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A Very Special Post On The Virus and My Blog

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Hi everyone! I know I didn’t post last week (in case you didn’t know, I try to post a blog post every week but utterly failed at it last week. My bad! I explain why I skipped it though, so please read on!), though I truly did mean to. Last week was a really scary week for me, and I’m sure for a lot of other people too, because of this virus that has spread across the world. While I won’t go into too much about the virus itself (I think it already has enough time in the spotlight, let’s be honest, and I’m not one to give advice, and I’m sure we’ll doing all we’re supposed to, like washing our hands and staying away from others), I just wanted to talk about where I was at with everything and how it will affect my blog going forward.

As news of the coronavirus/COVID-19 spread, I wasn’t worried too much (I'm embarrassed to say). It seemed to be so far away from me, the people I love, and where I live. But then that all changed a few weeks ago, and the sh*t really hit the fan last week. The US government got involved, introducing us all to social distancing, self-quarantine/isolation, cities, states, and countries now ordered to shelter in place or be on lockdown, and all of the fast changing facts that keep getting thrown at us on the news and social media. And it suddenly struck me. The reality of this virus hit me really, really hard. In a very personal way.

Why the Virus and Its Impact Is A Very Personal (And Scary, Obviously) Issue to Me

In case you didn’t know (which makes sense because I’ve never mentioned it on this blog because it was such a hard time for my family and not something I like to think about too much), I almost lost my dad two years ago. He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, serious scarring of the lungs. His options were to go on oxygen and that he might need a lung transplant in the future. Only a few months later, after being on oxygen, his lungs started to fail. Before I knew it, he was on life support and on the list for a new pair of lungs. But we weren’t sure if he was going to make it or he would get a transplant in time; he was declining that fast. It was probably the scariest thing I (and the rest of my family) have ever gone through; to think that I could lose my father and not be able to say goodbye was unthinkable and devastating. Thankfully, his dire situation put him at the top of the transplant list and he was able to get a new pair of lungs, and after a long road to recovery, his life back.

Now, my dad is a prime candidate for someone who could be seriously affected (and you know what I mean by "affected") by this virus. He’s over 65, and with his new lungs, he’s on immunosuppressants to keep his body from rejecting his lungs. Not only is he not going out if he doesn’t have to (doctors appointments only! As a transplant patient, he kind of has to stay on top of that sort of thing), but he’s taking extra precautions to stay safe (he wears a mask every time he goes out). After almost losing my dad a few years ago, to say I am worried about this virus is possibly the understatement of the century.

My Hell Week (Not a College Hazing Thing, But In A Way It Sure Felt Like It)

All of this anxiety really came to a head last week. Not only was there a mix up with my doctor’s office and my insurance about my anxiety medication (it was literally a real life nightmare so I won’t get into it!), so I was essentially off of my anxiety medication entirely (not fun. You never really realize how much you need a medication until you are completely off of it!). Mix that with trying to get toilet paper aka waiting in line outside of the grocery store from 4am to 6am, only to learn by a stressed employee (I didn't blame them at all, poor thing) five minutes before the store opened at 6am that there wasn’t a delivery of toilet paper the night before (though we did call to confirm that there would be!). And then throw in all of the bombardment on the news of updates on the virus in other countries and now in my country, ever evolving facts, and stories from around the world, the lack of sleep caused by all of this worry, and I was a hot anxious mess. Lacking any anxiety medication, all I could do was lay in bed, heart pounding with panic, palms sweaty, shaking, and watch YouTube, trying to distract myself from my obsessive thinking about how every time I leave my house, I could be exposing my father to the virus when I got back home. It was hell and I couldn’t stop thinking that way. I couldn’t blog (I couldn’t even think straight to write!), skipped social media altogether, stayed away from the news, even stayed away from my dad (just in case I had somehow been exposed), and just tried to survive until I could get my anxiety medication back and so I could think straight again.

Having anxiety, OCD, depression, or other mental health problems during a crisis like this is just awful. Everything is magnified and when you have to stay at home, you tend to be alone with your thoughts and can’t help but focus on the worst or the possible worst case scenarios. That’s where I was and it was terrifying. I kept thinking that I almost lost my dad once, and I cannot lose him again. He was saved by a literal medical miracle procedure aka an organ transplant and now I could lose him to this jerk of a virus? It wasn’t fair and I couldn’t stop thinking that these could be my last days with my dad. I wanted to spend time with him, but my OCD was telling me that if I did spend time with him, I may unintentionally be a carrier and infect him.

How This All Made Me Start Thinking About What I Want My Blog To Be Like During These Crazy Times

Thankfully, I’m back on my anxiety medication (wuhoo! Suck it, chemical imbalance!) and my worries have been slightly lessened. I’m still scared for my dad being exposed and I’m only going out if I have to. But after last week’s anxiety hell week, it really made me think about how this virus will affect my blog. I obviously talk about my life through this blog, but I really do try to write about fun and silly things, with some serious subjects, like my mental health stories, thrown in (you know, just for some color!). But after my horrid week, I realized that we are all so surrounded by news of this virus 24/7, that I don’t want to talk about it on my blog, unless I really want to or have to. I want my blog to be a source of light and fun during this crazy and scary time. I’m not not acknowledging the horribleness that comes with this virus, but I’m also not going to let it rule and overshadow something I enjoy doing. I think we all need that distraction, since we’re all dealing with the virus and it’s horrible consequences in real life, every single hour of every single day.

So when you read my blog, please don’t think I’m ignoring what’s happening in the world if I write about something silly or happy and don’t discuss the virus and what’s going on at the current moment. I am very much aware of everything and my heart is with every single person who is affected by this awfulness. We’re all scared and so am I. But I want my blog to be a little haven of happiness and weirdness in this time of chaos and anxiety. I think we could all use a bit of distraction during these troubling times, and I am more than happy to be able to provide that for anyone who could use a break from the harsh real world we are all living in.

Let’s Focus on the Good in the World

And despite all of the scariness that is happening at the moment, I am trying to focus on the good. I am thankful for the people who are taking this seriously and are staying at home to stop the spread of infection (I thank you so much for doing this, because you are protecting vulnerable people like my dad!), the people who are offering their help and their household supplies (toilet paper, food, hand sanitizer) to friends, family, and those in need, and everyone who is reaching out via e-mail, text, video chat, and social media. Basically, I’m super thankful for the internet for bringing us all together, while this virus is forcing us to stay apart. This pandemic may not be ending for a while, but I am so grateful for the generous people who are making life a little kinder, just by either checking on people via text or direct message or dropping things off at a neighbor's door. It’s the little things that matter right now and can make the most difference right now. So be there for people and help out when you can! (But still social distance, of course)

So I hope you understand why my blog isn’t going to switch focus and become something very serious and dark. If nothing else, my blog staying the same and not changing in a way is for me, to continue with some semblance of normalcy (or in my case, weirdness) and to hopefully be a distraction that we could all use during this scary and uncertain time. If you’re game for going along on this ride with me, I’d be so honored and grateful. I’ll try to make my blog as weird, fun, and distracting of a place to be while we’re all going through this horrible time. If I can help distract you with just one blog post, then I’ll know this little hobby won’t be in vain. If you have some fun blog post ideas for me to do, please leave them in the comments below! I have a few things brewing (that may or may not be a Harry Potter reference), but I’d love some suggestions!

And I just wanted to end with this picture that’s been circling around the internet right now. I’m also so grateful for the people who are not staying at home, because they have very important jobs to do. Thank you to everyone who has to work out in the open and are putting their lives at risk to keep our society healthy and functioning. We owe you so much! (Though they forgot to mention pharmacy workers, who are also the real MVPs right now!)

Also, I know this time is very hard on people with mental health issues (as you could obviously see from my own experience!), so please if you can, try to talk to a therapist, friend, or someone you trust if you need to talk or vent. Lots of doctors are now offering virtual appointments (like through Skype), so if you're suffering and scared, please try to make an appointment and talk through your fears with someone. And my e-mail is always open, so feel free to shoot me a message if you need to talk. Just remember, even though the world is a scary place right now, you're not alone. I promise. 💖 (Also, my friend Tanya over on That Phat Girl Blog has some excellent tips for keeping calm in stressful situations, like the one we're currently in now. I found it so helpful and I think you might too. Read it here)

9 Ways to Get Back Into Reading And Find The Time to Read!

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash
Hi, I’m me, and I’m a bookworm. And no, this isn’t a Bookworms Anonymous meeting. I am quite proud, and not at all ashamed of being a ferocious reader of books (and probably don’t need help with it. Except when I’m trying to write a blog post like this and keep on reading instead of working on my blog. Then it’s a problem!). If given the chance, I could read all day! (Granted my eyes don’t get sore. I probably need a new glasses prescription, actually, thanks to all of this reading. And possibly Lasik.) I was recently asked how I read so much and how I find the time. Well, long story short, I have no life (which is a joke. Sort of). But short story long, I just love reading and I make the time to do it! If given the chance to binge-watch a reality show on Netflix (I still have not watched any of those new reality shows on Netflix that everyone is talking about yet, sorry guys) or reading, I’ll choose reading in a heartbeat! (Along with choosing between going to a party or reading. I’ll force myself to go to the party, but would prefer to be cuddled up with a book and a cat by my side, in all honesty!)

So if you’re someone who would like to read more, but are having trouble finding the time, or if you’re even trying to get back into reading after a slump (reading slumps are the worst!), I have a few tips that I think might help you get back into reading and being that bookworm you always knew you were deep down!

#1. Carve Out A Specific Time to Read
It doesn’t matter when, just as long as it’s a good time for you. Reading should be an enjoyable escape, so pick a time when you’re relaxed and ready to jump into a story. Whether that’s before bed (to help you relax), or on the weekends during a certain chunk of time (also to help you unwind. Reading is excellent for stress relief!), find a time that works for you. And stick to it!

#2. Ignore Netflix or Whatever Streaming Service is Distracting You
I know, I know. It’s the perfect way to relax. You literally don’t have to do anything but stare at the screen and if you’re watching a TV show, it automatically sends you to the next episode! But after a while, sometimes you’re just watching Netflix because you’re bored or don’t have anything else to do. Reading takes more concentration, but that’s okay. Your mind needs that stimulation, rather than the mind-numbing TV you’re not paying attention to, so turn off the TV, tablet, laptop, or whatever device you may be watching on, and get to reading!

#3: Put Down That Phone- Or Use It to Read!
We all get so distracted by our phones these days. Even I do when I’m reading! I’ll look up a word or a style of historical outfit to see it in my mind when I’m reading, but then I get distracted by a notification or “IjustwanttocheckInstagramforlikeasecond!” But how about putting that phone to another use? If you don’t have an iPad, tablet, or an e-reader, you can actually still read on your phone! Download Kindle or another e-reading app, and the possibilities are endless! Some reading apps like Kindle or Apple Books even offer free books to read too, so look out for those. (Just remember to turn off those notifications from your apps so you can really get lost in your book!)

#4: Look Into Audiobooks As a Fun Reading Alternative!
Audiobooks are more popular than ever! With authors and celebrities reading new fiction and old classics, you’ll be able to find a book you want to listen to, no matter what! And audiobooks are not only perfect for people who are visually impaired, but are great for when you’re on the go! Whether you’re on your work commute, traveling, or just busy cleaning the house, you’ll still be listening (aka reading) to a book!

#5: Try Giving Yourself a Reading Goal!
Want to make sure you’re holding yourself accountable when it comes to reading? Try setting up a reading goal for the year! It can be as easy as one book a month, or as crazy as 100 books a year! (Which really isn’t that crazy when you know so many bookworms!) Reading isn’t a competition (you can read as slow or speed read as fast as you like), but a reading goal is a great way to keep track of what books you read, when you read them, and to see how many books you read in one given time. Try signing up for Goodreads if you haven’t already. It’s a great social media platform/app that has a reading challenge you can sign up for every year. Plus, you can read reviews of books and also write your own to share! You can also add books to your own lists, like books you've read, books you're reading, and books you want to read! It’s a great community for connecting other readers together! 

#6: Ask For Book Recommendations! 
Having trouble finding a good book (or any book) to read? Ask a friend or family member! Or ask a librarian, or search for the bestsellers on Amazon or Goodreads. Read reviews and find your genre! (Or genres! Lord knows I’m always flipping back and forth between fiction and non-fiction, historical fiction and contemporary fiction, or horror and celebrity autobiographies!) Sometimes all it takes is one recommendation from a friend or one really good review to help you find the book (or series of books) of your dreams, so go out there and ask! (Plus, it really tells you a lot about a person when they tell you about the books that they read!)

#7: Check Out Free Reading Resources- Like Your Local Library!
In case you didn’t know, I love libraries! I think they are just great, free resources for everyone and obviously, perfect for bookworms! You get to read as many books as you want for free (minding that you have a library card) and then return them and go get more! Plus, libraries are now up to speed on technology and lots now offer free reading apps, so you can check out and read all the books your little heart desires on your phone or e-reader. All for free. Give it a shot, save some money, and get reading!

#8: It’s Okay Not To Finish a Book (Seriously, It Is!)
"DNF" in the reading world means “did not finish.” You see that sometimes on book reviews. Not every book is going to be to your liking. And that’s okay! Which means it’s totally alright not to finish a book. There isn’t any shame in that. If you’re not enjoying the story, the characters, or the writing, it’s okay to put the book down and move on to something else. Even if the book is super popular and everyone loves it, maybe it’s just not for you. It’s not a crime not to finish a book, but it is a waste of time to continue with a book you’re not enjoying reading. Don’t take it as a failure, just find a new book to try! Trust me, there are other books you will love out there just waiting for you!

#9: Don’t Think Of Reading As a Chore- Because It's the Exact Opposite
Reading should never feel mandatory or like you're being forced to do it. This isn't like having to read books and write reports about them in school! Reading is an escape, a way to time travel, and a vacation all in one. It's fun. It’s therapeutic because it’s you time. Reading has been known to help with stress relief (as mentioned above), help with sleeping (the act of reading before bed can be really relaxing and help with sleeping troubles. But then, if you're really into a book, it could keep you up at night because you have to do know who the murderer is!!), helps with your memory, helps you with focus and concentration, helps you continue learning (and with your vocabulary, of course!), and has even been known to help increase empathy in people! Basically, reading is the best and not only provides one incredible hobby, but it also makes you a better person. What other form of entertainment can give you that??

Ta-da! Those were my nine tips and tricks for finding more time to read and getting back into reading! I’ve used all of these tips when I’ve been in a reading slump and they've helped me so much! Though I’m currently not in a reading slump right now. My TBR (to be read) pile is overflowing and so are my library book requests and I can hardly keep up! (What a problem to have, right??) Let me know what ideas you use for finding more time to read or for getting back into reading after a slump! I’d love to know some of your ideas!

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The Real Neat Blogger Award

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash
If you didn’t know, I have been nominated for a few blogger awards in my time (just a little humble brag, no big deal), and now I’ve been nominated for the Real Neat Blogger Award- three times by three different fantastic bloggers! At first, I thought I would just do the first one I was nominated for, but not the others. Then I thought, "everyone was so nice and generous to think of me and my little ol’ blog when they were nominating people, so why not just join all three nominations into one giant blogger award tag??" So prepare yourselves, because I am going to be answering 21 questions from three wonderful bloggers who nominated me (7 questions from each!). Am I super excited and ready to do this? Heck yes! Are you ready for this? Well, you’re going to have to be. Here we go!

Thank you so much to Julie at Dark Blue Journal, Amy from ABC Family, and Jordanne over at Of A Glasgow Girl for nominating me! You three are amazing and I’m so honored and humbled that you thought of me when picking out people to nominate for this blogger award! And if you haven’t checked these lovely bloggers and their blogs out yet, please do because I promise you’ll love them! Don’t forget to subscribe to them, too. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!

If you haven’t read my previous blog post where I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award, you can read it here!

The Rules:
  • Display the award logo.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Answer the questions from the blog who nominated you.
  • Nominate seven to ten bloggers.
  • Ask them seven questions.
Julie’s Questions:

1. What does freedom mean to you?
Freedom for me means having the choice to live my life the way I want to, and have others live their lives in their own way, too. Of course, this gets tricky here in America, where everyone has their own idea of “freedom” (‘Merica!!!), but I am personally okay with living a life that does not hurt yourself or others.

2. How do you handle mistakes?
Honestly, not well! I tend to take them to heart and quite personally, too. It’s something I need to work on because mistakes don’t define us but we can learn from them. (Now I just have to drill that into my brain for the next time I make a mistake so I won’t get so upset over it!)

3. What’s your favorite food or drink to make/bake/cook?
I don’t really really cook, but I love to bake! Especially if it’s a very easy recipe (aka from a mix!). My favorite thing to make is chocolate chip cookies, because they’re pretty easy to make, plus they just taste delicious if they’re fresh and (somewhat) homemade!

4. What is your typical attire?
Shirt, jeans, flats. I have a very simple style: comfortable and cute! And hopefully a little quirky, just to be fun.

5. How do you behave in a situation in which being real and being kind are on different sides? Looking for some tips!
Ooh, this is a tough one! And one I’m currently working on. I tend to choose being kind over being real, because that’s how I am naturally, and I never want to upset anyone. But I know you can say what you want but still not be rude or mean. I just have not succeeded in doing that yet! But I’m working on it! One day...

6. What bothers you most about the world?
The unfairness of it really gets to me sometimes. The fact that some people have so much, and others so little. That some people are suffering and others are not. I’m not here to dole out what is fair or not, but I just wish more people who are doing well could take some of their “luck” or good circumstances to help those who may not have had that opportunity in life. If we could just balance out that “unfairness,” I think the world would be a much better place.

7. What do you love most about the world?
The random acts of kindness that happen everyday. The thoughtfulness that can happen unexpectedly to brighten someone’s day. I think we’re all too wrapped up in our own little worlds, so when someone is kind or generous, it can really make someone’s day turn from awful to wonderful. We all need to think less about ourselves and spread a little more kindness towards others in life and vice versa!

ABC Family’s Questions:

1. It’s a classic, but it has to be asked… Who are your 5 dream dinner party guests?
Okay, this is a big question and I really need to consider all of my options, living and dead. Okay, I think I have it: #1: Abraham Lincoln, everyone’s favorite American president. #2: John Lennon, because obviously. #3: Julie Andrews, because she is just perfection personified. #4: Domhnall Gleeson, because I have a big crush on him and this could be our moment, and #5: Conan O’Brien, because I love that guy and I’m Team Coco all the way (plus, I’d love to see him chat with Lincoln, John Lennon, Julie Andrews, and Domhnall Gleeson!).

2. If you could go back and live in any decade, what one would it be?
Ooh, this is a good question! I absolutely adore the 1920’s. I love the fashion, the lifestyle, the music, the fads. It just seems like such a fun time to be alive that I’d love to experience that jazzy time (before you know, the Great Depression). But there are so many other time periods I’d love to visit! Can time travel be a thing already???

3. If somebody gave you £100 right now to treat yourself with, what would you buy?
Honestly, I might put it towards whitening my teeth! I know that’s such a random thing to say, but I’ve never liked my smile, and I’d just love to get my teeth whitened and smile showing my teeth for once and not be embarrassed about it. But I’d totally go for a natural white shade, not, you know, blinding coming-down-from-heaven-white, don’t worry.

4. Where would you love to wake up on your next birthday?
London! End of question, story, period. That’s where I want to wake up on my next birthday. Let’s make that happen!

5. What piece of advice would you give to your 10 year old self?
This is a tough one! I think I would tell her: “Stand up for yourself and be honest. Things might get hard, but believe in yourself. It’s all going to be okay.” But would my 10 year old self listen to now me? Probably not.

6. What makes you panic if you leave the house without it?
Unfortunately, my phone! Not because I’m panicking that I’m away from social media, but I’m always just worried that something is going to happen, car breaking down, getting in an accident, etc.  and I always just like to know I have my phone with me, just in case of emergencies. I’m a worry wart!

7. If you could design and build your own home, what 3 things would it NEED to have?
1) A secret passageway, possibly with the door being a bookcase that swings open (obviously).
2) A library to sit and read in with the perfect reading nook (of course).
3) The coziest, homiest bedroom with the softest, comfiest bed that I can sleep and read in, and feel safe and secure in my own little haven (goes without saying).

Jordanne’s Questions:

1. Why did you start blogging?
I actually first started blogging to talk about mental health anonymously. I never did, but then I changed my idea to a bucket list blog. Then I switched my focus again to travel. And now here I am, just talking about my life, mental health (hey, I’m actually blogging about it!), and whatever else pops in my mind! Isn’t life weird that way?

2. What's your favourite social media platform?
I think I like Instagram more than any other. Sometimes it’s just nice to see a snapshot of someone’s day with a nice caption underneath. Also, it’s not as chaotic as Twitter, where someone is always saying something and everything is going a mile a minute. Instagram is Twitter’s more chill, relaxed, visual social media app.

3. If you could go anywhere in the world RIGHT NOW, where would you go and why?
London. Always London. If I ever say any other place than London (besides like Hawaii or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) something is not right and please call for help. Thanks.

4. What's your favourite memory from school?
I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day at school! We would all make our own mailboxes out of tissue boxes, decorate them in red, pink, and white construction paper, and then finally get to deliver our Valentines to everyone. The best part of the day was finally opening up our mailboxes and seeing what kind of Valentines (and candies!) we got from who!

5. Which of your blog posts to date is your favourite?
This is a tough one! There are a lot of blog posts that are really personal and special to me. I think the one I’m really proud of is “A Letter to My Younger Self About Mental Health.” I wrote it right after an EMDR therapy session and it just felt like I needed to get all of these things I had processed off of my chest. It was so therapeutic to write and really meaningful to share it and have other people read it and possibly relate to it as well.

6. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
A cat. Because I basically am one already. I’m pretty independent, but I can be needy. I like attention and affection, but only when I want it, and I love to nap at any time of day.

7. What is a random fact about yourself?
I can crack most of my joints (aka my back, neck, toes, fingers, etc.)- a lot. Most people hate it when I do it, especially my family. They get so grossed out by it! But it just feels so good and sometimes my joints crack on my own, so it’s not like I can help it! I should probably be a foley artist for horror movies, making the sounds for when ghosts crawl up and they start making those loud cracking noises as they inch over all creepy-like. I’d be good at that! New career, maybe??

I Nominate:

Meagan from Quibbles & Scribbles
Camila from Plaid and Sugar
Ash from This Dreams Alive
Cassie from Zombie Goddess Beauty
Deandra from The Black Princess Diaries
Amy from Sassy Cat Lady
Renata Leo from Buffalo Sauce Everywhere

(And like always to those I nominate, if blogging awards aren’t your thing or if you’ve done this one already, I apologize- I try to do my research, I swear! Just know that I nominated you all because I think you’re fabulous and wanted to share your blogs with the world!)

My Questions:

1. If you could live anywhere in the world (besides the place you’re currently living), where would you live?
2. What’s a guilty pleasure movie/show/book/food/activity you like to indulge in?
3. What’s a cause that you are passionate about?
4. What’s something about blogging that annoys you?
5. If your life had a theme song, what song would it be?
6. Do you believe in ghosts, and if so, have you ever seen one?
7. What does your perfect day off look like?

And that was my Real Neat Blogger Award- times three! I’m always so honored when I get nominated for one of these awards/tags! I hope you all were able to bear with my answers to 21 different and interesting questions! What do you think of these blogger awards? Are you a fan or no? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

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