My Favorite Podcasts (Round 2)

Prepare yourselves, friends! Today’s post is going to be a long one, but it’s one I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a voracious listener of podcasts. I started listening around February or March of last year, and it’s an obsession. Currently, I have 26 shows that I am subscribed to and I can only see that list growing and growing. I wanted to take the time to recommend some of my favorites to you guys, just in case you a) want to start listening to more podcasts but aren’t sure where to begin, or b) are as obsessive about podcasts as me and want more shows to add to your feed. I’ve broken these down by categories, so enjoy!

Interview-style podcasts

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The Lively Show: Blogger Jess Lively interviews guests all about their lives and work, with an emphasis on intentional living. She has an eclectic mix of guests (the variety has been even better in the second season, which I appreciate) so she’s not just interviewing bloggers and creatives, but also business leaders, authors, and nutritionists. Her interviewing style is unique, which is what I love about this podcast. I take away something to reflect on from each episode.

Death, Sex & Money : Host Anna Sale interviews famous people and regular people about their thoughts on – you guessed it! – death, sex, and money. (As the tagline says: “the things we think about a lot, and need to talk about more.”) I love the variety of guests she interviews – one week it might be Jane Fonda and the next week just some regular girl talk about her father’s death. And, like Jess, she has such a unique interview style where she asks tough questions that other people would probably shy away from.

Nerdist Podcast: One of my long-time favorite podcasts! Comedian Chris Hardwick interviews famous celebrities about how they got to where they are today. Definitely one to listen to if you’re into comedy.

Chit-chat podcasts

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> The Shepod: Two girlfriends living in L.A. (Rachael and Sara) come together every Sunday for brunch and chit-chat. They talk about what’s going on in their lives, as well as what made their “gross list” for the week and take a look back to some “90’s nostalgia.” All in all, it’s 45 minutes of fun and I love sitting down with these girls once a week!

> Starr Struck Radio: A married couple – Mary Catherine and Ben – come together once a week to discuss “adulting” topics, like the challenges of buying a home, whether or not to have kids, and being an effective manager of your time. I really like the male perspective this show brings because so many podcasts in this vein are female-focused. Having the two perspectives provides a balanced look at the topics, and they are just really fun together.

> Call Your Girlfriend: Two long-distance besties sit down twice a month to chat about what’s going on in the world. There’s an emphasis on pop culture and feminism, which I appreciate, and I just enjoy their back-and-forth dialogue.

> The Joy the Baker Podcast: One of the first podcasts I ever started listening to and I love it so. Two friends and bloggers – Joy and Tracy – sit down for hour-long chats about… anything, really. It’s always so random and the two of them are hilarious together, so I giggle throughout each episode. Their shows have been few and far between lately (I think they’ve only recorded 4 podcasts this year…) but I’m a loyal subscriber, so anything I get from them makes me happy!

Storytelling podcasts

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> StartUp Podcast: This follows different startup companies through the trials and tribulations of forming and developing their company. The first season, which I’m listening to now, follows Alex Blumberg as he starts his podcasting company, Gimlet Media. I didn’t think I’d get sucked into this show as much as I have because business podcasts aren’t my thing, but I love the storytelling format and love the honesty with which Blumberg tells his story.

> Serial: I mean, if you don’t know what this podcast is about, I welcome you back into the land of the living. Listen. Now. Before you do anything else. This is the best podcast out there, hands down!

> Undisclosed: The State Vs. Adnan Syed: This podcast is basically a spinoff of Serial, where Rabia Chaudry (the one who brought Adnan’s case to Sarah Koenig of Serial) along with two law experts, Susan Simpson and Colin Miller, revisit Adnan’s case, piece by piece, revealing new information as they go along. The first few episodes were a little shaky, but it’s gotten really good as they’ve found their footing and they’ve revealed some startling information that wasn’t covered in Serial.

Bookish podcasts

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> Dear Book Nerd: Librarian Rita Meade, along with a guest co-host, answers listeners questions about “life, love, and literature.” There’s always such an interesting mix of questions, and Rita has made the podcast a safe space for listeners to ask any type of question.

> Book Riot – The Podcast: The editors of Book Riot.com come together for an hour-long podcast each week, talking about what’s new in the world of books and publishing. They can sometimes go off on tangents and I find their ad spots to be way. too. long., but in general, I enjoy the hosts and their camaraderie.

Educational podcasts

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> Criminal: A podcast that explores all facets of crime and criminals. It tells the story of people who have been wronged and people who have wronged others. It’s a fascinating look into the human psyche!

> Invisibilia: A show from NPR about the invisible forces that affect human nature. Some of the topics covered in their first season: what would it be like to live a life without fear, whether our thoughts have a bearing on who we really are, and how expectations can limit or empower us. Such a powerful podcast and I am on pins and needles waiting for season two!

> Stuff Mom Never Told You: A podcast all about women! I love the hosts and I love the range of topics covered – from women explorers to pregnancy to the Golden Girls. If you’re looking to learn more about feminism and womanhood, I’d highly recommend this podcast.

> Stuff You Should Know: Consistently one of the best podcasts on my feed. I love Josh and Chuck and I love how I get to learn about the most random topics. Like circus families. And BASE jumping. And ocean currents. Always informative and always very well-researched.

Miscellaneous podcasts

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> Mystery Show: A new show from Gimlet Media where the host, Starlee Kine, takes on random mysteries to solve. It’s a little silly, but really entertaining. And Starlee is just adorable and funny and I want to be more like her.

> Happier with Gretchen Rubin: I am not a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin the author (I know, burn me at the stake), but I am a huge fan of this podcast! Gretchen and her sister, Elizabeth, get together once a week giving advice on happiness and good habits. I can relate to Elizabeth a lot, which is what I think I love most about this podcast.

> Dear Sugar Radio: Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond bring back their advice column, Dear Sugar, in the form of a podcast. The questions cover all sorts of topics, so it’s not just about relationships or marriage and family, but also about finances and friendships and personality issues. I always walk away from an episode having learned something, either about myself or the world.

Whew! There you have it. My favorite podcasts right now, broken down by category. Maybe I’ll revisit this post in another year to see how my podcast tastes have changed. :) If you’re a podcast listener, do you have any shows to add to my list? (Because I obviously need more shows to add to my list… haha)

TGIF (v. 16)

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The high of my week was my mom coming home from her honeymoon! I was so, so, so happy to welcome her back after 9 days gone. She went on an 8-day cruise (yes, two cruises in one year! This lady lives the high life.) and had a good time, but Dutch and I missed her a ton. And I also appreciate not worrying about being murdered every night. There’s just something about being alone at night…!

The low of my week was being so sick. Ugh, I started to feel ill on Monday afternoon, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that I felt like I was coming down with… something. I ended up calling in sick to work on Wednesday, and it was actually nice because my mom was home so I got some good, ole Mom TLC. And, luckily, I scheduled one of my work from home days for the month for Thursday, otherwise I probably would have had to call in again, seeing as I got maybe four hours of broken sleep. I’m still not feeling 100%, and I am very glad for a short work day and a whole weekend to recuperate!

I’m currently reading two different books. First, I’m reading Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, which has been an eye-opening experience for me thus far. I’m about halfway through and it’s very detailed and involved, but I’m hanging in there! The other book I’m reading is Room by Emma Donoghue, which I’m reading for the Book Riot reading challenge. I’ve been dreading reading this book because I know it’s a heavier type of book (at least for me), but that has seemed to be my theme of July reading thus far! I’m going to opt for much lighter novels in August. Gimme all the trashy romance!

A podcast episode I enjoyed was Judy Blume Forever by Stuff Mom Never Told You. Oh, this made my little reading heart go pitter-patter! Judy Blume was one of my favorite authors growing up and I loved learning more about her books, her personal life, and the censorship battles she went through.

The best money I spent this week was $17.50 to see Joe Machi perform stand-up at Side Splitters in Tampa. I followed his journey on Last Comic Standing last season and adored him. Dear God, he’s adorable. His stand-up was pretty funny and I was so glad I got a chance to meet him! I was totally geeking out!

My plans this weekend include looking at an apartment to rent this afternoon (we’re trying not to get our hopes up about this place, since the move-in costs and monthly rent are lower than average for South Tampa). The rest of the weekend will be spent recuperating and trying to get myself back to my normal healthy self!

What was the highlight of your week?

Why I’m Moving in with a Roommate

Originally, I had no plans to move in with someone. I wanted my own place where I didn’t have to share a single thing with anybody. In my head, this sounded fantastic. I wrote out a budget for myself and started doing a little apartment hunting to see if I could find something that met all of my needs.

But alas, here I am, a month or so away from finally moving out and instead of moving to my own place, I’m moving in with a roommate. At age 27. I think it’s around this point when people, if they’re single, decide to get out of the roommate rat race and into a place of their own. And yet… though I thought I wanted that for myself… I am supremely happy with my decision to live with a roommate.

Here’s why.

1. I don’t like living alone.

I like being alone. I like alone time. But I do not like living alone. It’s lonely. It’s confining. I get freaked out that someone is going to break into my apartment and murder me in my sleep. I just don’t feel safe living alone. I have a very active imagination, and even though I live in a gated, very safe apartment community right now, I still get freaked out at night when my mom’s away.

Don’t get me wrong – I do like those weekends when she’s away and I have the place to myself. It is nice. And I’ll definitely have that with Roomie because she travels a lot, visiting family and friends, and has a super active social life. So there will be many nights and weekends where I am alone.

But I just don’t think I want a 24/7 living alone arrangement. At least right now.

2. Rent ain’t cheap, yo!

First, I want to make it clear that I don’t live with my mom rent-free. I haven’t since I graduated college and started working at a “big girl” job. I’ve been contributing to our household bills for a very long time, and also have my own bills, like car insurance, phone, car loan, etc. Basically – I know how to live financially independent of my mom. Just because I live with her doesn’t mean I’m living off her. (I believe most of my family thinks this of me, so I just wanted to clear this up right here.)

So it’s really nice to be able to split my bills up. To not have the burden of rent or utilities on my own. When I started looking at one-bedroom apartments that fit my needs (i.e., safe community, pet friendly, washer/dryer included, etc.), I started to realize I would have to live at the top of my budget. So I was stressed about being able to afford living on my own. And stressed about having to forfeit some of my apartment needs to find a cheaper place.

Enter Roomie. With her, I can live in a place that meets my needs (and hers, of course!) and all the bills will be split down the middle. It relieved so much stress off my shoulders and, though our searching, we’ve been able to find places that are beautiful and updated, but also keep us at the lower end of our budget.

3. A roommate equals a built-in buddy.

Well, probably not always and probably not if you don’t get along with your roomie (as happened to me in college), but in a sense, having having a roommate means I’ll have someone to do stuff with. Living alone means I would have to really be diligent about reaching out to friends (something I need to be doing anyway, I know) to ensure I don’t spend entire weekends curled up at home, watching Netflix. Which, as mentioned in Monday’s blog post, is what I’m most wont to do. My roomie is definitely an extrovert and someone who thrives on a busy schedule, and living with her will force me to get out more and be more social. And it will be nice to have someone to come home to, in a sense. Someone to share dog duties with. Someone to cook with, watch TV with, be goofy with. I have that with my mom and it’s just so darn nice. It really is. I would really miss the built-in buddy part if I lived alone.

4. I’m moving in with one of my best friends – not a stranger or someone I barely know.

While all of the above points are true and big reasons that factored into me having a roommate, this point is the biggest factor. I am not sure I would have considered moving in with anyone else – in fact, having a roommate wasn’t even on my radar until I met Bri last June and formed a deep bond with her. We clicked instantly and even though we are very different in some ways, we are also so eerily similar. And she’s just so darn easy to be around. She makes me feel better, just by being around her. I’m so looking forward to having her bright spirit in my everyday life.

I would not have considered a roommate situation with a stranger or a casual acquaintance. I tried that once, and it ended up terribly, and I would never do it again. The main reason I am moving in with Bri is because I think living with her will be such a positive experience, because she is someone I know and love.

And, so, there you have it. Perhaps one day I will live alone, but it just doesn’t feel like the right time for me right now. I have fears about what these next few months will hold, but I also have a ton of excitement and anticipation. A roommate situation isn’t for everyone, but I think it can be a positive experience in the right circumstances and I’m willing to take the chance on that.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give for living with a roommate?

The Struggle of Acceptance

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I’m afraid of missing out.

I’m afraid of not living my life by the mantra “YOLO!”

I’m afraid of wasting my time, of not measuring up to my version of success, of not measuring up to other’s versions of success.

I’m afraid of not being special, not being important, not being necessary.

I’m afraid of dying and I’m afraid of living.

Not that I’m suicidal, or even depressed. I’m not. Life just feels… overwhelming at times. There’s so much to do. So much to see. So much to measure up to. So much to hurt. So much to love. So much to be.

I’m afraid I can’t do it all.

I have friends who fill up their free time with adventures and funny dating stories and traveling and just doing. They don’t sit still. They have buckets and buckets of energy. I get tired from even one night out.

It’s probably why I hate dating so much. Even one date expends so much of my limited energy. And if the date goes well and then I have to consider adding a person into my solitary lifestyle? Forget it. It feels like too much work.

I always wonder what it’s like to be the kind of person who thrives on being busy, of balancing a ton of responsibilities. Someone who makes plans upon plans during their weekend, barely having time for sleep.

I thought I had accepted who I am.

I’m introverted, which means I get drained by social interaction.

I have social anxiety, which means my mind is constantly buzzing with worries of what people are thinking of me when I’m with them.

I’m highly sensitive, which means loud places and conversations rattles me.

All of this thrown together gives you a person who thrives on slowness. On quiet. On calm. On peace.

And I like that about me. I like that I am content in my own company, happiest for quiet nights in and lazy weekends.

But I also don’t like that about me. I don’t like that it takes so much energy for me to go out. I don’t like that my natural personality is one who is a hermit, and that I have to force myself to make plans with friends and accept social invitations.

And not to mention, when I do go out and be social, I never feel totally comfortable, no matter where I am. (See above: social anxiety) I’m always worried about something. I’m worried about the logistics of where I’m going. I’m worried about holding conversation. I’m worried about what people are thinking of me and if they actually even want me at this event.

It’s exhausting. It’s so exhausting to be in my head.

So what’s the solution? How do I let go of the fears and the worries and the constant anxiety? How do I finally start living a YOLO-kinda life? How do I stop being afraid that I’m wasting my time?

Therapy would probably help.

But more than therapy (which I do admit I need, no doubt about that), I think it comes to truly accepting who I am. Which is hard, when the whole world is filled with extroverts. And yeah, sure, introverts are having their time right now. But truly? Extroverts still rule the world. And I don’t fit into that world.

I’m a girl who hates to be busy. I like quiet weekends with one or two (or zero, even) social engagements. I don’t have the mental stamina to stay out all night (and I never have; this isn’t a cutesy “oh, I’m just getting old! Tehehe.” No. I was this way at 20.) and I hoard my alone time like a fiend.

And the people in my life understand this about me. They get it. I’m not saying I have friends who think I’m weird for my need for alone time. Quite the opposite. But there’s still this… fear… that I’m not doing enough. That I’m letting myself off the hook. That I need to be more extroverted… even though I am 100% not an extrovert and I shouldn’t strive to be.

(And don’t even get me started about dating. Dating is a whole other version of hell when you’re shy, introverted, and socially anxious.)

I’ve definitely come out of my shell more in the past few years. I’ve made a close circle of girlfriends. I try to make plans on the weekends, even if it’s just one thing and the rest of my weekend is spent puttering around my apartment, writing and reading. But it’s still hard to look at other people’s lives and realize how different mine is. How less exciting, less courageous, less bold. I worry that I’m wasting my time.

When it comes down to it, though, I think we’re all scared that we’re not doing enough. Some of us may feel like we need to get out more, while others may feel like they don’t know how to relax and unwind. We all want our lives to mean something. We’re all afraid of wasting this precious time on earth.

The truth is, we’re not wasting time or missing out or not living up to the “YOLO” standard. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. We’re all trying to be the best versions of ourselves, and sometimes we fail at that and sometimes we succeed and that is the absolute beauty of life. That is the power of the human experience – failure and success and trying.

Let’s all keep trying.

TGIF (v. 15)

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The high of my week was obviously my mom’s wedding. A close second, though, was how my six-year-old nephew wanted to be my buddy during the wedding. He wanted to help me with some of the photography I was doing (a special project for the guestbook!), and then to drive in my car to the reception. I’ve never actually driven alone with my nephew before, so it was really fun and we chatted the whole way there. Then, at the reception, he asked if we could sit together at a table a little bit away from all the action. I was more than happy to oblige! So, lots of one-on-one nephew time? Definitely a highlight for me!

The low of my week was not exercising. I just have been supremely lazy this week and haven’t been able to get my butt to the gym in the morning. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it because sometimes, we just need weeks like these. I’m planning to get back to it this weekend, though! No more slacking off!

A blog post I enjoyed was Confession: At Age 30, I’m Scared to Move Out of My Mom’s House by Kate of Greatest Escapist. I actually have a blog draft in the works that is eerily similar to her statement (just change “age 30″ to “age 27″), and I have been debating publishing it because I don’t want to seem suuuper lame. Which I know is silly. I was so grateful to read Kate’s words and realize fear is such a common symptom for so many of us. And that the things we are struggling with aren’t unique only to us, even when we think they are. Someone can relate, in some way.

A podcast episode I enjoyed was Skate Like a Girl by Stuff Mom Never Told You. I had really never thought of the world of skating and how hard it’s been for women to break into the sport. It opened my eyes a lot!

My plans this weekend include signing papers for my car loan refinance (!), a lady date with two girlfriends on Saturday night, and a Sunday pool day. Sounds like the perfect weekend to me!

What was the highlight of your week?

Currently in July

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Feeling… a lot less stressed than I was last week. Last week, I was feeling very overwhelmed and I thought it was due to knowing my mom would be away for more than a week, but I think it had more to due with the wedding and making sure everything went perfectly for my mom. (Not that she was putting any pressure on me… it was my own perfectionist tendencies, I guess!) Once the wedding was over, I felt all my anxiety go away and have been feeling very good this week! Three cheers to that!

Reading… What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. It’s a ridiculously long novel, nearly 500 pages, so it’s slow going. I love Moriarty’s novels, but I do wish they weren’t so long! I think this book will end up being my least favorite of hers, but it’s still pretty good.

Watching… The League! I had a friend implore me to start watching this, since I’ve been in my own fantasy football league for a few years now and she thought I would relate to it. And I love it! I’m halfway through season 2, and it can be a bit crass and silly, but it’s fun and lighthearted and just what I need right now.

Anticipating… seeing Joe Machi this weekend. I followed his journey on Last Comic Standing last year, and I was hoping he would win. I’m going with some girlfriends and I just can’t wait!

Listening to… a slew of new podcasts. I need to do a follow-up post to my post on my favorite podcasts because I have added so many more shows to my feed (I listen to around 27!) and my favorites have definitely changed. My most recent favorite is been The Shepod.

Planning… on trying out You Need a Budget. I loved San’s full review of the software, and it sounds like something that could be super useful to me. I hate talking about it, but I am not the best manager of my money and I really want to get better. I haven’t had much success using sites like Mint.com, but hopefully YNAB will be different!

Wondering… what life is going to be like in a month or two. It’s hard to fathom how much my life is going to change when I finally move out. I can be very dependent on my mom, but I’m also very independent at the same time. Which probably doesn’t make sense. I’m worried about how my anxiety will be affected in the move, but I’m also really, really ready to shake up my life and make a big change.

Grateful… for my grandma. I learned last week that my grandma is 1 in 7. What does that mean? Well, stage IV colon cancer patients have a 1 in 7 chance of living past five years. My grandma was diagnosed in 2008. And though the cancer has returned three times since her initial diagnosis, she’s managed to kick its butt each time. This time around has been much more difficult on her, but the lady is a fighter. She’s incredible.

Wanting… a new bed. I was hoping to buy a new bed before my move, but it probably won’t happen. But this is a purchase I want to make very soon! I want to go to an actual furniture store (not IKEA!) and buy an actual adult bed and an actual adult mattress. No more hand-me-downs!

Loving… fresh flowers at home, tiny ice cream cones, the Colorfy app, group texts with my coworkers, snuggles with Dutch, and rainy afternoons.

What are you currently reading, anticipating, and grateful for?

Love, Laughter & Happily Ever After – The Wedding

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On Saturday, my mom and stepdad were married in a beautiful ceremony by the water in downtown St. Petersburg.

It was a gorgeous day – sunny with big puffy clouds in the sky and a slight breeze off the water. They professed their love in front of friends and family, with my mom’s best friend officiating.

I love weddings. I really do. They’re just so full of love and happiness, of hope and excitement. Even during the times when I’m a bitter, chronically single girl, I love weddings. They turn me into a sap.

My mom’s wedding was no different. I feel like I’m such a broken record nowadays, but honestly, my mom deserves this so much. She has been through a lot in her life, especially as it relates to the crap she put up with when married to my father. I’m so happy she has found someone who treats her with patience and kindness and respect. It gives me hope that someday I can find the same.

There’s not too much to say about the actual wedding day because everything went perfectly. (There was a slight mishap when two of my mom’s friends who arrived early to decorate started decorating in the wrong area… but we got that sorted out quickly!) After the ceremony, we stayed for pictures and then cleaned up and headed over to the restaurant for the reception.

And the reception was just as wonderful! The service was fantastic and the food was delicious. And I just loved how people completely loved on my mom and her new husband. I’ve known for a very long time how special and awesome my mom is, and it pleases me to no end that she has found a group of friends who see that as well.

But, before I knew it, it was time for my mom and stepfather to leave for their honeymoon. There was a lot of emotion tied to this day – the stress of getting everything done on time and helping people find the location, the happiness seeing my mom get married, the joy of being around my family and my mom’s friends – and seeing them off felt like the final pin into this journey of planning a wedding. As I packed all the wedding paraphernalia in the car, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a few weeks. The wedding planning was over, my mom was now married, and they could take a break and relax on their honeymoon.

So, it was a beautiful wedding and I am so happy for my mom. I’m also thrilled to officially welcome Robert into our family. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure how he would fit in, but he does. It hasn’t been a seamless fit, but it’s a fit nonetheless. And I’m happy to call him my stepfather.

Happy wedding day, you two lovebirds! I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for you guys.

A to Z Survey

It’s wedding weekend – ahh! I can’t believe my mom gets married tomorrow. It is going to be such a fun day (and I promise a full recap next week!) Since my mind can’t really focus on anything other than wedding preparations, I thought this survey that I saw on another blog would be a fun Friday post! Go ahead and steal it for your own blog – can’t wait to see your answers!

A. Age: 27

B. Biggest fear: Losing my mom

C. Current time: 9:23 p.m.

D. Drink you had last: Grape Gatorade

E. Easiest person to talk to: My mom

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F. Favorite song: Right now, I love rocking out to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

G. Grossest memory: Oh, gosh, nothing surpasses the time I went to watch my brother’s soccer practice and afterwards, he downed a lime-green Gatorade, which he promptly threw up in front of everyone. I’ve never been able to drink lime-green Gatorade since then.

H. Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL

I. In love with: This man!

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J. Jealous of: People who got the chance to have a normal college experience

K. Kindest person you know: My soon-to-be roomie, Bri. She’s the kind of person who will drop everything and be there for you when you need her. I feel like the luckiest person in the world that she wants to live with me!

L. Longest relationship: Umm

M. Middle name: Marie

N. Number of siblings: Just one

O. One wish: For Dutch to feel better

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P. Person you spoke to on the phone last: The receptionist at my eye doctor to give her my insurance information! Ha.

Q. Question you’re always asked: “How are you?” is the only one I can think of… I’m not asked any actual questions on such a frequent basis as to remember them.

R. Reason to smile: This squishy little baby

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S. Song you last sang: “Put Your Records On” (such a fun song to sing along to!)

T. Time you woke up: 6:00 a.m.

U. Underwear color: Nude!

V. Vacation destination: Anywhere a cruise ship will take me

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W. Worst habit: Biting the skin around my thumb. Nervous habit!

X. X-rays you’ve had: Numerous ones at the dentist, twice for my foot/ankle, and once of my thumb when I sliced it open and had to get it stitched (the ER doc wanted to make sure there wasn’t any more glass embedded inside the cut).

Y. Your favorite food: Subs from Publix. I’m addicted. I have 2-3 a week.

Z. Zodiac sign: Sagittarius

Who is the kindest person you know? What is one wish you have right now?

Reviewing the Second Quarter of the Year

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And just like that, the first half of 2015 is over. I’ve both loved and loathed this year. For the most part, it’s been a great one. I’ve been able to travel. I’ve helped my mom plan her wedding. And I’ve really taken the time to let myself be. There have been low moments. Moments where my anxiety overwhelms me. Moments where I worry I’m not doing enough with my life. Moments where I get so scared for the future that it’s hard to breathe. C’est la vie, right?

In any event, we’re done with two quarters of the year and, like I did for Q1, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what was good and challenging in Q2, and make some goals for Q3.

Q2 Review – The Highlights

I had such a wonderful time on my cruise in mid-May. It wasn’t the perfect cruise, but it just felt really good to get away from reality. I got to spend time in the Bahamas again as well as three new-to-me islands (St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk). I’m already looking forward to my next cruise!

  • Chopping off my hair

I’m so glad I took the plunge and went back to a bob. I ended up taking 9 inches off and it has been such a delightful change. My hair feels so much more manageable now and getting ready in the morning takes no time at all!

  • Helping my mom plan her wedding

It has been really fun helping my mom plan her wedding! We hadn’t done much in the way of planning until we got back from our cruise. Since we knew the wedding would be small (originally, we were thinking around 15-20 people, but the guest list has since grown to be closer to 30) and we wouldn’t need to book a fancy hall for the ceremony or reception, we managed to tackle all the to-do’s in these last two months. Every weekend, we’ve had different wedding tasks to complete (such as: taking engagement photos and designing the invitations, scoping out the perfect area in downtown St. Petersburg for the small ceremony, finding my mom’s wedding dress and my maid-of-honor dress… things like that). All that’s left is to put together wedding favors and do all the day-of getting ready and setup! I honestly cannot wait!

  • Helping with my mom’s surprise bridal shower

My mom’s work BFF (who is actually going to be the officiant at the wedding!) put this whole surprise bridal shower together, and she did a fantastic job. Not only did she most of the decorating and planning, but she also helped everyone keep mum about the whole event, so my mom was super shocked. I was so touched to be included in the festivities and it makes me so incredibly happy that my mom has such a great support system at her work. She deserves it all!

I had such a fun afternoon in Downtown Disney with Emilie and her fiance, Pete. From the get-go, it felt like I was hanging out with old friends, not people I had just met! But that’s the way it goes with blogging friends, eh? It was quite wonderful to meet them!

Q2 Review – The Challenges

  • Spraining my ankle

Oh, it’s just no fun at all to get injured while on vacation. Spraining my ankle during my zip-lining and hiking excursion in Puerto Rico turned what was a super fun excursion at the start into my personal version of hell. Luckily, the tour guides were super nice and helpful once I told them about my injury, even helping me down some of the more treacherous terrain. Since then, my ankle has just been very tender. I can walk on it fine now, but stepping down onto that foot or walking down stairs still causes shooting pain. Hopefully, I’ll be 100% soon!

  • Dealing with a sick pup

My poor Dutchie-Boy. As I mentioned previously, Dutch has been dealing with a bad UTI. After three weeks on medication, he was still not getting better so last week, he went back to the vet. This time, he had blood work done and another urinalysis. His blood work came back normal, but his urinalysis showed signs that he still has a UTI. SIGH! The vet sent him home with two new types of antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria causing the UTI. (He’s also on new food + a probiotic to help with some stomach pain the vet noticed.) I am just hoping and praying this gets rid of the UTI for good because I hate that he’s still suffering!

  • Eating healthy

It’s been such a struggle. It just hasn’t been easy to summon the motivation to cook healthier meals, eat out less, and everything else that falls into eating better. But something has to give because I’m tired of not feeling good – both inside and out. I’m hoping a combination of using MyFitnesspal more regularly and going low-carb will get me to where I want to be.

Q2 Review – The Goals

I set five goals for myself to complete in Q2. Let’s review them!

  • Refinance my auto loan

Check! I have been working with an advisor at my bank to refinance my auto loan and we’re in the final stages of it now. I’m just so happy that I finally got this done!

  • Schedule an appointment with a therapist.

Incomplete. And I really, really need to start seeing a therapist. I must make this a priority in Q3.

  • Launch a brand-new blog theme.

Check! And I love it so!

  • Make a decision on an apartment.

Incomplete. My move-out date has been pushed back to possibly August, maybe September. I’m okay with it, though! With all of Dutch’s recent vet visits, saving money has not been possible so I’m not really ready financially to move out. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be writing my Q3 review from a South Tampa address. Squee!

  • Start writing fiction again.

Incomplete. I haven’t been able to get into the habit of it. Maybe I need to give myself some sort of word count or time goal? Hmm.

Looking ahead to Q3 (July, August, and September)

As I did last quarter, I want to set five achievable long-term-ish goals for this quarter. While I still love the purpose behind setting yearly intentions, it’s nice to break those intentions up into smaller goals to strive for. So, without further ado, here are the goals I want to accomplish in Q3:

  • Move to South Tampa
  • Start therapy
  • Lose 15 lbs
  • Take a social media and blogging break
  • Start writing fiction again

What were the highlights of Q2 for you?

What I Read // June

junereads

I don’t really know how it happened, but I managed to read 9 books in June. I think I read a lot of easy reads that only took me a few days to finish because it’s not as if June was a low-key, boring month for me! Hmm. I am so pleased with my reading progress this year – I’ve read 48 books and I am on pace to read 70+ books this year. Wahoo! This month, my favorite book was Big Little Lies and my least favorite was A Deadly Wandering.

Book club selection: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park (5 stars)
This book was just downright adorable. It followed a girl who moves to Boston to attend college and when her living situation falls through, she moves in with her mother’s old college roommate and her family. The main character, Julie, realizes the family is a little… strange… and she gets to work on figuring them out. It’s a book about family, love, and finding yourself. My most favorite thing about this book was the dialogue. It was quick and funny and smart, and I was drawn into the story from the get-go because of it. If you like YA and novels that explore dark themes in a light-hearted way, I’d definitely recommend this novel.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (a book published this year): The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (3 stars)
I liked this book, but I didn’t find it as gripping or engaging as I had hoped. It was one I could easily set down. It’s marketed as “the next Gone Girl” but I can’t compare it to that book. I loved Gone Girl and it was a book that gripped me from beginning to end. This book was different. It was still good. It was still intriguing. I found the characters incredibly infuriating, but also interesting and well-developed. I was engaged enough to where I wanted to keep reading and find out what had really happened.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (a romance novel): Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas (4 stars)
Romance novels are my favorite genre to read (it used to be the only genre I read until I started diversifying my selections), so this was an easy category to mark complete for the Book Riot challenge. I’m making my way through Lisa Kleypas’ historical fiction novels, and they are just such fun, easy reads. I like how much depth and personality the characters have; I genuinely felt sad when I finished this novel because I would miss the characters. (Thankfully, it’s the first novel in a series, so I’ll get to read about them again soon!)

TLC Book Tours Read: A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel (2 stars)
I reviewed this on my blog earlier this month and you can read my review here.

Others (read for fun!)

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (5 stars)
I am officially a huge fan of Moriarty. I had previously read The Husband’s Secret, which I thought was fantastic, and a friend raved about this book so I knew I had to read it. I’m pretty sure this book will end up as one of the top three books I read this year. It was just so good. I love the way Moriarty finds a way to talk about heavy subjects (in this case, domestic violence and bullying) in a light-hearted manner. Not making light of the issues, but writing in such a way where the topics don’t feel heavy or depressing. I loved this book from start to finish and I wholly recommend it. And I would like Madeline to be my BFF, please and thank you.

Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu (4.5 stars)
This book was eye-opening. I have been obsessed with elite gymnastics since I was a little girl and I remember how much I looked up to Dominique Moceanu (even though I wasn’t a gymnast, or even very athletic!) This memoir gave such a detailed perspective into the world of elite gymnastics and how a girl winds up on a gold-medal Olympic team at the age of fourteen. I am impressed by Dominique’s dedication, strength, and bravery because what she went through, both in the gymnastics world and in her personal life, was gut-wrenching. Definitely a must-read book for those who are as obsessed with elite athletes as I am.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro (4 stars)
This book gripped me from beginning to end. The only reason why I didn’t give it 5 stars is because I felt the ending was a little rushed, and it left me wanting a little bit more. But I loved the setting of this novel – Paris in the mid-1950s and New York in the 1920s – because I don’t read too many books involving that time period. It was an enchanting novel with an interesting plot and such likeable characters. I also loved getting a glimpse into what it’s like being in the perfumery world.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (4 stars)
I listened to this on audiobook and the reader couldn’t have been more perfect. She had such a pleasing tone to her voice, which made it easy to follow along. And this story was so charming! The setting was perfect, the sisters were so different and yet so alike. I loved their transformation throughout the novel; it felt natural and authentic. And I honestly couldn’t get enough of the father and his penchant for spouting wisdom through Shakespeare quotes. The plot might seem a little slow to some people, but I think that’s what made this book so special to me. It didn’t need to be fast-paced or super gripping – it was a story about change and growth and finding yourself, and most times, that happens at a slow and steady pace.

To the Limit by Cindy Gerard (4 stars)
So, romance novels are my favorite genre to read, but more than that, romantic thrillers are my jam. A good romantic thriller will have characters that aren’t too brooding or bad-ass, a twisty-turny plot that keeps you guessing, and steamy love scenes. A novel by Cindy Gerard has all of that and more. This is actually my third time reading this novel (sorry I’m not sorry?) and I fell in love with the characters all over again.

BOOK STATS // JUNE

# of books read: 9
# of pages read: 3,317
quickest read: Flat-Out Love (4 days)
longest read: The Weird Sisters (13 days)
multicultural: 5
formats: ebooks (4), physical books (4), ebooks (1)

What was the best book you read in June?