Summer Reading

There is nothing quite as exciting as getting a new library card.

Okay, there are a lot of things that are probably more exciting, but for a person who is neither getting engaged, nor having a baby, nor graduating or starting an incredible career, getting a library card is pretty dang awesome.

I spent the majority of my time as an elementary/middle schooler in this amazing library we had nearby (But somehow it took me my first year and a half of college to realize I needed to be an English major???), and I volunteered there for about six years or so. Dewey is a long time friend of mine.

Anyways! Since moving to college, I’ve been so busy with…reading (for class), that I haven’t had a chance to actually read! Even during summers when I could hypothetically go home and go to the library, because my parents were moving around and I went to college out of state, it became virtually impossible for me to use the library like I used to. So this summer, my second summer staying on campus, I decided to finally head over to my local library and see if they could hook me up.

First of all, I had several people tell me that I should just use my college library, because this local library is quite small, but I am so glad I didn’t listen! The staff are all really nice, and always enjoy chatting about the books, and while the selection isn’t huge, because of ~the internet~ and ~the public library system~, I have access to all of the books I could ever want! And, as every writer knows, the only way to keep the flow going is to keep on feeding your brain books. So, without further ado, here are some books I have read this summer, and others I plan on reading!

Read:

The Red Queen (3 book series) by Victoria Aveyard

The Darkest Minds (I’ve read the first book and the first two novellas, but I have the other two books and another couple of novellas before I’m done with this series) by Alexandra Bracken

An Ember In The Ashes (The second book came out recently, but I think I’m going to pause on this series for now because it’s very good but started in 2015, which means there’s most likely going to be a lot of waiting) by Sabaa Tahir

Currently Reading:

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

Eragon (This is probably the 20-something time I’m reading through the series) by Christopher Paolini

Next On the List:

 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

 

I have an entire list of other books I am hoping to read before the summer is out, and I have a ton of recommendations for any age and any genre, so please shoot me a message if you’re looking for a summer read! I’ve obviously been spending quite a bit of time binge-reading YA Fantasy novels, but that’s only because I’ve been drowning in copious amounts of Wordsworth, Wharton, and Milton (and every other author ever).

Go check out your local library, there’s probably a lot of cool people! (And wifi. And quiet. And a generally wholesome environment.)

Read on!

Julia

 

Maybe living for the moment isn’t everything?

As soon as I step out of the building I realize how strange I look.

 

I am on my way to a wedding, and I’ve pretty much mastered the technique of driving without A.C. and still looking mostly put together.

My makeup is done

I have a nice black dress on with some pearls I haven’t worn in a while

Heels in hand, I walk comfortably down the hill in worn brown sandals, my hair braided back in pigtails.

I see one of the camp staffers do a double take, and it takes me a second to realize why: I look like a maniac. Half of me is completely prepared for the wedding, and the other half won’t be put together until the car ride is finished (because who really enjoys riding in heels, or doing your hair only for it to get ruined by open windows?).

As a side note, I really love driving in North Georgia. Scratch that, I love living in North Georgia. I can’t say I don’t miss the beaches, the familiar roads, and all my favorites Florida spots, but after three years of calling Georgia home, I can say without hesitation that it truly is. The curves and hills that once made me nervous are now common, though my car has had an increasingly hard time getting over them. Bird calls echoing in the mountains long before I see the sun, cold rain storms that cling to the trees and leak out across the valleys, secret swimming holes filled with freezing freshwater, and I only have 3 semesters left. Granted, most of my friends only have 2, and my 3rd will be spent abroad, but it seems just as I’ve earned the right to call this beautiful place my home, I’ll be moving on.

So as I’m driving back through the mountains from the wedding, cursing myself for not bringing make-up wipes with me because I only enjoy it for the first 20 minutes or so and after that I’m just focused on remembering not to wipe it off, and I’m wishing I wrote more of it down. The memories, that is.

When I first moved 10 hours away from my family, a wide-eyed, eager 18 year old, I took it all in through experiences. Every moment of that first year was packed full with meeting new people, finding new places: “go, go, go, don’t stop because if you do, it all might disappear. You’ll blink and you’ll be graduating.”

And I’m very grateful for those experiences… I just don’t remember them half as well as I wish I did. I wish I had taken the time, at least once a week, to write it all down. All of the firsts that I no longer remember, like who was the first upperclassmen I met? Or when was the first time I had a boiled peanut? How long did it take before I had timed how long it took to walk to each of my classes? Who was the first college friend that I cried in front of? My friends are really great at filling in the blanks for me, but still… I wish I had written it down.

So now I’m on the edge of my Senior Year, and I’m promising my future self to dive in and take advantage of every moment… and write down as much of it as I can. Because experiences are even better when I can remember the small details that bring me back to the exact moment.

As always, thanks for reading my wandering thoughts!

Happy Friday! 🙂

I Dyed My Hair Blue

That’s right guys, I went from the same color hair I’ve had my entire life (never-been-dyed-sorta-blonde-but-also-brown) to a nice blue color. And this is how it went.

The idea pretty much happened like this:

I was sitting with a friend, discussing how we both were feeling a little boxed-in, a little antsy, but too broke to get the tattoos we wanted, and too busy with work to spend time on a decent adventure-drive. And then it struck me.

I’m 21 years old.

I have eight piercings.

I have one tattoo.

I’ve jumped off cliffs and changed majors.

But for 21 years I’ve been too afraid to dye my hair.

So I turned to Kara and said, “What if I dyed my hair?” to which she replied,

“YASSSSSS! Let’s do it tonight!”

The timing is perfect: after this year, I will be working in a professional (ish) setting. I will be having serious interviews, and I’ll have even less free time than I do now. Even better, it’s the summer, so if it looks terrible only the 8 people on campus will have to see it! So we went to Walmart, I bought blue hair dye (I originally wanted purple but changed my mind, and I’m so happy I did), and that night we bleached my hair in preparation.

After nervously checking my hair the next day, I was surprised to find no damage (yay for really healthy hair!) and we went in with the blue. (Hair bleaching photos below)

Those last 20 minutes of waiting to see what it looked like after it was set and washed was terrifying: I was half-convinced I had made a huge mistake.

(First layer of blue, second layer of blue)

However, a few days later and a little bit of touching up and I’m delighted to say that I have no regrets. I really hope it stays in for awhile though because I love it but I have no money to keep it up. For the first few days, every time I would pass a mirror I would stop, smile, and squeal,

“Oh my gosh, I have blue hair!”

I’m living the mermaid life, guys.

Anywayssss (there is a point to this more than a random little life blurb), I have noticed something interesting.

I work the front desk at a gift-shop that is also a welcome center to the coolest waterfall ever, so I  meets and talk to hundreds of people every week. During the summer we are especially busy, and I’ve meet some of the nicest and meanest people I’ve ever interacted with in my life (I would say it’s split 80% nice and 20% noticeably rude).

I’ll be honest: I was very self conscious the first day I walked in with blue hair. Going into it, I was pretty sure this would attract a lot of negative attention, which I didn’t think about until I pulled into the parking lot of my work the next morning. However, my assumption was incorrect.

Sure, I’ve had some interesting reactions, but overall, what I’ve noticed is this:

Genuinely nice people are nice/nicer.

Angry people are angry/angrier.

Across the board, I’ve had just about the same amount of angry people come into the store, who use my hair as a way to vent, and the same amount of nice people being especially nice and expressing support and encouragement for my hair.

And guess what?

I live in the south. I live in the “Bible belt.”

The people who liked my hair were really young (like 5). And really old (like 80). And American. And Korean. And German. And Mexican. (We get people from all over the world all the time, one of the perks of the job).

The people who gave me looks and made snarky comments were really young. And really old. And American. And Korean. And German. And Mexican.

So what I’m trying to say is that sometimes I think all hope is lost, and this country with its extreme diversity and passion is going to implode, this week I’ve been reminded that there will always be people looking for something to justify their anger/bitterness, but there are also a lot of decent human beings here too. They may not believe what I believe, or care about what I care about, but there’s still room to connect, have conversation, and promote conversation and understanding.

Blue (that is definitely gray in some areas) hair won’t change the world.

But conversations about taking risks, jumping on opportunities, and celebrating life at all stages?

That’s a start.

(Daily dose of optimism?)

Thank you so much for reading! If any of you guys have any hair-dyeing stories, or tips, or any thoughts on people reactions to piercings, tattoos or hair, I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Love you guys-

May your swords stay sharp,

May you seek truth always,

and may peace live in your hearts,

Julia

 

A toast to change, perseverance, and freedom

Guess who’s back?

Back again? (Help it’s been in my head for days)

As promised, I want to take a moment this week to type out (for me just as much as you readers) where my blog is headed!

It’s safe to say that, after two years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to write consistently, and how difficult it is to confidently post a blog. I found  myself time and time again thinking “this topic isn’t interesting enough”, “this isn’t relevant” and “this isn’t something readers will care about.” And so I ended up deleting blogs and waiting for moment of inspiration so I could write something that would be noticed.

And some of that is important… just not for this blog.

More than ever I’ve realized I need to stop trying to force myself into a “blogger mold”, stop trying to make myself into something I’m not. Unfortunately, I’ve spent practically my entire life doing the exact opposite: trying to meet everyone’s expectations, believing that was the only way to be heard. Desperately striving to impress. Needing to prove myself.

Luckily, that’s starting to change.

As I’ve leaned into the Lord, and learned to trust, I’ve found incredible freedom.

As I study His Word, and listen to his voice, my heart feels free because, bit by bit, year by year, I’ve just… stopped caring.

Faced with a choice, or a compromise, anxiety would cripple me. I felt like a failure, always a half-step behind, almost-great but instead mundanely mediocre. And that still happens, but lately? Less and less.

I don’t know if it’s because high school feels so far away, but I can look back and laugh at what once terrified me:

My hair looking terrible several days in a row?

Obsessing over thick thighs that were made to crush my enemies?

Eyebrows that are neither thin and manageable nor thick and striking?

I think college had drained my ability to care about these things.

-SIDE TANGENT-

As an encouragement to young women (especially high schoolers) like me who struggle(d) so hard against the “If I were just a little less…” or “If I had just a little more…” mentality, I can honestly promise you that if you push on, it gets so much better. I’ve had the opportunity of talking to many 30/40 somethings, and all of them told me the same thing: it doesn’t matter how fit they were in their teens/twenties, the older they’ve gotten, the happier they’ve been with what they see in the mirror. But it starts with a choice. Keep on fighting–it only gets better, and that better day starts with right now, and tomorrow, and every day after that.

-Back to my point-

Those might be small victories, but you better believe I’m going to celebrate them,  because it’s the small victories over the trivial things that lead to the powerful victories:

“Men are intimidated by you! And can you blame them? You’re too smart and opinionated for your own good- you won’t find a good man until you can bring that under control.”

Well I might not have caught myself a man, but my intellect and opinions have saved me from countless toxic relationships and are about to get me a Bachelor’s degree in both English and Counseling Psychology, so I think that worked out in my favor.

“You’re wasting your time getting an education at a Christian College. No one is going to respect that. Good luck getting a job in the real world.”

Yeah, I mean, going to school with people from all over the world, having connections on virtually every continent, and studying under people who have decades of hands-on experience might not be considered “real-world”, but… oh, wait.

All that to say: I want to continue to break molds and push boundaries. I want to keep on using this blog to show you guys (as best I can) that Christians still have opportunities to make a difference in a world that desperately needs Jesus, and these opportunities have nothing to do with passing out tracks and voting republican. It’s about finding your gifts and passions and running with them, and harvesting the beautiful investment that Christ has been preparing for us.

So, no, not every single one of my blog posts will be mind-blowing (even though I want them to be). But they will be real accounts of my life as I choose to live my best life without living it for me.

Thanks to everyone (there’s literally so many I can’t even begin) who has encouraged  me to keep on writing, and helped me grow and change with each new year, and thanks to you guys for reading and enjoying the ride with me!

May your swords stay sharp,

May you seek truth always,

and may peace live in your hearts,

Julia

 

 

(A Little Over) Two Years

I can’t believe I missed my two year anniversary of starting my blog! 

That’s… kind of embarrassing!

To start, I just want to thank everyone who has been and is currently reading what I’ve been spitting out! It’s been an incredible ride, and I’ve learned SO much.

May 21st, 2015, I posted my first blog, and just in case you forgot, some of the highlights include:

1) Me trying to figure out what my blog meant to me, mainly finding my place in culture and appreciating it.

2) Admitting a lot of embarrassing things that are still mostly true 2 years later.

3) Missing several grammatical issues and stubbornly refusing (still refusing) to fix them because I promised myself I wouldn’t go back and meticulously edit things.

I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I promise I have been writing!

There’s been quite a bit stewing in my mind for some time now, (I have 3 finished posts in my drafts that I haven’t posted and it’s been MONTHS) and I’ve felt frozen for some time now.

A change is coming.

I’m not sure if it’ll be a name change, or a purpose change, but I’ve been doing some reflecting, and by next week (I’m a woman of my word!) I will be launching into a new stage of blogging! 

Once that initial change happens, I’ll be posting my saved-up blogs and sharing about the incredible last few months I’ve had (because let me tell you, they really have been incredible).

Thank you again for reading, happy adventuring to you!

Julia

Body Boggle: Yes, it’s a real game

Before we start:

I’ll be honest: I haven’t been keeping up to date with my 500-1000 words per day, but the intent is still there! I’ve had a crazy month, which I think I say every month, but I’ve got a couple ideas that will be posted in the somewhat-near future!

Back to Boggle:

Have you ever had the desire to play Twister and Boggle at the same time? Because I have! Little did I know the solution would be sent to me (courtesy of my Mom, thanks Mom!) for my birthday last week.

The game at first glance looked very promising. I’m a huge fan of embarrassing and original games, and with captions like “Every Body’s Word Game” and “Livens Up Any Get-Together”, I couldn’t resist opening it up. Keojah, a friend and house-mate, was the first to try it out with me. It took a little bit of reading and troubleshooting to figure out the rules, but Body Boggle easily exceeded my expectations. “It’s a great way to learn and exercise,” Keojah admitted, cackling at my request for a quote, “Also, how do you spell schnook?” (It took her about 20 minutes of guessing to figure out how to spell this word when we played for the first time) We ended up folding it up and putting it away, as it takes at least four people to play and we needed to stop procrastinating and get some actual work done.

On Saturday, after watching the new Beauty and the Beast (Which I may actually prefer over the original Disney movie, but that’s another blog for another day), the girls and I came back to the house and Keojah suggested we try and play Body Boggle “for real.” Now, my friend group is incredibly competitive, and we’ve been known to spend hours on games that take a half-hour with normal groups, so it’s always dangerous to play games with them. I decided to sit out and keep score while four of my friends split into two teams (we agreed it might not be fair if the English Major played the first time around, and this game is honestly just as fun to watch as it is to play).

Just like twister, there’s a playing-mat, only instead of 24 color circles there are 25 squares (there are 26 letters in the alphabet, but in this game the “q” and “u” are in a square together).

Without making this too boring to read, the rules go a little something like this:

  1. You and your partner work together to spell a word
  2. You can get up to 4 points a word depending on the difficulty you choose
  3. One hand/foot per letter in the word
  4. Once the word is completed (spelled correctly without anyone falling down) the team gets a new word
  5. You and your partner spell the new word, moving either a foot or hand to a different letter on the mat without falling or accidentally touching a wrong letter
  6. If you don’t think ahead, your partner might end up having to hold your legs up in the air (It happens more often than I anticipated it would)

And that’s pretty much the game play! If the team spells a word wrong, or falls over, then their turn is over and the other team has a chance to rack up points. One of my friends enjoyed it so much that she asked me where my Mom got it (a thrift store- go Mom!), and then swore she was going to find it somewhere so she could have it for her kids to play. “If I had known this game existing when I was still taking vocab tests, it really would’ve helped my grades.” My curiosity was piqued–the game was fun and all, but had my friends actually retained any of the words they had learned?

Yes!

I couldn’t help myself: after the game, I went back and asked several of my friends if they remembered how to spell different words we had used in the game, and 9/10 times they remembered exactly how to spell it.

This game might not be for everyone, but for an English major it’s like finding the Holy Grail, and the fact that my non-English major friends loved it too is proof that words are awesome!

Thanks for reading!

Calculating My Feelings About “Divide”

Like so many other Ed Sheeran fans, I’ve been waiting (im)patiently for his new album. Shape of You, How Would You Feel, and Castle on the Hill were just small tastes of what was to come, and the long wait is now over (YAYYYYY!). After taking a much-needed break to reconnect and find a fresh purpose, Ed blessed the world with his new album Divide. They’re all tied together, but the songs still stand separately: some seem to be original takes on classic Irish ballads/drinking songs, while others cling more to Ed’ personal style.

I, of course, have taken the time to put aside my homework (Read: Procrastinated) and rank the songs from least to most favorite. Let it be known that I love all of the songs, but as most would agree some hit you in the feels more than others. This is totally a personal list, and I can’t wait to hear how different songs hit different people.

16. Happier

Definitely a hauntingly melancholy song. I think the reason why this is my least favorite is because it doesn’t connect with my personal experiences , but I can still appreciate it. As usual, Ed’s harmonies are amazing and beautiful.

Mental Music Video: Lots of walking/playing piano in the rain, and subtle side glances.

Favorite line: Promise I will not take it personal, baby, if you’re moving on with someone new.

15. Dive

Does anyone else think this song is Elvis-esque? This song is totally relatable- words are so powerful, especially when they end up being empty. Great guitar solo reminiscent of classic rock (almost used that as my favorite line but I felt that would be cheating).

Favorite Line: Don’t tell me you need me if you don’t believe it; so let me know the truth before I dive right into you.

14. Save Myself

Great message for literally anyone at all- there’s no good in trying to help and nurture someone else if you need it more. There’s nothing wrong with “choosing you” (I wrote a blog on this once) and making sure you’re okay before pouring into someone else.

Favorite Line: And all the ones that love me they just left me on the shelf-No farewell. So before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself.

13. Hearts Don’t Break Round Here

I promise, I’m a huge fan of Ed’s romantic slow songs, I’m not just throwing them all at the bottom for no reason! This song is full of amazing metaphors and really cute lines.

Favorite Line: Oh we’re in love, aren’t we?/ Love the way you conquer your fear.

12. New Man

Originally this song was higher on the list because I loved the music so much, but couldn’t personally relate to the subject (though I think it’s really funny and enjoy singing along to it), unlike many of the other songs. I love this song because plenty of girls have written songs about exes who “upgrade” but still keep on coming back, and Ed flips it around to show that it happens on both sides.

Favorite line: Your new man rents a house in the ‘burb and wears a man bag on his shoulder, but I call it a purse. 

11. Galway Girl

This one was also higher on the list before purely because the sound is amazing. When that first verse dropped I felt like I was listening to the first Ed Sheeran song I fell in love with, but with obvious Irish influences.

Favorite Line: I never heard Carrickfergus ever sung so sweet, Acapella in the bar using her feet for a beat.

10. Perfect 

This is like the earlier-on version of the next song. It describes the moment in the relationship when you realize you the other. It’s very passionate, and the instrumental.

Mental Music Video: Lots of couples waltzing in sync on a ballroom floor.

Favorite Line: I found a love, to carry more than just my secrets: to carry love, to carry children of our own.

9. How Would You Feel

This one gets better each time I listen to it. There’s something so sweet and tender about it- it’s without a doubt a “first dance at the wedding” song. This is more than just a cute, romantic song, Ed is talking about deep love in a very real way, and it’s beautiful. (Another guitar solo too, which is great).

Favorite Line: How would you feel if I told you I loved you? It’s just something that I want to do. I’m taking my time, spending my life, falling deeper in love with you.

 

8. What Do I Know?

Apart from the sass in the title, this song is actually incredible straight forward and genuine. My favorite songs are the ones in which I can really hear the artist’s voice- not the sound it makes, but the personality and beliefs behind it. This song has a bounce, sass, and a positive outlook in spite of what anyone else is doing or saying. I’m also a sucker for Ed’s super high harmonies.

Favorite Line: We could change this whole world with a piano. Add a bass, some guitar, grab a beat./ Love could change the world in a moment, but what do I know?

7. Barcelona

Just went I thought the album couldn’t get better, he suddenly he changes direction and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted. First, going to Barcelona has always been on the list, but also the instruments used in this song… saxophone, steel drums, flutes, trumpets (at least that’s what I’m hearing, but what do I know?). I had to put this one close to the top, every time it starts to play I dance.

Favorite Line: I’ve got two left feet and a bottle of red wine making me feel like the beat and the bassline are in my blood

6. Eraser

The pick-work is amazing- this is Ed’s original style that got me hooked, no doubt about it, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. Once again, my favorite songs are the ones that really tell the artist’s story, and that’s exactly what this is. It’s brutally honest and actually really sad, but speaks to a lot of people.

Favorite Line: I used to think that nothing could be better than touring the world with my songs. I chased the picture-perfect life, I think they painted it wrong. 

5. Shape of You

This one has been released for awhile, and I had to be honest and put it in my top five because yes it is that good. Call me basic if you want, but there’s a reason why this is a such a hit. It’s fun to listen to when working out, dancing, driving, buying groceries, and anywhere else where it’s appropriate to listen to music.

Favorite Line: You and me are thrifty, so go all you can eat, fill up your bag and I fill up a plate

4. Bibia Be Yeye

Wow I love this song so much. I can listen to it on repeat. It’s a perfect roadtrip song, and it tells a story everyone can relate to. He uses Twi, a language that is spoken in Ghana, to say basically “Even if things aren’t going well, they will be well, and things will get better.”

Favorite Line: Someone told me, “Always say what’s on your mind” and I am only being honest with you, I get lonely and make mistakes from time to time

3.Nancy Mulligan

Traditional Irish song (with some twists), totally gorgeous, and completely based on Ed Sheeran’s grandparents (Wow, ded, so precious). Amazing.

Favorite Line: From her snow white streak in her jet black hair, over sixty years I’ve been loving her. Now we’re sat by the fire in our old armchairs, you know Nancy, I adore ya.

2. Castle On The Hill

One of the other pre-release songs, only this one has a little more depth and talks about (as far as I understand) Ed’s childhood. While obviously carrying details that make the song his own, the strange transition and loss that young adults experience when growing up and moving on is something that 20-somethings really really get, and it spoke to my heart. Sure, my castle was made of sand and was washed away by Florida waves, but let’s just saying the “driving at 90” thing is a little too real for me.

Mental Music Video: The music video actually captures everything in my head, go watch it!

Favorite Line: Found my heart and broke it here, made friends and lost them through the years and I’ve not seen the rolling fields in so long, I know I’ve grown, But I can’t wait to go home. / And I’m on  my way, I still remember these old country lanes when we did not know the answers. 

1. Supermarket Flowers

This song holds so much for me (seriously, Ed really screwed me up with this one) and I really can’t say much more than just listen to it. It’s beautiful, and I cry at least once every time.

Mental Music Video: My own memories of my Nana’s passing, her apartment, and funeral.

Favorite Line: Oh, I’m in pieces, it’s tearing me up, but I know a heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved.

If you haven’t had the chance to listen to it yet, do it! Ed’s not just a fad, he’s an amazing artist. The music is more than worth your time, I guarantee it.

Happy Saturday! (And yes, I’ve been keeping up on my 500 words a day goal, and I’ll be posting about it soon!)