2013: Year in Review



Things I did in 2013:


1. I visited a place I’d never been: Savannah, Georgia.

2. I started a new job- my first real “adult” job- as the nurse for a public high school.

3. I initiated and lead a Biggest Loser contest at work for the faculty and staff. A total of eighteen people participated, and as a group, we lost 262 pounds.

4. I moved out. (Then got a bad, bad taste of apartment life and moved back in with parents.)

5. I read 6 historic and modern classics I’ve never read before: 1) Jane Eyre by Emily Brontë, 2) My Antonia by Willa Cather, 3) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 4) Macbeth by William Shakespeare, 5) 1984 by George Orwell, 6) The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.




6. I discovered the many joys and benefits of yoga. (And after a few months, became flexible enough to do the Mermaid posture!)

7. I completely obliterated my 2013 running goal. The goal: to run 1 mile without stopping to walk. The accomplishment: I ran a full 5K- 3.1 miles- nonstop. Nearly died, but I didn’t take walking breaks!

8. I joined the Anniston Runners Club.



9. I completed five 5Ks, one of which was a really fun themed race- The Whirlwind of Color 5K color run, and another that was a virtual race for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary (got a cool participation medal for that one!) (Strides of March 5K, Run Around Town 5K, Whirlwind of Color 5K, Woodstock 5K, Doctor Who 5K)

10. I completed not one, but two 10Ks. And one of them was on Thanksgiving morning.



11. I met The Doctor! (And cosplayed as River Song; and really, how appropriate was it that I met Ten, and that I had Eleven's sonic screwdriver? *embarrassing fangirl squee*)

12. I saw Needtobreathe in concert.

13. I took swimming lessons. I faced a major fear by going into the deep end; now I can swim.



14. I got a ridiculously drastic haircut.

16. I started a recycling center at home.
19. I filmed and uploaded 2 covers to YouTube: 1) Needtobreathe’s “Disaster Road”, 2) Coldplay’s “U.F.O.”



20. I filmed and edited another video. And it’s such a wonderful, high-quality one I’m proud to share.

21. I wrote a new song: “Geronimo.”

22. I did several things on my bucket list: 1) Jogged on a beach, 2) Went ginger, 3) Got a pixie, 4) Participated in NaNoWriMo, 5) Won NaNoWriMo, 6) Completed a 10K race, 7) Got an apartment.

23. I earned $207 through my workout fund by depositing $1 for each workout throughout the year! (Best. Goal. Ever. Now I get to go on a shopping spree!)


Things I definitely did not do in 2013 that were on my goal list:

#1 - Reach goal weight

I did not meet my weight goal of 155. While 179 is definite progress, I didn’t even come close to reaching the goal.

#12 - Play live.

I ran out of time before I realized I hadn't done anything to pursue this. Well, I did submit an application to be on the UCP Telethon, but I never heard back. 

#20 - Save $100+ from every check.

I did not save any money. Living in the apartment, trying to support myself, I barely scraped by. I had to use my credit card to pay a few bills.

#21 - Go canoeing/kayaking.

Didn't have anyone to go with, didn't want to go alone. Didn't try too hard here.

#23 - Become and stay consistently active in a church.

I did not join a church. I have visited several regularly, but I’m still not an active member anywhere.

#24 - Use credit card only for gas and emergencies.

I did not limit my credit card to emergencies. In fact, I swiped it for everything and got deeper in credit card debt. Actually, I had to get a second credit card. Ahhhh.

#25 - Be physically able to pass the Air Force PT Test

I did not even try to meet my PT goal. I hate push-ups more than anything, and I decided it wasn’t worth it. (BTW, sit-ups aren’t too fun either.)

#22 - (Get kissed)

This has been a lame inside joke I've had with myself since I was like 15. Sadly, I still did not get this stupid, embarrassing secret goal checked off my list. Though I did get soniced by The Doctor at the 50th, so that should count for something.

And here's an inspiring reminder:



7 Styling Options For A Half-Grown Out Pixie

(If you somehow stumbled upon this page in search of real hair styling tips, I must apologize for the disappointment that lies ahead.)

One thing that has surprised me about my short 'do is the versatility. I always thought long hair was the only flexible option with its endless ponytails, buns, braids, and such, but boy oh boy, has my pixie surprised me. Especially now that it's beginning to grow out.

If you've ever attempted to grow out short hair (or are trying to right now), you know all about the awkward transitions your tiny locks must endure. So, without further ado, I present to you seven easy styles I have found possible with my short hair during its initial growing-out phase:

1. The Choir Boy (My Normal Everyday Hair)



2. The Cool, Edgy Chick


3. The Howard Wolowitz


4. The David Tennant


5. The Lee Stetson 
(I hope someone out there knows who this is!)


6. The Tween Heartthrob


7. The Spock


So, which one's your fave? Ever rocked any of these iconic styles or invented a few of your own?

I DID IT!!!


I WON NANOWRIMO!!!

*applause*

Here's the deets:


I finished my novel with a final word count of 63,215, way above and beyond the goal of 50,000! Huzzah!

I accomplished this spectacular feat on Wednesday, November 27. I took the day off from writing yesterday since it was Thanksgiving, but today, the editing and revision will officially begin.

And as you may have noticed, I am not currently doing that.

Nope. I'm online, updating my blog after I've already wasted a couple of hours Facebook creeping and scrolling through page after page of pins on Pinterest. I know. I'm totally procrastinating. I'm scared to read what I've written. Since I haven't allowed myself to look back and read anything, I'm pretty certain it's 63,215 words of pure crap.

Buuuut I have to hope that there's some decent, usable stuff in those 215+ pages. Surely there's something I can work with.

But you know what? Even if there isn't, at least I have spent the past month strengthening my writing muscle. It's been a long time since I've put this much of myself into a story, and I know the experience has helped me grow as a writer. So no matter what, I'm proud of myself for doing this. For proving to myself that I can accomplish my goals if I only have the courage to try.

Alright. I'm off to sift the wreckage.

NaNoWriMo Update: The Halfway Mark


Today is November 15. 15 days down, 15 days to go.

So, up there is the latest screen shot from my author log-in portal on NaNoWriMo.org. The site provides this super nice stat-tracker. You can see how if you update each day, it calculates your daily word count average, your projected finish date if you continue at your current pace, how many words you have to go, etc.. Some really cool stuff. I'm particularly fond of the graph and its upward trend.

Also, I'm loving that blue bar on the upper right side that shows the overall progress. Each day, that rectangular bubble fills up a little more. And look! I'm getting so close! I'm just finishing up for the day and my current count is 39,025.

(Yes, I'm T. Whittsen on there. And yes, I know I'm totally lame for pulling out the ol' pen name again. But whatever.)

Alrighty, so the number one rule that's gotten me this far? No re-reading. No looking back. No revision. None. I know that if I do that, I will only find mistakes and plot holes and cheesy dialogue and, well, just plain crappy writing in general. I'll get discouraged, click 'select all', punch the delete key, hate myself, and go check the Geek tab on Pinterest.

So yeah. No re-reading. I keep reminding myself there's a reason it's called a rough draft. There will be time to revise and edit and rewrite later. But in order to do that, you have to have something to work with. I read a quote the other day that went something like this:
"If I'm going to clean something, I have to make a mess first."
Doesn't that make so much sense?!? This was the quote of the day on the NaNo calendar for yesterday, and I'm making it my motto for the rest of the month:
"Don't get it right, just get it written."
- James Thurber

My Wildest Attempt In 2013 Yet.


Sooo....I might be crazy.

Yesterday, I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

Never heard of it? National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo. This is an insane contest that challenges aspiring writers to complete a 50,000+ word novel between November 1 and November 30.

Yep.

I heard about it several years ago and have secretly longed to participate every November since. Each October, I consider it. I imagine myself sitting with my laptop, engulfed in the smoke rising from the keyboard as I pound away, fighting to hit my word count. That image always terrified me. I backed out every time.

I'm realizing I've come out a lot this year. The Month of No Fear and its repercussions and all that. I felt a new boldness yesterday when I read an article about NaNoWriMo online and remembered my goal. I suddenly knew I was gonna do it this time.

This is something that's actually on my bucket list. It actually says:

#67- Participate in NaNoWriMo
#68- Win NaNoWriMo

Let me clarify: to "win" NaNoWriMo, you don't technically win. There's not one winner. "Winning" is simply meeting the goal of writing 50,000 words. So, expecting myself to fail from the start, I wrote two separate NaNoWriMo goals for myself years ago. #68- to complete it. #67- to just TRY.

That's where I am this year. Trying. My hopes for my novel are far from high, but for the first November ever, I have the confidence to give it my best effort.


And oh yeah, it starts in 2 days.

Soooo. Not sure what my plan for this is yet, but I do have a flimsy wisp of an idea to work with. I have a cast of characters and a setting that have been in my mind for several years now; I just don't know what their story is, exactly.

Here's hoping I figure that out ASAP.

Have any of you ever attempted this before? Would you? Any suggestions, tips, or story ideas???

Disney Day

 

Among the new-to-me rituals of public high school education is Homecoming Week. Or “Spirit Week” as the kids are saying these days. This happened two weeks ago (and yes, I'm just now getting around to this post). Each day had a different theme. ‘Merica Monday. Tacky Tuesday. Disney Day. Preps vs. Nerds. Safari Day.

Of course, being a bit of a Disney nerd, I LOVED Disney Day, where everyone was supposed to dress up as a Disney character. It was like a Disney parade that morning, all the costumes filing by in the hall, Ariels, Belles, Cruellas, Tinkerbells, everyone checking out each other’s outfits and taking pictures. I had to get it on the fun. I picked a character I doubted anyone else would (mainly because it would give me a legit excuse to speak with an English accent all day): Mary Poppins!


I put this together the night before after a quick trip to the thrift store. The entire ensemble cost $8.00. I already had the hat, but I added the flowers and berries. I got this pathetic little stem from the floral section at the thrift store; it was marked 25 cents, but it was so trashy, the cashier let me have it for free. (lol) I plucked off the little flowers and berries and attached them to the hat with tape (cheap and very redneck of me, but it worked!).

I had so much fun with this, and I got so many compliments! A few kids and teachers snapped my photo, and eventually, the yearbook staff came around to get one (SCORE! Made the yearbook!).

I had fun making “Spoonful of Sugar” references when I gave out medications. Of course, there were a couple of lame-os who didn’t get it. I received one very rude, “Who are you supposed to be?” And when I replied, in my cheeriest English voice, “Mary Poppins!”, they stared blankly and asked, “Who?”

.
.
.

Just… just don’t.



If tomorrow were Disney Day for you, who/what would you dress up as?

Adventures In Online Dating

Back in July, my crazy “Month of No Fear,” I joined eHarmony. I’m not sure why. Really. I don’t know what possessed me to shuck out the credit card for a year-long non-refundable membership to an online dating site.

Or, welllll, maybe I do.

Most of the time, I don’t really think about the fact that I’m about to be 25 and still single without any prospects. Well, okay, a lot of the time I don’t think about it. But when I do focus on this discouraging fact and begin imagining my unavoidable destiny as a hermity old spinster with eleven cats and a creepy porcelain doll collection, God finds some way to remind me that I’m single right now for a reason, and that I have a lot of growing and maturing to do before I am ready to be the wife of the amazing man of God I pray for each day. I know I have to trust God and wait for Him to bring our paths to an intersection.

BUT.

BUT.

Well-meaning people keep insisting that while waiting is good, and trusting God is good, He expects us to do our part. Sometimes we have to “help” make things happen. This means I need to get out and start meeting people, because God is not going to send some wonderful man crashing through the ceiling of my apartment, smack into the center of my living room between me and my TV screen.

Yes, that scenario is highly improbable. I really doubt I will find my future husband during a pizza and Once Upon A Time pajama party for one.

But I’m not so sure the Creator of the universe needs my “help” finding him, either.

So from the start, I felt like joining eHarmony wasn’t the best idea. But I did it anyway, because these well-meaning people were right; God could lead me to The One through this website. So, I signed up. I answered their seemingly endless personality questions, uploaded my skinniest pictures, and typed my witty little bio onto my profile. Then the matches came flooding in!

And these guys seemed so much more legit than the ones I talked to via Plenty of Fish a couple of years ago (A hostile, foul-mouthed, calls-constantly-even-at-4-AM stalker and a midget/little person Elvis impersonator) ((Not joking; this is my real life)). One of these eHarmony users was actually a church music leader. Another was a computer programmer who loved to cook, watch Doctor Who, and talk about Jesus.

I felt a giddy, girlish excitement rising within me. Maybe, just maybe, one of these guys would turn out to be Him.

But once I started talking to these people, the letdowns commenced. The worship leader likes to kick back with a Bud Light a few times a week and watch Duck Dynasty. The computer-programming Whovian likes the Eccleston period and hates The Eleventh Doctor (and more importantly, from what he said in our spiritual discussions, it became clear we weren’t talking about the same Jesus).

I ended up blocking all but one of my matches. This one guy seemed alright. We started e-mailing long essays to each other, outside of eHarmony, in which we discussed our many shared interests. Both homeschooled. Songwriters. Fans of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian mythology. Lovers of old houses and cities with cobblestone streets. And when he said he wanted to meet me, I grew strangely excited instead of nervous. He didn’t say anything creepy. He completely respected my wish to meet in the daytime in a city halfway between us. I felt that little spark of hope again; maybe he’s The One.

However, his suggestion that we eat at Olive Garden instantly felt like an ill-omen (Personal history of a bad first date at Olive Garden… It just seemed like a bad sign). But how dumb and superstitious is that, right? So I said Olive Garden would be fine. At least I knew I could get something meatless there with no problems.

Aside from that, I truly felt no hesitation or anxiety until the drive there. Once I merged onto the interstate, it hit me: What the crap am I doing? This is so unlike me, driving out of state to meet some guy I met on the internet?!? This is how girls get raped and murdered! My story is gonna end up on Dateline!

And see, I’d decided not to tell my parents about this little rendezvous, because my parents heavily influence my feelings and my decisions in life. I knew my mom would love the fact that I was going on a date, and she would immediately approve our marriage. And I didn’t want my mom’s feelings about this to influence my own. After so many disastrous, confusing first-date experiences, I needed to know how I felt about this guy. Not how my mom felt. Not how my next door neighbor/adopted grandmother felt. Not how I’m supposed to feel. How I honestly felt.

So yeah, the fact that my parents didn’t know I was doing this made it seem a heck of a lot scarier. (Don’t worry; I did tell my sister where I was going.)

When I finally got there, I found him waiting outside Olive Garden on a wooden park bench. As he saw me, stood to his feet, grinned, and said hello to me for the first time, only one thought flashed through my head: 

NATE COLE.

Okay, this was big.

Some of you really super cool people might remember Nate.


Nathan David Forrest Cole, one-fifth (the cutest one-fifth) of the popular Christian boyband Plus One. Oh, Nate. My first true love. The one I wrote a sad, sad fanfiction series about, in which I am a member of a successful Christian female singing group who tours with Plus One, falls in love with Nate, gets married, and really does live happily ever after. I called them the Daydream Stories, because that’s what they were. Daydreams put into sad, sad words.(Uhhhhhhh, did I really just admit all that?)

To this day, when I imagine my future husband, it is something very close to the fictional, imaginary version of Nate Cole I created in those embarrassing stories twelve years ago. (Since, you know, I don’t know anything about the real Nate Cole, even though I stalked met him. Twice.)

Anyway…

This guy, the one from eHarmony, standing before me on the little terrace outside Olive Garden, reminded me so much of the real Nate Cole in his pre-hipster, Plus One Obvious days. The gel-spiked hair, the bright blue eyes, the dimpled grin. His height- barely taller than me- and slim build. Everything, right down to the whiny, nasal tone of his voice and his Californian accent (Yeah, like Nate, he was from Cali, too.).

This had to be a sign. Surely, this guy was My Nate. After all these years, I’d found him. Oh my word. I’d found The One.

All this happened in the first three seconds. 

He held the door open for me as we entered the restaurant, the enticing garlicky aroma welcoming us. I followed the waiter through the maze of tables with my chin and spirits high, because I felt confident that I was on my first date with my future husband. We were seated in a booth by a window. As we settled in, I kept catching him staring at me. He caught me ogling him. Awkward giggling ensued, from both of us. We’d talked so much online, but neither really knew what to say in person. (Plus, I was feeling starstruck, eating lunch at Olive Garden with Nate flippin’ Cole.)

I ordered Minestrone Soup, the only vegetarian soup on the menu, and had some salad. He ordered chicken fettuccine alfredo (a favorite of Nate’s, I believe, as noted in the Plus One Backstage Pass book). We finally got comfortable(ish) enough to talk, and we each revealed new information about ourselves. 

Turns out he likes to spend weekends in bars and clubs. He only likes soda when it’s mixed with a little hard liquor. He is a staunch Republican and is really into politics and intense political debates.

I didn't really know what to say, but I did surprisingly stand up for myself and admit to him that I feel differently about those issues. 

Our conversation took an unpleasant turn then, but it wasn’t horrible. We peaceably decided to disagree about things, and we moved on. My mom and adopted grandmother’s words- Always give a guy a chance- rang through my head. I guess he was thinking the same thing, because despite our disagreements, he asked if I’d like to go to a movie after we finished lunch. I accepted the offer.

Maaaybe I accepted it because it was straight out of “Think of Me”, the first Daydream Story about Nate I ever wrote. Nate and Jennifer go out to eat, then see a movie (a film which is so scary, she accidentally grabs Nate’s hand! Vomit...).

We walked out to the restaurant parking lot, and he offered to drive us to the theater. I didn’t like that idea. I still didn’t know the guy, and I like to have an escape plan. So I insisted we take separate cars and meet outside the theater. He said, “Okay. Well, that’s my car over there,” and pointed at an older model Honda Civic.

A dang Honda Civic. I’ll be darned if that’s not what Nate drove in the Daydream Stories. We were a musical duet and a moonlit walk on a beach away from making those old stories reality.

Except for the alcohol and politics thing. But I forced that out of my mind.

We got to the theater, which was inside the Arbor Place Mall, which was, ironically, the very same mall in which I once saw Plus One performing in the food court. Where I met Nate and took this picture in front of Taco Bell:

(14-year-old me and the REAL Nate Cole)
We checked out the movies that were playing. Percy Jackson 2 seemed the best choice, even though he hadn’t seen the first one. But it didn’t start for 30 minutes, so we walked around for a bit. I suggested we walk through one of my favorite stores, Earthbound Trading Company, because they have a lot of cool, unique items that are generally fun to browse through.

So, that's where we went. And as we passed the peace signs and yoga mats, I felt his judgment of me mounting. I could see it on his face. What was he doing with some sort of weirdo vegetarian hippie?

Then we watched the movie. Thankfully, he initiated no hand-holding or cuddling or anything like that, which I had worried about. A dark theater with a male stranger from the internet? Seemed like something that could happen.

But it didn’t. He was totally nice and respectful and gentlemanly in everything he did.

When the movie was over, we walked to our cars and said our awkward goodbyes. I felt comfortable enough with him that I actually offered him my phone number, which I had withheld from him when he had asked for it in an email. He added me to his phone and asked me to text him when I got home safe.

I did. And I also thanked him for treating me to lunch and a movie, told him I had fun, and that I hoped he’d made it home safely too. Two days passed before his reply text came: “Glad to hear you made it home okay.”

That was it. 

I didn’t write back, nor did he. And that was over two months ago. No e-mails, nothing from him on eHarmony. Not a word.

But that was fine with me. Really, it was. Because the very first thought in my head when I woke up the morning after our date was, “I hope he doesn’t text me back.” My true feelings were made clear to me the moment I opened my eyes the following day.

Even though just the previous afternoon, all I could do was try to make him fit into the real-life Daydream Story I’ve been hoping to create all these years.

I am always so hopeful. Despite my past experiences and knowledge and cynicism, I really do go into each first date with the optimistic thought that this might be The One.

But I’ve never made it past an officially named First Date. Never.

Shockingly enough, it’s usually me that is doing the “dumping” (I heard you gasp in surprise). This was the first time that the other person didn’t want to see me again. And sadly, this was also the first time I felt like I might enjoy a second date. But I’m about 98% sure that’s only because he didn’t want me. That’s pretty typical. I only want what is unavailable. What I can’t have.

Anyway, the Guy who Reminded Me of Nate is out of the picture. I’m communicating with a few other guys on eHarmony right now, but I’m not into any of them. The ones I’m interested in haven’t responded to my eHarmony smiles (the equivalent of a Facebook poke) or the questions I’ve sent. 

Sounds about right, doesn't it?    

I'm just not too excited about the whole eHarmony thing any more. Experiences like the one I just described remind me of the kind of man I'm praying for, and I realize how much I need God actively present to make it happen. So I rarely log on to the dating site, because I just don't see the point.

And I don't see why I have to go searching for The One. Everyone thinks I should, but maybe I'm not ready. Maybe there's a reason nothing has ever worked out with me and these guys. Maybe I need to listen to God and what I feel is right rather than let the opinions of others push me into a relationship that I don't need in my life right now.

Or maybe I just tell myself these things so I'll feel better about myself being forever alone.

I don't even know any more.

Yard Sale

After weeks of preparation, we spent the weekend pulling off a huge yard sale. 

I think it was the first time my parents' closets have been cleaned in their 33 years of marriage. The first time our family's Christmas decorations have been sifted through. The contents of their house combined with random junk from the apartment equaled SO. MUCH. STUFF.






We did really well, despite the fact that our first batch of customers walked away with a backpack full of goodies without paying. I sold my recliner and my corner desk, two big items I've been wanting to get rid of. I even sold my old keyboard stand (which is held together by a wire coat hanger; I've had the thing since I was like 9 years old). We needed more tables to put things on, so I stuck a piece of plywood I found in our backyard on my keyboard stand, and some old lady wanted to buy it. I got $2 for that junk treasure!

The things people buy at yard sales really amuses me. From that lady and the keyboard stand to the unlikely man who bought my Little House on the Prairie Guidebook.

In other news: IT'S OCTOBER! Time for sweaters, scarves, and boots. Clear blue skies. Crisp, clean air. Changing leaves. Halloween. All things pumpkin. I love this time of year!

Speaking of Halloween, any costume ideas? I'm planning to do a costume race in a few weeks that ventures through a zombie-infested area. Sounds like some good motivation to run!

Basically, Run.


It’s no secret that in the past year, I’ve discovered Doctor Who and gotten slightly obsessed. Nor is it a secret that in the past year, I’ve also discovered running. And also gotten a teensy bit obsessed.

So when a former supervisor of mine, Michele (the awesome, energetic, marathon-finishing lady who inspired me to run in the first place), told me about the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Virtual Run, I had to sign up, because that’s the best combination of any two things I’ve heard of.

Really, Doctor Who and running go together like peas and carrots. Peanut butter and jelly. Pancakes and veggie sausage. The show could sort of be summed up like this: a regenerating alien takes attractive female companions through time and space, rescues people, saves planets, spits out loveable catchphrases, and runs a whole lot.

So, yeah. I didn’t know what a virtual run was, but of course I signed up. Turns out it operates on an honor system. You do the race on your own time, then e-mail your results to the race coordinator. The proceeds go to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and you get a sweet medal with the Tardis on it!

The air was a lot cooler Tuesday afternoon- it actually felt like fall!- so I took the opportunity to do my 5K then. I put on my Tardis t-shirt (yes, I have one, don’t judge), pinned on my bib, and headed to the track.

Allons-y!

I mentioned in a recent post about how I’ve somehow managed to improve my endurance to running 2-miles nonstop. Well, somewhere in the middle of the second mile of this solo 5K, I got the crazy idea to not stop to walk after the end of two miles. I decided to make myself keep running, no matter how much it hurt.

Maybe it was the cooler weather. Maybe it was the overall spirit of Doctor Who and having The Eleventh Doctor’s Theme, "I Am The Doctor", blaring in my ears (yes, I downloaded the show’s soundtrack and made a running playlist. Stop judging me!). Or maybe it was the fact that I’m 2 pounds lighter after my haircut. I don’t know. But whatever it was, it worked.

I ran the entire 3.1 miles.

No stopping. No walking breaks. Just an awful lot of running.


My time was exactly 33:00, a new PR for me.

Now, those last eleven minutes were not pretty. My arms were flailing about so much I accidentally ripped my bib.

The last five minutes were agony. I had a terribly sharp side cramp. I shed a tear or two. I gasped several prayers and quoted the latter part of Isaiah 40 over and over again. They will run and not grow weary.

I wanted to quit. Instead, I prayed for the Lord to give me the strength and determination to keep running. And I don’t know why the Creator of the universe would care about little ol’ me finishing a 3.1 mile run all by myself on a quiet cement track in late September, but evidently, He did. Because as I prayed, I felt the strength to go on.

Running a 5K nonstop is like…Bucket List big for me. I genuinely didn’t think it was possible. I mean, just last year, I couldn’t run longer than thirty seconds without stopping to catch my breath. Now I’m running steady for thirty-three minutes?!?

How?

I feel like this happened at the perfect time. My first 3.1 miles during the Doctor Who run, of all runs. It's like God gave me the opportunity and ability to do this at just the right moment, just for my own amusement and enjoyment. And I love that. I love that He cares that much about me. I love that the God of the universe permeates our tiny, little lives with His love. 
"What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." 
                     - Matthew 10:29-31 

That IS Short

I've been thinking about it for a while now. 

It all began with pinning pictures of Michelle Williams' gorgeous platinum pixie to my Beauty board on Pinterest. Then came my slightly creepy obsession with Once Upon A Time's Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard (played by Ginnifer Goodwin) and her amazingly perfect hair (And clothes. And apartment. And prince.).

Those two actresses gave me unrealistic expectations of what short hair could be.

Well, I've been irritated with my ridiculously thick, naturally wavy mane for a very long time. Lately, it's grown so out of control, I've had to pull it up in a frizzy, bulky ponytail nearly every single day. I'd been doing those sock curls (because there was just too much hair to try to straighten or curl with an iron), but that only worked on rare occasions. 

Soooo...I chopped it. 


It was a very spontaneous decision I made Friday afternoon on the way home from work. I had a headache. I figured my ponytail was too tight, but I didn't want to take it down and unleash the beast. That's when it hit me. Let's go get a pixie cut! 

Instead of driving on to my apartment, I took an unexpected right turn and headed straight to the salon, where I walked in and asked the available stylist to work a miracle on the color-damaged mess growing out of my head.

The stylist who took me back was hilarious, by the way. He was a portly young African American guy who looked like the last person you'd expect to see cutting hair in a stylish salon. I have to share the conversation we had because I found it too amusing:

"I'm feeling bold," I said. "I want something drastic."

His eyes widened with something very much like fear. "Uhh...what does drastic mean to you?"

"At this point, drastic would be shaving it."

I'd have thought it impossible, but his brown eyes grew even wider. "Okay, okay, okay, Imma pull you away from that ledge right now, girlfriend."

"How about a pixie?"

"A PIXIE?!?" He half-shouted. He shook his head and corrected me in a reasonable voice. "A bob."

"Mmm...no, shorter than a bob. I'm thinking a pixie."

"That short? You're serious?"

"Yes! I'm tired of all this hair! Do you know who Ginnifer Goodwin is?"

"No. Hang on." He got his phone, pulled up Google, and did an image search for Ginnifer Goodwin. "OH SWEET JESUS, THAT IS SHORT!"

He said he thought The Ginnifer Goodwin was too drastic, and he wanted to meet me somewhere in the middle. "I'm gonna create a masterpiece, just for you. Something between Ginnifer Goodwin and Victoria Beckham. Do you trust me?"

Not really. He was a lot more Keenan Thompson than Cinna. But I was already in the chair. "Yes, I trust you!"

"Well, okay, then, girl. I'm about to give you a total transformation."

I don't know, the way he said it, the look on his face... It was such an epic moment, like one of those guilty pleasure makeover shows I secretly like to watch.

He held the scissors at the nape of my neck and drew in a deep breath. "You sure you wanna do this?"

"Yep. I'm all in now."

"Okay, well, you about to be." He clicked the scissors, snipping off a good eight inches of hair. "Oooh, you for sure all in now."

He wouldn't let me see it until it was finished. Then he whirled me around dramatically and said, "Meet the new you." (Ahh! Just like a makeover show!) And I loved it!!!

I feel 100x better. It takes like 30 seconds to wash it, 2 minutes to blow dry, and 2 minutes to straighten. That's exactly what a lazy, low-maintenance lady like me needs!

I have to relate this back to July: The Month of No Fear. I know I wouldn't have had the guts to do something so crazily spontaneous and drastic before. That month's challenge really brought something out in me. I have to wonder...what borderline stupid thing is next?

You can count on hair photo shoots to come soon!

Soapbox Time: Why I Became A Vegetarian

I never thought I would post anything like this.

I'm the girl who used to feast on cheeseburgers and bacon cheese fries. My mom, a registered nurse who knew her stuff, always taught me the importance of consuming meat to make sure I got enough protein, the big kahuna of nutrients. Honestly, we used to judge vegetarians for being “too good” to eat meat. I was raised to eat whatever you're given, whether it's a pile of turnip greens and pinto beans, or a gooey homemade chicken casserole, or a cheap can of pork-n-beans. We should be grateful for any food that's ever placed in front of us; we should never complain, never protest. That's Biblical teaching. And hey, while we're on that subject, didn't God also specifically say multiple times in the Bible that animals were for humans, the rulers of the earth, to eat?

There are so many reasons why going vegetarian seems crazy for someone like me.

But now that I'm an adult, finally out on my own, buying my own groceries, cooking my own meals, I realize I'm making my own choices. I don't eat what someone else cooks for me. I alone am responsible for the food I eat. And that has caused me to question a lot of things.

After losing nearly sixty pounds and still having thirty more to go, I have adapted the contents of my refrigerator and pantry to suit a healthy lifestyle. I don't bring home Dr. Pepper or Doritos or Oreos or Lucky Charms any more; I eliminated all the obvious junk food. Then after doing some research, I've cut out nearly all processed foods labeled and marketed as “healthy” and have opted for a clean, natural diet. I've noticed that as a result, I don't eat as much meat, and very rarely red meat. So many of the reputable health sources (actual medical research, not somewhat shady studies backed by PETA and the like) I've been studying have preached the benefits of implementing more meatless meals and restricting meat consumption. 

So I joined the national campaign of Meatless Mondays. And I liked it, because I prefer cooking without meat. Handling raw chicken, beef, and especially pork has always grossed me out almost to the point I can't eat it when it is done, so it became nice to not have to deal with that on meatless days.

That's when I realized something. If I think it's so gross, why am I eating it? 

Then I had that moment that most Americans either don't experience or they do and choose to ignore it. That moment where you stop and realize, “What exactly is this pile of wet, slimy, smelly, pink gunk in front of me? Oh, right. The muscles of a dead animal.”


Ethical and spiritual views aside, when you stop and think about meat, it's pretty disgusting. Really. It's muscle. And those white tough bits are tendons and ligaments that once held those muscles onto the bones of a living, breathing, moving animal. Sorry to bother your stomach, but it's true. Yet we choose to force that truth from our minds because we like the way fried chicken and hamburgers taste. 

And that set off a whole new chain of thoughts for me.

Should I partake of something that is: 1) kind of gross, 2) scientifically proven to be unnecessary and possibly even detrimental to our health, 3) dismembered body parts of a creature that once contained life? All because, when it's cooked the right way, the taste pleases my taste buds?

As a follower of Jesus Christ, this is where it started to bother me. Feeling that something might be wrong but doing it anyway because it pleased my body? The idea of eating meat began to feel a little too much like sin.

I started to feel something like conviction, but I decided to ignore it. After all, everyone keeps telling me the Bible says God made animals for us to eat (well, except lovable little cats and dogs. And ugly ones like rats and bats. And wild animals like elephants and zebras and giraffes.). And I'm pretty sure I remembered reading that back in the Old Testament somewhere.

So I pushed these bothersome new thoughts from my mind and went on eating chicken and fish.

***

I became pen-pals with a kind, intelligent, Jesus-loving girl who lives on the other side of the United States. I learned she was a vegetarian. “For spiritual reasons”, she told me, when I kept being nosy. I asked her to share these reasons with me, because the idea intrigued me, especially after the thoughts I'd been having recently. She told me about God's original plan for humanity, how God gave the animals to Adam and Eve as companions, how plants were given to all living beings, man and animals, for food. Then after the flood, for a reason that is not given in the Scriptures, God suddenly told Noah that a select few of the animals could be eaten. But His original plan did not involve the death of animals. That's why she chooses to be a vegetarian, because she feels that it has always been God's plan for us.

I'd never heard it put like that before. And I knew she was right. I hadn't read Genesis in a while, but I was pretty sure all that was in there. Feeling the Spirit at work within me, I had to consult my Bible. I began with the first chapter of Genesis.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, light and dark, land and water, sun, moon, and stars, night and day. Then He had a big, beautiful space to fill up, so he made fish for the sea first, then birds for the sky, then livestock, wild animals, and small animals that scurry upon the ground. He told them all to be fruitful and multiply.

Then God created man and woman in His own image, to be like Him and the angels. He gave them Earth to govern and reign over. Then:
"Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened."
- Genesis 1:29-30 
That's the NLT version, the translation of the Bible I'm currently reading. Some of my King-James-Version-only friends and family might argue that the NLT writers and editors creatively arranged the verse to say that. So. Let's check out the King James Version:
"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so."
- Geensis 1:29-30 
“To you it shall be for meat.” 

Interesting wording. I did a little research. Apparently, when the word “meat” is used in the KJV, it doesn't mean the flesh of an animal. The word “meat” here in its original Hebrew is the word oklah, which meant food in general. Later, the English word “flesh” is introduced to mean what we in modern times call “meat”. It's the same way in the New Testament, when the author of Hebrews talks about growing up and going from milk to eating meat; the words meat and bread are used interchangeably to mean solid food or victuals and flesh is used to describe animal protein. 

Anyway, back in Genesis 1:29, God clearly states Adam and Eve were to live off of the vast array of wonderful plants that existed in the garden. (Definitely the ultimate “whole foods plant-based diet” that science is proving to be the best option for our health today. Doesn't it make sense that God's original diet is now being proven to be the healthiest? Pretty sure He knew what He was doing.)


And of course they wouldn't eat animals. This was before the Fall, before the first sin opened the doorway to Death. There was no dying, no killing. It says even the wildest of animals ate green plants, so they didn't kill each other. Death simply did not exist. But after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, we were cursed with death. (And that makes sense, too, because as we learn in the New Testament, the consequences of sin is always death, Romans 6:23.) Death was never part of God's original plan; that was the result of our human disobedience and sin.

Still, I read on, and no one eats animals until Noah comes into the picture. When God gets angry at the wickedness of the world, He regrets creating it, and decides to destroy it. Then Noah pleases Him, so God decides to save him. He tells him to build the ark to save his family, and to bring a male and female of each animal onto the boat with them (to survive, procreate, and repopulate the Earth later), as well as seven specific “clean” animals. He sends the famous flood, wipes out all life on the planet. It's then that God makes some new rules:
"Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood."
- Genesis 9:3-4
Suddenly, animals are okay to eat. The reason is not given. One could argue that perhaps this was a temporary instruction, since the majority of existing plant life had just been destroyed in the flood and there was nothing else to eat. That would make sense, because soon after, we read this:
“After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground.” 
 - Genesis 9:20
Maybe he was trying to get things back to normal. However, after this point, the Bible is filled with animal sacrifices, hunting and eating wild game, and rules about eating clean animals. There are even references to Jesus eating lamb and fish.

So, the Bible makes it quite clear that it's okay to eat animals.

That said, there's some interesting tidbits throughout the rest of the Scriptures. Take the book of Daniel, for instance. Daniel is one of the young men selected to serve in the royal palace of King Nebuchadnezzar. In return for their service, the men are given daily rations of the finest, richest foods and wines from the king's own kitchens. 

But: 
“Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.” 
- Daniel 1:8
The full story of what happens is recorded in verses 11-16:
"Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days. 
At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others."
- Daniel 1:11-16
Hmm. Daniel was a vegetarian by choice, because he knew it was better for his and his friends' health. Surprised to find that in the Bible? I certainly was. 

And the idea of vegetarianism didn't begin or end there. In the New Testament, Paul had to address the issue when the Jews and Gentiles were bickering over what was right- eating meat or not eating meat. Both sides were convinced they had the answer, both felt convicted of their own beliefs, and both judged and accused the opposite side of being wrong. Here's what Paul, the mediator, had to say about that judgment:
"One person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants?" 
- Romans 14:2-4
He then sets both sides straight with this:
"I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died." 
- Romans 14:14-15
And:
"Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God." 
- Romans 14:20-22
In 1 Corinthians, he addresses this problem again, more personally this time:
“So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.” 
- 1 Corinthians 8:13
It's interesting. Paul ends up saying it's a matter of choice and personal convictions. Something you need to talk to God about and decide for yourself. That's kind of a running theme throughout the Scriptures, isn't it? Choice. Sure, there are laws and instructions, but God gave us free will. It's all up to us and what happens within our hearts.

***


As far as vegetarianism goes, the weight of the choice didn't mean much to me until I watched Vegucated, a documentary on Netflix. The film was about three meat-loving New Yorkers who volunteer to go vegan for six weeks. Sounded worthwhile. I love a good documentary, and I thought it'd be good for me to see since I've been toying with the idea of going meatless for a while.

It was all fun and entertaining until they showed slaughterhouse footage. They began describing routine procedures that go on inside their walls each and every day to make sure we Americans have more than enough meat and dairy. The horror of it brought me to tears.

Animals jammed together, piled on top of each other so densely the ones on the bottom smother to death. The tiny necks of male chicks being snapped, one after another as they're jerked off a conveyer belt, just because they're male and can't lay eggs. That makes them “useless”. Their bodies get tossed to the floor or dumped in the trash. Piglets being castrated by a human hand, completely conscious, with no anesthesia or drugs at all, writhing and squealing in pain. The beaks of chickens burned off the same way to keep them from pecking the others to death. Female cows being artificially inseminated, over and over again, so they can stay pregnant constantly, all so we can milk them and milk them and milk them until they collapse from exhaustion. 

That's not even the worst of it. That's only skimming the surface.

I felt this horrible, deep ache in my gut after I finished the film. How did I not know about this? How is this even legal? You might expect these things to go on in some shady area of China or some far away place. Not the United States! 

I went online to see what else I could find. I sought Christian resources, because this seemed like something we Christians should be standing up against, right up there with the biggies like abortion and gay marriage. 

I didn't find much from a Christian viewpoint. But I did find the documentary Earthlings


I could barely watch it. I sobbed continually, but I forced myself to keep watching because I knew I needed to see it. I made it to the end, and as the credits rolled, I felt my life had been changed forever. I couldn't unsee the monstrosities I'd just witnessed.

I couldn't believe that I've grown up without being told how appallingly animals are treated, all so we can eat them or make clothes out of them or be entertained by them at a rodeo or a circus or a zoo. We don't care about the pain or suffering we're inflicting, all for things we could do without. If we do care, we pretend we don't. We smother those feelings, we push them out of our minds, so we can keep living a “comfortable” life. Because we like hamburgers. Leather jackets and handbags are a status symbol. We take our children to see the animals at the circus or the zoo. We don't want to change our ways.

The thought made me disgusted and angry at people, especially Christians. How can we ignore this? How can we pretend this cruelty doesn't exist? How can any person who seeks to please God and follow Jesus's example willingly and knowingly choose to support or partake in something so horrendous?

And I've been right there in the middle of it all, eating burgers and BBQ and bacon, trying not to think too hard about what it is I'm actually putting in my mouth. 

But now, after seeing that, how can I continue to do that? 

Paul was right. This is a choice we have to make. Yes, we can eat anything. Yes, God said eating animals was fine. But...
"You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial." 
- 1 Corinthians 10:23
And we need to put some things in perspective. When God gave Noah those first instructions to eat animals, it was a different time and a different culture. The people of antiquity had limited resources. After the flood, there were famines and droughts. God allowed people to eat animals so that His children could live on, because He loves humans and doesn't enjoy watching them suffer. When crops failed and plants withered, there was nothing else to eat, and people had to eat their animals to survive. 

But we don't.

I'm an American in the 21st century. I am less than five miles away from four different grocery stores, each one heaped with fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. All of these foods, even exotic ones that have been shipped in from different places across the globe, are here at my disposal. As an Alabamian, if I had been born a few years earlier, I would never have seen a kiwi or a pineapple or a mango or an avocado or kale. But now, I have all these and so much more. And they're not only available to the rich; I make barely more than minimum wage, and I can eat anything I want!

So how could I, knowing all of this, buy a pound of ground beef, a pack of chicken breasts, or a pork tenderloin? If I do that, I support the meat industry that is torturing and murdering living creatures that can experience fear and feel pain. 

And I don't even need that meat!

Maybe Jesus wasn't a vegetarian when He became a man two thousand years ago, but if He walked these roads today, I don't believe He would turn a blind-eye and eat the steroid-pumped products of modern American slaughterhouses. I just don't. I believe the gruesome truth would turn His stomach, break His heart, stir compassion, and move Him into action. 

That's what I've felt in my own heart. As far as action, I'm sharing my story here. I am eliminating meat from my diet. I wish there was more I could do, but right now, I am at a loss.

I hope that you will now pause and re-evaluate your own belief system and reasons for eating or not eating meat. As difficult as it is, I recommend viewing Earthlings (on YouTube, here) or at least Vegucated (on Netflix Instant). I hope you will take some time to reexamine the verses I've mentioned for yourself, to spend some time alone with God in quiet contemplation. To talk to Him, to ask Him what He wants you to do in your own life. 

Yes, lots of Christians have eaten and will eat meat. But I cannot, because I feel the Holy Spirit clearly convicting me in this area. One unpopular, commonly ignored verse that I discovered in Romans helped me make up my mind:
"But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning." 
- Romans 14:23

I'm Still Here.

I've missed this place.

I spent the summer writing frequently on here, sharing my fears, my miscellaneous adventures in facing them, and reading your encouraging and inspiring comments. Then suddenly, it fell out of my life. And I sure have missed it. I've missed you!

A lot has happened in a month, but I haven't had the time to write about it because, well, school started back and I do work in a school, so I'm spending nearly 50 hours a week at work now. And that's resulted in me having a lot to say but not enough time to say it. 

This first month back at work has been madness. I mean, tear-causing, chest-pain-inducing, pit-in-the-stomach madness. It wasn't like this last year. Then again, I started this job in January, in the middle of the school year. I haven't done the beginning of the year thing yet. There is SO. MUCH. PAPERWORK. Every single student, from 8th grade to 12th grade, has to fill out a pink form- a two-sided health assessment form. The contents of that two-sided pink paper then have to be reviewed and entered into the computer by...me. And with each pink form I scanned over, I came closer to the terrifying realization that I alone am responsible for the medical well-being of over 700 kids. 

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Anyway, everyone keeps telling me it will settle down after a while, that August and September are always like this, but it gets better. In the meantime, my shaky, white-knuckled hands can barely hang on. 

I did start up another Biggest Loser contest at work for the faculty and staff again. That's given me some joy. Our initial weigh-in was a week ago, and since then, we've lost 12 pounds as a group. That's a pretty solid start! I love seeing these teachers getting excited about making healthy changes in their lives, and I am so thankful that I get to be right in the middle of it, leading the pack. I wish I could find a job doing only that. Weight loss and healthy living has become such a strong passion of mine, it would be incredible if it was my sole focus as a career. 

Oh, and this time I had the presence of mind to take BEFORE pictures! I wish I'd done that last year, because our winner lost 113 pounds, and his transformation was absolutely incredible. So I really wanted to do that this time around. Here's mine:


Outside of work, I've done some other big things over the past few weeks, a couple that I plan to elaborate on soon. 

1. I went on a date with a guy I met online. 

I felt like such a girl! I slept with my hair in socks to achieve those lovely sock curls. Here's what it looked like the night before...


When I took the socks out in the morning...

(Hello, sweetie)

After I tamed the craziness and changed outfits 15 times...



I really did change clothes about fifteen times. I haven't been on a date in so long, I didn't know what to do! 

But yeah, I drove far away and out of state to meet him in Douglasville, Georgia. We ate at Olive Garden, then went to see a movie. Aaaand I haven't heard from him since! (Okay by me; felt kind of mediocre about the whole thing. I just prayed that we'd feel the same since I'm tired of being in relationships with one-sided feelings, and I am glad we shared the "meh" feeling!)

2. I became a vegetarian.

A healthy vegetarian lunch on my desk at work

I haven't eaten meat in over a month now. Sooo much to say about this; it will get its own blog post soon. For now, I will just say that God has shown me a lot of things lately about food and animals and health, and I am choosing to make some changes in my own life.

3. I went to an Anniston Runner's Club social.

...Biggest fail ever, but I did go. 

An RSVP-only Saturday night social event at Mellow Mushroom. I went alone, thinking it would be a bunch of tables pushed together to create a giant, long, Last Supper kind of table where everyone sat together and talked. Um, no. Each "party" had their own table; everyone was paired up in couples or sitting with their families. And since I signed up for 1, I had a table by myself! So I was just there, alone, awkwardly trying to make eye contact with someone, hoping they would talk to me. No one did. So I didn't even stay to eat. I lamely pretended to get an emergency phone call and got the heck outta there.

Ugggghhhh. Yes, that's me socializing.

At least I tried.

4. I ran over two miles without stopping.


YEAH!!!! My goal for 2013 was to run one mile nonstop, and I reached it in January. Then one day in August, I ran 1.5 miles, then realized I still felt okay, so I kept going and made it to 2, then I kept going and finally stopped around 2.25 miles.

I thought it might be a fluke; maybe I miscounted my laps around the track or something. But I did it again the next time. And again a third time. My running is slow, but I don't have to stop for walking breaks for two whole miles! (So now I have a secret goal to run 3 miles nonstop before the year is over.)

5. I went to my first high school football pep rally.


As a homeschooler, the only things I knew about high school where what I learned by watching Smallville and One Tree Hill. So when I had the chance to go to our first pep rally, I went excitedly and got all kinds of embarrassing chills and watery eyes. This is just like that one episode of Smallville where Lana was cheering at the pep rally and Clark played his first football game!!! Oh yeah, and the battle cries reminded me of Narnia. Why am I so extremely nerdy and lame???

I really did feel like a traveler in some faraway land, observing the pagan ceremonies of a foreign culture. What is this ceremonial "victory line"? What is this strange, sacred ritual of the Spirit Stick? 

Yeah, this whole working in a public high school thing? Never-ending culture shock.

And oh yeah. I'm really excited about autumn. My new layout might be a bit premature, but I don't care. I've been drinking pumpkin spice lattes for the past two weeks. I'm ready!

So. What in the world have you been up to? I'm trying to make an effort to read blogs again, and to update on here when I can, but I still feel quite disconnected and out of the loop.