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If someone had told me in 2000 that in 2015 my favorite shows would be on PBS and NPR I would’ve laughed in their face. But life is a crazy ride and sometimes you find yourself falling hard for things you never thought possible.  For example, later today I will sit down with my ipad and log into a website that allows me not only to see American public broadcasting, but also British ITV so that I can stream public broadcasting from across the pond.  I’m also saving some of my favorite podcasts to listen to while on a drive to Greenville later this week and I’m so excited about that drive I could just bust.  I believe that NPR and PBS have gotten cooler as I’ve gotten older, because obviously I can’t possibly be any less hip. Obviously.

But anywho – I thought it’d be fun to list a few of my favorite podcasts for this month’s Top 10 on the 10th post and share the public broadcasting love with the interwebs!

10. Criminal“Criminal is a podcast about crime. Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.”

That description on their website is just perfect.  To give you a little example – one of the episodes was about a guy that admitted to being guilty to a white collar crime and was sentenced to 18 months jail time. However, when he showed up to serve his sentence, he realized he was being placed inside a leper colony.  One of the things I love about this podcast is that the episodes are typically less than 20 minutes long and they do an amazing job of telling the story in that time.  If you like stories about justice, injustice or just plain criminals, this is an awesome podcast.

9. The Moth“True stories told live.”

The Moth is a nationwide event where people come together on themed nights to tell their own true stories.  The podcast is a collection of “best of” at these events and they never disappoint.  I find myself laughing, gasping and in total disbelief as I enjoy these true stories.  One of my favorites was told by a baker that eventually became the pastry chef at the White House from 2007 – 2014.

8. Invisibilia“Invisibilia (Latin for all the invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.”

This podcast does a fantastic job with both technology and human interaction and discusses topics that always make me go, “hmmm.” My favorite episode was their discussion on “categories” and how we literally need to assign something to a category in order to process it (fruits, vegetables, boys, girls, etc).

7. StoryCorps – StoryCorps’ mission is simple – to preserve and share stories.  They set up booths in towns all across America and give people the opportunity to come in and record their story. They are also leading a project that is capturing a story about every single victim from 9/11. When you walk through the National September 11 Museum, clips from these stories will be playing through the speakers.  After just listening to a few I was already in awe of the everyday heroes from 9/11.  While The Moth stories tend to be funny, StoryCorps stories are always inspiring and make you feel better about the world we live in.

6. Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin“Here’s The Thing is a series of intimate and honest conversations hosted by Alec Baldwin.  Alec talks with artists, policy makers and performers – to hear their stories, what inspires their creations, what decisions changed their careers, and what relationships influenced their work.”

First of all, let me just say that Alec Baldwin is a fantastic interviewer.  He asks the tough questions and keeps things very interesting.  My favorite episode was of Julie Andrews, probably because she’s one of my favorite people.

5. This American Life – This podcast is hard to describe, not only for me, but also for them because they have no description on their website!  I’d call it a human interest podcast where the host dives into a topic and shows the unknown side of it.  For example this week’s episode is called “Put a Bow on It” and the host is diving into the headquarters of Hardee’s and finding out how they decided to sell that burger (because seriously, their advertisements have NO SHAME).  One of my favorite episodes of TAL was when the host went to New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Katrina and interviewed folks in the lower 9th ward.  His ability to make you see something when all you have is audio is unmatched.

4. Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert – This podcast was launched in anticipation of Liz’s new book, Big Magic.  As a “maker” I fell hard for this podcast (and the book) and I gobbled up these episodes like they were my last meal.  Sadly, I can’t tell if Liz is going to continue to the podcast now that the book is launched, and I really hope so because it was AWESOME! But in either case – these 12 episodes are wonderful and if you consider yourself a creative person it’s a must-listen.

3. Undisclosed Podcast – For those of you out there that are Serial fans, I hope you’re listening to this! Undisclosed takes Serial to a totally new level with 3 lawyers breaking down the minutiae of the case bit by bit.  In the most recent episode they interviewed some inmates to get their perspective on the case and I was pretty blown away.  If you’re into crime dramas this gives you a really great look into the details and the legal side of how our criminal justice system works.  Side note – I’ve also heard great things about Serial Dynasty, but I just couldn’t get into it when I tried it. If you’re a die hard Serial or Adnan fan you might want to check that one out too.

2. Death, Sex & Money“A podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.”

This show also did an amazing job with the 10th anniversary of Katrina – they interviewed coroners, musicians and families that lost everything during the hurricane.  I actually fell in love with this podcast when I listened to the episode where she interviewed a 6th generation funeral director.  Anna Sale does a fantastic job asking hard questions and her interviewees answer them with such grace, like we all talk about this stuff everyday.  Another of my favorite DS&M episodes was when she interviewed “Maria” after she retired from Sesame Street.  Seriously – who would’ve thought that “Maria” would have so much to say about Death, Sex and Money, but she did! In her most recent episode she interviewed the husband of an astronaut that died in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle explosion and I cried all the way to yoga class.  This is easily one of the best 3 podcasts available.

1. Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! – “NPR’s weekly current events quiz.”

I’ve never enjoyed news this much!  The guest stars are hilarious (Tom Bodett had me crying I was laughing so hard and Paula Poundstone was crazy funny)! But the way they discuss the news topics of the week are wonderful – they have a way of keeping you updated on everything that’s going on but not boring you to death with facts.  The Listener Limerick Challenge and the Lightning Round are my two favorite segments, both of which always leave me smiling, and frankly, don’t we all need more reasons to smile while we’re driving!

Now, for those of you seriously questioning my judgement with this list because it doesn’t include Serial, let me just say that at the time of this article, Serial is not currently airing new episodes.  When they start up again in the fall I will absolutely include them on my must-have list, but for now I was trying to stick to shows that are on the air.  Yes, I love Serial, and yes, it’s best ever. I think that’s something we can all agree on.


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As I predicted last month, September was another month of pure reading randomness.  I actually started 2 books but just couldn’t get into them and decided to move on and try something different.  There are just too many great books in the world to force myself to read something that isn’t keeping my interest.  By the end of the month I was totally blown away with many, many words of inspiration from Jen Hatmaker and Elizabeth Gilbert, but before I jump into that let’s take a look at what the original plan was for September…

Murder in the Sentier by Cara Black (Aimee Leduc #3)
*Daily Love: Growing into Grace by Mastin Kipp
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (Books of Beginning Book #1)
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
*Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
**Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
**For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

*I tried REALLY hard to get into these two books because I love John Green and I love the idea behind Daily Love.  It just didn’t happen.  Sometimes I can really struggle with a YA book that has a teenage boy as the protagonist because the male teenage angst just wears me out.  Well Will Grayson actually had 2 teenage male protagonists with STRONG doses of teenage angst and I couldn’t handle it, so, onward.  The idea behind Daily Love is wonderful, and I think Kipp has a very gentle tone in the book.  The writing was just really elementary and I felt like he was trying to dumb down the concepts way too much so, onward.

**Decided to add these two to my list because, why not?


I’ve got a tie this month for Book of the Month – the award goes to both Liz Gilbert and Jen Hatmaker.  Here’s the funny thing – I read these two books simultaneously, which I basically never do, but they played so well together I just couldn’t stop.  I’m going to go ahead and assume that these two women didn’t intend for these books to be read at the same time, but I’m so glad I did because they rocked my world together!

I think separately they both would’ve been great books, but together it was like a choir singing in harmony and I found myself laughing and following Chris around the house saying, “No, seriously, just let me read you this paragraph.  That’s so me, right?”

Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about here are a few excerpts that I can’t get enough of…

When speaking about how we all need to run our own race, Jen Hatmaker says, “How many trot out that tired cliche – ‘I’m waiting for God to open a door’ – and He is all, ‘I love you, but get going, pumpkin, because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work. Don’t just stand there, bust a move.’ (God often sounds like Young MC.) You are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way, on purpose. It isn’t fake or a fluke or small. These are the mind and heart and hands and voice you’ve been given, so use them.”

Liz Gilbert basically picks up where Jen leaves off and says that if you want to do something, do it.  Don’t wait for permission to be creative or to make what you want to make.  You don’t have to be the best, brightest or fastest, just do your own thing and make what you feel called to make.  So many creatives feel like if what they make isn’t perfect it can’t be shared and Gilbert quotes writer Rebecca Solnit when she says, “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible and the fun.”  Then Gilbert adds, “Create what you want to create – and let it be stupendously imperfect, because it’s exceedingly likely that nobody will even notice.  And that’s awesome.” Holy weight-off-of-our-collective-creative-shoulders Batman.

Hatmaker continues that line of thought with her chapter on balance (the Worst Beam Ever). “Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.” A few paragraphs later referencing the Pinterest life of perfection she says, “Listen to me: No one can pull this off. No one is pulling this off. The women who seem to ride this unicorn only display the best parts of their stories. Trust me. No one can fragment her time and attention in to this many segments.” Amen to that! Hatmaker does a wonderful job using the balance beam as a way to help us visualize that we should keep “on the beam” what matters most to us and what we want to do, and feel free to throw things “off the beam” that are only making it hard for us to live sane lives.  I’m a very visual person and this really hit home with me.  Making things I want to make – on the beam. Making meals that we love – on the beam. Reading great books – on the beam. Worrying about things I can’t control – Off the ever-loving beam!

Gilbert goes on to talk about how important it is for us to do what we feel like we need to do and make it a priority.  For example – if painting or writing truly makes you happy, you need to do it, and do it regularly, or the rest of you will suffer. I seriously almost shouted “AMEN” when I read this next paragraph, “It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).”  Seriously – Amen to that.  For those of us that are “makers” it is so important to just make something.  I ALWAYS need a project that I’m working on, a creative task to solve and something new to learn or I’m like a border collie that hasn’t been outside in 3 days – slightly manic with a scary, crazed look in my eyes.  Whenever I tell Chris I have an idea for a project he basically does cartwheels because he knows that means he’s less likely to come home and find me crawling up the walls for the foreseeable future.

Now here’s the interesting thing – Gilbert goes on to say that for those of us that are makers it’s actually a bad idea to tie that passion for making to our livelihood. Her argument is that by putting that much responsibility on our creative juices we kill the joy of just making. I read this paragraph 3 times and then forced Chris to listen to it twice, “…I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the  years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off of their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.” Amen Liz, amen.

Here’s what spoke to me – and I know there are a million photographers out there that will disagree with what I’m about to say but frankly, I just don’t care.  The photography industry is filled with people that consider themselves professionals because they work as full-time photographers.  Working full-time at something does not make you a professional any more than babysitting makes you a Mom.  These full-timers often consider the folks with a day job as “less professional” or “not-yet professional” because they aren’t depending on photography to pay the bills.

Speaking as someone that has done it both ways – with a day job for 7 years and full-time for almost 3, I can honestly tell you that I’m the same person.  Nothing magically changed in the way I operated my camera or my business once I started depending on photography to pay my mortgage.  I’ve always had the proper equipment, licenses and insurance. I’ve gained experience each year, taken continuing education classes and run my business with integrity.  None of that changed when I left my day job.  What did change was the pressure I put on myself and my creative juices while on the job. It was no longer just fun or inspiring all the time, it was work, and sometimes work sucks no matter what you do.

I’ve had to make significant changes to my business since going full-time to protect my time and what matters most to me, and to make sure that I still make shooting things that inspire me a priority.  It’s been so much harder to remain focused on photography as a creative outlet while running a business.  I’ve recently found myself creating things with paint brushes and power tools in order to encourage my photography creative juices.  I can totally see how maintaining a day job and working as a photographer would’ve made me a more creative photographer, and in no case would it have made me less professional.

It’s a crazy thing, this being creative for a living, and it’s not for the faint of heart.  If you are a “maker” or a creative soul I highly recommend For the Love and Big Magic.  My world has been rocked, for the better, and I think there are little nuggets of wisdom and inspiration from both Gilbert and Hatmaker that can encourage every creative spirit.

I know this Good Reads post has been, in the words of the Mad Hatter, “Much more muchier” than my usual light-hearted fare, so if you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around until the end. For October I need a solid dose of fantasy in my life so I’m going to re-read the All Souls Trilogy by Deb Harkness.  It’s my favorite trilogy of all-time, and if you’re looking for a reason to enjoy witches and vampires this October Harkness is always a great option. Happy reading interwebs!

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About 2 months ago we decided that in order to take full advantage of some free weekends we really needed to plan a few daycations.  I asked for recommendations on Facebook and got some awesome ideas!  We are water bugs by nature so we ended up selecting trips that were within 3 hours of home and mostly involved being near water.  It was a huge hit and I’m already brainstorming some fall trips. ;-)

NOTE: All photos taken with my iphone

Daycation #1 – Zen Tubing

We love tubing, and it was well worth the drive to Asheville for cooler temps on the water!  After 3 hours of relaxing down stream we drove into Asheville for an amazing meal at Juicy Lucy’s.


Daycation #2 – Lake Lure

Lake Lure is frequently called the beach in the mountains, and that’s exactly how I’d describe it.  We swam, ate a picnic lunch and sat under our beach umbrella reading for about 3 hours.  It was total perfection after a long week.


Daycation #3 – Grandfather Mountain

Neither of us had ever been to Grandfather Mountain, and we were pleasantly surprised!  For starters, it was 72 degrees up there! The cashier at the restaurant was apologizing to me for the overcast skies and I just couldn’t stop smiling.  She said, “Is this your first trip to Grandfather?” I said, “Yes ma’am, and we love it!” She said, “Really?” I said, “Yes, it’s like walking through butter at home right now so I’ll take overcast and 72 any day of the week!” She just about died laughing, gave me my change, and wished me a good day.  I’m pretty sure she thought I was crazy (not a new observation), but if she felt 92 and humid everyday for 4 months I think she’d understand our excitement.

We had a great lunch, visited the animals, walked across the swinging bridge just before the rain started pouring down and then hunkered down at the fudge shop with coffee to wait on the storm to pass.  Any day that begins with cute animals and ends with fudge and coffee is a fantastic day in my opinion!


Daycation #4 – Old Salem

To be totally honest, this daycation was mostly about the food.  We enjoyed the sights, and Chris loved the historical aspect, but we ate sugar cake and had a fantastic meal at The Tavern and that was totally the highlight of our day.  Everyone at The Tavern is dressed in period costumes and I wanted to scream, “There is a colonial woman on the wing. There is something they’re not telling us. She was out there churning butter. She was churning butter!” (If you have no idea what this quote is in reference to, I’m sorry). The cake, amazing. The lunch, amazing.  Well worth the drive to Winston just for that lunch on a Saturday.


Daycation #5 – Carowinds/Boomerang Bay

We had some discount tickets that had to be used on 8/29, so we decided to hit up Boomerang Bay right as it opened.  The lines were non-existent and we rode slides 5 times in a row with no wait.  It was awesome! I won’t mention who cheated on the water slide races, but his name starts with Chris.  After riding the rides and eating food that was insanely overpriced, we spent an hour or so in the wave pool and lazy river.  A wonderful end to a great summer daycation series. Now here’s to an awesome fall!


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