the pages that stole my heart // 2014

There are exactly two weeks left in 2014.

Wait, what?

Being my senior year, I've found that time is flying much too fast as I'm attempting to savor every moment that I can.  But here we are, 14 days out of 2015.  336 hours.  And that's all.

One of my favorite things about 2014 was the great books that I've read.  I set myself a goal to read 25 books this year - about two a month - and I'm currently at 28 books and counting! One of the major things that I'm looking forward to on Christmas break is the fact that I can read all day erry day in the comfort of my own home [read: while laying on the floor] and hopefully push that number up to at least 30 books for the year.

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish to bring you my top ten books of 2014.  But 2014 isn't over yet, so one of the books in my pile to be read over break has the potential to join that rank. With that in mind, I'll talk about my top nine books of the year and letcha know what the tenth was when the clock strikes into 2015. [Also, PicMonkey didn't have a collage template for ten book covers, but we can pretend that that's not the real reason that I'm not doing ten here.]

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
I waited far too long to read this one as it's been sitting on my shelf for ages.  The ending was ruined for me so I went through the entire book in anticipation for the [SPOILER] moment when I would love Mr. Darcy. [SPOILER] I wasn't disappointed.

2. Z - Therese Ann Fowler
Biographies and the 1920s era are two of my favorite things. Add in Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and you're golden.  Evidently Fowler knew that and wrote this book just for me.  Obviously.  

3. The Book Thief - Mark Zusak
Talking about taking a long time to read, I think I had a bookmark stuck between The Book Thief's pages for almost nine months. Once I finally had a long time to devote to reading, I sat down and knocked off the last 300-odd pages in a single setting. The narration in this book is fantastic. 

4. Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
Read this; I dare you! Unbroken opened my eyes to the world outside of my little bubble and has caused me to think differently about a lot of things [including fresh water] since I finished it at the end of June. 

5. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
I'm not usually a huge fan of war novels, but this book offered a unique perspective that I've never seen before. 

6. The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan
I had this assumption in my mind that this was an old ladies' book club book that I would in no way enjoy. After reading it, I've realized that even if it were an old ladies' book club book, I would still have put it into my top nine. The views of life and lessons that can be learned from this book are huge. The story is woven together so smoothly that I can't help but think that Tan should be made a book saint or something. 

7. Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
"That killed me." If you don't get the reference, you have to read the book! Another book that I've been meaning to read for a while. Although I couldn't relate to Holden quite as well as other teens have, I could definitely relate to where he was coming from. I sped through this one pretty fast and really enjoyed it.   

8. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. I love it, I love it, I love it. The first 50% of it was read under the covers after lights out during camp this summer. I know, I'm such a rebel. Shhh. 

9. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
I'm not actually finished with this one yet so it has the potential to become my least favorite book ever, but for now, I'm loving it. I'm reading it for my A.P. English class at school with the hopes that it will indeed prepare me for any theme that the A.P. test might throw at me to write about. 

What were your top ten  nine books of 2014? Do we have any in common? 
xx, Allison


[E] is for [Expensive Rugs]

location // Kusadasi, Turkey

When I'm talking "expensive rugs," I'm not saying rugs that are hundreds of dollars. Nope, what we're looking at here is thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. I don't even think that "expensive" covers these rugs appropriately! 

But while I'm saying that the Turkish silk rugs are beyond pricey, I actually don't think that they're grossly overpriced. I mean, $10,000 is way more than I'm ever spending on something that I wipe my feet on (and if I ever become a millionaire and start to spend my money like this, someone give me a reality check, please.), but when we got an up-close and personal look at the amount of work and effort that goes into each and every rug, I began to see a little justification for the hefty price tags. 

Before boarding our cruise ship and leaving Turkey in the wake, we took a pit stop at a Turkish rug maker. Walking in, the first thing that caught my eye was a giant loom. Sitting in front was a Turkish woman that was dwarfed by the loom which she was threading. The particular rug that she was working on had been in progress for over a month and seemed as if it were barely even started! Each and every row of silk that she twisted and pulled into a future finished masterpiece was so intricate and complicated.

The next thing that we crowded around to catch a glimpse of was how the silk was gathered.  I can't even explain the process because I don't know the technical terms and I'm not about to make you read sentences like "and the worms were in this thing and then they spun it and then they used this other thing to get the silk and . . . " so you can probably google the process if you're interested. But it was really, really cool and all I could think of was how someone even invented this process.

Then we were given apple tea to drink as they unrolled like 30 rugs for us to see. Petting and stepping on the rugs were encouraged, so we all looked like we had dropped something in the carpet as we walked around hunched over with our eyes on the floor.

Overall, seeing the process of how Turkish silk rugs are made was really interesting. Would I ever buy one? No. Even though they are so beautiful and unique, do you know how many other things I could buy with a couple thousand?

Would I visit again? Yes! Because then I would get apple tea and maybe be able to pick up the lingo of silk gathering so I could explain it a little better.

I did not leave the rug place empty-handed though! I picked up a rug bookmark for only €3 which I totally thought was a steal until I found the same exact ones in the Turkish bazaar about 10 minutes later with a price tag of €1.

Oh well, I guess that I can say I bought an overpriced Turkish rug then.

Have you ever seen the process of rug making?



Airport Survival Guide // 5 Steps to Take

Let's just put it out there right now that I'm no travel expert.  But, I've traveled.  Therefore, I have experience. And therefore, I know things like not to take your filled water bottle through international airport security because that leads to them not liking you very much.  Hey, live and learn, I guess. And you're getting some free advice out of it, so it paid off?

Anyway, having a bad experience at the airport can ruin the start of your adventure quicker than almost anything else can.  You know, like missing your flight. Just a tad frustrating. Just a tad.

Airports don't need to be any harder than they already are. If you've flown at least twice, there's probably a pretty good chance that you've run into a squishy situation or two.  The people who fly a lot and have traveler's cards bubbling over with miles and miles have probably gotten the process down to a science. (Example: they empty their water bottles before heading to security.) That's not me. But I have learned a thing or two about airports on the way.

1. Be prepared with your age. 
I don't know whether adults are asked this or not, but every time I have flown, a (usually) cranky TSA worker asks my age to make sure that my parents aren't actually kidnappers that stole me and are flying me to another country. Here's what not to do when asked that question: "Ummmm . . . . . (insert three second pause) eleven!" Unless you want an extra suspicious glance shot your way, know how old you are. (That one was courtesy of my sister, by the way.)

2. Bring rations. 
After a long flight from Munich, Germany to Chicago, I was hungry. It wasn't just a normal "oh, I guess I could eat now," it was on the border of hangry. I was more than ready to be home in my own house eating my own food that I didn't have to pay for in euros.  However, our flight from Chicago to Detroit (home!) was delayed by about two hours. That's when I knew that the hanger couldn't wait. I found a kiosk with some fresh looking food and proceeded to buy some yogurt, a little cup of fruit, and some juice. And then I paid nearly $20 for it. Ouch. A granola bar or two could have saved me a little lot of moola and the people I was with wouldn't have had to deal with my hanger.  So, food is a yes. Just believe me on this one.

*And no, I do not consider a few peanuts and a couple pretzels as rations.
Don't believe the "happy" part. One small handful of crackers is considered a pre-snack in my mind.

3. Apple Juice
 . . . you know, like an iPhone charger? Clever, right? I think I saw that on Pinterest (. . . basically the source of 93% of my ideas.) But you know as much as I do that this is a necessity. Long hours in an airport can drain your battery just as fast as it can drain your mood.  However, when you go to plug that Apple into the juice, what happens when everyone else seems to be having an energy crisis at the same time? You end up wandering around to other terminals and eventually taking the walk of shame back to your own still holding your dead phone.  That's when you wish you had bought one of those portable chargers that looked so handy. (Hint: they are handy.) So while other people are wandering around in search of an open outlet, you can be the envy of the terminal with your own little personal electricity source.
* I use the Halo charger and it works great! I recommend it! 

4. Don't Give Any Extra Volume to Your Hair
This little tip is courtesy of my mom (hi mom!). You know the drill for getting past TSA.  Stand in line, bring as little attention to yourself as possible, take off every little piece of metal on you, turn off your phone, try to hold your carryon, boarding ticket, little metal pieces that you took off, purse, and what feels like 37 other things all while attempting to appear as least suspicious as possible. My mom passed all of that criteria with flying colors. Well, except for the last one.  Apparently, her fluffy hair seemed a little too fluffy for these TSA agents and she was pulled aside to have her hair patted down. Her hair, you guys. Have you ever heard of someone getting their hair patted down? If this is a common occurrence, please tell me so I can stop acting like it's one of the craziest things in the world. Thanks. 

4.2 Extra, Extra! // Don't have the same name as someone on the FBI's Most Wanted List
This piece of advice also comes from my mom's experiences.  If you don't want to be subjected to intense questioning, change your name.  That process might just be easier than having to deal with TSA agents that think you're a terrorist.

5. Don't Choose the Wrong Car Rental Company
I haven't had many experiences with car rental companies (considering that I'm not even old enough to rent one!) but I can say that every single time that I've stepped foot in one of those places, I've gotten a headache that has lasted for the entire three hours I'm stuck there (when we had been promised an "in and out visit" . . . lies.).  After a long flight, all I want to do is leave the vicinity of the airport as soon as possible, not wait around for a car. I can remember one time that my sister and I watched Monsters, Inc. one and a half times in the waiting room of the rental car company while they shuffled cars around trying to find the one that we had requested.  And let's not even talk about that one car we got with the USO (unidentified slimy object) on the seat. No, let's just not even go there.

Rental car companies just seem to be a pain in general due to the long lines, confusion, and nastiness found stuck on the seat cushions.  I really think that RelayRides has found the solution to those problems though! At airports all across the U.S. you can rent someone else's personal car. Instead of having to deal with massive crowds, overworked service people, and having the car you request mysteriously disappear, you only meet with one person - the owner of the car! They can rent their own personal car out to you (and you can bet there most likely won't be any USOs found in there!) for daily, weekly, or monthly rates. Now that sounds a whole lot better!

*I have never had any personal experience with RelayRides, but you can bet that when I turn 25 and can finally drive a rental car, I'll be checking it out! RelayRides contacted me and asked if I would get the word out about their great service. I'm receiving no compensation for this post, but I do honestly think that RelayRides is worth a look!

How do you survive the airports? Any funny airport mishap stories? Do tell!



And Tuesday Was Like a Thunderstorm

As I sit here, the rain pounds down on the roof.  Quite an odd contrast from the nights that were 3° with an inch of snow covering the ground not even a week ago.  But, hey, I guess that's Michigan weather for you.

From frigid gusts of wind and chapped lips last Monday to the seemingly never-ending rainshower with temperatures reaching a scorching 50° that came into town today, the weather is completely unpredictable.  Any Michiganders could attest to that one with a resounding "amen!"  How could it just completely switch just like that?

In that sense, that crazy rollercoaster called Michigan weather is exactly like my life at the moment.  From one day to the next, it's been completely flipped, and I didn't see it coming.

As of last Sunday, senior year was going according to plan.  No homework, no problems.  I could come home and read a book, watch a movie, make dinner, and heck, I could have probably even written a novel before bed and still get seven hours of sleep.

However, Tuesday rolled in like a thunderstorm.  Four papers.  Three resumes.  A book to read.  Two broken friendships.  Babysitting to be done. A messy room to deal with.  Colleges to apply to.  Blog posts to write. Finals to begin thinking about. Plans to be made.  Deadlines to meet (or miss . . .) A family disagreement.  And the list goes on, and on.

I literally wrote out a to-do list for the first time in how-long because I couldn't keep track of all that was building up for me to accomplish.  This list spans over 30 items long with more being added everyday.  Dwelling on it makes my brain go into over-drive and it's not long before the tears start welling up.

Even now, there are much better things that I can be doing to start diminishing my check-list, but I can't even start with that at this moment.  The mountainous pile of tasks is too scary, too demanding.  But avoiding it is not going to help anything.  Updating Facebook is not getting my paper written, nor is making quinoa just for the heck of it helping me to finish my sociology project.

I guess this post could be considered my little pep talk to let a little out and to screw my head back on straight so I can get back on track.  I definitely needed to take a break from the 13 tabs that I have open regarding the immigration paper that I'm researching for that is due in two hours.

This, too, shall pass.  Thunderstorms do not last forever.

Be still and know that I am God. // Psalm 46:10



Week by Numbers + #SOTWW

Being my non-artistic, precise self, I've always had a special fondness for Paint by Numbers. I mean, I could look like I knew what I was doing and it was so dang easy to make a masterpiece.  Translated to the blogging world, Paint by Numbers becomes Week by Numbers: an easy way to see what I've been up to all week (because I know you're so interested!)! But unlike Paint by Numbers, Week by Numbers involves no clean-up or accidental paint spills, so it's pretty much gold.

8 trillion // (at least!) the seconds that I've waited for my computer to load since it decided to suddenly turn into a dinosaur on me. #Rawr #NotCool

231 // pages read of Pride and Prejudice.  I LOVE MR. DARCY. That is all.

45 // minute work-out that Allie and I completed yesterday that has me hobbling like a baby deer today.

22 // the amount of times that I've listened to "Shake It Off" because it's my jam. Also, I picked 22 because it seemed like a nice, round, Taylor Swift number, not because I actually know. 

14 // the amount of times I've had to charge my phone because like my computer, it decided to stop doing its job. I think technology hates me.

12 // hours of sleep that I got on Friday night because I went to bed at 8.  Party animal, I know. 

11 // cat pictures taken. Here's one to grace your eyeballs. You're welcome. 

8 // hand-lettering designs that I've attempted.  I suddenly got the urge that I had to learn how to make pretty word designs right that second, and so I did.  Well, attempt that is.  Homework, shmomework.

No, I didn't go through and decorate my entire planner . . .  . well, I might have. 

7 // cookies eaten.  A cookie (or two) a day keeps the doctor away! Right?

5 // times that I've watched the new "Blank Space" music video.  I'm not usually big on music videos, but something about Taylor's psycho breakdown has me clicking replay.

4 // recipes made.  Pumpkin bars and baked oatmeal for the win.  Butternut squash mac&cheese, not so much.  But I mean, hey, someone somewhere has to like it! Also, I'm counting my pineapple+blueberry smoothie that I had for breakfast about five days in a row.

3 // movies watched: Elf, Big Hero 6, and Legally Blonde, in case you were interested.  Also, I can now reference bend + snap and know what I'm talking about! 

1 // metal bar walked straight into yesterday in my school's weight room. In front of the whole wrestling team. Cool. 

Linking up with Helene today for Song of the Week Wednesday! This week's was a no-brainer as I've been newly re-obsessed with Rooney's "When Did Your Heart Go Missing" as I rediscovered it last week and promptly bought it and played it about 84 times in a row.  Shout out to my family and friends for neither smashing my phone or killing me over it . . . though I wouldn't have blamed them if they did. Enjoy!

Helene in Between Song of the Week Wednesday

What are some of your numbers of the week? 


The One Where I Mention Blood

I tried to title this post in a way that would ease my mind a bit by making me think about Friends, and it worked! For a whole two seconds that is.

Well, Joey, to answer your question, I'm a little bit of a hot mess right now.  You see, I had a crazy impulse last week and acted on it (life advice: usually not a good idea.) and now that impulsive decision becomes real tomorrow.  Tomorrow morning at 10:45, to be exact, right in the middle of government class . . . not that I planned for that to happen or anything.

Anyway, to stop the vagueness here, the Red Cross is holding a blood drive at my school tomorrow. After not participating last year, I decided in the heat of the moment that I could just suck it up and donate.


The one who put her head down during nearly every biology class while learning about blood because she couldn't take it.

The one whose younger sister had to hold her hand while getting a little bit of blood drawn for a test because she wouldn't calm down.

The one who has opted to get her wisdom teeth taken out with a little help from laughing gas and some gum numbers rather than anesthesia because she didn't think she would be able to handle the IV.

The one who can barely write for five minutes after someone says the word 'vein' (ew.) because her hands get so weak.

Yeah, me.

Let's just say that anything remotely in the medical field is not my future profession, that's for sure.

I don't know what made me decide to put my name on the volunteer list, but it's there.  And in pen, of course, so I can't even erase and pretend I had never written it.  It's there, and it's staying.

Over the weekend, the thought of the blood drive occasionally popped into my head a few times, sending my stomach out onto a rollercoaster consisting of all of the fear and none of the fun.  Now that it is barely 12 hours away, the rollercoaster is only getting taller and steeper and every seat is filled with screamers working their lungs.

I'm so tempted to back out, to avoid the discomfort and fear that donating blood may bring.  However, I know that's not an option.   There are tough decisions to make that become even harder to carry through with.  But such is life.

God has continually blessed me with a healthy body.  I have been fortunate enough to enjoy my life without any major illnesses, broken bones, or even a bee sting.  Major medical treatment has never been something that I've had to deal with, and God willing, hopefully something that I never will have to encounter.  Shouldn't I use this body then to give to those who are in need?  Those that are more familiar with medical treatment than anyone would ever want to be? Thanks to the signs posted on nearly every.single.wall of my school (for real! I can't even fill up my water bottle without one staring me in the face), I learned that one pint of blood can save three lives.  In other words, one little donation from me can give new life to three people.  How could I pass up this opportunity in good conscience?  What if I were the person in need of a life-saving donation, yet I was unable to receive one due to a shortage in blood?

In Romans, Paul hits this topic straight on the head.

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.
- Romans 15:1-4 (MSG)

Instead of meeting my own needs, I can take a page out of Jesus's book and put others miles ahead of myself.  My strength in good health is for service, that much is plain.  

I asked God, "How can I help?" 

He responded by giving me the impulse to put my John Hancock on the blood donor volunteer list.  A place I swore my name would never show up.  

So I'm taking a deep breath and saying a prayer to ask for the peace that only God can bring. I'm facing my fears of blood, and needles, and veins, and people with sterile gloves who are trying to poke my veins with needles to get my blood (that was a good plug for the Red Cross, wasn't it? Go donate!) and trusting that God will sustain me.  

Going to a small Christian school definitely has its perks, one of which occurred last week. Walking into school, I noticed that every single locker had a Bible verse stuck in the top.  Each one was hand decorated and I didn't see any repeating verses.  No one knows who did this, all I know is that I'm very thankful that they did.  The verse in my locker was one that I wasn't familiar with and I've been dwelling on since I received it: 

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
- Psalm 16:8

I will not be shaken.  Even when God calls me to do something that I determined to be impossible for me to do.  I will not be shaken.  



[D] is for [il Duomo]

It's Thursday.  Let's throw it back a little bit to last July.  

Imagine me sitting at a Panera Bread 15 minutes before their close, frantically trying to upload a scholarship paper.  The internet connection was down at home, so I was praying that their website would get its act together [who am I kidding? It was probably bogged down by 2,483 other applicants  submitting their entries with minutes to spare like I was doing.] and hurry up on the photo uploading process before Panera closed.

The scholarship in discussion here was a teen travel blog contest.  Umm, I'm a teen. And I travel.  And I conveniently have a blog as well.  It was meant to be, obviously.  

As the last photo finally spun its way to 100% uploaded, I breathed a sigh of relief, hit submit, and got out of there before any more annoyed glances were shot my way.  

Fast forward to the present.  I had completely forgotten about that scholarship and became really anxious to see what had happened with it.  Not to toot my own horn here, but in terms of writing and grammar, I generally know where to put commas and stuff which leads to a large advantage over a lot of my peers.  So I got excited, hoping to see some prize money with my name on it, just waiting for me to swing on by and claim it.  

However, what I found was completely different.  

Instead of the best case scenario of "Congratulations! You're a winner! Here, take $1,000!" I found the word "disqualified." 

Why? Because I hadn't uploaded a stupid profile picture, that's why.  

This really bugged me all week long and to be honest, I was a little upset with myself for most of the day after I found out. Not being one who enjoys to dwell on the negatives though, I figured that since I had been disqualified, I can at least share my story here now!
And get this: my A to Z Europe series is now on letter D and I had written all about the Duomo in Florence, Italy.  See?  Every cloud has a silver lining! So without further ado, I present to you my disqualified essay travel blog!

location // Florence, Italy
I glanced down at my watch for what must have been the third time that minute.  The line wasn’t getting any shorter, but time was certainly ticking. To take my mind off my watch, I looked up to take in the intricate detail that adorned the Cathedral of Florence. That view was much better than the one of the seconds flying by.  

After we had passed about an hour admiring the Cathedral from the line, the chance that we had been waiting for finally presented itself.  We were next in line to take a stab at climbing the 463 steps that wound their way up to the viewing platform of il Duomo. 

We had been told that the ascent itself, not including time at the top to drop our jaws because of the view or the climb down, took 45 minutes.  Our group meeting time was slotted for 5 pm which was less than 40 minutes away.  We had to move! 

Directed into a narrow, concrete stairway, I stepped up onto the first stair.  

“Good news, guys! Only 462 steps to go!” Sometimes I’m funny. That wasn’t one of those times.  

Placing one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again, we were climbing.  Attempting to keep track of where we were, I counted the stairs in my head, updating everyone every fifty steps.  At one point, a constant spiral of 150 stairs in a row made my head spin, but I kept going because I was determined to make it to the top.  No way was I going to stand in line for about an hour only to miss out on the view! 
Part of the climb takes you right up close and personal with the frescoes in the dome.  It was incredible!
Eventually, I lost track of what step we were on and my legs were definitely not feeling as fresh as they had before I had bounded up the first 200. Luckily for me, this is when the waiting game started.  Due to the less than abundant width of the staircase, there was barely enough room for a single file line to pass through, so even beginning to imagine that two-way traffic was possible could be considered insane.  

One of the more spacious stairwells. 
Facing a steady flow of descending tourists, we were doomed to stand on a crowded landing for eternity.  Well, at least that’s how it felt.  When there was finally a large enough break for us to claim our spot on the stairs, we were headed up again. 

Soon, the stairs got even steeper.  After one final mini-stairwell, we hit step number 463 and all of a sudden, we were on top of the world.  

Literally stopping in my tracks, I breathed “wow” over and over again.  The entire city of Florence stretched out below me and the hills undulated in the distance.  The bell tower, which had completely dwarfed me when I had my feet on the ground, was now like a little kid that I had to look down to see. 


Taking advantage of the opportunity to see the view from all 360°, I slowly made my way around the platform, never taking my eyes off the scenery.  

After I made my rounds, I regrettably began my descent back to the real world. As I stepped down, down, down, I mused over the incredible display of beauty I had just taken in. After 463 more stairs that were a piece of cake compared to the first set of 463, I stepped into the sunlight.

My jaw dropped for the second time that day when I learned that we still had ten minutes to spare until we met our group.  Wow. 


Fall Appreciation Post in Photographs

I am absolutely in love with fall.  Never before have I enjoyed a season like I have fall 2014.  Thanks to my new camera and a challenge that is forcing me to get it out everyday, I can show you exactly why I'm digging this season. 

Day 12 of my 365 Days of Photographs Challenge
Day 14. An early morning at my very last cross country meet. 
Day 4.  A rainy day didn't keep my family and me from getting our cider and doughnuts! 

Day 19. My mom and I went on a gorgeous bike ride today. 

Day 17. This tree outside of my window is an absolute stunna. 
Extra, extra! This is that same tree - no filter, no edits.  What'd I tell ya? It's incredible!

Day 16. A Sunday afternoon. 

Day 9.  Looking up offers a whole new perspective.  I need to remember to do it more often.  
Day 10.  Apple orchard apples are bar none.  Fact. 
Rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. // Joel 2:23
I have a picture of this same tree three weeks later and it is nearly bare.  Crazy how fast things change.  
 What's your favorite part of fall?




There are two types of sick days. Type #1 is the kind where going to work/school is probably preferable compared to the amount of discomfort that your illness puts you in.  Those are sick-sick days.  Type #2 is the "my slight headache might be contagious, so I wouldn't want to risk passing this on to anyone" kind of days where staying home was most definitely a choice rather than out of necessity.  Those are #sicknotsick days; you know, kind of like #sorrynotsorry? And that was my day.

To be fair, I was honestly worried about still being contagious after catching a gross virus last week that had me down and out all weekend. And I felt a lot better this morning when I woke up (two hours after school had already started) than I did last night.  But in terms of how my day went, it was obviously a #sicknotsick kind of day.

#sicknotsick because . . .

|| I was creative || with my nails. Instead of them being just dark gray, I added a little triangle of blue to each of my ring fingers.  It was really easy and probably everyone and their grandma has done it by now, but it's definitely the most creative I've been with my nails in a while, so I'll pretend like this is an actual accomplishment.

|| I watched ||  Friends. And laughed. A lot.  Because it's just too dang funny.

|| I practiced || my Spanish skills.  Translating articles got way more exciting than it should be -- but I actually knew a lot of words! So that was bueno. (See, I'm pretty much fluent.)

|| I made || soup. Butternut squash soup, to be exact. And it was so delicious that I had it for lunch and dinner. Go fall!


|| I blogged || for the first time for a guest blog! Allie asked me to write a post, so I rambled on and on about how much I love fall.  That was a good way to make you want to go read it, wasn't it? It should be appearing soon though!

|| I read || Z by Therese Anne Fowler, which is a biography (of sorts) of Zelda Fitzgerald. I love biographies & Fowler is killing it with her writing style.  Plus the Fitzgeralds are really interesting in a sort of tragic way. I definitely recommend it so far!

That pretty much wraps up my #sicknotsick day.  Being #sicknotsick was definitely worth all of the homework that I'm going to have to make up tomorrow . . . well, let's just not talk about that.

How do you like to spend your days off?  Do you ever take #sicknotsick days?



The Heartbreaker

I jumped out of bed this morning.  Like for real, jumped out of bed right as my alarm went off for the first time.  And if you're my mom, you know that's not usual.  Today was exciting - I only had to spend three hours in school today (two of which were study halls and the other was English, my favorite.) while the other five were spent in the Detroit train yard.  Not your typical location for a school day, that's for sure.

I, along with the rest of my school's National Honors Society, and students from other area Lutheran schools spent about 4 hours hauling box after box after box after box (. . . continue for infinity. Seriously.) out of semi-trucks and packed them not so-neatly into boxcars to benefit Lutheran World Relief.  

This is Day 5 of the 365 Days of Photographs project! 
Knowing that all of those boxes, stuffed to the brim with soaps, quilts, health kits, school supplies, and other items to benefit those in need, were being sent off to help others, made the hours fly by.  It didn't hurt that we had a pretty good time while we were at it.

Upon arriving back at school, as we were entering the lobby, a girl was headed out.  This was odd since there were still two hours of classes left in the day.  As she got closer, I could tell that she had been crying. Hard.  As one of my friends went up to ask her what was wrong, I watched my friend's shocked reaction to the answer and I knew that this wasn't your typical breakup/failed test score/emotional breakdown. Something was seriously wrong. 

As my friend came back to us, she answered our questioning looks with a sentence that changed the entire mood of today.

"Jamie* committed suicide." 

Instantly, I felt my heart break. Goosebumps covered my arms and I felt like throwing up.  My mind raced as I searched for some possible way that this could be a sick joke, a misunderstanding.  

To give some background, Jamie was a student that no longer attended my school but a lot of her close friends were made in her time spent there.  I didn't know her well at all, yet I never heard a bad thing about this girl.  She was sweet, funny, and seemed genuinely kind.  I know that she had trouble with a mental health problem of some sort, but that isn't what this post is about.  

What it is about though is how incredibly tragic this situation is. Tragic for her mom, dad, little sister and all of her family who loved her. Tragic for her best friends who found out through a phone call that she had taken her own life.  Tragic for people like me who, from a distance, had no idea that anything was currently wrong.  Shocking, heartbreaking, and terrible for all.  

As I walked the halls of school the rest of today, I noticed tear-stained faces and an odd silence that rarely is accredited to a high school hallway. 

I don't know what was racing across other students' minds today, but I do know what was on mine.  

Why am I so quick to avoid "awkward" eye contact and look down at my phone instead of offering a smile?  Why is it so easy to step over a pile of dropped books to avoid being late to class instead of being compassionate? How come taking the best for myself and leaving the leftovers for others is considered "getting ahead in the world" instead of what it is: selfishness? 

How many people do I walk past each day that are struggling? Struggling with realizing that they are incredibly important and valuable no matter what the world may tell them? Struggling with addictions, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts? Yet how often do I take the time to take the focus off of myself and show love towards them? 

Guys, this is heavy stuff. But it's real. So tragically real.  

I had spent all morning helping those that are worlds away, yet somehow I frequently miss doing the same for those that I encounter face-to-face on a day to day basis.  

As Facebook posts, pictures, and heartfelt goodbyes honoring Jamie are flooding my newsfeed tonight, I can only think of how she would react to knowing how many people there were that cared for her and loved her. 

This is proof of how urgently important it is that we share the overflowing, abundant love of Christ with everyone that we come across.  You and I do not know the personal battles that the people around us are fighting every day.  Maybe we won't ever know.  But what we can do is make sure that everyone realizes that they are valuable and that they are worth it - no matter what the world may tell them. The smallest bit of compassion and love on our part may mean the world to someone who needs it.  You never know. 

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:8

God, the Creator of the universe, the Almighty, holds each and every person so dear that he sent his son to die for you, and you, and you, and me and everyone else on this planet.  If each person is worth the death of God's only and perfect son, then shouldn't we treat them as such? 

The fact that not everyone knows and is treated like they're that valuable is the real heartbreaker in my mind.  Take the time to share a smile.  Ask how someone is doing and genuinely care about their answer.  Practice compassion in all that you do.  Who knows? You could be saving a life. 



365 Days of Photographs & Other Events

I just love the word photograph.  It just seems so vintage and candid, like a summer memory from my childhood.  I don't know what it is about photograph, but it's definitely one of my favorite words because of the connotation that comes along with it.

With that being said, I'm tackling my 20 before 20 bucket list again! Here's a few of the updates:

|| numero 6 || complete a 365 day photograph challenge: I got a lens upgrade! My new pal, the Nikon D3200, and I are a great fit together.  To get to know each other a little better, I decided that this would be the perfect time to take the challenge of capturing at least one photograph a day for a year.

Day One is the yearly winner of the Allison's Favorite Fall Tree award. It's a real prize, I assure you.  

 Day Two was Sunday, so of course, what better than a #SelfieSunday?

Day Three's photograph was taken yesterday when I visited Hope College in Holland, Michigan.  

Today is Day Four, and we may be headed out for a family cider mill excursion tonight.  If so, you can look forward to a very fall-themed photograph!

Moving on to the "& Other Events" part of this post . . .

|| numero 19 || be accepted to my dream college: I've taken the (wherever that may be) part off of this goal because I know where that is now! I've been accepted to my second choice and I applied to my first choice yesterday! I should hopefully be able to check this one off of the bucket list by Thanksgiving.

|| numero 20 || work at camp for a summer: I'm one step closer to making this a reality for the summer of 2015! I'm completing the application form soon, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for me with this!

Here's to exciting happenings! Happy Tuesday!
Love, Allison

P.S. Anyone a Nikon D3200 user? Care to give a girl some tips?


[C] is for [cats]

location // Delphi, Greece

Let's get this post started off right: 

Now that you have a clear idea about how Debbie feels about cats, you are somewhere in the ballpark of my feelings towards cats.  I just love them, but I don't want to have them in my bed. Animals just don't understand personal space.

Greece was a cat-lover's heaven.  You don't even have to try to find cats - look anywhere and it's pretty much guaranteed that you will see a cat! This was especially unfortunate for the three cat-loathers that I was traveling with, but hey! more cat pictures for me.  To show you how dominant the cat control of the Grecian streets is, I made a collage for your viewing pleasure.

Since I had so many opportunities to express my affection towards cats, I gained a reputation.  By the end of the trip, I was responding to CL like it was the name on my birth certificate. Cat Lady, that is.  Whenever anyone would see a cat, they would run over to me and point it out so I wouldn't miss it. Everyone showed me their own cat pictures and made sure that I noticed all of the cat themed merchandise.  I even got a "Cats of Greece" 2015 mini-calendar from a lady that I traveled with, so y'all can be excited for that after the new year. 

In the top photo, you see me stealing the show with my feline friends.  We were waiting for some people to take a bathroom break for the seventh time that day before we went up to see the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. Standing in this little outdoor cafĂ© area, I counted - no joke! - 14 cats lounging around and pretending like they didn't see us.  

However, there was this little guy who stole my attention.  
 To him, this stick was dabomb.com. He was having a ball pushing and tossing it around.  In my infinite cat-wisdom, I decided it was a good idea to take the stick to play with him a little bit. And he loved it! But so did the 13 other cats.  

In no time, I was surrounded - literally surrounded! - by a hoard? school? flock? (I like flock) flock of cats who all decided that since I was now providing entertainment, they would acknowledge my presence. And then this drew a crowd of people who all watched me play with the cats.  

Here I was, kneeling on the ground, trying to please all of my new cat acquaintances with equal stick-playing time, surrounded by cats, surrounded by people. 

That is officially the peak of my cat lady-ness. 

I'm very cool. I know that already; you don't have to tell me. 

Happy Thursday!

(And if I ever do decide to pursue "cat lady" as a career, I know a place where my business can take off!) 


[B] is for [bridges]

I was having a really hard time deciding how to tell all my stories from Europe.  I don't want it to drag on forever but there are just so many things I want to share!  I decided to start Italy & Greece from A to Z.  I'll go in alphabetical order and pick a picture with something that starts with the letter that we're on and I'll tell the story behind it. But don't worry, it won't be 26 days straight of  Europe stories. Promise. 

location // Venice, Italy

It's what you've all been waiting for: Europe pt. 2!  Out of all of the places that I went to, Venice takes the cake for having the most bridges.  So if you're a bridge enthusiast of any kind, I would recommend Venice! 

The first taste of them that I got was when we took a mini-walking tour of the Italian islands. Our guide told us that every time we crossed a bridge, we were on a new island, which for some reason, I thought was really cool! 

One of my favorite things about the Venetian bridges was that all of them were different.  Each had its own distinct "personality." The black and white one above was one of my favorites because it just seemed so sophisticated to me.  I know, I'm a snob about my bridge preferences, you don't have to tell me.  

After our walking tour, you've probably guessed by my spoiler pictures that we took a gondola ride! Unfortunately, my expectations crashed and burned because our gondolier didn't sing to us.  What.a.bummer. 

A few times, I was honestly concerned that we were going to tip as we had been seated extremely unequally weight-wise.  Other than that, I really loved the canals of Venice.  When you take some of the back canals, everything is so quiet, peaceful, and quaint.  I could have stayed for hours.  

Can you imagine looking out your bedroom window and having this canal as your view? 

Of course, I couldn't show you all these other bridges without showing you the Bridge of Sighs! For those of you who don't know, the Bridge of Sighs is named this because it connects the prison and the interrogation room in the Doge's Palace.  As prisoners would cross the bridge, it was said that they would sigh because they knew that they were pretty much walking to their execution.  

Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to walk on the bridge.  I unknowingly turned around to head out of the Doge's Palace just before the entrance to the bridge.  I was so bummed when I found out what I had missed.

Have you ever been to Venice and crossed any of these gorgeous bridges? Do you want to? 


Runners Tell All: Bucket List Edition

Bucket lists are my thang.  If anything even slightly piques my interest, you better believe that I'm googling the heck out of that thing as soon as I can get my hands on the internet.  (I know that's literally impossible, but for the post's sake, let's continue.) If I like what I see, POOF! it's on my bucket list.  Just like that.  If I physically wrote out my bucket list, it would span several miles. That's probably not even that much of an exaggeration.

When I saw the Runners Tell All link-up prompt for this month, I got excited.  Really excited.  Because like I said before, bucket lists are my thang.

So, without further ado, I present my race bucket list to you! (Warning: this may get very long. I'll try to contain myself, but no promises.)

1. Austin Half Marathon

My Texas-dwelling, Austin-loving cousin has run this race for the past 3? 4? years and has absolutely loved it.  She keeps telling me to come down and run it with her, which I think would be so amazing. However, there is just one small problem to this race. It's held in February and the weather is slightly different in Michigan than in Texas.  I would have to train in knee-deep snow and freeze my ears off or on the treadmill (gasp!).  Either way, I think that I would endure the elements or the torture machine treadmill for the opportunity to run with my cousin! 

2. Disney Princess Half Marathon
Besides Hogwarts, running a Princess Half through Disney is as magical as it gets in my mind.  I've heard that this is a good beginners half marathon as there are lots of opportunities to stop for photo ops with the princesses. Sign me up! (and pay the registration fee for me too, while you're at it!) 

3. Hot Chocolate Run 15k (Chicago)
As everyone knows, themed races are fun. But using some simple math (Chicago+running+chocolate), the Hot Chocolate Run has the formula to beat them all.  I mean, its not every race where the food at the finish includes a chocolate fountain.

4. Great Turtle Trail Run Half Marathon
Things this race has going for it: 
1. It takes place on Mackinac Island, which as every Michigander knows, is pretty much the best. 
Umm, yeah. That's pretty much everything. Mackinac Island is amazing and if you're ever in Michigan in the summer, it's worth the trip. Amiright? 

5. BTN Big 10k

Living smack dab between MSU and UofM means that the B1G is a big thing around these parts. We take Saturday afternoon football seriously and there has been many a relationship ended over divided rivalries. (Actually, I made that up, but I'm sure it's happened!) Growing up a UofM fan, but anxiously anticipating my acceptance letter (I'm being optimistic!) from MSU, I definitely have a fair share of B1G in my blood.  And the fact that it's in Chicago? I'm there. 

6. Detroit Free Press Marathon Relay
One of my pet peeves is when people, especially people who have never been, hate on Detroit.  While it's true that there's a lot of things that need some fixing, Detroit has so, so much to offer.  One of these things is the annual marathon relay that accompanies the marathon and the half among some other shorter races.  I've wanted to run a marathon relay for a while and I'm hoping that next year will be the year as it will be the first year in a while that I'm not wrapped up in a cross country season.  Oh, and I'm just documenting it here that I call dibs on the leg that crosses the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit to Canada! 

7. Firenze Marathon
When I went to Europe this summer, I spent about a day in a half in Florence, Italy. And I left my heart there. Running a marathon through the medieval cobblestone streets and passing by my love, the Duomo, would be the experience of a lifetime.  And quite possibly the last experience of my lifetime considering that this is a full 26.2 miles! 

8. Athens Marathon
What better a marathon to run than the original marathon in Athens, Greece? Although, as I've been taught in world history, the runner of the first marathon who was a messenger died from exhaustion after he finished.  So maybe this isn't such a good idea? 

Writing about all these races has made me excited to get out there and go for one of them.  Link up with Beka and Amanda and share your running bucket list! Ready? Go! 

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . . 
                                                                  - Hebrews 12:1