You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

Way back in February, my KY bestie sent me this text:

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She raved about the funny, honest, and conversationally modern writing, and how spot on the author’s advice was. So, I decided that I should give it a read, too. Instead of waiting for the hardcopy, I decided to listen via audiobook, and I’m glad I did. It was like listening to one of your friends give you a reality check, encouragement and advice, and a plan of action all at once. Sincero actually narrates her own book, so you get the full effect of her own words as well. There’s 27 chapters and 256 pages, but the audio is just under 6 hours long, so it’s pretty quick-paced. I felt that because of the modern conversational language Sincero used, it was easy to follow along with her advice and the support behind it. I didn’t get lost in any new-age speak or bogged down in the science and research data.

Sincero explains from the beginning how our ego effects us as humans, and how to essentially deny the ego and take action to achieve happiness- mostly by changing our thought process. (Can you tell I’ve been trying to expand my understanding of what’s going on in my head?!) Summarized, Sincero wants us to:

  • Love ourselves as we are- meaning accepting that you are human, not a perfect robot.

“Your job is to be as you as you can be. This is why you’re here. To shy away from who you truly are would leave the world you-less. You are the only you there is and ever will be…”

“Imagine what our world would be like if everyone loved themselves so much that they weren’t threatened by other people’s opinions or skin colors or sexual preferences or talents or education or possessions or lack of possessions or religious beliefs or customs or their general tendency to just be whoever the hell they are.”

  • Stop worrying about what other people think.

“You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it…”

“Do not waste your precious time giving one single crap about what anybody else thinks of you.”

  • Follow your intuition, do what makes you happy and do it NOW.  Don’t wait for the timing to be “right”.

“Deciding means jumping in all the way, doing whatever it takes, and going after your dreams with the tenacity of a dateless cheerleader a week before prom night.”

  • Have a little faith- however you define it- and think positively.

“Positive thinking is key. Our thoughts are the most powerful tools we’ve got. Through our thoughts we create our realities.”

  • Don’t give excuses.

We put so much energy into coming up with excuses why we can’t be, do, or have the things we want, and designing the perfect distractions to keep us from our dreams—imagine how far we’d get if we just shut up and used all that energy to go for it instead?”

I could go on and on with the quotes, trust me. Sincero is completely chock full of these gems, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her. If you are into self-help books, need a pep talk, want to learn more about yourself, or need a little motivation to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, You Are a Badass is the book for you- no matter what format.

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For the Broken by Shenaia Lucas

Another beautiful collection of poetry! I had seen screenshots and whatnot of Lucas’ poems, and found them touching and relatable, so I thought it best to educate myself by reading the whole collection. And again, because poetry is still difficult for me to review, I’m going to keep this one short.

For the Broken is 113 pages of almost continuous short poems, bleeding from one page to the next. I find this important to note as the other two collections of poetry I’ve recently read and reviewed usually kept to a poem per page, unless the length forced more pages. Therefore, Lucas’s work has this way of flowing from one poem to the next, almost like a stream of thoughts. The titles (or dedication) of the poems are in italics at the end of each, wrapping the one up before it and yet seeming to set the tone for the next. This formatting is really fascinating and clever. To me, without even mentioning the content of the work, these poems by format alone allow for the reader to soak in the works like their own internal dialogue, which I found really soothing and almost prayer-like.

For content, Lucas has broken down her compilation into four sections (I’m sensing this is a common theme among poetry…?), and they are as follows: for the healing; for the loving; for the oppressed; for the broken. In a supportive manner, each stanza gives the reader advice or a thought on the section topic. For the healing has words of encouragement that help heal a broken heart- or sometimes just acknowledging it’s broken existence. This is also similar for the last section. For the loving is about- obviously- love and relationships. I feel the most powerful section is for the oppressed, which really hit full force as Lucas’ calls out the duplicity on the world’s so called equality.  All the poems are relatively short- a few lines each- and yet they still pack a punch.

Overall, I enjoyed reading For the Broken, and it too will be have a hardcopy added to my poetry collection (since I read this via Kindle). In full honesty, though it’s a lovely anthology, I wasn’t as emotionally stirred as I have been by other poetry works, but I think that may be a mood thing. I’ve been feeling exceptionally up with all the sunshine and vacation time I’ve had, so I think my timing of this read was a little off. This may seem obvious from the title, in hindsight, but For the Broken would be the perfect consoling read in a time when you need something to lift you up.

Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas

Alaska wilderness, cross-country voyaging and hitch-hiking, living in a van… and a mountain of college debt. Ken Ilgunas writes Walden on Wheels as a memoir of how he lived a minimalist life and worked tirelessly in difficult conditions in order to climb out of debt and into financial freedom, all while adventuring and attaining higher education.

Let’s take a quick step back and talk about student loan debt, because honestly that is the core motivator for Ken’s decisions in this book. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the national student loan debt is 1.41 TRILLION US dollars, spread among 44.2 million people. That’s more than the national credit card debt ($620 million among 196.8 million people). The average 20-30 year old pays somewhere between $200 – $350 every month to pay off their education, and most plans have the borrower paying off the debt in ten years, though the average bachelor’s degree takes twice as long to repay. I don’t know about you, but I find these stats both staggering and yet, unsurprising. It’s easy to spot the catch 22 of paying for an educational degree so that you can get a high enough paying job, just to pay off the degree. As a holder of an associate’s, I had a well-meaning professor ask, after explaining I couldn’t afford a bachelor’s, “Ah, but can you afford not to get your bachelor’s?”

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College is expensive, and the job market is tough (don’t get me started on the ignorant adage of “lazy millennials”), making it difficult to find employment that can allow rapid repayment of student debt, while also maintaining a comfortable state of living. What I mean by that is, most college grads want to get a job, move out of their childhood home, and be able to afford things like utilities, a car, clothes, and social entertainment. This is where Ken (and a few of his friends/acquaintances) have decided to make extreme decisions in order to repay their debt- by cutting out the comfortable state of living.

Ken decided that instead of being like many average people, he wanted to repay his student loans as quickly as possible, instead of living with a looming $32,000 of debt. He just finished up his liberal arts bachelor’s degree, and was working at Home Depot. His paycheck would only chip away at his debt, and he wasn’t content with the stale life he was living- he wanted adventure, and didn’t know how he could possibly afford to travel. So he decided to abandon the middle-class comfRelated imageorts he was used to, quit his job, and got hired in Coldfoot, AK (population: 35).

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From there, he learned how to live minimally, and because his food and lodging were paid for, and he had no other bills except his debt, he put every paycheck earned towards his loans. From there, Ken’s motivation stayed strong despite many difficult days in extreme temperatures, and he stayed in Alaska. His debt rapidly declined paycheck to paycheck, and he came to a point where he decided he wanted to be mentally challenged again. This lead him on many journeys- each one filled with just as much adventure as the first-  and back to college as a graduate student.

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Ken had paid off his debt, but taking on grad school would easily put him back in the red with the costs, so he decided that he would become a vandweller- living in a Ford Econoline in the Duke parking lot on less than four grand in his savings account. It wasn’t easy, but Ken knew that by graduation, he would have his masters and be debt-free if he succeeded. He also knew that above all, the most important thing he had learned was:

“We need so little to be happy. Happiness does not come from things. Happiness comes from living a full and exciting life.” – Ken Ilgunas

Ilgunas shares his story, which is both gripping, entertaining, conversationally written, and openly honest, to his readers, whom odds show have probably been in or are currently enduring the struggle to pay off their student loans. For me, he has rekindled my motivation to repay my own debts, which I’ve been slowly knocking out for the past six years. I’m on target to have them paid off in four more, but after reading Ilgunas’ story, I feel that if he can live so extremely, I can surely cut back more spending and put more towards my own debt mountain. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Walden on Wheels, and urge you all to give it glance. If you’re like me, you’ll be pulled in from the first chapter!

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F’ HIM: Nice Girls Always Finish Single by Brian Nox (aka Brian Keephimattracted)

I’m sure you read the title of this one and thought “What?!” Well, let me explain. This was a freebie off Kindle, and I thought it was going to be more satirical than the book actually was. As a chronic singleton, I thought this may be entertaining, and maybe there would be something slightly cerebral in there that I might be able to use, but alas…

So I start reading, and first and foremost, this book is urging mental mind f*ckery, not physical f*ckery. That’s um, nice. Personally, I don’t think mind games are very constructive, but hey, let’s here this guy out.

Nox insists that men like having their mind messed around with, and that mental manipulation is something they unknowingly are drawn to. He also goes through many points about how when you are passive and not controlling, it’s the reason why you are single. Literally the whole damn book is about how to play mental games, how to control a man with suggestives and not demands, and how to manipulate them so their ego doesn’t get bruised and the women still gets what she wants.

Is anyone else rolling their eyes yet?

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It was a short read (130 pages), so I did read the whole thing, but not even a quarter of the way through, I was sick of hearing how a woman can go from low-value to a high-value in a mans eyes by acting and speaking a certain way. And to be fair, the author even stated in the beginning, “You can expect me to step on your toes here and there throughout this book.” I kept thinking, this HAS to be satire. This guy HAS to be joking. He thinks telling women how to act so that they can be in a relationship, or keep their man satisfied by mindf*cking them, is worthy of 130 pages?

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Needless to say, I don’t recommend the singletons give this a read. 100% disclosure, I did not take to the streets with this dating advice to test it out, so maybe it works for some, but for me, I have seen plenty of strong relationships built on respect and honesty, and I’d rather emulate that than what I’ve read per Nox. I understand that probably puts me in his “nice girl, low value” category, but guess what? To that I say, f<3ck him.

The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista Mateer

Bookstagram has been opened my eyes to a lot of great authors and books, and most surprisingly, poetry. I used to dabble in poetry when I was in elementary school, but it was mostly forced by my ‘gifted and talented’ teachers, and the subject always steered towards horses, haha. I loved writing, but poetry didn’t stick. I also wasn’t a huge fan of reading poetry- probably the serious lack of equine-themed work, LOL- and so I’ve seriously lagged in my education. Scrolling through booksta one day, I saw Trista Mateer’s images, quotes and captions from The Dogs I Have Kissed. I had to follow her, and every quote just seemed so emotional and relatable. I figured, since I was already hooked, I needed the book.

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Finally getting around to it, The Dogs I Have Kissed is a provocative, hard hitting, heart wrenching series of poems that I think, if not all, at least one of which people could relate to. Topics include parental abandonment, sexuality, exes and past relationships, and religion, each with twists, innuendo, and potency.

Bite is the first section, and it delivers exactly that. I found it interesting that many of the poems have a mention of mouths in there, conveying seduction and blunt language, though this does continue on into other sections- just less often. The next section, titled Growl, has a collection of gritty poems that seem to reveal a little more about Mateer- not that she seems to be hiding much, as she doesn’t seem to hold back the details. The third section, Roll Over, shares a few more reflective pieces and ends with a long poem that really sums up the the relationships discussed throughout the poems in the book- with no tidy ends, but at least a sense of understanding of where the poet stood by the end. Also, I love how the dog theme flows throughout- the titles of each section, the main title, the references within the poems.

Most of the poems are relatively short, with only a handful spanning over two pages. Obviously, reading poems is relatively fast paced just because of their length, but Mateer still makes the short ones pack a punch. They create a strong impact, full of emotion and clearly getting across certain imagery. For example, titled 4/23:

“I don’t know how to exist properly

in the same space as someone

I don’t love anymore.” – Trista Mateer

It’s only three lines, but it’s one powerful statement. Yet all the poems have this conversational, confession-like quality to them as well. I think that’s what has drawn me to them- that they are content similar to what I’ve either discussed with friends, or thought myself, or in some cases, haven’t even thought to contemplate. They’re blunt and honest. I don’t do favorites, but I really loved Improper Emergency Procedure, and the series of Texts I Shouldn’t Have Sent to My Ex.

Overall, I highly recommend buying yourself a copy. You’ll want to read her work over and over again, so it’s definitely worth adding to your personal collection. I hope my review has done justice for a beautiful collection!

 

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

This was a recommendation from my KY bestie, who told me about this book over a meal one day. We both love reading things that expand our mind, and help us learn more about ourselves, so when we find something good we love to share it! I downloaded this as an audiobook from Hoopla, in connection with my local library, so I’m going to review it from that stance.

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The Untethered Soul is about quieting the inner voice inside your mind, and learning how to create peace within. As I listened to the narrator (Singer), who’s voice is really soothing but still animated enough to keep you awake, he discusses how we all have a running dialogue with ourselves, our own personal thoughts, and the variations of those thoughts. I know it’s a little confusing, but the way Singer describes it, “You are not the voice of the mind- you are the one who hears it.” There is always an inner dialogue running in your mind, and it’s perfectly normal to hear that voice and argue with it internally. But Singer discusses how, with practice, you can quiet the inner monologue and really live in the moment, without narration.

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Singer shares some history behind the path to finding inner peace, and that included background on yoga practice and Sanskrit teachings, as well as the people who have adopted these practices and techniques. He reminds everyone that they don’t need to go off on an ashram retreat (a la Eat, Pray, Love) in order to practice these techniques either- you can do these practices at home, and just putting forth a little effort on a regular basis will help build your mental strength to let go of the inner voice. In chapter seven, he discussed feelings and how thoughts create these feelings. Those feelings make it hard to let go, but if you change the way you internalize them within your thinking process, you can change the way you feel about those thoughts. He states,

“When you feel pain, simply view it as energy. Just start seeing these inner experiences as energy passing through your heart and before the eye of your consciousness. Then relax…Relax your shoulders and relax your heart. Let go and give room for the pain to pass through you. It’s just energy. Just see it as energy and let it go.”

 

I also really liked the last chapter, which talks about how the biggest thing that makes us appreciate life, is death. We learn a lot from death, and Singer describes the various ways in which being more in tune with the current moment, and not being so lost within our own thoughts, can cause us to have a more fulfilling life. He talked about how wise old men are more accepting of death because they don’t fear it, knowing they have no regrets of not doing enough, or seeing enough, or not experiencing enough. They have learned how to live in the moment, not within their minds.

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It’s a very spiritual book, and it may not be for everybody, but I enjoyed listening to Singer, and contemplating my own contemplation! I’ve always been curious about how the mind works, how we express ourselves, and how the inner voice inside my own head interprets the things I experience. I also related The Untethered Soul with a podcast I’ve been listening to a lot, called Unf*ck Your Brain with Kara Loewentheil. Both Singer and Loewentheil made similar points about how your thoughts influence your emotions, and how to change your thoughts to achieve happiness. The biggest difference is the language they each use- Singer is more spiritual, and Loewentheil is more modern and scientific. Both are fascinating, and each have given me some homework to help my mental wellness. If you are interested in mental coaching, then I advise giving them both a listen.

Thought Piece: Kentucky Derby Day & Bookie Faves

Since I moved to the Lexington area, Derby Day has become my favorite “local holiday”.

I didn’t really follow horse racing except for occasionally catching the derby on TV. Then, when I moved, I met some wonderful people who introduced me to the racing world, and gave me some excellent tips on picking the derby winner out of the 20-horse field. I decided this would be the perfect time to share some of that advice, as well as some suggestions for those of you who are interested in horse racing and celebrating the annual event!

  • Follow the Road to the Kentucky Derby and if you plan on betting on the horses, take note of who places (that is, which horses come in first, second, and third) in each race. This will help you familiarize who is in contention!
  • Follow Steve Haskins’ weekly Derby Dozen article! He gives excellent tips and information on the horses, providing insight that isn’t readily available to the general public. (It’s not too late to scan through the last article of the year!)
  • Check out the Daily Racing Form headlines for analyses of each derby prep race to gain extra insight, as well as headline reports of the horses and their connections.
  • Watch the prep races! It’s more exciting to catch them in real time, but there are usually replays available to study. Keep an eye on your favorites, and note how they do. Did they run to the front? Come from behind? Get jostled and bumped by other horse and riders? Did they appear exhausted towards the end of the race? Knowing these details will help you predict how the horse will run in the large field of twenty horses at the derby.
  • Once you’ve picked a horse (or however many you want, I usually pick a top three and a long shot to bet on), learn more about them. I like to know who their sires (their fathers) are, who their owners are, and what farm bred them. They don’t call this the sport of kings for no reason, and names carry a lot of weight in the elite racing industry. I also like to find out specifically where the horses like to run in the racing field, and which position they draw in the starting gate. The numbers on the gate go from 1-20, and the lower the number, the closer to the inside of the track the horse is. The inside of the track is a shorter distance to run than the outside of the track, and therefore the horses who get to the inside quicker will have to exert less energy than the ones running toward the outside of the track. Sometimes, a bad position draw will be enough for me choose one horse over another as my absolute favorite.

When the first Saturday in May officially arrives, and if you’ve done your due diligence, then you’ll have a horse (or maybe a few) in mind that you’ll be ready to put your money on! This is where the fun begins! Now, I’m really, really terrible about betting money, mostly because I’d rather keep the money that I have rather than bet to make more. Also, I’m not a very lucky person in that sense of things. SO, I’m not going to tell you how to bet your money, but I advise you to check out Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies! Haha, I’m not calling anyone a dummy, but this is the simplest explanation I think you can get! Personally, I like to bet $2 to win on my favorite horses as a keepsake incase they win, and I’ll also spend the $6 for a win/place/show on my long-shot horse. Sometimes it pans out and I’ll make a few bucks, and sometimes it doesn’t but I can easily recoup that $6!

The other big part about derby day is the celebration of the event. Traditional points to note:

  • Attire- This includes donning classy spring dresses and over-the-top hats, seersucker suits and dockers, and basically pretending you are classy folk, even if you aren’t, haha!

  • Food & Drink- “derby pie” which includes bourbon, chocolate, and walnuts; mini hot browns, a strangely delish blend of bread, cheese, ham, and bacon; bourbon balls, which are like chocolate truffles with a kick; and of course, mint juleps. This is blasphemy I’m sure, but I actually don’t care for mint juleps, and from what I’ve heard, they’re an acquired taste. I prefer to just leave everything but the bourbon out, haha.

  • Singing “My Old Kentucky Home”- the official state song of the Kentucky commonwealth. There really is something about being with a thousands of fellow racegoers and drunkenly stumbling along the lyrics- it’s actually pretty emotional, though that could be the juleps. (I’m just kidding about the drunkenness.) Want to impress your friends at smaller gatherings? Here are the lyrics– sing along through the second chorus!
  • Roses- The derby is associated with two sayings: “The Run for the Roses” and “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports.” If you’re having a derby party at home, don’t forget to incorporate roses in the decorations mix!

Last but not least, if you’ve caught the racing bug after all the excitement of Derby, here is a recommended list of racing-related reading!

  • Ruffian, Burning From the Start by Jane Schwartz
  • Affirmed by Lou Sahadi
  • Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda by Dave Feldman
  • Secretariat by William Nack
  • Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Wild Ride by Ann Hagedorn Auerbach
  • Three Strides Before the Wire by Elizabeth Mitchell
  • The Horse God Built by Lawrence Scanlan

With all that said and done, I wish you all an excellent Derby! May all the horses and riders have a safe trip around the track, and may your bets win!