Scheduling Life – Balancing Work and Writing

Since I started grad school back in October of 2018, balancing my work life, writing life, and personal commitments became a huge challenge. To all the moms out there doing this on a regular basis – sometimes on your own – I truly admire you. Truly.

At the beginning of 2019, I knew that I had to do something to reorganize my life in a way that I didn’t forget any of the obligations I had agreed to or any of the commitments that arose on a need-basis. When I was in undergrad, I never really needed a planner to organize my schedule as it was pretty uniform from week-to-week. As an adult, to call anything uniform would be a joke. I decided to go find a planner that would work for me.

Blessedly, I located one at TJ Maxx. My pretty little planner has a monthly calendar, and then weekly templates, that make writing in everything I have to get done easily. [I should put in that I’ve seen the amazing-ness that is bullet journaling – I don’t have the art skills or the patience to set up my own calendar.] The planner I have has a list on the left hand side and then sections labelled “Top priorities this week,” “doodle it out,” “small victories this week,” and “coming up next week” down the right side. That way, I can store anything in these slots that I need to work on.

I’m kind of living for the “Doodle it out” section because it’s a cute way to keep track of important life moments or the books I’m reading. It also gives me a creative outlet without being too much pressure.

I also love the “Small victories this week” because it reminds me to be grateful for whatever I accomplished that week or what blessings I’ve received. It helps me keep things in perspective – things are not always as bad as they seem.

At the back of the planner are several full spreads that include titles like: “notes & things,” “make a list,” “oh yeah, that,” “before I forget,” “Thoughts,” “Get it done,” and “Remember.” I use these for lengthy to-do lists that encompass a month, or even just a day. I also write down any ideas for stories that arise or things like grocery lists that I need to remember to pick up.

The final 50 or so pages are just a “Notes” section with lined pages. As a writer, I love this part because then, if I am out and about, and inspiration hits, I can jot down everything at the moment – and I don’t have to carry both my planner and a writing notebook with me in my purse (makes for lighter baggage.)

Already, I’ve noticed that I get so much more done in a timely manner, and I can keep track of habits I’m trying to create. I mark down with colored pens when I’ve spent time writing, when I exercise, how often I’m reading, how many days a week I spend on homework, etc.

This whole planner thing that I thought I’d left behind me in high school, has really come through to save me these past two months. So much so that I’ve started to add things to track and work on in my planner because it’s helped me through some rougher/busier times. It also is a way to hold myself accountable/honest about whether or not I’m spending enough time writing – or if I think I am, but I’m not really.

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Women’s History Month – Honoring Rab’ia al-Adawiyya [ra] (or al Basri)

This week I wanted to honor Rab’ia al-Adawiyya [ra]. To do so, I’m sharing one of her poems that I really enjoy:

“In My Soul

In
my soul
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church
where I kneel.

Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist.

Is there not a region of love where the sovereignty is
illumined nothing,

where ecstasy gets poured into itself
and becomes
lost,

where the wing is fully alive
but has no mind or
body?

In
my soul
there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque,
a church

that dissolve, that
dissolve in

God.”
― Rabia al Basri [ra]

I can definitely not do her justice, so I’m going to point you to this website:

http://muslimgirl.com/6831/the-female-sufi-saint-rabia-al-adawiyya/

 

Happy Women’s History Month!

 

Reaction – Crown of Midnight *Spoilers Included

Since I’ve recently added some books that were published a while ago to my TBR, I decided that instead of calling them reviews, I’d refer to them as a “reaction,” at least for my purposes. For my first “reaction” blog, I’m going to be looking at Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas.

Maas, Sarah J. Crown of Midnight. New York, Bloomsbury, 2013.

My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

The Characters

I love Celeana, for the most part. I thoroughly love the concept of a strong female lead character, who doesn’t necessarily need to rely on others to get what she needs done. When she gets pushed to her breaking point, the pain she feels and her heartache and confliction are all relatable.

Choal is adorable – and I’m extremely conflicted. In the first book, I loved Dorian, but this novel really made me love Choal – and I’m just… so conflicted. [More on this later].

In almost every essence, I feel like Maas leads you on a path of insecurity about every character she introduces. It’s almost as though you’re right along the characters trying to determine who they can trust – who you as the reader can trust within this world. Each and every character has had a moment where you questioned their motives and their morals. I really love the complexities of her character building and, one day, I hope that I am able to emulate it in my own works.

The Plot Structure

Holy cow. Not only is Maas’s world-building incredibly amazing, but the twists that the plot takes were – for me – unexpected. Though, looking back, Maas definitely left bread crumbs along the way for you to piece it together. She just did it in a way that worked really well.

There was no point within the novel that I really wanted to skim read to make it to the next stage – it kept the pace going and kept the reader engaged completely. [Okay – so maybe I wanted to rush to see what happened between the three so I could just know – but I didn’t because the story was so captivating.]

The Love Triangle Trope

I’m beyond over this trope. I appreciate that it certainly has a function. But. As I said previously – I’m not a fan of being conflicted on who I want to end up together. [Stems from my love of a romantic ending where the couplings are often times clear cut.] I don’t really like the use of love triangles to just cause unnecessary drama. – I am, by no means, saying the Maas didn’t have a reason for it, and it does engage the reader – so clearly it works. It’s just something I’m not overly fond of in any story. I think I tolerate it and am more engaged with it here, but in other novels, it’s almost overdone or unnecessary.

-Yes, I know it’s a YA trope. Yes, I know it causes drama. I know. I get it. It’s just not my cup of tea.-

That being said, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.

The Twist

GIANT SPOILER. DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK/INTEND TO READ.

Celaena. Is. The. Lost. Queen. Of. Terrasen.

What?!

I’m beyond excited about this plot twist. It almost, almost, had me ditching the rest of my March TBR so that I could read the next book.

Like I said earlier, I didn’t really see this coming, exactly, but I did know that there had to be some kind of connection to the fallen kingdom, just by her pure hatred of the king. This little twist was pure gold to me. I’m really excited to read further, but will, reluctantly, be taking a break from the series to knock out a few of the other books on my TBR.

All in all, I can say that I’m am once more officially hooked on Maas’s world. I can say that I am more invested in this series than the ACOTAR series, and the blessings that surround coming to a series a bit later than everyone else lies in the beauty of not having to wait a year for the next book to come out!

If you’ve read this one, how did you feel about it?

 

February Book Haul

So I walked into February intending NOT to go on too much of a book haul. BUT then…both Barnes and Noble and Second Story Books had 50% off sales…and well…I took complete advantage of it. I’m really excited by this haul and am really ready to buckle down and get some reading done this month – even though my TBR list for this month is a bit shorter than February.

 

Roam – C. H. Armstrong – I won this on a giveaway run by @bibliophasit90 on her blog/Twitter. I’m excited to read it soon!

Falling Kingdoms – Morgan Rhodes – I was drawn to the cover of this in the bookstore and read the back cover. It immediately sparked my interest so I picked it up.

Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo – Over the last several months, I’ve picked up quite a few of her books, and realized I’d missed out on some of the earlier books in her world, so I picked this up to try and read it before I tackle the others I have.

Ash Princess – Laura Sebastian – So I was drawn into this book by the second book – I saw it on the shelf and thought it sounded pretty cool so I logically had to buy this one so that I could read the second one.

Lady Smoke – Laura Sebastian – This one got me intrigued so I bought it and the one above.

The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi

Crown of Feathers – Nicki Pau Preto – I’ve been waiting for this one to be released as well. I know they say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but, honestly, the cover on this one is GORGEOUS. I’d seen it around on Twitter and Booktube, so was excited to pick it up.

Circle of Shadows – Evelyn Skye – I liked The Crown’s Game and am eager to read the second one, but couldn’t resist when I saw she had another book out!

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff – I have seen this book on EVERYONE’S Booktube, and it seems to be a favorite of many who love fantasy. I finally summoned the courage to try tackling it.

The Priory of The Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon – I had seen this for months on Booktube, where a lot of people had received the ARC, and I have been patiently [not really] waiting for the book to be released ever since. It immediately jumped onto my TBR list for the end of this month.

 

To explain these next ones, I adored the Fear Street series when I was in middle school. And I still enjoy reading them as an adult. So when I found these at B&N, I couldn’t have been more excited.

Fear Street Super Thriller – R. L. Stine

Betrayal: Fear Street Saga – R. L. Stine

You May Now Kill the Bride – R. L. Stine

Drop Dead Gorgeous – R. L. Stine

 

I love Wordsworth – and I’m incredibly disappointed that B&N doesn’t carry any of his work [that I’ve found], so I was really excited to find these at Second Story Books!

The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850 – William Wordsworth

The Prelude: A Parallel Text – William Wordsworth

 

I’m going to lump the next set all together because I can pretty much explain them in one sentence: I love history and love continuing to explore the evolution of history well after the time I graduated undergrad.

 

Daughter of the Winter Queen – Nancy Goldstone

Cleopatra – Michael Grant

When Women Ruled the World – Kara Cooney

Alexander the Great – Paul Cartledge

The Empire of Alexander the Great – John Pentland Mahaffy

From Alexander to Cleopatra: The Hellenistic World – Michael Grant

A History of Pagan Europe – Prudence Jones & Nigel Pennick

The Book of the Dead – Intro by E. A. Wallis Budge

Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt – Barbara Mertz

Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh – Joyce Tyldesley

Babylon – Joan Oates

The Roman World – John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, Oswyn Murray

 

I’m really excited for this haul and look forward to making my way through them soon! See any of your favorites? Any recommendations on which should move to the top of the TBR pile?

Women’s History Month – Honoring Khadījah [ra]

I wanted to honor many women throughout the month of Women’s History Month – and I can’t do that without mentioning Khadījah [ra]. As one of the most important and honored women in Islam, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] deserves to be remembered during this month. She was the first to wholly support her husband in his revelations.

She also stands as the perfect example of the status of women in Islam. She inherited and continued to grow her own wealth as a businesswoman. “She used her wealth to aid the needy Muslims and purchase the freedom of converted slaves. She holds the rank of becoming the first believer, after the Prophet [pbuh].” Though many continue to paint Islam as misogynistic, it is Khadijah [ra] who reminds us that Islam provided more rights to women, liberating them from their current position and giving them the respect they deserved.

During this month, it’s important to remember the women who came before us and defined who we are and what we’ve become.

Because I’m not sure I can fully do her justice – If you’re interested in learning more about her, you can look at some of these places:

https://www.whyislam.org/women-in-islam/khadija/ – the quotation I used comes from this article.

http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t243/e182

Refocusing

I wanted to take a moment and kind of explain why I had taken such a long break from working on my blog – and hopefully hold myself more accountable at making sure that I get back on track with posting and continuing to grow. I mentioned in a post a while ago that I had decided to go to grad school. That meant that I was balancing working full time, working on writing, going to grad school, and working a part time job, and still trying to work on my personal life all at the same time. When I first started my grad program, I only went back part time, but decided – after a successful term – to go back full time.

One of the hardest things about returning to school was the severe anxiety and insecurities about whether or not I had made the right decision. After spending so much time working on writing here and in my work-in-progress, I didn’t really know what to do after the first draft. In order to improve both my writing, and my understanding of what the publishing world/writing world, I decided that taking this step would be good for me. But at the same time, I really worried about whether or not this was the smartest decision for me.

In this term, I decided to try working with a planner to really get organized about how I spend my time and to keep track of due dates and other obligations with the rest of my world. To be honest, that has really kept me sane. Not to mention, the professor in one of my classes was really positive, and supportive. That kept me driven. In order to overcome my self-doubt, I really tried to remind myself what I was doing there, why I wanted to be there, and how much it meant to me to be in this program and to be a writer. Once I refocused, I finished out the term really strong and felt more confident about walking into term three.

That all being said, I’m looking at this term with fresh eyes and a new balance. Which is also how I’m going to approach my writing. I know what I need to focus on and how hard I need to work, and I am more than willing to put in the effort to get what I need to done. It’s all about refocusing and getting organized. I’ve gotten to the point where I am back to being really excited about the grad program and grateful for all of the lessons I am learning and how I am growing. I look forward to learning more along the way and can’t wait to see what I end with.

Women’s History Month – Honoring Mariska Hargitay

Because it’s Women’s History Month, I wanted to spend some time highlighting some of the most amazing women from now and history that I admire greatly.

Today’s post is dedicated to Mariska Hargitay. Best known for her role as Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU, she has been an incredible voice for survivors. She’s been nominated for and has won a long list of awards. A powerful character on the television, she’s just as hard-working off.

Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004 and “[t]oday, Joyful Heart is a leading national organization with a mission to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.”

When I was in undergrad, I ran an event that brought their “No More” campaign to my college campus. As a student, I knew that our campus needed to do more, be more aware, of the realities of domestic violence and sexual assault. Sure, they did the typical education when you enter college, but still made it difficult for survivors to come forward and seek help. Many students still had a “blame the victim” mindset, so when I learned about the No More campaign, I took the opportunity to share the message there.

For many years, I have been completely amazed by the work they have done and still continue to do. From providing resources, to bringing light to a long-ignored topic, to ending the backlog on rape kits, the organization has done so much and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Hargitay has continued to inspire me with the way she continues to inspire love, confidence, and unity in everything that she does and I wanted to honor that today with this post.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Joyful Heart Foundation, you can follow the link here: http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org.

February Update -> March TBR

Hello lovelies! I apologize for my absence lately; grad school and my day job have really been taking on most of my time and energy. I have been so inactive across all platforms, and until Saturday – after visiting a friend who informed me that she hadn’t received a notification about my posts in a while – that I really realized that I hadn’t posted in nearly a month. [I also realized how quickly February slipped away from me, yikes!].

All that is to explain what happened in February – I only read one book. One. Annnnnddddd, it wasn’t one that was on my TBR list, go figure.

My only completed novel during the month of February was The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair. I received this book after winning it in a giveaway on her Twitter page. I was super excited as her book is the first ARC I’ve ever won or received. I read it in twenty-four hours and gave it a five star review [Goodreads has it ranked at 3.91]. Blair really sucked me into the story – which is saying something because first person present honestly, usually drives me away so fast. BUT Blair works with it so well and made me committed to her MC and her mission.

The rest of my TBR list, clearly, never happened. At the end of the month, I read about thirty-three pages of Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, but that was pretty much it. As I said, it was kind of a rough month for me reading wise.

In that vein, I’m moving most of my February TBR to March, in the hopes that this month isn’t as crazy as last month. Thus my March TBR includes the following:

  1. Finish Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas
  2. Wild Rain – Christine Feehan
  3. Fern Majestic – James Stevens
  4. The Crown’s Fate – Evelyn Skye
  5. Start The Priory of an Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

I’m going to keep the list two four this month, as I feel it might be more attainable. I also took Heir of Fire off for this month because I really, really want to get to The Priory of an Orange Tree. I added Wild Rain since I’ll be reading it for my grad class this term – but I also just love her books and wanted to add in a quick read that I know I’ll enjoy on top of all of the new ones.

I hope all of your February reads went well, or better than mine! What are you reading for March? Any books you’re dying to start this month?

January Reading Wrap Up/February TBR

I figured I would kill two birds with one stone with my post today: my January reading wrap-up and my February to-be-read pile.

I read six books in January – which came as a bit of shock to me.

  1. Emma – Jane Austen – This was a reread, and went a bit longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished it!
  2. An Enchantment of Ravens – Margaret Rogerson: wasn’t on my TBR list, but I picked it up during the 24 hour read-a-thon The Bibliophagist ran. I’d had it on my shelf for a bit and decided to grab it for a quick read.
  3. Leopard’s Run – Christine Feehan
  4. The Crown’s Game – Evelyn Skye
  5. Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
  6. The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula Le Guin

The two books from my TBR list I didn’t get to were: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas and Frostblood by Elly Blake. I’m really struggling to find the motivation to pick up the second in the ACOTAR series because, like I mentioned previously, I already kind of know where it’s going, and I don’t really like the direction. BUT I am obsessed with the Throne of Glass series [just in time since it just concluded, meaning I don’t have to die while waiting for the last book to come out.] 🙂

All that being said, I know February is going to be a bit more of a challenge with the reading list because it’s so short and I have plenty of things going on, so I only opted for four books on my TBR. If I end up finishing more, I’ll take it as a win, but I don’t want to shoot too high because I don’t want to be disappointed when I don’t have enough time to finish. Therefore my February TBR is:

  1. Frostblood – Elly Blake – I moved this one to February because I do really want to read this and feel like I’ve put it off for too long.
  2. Crown at Midnight – Sarah J. Maas – As stated, I’m obsessed with this series now, Celaena is such a strong, relatable character and I’m extremely excited to continue on her journey — which is why I also want to try reading the third book as well.
  3. Heir of Fire – Sarah J. Maas
  4. Fern Majestic – James Stevens – I went to his signing in my hometown and picked up his book, and I’m really excited to get to it.

What are you all reading this month? Any goals you’re trying to achieve?

How many books on Vacation?

The last time I travelled, I went on a cruise during the week of Thanksgiving, and I took nine books. NINE. I only went on vacation for ten days, and I took nine books. To many, this might seem a bit too much. For me, it was just enough for the type of vacation I was one.

  1. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
  2. The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes – Leonard S. Goldberg
  3. Dreamfever – Karen M. Moning
  4. Shadowfever – Karen M. Moning
  5. The Qur’an
  6. Leopard’s Run – Christine Feehan
  7. Crimes of Grindewald – J. K. Rowling
  8. Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan
  9. Grindstone Literary Agency’s Issue 1

To be fair, a handful of these books were an impulse buy the night before I left, meaning I had to carry them whether I intended to read them or not. But. I read six of them, at least in part. [I had already finished Bird by Bird but had it to work on some homework.] I started Girls of Paper and Fire, but didn’t finish it, and I always take my Qur’an with me when I travel.

Some methods behind the madness: I am terrified of flying, and because it was a domestic flight to the port city, then home, there was no movie to distract me. To that end, I read to keep myself calm. I finished Crimes of Grindewald on the two-hour ride down. [I wrote on my NaNo project on the ride home.] Therefore, I had to carry that around all week after finishing it, haha.

Whenever I go some place new, I like to take something familiar with me. I also like taking a book that I know I will enjoy reading, just in case one of my newer TBRs doesn’t do it for me. Usually, that means one of my bulkier but trusty Harry Potter books. This time I had the new screen play, so I had the familiar world to keep me company as needed.

So, the real question: how many of these did I actually read?

As I mentioned, I read from technically six of them. butr for the purposes of this post, I’ll keep off the Qur’an readings. I also started reading Leopard’s Run, but the first two pages pulled free from the spine and I panicked. So I stopped reading that and decided to save it for the safety of my house. And as I mentioned, I also had previously read Bird by Bird.

So in reality, I read from four.

Of those four, I only finished three. To be fair, I finished Dreamfever and Shadowfever within twenty-four hours during a lazy day on the ship. And, honestly, if I’d had more books, I think I probably would have finished more. [I saved Girls of Paper and Fire for the airport and plane ride home.]

Perhaps it’s the bookworm in me, but while travelling I like to have at least one day to relax and read because it keeps anxiety down. Since I’m relatively new to travelling internationally or via a plane, I have moments where panic attacks are imminent, so I like the comfort of losing myself into a story.

How many books do you like to take on vacation?