BOOK REVIEW | Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Thursday, December 31, 2015

One of my favorite ways to ring in the new year is to read a book. Sure, I could drink and party and make promises to myself that I have no intention keeping, but I think the way you come into the new year is how you set the tone for the entire year. Of course, this isn't definite, and my opinion may not be the common one, but I think it is important to continue to enrich the mind and change negative behaviors to make ourselves better people.

Now that I am done with school, I have had time to breathe and just relax. I have had a running queue of books waiting to be read spanning the better part of the year. I finally finished Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me? and finished up Amy Poehler's Yes Please. (Both of which deserve raving book reviews too!) After some of my friends on Facebook recommended reading a book together, I purchased Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes. I knew I would have a lot of time when I was driving to see my sister and since when you are driving, there is nothing to do but drive, I purchased my first ever audiobook. I'm one of those people who prefers to have a book to hold when reading. There is nothing more satisfying then finishing up a book and then being able to place it on the bookshelf (with its color coordinated brothers and sisters...don't judge.) But I'll tell you what, being able to listen to Shonda Rhimes read her story made me feel like I was getting more than just a story. It gave me a better picture of who she was and how she felt. I LOVED that about the audiobook.

Okay, let me back up a bit. You would think that to read someones story about their life, you should be a fan of theirs. Shonda Rhimes, for those of you who don't know, is the amazingly talented creator of Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM). With the exception of Private Practice, the other three shows are still on the air. In fact, they take up a whole night on Thursday and play one after the other. Her production company Shondaland has made a major mark in the television world and she and her teams have the ability to create shows that mirror what we see in the real world. Her characters are multidimensional, conflicted, honest, diverse. They are what we actually see in the world. Before I read her story, I knew of Shonda Rhimes, but have never really paid much notice. While many of my friends have been sucked in by her shows, I really only watch one of her shows, HTGAWM. But having heard her story, I am more interested now to start watching the others.

So here is my book review of Year of Yes.

At the beginning of the book we learn that Shonda, an introvert, is responsible for creating some of the most talked about shows currently playing on television. Yet, even though she has created these very strong, independent women who speak their minds, Shonda is not like them at all. She is reclusive and can talk her way out of any engagement. So much, in fact, that on Thanksgiving 2013, her sister says six words that change her life: "You never say yes to anything."  After that, she makes a decision that for one full year, she will say "yes" to anything that scares her or challenges her.

She shares moments, in which her social anxiety has caused her to black out and forget major moments in her life. She told the story of when she met OPRAH and couldn't remember any of it! She met Oprah and didn't remember!

She agrees to a variety of different events, with each challenge shaping her into a different, more confident person. At the end of her year, she decides that she will continue to live her life in this new way as it has made her more in touch with who she is and the kind of person she wants to be.

While that was the basis for the book, there were a few things that really stuck out at me.

1. She is Literally Just Another Human Being: Well, DUH. But it is more than that. As I have mentioned over and over, I have extreme amounts of social anxiety. Hearing about her having the same issues and working to overcome, them really resonated with me. She used to cancel plans left and right, but once she started her Year of Yes, she stopped doing that. Her "what-ifs" always seemed to overshadow the possibility of having a good time. She was invited to meet with President Obama and the First Lady, well, she was told she was meeting with them. She writes that if she had been asked, she would have said "no". She would have said "N-O". I can talk myself out of doing anything, in fact, it is secretly one of my favorite things when someone cancels plans with me. I always try to keep my plans, but all I want to do is cancel. It's not that I don't like to hang out or see my friends and family, but I am such a hermit, in every sense of the word. If I could stay home and never go out...there's a good chance I would. This is why I began to really connect with this book. Here is this widely successful woman and she would literally turn down a chance to meet with the POTUS because of her anxiety. She has some of the most popular shows, yet she panics at the thought of meeting with Jimmy Kimmel and doing his live talk show. This ME.

2. She Shuts Down the Mommy Wars: There is nothing more annoying in the parenting world, than that of the mommy wars. GIVE IT UP ALREADY. People parent differently and it's not a big deal. Let people be who they are. Parent in your own way. Do what is right for you and your child and don't be apologetic for it. If you are a Pinterest Mom (like me), that's great! Don't expect anyone else to spend 3 weeks making decorations for their kid's birthday party just because you do. If you are a Convenience Mom, buy those decorations from the store and don't feel bad about it. If you work, don't let anyone else make you feel like less of a mom. If you are a stay-at-home mom, don't let anyone else make you feel like you are somehow less worthy. Enough is enough! Breastfeeding, formula feeding. Crib sleeping, co-sleeping. Seriously, cut it out.

3. She is Realistic: She takes great care to make sure she explains herself in an honest way. She speaks of her battle with weight loss and how it was not a quick and easy process. Celebrities want you to believe that they just shed the weight, no problem, but it's not that easy. She speaks of success and how she wasn't just merely lucky, she had to work HARD. She talks about the impossibility of women "having it all" because if she is succeeding in one area, she is failing in another. These are all the real things women need to hear. Not the sugar coated, "You can have everything you dream of if you are lucky!" and "I don't know how I do it all, but I do!" That's not real. Let's be real.

During her commencement speech that she gave to her alma mater, Dartmouth, she gives these little gold nuggets of advice:

Lesson 1: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer.
While you are out there dreaming, someone is doing. Dreams can lay down the path you want, but dreams don't work unless you do. Stop dreaming, start doing!

Lesson 2: Don't be an asshole.
No matter how much things suck, don't go around thinking it is okay to be rude and a terrible person. You are not entitled to do so and nobody wants to hear it. So spare everyone the misery. Turn around and do something good until things get better.

Lesson 3: Anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.
Nothing is ever easy and if someone tells  you that something just "fell into their lap," they are not being honest with you. Good things take hard work. Parenting, marriage, work, success. All good things take hard work. Sure, luck can help, but being lucky implies you didn't put in the hard work. Don't believe anyone who makes you think their success was easy.

This review is long, and I imagine in the time it took to read this, you could have read her whole book. Her book really just resonated with me in a way I didn't think it would. Shonda is insightful, witty and funny, and while some parts are slightly repetitive, it completely captured me from begining to end.

If you are looking for a book to read coming into the New Year, definitely give Year of Yes a try.

#GirlBoss is next on my list! Are there any other books you think I should read next?


LIFE | Vacationing in the Florida Panhandle

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Yesterday wrapped up my week long vacation visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and niece in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It was about a 8 hour drive each way and now that it is done, I CAN'T BELIEVE I TOOK A ROAD TRIP BY MYSELF (well, with my son). This was the furthest I had driven without my husband or another family member and while I tried to not let my nerves get to me, I was actually quite terrified. I couldn't help but think thoughts like, "What if we get a flat tire?" "What  if we get murdered at a rest stop?" "What if I can't drive that far and I give up and just set up camp in the woods forever?" My thyroid makes me so anxious and it has definitely gone down a bit with medication, but it is one symptom I am not sure I will ever be able to get rid of. Thankfully none of my worst fears came true and we made it okay. I made sure to break the drive into two parts, which  definitely made it more manageable. 

Logan and I had so much fun on our vacation. Here are some bits and pieces from our trip. 

We saw all the big military planes will taking a quick trip to Hurlburt Field. The kids looked so small next to these massive flying machines!

They also had a massive Christmas tree decorated with bows all over it!

Afterwards we went bowling and Logan was such a hype man. He was throwing high fives left and right and cheering you on, even when you made a gutter ball. He was so excited to be playing and to watch us all play!

In preparation of Santa's arrival, we baked up some Christmas Cookies. We had a good selection of animal cookie cutters to choose from. We finally decided on snowflakes, squirrels, and snails. Glitter is pretty and sprinkles are tasty. I'm pretty sure Santa likes pretty and tasty, so we went a little crazy with the decorations.

Christmas came and went, some toys getting a little more play time than others. Unless you have been living under a rock, you may have heard of a little game called Pie Face? Haven't heard of it? Well, let me explain it in the best way I know how. It is Russian roulette with whip cream. It is TERRIFYING. I don't care if what is on the end of it is delicious whipped up sweetness. The idea of twisting a lever to the fate of getting pied in the face is TERRIFYING. is funny. Everyone gets a good laugh and the fun continues as long as everyone is brave enough to keep spinning the spinner and cranking the crank.

On a day with better weather, we made our way out into the nearby city of Navarre and took the kids to the Gulf Breeze Zoo. It wasn't a huge place, but I can tell you it is by FAR, more interactive that many of the other zoos I have been to. They had feed cups and feed sticks available when buying tickets, which are used to feed a variety of animals. We were able to feed goats and pigs, llamas, giraffes and more!

I think my favorite part though was the bird aviary. This is where you use the bird feed sticks, which are just popsicle sticks with bird seeds on the end of them. What happens is: you go in and the second you do, you are greeted by parakeets starting to feed off your stick. Then more come and then more! They are beautiful and so colorful and they land right on you. It was so much fun and a great experience. My Logan definitely got a bit of a scare when one of the birds talons touched him and then he refused to hold a stick again.

It is a tiny zoo, but well worth the visit if you are in the area and have small children.

After the zoo we went for sushi. We went to a place called The Slippery Mermaid and it was soo good. If you are a sushi addict like me, you need to visit this place. There are so many choices and I didn't try a single roll I didn't like. The place was trendy on the inside, but from the outside it looks like a shack. Trust me, this is the place to go. This is definitely a case of "Don't judge a book by its cover," because if you do you will miss out on some good eats.

My brother-in-law graciously watched my son so that us girls could have some time out. I don't get much time out without my son, so this was a special treat for me. The first time we went out, we went to dinner at a place called Old Bay Steamer. They had a good selection of all kinds of seafood and we totally went HAM on this seafood pot. The gumbo was AMAZING and while the blue crab appetizer had some small crabs, but the taste totally made up for it. It was such a good, filling meal and we brought the rest home to eat while we sat at a tiny little, toddler Ikea table and ate shamelessly in our pajamas. Don't judge.

That night, we also got out for massages and pedicures. Trust me, both were well needed.

On a different night, we got out to see Sisters, the new movie with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It was HILARIOUS. If you have a sister, you have to see this movie, preferably with your sister. It was such a funny movie and my sister and I could definitely relate to a lot of what was going on.

It was such a fun experience to take a road trip and just get away from everything. The drive back seemed so easy. I downloaded the audiobook of Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes and I just listened to her tell her story while I cruised down the highway. I have never been too interested in Grey's Anatomy or Scandal, but I am very into How to Get Away with Murder. Even if you aren't into any of these shows, her book is entertaining, insightful and funny. I plan on doing a book review post, so stay tuned for that!

How was your week? Were you able to get away, even if only for a little bit?


LIFE | Graduated...Now What?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

About 8 years ago, I finished up high school. After that, life lead me in different directions and I never finished college.  Earlier this year, I was presented with an opportunity in which I could finish my bachelors and I, of course, took it! So in the past 10 months, I have completed 15 accelerated classes, all while "single mom-ing it," and while running my greeting card business. But it is done! I did it! I completed all my requirements for my Bachelors in Marketing and now I am a college graduate! Yay! what?


There is this idea that somehow after you get your degree, your life will change. That suddenly all these doors will be open to you and you will be a career person living the dream.

It is in my personality to want to go, go, go, so I leave myself little down time and try to fill up my schedule in a way that makes me feel accomplished. It's only been about a week, but I have already become obsessed with figuring out what's next. Where should I work? Should I work for someone else? Should I open up my own store? Should I this? Should I that?


The thing is....I don't know. And you know what? That needs to be okay. It is okay that after only a week, I have no idea what I am going to do. I have never really had down time, so this is so foreign to me. I have been trying to spend more quality time with my son playing board games and playing outside. I have been trying to get back in touch with sewing, which scares me because it has been so long since I have created.

This week will be about doing whatever it is that I want to do. There is no homework, no worrying, just enjoying. I will be with family and my son and I just want to be able to enjoy it and live in the moment. I'm only 26,  I have time. I don't know what I'm doing and that's okay.

Here are some shots from this week of my homework free life.

This week is going to be filled with fun and just living life without having to worry about the future. I think I have certainly earned myself a break! Whew!


HOME DESIGN | Seeing Spots

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When I decorate my house, I usually do from the outside in. I start with the most visible areas and completely ignore anything that can remain "hidden". We have lived in our home now for almost 4 years and have yet to decorate our master bedroom or bath. There are a few decorative pieces here and there but for the most part, the rooms are as plain as they get! I have been searching on Pinterest and I cannot get over how fabulous these spots look! I HAVE to incorporate them into the room design! I love, love, LOVE these pics!

Now I just have to get my husband on board ;)