TOTY – 26: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

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Today is a few days after my 26th birthday, and I am sitting in a Starbucks tearing up as I read my old TOTY posts. These yearly summaries serve as such a huge reminder of everything I’ve accomplished, and just how much has changed over the past four years. This will be my fifth consecutive year of blogging, and probably my fifteenth year since I started messing around with the idea of having a blog and playing with Blogger, WordPress, and Wix. I’ve loved long-form writing for a long time, and it amazes me that I have the freedom to do something like this every day. Of course, it’s been a bit of a struggle keeping up here over the last year, but there are some wonderful reasons for that.

 

I am attending Emerson College for graduate school in publishing and writing. You all helped me get here by reading this blog and encouraging me to follow my dreams. It’s a lot of work, but I am adoring every second of it! I have met wonderful, interesting, inspiring women who I might even go so far as to call bosom friends. I have had some spectacular professors who have helped shape my image of what the publishing world is and is not, and have pushed me to trust my instincts and pursue my passions. I have learned an incredible amount, and that was only the first year! I still have three semesters left to soak up as much as I can, and I am beyond grateful to be able to be here now.

Last September I moved out of my Uncle and Aunt’s house and into a rented room. It’s not my first time in an apartment – I lived in two apartments during undergrad – but it is the first apartment I’ve had where I have my own room and the first place I’ve paid for completely on my own. To pay for it, I took an assistant supervisor position at a large retail store, where I work 40+ hours a week in addition to going to 8 hours of class and doing 6+ hours of homework. I haven’t had a lot of time to look for a corporate job or an internship, but I haven’t given up. There are a couple very cool opportunities on the horizon that I am aiming for!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you know that school + work = not enough things to keep me motivated. This has led to me sleeping a lot, which has been necessary with my crazy work schedule, but not productive or overall healthy for my life. I’m hoping to hone my daily schedule this year to make room for what matters most – family, health, and writing.

 

Speaking of health, mine has been a roller coaster this year. Last June I started Accutane for my acne, and after almost nine months had clear skin for the first time in almost eight years. I had forgotten how good my skin looked when it was clear, and while the acne had never really hurt my image of myself, having clear skin definitely improved my confidence. It’s almost like I didn’t realize how awesome of a woman I had grown into until the acne cleared up. Like wiping off the grime of adolescence to see clearly the woman growing underneath. My acne didn’t make me feel bad, but it did keep me trapped in that ‘not a girl, not yet a woman’ stage of life that I was craving an escape from.

On my first day of work at my retail job in October, I sprained my foot at the bottom of my apartment stairs and ended up at the hospital for myself for the first time since I was born. I was bedridden for a week, had crutches for a month after that, and wasn’t allowed to run or do strenuous activities for six months after that.

I got off my crutches just in time for my first Black Friday in retail, and all of the new germs I was around 40 hours a week finally caught up with me. Thankfully, my store had a very quiet Black Friday, because the cold I caught robbed me of my voice for a week and it would have been a nightmare. I am beyond thankful for small miracles.

My six months without exercise ended just about the same time I was finally in the clear post-Accutane. My foot still aches occasionally, and my alcohol tolerance is crap because I wasn’t allowed to drink on the Accutane. It also took longer to finish the Accutane (about nine months vs six) because I had to stop taking it while I was on painkillers for my foot. Organs are precious, and I didn’t want to put mine at risk by pumping them full of chemicals.

 

Cut to about a month ago, when I traveled to Boise, Idaho to visit one of my best friends in the whole world, Jordan. This girl was my radio show co-host in college and has since become part of my family (seriously, we bring her on family-only trips because she blends in as one of us despite being the only redhead). She flew up to Boston last September to help me move into my apartment, and I cried when she moved across the country in January. I flew out there to spend the week between our birthdays together, and it was simply wonderful.

We spent most of the week in various pools, waterparks, and rivers because it was topping 100 degrees and we were super pale. For once, we were on our sunscreen game and avoided getting sunburn. I have my first tan in three years. I spent quiet mornings on her balcony reading and listening to podcasts (I’ll share my favorites soon!), and we explored the city with her local friends (who are just lovely and I miss them already!) late into the evening because the sun doesn’t set until 10:30pm in the treasure valley. We rounded off the week with my first hike since moving to Boston, climbing Table Rock  (follow the link for trail map!), which is 900ft above Boise’s already 2,600 ft elevation. My poor body is used to Boston’s whopping >50ft above sea level, and reaching the top of Table Rock (3,500 ft) was a struggle. It was worth it for the accomplishment and the views of the city and valley, ringed in rolling mountains, but oh boy did I feel it the next day.

 

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The cold I caught in Idaho was nearly but not quite gone when I flew back east a few days later, and I ended up with an ear infection and just two weeks remaining on my parent’s health insurance. Cue more little miracles. I tried to take it slow, which is why this post didn’t go up on my birthday like it usually does.

Just as I was recovering from the ear infection, I went home for my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s bridal shower and wasn’t feeling too well. After yet another last-minute doctor’s appointment, I found out I also had strep, so now I’m on medication for that as well. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that all of this happened while I was on my parent’s health plan. To be fair though (in the long list of small miracles in my life) I was able to sign up for my graduate school’s student health care plan until I graduate. God is so, so good y’all.

 

I’m back from vacation and back at work, which right now is mostly training some new assistant supervisors, but I am trying to appreciate the methodicalness of it all as I prepare for my second year of graduate school to begin. Before classes start up again, I will be moving into a new apartment that includes a real kitchen and living room, and yet somehow costs less than what I am currently paying. How I found it beats me. (again, small miracles!)

I’ll be living with a few of my classmates, and I am beyond excited to be A – living with friends rather than strangers, and B – living with these friends who I can be completely myself with, whether that’s loud, quiet, happy, or sad. I think it is one of life’s biggest gifts to live somewhere you can relax and unwind and be your authentic self without having to monitor what you do or say or worry about offending someone just by living your life. These girls inspire me to do my best, but they also encourage me to take time to process life and be my true introverted self. I am so blessed to have them.

 

Starting my second year/third semester of graduate school means I finally know what’s coming and can build a schedule around it. I know my general work schedule, and my class schedule, so I can plan writing time around them, and even *gasp* make time for a bit of working out.

In June of this year, my co-worker/friend Patricia and I signed up for a month of Yoga classes, and I fell in love with it. Two weeks ago I met with one of the studio managers where we attend classes and signed up for their Seva program. I’ll be volunteering there a few hours a week to help keep the studio running smoothly! This particular program includes free access to a few classes in exchange for my volunteering, which is just beyond amazing, but I would probably do the program even without that carrot. I always have a craving to help ‘mother’ people and organizations, and I so rarely have the opportunity to feed that craving.

Yoga has been even more life-changing than I imagined. It is simultaneously harder and easier than I thought it would be, but the inner peace that I find in the practise is another one of those small miracles I’ve been experiencing all year.

 

This brings our total of ‘things Amanda does’ to three. Why stop there?

My theme for this year is Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise like the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I’ve had that quote taped to my childhood bedroom wall for years, but I noticed it for the first time in forever last time I was at my parents’ house. It’s been floating through my subconscious ever since, and it finally occurred to me last month that that’s what I’ve been searching for. During my vacation, I took some time to sit with my thoughts and see what bubbled to the surface, and I came up with a few truths about myself I haven’t been acknowledging lately.

I am a morning person. My days are best when I get up before 7am and go to bed around 10pm.

I thrive on having too much to do because it forces my brain into organization mode. I was at peak working ability when I was working 4-5 positions and attending undergraduate classes my senior year, and again when I had to schedule my writing time around my cousin’s nap schedule as a nanny. I thrive on slim-to-no time, and I am very good when I am down to the wire. When I don’t have enough to do I procrastinate, and things fall to the wayside and get forgotten easily.

I need to mother. Whether it’s a person or a company, I need to get into the nitty-gritty of what’s going on and fix it, whether physically or through advice. I’ve had a ton of people tell me over the last year that I give great advice, so I guess it’s about time I embrace the title of advice giver and own up to my need to fix things. I will continue to endeavor not to smother people, but also to help them be their best selves through self-care and organization.

 

These revelations led me to create a list of things I want to accomplish this year, each of which falls under healthy, wealthy, or wise.

Under the Healthy category, we have the following tasks:

#1 – Do Yoga Every Day.
I’ve been following Yogi Rachel Brathen for… Well, probably longer than this blog has existed, to be completely transparent, and I’ve always been fascinated by the practice of yoga. My mother has the cold, hard proof in the form of a VHS copy of Yoga for Dummies from probably 2002 that I used to use! It’s taken me sixteen long years, but I’ve finally caught the yoga bug and I don’t plan on letting go of it any time soon.

#2 – Get Eight Hours of Sleep Each Night.
Sleep is the most important thing you can do for yourself. My current job has my sleep schedule all over the place. Most recently in June, there was a fortnight where I fell asleep between 2am and 5am on any given day. It was trippy. As a morning person, working late night hours isn’t good for my creative side or my health, but until I find something 9-5, my sleep schedule is something I need to be proactive about and focused on if I want to avoid getting sick again.

#3 – Cook Three Nights a Week.
The new apartment I am moving into in September has a full kitchen, so I’ll actually have space to spread out and make a full meal – with side dishes – to fix my diet, which has been minor meal prepping and a lot of sandwiches over the last year. If I get a more normal job, I’ll be home for dinner most nights and can actually take advantage of the new kitchen!

 

For Wealthy, I came up with:

#4 – Shop Small.
I want to only shop in used and vintage clothing stores this year. Not only will this help confine my spending, but used and discount clothing hunting is a skill I think everyone should perfect at some point in their lives. By hunting for clothes that come from across multiple years, I think I’ll finally start to build a personal style rather than jumping on whatever the current trend is. I’m excited to see where this resolution takes me.

I also want to only shop indie and used bookstores this year. This is a goal every year but at some point, I end up in Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million spending money like water. Canceling my B&N membership card didn’t help, I just pay full price now. To combat my horrible book-buying habit, I am going to attempt to go on a 98% book ban this year. Meaning I will do everything in my power not to buy or acquire any new books and to solely use my library card. Unless there is something I am dying to the read and none of the local libraries will stock it for me.

#5 – Save Money.
As I continue my Master’s program, I can feel my loan payments creeping up on me, just waiting for graduation to pounce. I also have a million other things I want to be able to do over the next few years – weddings to attend, overseas trips I want to take, writing staycations, book conventions, etc. To combat all of this, I am going to attempt to curb my general spending (and my eat-out budget) so that I can save at least $400 each month.
– $100 for my emergency fund
– $100 for my loan fund
– $100 for my weddings fund
– $100 for my travel fund.
If this means I have to cut even my book budget and only get books from the library, I will suck it up. It’ll pay off in the end, right? The only things that make you richer by spending money are books and travel, so I’m just trading one for the other. Library cards let me have my cake and eat it too.

#6 – Pursue Passions.
This year I want to focus on what matters most. In the job sense, that means being aggressive and going after those competitive internships and positions that I’m afraid I won’t qualify for. I need to have courage like the Gryffindor I am and charge at my fears head on if I want to overcome them. I can’t just sit around and wait for fate to do its thing when I have the power to help it along in the direction I want so desperately to go. I can do this by grabbing every freelance opportunity I see and giving it 100%, allowing it to build up my writing resume for more permanent positions. This will also up my ‘things Amanda does’ count, which will help me be more productive overall.

 

And finally, for the Wise category:

#7 – Write more.
It probably won’t be every day, because I’ve never been able to keep that promise, but I want to write for myself more regularly than I do now. Blog posts, book reviews, short stories off the top of my head, work towards completing one of the numerous longer-form things I have in the works – I really want to have something I can show people and be able to say “Hey look what I can do!” or “Here’s how I write, take a look!”. I spend so much of my imagination in my head that it never makes it onto the page, and people only know I write at all when they read this site or ask me about my writing and I go down a rabbit hole of explaining my characters and their motivations.

I really want to attempt writing short stories this year. I have a habit of starting and not finishing novels, and I think it will be an interesting exercise in editing myself to try a short-form story. I need to learn how to describe things succinctly, instead of letting the world building run off with my plot. I feel like it’s time to start leaving my mark on the world, and this is how I want to start doing it.

#8 – Become more business literate.
Through podcasts, workshops, webinars, and online classes, I want to educate myself about how to run an actual business, so that I can manage my freelancing and my soon-to-be crushing debt in the best ways I can. This includes learning about advertising and marketing, finance, and SEO.

#9 – Pursue Peace, Grace, and Simplicity.
Through it all, I want to focus on cultivating grace, not perfection. I want and need to organize my life in little ways to make a big impact. I’m taking Emily Ley’s advice and running with it. After reading her book Grace, Not Perfection last year, I am inspired to read her A Simplified Life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect. All three promise to be inspiring.

 

This year, I want to learn to have patience and grace with myself and others. I want to focus less on what the world thinks of me and more on what I could be doing for the world while taking the best care of myself. I want to reach for the stars but in order to get there, I need to build a solid catapult, or a ladder, or a tower. Clearly, I am not an engineer, but you get it. I can’t get anywhere without a solid foundation, and that foundation has to be me.

 

Here’s to my fifth year of blogging. I am so looking forward to all of the cool things I will accomplish and experience this year, and I hope you will join me on this journey.

 

 

Sincerely,

Amanda

 

 

Previous Theme Of The Year (TOTY) Posts:
TOTY – 22: Why Soul Searching is Not my Theme of the Year
TOTY – 23: Wellness and Becoming my Best Self
TOTY – 24: Me Doing Me
TOTY – 25: Responsibility

 

 

October Update – 2016 Goals Check-in

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This month felt like a solid decade.  I meant to write this post like I did the others, around the middle of the month, but I found I was just too emotional to do it justice. Packing for the move, finishing my last couple weeks at the bridal shop, prepping for NaNoWriMo, there was a lot more going on than I was ready for.

The month started out with me realizing that I actually was moving. I’d been discussing the idea with my aunt and uncle for so long that it seemed like it would never happen. Being a pro at packing because I’ve basically lived out of a suitcase for the last 10 months when I was staying with Big Red, I kept feeling like I was missing things, but for the most part I wasn’t. The only things I forgot in the move were soap, my razor, tape for my posters, my yoga mat, and my desk chair that didn’t fit in my car anyway. Otherwise, my entire life fit in my little blue Prius. It’s a weird feeling when you realize that your life can fit in your car. Very scary and yet freeing as well. I plan to go out and purchase a bookcase for my room since I brought about 25 books with me, plus all of my writing notebooks. I know. I brought books with me. But I only brought the ones I plan on reading before I visit my parents again since I really don’t have space here to store all of my books. It hurts, not having all of my books in one place. #BookishProblems

I attended homecoming at my alma mater, East Stroudsburg University in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, on the 15th. My friends Jordan, Connor, and I revived our radio show The SoundWave for the day, which was fantastic. Then we wandered around campus and grabbed a bite to eat downtown. It’s one of the best feelings, returning to a place that brought you so much joy and taught you so much about life. ESU and WESS 90.3 FM are a couple of those places for me.

Hanging out with my local friends one last time before I made the move was hard. I know I’ll see them during holidays and everything, but with everyone basically out of college now and working, it’s difficult to make time to see each other, especially during this time of year. I’m so thankful they were all able to take the time out of their busy schedules to see me before I moved.

The hardest part of making this move was leaving the bridal shop. The last 10 months there have taught me an extraordinary amount of things. My customer service skills have increased tenfold. My understanding of logistics and conversion rates, and sales in general, has improved astronomically. I now know the difference between the colors Guava, Punch, and Coral, Blush, Bellini, and Petal, Pool, Malibu, Spa, Oasis, and Capri, and Portobello, Mystic, Mercury, and Pewter, something I never thought would be relevant to my life, but now seems indispensable. The ladies I worked with showed me new points of view to just about every aspect of life, and I made some friends there that I will never find the likes of anywhere else. I truly hope I never lose touch with them. Working at that bridal shop has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made, and I will never, ever, regret it.

Still, making this move, I think, was the right choice too. I’ve always been one to explore new things and love new experiences, and so far I’m loving my new city. Boston feels pretty homey. My arrival here wasn’t full of hoopla or craziness. Walking the streets, even for the first time, feels like greeting an old friend I haven’t seen in years. Yesterday I overheard two girls talking about their new favorite word, ken, which comes from Gaelic and means to know. I’ve always liked that word, and I find that I like it when other people have really crazy intelligent conversations just walking down the street. Living near Harvard has its perks. I passed a group of stay-at-home-parents the other day, and two stay-at-home-dads at the back of the pack were discussing toxicology. How neat is that?

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Let’s take a look at how I did on my goals. I’m sure it’s atrocious.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – This didn’t happen, again. But I’m getting better! I actually had a dream Thursday night that turned into 3,000 words of a new story, so there’s that. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of the month packing all my stuff and working, so I didn’t have a lot of  free time to locate my notebook and get some writing done. I did, however, do a lot of organizing of my background material for my novel. This will hopefully help me not get distracted when I attempt NaNoWriMo next month.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is a project that people sign up for, where the goal is to write 50,000 words of a story during the month of November. why November, nobody knows, especially since we have Thanksgiving in there and everything. It’s exhausting. I attempted it last year when Iw s taking a break from my main storyline and working on a spin-off, but I only got 4-5,000 words into it because I kept getting lost in my background information. This year I’m hoping to tackle a full draft of my main story, so it’s going to be an interesting ride!

Apply to Full Time Jobs – I think I’ve succeeded for the year with this one! As I mentioned before, I’ve moved to Boston, MA to nanny full time for my baby cousin. He turned 7 months old on Saturday! I’m beyond excited, and so far I’m enjoying myself. I’m only a week in, and while my muscles are tired and I’m actually really, really exhausted, I absolutely love it. And I’m getting more writing done than ever before because nap times are a wonderful thing. So, check getting a full time off the list for this year!

Apply to Grad School – I’m going to the graduate open house at Emerson this weekend! But I haven’t done any GRE prepping yet beyond buying a GRE prep book…

If I like the school on Saturday, I’ll start prepping on Monday. I know it’s going to be hard. Supposedly the math portion goes up through Calculus?? 😦  but I’ll survive. I do still have to look into where/when the test is being offered in/around Boston, and I’ll need to contact professors to ask for recommendation letters, but there’s no point in jumping the gun if I end up not liking the school, is there?

 

October Goals:
Read 7 books – Ha. Ha. Ha. With all the packing, I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the beginning of the month, attempted reading A Passage to Shambhala and gave up after 2 weeks and getting nowhere after 400 pages, and I just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I read this week during, you guessed it, nap time. So that brings the total up to two? and a half? maybe one and a half? It all depends on whether you count Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as this month or last month because of when I read the majority of it vs. when I finished it.

Exercise – Does walking 4 miles round trip to visit a bookstore yesterday count?  I hit 10,000 steps for the first time in ages. It seriously only used to happen when I went to NYC like once a year.

Write 5 posts – I wrote my moving info post on October 1st, and I haven’t posted since. Oops! Well, here is number two, and my NaNoWriMo prep post should be up tomorrow. So that makes three! Next month you’ll mostly be getting my weekly NaNo updates, as well as a post or two about exploring my new city, and of course the monthly update, so you can look forward to 6-8 posts next month at minimum because let’s be honest, I’m probably going to gush about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them when it hits theaters in two weeks as well.

Write 10,000 words – Well, if we count the dream I had that turned into ~3000 words of a new story, I wrote a total of 5,519 words this month. which isn’t bad, but it’s nothing close the the 50,000 that I’ve signed up to write next month as part of NaNoWriMo. And a lot of it went towards that new story, which doesn’t help me in the long run with working on my main novel.

Move to Boston – Now this, I succeeded at. I’m currently writing from my desk in my new room. It’s in the attic, so I think I’m going to call this place the Aerie. It feels fitting. My desk chair only arrived yesterday, so I’m very excited. I’m headed to Target tomorrow to buy a bulletin board. I thought I could live without one, but my desk is kind of small and I am in desperate need of space for NaNoWriMo notes, so to the store I go!

Write 14 book reviews – This one was heavily dependent on me reading all seven books on my TBR list, and since that included the last three big Harry Potter books, A Passage to Shambhala, and Moby Dick, I’m not really that surprised that I got nowhere near this goal. I have written 5 reviews so far, and I’m halfway through a sixth. I’m hoping to finish the sixth and complete another one tomorrow before the month ends, bringing my total up to seven. Also, in case you were wondering, Moby Dick has been tabled until further notice, because I can only have one massive and boring book in my TBR pile at a time, and A Passage to Shambhala has usurped that position.

November TBR:
Will Definitely Be Reading:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the screenplay, which I have on pre-order)

Might Be Reading:
A Passage to Shambhala (~300 pages left to go!) – Jon Baird and Kevin Costner
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
You Are A Badass – Jen Sincero
Thrive – Arianna Huffington
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist
Manage Your Day-To-Day – Jocelyn K. Glei

I’m Moving!

Not to worry, this website isn’t going anywhere. However I, physically, literally, am moving! If you read my September Update a couple weeks ago you already know this, but if you didn’t, now you do! I’m sure you have some questions, so allow me to start off by answering the big ones.

Why are you moving?

I found a job I love better than the one I currently have, and it requires me to relocate. It’s not in retail, which I have enjoyed, but am not looking to make my career in, and it’s full-time! I do love the job I have now, especially the people, but the job I am going to is beyond rewarding, and something I’ve always wanted to do. It will also help me save up for graduate school if I decide to go that route.

What will you be doing that you’re so excited about?

I’m going to be a live-in nanny! And I don’t have to worry about not getting along with the family or anything like that because I’ll be nannying for my aunt and uncle. They will both be working full-time, and they need someone to watch my six-month-old cousin. He’s the one I was babysitting last month who’s super adorable and happy all the time (cross your fingers he stays that way!). This means no more hour-long commutes, but also some quiet time in the evenings for reading/writing, and weekends off!

So… Where are you moving to?

I will be moving to Boston, Massachusetts! It’s a city I’ve always been interested in living in (despite being a die-hard fan of the New York Yankees), and I’m super excited to finally have the chance to explore it!

When are you moving?

The plan is to make the move near the end of the month since my uncle starts his new job in November. I’ll be sure to share photos and tidbits as I move in!

What are you most excited about checking out in your new city?

The Boston Public Library, obviously. Besides that, I’d like to explore Boston Commons, the local bookstores, the downtown restaurants, the publishing houses in the city, the waterfront area, the local bookstores, Emerson College (where I’m thinking about going to grad school), the community Quidditch Teams (because Harry Potter rules, duh),  Harvard, BU, MIT, the city ballet, and the local bookstores. If you have any recommendations of places I should check out, let me know on Twitter! I’ll try to post once a month or so about the places I discover in and around the city.

Overall, I’m PUMPED about the move. I can’t wait to explore my new city. And just to sweeten the deal, I’m moving just before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts! This means I’ll be able to attend meet-ups IRL, something that was impossible where I live now in the middle-of-nowhere, NJ. I love New Jersey, but it’s not all that conducive to making writing and bookish friends. I’m thrilled to be able to meet and get to know Boston’s NaNoWriMo participants. I’m hoping to be able to read and write more once I’m up there and no longer community an hour to my part-time job. This move is going to be so good for me.

 

Until Next Time,

~Amanda

The Arrival of Autumn – Renaissance Faire and Apple Picking

Is there a better way to welcome the official start of Autumn than by going apple picking? or attending a Renaissance Faire? I can’t think of one.

Last weekend, in celebration of the official start of Autumn, my friend Jordan and I checked out the Warren County Renaissance Faire, which was super cute even though it was small. It’s been put together by the county 4-H group for the last three years, and they had actors, craft & food stalls, archery, jousting, and falconry! We hung out for a bit and then headed down the road to Mackey’s Orchard, where we went apple-picking and did and impromptu photo-shoot. The weather was gorgeous and warm, so we rounded out our fantastic day with some ice-cream! See some of our shenanigans below.

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Petting stalls – goats, sheep, and bunnies!

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Falconry! – This peregrine falcon is only a few months old, so we only saw a tethered training display, but he behaved really well! His owner/trainer said he should be hunting by Halloween. He also had a 17-year-old Harris’ Hawk who was much bigger and beautiful as well. He didn’t like some of the actors much and would screech at them if they came to close. It was hilarious.

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A ferocious female knight takes on a foe during the living chess match. It’s like Wizard’s Chess in real life!

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The orchard at Mackey’s

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Impromptu photo shoot! We kept our flower crowns on for a fairy-tale feel.

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Looking for apples.

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Found loads! I’m pretty sure these were Macouns.

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Jordan picking some apples for our basket.

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We found one that was almost completely red. So proud of ourselves.

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Stunning views of the Delaware Water Gap area.

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Free as a bird. These views are breath-taking. The dip in the mountains to my left is the actual Delaware Water Gap!

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All done and headed home with our bounty. Fantastic day.

How do you celebrate the changing of the seasons? Share in the comments!

Until next time,

~Amanda

September Update – 2016 Goals Check-in

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It feels like it was yesterday that I was writing last month’s update. Boy, did that month fly by; I went up to Boston to babysit my cousin, I was in not one, but TWO of my best friends’ weddings and four more couples I love got married that month as well (I didn’t attend them all. I’m not that magical). It was a very long month. and yet, suddenly we’re halfway through September! I’ve been a literal zombie for the past week, recovery from my trips while trying to get back to work as usual. At least I haven’t gotten sick yet (fingers crossed that I won’t!).

This month isn’t too busy, but it is full of planning for the next year. So many exciting things are happening! I’ll tell you all about them soon, but first, let’s check in on my goals for the year.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – This is day three! I wrote a book review each of the last two days, and I’m hoping to write another two over the next couple days, while I finish this post and hopefully get some time in on my novel during my day off on Friday. I tried to write last week, but my brain was so dead that only nonsense came out of it. It was painful.

Apply to Full Time Jobs – I HAVE NEWS!!! My aunt and uncle and I have been discussing a potential opportunity for me for nearly a year now, but I didn’t want to rely on it because it always seemed like it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. They had a baby in March, and up until now, my uncle has been a SAHD (Stay-At-Home-Dad). He’s due to start a new job in November though, and that’s where I come in. I’ll be taking care of my cousin for them all day while they are at work. For all intents and purposes, I’m a live-in nanny. If that isn’t a dream job at some point in the life of someone who is maternally inclined, I don’t know what is.

If all of that wasn’t exciting enough, they live in Boston! Which means I’m MOVING there. Like, I get to live in this city that I’ve been mildly obsessed with for ages. Which brings me to Goal number three for the year –

Apply to Grad School – My top grad school at the moment is Emerson College and their Masters in Writing and Publishing program. Being that Emerson is in Boston, I’ll finally being going on a tour of campus and trying to meet some of the professors to determine if it’s definitely where I want to go.

Also, this Friday I’m sitting down to plan out my studying strategies for the GRE. Woop Woop!

September Goals:
This month I decided to let y’all in on a secret. I don’t just have yearly goals! I also make up a set of goals for the month, which filters into my daily to-do list(s). This month I want to:

Read 5 books – So far I’ve only finished two, but I’m nearly halfway through my third, so it’s looking good!

Study for the GRE – As I mentioned earlier, this starts on Friday!

Walk 5 miles, 4 times – I originally had this read “walk 5 miles, once a week”, but after the double weddings I was down for the count. Hopefully, I can walk one of my 5-mile stints on Friday!

Ab workout, 4 times – Another one that read once a week and has since been amended.

Write 3 posts for TCSB – This is the first! I’ll probably fill you guys in on more details about Boston, and I’m visiting a Renaissance Faire on the 24th that should be pretty interesting as well!

Write 4 book reviews – Two down and two to go! Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich and The Escape by Mary Balogh are up on CSR now!

Write 10,000 words towards your novel(s) – That’s right, I’m writing a book (or is it ~SeRiEs~?). I’ve been writing it for over 10 years actually. Very few people have read any of it, and those who have, haven’t read it in so long that they probably wouldn’t recognize it today. For one, the characters started out as 11 or 13-year-olds, and they’ve since evolved into 20-somethings. Not like they aged in the book, more like as I aged I found it harder and harder to write young characters. The universe(s) the book(s) take place in has expanded exponentially, to the point where I keep trying to populate parts of it and ending up with literally hundreds of characters. And I love every one of them so much that they all have a background and purpose and a future… And you wondered why I’ve been working on this for 10+ years. My goal for the year (TOTY 24, not 2016) with writing every day is to get at least half of my rough draft of the first book finished. Hoping to dive into this some more this month.

 

I think that’s all for now ,you guys! I hope you enjoyed this update, and I can’t wait to share more with you about my move to Boston, and my grad school apps, and my adventures in writing!

 

Until Next Time,

Amanda

Flashback Friday: Seattle, WA – October 2014

A year ago next week, I was getting on a plane to Seattle for a college broadcasting conference. At the age of 22, I was heading to the west coast for the first time. I was psyched to see the Pacific for the first time, but I was also a little nervous about my first real conference. Would everyone be dressed more formally than me? I didn’t have a suit then, so I just wore pencil skirts and dress shirts. I was pretty sure I was going to go stir crazy an hour into our six hour flight, so I packed some homework and a book to read. I was missing three days of class for this,  so I actually had quite a bit of work to do.

Atop the Space Needle
Atop the Space Needle

I was wrong about everything. Literally every little thing about the trip, I was wrong about it.

First of all, You can’t see the Pacific Ocean from the Seattle business district. It’s an island(?) or maybe a peninsula(?) in the middle of a bay, and there’s east and west Seattle on other islands/peninsulas on either side. So seeing the ocean was out because we didn’t have time to go all the way to the far side of west Seattle to see it.

Second, half of the people showed up in jeans. That’s broadcasters for you. Only the on-air-only people showed up in suits, and everyone was super nervous and mostly introverted, so we all chatted about our radio and television stations and exchanged business cards and never talked again. It felt like I was at a high school leadership conference to be honest. You could practically see the nerves floating through the air. But it was very educational, and everyone was friendly, even if they weren’t particularly outgoing.

On the way to Seattle.
On the way to Seattle.

Third, I was glued to the window of the plane for the entire flight. Clearly I had forgotten that this was only my second trip by plane, and that I hadn’t been to any of the states we were flying over. In the age of the internet it is easy to forget that we haven’t been to places that we’ve heard about and seen pictures of time and time again. I’m also a little obsessed with maps, and seeing all those mountains from 30,000 feet was AH-MAZING, so you could say that I was definitely not bored on the way there.

This is a LIBRARY. Coolest building ever. It was across the street form our hotel.
This is a LIBRARY. Coolest building ever. It was across the street form our hotel.

The conference was held at the Renaissance Marriott, which is flipping gorgeous and pretty expensive. We had to walk down a steep hill from the hotel to the waterfront as well as everywhere else, so of course we also had to walk back up the steep hill. I wouldn’t have packed heels if I’d known how hilly Seattle is. I remember thinking at the time that this must be what the people in San Francisco feel like, walking up and down hills all day long.

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I’ll spare you most of the boring details, but let’s just say that A) non-seafood dinners are hard to find at a reasonable price, at least without taking a taxi somewhere. B) The business district basically closes at 5pm, Pike Place Market included, so it took us three tries to get there while it was open but the fish throwing was very cool. C) It’s a much father walk to the Space Needle than you think, but the view is totally worth it, and the only McDonald’s we ever found was only a block or so away from it.

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Pike Place Market

I wish we’d had more time to explore, but we were there for the conference so we tried not to skip things. It was rainy the whole time we were there but it only actually rained on us the last night of our stay. Otherwise, the clouds parted whenever we left the hotel. It was pretty nice!

Coming into the Houston airport. SO lush!
Coming into the Houston airport. SO lush!

The flight back is actually a funny story. The friend I had flown out with had booked his tickets after me, and I guess I told him the flight I wanted to be on, but it had been blacked out for me, so we actually ended up on different flights home. His layover was in Denver and mine was in Houston. I left 30 minutes before him, but after an hour hold up in Houston because the plane had to be re-cleaned, I got back to New Jersey more than an hour after him. My dad was picking us up, so my poor friend had to chat with him until I got there. Not that my dad is bad. He’s pretty awesome actually, it’s just that the two of them had never met before and I wasn’t there to introduce them. My flights were pretty great though. I was really surprised by how green the Houston area was! (I’ve literally always pictured Arizona as a red-ish, rocky desert and Texas as a more yellowy-tan desert… I grew up watching a lot of westerns.) It’s really nice there, and I’d like to go back someday and actually leave the airport this time.

I finally had time to read my book on the flight back. The book, unsurprisingly, was Nicholas Sparks’ The Best of Me. I tend to pick up Nicholas Sparks when I’m in an airport, okay? I don’t know why. So, I was halfway through the book and nothing much had happened yet when I got on the plane in Houston. This nice couple in their 50’s or 60’s sat next to me. And then I got to all the sad parts… I should probably explain that I’m a crier. I cry for everything. Sad commercial? crying. Friend’s dog dies? tears. Sad movie? bawling. My own pet dies? bedridden for most of the day. So, sad books get me. Every time. And everyone knows that Nicholas Sparks likes to twist the endings of his books and make the reader bawl their eyes out. Only, I had zero tissues. So I sat there blubbering until the lady next to me basically adopted me and had the stewardess bring me a stack of napkins. She also kept checking on me to see if I wanted any food or a drink or anything throughout the flight. She was nice. That book was not.

By the time I got back to New Jersey it was one in the morning and my flight was 2 hours late. My poor friend had parked his car at my house and still had to drive home after got there. I learned a lot of lessons on that trip, not the least of which was to do extensive research on where you are going before you get there and get completely lost. Lucky me that I have pretty decent directional skills or we might not have made it back to the hotel. Cell phone map apps are so not helpful if you don’t know which way is north, by the way.

Check out some more pictures from my trip below, and let me know on Twitter if you’ve ever been totally wrong about a place you’ve visited!

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Sunshine in Seattle
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Skyline from the waterfront
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Waterfront from Pike Place Market
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Seattle Skyline from the Space Needle
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A totem pole down by the waterfront
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Another totem pole we found down town
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Somewhere over the western U.S.

Until next time,

Amanda

PRSA NY Mock Tribunal: Public Relations on Trial

   Back in September, my fellow PRSSA member Marinda and I left campus early and took the train into NYC for PRSA’s Mock Tribunal of Public Relations in honor of National Ethics Month. Ethics are values or moral principles in action. PRSA celebrates National Ethics Month each September to put the focus on ethics and how the Public Relations industry and continue to improve upon itself.

    The event was held at the SUNY Global Center, near Central Park in NYC. We took the train in from New Jersey and then the subway to a station a few blocks away from the event. It was my first time going on the subway ‘by myself’, as in, without someone who knew more about NYC than I did, and I found it surprisingly easy once I figured out how to navigate the subway station. 🙂

    When we arrived, we had missed the first half of the 30 minute networking wine & cheese reception, but we tried to do some networking anyway. We were surprised to see the diversity of the group that was there because our classes are almost entirely made up of white females. All the research suggests that PR is a female dominated industry, but the group that attended the even was the most diverse group of people I have ever seen in one place. After the networking event, we all filed into the conference room (pictured above), and the trial got underway.

      THE TRIAL

    The  above graphic is taken from PRSA NY’s website page about the event. I think it’s easier to show you that rather than try to explain each person.  Mr. Cohen was a great Judge. He did his best not to be biased, and kept the peace between the two sides. Mr. Holmes, the prosecutor, had a lot to say on behalf of the public against PR. He began by arguing to PR is just spin and deception. The defense, spearheaded by Mr. Schubert, said that PR takes ethics very seriously, and that despite a few bad apples, PR does not condone the use of spin or deception in their work. Helping a company put out a point of view is not deception, but merely subjective. Journalism is Objective, and PR is Subjective. PR has a responsibility as the conscience of the company to advice its leaders on ethical practices.

     The first witness for the prosecution was very heated. I have tremendous respect for her because she had the confidence to call PR the death of Journalism in front of a room filled with PR professionals. Holmes brought the point up that although he believes that PR professionals have good intent, he questions their follow through when it comes to ethical controversies. Witnesses for the defense Jaqueline Brevard and Steve Cody had some great comebacks, pointing out that compliance is the letter of the law, and that ethics goes beyond that because it’s values-based. They also cited numerous cases (without naming names of course) in which their companies had dropped clients who asked for or perpetuated unethical practices.

     The prosecution stated that the rise of Social Media took a lot of power away from Journalists, and that it also calls for a higher level of ethical behavior. The defense agreed, but also pointed out that Public Relations professionals do not necessarily get the last word about what goes out to the public. That’s the lawyers job.

     THE SOCIAL MEDIA ASPECT

    Throughout the trial, PRSANY encouraged us to use social media. It was crazy to see all these professionals paying attention to the trial and live-tweeting it at the same time! PRSANY had a person specifically tweeting for them, but just about everyone in the room was tweeting their opinions about the testimonies, and asked their own questions. The foreman of the jury was our voice and compiled our questions to ask at the end of the trial. Some of them were pretty funny! Besides the questions, it was just really cool to be able to talk to other people (some of who were watching the livestream!) about what was going on in front of us.

     THE VERDICT AND WHAT WE LEARNED

    We did a vote at the end of the trial and the verdict returned was not guilty. Both sides had very compelling arguments, and you can watch the whole trial online here! Marinda and I are even in it at the end because the guy sitting in front of us asked a question and the camera panned over to him with us in the background, haha!

    Marinda and I learned a lot that evening in NYC.  Some of the networking things we learned I’m including in a separate post, but we definitely learned about how fun a professional event can be, and that you can never do enough research. some of the arguments were citing PR campaigns that we had never heard of, which just served to intrigue us even more.

     If you are interested in Public Relations, I highly recommend attending some of the PRSA professional events in your area. I was truly amazing to see PR people in action. Again, you can watch the mock trial in full HERE.
Until next time,
Amanda