Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Five (Vol. 5)

1) Banned Books Week starts Sunday

Every year during this week, I make it a point to read a book that has made the banned book list or has been challenged.  This year, I will be listening to the audiobook, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Completing this book will also satisfy my personal goal of reading four classics this year as well as help me finish Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 (TAoHF satisfies the category of reading a book that was written over 100 years ago).

2) Speaking of Erin...  Erin @ TexErin-in-Sydneyland's shout out in her most recent installment of Blogger Love.  
(Thanks, Erin!)  Erin does an amazing job of supporting her fellow bloggers.  I truly strive to be more like her.

3) Steph @ Life According to Steph's thoughts on banned books in her post Any Book Worth Banning is a Book Worth Reading

4) Yesterday's Google Doodle

Yeah, it doesn't take much to entertain me... LOL!

5) This
I'm not much of a pumpkin spice fan, so I'm always amused this time of year by the number of pumpkin spice items that appear and by how crazy some folks become of said pumpkin spiced items.

I'm not much of a country music fan, but this is undoubtedly one of the prettiest versions of Take Me Home, Country Roads that I've ever heard.  Granted, I know I'm VERY partial towards this song, but I think it's absolutely beautiful.  Hearing it makes me very homesick for my mountain mama.

I hope this finds you having a great Friday!  May your weekend be even better!

Linking up with:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Autumn 2016 Goals

In my adult life, I've never really been one for resolutions, but I do make goals periodically - I just never start them on January 1.  Several examples of goals I've made in the past include:  rafting on the river twice over the summer, completing a half marathon, reading/listening to 50 books/audiobooks in one calendar year, and being one of the first five finishers in a particular book challenge.

So, I'm no stranger to goals.  In fact, I deal with goals on a daily basis in my work.  Every student on my caseload has an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) in which I clearly spell out what I plan to do with them in speech therapy to address their communication needs.  I also provide goals that I think the students can achieve within one calendar year and that is what we work towards in therapy.

I've never been one to be vocal or overly public about my goals; I usually tend to just share them with friends on a need to know basis.  But, considering that I'm on a quest to find my missing mojo, something I made very public last week, I think some clearly defined goals may be in order and I've decided to be completely open about them here.  Apparently, the "floating by the seat of my pants, waiting for opportunities to find me" method I've been relying upon lately isn't working.  Basically, it's time to put up or shut up.  So, as they say, here goes nothing...

September 22 - December 20

  • Do at least ONE thing that is new and adventurous.
  • Lose at least 15 pounds more pounds. (I've lost 15 pounds to date, so I'm shooting for  a combined total of at least 30 pounds by Dec. 20.)
  • Complete my Goodreads 2016 Challenge by reading at least 52 books. (As of this writing, I have completed 46, so I have 6 to go.)
  • Do something creative (besides blogging).
  • Establish an exercise routine.

There you have it.  I deliberately kept the number of goals small to keep it simple.  My life is complex enough without complicating the dickens out of something that's supposed to be remedying my situation.  I'll update my progress with these goals sometime around December 20.

What are your autumn goals?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with:


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - All About AUDIO Freebie

My Favorite Audiobooks That I've Listened to in 2016 (so far)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


My Favorite Song of All Time
Livin' on a Prayer by Bon Jovi


Favorite Audiobook Narrators

Santino Fontana
Santino provided the voice of sociopath Joe in Caroline Kepnes' books YOU and Hidden Bodies.  He was also the voice of Prince Hans in the animated film Frozen.

Zachary Webber
Zachary provided the narration for Breakable and Sweet by Tammara Webber (his mother) and was the voice of Christian Grey in Grey.


A Podcast You Should Listen To If You Like Discussing Books

This podcast is hosted by two of my blogger acquaintances and fellow book enthusiasts Steph and Jana


A Song Lyric that I Absolutely Love

I gotta know tonight, if you're alone tonight. Can't stop this feeling, can't stop this fight. 

- Hysteria, Def Leppard


Audiobook That I'm Looking Forward to Listening To

I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh


The Most Haunting Song I've Heard Recently
Tell Her You Belong to Me by Beth Hart


Favorite New (to Me) Musician 
Rock/Blues Guitarist and Singer, Joe Bonamassa


Band That I'm Incredibly Interested in Seeing Live

They are a Finnish country band that plays bluegrass versions of well known rock and metal songs.

Audiobook I Plan to Relisten to in the Near Future

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I listened to this audiobook a year and a half ago and it was one of my top 5 favorites of 2015.  The movie adaptation will be released in the U.S. on October 7 and I'd like to freshen my memory before seeing the movie.

Is there a song that you have discovered recently that you find especially haunting?  Is there an audiobook that you can't wait to listen to?  As always, thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with The Broke and the Bookish.  
(To learn more about TTT, click here.)  

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Letter to the Gal I Was in 2006 - Friday Reflections (Not on Friday) Vol. 14

Dear 2006 Ericka,

Hey, it’s me, 2016 Ericka.  You don’t know me, but I certainly know you.  In fact, I remember you very well.

If my memory serves me correctly, you just received your People to People Student Ambassador delegation assignment for 2007.  I know you’re quite nervous about accepting the assignment because chaperoning high school students to the other side of the world is not for the faint of heart.  But, this is the trip of a lifetime.  This is THE trip you have dreamed of your entire life.  You have every right to be nervous, for chaperoning teenagers for twenty-one days to New Zealand and Australia is a big responsibility.  However, you really are up to the task, you just don’t know it yet, and believe me when I say that everything will be fine.  Everything will be fine.  You will discover that chaperoning high schoolers is easier than chaperoning the 5th and 6th graders you accompanied to Europe this summer.  I do have one word of advice, however. Don’t get so bent out of shape over the goofy ass things they will do.  They are going to break some rules and they’re going to make some not so great choices, but in the grand scheme of things, these infractions are small.  They are kids, after all.  They may look like young adults, but they are not.  They are kids.  Make them be responsible for their actions, still hold them accountable, but do it in a manner that is more chilled out. 

I know you are also very concerned about your weight and how it will impact your ability to fully participate in all the wondrous activities that are part of the NZ/AUS itinerary.  You are contemplating Weight Watchers and in a few weeks you will start the program.  Weight Watchers will work for you and you will see some amazing results.  Don’t get discouraged on those weeks when there is no loss or even a slight gain.  Stay the course and stick to the program.  A word of caution, though - start taking some hair and nail vitamin supplements now.  Your rapid weight loss will cause you to shed a lot of your hair and you will be dealing with some funky hair regrowth for the next two years that will make styling your hair a pain in the arse.  The supplements should help curb some of that loss.

It is tempting to talk about all the cool and adventurous things you’re going do in the next decade, but I’m not going to.  I don’t want to spoil the surprise and awe of those events happening in real time.  Just know that you will see and do some amazing things, things that I, here in the year 2016, look back on and remember with great joy and pride.  Enjoy every second of those moments.  Do not take them for granted.

Even though you and I are the same person, I do have ten years worth of experience and wisdom on you.  I’d like to share a few words of advice with you.  Whether you heed this advice or not is a completely different story.  You are, after all, quite stubborn.  I should know.

As you are well aware, your Grandpa B. is getting on in years.  With Granny’s passing, you know that his will to live is going to be diminished.  I know that you and he haven’t always seen eye to eye, but make a point to spend some time with him whenever you go back home for a visit.  Ask him questions about his life, about his parents, about his boyhood, about his courtship with your grandmother, and about his involvement in World War II.  He is a member is what will be known as the Greatest Generation.  Listen to him and absorb his stories.  He fought in the biggest, most deadly war that our planet has ever seen and he survived.  His experience deserves to be heard and to be remembered once he passes from this world.

Around 2012, a big change at work is going to happen.  It’s going to not only rock your world, but everyone else’s world as well.  This change is going to eventually interfere with a spin class that you absolutely love on Tuesday evenings.  I know what you’re thinking - Me?  Spinning?  WTH? (Oops, I forgot - you haven't texted yet!  WTH = What the hell)  Trust me, you’re going to love spinning.  Yes, it’s hardcore and yes it’s badass, but you will LOVE it and you will get some kickass calves, quads, and glutes in the process (which I miss by the way).  Anyway, there’s no way of getting around the problem of making this class on time.  But, just because you can’t make it to this one particular class, don’t give up spinning altogether.  I know you will resent not being able to go to your beloved Tuesday evening class, but go to another class instead.  Just don’t quit.

And lastly, in ten years, you are going to find yourself in somewhat of a mid-life crisis.  Things at home will be off kilter, you’re going to be burned out at your job, you will be diagnosed with peri-menopause, and you will discover that you’ve lost your mojo - all in the span of about 6 weeks.  That is what I’m currently dealing with at the present time as I write this.  I’m hesitant to mention any of this to you, for I trust that I’m going through all of this for a reason in the here and now and, frankly, I really don’t wish to burden you with these things just yet.  But, having said that, there are some things I’d like you to keep in mind and remember when the time comes.

  • Ericka, don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Continue to be the kickass, grab life by the horns gal you are, even when you may not feel like making the effort. There’s a great quote from a movie that you haven’t seen yet, but I want you to commit to memory now – Be the leading lady in your own life! 
  • Second, watch your weight. Your weight plays a big factor in the numbing, complacency for the status quo that I’m trying to break free of now.  Yes, I hate to break this to you, but all the weight you are about to lose, you will slowly gain back over the next ten years.  It's quite obvious that this is a battle you and I will never really win, but that we must continue to fight until the end.  Just do me a favor and try to be more mindful when your pants get a little snug or your bra band becomes a little too tight. Instead of taking the easy way out and buying the next size up, fight the fight and cut back on your calories. You don't have to give up everything you enjoy eating, just be more mindful. 
  • Finally, insist that you and R continue to date. Trust me, life will get in the way and will make it hard, but you MUST do this. The two of you need to continue to reconnect, to discover new things together, to court, to remember why you fell in love with one another in the first place. Just because you’re married, that doesn’t mean that the courtship ends.  And, one last thing, remember that just because you and R know each other well, that doesn't mean you get to stop communicating.  You must talk.  You must share your thoughts, your desires, your fears, your frustrations.    Communicate.  Make the effort. Invest the time.  

Well, girl, it's getting late and I need to run.  I'll be seeing ya, if only in my memory.  You take care.

With love, 

2016 Ericka 

PS  Thanks for using sunscreen and moisturizing everyday.  I absolutely love being mistaken for someone in my thirties and I get a huge thrill when I get carded.  I have you to thank for that!


What might you say to the ten years younger version of yourself?  

As always, thanks for stopping by!  

Linking up with:


Prompts for this week:
1. Write a letter to yourself a decade ago.
2. Use the lyrics of your favourite song as the basis of a short story or a post
3. If you were to choose someone to be Prime Minister or President (depending on your country), who would that be?
4. “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein. Use this quote within your prompt or as an inspiration for one
5. Picture Prompt (copyright Living my Imperfect Life)

Mackenzie @ Reflections From Me

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Five (Vol. 4)

1) This CBS Sunday Morning segment about an Oregon man and a goose that has become smitten with him.

2) This Michelob Ultra commercial, which become my FAVORITE from the Olympics last month.  Now that the Olympics are over, it's not being played anymore.  But, I've found myself watching it on YouTube because it tickles me so.

3) I was chosen as one of two Friday Reflections featured writers for my piece, Thoughts on Quitting.  It was quite a surprise to be selected and I'm very honored.

4) These 100 calorie Pringles cups.  Sure, they are more expensive than buying them in the long, traditional can, but it is worth it because it helps me maintain portion control.

5) This...

Have a FABULOUS Friday and an even better weekend!  As always, thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Finding My Missing Mojo

I recently reconnected with an old friend from college via Facebook. This person and I were very close once upon a time, but over the years lost touch.

He and I exchanged messages one evening and he mentioned that he had looked through the numerous photo albums I have on my Facebook page. He then said, “E (what many of my college friends call me), you’re like a rockstar!” I was immediately taken aback, because that’s not something I’m accustomed to hearing. In fact, I'm not sure if the two words Ericka and rockstar have ever been used in the same sentence before.  

In response, I sent him a message that said, “LOL! I disagree, but thank you for the sentiment.” He then replied, “Looking at all the pictures of the places you’ve gone and all the adventurous things you’ve done, I still stand by my initial impression.”

Later that evening, with the unusual comment still bouncing around in my mind, I perused my Facebook albums to look at some of the pictures he mentioned specifically. Scattered throughout the assortment of albums were pictures of me kayaking, abseiling, white water rafting, riding ATVs, repelling, snorkeling, and zip lining. There were also photos of myself in countries on the other side of the globe, in the southern hemisphere, and in various states across the U.S.

As I looked at the pictures that captured some of the most amazing moments in my life, an overwhelming sense of bittersweetness came over me. I enjoyed recalling those remarkable moments, moments in which I embraced the unknown, put my fears aside, and lived outside of my comfort zone. But, I also felt a little sad. You see, the majority of those photos were taken 5-10 years ago; there were very few pictures of me in exotic locales or pictures of me engaged in adventurous activities taken within the last 2-3 years. 

That’s when the realization hit - my college friend was partially right. I WAS a rockstar, or at least I had been the closest version of a rockstar that I could ever be once upon a time. Sadly though, my inner rockstar has not made an appearance in my life in several years.  That's when it became as apparent as the nose on my face - I had lost my mojo. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my mojo is no mo’.

The word mojo is thrown around and used in various loose terms in our culture, but it wasn’t until I realized that I had lost mine that I looked up the official definition. According to Merriam Webster, the simple definition of mojo is “a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.”

That is exactly what I had lost, the magical spunk and desire to live boldly

I stewed and I mean really, stewed on this for several days. I experienced various emotions, ranging from sadness to anger to self pity and finally back to anger again. How had this happened? Better yet - how had I ALLOWED this happen? I walked through those days fulfilling my daily obligations, looking undisturbed and normal, all the while my brain was in hyperdrive as I pondered one essential, but huge question - 

What happened to the adventurous, bold, grab life by the horns woman I was not so long ago? 

Through the cyclone of thoughts that consumed me during that time, many theories emerged. After several days, I whittled the list down to three possibilities: 1) I had somehow bought into the notion that just because I had turned 40 that I had to slow down; 2) I had became so complacent with the status quo that I simply quit seeking out bodacious opportunities like I used to; and 3) I had let the weight that I fought so hard to lose a decade ago, slowly creep back into my life and prevent me, either by lack of energy, weight restrictions, or sometimes something as silly as knowing how I would look, from doing the things I wanted to do.

Truth be told, even now, I’m not entirely sure which one is correct, although I suspect it doesn’t come down to just one, but is rather a combination of all three. 

Funny thing about realizations, once you get it, you can see the road you’ve travelled to get to the place where you are with an entirely different set of eyes. Looking back, I see that it started when I chose not to chaperone any more People to People Student Ambassador delegations. People to People had been instrumental in getting me abroad to places I might not otherwise had gone to in my lifetime (i.e. Japan) and in providing me with opportunities to do things outside my comfort zone (i.e. abseiling). Traveling with PtP made it easy to be adventurous. Once I parted ways with them, it was up to me to make those adventures continue in my life and I, sadly, dropped the ball and have become stagnant.

So, the big question is this - I know what's wrong, so what do I do about it?

I’m not entirely sure, but, trust me, I’m working on it.  Here's what I do know with 100% certainty:

  • I may be forty-something, but I’m not dead yet.
  • I miss being adventurous and living outside my comfort zone.
  • It’s impossible for me to be the woman I was when I was 33, 35, or even 40 because between those times in my life and now, I’ve had experiences, experiences that have changed me and shaped me into who I am today. I can’t go back in time and be the 33 year old I once was and, frankly, I don’t want to. 
  • My quest is to unearth the forty-something rockstar version of myself that I trust is deep within me, lying dormant, just waiting on the opportunity to emerge and grab life by the horns again. She's been MIA for way too long.
  • Regarding my weight, I’ve had enough. Enough said. (BTW, as of this writing, I am down 14 pounds since August 1.)
  • I didn't lose my mojo overnight, so I definitely do not expect to get it back quickly.  This quest will take time.

As I embark on this journey to find my missing mojo, I can't help but think of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption.  Andy Defresne, one of the main characters who is wrongly imprisoned in the iconic 1994 film, says, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” 

Damn right.

Those are some very powerful words, don't you think?  I have only one life and, at best, I'm at the halfway point. I do not have the luxury to be wasteful with the precious time I have left.  Wish me luck.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? How did you go about getting your mojo back?

Linking up with:



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Recently Read - Vol. 11 (Aug. '16)

Alright, peeps...  It's the second Tuesday of the month, so if you're a regular visitor here, you know what that means - today's the day when I link up with Steph and Jana for their monthly Show Us Your Books linkup and share my thoughts on the books I read the previous month.

Today's post will be incredibly short because, believe it or not, I only read ONE book the entire month of August.  That's right, you read that correctly - ONE piddly, little book.  (I did start a second one, The Nightingale, but I haven't finished it.)

I'm not sure of what to make of this anomaly other than I had a lot of distractions last month - the Olympics, I started back to work, and August was one hell of a month in terms of personal stuff that resulted in me having a lot on my mind. There were many days when I left work and chose to listen to music on my commute home rather than listen to an audiobook.  But, whatever the reason for this slump, I have faith that it will pass.  Unfortunately, September's not looking much better, but this may just be the universe's way of telling me that I need to chill and work through some things instead of distracting myself and losing myself in a book like I have a tendency to do.

So, without further ado...  Here's the one book I read last month:

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Read August 1-25 | Format: Audiobook | Rating: 4/5

China Rich Girlfriend is the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians and it pretty much picks up where CRA left off with the main character, Rachel Chu, and her fiancĂ©, Nick, who is heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia.  I've discovered that it is sometimes difficult to review a book that is a sequel out of fear of revealing spoilers from the first book.  So, having said that, China Rich Girlfriend is very much like a literary soap opera.  There is a large cast of supporting characters, many of whom are involved in the main plot involving Rachel and Nick as well as in the subplots that take place simultaneously throughout the book.  There are high end cars, high end couture fashion, outrageous parties, and all kinds of soap opera-esque drama.  

Despite the fact that it took me over three weeks to finish it, I did enjoy it.  I didn't think it was nearly as funny as the first, but it definitely had its moments.  If you are interested in reading China Rich Girlfriend, I strongly suggest reading Crazy Rich Asians first in order to gain the foundational knowledge necessary to fully comprehend and enjoy CRG.

What have you read lately?  Please feel free to share.  I'm always on the lookout for books to add to my TBR.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

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