“We Come From Good Stock”


Elephant Image from Freepik Hand vector designed by Freepik

If you watched yesterday’s video, you know that I’ve experienced a lot of loss in the last few weeks. Two family members. A boyfriend’s grandmother who was basically a family member. All that grief can really get a girl down.

A little bit of sunshine I found in all the clouds of this loss though came from my “Aunt” Gloria as we fellowshipped together as a family Saturday afternoon after burying my “Aunt” Barbara. (I use quotes here because they are really cousins but have always functioned as and been referred to as “aunts.” Big country families are like that.) Gloria started reminiscing about our family history and how we all came to be together now and who we are today because of events set in motion 100 years ago! My great grandmother, Wrennie, married Clarence Davis in 1917. He was 12 years her senior, and as we were discussing this weekend, possibly never learned to read. But he and my MaMa Davis had 5 children–Raymond, Walter, Johnny, Mattie, and Virginia–who then in turned married and had their own children whose children had children and even some of those children now have children making them the youngest generation of cousins!

She recounted how that first generation of children had varying levels of education (e.g. my Uncle Walter with possibly a 7th grade education or my Uncle Johnny who no one could remember much formal education for), but they were some of the smartest people to talk to. They may have been farmers or factory workers, but they had profound critical thinking skills and a curiosity for understanding the world around them.

So then that 2nd generation had even more education and life and world experience. They married spouses and traveled out farther into the world than the mountain on which their parents had been born and raised. And the 3rd generation has been educated even further and explored even more–living, working, and studying in California, Florida, North Carolina, and other parts of Virginia. And the 4th generation–my sweet young cousins–have an even greater potential for exploration, education, and life experiences.

Each generation has built itself upon the previous–on the hard work, faith, and love that flows through my family’s veins. And without even one generation, none of us would have the blessings that we have now.

As my mother put it, “We come from good stock.”

This is an incredibly reassuring thought to be reminded of during times of loss, but it made me realize it’s also something I could benefit from outside of moments of sadness. I am incredibly lucky to have come from this family. And I’m so thankful for all the generations of hard work that afforded me the opportunities that I have today. (NOTE: This is also just one quarter of my family tree. I have “good stock” on my many sides and they have all contributed to my opportunities).

It’s easy at times to get caught up in the moment and wallow in the struggles of the day. (I am 100% guilty of this!) But when you put your life into perspective of what has come before and all who might come after, you realize how insignificant many of those struggles can seem in the grand scheme. This gives me hope. If generations of women in my family have lived and worked and loved and are now remembered with such fondness, I find reassurance that I can do the same.

So what “stock” do you come from? Do you think about your family history often or how it affects who and where you are today? Let me know down in the comments!



Books You Should Be Reading // Part 2


Last week we talked about mystery, video games, and middle-grade humor. This week my novel recommendations focus more on magic–real, alien, and hypothetical.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel


What would happen if we stumbled upon a piece of a giant alien machine? Would we decide it’s a weapon or an opportunity for advancement and peace?

“Sleeping Giants” is a really interesting book both in story and structure. It’s told through journal entries, official reports, and transcripts of conversations between the main players in the story and an unnamed psychiatrist/doctor/political influencer. I listened to the audiobook which employed several different voice actors for the different roles making it even more enthralling.

At first, it seemed like a weird structure, and I didn’t quite understand what was happening.  But soon you find yourself caring for this group of experts who rather unknowingly get drafted into the dangerous world where politics and alien technology meet. It raises pressing questions about morality and how far one can go for the “greater good.” But it also makes you care about the characters–a disenfranchised scientist, a skilled pilot with anger issues, a crippled linguist. Though the reports and transcripts are meant to relate the events of the search for and assembly of the alien technology, it’s the relationships between the characters that bleed through and pull you into the story.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan


This is a magical book without employing any actual magic. Instead, you’re introduced to the magic of data science.  Who would have known that a book about the reverence for books and the onset of digitizing technology could be so engaging? “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” is really the kind of book that teaches you a story can have all the magic and whimsy of your favorite fantasy novel while still being set a completely realistic world like our own.  It’s also the first book I think I’ve read where some of the characters are Google employees and while I’m not sure if the kind of technology that the book describes Google as having is real (although part of me knows enough about Google to feel like it’s at least possible), Google is in itself a pretty magical company. It’s no wonder the story lends itself so easily to magic!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


“The Night Circus” is another story with magic and whimsy, but this one actually does employ real “magic” rather than the magic of technology. You might be catching a theme here that one of the reasons I recommend books is because of the characters, and this one is no different. When I can love and hate characters and fail to reliably predict all of their actions, I consider that book a winner. But The Night Circus also wins in the description category. Morgenstern describes the Circus beautifully, but she also leaves enough to your imagination that you feel neither cheated of the magic nor lost as to the mechanics of the Circus. Her descriptions essentially become a self-fulfilling loop of expectation and enlightenment.  Just as with the Circus, you’re constantly being delighted to contentment and then seeking more.  And gloriously, there’s always more to give. That is until the end where my only gripe with the book is that it has to end. I need more, I say!

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker


Again, you’ll find multi-faceted characters and rich descriptions in “The Golem and the Jinni” to keep you enthralled, but it’s the themes of feeling outcast and the struggle of the immigrant that I feel are perfect reading for the cultural and political climate at the moment. Being a Polish or Syrian immigrant is hard in the late 1800s, but being a Polish or Syrian immigrant AND being a magical being–how you can possibly hope to fit in or survive?

Connecting with a community is given as the answer to the immigrant’s struggle (as it is in many stories like this), but “The Golem and the Jinni” takes it one step further to advocate for creating your own unique communities outside your culture. Essentially, you can find “family” in the most unique places!


2016 was an amazing year for books. I feel profoundly influenced by all eight of the ones I’ve listed in this two-part series as well as many of the others I don’t have the time or the page to document for you! I read for the pleasure of it, but I also read for what I can learn about different cultures, sexualities, religions, time periods, and imagined histories. With stories, I can let my imagination run wild and constantly ask the question “What If?” I hope you’ll consider reading some of these great books, and sending me some of your own recommendations! It’s time for some reading in 2017!


Books You Should Be Reading // Part 1


Another year of reading has come and gone. How did it go by so fast? Despite time seeming to exponentially speed up, I was able to read quite a few books this year– 43 to be exact!  So if you’re looking for a book to read during the winter months, I’ve got quite a few recommendations for you.

The School for Good & Evil Series by Soman Chainani


I read all three books in the series this year because honestly, they’re quite addicting. Each is a bit slow to start, but looking at the series as a whole, everything that happens before all the CRAZY starts is important to the story. It’s just not always obvious at the time. But man, when things start speeding up, they don’t stop until the last page!

I love this series because it turns fairytale troupes on their head and really delves into the meaning of love and what happens after the “happily ever after.” It makes it very apparent that fairytale characters are real people with real problems, they just so happen to have gotten caught up in a fairytale that’s honestly, rather ruined their lives even if it ends with a “happily ever after” on paper.

It’s listed as a middle grade book, and it has middle grade humor with fart jokes and immature tweens as protagonists, but there is a surprising maturity in the conflict and the direness of the situations the characters get in.  So your 12-year-old niece will love it for it’s magic and silliness, and you’ll love it for it’s deconstruction of the fairytale genre.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex


Have you seen the animated movie Home with voice acting from Rihanna and Jim Parsons? The one with the flying car and the silly alien who doesn’t understand dancing or cats?   Well “The True Meaning of Smekday” is what that movie is based on.  And while Home is cute and funny, “The True Meaning of Smekday” is infinitely more layered and moving.  It’s a story about an alien invasion where after 11-year-old Tip’s mother has been abducted, she decides to drive to across the country to find her rather than participating in the alien Boov-designed “moving” day for all the humans. (They’re being relocated to Florida, and later because the aliens decide they like oranges, to Arizona.)

        Along the way, Tip meets the fugitive alien, J.Lo. who she initially (and rather rightfully) hates because of what his race has done to hers. But as they progress on their cross-country journey, first they find a mutually helpful relationship and later, a true friendship as they save the world together.

The one thing that bothered me about the movie adaptation Home is that it makes J.Lo. the main character when in the original story, it’s Tip–this spunky and brave ball of fire–that’s the real protagonist of the story. We see J.Lo.’s story through her eyes, but we invariably get to understand the human experience of being subjugated by a technologically-advanced race where in the movie, it’s all about J.Lo. the clumsy alien who just wants to make friends. We even lose the humor of his name where although he’s technically male, he decides that J.Lo. is the human name that best suits him (much to Tip’s amusement) whereas in the world of Home he’s called “Oh” because other Boov always say “Oh” when he’s around.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that you should read “The True Meaning of Smekday” because it’s amazing and far more complex than the cute adaptation Home would lead you to believe.

The Cormoran Strike Novels by Robert Galbraith


Have you read any of the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)?  It’s not Harry Potter, but it’s still utterly addictive. It’s a detective series and involves some gruesome descriptions of murder at times, but I have never been as interested or enthralled by a murder mystery before.  You come to love Cormoran and his assistant Robin with a fervor, and feel like a detective as you piece together clues with them.  Other than the first novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling” where it took me a bit to connect with the characters and understand the formula of the book, I’ve been hooked from the get-go.  If there’s any book on this list that I’d claim to be a must-read, it would be the Cormoran Strike series. You’re missing out if you haven’t read it!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


You might wonder how a fictional book about video games could be as interesting as “Ready Player One.” I was initially quite skeptical and chose to listen to it on audiobook since it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton. Plus there’s the fact that’s it’s 26 hours long. My audiobook average is 9 or 10 hours (essentially a good 2 weeks of driving to and from work). But somehow, “Ready Player One” enthralled me in a way I didn’t know it good. I’m not video game/technology aficionado which I will say that someone who knows their stuff will probably enjoy this book even more, but the book isn’t set up in a way that only extreme video game nerds will enjoy or understand. You’re drawn in by the terrifying dystopian future of a poisoned planet and a society that’s predominately retreated to the Interwebs for all its essential needs. You love the core characters and their eccentricities. And you love the digital world of the OASIS because Cline gives us such rich descriptions that it’s impossible not to be able to picture it all.

Check back next week for the second half of my “Books You Should Be Reading” list! Until then, read on!


2017 Goals and Anti-New Year’s Resolutions


Did you know that this blog was started from a New Year’s Resolution? It’s one of the few resolutions that I’ve stuck with heart and soul over the years.  But as another new year begins and I find myself wondering what my goals and resolutions for 2017 should, I realize that I want to approach this year a little differently. In 2017, I want my “Goals List” to be less about making stressful resolutions and more about making smart plans and taking educated steps toward what will make me happier and more satisfied in life. This year and beyond!

1.) Do Physical Activity that Brings Me Joy, Peace, and Restoration. I’ve been a big fan of Yoga With Adrienne’s 30 Days of Yoga Series for the past 2 years, and as I start 2017’s edition, I’ve really taken one of her main messages to heart. That yoga (or really any exercise) should be about what makes you feel good. It should be something you enjoy and brings you a sense of restoration and connection with your body (especially in our digitally-obsessed world these days!)  So rather than setting a “exercise X many times a week” or “lose X many pounds” goal like I have in the past, in 2017, I’m planning for my health and happiness. I want to explore new kinds of physical activity to see what inspires me as well as build on my staples of yoga, hiking, and swimming.  I’d also really like to work on my hiking endurance and potentially participate in a long hike like Parker did this past fall (36 miles! Whoa!)  But more than anything, I want to focus on what feels good for me, what inspires me to get and stay active, and how can it contribute to stress-relief for me.

2.) Save Now, Spend Later.  Moving out of my parents house this past fall has really gotten me thinking about money.  All the new expenses. All the things that I didn’t know I needed. All the things I want but wonder if they’re really worth the money.  But in conversations with Parker recently, we’ve both been feeling out the idea of Richmond not being our forever home.  He’s been here for over 4 years now, and while I’ve only lived here since August, I’ve been visiting and exploring the area for as long as he’s been here. It’s a beautiful and quirky and interesting place, but the more we talk, I don’t think it’s our forever home. There’s a part of me (and I know for him too) that really wants to travel. He’s talked about really wanted to learn French or German and traveling through Europe.  I have this strange desire to visit Iceland and many other unique places. And we’ve both been talking about what it would take for us to live in Hawaii. Living in Hawaii started as a silly throw away line early on in our relationship when we were long-distance and very miserable about it. “I’ll come steal you and we’ll run away to Hawaii.” I don’t know why Hawaii exactly. I suppose it seems like the farthest place away while still being in the U.S. (since emigration takes even more money and planning). But the point is, that this year I’m really starting to understand how I want a more mobile life in the future. Whether that’s traveling internationally or moving to Hawaii or Austin, TX, I’m seeing that the only way I can do that is if I focus on the future and save. So here’s to a frugal 2017!

3.) Start Planning to Make Travel a Reality.  This one is a little less fully formed, but since I want to start saving, I might as well start planning for what this travel will look so I know how much to save and what kind of timeline I’m working with.

4.) Infuse Design and My Unique Passions into my Creative Endeavors.  I’ve felt a bit creatively tapped out recently.  Like I’m bursting with ideas with feel inadequate or lacking the means to bring those ideas to life. So I want to encourage myself to journal more. To start some larger art projects and see where they take me.  To try more craft projects on my YouTube channel.  These are all things that bring me joy, but I shuffle them aside for “more important” projects that tend to bring me less joy.  But what’s creativity without joy or passion?

5.) Read More!  I just got a library card for Henrico County and will probably get one for Richmond City libraries as well, and boy am I excited for all the new books I have access to! I had finally started to run out of titles that sounded interesting in my hometown library so hurray for new books!

6.) Start a Patreon Page!  I need a Patreon page. I really don’t know why at this point I don’t already have one.  Or rather, I do know, but it’s because 1.) I’ve been lazy and haven’t created it and 2.) I’ve been at a loss for what to use as rewards.  But in doing some research and looking at what some of my favorite creators are using as rewards, I finally feel like I know how to structure it.  And it’s gosh darn time isn’t it!  So be on the lookout in the next few months for it! I hate the idea of asking for money from people. But I also would really love to make even better content, and I’m running pretty thin these days.  Plus there’s something about the idea of having people invest in me and my work that seems validating, and I think that’s something I need at this stage in my life as a content creator.

7.) Be More Mindful.  While being mindful is something I’ve always considered important, I’ve never actively made it a goal for myself.  But I think as 2017 brings a very different kind of year for me with a new city, a new job, and an adult transition, it will be important for me to channel that mindfulness into journaling, more regular meditation, and a better awareness of how I’m feeling emotionally and physically. I can only be my best advocate if I’m active in understanding what’s going on inside me!

8.) Brainstorm, Research, and Make Connections for New Projects.  There are a lot of new things that have peaked my interest in the last year, and I think 2017 is the time to step up to the plate and learn what it takes to do them. What do I need to learn? What training could I acquire? What connections do I need to make? Who should I call on for a favor to help me into a new industry?

9.) Write More!  I really want to start writing more creatively this year. It’s been a year and half since I worked on my novel. *Sad Face* And while I don’t know if I’m quite ready for jumping back into writing a chapter a month for my novel, I really want to at least start writing short stories and poetry again.  Which is one reason, I’m really excited for one of my favorite content creator’s new project #WordBound which is exactly what I’m looking for: Weekly prompts to encourage writers like me to write more!  You should be seeing more on this soon as I complete each week’s prompts (hopefully!)

And finally, what I consider the one, super big, NEED TO DO goal:

10.) Build a Website for iIMAGINEblank/My Business. I’ve been saying I’m going to build an iIMAGINEblank website for quite a while now.  But 2017 is the year!  As I’m seeing YouTube viewers and subscribers stagnate, I’m really looking at how I expand my love for video creating outside of that one oversaturated platform and onto my own so that I can combine all the things that are me: video creating, blogging, art, fashion, DIY/crafts, and motivational speaking.  How is this all going to come together? I don’t know! If you have ideas please let me know!  But I do feel the most confident in myself that I have the tools to do it and make it into the business that I really want rather than a hobby that I make a little bit of money off of. Being a “YouTuber” (or rather a content creator) is a real and valued thing in 2017.  So I need to start treating it as such.
Happy New Year! I hope you’re off to a great start with your goals or anti-resolutions for 2017!