Podcast Pile-Up!

Ok, you guys…I am OBSESSED with podcasts. I listen to them on the way to and from work (about a 25 minute drive each way), when I workout (if I’m not in the mood for my usual gangsta rap), when I walk and basically anytime I can! If you are new to podcasts, I thought I’d share my favorites. I’ve tried to put them in categories. And don’t judge me…I LOVE true crime.

Just for Fun Podcasts

The Longest Shortest Time — about parenting; hit or miss with topics; sometimes I love the topic, sometimes I don’t even listen due to the topic; they have a wide range of topics so if you are in the baby stage, some of these will be right up your alley; if you’re a parent to teens, others will be, etc. They’ve had some really fascinating episodes regarding sex, LGBT parenting/adoption and just plain old parenting.

Call Your Girlfriend — two “long-distance besties” hanging out and chatting; Aminatou and Anne are the besties; they talk about EVERYTHING under the sun; they are feminists; anti-“Ivanka’s Dad” as they call him; funny, charming and lovable.

Reply All — a techie podcast but don’t be scared because they do the coolest and most interesting technology stories; the hosts are two guys (PJ and Alex…and PJ has the BEST laugh, IMO); they do a wide range of stories where some are funny and some are sad and others just plain fascinating; one of my favorites was about a couple who bought a house and it ended up being the epicenter of a cell tower and they couldn’t get any reception or Internet or anything for over a year…and no one could figure out what the problem was; they do some investigative reporting which is cool too.

Pop Culture Happy Hour — about pop culture; hit or miss for me as it depends on if the topic is something I’m interested in; for example, if it’s an episode all about Star Wars, I’m out, but if it’s about the new Gilmore Girls, I’m in! They do a roundtable discussion of whatever topic they’re discussing.

TED Radio Hour — TED talks but on the radio (you all know what those are, right?); these are hit or miss too depending on the topic; typically they are really interesting even if it’s not something you would normally care about.

This American Life — one of my all-time faves; hosted by Ira Glass (who is awesome and funny); each week is a different topic about…American life…and they have several stories all pertaining to that topic. I’m never disappointed!

Who? Weekly — this is one of my two absolute favorites!!! I just love this one. Lindsey and Bobby talk about “whos”: basically B-list and below celebrities. They are HILARIOUS and I laugh out loud every episode. They are catty, silly, judgmental and funny, but it’s ok because they’re talking about “whos”! Seriously funny and I say “yeah!” out loud every time a new one pops up on my feed!

Celebrity/Important People Interviews

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin —Alec Baldwin interviews someone important or a celebrity; hit or miss depending on who it is; I enjoy Alec’s voice and earnest interview style. It’s interesting and definitely depends on the guest.

How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black — I like this one better than Baldwin’s because I think Black is a better interviewer. He is a natural! I’ll typically listen to this one even if I’m not super interested in the guest, or don’t know who they are, because his interviews are very interesting. He will have A-list celebrities like Al Roker or Megan Mulally along with Tim Gunn and author Harlan Coben. His guests are diverse and you find out all sorts of interesting stories about them. You’ll also fall in love with Black too!

True Crime 

These are my absolute 100% favorite type of podcasts, books, shows, etc. I am slightly obsessed with true crime. If you’re not, you can skip all of these!

Sword and Scale — very disturbing and definitely only for avid true crime fans who can handle this type of true crime story; they hold back no details; I’ve only listened to a few episodes and I find them fascinating. They take a different topic or murder each week and just tell you all the gory details.

Someone Knows Something —this is an investigative reporting story told over many episodes; the season I’m listening to right now is about a Canadian woman who went missing in 1998 and they are now trying to figure out what happened to her. It’s awesome and very well-done. Plus, it’s Canadian so it’s fun to hear their accents!

Detective — this doesn’t come out on a regular basis; they take a different topic each season and tell the story over multiple episodes; the one season I’ve listened to so far was about a retired detective; he told stories about his cases and career. Not at the top of my list, but I do enjoy it.

Criminal —quick, 30-minute episodes about something criminal; sometimes it’s a murderer, or a robber or a money-launderer; they mix it up but the common theme is it’s something criminal; it’s investigative story-telling; I really like this one.

Serial — please tell me you’ve heard of this? It was really popular two years ago when it investigated the murder of a young girl in the Boston area; her ex-boyfriend, Adnan, was convicted of her murder but the host, Sara Koenig, basically re-investigates the case through the episodes. The second season was about Bowe Bergdahl who went AWOL in Iraq while serving in the army. Again, it was investigative over the many episodes. Season 1 was so good I couldn’t wait for new episodes and I listened to three other podcasts at the time who were discussing Serial the podcast. (Yes a podcast about a podcast!) Season 2 was OK but not as exciting or interesting as the first.

And last, but definitely not least, because IT’S MY FAVORITE, FAVORITE, FAVORITE:

My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark —Please tell me SOMEONE out there is a MURDERINO???? Yes, it’s all about murder. Each week Karen and Georgia choose one of their “favorite murders” and discuss it. That’s it! It’s so simple, yet so fascinating, and the main reason it’s so good is because of Karen and Georgia. They are hilarious, endearing and enjoyable. I feel like they would be my best friends if I knew them in real life. They are low-key, they swear A LOT (which I enjoy) and are so damn funny. Plus, you get to hear about some fascinating murders!

Are there any podcasts you listen to and love that you want to share?

 

 

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Happy This Week

I’m a little late so happy last week…but still!

We joined a new gym and last week I tried a yoga class and swam laps. They both felt so good and doing something different was awesome for me.

My friend, Michelle, and I tried a cardio drumming class at another gym. It was amazing! You dance and bang on a “drum” and get an awesome workout. I can’t wait to go back.

I got my haircut last week. I always love catching up with my hair stylist, Christy, and getting a trim. I would follow her anywhere!

My dear friend, Kim, and I got manicures and pedicures together. I just love spending time with her and getting pampered. Shout out to her husband who treated us both! Kim is one of those friends that I always wish I spent more time with. I love her!

I love listening to podcasts (post on that coming this week!). I have several that I like so much I get excited when the little “1” pops up on the app telling me there’s a new one.

One of my students who has done N-O-T-H-I-N-G all year and has not uttered a single word (for real…and, yes, I’ve talked to her counselor and parents multiple times) ASKED ME FOR HELP THIS WEEK! I seriously wanted to hug her and make a big deal but I knew that would only make her shut up forever so I just answered her question and kept going but inside I was screaming with joy. That little thing kept my spirits up ALL WEEK! She still hasn’t done any homework but she’s at least trying during class. I’ll take it.

Last, but not least, we got a SNOW DAY this week! There is nothing better than that!

What made you happy this week?

 

My Black Heart

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Something I’ve really been struggling with lately is my bitterness. I’ve been joking to my BFF that my heart is now black.

I’m a positive, genuinely happy person but, lately, my thoughts turn to bitterness.

This isn’t fair.

How much more can one person take?

Why me?

Jealousy. Envy.

No sympathy.

Feeling lonely and alone.

These are not my normal responses to adversity. Not at all. But I think sometimes a person just gets so overwhelmed by life that they just feel like they can’t take any more. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately.

Having a child with severe special needs is hard.

Recovering from cancer is hard.

Being a child of divorce, even as an adult, is hard.

Marriage can be hard at times.

Strained family relationships are hard.

Parenting teenagers is hard.

Being a teacher, especially right now, is hard.

Suspecting your 11-year-old son has depression and watching him suffer while trying to figure out how best to help him is hard.

Trying to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, teacher, friend, sister is hard.

Recovering from an eating disorder is hard.

Taking care of yourself when life has other ideas is hard.

So I get overwhelmed. I get down. I feel like I have a black heart. I get mad at other people’s successes and rewards. I get mad that other people have it easier. I get angry with the world.

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But that’s not me and I know it. Deep in my soul, I’m a positive, happy person. So today I choose joy. I choose really, really hard. I let myself feel the blackness and then I talk myself out of it. I remind myself of my three miracles that I get to raise and love every day.  I remind myself that I chose an amazing man to be my husband and father to my children. My Mom is young, alive and amazing. My BFF is my person. My students smile at me every day. My friends are there for me and make me light up inside. I have a strong body that is here and alive. I am healthy. I have so much goodness in my life it’s really unbelievable.

So I choose to see stars in the darkness. I choose joy. Be gone, black heart, be gone.

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Happy This Week

It’s baaaa-aaack! And, boy, do I need to practice choosing joy lately. I’m fighting really hard against becoming “bitter party of one” over here. So let’s see what was GREAT about this week…

Even though it was B-R-U-T-A-L getting back into the swing of school this week, I was so happy to see my students. I missed them!

We have been playing board games almost every night as a family. I love playing board games. Some of our new favorites are “Play Nine”, “Sequence”, “Five Crowns” and “Bang!”.

We joined a local gym that has a pool. Olivia LOVES to swim so it’s been great to be able to take her and have her do something fun in the winter. The boys love it too. Matt and I have been swimming laps for exercise which is so fun. I was a swimmer growing up and in high school so it feels good to be back at it.

Matt and I are watching The Sopranos again. Such a GREAT show. Did any of you watch Nurse Jackie? I binged that over Christmas break and loved it. I just started watching The OA on Netflix too…that is so good.

What made you happy this week?

Books to Read Right Now!

Holy cow I’ve read a lot of books since the last time I wrote a blog post about books! It’s definitely no secret that I love to read. Here are all of the books I’ve read this fall/winter. I hope you can check out the good ones and let me know what you’ve been reading.

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon

This book was awesome. It was fast-paced, had great plot twists and just the right amount of characters. The author doesn’t dive too deep into the characters themselves but you don’t really need it for this story.

Rhonda is a twenty-something woman who is not thrilled with her life so far and lives in a boring, small town. She witnesses a kidnapping and does nothing to stop it. Rhonda feels extremely guilty and is determined to rescue the little girl and find out who was responsible. Did I mention the kidnapper is a 6-foot-tall bunny rabbit? And there are characters named Peter and Warren and Pat? It’s a little kitschy but still very good and definitely worth reading.

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

I wish I would have paid closer attention when I read this book because, by the end of the book, I was a little confused as to who was who and had to keep reminding myself and thinking way too hard. There are quite a few characters to keep track of and not all of them are necessary, in my opinion. The story itself is very good. Allison is a young woman who likes to live as anonymously as possible because, when she was a teenager, her dad murdered her entire family. Her new boyfriend, Paul, has been invited to a wedding in the town where the murder happened and wants Allison to attend with him. She decides to go with him, hoping that no one will recognize her; but, of course, they do. She is thrust back into the nightmare of her family’s murder and discovers that the truth about her family might not yet be known. I definitely recommend it but pay attention!

Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin

I didn’t finish this one. It sounded so good: a real-life account of what it’s like to be a mother on Park Avenue. But I just couldn’t take it. Listening to how ridiculous some of these women are and how mean-spirited they are and how their children are like an accessory was nauseating. I was bummed because I have dreams about living in New York, but I just couldn’t stomach this book.

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

This is a young adult novel and it’s a decent read. It wasn’t one of the best books I’ve ever read but I did like it. Tim Macbeth is a new senior at an elite prep school who happens to be an albino. Tim is used to people staring, making fun of him and not wanting to be around him. He falls in love with one of the most popular girls in school, Vanessa. While you’re reading this book, you’ll know a tragedy is coming but you won’t know what it is until the end. The whole book reads as one big foreshadow. The story is told back and forth through Duncan, a current senior and Tim. Tim has left Duncan CDs to listen to of his story of his senior year. It’s a quick read and pretty decent but not great.

Hope’s Peak by Tony Healey

I have had really good luck with my kindle first-reads so far! This was another new author choice and it was fantastic. It seems to me like it might be developed into a series; that always makes me happy because you know there will be more. Detective Jane Harper and her partner (and new lover) Stu are determined to catch the serial killer in their small town. They have no real leads but soon meet Ida Lane who has “remarkable gifts” and is able to help them determine who is killing these young girls. I love a good mystery and this didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t sure how Healey was going to hang on to my interest when he revealed the killer’s identity towards the middle but he sure did! There are twists and turns and a great ending. If you like murder mysteries, you’ll like this one.

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Whalen

This was another kindle first book and it was a great one. I definitely recommend it. Forgive me that my description is going to be somewhat vague because I read it so long ago and can’t remember names! It’s basically the story of a small, quiet town that comes together after a tragedy. The main character, Jencey, comes back home to help after the tragedy and secrets are revealed. There’s a big twist at the end and you will enjoy the character development. You will especially fall in love with the little girl!

Evelyn, After by Victoria Stone

This was unexpectedly good. A wife finds out her husband has had an affair and wants revenge. Yawn, right? But it’s so good. The author does a great job of putting a new spin on this overused plotline. Evelyn gets a call late at night from her husband that he needs help because he’s been in a car accident. She shows up to help and he’s with another woman. What seems like another boring affair tale turns out to be a great story. You should read it!

Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo

I love this series of books about the Amish in Ohio. They are page-turners and so interesting. The main character, Kate Burkholder, is one of my favorites. I also enjoy the references to Ohio. In this book, Kate travels to New York and pretends to be Amish again to infiltrate a new Amish community to find out more about their mysterious leader and children who are supposedly in danger. If you have read this series, and love Kate, you won’t be able to put this down as Kate finds herself in serious danger and doesn’t see a way out. If you haven’t read this series, start at the beginning. They are soooo good!

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

If Karin Slaughter could just write one book every single month, I’d be so freaking happy. I love her books so very much. My friend, Sherri, just asked me for a book recommendation and I discovered that she hadn’t read any of Slaughter’s books yet. I was very envious of the fact that she has all of her books to read and I’m all done with all of them. Seriously, Slaughter can’t write fast enough for me! (If you haven’t read her books yet, start at the beginning and read in order.)

This was another book in the Will Trent series. Oh, how I love Will. And Sara. And Faith. But not Angie. I can’t stand Angie. But guess what? She’s back to cause major trouble (AGAIN!) for Will and Sara. Will recently investigated a famous basketball player for rape. Now, he is in the middle of a murder investigation that not only involves the same basketball player but Will himself. Will struggles to keep Sara on his side while trying to figure out how Angie got herself in the middle of this mess. There are so many subplots and twists and you wonder how Slaughter will pull it all together but, because she’s SO FREAKING AMAZING, she does. When you turn to the last page, you will be counting down the days until she writes her next one. I love her books!!!

 

 

 

What to Write, What to Write

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So I haven’t written in forever. Every time I sit down to write, I stumble. I have so many things I want to say, so many topics I want to write about. Should I write about…

how hard it is parenting teenagers?

being a special-needs mom?

the aftermaths of having cancer?

recovering from an eating disorder?

marriage?

friendship?

feeling alone?

strained relationships with a parent?

feeling so lucky at times you could burst?

books I’ve read?

depression?

the state of education?

teaching?

podcasts I love?

I sit down to write and all of these things pop into my head to write about so I give up and don’t write anything at all. But I miss it. I miss this space. I miss writing. I miss interacting with you. I’m making a commitment to myself to be here more often. To sit down and just write. And write some more. And more. And more. I’m going to do it because I love it and I need it.

I hope some of you are still out there. I hope I can write something that resonates with you even if it is just a really good book. I hope you missed my words as much as I did.

I’m back.

 

 

 

The Big Three

Are you watching “This Is Us” yet? You should. They have ‘the big three’ and I wanted to share some recent pictures of my big three…can you believe these beautiful creatures are mine?

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Happy This Week

I have a two-hour delay this morning! Which means I am taking the time to blog!!! That makes me very happy!

I went to a soccer tournament with Matthew this weekend. It was just him and I. It was so nice to have some one-on-one time and connect with other parents.

Olivia is finally having good days at school and enjoying it. It’s been a long 7-week transition!

Gabe is LOVING high school and doing very well. I’m so proud of him!

Pumpkin spice lattes are back! I know that makes me basic but I don’t care!

I received texts from former students last week. I miss them so much and it made me ridiculously happy!

My students this year are awesome. They are very hard workers and polite and respectful. What more could I ask for??

I got my hair cut and colored. I love my haircut, the relaxing time and spending time with my hairdresser!

New TV definitely puts a smile on my face. I am really loving This Is Us and Speechless. Are you watching those? I think Grey’s has been really good and Project Runway is still my favorite. I want to be Heidi Klum or Tim Gunn in my next life.

My BFF texted me on Wednesday to see if I could workout and…I could! We are never on the same schedule and BFF therapy is always a happy thing.

I went to watch my girls play volleyball last week and my wonderful friend Sherrie was there watching her niece. It was such a nice surprise to hang out with her and her daughter during the game. I LOVE them!! I also got to see a bunch of my former students who play volleyball and were there watching the game. It’s so nice to see them grown up and catch up on how they’re doing.

What made you happy this week?

 

You’re NOT Fine…and That’s OK.

Before I write today, I just wanted to say that I’ve missed you so. I’ve discovered that I really miss writing and interacting with you all. I’m going to make a more concerted effort to devote more of my time to this space. It means so much to me and it helps me and, I hope, sometimes it helps you. Thank you for hanging in there with me. 

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I see your face and I know you’re not ok. I know you, remember? You’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders right now and it’s too heavy. I see you. My heart hurts for you. I am here for you.

I know sometimes you keep things from me because I have a daughter with special needs and I had cancer and everyone’s favorite saying is “Well at least it’s not cancer!” but I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. Everyone has their worries. Everyone has their pain. There is no worse pain or “better” pain. Pain is pain. And you are in pain and I can see it.

have-it-worse

Did you read that carefully? Go back and read it again. When you think about it in terms of happy, it’s ridiculous to think you can’t be sad because someone else might have it worse, isn’t it? Do you think for one second that I ever think “what she’s sad about is stupid”? No. Never. Because there are so many things in the world that can make us sad, overwhelmed, frustrated and everyone feels their own pain for their own reasons. Any pain that you feel is not minor. It’s YOUR pain and it’s important.

drowning

I know we are always trying to be everything for everyone. We’re perfectionists. We love deeply and we want to make sure everyone knows that we love them and care for them and are there for them. We’re trying to be the best wife, mother, sister, teacher, friend that we can be. All the time. Every day. I’ve been through a lot in my life and I will tell you this: there are times when you have to feel and be sad and let someone else take care of you. It’s not easy to do. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s necessary.

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Here’s what I want you to do. Cry. Cry. Cry. Scream into a pillow. Cry some more. Feel sad. Feel blue. Be in a funk for as long as you need. Talk to whoever will listen. Talk to someone who’s JUST going to listen and not try to solve the problem. Do something that gives you comfort. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Sometimes all I do is put on my favorite ratty sweatshirt from college and make a cup of coffee and cry. Do WHATEVER you need to do to give your soul some comfort right now because you need it. Don’t fight it. Fighting your feelings and telling yourself you shouldn’t be sad will just make it worse. So what if you’re sad for a day, a week, a month? So what if you’re in a funk for a bit. Just don’t make that your permanent residence, ok? But stay as long as you need and then pick up your sword and fight again.

ill-be-ok

Did you read that? You’ll be ok. You will. Just not today. You’re not ok today and it’s F-I-N-E. Feel it. Give into it.

There have been many, many days when I struggled just to get out of bed. Some days I just stayed there. I gave into it. Other days I pulled a “fake it til you make it” and managed to have a good day. Sometimes I bought myself a Starbucks because that was the only thing I could think of that would help. Other times I called you. Or texted you. Or asked for an extra hug. Or made an appointment to get my nails done. Or vegged on Netflix. I did whatever it took to make me feel better in that moment. But did you read that carefully? I did whatever it took to make ME feel better. I had to be selfish. I had to not feel guilty about my pain or what I needed. I just took care of me.

So, please, feel your pain. Don’t fight it. Ask for comfort if that helps you. Stay in bed all day if that will help you. You’re not ok right now and that’s ok.

You will be ok. I promise. And remember that I’m here for you and I love you. You feel deeply, you love deeply and that’s what makes you amazing. So go ahead. Feel it.

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Cheers to Another Great Year

I post this every year…because I love it…and I think it’s worth repeating. Here’s hoping that this year is even better than last year!

The Transfer of a Trust by Susan Wojciechowski

The syndrome hits me every year right after Labor Day. It’s always the same. At 9:34 a.m. the school bus wheezes to a stop at the end of my driveway. My child waves an uncertain goodbye and climbs aboard. The door shooshes shut and the bus rumbles slowly out of sight.

I go onto the back porch for another cup of tea, a peaceful cup at last. I spread the paper open in front of me and start to cry. I snap the paper to attention and pretend to read Sidney Harris. My tears blur the words into a muddy jumble. This is nonsense. I should be glad school is back in session. No more sticky kitchen floor, no more sliding door left open, no more trail of Kool-Aid across the rug. It’s no use. I want to jump in the car and follow bus 158 to school. I want to peek around the corner of the building to make sure my baby has found the right classroom, has not gotten knocked over by bullies, has remembered to carry her lunch box off the bus.

But more than that, I want to glimpse into her classroom. I have no need to check the bulletin boards or the lesson plans. I want to look into the teacher’s soul. I want to find some hint of assurance that she is worthy to continue what I have these past few years begun. For, when each of my children turned 5, they were suddenly snatched from me. I had, up till then, been the overwhelming influence on their development. Their values were my values; their world was shaped by what I wanted them to see, hear, experience. All at once a teacher, a stranger, was taking my place.

And so I cry on the first day of school. I cry because my child is entering a world into which I cannot, no matter how desperately I long to intrude. I cry because some stranger is taking over the job, not of teaching my child math or reading, but of nurturing his development of self. And I wonder if she’ll do it with the dedication I demand.

Each September I fight an overwhelming urge to rush to school to remind the teacher what a very special little person my child is: that he is not just one of a roomful of pupils–he is MY CHILD and would she please, please treat him accordingly. Would she be so kind as to try to get to know his complex personality, his weaknesses, his childish vulnerabilities; would she try never to humiliate him or belittle him; would she notice his bad days and on those days treat him ever so gently because his is, after all, not just one of a sea of little bodies–he is special. He’s mine.

But of course I can’t do that, can’t dictate caring to every teacher my children will encounter. I only can hope that each one of them will know that for all the fantastic educational tools a teacher might use and for all her mastery of subject matter and exciting lesson plans, and for all her intelligence, her most basic responsibility will be unfulfilled if the element of caring is missing. And the key to that, in my mind, lies in seeing each pupil as somebody’s precious child.

So I sit on my back porch, drinking a peaceful cup of tea and pretending to read Sidney Harris and hope that my children’s teachers see them as unique, complex, fragile, vulnerable beings. I only can hope that the reason they are teachers, after all, is to bring each student ever closer to his potential, not just as a mind, but as a heart and soul as well.

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