Top 5 Books I Read in 2015

I am currently celebrating the fact that I hit my 25 books in 2015 goal via Goodreads! This could not have been done without the completion of my Masters degree, the joyous book club I joined (here’s to you Changing Hands Bookstore/First Draft Book Bar), and the copious amount of free time I have had in the past few months.

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I originally planned to rank all 25 books in order from best to worse, but that would take way too much time (and reading on your part) so I chose to only review 5 of the best books I enjoyed this year.
5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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This was a book I had heard good things about in the new year and was excite to read. I wasn’t disappointed at all. It kept me on my seat throughout its entirety and also left me with so much thought after it was done. I didn’t think I would be a fan of the thriller type books that have been out recently, but after this and Gone Girl, I definitely get the trend.

 
4. Did you Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

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Just tragic. Those were the words I repeated so many times as I read this book. That feeling of closure, and the fear of never getting it, allows so much feeling that we all as humans can connect to. I loved hearing from other perspectives surrounding this one small town, and left the book wanting to make sure everyone was just okay, because I knew that would be all they would ask for.

 
3. Bossypants by Tina Fey

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I had been waiting for the perfect time to read this book, and finally found my opportunity as I boarded the plane back home to Kansas City for Thanksgiving. I am not much of a flyer, so I knew I needed a book that would distract me 100 percent and allow me to laugh as I flew through bumpy skies. Bossypants was the perfect antidote. Tina had me laughing out loud throughout my entire flight home and back to Arizona. Not only was this book hilarious, it touched on things I often think about with being a woman seeking success and the possibility of having a family, and my creative spirit…all of those things and more including childhood stories and growing up made me love this read.

 
2. Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey by Maya Angelou

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I should have known Maya Angelou would come right at the last minute and steal my heart. This was my last book of the year, and I’m so happy it was. As a twenty-something trying to figure out who I am, I could strongly relate to this book. I have been in need of a prose from an African American woman, and I sought out Maya for that solace. Quickest read I have ever done, but was filled with so much impactful content.

 
1. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

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This book. I was nervous yet excited to read this as I had heard rumors about the plot and how it differs from To Kill a MockingBird, but what I did not expect is what made me love this book so much. Its timeliness of its publication was eerily perfect, and so needed in a time where we think racism is over and we don’t have to talk about it anymore…No, we really do need to. Harper Lee wrote this before To Kill a Mockinbird and I bet her editor said, “people are not ready for this yet”. Sad to say, I don’t know if people today are still ready for it, but I strongly encourage everyone to read this! Even though it was not edited as thoroughly as most books are, the message packed a great punch, and I loved hearing Scouts voice as a twenty-something trying to figure out her life. This book couldn’t have spoken to me more at the exact right time it needed to.

 
Honorable mentions: (in no particular order)
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for reading!

V

My Letter to Fear

I love when I hear something inspiring that makes me think or reflect on my own experiences. I was fortunate enough to have some inspiration this past Sunday, when I heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her new book, Big Magic (P.s. Buy it! – locally please!). Her new book is about living a creative life, and the purpose of fear. She said that fear should not be completely gone from your life, and that fear and creativity actually depend on each other. She told us fear is more than welcome to join her throughout her journey with creativity, but in no way is fear allowed to make any decisions or have a voice. I absolutely loved this. Elizabeth wrote a letter to fear telling it just that: that it had no voice in her life, but its presence is more than welcome.

This inspired me to write my own letter to fear. My personal acceptance of its purpose and putting it in its place. Fear and I have come through hell and high water. Sometimes I could win, and tell fear to shove it, but more often than anything, fear found a way to make me feel vulnerable and afraid of an outcome I wasn’t sure of. When I first started writing this letter, I couldn’t stop thinking about The Little Rascals and the lovely note that was sent to Darla (for reference, please see video). I wanted to so badly to grill at my fear and tell it to stay out of my business and that it truly did make me want to vomit. In my head there was so much I wanted to yell at fear for. For all the times it held me back to living a my creative life, but I decided to take a step back and be really honest with my fear. To let it know that I did appreciate it for being there, because like Elizabeth Gilbert had mentioned during her talk, “If you live without fear, you would pretty much be a sociopath” (not exactly the direct quote, but close enough). So I decided to take a crack at writing to my fear as truthfully as I could, and I decided to share it with you all.

Dear Fear,

How’s life treating you inside my head? You have been putting in a lot of extra hours lately, and for that, I respect your want to work over time, but it doesn’t mean you will be compensated for it. I wanted you to know that I am no longer trying to quit you. That I am okay that you are up there in my head, giving me all the ways things can go wrong with what I want to do. What I am thankful for is that you have no place in my heart. My heart belongs to me and my creativity. You know creativity, right? I’m sure you have met before. Its the one that you push off the swings every now and then because you aren’t the biggest fan of sharing my mind. Well, creativity and I have had enough of your bullying. Creativity and I have the reins in this here body of mine, and I would like for it to stay that way. I know that you are here for a reason, and that sometimes I will hear your voice and start to feel my palms sweat and my anxiety kick in, but instead of listening and following your voice, I’m going to turn to my heart and let creativity be my guide.

Forever and always, but never in charge you will forever be.

All my love,

Virginia

The Infamous Graduation Cap v. Kinky Curls: Styling Natural Hair on my Graduation Day

No one’s hair looks good in a graduation cap. This was what I constantly would hear and wanted so desperately for it not to be true on this particular graduation day. I was graduating with my Masters and I wanted my hair to be “masters worthy”. The battle was on.

Curly hair is infamous for wanting to do its own thing, and I was donned with these said curls for the past 25 years. One thing I always hated was how curly haired people always struggle when it comes to graduation caps. Sometimes people give up the fight and straighten their locks, some embrace the curls and wear the cap in whatever way works best. I was ready for the battle with the cap to begin.

Round 1: Denying the Curl
Before I made a decision on my hair style, I needed to know if I even wanted to show my hair in its ‘almost true’ natural state. As I tried on the hat, I could tell whatever style I was wearing needed pinning. This is also because I have a large head that does not allow the cap to sit on my head as it does for the petite skull. It was decided. I was going to straighten my hair for the first time since being natural.

Round 2: Accepting the Curl
As I was doing some research on the “straightening” process of my kinks, I got nervous.. did I really want to damage my hair for looks? I logged off the internet and took a look at what I was born with in the mirror: I can make this work!

Round 3: Prepping the Curl
Even though I was ready to accept what my momma gave me, I still wanted it to look as great it can be. I sent my mom pics of me goofing off with my graduation cap and my hair style options, and with her feedback and mine, I made the decision of what my cap hair was going to look like. This took an hour or so of washing, conditioning, twisting my hair in mini twist to perfect a good curl. Now all I had to do is wait and see what the final product was. With my hair, it could go any way, especially if the weather is not in my favor.

attempt styling 1

attempt styling 1

 

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The Final Battle: Success!
Waking up the morning of graduation, I was excited to see the finished project, and based on my family being in town and my best friends with me, I knew it was all going to turn out.

And Viola! It was a success. My hair looked fabulous and I felt great with my natural afro curls

 

Yay!

Yay!

I know this post seems pretty vain, but to be honest, this was surrounding a bubble of insecurities and low confidence. Confidence is something that I am working to grow in, so writing this post is a little practice for me to talk about the things I like about myself. Whether its your curly hair or something else, I hope you can take away that there is ALWAYS something about yourself that you should love. I am learning this with you!

V

“I’m Bringing Blogging Back.. Yeah!”

In the inspiring words of JT, I am bringing blogging back.

Truly I did miss it. I always felt regret when I didn’t take the time to get on the computer and just write what I was feeling. I enjoy writing. I journal regularly, why am I not capable of holding down a blog?

Personally, I felt that if I wasn’t traveling or doing something exciting (you don’t want to hear about my grad life of readings and writing theoretical papers on student development?) there was no reason for me to write.. wrong! I need to keep telling myself that, at least.

So, to spice things up, I have added two new pages to my blog:
Bibliophile and A Moveable Feast where I will talk about my two favorite things: reading and eating. (on that note, a great book suggestion if you love travel stories is A Moveable Feast by Don George and other amazing travel writers)

Here’s to a new year and an updated blog!

Tough Choices: Saying ‘Until Tomorrow’ to International Travel

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one travel, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted
wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

                          -Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”

Having the ability to travel should never be taken for granted, but yet, I feel like sometimes it is. Take me for example. Whenever I daydream about traveling, I picture myself in a foreign country where I can’t speak the language, getting somewhat lost in the city center. I loved my experience traveling to Spain and Ireland, so I always want to relive those moments over and over again. Over the winter break, I dedicated my time to apply for summer internships across the US and various countries. All of the internship locations sounded appealing, but the international positions always connected to exotic imagery in my head. I wanted the internship location and position to bring me adventure, so when I got two offers from two different areas of the world, both jammed pack with adventure, I was stuck. Upstate New York and Bulgaria were fighting head to head in my mind in a travel sense, but I needed to be an adult and make a thoughtful decision. I knew Bulgaria would be an intense adventure that I could only imagine, but costly. I also knew that my excitement for the work I would be doing in New York state and a half-country road trip to get there brought the adventure I needed as well. Through my moment of indecisiveness and a little help from my best friends, I needed to make a decision.

Once I had made my decision, I thought declining Bulgaria would be easy. Just another box to check off my to-do list, but when I finished typing my email, I kept re-reading and double checking my words. I wanted this declining email to be perfect and wanted to somehow express how sorry I was that I couldn’t partake in an adventure to a country I’ve never visited. When I finally hit send, I felt a pinch in my stomach. It was almost like my inner wanderlust was inside of me, kicking and screaming in anger that I denied it of its thirst. I literally could feel myself trying to reassure it. Letting it know that my time in New York would include travel and new adventures.

I know I don’t have to be overseas to feed my cravings to travel. Taking a road trip to get to know my country sounds almost more nerve-racking than any new country I have ever visited. But that same nerve-racking energy that is bouncing in my mind is also the same energy that makes me more excited and happy with my decision.

Decisions don’t always come with the outcome you desired. Knowing this, and the path I chose, I can only wait for another decision to be made, another path to walk on…

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July: The Month of Frustrations and Gratitude

I know what you are thinking, how can I be frustrated and still feel grateful? In the past four days alone I have felt anxiety, stress, and happiness for my life. It all starts and ends with my car, “The Hatch”.

I have had the worst luck with my car this week. This past Friday, I blew out my rear tire, and had to take money out of my savings to buy a new (and expensive) tire. Originally, I was livid. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the negatives that were happening because of it. The fact I was taking money out of my savings three weeks from me moving out of the state. This thought was just enough to push me to tears. I was heading to a fundraising event my best friend’s job was hosting, and didn’t even have the energy or motivation to go once my tire blowout. A part of me thought it was a bad idea for me not to attend the event, that maybe being with my friends would make me feel better. Unfortunately, the negatives flooded my mind and got to me, so I went back home pouting.

I wasn’t happy with my reaction to the events with “The Hatch”. I completely ignored my commandments and rushed to the feeling of “why me”. I vowed that I would not do that to myself again, and of course, the higher beings in the world have a way of holding me to my promises..

Today, on my way home from work, “The Hatch” had an encounter with a rushed truck in bumper to bumper traffic. The truck swerved into my lane and knocked out my front light. Shaking from the fear of damage to my new car, I pulled over and prayed that the damage wasn’t that bad. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped out of the car to see the results. Luckily, the only damage was my light cover, which won’t cost too much to repair. I walked away from the situation without stress, or self-pity, and because of that I feel even better.
If the Happiness Project has taught me anything at this point in time, is that life is never pre-planned. Sometimes just going with the flow and being grateful for what you have, is a huge benefactor to one’s happiness.. I am thankful to have enough money in savings to avoid stress of repair, and I am thankful the damage was minimal. “The Hatch” has been through a lot this week, but at least I feel like I came out of the negatives with a positive smile 🙂
Virginia

Happiness Project: Practice Makes Perfect – A June Review

Well hello there, July. My first month of my personal Happiness Project is complete and it definitely was a fun ride. My mission for June was to focus on my energy, both physically and mentally. I decided to make sure I had at least seven hours of sleep each day, exercise at least five days a week, as well as practice the art of meditating – a challenge, but one of my new favorite things.
At the beginning of the month, I was at the top of my game. I worked out almost everyday, even if it was in small increments. I felt fully rested when I woke up every morning due to my sleep schedule, and meditating left me so relaxed and energized to continue my day.
As I mentioned in my previous post, “The Balancing Act”, I started struggling with my routine due to me moving in with my parents. I think my body is finally starting to get acclimated with the new move, but I will be doing it again when I move for grad school at the end of the month.
I guess the big question to ask at the end of this month is, do I feel happier? This month definitely challenged me to abide by my commandments, as there have been some down days, but overall, I am pleased with the progress and am excited to tackle a new month of the happiness pursuit.
For the month of July, I decided to dedicate my focus on my health, and how it reflects my confidence. I don’t have the best confidence as of right now, but I have a good feeling about this month and what some of the ideas I have will bring.
Here’s to month two!
Virginia