Sunday, July 31, 2016

ABC Reads: July 2016

Hi everyone! Welcome back to the ABC Reads link up! We're linking up to share the books we've read in July and the letters we can check off our lists. 

Need a refresher on what the ABC Reads challenge is all about? Never fear, we've got you covered: 

What does the challenge entail? Well, I'm glad you asked. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and we challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter. For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on. Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it. We're easy to please around these parts. On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  Congratulations to Jessica at Frikken Duckie for completing the challenge and winning the gift card! Go visit her and say congrats! :) 

If you didn't get a chance to link up last month - no worries at all. Feel free to jump in with Andrea and me any time!

OK, so let's get to it. What did you guys read this month? How many letters did you check off? Here's my progress (July books in blue): 

A: (The) Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Completed March 2016. 
B: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. Completed February 2016. 
C: (The) City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin. Completed May 2016. 
D:  Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts. Completed April 2016. 
E:  Europe on 5 Wrong Turns A Day, by Doug Mack. Completed April 2016. 
F:  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King. Completed January 2016. 
G: (The) Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Completed January 2016. 
H: (The) Hereafter, by Jessica Bucher. Completed April 2016. 
I:  I Will Find You, by Joanna Connors. Completed June 2016. 
J:  Julia, by Peter Straub. Completed July 2016. 
K: Keeping Faith. Completed July 2016. 
L:  (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N:  Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. Completed June 2016. 
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S:  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Completed June 2016. 
T:  Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Completed April 2016. 
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
Z:  Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. Completed May 2016. 

I normally enjoy books by Peter Straub, but this one was not my favorite. I think the premise was good. A woman whose daughter just died decides to leave her husband and moves to a new house. The previous owner was put in an insane asylum for killing her daughter several years before. So, you'd think that it would be a good, creepy, haunted house story. But then there's a seance and other possibly coincidental deaths to further complicate the plot and a weird sister-in-law who just wants her money and a weird brother-in-law that she wants to sleep with... just general weirdness all around. And the end result was that it was a good premise, but failed to deliver. I gave it 2 stars out of 5. 

I really enjoyed this story about a young girl who starts showing signs of stigmata after she and her mother walk in on her father and his mistress and her parents decide to divorce. News vans camp outside of her house to catch glimpses of her and ill people come to the house because they want her to heal them. Several miracle-like incidents occur, and some people believe it's because of God and others are skeptical that it's some kind of hoax or coincidence. And while you never truly find out which it was, it certainly makes you think about those things in life that you just can't explain. It's a good, quick read and I gave it 4 stars. 

So, there you have it! What letters did you check off this month? Come link up and share with us! See you back here next month. Ciao! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

You Are Not Alone

If you feel like crying for no reason at all,

If you want to get in your car and just drive with no destination in mind,

If you wish you had that one person you could tell everything to, 

If you feel misunderstood,

If you don't want to burden other people with your problems,

If you want to travel the world,

If you have dreams that no one else understands,

If you like cheesy movies,

If you feel like something is missing,

If you want to dye your hair purple,

If you watch the same tv show over and over and over,

If you love the water, but hate to swim,

If you want to hide under your covers and drown out the world, 

If you want to live your life by your own rules, 

Let me say it one more time, so that we're clear. Whatever you think, wish, feel, want -

Don't measure your life by Instagram or pictures in magazines. Don't feel like you have to like what other people like. You are you, and whoever you are, you're important. You're loved. You have something to say. You're breathtakingly beautiful - inside and out.

And most of all, you are not, and will never be, alone.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

5 Books for Your Inner Traveler

Today, we're going to talk about books. Specifically books about travel and/or adventure. 

Have you ever read a book that inspired you to throw some stuff in a backpack and travel the world? I'm definitely more of a homebody, but I love experiencing new places from the comfort of my own home. So that's where my list of 5 Books for Your Inner Traveler comes in handy. 

Let's dive right in, shall we? 

Photo courtesy of
{Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer}
This book is about a young man named Christopher Johnson McCandless who graduated from college and then disposed of all of his belongings and ventured into the wilderness. He gave himself a new name and identity and hitchhiked to Alaska. His adventure only lasted 4 months (and sadly, did not end well), BUT I like the spirit of the story. It serves as a kind of reminder that we tend to put too much stock into material things instead of getting back to nature and just going where our heart tells us to. 

Photo courtesy of

{A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson}
This is one of my absolute favorite books. I re-read it periodically just because it's really that good (and I'm not someone who normally likes to re-read books). But Bill Bryson injects humor and interesting facts and anecdotes about his hike on the Appalachian Trail with his sidekick Stephen Katz. The first part of the book will have you laughing out loud, I guarantee it. This book always makes me want to get out there and hike with my family. But, bears. :) One of my favorite quotes from the book is: "Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old."

Photo courtesy of

{Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed}
I think this is one of those books that you either love or hate. For me, I loved it. It's one of the few books that I've read where I completely hated the main protagonist in the story. But I appreciated her raw journey. Cheryl lost her mother, and in her grief proceeds to make a series of really extremely bad life choices. And then, with no prior hiking experience, she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. The book follows her journey from self-destruction to self-discovery and awareness. It's also been made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. 

Photo courtesy of

{Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer}
I know what you're thinking: Really, Mia, another Jon Krakauer book? Well, yes. Krakauer is an exceptional writer. He is so adept at drawing you into the story. This was a book that I could not put down! Krakauer excels at explaining subjects that his readers might not be too familiar with and has a way of putting things in layman's terms. The sheer effort it takes to hike Mt. Everest is mind-blowing to me. The guides, the gear, the physical strain - it's interesting to me that people will pay to hike a mountain of such extreme conditions. But I enjoyed reading the different accounts of the events from various perspectives and while it does not have a happy ending, it is definitely a story that will stick with you for a long time. 

Photo courtesy of

{Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert}
This is another one of those books that you either love or hate. I'm sure you can guess my opinion - I loved it. Again, it features an unlikable (to me) protagonist, but her journey from existential crisis to spiritual peace is one that I absolutely enjoyed. If you've ever wondered if you were on the right path, or doing the right thing, I think this book will resonate with you. Plus, the imagery of the countries she traveled to - Italy, India, and Indonesia - will have you online trying to book your plane tickets ASAP! 

So, there you have it. 5 books to awaken your inner traveler. Have you read any of these? Share your thoughts. Or if you have a favorite travel/adventure book not on this list, please tell me about it! 

*This post was written by me and first appeared as a guest post on Scatterbrain.*

Friday, July 22, 2016

Walk of Shame

Last week, the hubs and I took the boys to a water park. It was a hot, but not-too-hot day, and we knew they'd have fun. Minus the whining in the car because it was "taking too long" to get there. You know... the usual. 

I hadn't worn my bathing suit since last year. It's a red tankini/halter top and black swim shorts for the bottom. When I put it on that morning, I felt so uncomfortable. Like there was just so much more of me than there has ever been. I've gained and lost and gained and lost a lot of weight over the past 2 years. But these past few months, more than ever, I've felt so uncomfortable with myself and how I look and how I feel. 

I put on a cover-up over my bathing suit and resolved to avoid taking it off as much as possible when we were at the water park. Yeah... that plan went out the window quickly as my youngest wanted me to go with him into the pool to play. And while I knew that nobody was paying any attention to me, in my mind, everyone around was judging me. But really, I was just judging myself. At lunch time, we grabbed a table that was on the opposite side of the water park because it was crowded. We needed more napkins, so I went to get some. And as I made that long walk around the park, I felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere and hide. And like I said, nobody did or said anything to me. There were people there of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. But I felt so self-conscious that it was all I could do to stop myself from running. 

I'm 5'2" and according to the BMI charts, I'm obese. Not overweight. Obese. I definitely teared up when I looked at it. And I know that people have said that the charts can be misleading because some people weigh a certain number of pounds, but it's all muscle. Yeahhh, but that's not me. As someone who not too long ago used to work out 6 days a week and eat relatively well, I couldn't really come to terms with this new me. 

I don't want to make another walk of shame, where I look at the ground and hope no one sees me, where I walk as softly as I can to minimize the jiggling of certain areas, where I feel like I should just go home rather than be out with my family and have fun. 

So, I promised myself, as we all probably have at least once (if not several) times before, that I would eat better and work out more. I'm not aiming for any goal weights or anything like that. But I just want to feel better about myself. I want to like the way that I look in the mirror again. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

5 Ways to Unwind

I want to talk to you today about unwinding. Goodness, these days it seems like we're always moving at the speed of light, doesn't it? The hustle and bustle of every day with work, significant others, pets, blogs, trying to eat clean and work out - I'm exhausted just thinking about it all! With our busy lives, sometimes we lose sight of how important it is to slow down and take care of ourselves and recharge. Without further ado, here are 5 Ways to Unwind.

Read a book.
OK, you already know that I'm a book nerd, so this shouldn't come as a big surprise. Sitting down to read a book, even if it's during your lunch break or before you go to bed, can help you relax. So pick up that book that's been on your shelf for months and dig in. If you need any recommendations, I bet I could help you out!

Take a bath.
I don't know about you, but there's nothing more relaxing than a nice soak in a warm bubble bath. Or maybe you're more a bath oil or bath bomb person - whatever floats your boat. Maybe light some scented candles. Drink a glass of wine, even. And just sit and let your aches and pains and stresses melt away.

Listen to music.
One of my favorite ways to unwind is to listen to some mellow, laidback music and relax. I like to lie in bed and close my eyes and sing along. Something about comforting music just makes me feel right at home.

Enjoy nature. 
Go to the park and find a bench and just take in some fresh air. Look at the birds and squirrels. People watch. Or take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood. Even just sitting outside in your backyard can be relaxing.

Take a nap.
I realize this sounds overly simplistic, but really - sometimes the best way to unwind is to take a nap. A power nap, a long nap, whatever. Your body needs to recharge every once in a while. And when you wake up, you'll feel so much better!

Anyway, I hope you utilize one of these methods of relaxation and feel refreshed! If you have some tips to share, leave a comment below!

*This post was written by me and first appeared as a guest post on Lucky Bandit blog.*

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What If Your Spouse Doesn't Have a Love Language?

Have you ever read "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman? The basic premise is that people feel most affirmed and loved differently. And that by learning your spouse's love language, you both can communicate more effectively and help each other to feel loved and fulfilled. 

The 5 love languages are: 

-Words of Affirmation: Praise, compliments, loving words. 

-Acts of Service: Doing things for your spouse (or significant other)

-Receiving gifts: Pretty self-explanatory

-Quality time: Spending time together and giving your spouse your undivided attention

-Physical touch: This one is my love language. Snuggling, holding hands, sitting near each other. I feel comforted by touch. I was joking with my husband the other day that his skin is soothing to me and that I just wanted a small patch of it to make a blanket. And then I immediately heard in my head, "It puts the lotion in the basket!" Hahaha, *creeper alert*. Clearly, I'm an awesome wife. 

But then I started asking my hubby what his love language was. And I told him about the book and described the different types. Then I just kind of looked at him and said, "I don't think any of those fit" and he agreed. 

My personal opinion is that there should be a 6th love language: Laughter. 

Hubs and I have our own weird brand of humor. Snarky comments and dirty jokes and giving each other a hard time. And then we laugh and laugh until we can't laugh anymore... and then something else will set us off and we'll go off on another laughing bout. And afterwards, without fail, he will say to me, "I love you. You get me." 

And that got me to thinking that... you really can't define love, can you? Each person is so different. Each couple unique in the bonds that brought (and keep) them together. So don't worry if you don't "fit" into a neat little category. Love in all of its many forms is a blessing. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Something New

I want to do something different. Something I've never done before. Go down a new path and move as far way from predictability as I can. Do you ever feel that way? I'm tired of routine - the same old thing, day in and out. I have this strong urge to go skydiving or get more tattoos or sell all my stuff and move to somewhere remote and tropical. Something to break up the monotony of adult life.

Wouldn't it be cool to paint a picture of the sunset on the beach? Or sleep under the stars? Write poetry in a log cabin in the mountains? Ride a train in Europe and see a castle somewhere? Kiss my hubby under a waterfall? Show my kids there's more to the world than our town that we grew up in? Wouldn't it be cool to wake up and just go do whatever you feel like doing? 

When did we become prisoners to our own lives instead of conductors? 

I want new experiences. So... how do I go about achieving this? Good question. I should probably start by getting out of my pj's today. Maybe. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

It's Never Too Late

A few of our neighbors were lighting fireworks last night. They were definitely not fireworks that are legal in Virginia, which means they were the best kind. The boys sat for almost an hour, looking out the window and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at every bang and pop. 

I watched for a few moments as well, admiring the colors. And I got sort of sad, which I am wont to do on most occasions. I thought about this past year so far and how it definitely didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. I thought about all of the things I wanted to accomplish already, but haven't. 

It's an empty feeling sometimes. It feels out of control. 

And then I remembered that my word for the year is hope. And I've been ignoring myself. I've been too content to sit idle. Whether it's January 4th or July 4th - today is a new day. Filled with promise and opportunity. 

It's never too late to hope. It's never too late to accomplish. 

It's never too late to start. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Dirty Mirror

"Please don't be mad at me, Mommy."

Nothing takes the fire out of me faster than that phrase. My youngest son said that to me the other day when I discovered he had sprayed sunblock all over the bathroom mirror and the floor. I was getting him and his brother ready to go outside to play in the little inflatable pool they love so much. And I really did start to get mad. Not even mad, really, just irritated, because I spent a lot of time cleaning that bathroom the day before. Scrubbing the mirror, the toilet, the sink. Washing the bathmats. Dusting the baseboard and the door.

I took a beat longer than I normally would to respond. And finally, I sighed, and said to him, "I'm not mad. But can you understand why you're not supposed to do that? Sunblock goes on your skin before we go out in the sun. It doesn't belong on the mirror or the floor. That's a waste. And it makes a slippery mess." 

And he looked down at the floor with his big brown eyes and said, "I'm sorry. I just wanted to see how it worked. I wanted to do it myself." Dagger to the heart. Kids are curious. When they are very little, sometimes it's enough to know that something works, but not the "why". But as my boys have gotten older, the "why" has become very important to them. They want to try things for themselves. They want to understand what happens when they press the button on the spray can of sunblock. How fast does it come out, how does it feel, what does it sound like?

Instead of yelling, instead of cancelling pool time, instead of dealing with the mess right then, I gave him a hug and said, "Let's not do that again, OK? If you want to put sunblock on yourself, you can do that, but not in the house." And he smiled at me and we went outside and I let him spray it on. 

Sometimes little moments like that mean more than you'd think. It stays with you. I replayed it in my mind a couple of times, not really sure at first why I couldn't let it go. And then it finally hit me. He made a mistake and he expected me to be mad. His first gut reaction was to brace for the yelling, mad mommy. And when I didn't react that way, his little face lit up and the smile he gave me was so bright. 

I'm not saying that as parents we can't get mad or that we can't discipline our children when they do something wrong. But this situation will serve as a reminder for me that just talking it out with him and explaining why he shouldn't do something can be so effective. It makes him think about what he's doing and what the possible consequences will be. 

A dirty mirror isn't the end of the world. But knowing that my son feels comfortable to talk to me about making a mistake - it makes all the difference. And now I can save all my yelling for my husband. 

I kid, I kid. :) 


Issue 8 of Holl & Lane Magazine launched today! Hurry over to the shop and pick up your print or digital copy.