Blogging for Books: Capture the Moment

This post is a review of the photography book, “Capture the Moment.” I received this book as a part of my participation in a new involvement: Blogging for Books! Blogging for Books is an awesome way for bloggers to obtain free books, write reviews and discover content from other bloggers. I highly recommend a visit to the website to my fellow wordpress friends. I look forward to requesting, reading and writing about different books provided to me by this wonderful website.

Capture the Moment by Sarah Wilkerson is a photography book that combines aesthetically pleasing design with genuine tips to help any photographer in their journey to capture the beauty of life’s moments. The book is a beautiful hardcover and contains a plethora of advice on how to pick subjects, set up the scene, perfect the lighting and utilize creativity in order to obtain beautiful images.


Capture the Moment is a fantastic alternative to other photography books, as it is not a boring or intimidating textbook style format. Instead, it is a collection of beautiful images and advice on how to create them for oneself, which is a much more pleasant way to expand knowledge of photography. It goes beyond just technique and gives advice on how to look at the world from the view of a photographer, learning to appreciate small details that sometimes go unnoticed.



I have been exploring film and photography as a hobby for the past few years, and a book like this is an essential part of any new or developing photographers library. I really enjoy flipping through it, admiring the images that the author has put together, and incorporating the techniques and skills she mentions into my own photography ventures. I would highly recommend this book! All my future “Blogging for Books” reviews will go under the “Lifestyle” category of this blog.


xoxo Val


Target Layoffs

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 was a discouraging day for the 1,700 Target Corporation employees from the Twin Cities that were laid off as a part of Target’s efforts to try to save $500 million this fiscal year. This was the largest effort to downsize in the history of the company and it left many people upset and uncertain about their future. I first heard about these massive layoffs at work, where a woman who had been laid off after 23 years of employment was drinking at the bar with her husband and friends; trying to lighten the blow of such an unfortunate situation with a few bottles of wine.

In victory you deserve champagne.

In defeat, you need it.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

I didn’t ask about the details of her being laid off, but after word circulated around the bar about her situation, different people from all sides of the restaurant were pulling over me and my coworker to ask us to put her dinner on their tab or buy them a bottle of wine, while other people approached her to offer their condolences and even inquire about her qualifications to help her find a new job. It was inspiring to see strangers so inclined to help each other out and the support that filled the room was overwhelming and brought an air of hope to an otherwise dismal situation. I have good faith that she will be able to find employment soon and be able to carry on with her life soon, despite this unfortunate roadblock that she has stumbled across. Her situation and the entirety of the Target layoffs tell a truth about life that many people do not want to believe.

Job security is an illusion. Nothing is certain and everything is subject to change.

No matter how hard you work, how much education you have or what your qualifications are, anything that you work for can be taken away in the blink of an eye. CEOs get outed by their own companies, budget cuts and layoffs are made, entire corporations can be bought and sold and even entire industries can be dissolved. We all are subject to having things fall apart, no matter how much work we put into keeping them together. Most people may not ever experience this, but it is important to realize that it does happen and it can happen at any moment.

Many people believe that the phrase “survival of the fittest” means that only the strong or the smart individuals will survive when natural selection acts upon a population. This is a big misconception in evolutionary biology that can be apply to many aspects of life. Survival of the fittest means that the individuals who are “most well-adapted to the current environment” survive. Being adaptable and malleable is more important in the long run than any specific qualifications. Maintaining an open mind, pursuing our passions and always being ready to take any sort of obstacle head-on is the way to survive a setback like this. We can change to meet the demands of our environment, and adapt to be able to thrive in it.

The Target layoffs, while being a huge blow to many people in Minneapolis, is a cloud with a silver lining. Now that all off this experienced talent has been let go from Target, other companies in the Twin Cities are waiting to swoop up newly available employees, a win for both parties involved. I have high hopes for these people and for those companies, who will hopefully value their employees in a way that Target did not.

Stay positive and keep moving forward my friends.


Cures for Writers Block

This post is more relevant to my online blogger friends who, like me, probably suffer from momentary bouts of serious writers block. The worst kind of brain fart, when you have maxed out your creativity and can no longer think of new things to write about. Whether it is for a short story, a novel, a blog post or an essay for some sort of application (ahem, cover letters…) Writers block can hit and it can be really hard to work your way out of such a rut. I am by no means an expert on overcoming writers block, as I don’t think it is a science that can really be understood, but here is a list of things that I do when I suffer from a mental blockade and inability to come up with new ideas, hopefully it can help anyone struggling to complete a writing-related task!

1. Make an inspiring playlist.

Souncloud or iTunes are great places to save specific songs to a “writing” playlist, and if you listen to it while typing away, it can help to stimulate new ideas or change your mood to better suit your writing situation. Here is the playlist I am currently using when I’m working on my book, maybe my choice of songs will clue you in to what it’s about 😉

2. Throw in an absurd plot twist – even if it gets removed later, it can bring up new ideas.

This is something that can be extremely useful in cultivating new ideas. Throw in the most absurd, dramatic plot twist, or a huge lie if the work is supposed to be professional or factual information. Just be sure to delete it later, before actually submitting it for the job. Throwing in these complete warps of reality can help stimulate the brain into thinking creatively, thinking of new ideas that would otherwise never come up if the storyline was pursued in a uniform, sensical matter. A Dr. Seuss quote that I really love speaks to this

Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,

it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope,

and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.

Dr. Seuss

3. Go for a walk

Sometimes, removing oneself from the immediate physical situation that is perpetuating writers block can be very helpful. Getting out in nature and getting the creative juices flowing can help to inspire a new segment or envision a new interaction between characters. I try to imagine myself as a bystander, watching my characters interact from a removed distance. What are they doing? What are they saying? What does their body language look like? What did they choose to wear today?

This advice is more specific to the creative writing realm, but going for a walk out in nature is healthy regardless, and can seriously help to refresh a cluttered mind. Various studies have concluded that going for a walk is actually proven to clear a cluttered mind, bringing much-needed relief to a stressed out writer.

4. Write yourself into the book

If you aren’t already writing a memoir and instead your characters are completely fictional, creating a space for yourself within the words of your story can help increase the personal component of the whole process, bringing you closer to the words you put on the page.

5. Have a friend read it, and give their reaction.

This seems like a no brainer, but in a world where we are all very busy, our lives filled with an endless list of daily commitments, it can be hard to ask a friend to read over your work, especially if it is a long piece. I am lucky that I am blessed with people who will read over my material and send me honest feedback, and generally this feedback works wonders in inspiring new ideas for where I can take the story, helping me identify possible issues in the plot and also add flair to my characters and the story itself. I highly recommend finding a critical friend who will not have an issue giving honest feedback, because for any written work, a cover letter, poem, short story etc, this personal, intimate response can work wonders for a writer suffering from composition obstacles.

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin





On Not Having All the Answers… & some Monday Inspiration

“I never worry about the future, it comes soon enough.”

-Albert Einstein

Despite how scared I was before jumping out of a plane on my first-ever skydiving experience, nothing can match the sheer terror that comes along with realizing that I’m a college senior in my final months of my undergraduate education. Soon I will graduate and move on to bigger and better things; but what those things are is far beyond my own knowledge.

Western culture and particularly that of the United States likes to enforce a regimented set of steps for success, steps that many abide by because they are unaware that they have any other choice in the process of obtaining the lifestyle that they want. A house with a mortgage payment that comes along with it. A newer model of a luxury car. A family and a 9-5 job. A suffocating pile of student debt that resulted from a degree that promised a better life.

All of these hoops that we jump through are set, and very few people stop jumping and take a step back to evaluate if the next hoop is truly going to bring them happiness, or if it just another scheme to push up through life the same way as the person in front of us. College is a good thing; it can bring a lot of opportunities and graduate school afterward can open even more doors. But college is not the only answer, and having a certain degree doesn’t cut one off from pursuing a completely different field to eventually going into. James Franco is currently a Ph.D candidate for comparative literature at Yale. Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean!) has two degrees in mechanical engineering. Before John Legend became famous for his magical voice, he worked at Boston Consulting Group. The list goes on, and it’s not just celebrities that are allowed to have major career and life changes. Anyone can.

I constantly get asked the same question, over and over again,

“So what are you going to do after you graduate?”

Every time it is uttered from someone’s lips, a wave of nausea hits my body and my cortisol levels shoot through the roof as I try to remember what lie I told the last person who asked me. What do I say now?

“I’m taking a year off”

“I’m applying for graduate schools”

“I’m researching graduate schools to apply to”

“I’m working in a lab”

“I’m doing an internship at a “brewery ;)”

The list goes on and on, but none of the responses are technically truthful. Typically I just pick which one comes to mind first and roll with it, as the person asking usually doesn’t care on a deep level and wont ask me to elaborate too much. Even if the conversation quickly progresses onward, I still am shaken from being reminded that graduation is just around the corner and right now, I still have no solid plan for what I am doing with the next year(s) of my life. One thing I find a lot of comfort in is knowing that I am not alone; many of my peers are unsettled with their near future plans, and are living day-to-day figuring out their next move just like I am, resisting the immense pressure to have it all figured out by the time our diplomas arrive in the mail.

It is stressful being a confused fish in a sea of others that seem to be on a streamlined path, but I try my best to remember that not having it all figured out is a blessing; my mind and eyes are open to opportunities that would maybe slip right by me if my sight was focused on something else. Every single day we have the power to go out and change our lives; sometimes in a small way, and sometimes in a way bigger than we could ever believe. Having a change of mind at any age is never a bad thing; some of the most successful people had major career changes late in life

This upcoming year, my plan is to spend 9 months teaching English in Spain and then spend the rest of my time traveling around Europe and possibly parts of North Africa. After that, who knows? I’m also working on a book right now that I hope to have completely finished and published by May, but more to come on that in later posts 🙂

So, friends, I hope maybe if you’re struggling to know what your next move is, that you’ve found some comfort in my words. And if you’re one of the people who do have it all figured out and know exactly what’s next, good for you! That is amazing, just understand that not everyone is as steadfast on their path to success like you may be.

It’s easy to get caught up worrying about the future, but what’s more important is enjoying the present. The future will come soon enough, enjoy what is here now instead. You can’t control the current of the river, but you can jump in, swim, and see where it takes you.

Now for some of my favorite YouTube inspirations, watch and enjoy if you’re looking for a little motivation this Monday evening.

Cheers xoxo


A word on social media

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Yik yak. YouTube. Vine.

Like death and taxes, the transformation into being a user of some form of social media is inevitable. Almost like a biological reflex, we click open the app whenever the alarming red notification box is present. Facebook connects us with our relatives across the country and friends around the world. YouTube brings us free entertainment that could last for weeks with no pause and Instagram provides us with a constant stream of images for our visual stimulation needs. Messages between many people are exchanged at the speed of light over text and messengers. Everyone is connected and informed. Social media has given a new platform and marketing tool to content creators and businesses and has made the possibilities for connecting people and sharing content virtually limitless. The inspiration to be gathered from the creativity of others is powerful. The circulation of inspiration is an extremely positive force, made possible by the existence of so many platforms for publishing content. We can now seek inspiration in visual, audio and written forms all on the Internet, available at our fingertips at any moment in time.

But what social media giveth, it also taketh away. We piss away time that we could be using to push ourselves forward in order to consume the documentation of the lives of others through their pictures, video and status updates. Ignoring a text has become an impossible feat, and messages are checked on a constant basis. Face to face discussion is interrupted by a buzz and a break in eye contact to look at an illuminated screen. We are all guilty.

Words can be twisted and misinterpreted to hurt others. We gawk at the lives of people which seem to be so much more exciting than our own, living vicariously through photos and video. Our time is then not lived for ourselves but for others. We log in in the late hours of the night and while we are on the clock in order to find out who is out having fun while we are not. Fifteen minutes of surfing the web can lead to five hours of continual distraction, cutting into our time to interact with others in the real world or shaving off precious minutes of our sleep time.
We validate the excitement of our own lives not by actually living them, but by gauging the reactions of others to our lives on how many likes and comments and followers we can gather. Inspiration is only as good as the creation that it sparks. Watching endless videos of extreme sports or gazing longingly at travel photographs is no substitute for making and executing plans to be there in real-time. While social media is here to stay and no amount of determination can get the average person off of it for good, there is something to be said for limiting time and sticking to it, deleting apps to delete the visual of notifications and resisting the urge to check for messages when in the company of others.

It’s time to log off the internet and log back into real life. In 2015 I don’t want to spend my time consuming the content of the lives of others, I want to spend that time creating content for my own, and I encourage others to do the same.



Flight MH17: A Travelers Reflection

Warning: this is somewhat of a morbid post, don’t read past here if you were seeking out positive vibes. I hate to write about negative things but I believe in realism and this is an issue that has been on my mind for the past few days.

 Today I took a flight from Madrid to Berlin to connect to Krakow, my next destination on this little adventure of mine. Traveling alone has left me very contemplative, and being on a plane evokes more serious thoughts than normal.

It has been about two weeks since the Malaysian airline en route from Amsterdam was shot down over Ukraine, killing all passengers onboard. It is a senseless tragedy that should not have happened and it reflects a lot about the powers behind the individuals responsible for such a tragedy. As I sit on this flight, I am not afraid, as planes so rarely crash and the MH-17 was (hopefully) the only tragedy of it’s kind that will ever happen from here on out, but there is sadly no certainty. I am sitting in the aisle seat, to my left is a young Spanish couple, recently married, I gather from the desktop background picture on his laptop of them on their wedding day. To my right is a British women and her two children, both curled up and sleeping, heads in her lap. I stand to walk to the lavoratory, slowly passing down the aisle past row after row of unique faces, of all ages, ethnicities, men and women, some awake and some asleep. Some make eye contact with me as I pass, others are fixated on the movie playing on the small square screens that fold down from the same compartment that contains the oxygen masks. Being one amongst this diversity, a collective group of souls in a metal tube in the sky, every single one of us reliant on the pilots and air traffic controllers to get us to our destinations safely. Thousands of people fly everyday without problem, across oceans and continents. Flying is safe. The successes greatly outweigh the failures. The problem is that a failure is almost certain death, an end to every soul on board the aircraft. The MH-17 tragedy makes me question what our responsibility as flying travelers is, how can we play some role in making sure that something like this never happens again? Do we need to demand that our corrupt and selfish leaders get their acts together, demand that our nations communicate with each other? Is a lack of communication to blame for this tragedy? How do we ensure that airspace for travelers is always safe, devoid of risk from rebel groups fueled by corrupt governments? 
My heart breaks to think of the innocent Dutch lives that were stolen, due to dangerous weapons in the wrong hands and a conflict spurred by political insensitivity and greed. They had nothing to do with the conflict in between Russia and Ukraine, yet they paid for a political disagreement with their lives. The young children on board. The two to my right have bright futures, so many memories to make and things to do in their lives which have only just begun, how can we, as a global community of travelers, sit still and be quiet when lives just like these toe were ended when that plane was shot down? I don’t want the global community to wage a war with Russia, as that won’t bring back the lives already lost and will only guarantee more tragedy. I think we have a responsibility, although I’m not exactly sure what it is or how we fulfill it, but to demand that these things do not happen, ever. If nothing else, we need to be aware that these tragedies do happen, and can happen to anyone, even us. Having respect for airline crew is one easy thing that every traveler needs to acquire. Nothing is worse than seeing travelers get pissed at a flight attendant because their flight is delayed or for whatever other trivial reason. The employee in the navy blue uniform is not the reason the plane is still on the ground. They all just want us to get to our destinations safely, so that they too can go home. I have started making sure I take out my headphones and listen to the safety speech at the beginning of each flight, despite the fact that I’ve heard it time and time again. It is a sign of respect for the safety professionals who have taken the responsibility for us during our journey in the air. 
I’m not quite sure if there will ever be a 100% survival rate for all air travel, and I am still able to fly without much fear or anxiety as I have been my whole life, but a such recent tragedy just brings forth a lot of emotion. I have hope that one day, senseless civilian casualties will cease to exist and that we can go about our adventures without so much as a thought of the possibility of a lethal mishap. 

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