What I Read June 2020

June was a pretty terrible reading month for me. I didn’t DNF many books, but I probably should have! Everything was just okay. I did finish one really great nonfiction I had been reading for awhile and I had one highly rated thriller, but just three weeks after reading the book I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it before going back to read my review! I realize telling you none of these books were very good certainly doesn’t encourage you to finish reading the post (lol). But…most of these books probably just weren’t for me, or not for me at this time. So keep an open mind! And definitely pick up your own copy of Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire!!!

Flow by Kennedy Ryan
Rating: 2.5 stars

I read this short prequel because I wanted to read the original book, Grip, after it was highly recommended by an author I trust. And honestly, it just did not appeal to me. There was nothing really wrong with it, but I was bored. I read a decent amount of Grip afterward and felt the same way, finally DNFing it. It just wasn’t for me.

Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Rating: 3 stars

In this book super surgeon Sloan needs a nanny asap for her six year old twins. Rafe comes to her at just the right time and they immediately feel a connection. And things progress, naturally. I liked this book because Rafe was such a perfect guy for the role he was needed in. He had literally no flaws. So he was also a bit boring. I thought overall this was a cute story that kept my interest, but there was nothing spectacular about it.

Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker
Rating: 5* stars

Jen Hatmaker is an absolute delight. Her books are poignet yet so hilarious. She tells tons of personal stories to show how human she is and loves to laugh at things that definitely weren’t so funny at the time. I’ve enjoyed all the books of hers that I’ve read before, but this is by far my favorite. It really is a glorious guide on how to fully embrace being who you were meant to be. She talks about the different personalities people have and how it is totally okay to just live quietly in your own lane taking care of the people closest to you. It’s also okay to have huge dreams and want to change the world. We were all created differently but we were all created RIGHT. Each chapter delves into a different part of yourself and how you can learn to freely accept who you are, unapologetically. The whole book was uplifting and inspirational. I loved it!

Where the Blame Lies by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 4.5 stars

Josie is a college student who is abducted in the night and held captive in a warehouse for ten months where she becomes pregnant with and births her captor’s son before she manages to escape. Eight years later she is consulted by the police for information on a copycat case. I really enjoyed this book. It went back and forth between the current timeline and the ten months she was held captive, changing point of view between Josie and the detective on her case, Zach. Josie and Zach of course have a strong connection to each other, but unlike some other books that felt very unbelievable at how quickly you could go from being raped and tortured and then jumping into a sexual relationship, these characters went eight years between events so it felt a lot more believable. I was definitely kept guessing for most of the book and enjoyed the fast pace.

The Girl in the Love Song by Emma Scott
Rating: 4 stars

Thirteen year old Miller shows up one night in Violet’s backyard looking exhausted and in need of a good meal. The two instantly become best friends while fighting back a secret love for each other. Most of this book takes place when they’re seniors in high school and eventually jumps forward a bit at the end. Overall, I liked this novel, but I also felt it got a big bogged down with unnecessary plot points. I also had a hard time believing two teens were so desperately in love with each other when they didn’t spend any time together. I liked watching how their relationship changed over the years, but wish there was just more of the two of them. Emma Scott has a great knack for writing deeply emotional love stories so it’s worth a read.

One to Watch by Katy Stayman-London
Rating: 3 stars

This was a tough read for me. Bea is a plus size woman with a popular fashion writing career. After tweeting about the lack of body diversity on the tv show Main Squeeze (a Bachelor copycat) she is cast as the lead in the next season. The rest of the book is watching Bea compete on national tv for the love and happily ever after with one perfect man. Unfortunately, she is quite possibly even more obsessed with her size and shape than the men she is with. As a plus sized woman, I can totally relate to everything Bea was feeling. But does that make for a good book? Does it help that much of the book is composed of tweets, chats, podcasts, and articles either bashing her as a plus size woman or at least constantly talking about it? Can’t she just be A WOMAN? I understand the whole point of the book was to encourage body positivity, but for me it had the opposite effect. This book did not make me feel better about myself at all. But besides all that, it was interesting to “watch” a whole season play out, very much like it probably does in real life reality shows. I had just as hard a time picking out the right guy for her as I do when I’m watching it on tv!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Rating: 3.5 stars

I usually steer very clear of ghost and supernatural stories, but I’ve read all of Riley Sager’s other books and decided to give this one a shot. And…it was okay. For something marketed as a thriller, this was incredibly slow. Maggie is a 30 year old woman whose entire life has been overshadowed by a book her father wrote about their twenty days of living in a haunted house when she was five. After her father’s death she finds out that he still owned the house and it now belongs to her. She goes back to the house determined to figure out why they really left after such a short period of time. The book alternates between chapters of her father’s book and her current situation. There were definitely some creepy moments. I didn’t read much of this at night because I’m easily spooked. I was intrigued enough to power through, but this was definitely the book I liked least by this author.

Lucky Caller by Emma Mills
Rating: 2.5 stars

The characters in this book really annoyed me. Honestly, what is the point of writing a book if you’re never going to let the main character have a voice? Nina has feelings for a boy, and it’s obvious there is some sort of past between them that went a bit beyond friendship. But she won’t talk to him. She won’t ever give him any of the thoughts she so desperately wants to say. It happened over and over and over again and it really ticked me off. There was ONE beautiful short little scene and the rest of this book was boring or frustrating. It could have been so much more. Not recommending this one!!

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams
Rating: 2 stars

One day Daniel overhears Nadia (a stranger to him) talking to a coworker in a park and is intrigued by her. Soon after, he realizes she’s on the same train as him – at least on Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays. Not wanting to look like a creep he decides to leave her an ad in the Missed Connections portion of their newspaper and believing that she is that girl she writes him back. Spoilers ahead – this book infuriated me. It was missed opportunity after missed opportunity. They kept just missing each other by a minute or two for almost the entirety of the book. The book itself wasn’t bad, but the romance books I love are the ones where the main characters constantly interact. This does not happen in this book. I was so excited about the premise, but didn’t realize how ridiculously long the wait would be to even have them MEET. Not worth the read, in my opinion.

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
Rating: 3 stars

After her mom dies and three years of foster care (all of which is extremely glazed over as being unimportant), Edie finds herself living with her wealthy aunt, uncle, and cousins for the last six months before she starts college. Despite her full intention of only focusing on her education, she finds herself equally drawn to her childhood best friend Sebastian – who happens to have a girlfriend, and the charismatic player Henry who she’s convinced is only pursuing her as a personal challenge, not because he actually likes her. Edie’s feelings about each boy are all over the place. And honestly, it was pretty hard to root for either of them. I hate books where one of the characters needs to cheat because their chemistry with the new person is “that much truer.” I also hate books where the main guy is also a womanizer. I didn’t really want Edie with either of them. It took me awhile to get into this book at all because of those hangups, but about halfway through I started enjoying it. I still have a lot of mixed feelings all around, but it was an okay read.

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Rating: 3.5 stars

Megan is an aspiring stage director who finds herself needing an acting credit to be admitted to her prospective college. She ends up being cast as Juliet in a class Romeo and Juliet play starring opposite her ex-boyfriend/best friend’s boyfriend/boy she lost her virginity to. Megan’s a huge flirt and goes through boyfriends left and right with the self made assumption she’s just a stopping ground before they find their better half. Then she meets Owen, someone who challenges that belief and makes her realize she deserves to be more than she’s given herself credit for. To be honest, I really didn’t like the first half of this book. It’s hard to imagine being as confident and flirty and ready to just dive right in physically with any hot boy as Megan is. I liked Owen, but I wanted more of him. Much like the book before this one, I took serious issue with the fact he also had a girlfriend (albeit one he never saw who lived in Italy) for most of the book. The second half got a little deeper into why Megan felt the way she did about herself and I was really invested by the end.

June 2020 Reflections

I think about writing all the time these days. But I never actually sit down and do it. It’s become abundantly clear that I can’t commit to posting any of my normal “content” with any regularity anymore and I constantly feel bad about it. I feel like if I can’t even keep up with those easily structured weekly posts, I shouldn’t jump in with anything random or different in the meantime. Which is pretty stupid considering I’m writing this blog mostly for my own enjoyment, so I can do what I want, right?! Right.

I did a quick search to see when I last wrote a monthly recap and it was November, so my inability to stay consistent happened long before the pandemic life set in. I’ve really been struggling a lot since November, trying to figure out who I am and what I want to do with my life. November is when I went to the Hope Writers conference and was re-energized with a deep and longing desire to pursue a writing career, something I gave up midway through college. By the end of December I cancelled my Hope Writers membership because the pressure to write for profit was too overwhelming. There are so many days where I’m just trying to survive (moreso now than ever!), I can’t handle trying to build a platform to launch an eventual writing career when I’m not even sure that’s exactly what I want. But giving up that dream – again – has made me really hesitant to write at all anymore. But I miss it. So here I am again, unpolished and prone to rambling. Ready to reflect on June!

June has kind of sucked, to be honest. It’s probably my least favorite month. Summer begins and long days of challenging parenting stretch out before me. Allergy season is at its worst and going outside makes me miserable. I’m usually mourning the loss of my beloved routine, but trying to make the most of a new routine so I don’t just sit around wishing the summer away. This year, though. Oh, this year. We’ve already been home all together, Greg included, for three and a half months. We have no idea what will happen with school in fall and we have no idea when Greg will go back to the office. So there is REALLY no end in sight and I’m struggling with it A LOT right now. I’m not finding many reasons to be optimistic and hopeful anymore. This is just my life now, indefinitely. And some days I really, really don’t like it.

It was actually a relief to finish out the school year after three months of trying to make this cobbled together online curriculum a success. There was a lot of sadness around the end as well. It was Shepard’s last year at his charter school and he missed out on so many amazing opportunities that were saved up for the final months. It was Caden’s last year in his school (technically he’s not leaving the building next year, but still) too. He loved his teachers so much. They both had such great friendships that really fizzled out after the first month of being home and trying to stay in contact via messenger. Like kids all over the world, they were robbed of some great memories in those final months of school and it was hard for me to just let those things go. I’m so sad for them and all they missed out on and all they’re continuing to miss out on now.

We were signed up for summer school before everything shut down and much to the boys’ annoyance, we kept them signed up even when we found out classes would still be held virtually. I thought it would be a good distraction for them and it would give me a little more time to do my own thing without constantly needing to entertain them. Oh, how wrong I was. That first week was SO stressful. They had all these big craft projects that required hours of work and me needing to keep digging through all my random boxes of supplies to build these projects together. And don’t get me wrong, it was actually really fun to do something creative with both of them, the three of us working together. But it was overwhelming to me how much time it took up – and that was just for one of their classes! There were also a few mix ups on which classes they were actually in. Eventually I sorted it all out and we dropped Caden out of two classes and Shepard out of one and now they’re both just in two classes and it’s all much more manageable. But this past week? I don’t have a clue what they did each day. If they needed help, they went to Greg. Or they just didn’t do the lessons, I don’t even know. There’s only one week left, so we will get through it.

I also signed the boys up for free breakfasts and lunches from school for seven weeks this summer. After countless arguments, mostly with Caden, about food in the last few months I thought it would be such a relief to get those extra meals (or at least snacks!) coming in that I wouldn’t have to think about or cook. What I wasn’t prepared for were the daily arguments about who is going to actually go to school to get the food. Shepard insists on knowing what’s on the menu before he’ll go, even though we’re getting the food no matter what it is. And pretty much every day he starts whining that “it’s so disgusting!” and refuses to go get it. The same meals that he was eating every single day when school was in session (or at least paying for…) he refuses to eat now. I’m eating most of their school lunches because I hate to let the food go to waste. Caden’s pretty good about eating whatever it is, but it’s not nearly enough to fill up him, so I still have to make him food anyway. The real challenge is trying to figure out what to do with four cartons of milk every day when none of us drink milk. I HATE wasting it, but I’m throwing most of it away because we just don’t have the fridge room to spare for something we don’t even want. Anyway, I realize I sound incredibly ungrateful for this free food – but I’m not. I just didn’t know it was going to cause more problems than it solved. And that’s on my kids.

One bright spot in June was having the opportunity to hang out with our nephew/cousin Hudson for a couple of days. It did cause some strife between Greg and I because we had to basically give up all the social distancing rules we’ve been trying so hard to enforce because two year olds don’t know how to keep germs to themselves. I thought the risk was worth it, but we did have to do a lot of reevaluating that week. Some days it seems like that’s all we’re doing. The world opened back up in the middle of May, but it’s only getting more dangerous out there. Weighing the risks and benefits of every single decision we make has really been stressful. We’ve just kind of had to come to terms with the fact that we’re still going to be as safe as we can be, but we have to open back up to the world a little bit at a time and respect each other’s choices. We’ve seen family more often and in closer proximity. I’ve shopped inside of a couple of stores for the first time since early March. Greg went to his great uncle’s funeral. The guys went to the pool for the first time this weekend. We have no plans to go to any large gatherings or events, probably for the rest of this year. We’re wearing masks when we go into buildings. We’re still just seeing family in outdoor settings. But we’re trying not to feel so completely confined to our home the way that we were March through May. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Oddly enough, I’ve actually been super productive with doll making this month. Around the end of May I was so stressed out trying to keep up production while also balancing all my family’s needs that I decided to take an indefinite break away from it. But it took me about two days to realize that I can’t walk away from my business. I NEED it. I just needed it in a more flexible way. In stepping back for about a week I figured out a new system that has been working crazy well for me. I only make three dolls at a time and I’m under no pressure to photograph and list those dolls until I have enough saved up that it feels worth my time to do all those listing steps. I love this new system because I’m seeing constant results, finishing three new dolls every 1-2 days. It also gives me more freedom because I’m kind of obsessed with making batches of similarly themed dolls and feeling like I have to list those dolls all together for the greatest impact. But now I’m finally free to make all these totally random themed dolls I always think I’m going to make but never actually have time for because they don’t fit into my larger picture. Now there is no larger picture! I also don’t have that stressful time crunch to finish dolls by the perfect time of day for photographing so I can list them immediately. Honestly, all these little changes have worked together to create the perfect production style for me. And I’m kind of addicted to it. I’m sewing all the time. I’m having so much fun with it. I’m being creative and reveling in doing something I feel so GOOD at, when everything else in my life seems to be falling apart. Granted, I could probably still step back a little bit and work on putting those other pieces back together. But…it’s hard to do that too. I like to be good at things. I like to have something that’s just for me. And I like a good distraction. Continuing to crank out these dolls every day has been awesome for me. Also – I don’t call it “work” anymore. I think I needed to call it that for a long time to try and justify why I gave it so much of my time, and why I was still staying home even though my kids were in school all day. But I realized I don’t need to justify myself to anyone anymore. This is just something I do because I love it. Yeah, it brings me in some extra money. But it’s a choice and an outlet and it brings me a lot of joy.

This is pretty new, but I also started biking this month. Thanks to my CBD oil, my plantar fasciitis actually seems to be doing a lot better, but I still can’t push it too hard on the walking or I relapse. But I need to do something active to counteract all the sitting I’m doing every day. Biking just might be my thing. It’s good exercise, but also fun! And I go alone so I can do it at my own pace. I have a love hate relationship with my beach cruiser bicycle, but I’m trying to see how reliably I can commit to this exercise before I seriously consider buying a different style of bike. I’ve only been biking every day this past week, but it’s been a highlight of my days.

Overall, June has been pretty rough. I feel like all four of us have been unraveling. We rarely have good days on the same days, which really sucks. It’s hard to imagine continuing to live like this for much longer. I miss time alone SO MUCH. I miss quiet rooms. I miss cleaning and having a space actually stay clean for more than five minutes. I miss shopping for fun. I miss eating at restaurants and going on dates. I miss planning vacations, especially the ones I take alone. I miss looking forward to fun events because there’s not anything to look forward to anymore. I miss seeing my friends and actually feeling connected to people face to face. I miss seeing my kids have fun with their friends instead of running away from the neighborhood kids in fear because of how hard we pushed the social distancing rules back in March. I also miss feeling like Greg and I are participating equally in our parenting roles. You’d think it could be more equal when we’re all at home all the time, but it hasn’t been the case. The boundaries have become even more blurred this month as the boys are constantly interrupting Greg while he works to deal with their technology problems. He’s helping them all day long and then he spends all night playing with them or watching tv with them. I cook for them. I clean up after them. But I rarely feel connected to them because they always just want him. He’s buried under the weight of their constant expectations and I’m left feeling like the outsider and relegated to the role of chef and house cleaner with no real connection to anyone. I feel like a failure ALL. THE. TIME. It’s been hard. I’m still searching for bright spots, but it’s becoming more and more challenging to reach those silver linings. Hopefully July will be better.

Friday Favorites #11

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! It’s been about three months since my last Friday post and I’m ready to jump back in. It felt a bit inappropriate to write about my new favorite things when all the pandemic stuff started up and then it was hard to FIND any new favorites when I was never leaving the house. But I finally sat down and looked through all the new things I’ve ordered and tried since then and compiled a nice little list for you guys. Maybe you’ll find a new treat to try out too!

Coffee:

  • Bri McCoy’s Homemade Starbucks Double Shot Recipe
    Bri is one of my favorite instagram follows. She’s always got so much energy and spunk! She also has a ton of great ideas for recipes and new drinks to try out. Early on in quarantine she posted a video about her homemade Starbucks double shot and I immediately had to find a way to make it for myself. Iced coffee drinks are my favorite to order when I’m out and I’m thrilled to finally have a great way to make them at home for just a fraction of the cost.
  • Bialetti Moka Espresso Maker
    Until I saw Bri’s video I didn’t even realize stovetop espresso makers existed! I just assumed I’d never be able to make a cool latte at home because I’d never invest in a true espresso maker just for the rare indulgence. Well, you don’t NEED a huge espresso maker, you just need one of these little guys! I originally bought a cheaper 6 cup version and it leaked, but I really enjoyed the taste so I decided to upgrade to a true Bialetti moka pot – but the 3 cup version which is the perfect size for a single pint sized iced drink. Technically I bought a teal one (no longer available on amazon) because I want everything possible to be in COLOR. I’m in love with it!
  • LavAzza Decaf Espresso
    When I first started making myself iced double shots I was drinking them every day. And then something crazy happened – I stopped being able to sleep at night (lol). It actually took me quite awhile to realize it was the intense amount of caffeine I was drinking every day. I’ve never in my life felt that caffeine had any affect on me until I started drinking these. So I decided to try out a pre-ground decaf espresso mix, expecting something I didn’t grind myself to be rather subpar to the “real” stuff. But this coffee is fantastic! It’s the only thing I use in my moka pot now. It’s delicious and turns out perfectly every time.
  • Black Lives Matter Coffee Blend
    Brandywine Coffee Roasters is my all time favorite place to order coffee beans. It tastes miles above anything I’ve ever gotten anywhere else. (Though Grounds & Hounds is also really delicious!) My most recent favorites have been this new Black Lives Matter variety and the Social Distancing blend they released a few months ago.

Eat:

  • Dorothy’s Comeback Cow Brie
    In the first month or so of the stay at home order I was pretty desperate to find ways to get good food to the house. I started ordering from all different kinds of cheese companies. Some were good, most were not. Then one night when I couldn’t sleep I got a random facebook ad for Dorothy’s Cheese. Brie is pretty much my favorite – if it’s a good one – so I HAD to try it out. I originally bought one of each of their two flavors, but this Comeback Cow was the true winner. The key is leaving it out until it gets really soft and spreadable before you eat it. And then it’s amazing. Definitely the best brie I’ve ever had. I’ve bought it a couple more times since then and gifted it to a lot of my friends. If you like brie, this is definitely worth trying out!
  • Crunchy PB&J Trail Mix
    I’m not sure I can call something a favorite if I just tried it for the first time an hour ago. But…this is really good. I bought it last week to give to my father-in-law for his birthday, but was intrigued enough to buy it again this week for myself. I’ve never been a fan of any trail mix – peanuts are definitely not one of my favorite nuts to eat by themselves. But I’m trying to slowly get back in the habit of eating more nuts (I’ve lost MANY of my good habits these last three months!) so I gave it a shot. And…it’s so good. If you LOVE sweet and salty things (I live for them!) you need to try this mix.
  • Perdue Chicken Breast Chunks
    I picked these up at Costco back in February for the first time. I like to always have some sort of chicken nuggets on hand for quick meals, but usually don’t really enjoy eating them myself because they’re…fake-ish. But these are not. They are so good! Especially made in the air fryer. Definitely my favorite nugget. Perdue also makes a really good gluten free nugget, which is the one we’ve been eating the last few months because it’s actually available at our little Pick n Save.

Outdoor Fun:

  • Inflatable Pool
    We’ve been very committed to staying at home as much as possible the last three months and plan to continue in the same way for the rest of summer. Which meant we really needed to find more things to keep the boys active and happy at home. We debated for a long time over whether we could get them a pool or a trampoline – the two things they seemed most excited about. We actually landed on the trampoline because we felt like getting a real pool would be too much of a risk factor when we can’t fence in our yard and neighbor kids sometimes get a bit too curious about our stuff. But at the time the trampoline was just a preorder for some unknown future date, so I was still on the lookout for some sort of inflatable pool to splash around in that wasn’t too tiny and lame for their sizes. I had in stock alerts set on a couple of different brands and this is the one I ended up being able to snag. I think it’s perfect! I actually think they like the pool more than the trampoline…

Cook With:

  • Calphalon 7 Quart Pan
    How do people with large families cook meals in a single pan? I struggle so much with just cooking for the four of us! Granted I usually aim to make enough of a meal that it’ll last for at least the next day’s lunch as well, but still. Pans are never big enough! Until this one! Not counting my new grill and recent air fryer purchases, I almost exclusively cook meals on the stovetop. I was using another large pan most of the time, but the bottom nonstick surface was so scraped up that I finally decided to ditch it and get something else. I was assuming I was buying something the same size, but I got it in the mail this week and it’s significantly bigger – and PERFECT. I made two pounds of tikka masala in it the other night and it looked like I was cooking a small meal for just two of us, the pan was so big. Also, I bought this from Target for a lot cheaper, but it says it’s sold out now.

Skincare:

  • DRMTLGY Acne Spot Treatment
    I’ve tried a lot of spot treatment gels over the years. And this is the one that actually seems to work. I definitely recommend trying it out if you struggle as well!
  • No Pore Blem Primer
    I’m always trying to find a better primer. I tried this one on a whim a few months ago and I really like it! My only issue is that I’m to the bottom 1/4 of the bottle and it’s really hard to get it out. But other than that it works great!

Read:

  • Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker
    My reading life has been really up and down the past few months, but I have these three solid nonfiction recommendations that I thought were fantastic. Jen Hatmaker’s is the most recent one I read and I loved it so much. It’s a great motivational book to just BE YOU. It gives you permission to live whatever kind of life you want to live because you are made to be you and that is enough. I loved this book.
  • The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan
    This was the most wonderful book to read during a stay at home order and in May when you’re starting to think about getting your garden in order. It was such a beautiful look at two celebrities and how hard they fought to live the life they wanted to live – out of the spotlight and on a large plot of land where they could grow their own food, fix up their own house, get close with the locals and their businesses. It was really great.
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle
    Short and interesting essays that pact a huge emotional punch? This is the book! I loved it!

Watch:

  • Robbie
    We’ve watched a lot of tv lately. Most of the shows were just okay, but I really enjoyed this one. I’m maybe a bit biased because I really love Rory Scovel, but I thought this show was so funny! Give it a couple episodes and I think you’ll really enjoy it too. And it’s on youtube, so anybody can watch it if they have internet!

Pain Relief:

  • FabCBD Oil
    I’ve been on a never ending quest these last eight months to find some sort of way to heal or at least manage my plantar fasciitis pain. There are so many days that I can barely even walk. Which REALLY SUCKS. I feel like I’ve tried pretty much every option there is and nothing really helps. But then I decided to give CBD oil a try. I did research into a bunch of different top companies, and Fab is finally what I picked. I’ve only been using it about a week and a half, but I’ve already noticed a change in my foot pain. I’m not sure I can ENTIRELY attribute it to the CBD oil, but I believe it’s at least part of the reason why I’ve finally been getting some pain relief.

Smell:

  • 7th Street Salvage Candles
    I am a candle addict. They bring me so much joy. I love seeing the warm flickering light, but when you find a scent that just fills the room with a delightful smell – it’s magical. I very carefully curate which scents I put in which areas of my house and only light them when I’m going to be in that spot for a significant amount of time and can enjoy the full experience. And because of that, I’m willing to pay more for something that delights my senses and will last a long time. These candles fit the bill. In my first order I chose a large Picket Fence and a variety pack of smaller ones. I LOVE the Picket Fence scent. It’s so wonderful! I also really like the Library Ladder scent, which I’ll eventually buy in a large size for my reading area. I also recently bought the new summer scents, Rolling Pin and Button Jar. I use Button Jar when I’m sewing. I’ve really liked all the ones I tried so far, so I don’t think you can go wrong!

What I Read May 2020

My reading life in May was very much like it was in March. It was so hard to find anything that truly caught my attention. Though unlike in March when I was DNFing left and right after only a couple of pages, I kept trying to stick with the books this time not giving up until I was over half done and just couldn’t take it anymore. It did not make for a great month of reading – so much wasted time! But I definitely found a few winners that I did stick with to the end and am excited to share with you what I chose!

My Favorite Souvenir by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland
Rating: 4 stars

This was a sweet story with a slow burn romance. After being dumped by her fiance, Hazel decides to go on her honeymoon by herself and finds herself stranded in Colorado in a snowstorm with no way back home. She happens across another stranded traveler and they hit it off and decide to travel by car around the country, picking up souvenirs at each stop. It was sweet and fun until the inevitable obstacle was thrown in her path when she arrived back home and had to face her ex-fiance and the truth about her traveling companion. I enjoyed this book, though got a bit irritated with Hazel and how confused she was about which guy to choose when the choice was so obvious. It seemed to drag on quite a bit near the end. But overall, it kept my attention and I liked it a lot.

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Rating: 4.5 stars

This could be read as a standalone book, but I think you’d get a little bit more out of it if you read Abby’s other book, The Friend Zone, first. I really loved The Friend Zone and was excited to get this one in my hands. And believe it or not, I actually liked this one more. Maybe because the dog Tucker is a big character in the book! In this book, Sloan is still grieving the death of her fiance, two years after his motorcycle accident. She comes across a dog who doesn’t appear to have an owner and ends up loving his companionship only to have his owner, Jason, eventually call her back. Jason’s out of the country and they form a great friendship over the phone and when he comes back they figure out a way to share custody of Tucker and things progress from there. The thing about this book (and the other) is that Abby Jimenez isn’t afraid to touch hard topics and really get deep into them. This isn’t a quick fall in love and happily ever after story (despite the title!). You’re going to really get into why the couple will or won’t work. It’s not exactly light, but I still loved it.

The Best Mistake by Cookie O’Gorman
Rating: 3.5 stars

I made the mistake of waiting awhile after reading this to write my review. And…it wasn’t particularly memorable. Mistaken identity leads to a college senior propositioning the wrong brother into helping her have one wild night of fun before her college career is over. This book was fun because it was about a lot of brothers. The first in a series, I believe. I liked the characters, but this didn’t have the same swoon factor that other Cookie O’Gorman books seemed to have, maybe because the premise itself didn’t exactly appeal to me. I liked it enough, but definitely not a favorite.

The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy
Rating: 4.5 stars

Halfway through May this is only the fourth book I managed to finish. I decided to drop yet another book I was halfway through to try out this middle grade I saw highly recommended from a trusted source. And – I really liked it. I guess I have a thing for lonely tween girls who go on quirky journeys across the country! In this one Maybelle is a precocious eleven year old who convinces his neighbor and temporary caretaker to drive her to Nashville for a singing competition where she’ll finally be able to meet her dad. As always, hijinks definitely ensue. I took this down half a star simply because it had a pretty slow beginning. Enjoyable, but nothing really intense to catch your interest. I plan on passing it along to Caden again, but I’m not sure there’s anything that’ll catch his interest in the first third of the story. Anyway, I really liked this book and the ending was fantastic.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Rating: 4 stars

This is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. A group of housewives decide one day to form a book club to discuss their favorite crime novels right around the time a stranger moves into the neighborhood. Over the years a couple of unexplained and mysterious things begin happening, but nobody will believe that Patricia, the main character, is telling the truth about something very disturbing she witnessed the neighbor doing. The group eventually comes up with a plan to involve their husbands but all of their husbands turn against them, and eventually they turn against Patricia. The original book club dissolves as more people come back together with their husbands as participants and everyone pretends life is fine. There are so many parts of this book where almost nothing is happening. You never get that close to the characters, which really bothers me. It occurred to me that this book is written by a man and I read very few novels by men, so maybe that’s why I wasn’t quite getting the depth of character I kept waiting for. But every once in awhile something absolutely insane would happen and then I’d be spurred back into action and didn’t want to put the book down. It was definitely a journey. Overall I really enjoyed the book, I just wish it felt a bit more personal.

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was a sweet and highly predictable book about a woman who is obsessed with classic rom coms and has been waiting her whole life for her own Tom Hanks to show up. But when he does, she refuses to believe that he’s the one. I enjoyed the book, especially all the nostalgia for those movies I loved growing up as well. But the CONSTANT talking about them and her insistence of having her own Tom Hanks moments got to be a bit much. I wish she could have let some of it go and just lived her own story instead of obsessively trying to decide if he could be the one for her. Overall, it was a quick and cute read, I just didn’t love it.

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons
Rating: 5 stars

This was a really beautiful book about a girl who loses her sight (temporarily) and a boy who has lost his legs. Tessa is a poetry blogger and having a really hard time dealing with the loss of her sight. Her grandparents decide to hire Weston to help her with her typing and he begs them not to tell her about his prosthetic legs so she can learn to accept him as a person, rather than immediately with sympathy the way most people do. The story flips between both characters’ points of view and between the present time and three years earlier when Weston lost his legs. I loved this book because it is so full of hope and optimism and learning to see past your imperfections or limitations and realizing that you still have the world at your fingertips. You still have your LIFE. And most importantly, you are still worth love. I loved this book and its message, though I did find it to be slightly unbelievable that a 13 year old boy could be so insightful. I have an 11 year old boy and he would most definitely not lose his legs and then fight with everything in him to still have a normal life. It felt like all the boy characters in the flashback chapters were crazy wise beyond their years. It made for great insight, but not necessarily believability. But besides all that, it was really wonderful.

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
Rating: 4.5 stars

As usual, I’ve searched out another great YA novel about a hidden/mistaken identity that takes place online while the characters also interact in person. Though in this circumstance the girl, Halle, is completely aware that Nash is HER online Nash from the very beginning. Which makes for a really lengthy book filled with teenage angst. While the constant deliberating on whether or not she should come clean got a bit old, I really enjoyed the rest of the book and the subject matter. Halle and Nash are both YA book bloggers and there is so much celebration for the YA world in this story – my favorite! (Though there is also a lot of criticism for adults that read YA, which was definitely off putting as an adult reader who ADORES YA.) Halle spends so much of the book trying to draw the lines between who she is in real life and the persona she puts on for her massive following. It was interesting to read about since I’ve SLIGHTLY dabbled in those feelings myself when I try to keep this blog’s instagram going (and am failing miserably). Anyway, it was exactly the kind of book I always love and I definitely really enjoyed it!

The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan
Rating: 5* stars

I picked this book up because I follow Hilarie Burton Morgan on instagram and really liked her in One Tree Hill and White Collar. (And I REALLY loved Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Good Wife and was fascinated to learn only recently that they were married with kids!) The book sounded intriguing so I thought I’d give it a shot. And guys, I ADORED it. This is the first time I’ve ever read a memoir and couldn’t put it down. It was such a beautiful look at an imperfect relationship and the love that held them together while they fought for their dreams. It was also a really interesting look at famous actors that have no desire to live the Hollywood lifestyle. I was continually impressed by Hilarie and how hands on she was about creating the life she wanted. It was inspirational and beautiful and made me cry multiple times. My only grievance is that it ended fairly abruptly, before their wedding actually happened – although wedding pictures were shown in the photo section. It was just an odd missing component to their lengthy love story. But overall…I’m highly recommending this one, especially if you like one or both of the actors!

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young
Rating: 3.5 stars

In this book we meet Ava who is flying home from her friend’s funeral and comes across a very rude Scottish man at every turn. Her and Caleb immediately start bickering about everything and she is constantly lamenting how rude he is. I really wanted to love this book because the hate to love trope is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, this also followed the path of people who hate each other immediately jumping into bed together because their undeniable physical only attraction for each other. That annoys me. I like a love – both physical and emotional – that is hard won and deeply earned. I guess I won’t get too into the details, but these characters kept saying what they didn’t want in their significant other and then accepting those things anyway. It frustrated me. I definitely still enjoyed the book enough to keep reading it, but I wish it had fit a bit better with what I was hoping for.

What I Read April 2020

Well, it’s taken me almost another whole month to sit down and write this, but I wanted to share what I read in April! March was a terrible month for reading with everything going on in the world, but I was really able to settle in and pick some great books in April. (Everything got real tough again in May, unfortunately!) I was able to finish fourteen books and most of them were pretty fantastic! Light and good escapes from reality.

Ruthless by Deborah Bladon
Rating: 3 stars

First of all, I’m pretty over the boss and assistant trope in romance. I’m not sure how I keep ending up reading them, other than that I’m mostly picking random Kindle Unlimited choices with high ratings when I want a quick escape and SO MANY of them follow this trope. And while this started in a similar vein, I was actually impressed by how original the story felt comparatively. It’s not something that will stick with me, or even something I remember that well days later when I’m writing this review. But..I liked it.

Moment of Truth by Kasie West
Rating: 5* stars

I fell in love with Kasie West’s sweet YA storytelling in P.S. I Like You. I’ve read all of her books since then, but none of them have made the same impact on me – until this one. I’ll admit I was a bit baffled by the original premise – there is a movie star who has a recurring roll as a teenage spy named Heath Hall. And now there is a “fake Heath Hall” who shows up in random places at random times facing all of his fears. This starts as more of a background storyline to the main character Hadley, who is a focused and independent swimmer obsessed with trying to outshine the shadow of her dead brother. This leads to her desperately trying to sleuth out who Fake Heath Hall is after he messed up one of her last swim competitions. There is quite a bit of conjecture as she waffles between a couple of different suspects. And of course she has some wonderful anonymous messages with Fake Heath while also developing some interesting connections in her real life. It was really very reminiscent of P.S. I Like You, but with a different perspective that felt a lot more emotional. It did take me about halfway through the book before I was really into it and didn’t want to put it down. But the second half? It was fantastic. If you love a great YA love story, this one is a kicker. I loved it.

Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese
Rating: 5 stars

This was a unique romance between a hot-headed college athlete and the silent “lumberjack” she’s paired up with for a school assignment. I picked it up blind on the recommendation of a friend and was blown away by how much I loved it. It started out as light and fun and developed into something much deeper. My only complaint is that it felt a bit too long. There was a lot of conflict to overcome later in the book and it felt a bit bogged down. But overall, this was a truly enjoyable read.

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Rating: 5 stars

A romance writer finds herself doubting the possibility of happily ever after when she finds out a disturbing secret at her father’s funeral. She picks up and moves to his secret house in Michigan and realizes she’s now living next door to her college nemesis, a grumpy writer as well. The two of them make a deal to try and break their writers’ block by writing in the opposite person’s genre while spending two days a week with each other doing research. I really enjoyed this book. It had such a quiet beauty about it. The love story was fantastic, but the characters were so REAL. Which isn’t always great in a novel – you want the leading man (or woman) to be everything you’d want a real person to ideally be. But – they have flaws too and you have to learn to accept them just as you would in real life. I do kind of wish this book had a different title because it felt decidedly NOT like a beach read to me. It was a bit more sullen than I anticipated, but I really adored it.

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Rating: 5 stars

This book was hilarious, sort of unbelievably over the top, a little bit sad, and all kinds of wonderful. I totally loved it. An engaged couple realizes that they’ve lost all desire to marry each other, but instead of mutually breaking apart, they both contrive all types of insane plans to try and drive the other person away. It’s crazy to think anybody would go to the lengths that they did to “win,” but it was wildly entertaining to read about. I had my doubts in the beginning because it all seemed so unbelievable, but I absolutely love how it all came together in the end!

One Moment Please by Amy Daws
Rating: 4 stars

So I came across Amy Daws at Book Bonanza last summer and thought she was hilarious. I’ve since been regularly following her on instagram stories and even though I don’t know her as a person, I think I have a pretty good grasp on her personality and humor. This is the first book of hers that I read and it was REALLY hard for me to not constantly be thinking of Amy saying all the lines that the characters were. I’m realizing this is the downside of getting to know authors – they’re no longer an anonymous presence behind the words and it’s pretty hard for me to disconnect the two and follow the story. But anyway, besides all of that, I really enjoyed this book! I was doubtful at the beginning, but it really grew on me. Two people, a one night stand, an unexpected pregnancy, and trying to make it work on their own terms.

Magnolia Table: Volume 2 by Joanna Gaines
Rating: 3 stars

I absolutely love Joanna Gaines’ first cookbook. While I haven’t made a ton of recipes out of it, the handful that I have made I’ve made again and again because they were so delicious. I adored that cookbook because she shared all of her favorite recipes and the stories behind them, something that I always think makes a cookbook rise above the ones that are basically just churned out for a profit. I expected this cookbook to be just like the first. And while they look the same, she basically says in the introduction that she used all her recipes in the first book and this was just a culmination of some new ideas she and her staff had. Most of the recipes don’t even have any description. Much like the first book I was really interested in some of the breakfast, snack, and dessert recipes, and had almost no interest in the meals and sides. They seem simple or boring or just not something my family would eat. I did make her french toast recipe and it was incredible, so I have high hopes for the rest, I just found the lack of heart in this one a glaring disappointment.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Rating: 5* stars

I was unprepared for how incredible this book was going to be. I haven’t read anything else by Glennon Doyle (and after reading this one it feels kind of pointless to read the earlier memoirs because her life has changed so much). But it was getting such great reviews that I picked it up for my morning reading time. And honestly, it’s just amazing. So empowering for women everywhere. I didn’t always necessarily agree with Glennon, but I also saw SO much of myself in her. Which isn’t always a good thing (lol). I LOVED the super short essay format, each chapter packing a pretty great punch. It gave me so much to think about and consider, especially in terms of family and what that word can mean. This book was amazing. I highly, highly recommend it to all women everywhere.

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica
Rating: 3 stars

Is it just me or do so many psychological thrillers seem to be almost carbon copies of each other? I picked this on a whim – the first intriguing thriller on my kindle when I wanted something in that genre. And it was…okay. None of the characters were likeable. There were plotlines that didn’t get enough attention. The twists were predictable. It just wasn’t that great. It took me forever to read and I didn’t get much satisfaction from it.

Trejo’s Tacos by Danny Trejo
Rating: 5 stars

Now THIS is my favorite kind of cookbook! Colorful and fun with a lot of gorgeous food photos, personalized reasons why the author/chef chose to put these items in his book, versatility and creative freedom with the recipes, and a lot of just really great sounding food. I loved this one! The bulk of this cookbook are master recipes for each kind of meat and then all the different ways he uses them. I definitely look forward to trying these out once I can get into a grocery store after this pandemic and pick out exactly what I need. There were plenty of other recipes that I’m anxious to try as well. The only part I wasn’t that interested in was the cocktail section at the end, just because I don’t drink or make them. Danny doesn’t drink either, so it seemed an odd chapter to add, but I understand the need for something a little different. Overall, I’m very excited about this one and expect to get a lot of use out of it.

The Wrong Bachelor by Alexandra Moody
Rating: 5 stars

I was so surprised to come across a YA book on kindle unlimited that sounded so promising! I needed an escape so I dropped everything to read this book and then proceeded to spend most of the night reading it. That hasn’t happened in forever! This book definitely hit my reading sweet spot. An adorable and swoony PG young adult romance with great dialog and genuinely likeable characters. I thought the storyline itself was really fun too – a high school Bachelor competition to raise money for charity. I was swept up in the story and didn’t want to put it down.

The Wrong Costar by Alexandra Moody
Rating: 4 stars

While I didn’t find this quite as swoonworthy as the first book in the series, I still really enjoyed it. A famous actor is required to join a real high school and their play to get authentic teenage experience. He’s made out to be a Hollywood bad boy, but is really just like everyone else. It was another great YA read!

The Wrong Prim Date by Alexandra Moody
Rating: 4.5 stars

Okay, of the three books in this series, Ethan in this one is by far my favorite love interest. The quiet nerdy singer? Totally who I would go for in high school (and did lol). I absolutely adored him. But this book also made me want to scream at the characters for being so ridiculously stupid for so long. It was really to the point where it was unbelievable. I know this is a common reason why so many people don’t like YA, but I’m normally okay with it. This one was just starting to annoy me. But Ethan.. He was great. 🙂

I Hate You More by Alexandra Moody
Rating: 3 stars

I may have just hit my limit of reading YA romances in a row, especially all by the same author, but I was not particularly fond of this one. Two sworn enemies end up living in the same house and have to come to some sort of truce to survive the year. Compared to the other three books by the author I read this month, this one felt very chaotic and unorganized. I didn’t like the characters very much and it was all very surface driven. Physical attributes always above anything else. But it was still a nice little escape and I was intrigued enough to keep reading.

What I Read March 2020

Well, we’re more than halfway through April so I thought maybe I should write about my March books! With all the crazy things happening it was a pretty terrible month for reading. I DNF-d more books last month than I have in my entire life. No apologies. I just needed to find books that could hold my attention and it was pretty hard to do. (Spoiler – I have NOT had this problem in April – my April reads are amazing!) Despite how many books I weeded through, I did read a couple of great ones, though. Check them out below!

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Rating: 3.5 stars

Alisha Rai is usually a pretty reliable author for a good romance novel. After a couple more DNF’s (there were so many in February), I thought this would be the perfect choice to get me interested in a story again. And – it was okay. It was a lot less steamy than most of her books that I’ve read – which is fine. But all the character backstory was almost a bit boring to me. I didn’t like the main character, Rhiannon, that much, which made it hard to cheer for her. I’ve come across this in other contemporary books too – I have zero experience with dating apps, assume I’ll never need to use them, and therefore really don’t care about reading whole books centered around them. It’s a personal preference, no shade at the book itself. Overall, I enjoyed it and it kept my attention to read in two days over a weekend readathon when I was focused on reading and not much else. But it wasn’t one of my favorites.

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a really sweet, albeit very predictable, romantic comedy that plays on all the iconic rom com meet cute scenarios. I thought that it was a bit slow at the start, but I really got into it as the book went along. I did have a bit of a gripe about one of the characters, but I don’t want to give any big spoilers, so I’ll keep it to myself. But it’s the reason for knocking it down half a star. Overall, a really cute and laugh out loud funny book.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (re-read)
Rating: 5* stars

I’ve definitely been in the mood this year to reread some of my favorite books as a method of self care. I used to think it was crazy to re-read a book when there are always so many new and potentially great books out there. But I’ve really discovered how great it is to pick up something I know is going to be wonderful and bring me all the comforting feelings. This is one of those books. It’s been quite awhile since I read it the first time, but the story really stuck with me. It was fun to pick it up again. I still love the epistolary aspect of anonymous letters being exchanged while the characters are also building a relationship in person. It really brings me so much joy. If you love a sweet YA romance, this is a perfect one to pick up.

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Rating: 3 stars

Lina is a wedding planner who was left at the altar and three years later finds herself working a pitch to land a huge gig as the wedding planner for a large hotel chain. Surprise, surprise, she’s paired up with none other than her ex-fiance and his brother, the ex-best man. Lina chooses Max to be her partner and they are forced to work together to come up with the best pitch so they can both prove their worth and get better jobs. Overall, this book was just okay for me. I thought there was too much filler about the jobs and making a plan that was never even really talked about later on. I liked that Max was just a genuinely nice guy, rather than the stereotypical bad guy. But I was very distracted during this book and it took me a full week to read when it should have only taken a few days.

Play with Me by Alisha Rai
Rating: 3 stars

A short and steamy novella about a couple who reconnects after a very long span apart realizes their chemistry is just as intense as it was when they were teenagers. I chose this book right after all the coronavirus school closures when things started feeling very intense and I desperately needed a distraction in the form of a book that would actually hold my attention. This worked. The book itself wasn’t incredible, but it also has two more books after it that I may or may not ever get around to reading.

Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman
Rating: 3 stars

I was hoping a thriller would be the thing to catch my attention this month after so many dnf’s. And this was…okay. I’m writing this review a few weeks after finishing it (I usually write them immediately) and I can barely remember my thoughts.

Someday Someday by Emma Scott
Rating: 4 stars

This was an unexpectedly complex m/m romance that was a lot more heavy than I wanted this month. Not the book’s fault, just bad timing. The characters in this book are both dealing with issues of rejection by their families for being gay. Their stories are extreme with one of them being sent to a very intense and horrific conversion therapy camp and one being totally kicked out of his family. So much of the book is about the pain they both went through. It was an eye opener to me. But it also made the book just…heavy. Not a lot of fun.

Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies by Tara Schuster
Rating: 5* stars

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It really helped that it found me at the perfect time in my life. SO much of what Tara writes about in this book are things I’ve also talked about in therapy – sometimes the chapters even coinciding with the topic I’d discuss each session. It was such a beautiful companion to really drive home the messages that I truly needed to hear. I savored this book slowly, only reading a chapter every morning so her words could really sink in. I loved every word of it so very much. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

The Cake King by Rosie Chase
Rating: 2 stars

This book really irritated me. It had all the makings of being a great story, but the author rushed through all the potential areas of development. It felt like a book that was written very quickly to hit all the high and low points of a story without doing any of the hard work of filling in all the stuff that would make a reader actually care. I certainly didn’t. I try not to be too harsh in my reviews since writing a book in the first place is a pretty awesome accomplishment. But this one just made me mad because of all the missed potential.

Marked by Jenika Snow
Rating: 2.5 stars

Okay, this popped up as a free novella in one of my facebook groups and I thought the cover was so hilarious that I read it. But then I was annoyed when they used that cover photo and tagline when it really wasn’t part of the story at all. Anyway, for a short erotic story with relatively nice characters, this will do.

The Honey Don’t List by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 stars

Finally! A book that actually kept my attention and stopped me from checking my phone every few minutes! Christina Lauren really know how to tell good stories. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Though the underlying stress of secondary characters got a bit old, I loved the deepening connection between the main characters, two very competent assistants to a famous HGTV couple. I realized while reading this that I shouldn’t have been spending the last few weeks trying to distract myself with shallow erotic romances. What I really needed was REAL romance between two very likeable and kind characters. It was so much more hopeful and joyous than anything else I’ve read this month.

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Rating: 5 stars

I finally picked up another middle grade novel from my shelves! I buy these books because the covers are beautiful and the storylines are intriguing, but then I never get around to actually reading them because they feel too childish or boring to me. Not this one! I adored it. Coyote and her dad Rodeo are living in a converted school bus as they travel around the country with no rhyme or reason, trying to escape the pain of remembering the rest of their family that died five years ago. Coyote is a 12 year old who is precocious and smart beyond her years. They’ve both been happy to continue living the way that they have until Coyote’s grandma tells her that a park is about to be bulldozed where she and her mom and sisters once buried a memory box. Coyote’s mission is to get her dad to drive from where they currently are in Florida to where they need to be in Washington in the span of a week – without him realizing that’s the final destination because he’d never go for it. Of course this all turns into quite an adventure with a couple of unique characters joining them along the journey. I loved the book, but was unprepared for how emotionally triggering the end would be. I was literally sobbing through it. If a book can make me do that – it’s well worth reading. I passed it along to Caden and he loved it as well.

How I’m (Trying to) Survive Self Isolation (for now)

I’m going to jump right into this. You know what’s going on. And it sucks. Big time. Our family decided to start self isolating nine days ago now, on the night of Friday the 13th when they first announced school closures. We’ve had extremely limited contact with anyone since then. Greg took two very fast trips to the grocery store with a wipe in his hand for everything he touched. We’ve been to the dog park twice without touching any surfaces. We picked up school supplies on Tuesday in a drive thru. Shepard had very brief contact with some neighbor kids earlier in the week. And that’s it. It’s just us, at home, like so much of the world right now.

Also like much of the world, I feel like I’ve been on a ridiculous emotional rollercoaster this past week. The first few days were REALLY HARD. I was already really struggling after months of at least one extra family member being home for most of the week, week after week, because of random illnesses or bad weather. My routine hasn’t been “normal” since November. And my mental health has not been good. I’ve been working with a therapist to come up with ways to take care of myself and most of those solutions entailed leaving the house by myself. And then…this happened. I was not mentally healthy enough yet to deal with everyone home all the time with no place to go. I’m not handling it every well. But I’m trying.

After two weekends with a week in between, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good plan to survive this. To be totally honest, MY life hasn’t really changed that much since I work at home anyway. My social life was pretty limited to 1-2 gatherings a month, so it sucks not to have that anymore, but it’s also not a huge change. I just can’t ESCAPE. I can’t go shopping. I can’t go out to eat. I can’t go on two (probably three, maybe four) trips I had planned in the next few months. I realize that so many other people have had to cancel and postpone much more monumental events. I’m not trying to compete with that. It sucks for EVERYONE. But considering this isolation period will probably last weeks – most likely months – I need to have a concrete list of ways I can fight back to find the good in all of this. So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Follow a Schedule

My kids think this is the worst thing in the entire world. But after the first few days of working out the kinks last week, it made all of our lives SO much better. We all do better with knowing expectations, having boundaries, and following the same routine day in and day out. My initial schedule was a bit too rigid, but we reworked some of the time blocks so the boys have about an equal amount each day of screen time, “learning” time, free outdoor play time, family walk time, and quiet reading and art time. I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear that learning time has been the most difficult. They will have real school lessons starting up in a week, so I’m sure we’ll need to adjust things again depending on how many hours their teachers expect them to be present. But I think this is the best way for all of us to survive. I can really vouch for that after having a “normal” weekend of basically unlimited screen time and me feeling totally overwhelmed and sad and trapped again. I didn’t feel quite so helpless when we were following the schedule during the week.

Walking as Much as Possible

We have two daily walks on our schedule every day. And for the most part we’ve followed those, though we did have a lot of both rain and snow this past week. Greg and I have also gone on occasional walks alone when one of us needs to get out of here. Annie is getting a lot of exercise! Everyone always says that exercise is the best way to reduce stress and I’ve never craved that outlet as much as I have this past week. Today we even changed things up by hiking around a (deserted) county park. The boys were NOT happy with it (less screen time), but it made me feel a lot better to do something a bit more rigorous and in a new setting.

Writing A LOT

Though I’ve been very quiet on the blog, I have been writing a lot in other places. Mostly I’ve been keeping up an ongoing daily log of the changes that are happening in the world and how our family is dealing with it all. Just a private space that only I’ll ever see where I can vent out everything in my head. I’ve also been writing in an actual journal every morning and adding a list of ten things I’m thankful for, trying to get in the right headspace for the day. And most nights I write some sort of public instagram post about how that particular day has gone, which helps me feel like I’m being heard and connects me to other people with my honesty.

Quiet Time

During my normal life, during the school year, I take a nap almost every afternoon. I always feel like I need to justify that fact with a reminder that I get up at 4AM EVERY DAY. And this past week? I’ve barely been sleeping at all. I’m allowed to take a nap! I know for an absolute fact that I will not survive this isolation period if I can’t also isolate MYSELF for a chunk of time every day. I’m also trying to enforce individual quiet times for the boys too, even though they keep wanting to sneak into each other rooms. They fight nonstop, but also can’t seem to stay away from each other. The boys have a 1.5 hour time block in their rooms for reading and art followed by 1.5 hours of screen time. So that gives me THREE hours to myself every afternoon. It will be my lifesaver.

Make Big Meals

This is maybe the most stressful part for me. The expectation of needing to feed four people three meals a day, while also monitoring all their snacks, for an indefinite amount of time in the future. Also – THE DISHES for all those meals. It’s so much mental gymnastics trying to figure out how to use up the most perishable food first at every meal so we’re not wasting anything and prolonging trips to the store for as long as possible. My only real solution to this is that whenever I do make a new meal, make it as large as possible so it’ll last at least two or three more meals in leftovers. I was very overwhelmed by this last weekend, but it’s becoming more of an enjoyable puzzle each day, getting creative with the food we have on hand. Though I do really miss running to the stores for random ingredients for special recipes. My plan right now is simple and big.

Sprinkle in Some Take Out

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at the start, but I’ve done some more research on how unlikely it is to catch coronavirus from having a no contact delivery food experience. It feels like a safe option. It’s also a huge morale booster. And it helps support our local small town restaurants for as long as they’re open. So far we’ve gotten a pizza and Mexican food. As long as they’re open we’ll probably continue to order about twice a week.

Being Creative

Lucky for me, being creative is my job. At first I considered closing my etsy shop all together for the time being because I was worried it would be too much added pressure. Now I’m realizing it might be the absolute best option for keeping myself sane. I’m mostly just sewing during the boys’ learning time, so we’re all doing something productive at the same time. But I’ve spent a few nights doing it as well. I’m not putting any pressure on myself to produce a certain number of dolls a week or anything, I’m just using the creativity to keep me happy. I’m also looking forward to trying some other craft projects I always put on the back burner and maybe even picking up one of the many coloring books I have, but never actually use.

Talking to a Therapist

I really picked a good year to start up online therapy! Yikes. I mentioned this a few posts ago, how I signed up for therapy through the company BetterHelp. I connected really well with the therapist they assigned me and it’s been such a positive experience so far. It’s so nice knowing I have that impartial person to talk through all of this with. She’s helping me problem solve a lot of the issues that have popped up. And she’s really helping me deal with how much anger I’ve had at certain people for not taking everything seriously. I know it probably feels like a frivolous expense in such uncertain times. But if you’re really having a hard time, I think it’s worth it, even if you only sign up for a few weeks or a month. With daily conversations it could really do a world of good to change your perspective.

Meditation

To be honest, I’m not so great at this. But I’m also on day 47 of a meditation streak using the Calm app, so I’m not giving it up. I still have a very hard time concentrating, but I’m committed to the effort. I like this app in particular because there’s a new 10ish minute meditation every single day, so I never have to think about what I want to do, I just sit down and do it.

Drink Tea

I am trying to train my brain to see tea as an ultimate form of comfort and self care. It’s fast and easy to make, it’s cheap, it forces you to slow down for a few minutes, and once you find a few kinds you like, it’s really quite delicious (and calorie free!). I try to drink at least four cups a day and it’s my go to every time I need a little warmth and comfort.

Reading

This one is NOT going so well. It’s been so hard to concentrate. But I’ll never give up on reading! It’s been more frustrating that I don’t seem to be connecting with most of the books I pick up. I’m dnf-ing quite a few. But then a book comes along that I like and it’s a great distraction. I’m hoping as we all settle into this new normal reading will once again become the great joy it’s always been to me. In the meantime, I might just keep rereading all of my favorites because they’re a surefire way to bring me hapiness.

Connect with Other People

I’m going back and forth on social media lately. On one hand, it seems like so many more people are connecting on deeper levels since this all began. Everyone has more time to read and write more honest posts and support for each other has been a lot more prevalent. But I’ve also had days this week where it felt like other people’s comments were being directed at me which I took very personally and kind of lost it. I don’t handle my feelings being invalidated very well. Even if it wasn’t intended to poke at me, I certainly felt like it was. I’ve also been getting incredibly angry at people who are continuing to live their lives the way they always have and taking unnecessary risks. But for the most part it’s been a positive space lately. I’m also trying to stay in contact with my friends. And of course family.

Celebrate the Things You’d Normally Celebrate (and maybe a little more)

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, but it really got lost in the midst of all the chaos this year. Fortunately I had already picked up my box of Lucky Charms, so the leprechauns were able to make their annual trek to leave it out for breakfast. And I made an effort to make a festive dinner that night. Tomorrow is Annie’s 5th birthday and Caden’s 11.5 birthday (we’re big on half birthdays around here). I’m making chicken tacos at Caden’s request and will come up with some sort of dessert for him. I’ll probably try to find some kind of dog treat cake to make Annie as well and we’re planning a trip to the dog park to celebrate. I’ve been buying things online so I’m fully prepared for all our normal Easter festivities, minus the time with extra family. And I’ve been trying to put together a nice selection of gifts to send my sister-in-law whose bridal shower is (I assume) definitely not going to be happening in a few weeks as planned. Even though life is totally crazy right now, I’m trying to remember to celebrate all the things I’d normally celebrate while also making an effort to help other people celebrate as well. We could all use a little more cheer to get through these hard times.

Lower all Expectations

I hope it’s obvious from my list that while I’m trying to find many ways to bring joy and normalcy to our life right now, my expectations are still quite low. Caden is really struggling with the indefiniteness of everything being so uprooted in his life. Shepard, as the most social of us (by far!), is really struggling with not seeing his friends, especially all of those that are running around right outside our windows. Greg is probably struggling working in such a distracting environment and not being able to leave the house for a job he enjoys. I’m struggling with the constant noise, constant arguing, constant need to prepare, make, and clean up after meals. The messes that are never full cleaned up, the enormous piles of laundry waiting to be folded, the inability to do any of the things I really love doing that nurture my soul, and the disappointment of so many trips being cancelled. But I’m also enjoying how much longer and freeing my days feel, without any real plans or restrictions. I find myself actually WANTING to exercise and really enjoying every chance I get to walk around outside. I hope that if I continue to focus on the things I CAN control, I won’t be so overwhelmed by all the things I can’t. And that somehow, we will all come out of this devastating pandemic for the better.

March 2020 Goals

Well, I took two months off from monthly and weekly goals as an experiment and I think it’s time to get back to them. I’m undecided if it was a good thing or not. I like having intentions in the back of my mind as I go about my days because it helps me to make better choices. But if the goals feel too overwhelming, then I feel, well, overwhelmed. But even without goals, I’ve really been flailing these last two months. So if I’m going to be overwhelmed either way, I might as well have those grounding intentions to get me back on track.

I think the key to setting goals for myself is to limit it to only a few, choose things that I definitely feel like I can achieve, and pick things that will genuinely give me a better life. I’m taking a break this year from trying to be “successful.” Even productive, if I’m honest. I want to be HAPPY. I want to be healthy. I want to feel full of joy and warmth, not on the brink of tears and desperate to escape my life. So I thought hard about what I want my March to look like and only wrote out goals that will help me achieve that happier life.

1. Go through my social media accounts and unfollow anything that brings me down. In turn, seek out accounts that will genuinely inspire me and help me on my journey.

I’ve realized recently how happy I am when I see a pretty and concise instagram post that promotes body positivity or taking care of yourself mentally. I’ve also noticed in the last year how some “inspirational” accounts only make me feel like a failure. I need to find and follow only the ones that help ME. I want to clean up the messages that flow into me every time I’m scrolling through my phone and save a collection of quotes and images that will inspire me on the hard days.

2. Go out on (at least) two days with Greg. Out of the house.

Between bad weather, so many illnesses, and Shepard having basketball two nights a week, we have not been having very regular date nights lately. And when we do have them, we stay home for logical reasons like the fridge is overflowing with leftovers and we need to eat them. There’s nothing wrong with at home date nights, but Greg and I seem to connect so much better when we’re outside of our regular environment. I want to make it a bigger priority.

3. Plan and carry out (at least) one special day over spring break to do something fun with the boys.

We have a full week of spring break this year, which is pretty rare for Columbus (especially since we ALSO have an Easter break, which is usually our “spring break.”) I know my kids and I know they’re really just going to want to stay home and play games all week. And sometimes I’m okay with that because it means I can still carry on with sewing and reading and everything else I need to take care of. But I hate to see an entire week go by with nothing to show for me. I want to make GOOD MEMORIES. So we need to think of something. I asked them today what they would want to do and they couldn’t say play games. They both answered “buy games.” Sigh. It’ll be a challenge, but we’ll come up with something.

4. Also plan and carry out one special day during spring break FOR ME.

The one thing I have been most desperately craving the last few months is time to myself. Ideally, time to myself at home, but it’s hard to kick three people out of the house when they have no desire to ever go anywhere or do anything. So I’ll think of something I can do for myself out of the house. For a whole day. I’d love to do a whole day AND night, but that might be pushing it. I do have a one night getaway to Milwaukee planned in April, but it’d be so nice to have something sooner to look forward to. It’d help me get through these hard days that seem to never end.

5. Do one nice thing for myself every day.

This is one of my therapy goals. Because even though I’d love to keep relying on escape to ignore my problems, that’s not a realistic option most of the time. So I’m supposed to be finding things every single day to treat myself well, to nurture myself, to nourish my body or soul. I have a specific notebook I just cracked open to record what I pick each day so I can report back at the end of the month. The tricky thing about this goal is that it needs to be something that genuinely feels like a treat that specific day. Like, reading for example – I do it every day and I will never go a day without it. It’s an essential part of who I am. But will you find me reading at 10am on a weekday? Very unlikely. But if we have another string of days with kids home sick and I feel like I’m going to absolutely lose my mind? Reading at 10am and ditching whatever productive activity I had planned would be a treat. Same with exercise. I’m trying to do it every day no matter what. But today, when it finally warmed up, I took Annie for an extra long walk down one of my favorite streets that I very rarely actually walk down. It doesn’t need be elaborate, it just needs to feel like something special I’m giving myself. And the real key – paying attention to my choices so I’m more aware of how much better it makes me feel.

I’m not writing it out as specific goals, but in the last few weeks I’ve really been focusing on a list of things that I want to do every single day, no matter what, because I know they’ll help me. Reading worthwhile nonfiction in the mornings, journaling, exercising, making wholesome meals, taking a nap if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before (who does?!), and meditating in the afternoons before everyone else gets home from school and work. Just doing those activities every day has been keeping me pretty busy. I’m not getting a whole lot of work done. But in this season, I just have to believe it’s the right thing for me to focus on. I’m tired of battling this cloud of depression and losing. It’s time to fight back and this is what’s going to help me.

What I Read February 2020

February just might have been the worst reading month I’ve ever had. I couldn’t connect with anything I was picking up. I’m not normally one to DNF a book. I always have this niggling hope that SURELY it’s going to get better. This month? I just didn’t have the patience for it. I probably gave up on at least ten books, maybe more. When normally it’s maybe five a year?! And I gave up on them well into the story, wasting days and days of time I could have been reading something better. It was disappointing, to say the least! I only finished ten books and most of them were pretty middle of the road. I adored my reread of The Hating Game and was captivated by the last book I finished, In an Instant, and I had one great nonfiction read with Lost Connections. No cookbooks this month!

Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was a random pick from my kindle when I decided I needed a romance to distract me from my life. And…it was pretty steamy. And somewhat problematic for a variety of reasons. But I was pretty interested in the characters, despite the red flags. And I was VERY annoyed to get to the end and realize there are not one or two, but FOUR more books in this series. I would not have read this at all if I had realized. I want some closure! But I’m not sure I want to read that many more books. So…I am left frustrated and annoyed!

Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
Rating: 4 stars

First of all, I would let to object to whoever titled this book. The title led me to believe this would be more of an erotic novel, but it was actually a very well developed love story about two people who started writing to each other as seven year olds and reconnected 18 years later, after a 10 year silence. Which – believe me – I prefer to read about. I just wasn’t exactly expecting it, so it was a pleasant surprise. I really liked this book and the characters with their flaws and quirks. It was definitely a bit cheesy in parts, but overall it was just really sweet.

The Imaginaries by Emily Winfield Martin
Rating: 4 stars

I’m not sure where I first stumbled across Emily Winfield Martin, but her paintings fascinate me. The muted colors bring such a fantastic imaginary world to life and I can’t get enough of them. When I found out she was releasing a book just of images attached to random phrases that came to her over the years, I immediately preordered it. And it’s beautiful, just like all of her paintings. It’s just not very long. I’m confused when artists decide to make a book like this, before they’re prepared to stuff it full. Emily’s paintings of children are my favorite, but there aren’t many included in this collection – probably because they’re all in her children’s books! Which I’m seriously contemplating buying just so I can page through them whenever I need a few minutes of escape and imagination. Overall a lovely book, I just wish there was more to it.

Lost Connections by Johann Hari
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a deeply fascinating look at all the reasons why depression is not “something wrong with your brain.” I read it during the last month when I’ve been having a lot of my own depressed feelings and found it to be immensely helpful in understanding my lost connections and what I could do to help myself. It’s written by a journalist who spent years researching the topic while trying to make sense of his own lifelong depression. It definitely comes across as a very long journalistic essay filled to the brim with different scientific studies and evidence to support their claims. I wish that the author had made it a bit more personal, rather than only very briefly commenting on his own struggles here and there. It would have made for a stronger and more relatable book, in my opinion, if he had expressed a bit more vulnerability in his writing. But overall, I thought this was a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone and everyone, depressed or not.

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
Rating: 3 stars

This book was so bizarre. It’s a psychological YA thriller and you definitely get the sense right from the very beginning of an unreliable narrator. You’re never quite positive who is narrating each chapter. There were just so many ridiculous twists and turns that the whole story was crazy. I was intrigued enough to read the whole thing, but I didn’t like it.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey
Rating: 4 stars

Even though this was a different set of characters, I really wish I had realized it was the second book in a series before picking it up. There wasn’t a ton of overlap, but enough that I wish I had read the other couple’s story first. At any rate, I rather enjoyed this book. It was about a couple who has been together since middle school and whose marriage was feeling very empty – with the exception of their red hot once a week sex life. The couple temporarily separates while they each start working on their own issues to be able to come back together and give the other what they need to feel loved. This book comes in HARD on love language lectures. I’m a big believer in love languages, but also a little prickly about them for personal reasons. It’s a little hard to read a book where all of the couple’s problems can be solved if they just constantly remind themselves of the other’s love language. It felt pretty realistic to me, about two people who truly do love each other, but lost the communication and fun experiences that would keep their relationship alive. It was a good book.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (reread)
Rating: 5* stars

I’ve been saving this up for a reread for a really long time and decided Valentine’s Day would be the perfect day to pull it back out. I loved this book so much the first time and two years later I think I loved it even more. This whole office enemies to lovers romantic comedy is an absolute delight. It’s hilarious, sweet, and so full of heart. It’s so much more about building trust and understanding in the relationship than just jumping into bed together the way most romances go. I deeply adore this book. Josh and Lucy are just the best. I savored every word of this reread and look forward to reading it again and again in the future!

Cosy by Laura Weir
Rating: 2.5 stars

The first few chapters of this book gave me all the wonderful cozy feelings. It reinforced all the ideas I have about making my own spaces comfortable and colorful and exactly the way I want them to be. And then the book turned and became so British-centric that it no longer felt relevant. British brands of blankets to buy (I looked it up – they cost over $1000!), British places to visit, etc. Lots of name brands. Lots of things Americans really have no access too. Not that books need to always be geared toward us, but it felt so over the top that “cosy” can only be achieved if you live in Great Britain. There was also a lot of what I felt like was unnecessary Hygge shaming because it’s so commercialized now. I mean, who cares?! Get cozy and comfortable and happy in whatever way you want! Despite how happy the beginning made me feel, I was very disappointed with the rest and how utterly pretentious it came across.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
Rating: 4 stars

The beginning of this book felt very much like another plane crash book I DNF’d last year. You know from the beginning that only one person – Edward – is going to survive this plane crash. So why is so much time devoted to the other passengers? Why should I care? I felt less irritated with the plane chapters as the book went on, but I was SO much more interested in Edward’s present situation. That being said, I enjoyed this book. Or as much as you can enjoy a book about a 12 year old boy who lost his whole family in a plane crash. It was heartbreaking, but he had such an amazing support system after the crash that you can’t help but love how it all turns out.

In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn
Rating: 5 stars

You will feel the full range of human of emotions in this book. Whew. It’s a doozy. So a group of two families – four adults, five teenagers, a “slow minded” 13 year old, and a college student they pick up on the road, fall off the side of a cliff in their camper. One of the teens, Finn, dies instantly and the book is told from her perspective. She’s in kind of an in between world where she can still see everything that’s going on, but not interact. It’s not really important other than she provides an impartial narration to everything that happens between the rest of the characters as they try to survive and then move on with their lives. I’m going to tell you right off the bat that almost none of these characters are likeable or admirable. Their worst traits come out when it comes to trying to survive while injured in the midst of a blizzard fallen off the cliff in the middle of nowhere. You’ll be shocked by how some of them behave, heartbroken, and then strangely inspired. There are so many complicated twists of agony, yet the book is still so hopeful. It’s about love and moving on and cherishing your memories of those you have lost with joy, rather than pain. It really was a captivating read and I couldn’t put it down.

Here’s to a better reading month in March!

Friday Favorites #10

Happy Friday! I am so frazzled today. I had so many things I wanted to get done today and all I’ve managed is hanging out with a friend, booking Annie a boarding claim in a few months, and taking a nap. The weekdays just go by WAY too quickly. But I’m determined to get this post written this week!

Eat

  • On one of the many days the boys didn’t have school this month, I decided to try out this Crispy Chipotle Chicken Taco recipe. Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve ever made (or eaten) a taco with ground chicken. And they were really good! Shepard actually said it was the best taco recipe I’ve ever made. I normally have issues with the texture of ground meat, but even though this didn’t look the most appealing, it was still really tasty. I didn’t add the onion to the meat or the cilantro at the end, but added a bit of a cornstarch mixture to thicken it up a little bit more – it was still super juicy and messy, though. (The leftovers were much thicker.) The cilantro lime ranch was a great addition. I didn’t even need any extra hot sauce (which is kind of sad lol) because the meat itself was so spicy.
  • I’ve always wondered how restaurants or specialty places make such pretty looking granola, when my oats always seem to come out of the bag in a pile of dust. At Target last week I happened to see this tucked away bag of Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Oats and admired how beautifully perfect each oat was (lol). I used it to make granola the other day and it turned out so great! I’m not sure I’d use these thick ones in oatmeal, since I’m pretty picky about oatmeal to begin with. But I’ll definitely be using this style for granola from now on.

Cook With

  • Okay, so I’ve never been an onion eater – unless it’s in the form of a thin and crispy onion ring or straw. But lately I’m kind of obsessed with a good oniony flavor in a lot of my foods. I’ve been using this Spice House Toasted Onion and it is AMAZING. The smell alone is practically intoxicating. In the last few years I’ve really focused on buying higher quality of the spices I use most often and it really pays off. This is a million times better than a generic cheap regular onion powder.

Drink

  • I bought this Milk Thistle Tea last fall when I was trying to change my liver values quickly and was just getting into drinking tea (now I drink it all the time!). I’ve since purchased MANY different flavors of tea, but this is one of my all time favorites. The flavor is sweet and delicate and I genuinely really like it.
  • My tea drinking adventure really started with trying to incorporate GREEN tea into my daily routine. But I was quickly sidetracked by so many other delicious flavors. One of my friends highly recommended this Tazo Zen Tea, though, so I picked it up last week and I actually love it! I’m not a fan of spearmint, so I had my doubts, but it’s really quite delicious. And comes with all the great green tea health benefits. I’m glad to have this in my daily arsenal of great tea choices.

Candle

  • So I had plans this month to reread The Hating Game on Valentine’s Day as an act of self care. I decided to go ahead and buy myself this accompanying Joshua Templeman candle to light while I read as kind of a joke. I’ve had it on my wish list for ages, but was a bit unsure of the scent combination. I’m so glad I bought it, though, because it smells delicious! Coffee is the strongest note coming through, but the others really round it out to a beautiful and non offensive scent.

Read

  • So I haven’t technically finished this one yet – I’m about 1/3 of the way through. But I love it SO MUCH that I feel confident calling it a favorite. I’ve been trying to be super intentional about the nonfiction books I start my day out with this year, prioritizing a good chunk of time every morning to this bit of personal development. This particular book jumped out at me at the perfect time since I’m basically going through the same thing – trying to change my life for the better with as many tools as I can find. I would highly, highly recommend picking up your own copy of Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies by Tara Schuster. I don’t think you’ll regret it!