Jodi Picoult is officially one of my new favorite authors. I think I'm a little behind in discovering how great she is because she has a huge collection of popular titles, many being New York Times Best Sellers.
A Spark of Light was a joy to read. It is centered around a very controversial topic - abortion. An active shooter holds staff and patients of an abortion clinic hostage in an act of anger, hate, and revenge for his young daughter who recently had an abortion. Throughout the story, you learn about all sides of abortion - those who have them, those who protest against them, the procedures themselves, laws surrounding them. Even though it is a fiction book, it has several non-fiction elements that I enjoyed.
I also liked the structure. The book starts with the drama and suspense surrounding the shooter in the clinic, works its way back hour by hour following each of the characters, and ends back with the shooter in the clinic along with the final outcome for all of the characters. It's really a lovely progression.
At the end of the book, you find out that Jodi did her background research. She followed actual abortion patients and providers and protestors. She witnessed procedures. She learned about the laws. She read the data. Knowing this made me like the book even more because it confirmed for me that although the book is fiction, there were truths throughout. Most of which were heartbreaking and unjust. But truths nonetheless.
No matter what side of the fence you are on, this book humanizes abortion in a really important way. I hope you'll take time to read it in order to understand different perspectives of this touchy topic.
Let me know if you read it and what you think!
Happy New Year! I hope you had a 2018 full of lessons and milestones that helped you grow.
If you're into starting your new year on a positive note, I wanted to share a couple of FREE 30 day programs I'm committing to. The best part (aside from them being free)? They can both be done from the comfort of your home. It felt too good to be true when I discovered that two of my favorite women, Adriene Mishler and Mel Robbins, were releasing programs both starting on January 1, 2019. For me, there's no better way to enter into an improved physical and mental space as I navigate my way through the next year.
Here's a quick rundown of these programs and links to the information you need if you'd like to join in:
Dedicate - A 30 Day Yoga Journey
Adriene Mishler, Yoga with Adriene
There's nothing like 30 days of yoga with Adriene. I've done several of her 30 day programs and although it's tough at times to hop on the mat every single day, the pride and release of emotion you feel on day 30 makes it all worth it. The best thing about this program is that although it is designed to be done every day for 30 days, you can really do it at your own pace. Don't beat yourself up if you get out of sync. Adriene wouldn't want you to feel that way! She wants you to find what feels good.
I like to keep myself accountable by using the calendar she provides. If you sign-up on the Dedicate webpage I linked above, you'll also get daily encouragement emails from Adriene. She's truly one of the best humans. I know you'll fall in love with her. She is the perfect teacher for an at home yoga practice.
All you need for this program is access to YouTube, a yoga mat (or towel, or rug - sometimes I don't use anything!), and some blankets or a pillow.
Mel Robbins, Author of 5 Second Rule
I stumbled upon Mel Robbins on Instagram in 2018 and it was one of the best things that could have happened for me. She is a wonderful, inspirational woman who gives honest, common sense, and science-based advice on how to be a better human. Someone that believes in themselves and their ability to do anything they set their mind to. Someone that controls their mind, not allowing themselves to become a victim of it. And so much more. I absolutely love her.
Joel got me her book 5 Second Rule for my birthday and my mother-in-law got me the journal that helps you apply the teachings from the book to everyday life. I will be reading the book and using the journal throughout Mindset Reset. I've been waiting anxiously to get started!
You don't need the book and journal to take part in Mindset Reset. All you need is, again, access to YouTube, the Mindset Reset guidebook, and a journal. You'll want to sign-up for the program on the website I linked above so you get notified when a new video is up! Make sure to follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as well. She shares uplifting messages everyday.
If you decide to do either of these programs, let me know! I'd love to keep in touch throughout the 30 days. We could also keep each other accountable! I'm all for that.
Namaste and I wish you the best in 2019!
Abbi Jacobson may have regretted writing this book, but I’m sure glad she went through with it.
If you don’t know who Abbi is, here are a few bullet points on her:
Before having the privilege of attending Abbi’s book signing at The Vic Theater in Chicago, I knew very little about her as a person outside of her characters. I had read she felt that much of what you see of her on Broad City is an exaggerated version of herself in her 20’s, but that’s about it. She addressed this very thing during the program before the signing, saying she is at a point right now where although she still feels like that person today, so much has changed, so her professional choices as of late have been ones to help show she has evolved from Broad City Abbi now that she is in her 30’s.
As we sat in the theater and Abbi was interviewed by fellow author, Samantha Irby, I was captivated. I immediately connected with her. It felt like I was watching myself speak. So much of what she said deeply resonated with me. It was an experience I have never had before. Her celebrity status wore off quickly. She was just a woman on a stage sharing who she was, what she thought, how she felt. An hour flew by and before we knew it we were in line to meet her in person!
Joel and I got to have our picture taken with her after she signed our books. I had prepared and practiced statements ahead of time. I would tell her she was such a role model to me. That she and Ilana are two of my favorite women of all time. If I panicked, I knew I was going to say I loved her and didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to freak her out! But both of us just lost it when we saw her. We got out a quick greeting, a “so nice to meet you, take care,” and it was over! She’s a doll. Just what we expected her to be.
Quick (Additional) Celebrity Sighting Break – We were semi-distracted throughout the program because we sighted not one, but TWO of our favorite celebrities sitting just a few seats away from us. Hannibal Buress (a.k.a. Lincoln from Broad City) and Jeff Tweedy (from Wilco, who we just saw this past September)! Joel and Jeff exchanged waves. It was surreal and made an already amazing evening even better.
Now let’s get to the book. With three weeks of vacation on her calendar, Abbi takes a solo road trip across the country to work through a recent break-up and feelings tied to the imminent final season of Broad City.
If you are a 30-something female, I think this book will resonate with you on some level. It’s a quick read because it is a collection of essays, illustrations, memories, and general ponderings. I felt like I was reading her journal. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, it has true reflective depth that sneaks around each corner of her humor - catching you a little off guard. Overall, I related to her story strongly because I realized she and I are very alike. I nodded in understanding and snickered in empathy of what her human experience is like. Because it felt so much like mine.
It has been wonderful to get to know her better. I didn’t realize how much self-reflection would happen on my end because of what she shared. And I don’t think she meant for this to be a personal development/inspirational book, but it was for me. She’s a bad ass babe who humbly owns the direction of her life. Even though it makes her uneasy sometimes, she’s steering her own ship. She’s creating her own opportunities. She’s not waiting on anyone to do it for her.
5 out of 5 stars. Two thumbs up. More in love with her than I was before. Highly recommend if you like humor, have been heartbroken, sometimes just need to “get the hell out of here,” or have had to put a passion project out to pasture. If you are already a fan of Abbi, you'll enjoy it even more. There are points throughout when I could hear her voice reciting the words I was reading.
Chicago Travel Details
I also wanted to share a few quick details about our stay in Chicago. We have visited Chicago quite a bit throughout our marriage. It was getting to the point where this special place was starting to feel stale. That all flipped on this last trip. All it took was a change of hotel location!
We normally stay in the heart of downtown. This time, we stayed at the Majestic Hotel in the Lakeview area, which isn’t far from the city. It is a boutique hotel that includes parking for $25 dollars. It was a super cozy place that is renovated while maintaining its historic charm. Here are some photos:
It was within walking distance to some nice stores and restaurants that we hadn’t been to before. If you are a Chicago Cubs fan, the hotel has a hint of baseball décor and Wrigley Field is just a few blocks away.
The neighborhood felt safe, everyone was sweet as sugar, and you forgot you were on the outskirts of a huge city. Our walk to find coffee the morning we left was idyllic and made me heartsick to live in the city, which I haven’t felt in a very long time. It was nice to know I haven’t lost the city girl spark in my heart!
To get around, we used Uber. If you haven’t tried it yet while traveling, just do it. I’ve only had great experiences and the price is right. Reserving an Uber from the app is super easy and no cash is exchanged, it all takes place through the app. Joel had never been in an Uber before our trip and he ended up loving it!
I took these photos on our way out of the city. Such a magical place. I love the feeling of so many possibilities big cities bring.
It has been awhile since I've watched a documentary. I'm a Buzzfeed junkie (I had to delete the app from my phone because I was on it too much...) so I thought I'd check their new docuseries out. It did not disappoint!
The series features a number of different Buzzfeed reporters as they "probe topics ranging from quirky internet crazes to safe injection spaces for opioid users." They have episodes on ASMR, survivalists, the intersex community, tech addiction, plastic surgery, video game pranksters, and other unique topics.
Every episode was really well done. The reporters are thoughtful and empathetic, curious and thorough - looking at as many sides of each topic in 15-20 minutes as they can. I appreciated their professionalism and genuine interest in each subject they covered.
My favorite part of this series is how thought provoking it is. I couldn't help but think through my own stance on each topic after the episode ended. I was glad to have both sides of the story to analyze so I could form an opinion of my own regarding social issues I wasn't aware of before this series.
If you're looking for a documentary series to watch that covers current events, does it in less than 20 minutes, and makes you think - this one's a winner!
My latest television series indulgence is also doubling as my new favorite book!
I was late to The Handmaid’s Tale bandwagon because I’m not a bandwagon person. The instant something is super popular I’m normally not interested. I suppose that is the hipster in me.
Anyway, this story is worth all of the praise! The most intriguing thing to me is that the book was published in 1985, written by Margaret Atwood, and the scenarios she includes are eerily relevant today. I feel that the world she created amplifies what is subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) happening in our current political climate and country.
The handmaid sharing her story is named Offred (Of Fred, her Commander). In the story’s setting, handmaids are simultaneously revered and looked down upon. In this new totalitarian world, fertility is a challenge. Handmaids are the answer to this problem. And although many times they give the gift of life, it can’t be overlooked that in their life before the country changed, they were adulterers, “whores,” “gender traitors” – women who had “sinned.” Their bodies are no longer theirs, but their Commander’s and their Wife. Frequent “ceremonies” occur where essentially the handmaids are raped in an effort to conceive a baby. It is dark and twisted and will take your breath away if you choose to watch the series.
Atwood’s world is built on religion. Those who revolted against and attacked the United States government have created a new era based on The Bible. Everyone is expected to live and breathe the words in The Bible. Any past transgressions or current day actions that that fall outside of the Holy Word result in severe punishment, and in most cases, death.
Freedom as we know it is non-existent. Women are forbidden from reading or writing or working. They must obey their Commander or other men. Free thinking is beaten down. Uniforms are implemented to help others identify your status. Love is arranged. Money is no longer. “Guardians” are omnipresent, guns in hand, ready to shoot you down. Public hangings on “the wall” are the punishment of choice. The outlook is bleak.
BUT, hope resides. Some people were able to escape to Canada before being captured and forced to live the Gilead way of life. Secret messages are exchanged. Revolution bubbles beneath the surface. Stories of what is truly going on are leaked to countries who could potentially help. People exist within Gilead with enough power that they can attempt to assist people in getting out.
It’s the hope that keeps the characters going. Memories of how life used to be. A yearning to eventually get back to “normal.” Although, most of the men in power have no interest in this because they’ve “got it made” in their opinions. So, it might be a long road.
If there’s one thing this story is teaching me is that we have it good. Really good. Today freedom reigns, but in a blink of an eye it could all be taken away from us. So squeeze your family tight. Appreciate your right to share your opinions, thoughts, feelings. Stand up for what you believe. Don’t allow basic rights to be taken from you. Read. Write. EXPRESS YOURSELF. Don’t take it for granted.
If you enjoy strong, female leads in the shows you watch – check out Broad City – you’ll get two for one!
I’m embarrassed and disappointed in myself to say that it took me around five tries to get into this show. I must have been in a different head space and taking life a little too seriously during my previous attempts. It’s a shame I didn’t latch onto it earlier, but am glad I eventually did because it lives up to all of the hype.
The show was created by and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. I’ve expressed my love for Ilana in a previous post. She’s actually the reason why I gave this show so many tries. But I’ve come to equally admire Abbi. Here’s a recent interview she did with another of my favorite females, Courtney Barnett.
Abbi and Ilana are 1) the perfect pair, 2) funny as hell, 3) boundary pushers, and 4) extremely charming. They are two very relatable women getting through life the best way they know how – together. Although some of the shenanigans they get into are completely off the wall, it only makes you like them more. For their brutal honesty. For their ability to laugh through the most terrible situations. For their dedication to each other as friends. The list goes on.
There are currently four seasons of this show available on Hulu. I flew through them too fast, but each episode is so brilliant and funny, I am already re-watching them over time. Season five will be their last according to the internet…which is so sad…but I can’t wait to see what else these ladies do together and as individuals.
Check it out and let me know what you think!
If you burn through the episodes like I did, they have a mobile app full of Broad City themed games that brought me some comfort when I was missing the girls!
The rate at which we are killing our planet with single use plastic is alarming. Sickening. FRIGHTENING. We as consumers are not taking enough responsibility and the companies producing the single use products are not taking enough responsibility. We are equally at fault.
I’ve written about my disgust with plastic in a past post that included information about a movie I highly recommend you watch. If you didn’t dislike plastic before or hadn't thought about the consequences of using it – you will after you watch this.
I continue to feel overwhelmed by what is happening. But I have control over my actions. And even if I’m one extremely small piece of the bigger picture, so be it. My hope is that there are millions of others out there like me that realize what is going on and are doing what they can to help. No matter how small.
Here are just a few simple things I’m doing to reduce plastic consumption, including some products I like that help with this:
I hope this is helpful to you in some way! If we each do our part to be mindful of what we are buying and how we are disposing of it, we can make a difference. Choose to refuse plastic straws, containers, etc. when you can. I truly believe in the cumulative effect of millions of small actions to make our world green again.
If you have some tips to share – please let me know in the comments. I’d love to find more simple ways to be more conscious about my consumption!
I recently ran across this graphic about ways to reduce ocean plastic and I think it is very helpful so wanted to share!
I. Love. This. Movie. It is absolute perfection and no one can convince me otherwise! There is a reason why it was so popular and won Best Picture at the Oscars.
Here's how I described this movie to my friends: "It is a beautiful love story between a woman and a fish man."
There's not much more to it than that! It is certainly an unconventional love story, but one that completely captured my heart. I adored the touches of French music and cinematography (even though it takes place in Baltimore, Maryland). The movie set and wardrobe are in shades of green up until a certain point when it changes to symbolize a shift within the main character, Elisa, which I thought was really interesting and added a special touch.
I was in tears by the end, overcome by the wonderful story line and joy for the characters. This is a must watch in my opinion. I hope you like it as much as my husband and I did!
I try using all-natural products as often as I can. The less chemicals in our home, the better.
I especially think about the chemicals I am applying to my hair and skin through various shampoos, face washes, lotions, and other personal hygiene products. I found a wonderful all-natural replacements for these types of items through Rare Bird Soap Shop located inside NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids.
This little shop charmed be from the beginning when I first visited a few years back. I frequented it when I visited NewBo, but mostly for my essential oil needs. Just recently I have started exploring the full handcrafted line of products Rare Bird offers and as long as they are around, there’s no going back for me!
Here are just a few of my favorite products:
A couple pumps of this foam cleanser is all you need. It thoroughly removes my make-up and leaves my skin feeling soft. I enjoy the natural scent. I struggle with acne and thought I would never be able to use anything but chemical laced, acne specific cleansers, but I feel like my skin reacts even better to this all-natural option. For a little exfoliation, I use a woven exfoliating facial buff, also available in the shop.
Rosehip Seed Oil Facial Serum
Again, just a couple pumps of this serum goes a long way. I never thought I would apply oil to my already oily skin, but I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to a regular facial moisturizer. This oil is light, absorbs quickly, and does not make my face look greasy. I put it on in the morning before applying make-up and again at night. It creates a really nice base for my make-up. My make-up goes on smooth and has better staying power. I also honestly feel that I’m seeing less “shine” on my face throughout the day. I did some research and Rosehip Seed Oil actually has a ton of benefits for your skin!
It will be impossible for me to use regular shampoo from a bottle after discovering this product. The shampoo bar suds up nicely and leaves my hair feeling both clean and moisturized. I don’t use conditioner, just the shampoo bar, and my curly (normally dry) hair has reacted really well. I’ve also noticed that I experience less dandruff. What I love the most about using a bar is that there is no plastic container, so this is a green option for those of you trying to consume less plastic as well!
As I mentioned before, I visit the shop in NewBo, but they also have a website and Etsy shop if you can’t make it to the physical location. I’ve always had a really good experience with the owner. She is very nice and is always willing to answer questions about when and how to use her products. The costs are also very reasonable for what you are getting.
If you are looking for natural, effective products to incorporate into your beauty routine, I highly recommend Rare Bird Soap Shop!
Green color correcting concealer has been around forever. I have seen it in magazines from the time I was young until now (still young, of course). As a person who has struggled with acne her entire life, you thought I would have jumped on the green concealer bandwagon a long time ago – but better late than never, right?
I’m 33 and still struggle with acne. It’s beyond frustrating. It’s embarrassing. It’s hard to hide. But I do the best I can with what I have.
So what I do with this concealer is put it on before the rest of my make-up. I wash my face, put on moisturizer, then my green concealer. It’s designed to help with redness, so I primarily use it on new acne and scars from past acne. Just a little dab will do. If you can see the green after you blend it into your skin you’ve used too much. Once I have this on, I put on my foundation, regular nude concealer and so on. It makes a HUGE difference and disguises my acne really well (at least in my opinion).
I use this kind and I love it:
It's called L'Oreal True Match Color Correcting Crayon. They have different shades available for different color correction needs.
An obsession I’ll talk about soon is the Netflix series Queer Eye. On one of their first episodes they showed a man how to use green concealer. He had really bad rosacea all over his face and rubbing some green concealer on it really took the redness down. So it is gender neutral as well, which I think is cool.
If you have adult acne and have any tips for either treating it or covering it up, I’m all ears!