23: A MANIFESTO

Girl With Neon

  1. I am much better-equipped to handle life now than I was a year ago. I remind myself of all the ways I am different now, & how this year, I think I can make it.
  2. A year ago I was terrified to even be in the play. I desperately wanted to break out but I was also desperately scared to. I kept deliberating over whether I should or shouldn’t. The whole process terrified me. Now look at me. Going on road trips around the entire state of Florida all by myself. Traveling around the country to go to meaningful concerts. Taking actual strides – big, massive actions – towards those goals I have so desperately loved.
  3. When the Universe speaks to you, you should listen.
  4. I refuse to let others make me feel small. For too long I have shrunk in their presence, packaging myself for them as something easily understood & easily pigeonholed. For much too long I have let them make me feel like I am inferior, in a variety of ways. But I am not easily packaged up, not easily defined, not easily categorized or classified or described. The world wants me to be just like them. THEY want me to be just like them. Therefore, my greatest rebellion is to be  authentically myself & to reinvent myself continually.
  5. “The strong give up & move on, while the weak, the weak give up & stay…”
  6. What do they have that you don’t have? What separates the successful from the unsuccessful? You are made of the same stuff as they are; you have the potential to stand beside them as their equal, just as they did when they were starting to stand next to their heroes as equals. Run to it. You have just as much right to be there as they do. You have just as much right to be there as they do.
  7. Theme of this year :: make life my playground, & love every minute of it. Create that which I know is mine. It is mine.
  8. The sublime moment when you were driving home in the gorgeous afternoon with the perfect lighting & that song was playing. You had never heard it before, but it struck you as being the most beautiful song you had ever heard. When you heard it on the stage, you knew it was.
  9. You listened to the same album three times in the same week. Twice in the same day (funny of him to mention that song). Each time, it became more beautiful. This is where it’s at. You whispered the very first time, & you were right.
  10. “I try my best to be just like I am, but everybody wants you to be just like them.”It doesn’t matter what they think of me. I do not have to answer to them. A number of them will never understand me, & this is something wear proudly every day. I am glad that I am not like them. I am glad that I am not so simplistic & easily understood that they are able to falsely believe I am the same as they are. Alien. Different. Beautiful & strange. Alive. I am completely myself. I will know when I have found my people, because they will understand me without trying to categorize me.
  11. MASSIVE ACTION.
  12. I am the same age now as you were when you first started. This is incredibly inspiring.
  13. I think of all the things that I am creating for myself. All that I have accomplished in a year & all that I will accomplish. How I not only survived, but thrived. Even when I could have I did not break down & I did not give up. How I fought, tooth & nail, for what was mine. Even when it was unpleasant. I did it. All the projects I am working on are exciting to me. The books I have a deep need to write. I am going to be on that show. The music that flows from me. The art that I see in my mind. Training for that race, & the things I will learn there. Investing, in all aspects. Branching out & connecting with people instead of continuing to hide. Finally getting my shit together. All the places I will go. I know now I have the power to make all of this happen for myself. I am determined as hell, & I will make this happen.
  14. I am wealthier now than those who try to bring me down will ever be.
  15. It didn’t have as much value to me as everyone told me it was going to have. This wasn’t to say it lacked value – the value remained in knowing, & in being able to put a name to experiences. It also contained value in the simple subtraction of being able to tell the difference between the things I really liked & wanted, & the things I felt like I was supposed to enjoy but found unnecessary. The value was in knowing myself a little more.
  16. the difference between what I want to do & should be doing / weekends, weekends spent playing / the breeze & sunlight reminded me of when I was a child / I remembered lying under the umbrella on the deck, recording my own radio show with a tape recorder / it was an illusion, the way they told me being grown up had to hurt / they told me happiness was all a scam / all around me I saw adults falling into the depths of the rat race, the rat race they’d created, thought it was the way it had to be / but they were just trying to sell escapes & they were jealous of your dreams / the sign on the wall read happiness was a journey, happiness is an adventure / I thought about how the magic had been missing for quite some time / I needed to carve out a safe space for it to live & make sure I cherished it & welcomed it / whatever it takes, I’ll keep that magic aliveStop Waiting for the Other Shoe to DropThere is No Other Shoe
  17. STOP WAITING FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP. THERE IS NO OTHER SHOE.
  18. The first time, as they were leaving, I whispered into the deep encompassing warm noise, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” I thanked them specifically. I thanked them for what they had given me. I thanked them for being there. A few days later, I knew I had to go there, if only to thank them. To thank them for helping me through one of the toughest periods of my life. Their art saved me, & it was only right that I had the chance to thank them. To show them I am no longer what I was. To love them, & to feel the love. That type of gratitude can be life-changing. Thank you thank you thank you. I made this happen by myself, for myself.
  19. The real value of it wasn’t even in doing it, but rather in the type of person I would become by doing it. In knowing beyond any shadow of doubt that I am capable.
  20. The things that stress out other people will energize me. Being busy energizes me. Working on my art energizes me. Everything I do energizes me.
  21. Without speaking about it, without having to, I was quietly moving myself towards the sunlight & freedom that belonged to me. The Magician. Strength. 
  22. I think about how good it will feel when I am there. We will be playing music together & I will know then completely free of doubt that I am exactly where I am meant to be. It will feel so damn good. It will be one of the best things I have ever done in my entire life.
  23. What you see here is what contains an infinity of multitudes. It contains all the art, all the ideas, all the energy, all the love. I am made of stardust. I love you so much. I have never been more proud of who I have become than I am right now. You are doing amazingly. You have come such a long way. I cannot even begin to describe my absolute love for you. I love you I love you I love you.
  24. I found the magazines in the closet. I hadn’t gotten rid of them like I had intended to, three years ago. I laughed. It felt like coming home. They were still there. This was the first time in five years that I was finally obsessed with the music again. The knowledge & love that I thought I had lost was still there. I saw things & the names of them popped back into my head & I suddenly knew them again. I finally had something to do again. A mission. A dream. No longer dormant. This time it was for real. It had always been my favorite. It wasn’t something I suddenly developed a longing for even though I hadn’t known if it a month previously. I had always loved it, it had always been a part of me. I reveled in it. It was real, it was transformative, & it was mine. It felt like coming home.
  25. “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” “Be obsessed or be average”. 
  26. On the road I found myself quietly in between the nurturing trees & the radiant city streets at night. Lights on the water. The immensely beautiful coral reef ocean floating quietly. I could see for miles. I touched what had come before me & what was yet to come. When I had to fight for the only thing I had. I have myself & myself has me. Holding that close. I faced what terrified me & emerged the warrior.
  27. It was the kind of change I felt deep in the very center of me. It shook me to my core, & laughed to myself. I finally bought the album & listened to the first two songs off of it. Then I put on the most beautiful song I could think of & danced. I felt the energy shifting as I orchestrated & sculpted the year before my, my fingertips brushing softly past all the beautiful things I am creating. The beautiful things I am creating. It is all mine. All mine. Then it turned to midnight : I hugged myself & put on a different song. My new anthem. Authenticity feels so amazing. You can change, you can change. You can make it.
  28. You are capable of immense happiness. Remember the feeling you had as you drove on the quiet highway with yellow streetlamps & the jazz was playing & you found yourself spontaneously laughing even though you didn’t know why. Remember how fucking powerful that was. Remember the incomprehensibly beautiful transformation where you literally felt the shift inside, literally felt the Phoenix being reborn from the ashes, metamorphosis. Remember how it felt at the end, better than anything else you could have imagined, you were trembling with joy, as the cocoon slowly slipped away & was left behind as you emerged & drank deeply from the rich deep night. Remember the exact color of moonlight on your arm as you drove across the quiet darkened countryside, how the moon vibrated radiantly in the sky & you laughed freely. Remember how free you felt as the chains were finally left behind in a darkened seat by the stage & you were not the same person that had walked in there. Remember how it felt to finally, mysteriously, beautifully heal. You are capable of immense happiness. That is your “RISE”. That is your flame. That is everything you ever needed. Now you know what to do.
  29. “When you realize you lack nothing, the whole world is yours.” “Everything I need is inside me right now.” Remember these. YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED.
  30. What an amazing way to beginThis is going to be my best year yet.
  31. “Now it’s up to me, ooh, what will be…”
  32. I am finally becoming the master of my own fate. I am finally HERE. I am fucking unstoppable. I am fucking unstoppable.

Remembering Tom Petty

Tom Petty’s songs made special moments better & ordinary moments feel significant.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 1977
1.
I first heard Tom Petty’s music when I was fifteen & just getting into classic rock. His songs would come on my classic rock & Beatles-themed Pandora radio stations. I realized that Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly was different than Pink Floyd’s. The Traveling Wilburys bridged my love of the Beatles with my newfound love of Bob Dylan. As my musical interests continued to change, his songs kept finding their way into my Pandora stations. In that way, I became familiar with some of them.
2.
My father & I walked into Guitar Center. Mary Jane’s Last Dance was playing distinctly over their speakers as a guy crouched down cradling a black guitar tuned it. The combination of the two sounds mingled with the sounds of what everyone else in the store was playing. The memory, the aesthetic, of the way it sounded is what I always think about when I hear that song now.
3.
The first time I heard American Girl, I was leaving my neighborhood. The song was playing quiet over the car stereo. My dad was trying to make a phone call so I strained my ears to hear the lyrics. I immediately fell in love with it. There was something about the jangling guitars & the continuous pedal tones & the slightly bittersweet optimism that made me love it. When I got home, I looked up the lyrics & saw it was a Tom Petty song. Months later, I stayed in the car longer in the parking lot at the dollar store just so I could hear it.
4.
A year ago, everything in my life felt stressful. I was overwhelmed. But I always sang along to I Won’t Back Down. Listening to it made me feel better. It became my anthem. I wanted to give up, I wanted to give in, but then I was always reminded of this declaration of strength. & I knew I was going to keep fighting for what was right for me & the kind of life I wanted to live until I got there. No matter what.
5.
My sister & I drove on through the cold dark December night. We were going to watch the play Proof at the theater. The classic rock station was playing. A Tom Petty song came on. My sister turned up the volume. “I love his music.” She declared. I was surprised learning this, because I loved his music & yet I never knew she did. We talked about this. I told her there was a Tom Petty concert happening in a few months, if we saved money maybe we could go to it. We made plans to do this, but by the time we had the money, all the cheaper tickets were sold out.
6.
I was driving across the Overseas Highway on the forth day of my road trip. I’d driven from Key Largo to Key West & now I was driving more than two hours back to Key Largo in the same day. It was late afternoon, the space between the beginning of sunset & the beginning of twilight. I came upon the Tom Petty section of my playlist. All my favorite songs of his. The likes of Free Fallin’American Girl, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Breakdown, Refugee, & I Won’t Back Down were my soundtrack. His music sounded like a road trip, like the open road. The songs felt special, hearing them halfway through the road trip, in the purity of freedom, on a very long highway when the sun was setting over the ocean.
7.
I heard it on the radio when I was sitting at a stoplight. A few Tom Petty songs had played consecutively; I wasn’t sure why. “Remembering Tom Petty.” The announcer said. It felt like a slap to the face. The second of the day; the first was hearing about what happened in Las Vegas. They said he’d passed away earlier. More songs played, but now they all sounded bittersweet. I wanted to hear them & turn them off at the same time. He couldn’t be dead. He couldn’t. I thought about Mary Jane’s Last Dance in Guitar Center & American Girl in the parking lot & I Won’t Back Down on my stereo & Overseas highway. I thought about how my sister & I never did get to go to that concert. That we’d missed our chance. It hurt like when David Bowie died. I couldn’t believe it.
8.
A few hours later on the way home, Don’t Do Me Like That finished playing. The announcer said, “Despite earlier reports that Tom Petty had passed away, apparently he isn’t actually dead. He’s in critical condition, but he’s alive.” I grinned & slapped my steering wheel. “YOU BASTARDS! You bastards! He’s alive! He’s alive!” I laughed. I came home. “Did you hear Tom Petty died earlier?” My sister asked. “Yes, but he’s not actually dead! Not yet!” I explained. No one online was sure now whether or not he was dead. Please be alive. Please, please pull through, I prayed. When I woke up the next day, I learned he really was gone.
9.
How many people have been inspired to pick up a guitar because of him? How many of us have listened to I Won’t Back Down & decided, once more, to keep moving forward? How many moment of specific, perfect aesthetic moments have his songs soundtracked? Those are the things he has left behind for us. Those are the things we can keep close. Music, & the memories surrounding it, are something that cannot be lost. & what an amazing catalog of music he has left behind. But what’s perhaps an equally important legacy to me as his music is the reminder that even in a world that would rather we be what it wants us to be, we can still be ourselves if we choose to.

Here’s Why Consistency is Much More Important Than Perfection

Save $1. Exercise for one minute. The tiniest step in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all. When done consistently, it can move mountains.

Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

Much too often, perfect becomes the enemy of good. Perfection becomes more important than making progress in the first place. There have been so many times I’ve given up on something because I wasn’t able to do it as often, as devotedly, in the same capacity that I’d originally planned to.

But starting, even with the most seemingly insignificant action, is always better than not starting at all. The smallest action in the right direction, especially when doing it becomes a habit, is incredibly powerful.

The tiniest step in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all. When done consistently, it can move mountains.

Sometimes, it feels like if you can’t commit to exercising an hour a day, if you can’t save 10% of your income, if you can’t write 5,000 words a day, that you might as well not do anything at all. That you should wait until it’s a “better time”.

Don’t wait for the perfect time to do something. Don’t stop & start over because you messed up, or you don’t think you’re ready, or you don’t have the time, the money, the resources. It will never be a better time than it is RIGHT. NOW. No one cares if you cheated at your diet for one day, or if you only start out writing ten words a day in the novel that’s been inside you for a decade.

What matters is that you DO SOMETHING.

Walking for one minute is better than not exercising at all, if that’s all you can do for now.

Practicing playing guitar for two minutes is better than not playing it at all, if that’s all you have time to do.

Eating a tablespoon of canned vegetables along with your burger & fries is better than not eating any vegetables at all, if you’re working on eating healthier.

Flossing one tooth every day is better than not flossing at all, if you don’t have the time to floss all your teeth.

Throwing out one item you no longer need is better than not throwing out anything at all, if you know streamlining your belongings would make your life better.

Opening one window in your house is better than no windows at all, if you want to let fresh air in but only one window has a screen.

Reading one new word in that language you’ve always wanted to learn is better than not learning anything at all, if learning that language seems too challenging.

Writing one line of code is better than not working on your app at all, if you’re working on becoming a programmer & getting your app out there.

Posting something on your blog, at the “worst” time of day, is better than not posting at all if that’s the only thing & the only time you can post it.

Choosing just once today to respond differently is better than staying stuck in the same habits or emotions or beliefs, if you’re trying to reach that next level.

Writing ten words in your novel every day is better than not writing anything at all, if you’ve got a story burning inside you that you know the world needs to see.

Putting $1 in your savings account each week is better than not saving any money at all, if that’s all you have the ability to save right now.

Painting one brush stroke on the canvas is better than not painting anything at all, if you don’t know what to paint, or how to paint it.

Because everything you do eventually adds up. It eventually counts for something. At the end of the year, you will have written 3,650 words more than you’ve written right now. You will have saved $365 more than you have currently. You will have spent 6.08 more hours exercising than you would have otherwise.

Everything you do will compound. Everything you do will leverage every other thing you do. You might be worried that you’re taking the easy way out by only taking one step. But if that’s all you can do right now, your tiny action is as valuable as gold. You will find the time, the motivation, the resources, to get better at it if it’s important to you. You will get to where you’re heading.

Consistency is more important than perfection ever will be.

What you do today to take a step further in the right direction is never a waste of time. You will be that much closer to living the type of life you want to live. The type that you deserve to live.

It’s kind of like the famous “Starfish Story”. You can’t throw all the starfish back into the water. But it will matter, invaluably, for the ones you do.

You can’t always make all the progress you wish you could make. You can’t always win every battle.

But it will matter, invaluably, for the ones you do.

Now, go out there & do something.

Here’s What Happens When You Choose to Live Life Authentically

When you live authentically, loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier.

Here's What Happens When You Choose to Live Life Authentically

Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.

Living an authentic life, or at least really trying to, is probably one of the most challenging things that I have done. To me, authenticity is living a life that makes you feel good about the person you are becoming.

It’s when you feel like it is both okay and beautiful to be the exact person that you genuinely are and always wanted to be, and when you get closer to a place of acceptance and love towards yourself.

To me, this isn’t a specific end result or level that you one day reach, but an ongoing process of continually reinventing yourself and making adjustments to your life to match your authentic self. In the process of figuring out who I want to be and working on becoming that, I’ve noticed some wonderful changes.

When you start fearlessly reinventing yourself, you will finally feel happier. When you start living authentically, happiness will start coming more naturally to you, and you’ll feel surprisingly good about the person you are. At first, living authentically can feel scary. You may feel guilt that you’re not living the life others think you should, or be afraid that no one will like or understand the new you.

Changing the way other people see you is probably one of the hardest parts of really becoming yourself, but it’s more than worth it. You might find yourself wanting to try new things that you didn’t have the confidence to do before, and life will probably start becoming a hell of a lot more fun.

For a good portion of my teenage years, I felt strongly dissatisfied and unhappy with my life. I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do without being plagued by the fear that others wouldn’t like my choices, and even the smallest of frowns or negative comment would dissuade me from doing what I really wanted to do.

I felt like everyone’s expectations of who I was supposed to be were things that I had to listen to, no matter how much they conflicted with who I really was.

One day, I came to the realization that most of the things that made me feel overwhelmed were related to me trying to be what others wanted me to be. I also realized that living my life based on what other people wanted was fruitless and would never allow me to be satisfied or at peace with myself.

Immediately, I began making a list of things I needed to do to start feeling more like myself, the version of myself that I was yet to fully embrace. I worked on incorporating goals and changes into my life that felt good to me and matched up with the kind of person I was excited to start being while ruthlessly editing out the things that didn’t make me happy. When I look at my life since then, it feels predominately good, and a whole lot lighter and brighter than before. The best part is, it keeps getting better all the time, and I know that the more I work on becoming more myself, the better my life will feel.

When you live authentically, loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier.

Loving something encourages you to take better care of it, so the more you love yourself, the more you will value whatever self-care activities are important to you. You will look forward to the things you do that make you feel good. I strongly believe that living an authentic life is the best choice you can make for yourself, and the more expressive form of self-care there is. Whether self-care for you means making sure to drink a cup of hot tea every morning, eat better, spend time with your family, pets, or friends, wear an outfit that makes you feel amazing, go out to socialize more, spend time alone, work more, work less, or get enough sleep, you will become more intuitive about what self-care rituals work best when you start figuring out who you are.

Things will connect and come together in beautiful ways that you may never have expected, and you may find sudden clarity regarding situations or things that you previously felt divided about.

The biggest part of becoming your authentic self is being, owning, and loving the person that you are, regardless of how conventional or unconventional a person that may be.

Your confidence will soar when you start making choices that you really connect with. and this confidence will propel you to take the next steps in reinventing yourself. You’ll find that you aren’t so afraid of what others think of you, and when you start living with honesty, you will inspire others to do the same.

That is perhaps the best and more awe-inspiring part about truly being yourself of all — the fact that you will possess the electric power to empower others to take steps to become who they are. When you start to work on living an authentic life, you will realize how much beauty there is in the unique, amazing, one-of-a-kind person that you were born to be.

Why I Feel So Much Compassion for My 18-Year-Old Self

Why I Feel So Much Compassion for 18-Year-Old-Me

I was looking through my old diaries from when I was a very sad, very lonely teenager. It was 2013 & I was 18 years old. Back when I was always changing my name. Trying to find some type of identity for myself. I filled out multiple questionnaires that I wrote myself. About what I believed in. What I liked & didn’t like. I wrote little stories about the things I wished I was doing instead.

There was a lot of me talking about how sad I was. How much I wanted to move out. I felt like moving out was the only way I would be able to throw off the (self-imposed) chains that made me feel so heavy I couldn’t move. I wished so desperately that I had real friends. I was in a prison of my own making. Digging myself out of it wouldn’t be for another couple of years.

I realized I actually did a pretty lot of cool things back then. I forgot how many I had done. I didn’t have a car or know how to drive, so I couldn’t really go anywhere & do anything. But I still somehow found things to do. I read a huge number of books, watched numerous films, spent all my time working on the books, music, videos, etc.

All my projects could be my main priorities. I learned a lot by reading libraries worth of books & the entire Internet (or so it sometimes felt). Back when I was both very free, very chained, very lonely, & very empowered to choose & do whatever I wanted, within the bounds that were set. How much difference is there between freedom & loneliness, sometimes?

Sometime else though stood out the most. I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for my younger self as I read what I’d written. Some of the hopes & fears that I had back then were the same ones I still had now. The fear that maybe I was really a lame person. The eternal question of who I really was. The eternal hope that I really was going to end up where I wanted to, eventually. Some of the fears & hopes that were very important to me back then look pale, & sometimes almost ridiculous, looking at them now. But I still felt immense love & admiration for me, four years ago, here & now in the future. We were still the same person, existing on different planes of time simultaneously.

In one of the notebooks, I found the letter I had written to my 10-year-old self. The letter was only one page, but summed it up pretty well. It was 18-year-old me telling 10-year-old me how much she loved her. How great sorrows & great joys were all on their way.

That no matter what happened, I shouldn’t be afraid. That I shouldn’t lose hope. Because this is 18-year-old me telling 10-year-old me that she survived everything that was yet to happen. It was powerful hope being showered back into the past, a golden light put in the hands of a frightened, lonely 10-year-old. A message from the future that she made it.

More importantly, it was 22-year-old me being able to look back on 18-year-old me (who was looking back at 10) & realize the same messages, the same love, the same hope applied equally to myself at 10 as it did at 18.

There are many things about that era that resonate with me now. The same hopes & fears. & I have been reminded how I felt them, loved them, feared them, wanted them, even back then. That if I could feel a sense of freedom even back then, that I could feel it again. I am both the same person I was in that time span, & an entirely different person, rolled into someone new who is everything & undefined, fluid, at the same time. I reach back through the folds of space & fill my hands & arms with all the things I want to incorporate & reuse. I had more wisdom back then than I thought I did.

18-year-old me expressed her love for 10-year-old me in the letter. If I could go back in my past, to me any point in time, I would tell her the same thing. She too has a lot of fears, sorrows, & joys ahead of her, more than she knows.

But I would still tell her this:

You are going to be okay.

And:

You make it.

That’s what I want her to know, because she didn’t know it well enough back then. I want her to know I love her, & I always will.

How to Find a Book Without the Title or Author: The Complete Guide

How to Find a Book Without the Title or Author - www.ashleecraft.com

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with figuring out the names of books I read when I was younger. It’s part of a grander obsession of mine to remember + document things from my past. For a couple of years, I’ve been keeping kind of a running list of books I had memories of, but no idea what the titles were.

Over the past few weeks, I remembered a bunch more books that I had to know what they were called. Just like when you hear the melody of a song in your head but you can’t remember what song it is, trying to remember the name of a book is the annoying kind of thing you’ll lie awake thinking about, & the kind of thing that will keep bothering you & gnawing at your brain until you find the answer.

If you remember a book but you have no idea what the title or author was, here are a few tips that I used to help me figure out what every single book on my must-know list was called. It feels so good to finally know!

Normal Google Search. This is a good general place to start in any book search. If you can remember any words from the title or character names, this can be a great way to find the book. Years ago, I remembered a book I’d read from the library. I remembered that the cover of the book featured a girl sitting in a barn with a dog, that there was a character named Jenny & one named Sam, & that the book was pretty old. Initially in my searching, I only remembered the main character’s name was Jenny, but later in my search I remembered Sammy as also being a character. I knew the plot of the book & that there was a character with an old-sounding name that began with an “H” who the main character told stories about to some younger characters. After searching various combinations of the keywords “Jenny Sam book invisible”, I found Jenny, Sam, & the Invisible Hildegarde

If there are any books, series, or authors that keep showing up in your search that definitely don’t have to do with the book, try advanced search to exclude those words. Also, the more combinations of potentially relevant keywords you try, the better off you will be. You can also try searching for things like “book about _______________”, & add as many relevant keywords as possible. The more details about the book you can provide, the easier it will be to find it. Think about including keywords regarding things such as professions/ages/genders of characters (teenage boys, lawyers, kids), features of characters (if they were friends, animals, a club, etc), time frame story takes place in (1950’s, war time, futuristic), place (magic world, England, Florida, old barn), intended audience or details about the book itself (children’s book, old book), or things characters do/what happens (go to the beach, club for conversations about ideas, guy gets murdered). The “book about ____” format helped me remember The Famous Five series, which I had been searching for, & “ladybug book with transparent pages” brought up Ladybugs & Other Insects (With Transparent Pages).

Google Image Search. Much like the aforementioned “Normal Google Search”, searching for any keywords you can remember about the theme of the book – even if they seem quite random – can help you find the book, especially when coupled with using Google Images. The title alone might not ring a bell, but when coupled with seeing the title & cover, you might experience a “EUREKA!” moment.

In one of my searches, I remembered a series I had sometimes read. It was about some preteen girls who time traveled into the past to have adventures, based upon (I believe) a treasure chest in an attic. After searching some keywords relating to this topic, I found The Magic Attic Club books, which was what I had been looking for. Additionally, this worked well when I wanted to find a book I’d read as a child, which featured a colorful, artistically-drawn rooster on the front. Relevant keywords & the utilization of Google Images brought up Barnyard Banter, a book I enjoyed a lot when I was three years old.

Library Records. If you got the book at the library, finding it may be a little easier. If it wasn’t too long ago, even if you no longer have a library card at that library, searching for keywords relevant to your book could bring it up in their system. Some libraries allow you to view a complete list of every book you’ve ever checked out. Searching this list could be helpful, provided that you still have an account at that library.

I was searching for a book I’d read about four years ago. I remembered it was kind of science-fiction themed, as I was in the phase where I read sci-fi books & books about physics/time travel/chemistry/astronomy extensively. I remembered reading it in the fall or winter, when I was in my phase of being obsessed with the band Queen, so I must have been reading the book sometime between September & March of 2011-2012. The book was about some kids who lived in England/Scotland, who, during the war (presumably World War II), were sent to live on a farm with relatives of theirs. The book had really beautiful descriptions of things, & I unfortunately had to send it back before getting very far into it.

After the above methods of Google searching things like “book about kids England farm war” didn’t bring up the book, I decided to look with the library system. I got the book when I lived in a different county, so I couldn’t view those library records. The library did however email me every week regarding books that needed to be renewed. After looking through the emails they’d sent me in the designated time period, I found the book, which is called A Traveller in Time. You could also try describing your book to a librarian, who may be able to find it for you.

Amazon Search. Amazon searches can be helpful in two different ways. Amazon is better if you have more relevant keywords which are part of the title or a major theme/topic of the book. If you have an idea of the topic or important word in the title, you can search Amazon for that, then narrow them down by category, age range, or other specifications, which can be helpful. I remembered a funny fiction book I had gotten from the library when I was obsessed with reading about manatees. I searched the keyword “Manatees” on Amazon, then narrowed my search to fiction. I found the book Key Manatee this way. I also used this search method to find a non-fiction children’s book about Salmon that I read when I was eight years old. I searched “Salmon”, narrowed it down to juvenile non-fiction, then looked at the publication dates for books published before 2003. This was how I found the book, which is merely titled Salmon.

Google Books. This was perhaps the very best search method I found, especially for books which I could not find based on the other methods alone. Google Books allows you to search the full texts of millions of books, & any keywords you came up with relating to the book you’re searching for are going to be especially helpful here. Here are three types of searches I recommend in Google Books.

  • Try searching Google Books by theme keywords. I remembered a paperback chaper book my mom had read the first few chapters of to me when I was about six years old. I remembered the cover, but the other methods of searching had not helped me find the book. All I could remember about the theme was that it had four main characters, & that the first character the book discussed was a girl sitting on a swing who got turned into a frog, & that the whole theme of the book was “be careful what you wish for.” I searched Google Books for “be careful what you wish for frog”, & discovered the book was called The Wish Giver: 3 Tales of Coven Tree.
  • Search Google Books for actual quotes from the book. Yesterday, someone around me made mention of the phrase “go jump in a lake”, & I was eating a piece of cake, which compelled me to connect the phrases & remember a quote from a childhood book. “Go jump in the lake, said the chocolate cake.” I remembered a poetry book for children. There was a poem about food with the aforementioned chocolate cake line, a poem about snow covering everything in a city, & a bunch of other kind of funny poems about things. The first poem in the book included the lines “Gooseberry looseberry gooseberry jam.” I searched Google Books for these quotes, & rediscovered Blackberry Ink.
  • Search any random keywords from the text that you can even begin to remember. The most frustrating, & long-lived book search I had been engaged in was a hunt to find a book I’d read when I was eight years old. The book had a lion, possibly other similar animal characters like giraffes or elephants. There were four animals characters in this book and they were friends who had some sort of club where they met in this tree house or by this tree. The book was about having good morals, like being honest & having self-esteem & such. I also remembered it had somewhat glossy bright white pages, was a medium sized book, had illustrations every few pages, & the illustrations were fairly realistic & well-drawn. I had been looking for this book off & on for a few years, & no amount of Google searches was bringing it up. After my luck yesterday in discovering the above books in Google Books, I decided to give it a try. The keywords “lion tree house virtues” or “lion tree house club” weren’t bringing up the book. Some part of my brain vaguely had an idea of the word “golden” being used on one page of the book. I searched “lion golden friend”, seemingly random keywords, & amazingly, The Treasure Tree: Helping Kids Understand Their Personalities came up, & it was the exact book I was looking for.

Rare Book Search. BookFinder.com allows you to search common & rare books alike, including out of print books, using a combination of keywords, publication dates, etc. It seems to have a lot of books & give pretty extensive search results, & if you find your book on here, it shows you somewhere you can buy a copy of it. I tried using it to find The Treasure Tree before I knew what it was called, & although I didn’t see it on there, I feel this search engine is a valuable tool for any book lover to know about.

Social Media, Friends, & Family. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Goodreads, Yahoo Answers, & other forums are another good way to find out what a book might be called. I didn’t get to the point of describing the book on social media & asking for suggestions of what it might be, but I think it could give you some great suggestions regarding what your mystery book could be. With some of the books I remembered, I didn’t really know what they were about as much as I remembered the way they looked (like in the case of the Salmon book), but provided you knew the general theme or plot of your mystery book, social media might be a valuable thing to try, especially if you still cannot find your book from all the other methods. Talking to family or friends about your book may also help you figure out important details or keywords about your book, & they may even be able to tell you what it is.

With these tips, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before you know what the mystery book that’s been bothering you for the past five years is. You will finally be able to feel relief in knowing exactly what it was you were searching for, & relax as you read your now not-a-mystery book. Until the next time you remember an obscure but for some reason, important book from your past.

But this time, when the all-too-familiar feeling of needing to know what a book is called fills your mind, you won’t have to feel helpless. This time, you are armed with the knowledge & resources to track down your awesome forgotten book, & you will be able to find it both quickly and accurately. Happy book searching!

10 Easy Ideas for Immersing Yourself in Nature

10 Easy Ideas for Immersing Yourself in Nature

In my busy life, sometimes I don’t end up spending as much time outside in nature as I’d like to, even though it’s something I really love doing. When this happens, I end up feeling a sense of disconnect that I can’t quite put my finger on. I feel like when we spend all our time in artificial environments, surrounded by florescent lights and air conditioning, we miss out on an important, deep-rooted need to be around nature. Here are some things you can do when you’d like to become more immersed in the natural world.

1. Make an effort to go outside every day. Just like anything else important in your life, if you don’t make it a priority and set aside time to do it, you may not find the time to. Even if you only have as little as a few minutes a day to spend outside, it will make you feel so much better if you do. Make spending time outside a habit, and you’ll look forward to your special time to reconnect with nature each day.

2. Find a new favorite nature place. If you don’t already have a “happy place” outdoors, set out to find yours! Look for an unclaimed patch of sand among mangrove trees, a fallen tree in the middle of a forest clearing, a bench in your community garden, your own backyard, or anywhere else that speaks to you. Find a place that makes you feel grounded, centered, and connected, then visit it often.

3. Draw, sketch, photograph, or do a crayon rubbing of the various nature textures and patterns around you. Trunks of trees, unique flowers, interesting-shaped leaves, the outsides of buildings, and clouds are great things to document, and by doing so, you’ll become more mindful of the beautiful secrets of hidden details.

4. Go for a mindful hike. Hiking is always enjoyable, but to make it even better, try adding mindfulness into the mix. As you walk the pathways, really pay attention to the sound of birds chirping, wind rustling the leaves of trees and plants, and the sound of your breathing. Feel your feet making gentle impressions on the earth & the way your clothing moves with you. Look at the way sunlight dances on the trees, & notice the fresh clean way the forest smells. Doing this always makes me feel refreshed, and can serve as a type of walking meditation.

5. Photograph the best sunset. Remember how when you were a kid, everything was awesome? Capture that same spirit of being enthralled and excited about beautiful, everyday nature. Every sunset can be the “best”. The idea is to find a sunset or something else beautiful, & get really enthusiastic about how great it is, then document this so you can remember it and look back on it later.

Mossy Tree Stump - 10 Easy Ways to Immerse Yourself in Nature - ashleecraft.com

6. Learn a new outdoor skill. This takes a little more time than some of the other things on this list, but it’s a great way to connect with nature while challenging yourself and learning something new. Take up jogging, read up on how to pitch a tent and set up a campsite, plant a garden, or learn to kayak, dive, surf, ski, or rock climb.

7. Discover new things about your environment. Sit in nature with a notebook and pen, then list at least 10 things about your surroundings that you didn’t notice when you sat down. Get a magnifying glass or microscope and take a close-up look at leaves, stones, moss, or shells. For an opposite viewpoint, get a pair of binoculars and look at far-away things, like treetops, distant birds, shorelines, and mountains.

8. Learn to identify bird songs, plants, animal tracks, fish, birds, flowers, or seashells. Your local library is a great source for nature guides with pictures of these things, and there is a great joy in being able to identify things that you see. You can also find bird song identification apps for your smartphone or tablet, as well as video and audio examples of common bird songs on YouTube.

9. Eat a meal in your own backyard. I’ve always thought that food tastes better when you eat it out in nature, and by combining eating with being outside, you have more time each day to spend connecting with nature. If you don’t have a backyard or you want to go somewhere different, take some food to your favorite nature spot for a real picnic. For added enjoyment, bring some friends or family along with you to enjoy the meal.

10. Open your windows & let fresh air into your home. This is really simple, but I feel like it makes a huge difference in feeling better in general. Especially when you consider the EPA statistic that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outside air, it makes even more sense to freshen the air in your home. Doing so will make your house feel and smell better, and will bring a healthy part of the outdoors in. Fresh air has a purifying effect on the energy + vibes of your home, & when I feel the need for an energy detox & a fresh start, I open my windows.

Spending more time outside will give you knowledge and a greater appreciation for all the beauty of the natural world, as well as a sense of peace and connection. By making a conscious effort to immerse yourself in the natural world a little more, you’ll find the time you spend outside not only connects you more with the earth, but with yourself as well.

How to Get Dip-Dyed Red Hair

I wanted dip-dyed hair for a long time. Here’s how I did it at home.

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How to Get Dip-Dyed Red Hair

For a long time, I was super-inspired by photos & people I saw throughout the day who had ombre hair. I absolutely loved the way it looked & knew that I wanted my hair to look that way.

How to Get Dip-Dyed Red Hair

A few months ago, I tried doing this look with a light reddish brown color, but as the dye I used wasn’t a high-lift variety & the color was somewhat similar to my natural color, the color didn’t show up very well unless I was in bright sunlight. I was disappointed by the results, but decided to give my hair a break for about six weeks before dying it again so I didn’t dry it out too much. I decided to learn more about the process of dying hair ombre & which dyes would give me the results I wanted. Additionally, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to have the ombre effect done with red or blonde dye.

How to Get Dip-Dyed Red Hair

I eventually settled on red, & I’m so glad I did! After selecting a high-lift dye that I ended up being pretty satisfied with (Garnier Ultra-Color Nourishing Color Creme, Ultra Color R3 – Light Intense Auburn
), I followed the directions on the box & let the dye sit in my hair for about 30 minutes or so, if I’m remembering correctly. I applied the dye using the applicator in the box. I tried to concentrate most of the dye on the very tips of my hair, then blended it upwards both by using my fingers, & twisting the strands of hair to force the dye upwards in a blended manner so there wasn’t a harsh line between where I dyed it & my normal hair color. If you want to learn more about how I did it, read this article that I found incredibly helpful.

How to Get Dip-Dyed Red Hair
At first, when I was rinsing my hair afterwards, I didn’t see that much of a difference, as my hair looked darker when it was wet & the contrast wasn’t so great. When my hair dried, I was very impressed by the boldness of the color. It actually was a lot more red than it is in these pictures, which I took probably four or five days after I colored my hair.

Unfortunately, the color started fading pretty much immediately after I dyed it. Every time I washed my hair, despite rinsing it thoroughly after I washed it, dye still rinsed out, & when my hair was wet, it actually made light orange stains on my bedding & several shirts of mine (thankfully all the stains washed out after I treated them with stain remover). The color also faded quite fast, which was kind of a bummer.

How to Get Dip-Dyed Red Hair

After having this happen, I read online about dyed red hair & learned that it is notoriously challenging to maintain, & that it is completely normal for it to fade quickly, even if you get it professionally done at a salon. I read that this is because the molecules of red pigment in the dye are larger than other colors of dye & therefore, the pigments can’t penetrate the center of the hair, so it kind of just clings to the outside. Learning this made me feel better about what my hair was doing because I knew the fading had nothing to do with the dye I used, the method I used to dye it, or my hair being abnormally resistant to dye. Now I know this isn’t the case. I also found some really great products that preserve red hair color. I’ve started using the John Frieda Radiant Red Color Protecting Shampoo (& I’m going to buy the matching conditioner soon; the store I went to unfortunately was out so I have to go back & buy some next time I have a chance) & it seems to be bringing out the red highlights in my natural hair color already!

How to Get Dip-Dyed Red Hair

My hair dye has since faded away almost completely, & I really, really miss it, because I loved how it looked SO MUCH & I realized that red hair looks good on me. So, I decided that I want to dye it again. I want to try using red Manic Panic dye, because it’s vegetable based, contains no harmful chemicals, & because of this, I’ll be able to use it much more often than regular dye without damaging my hair. I prefer natural products when a natural, cost-effective alternative which works well is available, so Manic Panic being vegan, not tested on animals, & relatively natural is a big plus for me. Another big plus for me is the fact that as opposed to regular hair dye, which has one application which you mix in a bottle & then apply, Manic Panic comes in a tub & therefore it can be used for more than one application, or can even be diluted by conditioner for touch-ups or to adjust how bold the color is. I’ll post photos on here once I use it & explain my methods!