Category Archives: Reflection

My 5 Most-Used Apps

Hey everyone! Today I want to talk about the most-used apps on my phone. As a photographer, digital media manager, and writer, I have a LOT going on – especially on my phone! My 5 most-used apps help me focus on individual tasks and be as productive as I possibly can. Keep reading to find out what they are and how I use them!

  1. Alexa App (free; Dot is ~$40 on Amazon) – I have an Alexa Dot and use it mostly for home organization; my husband and I can both add to our shopping list or to-do list and can set different reminders based on which of us is talking to Alexa at any given time. It does so much more than that, but that’s how we use it most frequently!
  2. Cozi (free) – This is another one of those that my husband and I both have which helps to keep our home organized and running smoothly. We use the Cozi app to sync up calendar items (and set who is attending each item) and to plan out our weekly meals and who is cooking. The app also has pre-loaded recipes that we’ll refer to when we run out of dinner inspiration!
  3. Productive–Habit Tracker (free) – I can’t say enough about this app; it has honestly changed my habit game. You can set multiple different habits and assign a “completion schedule” to each individual habit. Every morning, I wake up and check this thing and just start checking things off the list. The app also has a “stats” section where you can keep track of which habits you fail to complete the most often or how many perfect days you’ve had. So great!
  4. Forest (free) – Okay, I think you guys have seen me talk about this on my blog before, but I LOVE the Forest app so I’ll talk about it more. It works to get you off of your phone while you’re trying to complete a task (or series of tasks) while also giving you a chance to make a real-world difference. You set a timer in the app for however long you’d like to work without checking your phone; I usually set my timer for 25 minutes then give myself a 5-min phone break before starting to work again. While your timer is going, if you don’t check your phone, the Forest app starts to plant a tree in your “Forest” in the app. Once your timer is up, the tree is fully grown (the longer the timer, the bigger the tree). If you check your phone or exit the app while the timer is going, your tree dies. The more larger trees you have, the more in-app coins you can earn. For every 2500 coins you collect, the Forest app developers will plant a real tree somewhere in the world!
  5. LightRoom (free) – I couldn’t resist putting a photography app in this mix as well. The LightRoom iOS app is completely free (whereas the actual software for a PC or laptop will cost you a premium), and there are so many cool functions. I am currently playing around with LightRoom “presets” that allow you to apply the same editing macros to any photograph. This has helped me so much with my Instagram branding. The app also keeps any of your edited photos in its own storage silo in the Cloud so that you don’t have to worry about losing anything. So nice!

Well folks, that’s it – my 5 most-used apps. Do you have any apps you use on the daily that you think your fellow readers would enjoy learning about? Drop them in the comments below!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post (a day late – whoops!). If you did, be sure to hit that “Like” button or subscribe to the blog – I would really appreciate it. Until next time!

doing what’s right

for you.

Stop trying to please everyone else.

Stop saying “Well, I’ll get to me next week.” Next week never comes.

Stop worrying about upsetting someone else.

What if you go your whole life never doing what you want to do because you think it will make someone else unhappy? Do you think you’re going to feel good about yourself or about your life? Do you think you yourself will be happy?

At the end of the day, you are the only one who has to live with you. You can’t cling to other people when the Grimm Reaper comes calling. You can’t bring them with you to wherever it is you’re supposed to go. So why are you putting your life on hold for them in the first place?

I’m not saying to completely disregard others’ feelings. I’m not saying to stomp all over everyone else and do only for yourself. I’m saying that if there’s something you know you need to do for you, but someone else doesn’t want you to do it – you shouldn’t have to worry about that.

Go for it anyway. Do what right’s by you so that you can open yourself up more fully to others later on. Take it from me, when you’re unhappy with your life or your situation, you’re not going to be thinking about how to best help other people anyway. You’re always going to be wrapped in regrets like a burrito – and not the good kind. I’m talking a 50-cent burrito you bought on the side of the road in a one-stop-light town because you didn’t have time for anything else that day. It’s going to mess you up so bad that it’ll be all you can think about. Don’t do that to yourself. Take the time to order the burrito you actually want from that really nice Mexican restaurant; it’s going to satisfy you so much that you’ll want to help others order one too.

And that’s my analogy for today. Night folks.

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s that time again – when a lot of people start to think about how their lives are going to be different in the New Year. They wrack their brain for ways they can improve, and then come to the conclusion that something needs to change. So they come up with what have been called “New Year’s Resolutions” to help them turn those thoughts into actions. I’ve come up with my own resolutions for the New Year, but I didn’t do it the way most people would – just a list. No, no. If you know me, then you know I had a step-by-step process to write out my resolutions. And here it is…

Step 1: Find Out What’s Lacking/What Needs Improvement

You can’t change part of your life without knowing exactly what needs to be improved upon or why you should change it in the first place. I sat down towards the end of December and made a list of all of the things I’ve been doing that haven’t met my standards of living a successful or fulfilled life.

Step 2: Clear Off Anything on the List that Isn’t Coming from Your Own Head

This one seems unclear, so let me explain a little more. You need to make your own choices for your own reasons; it’s important that the list of things you need to improve be what you actually think needs to improve – not what your mom, your partner, your second-cousin-twice-removed-on-your-great-grandfather’s-side told you to fix. So cross off/erase/black-out anything that isn’t truly from your own thinking about your life. (And don’t pretend that you didn’t write some stuff other people told you to do – everyone writes something like that.)

Step 3: Come Up With Your “New”

Okay – so you’ve got a list of stuff to improve. But that doesn’t help you unless you know what those improvements really look like. Hence step three – writing out what each fix truly looks like in your everyday life. Think about what you want to be doing a week, a month, or half a year from now. Pin down exactly what you’re doing in this improved life as a result of changing/updating/fixing your list items from steps one and two. Be specific! Then…

Step 4: …Write Your Resolutions!

Now that you know what your improvements look like, you can list out what you’re going to do to achieve those improvements. Resolutions are like goals – you need to make sure that you have them in order to really get anything done. But to make sure that you’re reaching these goals efficiently and effectively, you should go the extra mile to make sure that they’re SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound).

We’ve already got you covered on the R part (you made, like, three lists already making sure this stuff was relevant to you). Now you have to make sure you cover the SMA and T parts. Your goals need to be specific to your lifestyle – day-in and day-out of you. You need to have a clear method of measuring your progress towards those goals. Of course your goals have to be achievable – you don’t want to set the bar too high because there needs to be visible improvement in order for you to stay motivated. And lastly, you need to assign time-frames to each goal – the amount of time in which you’d like to achieve each thing.

***

I know this sounds very methodical, and that’s because it is. Most people tend to skip right to the last step and just write out basic resolutions about surface-level things they think they want to change about themselves. But that’s not the best way to go about it. You need to make sure that you’re writing these resolutions with the intention of actually doing them! And to keep that intention clear in your mind throughout 2019, you might just have to get a bit methodical.

Click below to read my 2019 New Year’s resolutions!

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My “Diet” and Fitness Plan

Ever since I can remember, I have struggled with maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy diet. Fast food and junk snacks are my favorite things in this world, and that has caused sluggishness and a feeling of not being healthy or comfortable in my own skin. I’ve tried a bunch of fad diets – none of which worked. They all made me feel bad about myself, and they weren’t sustainable.

I finally reached out to a health and wellness coach who I have access to through my employee benefits. Her name is Rachel, and we’ve spoken on the phone quite a few times. She’s my motivation to keep going because I know that if the next time she calls me, I tell her I fell off of my plan, she’ll be disappointed.

But what is my plan? Well, I’m glad you asked, ‘cause I’m gonna tell ya (even if you didn’t ask!). Keep reading to find out what I’m doing to start feeling healthy and fit!

***

MyFitnessPal

First of all, there’s this app. It’s amazing! Rachel mentioned it when we first spoke because it helps you to keep track of the calories you’re eating. As much as I’d love to be able to eat clean all the time, that goal is unrealistic for someone with a new job, a new apartment, and a new husband. Things get busy, and I don’t always have the time to make a good clean meal. Well, according to Rachel, fitness is not just about clean eating. It’s actually mostly about your calorie intake.

Your body has a certain calorie level that you need to reach in order to maintain your weight – this is based on a number of factors including your current weight, height, and age. In order to lose weight, you have to be eating less calories than you need to maintain your weight. The MyFitnessPal helps me keep on track of how many calories I eat. I plan my meals in advance and then log them into the app in advance so that I don’t forget to log as I eat.

***

Exercise

Of course, exercise is good for your body. My exercise routine isn’t something I do to keep track of a number on a scale or in an app. My exercise routine is something I do to make me feel good. As it stands right now (because it’s summer and extremely nice outside), I go for half-our walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays and hour-long walks on Saturday mornings. On Tuesday, I’ll also go for a half-hour swim (weather permitting), and on Thursdays I also lift weights for a half-hour. This way, I’m getting an hour of exercise twice a week, and I’m soaking up some vitamin D for two hours each week. I always feel really good when I take the time to move my body, and that’s why I also do yoga each morning – to start my day off by moving and stretching out those limbs.

***

My fitness plan is for me – no one tells me I have to do things this way. Rachel is an awesome guide, but I didn’t stick to the MyFitnessPal calorie-counting for her. And I didn’t start the exercise plan for her; all of this is for me to feel my best.

10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 13-Year-Old Self

  1. You don’t have to have your life figured out right now. There are plenty of successful people who didn’t have a “career” picked when they went into high school… Actually, I don’t know of anyone who had their perfect career picked out when they went into high school. Chill out.
  2. Stop saying things just to make others happy. You are your own person; if they don’t like what you have to say, screw ‘em.
  3. Guys can suck sometimes – even the ones you end up loving. 1936988_1119686635583_457039_nDon’t give up on them so quickly.
  4. “Mr. Perfect” doesn’t exist, but “Mr. Perfect-For-You” does.
  5. Stop rushing. You’re going to “grow up” in just the right amount of time for you, and you can’t change that without serious consequences.
  6. Perfection is something you’ll never attain. It doesn’t exist so quit killing yourself to try to be it.
  7. It’s okay to be depressed and/or anxious.
  8. Your depression and anxiety can’t be controlled and have nothing to do with anyone else – just you. So don’t allow anyone else to make you feel bad about them.
  9. Your body is your own; it doesn’t belong to anyone else for any reason.
  10. Never allow yourself to stop believing in love because love is literally the one thing that will always exist in the universe. It sounds corny, but it’s true. You haven’t had much experience with it up until now, but you’ll get there.

What do you want to do with your life?

Screw the PlanWhy don’t you know yet?

Oh my god, you’re 22 years old with a college degree, but you don’t have a career path planned out?

What do you mean you don’t have job stability? How are you going to buy a house or have kids without a stable, constant, planned-out source of income?

I hear all of these questions and more at least once a week. They come up any time I visit a distant relative, have coffee with an old friend, or just eat food with my loving (but very nosy) family. These questions are getting at the root of all of my imagined problems – the fact that I have been doing “nothing” with my degree.

I have a Bachelor of Arts in English, but I haven’t been doing anything “English-y” with it. At least, that’s what almost everyone thinks. Apparently, in order to be “doing something” with an English degree, you have to be a writer, a teacher, or a professor. I didn’t realize there was such a rigid set of rules when I joined the major. In fact, I only joined the major because English was my favorite subject in school for as long as I could remember. But it wasn’t my favorite because we did a lot of writing, teaching, or professing. It was my favorite because we did a little bit of everything. There were days when we would even be doing math in English class!

I have a lot of interests, and I find it extremely unfair that I should have to pick one from the list to “do” for the rest of my life. Why is the concept of a career such a linear one in our society? My career path has been – and will continue to be – cyclical. I have a full-time job as an administrative assistant that keeps me on my toes. Every single day, I’m doing something different with that position, which excites me greatly as I have to be there for eight hours, and it would pretty much suck otherwise.

I come home from that job, and I get to do literally whatever I want. If I want to veg-out in front of the TV and eat my way through my kitchen, I can. If I want to write chapters for a book I’ve been working on, I can. And if I want to leave my house and take a road trip to take pictures someplace I’ve never been – you guessed it – I can! And there’s no reason that I can’t do my best to make a living doing ALL of those things (and more).

An English degree is applicable in so many situations. I’m currently working on creating a budgeting training session for my full-time job. I have to edit a ten-page document and then turn it into a PowerPoint. I’m using skills that I learned in multimedia class, first year seminar, and English class to get that project figured out! I learned how to write effective editorial/informational/creative writing pieces in English class which is a skill I now use to write this blog and the many narrative works I’ve been fiddling with over the years. Those skills have helped me on more than one occasion, and I am so grateful to have been an English major and earned a degree that I can literally use for everything.

So the next time you think I’m not doing anything with my life and you want to ask me “What’s your plan?” – just remember that plans change. And I’m one of the lucky few who can do a little bit of everything to roll with the punches – specifically the punches I give you for being such an ass.

Girl Meets Boy: My Love Story

August 2007 – Girl Meets Boy

We had all just entered this new and strange place they call “middle school,” and we weren’t really sure what to expect. He was sitting with a few other guys at a crowded lunchroom table. I noticed him immediately because I didn’t know who he was. My best friend and I were trying to find a place to sit. She suggested that we go and sit at the table second from the end – the table where he was sitting.

“Do we really have to go over there?” I asked her. “There are other tables all over the place.”

“I think I see Crystal and Mari,” she replied. “They’ll want us to sit with them. C’mon, it’ll be okay.” Somehow in this one instance, she was less shy than I.

We sat down at that table and started a friendship that would change my life entirely.

He said his name was Ben. Cute. One of my friends instantly started calling him “Benji,” and I didn’t know why, but that really bothered me. He and I didn’t have any classes together, but we all had the same lunch. Every day, it was the same thing; my friends and I would find our table, sit down, and talk to each other while the guys – Ben, Zach, and James – would talk nonsense on the other side. Occasionally, we would hold some sort of weird-food-challenge (milk poured over applesauce, ketchup on top of sweet potatoes, etc). These were the kinds of challenges you only see happening in a middle school cafeteria. He was brave; he ate chocolate-milk-covered-applesauce like it was normal. For 7th-grade-me, that was enough.

I developed a crush. But so did my best friend.

They started dating a few months later. It was a really difficult time for me, and she and I started fighting a lot more – not that she knew why I was mad at her. I had no intentions of breaking them up – because, you know, girl code. But I couldn’t help feeling jealous at every little thing they did together. I started distancing myself from everyone and hanging out with other people. It wasn’t my proudest time of life, but it kept me from going insane. I occasionally ate lunch with some other girls – who I considered to be a part of the popular crowd – and became someone who lived on “both sides.” I wasn’t totally popular because I knew and hung out with Ben and his friends. But I wasn’t completely in their group either because I knew and talked to the popular people.

Petty middle school stuff. Tragic, really.

This lasted into our 8th-grade year – one of the most stressful times of a young life. I was about to go into high school, I didn’t really have a clear-cut friend group, and I was pretty sure that my then-boyfriend didn’t really like me at all and was about to leave my town anyway. Well, so was I. I ended up moving to a small town in the south of Delaware, leaving behind the promise that I would stay in touch with my friends – both “popular” and “regular.” Those were just the terms I knew how to use to describe them.

That promise didn’t really last long. I fell off with the “popular” kids almost immediately; I guess once you move away, you’re not really on their radar anymore. I stayed in touch with my original friend group via a Facebook thread, but even that ended. Ben and I weren’t really talking much – no doubt the product of not really having known each other – and even my best friend and I got into a huge fight and then hardly ever spoke again. But I would be seeing these people again sooner than I thought.

***

March 2012 – Girl Finds Boy Again (By Accident)

I had a life in that small town that seemed totally separate from my life further north. My mom and I had made friends there who I thought were my final-friends – the ones about whom I would spend the rest of my days reminiscing. I even dated a few different people in those three years I spent down there. They were all awful guys, but I had to learn that on my own – had to develop a liking for the good guys. I thought I had finally built a home in that little town. But we ended up having to move again, back to the town (and the school district) that I was originally a part of.

This was another giant adjustment for me; I spent a week not even in a school because my mom didn’t want to me to go where our address said I belonged. The high school she had gone to – of which I was about to be a part – was “a bad school” according to her perception. She originally tried to choice me into a different school in the same district. She went back and forth with the principal about it, but eventually it was decided that the choicing period was over. I had to go to her old school.

On my first day, I was a little nervous because I was the new girl. I recognized a few people I had known from middle school – after all, this was the same district – but I didn’t say hi to them (or to anyone). I minded my own business and kept to myself – until lunchtime.

I was standing in line, not really sure if the temporary lunch number I had been given was even going to work, when a really tall kid turned around and scrunched up his face as if he knew me. It took him a couple of seconds, but I had already remembered who he was. We had a bad habit of meeting in lunch rooms.

“Hi Ben.”

“Hi Sierra.”

***

Like I said, I wasn’t even supposed to be at that school. If my mom and I had moved a little earlier, I likely would have ended up at the school where my original best friend was enrolled. I learned later that she and Ben had never been able to rekindle their relationship after ending up in separate high schools, and after the huge fight she and I had years ago, girl code didn’t really seem to matter much. So, I started dating Ben a few months later. And here we are, five years past that really awkward part of my life, and we’re engaged! We’re still kinda awkward, but now we’re awkward together. And I will never let him get away again.

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