Book rant

I just finished a book series that took me longer than usual to read. It was by an author I’ve read before and absolutely loved the first series. My usual reading genres are paranormal romance, sci-fi and contemporary romance/thrillers; sometimes a little bit of historical romance thrown in every once in a while. There are many sub-genres off the main ones such as urban fantasy, steampunk and space operas. Then you have Adult, YA (young adult), NA (new adult) and so on.

The general basis of any book to determine the genre is characters and the world. If your book is set in the 1600’s  and has a Downton Abbey feel, you’re looking at a historical romance. But if it its set in the 1600’s and has boulders than can transport you back in time then you’re looking at a historical paranormal romance. Adult genres are usually based off the character’s age. Early 20’s and up is considered adult. 15-18 is young adult. Anything lower than age 15 is not usually a genre I explore; at least for now anyway.

The series I just finished was considered YA and NA. The character started the story at age 18 but ended up being about 23 or 24 by the end of the series. I’m not an expert but blending the lines between a young adult and a “new” adult can come easily to some authors and not so much for others. It’s that stage between leaving school and going off on your own whether it be college or some other route depending on the world you’re in. The story I read consisted of a young girl, a senior in high school, going through a transition from being a regular human to trying to find her place in the world with her friends. She ends up finding out she’s not completely human and that sets up the rest of the books in the series.

When you read a pilot or even watch a pilot you jump end expecting it to start out slow. You know the author (or director) is trying to build your imagination by creating a world and the characters in your mind. They want you to get to know the people and the places. They want you to grow attached to some and hate others. It’s necessary to keep your interest. They want to take you on this amazing, exhilarating, heart pounding, addicting ride. They usually succeed. You dive in deep, get comfortable and ready yourself to ride it out. You get so attached that you can hardly think of anything else except what is going to happen next. You expect the cliffhangers, crave them even because of the feelings they’ll leave you with.

And then you get to the last book in the series. The finale. The world was built. You have guesses, expectations, hopes. This is how I was feeling with the last book in my series. Halfway through I got excited, shocked, and sad. My guesses, expectations and hopes changed. I’m in the last 100 pages. This is it. The war is finally happening! THIS IS IT! And then — fade to black. What the hell? If you aren’t familiar with fade to black it’s essentially when you get the moment you’ve been finally waiting for but instead of getting the moment in detail you get a “5 years later” epilogue that looks back on your moment in a paragraph or two. I’m screaming inside. I feel like I wasted so many sleepless nights. I got past the YA/NA blend, the lame phrases and the questionable missing moments. I had my plot. It grabbed me and I held on! What do I get for that? A rushed ending. Why???

This pretty much ends my rant. I’m going to try a new series by an author I’ve never read before recommended by one of my favorite authors directly on Twitter. Crossing my fingers.

Can I? Should I? Maybe?

Can I?
Should I?
Maybe?

These are the things we ask ourselves when we’re hesitant in a decision. Can I really change my career? Should I order that dessert that’s calling my name? Maybe I should hold off on that decision until something better comes along. Any of these sound familiar? Why is the natural instinct for choice to hesitate? Why raise that level of doubt when it can be nonexistent? Probably because we feel it necessary to weigh all options before making that choice. Maybe we are in a situation where we need to think before we speak and that one second of hesitation can make a difference between keeping or losing a relationship. Maybe none of that matters. Don’t hesitate, just say it, just do it; you only live once and it will open doors. No thinking. Just instant choices, instant decisions, deal with the consequences, if any, later. I wonder, do you think even those people have a moment of hesitation?

I look back on important points in my life and I wonder if the outcome thus far would be different? Would I be any happier than I am in this exact moment in time? At this rate, I believe it can only get better, happier, stronger from here. Ask me again a year from now. 🙂

How do you live your life? Is your hesitation level situational? Curious.

 

 

“Confidence is what we get when we take fear, face it and replace it.”
― Tim Fargo

100

I recently started watching the television show on Netflix called “The 100”. The premise of the show is there is a space colony of about 2000 or so people who have made the ship their home because for whatever reason, Earth is no longer habitable. Aboard the ship there’s a Chancellor and a round-table of councilmen and women who decide the rules and regulations of the ship. They have a system set up where if you are a couple looking to have children, you can only have one child. If you have two, and the system finds out, they will “float” either you or your child. Same applies to people who commit crimes. Floating is basically a form of death where the individuals are sent to the air docks and released into outer space to die. There is also a procedure where every once in a while, after analyzing oxygen levels of the colony, if it is determined that the levels are too low to sustain the number of people, the Chancellor can decide to essentially neutralize a subsection of the colony by cutting off the oxygen flow to that area. Once they do that everyone in that area will fall asleep and die and then they float those couple hundred people.

The 100 are individuals that were handpicked from the criminal sector, mostly teenagers, to be sent down to Earth to see if its live-able again. They are not equipped with body suits or anything to be able to check the air quality before walking off the ship so it’s a suicide mission; kind of like, if you make it Earth awesome but we don’t expect you to. Since it is television, the 100 make it to Earth and find out that it’s live-able but they have to figure how to survive on the land. Turns out there is already a species of human living on Earth, called grounders, who are not exactly thrilled about these “space dwellers” and naturally start killing them off. Then  you have the group of 100 who would prefer to start fresh and not have the rest of the colony come down because they would go back to being prosecuted for their crimes. I forgot to mention that they have these wrist bands that monitor their life from space so they know if the individuals are dead or alive. So this group breaks off the wristbands to make the colony believe it is mass death and that Earth is not live-able or safe. Even though there is clean oxygen, every once in a while a sort of sulfur storm floods through the area and if you aren’t underground or sealed up somewhere and this sulfurous air touches your skin, you burn.

seven-earth-size-exoplanets-discovered-6423181526040576-2-hp2x

Since this is a CW show, it’s kind of cheesy but the reason I wanted to share the premise of this show is because yesterday it was announced that scientists have found seven new “Earth-like” planets orbiting a single star and that three of the planets could potentially be habitable. This is considered a big deal because the natural resources on Earth are being used up at a rapid rate and there’s concern that we will run out which is bad with the billions of people on Earth. I don’t want to go too much into it because it could turn political real quick and nobody wants that but I always wonder if television shows somehow predict the future when you can draw similar parallels between fantasy and reality. Would it be cool if these planets were habitable? Sure, but fantasy and even history has taught us what happens when you invade your neighbor’s territory. We shall see what happens.

A Leader Should…

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis 

As a young person in a leadership role I often times find it hard to create balance between being “fun” and being the “boss”. This is one particular role that helped my co-author and I become as close as we are. She is openly more down to business than I am and that allowed us to run a tight ship. Over the past year I have learned a lot about myself and my associates.

I have put together a short list of things that I find helpful on a weekly basis. Sometimes we have associates, friends, or children who are stuck in a rut and need a little TLC. I hope you find these reminders helpful as you maneuver whatever role you’ve taken on:

  • Honesty/Expectations: Good leaders always lay out the expectations of projects, cleaning, behavior or what have you. …and they do this honestly. It’s unfair for someone to come into a role or position believing it is (or you are) something that isn’t. I find that most people who fail to do what is asked of them do so because they are not properly educated about what is expected. You, as a leader, need to be held accountable for the outcome. However, you cannot hold someone accountable for something that they were not shown or told. Create a detailed map of your expectations and you are more likely to get the results you want.
  • “Get on the bus”: This is a phrase I like to use when I’m hiring new associates, training new associates, or even checking in with more seasoned associates. The bus leaves the station without a lot of children, players, and employees. The morale of the group is often times low when people get left behind. This is as much of a “push” for them to do the right thing as it is a way for you, as the leader, to pick them up and dust them off. The road to winning is a two way street and everyone is expected to do their part. If you set the proper expectations for your team, you can ensure that everyone will be “on the bus” going in the right direction. When someone gets a little distracted from the goal that is when you have a “get on the bus” discussion. This allows you to figure out why this person is about to miss an opportunity to be a team player and hopefully correct the problem.
  • Check Ins: Most people are uncomfortable bringing problems to their leader/boss/manager/coach. It is much easier to squabble among all the other team members to get their opinions than it is to face the issues head on. I use check ins fairly regularly as a way to get a feel for how each associate is doing in my building. If they are struggling with procedures, policies, or have any other questions, the “check in” is a great time to level the playing field and allow both parties to speak freely. Not only does this demonstrate your willingness and ability to put each associate first – it shows them that you are approachable and happy to help. This is also a good time to do any “call outs”, good or bad, in attempts to right the ship and get people on track without the rest of the team knowing.
  • Fairness: Lastly, I have found that above all else that fairness matters. Whether it is between pets, children, managers, bus boys, or who does the nightly cleaning – fairness matters most. If the leader is not willing to clean the toilets how can they expect anyone else to? Lead by example not by pointing and instructing. Dig in the trenches with your people and show them that they matter and that their happiness matters. People will work harder for someone who sweats with them.

These are just a few of the things that I find myself wishing I would have known before stepping into the role that I now have. Most of them seem pretty simple, and they are, it’s just important to keep working on them. Nobody is perfect and it’s important to let the team know that you’re all striving for the same goal of betterment.

Jump to Soar

Majority of us have a Facebook account and we all get our individual “news” feed. Whether it be actual news from pages we follow or friends posting about their lives, we all feel some kind of way about the news we receive. A few weeks ago I decided I was going to try a career change. I came to this decision because I felt my life was just getting monumentally stressful for silly reasons. After many talks with myself, my husband and my friends, especially Mac, I decided it would be for the best. The thing is, I didn’t realize how hard it is to convince myself that this was the right thing to do. You see, after I graduated college the only work I could see myself doing was animal welfare in any capacity. All my experience was with animals and I had become very passionate about the field over the years. Don’t get me wrong, customer service is the main part of any job and those skills are easy to gain. That part was easy to say to myself, “yeah I can take these with me”. The main question was would I be able to learn something new; something complete and utterly different?

So I was going through my Facebook feed and I came across a YouTube video of Steve Harvey. In this short video he essentially gave out a piece of advice for people looking for a change. The words that stuck out to me the most were:

….you can soar but you’ve got to jump. Now here’s the problem, my friends. When you jump…… I can assure you one thing. Your parachute will not open right away. No, that’s the fear part. …… You’re going to hit those sides and those rocks. You’re going to tear you back out on that cliff. You’re going to get cuts and wounded…. but eventually your parachute will open and you’ll be soaring. ……… If you do not jump —– your parachute will never open. So you’re safe, but you will never soar. You’ve got to jump.

After watching that, I felt like my confidence got one giant push. Besides telling myself that I can succeed in a different career, I also told myself to just jump. This was 3 weeks ago and so far, I can say without a doubt, I am much happier for it. I miss aspects of my old job of course but my new life is just so much more.

Ironically enough, in the past week, two of my close friends have talked to me about their lives. Both are looking for a change in scenery. One is looking to get out of the retail working world because she feels like her life revolves around work. The other is looking to get out of the animal rescue business because dealing with puppy mill dogs is really taking a toll on her emotional health. Both want to change careers but, just like me, they’re either afraid of change or do not believe they are capable of doing and succeeding at something different. Can you guess what I told them? Besides going over what I went through in the past 3 weeks and how it affected me personally, I told them to soar. I told them you will never know how great you really are if you don’t try. I told them I have faith that they will succeed in any change that they make. Now, it’s in their thoughts. I’ve planted a seed and I can only hope they will do what they feel is best for them because at the end of the day I will be their parachutes and if they need me to help them soar then that is what I am going to do.

I leave you with another quote, from Denzel Washington’s image award speech, that appeared to me earlier this week and is also great advice to live by:

….never give up. Without commitment, you’ll never start but more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never finish. It’s not easy…….. Keep working, keep striving, never give up. Fall down seven times, get up eight. Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. …..Keep moving, keep growing, keep learning. See you at work.

Dying With Dignity

…if there was ever such a thing.

This topic has been at the forefront of my mind over the past few weeks. My boyfriend and I have each learned of the declining health in our respective grandparents. Long gone are the nights with bed time stories, midnight snacks, and movie marathons. Dark are the days that lie ahead with devastating phone calls, worrying parents, and sleepless nights. I know that we are just a few of the millions who are experiencing a situation each and every day.

Growing up sickness and death was something that I was able to cope with because it wasn’t happening in my immediate family. My mom worked for many assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Up until a few weeks ago I was still visiting clients and attempting to bring some light and hope into their lives. Now that it’s happening to me I feel a little hopeless, sick, hurt, and confused myself.

Like many grandmas, mine is lovely, caring, forgiving, and selfless. While I don’t want her to hurt or be in pain any longer I want her in my life. Over the past few days I’ve gotten calls and texts from my mom telling me that she has fallen, has somehow forgotten how to walk, or that she can barely hold a conversation. Thankfully, my grandma has lived with my mom for years and they are two peas in a pod. (We’re three peas, really.) The severity of her declining health didn’t hit me until today.

…it got real today. Hospice became a part of our lives. The more I read about hospice care the more worried I become. I was told it’s because she needs “more help” and someone who can always be there when my parents and brothers are away. Every day on the phone my grandma sounds like an independent woman. Every night my mom tells me otherwise.

Am I supposed to be thankful that these people are caring and educated individuals? Should my mind be put at ease knowing that they are helping her deal with her pain and “manage” it better? Am I being selfish for wanting her to fight harder? Does she even have the will to continue on this path? I am blessed to have each day with her and I am grateful to the medical professionals who have helped her along the way…but dang. This sucks.

Hospice claims that they are “end of life care” professionals that help the patient and their family during the dying process. Having them as an aid during this time allows the patient to receive care in their homes, if they so choose. While many times, hospice is only called in once a patient is given a 6 month window of life, sometimes they do exceed this window and far surpass it. If this is the window I am given, I am committed to giving my gran the best “end of life care” that I possibly can in any way that I can. That also provides her the dignity to die in her own home surrounded by her loved ones.

From diapers to doll babies to dance recitals and driving she’s been there through it all for me. I intend to do the same for her.

Eat in or Eat Out?

Since we’ve managed to make it past Valentine’s Day I wanted to take a second to see who did what. I’ve asked plenty of my co-workers, friends, my family, and some of my customers what their plans were for the day. I obviously got a wide range of answers from “we don’t celebrate” to “I got flowers, jewelry,  and we’re going out for a fancy dinner”. My true question is this: whether you celebrated yesterday, you are today, or you plan to on any other day: eat in or eat out?

The cashier at Drug Mart definitely said “eat out”! It’s a special day for her and she didn’t want to be spending it in the kitchen or cleaning up the mess. Whether you went to Olive Garden or Morton’s, I hope you enjoyed whatever you ordered and the service you received, if you in fact opted to “eat out”.

My boyfriend and I decided to “eat in”. Let me break down my decision for you so you can see my side of things a little clearer. On the menu for our Valentine’s dinner were the following:

Veal rib chops – marinated and grilled to perfection by the master griller/my boyfriend. ($45 for two at our local fine foods grocer.)

Lobster tails – buttered and (also) grilled to mouthwatering goodness. (Let’s say we paid $5 each for these – CostCo special so who really knows.)

Broccoli florets – baked with olive oil, garlic, and onion powder to give them a nice crunchy zing to tickle your taste buds. (Free because the master griller also owns a produce company.)

Butter and garlic wild rice – it is what it sounds like, and it was delicious. ($1.50 a pack at whatever grocery you shop from.)

Pinot Noir – A smooth red from Sonoma county that took the edge off the real world. ($20 wherever you can buy some good wine.)

Chocolate covered strawberries – an entire pack of juicy red California strawberries with milk chocolate drizzle to end the night. (Free strawberries and $2.50 for the melting chocolate – pick your store.)

With that being said – if you total up the rough amount that we spent for our Valentine’s meal it’s somewhere between $75-$80. That’s on the high side because we usually buy things on sale. If you were to order that exact meal at a fine restaurant you’re easily looking to spend $200 after tip.

So, what’s my ultimate suggestion for your Valentine’s dinner for next year, your mom’s birthday, your fiancées big accomplishment…? Learn to freakin’ cook! Get some garlic, good olive oil, onion powder, a nice red wine and some balsamic vinegar and go to town! Save some money, look through some blogs for good recipes, and get down to impressing the people you care about the most!

First Things First

I have been staring at this page for a week.

Actually, make that two weeks; wondering what the first post topic should be. Why is this so difficult? There are many topics, ideas, thoughts floating around in my brain but the decision of picking one is taking literal days. The only thing that is at the forefront of my mind is taxes and Valentine’s Day.

Taxes. Love.

Everyone hates taxes. Talk about complicated. Between the million and one different forms, schedules, deductions, it truly is the most stressful time of the year. My advice? Just don’t adult. Who needs their own home? Is that freelance job really necessary? Can you squeeze by without it? Seriously though, the best way to combat taxes, besides changing your W-4, that I’ve found to be most successful, is saving. Now, we’ve all seen the challenge where if you save 1 dollar for each day of the year, for 365 days, yadda yadda you’ll have $2000 by the end of the year. It’s a great concept, don’t get me wrong. It gets the wheels in your brain turning, thinking about saving money and not touching those savings unless absolutely necessary. The hard part is math. How do you remember to add $1 for day one then $2 for day two, etc. I, personally, have a terrible memory especially when you have a job that is very demanding on your brain power. The best solution is to come up with a stagnant amount that you won’t even notice is gone every cycle. What does that mean? Ok, here’s what we do:

Step 1: Think about how much you spend on fast food and other related activities in a week.

Step 2: Ask yourself is this really necessary. Don’t be afraid to lie to yourself by saying yes.

Step 3: Take that number and cut it in half. This will be your starting point for saving.

Step 4: If you don’t have a savings account with your bank, start one. They’re usually free.

Step 5: Take that number from Step 3 and set up and automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account for every paycheck you receive. Now, this could mean weekly or biweekly or even monthly. Either way, you decide. In my case, I did weekly even though I was paid biweekly.

Step 6: Watch your savings grow and DO NOT touch it unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. As in, emergency funds only!

Step 7: Smile! You did it! Now all you have to do is keep it up!

The first time my husband and I did this, we raised $3000 in a year. Trust me, if you set up automatic transfer, you won’t even miss it. So when tax season comes around and you end up in the owing taxes boat you can dip into your savings to pay that off, if necessary, while still growing your savings account.

Enough about taxes. Let’s talk about love!

Sadly, there’s less to say here than taxes because love is so easy! Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and whether or not you have a significant other I hope you love yourself.

What’s that saying from Parks and Recreation?

TREAT YO’ SELF! Get some dinner, eat that cake and have a great day!

 

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