December 23rd – Web tool

It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn’t live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience.

Here is where the truth comes out, I love twitter. The ability to be able to instantly communicate with 140 characters to anyone in the world is pretty neat. Not only can this be done online on the website itself, but to be able to continue this communication using your cellphone or PDA device is great. Twitter has quickly become one of my favorite networking tools.

I believe that utilizing twitter has really helped my online presence in 2009. It has helped me meet some great people, and even take part in my first “tweet-up” in NYC. It was a great and fun gathering of folks I had only previously spoken to online via twitter and other online communities.

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This blog post is in response to Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge

December 22nd – Startup

What’s a business that you found this year that you love? Who thought it up? What makes it special?

Etsy is the business that I discovered this year that I love. It is an online arts and craft bonanza. I enjoy looking through what sellers have created. It is like attending a craft show right from the comfort of your own home. Have yet to make a purchase, but I now that will change in 2010. Also, I plan to begin selling my own work on the site. Some of my photography will make an appearance on etsy in the coming weeks.

What makes the site special in a word is creativity. It allows both creators and those seeking creative merchandise and the like to meet up in one central place. The creativity most of the creators/sellers have is just awesome. You can find all sorts of crafts and art on etsy. It gets high marks for greatness from me.

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This blog post is in response to Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge

December 21st – Project

What did you start this year that you’re proud of?

Well, I have started a lot of new things in 2009. However, most of my new projects are actually beginning in 2010. That said, I will highlight two things that I had going this year.

One thing I took on this year and completed all the way to the end was NaNoWriMo. I took on the challenge to write 50,000 words in one month and finished with over 50k worth of words written and even a day early! I was very proud to have completed that challenge, as I have done it the previous two years and never made it to the end.

The other project I started in 2009 was my goal to move back to Asheville by next summer. In association with this goal, I began a blog to chronicle my journey back to Western North Carolina. This particular project is one that is “in the works.” While I have declared what I am going to do and gotten the gears turning, so to speak, January 1st really begins the “official” countdown to my return to Asheville.

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This blog post is a part of Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge

December 19th & 20th – Car ride and New person

What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?

The most memorable car ride of 2009 would be the weekend trip mom and I took to Asheville and back. One Saturday after work, I rented a minivan and the two of us drove up to Western North Carolina to get the remainder of my boxes from my move. A friend had been storing them in her basement.
I ended up driving the whole way up to the mountains, as I really wanted to get there as quickly as possible. The drive back, mom and I shared driving duties. The ride back down to Florida was long and felt as though it would never end. That point b just felt like it was taking an eternity to reach. We made a number of stops for caffeine fixes and food. In the end, we opted to stay overnight in a hotel in Florida as neither one of us could muster to drive any further. For the first time in my life, I paid for a night in a hotel, entered the room and quickly passed out in one of the beds in my clothes. Definitely not a pleasurable stay in that hotel for neither one of us. We then awoke about five hours later to complete the final wing of the trip, which was about two more hours worth of driving on the interstate. All in all, a bit of a not-so-fun trip, but one I most likely will never forget for a long time.

She came into your life and turned it upside down. He went out of his way to provide incredible customer service. Who is your unsung hero of 2009?

This prompt is definitely the one that got my brain going into deep thought mode. Just who is my unsung hero of 2009? Well, I don’t have a boyfriend, nor have I dated anyone this year. The love arena has stayed rather unexciting and silent as of late. And, I didn’t meet any new friends that have done anything incredible. So, where does that leave me?
My “new person” of 2009 is me. I began the year as the old Shannon and am ending it as the new Shannon. While I am the same person overall, I believe that I have undergone a transformation due to my health journey. Losing 73lbs changes a person. It changes a person for the better. For the first time in my life, I am a confident person. I love myself and believe that I am worth all the good things that come my way. Never thought of myself in that way before. Putting myself first and foremost has done a lot of good. Sure, I have gone through times where I was not necessarily the most likable gal in the room, but I think that I have grown a great deal lately. The weight loss and moving are two big reasons for all of this. Nice to be able to appreciate myself. I firmly now believe that you must love yourself before you can expect anyone else to. For all those reasons, I believe I am my own new person.

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This blog post is in response to Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge.

2010 Reading List

I have high hopes for the new year. 2010 in my mind is going to be great. Yes, there will be downs with the good of course, but I plan on making it a year to remember.
This said, I have started to make goals for myself. One goal is to read more in the new year. I used to read a lot. Need to get back to that again, as I love reading. After deciding to do this, I had to think. How many? Just to allow myself to add new books that might come out, I’ve set my list at 25 titles. I would like to read at least 35-40 if I can though by year’s end. We shall see how that goes. Here is the list of the first 10 I plan to read. To be fair, I may end up adding something not on the list in here, but I do plan to definitely read the following:

1. Sherlock Holmes Vol. 1 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
2. The Yiddish Policemens Union by Michael Chabon
3. Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe
4. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
5. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
6. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
7. 1984 by George Orwell
8. Naked by David Sedaris
9. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Starting before January 1st with Sherlock Holmes. Will begin to read this tomorrow.

December 18th – Shop

Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

Where did I spend most of my money in 2009? Hmmm…this honestly requires a bit of thought to answer, as my shopping habits changed a bit this year. I believe that I spent the most money at Whole Foods. In late 2008, I was already becoming more savvy to organics and eating, but it wasn’t until the beginning of 2009 that I really got the engine going on this way of eating.
Every Saturday afternoon, I go to Whole Foods to do my weekly grocery shopping. Most of my groceries are purchased there, less for some things I can find at Publix or Target. On the good side, both Publix and Target are slowly but surely becoming more organic and vegetarian-friendly in the products they carry, so it makes it easier for those of us seeking those items. As far as Whole Foods goes, I am sure I have spent hundreds of dollars there in 2009. It is far too easy to spend a lot of money in a store such as Whole Foods. So many great things to choose from, including freshly made food items from the food bar and vegan baked goods that one could spend hours within the store’s confines. And yes, I have spent over an hour in the store on more than a few occasions.
As far as non-grocery stores go, the aforementioned Target is easily where I spend a lot of time and money throughout the year. More specifically, any Super Target store. Target is a store that I tend to wander around in almost in a daze at times, just looking at the items they have for sale. They stock such a variety of things, so it is easy to find almost anything there, which is not only convenient, but a time saver.

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This blog post is in response to Gwen Bell’s 2009 Best of Blog Challenge

Life as a vegan

I’ve now been a vegan for just over a month, after having been a vegetarian for a month. My original choice to go vegetarian was a health-related one. Originally, I felt that cutting out meat and eating more veggies would be beneficial to my health and was the next level, so to speak in my healthy living journey. Only way I can explain it is that I felt that it was the right way to go for me. I believe that you need to follow your heart on things and that is just what going veg was for me.

After about two to three weeks of being a vegetarian and still eating eggs and drinking dairy products, I began to do more research about the vegan lifestyle. While I was happy with the fact that I was no longer eating meat, I wanted to learn more. I have friends who are vegan, so I of course already had a general idea of what the lifestyle consisted of, but it was just a basic knowledge. Also, one of those friends told me that while it was great that I had gone vegetarian, that I should read about the production of dairy and eggs. She said that I would be surprised at what I would learn. My friend was very right. I learned that “free-range” eggs are not necessarily so free. I believed that these chickens were allowed to run around “free” on farms and generally be as happy as they could be. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. While the government does regulate the free-range and organic labeling on food, there are many loopholes in the regulations. The same goes for milk and the cows. These loopholes are used by many an egg or milk producer. This means that the treatment of grass fed cows may not be any different than that of the corn fed ones. This sad reality made me really think. Did I want to contribute to this? Or, did I want to stand up and do what was right?

I chose to stand up. I decided that I could not continue to eat eggs and dairy products and not feel dirty or bad about it. I chose to cease and desist putting anything containing these ingredients in my body anymore. I became a vegan. This in my mind was the one and only way for me to feel good about how I responded to the truth of the food industry and the treatment of animals. Now, I am in no way a perfect vegan. I do not believe there is one. Being a new vegan, I’m learning more and more everyday about the products I normally consume or use in my everyday life. Have I made mistakes and consumed animal products? Yes, I have. Not on purpose, but yes I have. But, once I learn that the product is not vegan friendly, I make sure that I don’t buy or consume it in the future. You live and learn, that is how it goes. Thirty years of eating meat and other animal products means that I am not going to be able to make the right choices right away or all the time. Once I know more; once I have educated myself more on what is okay to eat, I will make less mistakes. I will grow the longer I am a vegan.

A great thing about being a vegan is how calm I feel most of the time. I feel more relaxed than ever before. Whether this is because I have changed my mentality to be this way or whether it has to do with ridding my body of the poisons and artificial things found in animal products, I don’t know for sure. I like to think that it is both. Not consuming those things has helped me clear my head, thus allowing me to be calmer. That is how I see it. Also, I have decided to do all that I can to enjoy life. No, not everyday is great and happy, but it is what you make it. You can decide to not let things bother you more than they have to. You alone decide how to react to a situation. I’m working to be the calmer, happier individual that I have seen in others. I always admired that trait in those that possessed it. I saw this more in North Carolina. There’s just something about those mountains I think that makes one at peace with life. Well, that’s how I like to see it anyway.

December 17th – Word or phrase

A word that encapsulates your year. “2009 was _____.”

2009 was full of changes. Yeah, just can’t go with just one word there. This was a year that started off as a roller coaster of a ride and has continued to go through the ups and downs of the track along the way.

At the start of 2009, I was unemployed and in all honesty, desperate for work of some kind, anything. I had returned to Central Florida from the beautiful mountains and all I wanted was a paycheck every week or two that would pay the bills and help me get back on my own two feet. Thankfully, my prayers were answered not long after the New Year’s ball dropped. On February 2nd, I started my current call center job.

My weight loss journey was still at the forefront of my mind back in January. I had only just begun my weight loss about three months prior, so I still had a ways to go. By April and my birthday, I was close to where I hoped to be, but was seriously struggling with self-image issues. A great support system aided me in getting over that mountain of a challenge and by the summer, I was 70lbs lighter than I was when I began the journey to better health.

Creatively, I’ve gone through good and bad this year. Thanks to Debbie & Joe’s wedding last year, my excitement for photography had returned while I was still in Asheville. After getting my tax refund, I was able to purchase my first DSLR in late April. It quickly began my new “baby.” I was more than excited about showing it off to anyone who would listen to me ramble about it’s awesomeness. In early May, the camera came with me to Asheville for a quick in-and-out trip to collect the remainder of my belongings that another friend was holding for me in her basement. It was a good feeling walking around downtown Asheville with my new camera firmly in hand, even if it was only for a few hours that sunny Sunday afternoon.

Writing-wise, I’ve been through a number of highs and lows this year. When I first got back down to Florida, I told myself that it was a good time to really sit down and write. That I not only had a lot to write about, but that I need to utilize the free time I would now have until I found a job to do just that. Unfortunately, I did not do this. Instead, I found myself depressed and uninspired. I was waiting for inspiration to walk up to me and punch me in the nose. I now know that not only will inspiration not do this, but that I was naive to even think that it might happen in that way. Inspiration usually does not just jump out in front of your car in the road ahead waving its arms wildly. It comes as you are working and doing all that you can. You need to be open to inspiration, not just sitting there calling out its name. So, after months of excuses and not writing more than I absolutely had to, I had nothing but notebooks full of blank pages. Gradually, I got back on the writing wagon and got my butt in gear. While I had been writing prior to NaNoWriMo, it was this event in November that really got my writing ignited again. I now write something everyday again like I had been doing and I feel like I’m not that lazy, procrastinating writer that I was most of 2009.

Another big change in my life this year is that I went vegetarian in October. After having considered this option in the past, never did I seriously think I could or would do it. But, I decided to give it a go for health reasons. I felt that cutting out meat and making myself try new veggie meals would better my health and maybe help me lose the last few pounds that I had been trying to get rid of. After just a few weeks in, I then educated myself about the treatment of animals in regards to dairy cows and chickens, as I was still consuming milk and eggs. As soon as I took in the reality of how free-range was not the free-range I had believed it to be as well as considering my lactose-intolerance situation, I gave up anything animal derived. I am now a vegan. Admittingly, I am still working on the lifestyle part of being a vegan (getting rid of leather shoes and what have you), but I no longer eat anything that comes from an animal. I am happy about my choice to become vegan and feel better than ever for it. Definitely no regrets in the slightest.

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This blog post is in response to Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge.

2009 Blog Challenge: Catch up

Today is time for a little “catch-up” on the blog challenge. Since I started on December 13th, I have twelve days to make up for. That said, here we go, below you will find December 1st through 6th….

Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?

This is an easy one, my vacation up to New York this past September. I had such a great time in the city for the two days I spent in there (was on Long Island with family most of the week). I really enjoyed being in one of my favorite places in the USA. For the first time in my life, I spent a night in NYC. An awesome friend invited me to stay with her for a night and it was a great experience. One I will definitely remember for a very long time. Past trips to New York, I only was able to spend the day in the city, so being able to spend a night was definitely a highlight for me.

NYC

Restaurant moment. Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

I don’t know if I had one experience that stands out above all others on this front. For the most part this year, I have eaten out solo, on my own. I did have a few times eating out with family and/or friends that enter my mind though. One would be lunch with my Aunt Kyle and cousin Kim when I was up in New York. We ate at this great Chinese restaurant in Hampton Bays which was nice. Good food and good conversation and time with family I don’t see often. Another time would be eating at Pizza Fusion here in Orlando with my mom for the first time. Neither one of us had ever been there, so it was nice to experience somewhere for the first time with my mom. Another good food and good time moment that stands out in my mind. The final restaurant experience that was great in my mind is my first time eating out as a vegetarian at Dandelion Communitea Cafe. I went to the cafe after work one Saturday afternoon solo and was recommended a special wrap the restuarant makes. I fell in love with the Dandelion and their food during that lunch. The wrap was so full of flavor and goodness and the atmosphere there is like no other.

Article. What’s an article that you read that blew you away? That you shared with all your friends. That you Delicious’d and reference throughout the year.

On this one, I can’t say it was just one article. I was blown away by articles I read during my researching about veganism and how the animals were really treated. The facts surrounding the treatment and conditions that these animals lived with and under stunned me. I couldn’t believe some of the things I was reading. Further, my thinking that so-called “free-range” was good, became a mute point once I educated myself on the subject. Once I read these facts through the articles, I wanted to not only share my newfound knowledge with friends and family, but with the world. There is nothing like the truth hitting you smack dab in the face to make you change your life.

Book. What book – fiction or non – touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

Jillian Michaels’ Master Your Metabolism. As soon as I heard about Jillian’s new book, I immediately pre-ordered it online. I knew that it was going to be a great read. And, as soon as I had it in my hands and was reading it’s contents, I knew I was right. Jillian is not only an amazing trainer on the TV reality series, “The Biggest Loser,” but she is an inspiration to me and millions of other people. I listened to her weekly radio talk show until it ended this year with eager ears and a yearning to learn from someone I respected in the health and fitness arena. I read the book cover to cover within a little over a week and once I was done, I told anyone who would listen that they needed to also pick up the book. To this day, I still tell anyone looking for a good book on the topic of health to get her book.

Jillian Michaels

Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

The only nights out that I have had in the recent past are those I spent with my friends back in Asheville. Of course, those nights were in 2008. I had a blast going to the movies at the Asheville Pizza & Brewery Company with the Asheville crew when I lived up in Western North Carolina last year. Nothing I have experienced in 2009 has topped that in my mind. Fourth of July 2008 is also a fond memory for me, great BBQ and walking to see the fireworks with great friends. There is nothing better in the world than spending a day with close friends. Ok, so maybe spending a day with family, so spending time with family and/or close friends makes the best times. 🙂

Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

During 2009, I did not attend any workshops or conferences. I did however attend a couple of comic book conventions as a creator. Both Megacon and the FX Show were comic book conventions I appeared at during the year. The one show that stands out for me is Megacon. Not only was it my first comic book convention back in Florida since moving, but I got to see good friends. Two of my friends, Derrick and Suji and myself took pictures with a Delorean replica from the movie trilogy Back to the Future. It was an experience that lasted less than ten minutes, but one I enjoyed and that will live with me for a long time to come.

December 16th – Tea of the year

I can taste my favorite tea right now. What’s yours?

Mmmmm, tea. I am a new fan of tea. This being so, I have a number of flavors that I really like right now. Choosing just one is a difficult thing to do. Some of my current favorites are Green Tea with mint, Cinnamon Apple Spice and Green Tea with lemon. Those are just my favorite hot teas, in the cold category, I like Hibiscus a lot as well as Green Tea with Blueberry and Acai. There are so many great teas to choose from out there! In the end though, there is just nothing like a cup of hot tea on a cold winter morning or night to warm you right up inside. Satisfying and oh so good for you.

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This blog post is a part of Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge