Monday, December 29, 2014

I'm Getting Too Ambitious // What Happens When Bloggers Write Books

If you guys have been around the blog world for a couple months, you’ve probably seen something related to NaNoWriMo – a post, a picture, a Tweet, something.   You may have even cringed to read that word because, whether you participated or not, you’re probably at some level of being NaNoWriMo-ed out.   For those of you who don’t know much about it, NaNoWriMo (AKA, National Novel Writing Month) is a month-long event during which authors work towards a goal of writing 50,000 words of their novel all in 30 days.  They’re absolutely crazy!  From what I’ve heard, it’s really intense.  You type and type and type until your fingers bleed, and at the end you have a 50,000 words that more or less form a baby book which still needs a lot of work to become a published novel.  In spite of the difficulty, something about that has an irresistible draw for me.  I’ve always wanted to write a book, but over the last months, a few of my favorite bloggers showed me that I can write a book.  Like, now.  I want to write a book! There it is.  It’s official.

I have a lot of experience with rushing into things without a lot of consideration or prior knowledge, so about four seconds after I decided that I wanted to write a book, I was hit with images of me sitting on the floor, burned out and surrounded by half a novel’s worth of pages that would never become a real book.  I can’t say similar things haven’t happened before.  (Coughcough, the aftermath of Hurrican Scrapbook in my basement right now.) I do, however, really want to write a book – it’s a total bucket list item.   And because bucket list items a) are mandatory and b) deserve consideration and prior knowledge, I emailed some experienced authors to learn a little bit about what I’m getting myself into.  They were so, so helpful, and I know lots of things about writing books now that I didn’t before!  I’d like to share that with you so that we can both not end up burned out on the floor, but I’d probably want to introduce them to you anyway, because they’re great: meet Lindsay, Chelsea, and Rachael.

From left to right: Lindsay, Chelsea, and Rachael, blogger / author extraordinaires!


All three authors were bloggers first (I’ll give you all their information at the end so you can stalk them a little), and they’ve each chosen to expand their passion for writing into the novel world, which makes them pretty cool.  Chelsea’s book is in print, as in you could go to Barnes and Nobel right now and buy it, and Lindsay and Rachael are both well on their way.  They’re all writing fiction, but each with a different spin – they’re talking relationships and mystery and travel.  They’re all from different parts of the world, but the whole writing thing must be universal or else they cheated on this because they all had similar sentiments – unique, but sparked by the same passion.  I absolutely loved hearing from them and learning things about what writing a book and being an author are like.  Things I now know:

// Authors write about anything and everything.

Allie: What are you writing about?

Lindsay: My book is called “Seekers,” and it’s about a group of strangers who embark on the hunt for a long-lost hidden treasure shrouded in myths of sinister curses, hauntings and even murder.

Rachael: My book is about a girl who is about to leave her exciting life to travel for six months.  She gets to experience life in new places, and also learns a lot about her life on the way.

Chelsea: (Since I already knew, I didn’t ask Chelsea what her book was about; however, I want you to know – here’s the description from her website!)  Happy to be Alive, Because is a book about life and love and loss and friendship.  It’s for anyone who has ever struggled to understand the point of the hard stuff in life.  It’s for anyone who has ever had to try to be happy.  It’s for anyone who has ever loved their friends so fiercely, they think their heart may explode.  And it’s for anyone who, like me, loves to get lost in a story.


// Authors write about what speaks to them.

Allie: What inspired you to write what you’re writing?

Rachael: My life right now is really inspiring me to write about travel and learning about yourself.  We always read books about the girl who finds the boy, but instead of the boy, what if she finds herself?  The genre (as of right now) will be young adult fiction, one of my favorites to read and also something I have a lot of experience with because I am a middle school teacher.

Allie:  Your book deals with love, loss, friendships, and life stuff – things that lots of people can relate to, but are also very intimate.  How personal is the content of your books to you?

Chelsea:  It’s extremely personal, but not exactly in the way most people think.  For example, my main character loses her mom, something that I have never had to deal with.  I’ve experienced great love and great loss and great friendship, maybe just in different ways than my character.  That’s why writing a book is so cool – you get to include all of this personal stuff, but you get to twist it and turn it and mold it into your plot, disguising it as fiction. 

//The entire writing process is full of roadblocks, and that’s part of what makes writers want to write, as crazy as that sounds.

Allie: As you worked on your manuscript, what did you learn about the writing process that surprised you the most?

Lindsay: How truly difficult writing a book is.  This sounds obvious, I can picture you reading this thinking, “This girl is an idiot, what on earth did she expect?” but in a way it was a complete revelation to me.  I think I had a highly romanticized notion of “writing” and the reality was vastly different.  I expected the words to flow effortlessly as I sipped my light roast coffee with my two cats sleeping soundly at my feet.  The real situation was more like me staring at my computer, forcing the words to come out when they didn’t seem interested in appearing, my eye twitching dangerously as I sipped my fourth Monster of the morning while my cats and husband were hanging out without me – often battling a voice of harsh negativity and self-doubt in my mind.  It was hard.  It was lonely.  It was spectacularly daunting.  But I kept. on. Going.  It’s okay if your writing process isn’t pretty, I learned.  All that matters is that you make the words happen.  And as for that voice of negativity in my hear, I think every writer deals with that.  I have to make an active choice to ignore it every single time I sit down to write.


Chelsea: I’ve had some nasty comments, too . . . people went out of their way to email me and let me know that they think my book is the worst thing on the face of this planet and I should probably just go die. Because of that, I’ve made it a point to always email or tweet authors when I finish a book, no matter how popular they are.  It hurts to see people say mean things about something you worked so hard on, so I try to spread some love around!

Rachael:  I have hated feeling like I never have enough time/motivation (let’s be honest, I’m a blogger AND an English teacher, so I’m constantly surrounded by words.  Sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming.  The worst part is the feat that what I’m writing might actually be total crap.  I’m always a little worried that maybe I’ll finish my book and it will be awful.  But at least I’ll have written a book, right?

// Writing is all about the people you have around you.

Lindsay:  The decision to write a book actually came rather quickly, for me.  I’ve loved to write my entire life, and once a few folks (my husband, my mom, Juliette of theotherjuliette.blogspot.com) planted the seed, I decided, “Heck, there’s no time like the present, self, let’s dream up the plotline and write a damn book. “ It sounds so cheesy, but I honestly couldn’t have done it without the encouragement and support of my family and friends.  I swear, their words of affirmation were better than crack.  Not that I would know.  Probably.  (That was a joke, I don’t do drugs stronger than Tylenol.)

Chelsea:  It always feels incredible whenever someone reaches out to me and tells me they read my book-it’s an amazing feeling.  I love getting to start a conversation with someone who would otherwise be a stranger to me and ask them what their takeaway was. . . . I love writing, and I love writing buddies!  Writer's block doesn't stand a chance when you have friends you can talk through your words and stories a plots with.  If anyone else is a writer, I'd love to connect!

Rachael:  I also love my writing circle, which is when a small group of us get together every two weeks and share something different, whether it be writing a screenplay to poetry to novels!  It’s so inspiring to be around people like that.

// Writing is totally worth it.

Chelsea: (on seeing her book in print for the first time) It was so amazing!  My mom was in town, and when I saw that I had a fed-ex package slip on my door, I knew exactly what it was.  But it was 4:58 and the leasing office closes at 5:00, so my mom and I booked it across the parking lot to make sure we got there before they locked the doors.  Then we both took turns holding it and crying and taking pictures and laughing because it was so surreal—it was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad I got to share it with her.

Lindsay:  While I wrote the first draft I was figuring it out as I went. Now that it’s complete, it’s cool to step back and rethink my story with a more complete frame of mind.

Rachael:  I think the reason you should write a book is not only will you sound really cool at dinner parties, but it’s really rewarding to be working towards such a positive personal goal.  //

That’s it, you guys.  I’m writing a book.  Dangerously twitching eyes and happy crying over the first copy in print and wanting to give up and feeling like I’ve accomplished something really, really big? Sign me up, all of it.  I’m so sold!

Thanks so much for letting me be here today, Anna, and thanks for reading to words of a complete stranger, reader of Anna in Wonderland!  I appreciate you!  (Sidenote:  But let’s stop being strangers – you can drop by my regular blogging space and leave me a note, because I’d love to get in touch.)

Allie

P.S. As promised, you can meet Chelsea here and Lindsay here and Rachael here.  I'd highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Guest Post // The Perks of Christmas in Edinburgh



Merry Christmas Eve!  Because it's Christmas time and that means doing festive things, I've got a really cool guest post coming at you today from my friend Carolyn.  She's going to give us a look at what it's like to do Christmas where she's from, in Scotland.  Enjoy!

Hi everyone. I'm Carolyn and I run a music and lifestyle blog called Carolyn's Simple Life. When Allie emailed me about writing Christmas guest posts for each others blogs I was so excited because I love Allie's blog and I love Christmas.

 I live in Scotland in the UK and one of my favourite things about Christmas time is exploring Edinburgh. I've visited the Winter Wonderland and European market a lot of times this year and I absolutely love it.







 I love looking around all the stalls at the European market because there are so many lovely trinkets and loads of amazing food. Me and my friend treated ourselves to some nutella crepes.

  






 

 I really enjoy wandering around Edinburgh with my camera any time of year but I especially love it at Christmas time because of all the amazing lights.



 The front of The Dome


 The back of The Dome 


 Inside The Dome 



 Inside The Dome 



 And although I didn't go on it this year I always love seeing the Ferris wheel on Princes Street.



 Every year since I was little I've always gone to Jenners Department Store to see their Christmas Tree. It's become a bit of a family tradition going to see the tree and I really enjoy it.


 



 The one thing I can always rely at Christmas time in Edinburgh is that it will be cold and there were almost, always be rain. Unfortunately I was rained on a few times while exploring the European market but apart from that I've really enjoyed Christmas in Edinburgh this year. 

 I hope that wherever you are in the world that you have a lovely Christmas and also a very happy new year!

 I also want to say a really big thank you to Allie for letting me write a guest post for her lovely blog.

 Carolyn x

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Warm Up! // How to Do Winter Without Freezing



It's been getting miiiighty chilly around here lately.  I won't use cold yet, because I know better than to pull that word out while it's still consistently 30 degrees or warmer.  It's not really cold, but very chilly? You bet. 

In past winters, I've let winter take me by surprise.  I generally spend a few weeks wearing skirts over just my bear, naked legs and neglecting to start the car a few minutes early to warm it up and promote global warming before I wise up and start fighting winter back.  Not this year!  Last year's especially wintery winter has instilled an intense fear of being cold in me, and I'm determined to spend almost all, if not the entire winter in relative warmth.  Spending 5 months feeling like this will do that to you.


I live in Southern Michigan, so we definitely don't see the worst of it.  It probably gets colder and more snowy in the North Pole and Alaska and maybe some parts of Siberia, so if anybody from there writes a blog post about how to stay warm, they're probably righter than me.  However, as someone who has spent a lot of life trying to be warm, I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it, and I'd love to save you from a fate of sixteen cold years by just giving you the answers now.  Ladies and gentlemen, my expert guide on how to stay warm when it's -7 with relentless wind and snow, or any other version of cold.  

|  Buy a space heater. Make it your best friend.  My mom bought a space heater for her office last year, and I've gotten in the habit of keeping it about three feet from wherever I am at all times, plugged in and set to the highest setting.  Sometimes it smells like it's burning something, but then I remember that burning = heat and stop complaining.  (We bought ours from Costco - it's this one and I'm convinced that it's saved my life more than once!) 

| Drink hot water all day long.  Credit for this one goes to my mom, as well.  During winters when I was younger, she'd always drink a cup of hot water after dinner while the rest of us ate heaping bowls of ice cream.  We thought she was crazy, but I've since decided that she was definitely on to something.  Now, whenever I drink water, I heat it in the microwave for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes, and it is so much better.  You can feel it warming you from the inside out, and it's the best. Bonus:  drink your heart water in a cute mug like one of these.

| Learn how to best utilize your blanket.  And by that, I mean wrap yourself up like a burrito or baby Jesus.  No more half-hearted draping of blankets across your lap.  You deserve better.  Stand up, throw that thing over your shoulders, and wrap it around your whole entire body, feet included.  If your blanket isn't big enough, I highly recommend you buying a blanket that's man enough for the job.  (I'm so in love with sweater blankets lately - one of these should do the trick!)  Step two is to stay wrapped in the blanket as long as possible to generate body heat and keep it trapped inside.  This can double as reading time, Netflix time, or nap time, which is great because it won't interfere with your busy schedule. 

| Wear (ridiculously thick) socks. Feet + cold floors, especially ones without carpet on them, is a recipe for disaster.  You lose most of your heat through your feet and head, so you can take care of one problem area by getting some socks on you!  I personally really like long socks for this; the longer they are, the warmer I feel.  My mom swears by these - she wears them all the time, including when she goes running in the dead of winter and before the sun has even thought about getting up.  Even better?  Wear socks and slippers, or socks and boots.  I wear my boots in the house.  It's totally okay, because my feet are never cold.  

| Stop showering, or never stop showering.  Okay, it's probably best not to completely cut showers out of your routine.  All I know is that showers leave my hair wet for 3+ hours, which makes me a lot colder.  If you can avoid showering (which, in colder, drier months, you can probably do more than usual), do it.  Either that or get in the shower and never, ever get out.  I think that I'm probably the happiest I ever am all winter long when I'm in the shower because it is just so dang warm in there.  For maximum results, you're going to either have to be really unhygienic or drown and blow up your water bill . . . is this starting to sound like a cult? 

| Exercise.  It gets that blood flowing, and flowing blood is hot blood.  I usually do something active for about an hour a day, so there's an hour of warmth right there, but doing a couple push ups or squats when you start to feel your extremities freezing can save the day.  Just make sure you don't sweat too much in order to avoid the necessity of a never-ending shower. 

| Get a pet and make it cuddle with you all. the. time.  So, no, a fish or lizard or snake probably isn't the best option.  In this case, bigger is better, or you can substitute size with quantity.  (For example ten puppies can probably keep you about as warm as one very large dog.)  Once you have your warm-blooded pet of choice, you're going to have to make it love you or purchase some form of bribery.  I generally opt to grab my dog or cat and hug them until they stop resisting, but if you're lucky, your pet might actually want to keep you company.  

I hope you're feeling warmer already!  With these easy steps, we can defy nature and beat winter coldness together.  That's the goal, anyway, and as I sit here in my knee socks, drinking hot water and wrapped in a blanket, I think things are going pretty well.  If only my hair wasn't wet . . . 

Allie

P.S. Do you live somewhere cold?  If so, what do you do to stay warm? Or do you just -shudder- embrace the way-too-low temperatures? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Oh-oh, Here It Comes // Christmas Tag

I don't know if you've taken the time to realize it yet today, but there are twenty-three days until Christmas!  That's a short enough time to bust out the twinkling lights and sugar cookies, but long enough not to stress about it too much.  Now's the time to enjoy it, to take it all in and ignore the fact that I have finals coming up and zero dollars with which to buy 42305843 presents.  Carolyn over at Carolyn's Simple Life tagged me to answer a few Christmas-y questions, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't start answering right away because I can't resist anything remotely holiday-related. 


What is your favorite Christmas movie?




I LOVE THEM ALL!  If I absolutely had to pick, like, if you were threatening to steal my jar of peanut butter or something, I'd probably go with Home Alone.  And Home Alone 2, which is not cheating because it's basically an extension of the same movie.  I could watch Kevin drop bricks on two guys who seem to have some kind of supernatural immorality (more on that here) over and over again.  Never gets old.


Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?


It's Christmas morning.  When we were younger, the kids of the family were each allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve, and I, as the oldest, wisest child, usually saved my present for the next day and then relished the fact that I had one more present to tear into than my brother and sister did.  Anything to get ahead, man.


Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?


Believe it or not, flying out of town on Christmas day was actually pretty cool.  The airport was so chill, because who wants to fly on Christmas Eve? and our pilot called himself our sleigh driver and I thought that was hilarious.  Also, all of the lights looked so pretty from way up there.  Then there was the Christmas that our neighbors got a Wii and we the entire time we had off of school playing tennis, bowling, and recovering from our various video game-induced injuries.  Never have I been so thankful for someone else's present.


What's your favorite festive food?


Probably anything with sugar.  That's a cop out, sorry.  And I lied, because my favorite is definitely shrimp cocktail on Christmas Eve.  We have a tradition of coming home from church on Christmas Eve and throwing ourselves a little party with chips and dip, Christmas cookies, shrimp cocktail, sparkling white grape juice, and a Christmas movie.  The shrimp cocktail and bubbly, non-alcoholic wine make it classy and delicious.


Ok, and Christmas cookies, especially pretty ones like these, which taste like mint and chocolate.


Favorite Christmas gift?


I can't say I've ever met a present I didn't like, but I think the most excited I've been about one recently is when I got a giant box of 120 crayons for Christmas.  That was when I was 14, and I definitely spent the rest of Christmas break coloring and organizing them by color and making sure their points were always perfectly sharp.  I've always loved crayons.


Favorite Christmas scent?


The smell of our live Christmas tree is so good!  My parents are both allergic to it, but the smell is enough to keep them good naturedly popping allergy pills from Thanksgiving to New Years.  Also, anything that comes in a red cup at Starbucks makes my nose happy.  


My mom and I can be found chugging daintily sipping delicious liquids from said red cups on almost any given day of the Starbucks holiday season. 


Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?


Oops, looks like I accidentally overachieved and already talked about some of those up there ^^^^, but wait, there's more!  We also still put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, along with a note.  The youngest, my sister, is 12, but I guess we're not willing to let it go just yet.  Personally, I'm pretty sure my parents encourage it because it means that they "have" to eat more cookies.  I'm on to you, Mom and Dad.

Besides that, we've started a Christmas Eve tradition of taking Christmas presents to moms and nurses at the Beaumont Hospital, which is in the Detroit area.  About 9 years ago, my brother, Jonah, spent about three weeks at Beaumont with something that's yet to be diagnosed by doctors.  All we know is that it caused him to temporarily lose the ability to talk, eat, and move on his own, and that Beaumont took really good care of us while we were going through that time.  For that reason, my mom has started using her cosmetics business to give something back to the people who were so good to my brother and the moms who are in the place where she once stood.  (If you'd like more information or to donate, shoot me an email at alikat397@gmail.com and I can hook you up!)  We always deliver the presents on Christmas Eve and visit with Jonah's nurses and therapists before heading downstairs for more drinks from red cups.  What else?



We also take pictures with Beaumont's convincing fake trees in their convincing fake garden.



Jonah's favorite part of the garden is the abundance of pillows.  He's doing a lot better now, by the way - he talks like some people breathe and eats with all the enthusiasm of a teenage boy.

 
What tops your tree?


An angel, of the crocheted variety I believe.  We stuff it with a bunch of Christmas lights and it looks really, really cool.


As a kid, what was the one crazy, extravagant gift that you always asked for but never received?


Since I'm intensely afraid of failure and let-downs, I generally try to avoid asking for things that I know I won't get.  I mean, I might wish for them in my head, but I never actually vocalize it - I guess that keeps it from sounding too real.  For instance, there was the time when I asked for gift cards toward getting an iPod for Christmas and secretly hoped that someone would just buy me an iPod, which they didn't.  They chose instead to get me the gift of learning how to save money, which is obviously waaayyyy more fun than the iPod I was able to buy five months later.


What's the best part about Christmas for you?


Oooohh, oh.  That's a toughie.  (Is toughie a weird thing to say?  I'm not even sure if I use it in everyday speech, but it looks even weirder in computer-print.  Let's just go with it.)   I love anything that makes life exciting and less ordinary than usual, so I totally embrace the novelty of the whole season.  That means listening to all the Christmas music, painstakingly wrapping presents, doing as many Christmas - themed activities as humanly possible . . . if it's festive, I'm totally into it.  If there's an option between a regular bag and a red, snowflakey bag at the store, you can guess what I'm choosing. 


Festive Christmas activities include driving through the light display an a major road near us every year - one year, I even ran through it!


The biggest thing about Christmas for me is that it's the time when I celebrate Jesus being born - that's the original intent of Christmas, even thought that's not usually the main focus any more.  I really like Jesus, and he's kind of a big part of my life, so celebrating his birthday is pretty meaningful, too!


What do you love about Christmas?  Any favorite traditions?


Allie

P.S. I'm tagging Itunu, Katelyn, and Katie to answer these questions in their own Christmas post!  The more Christmas in the blog world, the merrier, right?


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Favorite Blogs //List Week

It'd day 2 of List Week, and today I'm bringing you five of my very favorite bloggers! Since I can't be bothered to write out an entire post today, I thought the least I could do was direct you to some people who are probably doing their blogger job a little better than I am.  Say blogger one more time.
Hope you enjoyed these as much as I do!  If you did, you should probably go follow them all so you don't ever miss a post.
-Allie

Monday, November 24, 2014

It's Not Like High School Musical // List Week

Monday showed up this week with a side of headachiness and sore throatedness and otherwise gross feelings, so I'm going to be using more of my extra time these next few days trying to get unsick and less of it on blogging.  If getting sick can come at a good time, this is that time, because just a couple days ago a list of 50 "list post" ideas showed up on The "Florkens."  For those of you who are unaware, list posts can be written a lot faster and with more ease than pretty much any other kind of post, but, in my opinion, they're still fun to read!  Sounds just about right for a sick day.  

We'll start List Week on a more serious note: a list of the most valuable things I've learned about myself in high school (so far.) 

|  I'm an introvert.  I need some time away from people or else I start to turn really horrible, to the point where I avoid all signs of human life at all costs and snap at anyone who tries to intrude on my self-imposed solitude.  

| I can't not eat - I have to have breakfast and lunch or else things don't go well.  Occasionally I'll wake up feeling really horrible and, almost out of spite, refuse to pack myself a lunch.  Having no lunch to eat at lunch time is not fun for anybody. 

| I always have to make sure I have the right mindset.  For example, if I have to take an awful math test or run a hard workout in track, thinking of it as a challenge rather than meaningless torture makes things 100000000000% better.  I'm not really into meaningless torture, but I like to be challenged.  You get the picture. 

| I'm not good at learning from the computer.  I'm currently in my third semester of online classes, and, for the third time, am sprinting through videos and e-textbook reading to catch up.  I've always done well in school, but for some reason online classes are really hard for me.  I need structure and deadlines and a teacher that I know for sure is real and will be really disappointed in me if I fail.  

| I'm kind of a nerd, and that's good.  I fought the fact that I liked learning and reading books in my spare time through those awkward middle school years where being smart is taboo and into freshman year before I realized that there was absolutely nothing wrong with that. 


I'm not saying Ashton Kutcher's "Smart is Sexy" speech at the Kids' Choice Awards didn't influence me.  Jk, I totally laughed through the whole thing, but I appreciate the sentiment.   

| It's cool to have a personality.  I spent a lot of time letting my friend group, or whatever group I was currently with, define my words and actions, and if got old fast and I'd like to think that by senior year I've gotten past that.

| Technology is not my strong point (says the girls who chose a hobby that involves almost daily use of technology).  I cannot tell you how many times I have lost papers on a computer or how big of a dent there is in the wall that I used to kick in frustration while sitting at my desk in Computer Apps 1 freshman year.  I like it, but I am in no way a natural. 

P.S.  The fact that I kicked the wall makes me sounds scary and angry, but I promise that the wall was right in front of my desk, was very solid, and I didn't kick it that hard.  It was more like quickly swinging my legs than actual kicking.  

And with that, I think I'll get off of my laptop before it crashes or explodes or finds a way to delete this post.  See ya tomorrow for more listing!

-Allie  



Friday, November 21, 2014

25 Things // Week in Review

Friday is for lists: I present to you 25 things that made this week a lot cooler than it would have been if they never would have happened.
1.  Starting "The Office" on Netflix.  I'm mostly watching it for Jim and Pam, because clearly I'm a hopeless romantic.
2.  Spitting out my tomato soup because I can't control myself when mildly funny things happen.  Even more, the fact that I definitely did not regain control after the fact and ended up a teary, tomato soup-y mess.
3.  It snowed today!
4.  And now I am up to my neck in Christmas spirit and I don't hate it.
5.  The fact that school ended 45 minutes early today.
6.  This quote: "Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention."
7.  The purchase of a Mountain Lodge scented candle from Bath and Body Works.  It's gone now, but it was fun while it lasted.
8.  Running.  I haven't run in, like, 35 years, and I'm enjoying it a lot more than I should be, which is always a pleasant surprise.
9. Chocolate chip nutella pudding cookies happened, and also banana nutella upside down cake.  That's a good, good week.
10.  Frozen yogurt got gotten, baby gummi bears included.  All about the baby gummi bears.
11.  My nail polish isn't even that chipped.
12.  The school week had once less day than it normally does, so Friday is one day earlier and I am all over that.
13. I've worn pants (as opposed to skirts, not as opposed to going pantsless) every single day, and I have been so much more comfy and warm than I thought I could ever be. 
14.  Receiving a surprise valentine.  Valentines are so much more exciting when they're given on not Valentine's day!
15.  Long, lazy weekend, complete with late sleeping mornings and pajamas all day. 
16.  Learning how to lead my small group at school devotions better by listening.
17.  On that note, the chapel that spoke right to my heart yesterday.
18.  And the crazy story of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14 that keeps on showing up in my life.  "Perhaps the Lord will work in our favor." Yes!
19.  The Insagram hashtag #doginablanket, courtesy of The Daily Tay. 
20.  Little to no homework, erreday.  Hellloooo, senior year.
21.  On that note, time to laugh with friends and to work out after school and to write in this place.
22.  I don't know about you, but we've had some mighty fine sunsets where I live (ahem at like 5:30 which I'm not okay with.) Premature, yes, but they've been beautiful!
23.  Hearing two of my teachers talking about a song being "their jam."  I love it. 
24.  Getting enough sleep.
25.  Filling out job applications.  It's not that fun, but it's helping me get a job and I can get behind that.
Have a great weekend!
Allie

Why You Don't Need to Stop Procrastinating // 9 Reasons

It's Friday (you came here to check the day, right?) and I hope you're really excited about it and have a weekend of doing tons of exciting things or nothing at all or somewhere wonderful in between ahead of you.  

I, for one, am ready for the week to be over.  It's been kind of rough.

This week's events included, among other things, basketball tryouts.  It's the time of year when most of the girls that I play volleyball with during the fall begrudgingly switch to long shorts and high tops and sprinting and I resign myself to winter of making and eating cookies running the hallways or hitting the weight room and watching a lot of basketball games.  And even though almost every female basketball player I know will readily relate the horrors of running sprints or zig zag dribbling (whatever that is), every year I find this tiny part of me wishing that I could play, because eating running endless cookies laps around isn't actually as fun as it sounds.  The only problem is that basketball and I don't really know each other.  I've never played, except with my little brother in the driveway (I usually win, FYI) and I'm pretty sure I'm completely oblivious to most of the rules and all of the strategy.  This week was rough because I started thinking about everything I don't know about basketball the other day and ended up feeling pretty inadequate.  I'm trying to fix that by remembering that there are quite a few things that I do know stuff about. 

For example:  The Office, Mean Girls, how to pack the maximum amount of deliciousness and calories into dessert foods, personality types, Instagram, how to stay warm when it's -223482 degrees outside, finding the shirt I want in the sea of clothes that is my floor with my eyes half shut, standardized tests, Harry Potter, and procrastinating.  I've been especially on top of my procrastinating game lately. 

If you're feeling inadequate because of a lack of basketball / driving safely in the snow / applying the perfect cateye skills, never fear!  (Except if you can't drive safely in the snow.  That's kind of dangerous.)  You may very well be a fantastic procrastinator. 


9 Ways to Tell That You're Great at Procrastination

1 | If you have a little bit of extra time before you absolutely have to head out the door to get somewhere, you use it . . . usually to do something that takes up more than the extra time you had.  You know, like washing, drying, and curling your whole entire hair or writing a blog post.  

2 | When you hear a deadline, you count backwards as many hours as the task will take you in order to plan your time wisely.  You might even subtract an hour or two to take your amazing efficiency into account.

3 | You plan your routine around what will allow you the highest amount of procrastination time.  I.e., waking up earlier so you can lay on the couch with your dog and pretend you're procrastinating for a while before actually doing anything. 


It's especially easy to procrastinate when the dog happens to look like this. 


4 | Getting things done ahead of time, all the time makes you uncomfortable.  I tried it for like a week last year and I guess I missed the adrenaline rush of scrambling to get stuff done, because something felt off and I was force to revert to procrastinating.   

5 | You don't turn in your volleyball uniform until a week after the rest of the team and the threat of detention.  Or maybe that's just me trying to avoid the reality of basketball season. 

6 | You turn in forms the day that they're due and not a second sooner.  This includes, but is not limited to, completing three college applications in one day or whatever the grown up equivalent of that is.  

7 | You have to rake the snow off your lawn in order to start the leaf raking job that you've been putting off. 


Fin fact: this picture was taken while taking leaves.

8 | Your friends can expect their birthday present at any time within 12 months after their actual birthday.  I might still be working on a painting that I started for a friend whose birthday was in December.  

9 | The mind of those who don't regularly practice procrastination is completely baffling to you.  You find yourself saying things like "Already?" "I haven't even started that,"  or  "What are you working on?" frequently.  

Procrastination requires a very specific skill set and years and years and year and years of experience.  (I mean, procrastination takes a while.)  It takes dedication and a little bit of guts. . . kind of like basketball.  

Allie 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Add Social Media Buttons in Blogger // Getting Technical

If you've been around here, you've probably witnessed at least one reference to my complete lack of technological know-how.  (Most recently here.  I don't know much, but I can shamelessly link back to my own posts with the best of them.)  I would love to have the kind of brain that can read HTML like it was English and care about details enough to have everything just how it's supposed to be, but I have the opposite of that brain.  The result is that, in order to keep my blog in one piece of something that kind of resembles a blog, I've spent lots of time Youtubing different Blogger formatting techniques and Googling "How to easily blahblahblahblahah on blogger" or "shortcut for a asfkjas;lkjf widget."  Pro tip:  throwing an "easy" in front of just about any blog thing that you Google (or Bing, if you're into that) saves lots of time.  



If you're as averse to computery stuff as me, you'll appreciate this method of doing things.  It involves no know-how in regards to HTML code whatsoever and doesn't take too long - for me, the hardest part was finding social media buttons that I liked!  You can watch the video that I learned this stuff from here , or if you prefer words I've got the steps written out for you!  Happy blog layouting!

Step 1 | Download social media buttons that you like. 
Surf Pinterest and all the internet places for social media icons.  I prefer the free kind; here are some of my personal favorites:  these, these, these, and these.  You can make your own, too, if you can't find anything to fit your blog or are feeling adventurous.  That's what I did, using Picmonkey.   Once you've picked out the perfect style for your blog, download the icons and save them so that you can easily find them again. 

Step 2 | Insert the icons as picture in a blog post. 
In Blogger, start a new blog post.  In the top left corner of the new post window, just below the title of your blog, there are two buttons:  Compose and HTML.  The default setting for creating a blog post is the compose option, so click the HTML button to switch to HTML mode.  (This keeps the icons aligned correctly and eliminates unneeded space between the images.)  Insert all of the social media buttons that you're going to use in our blog layout.  

Step 3 | Link images to your social media pages. 
Switch back to compose mode by clicking the button in the top lefthand corner of the window.  You should now be able to see the images that you have inserted into your blog post.  Now, link each icon to its appropriate social media page.  (For example, navigate to your Twitter profile page on your computer.  Copy the text that appears in the search bar when you are on your profile page.  In the blog post with the social media icons, click on the Twitter icon.  Then, click the Link button in the toolbar.  In the window that appears, paste the URL to your Twitter profile in the box labeled, "To what URL should this link go?" and click OK.)  Do this for all of the social media icons that you will be using.  

Step 4 | Insert icons into blog layout. 
Keep your new blog post open.  Open up Blogger again in a separate window.  From the Blogger home page, click the drop down arrow for the blog that you are inserting your social media icons into and select layout.  In the layout editing page, click a box that says "Add a Gadget" in the area of your blog that you want your social media icons to appear.  Choose the "HTML/Java script" option from the list of gadgets (it's the 11th one down.)  Click back to your new blog post and switch to HTML mode.  Copy the entire HTML code and paste it into the "Content" box of the HTML/Java script gadget window and click save.  Your social media buttons should now appear on your blog and will navigate to your social media accounts when you click on them! 

Step 5 | Not publishing or deleting your new blog post.
Save your new blog post as a draft so that the code for your icons is available in case of emergency.  I named my post "Social Media Icons - Do Not Publish Or Delete!!!" and that's working pretty well so far.  

I hope this was helpful to you!  If you have any questions or if I've left anything out, please let me know so that I can fix it. 

Allie

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Most Important Thing // On Brokenness and Hope



You know when you're talking to someone about something and you can tell that they really are just not interested in what you have to say?  Like Kelly from The Office? I'll tell you now that this post might involve a lot of The Office references, because I've watched a record number of episodes this weekend thanks to Netflix on my phone.  For those of you who haven't ever watched The Office, 1. Get Netflix on your phone or anywhere you can get it right now. 2. Kelly sometimes goes on these long, really girly monologues and whoever she's talking to usually really doesn't care.  So now you're all caught up until I reference something else.  I'll try to keep it to a minimum. 


  .            (That's Kelly up there ^^^^^^^^)
When it comes to certain topics, I can sometimes feel like I'm Kelly and God is Ryan.  And Jim.  And Michael.  And everyone else who doesn't really care that much about what Kelly has to say.  I know that God cares about me, but there are some aspects of my life that I just don't think are a big deal to him.  I think we all have them, whether it's how our sports team does or what we eat or what kinds of grades we get.  Somehow, the things that constitute a big part of our lives seem much too small to even register on the radar of our all-powerful God. 

For the longest time, I was convinced that my relationships were one of those things.  I don't know when the idea entered my mind, but I assumed that friend drama, family disagreements, and boy trouble didn't matter that much to God.  I thought that since He knows so much, my little human conflicts wouldn't matter to him similarly to the way that a child's struggles can seem minute to an adult.  Through some circumstances in my life, I got to know God better.  I got to know that not only does God care about my relationships, but they are of utmost importance to him. 

You see, God works in relationships.  That's how He gets into the hearts of His people and it's how He shows up in amazing ways.  I mean, He created us to relationship (that's a verb now) with Himself and the people around us, after all.  One of his first projects after man was made was to establish the companionship between husband an wife.  His entire plan for salvation was based on reconstructing a relationship that the people He loved had dashed to pieces.  So, um, I think that He most certainly cares, very deeply, about the way I connect with other people.  

That knowledge is so comforting in a world that brings heartache in waves and where relationships stand gingerly on a basis of fragile human merit.  To know that God is the creator of relationships and kind of an expert at fixing them, along with the now undeniable fact that He always desires for bonds to be forged instead of broken, has allowed me to walk on rocky seas of angry words and miscommunications and hurt hearts over and over again.  When I'm running out of my own reserves of hope for a situation, all I have to do is go to God's heart for that hope to be renewed again, because I know that, above all, God is a God of wholeness and love and community, and that He is always working to that end. 

I was reminded of that truth again yesterday morning over coffee at our weekly Sunday morning family Bible study.  We were working through 2 Samuel 14 on a whim of my little sister.  I don't know if you know it?  It's one of many parts of the Bible that deals with the ungodly actions of King David's kids; it starts out with a rape and a murder and ends with a beautiful reunion.  David's son, Absalom, has just killed his brother (after that brother had raped his own sister, mind you) and run away from his father and his kingdom.  One of David's higher-ups, Joab, in an effort to reunite father and son, sends a woman to talk some sense into David, who isn't acting to bring his son back.  (There's a lot more to it than that, but we won't go into it right now.)  The woman speaks to David of God's heart, saying, 


"But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast."                                                                                               
   -2 Samuel 14:14b

It takes a lot of encouragement from Joab and more than two years of waiting, but eventually what the woman says proves true:  God orchestrates a plan that brings David and his son back together into the closeness that God intended originally, because that is what's at God's heart.  That is what He cares about. 

As usual, God's timing is perfect and this reminder came just as I am struggling through a hurting friendship of my own.  In the face of what seems like overwhelming damage, it's really, really hard not to simply give up in favor of an easier path.  With God, though, hope enters the picture.  I know that He is big enough to overcome any obstacle; He knows the words that need to be said and He, the potter, can soften hearts of clay.  I know that with Him, things are possible that never would be otherwise.  That's probably the most important, amazing, counter intuitive thing about God and relationships:  only when they're broken beyond repair can God truly show his full capacity to restore and bring us to experience Him to the fullest.  

Love, 
Allie
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