Holly is an aspiring author and enthusiastic reader of all genres. When she’s not reading, she’s hosting a podcast about romance books or writing weekly updates to monthly challenges on her website. She’s an unapologetic Slytherin.
Find out more about her at www.hollishilliis.com
Last week I got a chance to finally read through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. There wasn’t a lot in the book that stuck with me, but one part stood out and helped me develop this challenge for July.
Author Stephen Covey at one point asks the reader to think of one thing that if they did it every day for 30 minutes how much better they’d be at that thing at the end of a week, a month, a year. I had three things pop into my head immediately: writing, walking and language.
I was thinking about how much better of a writer I’d be, how many more ideas I would have put down on the page if I had spent 30 minutes a day with zero distractions just writing. If I had done that for the past year, where would my writing be today? It’d probably be pretty freaking excellent. When I read Stephen King’s On Writing this was his biggest piece of advice. Force yourself to write. You can only get better by practicing and writing everyday. I’m going to start taking that to heart.
The next thing I thought of was walking. I’m supposed to walk a relay from Portland to the coast in August and I haven’t done any training for. It’s not a long walk in general as it’s part of a relay team, but there is a 7 mile stretch that is labeled as hard and a 4.6 mile stretch about 8 hours after that. The biggest concern for me is making sure I’m practicing on the sidewalk/pavement as the walk takes place on the road. I do plenty of walking on trails, but I think street walking can be different on your body. I easily get shin splints so I figure if I can walk for 30 minutes at a brisk pace every day (which I should be doing anyway), I’ll be in a much better position than if I sporadically do walks throughout the day as I’m doing now.
Finally, I saw this video last week on Reddit about a guy who is self taught in several conversational languages. I’m sure you’ve been asked the question, ‘If you could have one superpower what would it be?’ People tend to pick flying or invisibility but for me it’d be the ability to speak any language. Imagine how free you’d be to travel and explore. To interact with different cultures. I’ve had the Duolingo app rotting on my phone for years and have only really played with it a few times for Spanish and French. I want to take this month to do 30 minutes of Spanish a day.
So how I can measure my three things for 30 minutes a day in July with you all? I’m hoping to share my writing experiences, my slumps and my triumphs. With walking I’d like to share my times and see if they improve. I recorded for Portland to Coast a 20 minute mile so it’d be good to start tracking that and see where I’m at. Finally, with language I’ll share the what level I get to each week on Duolingo and any particular concepts that I’m getting stuck on or find interesting.
June has been hard. There I typed it. I feel that I’ve been in a daze since it started. There’s a reason I did A Photo A Day twice. I honestly couldn’t think of anything else to do. That’s a bit unlike me. I feel like sometimes I have so many ideas in my head that the only issue is not having enough time to see them through. For some reason the last month or so those ideas have stopped.
I wasn’t really sure what was wrong with me until I spent some time with myself out in nature this weekend. There was no cell service. Minimal husband distraction. I got to really spend some time with myself. The main chunk of this was climbing a vertical incline for two solid hours. During this hike to hell I started to think more about this ‘June Gloom’ and I started piecing through what was at the heart of it. So bare with me and I’ll take you through that journey of self realization.
I posted a lot of great photos of this hike on my Instagram of the views and the trees, but I never posted this one of me half way through a hike wanting to just end it all and jump off the nearest cliff (there were many to choose from and was sorely tempted).
I love hiking and being in nature so much, but I’ve been so out of shape since last fall that every single hike is a struggle now. That’s something I’d never admit, until now. So anyway, I’m telling husband to go up ahead because he’s barely breaking a sweat with a ‘isn’t this fun!’ grin and I am red in the face, sweating profusely and pretty sure I’m gonna vom.
I’m like the big bad wolf just huffing and puffing my way up this incline with no one else in sight and I start thinking about how a few hours ago in the air conditioning of my car I was really excited to get into nature and start to reflect on what has been wrong in my head lately. Why have all my ideas stopped? I’ve been so busy at work lately I come home, make dinner and by the time I’m done eating at 7:30 I am ready for a shower and the hope that I’m awake enough to read in bed until 9. Lately I’ve been falling asleep with a book in my hand around 8:30.
As I’m dragging my fat ass up what feels like a goddamn mountain I’m wondering how I’d feel if I had a heart attack. A heart attack that suddenly feels very imminent as I can feel my heart trying to escape my body. I mean obviously I’d feel pain and panic, but how would I feel about my life? I started out this site hoping to have a place to be creative, but I remember my first challenge, the Minimalist Wardrobe. I had been thinking about minimalism for years. It felt so good to finally give my wardrobe a shot at downsizing and it felt so good to knock that out. Then I went into Honest Pictures. I had the most fun with this challenge. It was so refreshing to be open about my online presence and help people see that all the content we digest is curated to fit a certain idea. It’s so rare we get the full story from one photo or video clip.
When I started to think of my other challenges. I thought they were fun and taught me things, but nothing felt as good and right as my challenges helping to simplify my life and be honest.
Back to me dying on a butte. Honesty and Simplicity. I’m repeating this over and over to myself as I wipe sweat from my burning hot face, trying to ignore the stench I’m starting to take on. Left step is honesty, right step is simplicity. Honesty, Simplicity. Goddamn how am I not at the top yet? How come I can’t think of a new monthly challenge? Why have I stopped writing? How come June has left me feeling like I’m drowning? How do I escape my Monday-Friday rut that I can’t seem to see a way out of? How come the only time I’ve felt content lately is when I’m sleeping? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
Pause for a moment more to let a family pass on their way back down. Their little kid is wearing a Spiderman shirt and I’m trying to not hyperventilate in his face, but I think he sees the struggle in my dead eyes. I might die on this hill.
“You’re almost there!” He beams at me as he passes.
“Cool.” I manage to gasp out.
A woman passes with her two dogs.
“It’s beautiful up there. You’re gonna love the view. There’s only about five more switch backs.”
She must see the panic in my eyes.
“They’re easy. You’ll be fine.”
This woman looks like she climbs mountains for a living. She might be fine, but I am definitely going to die. The group passes and I snag some water out of my bag. I’m thinking of the view at the top and how if it really is a great view as the woman says it’ll make for a great picture to post on Instagram. I’m half way through my drink and I stop.
Am I doing this hike and killing myself to take a picture so I can share it with people? No, that’s not completely true. I really do love hiking and nature. How would I feel if I had left my phone at the campsite though? Nothing to document. That would suck. I realize that I want that picture of the view at the time. I want to post it and have people think what I already know about myself: Holly is someone that likes to hike. Well, that’s true I do. People wont know how hard hiking has been for me lately though if I just post a picture of the view with a #pnw caption. Maybe my picture will say to people: Holly is an adventurer. I wish I could be in nature like Holly.
Now my mind is running through my honest pictures challenge. Didn’t I do a whole fucking month of breaking down this toxic thinking and trying to burn it to the ground? Didn’t I set out to try to be more honest myself? With other people? To help people digest their social content in a healthier way? To show my love for minimalism and how it can help others? How much of that passion, that message have I actually lived lately?
I think guiltily of the bag of thrift shop clothes I have in my closet. The clothes I bought but can’t fit on hangers because I threw all my hangers out with my new ‘light’ lifestyle. I think of the social posts I’ve made lately. Have they been to share an honest experience or to show I’m having a good time? What is the value in my life to just show people I’m having a good time?
I put my water back in my pack and pull out my phone. I snap a pic of my red sweaty face and let my exasperation and exhaustion show through. It’s not the prettiest picture of me I’ve ever taken (not by a long shot), but it’s real.
Honestly, Simplicity. That’s where I’ve strayed off the path. That’s what I really set out to do with this site. That’s what I’ve been lacking online and in my personal life.
I’d like to say that with this realization I suddenly made my body lighter and more free. I was able to bound up the next thousand feet and the Butte that I cursed earlier, I suddenly had a fondness for. These would be lies. After all there were five more switch backs to get to. Fuck this butte.
I ended up taking so long to get to the top that the clear amazing view of Mt. Hood that people on the way down were telling me about was now covered in clouds.
Normally this would have left me frustrated, but I was just glad to be alive. There were a zillion mosquitoes up there too so as much as I’d like to say I spread my arms wide and breathed in the fresh mountain air and took in the millions of trees and breathtaking views, I just ended up snapping this photo and then grumpily asking my husband if we could go now because I was being eaten alive.
I bounded down the way I came up in much less time, with a spring in my step. Despite the view turning out shit, despite globs of sweat under my boobs and the bites on my arms, my creative block seemed clear. Even though I’m a bit more out of shape than I’m used to at the moment I was marveling at how my body manged to take me up that hill. Despite the heavy breathing and straining muscles it was able to do its job and take me where my mind willed it to go. My body is kind of amazing. I’m going to spend less time hating it and more time celebrating it. I’m going to be more honest about it. I’m going to keep simplifying my life. I’m going to Kondo out my closet (again), because it’s okay if it takes a few tries to get it right. I’m not going to solve all my problems in one monthly challenge. I’m going to buy less, save more. I’m going to tell you all about it. I’m going to tell you when I mess up and buy too much. I’m going to share the truth about my trips, the good and the bad. I’m going to share my struggles with simplifying and my triumphs. I want you to share all yours with me too.
So that’s what this new tab on the site will be. A Honest, Simple Life. I think you readers will like it better when I’m honest with you and I realize now that my subconscious likes it too. It punishes me (as experienced by June Gloom) when I fall behind on my passion. Because that’s what it is: a passion. I am passionate about sharing my life with you all. I’m passionate about hearing about your lives and your struggles. Your Photo A Day posts with the #PictureTheLittleThings hashtag inspired me. Your desire to minimize your own closets and kitchens put a smile on my face. You truths about your own travels and vacations made me feel less alone when I struggle away from home.
I do have a new monthly challenge for July that I’m really excited about, but I will be making posts here too to share with you all and have you share with me your simple and honest lives.
Sunday was wedding day! I cannot express the joy I felt watching my beautiful (inside and out) friend walk down the aisle to the true love of her life.
The wedding itself was so touching and the after wedding party was great. A lot of catching up with old friends and really just having a good time. It was exactly how one hopes a wedding goes.
Before we left Sunday, I made sure to say a good goodbye to the cutest dog, Boscoe. This is my In-Laws little boy and he is just the cutest. He’s a spoiled little thing, but I adore him.
We left Spokane around 10 and got home around 4. Laundry and rest was had and then an early bed to get back into the week.
Nothing says Monday like stocks. I snapped a pic of my average morning on Monday. I usually get up at 6 and zone out on the couch for a half hour watching the morning news and waking up. Around 6:30 I grab a cup of coffee and try to wake up more efficiently. At 7 I get dressed and I’m out the door by 7:30 to make it to work around 8.
It’s getting kind of old and I’m starting to constantly wonder what’s next. Is this it? We’ll get to that next week….
I felt like I finally got a chance to play the new Niantic Wizards Unite game on Tuesday. This game came out while I was in the wilderness with no cell service. This caused a late start for me and with all the wedding stuff and driving I hadn’t really had a chance to play.
Now that I have though I’m really enjoying it. I am a Magizoologist at level 8. Add me 4602 9212 0437.
I had a great happy hour after work with friends but we were having such a good time I didn’t take any photos. I kind of love it when that happens. It means you were fully in the moment, which I’ve been trying to do more when I’m with other people.
I think the best thing about Wednesday was this dog patiently waiting for her owner to come back. I was waiting for a smoothie I’d just ordered and this little thing was so cute. Dogs are the best.
Thursday we were supposed to play kickball, but we had a huge thunderstorm roll in. It rained most of the day so the game was canceled.
I was using kick ball as my 30 minutes of activity this day and with the lightning I didn’t think I was going to get any walking in. Luckily at work we have a great indoor desk treadmill you can use so I hopped on it for a half hour after lunch. Too bad indoor walking doesn’t help open portkeys in Wizards Unite.
I came home and made my favorite five layer dip and vegged out on the couch to catch up on Big Little Lies.
After work on Friday we went to finally see Toy Story 4. People were describing it as the sequel we didn’t know we needed. I disagree. It was a good film, but completely unneccessary. Also, *spoiler* that goodbye between Woody and Buzz was a letdown.
I took this photo in between advertisements before the movie started. I remember when I worked at a movie theater when I was 16-17 we had this really annoying thing before the trailers started called Movie Tunes. I hated it because to someone who worked there I heard all the same 25 songs they played over and over. Now though, I would prefer Movie Tunes to all these advertisements for Gieco and spoilers to upcoming films. It’s a constant loop that never stops playing. Bring back the music.
Now that June is essentially over, thanks for sticking with A Photo A Day for TWO months instead of just the one. I’m honestly not sure what I’m doing for July on here. It’s been kind of a weird few months for me. I’m hoping some time in nature this weekend will help bring me out of a funk and back to you all next week with something different and exciting.
We did nothing this weekend and it was so nice. Our weekends are packed starting this upcoming weekend and not letting up until July so it was nice to not go anywhere or have plans.
I spent Saturday on the deck in the shade eating outshine lime bars and reading books and it was perfect.
Again, nothing exciting Sunday except this vegan sandwich I devoured in seconds. It was smashed chickpeas, avocado, cucumbers and a ton of veggies.
It wasn’t much to look at so I didn’t post it anywhere, but the bread was fresh baked and it was amazing.
I went to this great nail salon in Portland on Monday called Finger Bang. I’ve been there a few times and they even did my nails for my wedding.
I’m not a big fan of sitting for an hour just getting my nails done. I honestly go maybe twice a year, but this place does really cute nail art and I wanted something special for my friend’s wedding.
Tuesday was my last day of work before vacation. We celebrated my boss’ birthday a bit early. I think we might have gone over the top with decorations, but it was fun.
I came home and cleaned and packed. I’m usually a light packer but for some reason with it being a wedding weekend and all I brought a ton of stuff. Way more than I actually used. Lesson learned.
Wednesday we drove all day to get to the cabin that my Aunt owns in Idaho. We were ready for two days of solitude and swimming.
Unfortunately the weather was freezing and there was rain in the forecast. I took a lot of beautiful photos of the lake and the cabin, but didn’t really share what we spent most of our time doing.
We relaxed in front of the fire, drank wine and played board games. Not super photogenic time, but we loved it.
Thursday we had a morning dip in the lake (it was freezing) and then we drove to a hike that took us down some perilous back roads. The one pictured was easy, but there was a point where it took us 30 minutes to go four miles.
We spent the entire time hoping we didn’t blow a tire on accident.
The hike was amazing and afterwards we drove into Sandpoint and had amazing Mexican food and awesome ice cream. My brother-in-law drove up that night and we spent some more time in front of the fire and had BBQ.
Relaxation time was officially over on Friday and I raced back into Spokane in the morning to have a lunch with a friend and meet her adorable baby for the first time.
After that I was officially on a time limit and I took a quick shower and dressed up for a wedding rehearsal and dinner. Bridesmaid duties included walking up and down an aisle about seven times and seeing old friends. Pretty easy and fun.
We cooed over my friend’s new baby some MORE – as pictured – and many ridiculous times were had in preparation for the Saturday wedding.
My Dad came into town for the weekend and on Saturday we went to the farmers market in the morning and I found this amazing croissant/muffin (cruffin?) booth. They had a rose water raspberry vanilla one and I was NEEDING THAT. I had just eaten though so I was gonna pick up one on my way out. Unfortunately, they ran out of those ones so I stuck myself with the a coffee caramel one…which did not disappoint.
On Sunday we went to a Scandinavian Mid-Summer festival. Dad and I made flower crowns, which I posted a picture of on Instagram.
I also posted a ton of stories of the mid-summer pole being raised. That was all very photogenic and cool, but my favorite part was enjoying an older group of dancers doing traditional Scandinavian dances. It was all very fun and rather cute to watch them dance and enjoy themselves. Not very photogenic, but it was my favorite part of the festival. I took Dad to the airport on Sunday and spent the rest of the day doing laundry and grocery shopping to prepare for the rest of the week.
Monday was kind of crazy. We had a deadline at work so I came in early and downed coffee until we got all our deliverables out the door.
After work I recorded the Cinemabysmal podcast with Nick and Dylan. We had a great episode about Stephen Chow films, specifically The Mermaid and Kung Fu Hustle.
Tuesday I rushed home to make dinner, edit the pod and have everything ready for The Bachelorette. We always watch on Tuesdays because watching live on Monday means too may commercials.
I poured a salted caramel stout and got my amazing lemon garlic pasta ready and it turns out the show was a day behind because of the NBA finals. Just one of those things. It was also 100 degrees this day and I was melting.
Another 100 degree scorcher. After work I went to a friends home and sat out on her porch in the shade drinking gin and tonics with fans pointed all around us. It all felt rather southern.
When I left the sun was setting and it was so gorgeous outside, despite the heat. I snapped a little photo just to remember how the sky looked.
Had the first kick ball game of the summer season on Thursday. I was an avid softball and soccer player growing up so I felt like I was going to do okay, but was still a little nervous.
Luckily the temperature dropped down to a high of 86. Probably would have melted wicked witch style if it had stayed at 100 again.
We won the game, which was great, and I managed to not do anything really stupid or get hurt so it was a win win. Go Honey Badgers.
New music Friday! Taylor Swift announced her new album called Lovely, and had a really awesome new single come out supporting the LGBTQ communit. Just in time for pride weekend here in Portland.
Work went by really quick and we got off at 2pm to do some pre-drinking before our work’s brew cycle event. Brew cycle is one of those things that looks terrible until you actually do it. in fact you’ve probably made fun of people doing it, but trust me, just do it once and it’s pretty fun.