my top Instagram posts of 2018


Instagram, not unlike this blog, is a tool I use mostly as a creative outlet. I had a conversation with a guy once who thought Instagram was all about self-worth and how many compliments you get, but I never cared about the number of followers I had, and I never deleted a photo because it didn’t have enough “hearts.”

My personal Instagram is a private account, and I do restrict who I allow to see it. Overall, it has very few selfies but many photos of my niece and my dog. If anything, I’m fishing for comments about how cute those little nuggets are.

As for my Lost Upstate account, I try to be more engaging with it. I like to think of it as an art gallery rather than a personal runway.  I don’t post photos of the people in my life, but I try to capture the aesthetic of the life I live. I’ve been taking “Instagrams” since before it was a thing. My first phone was full of little 30 MB photos of sunsets and lakes and dogs. I still have those old photos too. Now, instead of carrying them around on my phone with no one to see them, I get to share them with my followers.

Since Instagram shows you insights about your posts (because so many people have turned social media into a business), I decided to give mine a look. What were my most engaging posts? What did my friends and family like to see from me?

Here were my top 5 Instagram posts.


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This series is of my living room and “office” post-paint and post-carpet, right before I sanded the floor. It had already undergone a decent transformation after removing the pink carpet and painting both rooms the same color. I left the floor untreated for longer than I wanted too, but I was reading up on how to use floor sanders. I wanted to get it right. Plus, there was a gap in the floor where the house had shifted. We had to crank the house back up to bring the gap back together.



This was just after I put some furniture in the living room. This was a pretty rewarding moment as far as house projects go. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to put on the windows and walls yet, but all my ragtag furniture came together to feel quite homey.


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These two images compare how the office looked before I ripped the carpet up and after I had just finished painting. The first photo was actually from the assessment of the house (what it looked like when I toured it before making an offer). It’s pretty easy for me to visualize life in the 70s.

4. living room before after

This was when I posted the final reveal of the entire overhaul to the blog. I love this pic.



This gram got a lot of people talking (a lot for me – haha). Everyone was so encouraging about my student debt progress, so thank you, all you nice people. I’m in a little bit of a conundrum right now. I have been debating whether to continue to pay down my loans so intensely or to throw every extra cent into my savings. Unsurprisingly, I’m back to paying down my loans because I’m too close to quit now.

I’m not at all surprised about this now that I’ve looked at it. Everyone loved the house-grams: the before and after posts, the wood floor transformation, etc. I’m not going to lie, I love that stuff too. I love it because I’m proud of it – or maybe I’m proud of it because I love it…  I’m glad that the monthly breakdown of my loan payments made the top 5 too. The reminder of the support I have has helped me get back to my goals and continue to “tough it out.”

Tuesdays really know how to sneak up on me. I had hoped to type a few of the mental notes I have been taking for my kitchen renovation, but that will have to wait until I compile my visual inspirations (aka Pinterest). I still have (hopefully no more than) five months left to pay off my student loans. So, I’m getting a little ahead of myself with the kitchen anyway.


2018 in review


What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?

Moving into my own home and living on my own. I can see myself years from now, driving down the road I live on now and saying, “There it is! My first house!”

If you had to describe your 2018 in 3 words, what would they be?

Crazy, messy, and bumpy.

What new things did you discover about yourself?

That taking care of yourself and taking care of business are two very tiring endeavors

What single achievement are you most proud of?

I paid off one of my bigger loan accounts. This loan in particular was my highest interest loan but it was in the middle of the pack as far as the balance amount. I had nine small-ish loans when I got out of school. Altogether, I have paid six off out of nine accounts. Eight loans were in one account with one payment. Then this one was on it’s own in another account. I have three loans left in the other account, but at the end of 2018, I’ve paid down almost 75% of my student loan balance.

What was your favorite place that you visited in 2018?

This is the part of the questionnaire where I have to go back and check my Instagram account and figure out where I went this year. Ahhhh yes! I went to Cleveland and Atlanta. Cleveland was more fun than Atlanta since I was in Atlanta for a trade show. I got to go to my first MLB game in Cleveland and buy tasty handmade pierogies.

Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?

There are two parts of 2018. There was the beginning when I was dedicated to the house and work. Besides some relationship problems, I was really happy. I liked having my own space. I felt proud and confident about my decisions. The second part was after finding out about my company closing. I was not in a good place. I was stressed doing multiple jobs at work as people left to find new work. I got a sinus infection and was sick for most of October and November. I kept looking for something to get away from the situation I was in and I finally found it. There were so many moments at the end of the year that I just didn’t know what to do, but I kept going. My cousin says there is something to be said about the way I tough it out.


Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?

My list of confidantes has been dwindling. People keep coupling up and moving away from me. I still message Rachael the most when I have things I need to get off my chest. My buddy Pokey and I have been chatting more too. He has been very helpful and caring. Of course, my mom and dad are also on this list.

Which new skills did you learn?

My typing speed has increased greatly since I started my new job. I can’t believe how slow I had gotten and how quickly it came back! Also, I have learned some more at my new job. I painted a lot this fall so I think my oil skills are getting better. I actually think it would be hard for me to use acrylics again.

What, or who, are you most thankful for?


If someone wrote a book about your life in 2018, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else?

I guess coming-of-age, but that has been my life since age 21. It could also be a DIY book with all the house projects I did.

living room after 04

What was the most important lesson you learned in 2018?

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I bought a house because I loved the job I had and wanted to work there for a few more years and within months of moving in, I lost that job.

How did your relationship to your family evolve?

I hate to say this but the longer I’m single and childless, the more out of place I feel in my family. It’s like I’m not a child, but I’m not an adult. I can’t relate to my siblings and cousins, and I have nothing to talk about with my aunts and uncles. They ask me about work and how I am but there’s nothing much to say. My parents are my friends, but I still feel disconnected somehow. No one feels like home.

What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?

Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre.


What cool things did you create this year?

I painted some new pieces and actually sold a couple of them.

What was your favorite moment spent with your friends?

My yearly drunken Memorial Day with my friend Pokey.

What major goal did you lay the foundations for?

At the moment, my goals are in flux. I’m torn between staying on course or changing lanes. So I’ve paused. I’m paying the minimum on my loans and I’m keeping my eyes open.

Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?

Worrying about saying the right thing and wondering how to act around certain guys. 2018 was a weird year for me when it comes to dating. I went from running away from a situation to trying to put myself out there to getting chased by a player. I guess I’ve been back home for long enough to know more people. Bar tending had helped with that a little, but I haven’t clicked with anyone. I just wish I spent less time worrying about things that weren’t going to work out anyway.

What was the best gift you received?

Sara made me a really nice sign for my birthday that says “All guests must be approved by the Chessie.” It’s very me and Charlie.

How did your overall outlook on life evolve?

2018 started out so rough then got really good and then got really bad again. Life is a roller coaster. Sometimes I can’t figure out whether I’m going up or down.

What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?

When a drunk guy told me he wanted to marry me.

What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?

A clip on light for Charlie’s collar. I should not have waited so long. I love being able to let him out and find him again. The one I found on Amazon is really bright and effective.

What did you think about more than anything else?

How I was going to find a job I enjoyed.

What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

I had a really good coworker that helped me get through the news about the company. I think it greatly impacted the way I think about work. Not liking the people you work with day in and day out is miserable.

2019 – another odd year

What do you want the overarching theme for your 2019 to be?

“Slow but steady.”

What do you want to see, discover, explore?

There is this Costa Rica trip I would really love to take. Maine is still on my list of course. One day.

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2019?

I want to go visit Pokey in NYC. I would also love to see Nancy again. She needs to come here (Nancy if you are reading this we need to make this happen this summer).

What skills do you want to learn, improve or master?

I want to KEEP PAINTING AND MAKING. My most popular painting was my tree. I need to do a lot more of those and build on that demand.

Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?

Routine and discipline. I think as someone who is creative, it’s difficult to be disciplined. I have many different emotional and creative needs that I tend to be erratic in my projects and outings. So I made a list of the things I consider my top priorities. I’m much better at some than others, and I want to align my priorities with my behavior… better than I have been.

What do you want your everyday life to be like?

I didn’t spend nearly enough time outside this year. I didn’t fish enough. I didn’t hunt enough. I didn’t hike enough. Not enough. I need more.

Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?

A huge personal goal is to get back to waking up early. I managed to do it the first few weeks of my new job, and then I fell off the wagon again. I want to get an hour long walk with Charlie in first thing in the morning. I’m also really done trying to force my weight down. I’m going to try to keep better track of my physical activity and workouts first and foremost. I want the weight to be reflective of that. I told Pokey on Sunday, “I don’t want to be self-indulgent all the f*cking time.”

What do you want to achieve career-wise?

I want to research a lot. I need to look at cities and companies and masters programs. I just need to devote more time to thinking about expanding my world. Slow and steady.

How do you want to remember the year 2019 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?

This is my fourth year doing a yearly review and this question is impossible to answer. Every year I’m amazed at what happened and how I got through it and what I learned. I don’t know if I’ll be able to remember something remarkable from every year in the next 10-50 years.

What is your number one goal for 2019?

I hope to be rational and calm. I keep freaking out randomly about what I’m going to do. I think the best thing to do is to keep talking about it with people I trust. Throw my plans out there and get feedback from people who care about me.

christmas 2018


“Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you “

Merry Christmas friends!

It seems like I’m never home so I was being a bit of a Scrooge about decorating. It took me so long to figure out how to decorate my porch because I just wasn’t feeling inspired. I finally managed to get into the Christmas spirit last weekend though… a little bit. I bought some lights and dangled them all over my porch windows. I put a little fake tree on the porch too. I can see it from inside because of my front window – which is nice.


Even though I was only feeling sort of Christmas-y, I went to my brother’s high school choir performance last Thursday, knowing it might make me a little more joyful. Well it did. They performed Pentatonix’s arrangement of “Mary Did You Know?” which I have been avoiding because the lyrics make me blubber.

“When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.” As someone who loves babies, that shizz just pulls on my heart strings. You know us Catholics; we love that Mary. How could you not? She was the first Christian! She brought the son of God into the world. Even if you don’t believe,  she’s a pretty amazing woman.

Only after the concert did I actually feel like it was Christmas. I finished my Christmas shopping which was relatively painless other than finding something for my grandparents (who have to be so difficult). Sara and I split the cost of Buffalo Bills tickets as our gift to our siblings and parents so I just got them each a small item to unwrap. I got a four day weekend because no one was going to be in the office Monday (which for me means I got two full days off with no work at either job)!

Lauren Daigle’s 2016 Christmas album has been giving me life the past few days. Her voice is so beautiful, and her style is right up my alley. I’m thankful for the positive influence she has on my spirit. Pentatonix is really hot right now, but I’m not a huge fan of Christmas hymns in a Capella form. The instruments are a huge part of the tradition for me. One of my favorites is below.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and enjoys everything that life has given them.

Featured Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

a week with jane eyre

literature, thoughts

To preface my week of Jane Eyre, as I am now calling it, I will admit this: after the first few days of my newfound obsession, I realized that I usually only become this emotionally and/or creatively enthralled during certain “times” of the month.  You know, if I’m going to be crazy about something, classic British literature is not at all a bad choice. I’m going to share my new obsession for posterity because this may be a moment I remember for a long time, not unlike the first time I watched Pride and Prejudice.

On New Year’s Eve of my junior year in high school, I watched the 2005 Pride and Prejudice and became a little obsessed. I read the book and watched the movie over and over again. I valued the love story, of course, but also the characters and their personalities. The dynamics of the Bennet family and those they encounter, and the comparisons that arise from those dynamics, are what make me love Austen’s stories. Pride and Prejudice has had the most lasting impact on my life, and I still regularly watch the movie.

The Wednesday before last, I was scrolling through a Jane Austen Instagram account when I saw faces that I didn’t recognize. I HAD TO KNOW WHO THOSE CHARACTERS WERE and, consequently, fell down a YouTube rabbit hole of clips of the 1983 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s, Jane Eyre. How I had never managed to read Jane Eyre, I have no idea. I loved Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. How had I missed out on her sister’s famous novel? How had I not seen the 2011 movie adaptation with Michael Fassbender?

The next day, I found the 1983 miniseries on Amazon Prime. I watched all of it. I realized there were a dozen film adaptations and decided to pick a few to binge. The 2006 BBC miniseries was also available on Prime. I started that on Saturday afternoon and finished it Sunday morning. I then purchased the 2011 movie and finished it before lunch. I spent the rest of that Sunday afternoon rewinding and finding my favorite scenes and quotes between the two latter versions. My week of Jane Eyre had only just begun.

Sunday night, I downloaded an Audible created in 2016 to commemorate Charlotte Bronte’s 200th birthday and started it on my Monday morning drive. I figured it would take me about 19 days. I was wrong. I finished it Friday evening on my drive home from work. I didn’t only listen when I was driving to work. I listened when I was making meals. I listened when I did laundry. I listened while walking my dog in the dark.

Imagine me walking around a park in the middle of the night listening to a random British woman – out loud (because I can’t find my earbuds) – laughing, smiling, and sometimes yelling, “Oh girl… I know how you feel,” or “He’s such a jerk.” Yep. That’s me. I’ve written about my love of audio-books before, and this Audible reading did not disappoint.  Since this novel is written in the first-person, the reading made Jane feel like a close friend telling me her story. I loved hearing a British narrator read a British novel. It’s easier to understand some of the antiquated words and become immersed in the story when the accent is accurate.

Since I had watched not one but three film versions by the time I listened to the book, I was surprised to find that very little was new to me. All three versions together had covered most of the book. I found it interesting to discover which versions had included certain scenes and omitted others. The 2011 adaptation was an excellent 2 hour story, but movies are so short. We miss so many details. I can’t with Fassbender though, his voice, his eyes. He is too damn dreamy. The 1983 version was probably the most accurate, and I did love Timothy Dalton’s Mr. Rochester. I had a lot of words for his version since it was the first I watched. My sister and cousin got to see a lot those reactions via Snapchat. I was having a lot of fun with it at that point.

I liked the 2006 miniseries the best out of the three screen versions I watched. I think it was easiest to identify with as well as a more accurate adaptation. People who get so upset about directors adapting novels are much too sensitive. I don’t think an author would mind at all that an adaptation would differ slightly to appeal to a contemporary audience. I mean here I am 200 years after Bronte was born, discussing the very personal impact the story has had on me. That would be an incredible accomplishment as a writer. I am curious to know which would be Bronte’s favorite adaptation — which Rochester and Jane were the closest to her vision.

I’m upset I had to wait so long to know these characters. Mr. Rochester is dramatic, sensitive, harsh, and romantic. He asks questions of Jane as an equal and tries so hard to get her to say the things she wishes to keep in “that head that sits upon her shoulders.”  To be honest, he’s 100% my type.  Additionally, although Jane is only 19 in the novel, we are so similar. We share the same sentiments. I am single, living “independently,” and in the midst of a sudden job change.  So often when I am upset or feeling down, I have to remind myself that I am my own person and that I can live on my own and have a great life.  It can be difficult to be solo and be proud of the life you’ve built when there is no one with whom to share it. Jane reminded me to continue to be grateful for my life and hold out hope for “my equal and my likeness” but to never be afraid of living life the way I want to live it.

currently november 2018

money, thoughts

life currently (2)

Currently Reading: The Prestige by Christopher Priest. This one wasn’t on the list I posted a month ago. I was talking about how much I loved the movie version at the bar, and a customer said the book was incredible. He found his copy for me and let me borrow it. I finished First Fiction last week, and I was eager to start The Prestige. First Fiction was very good. I wish I was more familiar with some of the authors because I really enjoyed some of the stories. I tend to like short stories that are about mental health or stories that cast a curious light on seemingly average people or scenes. I listed some of my favorite stories here.

Currently Listening To: Use Me by The Goo Goo Dolls

Currently Watching: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Currently Loving: My Roomba and slow cooker. I listened to Jenna Kutcher’s podcast regularly for a few weeks, and something I kept hearing was that she “outsources” to get more done in her business and in her personal life. I’m the kind of person to do something for myself. I prefer to cook at home and fix things myself. While I don’t run my own business, I do work 56 hrs a week, and with the new position I accepted, I will be driving for 7.5 hrs a week. I think the Roomba and slow cooker are my little way of “outsourcing.” These two machines make life a little easier. BTW – I bought a certified refurbished Roomba using my “fun” money and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Currently Thankful For: A new opportunity at a stable company. It’s only temporary, but I feel good about it.

Currently Celebrating: Friends and family.

Currently Thinking: Christmas presents. I need to buy Christmas presents.

Currently Worrying: I need two new tires. Fun stuff.

Currently Hoping: The weather stays decent for driving to work.

Currently Considering: I lost my six month diet bet. I’m really disappointed, and I went through a phase where I wanted to be done looking at the scale. I want to do Keto for 21 days without any weighing myself or counting anything. I just want to add more protein and cut carbs blindly and see how I feel.

Currently Trying: I did two holiday craft shows in November, and I learned that if I could sell enough art to pay for the hobby, I would be happy. My mom and I are splitting a booth next Sunday, and I am hopeful that this show will be a little more lucrative.

Currently Painting: Poinsettias.

Currently Knitting: A beautiful ribbed scarf. I’m loving how the knit pattern looks.

To my friends and family that follow along, sorry for going silent for a month! My routine should be seeing a vast improvement now that I’m no longer at my old position.

❤ Hannah