28 Things For 28 Years, and a SOL Republic Giveaway

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Well, hello! ? I had dearly hoped to write this last week on February 10th, for my 28th birthday, but sadly, I was still in the grip of Influenza and resulting bacterial infections for the last almost four weeks (honestly, I’m still a little short of breath, funfunfun). It seemed prudent to postpone relaunching this space until I was sure I’d live, and here we are.

Birthdays have never before bothered me, but for some reason, turning twenty-eight hit me hard. Perhaps it was because when I turned twenty-seven, I swore that it would be the year of great change for me, finally…only it wasn’t. Or it was, but not in the ways I had hoped or planned. And while I have great hope for myself and for my family in this new year, turning twenty-eight without those hoped-for changes smacks of defeat, however temporary.

I can let it get me down, or I can accept what is, and move forward. I’ll choose the latter. And to start off on the right foot, I’ve listed 28 Things For 28 Years ~ a little random factoidiness (gimme a break, it’s a word ’cause I said it, and I’m still coughing up a lung, here!) ~ and put together a little giveaway to celebrate my birthday with you. Be sure to read (or skim, if you must) to the bottom, because I’ve partnered with SOL Republic to give away a really fantastic prize, so you can join in the birthday celebratiness (ha)…

Alena Turns 28, Becomes Super Hero

Alena Belleque

Author of the family lifestyle blog, The Homemade Creative.
Also, masked avenger.

1.  I am 28 years old, and now that it’s here, I don’t feel old. Just eccentric. Possibly dangerous. Mostly really, really tired.

2.  I was born and raised all over western Montana, moving 19 times by my 18th birthday. I’ve never had geographical roots, and I stopped counting my many moves after hitting 30 by age 25. I crave stability and “home”, but I have learned that home is what you make of it, and who you make it with.

3.  I became a Christian when I was 4 years old, and while my understanding and faith have both grown and changed over the years, I have always loved Jesus. Memories of my childhood often center around my relationship with Him, both sweet and bitter.

4.  I am the oldest of 5 children. I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers ~ Jessica, Nikolai, Rosie, and Kyle. Thanks to a difficult upbringing, our relationships with each other are not what I would hope, but I love all of them very, very much.

5. My relationship with my mom is complicated, but I love her….and my father is in prison. I’m not going to say much about this right now, because I’ve mentioned it before, and will definitely talk about it again in future. That said, here’s a little background for the newbies: My father is serving life in prison for abusing and molesting myself and others. I was 12 when he was first arrested, and after being on the lam for 8 years, he finally went to trial (and prison) less than 3 weeks before I got married in 2007. My mother has had a very hard life. She’s been both a victim and a victim-maker, and she has to live with, and try to work through, the consequences of both. My relationship with her isn’t what I’d like it to be, and may never get there, but we’re working on it. I love her, and I try to give grace where I can.

Alena's Senior Portrait '04

6.  I was home schooled until middle school, at which point our family changed dramatically with the expulsion of my father, and I went to a regular school for the first time. I attended a Christian school for 7th and the first part of 8th grade, then public school for the rest of 8th grade through the first quarter of 10th. I had a few positive public school experiences, but I was also the target of a great deal of bullying. Combined with a dysfunctional home life, and dealing with a serious mental health disorder on my own, I was very glad to put the whole experience behind me.

7.  I did not finish high school. I ended up taking my GED test when I turned 18; by the time I realized that an education was my best bet at breaking out of the cycle of abuse, poverty, and dysfunction in which I grew up, it was too late to return to school, so I made do. To my surprise, I scored extremely high in everything except math, and to my knowledge, I am still the only person to get a perfect score in English in the state of Montana. I went to a one year Bible college that fall, then on to a community college in Oregon for a year after that.

Nick & Alena's 1st Anniversary

8.  Nick and I met at Big Sky Bible Institute in Bigfork, Montana, in 2004. We were both instantly attracted to each other, but I was engaged to someone else, so we spent the whole year being politely distant with each other. After my relationship ended, Nick waited a whole year before approaching me romantically, and when he did, it was after spending an hour with me on the phone while I sobbed about my crazy ex who was still making me miserable. I was beyond mortified about the conversation, but figured I was already firmly in the “friend zone” (and probably the “crazy woman” zone, too), and really needed a level headed and sympathetic friend in that moment. So when he told me that he really liked me and wanted to get to know me as more than a friend, I was thrilled – and I almost died of embarrassment.

9.  I knew that Nick and I were headed toward marriage after our 2nd date, and I ended up leaving school and dropping everything to move from Oregon to Montana to be with him less than a month after our first date. We dated for 5 months and were engaged for another 5 months before getting married on the Oregon coast, and starting our life together back in Montana, in 2007. We moved to Wyoming in 2008, after the economic crash made finding work in Montana almost impossible, and we became homeless. We lived with Nick’s grandparents for almost 3 years, with a 6 month break in the middle when we managed to live on our own for a while. We moved to Illinois in 2011; Nick’s parents and brothers moved here right before we left Montana, and his sister and her family followed them a couple of years later. Our time in Wyoming was drawing to a close as his grandparents entered a new stage of life, and we realized there really wasn’t a future for us there, so we moved to Illinois to be close to family.

10.  I was a wife for 5 years before I became a motherbut it wasn’t be choice or “good planning” as most people think. We got pregnant on our honeymoon, and miscarried at about 7 or 8 weeks (I also caught Influenza on our honeymoon, and raging fevers and new babies don’t mix). I had a 2nd miscarriage at around 10 weeks later that same year. It took more than four years and a radical lifestyle change for me to fall pregnant with Serenity, and while I wouldn’t want to go through that kind of heartache and deferred hope again, I am so grateful for the sensitivity it taught me, and for the relationship that Nick and I forged out of our shared tribulation.

Serenity Belleque Newborn

11.  Serenity was born on April 29th, 2012, and she blew me away. Who knew that you could love another human so fiercely?? Even struggling with Post-Partum Depression for 8 months, and painful latch issues caused by an as-yet uncorrected lip tie, she consumed my entire world, and filled my days with wonder. She’s almost 2 now, and those feelings have only intensified. I don’t know if Nick and I will have any more children – there are many factors at work, there – but as much as I would love to have one more baby, I can easily see myself delightedly mothering Serenity by herself, if we are not blessed with another.


Okay, I’m running out of ideas, so get ready for randomness…

12. I have felt strongly since I was 11 years old that God is calling me to missions in a foreign culture. I’m not there yet – we live in semi-rural Illinois farmland. I don’t know where we’re headed, or when, and sometimes wonder how many other things I’ll do in life first. But even when I wonder if I’ve just got a drastic case of the wishes, I believe with all my heart that God put this desire in my heart, and I believe that someday, somehow, it will happen.

13. I have way more interests than time to pursue them. Some days, it seems like I can’t turn around without thinking, “Oh! I want to learn to do THAT!!!” I’ve got some sort of hobby-ADD, and it’s highly counterproductive.

14. I love to sing, and can sing almost anything. I was in various choirs for 7 years straight, and I miss the challenge and rigor of that kind of vocal training and performance. I don’t sing nearly as much as I would like, these days, but a lot of that has been my frequent flyer status with respiratory illness since moving away from Montana. It seems as soon as I’ve recovered enough to practice, and have finally worked my voice back into shape, I get sick again, and have to start over from scratch. It’s very frustrating! I am hoping to eventually catch a break, and add some new songs to my repertoire.

15. I am not accomplished at any instrument, but I am learning to play the piano, and at one point I was learning the guitar, too. The problem with training on an instrument is that you have to have regular access to it, and it’s shocking how much you can forget (and how quickly) if you don’t. I am so excited that I finally have my own piano (thanks to a wonderful friend from church watching out for me!!), and as soon as I can figure out a better location for my daughter’s toys than under the piano bench, I’ll be set (though I’m a little scared to learn how much I have likely forgotten in 8 years)! I still do not have a guitar, but hopefully someday. I would also like to learn the ukulele, and acquire my own set of conga drums (you never really forget how to play those).

Belleque Scrapbook

16. I love to scrapbook by hand, but it costs way too much to do it that way, so I’m moving into all digital scrapping. I will eventually have photo books printed, but until then, I can scrap to my heart’s content, and not spend a cent. Digital scrapping lacks the hands-on joy of creation, but it has its own joy, and I’ve grown to love it. It’s also a lot easier to share my pages online this way, than having to take photos of my hand-made pages.

17. I’ve been blogging for more than 15 years! My first blog was a private Livejournal account that I used as a diary from 15-19 years old (okay, there were probably 3 different journals, because I kept changing the name, but you get the picture). Then I switched to Blogger, and went through a series of blogs with varying degrees of anonymity, until I was about 24. At that point, I was writing Our Little Bit Of Wonderful, under my own name for the first time, and one day I discovered that I could get books for free in exchange for reviewing them on my blog. So began a very exciting and thoroughly exhausting adventure into the world of sponsored blogging – an adventure that I hope to continue at a reasonable (and more relaxing) pace now that I’m writing again. I lost track of my identity and voice as a blogger, and I aim to set that straight.

18. My favorite color is “bright”… So, I used to say that my signature color was dark purple. Then I realized “signature color” just sounds kinda hoity toity, so I switched to “favorite”, but that implies loving one color above all others, and I really don’t. I eventually settled on a spectrum rather than an individual color, and there you have it – right now, my favorite color is “bright”, otherwise known as “if Lisa Frank and Hello Kitty had a love child.”

19. I don’t have a favorite food, and have a bad habit of taking dares from weird food. Seriously, if I see weird food, it’s like it jumps up and says, “Hey! I’m food! I’m food and I’m weird, and people eat me! So eat me, lady! I DARE YOU.” If I had to specify a favorite food, I guess I would have to say enchiladas, because I make them at least every other week, if not weekly. But since that’s mostly because they’re easy to make and packed with protein, and I am relatively indifferent if I don’t eat them for a while, I’m not sure they count.

Alena's First Car

20. My first car was a 1981 Volvo. I had just moved back to Montana after spending a year at a community college in Oregon. I was staying with my Aunt Debbie and Uncle Larry, and they gave me this cute yellow Volvo so I could get a job. I was dating Nick, and I was so grateful to be able to work and save for our wedding, and to be able to go see him whenever possible. I put that poor car through the wringer, though! I learned to drive in the middle of a Montana winter, and while under an enormous amount of strain (I was preparing to take the stand as a witness against my father in his criminal trial), and I had more than my share of accidents. Ironically, I was only going 5mph when I finally killed the Volvo. I slid on ice into a raised curb with the side of my wheel, and broke the A-arm in my front axle. To my shock and eternal gratitude, my aunt and uncle surprised us with another car – a 1995 Mercury Sable – as an early wedding present.

21. I really want to dye part of my hair bright pink and whitebut I’m terrified of the potential social backlash. Plus, what if the stylist screws up while bleaching my naturally almost-black hair to take the color, and it all falls out???

22. I “sort of” owned a horse when I was 15, but the actual owner just suckered me into doing all the footwork of gentling and saddle-breaking him, then sold him out from under me. I learned 2 important lessons: 1) Verbal contracts are worthless. 2) Reading can, in fact, equip you for almost any task – no matter how “hands on” the subject matter – and you can do a bang up job with a little head knowledge, grit, and willingness to get your hands dirty.

23. I named my daughter after a spaceship, fulfilling Nerd Law #4 ~ “Thou must try to convince your significant other to name [your] child after a character of nerdy importance. If [you] are cut from the cloth of the nerd tribe and have managed to breed[…]and bringeth into the world the Lando’s, the Anakin’s,”…and the Serenity’s. {NOTE: If you choose to read the linked article, you can’t hold me responsible for the sheer hilarity and nerdiness you will encounter, or for the swearing, or for the name of the blog, or for the fan-fiction. ESPECIALLY not for the fan-fiction. Don’t read it; you’ll wish you were dead.}

24. My husband’s cool with me getting a half-sleeve tattoo, but he’ll divorce me over a nose ring. I find this oddly endearing.

25. People are constantly amazed that I weigh as much as I do. Last year, I hit my all time high at 298lbs, and it about crushed me (ha, not literally). I quit soda for 5 weeks, and lost 16lbs, which was a huge victory for me, because with Hypothyroidism and PCOS, I do not lose weight easily. I went on to lose 26lbs by June, but thanks to a number of circumstances – some beyond my control, others unfortunately not – I gained most of it back by January. My total sustained weight loss for 2013 was only 18lbs, but it IS still progress, and I’ll take it. I’m still working on defining my health goals for 2014. I’m working with my doctor to sort out some health issues, so I’m kind of playing it safe until I know more, there.

26. I read ridiculously fast, or so says everyone but my husband, who makes me look like I’m trying to decipher Greek using a Korean phrase book. I can easily breeze through 2 or more 300 page novels in a week, and I finished the entire Game Of Thrones series in less than 6 weeks (over Christmas, while spending less than normal amounts of time reading). The first time I read the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, I did it in 4 days, while going to school (and still doing my homework). This is a handy skill, considering how many books cross my desk each month because of this blog. Now if only I can write book reviews as fast as I can read the books…

27. I’m the weirdo who messes up the store display to get to the item at the back. But see, I’m just fulfilling Nerd Law #19 – “All nerds, when purchasing something in a store, must never pick up the first item in the front, because the item in front has almost certainly been touched by unclean hands, and thus its condition is less mint, the grade must pleasing to the nerd gods.” In all uncomfortable fairness, I was this way long before I ever read the Topless Robot article (since I generally don’t let articles dictate my actions, duh). I’m a big fan of things being as close to perfect as possible, and the best way to avoid crushed chips or creased pages is to buy one of the items toward the back, where they’re less likely to have been handled since being placed on the shelf. There’s nothing as disappointing as opening your new bag of chips and discovering they’ve almost all be pulverized by some ham-handed previous shopper. {NOTE: Remember my previous warning, please.}

28. I want to paint my piano turquoise. Or maybe yellow; I’m not sure, yet. I’m planning to do it myself, hopefully this summer when I can pull it into the middle of the room on a drop cloth, and open all the windows and doors for ventilation. I’m considering adding accents, too. I truly love a rich, bold bohemian vibe, and want to surround myself with it in my home. Thankfully, my husband likes it, too, much to his personally shock.

And there you have it! 28 things for 28 years of life.
Happy Birthday, to me!

? ? ? ? ?

Don’t forget about the giveaway!!!

I was sent a complimentary pair of SOL Republic TRACKS headphones, and they offered to sponsor a giveaway of a 2nd pair for you, my awesome readers! I received them in white, and was blown away by the quality and style. I love these headphones!

Happy Birthday, from SOL Republic

My favorite features:

  • The FlexTech™ Sound Track headband is virtually indestructible. I was intrigued by the claim, so I twisted it practically in half, and it snapped right back into the right shape, no problem! I lost a couple pair of headphones in high school and college because of broken headbands, so I adore this feature.
  • The Tracks V8 Sound Engine speakers are incredible. They have a full audio range, so you hear the full range, from deep bass, to high clarity, and the speakers are padded with “supple, noise-isolating ear cushions”. Unlike most padded headphones, these are super soft, apply almost no pressure at all, and mold to your unique ear shape for hours of comfort. I have very sensitive ear tissue for some reason, and these feel great!
  • SOL Republic TRACKS come with a 3 button mic+music control on the cord. It’s designed specifically for Apple devices, but the website says it should work with most Android and Windows products, and possibly others. Sadly, it does not work with my HP all-in-one desktop computer, but I haven’t tried it with any other devices, so I can’t speak to this feature. The button array is sleek and lightweight, and even though I haven’t been able to use it, it’s not in the way at all.
  • You can customize your headphones!! The TRACKS Remix shop offers individual headbands, cords, and even Sound Engines in a variety of colors and patterns, so you can mix and match to create your own unique style.
  • Shipping is FREE in the continental United States, and TRACKS headphones come with a one year warranty that covers repair or replacement of most products.

SOL Republic TRACKS headphones retail for $99, and come in three colors (red, black, and white). SOL Republic carries several other fantastic headphones, including HD, wireless, and in-ear options. My favorite is the SOL Republic Special Editions Tokidoki TRACKS HD headphones – very cool!

So what can you win?!

SOL Republic TRACKS Headphones Giveaway

SOL Republic has kindly offered one lucky The Homemade Creative reader the chance to win a pair of SOL Republic TRACKS headphones. You’ll get to choose between red, white, and black, and then join me in a super fantastic music experience you’ll love to pieces (seriously, these headphones rock)!!

This giveaway is sponsored by…

SOL Republic
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Hosted by…

Alena of The Homemade Creative
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Co-Hosted by…

Kathy of I Am A Reader
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Dominique of My Work At Home World
Website | Facebook | Twitter

This giveaway is open to residents of the United States who are at least 18 years old, and this offer is VOID where prohibited by law. By entering this SOL Republic giveaway, you agree to the Official Giveaway Rules. This giveaway runs from February 25th, 2014, through 11:59pm on March 25th, 2014, and a winner will be drawn and announced by March 31st, 2014, based on how quickly they claim their prize (you have 48 hours to claim any prize, or we redraw a new winner).

Good luck!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I would love to hear something fun/unique about YOU!!

Do we share any interests?

What kind of music do you listen to?

Do you have a favorite pair of headphones?

What did you do for your last birthday?

Disclosure: This review and giveaway portion of this post is sponsored by SOL Republic. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. To learn more, you can read our Disclosure.

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22 comments on “28 Things For 28 Years, and a SOL Republic Giveaway”

  1. Ellen said:

    I didn’t know you had a piano! That’s great! And I love the idea of painting it a bright color 🙂

    1. Yep! My friend Rene knew I really wanted one, and as it happened her daughter’s old piano teacher was upgrading at the same time we moved into our townhouse, and she arranged things for me. They even delivered it!

  2. Happy Birthday Alena!! You “28 Things for 28 Years” was great. I’m with you on the weight loss. I lost 120 pounds in 2000-2001 and it was pretty rough. I have hypothyroidism too and know what a struggle it is. I’m no longer able to exercise so, unfortunately, I have gained most of it back. I wish you the best in your journey with it and pray you are well soon.

    Thank you so much for the giveaway and awesome post! By the way, I would go with yellow for the piano! 🙂

    Wanda barefoot recently posted…COTT Presents Intriguing January Releases-Vote Now!

    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes, Wanda! ? I’m glad you enjoyed my random facts post!

      Congrats on the weight loss – that’s amazing!! I’d love to know how you did it. I’m sorry that you’re not able to exercise any longer, and have seen the weight creep back up. That is so hard. #sad

      Yellow does seem like a calmer color for a large piece, I think you’re right.

      1. Hi Alena,

        I simply cut back on dinner, skipped breakfast and lunch was always half a sandwich. I drank around 80 oz of water a day and exercised 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the evening. I cut out most of my carbs but I don’t promote or encourage that anymore because it can cause muscle loss. Losing weight it WORK plain and simple. I get tired thinking about it now. LOL All the best with your weight loss success! You CAN!

        And, oh YES!, Yellow is so soothing. It makes me think of sunshine and smiles. 🙂

        Wanda barefoot recently posted…From Gods by Mary Ting – Win a $50 Amazon Giftcard!

      2. Yes, sunshine and smiles is exactly right. ?

        Yah, like I said in the post, I’m not sure what my goals are quite yet. Trying to just get over this awful respiratory junk so I can breathe and stay awake again, then I’ll figure it out.

      3. The most important thing is definitely you getting better. Prayers for a speedy recovery. 🙂
        Wanda barefoot recently posted…From Gods by Mary Ting – Win a $50 Amazon Giftcard!

      4. Thanks, Wanda. ?

  3. Cindy said:

    Nice writing…I liked the 28 things…so now I have to go look at the nerd rules.

    1. Thanks, Cindy! ? Have fun with the nerd rules. Just remember what I said. #wink #noseriously

  4. Christine A. said:

    Happy 28th Birthday Alena!

    I love enchiladas- any kind.

    I am so with you on #27, sad but true.

    Last birthday- ate leftover birthday cake from my daughters birthday. (which is 6 days before mine)

    1. Thanks, Christine! ? Nice to meet a fellow enchilada lover. I made green chili and chicken enchiladas for dinner tonight, and am in love all over again (I was getting tired of black bean, so it’s a nice break). And oh good, I’m not the only one who realizes that front-of-shelf goods are deficient! #lol You know, this birthday had me so down for some reason, I was going to just ignore it, but my hubby and his sister and parents surprised me with a mini-cake and gifts. I was half dead on the couch with this illness, but it was so sweet! ? Anyway, leftover cake is fab, but I’m sorry you didn’t get your own this year.

  5. laura said:

    Welcome back! What a list! Glad you’re feeling a little better. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Laura. ? I’m glad to be back!

  6. Erinn S said:

    I like country. My husband has been looking for a good pair as he travels a lot and when on a plane, he needs a good pair to drown outside noises out.
    Erinn S recently posted…Giveaway: Premium Membership To My Favorite Fitness App

    1. I like some country music, too, but I’m pretty eclectic in my music choices. Good luck in the giveaway. Your husband would love these!

  7. CindyZS said:

    (cindy stewart) Alena, happy birthday fellow aquarian! yes we do have things in common, like mom, i am also g-ma, Christian, creative, music (love the idea about painting your piano turquoise!) I would love to win the headphones, as mine dont work so good anymore. listen to and like all kinds of music, just not like acid rock, screaming stuff, nor the hip hop, dont like the language. i celebrated my birthday alone as it was pouring here. its ok, at least i celebrated……usually dont! thanks 🙂

    1. Even alone, I’m glad you celebrated, too. ? Birthdays matter! I’m not a huge fan of screamo muisc, either, and while I don’t mind the occasional swear, I don’t care for the songs that are stuffed with profanity or adult imagery. Just a bit much, especially since I rarely get a chance to listen to music without my daughter around! Little ears, and all that. Good luck in the giveaway! I am thrilled with my pair – I haven’t owned headphones in years!

  8. Janice S. said:

    Wishing you a very happy birthday. What a fun way to celebrate and thanks for doing the giveaway!
    Janice S. recently posted…Why I Get Excited about the True/False Film Fest

    1. Thanks, Janice! ? Good luck in the drawing.

  9. Leah Ruit said:

    It was interesting to learn new stuff about you!

    1. Thanks, Leah. ? It’s always nice when someone I know in real life stops by my blog.

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