The Big 30.

Last month, Michael hit a milestone. The big three-oh! And over the past couple of months leading up to it, I was hard at work planning a surprise party for him! But man, oh man, was it difficult keeping it all a secret when I usually tell him everything. Thankfully, I was able to keep my big mouth shut and pull it off.

To start off the special day, I had 30 little blue envelopes for him to open throughout the day filled with surprises, destinations, and presents, ultimately leading to the surprise party.

So in case you're wondering why I've been so MIA in July, now you know why! I've been too busy celebrating old hubby ;)

A huge thanks to Michael's sister and mom for helping me pull it off, Bottlehouse for the awesome food, wine, and event space, and also our family and friends who came from near and far to celebrate!

Pitch Wars: Two years later...

Ahhh. It's that time of year. The frenetic energy on twitter, writers anxiously waiting, mentors feverishly reading! Must be Pitch Wars!

This time of year always makes me so nostalgic. I can still clearly remember the excitement I felt when I got requests for more material, made it on the list, and how bit my nails off to the quick while constantly refreshing during the agent round. It was a wonderful experience.

Whether or not you get in though, everyone's journey to publication is different and I hate to break it to you, but Pitch Wars does not safeguard you from the highs and lows of the industry. What it can offer are friendships and awesome CP's :) My advice? Mingle and make connections while you wait. The great thing about PitchWars is how it brings writers together. Plus, we're all winners here when we make a friend or two.

As you may know, I'm a 2015 Pitch Wars alum. I'm not a mentor, I don't currently have representation, nor do I have a book deal. I'm the opposite of a Pitch Wars success story, and the past two years have been tumultuous at best. What I gained from my year, however, is an amazing 2015 class, and two amazing CP's turned friends who I became close to through Pitch Wars. Which brings me to this catch up post!

Last month, I finally got to meet up with said amazing friends Joan and Michella (who by the way, are mentoring this year ;))! It was the first time we were all together since we struck up our friendship. It's actually pretty incredible since we live on opposite sides of the country. While they were here we were able to catch up, walk around the city, have writing dates, and ate a delicious amount of cookies!!!

It was glorious. Check out the photos below for yourself! 

Whether or not you Pitch Wars hopefuls get in, I just want all you to know that it's not the end all or be all of your writing journey. Even as you move further and further toward the goal of being a published author, know that there will always be things to worry about or stress over. So enjoy the present moment and most of all the process, because it never stops. Just keep at it, take breaks if you need to, but keep some close friends with you throughout your journey. Writing may seem like a solitary endeavor, but having people to talk through things with and who support you really makes all the difference.

The next thing & Iconiq.

In my last post, I talked about wanting to do more and be more after being inspired by K&K. How to go about it was another matter. I had to dig deep, had to question my actions, the path I was on, and really figure out what I wanted out of life.

I know that I want to write books, but I didn't want to stall my career either. The past couple of years, I had been feverishly writing, hoping something would stick, and when nothing did, I had to ask myself, Can I do this again for the next three years if it resulted in the same outcome? No, I couldn't. Not if I had no growth to show for it. Yes, I learned a lot the past three years about writing, but not enough to share my work with the world, and worse yet, I felt like life was passing me by.

So it brought me to these conclusions:

1) I do want to write books. But more so, I would rather write that one great book than a lot of stories that end up in the trunk. It's easy to write books in a short amount of time, but harder to write one of quality. One that reaches out and touches the soul of the reader. So maybe I'm not actively writing a bunch of stories, but that's okay. I'm going to chip away at the one that matters, even if it takes me a while.

2) I don't want to feel like life is passing me by. I used to feel guilty for spending my free time doing non-writing things. I had this mentality that if I wanted it enough, I should eat, sleep, breathe writing. Not the case anymore. I've always kept a list of places to go for a reason. I didn't write up my travel bucket list only to leave it on the wayside. I want to get back to it.

3) If we spend most of our lives working, then I want to do something that has an impact. I'd been toying with the idea of learning how to code. So three weeks in, I've been self-studying with Michael's help. It's been frustrating, overwhelming, and brain-numbing, but also a challenge. So challenge accepted ;)

I don't know where life is going to take me, but coming to these conclusions, I know I have to change in some way to get myself out of the rut I find myself in so that I can move onto the next thing. The next chapter of my life so to speak.

So yeah, I've done a lot of soul searching lately. It's been a lot of moments of being up and down to this point, so Michael surprised me by planning a date for us at Iconiq, an awesome restaurant that fuses Japanese and French cuisine.

It was absolutely amazing and probably one of my top meals of the year.  The ambiance was minimal yet bright, the chef incredibly welcoming as he spoke to the tables, the service impeccable, and the food delightful, delicious, and inspiring.

It was just what I needed, and funny enough, our date landed on exactly six months after our wedding. Michael and I made it half a year into our marriage, and boy, has time flown by. But not anymore. I intend to make the most of my time.

Meeting K&K and the concept behind 'Michelle Manifesting'.

EEEPPPPPP! I met K&K. *pinches self* Tuesday night still feels like a d r e a m. No joke. I'm still coming down from my high from meeting them, but I'm so stoked I get to relive it by writing this blog post.

As I mentioned in my recap post here, my sister and I joined Tone It Up, an amazing health, wellness, and fitness community created by Karena and Katrina (hence the K&K) for women. I've pretty much fallen head over heels for the #tiuteam, #tiucommunity, and the #tiulifestyle. I love their message of women empowerment. It's so refreshing to have women supporting and inspiring one another, not only in health, fitness, or wellness, but in every aspect of our daily lives, which made the experience of meeting them in person mean so much to me.

So before I begin, I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to Karena and Katrina for giving the #tiuseattle squad the opportunity, and a big thank you to Katrina and Deanna, our fearless Seattle leaders, who helped make it happen (and also these beautiful photos)! In less than a 24 hour notice, more than 100 girls showed up to represent to show their love and  gratitude to K&K for all that they do and giving us this amazing community where we can all connect and come together!

Who knew you could get high off #positivevibes! Am I right?

Anyway, it's kind of hard now to believe that I almost didn't go. I was wholly unprepared and not feeling my best (I blame it on the cloudy skies) and considered going home after work instead of heading into Seattle. I've also become a huge introvert lately so it takes a bit of mental energy to get me into a social setting where I don't know anyone on a personal level. Still, I was torn. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who knew when I would get the chance to meet K&K? Once I checked the Facebook group and saw other TIU girls posting their insecurities and the overwhelming support that resulted from it, I knew I had to go. TIU girls are so positive and uplifting, there was nothing I should be anxious about.

So I went, and I'm so glad I did. Yeah, I looked a mess post work and had zero makeup on still dressed in slacks, but when I arrived and felt the buzz of energy, I felt at peace knowing I'd made the right decision. I read somewhere that the only regrets you should have are about the things you didn't do, and at that moment that saying completely resonated with me.

And what do you know, by stepping out of my comfort zone I made new friends, had a really great time, and got to thank K&K personally (though I think I was a tad bit incoherent from fangirling so hard). Getting a hug from them was probably the highlight of my year (well, second after my wedding of course;)).

Afterward, I came home to my husband basically floating on a cloud. The experience definitely filled my inspiration well and left me feeling motivated, not just with health and fitness, but with my own personal goals.

Seeing what K&K have achieved has definitely lit my desire to do more and be more by living a more purpose-filled life. If you follow my TIU insta (michellemanifesting_tiu) you'll finally get the concept behind the name I chose. With the one life I'm given, I want to manifest the best life I can possibly live by being my best self. So that means taking care of myself--body, mind, and soul--and chipping away at the dream.

On Father's Day and the power of negative thoughts.

When I was a kid, I used to dread Father's day. It was the one day a year that I was reminded I was without a father. 

During weddings when it was time for the father-daughter dance, emotions would stir up in my chest, my eyes would prickle, and my throat would thicken. I didn't really know what that feeling meant, only that it sucked. I knew I was blessed with an amazing mother and family, but the absence was prominently felt and would spiral into other thoughts of how my life was lacking.

Though I don't think about father-related things that I lack much anymore (now that I have a great husband and father-in-law), I do, however, succumb to negative thoughts which seem to have the same physical reactions. 

For me, negative thoughts are almost always about what I don't have. I don't have my dream job, I don't have an earth-shattering MS to share, I don't have this or that. I've wasted the past few months doing nothing. It's an ugly thing to do, but I'm human and I have these kind of thoughts. I try to combat this by practicing gratitude each morning, going to yoga and filling up on positive vibes, but negative thoughts have a certain power over us. It changes our brain chemistry and seeps into our habits. It diminishes our belief in ourselves and what we think we're capable of.

I've found that with negative thoughts and practicing gratitude, they simply cancel each other out, and I end up in this 'complacent' zone. Not really changing, staying comfortable within my means, and going nowhere. And growing up, counting the life experiences I missed out on because I didn't have a father would do nothing to change my circumstances.

So what should we do if we find ourselves in a life of complacency or in a phase where we feel like our life is lacking?

I came across something (not sure if I read it in an article, blog post, or something) about animals and where they fit in the world. For brevity, I'll focus on bees. Bees have a purpose--to make honey. This allows them to have sustenance in order to survive. Different bees have different roles to play in a hive community. Some go out into the world and collect nectar, some tend to the hive and the baby bees, then there's the queen bee, etc. I won't go into depth about the hive community (you can do a google search about that), the point is, bees have a purpose and they do their job. They are born into their role and they do it without complaint. We, as humans, however, get to pick our role and essentially our own purpose. The only catch is, we don't get to choose our circumstances. 

If we let our circumstances (or in my case, negative thoughts and focusing on the things I lack) take precedence in our minds though, we'll never get where we want to go or be in a positive mindset. In order to get past this complacent zone, we have to be like bees and stop complaining and/or focusing on the things standing in our way.

Feeling sad about the father I never had, will never bring him into existence.

Practicing gratitude about the things I have is great--but practice it too much, and I'll start thinking I don't deserve anything more.

Nike had it right with their motto: Just do it. Whatever it is you want to do that gives you happiness, lights a fire underneath you, brings that spark into your life, just do it. Don't let the positives and negatives ensnare you into a mental tug of war. Sure it's good to feel your emotions and acknowledge your thoughts, but don't dwell on it too much. After all, you have things to do.

So if you ever feel like you've lost motivation, just think about the bees out there doing what they need to do, and ask yourself, what do you need to do to feel happy/good about yourself/positive/motivated?

Highlight reel of the past couple of months.

After reading my latest post, my husband mentioned wanting to go back to Opus One. I asked him what brought this on and he mentioned glancing at an old blog post of mine. His comment made me realize how much I've neglected my blog that I wondered if anyone even read it anymore. Though I hope people still do, this blog was always for me. My little corner of the universe where I catalogue the places I've been, the things I've experience, and my thoughts.

I scrolled back and the last lengthy post was about my trip to NY in July. Yowza. So here I am recapping the highlights from August up until my birthday.

AUGUST - Yakima wine trip - I planned a day trip to central Washington for a day of tasting and a wine maker dinner.

SEPTEMBER - Vancouver Celebration - My sister cam to visit for her birthday so we did a roadtrip to Vancouver, BC.

OCTOBER - TONE IT UP - My sister and I joined Tone it Up, and we've been obsessed wit the lifestyle since. For my health & fitness journey, follow my TIU instagram account @michellemanifesting_tiu.

NOVEMBER - Thanksgiving & Surprise Bachelorette Dinner - I went back to CA for thanksgiving, and my sister completely surprised me with a bachelorette dinner!

DECEMBER - Oregon wine trip part 2 - Michael and I went back to Oregon to wine taste for our Christmas present to each other. 

JANUARY - Wedding in Hawaii - I got hitched!

February - Snow & BANNERS live show - We got snowed in, but also got to see BANNERS live!

MARCH - Palm Desert - Short sunny getaway to visit the parents-in-law and escape the cold.

Now that I'm all caught up, I'm hoping to go back to blogging once a week :D


On not writing and figuring out where I am.

I haven't felt like myself lately. Rather, it feels as if I'm simply stumbling through life and waiting for something to happen. I wish I could say it was due to severe allergies and the constant mental fog I find myself in, but if I'm honest with myself, I'm lost.

There's a saying (I don't know who said it exactly) that in order to find yourself you need to lose yourself. Only then can you start picking out the pieces that make you you and get rid of everything else. Stripping it down to the bare essentials basically.

But if you ever met me in person or went to school with me, you know I'm a type-A planner. I cross my t's, dot my i's. I follow the rules. I like order. I make copious amounts of lists: to-do's, groceries, shopping, packing, goals, and even life maps. Yes. Life maps.

The picture below is from a life map I drew in my journal dated March 2013.

If I were to strip myself down to be the bare essentials: I'm a girl who just wants to write books for a living. Not just any books. YA. This was true in 2013, and this is still true today. The only difference between me in 2013 and me in 2017? I'm not writing.

I know what you're thinking, How can you say you want to be a YA writer when you aren't even writing?

Well, let me introduce you again to me, a type A planner, who currently feels as if she's undergoing a failed plan. Someone once told me that success is really failing a lot. Just fail better each time, learn from your mistakes, and keep at it until you don't fail. Sounds simple, right? Except, it's not simple. There's a lot of pain and heartbreak in failure. There's fatigue, self-doubt, and countless moments where I want to give up because I don't want to get hurt anymore. Moments where I can't deal with the disappointment, where I feel like I'm so jaded. Moments when I don't think I'm good enough to be deserving of my dreams. These moments add up, they become crippling, until suddenly, I can't write anymore.

I told myself that I just needed a break. I just needed some rest, and then I'd get back to it. Every time I tried to though, I would be overcome with anxiety. My throat would tighten, my chest would go still, my stomach would cramp, and then I'd just walk away from computer, the notebooks, and pens.

I'd distract myself with other things, crossing off items on the more manageable to-do lists and have a few too many glasses of wine, but in the end, I always returned to this feeling of unease and displacement. This unhappiness. So I started thinking about what other things I could do with my life (which let's face it, is me just making up a list of escape routes). No matter what I came up with though, none of the options held any passion or inspiration for me to follow it through.

So what do I do now?

I asked myself this question over and over. I talked about it in-depth with my husband. I told him how this was not where I imagined myself when it came to following my dreams. I told him how I felt like I was back at square one, that I felt as if I was going backwards instead of forward. After I ranted, he told me that people think of their life, goals, or plans as a trajectory. That there's this arc that'll propel them to where they want to go, but that's not true. There's just these different planes that they find themselves in. They don't necessarily go forward or backward, there's just this sense of 'place', or in my case, 'displacement'. What I'm going through and what I'm feeling now is just a plane. And sooner or later I'll be on another.

For some reason what he said really stuck with me. I look again at my life map from my 2013 self and wonder if I'd already known this, because this life map isn't linear. There's no trajectory. It's just all over the place with turns and twists, but it's also cyclic. There's also some parts that don't even involve writing at all. There's travel, there's 'sustain a comfortable life', and even just having job. 

I'd always known going after my dream wasn't a one way road. I may have a destination in mind, but I was bound to get lost. And when I do, the only thing I can do is figure out where I am and how to get myself into the driver's seat.

To be honest though, sometimes it feels like I'm going nowhere. Sometimes I feel like the road is endless. Sometimes I get so sick of driving that I need to pull over and stretch my legs. Or maybe I just need to abandon the car for a bit and hitch hike somewhere else for a different kind of adventure. Whatever happens though, I know who I am and what I want to do. I have an unshakeable dream for a reason, so I know I'll find myself back at the computer, typing away eventually.

So there's no point in freaking myself out, forcing myself to write, making myself anxious about it, or feeling like a failure. I just need to accept that I'm on a different plane right now, going through the motions, and that's okay. Sometimes the best thing I can do for my writing is to not write at all. 

At least for a little while.