Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Things I Learned in 2014

As the year comes to a close, a lot of us are probably writing about either 1. what we've learned in 2014 and our experiences this past year and/or 2. the goals we have set for 2015 and what we hope to change. Personally, I won't be setting any concrete "goals" for 2015 because I know how much can change and how difficult it is to keep anything in a rigid mindset for too long. I have a lot of fluid ideas of how I want my year to go, but I also know that I'm going to do my best to just go with the flow. The one goal I always have is to make the new year even better than the last and ensure that I am growing as a person and becoming who I want to be. As long as I keep that in mind throughout the year, everything else should work itself out. I don't really want to talk about the new year because I want to keep the mystery alive. I have a lot of exciting changes coming my way, many of which I have struggled with and worked really hard to get to this point in life. No doubt there will be ups and downs this year, because that's just how life works, but with each year I take a new set of experiences and lessons that hopefully better prepare myself for whatever life has to throw at me.

2014 has probably been one of the most difficult years of my life simply because of how transitional it was. It was my first "full year" as a post-grad (a very lost and confused one at that) and I had a lot of different experiences. Experiences that were not pleasant but eventually led to lessons learned and a process of maturing. The beginning of 2014 found me once again lost as to which direction I wanted my career to go in (I stopped substitute teaching and decided to put my pursuit of a master's degree on hold). It was also around that time that I started this blog, which was at first meant to be a creative outlet and a way to pursue my life-long dream of becoming an author, but it turned into so much more (more on that later). To keep myself busy and also still make money, I took on a nanny job. Some people may think a nanny job is "easy" or not really significant, but those are people who have never had to be responsible for children or actually take care of them. For the six months I had that job, I didn't even really see it as a "job." I formed a connection with the kids I took care of and they taught me so much about raising children and just life in general. Also, I think my biological clock started ticking thanks to that job, oops...

Fast forward to Spring of 2014, which was probably the high point of my year. I was happy with the job I had, really getting into the whole blogging and social media thing and I was also exploring a side of me that I never had before. Without going into too much detail, I'll just say that although it ended pretty badly, I don't regret it at all. I learned so much about myself, especially how I handle certain situations and relationships, which in the past few months I've been able to start changing to help myself in the long run. It's pretty cliche to say that "everything happens for a reason" but I'd like to think this certain experience falls into that boat. After a lackluster and slightly mopey summer, I was restless again. I needed change and I knew I couldn't stay where I was, figuratively and literally, for much longer.

By the end of September I had left my job as a nanny and was in pursuit of a new job. By this point I had a very good idea of what I wanted my career to be. Blogging helped me discover that. I have a passion for writing and social media (something that is certainly expanding in this technological age) so I started searching for a job in that related field. I spent months applying to places. Months searching. Sometimes I'd even apply for regular administrative positions just so I could have something, even if it wasn't truly what I wanted to be doing. I lost track of how many interviews I went on this fall (I want to say 7?) and obviously all were a dead-end. Unemployment was not kind to me and as much I tried to stay positive, after each rejection I sunk a little bit deeper. I was at the point where I was about to give up this dream career of mine, something I had been interested in for a very long time. I didn't want to settle for the typical entry-level position as a receptionist or whatever else I "qualified" for, but I was beginning to think I had no other option. Then something truly amazing that totally exceeded my expectations happened. But I won't go into it just yet—that is for a different day, different blog post :).

Other things happened these past few months, too, things that have helped me take a look at my mindset and attitudes throughout these past years. I am by no means done learning or changing, but I can happily say I am on the right track. I also think that having this blog has helped me a lot along the way and I want to continue In-Between Life no matter how busy my life may get. Who knows, maybe I'll keep this baby of mine for years to come and I can look back and see just how much things change.
I started out writing this post thinking I would just write a brief summary and then do a kind of list of what I learned this year, but of course the writer in me had to basically write a novel for everybody. If you've read this far, thank you. Thank you to all my readers. Thank you to everyone I have inspired; you've given me sparks of happiness when I most needed it.

Without further ado, a list of some of the things I learned in 2014:
  • Don't give up on your dream, no matter how tough the road may get. Seriously. Do not give up.
  • Don't stay in something that is no longer fulfilling. You'll know when it's time to move on and you shouldn't hold on any longer.
  • You are the only one who knows what's right for you. You're the only one who can truly dictate your journey. Listen to yourself and your intuition first and foremost. 
  • Not only can life surprise you, but you may end up surprising yourself, too. Embrace it.
  • It's okay to feel lost and confused and worried. It may seem like it, but the feeling won't last forever. You also may experience it again at some point in your life. That's just how it is. 
  • Only substitute teach if you have the patience of a saint.
  • Let go of your past and the fears your past has created for you. You're only hurting yourself and not allowing yourself to live your life to the fullest. 
  • Learn to go with the flow. Life tends to get easier that way.

What's the most important thing you learned this year?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Does this make me a Grinch?

Christmas is only two days away and holiday season is in full swing. And yet, I'm just not feeling it. Maybe it's the fact that it's the end of December and it's currently raining outside instead of snowing, so it doesn't really feel "Christmasy" at all (rather dreary, in fact). Maybe it's the fact that we've been getting holiday commercials shoved down our throats since before Halloween this year (at some point they're gonna start airing commercials before the 4th of July, I swear. This year the first holiday commercial I saw was in SEPTEMBER). So I guess I'm kind of just over it. I stopped putting on the radio station with all the Christmas music a good two or three weeks ago. The same movies are on repeat on ABC family, so I'm over that, too.

It's not that I don't enjoy Christmas; in fact, it's one of my favorite holidays. But I really feel that this holiday is becoming over-commercialized (actually, it's way beyond that at this point) and it's losing its luster. Part of me just wants the holidays to be over with already.
I started thinking about things I've done this month, or even in the past, that helped make Christmas feel a little more special. One thing I did this year was a holiday card swap with a bunch of bloggers and I really enjoyed spending the time to write each individual card and personalize it. I like spreading cheer, especially during this season. Last year I put together a little goodie bag for my mailman because I know how hard they work this time of year. It's little things like that that really put me in the holiday spirit and looking back now I definitely wish I had done more. I think next year I'm going to make an effort of volunteering places and doing kind things for strangers (like say, buying someone's coffee or putting extra coins in their parking meter). Obviously, you can do this anytime of the year, but there's something about doing it during the holiday season that makes it even more special.

As a society in general, we need to start remembering what Christmas is actually about. Spending time with friends and family, but also spreading love and joy to strangers. It's the little things that count. I hate how commercialized this holiday has gotten, but there's really nothing I can do about that. What I can do, however, is change how I celebrate this time of year. Hopefully by reaching out to strangers and doing kind things, it will in turn affect other people and they will do the same for others.

"Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." -The Grinch

Happy Holidays ♥︎

Sunday, December 14, 2014

100 Days Challenge: Improve Your Life

It's no secret that I've been having a rough few months and a generally challenging time of my life since I've graduated college. I've come a very long way and I know that by no means I am the same person I was a year ago, let alone "100 days" ago. I've always been a firm believer that your life can change drastically in just one day, whether for good or bad. I've always been the kind of girl who hopes one of those moments comes along that will just turn my whole world upside down, for the better, and magically all will fall into place. I still like to have that kind of belief, because there is something so innocent and naive about having that kind of mentality, that I don't really want to let go of it. I want to believe that good things are coming my way and that requires me having that hopeful and child-like magical belief in the universe.

Although I am holding onto this "magic" belief system very tightly, I also realize that a lot of life's circumstances are often in our control (not just the "universe"). This fall I let myself slowly fall into a very negative mindset, primarily because I was exhausted and frustrated with my job hunt. It affected all other parts of my life, though, and I wish I could have more control over that. I have been thinking a lot about New Year's resolutions and making changes in my life in general. My biggest goal in life is to be happy, no matter what the circumstances may be. And in order for you to be at peace with yourself and truly happy, you can't rely on any person, job, location, etc. as the source of your own happiness. I realize happiness comes from within and only you can control that. So, with all that being said, I'm ready to embark on one of those "100 days" challenges to improve my life for the better.
I got this idea while I was scrolling through the internet one night and stumbled upon this article called "60 Small Ways to Improve Your Life in the Next 100 Days." I loved it because it has so many ideas for improvements and not just within your self but also small improvements throughout your home, etc. I was going to officially start my 100 days challenge on New Year's Day, but I figured: why wait? My life could certainly benefit from improvements right away and if I start now, I'll already have a good 15 days under my belt as the new year begins. As of tomorrow, December 15th, my challenge begins. I'm going to share with you some of the things I will be doing/working on!

  • Write down five things I'm grateful for at the end of every day.
  • No complaining for the next 100 days. If I find myself complaining, even about the smallest thing, I will put a small token in a jar. By the end of the 100 day challenge, whatever amount of "tokens" in the jar are, I will add more days to this aspect of the challenge until I've officially gone 100 days without complaints!
  • Write at least 500 words every day. It can be geared towards my novel, this blog or just regular stream of consciousness writing.
  • Spend a few minutes at the end of each day tidying up my room and desk space to keep a clean and clear space in which I can be in.
  • Exercise at least 20 minutes a day for the next 100 days.
  • Make an active effort of not comparing my life to anyone else's.
  • Leave behind my past and stop worrying about my future. This will probably be the hardest one for me to tackle, and I may not be successful every day, but for the next 100 days I am going to make it a daily reminder for myself.
Will you be partaking in any kind of "100 days" challenge come the new year? If so, please share!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What to do when you want to smash a plate into a million pieces

Let me start off by saying I am by no means perfect. I may spit and spatter a bunch of inspirational posts and motivational words on here, trying to get you to see the best in yourself and all the wonderful opportunities life has to offer, but that doesn't mean I get sunk deep into a hole of awful emotions, too. Lately that's been happening to me more often than I'd like. A lot of it has to do with still being unemployed. After months of endless job applications and only a handful of interviews, I'm still stuck. I go from freaking out about what I even want to be doing to freaking out about being able to do SOMETHING, anything, that will make me feel more productive and also not stressing out about financial issues. I hate to say it, but in my case, a lot of my problems would be solved with money. At this point, I might even take a job offer as opposed to winning the lottery (see? I'm clearly losing my mind).

Moments like these in life, especially after lots of time and effort, tend to be incredibly frustrating. Frustration leads to anger. I'm actually surprised at how well I've held it together (anger-wise) during this harrowing time of my life. Years ago, mostly as a teenager, I was a rage machine. The smallest thing could set me off and I'd be grumpy and moody for an unreasonable amount of time. As I've aged I like to think I've matured a lot and have gotten a better handle at my emotions and my reactions. But still, there are times when it's just too much. I'm sure you've been there. I'm sure we've all been there. It's only natural; we're humans. And other humans sure can piss you off.

I started writing this because I just had one of those moments. Pent up anger and frustration, primarily towards a specific person in my life, finally led to explosion. I yelled my feelings at them and stormed off into the kitchen holding my mug of coffee and for a split second I almost threw that mug at the wall. No bueno. Of course I realized that would do no good for anyone and quickly went back to my room to breathe and gather my thoughts.
As we grow older and get more life experience, we start to realize that not everything can be fixed. You can't control how other people act or what they say. You can try talking to them (rationally and calmly) but that doesn't always guarantee a change will happen. You can try to change yourself, but you also have to ask yourself if it's really you who is the one who needs to change or just how much you can possibly change to better the situation. The one thing I have learned, though, and one of the only things that really ever works for your own benefit, is the way you react to these events and people who make you feel this way. All you really have control of is yourself. Your words, your actions, your reactions, your expressions, your attitude, etc. It's not always easy, but it's something worth working on because it will help you out throughout life many, many times.

So when something, or someone, frustrates you to the point where you want to go ahead and smash all the plates, take a moment to breathe and just think. Give yourself even just ten seconds to calm down. You have the power to control it. You can walk away. You can figure out a way to make changes, probably at a later time. Or you can even just do something else to take your mind completely off whatever it is that is making you feel that way.

Also, keep in mind: Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. It's how we handle those mistakes that truly define us.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Photo Roundup: Getting in the holiday spirit

As Christmas approaches, the holiday spirit is creeping it's way into my life. I'm really not a fan of winter, but technically December is still autumn, so all's good. The days are shorter and the weather's getting colder, but there's still plenty of happy festive spirit in the air. I would not recommend going anywhere near shopping centers during the weekend, though. I tried to go to Target today and turned back around after 5 minutes of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic (and a lot of crazy people beeping their horns). Here's a collection of some pictures I've taken these past few days—most are holiday themed! All pictures taken with my lovely Canon Rebel T3.

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (2012)

I'd seen this book on a few reading lists the past few months but I never really got around to reading it. Based on the book's description, I really didn't think it'd be my cup of tea. However, on my latest library trip I saw it on a bin with all the other books for their "reading club" so I decided to check it out and give it a chance.

I'll be honest, it's not my favorite book. It didn't leave me crying at the end, as some people claim, and I wasn't really left with that "after-book high" (is there a proper name for this feeling?) However, the story itself is unique and heart-warming at times. At first you only really get a glimpse of two main characters, but as the story line progresses you get a chance to experience other characters' perspectives. It's one of those books that has you rooting for everyone, even when they are on conflicting sides. The author did a good job of leaving you sympathizing with everyone involved in the story. 

There's never a dull moment in the book but it's also not one of those books where you simply cannot put it down. It's rather in between the two. The author throws in a couple metaphors that go along with the plot, but nothing too fancy. The ending felt a little short for me and I definitely wanted more closure then what the author gave.

Despite it not being the best book I've ever read, or even close to that, I'd still recommend it. Some people may find they like it much more than me. As with music taste, people's taste in books are different, too. If I had to compare it to a song on the radio, I'd say it's one of those songs where I won't find myself jamming out to, but I'd still leave it on and casually listen to it as I drive along.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Gift Guide For Yourself

Lately I have seen about one million thousand gift guides all over the internet. While I know a lot of people have trouble figuring out what to get their loved ones so these gift guides may actually be useful for them, I'm frankly sick of seeing so many. Don't hate me if you're one of those people posting gift guides. I'm totally for helping others (it is the season of helping those in need, after all). However, I've always felt that the best gifts come from the heart. The secret to gift-giving is being attentive to your friends and family. Throughout the year I'm sure they've mentioned several times certain things they wish they had or maybe pointed something out while shopping together. Even better, if you really know your friends and family you should have a pretty good idea of what kinds of things they'd enjoy or possibly want. [PSA to my friends: I love you all so much, but please, for the love of God, stop getting me things cat-related. I'm more then just a crazy cat lady!] Maybe at this point it's kind of too late to really figure out what your friends really need or would want, but keep that in mind for next year (or their birthdays!)

So, with all that being said, I'd like to present to you something you may not have seen before. A gift guide for YOU! Because yes, you're allowed and expected to buy yourself a holiday gift this season. You deserve it because you are fabulous. Also, you more than anyone know what you want. Problem is, you probably want ALL the things. So I'm here to help you break down the most obvious things that people usually want for themselves and why or why not you should allow yourself to splurge and get that awesome new "toy."

1. New Technology - Whether it's the new iPhone 6, a new laptop, new camera (or lens, such as I am currently battling with myself over...), chances are you've been eyeing that new piece of candy for quite some time and it'd rock your world if you could have it. Problem usually is—technology is EXPENSIVE. Maybe you have the money to spend on something so grandiose, but others don't. Or maybe you rather save all that money for a later date. The question to ask yourself here is: When was the last time you got a new *insert technology name here*? For example, last April I totally splurged and bought myself for the first time ever my own laptop. It was expensive. But I had had my old laptop for over five years and it was giving me a lot of trouble (plus it was so slow I would frequently want to pull my hair out). It was also around the time when I started full on blogging and I needed a speedy machine that could handle all the pictures and data I would be putting into it. I decided I did need new technology so I allowed myself to get it. Another example: I've had my iPhone 5 for over two years now, which means I'm "due" for an upgrade, but my phone is working perfectly fine. Yes, I'm constantly lacking "storage" and all that BS that Apple gives us, but I technically don't need a new phone. So, no, this Christmas I will not be getting a new phone. I'm going to wait until I actually need one. Long story short: If you need it, get it. If you don't need it, don't. If you have the money to spend and really, really want it: get it. If you rather save your money for further down the road, don't.

2. That expensive bag/necklace/etc. you've been eyeing for awhile - We've all been there. We want the new designer bag. We want that lovely and beautiful necklace. When I was in 7th grade one of the things on my wish list was a Prada bag (HAHAHAHAHA). Thankfully, my mom and dad had more sense then to buy a 12 year old a Prada bag (wtf, Val...) I normally am not one to splurge on "designer" anything, unless I find it at a super discounted price or a thrift store, etc. Last year, though, I did reward myself with a new Dooney & Bourke bag. I was 22 years old and it was the first time I had an actual designer bag since I was 14 (does anyone remember the Coach bag craze? I'm so sorry Mom & Dad). At the time I was working and I hadn't splurged on anything in such a long time, especially a bag of such means, so I went for it. But boy, did I feel guilty for spending that much. In reality, as far as "designer bags" go, the amount I spent was nothing (around $300) but I still felt wrong for spending that money. My friend made me feel better though, reminding me of how I hadn't gotten myself anything of that value in who knows how long, and I worked hard for it so I deserved it. So now I feel it is my duty to tell YOU that if you've worked your butt off this year, you deserve that bag. Or that necklace. Or whatever other "designer" item you've been eyeing for some time now. Don't feel guilty. I don't want to be quoting Drake or anything, but honestly, YOLO. It's true. Just don't go spending your entire bank account on something you'll only enjoy for awhile.

3. A Shopping Spree - What girl DOESN'T want a shopping spree?!?!? Remember that show on Nickelodeon that let kids pick out whatever toys they wanted at a toy store but they had like a minute to put stuff in their cart? What if that was us now, but in say, Forever 21? I don't even want to picture it. I would probably break my ankle, arm and eyeball. Although you're probably itching for a shopping spree right now, I say hold off. You're bound to get some money over the holiday season and in January there are a TON of sales. Definitely worth holding off on that shopping spree until well after New Years!

4. Shoes - Shoes. A girl's weakness. I used to be like, what? Shoes? Why are girls going cray cray over SHOES? And then one day I blossomed into a shoe lady and I knew what all the hype was about. A new pair of sexy ass winter boots? Sign me up, buddy. The thing is, though, not worth buying them during the holiday season. Get those boots you have your eyes on in January, etc. Don't worry about them running out of your size. Write down the name and brand you want and if anything go on Amazon or wherever Google takes you to. Shoes are not the thing to splurge on right now.

5. The Perfect Gift - You know what the perfect gift you can give yourself (that won't cost TOO much)? A new hair-do, a mani & pedi, a spa treatment, etc. Something that's for YOU and just you. Something to pamper yourself with. What better way to start off the new year but with a new you? This kind of gift I completely condone and in fact, I think it's something that every woman should be getting during this time. It's the perfect way to say "I love myself." Get your hair done, get your nails done, get a massage, do it all. PAMPER AWAY!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Songs I'm Loving Lately: Christmas Edition!

Are you sick of Christmas songs yet? BETTER NOT BE! The madness has just begun. I love Christmas songs, but I also try not to overload on them because I don't want to get sick of all the songs before Christmas is actually here. In the past I've gone on some pretty crazy Christmas music frenzies and was burned out before December 1st (oops...) Over the past 22 Christmas' I've experienced, these have become my favorite Christmas songs. Of course I have other favorites, but I thought I'd share my top 5 with the rest of you! Enjoy :)

1. Do They Know It's Christmas - Band Aid
I only like the original version of this song. It's a classic. Also, they came out with a new one this year and for the first time changed the lyrics (even my favorite Bono part...) and I'm just really not digging it. I think they also overdid it with the amount of artists singing it and there are parts where I just don't understand a word those people are singing. But, alas, we will always have the 80s original version.

2. Please Come Home For Christmas - The Eagles
Ugh, yes. A christmas song by a classic rock band. What can be better?

3. All I Want For Christmas - Mariah Carey
Anytime this song comes on, my soul dances a little bit. It's the only song on this list that actually debuted when I was alive, so there's that. And of course, it's just a really fun Christmas song and one that I can relate to pretty much every year...

4. The Chipmunk Song - David Seville
I had trouble finding a YouTube version of this song that was the actual original version from the 50s. The other ones seem too auto-tune or just not right to me. I grew up listening to the original version so any other won't do. My favorite part of this song is when Theodore sings "I still want a hula hoop." I make sure to make my voice as embarrassingly high and squeaky as possible.

5. The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole
The mother of all Christmas songs. Dare I say the most beautiful of all Christmas songs? It's a classic and always will be. If I had to pick one song to define Christmas, it would be this one.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hump Day Funnies Pt. 4

This week may be a bit hard for some of you coming back from a long weekend. Tons of stuff to catch up on at work or maybe you're a student who's getting ready to take finals and write a bunch of papers before heading home for the holidays. It also may have been a pretty gloomy and rainy week for you so far and you need some laughs to pick up your spirit. Well, look no further because I have gathered some of my favorite internet finds from the past couple of months for this latest installment of "Hump Day Funnies"! Enjoy :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Inspiration Monday: One month left to make 2014 count!

Can you believe it is already December 1st? This year seems to have gone by so fast for me. I had a lot of new experiences (definitely some life-altering ones) and many lessons learned along the way. Usually as the year comes to a close, I like to reflect on the past months and the changes I have gone through. Many times in the past I would be bitter that things did not go my way or that life didn't necessarily "change" in any way, sort of leaving me in the same place I was the year before. As I've grown older, however, I've realized that this is never the case. You may feel like nothing's changed, but if you really take time to look back and reflect, you'll realize just how much HAS changed, especially you.
Whether 2014 was great or awful, boring or exciting, mediocre or mind-blowing—it's still another year you get to add to your list, so don't take that for granted. This month is all about love. Love for your family, your friends, your significant others, your community, your surroundings, even the strangers you pass by on the street. Be grateful and spread joy and love as much as you can this month. Even if you had a crappy year, this month is the perfect time to try and put that behind you.

Make goals for yourself this month. Lots of people start off the new year with resolutions or goals for the year, but why not start doing that now, before the year is over? What would be a better way to welcome in a new year with goals already accomplished? I know I already have several goals I'd like to accomplish by year's end and I'm hoping it will put me in the right mind set by the time 2014 is over.
Things don't always go our way and sometimes we're left disappointed or discouraged, but that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do about it! I know this story all too well, especially these past several months. I know how hard it is to pick yourself up again, but I also know how important it is to keep trying and trying and trying. That's why I'm hoping you will join me in making this month a good one, a memorable one. We may not have control over everything, but we do have control over our actions and attitudes.

This is the perfect time of the year to do extraordinary things. Spread the joy. Volunteer. Smile at strangers. Help those in need. Help yourself. Do something you've been meaning to do but haven't gotten around to. Take a day trip somewhere fun with loved ones. Take lots of pictures to make those memories last. Set goals for yourself, even if they're small, and accomplish them. Prove to yourself that you're worth all the happiness in the world. And most importantly, don't forget to laugh at least once a day!
(Be as happy as this baby elephant)