1. On being unemployed

    October 3, 2018 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Seattle by Kristina Horner

    On May 29th, I came back to work after taking nearly a month off for my wedding and honeymoon. I was feeling refreshed and excited, ready to get back to my routines, ready to take on my next project. That day, however, I found out things had not been going exactly as planned at work. I found out that most of my coworkers had been living in an unnerving sort of unknown for weeks, due to hallway talk and things said in hushed voices.

    On May 30th, an email came out letting us know our org was being dissolved effective immediately, and while no one was losing their job that day, there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered.

    On July 9th, after a month of not knowing what was going to happen, my team was laid off – along with a whole bunch of other people we worked with.

    A lot of layoffs at Microsoft are interesting because they don’t happen immediately. Though I got the news of the layoff on July 9th, my last day wasn’t set until September 7th. This is because they give you time and resources to look for a new job within the company, hoping you’ll stay. I’m thankful for that time, but what this did was create a very stressful summer, in which I felt a ticking clock constantly echoing in my ears, reminding me how many days I had left to find a new job, how many days until I would be let go for good, how I wasn’t working hard enough or applying for enough jobs or scheduling enough informational meetings.

    All I wanted was to leave the stress of wedding planning behind and start the next chapter of my life on a healthy and happy foot, and yet, instead, I stepped into a new pit of stress and anxiety, worrying that if I couldn’t find another role in the allocated 60 day time period, then I must not be good enough.

    Well guess what. I didn’t find a new job in the allotted 60 day period.

    September 7th was my last day at Microsoft, which honestly felt pretty bad. I loved my job. I loved my team. I loved the work we were doing, and the culture our org cultivated, and I honestly loved being a Microsoftie. I loved the campus. The farmer’s market. The ham and swiss and granny smith apple sandwich I ordered way too often. I didn’t want to leave. I worked hard there for four years, I stopped making YouTube videos, and I leaned into being a ‘career person’.

    And then as quickly as it began, it was over. And I’ve learned an important lesson in not counting on anything as a sure thing, not believing anything might be ‘forever’ – and it’s not a fun lesson to learn, nor is it a very optimistic way to approach life. As quickly as I have learned this lesson, I’m trying to figure out how to unlearn it.

    Now it’s almost been a month, and I’m in a slightly better place with this whole situation. I finally feel like I have time again, now that the “60 day pressure” is off. I’m still working on finding a new job every day, but I’ve also given myself some room to breathe. Your job isn’t your only defining feature. It does not dictate your value or your worth. I’ve been taking a cycling class. I’ve been teaching myself new crafting skills. I’ve been writing and catching up on shows I never have time to watch and playing Pokémon Go again and cooking, and I’ve gone on a couple of little trips.

    great seattle instagram walls

    I’m going to find a job. I know I have an impressive resume and useful skills, and soon enough I’ll be back at a desk, back to my commute, back to the routine. For now, I’m trying to appreciate this time, and see it as a gift. How often do you get a few months off? How often can you decide to teach yourself embroidery just because you have some time? How often can you schedule appointments during business hours and go for a walk at noon and actually make it to bars in time for happy hour?

    Don’t get me wrong – I definitely look in the mirror some days and ask myself, “why haven’t you gotten a job yet? Why did the other people in your predicament find something right away while you’re still floundering?”

    But that kind of thinking isn’t helping me. All I can do is keep being brave, keep putting myself out there, and use the time as best I can. No one will be able to look back on my unemployment period and say I wasn’t living it to its fullest.

    Now excuse me, I’m going to go learn how to make glow-in-the-dark slime.

     

    Leave a comment!
  2. I’m still here, I promise

    July 14, 2018 ♥ Posted in: Journal by Kristina Horner

    I figured it was well past time for me to write some kind of blog post, since my content has been very, very sparse this year. 

    Hello! This is me back at work, wearing clothes I bought in Japan.

    It’s sort of amazing actually — for the longest time I felt like I had been making videos for such a huge portion of my life that I really didn’t know how not to make videos. I had all these extreme notions that video-making and being a YouTuber defined a huge portion of my existence, and it turns out — that was just bs guilt I was putting on myself.

    Once you strip away the false obligations, the needless stress, the sense that you owe people something, it’s surprisingly easy to not do something. As soon as I stopped making videos, it didn’t take me long to get very used to having one less thing on my list of stuff to do. I hate to say this, but I hardly miss it at all.

    Here’s something I’ve learned in the past year:

    I started seeing a therapist, who early on, asked me to divide up my time into 4 buckets. Work, Family, Friends, and Things for Me. She told me to guess what percentages of time each of these buckets was taking up in my life, and I’m pretty sure I said something that sounded very reasonable and balanced.

    Then we actually divided it up, I was shockingly wrong. Doing this was such a strange experience — I kept trying to put things like YouTube, blogging, social media, and costume-making in the “Things for Me” box, because that’s the way I’ve always viewed them. But my therapist wouldn’t let me. 

    “Those things are work,” she said. “They belong in the work category.”

    “But they not my job anymore,” I argued. “They’re hobbies.”

    “But do they take up energy? Do you feel tired after you do these things? Do they drain you creatively? Do they take up time you could be spending on other things?”

    I felt called out, I felt seen — and not in the good way. “I like doing this stuff. I do this stuff for me,” I tried again, a bit less certain.

    “Do you?” she asked me. “Do you make YouTube videos for you? Do you post on Twitter for you?”

    I paused. Did I? Were all of these hobbies, this incredible amount of time I spent making things, was it because it energized me? Or because I felt some sort of obligation to do it, like most work?

    When did making internet content become akin to eating my proverbial vegetables?

    “Let’s start here,” she told me. “How much time do you spend… taking a bubble bath. Exercising. Watching TV. Coloring. Going for a walk.”

    Let’s just say it was an embarrassingly small percentage of my time. But the knowledge that those things do have their place and should take up a percentage of my time made them vastly easier to do. And knowing that some things I had convinced myself were enriching and necessary were just more work I had convinced myself was ~so important~ was… a wakeup call.

    So that’s why I’m over 2 months past my wedding, but haven’t posted many pictures, haven’t made a big blog post about it, or even sent thank you cards yet. Because those things are all work, and there’s a time and a place for them, but maybe it’s next month. Or not at all. Or maybe tomorrow. 

    Since I got married, here’s what I have done:

    • Went on an amazing honeymoon with Joe to Japan and and Hawaii, and we still dream about it just about every day
    • Went camping twice, once with my family and once with a large group of friends. On the friend camping trip, we played a lot of board games, and by ‘a lot of board games’ I mean I was part of a group of 4 people who played 7 games of SeaFall over 2 days which probably amounted to over 20 waking hours of our trip
    • Found out my org at Microsoft was being dissolved, which catapulted me into a rigorous job search almost immediately upon getting home
    • Took on a massive house clean-out project, which has resulted in most of my weekends being spent moving things and rearranging things and throwing things out
    • Spent a lot of time with my friends. So many of them did so much incredible stuff for Joe and I to make our insane wedding dreams a reality, and now we’re trying our hardest to repay them by being the chillest, most agreeable people we can be

    I’m looking forward to figuring out what my next career step will be, spending even more time on my book, trying to be a yes-girl when it comes to fun things going on with my friends, actually having time to do BookTubeAThon this year, enjoying a few upcoming trips to NY and SF, and of course, there’s this year’s NaNoWriMo. It’s lucky number 13.

    Joe and I on a hike in Hawaii.

    I’m trying my hardest to get ‘back to normal’, even though I really have no idea what that means anymore. It’s been pretty incredible discovering it every single day, with Joe right by my side.

    Leave a comment!
  3. I’m Not Writing a Blog Post Today

    March 5, 2018 ♥ Posted in: Journal by Kristina Horner

    I’ve had “write a blog post” on my to-do list for a couple weeks now, and I keep pushing it off because I’m just so exhausted.

    “But you should do a life update!” I tell myself earnestly, amidst the messy bedroom I haven’t had time to tidy, the work project I’m completely heads down on, the wedding tasks that are piling up, the seemingly endless stream of appointments and engagements and wedding crafting sessions and, like, that one night I got to see Hamilton. I scream it into the void, “the world would love a life update!” but it echoes off the stacks of dishes I haven’t done, the laundry that sat waiting to be folded for two entire weeks, the twenty new emails I got just since I left work an hour ago.

    (Hamilton was great by the way).

    The truth is, I am barely keeping my head above water.

    I’m not saying this to gain any sort of pity, or prove how much hustle I have by wearing my stress on my sleeve, or anything like that. It’s just true. It’s just why I’m ‘absent’ online. It’s just that I don’t have time to blog. Why it takes me over a week to reply to most emails in my personal inbox. Because I don’t even have time to pick up the pile of various random things on my floor that I’ve stepped over every day for an entire month, let alone find ways to make my life sound interesting and cool in a trendy blog way.

    This is the place I’m at in life right now! I’m busy! That’s the thing I can yell from the rooftops — I’m 2 months away from my wedding! I said yes to owning a project that was maybe a little bit too big for me right now at work but I am super committed to blowing everyone away anyway! I have to work late some days because I want to! And except for how stressful wedding guest lists are, the guilt associated with asking everyone you know to help, I actually like the wedding planning process. I like finding unique ways to express my relationship in party form. I like finding little ways to delight our guests. I like fabric swatches and schedule planning and decorating. I like planning a fantasy honeymoon for the magical ~other side~ of this process.

    I’m doing a LOT right now and I am really over letting myself feel guilty for not ALSO doing things that are arbitrarily self-imposed, like blogging or making videos or any other things I just do because have made a habit of doing so. I’m the boss. And the boss says it’s okay to not do it. The boss says it’s okay to be a girl who’s spending most of her time on her wedding, because she wants to. It’s okay to be a girl who’s putting in extra hours at work. It’s okay to have a messy house because you have other priorities right now and it won’t always be like this.

    I am in charge of a massive project at work that’s a huge stretch from my regular responsibilities — and that’s an awesome opportunity to learn and grow. I’m under 60 days away from my wedding day and insisting on making it special and awesome in a dozen ways that all take a ton of time and planning — but will be so worth it. My friends all seemed to turn 30 in the same year and I believe everyone deserves to celebrate their special days in special ways, and I’m so glad I’ve been there for them. There are bridal showers, and bachelorette parties, and wine-tastings, and hours and hours and hours poured into the process of telling the world, “hey world, I love this person.” But I wouldn’t do those things if I wasn’t so excited to share that love with my friends and family.

    Plus it’s tax season. That part just sucks, but not everything can be sunshine and rainbows.

    My social media accounts are barren. I haven’t made any new cosplays. I’m still writing but only in the cracks of time between everything else, and usually when I find a rare, blissful, beautiful spare moment, it’s all I can do to just fall in bed and watch some TV so I can recharge a little bit. Sometimes I just cry, because it’s all so much.

    But I’m doing awesome stuff.

    And I can blog about it when it’s over.

    Until then, I’m just going to try my best to get 7.5 hours of sleep each night.

    So you know what, to-do list? Screw you. I’m not writing a blog post today. I’ve got enough going on right now without your bulleted-list of judgment.

    *Crosses “write a blog post” off to-do list*

    Leave a comment!
  4. Hello, 2018!

    January 1, 2018 ♥ Posted in: Journal by Kristina Horner

    The end of this year really snuck up on me. 2017 was a strange one. It was a terrible year for politics, for shootings, for climate change, for sexual harassment, for generally feeling happy, and for the USA in particular. And while I had some personal wins this past year, it wasn’t actually a particularly standout year for me in terms of accomplishments or life achievements. It was mediocre, in just about every way.

    But in a sense, that feels sort of fitting for the year that put a lid on my twenties. My twenties had some truly incredible moments. But they also had some pretty low lows, and I do feel a bit like that decade of my life had turned into the guest who’s overstayed its welcome. I am more than ready to embrace my thirties. I have learned so much about myself, what I want in life, and who I want to share that life with.

    So for 2018, I welcome more than just a new year filled with hope and possibilities. I welcome the next chapter of my entire life.

    Living my best life on my recent 30th birthday cruise

    Things that happened this year:
    • Attended my first political march/protest and made an effort to follow the news and get involved more than I ever have before.
    • Started a writing prompt project/community called #Wordbound, which has since fizzled, but I’m working on bringing it back in a bigger and better way that should launch in 2018.
    • Have maintained pink hair for the entire year – and learned to go much longer between hair washes! I am comfortably up to 4-5 days, when I used to be a chronic every day washer.
    • Spent a lot of the year planning my wedding, though I have a lot left to do (in 2017 I secured our venue, photographer, videographer, attire, asked a bunch of our best friends to be involved, and much more!)
    • Made 2 large adult purchases with Joe (a new dining room table and a new couch) which felt really good and made me very excited to continue to make life decisions with him.
    • Spent our summer vacations getting to know each others extended families in North Dakota and New York.
    • Did a good amount of traveling on the weekends, including a Disneyland trip with my lady pals, two trips to Vegas (one for Joe’s mom’s birthday and one for our good friend Alexander’s birthday), Boston for NerdCon and San Francisco for the Night of Writing Dangerously.
    • Went to my writing group nearly every week and dedicated a lot more of my time to writing than I ever have before, which included completing my 12th NaNoWriMo and starting a book I am feeling really good about releasing publicly when it’s finished.
    • Read 44 books! I didn’t quite hit my 45 book goal on goodreads (drat) but I feel really good about how much I managed to read this year, especially taking breaks now and then on my commute for podcasts.
    • Played a lot of board games, including finishing Pandemic Legacy Season 1. Also did a lot of escape rooms, and I’m pretty sure we solved every room we attempted in 2017.
    • Continued working at Microsoft, building my career, and saving money. As many of my friends are quitting their day jobs to pursue their own passions and hobbies and online content creation, I’ve found myself clinging to the very kind of life I used to run from. Stability is so, so nice after a decade of hustling on YouTube. I really am enjoying my job.
    • Stopped making YouTube videos, maybe not forever, but at least for now. It’s been sort of a strange year, since I’m not making regular content on any platform really. I made 1 video in the past 6 months, Team Hypercube has been defunct for awhile now, and even my social media has slowed down. I feel personally engaged with my hobbies, but since the bulk of that is writing, most people don’t see it. So I’m quieter these days, but I’m not gone. I want to blog more. I want to take more pictures. But I can’t promise much else.
    • Turned 30 years old on a cruise to Mexico with my favorite friends.

     

    Kayak tour in La Bufadora, Mexico

    Moments after losing “Trivial Pursuit Twister” on the cruise, a game invented by Joe around 1 in the morning

    1920’s speakeasy-themed escape room in Long Beach after the cruise, where we got 10th place in terms of overall time

    Here are my resolutions from last year… and how I did at them:
    • Actually finish your book to an extent where you feel okay sending it to beta readers and then, potentially, agents.
    This… didn’t happen. Not yet, anyway. It’s okay. I’m still working really hard and it just hasn’t been the right time yet.
    • For the love of god, start writing a completely different book. (After you finish this one, Kristina. After.)
    Oh, 2016 Kristina. You knew me so well. I started a new book, beforeI finished that one. Whoops.
    • Plan an awesome wedding you’ll always look back on fondly, but also don’t let it make you crazy.
    This is still in progress, obviously. It’s weird to think about writing this 1 year ago and still not being married yet. 4 months to go, and still trying to combat the crazy as best I can.
    • Cosplay, or not, but only because you want to.
    I definitely dialed back the cosplay this year. The standout costume for the year was our Amazoness Quartet group for SakuraCon, which was a massive cosplay goal of mine. I also cosplayed as the Pink Knight from Castle Crashers, which was another long-term goal ever since acquiring helmets that would make the costume pretty easy to put together. As far as I can remember I only made two new costumes, and re-wore a couple of older ones. I’m a-ok with this.
    • Read at least 40 books. Be mindful of the books you choose to read.
    I’m not sure why my goodreads goal was 45 and my resolution was 40, but that just means I totally succeeded here on my blog. Woo! I also read a lot of books written by women and a fair amount that were #ownvoices, which I plan to continue doing.
    • Continue to de-clutter and minimize possessions/wardrobe. Invest in nicer things, but less of them.
    This was in the back of my mind all year, and I am slowly but surely updating and paring down my wardrobe. Still need to work a bit on decluttering and refraining from buying things just because they’re cute or nice to look at. It’s a work in progress.
    • Exercise. Please. Even just a little bit.

    I did! I promise, I did! This summer I discovered virtual marathons so I did a lot of running (I have 4 medals to prove it!) and I did another 5k at work, which brings me to a total of 5 races participated in. My fitbit helped me make sure I was moving around enough each day, and I went to the gym a little bit. Baby steps, but I definitely got more exercise this year than in previous years of my adult life. Next year will be even better.

    My resolutions for next year:

    1. FINISH A SOLID DRAFT OF ANY BOOK, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY. I’m not going to put an unrealistic or stressful goal in here about agents or shopping the book around, just finish it. Maybe get a beta reader or two. You can do it, Kristina.
    2. Enjoy the remaining 4 months of wedding planning, and remember to keep it about you and Joe to the very best of your ability. By the time you revisit these goals the you will be married and the wedding will be over and that’s pretty powerful to think about right now, so enjoy it enjoy it enjoy it.
    3. Read at least 30 books. This is a very low and unambitious goal, but I want to enable time for myself to listen to podcasts and watch TV and see movies, which are all things I never have enough time for. A big part of this goal, really, is to see more movies in theaters, keep up with more popular TV shows, and discover new podcasts. All of this will be in balance with your reading goals.
    4. Once the wedding is over, work on at least one of your big backlogged project ideas. Maybe that podcast idea? Maybe the other secret idea?
    5. Finish Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and Charterstone within the year. You are only one game in on each of these, but you deserve more leisure time. Have game nights!
    6. Do many more escape rooms! I won’t put a number here, but do them all!

    Thanks for sticking with me, blog readers. I appreciate it so much that there are many of you who will stick around even if I’m not making stuff constantly. I’ll still share things, of course, but your patience as I try out having an actual real normal human life is everything. Happy new year, internet fam.

    Leave a comment!
  5. Haunted Port Townsend – Manresa Castle

    August 20, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Bucket List, Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    I’ve always loved ghosts. When I was in about middle school, I discovered this show called “Real Scary Stories”, which was a show where (if I remember correctly) each episode would discuss the history of a known haunted location and then would let locals share their own stories about weird things that had happened there. I looked it up while researching for this blog post and apparently the show only ran from 2000-2001, which is a real shame.

    Watching ‘Real Scary Stories’ was the first time I had really thought about haunted places existing in real life, and being able to personally visit such haunted places. This was especially made clear when one episode happened to take place at a hotel relatively near to where I grew up. Manresa Castle is located in Port Townsend, Washington (about 2 hours away including a ferry ride), and I was so excited by the idea of this place that I begged my parents to take me there.

    manresa castle port townsend haunted

    This is not a blog post about how my parents didn’t take me there, even though they ended up staying at the castle themselves at least twice between then and this past weekend. Mom and Dad, I would not throw you under the bus like that. This is instead a blog post about how when, nearly twenty years later, my mom suggested we take a family trip to Port Townsend, little twelve-year-old ghost hunting Kristina burst from within and insisted we stay at the castle.

    And finally – finally – it happened.

    Joe is expertly blocking an ugly truck that was really cramping my castle-photo vibe.

    On Saturday (after copious amounts of wine-tasting with my parents) we arrived at Manresa Castle. It’s a full-fledged castle, it’s old and creepy, and I was super ready to get my spook on.

    Look at this excellent carpeting. They just don’t put carpeting like this in places without ghosts.

    The first order of business was exploring. We hadn’t thought to request either of the known haunted rooms (drat!), but we sure as heck were going to go find them. We wandered the hallways, discovered a creepy old laundry shoot (a maid told me it was still in use), and found both the room where a girl apparently jumped from a window when she found out her love was lost at sea (Room 306) and the room right beneath the spot where a Monk allegedly hung himself (Room 302). We even snuck out an open door we found that led to a very sketchy fire escape.

    And after a thorough investigation, I deduced that the place was scary because it was old, and creaky, and because we wanted it to be scary – but ultimately we couldn’t find anything that made it scarier than any other creaky old building. Even with the weird carpet. Even with the dusty sitting room. I had been hoping for weird sensations or noises, or things moving on their own, but you just can’t make that stuff happen on command. You can’t summon a weird experience just because you drove two hours and rode a ferry, or because you’ve waited for it for nearly twenty years, or because they charge $200 a night for a room.

    It’s a beautiful castle, don’t get me wrong. It’s excellently renovated, each room is uniquely layed out and decorated, and it’s always a delight to stay in a place rich with history. but it didn’t make the hairs on the back of my neck rise. It didn’t make my skin tingle. I wasn’t afraid to be alone in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and no floating apparition woke me up in the middle of the night demanding I pay some sort of blood debt. It was sort of a letdown.

    However, that evening after my family had dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant called Lanza’s Ristorante, we gathered at a fountain in town to meet our tour guide for a rousing evening of Twisted History. Let me preface this by saying – if it’s not already abundantly clear by this blog post – I love ghost stories. But even more so, I love learning about the dark history of towns, the seedy underbelly of their society, the unexplained horrors of the past. Whenever I visit a new place and have time to spare, I look for ghost tours, or some kind of underground to explore, or anything that will show the darker side of history. I’m fascinated by it. And Port Townsend is apparently one of the top 20 most haunted cities in the country.

    I had no idea! I just knew they had a castle!

    The tour was amazing. We learned about how Port Townsend is called the “City of Dreams” because of the early view that it would become the largest harbor on the west coast of the US. We learned about how that dream died when the depression hit, and the Northern Pacific railroad didn’t end up connecting Port Townsend to the ports on the eastern side of Puget Sound. You’ve probably not heard of Port Townsend if you’re not from around here, but have you heard of Tacoma? Or a little place called Seattle?

    We also learned about the boom of the 1870s to 1890s, when the dream was still alive. We learned about the impressive and horrifying shanghai-ing racket, the brothels, the drinking. We learned about some particularly shady men notorious for the ways they behaved in town (looking at you Captain Tibbels and Mr. Waterman), and a lot of people whose solution to their problems was to burn down the buildings of the people they didn’t like. We learned about a woman whose throat was slit for trying to shut down prostitution. We learned about a young girl who was accidentally shot in a duel between her own father and her lover. We learned about a woman who was burned alive because she owned a hotel after her husband died and the opposing male hotel owners in town didn’t want to compete with a woman.

    Port Townsend has the most colorful history, full of tragic and unexplained stories. Nearly every story we heard was darker and more interesting than those of Manresa Castle, which led me to question how that’s the one that makes it into the ghost anthologies. Manresa Castle was built by Charles Eisenbeis, one of the only well-known men in Port Townsend who doesn’t have a laundry list of horrible things he did to build his wealth. Along the tour, I found at least two other hotels way creepier than the Manresa, one of which I’m dying to stay at next time and one I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole (respectively).

    Left: The Palace Hotel, a former brothel, now historic hotel. Right: The Bishop Hotel, another creepy and restored hotel. The owner collects dresses widowers wore to their husband’s funerals.

    Suffice to say, the trip was exceptionally fun and interesting, even more so than I could have prepared myself for. I arrived in Port Townsend with very Manresa Castle specific dreams, but I left with an expanded love for the whole city. Everyone I met and talked to was delightful. The food was delicious. The shop owners kind. The man who loves and collects brass bowls enthralled us with his story for nearly an hour. The town was packed with more history than I ever could have hoped for, and with the weekend being so quick, it left me with many more things I want to come back and discover on a future trip.

    I’ve even got a few of my own story ideas spinning around in my head, dying to get out. Can you imagine renting a creepy little room in a brothel turned hotel to write a ghost story? I have shivers, thinking about it.

    So thank you, Real Scary Stories. Your show may have only run for two years, but the episode on Manresa Castle was a great pathway into a town I have completely fallen in love with, and granted me more ghost stories than I know what to do with.

    Leave a comment!
  6. The Summer Challenge TRIPLE THREAT

    July 22, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Books, Geek Events, Journal, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Booktubeathon is upon us yet again, and I fear I have made a grave mistake this year. Actually, let’s take a step back.

    So, as you all likely know, I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I set a modest goal for myself, but writing 20,000 words in a month (arguably the busiest of the summer months) is still nothing to shake a stick at. I knew that attempting Booktubeathon and Camp NaNo in the same month would be a stretch, but I’ve never been one to look in the face of a challenge and back away. I welcome challenge. I thrive on challenge.

    This was all well and good – totally doable – until I found out about the Marauder’s Marathon. This is a month long virtual Harry Potter themed marathon, which I, of course, signed up for because you can absolutely trick me into exercising if you disguise it as a fun Harry Potter fandom activity. Plus I am trying to be more active, so why not apply a NaNoWriMo-esque filter to running, to make it more exciting? 26.2 miles in a month? A whole month? No problem!

    Problem is, it started on the 17th of July. While I was in New York, in oppressively hot weather. Listen, I’m as committed to pretending to be a wizard while I run as the next person, but I’m not going to start my running adventure in 90 degree weather. So here I am, finally home from NY, 5 days behind. But still determined.

    Okay. Okay Kristina. Three marathon style events in one month. All overlapping for one chaotic week starting on Monday. Is this possible? You can listen to audiobooks and run at the same time. You can get up early to write. This is doable.

    You can listen to audiobooks and run at the same time. You can get up early to write. This is doable.

    Oh wait. Your friends invited you on a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas for one of their birthdays starting on the Saturday of your Week of Madness, and you can’t turn down a spontaneous adventure? AND your best friend gets married on August 9th and you’re not only in the wedding, you’re also planning the bachelorette party, which happens right in the midst of all of this?

    Guys, nothing can save me now. I um… I may have over-committed.

    BUT! Follow me on Instagram and Twitter over the next couple weeks to see if I survive, and in the mean time… here’s my Booktubeathon TBR:

    The challenges:

    1/ Read a book with a person on the cover: PAPER GIRLS by Brian K. Vaughan
    2/ Read a hyped book: MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur
    3/ Finish a book in one day: DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    4/ Read about a character that is very different from you: HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
    5/ Finish a book completely outdoors: MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME by Rebecca Solnit
    6/ Read a book you bought because of the cover: THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown
    7/ Read seven books: THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by Emily Barr

    I forgot to mention… it would be so nice to have this weekend, this glorious Saturday and Sunday, to get ahead in writing, to do some solid running, cleanse my reading palate with some television, do laundry and relax and prepare for the insanity ahead – but I’m got another wedding tonight and won’t be back until tomorrow. *falls over and dies*

    Wish me luck, and please let me know if you’re participating in any of the above challenges. Bonus points if anyone out there is crazy enough to do all three, like I am!

    Leave a comment!
  7. Discovery Park – Hike #2

    July 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Travel, Wedding by Kristina Horner

    We were supposed to go on our second hike sooner than this, but we had to skip our next planned outing because Jenn’s ankle hadn’t properly healed yet and then we had a couple of busy weekends. But then our friend Ariana was in town, and she’s all about that hiking life as well, so this past Saturday was the perfect time to (literally) hit the dusty trail.

    The Hike: Discovery Park
    Description: Discovery Park is a 534 acre natural area park, located next to the peninsular Magnolia neighborhood in Seattle. It overlooks Puget Sound, with views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains. The park is built on the historic grounds of Fort Lawton, which was originally a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. Within the park is two miles of protected tidal beaches, a lighthouse, open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves and more. While it’s advertised as a 3.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail, all the branching paths and trails can leave a person wandering for hours.
    Length: Advertised as 3.9 miles, but that’s just for the loop trail.
    Elevation Gain: 570 feet
    How long it took us: We switched roads/trails at least six times, so we probably spent at least 3.5 to 4 hours walking around. No concept of how far we actually walked.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    So originally we had planned on checking out a different hike, and wanted to make more of a day trip out of it. Ariana had mentioned Lake 22 (which is on my list for sure) – but when the time came, Discovery Park made more sense.

    I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed. As a new hiker I am very eager to try out exciting hikes, ones a bit further away from home, with exceptional views promised to me for the effort. Discovery Park is right here in Seattle, and while I’ve never actually been there for hiking, I couldn’t imagine a trail so close to where I live being anything to write home about. I live by a lake with a well-known walking trail – I imagined it was going to be of that caliber. I left my cool hiking backpack at home. I prepared myself for a nice little walk.

    Let me take a moment to admit I was wrong.

    Discover Park is probably one of the most incredible things about my city, and I’ve lived here almost thirty years without knowing.

    How have I gone about my day to day life, folding laundry and running errands and eating sandwiches and trimming my fingernails with a view like this just twenty minutes away? Literally, how does that happen to a person? How is this not some sort of mandatory Seattle resident onboarding information, like “welcome to the city – there’s a Starbucks on every corner and also this view will take your breath away, make sure you check it out as soon as possible.”

    The thing about Discovery Park is that there are a million little trails and paths. If I went back right this second, I don’t think I could retrace my steps. There are little paper maps offered at the trailhead of the north parking lot, and we tried to follow along with where we were going, but mostly our strategy was to go a new direction every time the path diverged. We walked on classic trails, dirt roads, paved paths, old wooden stairs, and spent a significant amount of time following the beach trail around the tip of the peninsula. We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    I saw a lot of different amazing things on this hike, but for some reason I only took pictures of this incredible view. I think this is the point at which I realized how wrong I’d been about Discovery Park. That even though you’ve lived in a place nearly your entire life, you can never really know all there is to know about a place. It will find ways to keep surprising you.

    The main reason we stuck to our neighborhood in terms of hiking on Saturday was actually that we planned to come back on Sunday, and wanted to kill two birds with one stone and use this day’s hike for a bit of location scouting. Ariana had offered to take some engagement photos for Joe and I, and thought this park would be the perfect backdrop for our very Pacific Northwest relationship.

    Here’s the thing I realized about engagement shoots that had never occurred to me before. On Saturday, we hiked in workout clothes, ponytails and hiking boots. We sweat a lot and got dirty. On Sunday, we dressed for pictures. I wore a skirt and a cute sweater. Joe wore his nice new jeans. I wore little velvet black flats.

    But we walked on the same dirty trails. I stepped in the same mud.

    I’ve seen hundreds of engagement and wedding photos taken in the woods, in front of a waterfall, on the edge of a mountain. I’ve seen people in high heels, wedding dresses, suits, and with immaculate hair and makeup.

    And it has never once occurred to me how those people got out there.

    The obvious answer is that they probably brought a change of clothes. But that doesn’t explain the perfectly curled hair, the beautiful makeup, the fact that hiking with a garment bag isn’t much easier than trying not to get black velvet shoes dirty on a path made of literal dirt.

    It wasn’t actually a very pleasant experience if I’m being honest, between the rocks in my shoes and the constant worry that I’d accumulated some kind of nature in my hair. I now have a renewed appreciation for my hiking gear for all future hikes. I also have so much respect for the people who look flawless in their very extreme wedding and engagement photos. Unless they were somehow helicopter dropped into their location, those people are intense. Those people worked way harder for that picture than I ever stopped to consider before. And while taking pictures with Ariana was a delight on the interpersonal level, and I’m sure they’re going to turn out lovely, I so wished I’d brought a pair of sneakers. Or a mirror to check how I looked.

    On the other hand though, Joe and I aren’t the kind of people who’d think to bring a mirror on a hike, so maybe it’s a more accurate representation this way. Just like how I told Ariana I’d probably mostly keep the photos others would deem mess ups, the ones where we’re laughing or making silly faces, I probably wouldn’t like our pictures quite as much if Joe’s shirt wasn’t a bit wrinkled, or if you couldn’t see any dirt on my shoes.

    That’s just us.

    Leave a comment!
  8. Cherry Creek Falls – Hike #1

    June 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Seattle by Kristina Horner

    For the last year or so, I’ve had this inkling that I wanted to start hiking. Which is funny, because when I was young I hated when my parents would make me go hiking (“why would we just want to walk around in the woods when there are books to read?”), and I also distinctly remember in college making fun of the fact that the very first thing you’ll see on anyone’s dating profile here in the Pacific Northwest is that they “enjoy hiking”, like there is nothing more stereotypically Seattle than a loud and proud love of hiking.

    But… I mean. I work at Microsoft and graduated from the UW and started hiking and even recently bought my first The North Face jacket, so honestly… maybe I just need to admit that I’m pretty stereotypically Seattle. Maybe I should just embrace it.

    Anyhow, my friend Jenn and I decided to start hiking. We’ve both been trying to be more active lately, including signing up for (and actually going to!) a gym, and signing up for a 5k (The Bubble Run!) at the end of the summer. And yesterday we did our first Pacific Northwest hike, complete with sweet new hiking backpacks.

    And yesterday we did our first Pacific Northwest hike, complete with sweet new hiking backpacks.

    25 foot cherry creek falls hike seattle

    The Hike: Cherry Creek Falls Trail
    Description: A hike along old logging roads to a 25 foot tall waterfall on Cherry Creek just outside of Duvall, WA.
    Length: 5 miles (out and back)
    Elevation Gain: 718 feet
    How long it took us: About 4 hours round trip, with about a 30 minute stop for lunch and pictures at the falls, and Jenn struggling with a hurt ankle on the walk back.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    This was a fantastic first hike! The trail itself was moderate to easy, with a few tricky mud puddles to cross here and there. There’s also a point about 2/3 of the way in where you have to cross a literal creek, which added to the challenge and excitement. I’m not sure if it’s because we went early in the season, but there’s also about a half-mile stretch in the middle where the trail is really thin and a bit overgrown, so you spend a bit of time pushing through bushes and shielding your face, which was just a little bit annoying but overall not too bad.

    When you get to the end of the trail, there’s this beautiful viewpoint that overlooks the falls from above, but the real magic happens when you hike down the last steep stretch to find yourself at the base of the little body of water that forms at the bottom of the falls. We were disappointed it wasn’t warmer, because what a place that would be to take your shoes off and splash around in the water. We made due just eating the sandwiches, carrot sticks and chocolate chip cookies we’d brought along which enjoying the view.

    The people we encountered on this hike were friendly and had cute dogs, and even offered Jenn a beer after we passed each other multiple times during her ankle-hurting saga. We respectfully declined, because as savvy new-hikers, we’d already brought our own tiny wine bottles. Because we’re classy.

    The only strange thing that happened on the hike was near the most treacherous mud puddle – Jenn and I were cautiously making our way over when we heard a phone alarm go off. Jenn wasn’t too concerned right away, because she assumed it was mine, but I don’t use a phone alarm. I use the silent vibrate alarm feature on my Fitbit. I assumed it was HER phone, but it quickly became clear it wasn’t coming from her direction. In a few seconds time, I was certain either someone had dropped their phone on the trail, or there was someone waiting just off the path, ready to kill us.

    Once we’d cleared the mud, we walked a few more paces, and a man was just standing at the top of the next hill, by himself. It was his phone. He was holding it in his hands. And he obviously had been able to hear us saying “where is that alarm coming from? Whose phone is that? This is creepy!” from just around the bend but chose to say nothing!

    He was friendly as we passed, and we all laughed about it, but I was still pretty creeped out. I might have to write a scene in a book sometime where characters find out they’re not alone in the woods by hearing someone else’s phone go off loud and clear. Probably at night. Probably when their flashlights have gone out.

    For the record, I packed extra batteries for my flashlight, so this fictional horror scenario would not happen to me. Always be prepared.

    We’ve got our next hike planned for next weekend, and I’m so excited to make this a regular thing! Stay tuned for more blog post updates/reviews of the hikes I go on.

    Leave a comment!
  9. May 2017 Life Update – Wedding Planning and Traveling

    May 21, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    Life has really been a sprint lately. I wrote a blog post recently called Adjusting, about how I’m trying to chill out and not run myself ragged, and I thought it might be a good time to check in on that. Really, I’m still exhausted and super busy, but I do think I’ve made incremental changes that are worth noting and celebrating.

    I’m going to run through a few bigger life categories both to catch up on what I’ve been doing, and to measure if I’ve made any sort of positive progress.

    GENERAL: My biggest hurdle in terms of lowering my stress levels and breaking free from the cycle of “always being busy” definitely falls in this personal fulfillment category. This is where I suffer from guilt for not making videos, for not having an Instagram with a strictly defined visual theme, for having cosplay photos on my computer that I’ve never posted anywhere, for never being up to date on all the good new TV shows, for ever watching TV at all, for not having made enough progress on my book… the list can go on forever, if I let it. My goal this year is to not let it. These things are

    These things are bonus. These things are the cherry on top. And I’m slowly learning how to be okay with that.

    Lately, I’m not sure if people have noticed, but I’ve significantly slowed down making YouTube videos. So far I’ve made 6 videos in 5 months, and honestly, I feel great about it. I have a few more that I’ve filmed but still need editing, and I have some ideas for others, but YouTube has become a hobby again in a bigger way than I’ve ever let it before, and it feels really good. Goodbye, shackles!

    I’m trying to keep this blog at least updated a couple times a month, with one of these larger life updates each month. I’ve embarrassingly behind in #wordbound, but that’s becoming a priority again as we phase into summer. My Instagram is still probably my favorite social account, and I try to keep it updated – including doing Instagram stories, which is new for me! That’s been kind of fun. I’m starting to get it.

    I don’t have any cosplay plans until PAX (end of summer), so that’s a relief. That leaves me to happily work on my book for the next couple of months in any free time I carve out. And to just… hang out with Joe. Play games with my friends. Be a guest on a super fun Sailor Moon inspired tabletop stream. Go to the gym. The things I so often had to pass up or feel guilty about doing, before.

    WEDDING: We’re still 11 months out from our wedding, so I am trying to take baby steps. Make incremental progress. I’m a planner to my very core, so I’d always rather over-prepare and then take a breath closer to the deadline than save things for the last minute, but the wedding industry is one of very mixed messages. I wish people would do studies on the pressures of being a bride, seriously. Maybe they do. It’s a very, very weird space.

    Almost every day I am hit with so many opposing points of view. “You have so much time, you don’t need to be thinking about this yet. It’s too early. Your weight is going to fluctuate, you shouldn’t be ordering things yet. This is your day, do whatever you want and whatever makes sense for you. We don’t even need to meet until fall. You have so much time. Literally stop working on your wedding it’s too early.” And in the same breath, I also get, “What is your wedding theme? What are your wedding colors? Why haven’t your out of town relatives gotten save the dates yet? Where are you going for your honeymoon? You know a dress can take 8-10 months to arrive, and then you need another 2-3 months for alterations. You should really have ordered it by now. This day isn’t just about you so here’s the list of seventy-six traditions you should consider doing arbitrarily because that’s what people expect. Where’s your hotel room block?”

    *falls down dead*

    I am a very organized person, and I’m trying to do this whole wedding planning thing at the rate that makes sense for me. It’s very difficult not to lose my mind sometimes, but I already plan events for work and I feel like I am doing an okay job. I’m just going to keep repeating that to myself.

    For inquiring minds, here is my actual progress: At 11 months out, Joe and I have selected our venue and the date. We’ve talked with a friend about designing our save the dates. We have some ideas about fun things we want to plan for during the wedding reception. We’ve mostly selected our wedding party but we haven’t asked them yet. I’ve picked out a dress, even though I had given myself another month or two to make that decision. And now that I have a decided on a dress, I am pretty sure I am set on our wedding colors.

    Now that those things are decided, I think I deserve a tiny break.

    Then we’ll start addressing envelopes.

     

    TRAVELING: Work has been so, so busy lately – so I am extremely happy to have a few trips lined in the coming months. Last weekend, Joe and I went to Vegas with his family, which was a total blast.

    The trip was for a combination of Joe’s mom’s birthday as well as mother’s day, and we did such a unique combination of activities for a Vegas trip. We started with the Beatles LOVE Cirque show, which I’d seen before but not since my 21st birthday. Sidenote – that was a long time ago.

    The next morning we got up very early and headed out to Red Rock Canyon for a morning hike. I was very skeptical of hiking in the desert, but the weather was beautiful and there was a slight breeze, so it was actually kind of a perfect scenario. The trail was pretty bouldery, too – which I think makes hiking a lot more fun.

    We also spent a good amount of time at the pool, in the casino, and eating delicious food. The gambling method of choice for both Joe and I is blackjack and craps, so we partook in just enough that we came home from the trip about even. There were of course jokes and delusions about winning the money for our wedding in Vegas, but unless you can throw a wedding for $-40, that’s a no go.

    One of our biggest regrets is that we didn’t at least try this Dungeons & Dragons themed slot machine. I’m always on the lookout for the funniest slot theme, and this was the trip’s winner.

    I started reading The Book Thief at the pool, and while it’s not the most lighthearted summer read, I’m glad I finally decided to give it a try. I am loving it so far. We also went to an ice bar, where they give you a parka and gloves, and essentially stick you in a very social freezer. Everything is made of ice, including your cup. I would show you pictures, but because it was Las Vegas, we weren’t allowed to take any.

    Only in Las Vegas would they construct a bar made entirely out of ICE in a DESERT and then not even let you take pictures. The whole situation was very, very poetic. Las Vegas is a ridiculous place.

    Upcoming trips include a camping trip for Memorial Day weekend, a jaunt to North Dakota to see relatives, and then a week-long trip to New York a bit later to meet some of Joe’s extended family. I also plan to do some hiking this summer, so I’ll hopefully do blog updates about that as well.

     

    Overall, I’m still a little busier than I’d like to be, but I’m continuing to find the balance. I’m getting there. I don’t think there’s any real “there” to actually ever get though, so it’s just a system of constantly checking in with myself. And right now, I’m okay. 🙂

    Leave a comment!
  10. April 2017 Life Update – Cosplay, Writing and Disneyland

    April 22, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    It’s been a bit of time without an update, so it seemed like a nice little Saturday morning to laze in bed a bit longer and write a blog post. I haven’t been as active online lately, but I’ve definitely been keeping busy! Especially since the weather has been getting nicer (and then worse, but then nice again – Seattle likes to play hard-to-get) I’ve been feeling more energized and motivated lately, which is always a nice shift. You can feel it in the air.

    Wedding: Luckily since my wedding is still over a year away, nothing feels very stressful or rushed yet. I’m hoping I can space things out enough to keep it that way. Joe and I finally decided on a venue (which is probably why I am so much less stressed about this now – that part was killer) and we’re working on getting save-the-dates made. We also asked my adorable cousin to be our flower girl, so I’m feeling good about our progress.

    Writing: I’m about 7,000 words into my Camp Nano project, which is also the new book I am throwing myself into after deciding to put down the last one. This is not nearly as much progress as I was hoping at this point, but I am still proud of myself for continuing to work on it, and I’m hoping to keep up a regular pace even after Camp NaNo is over. My goal is to have a first draft of this book done by NaNoWriMo proper this year, which feels reasonable to me. That gives me 6 months.

    I’ve still been updating #wordbound each week with new prompts, even though I’m a little behind in actually doing the prompts myself. I’m going to get myself back on track soon, and I’ve been so thankful for the folks continuing to write their stories each week for the prompts. You guys are great.

    Cosplay: While Emerald City Comic Con ended up being somewhat of a non-event for my friends I with regard to cosplay (just 2 rewears) we were planning to go all out for SakuraCon. This year was the 20th anniversary of the con, so many cosplayers chose to go retro anime with their cosplays. We jumped on board this train, finally bringing to fruition a long time goal of cosplaying as the colorful and eccentric Amazoness Quartet from Sailor Moon.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever worked harder on a costume than this one, and the days leading up to the con, it’s all we did after work. My living room was a disaster of ribbons, hair wefts, and fake roses.

    And then, on Friday, I started getting a tickle in my throat. I tried to ignore it, but there it was.

    I woke up on Saturday feeling miserable. But I couldn’t let my quartet down, so I groggily put on my wig cap, glued on my fake eyelashes, and affixed the pieces of my tiny costume to my body. And guys – I looked fabulous. But I felt like death.

    cerecere cosplay, amazoness quartet cosplay, amazoness quartet costumes

    We managed to walk around the con for about two hours (which was about enough time to film a segment for a cosplay music video, go to the Sailor Moon meetup and do our personal photo shoot) before I had to give up and go home. I did not see even an inch of the show floor. And I didn’t end up going back on Sunday (when I planned to wear a new Lolita dress). I absolutely adore SakuraCon, so I was pretty disappointed, but I was so sick. Now we have to figure out somewhere else to wear these costumes because we definitely did not get enough use out of them.

    Work: My job has been keeping me pretty busy lately as well – and as usual I really can’t say much. This is one of the most difficult parts of this job, truly. I am so used to candidly sharing tidbits about my life, but for some reason, I always end up working on projects at Microsoft that are tented, unannounced, or confidential. I still work in HoloLens-land, which is exciting. I’m also shifting focus a bit toward Microsoft’s new mixed reality initiative, which you can read more about here.

    Whenever I can share cool stuff about what I am doing at work, I promise, I will. For now, just trust me – I’m surrounded by awesome technology every day and I feel so lucky. Also, you can follow this Instagram account my team launched if you’d like. It’s gonna be cool.

    Life: My personal initiative to go to the gym at least twice a week took a tiny bit of a backseat because I had to take a week off to finish my costume… and then I got sick, but I already started making up for it by walking around the lake I live by yesterday with Joe. And I’m going to pick it back up again next week when I can breathe normally again.

    Beyond that, I’ve been reading a lot – I read a whole book while I was sick, and Goodreads tells me I am something like 10 books ahead of my reading goal for the year. I specifically set myself a pretty low reading goal this year (only 30 books) because I didn’t want reading to become a stress in any way. And now I’m blowing past the goal, which feels nice!

    I also went to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago with my girlfriends! Jenn had never been, so we needed to right a wrong. We went for two days (one park each day) and I’m pretty impressed with how thorough we were. We hit just about every ride we wanted to, saw the Mainstreet Electrical Parade, the Frozen show and World of Color, hit up two Disney dining experiences and participated in the food and wine fest. It was a solid weekend.

    Standard obligatory Disney jailhouse photo-op.

    belle dress disneybound, live action belle disneybound

    This was the day we decided to disneybound every dress Belle wears in the new live action film. Of course, Gaston was the first person we ran into. Typical.

    anna disneybound, elsa disneybound, anna and elsa

    Eia and I fulfilled a lifelong need to disneybound Anna and Elsa (and seriously, this dress has been hanging in my closet for this sole purpose for YEARS). What better place to immortalize our perfect outfits than in front of the #bluewall?

    It’s funny – when I was in middle school, I went to California Adventure with my friend Stephanie. While we ran around losing our minds on rides, her mom and aunt spent most of the day sitting in the Mendocino Terrace Wine Tasting area, and we thought this was the stupidest way to spend your time at a theme park. Well… my life has come full circle, because we spent at least two hours there on Sunday, mostly because our feet hurt and also wine is delicious.

    We also ate at the Blue Bayou, which was a first for me as well!

    We mostly spent our time shopping, because shopping is great and also Disneyland does that thing where the gift shops are mostly the same but you really have to see them all to see everything. And we decided to be completionists.

    I got sick of wearing that blue Elsa dress about halfway through the day on Sunday so I switched into an entirely new outfit of things I had purchased that day. #noregrets

    Overall it was an amazing weekend of pin trading, spending all our money, eating delicious food and wishing we could do weekends like this more often. I had a great time with my lady friends and I can’t wait for our next getaway.

    Looking forward to summer and some other trips I have coming up with both my and Joe’s families, and I’ll keep updating this blog to keep you all posted on what I’m up to, since I’ve been a little quieter online lately!

    Leave a comment!