Wanderlust: Jacksonville, FL

For whatever reason, I have always loved the ocean. So when our group of friends started prepping for a trip to Florida for Memorial Day weekend, I could hardly contain my excitement.

Our friend Hans generously offered to let everyone stay at his family’s condo in Ponte Vedra, FL, where we had about a thirty-second walk to the beach. Fortunately, we didn’t see any storms that were previously forecasted–although these clouds might suggest otherwise. But isn’t it beautiful?

#bestcrablife

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Despite the number of beach trips I have under my belt, I had never been to the beach at night until last weekend! So, with the aforementioned thirty-second walk to the beach, I jumped at the chance when my friends suggested a nighttime walk. We grabbed a few flashlights/phones and made our way to the beach.

I can’t remember the last time I saw so many stars. And to see them over the ocean? Absolutely breathtaking. I could have stayed there for hours.

When Drew said that we should look for crabs, I thought he was joking…but there were tiny crabs crawling everywhere (and a few huge ones)! And they’re surprisingly fast. We joked that they were the spider cheetahs of the sea. When they scuttled away to their holes in the sand, we said they were just trying to live their best crab life. #bestcrablife became our vacation hashtag and the obvious catchphrase of the weekend.

Oh, and for anyone worried about getting pinched: the crabs were harmless, and we only saw them at night. They simply ran away if they knew we were coming. I felt bad for startling them and potentially hurting their eyes with our flashlights, but I figured some minor stress was better than stepping on them.

On Friday and Saturday, we spent more time in Jacksonville. After some beach time, we headed for Bold City Brewery and then made our way to The Hourglass Pub to see a comedy show. Hourglass Pub is like nerd heaven during a night out. In addition to their bar, they have bookshelves, an arcade room with a TARDIS door, and N64 games you can play for free!

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They also had a pet tarantula in a glass case, but I kept my distance because spiders aren’t really my thing.

On Saturday, we visited the Cummer Museum to see a few art exhibits and walk through their gardens. We also spent waaaaay too long in the kids’ section playing this electronic painting game….

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One kid kindly complimented Drew’s cat (it’s Constable Chubs, obviously) and showed us how to print our next picture, which we are planning on framing.

 

That evening, we took a tour at the Catty Shack Ranch, a wildlife sanctuary for big cats. Catty Shack rescues animals from zoos that can no longer care for them or from private owners that were illegally keeping wild animals. Once a cat finds a home at Catty Shack, they stay there for life–no buying, trading, or selling takes place. It truly is an amazing organization.

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Sunday was our designated day to spend all day at the beach/pool. I think we put it to good use, as you can see by our construction project.

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The Great Pyramid of Giza, protected by a majestic fortress

The ocean kind of destroyed our fortress, but at least the pyramid was safe for a while.

Needless to say, I had a wonderful time and I’m already missing the sun and the sea. Hopefully we’ll meet again soon.

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Summer Reading

Since my last entry, I have clearly fallen short of my blogging goals. What can I say? Life happens. A couple weeks ago, I traveled back to my lovely Missouri to see my cousin graduate college; last weekend, I attended a wedding, got to see some dear friends, and met new ones in the process. This holiday weekend, I’m headed to Florida, so it’ll be quiet around here again–after that, it’s back to our regular scheduled programming!

 

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What my friends and I will look like this weekend, probably

Instead of planning important things for this weekend, like my traveling budget, I’ve been totally preoccupied with choosing what books to bring. No trip is quite as perfect for reading as a beach vacation. Right now, I’m finishing The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and I’ve decided to also bring Remembrance by Meg Cabot  (I’m late, I know) and Down the Rabbit Hole  by Holly Madison (yes, the Holly Madison of the Playboy Mansion–it looked interesting, so I’ll let you all know how that goes). Granted, I’ll only be gone for the holiday weekend, but I think it’s good to be prepared.

 

Maybe it’s because I have spent a lot of previous vacations reading on the beach, but there’s a certain type of book that I believe needs to be read by the ocean. I prefer lighter, funnier books when I’m at the beach. I mean, I don’t want to suddenly cry about a character’s death as I am collecting seashells or something. That sounds horrible.

The only book I’ve read at the beach that didn’t follow this rule was A Storm of Swords by George R.R Martin, and that’s because I had just started it. I was a wreck a few days later when I read the Red Wedding scene on the plane ride home (0/10, would not recommend doing this. Retreat to the safety of your home when you read these books).

Still, summertime reads are some of the best reads, whether or not you have the chance to go to the beach. And since I have perfect taste in everything, I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

Katie’s Obviously Perfect Book Recs: 

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler 

Do I really need to explain why you should read this? Amy Poehler is a goddess. She writes with the perfect amount of humor and wisdom, and despite her aforementioned goddess status, I found myself relating to her in every single chapter.

anything by Meg Cabot

I’v always had a soft spot for Cabot’s novels. As a teenager, I’d sit in my sunny backyard and read my favorites, including The Princess Diaries, the Mediator series, and All-American Girl. I read them so often that my copies of these books are practically falling apart; they’re summer nostalgia at its greatest.

The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling

While I am a staunch supporter of Harry Potter re-reads at any time of the year, there is something especially wonderful about re-reading this series during the summer. It reminds me of childhood, but it also reminds me of all the book releases and movie premieres that happened so often during the summer. Plus, Harry’s birthday is July 31–why not celebrate? And then have a good cry, because the Deathly Hallows never gets less heartbreaking.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

More teenage nostalgia! Told from both Eleanor and Park’s perspectives (hence the name), this is a teen romance that feels more genuine than unrealistic. I love Rowell’s writing style, and this is a very sweet story that I recommend to any YA fan.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Honestly, this is one of my favorite books of all time, and I wish more people knew of it. From the first sentence, I was hooked. This novel is cleverly written and wonderfully imagined, with a sugar-addicted angel, a Norse yard gnome, and a mini-physics lesson.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson 

I actually heard about this book from my mom, who read it while we were spending the day at the beach. She could not stop laughing, and she kept telling me to read certain chapters before I finally read the whole thing. I couldn’t stop laughing, either.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I’m mainly adding this one because it’s a funny story (but if you want to read it, go for it!). One summer, my best friends and I decided to start a book club (lovingly and awesomely named the Fuzzy Toe Socks Book Club) and for some reason, we decided to start with Atlas Shrugged.  Everyone was like, “THAT’S your pick?!” And we were like, “Yeeeah, so?” And then we started reading it and understood why everyone thought we were crazy. It practically took all summer to read. And for the first month or so we were all, “Who the eff is this John Galt dude?!”

And now we have to spend the rest of our lives explaining ourselves, because no one can hear the name ‘Ayn Rand’ without freaking out and assuming we’re horrible people. God forbid we read any authors we disagree with, right?

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This is by no means an exhaustive list, but they’re often the first books I think of during the summertime. If I didn’t have to pack, I could probably add a lot more…but we’ll save that for another day. See you next week, loves. I’ll probably be sunburned (and happy).

What books remind you of summer? What books are at the top of your recommendation list? 

 

 

 

Friends, Waffles, and Work: Ren Fest Adventures

First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you who read my last blog post. Your kind words and support mean the world to me. Mental health awareness is especially close to my heart, and I am blessed if this little blog can be a place for advocacy and education. I am considering writing more about mental health, so if you have any suggestions or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or send them via Twitter (or, if you know me personally, you can just tell me). Mental illness can be an especially difficult subject to discuss, and so I was hesitant to click the ‘publish’ button–but I am so glad I did. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

I know I’m late writing this FWAW (that’s my new abbreviation for Friends, Waffles, and Work–how should I pronounce that? Eff-wah? Fwah? Just F-W-A-W? Am I overthinking this? Probably.), but last week was crazy! As usual, job-hunting has taken a huge chunk of my schedule, but I’ve also been getting more involved with church. My current work schedule is also a little hectic (retail), and Drew and I have started volunteering at an animal shelter. Our first training session is this week, and I seriously cannot wait.

I was also busy preparing for one of the most important events of the entire year: the Renaissance Festival. I’ve been to a few Ren Fests in my day, but this was my first year attending the festival in Atlanta. It was also the first year where I attempted making  a costume. I decided to make a flower crown and faerie wings, because where else is wearing flowers and wings socially acceptable?

The problem: I am not very crafty. If you have ever seen Pinterest Fails, you know what I mean. It’s rather frustrating, because I love creating and I love making things, but I kind of suck at it. But with the help of Lauren Conrad, a few wing tutorials, and the miracle of Dollar General, my project was a success.

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Due to time restraints and other obstacles (like buying the wrong kind of wire and too-small stockings), the they aren’t quite what I had envisioned…and compared to some wings I saw at the festival, mine looked like a six-year old made them–but still, not too shabby, right?

Tip: Buy queen-sized knee high stockings at Walgreens. They’re only 99 cents. Also, just use wire hangers. Drew was nice enough to donate a few hangers to the Faerie Fund. 

So basically, I’m really proud of making something that didn’t immediately fall apart, and I am a master craftswoman now.

Kate, Drew, and I headed for the Ren Fest Saturday morning, and we had a blast. If you’ve never been to a Renaissance Festival, I highly recommend it. There are tons of shows to see and things to buy–kind of like a huge fantasy-themed art fair.

We even tried our hand at archery…

 

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Kate is a badass and made a bullseye.

 

 

and Drew tried axe-throwing, which was simultaneously awesome and nerve-wracking.

 

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The lighting kind of makes him look like an evil villain, but he’s a pretty decent dude.

 

And all my dreams came true when I met a unicorn.

 

I'm in my element. 🦄🦄🦄 #renaissancefestival #atlrenaissancefestival #unicorns

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Ultimately, I think our trip was a success, and I’m already excited to attend next year (and try making an even nicer pair of wings).

Other happy little thoughts:

Going to Missouri this weekend; wishing my mom and all the other motherly figures in my life a happy Mother’s Day; seeing little girls dressed up like Disney princesses at Ren Fest and talking to them about their costumes; Drew’s excitement over our new Roomba; Game of Thrones; celebrating Cinco de Mayo with new friends; the awesome wisdom of Jonathan Sacks; walking to neighborhood parks; travel plans; Constable Chubs (as always; that cat has earned a special place in our hearts); keeping in touch with friends from all over the world; picking up shifts at work; Kid President; learning more about trusting God; falling more in love with Atlanta; upcoming beach trips and anticipating the summer.

Here’s to a happy Monday and an amazingly kick-ass week. What are you excited about this week?

 

ANXIETY: the mental health post

Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: May is Mental Health Month. This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for months now, and I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. This post focuses on anxiety, but I also mention depression and suicide. Obviously, I am not a mental health professional, and mental illness can manifest in different ways. If you are struggling, schedule an appointment with your doctor ASAP. In a crisis, call your suicide/emergency hotline (US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255). 

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I have always been a worrier.

Looking back, it’s a wonder I didn’t realize something was wrong until after college. But that was my version of normal: this thing is happening, so you’re going to worry about it. Or, this thing might happen, so you’re going to worry about that, too. Or, more than likely, while you’re already stressed, you might as well worry about this HIGHLY UNLIKELY SCENARIO. 

I even remember learning about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in my high school psychology class and thinking, “If I had any mental illness, that would probably be it.” Despite my suspicions, I shrugged it off. Calling my anxiety a ‘disorder,’ however mild, seemed to be a bit of a stretch.

At that time in my life, it probably was. I wasn’t avoiding situations that made me nervous, and I certainly didn’t find it hard to relax. I did, however, overanalyze every aspect of my life, whether it was the complicated world of dating or wondering if I was the friend nobody liked (I know, I liked Dane Cook; don’t judge me too harshly).

Fast-forward to my freshman year of  college, where I took another psychology class and had the same thought about GAD. I ignored it. Again. For some reason, I had anxiety about making phone calls, but not about my health.

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Anxiety is weird, you guys.

My little charade could only go on for so long. Throughout college, my anxiety only piled up. Writing short essays became all-nighters where I fought stomachaches and crying fits. Finals week, while stressful for everyone, meant I lost a couple pounds because I didn’t eat  much. When I lived off-campus, I always left an hour early because I was so worried about being tardy and, consequently, failing my class.

The tipping point finally came post-graduation and post-mission trip. Never had so much in my life happened so fast. I graduated in December, and left for Spain in February. While I was away, one of my cousins committed suicide. I firmly believe that I was surrounded by amazing people who provided the love I so desperately needed, and God certainly heard my heart breaking–but grief became an entirely different monster upon my return home. Two months later, my then-boyfriend and I broke up. I was job hunting to no avail. My family suffered more losses. And I missed Spain dearly. 

Depression wasn’t like my anxiety: it was glaringly obvious. I spent most of my time falling asleep in front of Netflix. I drove around town or wandered around Wal-Mart just so I could say I got out of the house. I ate too much. I was sad, yes, but I also felt empty. Depression convinced me I would feel this way forever; anxiety convinced me that I was a failure. After breaking down into tears in the middle of a Taco Bell, my dad told me that I needed to get help.

I scheduled an appointment with a counselor, whom I started visiting once a week. Therapy has an odd reputation–so many assume it is for other people, people with truly messed-up issues. The truth is that therapy is for everyone. I’ve actually come to think of it as a type of preventive care; even after my depression subsided, I continued to schedule appointments.

Counseling did wonders for my health, and my heart. I was able to talk about anything and everything I needed, and the healing process began. With therapy, I worked hard to love myself again. To tell myself that all would be well.

But life kept coming with its everyday pitfalls and its overwhelming changes. That January, I started having panic attacks.

So that was fun.

It was also what finally prompted me to go see a doctor, since I was having them approximately every other day. Sometimes, there was an obvious stressor. Sometimes, it happened for no reason at all. My doctor prescribed generic Celexa (citalopram), which I tried for about a month before I was prescribed Zoloft (sertraline) and Ativan (lorazepam) for panic attacks.

Like therapy, there is a stigma that comes with antidepressants–even among those who take them. It’s easy to feel like you are broken, or that you will have to endure countless treatments before you can be human again. On the other side of the spectrum, you can start believing that medication will fix all of your problems. Neither of these assumptions are true: antidepressants are no different than any other medication. You would not think less of anyone for taking medication for their cholesterol, and a good doctor would also suggest changes in diet and exercise. For me, anxiety is no different. Healthy coping mechanisms have to supplement medication.

Eventually, I asked my doctor if I could lower my dose of Zoloft. After moving to Atlanta, I started weaning off completely, and I am currently medication-free. I still carry Ativan in my purse for emergencies, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve had a panic attack out of nowhere.

Free of medication does not mean I am free of anxiety. Sometimes, everyday events feel particularly overwhelming, and I’ve considered going back on Zoloft. Maybe I will; maybe I won’t. Both are perfectly valid choices, as long as I am making my health a priority.

I know I am not alone in this. So many people I love the fight similar demons. If you search ‘anxiety,’ it’s among the most common of mental illnesses. We are fortunate to live in a time where people are talking about metal illness, and the Internet can be a wonderful place for those conversations.

Our brains may be wired to worry; to drown in the what-ifs and forget to live in the now. But that does not mean we are unable to heal. There is hope. Hold on.

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Other Resources:

Project Semicolon

SAM: Self-Help for Anxiety Management

An anxiety relief playlist, which I listen to in additon to my personal playlists

Anxiety boxes, brought to you by my dear friend Topaz

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

On Blogging

I have a confession to make: I am not good at finishing things.

As a writer, this is kind of a problem. I have countless drafts that have gone unedited and uncompleted, and ideas that have been in my head for years but never put on paper.

Blogging is no exception. When I was in high school, there were several blogs I would check on a daily basis, and I toyed with the idea of starting my own. I made accounts on WordPress and Blogspot that have since been forgotten. After college, I decided to try again: I kept a blog while I was in Spain, and attempted another while I was searching for publishing jobs. I abandoned the first because I told myself it was ‘just for the trip’; the second was forgotten because depression has a tendency to leave you incredibly unmotivated.

Quills and Crystals is the fist blog I have stuck with throughout those years, and while this is a project I absolutely adore, there are times when I ask myself if I should be doing something different. I don’t have a particular goal in mind, or even a theme; I just write whatever strikes my fancy at the time. And yes, there are several ideas in my ‘drafts’ folder that I have not yet written.

Looking back, I think the main reason I abandoned blogs was because I was so paralyzed by the thought of having the perfect blog right away. I read my favorite blogs and forgot that they, too, probably started blogging on a whim and had to figure out what type of writer they wanted to be.

That’s where I am now: this beautiful beginning of simply writing from my heart and sharing it on this vast space we call the Internet.

It’s not always easy. I’m a relatively private person, and so I often wonder if I’ll regret writing about deeply personal experiences. But art exists for the soul, and writing–blogging or otherwise–is my way of making sense of the world. Art also exists so that we know we are loved and understood; if I can write anything that makes you feel less alone, I am happy to share it here.

Aside from the challenges of personal posts, blogging can be difficult because there is so much I want to say. I could talk for hours about tattoos, or the awesomeness of Genesis, or Disney princesses. I could also talk for hours about feminism or politics. While Facebook is a battleground for opinions, this blog is a place where I can coherently write and process information.

Blogging can open so many doors for writers, and I’d be lying if I said my career wasn’t part of my motivation. But this is also my heartspace; when I don’t journal, I come here. For once, I am not trying to find a box to fit into. I’m just trying to be me, and that comes with a great deal of introspection as well as whimsy.

So, if you are along for the ride, thank you for reading. Thank you for your kind words and letting me connect with you in a way only the Internet can provide. I think I’ve finally started a blog that’s here for good. ❤