Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

sophspirational saturday

Sophspirational Quotes by NoSophie

declutter your mind

Declutter Your Mind (& Phone)

I am an obsessive sort of person. I have an addictive personality. I am prone to anxiety and panic attacks. I can be manic one second, and depressive another. All of these things make it very easy for me to have on-going chatter in my head. It gets loud in there sometimes. Especially at night.

I always have my phone with me, but I rarely use it as a phone. I know. I will send text messages more often than placing a voice call. I don’t like talking to people on the phone. I mostly use my phone for my camera, and a few games. And, like so many other people in the world, social media.

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc) is an extremely loud universe. And it is super easy for an obsessive, addictive person to get sucked in and drown from information over-load. The thing is, 99.9% of that information isn’t actually informative – or relevant.

I go through phases where my Facebook and Twitter feeds annoy the crap out of me. 9 out of 10 updates I see make me irrationally angry. I flirt with deleting my account, or deleting people from my friends list. I mute people, and hide them from my feed. I am not someone who wants to read political, religious, hot-topic posts (and the inevitable arguments that follow). I don’t want to see photos of abused animals, children, or adults. I like seeing photos of your life. I like seeing photos of your pets. I like funny jokes.

Though I have to say, following so many people, brands, and media outlets, things get awfully noisy in my brain. I carry annoyance and anger with me to bed, even though I might have read whatever it was that annoyed me hours before. I scroll through feeds while travelling to and from work. While waiting for, well, anything. Waiting for an appointment. Waiting for the elevator. Waiting for food I ordered to arrive at my table.

But why? Why am I cluttering up my brain with all of this useless stuff? Granted, it’s easier for me to glance at my phone for snippets of other people’s lives while on the bus, than it is for me to read. I get extremely motion sick on the bus (or any moving vehicle, except for trains!) and I cannot read a book. So short bursts from Twitter or Facebook are sort of easy to digest.

Lately I have been finding myself becoming more and more annoyed by what I am reading online. So I made a decision – I do not need to be connected to social media 24/7. This isn’t a huge revelation. This isn’t some epiphany. It’s just the right time to step back and declutter my head. I have enough in my brain that I don’t need to add more voluntarily. I can actually DO something about this, and so, I did.

I deleted most social media apps from my phone. I have a pretty empty front screen right now, and it makes me happy. The only social media apps I kept are Instagram (I need my daily photos of cute Finnish Lapphunds, Boston Terriers, the occasional little human), and Goodreads (because I don’t actually follow anyone on there, and I like it for book recommendations!). That’s it. Not that I had many Social media apps on my phone to begin with. Facebook and Twitter are gone. I can’t check in and snoop into other’s lives whenever I want now. I actually have to log in to both sites on an actual computer. Which means I am limited to work & home. I will generally keep a tab open at work so I can check in once in a while when I need a little break. At home, I have become less and less inclined to even open up my laptop when I get home from work. I putter around online on the weekends. But other than that? Nothing.

So my phone is decluttered (I am very OCD about what I have on my phone, and where I have it) and my mind is slightly less cluttered as well because of this.

And how has it been going? The first morning I left for work without these apps on my phone (July 29) it felt…strange. I didn’t miss browsing the feeds so much as I sort of felt like I left the house without putting on my pants. I could play my games, and browse my one news app. I closed my eyes and snoozed on my way into town. I didn’t log into either site until I was at work for a couple of hours. When I did check in, I realized that not much had changed since the day before. I wasn’t missing anything.

That’s just it – you don’t miss anything. The same people will post the same things over and over. Even I do it. I post photos of my dogs in my sleep, I do it so often. Facebook won’t even show you the same stuff from one device to another. You can refresh your page and get completely different stories, even if you ask for Most Recent over Most Popular.

I wasn’t missing anything and my brain was a tiny bit quieter. Brilliant!

I’m not quite a week into having a social media-free phone and I haven’t missed them all that much. The only time I have missed them are on my insomnia nights. I don’t feel like going all the way downstairs to fire up my laptop, so I miss absentmindedly scrolling through other peoples’ lives to try and zone back out. Granted, it’s likely way more helpful to me to NOT be browsing Facebook or Twitter in the middle of the night, when I can’t sleep. But that is really the only time I have missed most of these apps. Even Buzzfeed and Imgur. Those two apps (and sites) can make hours of your life vanish.

So I have stepped back from socializing online for a while. Will I put these bad boys back on my phone one day? Maybe. Who knows. Probably. I’m not really thinking of that right now. I’m more focused on helping myself through a rough patch and making sure I am healthy for the future. So for now, these apps stay off my phone. I’m not removing social media from my life completely, I am just limiting the hold it wants to have over me.

I am even ready to face the onslaught of comments about this post from people who will boast they do not let social media run their lives, and that smart phones are dumb, and so on. But I’ll only see those when I choose to log in to one of those sites, because I won’t be reading them on my phone. 😉

Try it. Declutter your mind and phone. It’s as easy as hitting delete!

i am

…a dreamer.

…not tall.

…goofy.

…an extroverted introvert; or an introverted extrovert. I want to be alone & quiet, but also need to socialize.

…extremely sensitive.

…sarcastic.

…irrationally terrified of being eaten by a shark after the plane I am on crashes into the ocean.

…completely aware of how irrational that fear is.

…also terrified of spiders, and squirrels.

…capable of feeling completely alone while surrounded by a group of people.

…someone who is slow to trust, but once I do, I will be loyal ’til the end of time.

…a girl who doesn’t wear make-up, but loves having bright, candy-coloured hair.

…colourful.

…still struggling with the “what do I want to do with my life” question.

…anxious, shy, suspicious.

…jaded and cynical.

…still naive enough to expect the best of others, therefore so often brokenhearted.

…easily distrac–

…someone who loves sparkly things.

…desperate for a new tattoo. The idea is a work-in-progress, but I’m almost there.

…a lover of words, and magic.

…sad.

…hyper.

…impatient.

…my biggest fan!

…my own worst enemy.

…currently listening to Taylor Swift albums on repe-ee-ee-eeet.

…convinced that Taylor Swift is the spirit animal to Teenage Me.

…emotionally motivated.

…someone who snorts when she laughs.

…clumsy.

…thankful for my friends and how they help me get through my lows and highs.

…a girl who will always have Finnish Lapphunds.

…learning to love myself.

…a voracious reader.

…overzealous at times.

…not particularly interesting, but I am rather particular.

…whimsical. Fun. Funny. Loud. Quiet. Self-confident & insecure. Happy. Angry. Scared. Brave.

I am… me.

of teen me, and summer, and nostalgia

It is extremely rare that it happens, but occasionally I will have a moment of wishing I was Teen Me again. Trust me when I say that it is extremely rare, because even when I was Teen Me, I couldn’t ever understand why people thought being in their teens was a good thing. I was not a happy teenager. I may have looked it on the outside, but on the inside I was a dark, angry, ink scribble mess. I was shy, depressed, anxious, and was filled with the fear of people not liking me, or hurting me.

But when that rare occasion that I wish I was Teen Me again crops up, it will happen during the summer.

Sunbathing with Lady at Marine Village circa 1989/1990

From the age of 9 months, until I was old enough to be stupid and want to stay HOME, we spent every summer a Marine Village on the shores of Lake Champlain in upstate NY. All. Summer. My mother didn’t work, and my grandparents were retired. We started out just renting one of the cottages there, and then in 1988 my parents bought us a trailer, and my grandparents switched to renting a mobile home. Once we had our own place, we’d open it up over the May long weekend, and spend every weekend there until school was out. That’s when my mum, sister, and my grandparents, would relocate for the summer until school started again after Labour Day. My dad would come down on weekends, and use his vacation time during the summer.

A couch that turns into a bed! Exciting trailer times 1988

I want to go back and be Teen Me in the Summer because I want to tell myself that I don’t have to fear everything, and I can have fun. I wish I could have enjoyed myself more and not look back at these photos and wish that I hadn’t been so reserved, so shy, so sad.

These were the days before internet, and before social media. You kept in touch with friends by writing letters by hand. You went to the payphone at the laundry-mat near the entrance to the camp and used a dime (!!!) to call your summer friends and see if they wanted to hang out.

Starting off our summer at Marine Village upstate NY

I was so insecure. I would hide away in the trailer and read, read, read, and listen to music and sing, sing, sing. So many summer friendships, summer crushes, summer days wasted because I was too shy to really participate in anything. I did, I just wasn’t really there in the moment. I was too busy inside my own head fretting over every little thing. “Did I do something wrong?” “Did I say something wrong?” “Maybe because I don’t like the same things, I’m not good enough.”

Pro Tip: Never get a perm when you already have naturally curly hair. 0.o

I was never a kid who liked to be with kids. While others my age were babysitting children, I was happily watching after people’s pets when they had to leave for a few days. I could spend my days in the water, on the docks, in the park, and be so happy just being outside. I would play with a few kids, but worry so much about what they thought of me, I never actually enjoyed most of that interaction. I long for those days now. I wish I could go back and just relax, and have FUN.

On the Swimming beach @ Marine Village, c.1992

I hated myself then. I see teens of friends I have now and envy their confidence and ability to have fun. I always wanted that, and I could have had it if I wasn’t so scared of being me, or scared of being hurt by people I wanted to like me. (Who did like me, but I didn’t believe it at the time.) I’m not saying that teens today don’t have the same issues that all teens have had, it’s just that I see kids having fun and not worrying too much about it, and I wish I had been able to find that in myself when I was that age. I thought I was ugly. I thought I was fat. FAT! Do you see me in these photos? Good lord! Fat. Teen Me you were a ninny!

my brief flirtation with trying to suntan. I must have blinded everyone around me.

Does that body look fat to you? I only wore that bikini a handful of times, and mostly kept a shirt over myself to cover it up. I didn’t think I was pretty. I felt alone. I wasn’t alone at all, but I felt it.

The older I got, the less I wanted to come spend my summers down at the trailer. What I FOOL I was. Imagine, having almost 3 whole months to do nothing but be in the water, and outside in nature. There was a dairy farm across the street. I would go sit and watch the cows for hours. I loved it there. But my friends back home wanted to do things, and I thought if I was away for too long, they’d forget about me and I’d be back with no friends. (Foolish Teen Me, yet again!)

Those summers at Marine Village were the best. Literally. Even though I didn’t truly believe it at the time, I made so many friends, and so many happy memories out on Lake Champlain. Like how Lady used to somehow slip out of her collar, while tied up next to us in front of the trailer, and suddenly end up in the lake. She’d slither on her belly away from us and we’d only notice when a neighbour would come up and say, “hey, is that your dog in the water?” She did this a few times. It was hilarious. Spending weeks with your family can be tough, but we all did our own thing. I love spending evenings playing cards with my grandparents on their screen porch. I’d do crossward puzzles with them while looking out at the water.

I’d spend so much time in the water. I loved being in the water. Until I got a little older and felt the need to cover up my body at all times, and suddenly became terrified of being eaten by some evil fish hiding in the shadows. Oh, me. On really hot nights we would run down to the end of the dock, and jump in the water to cool off right before bed.

I wish I hadn’t thrown away those summers so easily. Getting to spend months on a beach, in the water, bike riding, walking, playing basketball and tennis in the park….those were the days. Now I save up vacation days and take time off and do nothing. It’s too expensive for us to go places, and it’s not quite the same. I miss those summers of nothing, but everything. Bon fires. Roasting marshmallows. Late nights walking around with your summer friends and just talking and staring at the stars.

I wish I was able to have really enjoyed it then, as I know I did enjoy it now. I want to go back with my self-confidence, and happy to be ME  attitude, and let Teen Me in the Summer live her life to the fullest.

I want the girl who looks happy in these photos to actually BE happy in those photos. I want her to fully enjoy the summer friendships, the summer crushes. I want her to take chances, and have fun. I want her to stop worrying about doing something wrong, and just live her life in the moment.

Because Current Me? Current Me remembers those moments as being the only ones where she was happy being Teen Me. And during the summer it’s the only time I ever think about wanting to BE Teen Me once again. I miss Teen Me sitting out at the end of the dock, looking out over Lake Champlain, and writing songs. I miss Teen Me riding her bike around the camp, and up and down the road to the dead end, or to the corner store (that burnt down. Twice.). I miss Teen Me hanging out with her summer crush and hoping to see him out in his yard while I was out at the end of the dock. (Perfect vantage point, yo.) I miss Teen Me just sitting on the dock, staring at the water for hours. I miss swimming. I miss my grandparents. I miss my summers at Marine Village.

Current Me wishes she could go back and tell Teen Me in the Summer to just breath, smile, laugh. Have fun. Enjoy every second you’re out here in nature, and water, because adulting is hard work, and to get those carefree days back, you need to make a lot of money. Growing up too fast is not worth it. Be happy. You are loved. You are pretty. You sure as hell are NOT fat. You’re awesome Teen Me in the Summer. Enjoy your summer. Be free.

fancy some fantasy? [an assortment of mini-(sort of)-book reviews]

Those of you who still happen to read my blog should recall that I have not been able to sit and read for over a year now. Reading is always my main form of escape and relaxation, so frustration levels have been high. Where I would once reach close to 150 books read a year, I was struggling to read a book a month for way too long. Nothing captured my attention very long. Everything seemed so… trivial, and unoriginal.

But recently I have been on a big reading kick. I devoured book after book as if I was just handed a bottle of water after having been lost in a desert for months. I have read 16 books since the end of February and 14 of those were Fantasy novels. Fourteen. In a row. The bulk of which were read from the end of April until just this past week. The two other books weren’t typical fantasy, but they were middle grade books with a magical element.

So here are some of the fantasy novels I really enjoyed over the last 3 months! (And it appears something broke in an update and now italics doesn’t work on my blog. I can’t recall how to fix this problem, so just trust me that I have properly italicized the book titles as I should until I can fix the broken thing.)

Shadow Study (Soulfinders, #1)
Maria V. Snyder

I had completely forgotten that Maria V. Snyder had begun a new series with the characters from the Study Series. I loved the original trilogy and was quite looking forward to revisiting my friends Yelena and Valek. I was a little wary of this new series however –  often the sequels or the revisits do not do the original story justice. I was thrilled when I fell comfortably back into the fictional world that Snyder created with Poison Study. What I loved most about this book (besides the characters) was the fact that I couldn’t trust anyone in this story. I can’t wait to read the next book. I love when books keep me guessing! (Adult / YA Fantasy.)

Home (Magic Thief, #4)
Sara Prineas

I fell fast in love with the Magic Thief series last summer. It was pretty awesome to discover a new series that already had three books out. Although it felt like forever before this fourth book published. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this installment when I began reading. I felt like it was going in a direction that was dull, and unoriginal. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before the story twisted in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting and I was in for a very enjoyable ride! You can’t help but love Conn and root for him every step of the way! (Middle Grade.)

The Crown of Embers (Fire & Thorns, #2)
The Bitter Kingdom (Fire & Thorns #3)
Rae Carson

I am sort of embarrassed as to how long it took me to get back to this series after I read the first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, in 2011. I started out waiting for the books to publish in soft cover so they’d match the advance copy format of the first, and then I seem to have forgotten about them. In my defence, when I did recall I should finish the series, I wasn’t in a book reading, or book buying, mood. Even now, I picked up these two books in soft cover with Christmas money, and then didn’t read them until April when I realized I wanted to read more fantasy stories. I remembered liking the first book a lot, but having some issues with the topic of body image in the story. Thankfully the body image stuff wasn’t as prominent in the second and third books, at least it didn’t stick out at me in any way. I’m trying to remember more about the story for this little blurb, but I have too many books on my brain. I do know that I read Crown of Embers in ONE day, which was a record for me lately. And I think the final book took me 2 days. It’s a great series, trust me! (Young Adult)

Jinx’s Fire (Jinx, #3)
Sage Blackwood

I read the first two books in this series (Jinx; Jinx’s Magic) right after we lost our own Jinx suddenly. It was a magical series I’d been eyeing for some time but never picked up. I suddenly needed to read the books last summer to help myself heal from the loss of Jinxy. Amazingly enough, Jinx has a (sort of) friend named Sophie in this series, and she’s got attitude. It was such a perfect fit for Jinx and our Sophie that I felt that these books were just what I needed when I needed them. Turns out they were also fantastically written novels full of magic and adventure. Jinx (in the story, not the dog) reminded me a lot of Conn from the Magic Thief series at times, which made for delightful reading. There is also a werewolf who considers himself an intellectual, and therefore does not lower himself to the eating of humans like his werewolf kin. But this also means he needs to leave conversations pretty suddenly, lest he accidentally eat you. Heh. Each book in this series has surprised me with its direction. They are pretty meaty books for middle grade fantasy and they are a perfect escape from dreary real life woes. (Middle Grade)

The Rain Wild Chronicles:
Dragon Haven (#2)
City of Dragons (#3)
Blood of Dragons (#4)
Robin Hobb

This is where things get crazy. While I was on this fantasy kick, I happened to notice that my library had The Rain Wild Chronicles on their shelves. Now, I read the first book Dragon Keeper a billion years ago (2011) and again, forgot about the series while I wait for the mass market versions to come out. I was pretty sure I had enjoyed that first book about dragons, and I knew I loved other books by Robin Hobb, so I took out the three remaining books and gave them a whirl. WELL. These books are not short, and yet I did nothing but read, read, read. At home, at work (on lunch!), on the bus (bus sickness be damned!). I read these books every chance I got. I was loving them completely. I finished the fourth and final book the first night I got to my parents’ place for a 2 week visit. This meant I NEEDED to get MORE books. Since reading this series made me realize that another Hobb series that I had avoided (thinking it was about something else) was just sitting out there waiting for me to read it! But before I get into that… if you love dragons, and you love questing and adventure, then I highly recommend this series. You get pretty attached to the characters (human, and dragon) and Robin Hobb builds an amazing world that you can’t get out of your head for weeks after you’re done reading. Which is why… (Adult)

Liveship Traders:
Ship of Magic (#1)
Mad Ship (#2)
Ship of Destiny (#3)
Robin Hobb

When this series came out, way back in 1998/1999, I had already read another trilogy by the same author (Farseer Trilogy). I knew I loved her writing, but I didn’t want to read a book about pirates. Little did I know that this wasn’t a series just about pirates. I didn’t know what a Liveship was until I read the Rain Wild series, and that’s when I knew that a) I needed to read this older series, and b) I had an excuse to NOT leave the world created by Hobb. I also realized that there were 4 separate series out there all set in the same world. I didn’t realize it at the time. Now, you can read these in order if you wanted to start at the beginning (Farseer) and work your way to the “end” (Rain Wilds), but I will tell you this: had I not read all four books of the Rain Wilds first, I probably would have tossed the first book of the Liveship series across the room because one of the main characters in this series is the most impossible, bratty, whiny, creature I have ever come across in a book. I hated her. Very strong feelings of hate. Only I knew that she changes because I met her later on in her life. But oh boy. I could have given up on an amazing series because of one snotty girl. The flip side was that the character of Brashen Tell in this book was rather swoon-worthy. I don’t normally have crushes on literary men, but Brashen won my heart. *swoon* (Adult)

An Ember in the Ashes (Ember in the Ashes, #1)
Sabaa Tahir

I know this is getting very long, but I needed to add this new release to my list because I was having the WORST time reading anything after ingesting nothing but 6 Robin Hobb books in a row. I couldn’t escape the city of Bingtown or the Rain Wilds as I had been living in them completely for weeks. I saw that my library had just received a copy of this new release that I had been hearing good things about, and since it was on the shelf, I picked it up! I was apprehensive at first because I find so much YA so similar these days. I think I may have burnt myself out with all the reviewing. So I started this book with a sort of sceptical attitude and I may have given some serious side-eye to the first few chapters. Then I realized I was pretty hooked on the story and that the characters weren’t as cookie-cutterish as I thought they would be. Yes all the young love, instant attraction was there, but it didn’t seem that ridiculous, and it didn’t make my teeth hurt from being over-sweet. In fact, I was loving the ruthlessness of the military school. The story went places I thought it wouldn’t go, and that both surprised, and delighted me. When I realized I was almost at the end of the book (and I knew to expect a cliffhanger, and it did go sort of the way I thought it would) I was sad. This book also took me a while to get out of my head. I still think about it today. I think this says a lot about a book that was able to a) distract me from Hobb’s fantasy world, and b) absorb me into its own fictional world. This book has some dystopian elements to the fantasy and I didn’t think it would work well for me, but it did. I am extremely eager for the next book. Sadly it doesn’t even have a title yet. The perils of reading a book so close to its release date! (Young Adult.)

Whew! This was a long post. I have a lot of time to make up for. And I’m on vacation this week, so hopefully there will be more where this came from! If you check out any of these titles because of my post, I’d love to know what you think of them! Also, I’m always game for more fun fantasy book suggestions, so comment away!