Endorphins Make You Happy

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Perhaps it is because I have always been relatively healthy, but fitness is usually low on my list of priorities–if not last.

Exercise and I didn’t always have such a bumpy relationship. Growing up, I was always involved in some kind of sport (whether or not I possessed the necessary talent is another matter entirely.). But the most demanding of my athletic endeavors was high school swimming. Three days a week, I woke up at 4:30AM to make 5am practice; afternoon practices were followed by weight training. I was, without a doubt, the healthiest I had ever been in my entire life.

During my senior year, I decided that I wasn’t passionate enough about swimming to continue.  I had more free time to pursue my true passions, and I took what I thought was a well-needed break from vigorous exercise.

Looking back, I realize that this is when I started to view exercise as a chore.

I’m now in my twenties, but not much has changed. I still struggle to roll out of bed, or get off of the couch, or pause an episode Friends in exchange for a yoga video.

know that my current habits will likely affect my overall health in the future–but it is not difficult to gain knowledge. Think about it: how many times have we all heard that exercise can reduce stress and increase energy?

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They just don’t. 

Turning that knowledge into action…well, that’s the real challenge.

But I know that it isn’t impossible. Drew lifts weights almost every day; when I asked him how he stays motivated, he simply shrugged and said that he always feels better after working out.

When I work out, I kind of hate myself and feel like throwing up.

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Shut up, Ross. 

Then, I found something incredible: Bad Witch Workout. Gala Darling and Garnett Strother have created a free seven-day fitness challenge for anyone beginning their fitness journey–and I loved it so much that I bought the Starter Pack. While I’m still struggling to do the workouts regularly, this program has worked wonders. The community is amazingly supportive, and I’ve even met a few friends along the way!

To supplement Bad Witch Workout, I plan on practicing yoga more often. Yoga With Adriene has been my go-to workout resource for years; unfortunately, I tend to go on a three-day streak and stop.

Through yoga, Bad Witch Workout, and a bit of soul-searching, I’ve realized that I need to find my own source of motivation. Some people just know they feel awesome after a good workout. That’s wonderful, and I admire anyone who knows that exercise is worth it–but I feel awesome when I eat junk food or hit the snooze button multiple times. So, I’ve settled on a new mantra:

When I exercise, I am taking care of myself; therefore, exercise is an act of self-love. When I honor my body, I am honoring God.  

I may never be a bonafide fitness junkie. However, I can always make my physical health a priority….even if it is just making sure I drink enough water and get enough sleep.

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What are some of your favorite workouts? How do you prioritize your health? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter

 

hello, september

Why, hello, September! I can’t believe 2016 has gone by so quickly, but here we are–and there’s already so much happening!

This weekend, I am headed to Dragoncon in Atlanta. Despite my extreme nerdiness, this will be my first con ever…and apparently, they throw a Yule Ball every year. I CAN’T WAIT.

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After we’ve recovered from a weekend of partying (introvert alert), Drew and I are heading to San Francisco! Drew was invited to a conference in San Fran, so we decided to extend our stay and take a vacation. I’m sure lots of Instagramming will ensue.

As for my newest literary pursuits…

I am thrilled to announce that I have recently joined the team over at  Thistle Magazine! I’ll be posting on Tumblr and promoting upcoming issues. Each staff member will also be featured in our mini-issue, Portraits. Be sure to follow Thistle on Twitter and Facebook for more updates!

I have also returned to the world of freelance. At the moment, I am focusing on editing and proofreading (and short writing gigs–unfortunately, I don’t have the time to take on huge writing projects.). If you have a manuscript or blog post that needs polishing, feel free to contact me!

Overall, September’s looking pretty fabulous. I’m especially looking forward to writing as I sip on a pumpkin spice latte. ❤

 

What do you have planned for this month? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

 

 

Why I Write

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At some point or another, all aspiring writers are told that it’s a less than glamorous life, and that we will face countless rejections over the course of their lifetime. We are told it is very difficult to make a living as a writer, and if we do manage to pull it off, there isn’t much money involved– because J.K Rowling is the exception, not the rule.

We create blogs and participate in National Novel Writing Month. We slave over drafts and try our best to silence our inner critic. We research self-publishing and agents and wonder how we will ever be heard when so many people are waiting for the same thing. We take our words and submit and submit and submit until we finally see our name in print.

We keep writing.

And we wait.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Knowing all this, it’s a wonder I still write at all. It would be much, much easier if I had chosen a different path.

But that’s just it, isn’t it?

In many ways, writing chose me.

I love words. I love how I write faster when I get excited about an idea, and how my handwriting becomes more and more unreadable. I love the click-clack of my keyboard and listening to my writing playlist. I love my Scrivener outlines. I love writing so late at night that I’m the only one awake. I love stories, because when you get to the heart of a fairy tale, it’s just another way to tell the truth.

I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else and still feeling so unbelievably happy.

I write because I can’t imagine doing anything else when my heart is hurting.

I write because I believe God hears prayers, but He also reads letters.

I write because I don’t want people like me to feel so alone.

I write because it’s fun.

I write because it’s therapeutic.

I write because sometimes it’s the only thing that feels effortless, and sometimes I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life.

I write because the world can never have enough books.

I write because I have something to say.

I write because it’s who I am.

I write.

I won’t ever stop.

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

A post shared by Katie (@katielilybeth) on

 

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?

 

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. ❤

Why We Love Game of Thrones

A few years ago, a little show called Game of Thrones took over the world.  I couldn’t go anywhere on Facebook or Tumblr without hearing about it. I didn’t even know what the show was about, but I knew there was a lot of nudity, and a lot of fighting. Since violence isn’t really my jam, I wasn’t too intrigued.

Somewhere along the way, I found out that it had been a book series, too.

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Queue the intrigue. Because I’m that person who needs to read the book, AND watch the movie, if time allows (I’m not trying to be a snob when I say that, either. I just really suck at seeing movies, as anyone who knows me at all can confirm).

As I heard more about the show, the book series climbed higher and higher on my to-read list. But what truly caught my interest was when my cousin Heather told me about a certain quote from Tyrion Lannister:

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

I think that’s how my love for the series began. What finally grabbed my attention wasn’t the sex, the epic battles, or even the medieval fantasy setting: it was Tyrion, the dwarf who had always felt like an outcast (he’s still my favorite, by the way).

I purchased the first book as soon as I could, and I was addicted. Every free moment I had was spent reading. I hadn’t loved a series like that in a very long time.

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After reading the books, I started the show. Admittedly, it took me forever to catch up (meaning Drew and I finished watching the fifth season a few weeks ago–I suck at watching things, remember?), but the show is just as addicting. The actors are perfectly cast; the sets are gorgeous–and sometimes, you see more of a character than you do in the novels.

Even though I believe George R.R Martin is a brilliant writer, and that his novels inspired an excellent television show, I found myself reflecting on my love for the series. Last season did not come without criticism, namely for changing various plot points and including scenes with sexual violence. It’s a thrilling story, but it’s not particularly easy to watch. How did I–and millions of others–fall in love with such a brutal series?

Take the Red Wedding, for instance. That scene is absolutely heartbreaking, and for good reason. Even Cersei’s atonement walk is hard to watch, and there aren’t many fans I know who have love for Cersei Lannister. I realize that many fans have a stronger stomach than I do when it comes to blood and gore, but I don’t know anyone who relishes the thought of seeing yet another beloved character killed. In fact, many fans stopped watching last season because of unneeded sexual violence.

Westeros is a fictional universe that I do not care to visit. In some ways, it’s so much more terrifying than reality–but it’s also like looking into a mirror. Certain scenes are based on our own history; other plot points, such as radical religious leaders, are so relevant to today that the story stops feeling like fantasy.

In the middle of it all are some of the most fascinating characters in recent culture. With the exception of Joffrey, I don’t think there is one character that is fully good or fully evil. But our heroes have one thing in common: they are all outcasts.

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Game of Thrones is the ultimate underdog story. And who doesn’t love to root for the underdog?

Daenerys Targaryen goes from exiled princess to Mother of Dragons. Tyrion Lannister is accused of crimes he did not commit. Jon Snow is only known as Ned Stark’s bastard son until he joins the Night’s Watch. The list goes on and on; if they didn’t start out as misfits, their circumstances have made them that way.

“I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things.”

-Tyrion Lannister, A Game of Thrones

The real story is not about violence: it is about triumph. We don’t love the characters who already have power–we love those who are beaten and abused by power, the ones who fight to survive. Game of Thrones is not successful because of its controversial nature, but because it appeals to the tender spots in our own hearts. And until the last book is written and the last episode airs, we will continue to cheer for the characters who never thought they’d win.

 

worthy

I spent Easter morning bawling.

Not because I was sad, or because anything particularly bad happened. I wasn’t even that tired.  I was just sitting in church, listening to the all-too familiar story that gets told every Easter Sunday.

But I couldn’t stop crying.

I don’t remember when I was told about Jesus, but I know I was, because I believed that He loved me. I wasn’t aware of any other alternative–it was just a fact of life, and I accepted it the same way I accepted that my parents loved me and that we’d go to my grandparents’ house for Christmas.

Even during my freshman year of college, when I struggled deeply with the very idea of religion, I never stopped believing in God. I believed that there was Someone out there; I just wasn’t sure what that Someone was like. Was he really as loving as I had always thought? Or was he the angry, vengeful force of nature I had read about on picket signs?

A few Bible studies and sermons later, I found myself getting to know the Jesus from my childhood. The Jesus who loved. The Jesus who still does.

That fact was once again drilled into my brain: you are loved. 

Still, knowing something is different than truly believing it. I know I am loved, but some days, I wonder why. I’m not that special. I definitely spend more time turning away from God than I do turning to Him. I am too messy, too broken, and too stubborn for such perfect God to love me.

So why does He bother?

Love has to be more than a feeling. It is a choice; it is something you must act upon, or else it is not true love. I’ve had fights with my boyfriend, my friends, and my parents–none of which made me feel like I loved them very much. That sounds harsh, but it’s pretty difficult to feel love when you are angry or sad. I’ve always liked how Beverly Clearly writes about this in Beezus and Ramona, when Beezus (for those of you who haven’t read it, Beezus’s real name is Beatrice; Ramona just couldn’t pronounce her sister’s name correctly) is pretty pissed off at Ramona for ruining her birthday:

“Sometimes I just don’t love Ramona!” she blurted out, to get it over with. There! She had said it right out loud. And on her birthday, too. Now everyone would know what a terrible girl she was.

“My goodness, is that all that bothers you?” Mother sounded surprised.

Beezus nodded miserably.

“Why, there’s no reason why you should love Ramona all the time,” mother went on. “After all, there are probably lots of times when she doesn’t love you.”

A relationship with God is not unlike any other relationship here on earth. When I am hurt or confused, there are times I feel like I don’t love God. I used to feel guilty about that–I mean, it’s GOD– but I have come to realize that it is something we all struggle with. Even the greatest heroes of the Bible got kind of mad at God.

I think that’s why it can be so hard to believe that God’s love is unwavering. We expect it to come and go, just like our own human emotions. We expect Him to say, “Well, you messed up today, and I’m pretty pissed–so let me put away my thunderbolts, and we’ll talk tomorrow when I’ve cooled down a little bit.”

(God doesn’t have thunderbolts. That’s a joke. It may or may not be funny and it might be completely inappropriate. Sorry.) 

We talk about God’s love year-round, but it never feels as relevant as it does on Christmas or Easter. Walking into church that day, I expected to hear the story of the cross and the empty tomb. I did, but I also heard something that I felt like I hadn’t heard in a very long time:

You are worthy of love. 

That sounds ridiculous, right? I certainly don’t feel unloved. Drew and I say that we love each other. My best friends say ‘I love you’ to one another like, ten times a day. My family members do the same.

But as soon as I heard the word ‘worthy,’ the tears wouldn’t stop.

You are worthy of love.

 

Somewhere down the line, I had convinced myself that I was unlovable. Maybe, I thought, God only says he loves me because he has to. And so, I always demanded to know why he loved me.

But the word ‘worthy’ was the answer to my ‘why.’

When we feel most undeserving of love is when we need it the most. We are not loved despite our deepest hurts; we are loved because of them. We are loved because we are worthy of love–on our very best days, and on our very worst.

You are worthy of love.  

 

And that, my friends, will never change.