, which is a big birthday for us. We celebrated with a tea party and a lot of her good friends.
  • June – Party of the Century!! (Oh, and Arwen’s graduation…) We also had our annual Camp GrandmaHoney with our grandparents and cousins on my dad’s side. It was so much fun, and something I look forward to every year.
  • July – My mom and dad celebrated their birthdays and had a getaway vacation at St. Simons. Also, my aunt and cousin came to babysit us while they went away again later in the month.
  • August – We visited North Carolina twice, having an awesome time with friends on both trips. A friend got married (one of the reasons for our visiting NC) and a few good friends celebrated birthdays (another reason to visit NC). I also got my permit… look out, world!! : )
  • September – We had our late summer vacation at Laguna Beach and enjoyed time with friends there! Also, Arwen celebrated her 18th birthday and we had some friends over. Courageous came out, too, which we saw and loved.
  • October – A very full month, looking at my calender! Some friends from NC came and we went to the Passion for Jesus Retreat at a camp nearby and learned a lot. I also found out I had hypothyroidism and was sick for a good two and a half weeks. : P We also participated with a conference that our church was hosting, and Arwen and I helped lead worship for it. (We still haven’t stopped practicing with the ‘Worship Team,’ I joke, because now we’re regularly leading worship on Sundays!) We also went over to some friends’ house every Sunday after church to prepare for the same conference and found time to play football or Ultimate nearly every week… good times. : )
  • November – Compared to October, November was pretty bleak and boring. It gave me some time to catch up on most of my school I’d missed in October. A friend, who is eleven days older than me, celebrated her birthday and I tried to call her but forgot. : D
  • December – We had our 3rd round of Reinhardt Christmas Concerts – four in three days – and had a blast. (My favorite song is still ‘Celtic Christmas,’ even though they’ve played it every year!) I turned seventeen… and still haven’t gotten over it. It seems so old! (Half of thirty-four – yikes!) I played piano and violin at Belk for the first time, which was great but nerve-wracking! I also finished my third short story and it turned out a lot better than I expected (and a lot longer)! CHRISTMAS!!! So much fun, and I had a good time visiting family members I see once a year.

Wow, that was a lot. I’ve truly been blessed this year! Can’t wait for next year!

~Eowyn~