#FindLeon and What to Do When You’re Puppy Goes Missing

It’s been quiet on here for a reason.

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Saturday, August 26th at 8am our dogs got loose. I noticed within 10-15 minutes of it happening and raced into the backyard, calling for Rony as I did so. They dug a hole in the corner of the yard and pried off a couple of boards off the fence, escaping into the alley. Almond is a runner and has escaped a few times, giving us heart attacks as we chase her down and she plays keep away, but this was Leon’s first time being gone. He follows Almond wherever she goes and would have followed her out that hole.

Almond was found crossing one of the major, busy streets by Marisa and was brought home safe. We didn’t find Leon.

For 6 days/144 hours, he was missing.

We hardly slept at all. We ate whenever we had a chance to pause, scarfing down chips or snack bars, or whatever people would bring us and go back out. We’ve searched almost non-stop, from 7am in the morning to 1am at night. My bones and muscles ached from walking, my fingertips were raw and peeling from posting flyers, and any ground I had made on getting over being sick was shot to the wind and I felt awful. I couldn’t breathe from congestion and my eyes were swelling shut and I kept having migraines. We couldn’t stop though.

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Saturday was not only going to be my first Pride after coming out but it was also National Dog Day. It felt like being stabbed every time I saw people post pictures of their dogs while I had no clue where Leon was. Was he safe, hurt, taken, hiding, scared? We’ve checked the shelter every day and nothing. They have a binder of deceased dogs and it was nauseating to flip through, hoping we didn’t see him every day.

That first day, we walked 6 miles looking for him. Sunday we walked 10-11 miles and then Monday 3 miles. All together, we walked 32 miles looking for Leon. We visited every shelter and pet store and groomers, giving flyers. Asked people on the street. Checked every tip, no matter how crazy. I’ve made hundreds of lost pet posts online and taken out ads and have done everything. He had his tags and collar on when he went missing and was micro-chipped, but no one had found him or called or brought him in to a vet or shelter.

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On top of it, we also adopted 3 kittens that are about 4-5 weeks old. Mae Mae took a while, but she’s adopted them and is feeding them and watching over them. We think they belong to one of our strays that passed away last week. Our neighbor heard them crying in her backyard. They’re cute and distracting and kept me busy, which was good because I was so near falling apart.

We have literally posted over a thousand flyers. That’s not hyperbole either. We literally have printed and posted around 1300 flyers. We’ve put them everywhere. Every time we found a blank area, we put them all over. We asked businesses, put them in high populated areas, shopping centers, the university.

This is what hell feels like. Being in pain, exhausted, but not being able to stop or else the hopelessness crushes you because your loved one is out there and you don’t know if they’re hurt or scared or being taken care of by a good family.

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We got so many tips that ended up being different dogs or dead ends. Our most promising ones were a girl that said she saw him with a kid and a mom less than 10 blocks from us, in the direction he was seen running. She said she tried to see him and the mom cussed her out, saying she doesn’t care where he came from and that he was theirs now. The location wasn’t far from our house and we staked it out for 2 days, but when we finally saw the dog it wasn’t ours.

An older man called and thought he saw Leon by the park by his house. I raced over at lunch and he ran to the park to show me, but it was also the wrong dog. Two different ladies in our neighborhood said they saw him with a dog gang. We woke up early at 6am, and scouted the streets looking for them. We found them in 15 minutes. It was 3 Chihuahua looking dogs and a white/brown pit. They were sweet and ran up to the car and gave kisses. Not much of a gang, but also not Leon.

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At the same time, we had a lady say she thought she saw him by his house and was trying to track him down. I was texting her when I got a call at about 630. A guy said he may have Leon ten blocks from our house. I described Leon’s tail and figure and he said he was almost sure it was him. We turned around and drove there, looking for a corner house and a guy with a dog sitting on the porch.

When we found the house, we burst into tears because it was finally Leon. I ran out the car before it was even fully stopped and ran to him. He jumped and wagged his tail and licked my face while I sobbed my heart out. This whole week it hadn’t sunken in that he was gone, like at any time I’d wake up and he’d be home. I couldn’t see how we could do so much for everyone else. Events, charities, promo-ing, dog sitting, fostering, helping other people find their animals. While searching we helped like 3 people and took in the kittens. We needed luck on our side and I refused to let go that our dog was gone forever, but it was starting to feel so hopeless.

Having him in my arms was heaven. The guy had been walking his dog near the high school and had grabbed one of our flyers. He saw Leon and managed to grab him and called us, waiting on the porch until we showed up. Him and his partner had lost their dog a year ago and knew how it felt and were so happy to find him for us, they didn’t want the reward. We’re going to donate it to the Humane Society and aid or Hurricane Harvey.

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Leon was skinnier, but uninjured and happy and still had his collar on even. We have no clue what he had been doing for almost a week and had patrolled that area so many times that we don’t know how we didn’t find him.

I sat in the trunk area with him while Rony talked to the guys and just cried and hugged him and called everyone. Almond was excited when we got home and Leon drank all the water and ate 4 cups of food. They ran around and played and it was like he hadn’t left.

It took all morning to call and let everyone know and just relax and know he was okay. It still feels surreal but he’s home and I can’t thank enough people for helping us search for him. We literally painted the town in his flyers and we have him back.

It’s been an exhausting process but it paid off.

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So, if you are missing your dog, all I can do is write down some tips that we learned. No one can say we weren’t dedicated to finding him and he’s probably the most famous lost pup in town now but it got results:

Tips for Finding your Puppy

  1. Immediately search the entirety of your neighborhood as fast as you can after they go missing
  2. Find all the Lost and Found Facebook pages/group and post to them all daily
  3. Post on Pawboost
  4. Post on your neighborhood app (NextDoor is the one we have)
  5. Check the shelters every day, don’t just call. If you do it an hour or so before they close, most of their trucks should be in from picking up animals.
  6. After a few days, email or check the shelters of nearby towns. Dogs can travel a lot at night
  7. Put some of your dirty clothes or their toys outside so if they’re lost, they may try to find their way home. Don’t put food because you’ll just attract other dogs.
  8. Post flyers on all major intersections, busy areas, and stores that will let you
  9. Give flyers to every vets office and groomers/boarders that you can
  10. Put flyers on your car and put a big sign in your yard so that if someone finds them, they know where to return them
  11. Check with neighbors, anyone outside, or joggers in your area.
  12. Follow all tips, no matter how far they are from your home.
  13. As soon as you can, see if you can get your friends to do a search party
  14. If your dog has a microchip, register it as Lost and make sure to tell your vets office
  15. If someone has seen him in your neighborhood, try to walk from your house to the tip spot and see where they could have gone from there
  16. If you can afford it, do a Facebook and Instagram ad.
  17. Post on Craigslist
  18. Ask your mail carrier when you see them, police officers, or city services if you come across them. They drive around constantly!
  19. It’s weird, but don’t be afraid to ask homeless people and give them flyers. A lot of times they’re very happy to help (especially if there is a reward)
  20. Don’t give up hope.

And when you get them home, make sure your fence is secure! Nail any loose boards, pour concrete along the bottom, or if you can’t then chicken wire it down so they cant dig to get under it! You can bend it along the base and stake it down!

I can only hope this helps someone else looking for their baby. Our animals are our children and it felt like my heart had died while he was gone. We couldn’t go on with our lives until he was home and I’m so glad he is. I’m never letting him go.

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-Sam <3

 

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Blog| I went Vegan for a Week

My sister and I like to give each other challenges to do. One, it’s a way for us to bond and do fun things and two, we like to brag when the other starts losing.

I challenged her to do the 365 Project and she challenged me to do a week of being vegan.

Guess what I’m doing now?

Goal: Eat vegan from July 24th to Ladies Night on July 29th and see what the effects are on my body and if I won’t die of hunger.


Day 1:

I was not prepared. At all. We got back from Ruidoso Sunday evening and I went straight to a dinner party then passed out. In the morning, I was tired and exhausted and went to grab something for breakfast only to find nothing I could eat.

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I drink my coffee with cream and sugar so I couldn’t have it and had to drink sweet tea instead. I was starving. Went home for lunch. Finally found some rice and a bag of steam-able veggies to eat. It was the saddest little meal I’ve had. After desperately searching the house some more, I realized the garden veggie Pringles chips we just bought were vegan.

I think I downed half the can.

After work I went to the grocery store and got some fruit, salad stuff, fake vegan meat, chips and salsa, and almond milk so I could eat cereal. I forgot pasta sauce since the sauce we had already was four cheese, to my dismay.

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I ate a salad for dinner, snacked on chips and salsa, ate a cup of Special K cereal with almond milk, and drank V8 fruit blend. I had a headache, was tired, cranky, and couldn’t seem to feel full. Day 1 was awful.


Day 2:

I was exhausted! Seriously, I slept through my alarm then had to run and throw on clothes and eat some more Special K for breakfast. My stomach felt like a black void and I had the worst headache. It’s the kind that feels like your head is split open and makes you nauseous.

For lunch I went crazy because I was starving. Tomato soup, slices of bread, chips and salsa, and the veggie Pringle chips. I gorged myself because I was so hungry and just wanted everything in sight to get into my stomach.

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After work, I was still starving. I snacked on baby tomatoes and homemade pickles. Ate another cup of cereal. I was also exhausted and the headaches were persisting. I spent a good amount of time just laying on the couch with my phone, trying not to take a whole bottle of pain medicine.

For dinner, I wanted to try something beyond rice and veggies. I had bought some meatless vegan chicken strips and googled how to make your own teriyaki sauce. With some modifications (because I didn’t have everything and I was too lazy to go to the store), I made the sauce with some steamed stir-fry veggies and added the chicken. All of it went on top of some white rice and boom, dinner.

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Surprisingly, it was very delicious. The chicken didn’t taste just like chicken, but close enough and the texture was kinda similar. But the sauce was good and I even ate the vegetables I usually hate.

I passed out early for bed and dreamed of cakes and cream cheese and everything I couldn’t eat.


Day 3:

I was less tired in the morning but did wake up starving again. I realized the food I was eating just wasn’t lasting that long. I made the effort to get up, fix my hair, eat a big bowl of cereal, and take some fruit to work. Since I’ve had to forgo coffee and I forgot to make more sweet tea, I drank water at work.

The headaches were still ongoing but I looked it up and it’s apparently my body detoxing from dairy and meat. I chewed some gummy vitamins for good measure and drank more water.

I started to dislike Almond milk less, though I wouldn’t drink it straight. It was a weird tan color I just couldn’t get passed. In cereal it wasn’t bad, I’ll give it that.

Lunch was tomato soup again since we ate all the leftovers and I didn’t feel like salad. After lunch I was fading fast. I could not. stop. yawning. I drank even more water and finished off my Pringles to keep myself awake.

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Marisa was supposed to make a vegan dinner, but ended up losing her debit card (RIP debit card) so I settled for a spinach and tomato salad with Italian dressing. I’m starting to notice that certain flavors are starting to be overpowering. Certain things are too sweet, the Italian dressing was overpowering and too much. It’s strange.


Day 4:

Today was the first day that I didn’t get awful headaches and didn’t feel like I needed a nap every other hour. I ran out of cereal but found out the “butter” we had was actually vegetable oil spread and I could eat it. So I made toast with jam.

I’m drinking more water and more fruit. A lot of bananas and peaches from the store, snacking on tomatoes. Vegetables I hated and would pick out of my food I’m just shoving into my mouth because I’m hungry and don’t wanna hassle myself with picking them out.

Lunch was a dull affair of leftover tomato soup with bread and veggies. Most of my lunch break was spent cleaning up the dogs’ kennels since Almond had an accident due to an upset tummy.

I snacked on salsa and chips, finished my tomatoes, cried over my forbidden donuts and Lunchables.

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For dinner I decided to cook again. There was some gnocchi in the cabinets and we had another bag of meatless chicken. I cooked them up, threw some steam-able veggies into the microwave and then mixed it all together and made vegetable and chicken gnocchi with plain pasta sauce. It was pretty good and very filling! I actually liked it a lot and say of all the vegan stuff I bought, I liked the meatless chicken the most.


Day 5:

No headaches! It was a miracle! I ate toast again for breakfast and had some tea and found I was less tired for once. My sleep schedule was still all crazy and I ended up staying up too late coloring my coloring book, but I wasn’t dead on my feet so that was good.

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I ate leftover gnocchi for lunch and decided to cook meatless ground beef tacos for dinner. Honestly, it didn’t taste that much different from regular meat. I seasoned it like normal and topped it with tomatoes and spinach instead of lettuce and put a little salsa on it. Rony and I both ate them all and agreed that the meatless beef was pretty A+. 10/10 would buy again. I think next time I’ll try and incorporate it into other dishes and see how it holds up.


Day 6:

Saturday was the last day of the challenge. I had to get all the way through Ladies Night and then I could stuff myself with pizza and donuts and anything I wanted.

We were crazy busy so I ate cereal for breakfast in between running around. Around 2, it finally settled down enough that we decided to go out and eat. I wanted to try and see how easy or hard it is to order vegan food at a restaurant so we went to one of our favorite Thai restaurants. All I could think was that I was pretty sure most of the noodles are made with egg and I’d have to suck it up and get a fully vegetable plate and this was going to suck.

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I got lucky. My favorite dish, Lard Na, was made with rice noodles and they had a tofu option so it was all vegan. I’ve never had tofu but Rony recently got won over by it so I figured I would try it to.

During the whole week, I was surprised by how less picky I was getting. Usually I pick out cabbage and any weird vegetables I don’t like. Sometimes I was too hungry to care and shoved everything into my mouth, everything tasting like pure gold in my mouth from starvation. I was less anxious about the tofu at that point. And it was actually not bad. The gravy had soaked in and it didn’t really taste like anything and the texture reminded me of a less chewy version of tripe in menudo which I love. I was pleasantly surprised.

Rony got tofu as well but it was fried. I tried his and it tasted like weird egg but I’d eat it. It wasn’t bad. I ate my whole plate and felt full and happy. I was proud. It was my last vegan meal and I had expected the worst, but the whole week was better than I thought.

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Ladies Night came and I survived. I did ALMOST ate a cookie on accident though. Tabby had picked all the M&M’s off hers and I didn’t want it to go to waste and had put it in my mouth right as I realized it wasn’t vegan. So I spit it out and almost cried. I would have been so mad if I ruined my whole week in the last hour.

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We all went to my house and ordered pizza and played games and drank to celebrate Ladies Night and me ending my veganism. The taste of cheese pizza had never tasted so good. I ate chips and bread sticks and dip and hung out with my friends. I even drank the cold brew coffee that had been sitting in the fridge.

We laughed and listened to music and stayed up until almost 3am. It was a good end.


Final thoughts:

I will tell you, I threw a fit when my sister gave me the challenge. I couldn’t survive without dairy. It was gonna be awful. I was gonna die. This was too much work. Even Rony was like “hell no” and didn’t want to do it.

But I genuinely surprised. Yes, the first few days were hard as I figured out what I could or could not eat, figured out my intake, and suffered through dairy detox. I was miserable and tired and grumpy and just wanted to shove donuts into my face. After I got groceries, tried to cook and got things I could eat then it actually wasn’t bad.

I noticed I started to crave dairy and cheese less, I ate less sugar and caffeine, and cooked a lot more. I started looking at labels and taking vitamins and eating less processed food. The few times I seriously craved foods was in places like the mall and when everyone but me had junk food.

Were there downsides? Yes. I’m going to be honest. I had gas all damn week. It was crazy. Everything gave me gas and I hated it. I was also hungry all the time, ranging from “maybe I should snack” to “holy shit I’m going to eat paper if I do not get food.” I would have to eat very filling lunches to last me from breakfast until after work when I would eat fruit or something small to relieve the hunger pains before dinner.

I was tired, fast food was almost completely out of the question, and the groceries were slightly more expensive for less items. Lubbock is a small town and does not have that many vegan/vegetarian options and I hated spending so much on groceries.

But at the end of the week, I was super proud and it’s made me think a lot about my diet currently. I gave up red meat, but all of the meatless options were just as good as actual meat. So now I think I may be giving up poultry eventually and just eat fish. When we go to Seattle, we’ll be able to get fresh, local fish and that way I don’t have to feel guilty about the meat/poultry industry.

It’s weird to be making all these dietary changes but I have to admit that I did feel good at the end. I didn’t change weight, but my body felt healthier and I had to consume so much food that was plant based that I wouldn’t really have to worry about overeating. If I had worked out this week, I’m sure I would have saw some changes.

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So how have things changed almost a week later?

Monday I drank two sips of coffee and felt like my heart was going to explode from caffeine. I hate some chips and a cookie and felt sick all day. Cheese is almost unappetizing to me and I can’t go back to regular dairy milk. So far turkey meat doesn’t make me queasy but I essentially can’t go back to a regular diet without feeling nauseous and worse than I did at the beginning of the vegan challenge.

I won’t keep being a vegan, but unless I want to feel like crap for a whole week, I can’t go back to eating how I did. So I’ve cut out coffee and soda and a lot of sweets and dairy. If I do eat junk food, I can only eat a tiny bit or else I feel awful.

But I’m kinda okay with it. Yes, I would like to go back to eating whatever I wanted but in the end, I understand that it’s my body telling me it does not like it. So I’ll be like a weird lenient vegetarian.

In a month or so, I’ll let you know how it goes :)

-Sam <3

Art Process| Villains “Big Chap” Piece

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Initial layout

I’ve been wanting to do a process post about one of my art pieces and actually remembered to take pictures to do it this time!

Usually if it’s a small piece, I’ll try and do a speed video of it but this is less work and let’s me get into my process more.

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Background and highlights laid out

The Xenomorph is a very cool mix of organic and mechanical parts. It’s smooth and has a lot of rounded parts, but the pieces that make it up are very machine like. You have tubing and this oil slick look all over. I actually like that because that means you can piece it together part by part. So I started by laying out the mouth and then doing layer after layer of green and black to made the shading.

This painting was almost entirely free-handed. I didn’t do a sketch before hand and only looked at a few reference, some from the film and some close ups of toys, for shading and to see how the head pieced together.

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Color blending

 

I would see what connected to the mouth then what connected to the head and this pipe and that pipe. And then once the layout was done I started laying down the lime green everywhere as the highlights. Until the very end, I only used two colors. The whites so far are just exposed canvas or light washes.

A lot of the texture and grungy look is layered paint. I would leave it messy and while the paint was wet I would go back with darker shades to clean it up.

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Head placement adjusted

You can actually see from the past few pictures that I completely changed the shoulder and perspective on the head. Initially I had it going off canvas but it didn’t read well. Then I wanted more of a leaned over shoulder rather than straight up profile so I brought that shoulder up more and put it more in focus.

When the paint is really thick and wet, it’s easy to make these changes. The best time though is when acrylic is half dry because then it’s thick enough to move around but not blend.

 

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Black shading clean up

I rounded the back end of the head for perspective and finally started detailing the mouth. With a dry brush and only a little bit of black, I did strokes to give all the side piping on it’s head ridges and dimension.

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Clean up, Shadow work, and White highlights

Finally I added the darkest blacks, cleaned up the background, added more dramatic shadows and put a touch of white on the highlights to try and get that glossy look.

I gloss varnished it and it’s all done!

In total, I used 3 colors: black, lime green, and white. It took roughly 6 hours total over about 3 days. It’s a 18×24 canvas.

“Big Chap” (a reference to the Xenomorph in the very first Alien) was a really fun piece to work on mostly because I gave myself the freedom to just throw paint on the canvas and not worry about the outcome too much. Yes, I need it to at least resemble the creature but the Xenomorph is a creepy monster that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. I was inspired by it’s slimy, glossy frame and wanted to use the lime green and black colors from the poster and I loved the outcome.

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Finished

If you’re in Lubbock, you can see “Big Chap” currently on display at Star Books & Comics (916 16th Street) during business hours or this Friday 6 PM- 9 PM at the Villains Artist Collective Gallery!

It and pieces from about 20 local artists will be on display and available for purchase! Go check it out before the event is over at the end of the month!

Let me know if you like this process blog!

-Sam <3

#WCW| Amanda

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Me and my sister Amanda didn’t always get along. She was outgoing and had a bunch of friends and was pretty and I was the quiet, weird little bookworm sister. In the way younger siblings can be, I was embarrassing and “not cool” and so she didn’t want to hang out with me.

That was fine. I had Marisa and kept to myself. I read to pass the time and vacated the room when her friends came over. But we were a lot alike. We both liked art and books. I remember she would collect these porcelain jester dolls from the crane machine game and every time we passed one I would try and win one for her (even though I thought they were really creepy.) I actually got her quite a few.

My dad would draw us our own coloring books and liked to do the same few drawings. Unicorn head, big wheel buggy, and Winnie the Pooh. (He still does them.) We would color them in and he would print copies of them at work so we could have our own book.

My uncle would watch us sometimes after school and we would watch Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, and wrestling. Amanda liked Gilmore Girls and 7th Heaven, but would watch the cartoons too. Our whole family loved to play video games and we would race our dad in Gran Turismo and fight in Tekken.

We fought and tattled and she would be in charge of watching me, only to go watch TV or hang out with her friends.

Then things got worse when our parents divorced.

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We both dealt with our parents divorcing and having to move to Dallas differently. I withdrew and she acted out. Being a preteen and dealing with everything is hard. She started dating boys and would argue and I stayed out the way.

In my mind, she was always causing trouble. In reality, we were both just dealing with a hard situation and didn’t know how to cope or feel.

When she was 16, my sister got pregnant. It was a rough time. We ended up moving back to Lubbock and stayed with my dad, going back and forth between our parents. She grew up fast. You have to in that situation.

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On November 12th, Amanda had my nephew Aidan. She was young but figured out motherhood quickly. She went back to live in Dallas with my mom and Aidan’s dad’s family. When she turned 18, they got married and he joined the military.

After a bit they moved around, going military base to base. She actually lived in Tacoma, Washington at one point and my grandma went and stayed with her to help with Aidan. Amanda would make join Myspace and Facebook so we could chat and we would share things that way.

Distance was the key to us getting along. We both have different but same personalities and sometimes they butt heads. I use to joke that sometimes I acted like the older sister. I was the cool headed sister and she was all fire.

A few years later, Amanda moved back to Texas. A bit after that, she got divorced.

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We would talk about her going to school or finding a new job. She had loved photography and art in school but didn’t think that was feasible as a single mom.

We talked more. Amanda was learning to be more independent and figure everything out. It’s crazy to think of all she had to deal with and she was only a few years older than me.

In 2010 she met Kaleb. They had known each other in school, but reconnected. He was nice and didn’t try to bribe me into liking him with Yugioh cards so that was a plus. He was sweet to her and Aidan and she was so much happier. He would take her fishing and they liked Walking Dead and video games. He could take a joke which is a must in our family because we all pretty much just bully each other.

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2012 Amanda got engaged and got pregnant with my niece Tabitha, Tabby for short.

Amanda got to start working from home and was able to stay home with Tabby. We texted and chatted online and I would download movies for her to watch when I would see her. One time I stayed with her for a week and we did nothing much lay on the couch in our pajamas, watch Game of Thrones, drink, and attempt to make fried Oreos.

We ate a lot of junk food.

She would borrow my makeup and clothes when I would visit and when she came down, would make fun of my apartment and cats. Kaleb always found me cat stuff because I was apparently turning into the crazy cat lady.

When I started doing vlogs, Amanda would watch almost every one and text me about them. She didn’t think it was weird and would read my blogs and we would tweet about things online. She was like an internet friend that shared the same parents and stole my stuff when I would see her.

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If I can say one thing, it’s that Amanda is a good mom. She was figuring it out as she went along, but she knew how to deal with a growing boy who was much shyer and sweeter than other kids and a little girl with enough personality to fill a room. Things would get crazy and she has a quick temper like me, but she would find a way to make everything work.

Aidan got older and was catching up on our height. Tabby finally started growing hair. Amanda and Kaleb got married in 2014. Me and Marisa and our younger sister Elizabeth were bridesmaids.

In 2015, Amanda got a camera. She had always loved photography and wanted to pick it back up again. It was the one thing she had always been super passionate about. She wanted to do pictures on the side, maybe once she got good enough she could make a little money. Simple. I was starting Ladies Night and offered to pay her $100 so she could drive down and shoot the event. She could launch her Facebook page and it’ll be a little exposure.

Amanda was our very first photographer for Ladies Night. And if you look at her pictures from then to now, it’s breathtaking how much she has grown. I’m my sister’s biggest fan. Her work is gorgeous and I’m not even that into maternity and bridal pictures. But they’re something else.

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Ladies Night 2015

The difference in those pictures is barely over a year. One year! But the best part is, her starting a photography business made my sister absolutely bloom into a whole new person. I remember that she was worried for the first Ladies Night because she wasn’t sure how her pictures would turn out. She was scared to try. And now I’ve seen her navigate photo shoots and pregnant moms and nervous couples like it’s nothing. She’s not afraid to tell someone what looks good and doesn’t and work with clients.

Better yet, she has a confidence in herself that I haven’t seen since she was a bold, stubborn teenager. We talk more now. We talk about our problems and how to deal with situations and websites and social media and being a small business. We talk ideas and photoshoot ideas and getting her clients when she comes and visits and she’ll share my art and events. We talk about our body image and health issues and anxiety and love lives and moving to Seattle.

It took almost 20 years, but I finally have a relationship with my sister and she is my best friend. She’s ambitious and artsy and goal orientated and we tell each other things honestly without the sugar coating. When our parents are driving us crazy or we get weird ideas or need outfit ideas, we text each other. And I’m so grateful for that.

The older we’ve gotten, the closer we’ve become.

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My sister is one of my closest friends. We help and support each other and even when we don’t always agree, we have one another’s back. I’ve gotten to see her grow from a scared teenager into this amazing mom and from novice photographer to someone whose work takes your breath away. Her pictures are what dreams are made of and people can see that now.

I know of a lot of the plans she has in store and I’m excited. If I could take her to Seattle with me, I would, but we’re not far from each other. We’re always a text and a message and a Facebook comment away.

I’m so proud of her and so proud of how far she has come.

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Amanda will be in Lubbock July 28th- August 5th if you would like to message her to schedule a session! She will also be the photographer for July 29th’s Ladies Night! All photos were taken by her.

If you want to follow Amanda’s work:

-Sam <3

 

Blog| 2017 Reading Challenge

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I love books. I wanted to be a writer so it’s a given that I’m an avid reader. When I was little, before I had a lot of friends, I’d read constantly to escape into other worlds and forget how lonely ours could be. Stories haven’t stopped being my escape, but the way I consume them have.

Time is precious now. I am always busy which makes sitting down and reading hard. So I mostly listen to audio books at work during the day and will read a bit at night or on the weekends. I give a lot of money to Audible.

Every year I try to make myself a Reading Challenge. I usually start it at 12 books a year and then will extend it once I reach the goal. I’ve already hit 12 books for this year so I thought I’d break down my reading list!


2017 Reading Challenge: First 12

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1. Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I am a huge fan of The Lunar Chronicles so when I found out she was doing an Alice in Wonderland inspired book I pretty much instantly pre-ordered. I’m a sucker for retellings and fairy tale based books. This one kept me hooked and took me on a whirlwind of a ride. Sometimes I was frustrated with the main character but other times I was completely entranced by the world. The characters are completely engrossing and I was in love with Jest. It did not disappoint, even when it broke my heart sometimes. It was a great book to start the year on.

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2. Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Besides fairy tales, I love Urban Fantasy. It’s the genre I love writing. This is the latest in the Kate Daniels series and though I really liked the story, it felt like the series hit the climax a few books back before even getting to fighting the big boss. The conflicts are still interesting and I love Kate and Curran, but it doesn’t feel as tense as it previously did.

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3. Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

I have mixed feelings about this book. In one aspect, I liked the world and lore behind everything. But it all felt very messy, hopping from region to region and feeling more like world building than a build towards the climax. The main characters love for her childhood best friend annoyed me because at no point was I told why she loved him enough to go through everything in the book for him. And there’s like a love square thing going on. I may read the sequel because I did like the magic and world.

 

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4. The Big Life by Ann Shoket

I like reading memoirs and motivational books. It’s a good boost for me to get off my ass and get work done. The Big Life is the book that told me about the Badass Babes Dinners and the struggles other ambitious women go through and how to balance it all. Ann Shoket goes through different topics that she’s discussed at these dinners and tells you about the experience of the women that attend to hopefully help you pursue your own side hustle. It was more self-help than I usually go for, but did the job of motivating me to do more.

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5. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

I went on a memoir trend and found this book. It’s a darker, more depressing memoir than the others but I related with a lot of the experiences Jessica Valenti talks about and it was engrossing hearing her talk about her struggles. If you didn’t know, Jessica Valenti is a feminist blogger and writer and founded Feministing. She talks about dealing with awful comments and her sexual experiences and a lot of hard moments, but it’s worth the read.

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6. You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein

A much lighter memoir, You’ll Grow Out of It is essentially the struggle of trying to find yourself and navigate being a woman without having all the instructions. I related to it a lot. My teenage years were spent living with my dad who knew nothing about dressing a teenage girl or teaching her about makeup. There were a lot of bad style choices. This book is hilarious and takes me back to those awkward confusing moments in my life and definitely a good read!

 

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7. You’re Better than me by Bonnie McFarlane

Bonnie McFarlane is a comedian and talks a lot about her pursuit of writing and touring and being on Last Comic Standing while also sprinkling in stories about the people she’s met. She’s not always the good party in the stories, but she tells them well and there are more than a few laughs.

 

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8. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Real talk, I’ve been waiting for this book for like a year. I LOVE the Court of Thorns and Roses series. Like I’ve listened and read them more than a dozen times, literally. When I can’t think of what to listen to, I put on Court of Mist and Fury on. This is the last book in the trilogy and I was dyyyyying to find out what happened. If you listen on audiobook, a heads up though. The narrator changed. Yeah, I know, what the hell. If you look at the reviews, a LOT of people are pissed but apparently the previous narrator didn’t want to do the 3rd. BUT if you give the new one a chance, she actually ends up sounding really similar. The voices are almost the same and she does a really good job. You just have to give her a chance.

Some parts of the book were a little slow and of all three, it’s the most dispair-filled and emotionally draining. The big battle constantly is tugging your heart and emotions around and it feels chaotic. But there are so many good moments and I love the characters so much. Not everything gets tied up nicely, but apparently there are going to be 3 more books following a different character. In the end, I was happy but still craving more from the world. I wasn’t disappointed and it’s definitely my favorite series.

 

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9. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

If you love the movie The Labyrinth, this book is for you. Like, really, the author talks heavily about how David Bowie and that movie inspired the book. It features a Goblin King and Labyrinth and all that good stuff, but the world she builds is much more detailed and interesting. There’s so much lore and when you think the story is going one way, it goes another. There’s very much a Hades/Persephone vibe going on mixed in with heavy influences of music and folklore. Sometimes dark, sometimes playful, it kept me interested even when the story flow felt a little off. I’m definitely going to pick up the sequel!

 

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10. Depravity by M.J. Haag

So the last set of books are actually all in a series, but I kinda feel they should have been put altogether into one book. They’re pretty short and the story is almost like it was chopped into three parts. The series is like an adult version of Beauty and the Beast with more sex and for some reason, a lot of the men are pretty brutal and dark. It doesn’t shy away from the problems a small, poor family in a small, poor village face and Benella’s sisters will drive you nuts with irritation. But it’s an interesting world and this one is a good set up for what’s to come.

 

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11. Deceit by M.J. Haag

Book 2 in the series takes a weird turn. The “rose” is actually a witch who cursed the beast and the spell is weird. The beast has to spend the whole night “pleasing” the witch to break the curse. She’s old and it’s been 50 years. Yeah, that’s the premise. It turns weirdly sexual (like the curse is heavily based on sex) and the Beast is an ass, but I applaud Benella on taking on everything in stride. In spite of all that weird stuff, I still really like the world and a lot of the characters. Benella is interesting and the world is intriguing. But yeah, there’s some sexual assault in this book and in general, awful people.

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12. Devastation by M.J. Haag

And then there’s book 3. I don’t know what happened, but book 3 took a weird turn and ended up feeling extremely long and drawn out and I wasn’t even sure what the problem was besides “emotions are fickle”. The beast is still an ass but getting better and there’s a lot of angst. Her sisters are the woooooooorst, but there’s a good supporting cast and more character development. A lot of it could have been cut out and there’s not as much sex stuff, but the end isn’t bad. It’s just not as interesting as what was presented in book 2. Not a bad series, but it’s got a lot of weird moments and in the search for something fresh in a fairy tale retelling, they went for a weird sex adult version.


 

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There’s my first 12 books of the year. I moved the goal to 24 so whenever I finish the next 12, I’ll do another reading list! I’ve already got a couple under my belt. Let me know if you liked this type of post! My Goodreads Currently Reading is at the bottom of the Home page if you want to follow along!.

What books are you reading?

-Sam <3

#WCW | Marisa

I have a lot of strong, amazing women in my life and I thought it would be great to talk about them when I can and our history together.

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This is Marisa. I’ve known her roughly since I was like 7 or 8 years old. We lived down the street from each other and went to the same school but didn’t really know each other until our parents made us say hi. We both can’t agree on how we first met, I say there was a dog and I think she says there was a bike. Who knows.

We both have older sisters a couple or so years older than us. She’s technically a year younger, but her mom managed to get her into school a year early so she could be with her sister. It was a good choice because I wouldn’t have met her.

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Marisa was my very first friend. I was a shy, introverted kid who read a lot and stayed indoors. She was a happy ball of sunshine and we played Pokemon, watched Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z, and would act out adventures on our bikes.

Our favorite memory is one time when a giant dust storm was hitting, you could see this wall of dirt coming for our street. We were racing up and down on our bikes when my dad runs outside and yells at us to get inside the house. It was dramatic and like the movie Twister and we swear that we pedaled as fast as we could and made it inside right as that giant wall of dirt hit as my dad shut the screen door.

Our childhood is probably a lot more exciting in our minds than it actually was.

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When I was 9, my parents divorce and we moved with my mom to Dallas. I was more upset about leaving my dad and Marisa than the actual move. I had a hard time adjusting and like I previously talked about, got depressed. Marisa would write me letters and doodles and we wrote back and forth for years. I actually got a cellphone rather young so I could talk to my dad, because I walked home from school, and so I could talk to her. Back then we had to talk after 9pm when minutes were free, but we tried to catch up as much as possible.

In the summer, I would stay for a month at my dad’s and spend the whole time hanging out. It felt like nothing changed. We played Kingdom Hearts and Crash Bandicoot and talked about fan fiction and cartoons. She would catch me up on friend drama and I’d tell her about my school. We’d stay over at each other’s houses and try to make horror movies with an old camcorder and read about ghosts.

I moved back to Lubbock to live with my dad when I was 12 or 13. Since I had good grades, I got to pick my school and went to the same one as Marisa. She introduced me to all her friends and showed me the ropes. Her friends became my friends and it was this whole big group of people. She attracted everyone to her even if she barely knew them. Everyone knew her.

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We hit high school and got older. I had a disaster of a first boyfriend and she was there for me. Crushes came and went. Friends left. High school drama. She learned to drive first and it was like a mini-panic attack every time. One time she hit a bump and our friend bounced up so high she hit her head on the roof.

Her birthday is November 1st so we’d celebrate every Halloween and I’d make her a cake to eat at midnight. Our family’s got along a knew each other and sometimes we’d both go with our dads to movies or even accidentally run into each other going to the same one. There were many action moves.

Our first “road trip” was to a small town an hour or so away. She got her first ticket on that trip. We didn’t know what her insurance card look like so he just gave her a warning. That trip her and our friend also accidentally got maced because we thought pepper spray was only a liquid. They maced a rock (I had climbed higher onto a ledge) and then started crying and coughing as it hit the air around them.

It was good times.

We went to college together. I tried to go for Video Game Design and she tried for Nursing. We both realized that it wasn’t for us. I dropped out but she continued, switching to try to be a social worker. She’s a good listener and likes to help people. I think it would suit her well.

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When I moved out on my own, she moved into the apartment next to me. I got her a kitten and we named him Loki. He’s kind of a jerk, but can be pretty lovable if he warms up to you. She helped me through my second heartbreak, was there at every art gallery, and when I was sad or lost, would hug me until I was okay.

We both joined roller derby together. We learned fast and made a lot of friends. It’s a commitment but we would go to practice together and the different events and hang out with the girls. I got hurt right before our first bout but she was wonderful. We ended up playing against each other at a mash-up bout (Gene Simmons vs Richard Simmons) and we trash talked each other and had fun hitting and blocking one another. I hurt my knee and had to stop but she kept on and was so good.

We moved into an apartment together a year or so later. It was a weird apartment complex with shady neighbors and a horrible parking lot. I started vlogging every day and then we tried to make a sketch show series. We did 3 episodes but it wasn’t too bad. She was in my vlogs a lot under her roller derby name Goldie Han Solo. People jokingly called us Gaico.

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We moved into a house and got another cat. I painted the walls blue and put Doctor Who quotes up. She started working as a waitress and would tell me all the crazy stories that working in the food industry and I’d tell her Emergency Room stories after my shifts. Marisa has a weird thing about food where she leaves only a tiny bit of food left but will put it away for later. I would constantly find like an inch of Little Debbie snacks in the pantry, a single chicken nugget in the fridge, or when she was trying to hide it, a bite of hamburger in the cutlery drawer. She would never finish it either.

I could make a new house out of all the bites of food she would leave.

Our first road trip was to Santa Fe and then to Austin. We stayed in weird, shady hotels and visited museums and took weird pictures and ate Star Fruit because we are Kingdom Hearts nerds. When we were driving to Santa Fe at night, I accidentally turned off the headlights on a hill while trying to switch it to my high beams. She screamed like she was being murdered and I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.

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We’ve had more adventures than I can count or remember. I moved out a few years ago and got my own place after starting to date Rony. She was there in the beginning and I was so overjoyed when they got along. When I got Almond, she helped me with her and then ended up with a dog too that looked just like her. Almond and Cooper are best friends now too.

The beauty of our friendship is that we are sisters. I don’t need to constantly be texting her or calling her for us to be close. We’ll hang out or text or bitch about people in our lives. We’ll tag each other in stuff on Facebook. We’re there for every birthday and event and support each other. Not everything we agree on, but we get each other and know when it matters to be there for each other.

We’ll have been friends almost 20 years. I’ve gotten the pleasure of spending 20 years of my life with this bright, glowing star of a person. I don’t know how I could have managed to get this far in my life without her and she constantly inspires me and has my back and I wanted to show her how amazing, beautiful, and courageous she is.

She’s my #woman crush everyday ;)

You don’t always need a giant group of friends. You just have to find that one that will pretend to be a Sailor Scout with you and buy you flowers when you’re heartbroken. Luckily, I have that.

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-Sam <3