I love writing my annual birthday post. It’s a good way to look back on the last year!
This year, I find myself filled with love and gratitude. I’m grateful for wonderful family and friends. I’ve made some new friends along the way, several of the writing variety!
Work has been on the up and up after several months of struggle in late 2021 and early 2022. I’m very close to finishing one long-term project in the next month or so. I will celebrate three years at Sentara in September!
Phineas and Ferb are still grumpy old men, and we love them so. They are almost 13 now.
Al and I celebrated six years of marriage in November. We went at Amedeo’s in Suffolk for the first time, one of the first true date nights we’ve had since COVID began.
I’m still working on my books! I have a solid plan to publish the first one, finally, in November 2022, which marks 10 years after I started writing it. Several amazing people have read it and offered incredible feedback, and I’m grateful for every piece of advice and encouragement. I wrote more than 53,000 words during NaNoWriMo 2021, and more than 30,000 words last month for Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m hoping close out the first draft of my third book very soon. Writing sprints are my jam!
LEGO is one of my favorite hobbies now. After completing the Sesame Street Ideas set last June, Al got me the Stranger Things Upside Down set for Christmas. He gave me my first LEGO Architecture sets – New York and London – today, plus six of The Muppets minifigures!
I still love true crime podcasts. Al and I love For All Mankind on Apple TV Plus. I’m re-watching Cold Case this year too!
We held our 130th blood drive yesterday. We collected 71 units! We have passed 8,000 collected units now in 22 years of drives.
I’m very excited to start traveling again. I’m lucky enough to have a Dad-daughter weekend in September to attend a family wedding, and then Al and I are taking a much-needed week-long vacation later in the fall!
I’ve posted about P.E.O. and Virginia State Convention before, but this was a whole new adventure! In November 2019, I was asked to be a co-chair for the 2022 Virginia State Convention. I gave it some thought, but quickly said yes because the convention was going to be held in Portsmouth! Perfect!
We held all our planning meetings over Zoom because of COVID-19. That was a feat in and of itself!
Friday, May 20th
Friday was a mix of activity and lulls! There was a flurry of set-up. Our fabulous Convention Committee got to work. Rebecca and I helped set up different areas, and answered questions.
We went to lunch at Olde Towne Public House with the Convention Committee and the Virginia State Board. Yum!
I walked more than 18,000 steps!
After Projects Night, the Franc 7’s (P.E.O. sisters under 40) gathered around the fire pit outside the hotel. We had a wonderful time!
Saturday, May 21st
Saturday was the big day. Most of the Convention business was conducted. I walked more than 11,000 steps!
Sunday, May 22nd
Sunday was the final business session, clean up, and leave! Overall, it was a big success. S
o many people thanked Rebecca and I. It was wonderful to be appreciated and recognized for our work. We couldn’t have done it all without our Hostess Chapters (F/Hampton, G/Alexandria, L/Norfolk, Q/Norfolk, and X/Virginia Beach) and the members of the Convention Committee.
It was an incredible Convention. I’m happy that I’ve been able to be on both sides of the coin now! I’ve been a delegate multiple times, and now I’ve been able to help plan and make a Convention come to life. It was such a cool experience!
After reading Evette’s book, I quickly moved to Makena’s book in the World By Us collection from American Girl.
Makena loves fashion, and posts her #OOTD (outfit of the day). I love how expressive she is!
Similar to Evette’s story, racism is a major theme in Makena’s story. Despite Makena’s struggles to come to terms with not one, but two incidents in her young life, I applaud American Girl for addressing both incidents in a thoughtful way. It definitely educated me.
It also encourages open communication between family members, and how talking about your feelings with someone that you can trust is so important.
Reading Makena’s story was another eye-opener for me, as a white woman, to how one phone call or one remark could very easily put someone else’s life at risk in an instant.
I’m always up for new books from American Girl. When they announced the new World By Us line with three books, I was excited. I was able to get the books practically brand-new from a seller in the big American Girl Obsessed BST group that I’m a member of on Facebook.
The first book that I read is Evette’s book. She’s passionate about the environment. The book also addresses the pandemic, social media, and other real-life issues. Racism is one big topic that’s incorporated. I also love the community center that’s featured!
I read through the whole book in one night several months ago. Most American Girl books don’t take me long to read at all, but this one was also beautifully illustrated!
The interesting part about these books, and this line/collection, is that the characters are 13 years old, which is older than the typical target demographic for the company. I personally think this is a great thing, and it shows that American Girl is dedicated to diversity, inclusion, education, and other things.
Given that the target audience is quite a bit younger than myself, I had to put myself in the shoes of a 13-year-old while reading it.
I really appreciated how the author and the diversity team that is recognized in the book did their homework and tried to respectfully and carefully craft a story that was relevant and would potentially resonate with readers, families, and others.
Welcome back! Here’s my recap of NaNoWriMo 2021. After skipping out on NaNoWriMo in 2020, I was determined to make it happen this year. And, boy, was it worth it!
As of November 1, 2021, I had 20,986 words written.
Personal Goal: Write at least 20,000 new words for book #3, but let’s see what happens.
Full disclosure: Never in a million years did I think I would ever reach 50,000 words in a month.
Day 1 – 1,786 new words, one untimed session and three timed sessions totaling 45 minutes.
Day 2 – 2,089 new words, 50 minutes writing time.
Day 3 – 1,919 new words, 45 minutes writing time.
Day 4 – 1,686 new words, 45 minutes writing time.
Day 5 – 1,948 new words, 50 minutes writing time.
Day 6 – 1,793 new words, 50 minutes writing time.
Day 7 – 2,229 new words, 50 minutes writing time.
Day 8 – 1,688 new words, 45 minutes writing time.
Day 9 – 1,639 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 10 – 1,686 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 11 – 1,687 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 12 – 1,738 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 13 – 1,891 new words, 50 minutes writing time.
Day 14 – 2,102 new words, 45 minutes writing time.
Day 15 – 1,835 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 16 – 1,846 new words, 45 minutes writing time.
Day 17 – 1,835 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 18 – 1,799 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 19 – 1,857 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 20 – 2,010 new words, 75 minutes writing time.
Day 21 – 1,631 new words, 35 minutes writing time.
Day 22 – 1,662 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 23 – 1,596 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 24 – 1,617 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 25 – 1,718 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 26 – 1,726 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 27 – 1,573 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 28 – 1,603 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 29 – 1,752 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Day 30 – 1,854 new words, 40 minutes writing time.
Total for November 2021: 53,795 new words.
Current word count: 74,781 words.
Holy shit, I’m just blown away. I’m still stunned that this actually happened. I won NaNoWriMo! For the first time ever!
For those who may be curious, I hit 50,000 words on November 28th.
I went back to my old blog posts. The last November session I participated in was 2019, and I wrote 25,101 words during that session.
I doubled my output for this one. Wow!
My friend Ren continues to be a huge cheerleader for me. They are amazing!
I stuck with my plan from Camp NaNo and sat down every single day before starting work if possible, and then definitely after dinner until I met or exceeded my daily word count.
I’m also a Google Docs convert now.
Al chuckles that he always heard the din of my fingers on the keyboard for 30 days straight. It’s a beautiful sound.
I hope to finish this first draft for certain during Camp NaNoWriMo April 2022, if not sooner than that. I’m excited to continue Camp NaNo in April and July, and then work toward beating this goal in November 2022. This is the book I started during NaNoWriMo 2014. I have several other novels in various stages!
Welcome back! Here’s my recap of Camp NaNoWriMo April 2021. This was my seventh Camp NaNoWriMo session. I did participate last July, but I did not write a recap post. I was mentally burned out last fall, so I skipped NaNoWriMo 2020 in November.
As of April 1, 2021, I had 44,617 words written.
Original Goal: Write 10,000 new words for book #2.
Day 1: 45,299 words (682) – 15 minutes
Day 2: 46,582 words (1,283) – 26 minutes
Day 3: 47,256 words (674) – 15 minutes
Day 4: 47,948 words (692) – 15 minutes
Day 5: 48,744 words (796) – 20 minutes
Day 6: 49,716 words (972) – 30 minutes
Day 7: 50,496 words (780) – 20 minutes
Day 8: 50,569 words (73) – 30 minutes
Day 9: 51,276 words (707) – 20 minutes
Day 10: 51,276 words (0)
Day 11: 52,230 words (954) – 25 minutes
Day 12: 52,356 words (126) – 5 minutes
Day 13: 53,045 words (689) – 15 minutes
Day 14: 54,246 words (1,201) – 30 minutes
Day 15: 54,965 words (719) – 20 minutes
Original Goal Met!
Total word count: 10,348 new words.
Created second goal in NaNoWriMo, in hopes of finishing the first draft by the end of April.
Second Goal: Write 20,000 new words and finish first draft.
Day 16: 55,795 words (830) – 25 minutes
Day 17: 56,094 words (299) – 45 minutes
Day 18: 56,714 words (620) – 1 hour
Day 19: 57,845 words (1,131) – 40 minutes
Day 19: 58,294 words (449) – 10 minutes
Day 20: 58,882 words (588) – 20 minutes
Day 20: 59,451 words (569) – 10 minutes
Day 20: 59,977 words (526) – 15 minutes
Day 21: 60,621 words (644) – 15 minutes
Day 21: 61,312 words (691) – 15 minutes
Day 21: 61,532 words (220) – 5 minutes
Day 21: 62,026 words (494) – 20 minutes
Day 22: 62,389 words (363) – 10 minutes
Day 22: 62,833 words (444) – 10 minutes
Day 22: 63,322 words (489) – 15 minutes
Day 23: 63,917 words (595) – 15 minutes
Day 23: 64,832 words (915) – 20 minutes
Day 24: 65,791 words (959) – 20 minutes
Day 24: 66,000 words (209) – 15 minutes
Day 24: 66,481 words (481) – 10 minutes
Day 25: 67,140 words (659) – 25 minutes
Day 25: 67,627 words (487) – 15 minutes
Day 25: 67,798 words (171) – 5 minutes
Day 25: 67,984 words (186) – 5 minutes
Day 26: 68,350 words (366) – 10 minutes
Day 27: 69,045 words (695) – 15 minutes
Day 27: 69,372 words (327) – 10 minutes
Day 27: 69,917 words (545) – 10 minutes
Day 27: 70,640 words (723) – 15 minutes
Day 28: 71,250 words (610) – 15 minutes
Day 28: 72,089 words (839) – 20 minutes
Day 29: 73,046 words (957) – 20 minutes
Day 29: 73,539 words (439) – 10 minutes
Day 30: 74,397 words (858) – 20 minutes
Day 30: 74,955 words (558) – 15 minutes
Day 30: 75,221 words (266) – 5 minutes
Second Goal Met!
Total word count: 20,256 new words.
Overall Total for April 2021: 30,604 new words.
Current word count: 75,221 words.
I’m super proud of myself. I tracked my progress every day on blue Post-It notes, and I plan to do something similar going forward. I took most of the month of May off from working on this, but I’m determined to call the first draft FINISHED by the end of June. After that, I’ll print it out and start the first true pass of editing.
I also have to thank my friend Ren. We met through the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook, and struck up a friendship through Messenger after that. She started streaming on Twitch during April, and participating in her streams and writing sprints is one big part of my success for Camp NaNoWriMo April 2021. I appreciate her continued encouragement, along with Al, my family, and other friends who have cheered me along in this process.
The key for me is to sit down, whether it’s before work, after dinner, or when I can’t get a scene or dialogue out of my head, and set the timer on my phone. No distractions whatsoever. I’m super proud that I only had one true zero day during the month! Breaking it up into chunks of time has helped me so much.
After I finish this first draft, my plan is to work on book #3 during Camp NaNoWriMo in July. It’s the project I started during NaNoWriMo 2014, so stay tuned for an update on that project on Facebook every day in July, and then a recap post like this in August.
I fell in love with this book within the first few pages. I was enveloped into the world of Camp Outland, and I felt so sad when it ended and I had to say goodbye to Camp and the characters in it.
The way Rosen crafts his characters is amazing. They all have names, and personalities, and interests, but they could also be people that you know in your own life. That’s how real he makes them. I found myself coming up for air in my hammock on my porch a few weekends ago, not realizing I’d read 200 pages already.
The story of Del and his adventures at Camp are fun, silly, and amazing. The friends he’s met, and the one that he’s determined to fall in love with, are all unique and precious. I love the counselors, too, and their stories. To go along with Del on his quest is a wonderful journey with so many emotions wrapped up together. I laughed, I cried, and just adored this book.
I can’t wait to read it again. This will stay on my bookshelf forever. It’s marketed toward ages 14 and up, but I believe that everyone should read this book. There are so many real-life lessons that are wrapped up in this adorable love story, told at an amazing place that I think a lot of people wishes had existed many, many years ago in the real world.
Thanks to Mike Holtzclaw for another excellent recommendation.
I wasn’t surprised at all when I powered through Courtney’s second book on Monday night before bed.
This book opens in the last few days of school of the 1985-1986 school year. The Hands Across America event is held, raising money for hunger and homelessness.
Courtney goes to the arcade, and continuing to work on her Crystal Starshooter character and levels of her video game. She meets a new friend, Isaac. He’s an even better video game player. Courtney eventually learns he’s also a talented artist.
As she navigates the waters of family and friendship, Courtney learns that Issac has an illness called HIV. Requests for privacy turn into anger about keeping secrets. Courtney feels like her friendship with Sarah, her best friend, is falling apart.
This book expertly navigated the fears of HIV and AIDS in 1986. I immediately drew parallels between Isaac and Ryan White, a teenager in Indiana who contracted HIV in 1984 through contaminated clotting factor that he received for hemophilia.
Courtney learns several lessons about true friendship along the way, even though she gets entrenched in the fight over Isaac and the local residents wanting to keep him out of school. How awful that these families and children faced such horrible discrimination, just like Ryan White and his family did.
The fun part of the story is when Courtney discovers the first Pleasant Company catalog, and falls in love with Molly McIntire!
I’m not sure if there will be more Courtney books, because American Girl revamped their book line several years ago. They changed the original six-book format to two longer books. This one covers the summer, fall, and winter of 1986.
However, I’m inspired to re-read Ryan White’s autobiography, Ryan White: My Own Story, and learn more about the 1980s. I was born in 1988, so I’ve always been intrigued by events that happened around the time I was born, and things that happened before I started forming core memories.