Table Talk Tuesday With Imelda Green

Table Talk Tuesday With Imelda Green

I can’t believe this is already my fourth Table Talk Tuesday interview. I’ve been having so much fun getting to know other bloggers through this blog series! Hopefully you all are enjoying reading these conversations so far.

For today’s interview, I’m very excited to introduce Imelda. I was immediately enchanted by her blog, which features her creative handmade products, as well as step-by-step guides to creating your own masterpieces. She is definitely an inspiration to me, and I’m sure many others, when it comes to following your passions.

Without further adieu, let’s jump into the interview so you can see what I mean:

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Can you tell me the story of how you decided to start your blog, and what your blogging journey has been like so far?

I was nearing the end of my engineering studies when it finally dawned on me that this was not my path in life and that if I wanted to pursue a creative career. Without disrespect for theoretical knowledge, I think that art and design is a profession that you master mainly by doing instead of pouring over books. So I decided that starting a blog about my creative journey would motivate me to do regular work. And so it has, for over a year.

What is the most important thing you think someone should know before starting a blog?

Know your passion. Blogging takes a lot of time and hard work but that all feels like a game when you write about something you are really fascinated with. If you blog about a topic you only choose for market (or whatever other) reasons, you will lose interest in the end.

You mention on the About section of your blog that blogging helped you not fall into the trap of laziness, because it pushed you to keep creating things. What are some other ways you stay productive and motivated?

The beauty of the creative field is that there are many different aspects of the work I do, so I don’t have to be productive in the same field all the time. Fed up with writing blog posts? No problem, time to illustrate! Been painting for days on end? It’s okay, I can spend my energy on building a community around my blog. But I also allow myself to be unproductive at times, those are the moments when I re-charge my batteries, which is crucial when you are a creative. 

You also talked how you realized during your time at university that you didn’t want to spend all of your life doing architecture/engineering, when your true passions were in design and beauty. What made you finally decide to pursue your passions? 

I think that creativity is something that bursts out of you; it finds its way to the surface, unless you repress it. For the moment I am doing engineering as well as designing, which is demanding but I find I’m really lucky because I have a comfortable job, which I am choosing to do as well as a designing career, which comes naturally, and which I will eventually do full-time. So I guess I never made a very conscious decision to pursue my passion, I just acted on the natural impulse. 

“I think that creativity is something that bursts out of you; it finds its way to the surface, unless you repress it.”

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

That is definitely a hard one, as I have a very long gratitude list and I don’t normally rank them, but here it goes: I am incredibly grateful to my grandmother for introducing art to me from a very early age, to my blogger friends who keep encouraging me even when blogging seems pointless and to Mr Mozart for his genius music, which cheers me up in every situation.

What is one of your favorite inspirational quotes?

There is a quote above my desk that I learned from Thomas Frank’s youtube channel: “’I don’t feel like it’ is a matter of choice”. It is very tempting – especially in the creative field – to only do work when you ‘feel inspired’. But inspiration is something you can actually control and the difference between amateur and professional artists is that professionals don’t wait for the perfect moment, they do it anyway. It might not be perfect, but a first draft is always better than an empty piece of paper.

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

Uh, that’s another difficult one, I have so many. I’m really thankful for all the things I learned about running an online business from Melyssa Griffin, she is amazing, and I always find artistic motivation when I watch the youtube channel of Holly Exley.   

What is the best advice you have ever received from someone?

Better done than perfect. I have seen/heard this advice so many times and I honestly think that perfectionism sabotages our actions just too many times. It won’t be perfect, but it will get better with time. And better and better…

What is your greatest achievement so far in life, and what is one thing you still hope to accomplish?

I’m really proud of getting over the world constantly telling me I am not good enough and following my own path in the artistic field. I am hoping to continue this journey until I can run my business full time.    

“I’m really proud of getting over the world constantly telling me I am not good enough and following my own path in the artistic field.”

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could have one super power, which would you choose?

Well, I would definitely be grateful for the ability to teleport. Travelling can sometimes be stressful in a big city, especially when it’s cold and dark outside (hello February :). I also have some good friends abroad whom I’d love to see more often at slightly less expense.

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I just loved everything Imelda had t0 say about creativity and how she got to where she is today. My favorite part about these interviews is hearing everyone’s stories. Please be sure to check out Imelda’s blog and follow her on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/imeldagreens

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/imeldagreens/

Pinterest: https://hu.pinterest.com/imeldagreens/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/imeldagreens

Tumblr: http://imeldagreens.tumblr.com

Be Proud of Yourself: Part 2

Be Proud of Yourself: Part 2

I was looking back on some of my old blog posts to get inspiration for what I should write about next, and I came across my Be Proud of Yourself post, which is one of my favorites I’ve ever written. It’s short and sweet, but gets the point across. It gave me the idea to write an updated version, with some of my new accomplishments.

I was in such a different place than I am now when I wrote that post almost a year and a half ago, and though reading it makes me a bit sad to think about how I was feeling at that time, I also feel really happy to know I’ve accomplished even more now and I am much happier than I was back then.

I can honestly say I am really proud of where I am in life right now. I have a great group of friends who I have been spending a lot of time with, I’m continuing to spend time with my family, I’ve gotten more responsibility at my job, and I couldn’t be more excited about where my blog is going. And most importantly, I’ve learned how to stay positive, even through difficult times.

It was fun for me to make this list of my current accomplishments, and I would definitely recommend you try it! It’s a good reminder that no matter how you’re feeling, there are always things to be proud of in your life.

My Recent Accomplishments:
  1. I’ve somehow become an interviewer, and I’m loving it! I started a new series on my blog, Table Talk Tuesday, where I interview other bloggers. It’s been so much fun to talk with other like-minded people, and hear their stories. I also recently got the chance to interview Shawn Booth and Kaitlyn Bristowe of The Bachelorette, and celebrity personal trainer Erin Oprea at the CitySTRONG event in Austin.
  2. I am the organizer of a blogger Meetup group, which I wrote about in a recent blog post. We had our second meeting yesterday, and once again I was blown away by everyone’s stories. There are so many awesome bloggers and aspiring bloggers out there! Check out these two who I met today: http://www.delayedsleeper.com and http://www.mycontrolexperiment.com
  3. While I was excited to have 40-something blog followers in my last post, I am now even more excited to say I have 200-something followers! It just goes to show that hard work and perseverance pays off. And I am so flattered and happy so many of you seem to enjoy reading what I write.
  4. Unfortunately after I wrote that last post, I started to work out less and less, and I spent most of 2016 not exercising regularly. However, I am proud to say that the last few months I have been going to a yoga class once a week, walking around my neighborhood with my mom at least three times a week, and hiking in the greenbelt with my friends a couple times a month. Like I said in the last post, I’ve noticed a positive change in my moods since putting fitness as a top priority.

Having two more things to be proud of compared to the last time I wrote this blog post feels pretty great. I’ve decided I am going to keep track of accomplishments like these regularly, because it really does make a difference to actively tell yourself how proud you are, and to take note of the small victories in life.

I hope you enjoyed this update on an old post. Let me know in the comments what your recent accomplishments are!

CitySTRONG: My Interview With Erin Oprea, Shawn Booth and Kaitlyn Bristowe

CitySTRONG: My Interview With Erin Oprea, Shawn Booth and Kaitlyn Bristowe

Sometimes in life, you get opportunities that seem a little too good to be true. This was definitely how I felt when I was offered the chance to not only attend the CitySTRONG event in Austin, but get media/VIP access to meet and interview Kaitlyn Bristowe and Shawn Booth from The Bachelorette Season 11, and celebrity fitness instructor Erin Oprea.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know I’m a fan of the Bachelor franchise, so meeting Kaitlyn and Shawn was basically a dream come true. Not to mention, it’s not every day you get to chat with the woman who helped Carrie Underwood achieve her famous legs.

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Photo credit: Zach Harrison Photography

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with CitySTRONG, it is a one hour workout lead by Erin and Shawn, with hilarious commentary and music provided by Kaitlyn. While the workout was no joke, and I am still sore today, it was also a lot of fun.

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Photo credit: Zach Harrison Photography (@zachharrisonphotography on Instagram)

CitySTRONG has events across the country, with all proceeds going to a great cause: CreatiVets. This cause is particularly important to Erin, who is a former U.S. Marine. CreatiVets provides disabled veterans with the opportunity to use art, music and creative writing to address the psychological and emotional needs that arise from service-related trauma.

Now that you have a bit of context, let’s dive into my interview with Kaitlyn, Shawn and Erin. They were all so friendly and willing to answer all of my questions. It felt more like a casual hang-out than an interview, and overall I’m really proud of how it turned out.

Shelly: To start off, can you tell me how you came up with the idea for CitySTRONG, and what the experience has been like so far? 

Erin: My husband Sean, Shawn [Booth], and I were out on bicycles riding through the city of Nashville, and we just came up with the idea together. And three weeks later, we had our first workout! That was in September of last year, and from there it just grew. 

Shawn: We really just wanted to share our passion with others on a larger scale…

Erin: But in a fun aspect too. I didn’t want it to just be a serious workout. It’s more like a party – with the exception of wine today. 

Kaitlyn: I normally drink wine but I’m doing 30 days without it right now.

Shelly: I’m sure that’s tough!

Kaitlyn: It really is. 

[Kaitlyn’s commentary during the workout included many references to the lack of wine, including my favorite line from her of the day: “Oh good, I’m still funny without wine! Good to know.”]

Shelly: What would you say is the main goal of CitySTRONG?

Erin: I want people to realize that sweating doesn’t have to be boring. A lot of people think working out is boring and I want to show people it can be fun, especially if you have a workout buddy that energizes you. 

Shawn: And that you can do it anywhere. Like today, we’ll do a full body workout using just your body. There’s no weights involved. So if you’re at home struggling to get to the gym, or you’re traveling, it’s something you can do wherever.  

Shelly: I think that’s really important, because a lot of people (myself included) make excuses about being too busy or not being able to make it to the gym. So reminding people you can do it anywhere is great. 

Erin: Yeah I hear that all the time. There’s no good excuse, because you can always do ten minutes, go back to work, and then do ten more minutes later in the day. You can always fit it in, it just has to become a priority. When it becomes important enough to you, you’ll do it. 

Shelly: That’s so true. So what advice would you have for someone who is struggling to stay motivated or to put fitness as a top priority in their life? 

Shawn: Set short-term goals for yourself. I think a lot of people give up or get discouraged if they don’t see progress being made within a few days, so if you set goals for yourself such as ‘I’m going to work out three times this week’ it makes it easier. Take it day by day, meal by meal, workout by workout. 

Erin: I think an important one for women is to monitor based on how your clothes fit, not what you see on the scale. The scale sometimes can be the death of all of us women. 

Kaitlyn: My mom refuses to own a scale.

Erin: I just got my first scale of my life, I’ve never owned one. And I shouldn’t really even own one, it’s just stupid. 

Shelly: Erin, you wrote a book, The 4×4 Diet. Can you tell me what readers can expect from it?

Erin: It includes tabata workouts, which are my favorite. They’re 8 round bursts of 20 seconds of high-intensity moves, followed by 10 seconds of rest. The book also goes into having a clean, healthy diet that you can have forever, not a quick crash diet. 

Shawn: No fad diets here!

Shelly: What has been the best or most rewarding part of the CitySRONG experience so far? 

Shawn: We get the pleasure of meeting hundreds of people after the events, and just hearing their stories and how inspired they are by us keeps us motivated to keep doing what we do. 

I had so much fun at the workout and chatting with Erin, Shawn and Kaitlyn. Hope you all enjoyed reading the interview, and learned a thing or two about health and fitness. Be sure to check out CitySTRONG’s website to see if they’re coming to your city, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook. You can also find Kaitlyn, Shawn, and Erin on Instagram.

 

 

The Perks Of Living Alone

The Perks Of Living Alone

As I mentioned in my Dear 2016 blog post, I moved into my own apartment last March. Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoy living by myself, and how there are so many perks in comparison to living with roommates. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time living with some of my best friends in college, but I can’t deny there is something great about having my own space.

Here are some of the main perks of living alone:

Singing in the shower (and out of the shower)

I’m sure lots of people still do this when they have roommates, but there is something extra fun about belting out your favorite songs when you know nobody (besides your neighbors depending on how loud you are) can hear you. When I’m feeling really adventurous I’ll even find karaoke tracks of songs on YouTube and have my own private concert for myself. Yes, I am very cool.

Talking to yourself

Similar to the previous point, but I love being able to talk to myself like a crazy person without being judged by anyone…except all of you who now know I do that. But come on, don’t pretend you don’t do it too! Whether it’s rehearsing a conversation you’re planning on having with someone, or just giving yourself compliments when you get all dressed up for a date, talking to yourself is much easier when you’re living solo.

Walking around naked (or wearing whatever you want)

I love lounging in my fluffy robe after I take a shower or bath. I also like walking around in just a big t-shirt. And sometimes, I just walk around naked. Because I can. That’s the luxury you have when you don’t have roommates. Even if I just feel like staying in my PJs all day, I can do that without worrying about my roommate asking if I’m feeling okay.

Setting your own schedule

Feel like re-living your youth by staying up way too late and sleeping in until the afternoon the next day? Do it! Need to play some pump-up music while you’re getting ready for work in the morning? No problem! I love being able to choose exactly what I want to do each day, and what time I want to wake up and go to sleep, without worrying about someone else’s schedule or plans. It may be selfish, but I have to admit it’s nice to be able to just think about myself every once in a while.

 

I realize my opinion on this may not be the same as yours. Some people hate living alone and prefer to have roommates or live with their family. And I know there are definitely perks to living with people. Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are about living alone, and if you agree with why I enjoy it.

Table Talk Tuesday With Jennifer Smith

Table Talk Tuesday With Jennifer Smith

I’m back with another Table Talk Tuesday, and I’m so excited to introduce you all to my guest this week: Jenn from the lifestyle blog The Art of Better, where she helps women live their best lives, and The Art of Better Blogging, helping others along their blogging journey.

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I’m so impressed by what you’ve built with both Art of Better Blogging and The Art of Better. Can you tell me, in a nutshell, how you got to be where you are today? 

Thank you! It’s been a long, winding path, for sure. I’ve been blogging on & off since 1999, way back in the day where I would hard code my sites in HTML from a blank page. A few years later, I had a fledgling graphic design business that I had to put it on the back burner for my corporate career. Can’t maintain a side hustle while working 60hrs every week!
Luckily I started my blogging journey back up again not long after because I just couldn’t seem to exist without writing. The Art of Better came first with The Art of Better Blogging coming about a year later when I started getting asked so many questions about blogging that I decided to segment them out. I blogged on the side for a few years and then finally got to the point where I was able to go full-time in 2015 and leave my soul-sucking corporate career!

A lot of people struggle with feelings of doubt, fear, and worrying about not being good enough when trying to accomplish big goals in life. Do you have any advice for pushing aside those negative feelings and going after what you want?   

“Impostor Syndrome” can be crippling, but everyone grapples with it from time to time. The way I help my blog & business coaching clients through it is through helping them recognize that everyone has a unique story and angle because no two people have the same background, path or life perspective. Well, that, and making it clear that fear is just a feeling, an emotion. You can choose to acknowledge it, set it aside, and move beyond it.

You seem to be an expert in all things blogging, social media, and just life in general. What was your process for becoming so knowledgeable? Do you have any tips for someone who wants to learn more about blogging, social media, etc? 

Well, I don’t know about life (I’m kind of a self-development junkie!) but I’ve been around the blogging & online business worlds for so long that I have seen nearly everything. The best advice I can give anyone who wants to know more is to read everything you can get your hands on (but take everything with a grain of salt) and find some bloggy besties that are slightly above your skill or experience level. Hanging out with people who are more advanced will cause you to stretch your skill set more often.

What is your life motto?

Hustle 24/7? Hell no!
Everything I do is dedicated to better… and that includes rebelling at the idea that you need to grind away all day every day to have a successful blog or online business. It just isn’t true! Do you have to hustle with purpose sometimes? Of course! But not all the time.

What is the most important thing you think someone should know before starting a blog, like The Art of Better, or a business, like Art of Better Blogging?

Consistency is imperative for success. A lot of people start blogging and seem to have this idea that you can just write and they will come. I wish!

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

Oh! I love this questions. I do a daily gratitude practice and it has truly changed my life. Keeping it down to just 3 is really difficult!
1. My family (including our 4 dogs & close friends!)
2. My ah-mazing clients!
3. True red lipstick

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

I have so many! Of course, the usual suspects like Michelle Obama, Oprah, Marie Forleo, but also women like Rose McGowan & Ani Difranco who are so unafraid to speak out for what they’re passionate about.

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

Learn to meditate much, much sooner.

What accomplishment are you most proud of, and what is something you still hope to accomplish in your lifetime?   

I’m most proud of becoming legal guardians for my niece a few years back. We didn’t have any kids prior to that time and we’ve managed to learn very quickly how to become good parents. I think in a few years we might want to have a baby- that would be a big accomplishment for us since we thought we’d never want kids!

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could be any animal, which  animal would you want to be? 

I’d have to say either an eagle or cheetah. I like to go fast!
Hope you enjoyed my interview with Jenn and learned as much from her as I did! For further inspiration and education, grab her free video training, How to Kickstart Your Blog’s Growth in 2017and join The Art of Better Blogging FB Community.

I’m a Blogging Meetup Organizer!

I’m a Blogging Meetup Organizer!

I just wanted to write a quick post today letting you all know about a new project I’m working on. About a month ago I became the organizer of a Meetup group for bloggers in Austin. The organizer before me had to step down, and he sent out an email asking if anyone would be interested in taking over. On a whim I emailed and said I would, and next thing I knew, I was the new organizer!

The group has over 300 members, so I was a bit nervous for the responsibility, but was also excited to have a new challenge. I started by creating a poll in the group asking what kind of event everyone would want to have for our first meetup. The majority of members voted for a chill get-together at a coffee shop, so I picked a date and time and told everyone to meet at one of my favorite coffee shops: Mozart’s.

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We had about 10 people show up, which was the perfect amount to be able to sit outside at a long picnic table and talk all things blogging. We started by going around and sharing who we were and what we blogged about, and it was amazing how many different areas and interests everyone focused on for their blog, from guitar repair to dog care. I’ve listed everyone’s blog links at the end of this post so you all can check them out!

I’m excited to see where this new opportunity takes me. It already seems to be a great way to meet new people and learn more about blogging. Everyone brings their own expertise and opinions to the table, and I’m looking forward to learning from them.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever participated in or lead a Meetup group, or something similar! I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice. Also, be sure to check out all of the blog links below, and you’ll see what I mean about the variety in types of content. Also, if you’re in the Austin area and looking for a new group to join, check out Austin Area Bloggers! 

Meetup Group Members Blogs:

myasays.com

impulsivetravelerguy.com 

geekybetterlife.com

k9ofmine.com

thomsinger.com

landisguitars.com

mycallavida.com

How to Stay Body Positive

How to Stay Body Positive

I was watching a YouTube video the other day, and in the video the YouTuber stated her weight. I looked through the comments and found many young girls saying things such as: “I’m only 14 and I weigh more than her” and asking if that was okay or if they were too big.

I replied to as many comments as I could, telling the girls that it isn’t healthy to compare yourself to others because every body is unique, and as long as you are healthy and happy it doesn’t matter what you weigh. But I know this message is easy to say and not quite as easy to believe.

I have definitely had my fair share of anxiety about the way my body looks, but I do feel I have learned some helpful tricks over the years to remain more body positive. Hopefully some of these tips will help those of you who might be struggling.

Stop comparing yourself to others

As I told the young girls commenting on the YouTube video, it does no good to judge yourself based on the standard others have set. Not only does it inevitably lead to negative thoughts, but it is not productive or logical. Every single person on this planet has a different body, and no matter how hard you try, yours will never look exactly like someone else’s, and you will be left feeling disappointed if you constantly covet another’s body type.

Do things that make you feel strong, healthy and confident

The healthier alternative to comparing yourself to others is to focus on your own mind and body, and do things that make you feel good. For me this includes taking a yoga class every week, going on walks at least three times a week, hiking in the greenbelt at least once a month, and going shopping or dressing up every once in a while to feel more confident.

Be nice to yourself

Next time you catch yourself criticizing your appearance, turn your thoughts to what you love about yourself instead. Whenever I look at myself in the mirror, I try to think of something positive instead of immediately jumping to something negative. You can even pretend you’re complimenting someone else instead of yourself, if that helps! It’s much easier for us to find the beauty in others, for whatever reason.

Keep track of the compliments you receive from others

Speaking of complimenting others, another good trick is to take note of the compliments you receive, and be sure to repeat them to yourself when you’re feeling down. Whether it’s that you have nice nails (something one of my coworkers always tells me), or maybe even just that someone liked your outfit one day. Reminding ourselves of how others see us is very helpful when trying to stay body positive!.

I hope this helped you, or just added a little positivity to your Sunday night! Try these tips out this week and see how it changes the way you feel for the rest of the week. Also, if you’re looking for some general positivity tricks, check out my How To Stay Positive post.

Table Talk Tuesday With Anna Gordon

Table Talk Tuesday With Anna Gordon

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Welcome to the first-ever Table Talk Tuesday, a new interview series I’m starting where I talk to bloggers and entrepreneurs that I admire. But before I get into talking about my first interviewee, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to my friend Lindsay for creating the cute image you see above!

First up in the hot seat this Tuesday is Anna Gordon, social media manager and creator of House of Hashtag, a platform for female entrepreneurs. She also has a brand new website in the works, so I will share that link when it is live.

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To start off, can you tell me your life story in three sentences or less?

My background is in art, design and photography. I have certainly had a lot of trials and tribulations in life but I am grateful for my struggles as they have led me to where I am today, and I am happy!

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

I would tell myself not to worry so much and to never miss out on an opportunity for the fear of being disliked. Up until the age of about 23 I was so insecure about my appearance, I would often avoid going out with friends and attending any social event. Looking back, I feel I missed out on a lot.

If you had a life motto, what would it be?

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

What is the most important thing for people to know before starting a business/blog?

Done is better than perfect. It’s important that we get things right for our businesses and blogs, but spending forever on something until it is perfect is a waste of time. Just get it out there! Also I think having a positive mindset is crucial as well.

Sometimes our failures/setbacks teach us more than our successes. Can you talk about a time when you failed and what it taught you?

Honestly, I have experienced so many ‘failures’ and setbacks but like I said in my first answer, I am genuinely grateful for those times because I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life. I think going through rough times and experiencing failures helps mold you into a more compassionate person to others. Ultimately, sometimes we all just have to roll with the punches when things don’t work out.

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

My mum (she is literally my best friend) 2. My partner, David. 3. Finding my passion

Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

Oh tough one, I have so many “girl crushes”. At the moment I’d have to say I’m crushing on Mariah Coz the most. She really knows her stuff, gives away so much free content and she comes across as genuine and down to earth.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’d have to say travelling solo around Australia and South East Asia (which was amazing by the way). I have always been such a shy and anxious person. So for me to step out of my comfort zone to that extent and follow my dreams makes me proud.

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. What is your go-to karaoke song?

Prince- 1999

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I hope you all enjoyed the first installment of Table Talk Tuesday with the very inspirational Anna Gordon! Be sure to follow her on Instagram, and keep your eyes out for another interview next Tuesday.
Interested in being featured? Email me at shelly@shellyray.com.

Dear 2016

Dear 2016

Dear 2016,

I want to start out by thanking you. You threw a lot of changes, hardships and surprises my way, but every one of them taught me something and made me stronger. I also want to thank you for all of the beautiful, fun, magical moments you brought to me. If you talk to 2017, tell it to send a few more of those my way this year.

I started out the year pushing myself out of my comfort zone and signing up for an improv class. That decision turned out to be one of the best of the year. Improv brought me a new group of friends, gave me a hobby to focus on once a week, and also taught me countless life lessons. Though I decided to stop improv a few months ago, I will always be grateful for the time I spent with it in 2016.

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You brought one of the biggest changes of my life in March, 2016, moving into my very own apartment and learning to live all by myself for the first time. I remember agonizing over the decision of whether or not I wanted to live alone, but now that it has been about nine months, I am so glad I did. Being by myself has forced me to be more independent, and has also made me to learn how to balance alone time with social time, something I think I have been doing a great job of in the last few months.

2016, you really made me work for things this year. You pushed me to stop being lazy in life, and to go after what I want. This has manifested in many different aspects of my life, from improving my physical and mental health to being happier in my social and work life. I feel much more confident in what I want and what I need to do to get it, and I know I will only continue to be better about this in 2017.

You really tested my ability to stay positive during the last two months of the year, but in doing so, actually taught me to be more optimistic. At times it felt as though the hardship and tragedy was never ending; a breakup, the loss of a childhood friend, changes at work, political strife in our country. Through it all I managed to stay positive, and learned healthy coping mechanisms to get me through the days. I also learned the important lesson that no matter how bad things seem, there is always something to smile about.

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As I write this in the new year, I am so happy with where last year took me. I learned so much about myself and I grew a lot as a person, and I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have been in a while. I have an incredible support system around me, from friends to family to coworkers, and in some cases, these relationships have been strengthened by the tough times I had to face.

So thank you, 2016, for all of the moments that made up this year, good and bad. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them. I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring!

– Shelly

Book Review: Before The Fall

Book Review: Before The Fall

“To try to predict the places we’ll go and the people we’ll meet would be pointless.”

Reading has become a big part of my life, and I’m so happy I get to share my thoughts on the books I read with all of you! As I write this I am almost finished with another book, so expect yet another book review sometime in the next month.

Today’s review is on Noah Hawley’s suspense novel Before The FallIf you haven’t noticed already, my book reviews tend to be less plot-focused and more general thoughts about the book. So if you’re looking to learn more about the plot, I found this New York Times review by Janet Maslin which I would recommend reading (before or after coming back to my review, of course).

Not only is Hawley an author, but he is also a TV producer/writer (best known for creating the award-winning show Fargo). As I read this book, I could definitely see elements of a TV script in his writing. He added a lot of details and descriptions of the characters, which helped them come to life on the page the way I’m sure he has to do when creating characters for the screen. I’m a sucker for good character development, so this caught my attention right away.

Another element of the novel that I liked was that each chapter switched perspective, giving you a look inside the mind of all of the main characters, similar to the way Paula Hawkins wrote The Girl On The Train. I always enjoy novels that are set up like this, because I like to get to know all of the characters instead of being stuck hearing the story from only one point of view. I also think it works well with mystery/suspense stories, unveiling pieces of the puzzle from different angles.

The one part of the novel that was a bit disappointing to me was the ending. It felt rushed and abrupt, and I didn’t feel satisfied the way I did at the end of The Girl On The Train. Like I said, Hawley adds a lot of details into the novel, and when I reached the end I realized many of the details hadn’t been relevant to the conclusion. I know this is a typical ploy to throw off the reader and ensure the ending can’t be easily guessed, but I was left wishing there had been more essential details to explain the ending.

Overall this was a well written and entertaining read, and it kept my interest the whole way through. If you like stories that include a lot of character detail and plenty of mystery, you will enjoy this book! Like I said, the ending wasn’t my favorite, but it is still well worth the read.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, and if you agree or disagree about the ending. Have you read any of Hawley’s other novels? If not, what is the last book you read?