Apps I'm Digging Right Now

Thursday, June 27, 2019

When I upgraded to my iPhone XR, I was so excited to download all the apps I couldn't fit before on my limited storage iPhone 6.  I discovered there are a lot of random apps to download out there.

I decided to do a round-up of the apps I used over the past few months and share justhow I use them. Some of these apps have paid options, but I only use the free versions!


Right now, I'm really focused on keeping a gratitude journal for the moments when life knocks me off my feet.  Penzu is a great way for me to document 5 things I'm grateful for each day.  It also has the ability to lock my posts so I don't have to worry about someone accidentally getting in there.  I wanted to have my gratitude journal with me at all times in case I really needed to either write or read how great things really are.


Oak 100% changed my life.  Falling asleep is extremely difficult for me; however, when I turn on the Relaxing Sounds Sleep meditation (background - fireplace), I'm on my way to dreamland in no time at all.  There are also options for guided meditation but I'm still too far away in my mindfulness practices to sit still long enough.


Yes, I am late to the Lightroom party.  I tried to stay away, but here I am, advocating for it's magnificence.  I do not purchase presets, but fiddle around with my own.  My goal is to create an Instagram feed that is bright and as unfiltered as possible.  I rely heavily on exposure and adjusting the color temperatures.


This app covers my booty daily.  I can track where my bus is and how much time I have to scoot out of my apartment and make it to work only mildly late. Transit is easy to use, kinda fool-proof which is good for a dummy like me.

My Recommended Reading List

Monday, June 24, 2019

On this blog, I published a few To Read Book Lists (5 Non-Fiction Books to Read This Spring5 Books to Read This Spring10 Books That Changed Me), but I realized while I am documenting what I read each month, I haven't done much recommending lately.

Reading is an ebb and flow hobby for me.  Sometimes, I rarely find myself coming up from air because I'm so invested in a book and I'll greedily down the next one right after as well. Other times, books remain on my shelf looking unloved and unwanted. 

This a list of 6 books I felt truly stayed with me, no matter what season of reading I found myself in. If you check any of them out - let me know what you think!!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

 The Last Black Unicorn - Tiffany Haddish

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

The Phantom Tollbooth - Norman Juster 

Jack of All Trades

Thursday, June 20, 2019

After wandering down windy middle-of-nowhere roads, we pulled into a gravel driveway leading to my cousin's new wife's family's home (that was a mouthful, and I cut out the part where he's actually my second cousin, not my first cousin). A large door hanging in the middle of the lawn welcomed us to The Copper Door.  In the front of the house, a tiny entrance to what looked like an even tinier store enticed us with kitschy signs.

My cousin's father-in-law directed us to park in the back and we all settled into celebrate their marriage which officially started an hour prior.  Jane, my new cousin-in-law's mother, stirred potatoes and shouted orders to her husband in preparation of dinner, still dressed with her hair beautifully done.  My mom couldn't contain her curiosity and asked about the store in the front of the house.  Jane shrugged, indicating it wasn't much of anything, but her niece Jenna stepped in.

"C'mon, you guys gotta see this," Jenna said, ushering us down stairs into a large basement where she informed us the arrangements for the store were put together.  "Luckily, we have this space because we've largely been using it for making cookies." (Sidenote: Cookie Tables at weddings is a huge Western Pennsylvania tradition.  It's fantastic.)

Jenna led us through a side door, leading me to a meticulously maintained hair washing station.  "This is salon?" I asked.  "We also do nails.  Actually, I do the nails!" Jenna proudly declared.  "Oh, I thought this was like a store or something," I said before noticing a further larger entrance that opened up into the most endearing country store I've ever seen.

I walked through and stared at the obvious skill put into arranging the store.  To the left a beach theme greeted me.  In the center of the room, country farm decor exploded into the space.  Off to the side, a 4th of July theme edged for space. 

"Wait, Jane has a country store and a hair salon?" I twirled to find Jenna, who had a smile plastered on her face.

"Yup, Aunt Jane loves both businesses and she figured, why not do both?"

"And she does it all from home," I commented and ran my hand over a painted cow Jenna proudly told me was crafted by Jane's husband.

I wandered through the aisles, with my eyes darting back to the hair salon.  Two completely separate passions operating within inches of each other all by the same owner.  "She must have been doing this for years.  When did she start this?"

"Oh, only about 5 or 7 years ago maybe? This is all pretty new. She just decided to go for it and both are doing really, really well," Jenna responded with genuine pride.

I want to be a writer, and a reseller, and a website designer, and maybe some type of social media marketing or public relations person, or even a data analyst because I am a dork who likes numbers.  I'm so terrified of picking one but as I found myself in yet another room full of faux floral arrangements, I realized maybe I don't have to choose just one. 

For a long time the saying, "jack of all trades, master of none" dominated my thoughts.  I feared if I didn't pick one thing to master and spent my time fanning the tiny flames of all my passions, I wouldn't accomplish anything at all.  BUT, if I did pick only one path to pursue, would there be pieces of me left unsatisfied?  I felt stuck and stressed that I'm 30 and still don't know what I'm going to be when I grow up.

Jane's hair salon and county store weren't competing passions.  Both businesses fulfilled her so she pursued them both and in the same space so she could devote time to each as needed.  I can follow more than one career path if I really want to.  I'm never going to be too old. All it takes is a little mental reframing, belief in myself, and a bit of a middle finger to the traditional career pathways. 

And if there's one thing I love, it's a middle finger.

Things to Do on a Long Commute

Monday, June 17, 2019

Earlier this year, when I was in between apartments, I not only moved into my parents' townhouse for a brief period of time but became a long-drive commuter.  If that's not a thing, it should be known henceforth as a form of corporal punishment.  My 15 minute bus ride transformed into an hour and a half journey to and from work.

With time on my hands and loads of traffic in the way, I quickly adapted to my new life chained to my car.  Living in New York, I traveled up to two hours one way on public transportation, but I was able to read.  That type of activity is discouraged when you're operating heavy machinery for some reason.

So, I looked for new ways to make my time useful and entertaining. Here are a few things I delved into.

Learn a Language

This was actually super easy and fun to do while I was driving.  Specifically, I listened to Coffee Break Spanish (they have a bunch of other languages available).  I improved my Spanish pretty quickly and even created Spanish music playlists to further pursue phrases and pronunciations. All for free!

Get Into A New Podcast

As I mentioned in my Podcasts I'm Digging Right Now post back in April, I started listening to a lot of new podcasts.  A long drive allows you to complete an entire episode so you don't have to wait to find out the ending.  And, if you happen to be browsing for a great podcast, I heard Reseller Water Cooler is pretty dope.

Start an Audio Book

I still love reading, and I was missing out on the way that reading allows you to create a movie in your head.  I snagged two free books through Audible and listened along as the miles wore on, and on, and on...

Set Goals for the Day

Each morning, I would turn the radio off and tune in with myself to set realistic goals and expectations for each day. I reviewed items I needed to accomplish and envisioned myself completing them. Picturing myself completing larger projects really gave me an extra push and allowed me to be excited for my day.

Call Friends & Reconnect

On the way home from work, I used the opportunity to chat with friends I hadn't spoken with in a while and used it as time to get back in touch without bills or chores to distract me.  I could stay totally focused on my friend and strengthen our friendships.  

These are just a few ways I kept it together on my commute - hope they help make yours a much more smoother ride!

How to Stay Focused To Get Things Done

Thursday, June 13, 2019

I'm a victim of the 90's mentality that multi-tasking is a good thing.  Forty different items pop around in my head at any moment demanding my immediate attention.  With that, I strain to zero in on and complete one task.  I constantly have multiple projects open.  My To Do List is a never-ending monster stimulating anxiety.

I broke.  I was tired of never feeling accomplished and frustrated with how long simple items seemed to suck out of my day.  I knew things needed to change.

I started with blocking out distractions...not realizing how 99.9% of my life is a distraction.  I implemented the following items below and I see a drastic increased in my productivity and project completion rates.

Mute Group Messages

Not surprisingly, cell phones and the constant connection they provide aren't helping any. Every time my phone lit up with a message that wasn't for me, it still caused a break in my focus when I leaned over to see who it was from. (For iPhone users, you can tap the little info button within the group messages and slide Hide Alerts on.)  I do this on auto-pilot every time I am added to a group message.  I can check the messages and respond when I'm available without breaking my flow.

Not every message in a group text is for you.  If someone needs your immediate attention, they can reach out to you directly.  It also saves your phone's battery life.

Turn Off Social Media Notifications

Do you really need to know who just followed you on Instagram? Or that your great-aunt tagged you in yet another pasta meme on Facebook? Social media notifications drag you down into a dark hole of social media creeping.  Two hours later you come up from air after stalking the original cast of The Real World's social media channels with nothing left to show for it except useless knowledge about how they all fared after their notoriety. 

Sticking to a strict schedule of when I'm allowed to social media didn't specifically work for me, but without an invite through a notification I'm able to limit my time and only dive in when I have a moment or two to goof off.  The only notifications I receive to my phone are business (eBay, Poshmark, Mercari) related or text messages. Sorry to the all the YouTubers I subscribe to - I'm not running to watch your latest video when they drop.

Make Accomplished Lists

To Do Lists hold the unique ability to crush my spirit. After a long day, seeing the items left incomplete lead to a feeling of utter failure.  No matter how many items were checked off in my Google Keep, the amount of what was left to do still outweighed my success visually.  Thus, Accomplished Lists were born.

An Accomplished List displays exactly what you should be grateful for accomplishing and gives you the motivation to keep moving. I still keep a To Do List, but when I'm able to see what I've completed (in a cute way) it encourages me to do just one thing more.

Put Your Phone on Do Not Disturb When Working on a Deadline

This is the ultimate in staying focused. I create a specific song list or simply replay a song over and over to give me the right fuel for the task so I'm not tempted to play with my phone.  With Do Not Disturb on, my phone never lights up and I can forget it exists.  I can't be dragged into a friendly text conversation or feel anxiety about not sharing my Poshmark closet enough because there's no reminder vibrating on the desk next to me.

I find this to be highly effective in zoning out the world and completing what I've set out to do.  Also, sorry Kristen, because I just dropped out in the middle of our conversation so I could DND my phone and finish this blog post. 

May Reads

Monday, June 10, 2019

I didn't read this month.  I didn't want to.  I felt really blocked up.

I did manage to make it through one, Hillbilly Elegy, and it was actually an insightful read. As someone who grew up with the Appalachian mountains a bit of a drive away, I was more than aware of the poverty that existed in these regions...but I didn't understand the poverty and politics.  I would highly recommend no matter what your political leaning.  I wish there were more books like this out there.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
 J.D. Vance

Why You Need To Clear Your Search History...Now

Thursday, June 6, 2019

It was our fourth date and I finally set the evening up so he could meet my cat.

Yes, you read that sentence correctly.

After dinner at a delicious taco place, we meandered back to my place and sat down to watch TV.  He suggested some YouTube videos.  I have a vague recollection of trying to flirt while I old school searched through letters on my remote control to find what we were looking for.  I also have a vague recollection of silence on his end.  Probably because he was reading my search history, in LARGE view, on my television:

*A moment of silence for any appearance of being cool I may have held, dying and withering away.* (To be fair, I was researching potential clickbait articles because my top blog post ever is How To Make Him Fall In Love With You. ...whatever, I don't need to explain myself to you!!!!)

The next day at work, I wanted to search for Kim Petras' Heart to Break, that doesn't exist on Spotify (WHY KIM!?), when I was confronted with my most recent searches on YouTube.  In the third spot, a little below my search for old Pittsburgh Mike videos, was "How to Handle An Obsessive Crush."

Freaking A.

There isn't a dumb enough question out there that is too dumb for me to ask.  It's something I mention in interviews because I want my potential future employers to know I'm not afraid to ask if I want to know something, no matter how ridiculous.  The beauty of the Internet is that everything in the world is one search away from being answered. 

To stay on topic, I searched "do you judge someone by their search history" and was surprised to see that your search history can be used against you in court, there are sites out there selling your search history for market data, and forums dedicated to partners snooping on their S.O's browser history.  I didn't find anyone who creeped on a potential suitor's history and found anything as innocently psycho as dealing with my obsession for my latest crush -- mostly it was disturbing porn, but I didn't feel really confident that my search was any less concerning.

In all seriousness, our search results reveal things about ourselves.  They show our interests, things we'd like to pursue, or what we find to be really, really funny.  They are tiny windows into who we are.

Which is why you should delete the crazy shit and hide it or you will probably end up alone with your cat.  At least my cat is a cuddler.  CLEAR YOUR SEARCH HISTORY, PEOPLE.  THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Either way, I live to die of self-inflicted humiliation another day.

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