Reflection on 2018

As the end of 2018 marches steadily toward us, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the past year. What’s happened, what I’ve accomplished, and what I’ve learned.

Lessons of 2018:

  • Be more present
  • Colorado is my home
  • Be aware of my attitude
  • Make time for things I enjoy
  • Make memories with people
  • Doing things together are some of the best gifts
  • I can write
  • Believe I can do impossible things
  • Be intentional I really need to read more books!
  • Support networks are important
  • No endeavor is wasted that I learned something from
  • Be flexible

Earned my BA in history

I entered my last semester at Colorado State University in January after realizing the path I thought I was on—one of post-graduate degrees and professorship—was not for me. I’m thankful I only had one class (my capstone), because I was hugely unmotivated. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of friends and family, I wouldn’t have finished. I don’t know how I feel about it now. I have a diploma on my wall, but it seems pretty useless at this moment. So I’m trying to focus on the good I did get out of my time in higher ed—perseverance, research experience, writing growth (albeit just in academic writing), some interesting knowledge and extra awareness, and the ability to meet deadlines.

Moved to Maine

At the end of May, I moved to Maine to live with a friend I met during my semester abroad in 2014. She had been living in Ohio, earning her bachelor’s and then her master’s, and was moving back home.

Approximately last November, in the midst of questioning my entire life trajectory, we had the idea for me to move to Maine that eventually turned into a plan that, initially, involved living with my friend Alexis’ parents until we could get an apartment and see what life looked like after about a year.

My mom and youngest two sisters road tripped with me out to Maine on a crazy cross-country trek that included an overheating car, a dead alternator, an unplanned overnight stay not terribly far from Chicago, a visit to Niagara Falls (and a terrifyingly big, steep bridge in the middle of the night in Buffalo that we were NOT expecting—it was much less scary in daylight the next day!), and a few days of sightseeing along the Maine coast that was an absolute blast. Then in a moment that felt very strange, I dropped my family off at the airport and watched them go through security. That’s not usually the way airport visits have worked for me!

I got a full-time job (after years of part-time work and full-time school) as an administrative assistant at the administrative office for a traveling geriatric medical practice. That was a pretty great experience! Alexis and I went on all kinds of explorations of Maine—with many, many stops at the South Portland Chili’s. I planned an entire trip to the easternmost lighthouse in the continental United States (Quoddy Head) that started as an excuse to drive two hours to the nearest Chick-Fil-A. We went kayaking and had beavers angrily flap their tails at us. We went with her mom to a lovely church ladies’ retreat in New Hampshire and spent a magical afternoon stand-up paddle-boarding. Oh, and I met Alexis’ fiancé!

Quoddy Head lighthouse

See, back in November or so, when we were making moving plans, I said something along the lines of “what’s going to happen in the next few months? One of us will get in a serious relationship? Ha!” So in February, Alexis met and started dating Eric in Ohio. So when I moved to Maine, it was knowing that the initial one-year plan was very much up in the air. They started talking marriage, and Alexis decided to move back to Ohio. Eric visited in August and proposed. And plans were made for Alexis to move back to Ohio and me to move back to Colorado. While I was, admittedly, a little bummed, I was also excited to be back home. More on that in a minute. But also, I’m so excited for Alexis and Eric, and on Sunday I’m flying out to be in their wedding!

Road trip: Take 2

Jordan Pond, Acadia

My mom flew back out to Maine and I took her to Acadia National Park. We stayed in a cute little cottage just off of Mount Desert Island. Our little adventure included super delicious pizza, a hike I THOUGHT was around three miles and was actually eight, and lots of gorgeous autumn foliage. We did something crazy for our Type A, planner selves and didn’t plan out our stops ahead of time, but just drove home. Which ended up being pretty great overall, because it allowed us to spend more time in Acadia and to stay with my dad’s aunt and uncle one night on our way back. I also had an entire (short) playlist of songs with the word “home” in the title we listened to once we entered Colorado. I’ll tell you, though—the time from the Colorado border to our house was the LONGEST HOURS IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.

Home Again

It’s been interesting and little odd being back home. I missed my family, my mountains, and my dogs a lot. I’m glad I’ll have more time with my sister before she gets married in June (she also got engaged in August!). And I’m very glad I was able to spend a couple more months with my dog, Susie, before we had to put her down a few days before Christmas.

Susie-Q

Me and Susie in 2006 and 2017

We got Susie when she was a tiny, tiny little puppy. Our neighbor brought her over after a coworker who couldn’t keep her gave her to him. His family already had two dogs, and at the time we didn’t have any pets. It was my dad’s birthday, and our neighbor showed up with a scared, shy puppy who we weren’t positive was a girl because she was tiny. Wonder of wonders, my mom—who claimed to dislike dogs—decided we could keep her. We had recently listened to The Chronicles of Narnia on audiobook, and we decided to name her Susie—kind of a combination of Susan and Lucy. However, Susie pretty quickly decided she wasn’t my dad’s dog: she was mine (or maybe I was hers).

Susie early this year

We had Susie for thirteen years. She gave us several scares over the years—developing arthritis, likely mild hip dysplasia, and earlier this year she developed glaucoma and went blind in one eye before we realized what was going on. But she just kept plugging along. She was overweight, had lots of fatty tumors, and was losing energy. But she was a happy girl with lots and lots of love, right up to the end. I’m thankful for all the time I had with her.

Writing

I started seriously writing again this year. I hadn’t finished any idea—or even gotten very far into any—since about 2012. I started on an idea over last winter break, then mostly stopped during my capstone. But I worked on it off and on in Maine (and started on another idea so I could get that one out of my system and focus). In November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. With a day to spare, I hit the 50,000 words-written-in-November goal. I wrote another 15-20,000 or so words over the next week, and finally finished a rough draft! It was an excellent feeling. I also started on the sequel, and have about 20,000 words of that written.

Spiritual life stuff

I’ll be completely honest—my walk with Christ has been…more of a nap interrupted by sprints. The Christian life is easy to understand, and difficult to live consistently (or is that just me??). The church I’m attending in Colorado had a morning all about spending time in the word and tips on how to do that (they recommend ROAD journaling. You should be able to Google it.) I also got a new wide-margin, cross-referenced Bible and Bible pens and highlighters from my mom for Christmas. I’m still not doing a good job, but these tools are helping my focus when I remember to have a quiet time.

But if I’ve gotten one repeated, resounding, obvious message from God this year, it’s that being a Christian is about KNOWING Him. It’s as if every passage I’ve read recently has an emphasis on knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ’s act of redemption, knowledge of salvation, knowledge of God’s love, knowledge of our relationship with God through Christ. So I suppose that’s my spiritual take-away for 2018—be more knowledgeable about the right things.

Other current life stuff

I’m still looking for a job. I’ve spent hours searching the web and applied to a handful of jobs. I heard back from one, and was told they were going to present the candidates and get back to the applicants, but that it might be awhile because of the holidays. I’m going to be out of state (for the wedding! Yay!) December 30th-January 5th, so I’ll be looking more earnestly after that.

Well, this ended up being considerably longer than I had intended! If you made it to the end: congratulations, and thank you!

I hope you had a blessed Christmas, and I hope you have a wonderful New Year.

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Top 5 Reads of 2018

This has been a bit of a crazy year for me.

  • Did my capstone and graduated
  • Roadtripped/moved to Maine
  • Roadtripped/moved back to Colorado (thanks ERIC for stealing my roomie. Kidding, kidding.)
  • Finished a complete draft of a novel for the first time in several years, typing some 60,000 words or something crazy from November 1-December 5.

So, that’s my excuse for the very little reading I finished this year, and the main reason why I’m doing a top five instead of top ten. Also, this way I can explain more without this becoming too long.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Honorable mention (because I’m a cheater): Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I had to read this book pretty quickly, because the emotional turmoil is just SO intense. I loved how it took Eelyn time to work through her feelings, and how when she gets life-altering news, things don’t just pop! back to normal. I didn’t love Young’s prose, though, and there were some things about the romance subplot that felt forced to me. Also, I’d rate cleanliness at about 16 and up. But overall, I liked it.

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Number 5: Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This wasn’t a perfect book by any means, but it was a really fun quick read. I liked that it got more of the detective side of Bruce Wayne than is often used on screen. I liked the exploration of Bruce before Batman. I liked that he was more innocent, but you’re starting to see him wondering about how justice works in practice and, by the end, leaning toward the morally grey, brooding heartthrob we all (okay, at least me) know and love. My biggest complaint about this book is that there isn’t more. I want a sequel way more than the other books about other characters in the DC Icons series. Sigh

The War Thor by Jason Aaron

Number 4: The Mighty Thor, Volume 4: The War Thor by Jason Aaron (Text), Russell Dauterman (Illustrations), Mahmud Asrar (Illustrations), Valerio Schiti (Illustrations) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read a few comic book collections/graphic novels this year, and this was probably my favorite. Why? Because it made me cry. I’m one of the people who actually like Jane Foster’s Thor (don’t @ me), but Volstagg was the star of Volume 4. And he’s such a big teddy bear. And yeah. Like I said, I cried.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Number 3: Cinder by Marissa Meyer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book was nothing like what I was expecting. Because of that, I was a little thrown at first. I also didn’t realize The Lunar Chronicles are a continuing story, because for some reason I thought it was a universe of mildly connected stand-alones. Not sure why, but there you go. But dang, I couldn’t get this book out of my head for a few days. The world was original and fascinating. I didn’t super love Kai, but I really liked Cinder. I’m excited to read the rest of the series.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Photo by me

Number 2: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Oh my word, y’all. This book is so good. Stayed-up-past-1am-twice good. I’m so mad at myself for not reading it as soon as it arrived!

I loved the characters. I loved how feisty and brave and confident Emma is—she definitely was my favorite. I loved how earnest Thomas is. I loved the world. I loved the added fantasy elements. The magic system was solid and not over-complicated, which I appreciated. (Side note—it was interested reading this book and Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson in the same year, because they both have magic systems based on use of color. But they are wildly different for many reasons. And the color magic in Warbreaker I found overly complicated, confusing, and at times distracting because so much effort had to be put into explaining it. One of many things I didn’t love about Warbreaker.)

I loved the message of seeking after and standing for truth. That beliefs must be align with Truth. I teared up several times at the end.

It was a tad predictable, especially if you know your Stuart and English church history, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment.

Unblemished by Sara Ella
Photo by me

Number 1: The Unblemished Trilogy by Sara Ella ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Okay, I cheated. (Again.) But it also would have been kinda silly to list the three books of a trilogy all separately, right?

I actually read Unblemished and Unraveling last year, but I reread them this year before reading Unbreakable. And I rarely reread books because I always feel like I need to read one of the many unread books I have.

Let. Me. Tell. You. This series is so real and so relatable and so gut-wrenching and Ky is my new book boyfriend (but I also am just here for Kymber. Is that an admissible ship name? It’s what I’m going with.). I nearly died last year when I finished Unraveling and Unbreakable wasn’t out yet. This series gave me aaaaaaaall the feels. And it’s so uplifting and all about the redeeming power of love—romantic, non-romantic, and self-love. And Eliyana grows so much throughout the series, which I love to see. Plus, music is a big part of Eliyana’s story, and all the musical and pop references made my heart happy.


Did you read of my top books of 2018 and love them? See any on this list you’re now adding to your to-be-read list for 2019? Let me know in the comments!

Curious what else I read this year? Check out my Goodreads Year-in-Review: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2018/36881220

Until next time,
And have a Merry Christmas,
Selina

“Do I Have That Book?” Challenge

So I recently discovered @keepin.tabz‘s lovely Bookstagram and her Do I have that book challenge/tag (original video of Tabetha doing her challenge here.)

Now, my family’s books are scattered around several rooms and two levels, so I wasn’t about to attempt to time this! But I thought it might make a good blog post. See how I did, then see how your shelves measure up!

The Challenge!

1. Do you have a book with deckled edges?
I’m only aware that I have one. It’s a book of hymns with piano music and the story behind the hymn.

2. Do you have a book with 3 or more people on the cover?
I’m positive I have some on my Kindle, but I decided to try and limit myself to physical books for this. This one technically has more than three, some of them are just hidden behind armor. haha

3. Do you have a book based on another fictional story?
This might be the most famous tale of King Arthur, and the basis for many later re-tellings, but it hardly started the legend of Arthur.

4. Do you have a book with a title 10 letters long?
I had a moment of oh no, this could take forever! And then I found this. Sweet!

5. Do you have a book with a title that starts and ends with the same letter? 
Another one I thought might be a challenge, but ended up being pretty easy.

6. Do you have a Mass Market Paperback book?
Clearly, I have several, haha. They’re hardly my favorite format, but they’re so affordable!

7. Do you have a book written by an author using a pen name?
I don’t know…? Seems like a possibility, but I don’t know of any off the top of my head.

8. Do you have a book with a character’s name in the title?
I’m pretty sure I have a few, but this one was the easiest to find.

9. Do you have a book with 2 maps in it?
Oooh, I have several! But I picked this one, but I’m so obsessed with this series.

10. Do you have a book that was turned into a TV show?
So I literally just discovered (thanks, Google) that PBS made a Little Women mini series this year. Has anyone seen it?

11. Do you have a book written by someone who is originally famous for something else? (celebrity/athlete/politician/tv personality…) 
I kind of think this book is part of why he’s famous, but he was a renowned neural surgeon first and that’s the reason he wrote (well…it was ghost written, but still) this book. Which is excellent, btw, even if I felt a little squeamish a couple times. 

12. Do you have a book with a clock on the cover?
Apparently, I do not. I find this somewhat surprising. At least, not that I’ve found. We have so many books, I could have missed one, haha.

13. Do you have a poetry book?
Gross. No. I once took a poetry class because I had to take an English elective, and it worked with my schedule. I hated it. With a passion. No offense to those who like or write poetry, but to each their own. I can count the poems I like on one hand. (Okay, maaaaaaaybe two.)

14. Do you have a book with an award stamp on it?
Pretty sure my family owns a few, but we have this one at least.

15. Do you have a book written by an author with the same initials as you?
Sadly, it does not appear so.

16. Do you have a book of short stories?
I used to have a collection of sci-fi short stories, but I hadn’t read it in years, so I got rid of it. Sigh.

17. Do you have a book that is between 500-510 pages long?
I have plenty over that, but can’t find one in that exact range.

18. Do you have a book that was turned into a movie?
I have so many! So how about one that for some inexplicable reason was made into three?

19. Do you have a graphic novel?
Not exactly, but I have several comics.

20. Do you have a book written by 2 or more authors?
Novels? No. I do have a novella collection. And plenty of non-fiction with multiple authors.

So, do I have that book? Well, I got 14/20. How did you do? If you take the challenge, be sure to let me know so I can see your books!

Until next time!

3 Ways to Find Creative Inspiration

Where do you get ideas for your writing? How do you stay creative? Where do you look for inspiration when you’re in a creative dry spell?

I find anything can be a source of creative inspiration if you stay open to the possibilities. I’ve gotten ideas from video games, movies, comments people have made, and dreams. But when the ideas aren’t pouring in, here are three ways to get the creative juices flowing.

Psylocke cosplay
Photograph by/of me
  1. Browse artwork online
    There is so much amazing artwork by talented individuals out there! What’s your genre? You want to write steampunk? Look up steampunk artwork and try to figure out what’s going on in a piece. Need a setting? Look up landscapes. Need a character? Type your genre and “character” into Pinterest and see what comes up! Not even sure what you’re looking for? Let DeviantArt or Pinterest pull you into the never-ending whirlpool of the Internet until you’re drowning in inspiration. Imagination often ignites more imagination, so let others inspire you!
    I actually keep inspiration boards on my Pinterest. Character costume inspiration, weapon inspiration, setting/location inspiration, building inspiration… And then if I’m at a loss, I’ll go look at those boards. Sometimes I’ll go looking for something specific—“what might this character dress like?” or “what would this character’s home look like?” Other times I’ll go in without any idea of what I’m looking for, and work backwards—“what kind of character might use that weapon?” or “Why might my characters find themselves in this scene?”
  2. Listen to music
    My go-to focus music when writing is epic instrumental. I love film and video game soundtracks, especially when writing an intense scene or a fight. I can’t concentrate with lyrics while writing, and I also avoid super recognizable soundtracks (if I start picturing the film scene in my head while writing, everything falls apart for me). Plus, throwing on a pair of headphones and cranking epic instrumental music helps drown out the distractions. Here’s some of my favorite Youtube mixes from Pandora Journey for getting in the zone (note: I put these on the background, so I have no idea if all the featured artwork is appropriate):

But when not actively writing, music with lyrics can be awesome for getting ideas. Think about a song you like. Could it apply to one of your characters? Does it spark a plot idea? Why might a character like or dislike that song?

Painting of Thor by me

3. Take a break!
Sometimes the only way to cope with a dry spell is to stop trying to pump from an empty well. Let it fill up again! Do something else you enjoy. Go watch that movie, regardless of what critics say. Go read that book you keep meaning to get to. Binge that TV show. Try a new hobby or pick up an old one. Knit that scarf. Dance in your room while singing into a hairbrush. Make that bracelet. Paint that picture even if you have no idea what you’re doing. Go for a long walk or take a drive out into the country. Tell yourself not to focus on your creative slump. Let yourself think about anything and everything else. Procrastinate a little—or even a lot. Sometimes your brain just needs a break. Don’t feel guilty about doing things you want to do just because it’s not what you think you need to do right this minute. Your story will be waiting when you come back energized from your break.

How about you?
What are your tried-and-true methods to stay creative and keep inspiration coming? Let’s chat!