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I Am A Guillain-Barre Survivor.

At 4 years old, you never expect to end up in one of the largest hospitals in Boston, surrounded by doctors in white coats, enduring test after test, prick after prick, all in the name to walk again.

But I did.

Let me back up. 25 years ago this coming April, started out like any normal month. I was an active four-year old. An only child of two wonderful parents. I was in pre-school, and was getting ready to enter kindergarten in the fall. I loved arts and crafts, playing on the swing set, and just being a typical kid.

At 4 years old, I had learned to walk just a couple of years prior. I was starting to become more independent. I was finally becoming a big kid. I wasn’t a baby anymore. Well, at least in my mind I wasn’t.

But in a just a couple of day’s time, that all changed. I had been fighting a virus. Like every other child that spring. Except mine had ulterior motives other than to keep me off the playground.

The details surrounding my diagnosis are a bit fuzzy. I was four after all. So bear with me.

This is what I can remember from that fateful April morning, in bits and pieces.

Riding my bike in the driveway and garage, right before falling ill with Guillain Barre.

I remember riding my bike in a circle in our small garage. I still wasn’t feeling well. I remember falling off, and landing on my knees. But I was having trouble standing, and walking. I remember my parents rushing me off to my pediatrician’s office and him asking me to walk down the hallway. My pediatrician knew what was happening just by my gait. A rare illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

I remember being rushed to Boston in the back of my parent’s blue station wagon, while lying across the backseat. I can’t remember if falling off the bike and going to my pediatrician’s all happened in the same day. But I know it was pretty close together.

My parents told me when I was older that my pediatrician wanted me to go by ambulance. That I would get to Boston faster. He made a call to Mass General Hospital and they were ready for me. But my parents didn’t want me to be traumatized, or scared, by the ambulance ride. I was 4. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I just thought I was having trouble walking.

They also told me later on that they had never driven so fast. They were pulled over as they neared the city, and my dad explained what was going on to the police officer. He told them to go. To get me there as fast as they could. If I could meet that cop today, I would thank him. He didn’t keep my parents waiting for a speeding ticket, when they could have at the hospital, trying to figure out what was happening to me.

They were ready and waiting for us. They whisked me off for test after test. I remember being surrounded by doctors on a hospital bed and covered with white sheets. I was in the pediatric ICU. I underwent a spinal tap, along with multiple other tests, to see what was still working (legs, arms, etc.)

I was treated by one of the top pediatric neurologists in Boston, Eileen Ouellette. If anyone reading this knows her, I would love to get in touch with her. The last I found of her is either she is living on Nantucket now, and she was elected vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005-2006.  Without her, I don’t know what my life would be life today.

She confirmed the diagnosis. Guillian-Barre. And at the time, a very rare syndrome. So rare, in fact, that the Boston hospitals had yet to see a child with it. They consulted with doctors across the country trying to determine a course of treatment.

I spent 3 days in the pediatric ICU. I was isolated. My parent’s had to stay in a small room down the hall. I was alone. And at 4 years old, completely petrified. I remember screaming for my parents and buzzing my buzzer. I didn’t want to be myself. I was in a scary hospital, in a scary room, hooked up to all kinds of machines, and I couldn’t get out of bed without help. But after three long days, I was transferred to a regular room in the pediatric unit for the remainder of my stay.

Off to my first check-up in Boston after recovering

I stayed at Mass General Hospital for a total of 7 days. 7 days of rigourous treatment. 7 days of painful therapies.

I have two very vivid happy memories from my stay. The first? Playing in the children’s playroom with other pediatric patients. All of us in wheelchairs. Laughing. And completely forgetting that we were in a hospital. Most of us probably didn’t quite understand what was happening. And the second was my bath time with one of the aids. She was just wonderful. Her and my mom wore raincoats one day, and kept adding bubble bath to the tub so I could splash and play like a normal kid.

My worst memory? My IV got infected one night. They had to rush me to an OR to replace it. Thankfully, I don’t remember too much about it. But I remember how painful it was and how scared I was.

But after 7 days, things started to get better.

I was sharing my room with a baby. I’ve always thought her name was Renee, but I could be wrong. She had spina bifida. I remember my parents being there and we had some other guests in the room, including our priest that we were very close to when I was growing up, Father Jamie. I heard her crying. I kept saying ‘Mommy, the baby is crying’ but no one heard me. So I did the only thing I could think of. I climbed out of bed, holding on to whatever I could find, and walked over to her crib.

Kindergarten – rocking my denim skirt and hot pink socks.

Yes. I walked. After nearly 7 days of being essentially paralyzed, I got up from my bed and walked. It was second nature. It made sense to me. But when I turned around to say she was crying again, everyone was staring at me with their jaws on the floor.

The treatment was working.  At least that’s how I remember it.

I was released from the hospital in mid-April. I can remember vividly driving into my driveway to our forsythia bushes in full bloom. And laughing because I reminded myself that my Papa could never say ‘forsythia’ so he just called them yellow bushes. At 4, I probably couldn’t say it either. I was probably trying in the car, which is what got me laughing.

Even though I was home, walker in tow, I wasn’t home free yet.

I endured weeks of intense physical therapy. Painful physical therapy. Guillian Barre is the only disease that paralyzes you from the legs up. I was lucky. Well, lucky in the sense that my legs were paralyzed and my arms had some paralysis, but nothing more than that. It can be much worse. The disease has the potential to paralyze your respiratory system and so much more.

I endured both occupational therapy and physical therapy. My therapists were sweet, caring and pushed me hard. It took some grueling swimming, stretching and every other kind of exercise to get my legs and arms working again. It was horrible. Remember I was only 4. I hadn’t built up any kind of pain tolerance yet. And being in that much pain at 4, and still being able to remember it at 28, I know it was painful.

Even when I was in pain, crying and wanting to quit because I just wanted to go home and watch TV, they pushed me to take that extra step, and to go just a little harder. They refused to let 4 year old me quit. And I’m glad they didn’t let me.

Because it worked. All of their hard work paid off.

A nice family vacation in Disney World after I fully recovered.

I went for follow-ups through the years, until I was probably 6ish (again, fuzzy on the details). At the time, my doctors had told my parents they weren’t sure if I would be able to participate in sports, or normal activities. I had (and still do not have) any reflexes in my knees, elbows or ankles.

Boy did I prove them wrong. I played the gamut of sports (softball, soccer, swimming, ice skating, skiing, and so on), but didn’t find my one true love of horseback riding until I was 9. And even that was painful. I worked so hard at it because I loved it. But would come home crying and in pain. But I worked through it.

I also suffered from a pretty depleted immune system from the treatment. As I got older, it got better, but for a long time, I was always that kid sick with something. Just another side effect.

But here I am, 25 years later. Still without my reflexes, and possibly a bit more injury prone (but that’s probably just because I’m klutzy), but I’m here.  Thanks to some wonderful doctors who decided that they were going to cure a little girl who contracted a rare disease that they had never seen in a child before.

Not only was I walking, and running, just a couple of short years after, but I was an athlete. A strong athlete. Proving that, you can do anything you put your mind too.

Showing my beloved horse, when I was 16. Nearly 12 years after falling ill and recovering from Guillian Barre.

I am a Guillain-Barre survivor.

I can’t write this post and not thank my parents. I was four. I was their baby. Their only child. They were my rock through this. Alternating nights on the pull out sofa, driving me to PT, and everything else. Seriously. You are the best. I love you both.  (And my family, and friends, and everyone else that was around during that trying time. I wish I remember more of the ordeal, specifically the love and prayers that surrounded me and my family.)

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Tax Season: How I Plan to Keep Myself Organized for 2015

First, Happy Birthday to my Dad! I hope you have a fantastic day! XO.

Let’s talk about taxes. Because I’m in the middle of getting everything organized for mine, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed out doing them! Ah… tax season.

I used to have it easy. A couple of W2s, some student loan interest and bank account interest, and viola, taxes were done easy peasy with TurboTax or HR Block.

But now, with a business, it’s a whole different ball game.

Tax SeasonUnsplash // Aleksi Tappura

If you didn’t know, I run a photography business. I started in 2011, and each year it’s grown (which I’m very thankful for.)  It’s my fun side business. I have a full-time job which I love, and I teach riding lessons on the weekend (which I also love.) But I love watching what started as a side hobby turn into a successful business.

Every year, I panic. I do it to myself. At the beginning of every year, I promise myself that I’m going to keep all of my receipts, track my mileage, and print out all of my monthly expenses and invoices as they come in to keep my life easier at the end of the year. And at the end of every year, I struggle to remember what I need to print out to get my taxes done.

This year has been no exception. And having the photography business really pick up this year, it’s been even more of an adventure. Two years ago. I used HR Block. It was fine. It got the job done. Nothing special. In fact, I probably should have just done it myself instead of spending the amount of money I did. Last year, I used TurboTax Professional and it went nice and smooth. This year, I just don’t want to be bothered to do my own. Especially with everything going on with TurboTax.

The good news? I meet with an accountant next week to get my taxes done, and I have almost everything I need. I just need to print a few more things out and call a couple places to get a receipt and make sure I’m not expecting anything from another place.

The bad news? I might have killed a couple of trees in the process. SO MUCH PAPER.

In an effort to keep myself more organized for my 2015 taxes, I’m already beginning to keep myself organized.

Keeping everything organized

It’s great if you print everything out, but not so great if you lose everything right away. I’m planning on buying an accordion file folder that I can label and put everything right into.


I have lists for my lists. It’s bad, but it does help me to keep organized. I plan on keeping a checklist in the accordion file folder with all of the monthly expenses listed, as well as each month, that way I can check the month off as I go. Same with other invoices.

Printing out monthly receipts

With my photography business, there are a lot of monthly expenses that I just forget about since they get automatically paid. In an effort to remember, I set reminders on my phone to print out all of those monthly receipts around the middle of the following month. I have monthly expenses from various places ranging from the questionnaire on my website to my monthly Etsy fees for posting new products.

Printing out client invoices monthly

Another area I’m horrible about is printing out my client invoices. I do everything electronically, but still need print outs for the end of the year. So, just like the monthly receipts, I’ll be doing a check once a month for a client invoices (sessions, Etsy and client galleries), and printing everything out.

Tracking my mileage

This probably seems like a minor one, but it’s one that I can write-off and always forget to do every year. My plan this year is to track any mileage relating to photo shoots. It’s usually pretty minimal, but that way I can keep track!

Don’t panic at the end of the year

Hopefully by the following the above steps, I won’t get completely overwhelmed by my taxes at the end of the year! Panicking only makes it worse for me, but I hope that by the end of 2015, I’ll be super organized and ready to get my taxes done.

How do you keep yourself organized for tax season?

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PS – Because you guys rock, use code ITSERYNE20 at checkout in my Etsy shop to receive 20% off your entire order!

I Celebrate Valentine’s Day Every Day

First, thank you to everyone who chimned in on my blogging thoughts yesterday! It really meant a lot!

Valentine’s Day is almost here. That special Hallmark holiday that comes once a year where people give gifts and cards to their loved ones to show their love. It seems like each year it becomes more about what to buy than how to celebrate.

I’m seeing a lot more articles written to help with what to buy and what to do for Valentine’s Day, such as 6 Valentine’s Day Dos and Don’ts, The Ultimate Guide to Buying Valentine’s Day Flowers and What Women Really Want for Valentines’ Day.

But not many articles on how to celebrate your love.

I remember when Valentine’s Day was such a huge deal to me. Back when we were in elementary school and we passed out those adorable paper valentines in a box. We made special envelopes to leave taped to our desks, and our teachers made sure we gave a valentine to everyone in class so no one felt left out.

After elementary school, middle school and high school were just confusing.

Did I want a Valentine? Didn’t I? What if I have one? What happens then? What if I don’t have one, but someone gives me something, and I don’t want to be their Valentine? What if I don’t get anything?

Yes. Confusing is the best way to describe those years.

I worked at a gift shop throughout high school and college. And during that time, I witnessed so many people running in the night before Valentine’s Day to buy cards, presents, candy… whatever they could find. That’s when I realized that this holiday was becoming less about celebrating your love, and more about buying your significant other something to physically show them your love, with a material object.

Why I Celebrate Valentines Day

I’m engaged. I have a Valentine for the rest of my life. And I’m madly in love with him.

But I don’t need a holiday to celebrate our love. We celebrate it every day.

Sure, I love flowers. I love jewelry. But do I expect it on Valentines Day? Absolutely not.

All I need on Valentine’s Day is a simple text telling me he loves me while we are both at work, followed by a cozy dinner in and watching our favorite movies. Just like any other night.

In my world, love is much larger than a single day. Love isn’t in the material objects you receive. Love isn’t in the cards, the chocolates or the teddy bears.

Love is in that look between you and your partner when you’re together. Love are those words you never have to utter because your partner knows exactly what you’re thinking. Love is enjoying every moment together, no matter how large or small.

Love is enjoying your normal routine, whether you exercise together, go out to dinner often, or just enjoy sitting on the couch and watching your favorite movies over and over.

Love is so much more than a single holiday.

Which is why I celebrate Valentine’s Day every day.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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Cabin Fever.

I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from such terrible cabin fever. Every winter I deal with a bout with it. I think most New Englanders do. It’s cold. It’s snowy. There isn’t as much sunlight.

On the positive side, at least the sun is starting to set a bit later now. At least when it’s out it does.

But after being buried under over six feet of snow in just 2 weeks, I can officially say that my cabin fever has hit an all-time high.

Cabin FeverUnsplash // Breather

I’m not a snow bunny. I don’t enjoy skiing. I’ve never been snowboarding, but I’m guessing I’ll have the same feeling towards it as I do skiing. I don’t mind playing in the snow, but I don’t like getting wet and cold. The only thing I really like about snow is taking pictures in it.

I am thinking about buying snowshoes. Just to give something in the snow a try. Who knows. Maybe I’ll find a winter activity I’ll actually enjoy.

Needless to say, I’ve had enough of winter. I’m over the snow. I’m over the arctic cold that seems to follow every storm (can we say windchills below zero at least once a week?). I’m over wearing eight layers of clothes no matter where I go.

During yesterday’s storm, where we got another 18 inches, all I wanted to do was get in my car and drive somewhere. Now I know that would have been stupid, and not feasible, but that’s how bad my cabin fever was. So I continued to get some work done from home, all while trying to imagine being in a warmer climate.

Cabin fever can be an adventure in itself – think The Shining. Thankfully, I’m not at that point, nor would I ever, but I’m definitely to my breaking point with it. I’m trying to conquer it. I’m trying to get myself into a more consistent workout routine. I’m taking advantage and reading more (if that’s even possible). I’m trying to relax more.

Cabin fever just makes me cranky, with zero motivation. So the above tasks seem even harder than normal. I pretty much either want to:

a) Run around in the sunshine (clearly not happening anytime soon.)


b) Sleep until spring. Hibernation sounds like an excellent solution at this point. Now I know why bears do it.

But I’m definitely feeling the burn. And am anxiously awaiting the snow, and the cold, to stop. I don’t think it will be happening anytime soon though. We’re due for another storm on Thursday into Friday, with the potential for blizzard conditions.

Sigh. This is definitely the winter that won’t end. Can we please just have a break from the snow and cold? Like one sunny 40 degree day is all I’m asking for. That’s it!

Is anyone else suffering from horrible cabin fever this winter?

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In the Event of A Blizzard….

In case you haven’t heard, the entire northeastern United States is currently enduring a long-duration blizzard. It began on Monday evening (although it started snowing in my area by 11 AM), and will be lasting right through Wednesday morning. In the end we could have towards 36″ inches (or 3 feet) of snow in some spots.

Obviously the hype around Winter Storm Juno, or Snowmageddon 2015 as many are calling it, has caused the normal “How to Prepare for a Winter Storm” tips to come out in full force.

One of the main ones you always hear? “Stock up on bread and milk!” That particular one has always confused me. If we lose power, won’t my milk go bad? What if you’re lactose intolerant? Or have a gluten allergy? Or both?

Anyways, I thought long and hard about the preparation tips, and decided to come up with my own.

snowmageddon 2015

Eryn’s Snowmageddon Tips

Don’t stop charging your electronics. Seriously, keep them plugged in at all times. You never know when or if you’re going to lose power. I know, it’s bad to keep them plugged in and constantly charging. But would you rather cause your battery to have issues down the road, or have a dead battery in your electronics when you actually lose power and need them?

Stock up the foods and beverages that you prefer to eat. And can make without the use of power. I know many of us in the northeast have generators. But most of the time, those generators are used to keep the heat on, or power the refrigerator so the items you do have in there won’t go bad. Canned soups and microwaveable meals won’t work very well if you lose power. Unless you prefer eating ice blocks full of turkey and vegetables.

Keep flashlights nearby. This is an important one. Especially if you’re scared of the dark like me. I fully agree with this. You never know when the power is going to go out. Which mean you’ll never know when you need that flashlight that you stuck in the back of a drawer after the last blizzard.

Pretend to be a little kid. And build blanket forts. Because they are fun, and warm. Then read under them with flashlights. (Would I like to do this? Absolutely. Will I do this? Probably not.)

Shower when you still have power. Okay. This might be a no-brainer. But for some people, when the power goes out, you lose hot water too. And if you lose power for multiple days, and decided to put off your shower until it was too late, well.. let’s just say you’ll be thanking me later for this tip.

Adult beverages can make the blizzard fun. Blizzard party anyone?

Take lots and lots of pictures. But only from safely inside your home. Or right outside your front door. When the government issues a travel ban, they mean it. It’s not optional. But taking lots of pictures, and posting them to Facebook, will make your friends in the south, or in other parts that aren’t getting snow completely jealous. Also, it will be fun to look back on said pictures to see the before and after.

Remember, we live in New England. It’s only snow. And some wind. Okay. It’s a lot of snow, and a lot of wind. But we live in New England. Blizzards happen. Hunker down and know the clean up begins tomorrow. Along with some sweet snowball fights, snow angels, snow forts, and snowmen!

But in all seriousness, be safe out there today everyone. Stay home. Don’t drive. Be warm.

Happy Snowmageddon 2015!

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The Soundtrack to My Life

Have you ever had a moment where you’re listening to the radio, your iPhone, or music player of choice, and a song comes that sparks something deep inside of you?

Not just a ‘I LOVE this song,’ kind of reaction or a ‘This is my jam!’ thought, but more of a moment where you feel like you’re suddenly in a movie or a TV show and the song that starts playing represents your life at that exact moment.

Anyone? Or is it just me?

I’ve had it happen several times. I could be walking, working out, driving, shopping in a store (and the song comes on over the speakers), or listening to music as I work. And suddenly all sorts of emotions stir. Depending on the song, it could cause me to relive an exciting moment with friends, an event, a concert, even a sad moment.

I like to call these songs The Soundtrack to My Life.

The Sondtrack to My LifeUnsplash

Going deeper, these songs are not just my favorite songs. In fact, some of them I don’t even particularly like. And I honestly don’t even know why I have them. Probably because they are part of my life soundtrack and felt obligated to own them. These are the songs that would play during the movie of my life.

And I would like Mila Kunis or Jessica Alba to play me, just for the record. Even though we look nothing alike.

Here are just a few of the songs that make up my soundtrack:

  • MMMbop – Hanson: I was in 6th grade when Hanson become a pop sensation. I listened to this song over and over and over while jumping on bed and pretending my Hanson poster was real and I was hanging out with them. (I’m ashamed to admit that). But now whenever I hear it, it brings back fond memories of my childhood.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something: I don’t particularly know why this song makes me so happy, but it does. Ever since the first time I heard, I can’t help but rock out to it.
  • Let It Shine – Joanna Pacitti: I downloaded this song back in the Limewire/Napster days. I downloaded it thinking it was someone else, but turns out it wasn’t. I listened to this song on repeat before every class in my showing days. Well, once I had a discman I listened to it over and over. It was my pump up jam. Every time I hear it, I think of showing my horse. Wonderful memories.
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness: My first introduction to “rock”. Senior year of high school in our small Photo 2 class. We used to listen to this song on repeat. It drove the teacher nuts. I know every single word, and I’m totally not ashamed.
  • Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson: Freshman year of college. The first couple of weeks. I was having a hell of a time adjusting. This song just represented my life at that moment.
  • I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston: I think all women/girls have this song on their playlists. It’s the best. And everytime it comes on, I want to dance. Mainly because in college, my roommate and I would have spontaneous dance parties to this song every time it came on our iTunes. Even better, she played it at our wedding so we could have another dance party there.
  • Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis: There are MANY songs that remind me of Nick and I when we first started dating, but this one that really stands out. I was on quite a bit when we first started dating, and we both still love it. Definitely a highlight song of our relationship.
  • Summer Sunshine – The Corrs: Driving home on the first sunny day we had in weeks, on a June day, back in 2009, after I started my first career job at Kiva Systems. It was a beautiful day and I had glorious day at work.
  • All I Do is Win – DJ Khaled: Ah. Yes. DJ Khaled. Nick and I are competitive people. And when we play games, we need to have competitive songs. This is one of them. It stems from our days of Mario Kart competitions. He used to play this all the time. And yes, he usually won. It’s now a pump up song for me. I enjoy working out to it, and I laugh everytime I hear it because I think of the Mario Kart adventures.
  • Brave – Sara Bareilles: This song came out just as I was looking to switch jobs in 2012. I was concerned about doing it. It was big step. But this song made me feel so empowered. And every time I hear it, I still feel just as empowered as I did the first time I heard it.

There are SO many more. But, I don’t want to bore you with 50 different songs and why they are part of my soundtrack!

I want to know – what are some of the songs on the soundtrack to your life?

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What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?

When we are small, we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grew up. Some aspire to be firefighters, or police officers. Others hope to study to become doctors or lawyers. Others want to work with animals. And as we grow, some of our aspirations may  changed as we were exposed to different things through sports, school, our friends and family. Some know exactly what they want for a career and stick to it.

Looking back at what I wanted to be, I would have been through many career changes by now. Or paying for numerous student loans, possibly even still being in school! Here are four of the careers I had aspired too as I grew up.


  • Veterinarian. This was more when I was really young, around 5. We had just gotten our first pet (a cat named Melanie), and I was enamored with her. I decided that I wanted to be a vet so I could be with animals all day everyday, and playwith them. Obviously, I know now that being a vet is so much more than just playing with animals all day.
  • Pediatrician. This one lasted from the time I was in elementary school until I was in middle school, maybe even a little longer than that. I guess it stemmed from adoring my childhood doctor who was so kind and wonderful. She made the job seem easy. But as I got older, when I began to learn more about what a doctor actually does and the amount of school that goes into it, I started to rethink it. Not too mention, I don’t handle needles well (I think this is what really clinched it for me…) or blood. And germs. Okay, being a pediatrician would have been a horrible idea for me. But I loved kids so… the next one career aspiration made sense.
  • A Second-Grade Teacher. This was one was certainly attainable and almost did happen. My junior year of high school, I had an epiphany one day. I had been assisting with riding lessons for a little bit at this time, and realized how much I enjoyed teaching children. So I decided that I wanted to become a teacher, much like my father (who taught middle school for over 30 years!). Except I wanted to teach the younger ones, ideally second grade. I stuck with this until my freshman year of college. I even looked at colleges based on their education programs. Once I got to college, about 2 months in, my career path changed again.
  • Journalist/Writer. I realized that while a teaching career would have been wonderful, I wanted to do something I truly loved. I loved to write. I loved the news. I loved every aspect about it. I was even offered an internship with Saddle Horse Report, one of the major publications in the Saddlebred world, and jumped at it. I went through school, completely in love with every aspect of my Communications classes. I loved being able to write. I felt like I had found my calling.

Sidenote: It probably didn’t help that I also discovered Sex and the City at this point, and wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw. I wanted to write for a newspaper or a popular women’s magazine in New York City and live the grand life. Thankfully, I realized that that was all make-believe and reporters don’t make that kind of money to live that kind of life. But I still dreamnt about it every day anyways.

When I graduated, it was around that time that newspapers started to disappear, and I was trained in print journalism (I was even the Associate Editor of my college’s newspaper!). So, it was time to rethink my career again.

Which is how I ended up with a Masters Degree in Marketing. I figured it combined my love of creativity and writing with some logic, and it went well with my Communications degree.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

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I Read A Lot – Here Are My Favorite Books from 2014.

In the spirit of the 2014 round-up posts, I figured that since I’m always reading, it’s only proper for me to include my favorite books of 2014. Which, let me tell you, was quite the feat. I may not read as much as some of those book bloggers out there, but I read around 80 books this year so narrowing that down to my top favorites was pretty difficult.


Top Books of 2014Unsplash

The Girl You Left Behind – JoJo Moyes: I started to get more into historical fiction right after I bought my first nook. I discovered JoJo Moyes in 2013 after reading ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’ and instantly fell in love with her writing style. This book was no different. An incredible love story surrounding a painting of Sophie Lefevre (painted by her husband) set in Europe during the first World War, and then the book fast-forwards nearly 100 years later, intertwining the lives of two young woman who are determined the fight for the thing they love the most. This one grabbed me by the heart and wouldn’t let go.

Orphan Train– Christina Baker Kline: I could not put this book down. It captures the story of an unlikely friendship between a troubled teenage girl and a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider. I don’t want to give too much away excerpt to say, if you haven’t read this yet, run out, or purchase it for your e-reader. You won’t be disappointed.

Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel– Kimberly McCreight: Another read I could not put down. This is a heart-wrenching read but so well-written and just an incredible story in which a single mother reconstructs her teenaged daughter’s life through e-mails, text, and social media, after she receives a call that her daughter has committed suicide while at school. I can guarantee you won’t put this one down either.

A Discovery of Witches– Deborah Harkness: I had this book sitting on my NookBook wishlist, well since I bought my first nook in 2010. I finally decided to buy it when I heard rave reviews of the entire series at work. While the book is long (like 600 + pages long), it certainly didn’t feel that way. Sure it took me a couple of weeks to read, but I didn’t want it to end! But I was in luck, since it’s the first of three books. I’m not a huge fan of vampires and witchy-type books, but this book had me from the first chapter. If you’re like me and stay away from the Twilight phenomenon (even though I hate to admit I’ve read those too), take a few minutes to at least read a sample. I promise you, you will not be disappointed! I’m even holding off on reading the final book so the trilogy doesn’t end!

The Perfume Collector– Kathleen Tessaro: Again, I discovered a love for historical fiction in the last couple of years, and this was another that I utterly fell in love with. It brought into a world of glamour and mystery, along with sophisticated social circles in London and Paris in the 1950s. It’s charming and unforgettable, and something I would even consider re-reading. Which is rare for me. That’s how much I loved this book.

Stronger– Jeff Bauman: I’ll never forget the Boston Marathon Bombings. I may not have been in the city that day, but it certainly effected my life. For one thing, it seemed that everyone knew someone there that day. I knew several people attending, and watching. It also seemed that there was a small degree of separation between you and a person injured. Jeff went to high school with friends of mine from college. People I know well, knew him personally.  I wanted nothing more than to find a way to help those injured, but I all I could do was send healing thoughts. In that first week after the bombings, my mind was constantly on those injured. And even a year later, I thought about them often. This book chronicled Jeff’s life a little before the bombing, but more so after. And it was inspiring. Absolutely inspiring.

The Art Forger– B.A. Shapiro: I found this book as a cheap find on Barnes & Noble. I wasn’t sure what to think of it when I first got it, but wanted to give it a try since it’s set in Boston and the plot is based off the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. I can easily tell you that this book quickly became one of the best books I had read in 2014, and that was back in July! It’s beautifully written, descriptive and with characters you will adore.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think– Brian Wansink: I love to eat. And I’m really guilty of eating when I don’t even realize it. I know, crazy right. But I’ll find myself snacking, when I’m not even really that hungry. It’s just something to do. This book really opened my eyes to how to eat, what I’m eating and the psychology behind it all. I’m definitely far more conscious about what and how I’m eating now!

Little Mercies– Heather Gudenkauf: I’ve raved about Heather Gudenkauf before on here. I love her. She’s easily one of my favorite authors out there right now. Her books remind me a bit of Jodi Picoult, they always discuss a really tough subject, but she approaches it with such care and concern. This book was no different than her previous. This book’s plot is based around a social worker who is a children’s advocate and has seen some of the worst cases in history. She’s a devoted wife and mother. But then one moment of distraction caused her entire life to shatter. Read this, and every other book by her you can get your hands on. She’s incredible.

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson: This was unlike any book I’ve ever read before. What I loved about this particular book was that just as a story was taking a turn for the worst, it ends and a new one begins. What I found was that as a particular story was about to end, there were times when I wanted it too. Was the story an uninteresting one? No, it was usually taking a turn that I didn’t like, or something really awful was about to happen. And when the story started over, I found myself relieved and breathing a sigh of relief that Ursula’s life wasn’t over and her life could continue again. If you get confused easily, this is not the book for you. But if you’re ready for an incredible read, buy this and move it to the top of your list for 2015.

Beautiful Ruins– Jess Walter: This was another one of those books that sat on my NookBook wishlist for a pretty long time. I had heard really mixed reviews (people loved it or hated it) and just felt unsure about buying it. When it dropped in price one day, I decided to pounce on it. And boy was I glad. I could literally picture everything happening in the book; the characters, the scenery….everything. Such a beautifully written story. If you’re like me, and have been hemming and hawing over this book, take my advice and go read it. If you love a wonderfully written story, then you won’t be disappointed.New Signature



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Missing Planes, Protests, and Ebola – What Stories Stick in Your Mind?

I’m a news junkie. I always have been, and even more so while I was studying journalism during my undergrad years. And now, thanks to social media, my addiction to the media has grown.

2014 was filled with an abundance of news stories. Some happy, some horrific and some just mind-boggling. There are plenty that will stick in everyone’s minds, while others just disappear into the endless knowledge of our brains. I am one of those people. So many things are thrown at us on a daily basis, myself included, and sometimes I just have a hard time processing it all. But since I’m a news junkie, I wanted to take a moment to recap the top news stories that have stuck in my mind, among the endless knowledge, since the beginning of 2014.

News StoriesGratisography

  • The Missing Malaysian Plane (MH370): This particular story will forever stick in my mind. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but I’ve definitely found myself reading some of the theories on a few different occasions. How can I plane that large just disappear? Even if it crashed into the ocean, wouldn’t something have been found my now?
  • The Market Basket Protests: This began as a local story, but quickly evolved into one that made national headlines. It went beyond just boycotting the ousted CEO and into human rights and equal wages. I wrote a blog post on it, but more as a letter to the protestors who we could hear at all hours of the night. I fully supported their efforts, but many disagreed with my post. It was the first time I learned that if I wanted to blog, and write what I wanted, I needed to have thick skin.
  • ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: With all of the horrible news happening, this was one of those stories that filled me with absolute joy. I actually waited for the day that someone would nominate me to participate. And I was more than happy to donate money to this cause. Especially with the local ties. To read more about my experience, and see the video, check out my blog post.
  • The Gunned Down Malaysian Plane: I was in Spain when this happened. I sat in my best friend’s living room, on a navy base, watching this unfold. And I was due to get on a flight in less than a week. I knew we would be safe. I knew we weren’t traveling over any countries that have this kind of hatred and fighting. But I couldn’t wrap my head around this happening. All 298 lives were lost.
  • Ebola: Ebola is a horrible, scary disease and I can’t even imagine what it’s like with the threat in West Africa. Those Ebola fighters were named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine. While the epidemic in West Africa was a story itself, the panic in the United States is the story that sticks out in my mind. The United States has seen 10 confirmed cases of Ebola, with 2 deaths, neither of whom had contracted the disease in the states. But the hysteria that came with Ebola entering the country was insane. People panicked. Flights were diverted. People who had the flu were contained. It seemed like for a good month, all you heard about was Ebola. With good reason of course, but it did show how the media can cause widespread panic when something like this enters our borders.
  • Leaked Celebrity Photos: This story might be the most ‘fluffy’ that sticks out in my mind, but it was a serious matter that exposed how easy it is to get into our virtual lives. Hollywood stars had their photos leaked after an iCloud hack. Many people (not celebrities) thought it was great… for obvious reasons. But many didn’t really think about the other side of this; our online safety. The majority of us who have Apple devices backup our data to the iCloud. Of course, no one really knows where or what the cloud is, but we know it’s there and we can retrieve it when necessary. Our lives are on our devices, at least I know mine is. When this hack and leak happened, I think it made many of us feel vulnerable. If it can happy to those celebrities, it could just as easily happen to one us. It brought on many debates over the internet about the safety of the Cloud, and just goes to show that no one is really safe if the cyber world. I certainly learned. My photos are not backed up to iCloud; I store them directly on my computer and back them up in an external hard drive.

That’s my round-up. Obviously, there are a lot more. I could write about everything in my head for hours, but this post would end up incredibly long, and you’d probably get bored reading it. So I stuck with 6. And some of them may not be the ones that are at the forefront of your mind.

Having said that, I want to know: What news stories stick out in your mind? 

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