I Miss Performing

One of the toughest things about growing up is having to eventually let go of hobbies and activities that once played a big part in defining you as a person. In our teenage years, we all come across that "thing" that becomes our passion and plays a role in shaping us into the adults that we have become. For some of us, it's sports...volleyball, soccer, or softball. For others, it's music or singing, or drama club.

For me, it was colorguard.

Let me give you a little crash course. Colorguard is still not something that is considered "common knowledge" in the world of sports and arts. Most may describe it as "those girls that twirl the flags with the marching band." All I have to say is, you don't realize the complexity of the art until you actually become a part of it. It is so much more than running around with a flag(or rifle or sabre, not real ones of course) in your hands. It requires rhythm, stamina, flexibility, a great memory, and more. It is also split into two "seasons." Colorguard refers to the outdoor season that is performed with the band, and winterguard(or indoor guard), refers to performing a show to recorded music...typically on a gym floor setting. Guard is referred to as the "sport of the arts" for a reason. Just to further prove that guard is not some unknown cult sport, you can check out Drum Corps International or Winter Guard International, which are basically the "big leagues" for marching band, colorguard, and winterguard.

I auditioned for guard in my freshman year of high school, and it ruled my life for the next six years...as a performer, choreographer, and instructor. It was stressful, time consuming, and physically exhausting to practice an average of 15-20 hours a week, but I loved every single second of it. I eventually had to give it up to focus more on college, working, and moving on to the next part of my life. It was really difficult to be away from the atmosphere for the first few months, but it eventually became easier. However, I still get these crazy withdrawals sometimes.

I miss the practices.
I miss learning choreography until I can't process any more information.
I miss jamming and spraining fingers while practicing new tosses for the first time.
I miss running dance features until they're flawless...even if it takes a million tries.
I miss the heat and the sunburn of marching season.
I miss being yelled at by choreographers to fix my posture and show emotion.
I miss the dreaded "one more time" from the instructor, even though they promised us a break.
I miss the feeling of putting on guard gloves and warming up for a show.
I miss being best friends with my teammates.
I miss dance tights and all black practice clothes.
I miss traveling to competitions.
I miss that feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment after a full day of Saturday practice.
I miss the leg cramps, the bruises, the broken fingernails, and the broken toes. (As strange as that is.)
I miss the costumes and the crazy makeup.
I miss performing.

That's where my heart is lately. I'm sure some of you can relate. In honor of the mourning of my lost guard years I pulled the DCI shirt out of the dresser when getting ready for work. Hey, it's casual Friday. I'm not breaking any rules. Just for the record, I'm pretty sure that is the first "mirror pic" I have ever taken.

What are you missing? What have you had to give up in order to move on to a new chapter?

I hope you all have THE BEST weekend ever!


Let's Talk College Problems

Can I share something really embarrassing with y'all?

I have been out of college for over a year now, and I still have a really scary pile of used textbooks sitting in my floor.

Exhibit A

That is a good little chunk of floor space being taken up by books that haven't even been looked at in who knows how long. I know what you're thinking. Miranda, why didn't you just sale them back to the bookstore? Trust me, I tried to go that route, and they wouldn't even take them again because they didn't need them. That's just one of the many issues that can result from actually purchasing your books to own.

Luckily, problems like this can be avoided by choosing to rent your books instead of buying them. One way you can do this is by heading over to CampusBookRentals.com. Renting through this site is beyond easy, and there are numerous benefits. If you go with them you get:

40-90% off of bookstore prices
Free shipping both ways
Flexible renting periods
21 day risk-free returns
Live customer support

Even more, you will get to choose from the largest source of online textbooks in the nation! It's a complete win-win situation. You get the books you need, for a fraction of the price, and you won't have two giant stacks of outdated textbooks sitting in your bedroom floor a year after you graduate with that pretty sweet degree.

Think it couldn't get any better? That' where you're wrong. After you're finished with those books for the semester, you can actually make a little extra cash by "renting back." This will allow you to put a good chunk of change in your pocket by renting the books you have in your hands out to other students. Every time your particular book is rented, you get a cut! Want to take advantage of this awesome deal? Head over to RentBack.com and get signed up.

Campus Book Rentals is also currently partnering with Operation Smile. By definition of their website, this organization works diligently to "provide safe, effective reconstructive surgery and related medical care for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate." Every time you rent a book from Campus Book Rentals, a portion of what you pay will go to this amazing charity. You can help change the life of a well-deserving little boy or girl.

So if you're being a slacker and still needing to buy those textbooks for fall semester, do yourself a favor and go the Campus Book Rentals route. And if you're feeling guilty because you've already purchased your texts from an overpriced, busy bookstore, now you know what to do for the spring semester.

Happy studying!

*This post done in cooperation with CampusBookRentals.com.


Let Love Cut Through the American Noise

Have you ever experienced one of those moments where you come across a song that seems to perfectly sum up some of your unspoken feelings?

I had one of these moments on Saturday morning, when I was driving to meet my friend Taylor for breakfast. I had a lot on my mind, and I was overthinking so many life situations...as usual. I arrived at the restaurant a little early so I sat in my car for a few minutes listening to the Christian radio station. And this song came on:

I'm not sure if you are familiar with Skillet. They are a Christian rock band, and if you are new to their music they may sound a little rough around the edges. However, they really do have some of the most positive, inspirational music that I have heard in my lifetime. They were my favorite band all throughout high school, and I can still sing every word to all of their songs from that time period.
Anyway, this new song of theirs is just so spot on that I can't even describe it. Over the past year, I have often been overwhelmed with the feeling of how truly big and scary the world that we live in is. Can any of you relate? There is just so much to take in sometimes. Everything is so complex, and while there are many beautiful things on our planet, there are also copious amounts of negative situations.
Angry words and honking cars
Satellites and falling stars
Distant dark blue radios that whisper down my boulevards
Ghosts and chains rattle in the attic
Broken headphones filled with static
Lonely room you've got nowhere to run
Many times, it's simple everyday things that become overpowering. It begins with driving streets full of traffic and crazy drivers, then enduring a stressful office environment for nine hours, then fighting the same traffic on the way home, hearing upsetting news about national disasters and tragedies on the evening news, learning things you don't want to know about your own friends and family...it goes on and on. Then, sometimes, our endless technologies just seem to be the cherry on top of a depressing sundae.
Slamming doors and cell phone rings
Hurricane force of silent screams
Don't know what to believe
Bend the rule just to break it
You're so tired cause you gotta fake it
But you just wanna be someone
It becomes so easy to get discouraged and miss the good things in every day. We can begin to feel so small and insignificant, thinking that nothing we say or do could possibly make a difference. We begin to forget ourselves, and we become afraid to stand up for the good in our society. We are taken over by all of this "noise." How do we begin to fight these feelings? How do we stop mourning for the downward spiral that the world seems to be going in, and instead stand up and fight for the positives in life?
Times will be bad, times will be good
Things I wish I hadn't done and some I wish I could
Cutting through the American noise
You've got a voice, and a song to sing

Our love and compassion has to surpass all of the things that are trying to hold us down. It's "one for all, and all for one." We all have a story, and a voice to make a difference with. We are stronger than all of this noise. We just have to stand strong and see what the day will bring.

Just felt like sharing some thoughts today. :)


One Puppy & Four New Tires Later...

I was M.I.A. from all aspects of ye olde internet yesterday. No blog post, no tweets, no Facebook stalking, not even any blog reading. It was actually kind of a nice little break. Keep reading to find out why I took a leave of absence.

Immediately after work on Friday, I drove a couple of hours south to visit my family for the weekend. I haven't seen them in almost two months and I was really missing them. We didn't do anything too exciting, just enjoyed time catching up and taking full advantage of weekend relaxation. I also had a chance to have breakfast with one of my best friends from home that I haven't seen in a while.

My favorite thing that happened though...I got to meet my brother's new puppy!

Her name is Sadie (after a girl on Duck Dynasty that Dakota thinks is the most beautiful thing) and she is the cutest thing I have ever seen! She is bulldog mixed with cur (which I had never heard of until my brother explained it to me). She isn't quite old enough to be weaned from her mom yet, but Dakota was able to bring her to visit us for a couple of hours. She's such a little snuggle bug! I kind of wish I still lived at home so I would get to see her every day. I swear, snuggling with a puppy is like a form of therapy.

So, my not so favorite part of the weekend...car problems! When I got to my parent's house on Friday, my dad had pointed out that my back two tires on my car were low. I obviously hadn't noticed. He is a mechanic, so on Sunday morning he took them off to check them out, and wouldn't you know that they actually weren't even safe to drive on anymore. Joy to the world. Tires are expensive.

We ran around all day Sunday looking for open places to buy tires, and finally bought two at Walmart. My dad gets them home to balance them along with my other two old tires, and wouldn't you know that those two are actually shot as well. Therefore, we drove all the way back to Walmart to return the two we had just bought, and ordered FOUR from my dad's friend that owns a tire shop so they would all match. The downside was they wouldn't be in until the next day. It didn't make much sense for me to borrow a car to drive two and a half hours to work, and then two and a half hours back to swap cars, so I just emailed my boss and told her I wouldn't be in. Thank goodness they came in right on time, and my car no longer looks like this.

I viewed yesterday as kind of a personal day, so I just avoided technology. I spent the day reading, doing some cleaning for my mom, and visiting with my grandparents. I drove back to Tallahassee last night, and I'm back to work today just like any other normal week.

Even though I'm a day late, I hope you all had a great weekend! More importantly, I hope your weeks are off to a fantastic start. :)


Life's Little Moments

The big "things" in life always seem to consistently overpower the smaller ones. We realize later though, that those little things in life are just as important as the big ones we often boast about. With the help of my favorite social networking app (Instagram, of course), I'm sharing a few of those small moments in time that haven't had the opportunity to be discussed yet.

1. Upon finishing dinner with some friends at Chipotle last night I walked out of the restaurant and was greeted by this gorgeous sunset. God's masterpieces in the sky never cease to amaze me.
2. Love this picture of us girls from Amber's birthday dinner last Thursday evening!
3. A portion of my "books read in 2013" list. I keep track of them on Goodreads of course, but that still doesn't beat keeping a good old fashioned handwritten list in the notes section of my planner.
4. Last week's Goodwill book haul. I got all of those for around $12. I'm reading the Jodi Picoult one right now!
5. The work phone that makes my blood pressure rise every time it rings. You never know what kind of person you are going to have to deal with on the other end! My coworker did give me a super cute, chunky little pen though. So taking the call notes is a little more fun now.

What is your Instagram username? I would love to follow you if I'm not already!

Linking up these five little moments with Lauren for High 5 for Friday!

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I hope you all have the best weekend ever!


Kind Of an Exciting Thursday

Today is a good day. It's almost Friday. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. Sure, I'm stuck at my desk for nine hours, but things could always be worse, right?

As great as all of those things are, none of them are the reasons that today is a great day. They are contributors of course, but there are two more things that are just the icing on top of the cake.

First of all, I'm over at The Indie Chicks again today. This time, I'm looking at the humorous side of a situation that could typically be somewhat delicate. I'm telling you What Not to Do: When Your Best Friend Asks to Date Your Ex. Go check it out! I would love your feedback.

Also, in case you missed it, you can also check out my Send Jealousy Packing article while you're hanging out over there. The Indie Chicks is a really fun place and I love being able to write with them.

Secondly, I am finally sharing something that has been a bit of a milestone for me. Two days ago, I launched the Facebook page for my very own business, Miranda's Manuscript & More. Through this business, I will offer my handwriting services to clients through the addressing of envelopes and invitations, the writing of letters and thank-you cards, and other projects that are in need of a personal touch. I hope to help close the disconnect between business and customer, or even personal acquaintances, that has been a result of using typed, corporate fonts on outgoing correspondence.

Why did I feel the need to go for a handwriting service, of all things? Well, on the silly side, handwriting has always been extremely important to me. I know that sounds strange, but I was that kid in the 3rd grade that could not wait to learn how to write in cursive. And once I learned, I spend the next 10 years perfecting my scrawl. It's something that I'm good at, and after a little research, I also found that it is something that can be very useful. I'm not saying that I'm going to quit my job tomorrow. But, it never hurts to use that spirit of entrepreneurship that's burns deep inside. People always say to do something that you're not only good at, but enjoy, and it will work out. I guess we will see.

I would absolutely love for you all to go check out my Facebook page and give it a like, and a share if you want to. Keep in mind, this is still a work in progress. As soon as I see what type of response I get from introducing it, I will continue on by creating some type of website and all of those other "businessy" things. I'm excited about this adventure, and if nothing else comes from it, at least I will have the satisfaction of attempting to achieve a goal.

Today, I encourage you to go after the things that you feel called to. Take advantage of the opportunities that are thrown your way. Say a prayer, look for guidance, and you will just know when the time to act is right.

I almost forgot! You can also find me featured in a post over at Love, Fun, and Football. Go say hi to Erin!

See you all tomorrow...on Friday! :)


Don't Stand in Your Own Sunshine

Good morning, y'all. :)

I've had a really busy morning, which is why I'm so late to the game today. I don't have time to do the post that I was planning to do, but I hate to miss out on a day of blogging so I thought I would take just a few minutes to share a little piece of inspiration I came across earlier.

How amazing is this quote? It's almost scary how true it is. So often in life, we are our own worst enemies. We let our fears get in the way of our goals, and more importantly, our happiness. I propose that beginning today, we strive to:
Let go of the self-doubt
Smile just because we can
Stop taking our frustrations out on our loved ones
Be happy with ourselves...because we are awesome
I hope hump day treats you all well!
*Also, Jessica is the winner of the My Memories software giveaway! Congrats, I will be contacting you!*


The Miranda Files: I'm Terrified of the Doctor

Welcome to The Miranda Files...the place where you can crack open a folder and find all things embarrassing and quirky about me. I thought that sharing some of my weirdness may help us all embrace our oddities and realize that there are others out there who have the same crazy thoughts and feelings.

Today's Session: Latrophobia AKA "White Coat Syndrome" AKA Fear of Doctors
Here's the deal...I am NOT a fan of going to the doctor. I know, I know...no one actually enjoys going to see the doctor. But when I say "not a fan," I really mean that the mere thought of sitting through a doctor appointment gives me severe anxiety. I'm not even referring to extreme appointments that involve shots or frightening procedures. I'm referring to your every day, routine check-up.
I can't pinpoint any single thing that causes this anxiety. I mean, there are multiple reasons that going to a doctor's office is not enjoyable. There are the silent waiting rooms with the hard chairs filled with other anxiety-filled patients and the monotonous hum of the fish tank in the corner. (Is it a requirement to have a fish tank in a waiting room, by the way?) There is that annoyingly crinkly paper on the examination tables. There are those sterile containers that you just know hold used NEEDLES. There are tongue depressors and jars full of cotton balls and other "doctory" things. There are all of those scary pamphlets in the plastic bin on the wall. There is often a human skeleton in the corner of the room, staring at you while you sit and wait for the doctor to come in. And to top it all off, the warmest it gets while you're sitting there, sometimes with nothing but a gown on, is about a whopping 60 degrees. Need I say more?
Maybe I'm just harboring negative feelings from when I was a kid and had to go to the pediatrician for yearly growth check-ups. For the most part, I have always been perfectly healthy. But I still have a fear of hearing ever repeated phrases like "You weigh more than you should for your height," or "You need to lose a little weight," or "Your feet are way larger than other people's your age." (Why did they tell me that by the way? I couldn't control the growth of my darn feet.) Then there was the major OCD disorder that I constantly had to go to the doctor for. Not good memories, folks.
Also, to this day I still have a crazy hatred towards finger pricks. Do not bring that little needle near my finger unless you're up for an argument.
With all of this said, I am happy to report that I went to the doctor yesterday for the first time in nearly six years. I know...I should have never let that long go by, but I'm not one to get sick or have a serious need to go, so I have been using that as an excuse. However, after I had some serious stomach pain a few weeks ago, I knew it was time to get checked out. So on top of being scared to get a checkup, I have been afraid that I was going to be told I had to get my gallbladder or something else removed.
I guess pushing my fears aside, and saying some prayers, paid off. Everything was normal, and I'm healthy. Plus, my new doctor is possibly the sweetest woman who has ever graced the planet. I'm extremely thankful for that. I'm going to try really hard to overpower my brain and throw this ridiculous phobia out of the window. Some people have to spend almost every day of their lives in a doctor's office or hospital, and they are so brave about it. In comparison, it's just stupid for me to panic about having to go for a yearly checkup.
The doctor has been conquered. The "female doctor" was conquered earlier in the year. It's looking like the next appointment in line is for the dentist...which I may dislike even more than the doctor. But, that story will be taken from the file at another time.
Does anyone else suffer from this same fear? Tell me your stories!


Shark Bait, Hoo Ha Ha

The title of this post was my lame attempt at a witty title. (Finding Nemo, anyone?) Moving on though...

This weekend was full of mucho amounts of fun times. As I mentioned on Friday, it was my roommate Amber's birthday, so a group of us took a trip out of town for the weekend to celebrate. She had no idea where we were going, we just made her pack a bag and loaded her up in the car. After about four and a half hours of driving on I-10 and I-75, we arrived at our destination...the Tampa area, which is where she is originally from.

Friday evening we checked into our hotel, got ready, and headed out for a nice dinner at a restaurant called Cooper's Hawk. She was surprised when her grandparents and a couple of friends from high school showed up to have dinner with us...all carefully planned by her boyfriend. After dinner it was pretty late so we all headed back to the hotel, sat around talking for a while (because the pool was closed already...boo!), and then went to sleep.

Saturday morning we got up fairly early, checked out of the hotel, and drove over to Amber's parent's house in the St. Pete area. We had lunch, and had originally planned to take the boat out for the day, but the weather was questionable so we made other plans. We decided to go to the Florida Aquarium, and ended up having a blast!

Mr. Shark smiling for the camera/The best way to keep people's fingers out of the water/Tiny little seahorses/Scary lobsters of some kind

The jellyfish tank was really cool. They changed color everytime the lights in the aquarium did!
Amber found her soulmate.
Upon leaving the aquarium we located beverages because we were all ridiculously thirsty...and maybe a little loopy from the heat because the car ride from the aquarium back to Amber's house was full of some crazy joking and laughter. You gotta love the development of new inside jokes. Back in St. Pete, we did a little shopping and then got ready to head out to dinner at an island grill called Rumba's.
Heading to dinner! And promoting seat belt safety...at a red light of course.
After dinner we made an impromptu decision to go see Grown Ups 2 at the movie theater. The first Grown Ups is pretty much Amber's favorite movie, ha ha. The second one was so overly goofy that it was a bit of a let down. We still managed to laugh at it though!
Sunday morning we got up and went to church service, had some lunch, and then got on the road back to Tallahassee. We were all kind of grumpy by the time we got back because we were so tired, but I think that's just a sign of a weekend well spent.
Oh, I almost forgot, what would a mandatory weekend post be without a couple of food pictures?
Caprese panini from Cooper's Hawk/Island style quesadilla from Rumba's
And that was all she wrote for the weekend of August 16-18! I hope you all have a great Monday. I have to leave work early this afternoon for a doctor's appointment that I'm really nervous about. Can't wait to get it over with!


6 Things You Should Know About Me (Tag!)

I am an absolute sucker for a good question and answer tag. That's why I was pretty happy to see that the beautiful Kay over at The Best of Intentions tagged me in the "6 things you should know about me" post that has been filtering through blog land. As soon as I had a spare second I clicked over here to Le Blogger to use it for my second post of the day...which is rare, but I am trying to waste time. Keep your eyes peeled after my answers...you may be the next victim of this tag! ;)
1. What's your biggest struggle in life?
Easy...the big green. Moolah. MONEY. I have never really had that glorious feeling of being able to comfortably pay bills, put a good chunk in savings, and still have cash left over. I worked my butt off throughout college to pay rent, and while things improved slightly after I got my degree, it's still the biggest stress in my life. I also feel like it would be a little different if I wasn't working a job that I didn't extremely dislike...but I am. I am very blessed, don't get me wrong, but some days working a job that I am not comfortable at, combined with being broke is just too much for me to handle.
2. Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
The majority of my spare time goes to writing. Even though it's slowly becoming a side career, it's still what I enjoy more than almost anything. Besides that, I like to devour books. Devour as in read, not eat. That would be weird.
3. Who inspires you?
A few people actually...my parents being at the top of the list. They have been there through every up and down, and always manage to make life look beautiful even through the hard stuff.
4. How did your blog come about?
I actually went through a couple of different blogs before this one. Young, and In Progress came around after a one year blogging hiatus, and it just felt right. I wanted to be able to document and write about my life again. I originally planned to talk about life as a young professional, but that's not where life is leading me. So now, I talk about things dear to my heart, reading, and my journey to becoming a "real" writer.
5. Tell us something we don't know about you.
I am really easy going, but I am also very type-A. I know, that makes no sense! It's true though. I feel that I am genuine and easy to be around. I will go with the flow to avoid conflict...unless it's something that just needs to be challenged. But on the other hand, I deal with a lot of OCD tendencies and anxiety. I can worry about stuff until I make myself sick.
6. What's the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
Never let yourself remain unhappy just to keep someone else content.
I used to be really bad about sacrificing my own happiness for the sake of someone else's. I did that a lot in unhealthy friendships and relationships, and had myself talked into believing that I could deal with it to avoid a conflict of some type. I was scared to death to stand up for myself in any situation. My mom finally made me realize though...sacrificing your own well being is not the way to go about it. It's okay to stand up for yourself and make a better path to follow.
Alrighty folks, I'm passing on the torch. The bloggers I choose to answer these questions and tag more friends (if they want to, of course) are:
Choose six to answer for yourself!
1. What's the best piece of advice anyone has given you?
2. If you could meet any blogger in person, who would you choose?
3. Blogs you're loving right now?
4. What's your biggest struggle in life?
5. How did your blog come about?
6. Name one good deed you did that went unseen.
7. Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
8. Tell us something we don't know about you.
9. Who inspires you?

Live long and prosper.

Things I've Noticed About Friday

It's the most wonderful time of the week! The nine hour days are about to come to an end for a full 48 hours...hallelujah!

Am I the only person that feels like the sun shines a bit brighter on Fridays? Good, I didn't think so. I am very much an observer of my surroundings, and here is what I've noticed is different on this day of the week compared to the dreaded Monday through Thursday.

  • Nobody has road rage. Well, at least to the extent that occurs earlier in the week. People just seem to have their radios turned up, driving to work in no hurry. Maybe I'm just imagining this? Nah...
  • The grumpiest people in my office somehow learn how to smile.
  • Everyone is chatty, and in a good mood.
  • The alarm clock doesn't seem to bring the normal sense of doom when it goes off at 6 AM.
  • Making myself look presentable for society is a less daunting task.
  • I'm pretty sure there are birds singing outside of my window.
Okay, so sometimes I like to exaggerate. I'm sure though, that y'all feel the same way!

Today is also an extra special Friday because it is one of my best friend and roommate's birthday! She is the big 2-0...just a baby compared to the 24 that I will be next month! Happy Birthday Amber! Love you, girl!

I hope you all have a phenomenal weekend!

*Also, make sure to go enter THIS giveaway!* :)


You May Say I'm a Dreamer

It's really difficult to have a dream while knowing that you are nowhere close to achieving it.

There, I said it. Most days my goals are what drive me to make it through another day at a place that I'm very unhappy. Other days, like today, I'm just sad because that thing I want to achieve seems like something that will never happen; something that I'm only relying on to fool myself into being content.

I know some of you can relate. How do you deal with it? How do you cope on the days that the end result of all of your work seems so far in the distance?

Last night, I looked up quotes about dreams. I don't know why. I guess I was just looking for some reassurance. And wouldn't you know...it kind of worked. I thought I would share some of the wise words that others have shared about dreams.

"Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world." -Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only at night." - Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt

"Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly." - Langston Hughes

"Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead." - Louisa May Alcott

"You may tire of reality but you never tire of dreams." - L.M. Montgomery, The Road to Yesterday

"Dreams are the touchstones of our characters." - Henry David Thoreau

"Dreams, if they're any good, are always a little bit crazy." - Ray Charles

If you're in the same low place I'm in today, I hope these have given you a little pep in your step as well. We just have to realize that there are going to be days that we are tired, let down, and devoid of a little bit of hope. That doesn't mean that our goals and dreams are a waste of time. Maybe we should look at it as a positive thing...this feeling means that whatever we are working towards is truly important to us...so much that the idea of not getting there is disappointing. Many people go through life without passion for anything. We should be thankful that this isn't the case for us.


GIVEAWAY: My Memories Scrapbooking Software


A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a representative from My Memories scrapbooking software and offered the chance to try their program for free in exchange for an honest review. I have been in the market for a good  photo editing program, so I jumped at the opportunity pretty quickly. Especially after they offered to also give one of my lovely followers a free copy of My Memories! Want to potentially be the one to win? Keep on reading!

My favorite thing about this program is that you can use it for so much more than just "scrapbooking." This is great, because if you're anything like me, scrapbooking is not your first priority in life. When I sat down and opened the program, I asked myself...how can this program benefit me? So I clicked around the options for a while, and the calendar jumped out at me. As a freelance writer, I have several articles to write every month. I keep track of the due dates and publish dates in my day planner, but I loved the idea of creating a cute calendar to print out and keep near my laptop. It took me jut a few short minutes to put together a colorful little calendar.

My roommate noticed me playing around with the program and asked if I could try to design a banner for her Etsy store. I didn't see why not, so I started clicking around to create a garnet and gold one, per her request. This type of design could also be used to create photos to spice up your daily blog posts.

And if you are an avid scrapbooker, there is no shortage of pre-made designs to choose from. You can also create your own design! I love this colorful set. I personalized it with some of my favorite pictures, and I plan to print the pages out, put them in frames, and make a happy collage on one of the walls in my office at work.

Who wouldn't be intrigued by the My Memories suite? It provides endless options, and it's really fun to use too.

Now it's your turn to enter for a chance to win a FREE copy of this scrapbook software. I'm going to keep it simple for y'all, so please be honest in your entry. All you have to do is complete a few easy steps.

One. Click on over to My Memories and take a look around. Tell me which kit you would most like to use to document the fun you have had during this beautiful summer of 2013. Provide me with the link in the comment that you leave so I can check it out!

Two. Be a follower of my blog through Google Friend Connect.

Three. Like the My Memories Facebook page!

Bonus Entry: Completing the steps above will earn you one entry to the contest. For an additional second entry, let me know that you have followed My Memories either on Twitter, OR their blog. (Or both if you please, but it's still only one additional entry.)

That's it! It's easy as 1, 2, 3! (And a bonus. :p) I will be announcing the winner on Wednesday, August 21, so make sure to get your entries in before then.

For those of you who don't win, I still have a special treat. My Memories has also given me a special code to share that will give you $10.00 off of the suite v4 software! If you're interested in investing in a cool program while saving a few bucks, just use promo code  STMMMS73510.

Good luck, and please let me know if you have any questions!
*This post is done in collaboration with the My Memories scrapbooking software company.


Give Me a Cute Home Office, and Nobody Gets Hurt

If you hang around here a lot you know that I like to fantasize about writing for a living. That's nothing new. What is new though, is I have added another level to the fantasy. I've been doing a lot of browsing on Pinterest, creeping on all of the "home office" pins. There are some ADORABLE desk spaces and tranquil work corners. All I have been able to think about is how I want one of these precious little areas to do my writing, whether I'm doing it full time or just in the evenings like I'm doing now.

I came home from work today and sat in the middle of my floor, staring at everything in my room. I was attempting to come up with a "vision" involving things that I already have in my possession. I live in a townhouse with two roommates, and although it's a pretty decent size, I'm limited on the space that is actually mine. Therefore, my dreamy little workspace would have to be kept to my bedroom, because there is no other area to house it.

Here is my current work space.

What really annoys me about this area is that I have to have my TV/cable box/DVD player on this wall because this is where the cable wires are. This takes up most of my desk's surface, leaving me room for nothing but my laptop, a small notebook, my filing system, and a few other odds and ends.

So, I've been considering swapping my desk with another piece of furniture in my room, and making room on that for the TV and boxes. One of the options is to somehow use my bedside table, and then put my desk over on the wall where that is now.

But, I don't particularly like that idea, because I like having this area right next to my bed. I think the TV and the boxes would be too bulky to try to put on top of here anyway. I also thought about trying to switch out my desk and my bookshelf.

I dislike that idea even more though. My bookshelf is already overflowing. Plus it's kind of old, so I don't think it's sturdy enough to put the weight of the TV on the top tier. Decisions ,decisions...

Does anyone have any ideas? Out of the things I just showed you, what could I swap around so that I would have full usage of my desk to create a cute, functional work space? I'm still learning how to make the most of a small space, so if you have experience with that and have some insight, please don't hesitate to share! :)

Oh, this doesn't really have anything to do with my quest to have a cute at home office, but I just wanted to share my growing "to read" pile.

I need to stop buying books until I finish these, or else my pile is just going to keep growing. I just can't help it! It's an addiction. But, I guess there could be worse addictions to have.

I hope you all have a great day!


Just a Reading Fool: Volume 2

A  couple of weeks ago I put together my first Just a Reading Fool post. I love to share my opinions on books that I read. I do go through books fairly quickly though, so I just find it's a little easier to share short thoughts on several books in one post rather than writing a single book review every three or four days.

I have added four more books to the "finished" pile. I just realized that these all sort of fall into the "chick lit" genre. I guess that's what I have really been enjoying lately! Also, if you want to follow along with what I'm reading, or want me to see what books are on your shelf, come follow me on Goodreads. :)


I found this book while I was on vacation in Pennsylvania...at a Salvation Army store for $1.00. Thrift stores are one of the best places to find gently used books for super cheap. Summer Island was a step into more mature women's literature for me. As someone who reads a lot of young adult novels, it was nice to read something that shows the positives of growing older, and learning along the way. This story follows Nora Bridge, a fifty-something, successful advice columnist turned radio superstar. After walking away from her family when her two daughters were teenagers, she is able to live life in the public eye, known as someone with the heart of a saint, until a scandal comes out and reveals her past. Circumstances that can only be described as fate allow Nora to attempt to mend the past and create relationships with her daughters, especially her youngest; the sarcastic, angry, free-spirited Ruby.

Overall, I loved this book. Is it in my top 10 most loved books ever? No. But it did touch my heart and make me feel for the characters, which is a sign of a good read.

I gave Summer Island 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Silver Girl was another Salvation Army find for me. I have never read anything by Elin Hilderbrand, but I have noticed her books on the favorites shelf in the bookstore before, so I thought it couldn't hurt to give her books a try. Main character Meredith Delinn has just had her world turned upside down. Her wall street savvy, disgustingly rich husband has just been caught as the operator of the biggest ponzi scheme that the country has ever experienced. On top of losing her husband, her money, and her belongings, her and her oldest son are also suspected of being involved in the scheme, leaving them unable to communicate and hated by society. With no one else to turn to, Meredith finds herself living with her estranged best friend Connie, in Connie's summer home in Nantucket. Despite crisis in both of their lives, they are able to rediscover themselves, and their friendship.
I ended up liking this book a little more than I suspected I would. The characters developed kind of slowly, and aspects of the story were not really carried through.
I gave Silver Girl 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

I was so ANGRY with Ann Brashares for the first 3/4 of this book. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was one of my favorite series as a teenager, so when I finally got the chance to read the "10 years later" follow-up, I was looking forward to a feel good story about some of my favorite characters. That wasn't exactly how it happened. Not only does the story begin with the girls being separated and rarely speaking to one another...they are all also midly unhappy with their lives. When they are finally offered the chance to reunite, tragedy strikes, pulling them even further apart than they were to begin with. Everything works out in the end of course.
All in all, the book was beautifully sad. When I finished the last page, I forgave Ann Brashares. The book is just an honest portrayal of how life isn't always what we expect.
I gave Sisterhood Everlasting 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
This is another book that I found on vacation...this time at a store called Ollie's. This place was like a book nerd's heaven. There were tons of best-selling, hardback novels for around $3.00 or less. Sing Me to Sleep was a dive back into my world of young adult fiction, and I had high hopes for it. Beth is a high school chorus singer with a case of the "uglies." She is constantly picked on, and thinks she is hideous. However, she can sing beautifully. When she is chosen as the feature soloist of her choir, she is given the makeover of a lifetime and she is suddenly beautiful. When her choir travels to Switzerland for the National Choir Olympics, she meets Derek, a handsome Canadian choir singer. They fall head over heels in love, yet he is hiding something.
This book just didn't hit home for me. It was a little on the cheesy side in the sense that there were all of these random song lyrics thrown in, and the couple's love developed entirely too quickly. Not in a good way, but in an annoying teenager way. Beth also becomes obsessive and a bit unlikeable. Overall, I was ready to be finished with it. The ending kind of tied everything together, and I learned that one of the characters was based off of an actual person, which gave me a little more understanding.
I gave Sing Me to Sleep 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
What have you been reading lately?


Summer is Dwindling

In many ways, August always feels more like the beginning of a new year to me than January does. The summer months are coming to an end, students are beginning brand new school years, vacations are reaching a bittersweet end...all of those comfortable summer feelings are slowly wearing off.

I have to admit, I had a fairly difficult time getting into the summer mindset this year. This is the second summer that I haven't been able to look forward to "back to school." I missed out on a lot of summer sun because I'm obligated to be at work for 40 hours a week. I just overall never felt a sense of that summer peacefulness, and not having something "new" to look forward to in the fall seems odd.

Looking back though, there were still plenty of memories made. If I've learned one thing from adulthood so far, it's that working full time and being dedicated to responsibilities makes those lazy summer weekends spent with family and friends that much more of a blessing. I just had to let go of the idea that my summers are over forever, and accept that they are just going to be different now. Not better, not worse, but beautifully different.

One of my favorite things about the summer season is the amount of self reflection it seems to bring. It's sort of the "in between" period of the year. It allows you to accept and let go of the bad, and anticipate the new things to come in the fall. Somehow, it's a comfort to think that the cool winds of fall also bring a new outlook on life. They sweep in and bring inspiration back into our lives.

Here's to a great summer to add to the memory book, and to the upcoming fall that will give us another season to be appreciative, fight for our dreams, love others, and enjoy this gift of life.



We All Have a Story

I am a big fan of talent competition shows. It all started with American Idol. My family and I used to sit glued to the screen, watching the singers and debating over who was going to get cut. Not long after that, I became ADDICTED to So You Think You Can Dance. To this day, it is still my favorite show, and I probably become way too invested in the contestants. America's Got Talent is another one that I enjoy watching from time to time...but not often because it's on the same night as SYTYCD and I am not missing that show unless I have to.

There is something that all of these shows have in common. They are produced in a way that leads viewers to become invested in not only a contestant's talent, but also their story. A few episodes into the season, we know that they are an amazing singer, or dancer, or comedian, and on top of that, we know about their past...where they come from, what their hardships were, who shaped their lives, everything. These people wear their hearts on their sleeves in front of the entire nation.

Whenever I watch these types of shows with other people in the room, I hear more and more comments about how certain contestants are just getting by on their "sob" stories. "It should be about their talent," they say. "This is a talent competition, not a pity party." It seems that viewers are afraid of seeing someone who they believe is more talented lose to someone who America falls in love with because they have a sad story and an endearing personality.

Something about this way of thinking bothered me. After thinking about it for a while, it hit me. People's stories do matter. What we have faced in the past has literally made us into the people that we are in the present. Divorces, the loss of loved ones, injuries, homelessness, poverty...all of these types of hardships are important. They aren't just content that we store in the back of our minds to use to get us ahead when necessary.

As for these individuals sharing their stories on a competition show...it just helps the audience understand why they are so passionate about their talents. In all my years of watching dance and theater and musical performances, I have learned that those performers with the most raw talent are usually the ones who have an amazing story to share. Many average people harbor their past hurts and failures and try to forget about them, but artists use those things to create something beautiful. When we see contestants share their stories on these shows, they don't want us to feel sorry for them. They want us to understand where their passion for their talent comes from.

This applies to us in the real world too. With a little soul searching and reflection, we may be able to find the drive to do truly amazing things. We all have a story. We may as well use those chapters instead of trying to throw them into the wind.

( I said the other day that I would have a giveaway up today. Due to certain circumstances, it will be up next week instead! Sorry for the confusion!)

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