Real Moments: Tales Turns One!

It’s been one whole year since I started Tales of Casstastrophe and look how far we’ve come! If you’re here anticipating styled photos of giant golden balloon numbers or letters, please kindly close your eyes and imagine them for a moment so you’re not disappointed and then open your eyes and continue reading.

First and foremost, let’s review some of the adventures we’ve been on since we got to know each other last July:

Secondly, I’ve made a few updates around the site. Nothing too fancy but allow me to direct you to the new home page. This Is Me and Casstegories have also gotten a little sprucing. Have no fear, navigation is still largely the same and I want to make sure that my past posts remain unaffected so if you see anything looking funky please let me know!

And finally, thank you to everyone who has come along on this whirlwind of a year with me! I appreciate it more than you know that anyone out there, even one single person, cares to read my thoughts and prose. Writing is fun for me; it’s a hobby, it’s a habit, and it’s a love. While I’m thankful to have these musings recorded somewhere for myself in the future, I’m even more thankful to think that someone out there might actually get something from what I write. If that someone is you – please write back.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Here’s to many more Tales of Casstastrophe!

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6-in-6: My Halfway Bucket List

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Although I tend to opt for reflections over resolutions when we hit those end of December days, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a list of things that I want to accomplish throughout the year. My beginning half of 2016 was pretty action packed, but as I settle into a new home and a more routine life (at least for a little while) I wanted to make sure that I was still pushing myself to try new stuff.

So, I came up with this list of 6 things I want to do in the next 6 months.

1. Complete a basic coding class

Computer Science school drop-out doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but I’m sure Boys2Men as Teen Angel(s?) would have made it work. Please, someone out there appreciate the reference…

I started college as an Information Science major, if we’re going to get specific about it, and only lasted about half the semester before switching into Finance. My reasoning used to be that I didn’t have the brain for coding, but I’ve since decided that that excuse is entirely inaccurate. It’s more like I just couldn’t keep up with the speed of the classes. I wasn’t entirely new to this, I had done some beginner HTML and C++ in high school, but it was still hard to get a handle on! A year or two ago I tried teaching myself how to code again and it’s… still a struggle. So I’ve been looking at some open source courses and decided THIS is the year I’ll do it. I’ll get to the finish line and I’ll get there at my own pace.

2. Start drum lessons

Another story of prior failures in life: I’m not musically inclined. Not to say that I haven’t tried (violin, saxophone, guitar, chorus) but I never found something to stick with (aside from singing Paramore’s greatest hits in my shower) and I’ve wanted to get into drumming for a while now! It’s impossible for me to listen to music without moving, whether it be tapping a finger or bouncing a leg or flailing in circles screaming the lyrics to S Club Party with friends at a “silent” disco. Drumming felt good for me to get into so I’ll let you know how that goes.

3. Cross-stich Christmas

This is the year for a crafty Christmas. Believe it or not I started working on things for people in January and I’m determined to give my close friends and family personally cross-stiched gifts. I’m not ruining any surprises with this announcement because who knows exactly what they’ll get cross-stitched for them? That being said, funny suggestions are appreciated.

4. Visit 6 new states

I’ve moved to an entirely new region of the United States of America and as a newbie, I want to explore my surroundings a bit. It’s absolutely ludicrous to me that I’ve been bitten by this home country wanderlust bug all of a sudden when I spent the other 22 odd years of my life within a 6 hour driving distance of 10 other states and 1 other country and did I do much exploring of them? Honestly, not really. Now all of a sudden I’m like “woo! gonna take a weekend trip to Cincinnati!” The good side of this is that I’ll have so many voyages to share with you.

5. Go up in a small plane

In recent years I’ve developed a fear of flying, which is utterly insane given how much I’ve travelled in said recent years. My brain has started to rationalize that the fear is coming from the element of unknowingness. Since I don’t know the technicalities of how we’re flying and how the pilots are controlling the craft, it makes me that much more panicky. And I mean really panicky, like tears streaming down my face mid-flight panicky. How do I figure I’ll confront this fear? I’ve got it in my head to maybe get my pilots license. But baby steps! Let’s get me up in a smaller airplane first and see how that goes.

6. Make lasagna from scratch

Being one of my favorite foods, I reckon I should learn how to make it. When I was in Ireland I spent some time with an Italian couple who were amazing cooks and they shared a few secrets of the trade. Let me know if you want in on the taste test!

Follies & Fixations: January 2016

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“Cassie” for every day, “My Pearl” for Sundays, and “Cross-stitching Goddess Divine” but only on very special occasions.

Mama Bear’s Homemade Knitwear

My mom is crafty! You could go back in time and show that sentence to 6th grade me and I would laugh right in your face because wow, I never saw it coming. Every year she gets more advanced with her knitwear so I really like demanding cool presents from her for no reason. My current stash is a few of those cool head wraps, a beanie, and I’ve got a thick pair of socks on deck. She also made my uncle an Icelandic sweater. Her creative prowess has inspired me to take up cross-stitching (see above) and I’m a huge fan. The world needs more dated hobbies.

Ursa Major Face Wash

Pretty sure this is for men, but I’ve been using it for about 2 years now and get ready for this: I only just ordered my 3rd bottle. Super long lasting, great smelling, and it’s all natural. Credit where credit is due, I found this through United By Blue. Caveat: it bears a strong scent resemblance to tequila so make sure to have a back-up wash for those adult mornings when that is absolutely the last thing you want to be reminded of.

2 Parts Seasonal Brews, 1 Part Christmas Horror

Not sure where or why I got it in my head but I did and one of my best friends kindly obliged and agreed to do this with me. We picked up a variety of beers that sounded remotely wintery (personal faves: Tröegs Mad Elf and Blizzard of Hops). Then, movie-night theme: Christmas Horror. Yes, that’s a genre. We opted for the “cult classic” Silent Night, Deadly Night. Everything it sounds like and more. 10/10 recommend. Definitely looking forward to this tradition for many more years to come.

Family Game Night

A new Sunday night activity for my parents, my two siblings, and me. It gets heated, it gets competitive, and I’m 99.98% positive that my younger brother is a Game of Life hustler.

“The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer

Collectively, this series probably took me all of a week to get through the first 3 books. To break it down it’s some of my favorite fairy tales re-imagined in a futuristic society kind of way: complete with wolf/man hybrids, cyborgs, moon people, and SPACESHIPS. Unfortunately because I’m a book-owning snob, I’m forcing myself to wait for the paperback of the final book,”Winter,” to come out before officially finishing the series. I’m not worried. Kinda worried. Not worried.

Downton Abbey – The Final Season

RIP MY HEART OUT, PBS. I live every Sunday in fear that my favorite characters are going to get the ax. Honestly, the suspense is worse than Game of Thrones. My best friend and I had some major bonding times over marathoning this show, so the final season is especially dear to my heart.


You are all in for a huge playlist treat this month. Since my birthday is in January, I decided to look through the Billboard Hot 100 from good old 1993 and pull together a few of my favorite jams. I’ll be honest, some of them were added just because they made me giggle. I hope they do the same for you.

Learn a Book! – 20[16k]

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“Seize the moments of happiness, make them love you, fall in love yourself! That is the only real thing in this world – the rest is all nonsense.” – Leo Tolstoy

For those of you who followed along with last year, learning some books was quite an accomplishment. In 2015 I read 30 books and racked up almost 12,000 pages. This year, rather than upping the same old ante again by tacking on a few more books to the total, I decided to shift the challenge over to those page counts. It’s something I track anyways, so why not make it the focus this go-around?

20[16k] pages. Let’s do this.

  1. “Scarlet” by Marissa Meyer [461 pgs]
  2. “Cress” by Marissa Meyer [550 pgs]
  3. “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh [308 pgs]
  4. “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater [408 pgs]
  5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee [323 pgs]
  6. “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt [139 pgs]
  7. “Dr. Franklin’s Island” by Ann Halam [245 pgs]
  8. “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss [662 pgs]
  9. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë [524 pgs]
  10. “Skibbereen: The Famine Story” by Terri Kearney & Philip O’Regan [84 pgs]
  11. “The Trial” by Franz Kafka [210 pgs]
  12. “Dubliners” by James Joyce [192 pgs]
  13. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë [326 pgs]
  14. “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy [464 pgs]
  15. “Memoirs of a Mangy Lover” by Groucho Marx [224 pgs]
  16. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows [240 pgs]
  17. “The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater [437 pgs]
  18. “84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff [94 pgs]
  19. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews [295 pgs]
  20. “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater [391 pgs]
  21. “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George [370 pgs]
  22. “Lights Out Till Dawn” by Dee Williams [341 pgs]
  23. “Opening Belle” by Maureen Sherry [352 pgs]
  24. “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis [270 pgs]
  25. “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss [1,000 pgs]
  26. “hush, hush” by Becca Fitzpatrick [391 pgs]
  27. “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides [406 pgs]
  28. “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway [127 pgs]
  29. “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard [383 pgs]
  30. ** “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton [180 pgs]
  31. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut [215 pgs]
  32. “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee [278 pgs]
  33. “The Last Star” by Rick Yancey [338 pgs]
  34. “Ghost Fleet” by P.W. Singer and August Cole [379 pgs]
  35. “Rapture” by Lauren Kate [466 pgs]
  36. “Northanger Abbey” by Val McDermid [343 pgs]
  37. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne [308 pgs]
  38. “Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir” by Alan Cumming [282 pgs]
  39. “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King [251 pgs]
  40. “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley [482 pgs]
  41. “Diary of an Oxygen Thief” by anonymous [151 pgs]
  42. ** “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman [286 pgs]
  43. “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller [143 pgs]
  44. “Between Two Thorns” by Emma Newman [327 pgs]
  45. “The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide” by Stephenie Meyer [543 pgs]
  46. “As Old As Time” by Liz Braswell [484 pgs]
  47. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by JK Rowling [309 pgs]
  48. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by JK Rowling  [341 pgs]

Total Pages: 16,323

Bolded books come recommended by yours truly. Please do reach out if you want to know why.

** This signifies an absolute must read, irrespective of genre or author or any other segregating factor. I consider it the top recommendation I could ever give to a book – so definitely go pick up a copy right this instant.

Feel free to follow me on Goodreads as well. I don’t write reviews, I seldom remember to rank the stars, and you won’t see a status update from me until the book is moved from “Want to Read” to “Read.” So… enjoy that.


Forewarn the Madness: A Look Back @ 2015

Mid-December. The point in time where we, as a collective society, begin drafting up our resolutions for the coming new year. Oftentimes they’re about the things we didn’t do, the aspirations, the lifestyle changes. Some might say that making that list is easy. “1) Get a 6-pack. 2) Visit Peru. 3) Call my mom once a week.” But it’s the big ticket items we have a harder time coming up with, if we even think to focus on them at all. How many times have you thought: “You know, I just want to be a nicer person next year.”

The world around us is tumultuous, to say the very least, and I’m not going to go into any more detail than that because we’re all very aware of the lives we get to look forward to living. This year, I’m all about the planning. Something tells me that the next twelve months are going to be even more of a whirl than the last twelve and I want to be prepared! I want to forewarn the madness. It’s not always about “new year, new me.” In fact, we wouldn’t even be able to figure out who we want that “me” to become without the subconscious assistance of all the things we just went through.

So rather than a list of resolutions for next year, I’m going to reflect back on the things that happened to me throughout this one: the wonderful and the most painstakingly terrible. Not in any way comprehensive, but just a quick brainstorm of the major impacts. Then, let’s see if they can can help me find 2016’s big ticket.

The Worst

  • Lost my raison d’etre, my main man, the core of my life in October and it’s been hard but I keep on moving cause I know that he’d expect nothing less.

The Best

  • Survived an entire year living by myself
  • Made it to the age of 22 without a single… okay, with minimal scratches
  • Walked a marathon

My lifetime bucket list included running the Boston Marathon but the older I get the more I realize that I just hate running. In September my mother lost her friend, coworker, and Just Wings team captain Vicki to the battle against cancer so I agreed to do the entirety of the Jimmy Fund Walk with her. The Walk follows the same route as the Boston Marathon and wow – this was easily the most mentally and physically challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’m a huge fan of walking, I prefer it to any other method of transportation (driving around in the summertime with a frappuccino not included), but this was tough.

So proud of myself for making it 26.2 miles, but more importantly I’m proud of my mom for her own physical endurance and for inspiring me to get to that finish line for us. Andddddd I’ll never do that again. See you at the 3-mile marker next year, Mom!

  • Studied abroad at the University of Cambridge

The thing that made this experience so powerful for me was that it was the first time I got to study something I love. It’s a sad reality that this must be what life is like for people who picked passion over practicality. I won’t go into my time abroad too much, but you can read all about it in past posts.

  • Got a “real job” in the Spring, which made going through the Fall semester a lot more relaxing without that added stress. I’ll be moving to Charlotte, NC next year so Welcome To Adulthood, Cass!
  • Took the creative plunge and shared this blog with the world. Still amazed anyone cares to read it.
  • Went to see Cinderella in theaters four times this year (it really affected me, what can I say?) and the message is still stuck with me to promote to you now: Have courage and be kind.
  • Completed my undergraduate degree

W H A T ? ? ? Absolutely reeling from the fact that my college experience is over. Bittersweet doesn’t seem like a strong enough adjective to encompass the feeling of knowing that these past 4.5 years flew by and yet there are still so many years of adventure ahead of me.

  • Met wonderful, incredible people in wonderful, incredible places. Some at home, some abroad, all who made the biggest impact on me as a person. Thank you for making me lucky enough to call you a friend.

First – this exercise has made me realize how fortunate I am to have a dozen good things and only one bad. Granted, the one is worth more than the dozen all pooled together but still. In short, what a year.

Second – I found my big ticket, my focus! 2016 will be a year of showing people that I love them, be it new friends or old friends or family or strangers. Never feeling embarrassed or hesitating to say it to a best friend or a little cousin. Love is not allocated on a per group basis; it’s a different strand for every individual being out there. We feel it in lots of different ways, but how often do we communicate that?

A big example of one of those ways (which I like to stress a lot) is self-love. That concept is something I feel very privileged to have in my life. Not a day goes by where I don’t count myself lucky for being happy with the things I’ve done and the person I’ve become. This is not a sentiment meant to be gloating, but rather sanguine. And so my hope is for everyone else in the world to realize their own rarities and achieve that kind of happiness as well; to live lives so abundantly full of wonderful experiences. Anything I can do to help others feel happy and loved, that’s what I’ll resolve to do in 2016.

A friend sent me an article the other day that really contextualized the importance of time, or rather the importance of being aware of time. We don’t get enough of it, do we? Just another reason not to waste the opportunities to make a person feel that they’ve got someone out there rooting for them, proud of them, and loving them.

So congratulate yourself on all the things you overcame this year and pick your big ticket focus for the next one. If you want to stick with calling your mom once a week, I guess that’s okay too.