Book Review: Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

I don’t know about you, but I have a list a mile long of places that I want to travel to. One of them, Italy, was the setting of Jenna Evans Welch’s debut novel, Love & Gelato. Another place is Ireland, which is the setting of her latest novel, Love & Luck.

Love & Luck in some ways is like a sequel to Love & Gelato. The protagonist, Addie, is Lina’s best friend, who was the protagonist of Love & Gelato. But, don’t be fooled. It’s not a sequel to Love & Gelato by any means.

The novel begins at Addie’s aunt’s destination wedding, which is in Ireland. At the wedding, Addie and her brother Ian have an argument that gets resolved by Addie pushing her brother down a hill. However, before the reception, Addie’s mother gives them a challenge — to behave without incident while the two visit Addie’s best friend Lina while she’s in Italy or she’s revoking all their privileges to play sports. Since both of them are athletes, this is the ultimate punishment.

However, here’s the thing — Addie and Ian are usually the closer of the sibling group. But, after Addie dates football bad boy Cubby — which had an unfortunate ending — the two are drifting apart. This leads Addie to pick up the book Ireland and the Heartbroken, which isn’t your typical guidebook.

Right before Addie is destined to leave for Italy, she discovers Ian to be missing along with his suitcase. She finds him on his way to the ultimate music festival, where his favorite band will be giving one last performance. Addie follows him, which leads her down a rabbit hole of the unexpected as she heals her broken heart. Along with her brother’s friend, she begins to complete the heartbreak homework to ultimately heal the broken heart that she arrived with.

This is easily one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Furthermore, this book is the perfect read for summer. You can easily get lost in it, just as Addie gets lost in the Irish hills. The book is one of those books you can easily finish in a few days, but it’s one of those books that can become your favorite.

What’s unique about the book is that each chapter is sandwiched with an excerpt from Ireland and the Heartbroken. Now, you may be wondering whether or not this may take away or add to the novel. Personally, I liked it. It served as a preview for the upcoming destination. Furthermore, I also think that it also helped with the tone of the book. It helped Addie come to terms with what’s going on with her life at home.

I also liked that this book didn’t reveal all at once. It added to the intrigue of what happened to Addie to lead her to that point. At the beginning of the book, Addie and her brother are arguing. By the end, their relationship is restored.

The one thing that I didn’t like about the book though was the ending. I personally felt that it was a little rushed. I would have liked to see everything go full circle just a bit more. Maybe show more about Addie and Ian as they go back to school, and face the music.

But, with that being said, if you’re a fan of young adult literature, travel or even both, I highly recommend you reading Love and Luck.

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Hi Anxiety, Will You Let Me Sleep At Night?

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Month, I am going to write about having anxiety. But, if you’re a regular around here, chances are you know already I deal with anxiety.

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Me during my junior year of college.

Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since my junior year of college. That was the time when I struggled to maintain a normal, balanced schedule. At the time, I was taking five intensive college courses, as well as balanced two jobs. Needless to say, I quickly crashed. After dropping a course and receiving therapy from my school’s counseling center, I entered the summer feeling confident.

However, the following fall, I began to struggle with anxiety once again. Only this time, the fix wasn’t as easy as dropping a course or reducing my hours. My fall semester was a constant downward spiral of mental breakdowns. At the time, I was working three different jobs, and taking intense classes. And, I never went to my therapist, because I felt like he never listened to me.

This continued into the spring semester, where between coursework and work, I wasn’t able to even breathe. However, I saw some changes in the spring semester. For instance, I saw a new therapist who was much more open to my needs. I also began thinking about what’s best for me.

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Me, along with friends the night I gave the sermon.

Eventually, I began to get better. I became an advocate for myself, and truly tried to make sure that I was listening to myself. Furthermore, I’ve developed an attitude where I focus more on myself and my needs, and less on the expectations. I’ve also learned to be less critical of myself, and focus more on the good vs. the bad. Towards the end, I even delivered a sermon on how faith plays a role in mental health.

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Me at the beach, August 2017.

Since graduating college, I still with anxiety. Only now, it’s less feeling crushed by the weight of the amount of work I had. Instead, it’s overthinking every little thing and worrying constantly. It’s asking my boyfriend a thousand times if we are okay. It’s lying in bed at night and worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to accomplish everything. It’s crying because a rush of emotion comes to me all at once, and I need someone to give me a hug.

Can I be honest here?

Anxiety freaking sucks.

Although I still attend therapy semi regularly, I’ve come to accept anxiety as a part of my daily routine. However, I’ve somewhat learned to control it. Somewhat is the key word here. I still have moments where I call my boyfriend crying because I feel as though I can’t handle the stresses (to which I thank him so much for, because he not helps me get through it, but does a very good job of making me smile). I still have moments where I write everything in my journal as a release. I still run to get those endorphins pulsing through my veins.

With that being said, since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I write a post about my journey with anxiety. Since this is the second time I’ve done it, I like to look back at it and think about how far I’ve come. I’m not perfect, and maybe I’ll never be. And, that’s perfectly alright. There is no such thing as a perfect human.

However, I do ask one thing of every person who is reading this. And, that is to become more aware of mental health and mental health issues. That’s the main goal of me having this blog, although I’ve strayed to discuss other topics. It can be uncomfortable to talk about mental illness, which is why some don’t often do. But, just because it’s uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that we should sweep it under the rug, now should we?

Didn’t think so.

Furthermore, I ask that each and every one of you helps spread that awareness to others. Stamping out ignorance is the first step in trying to spread and develop a world where mental illness should be regarded as the same class as a physical one. So, if you suffer from a mental illness, be sure to reach out to me. I’ll be more than happy to help you get through it.

Words

It seems like words surround us wherever we go. They are what compiles our thoughts, and what makes up every book and article that we read online. Words make up the blog post that you are reading right now.

Despite the fact that words are a wonderful and beautiful thing, they can also be harmful.

But, you know the old saying. Sticks and stones may break my bones, while names will never hurt me.

Whoever said that didn’t live in the age of social media. I don’t know about you, but words have a bigger impact on me than any physical blow can. If you break your leg, you get a cast, and over time it heals. However, what’s different about words is that they have the ability to stay with you for almost an eternity.

With that being said, the words that we speak to each other — and to ourselves — are crucial to our mental health. This dialogue — both inner and what we speak to each other — can have a much bigger impact than any of us can imagine.

Let’s talk about our thoughts for a second. Now, our thoughts are something that can frame our perception on the world and the events around us. And, sometimes we have negative ones. Those thoughts ring to the tone of self doubt, and self consciousness. You know those thoughts where you feel like you can’t do anything, simply because you’re not good enough. Or even awfulizing every situation that you’re faced with. With those thoughts swirling in your head, it can be hard to stand up to all of the positive ones.

Imagine this — you erase all of your thoughts into positive ones. Easier said than done, right? But, you can somewhat make it happen, step by step. It can start by saying to yourself I’m awesome and I can do anything. Furthermore, it can even turn into a repeated version of saying nice things about yourself.

Furthermore, thoughts have the power to spiral. You know those anxious thoughts

In addition, I also would like to point out that we need to work on the things that we say to others, for those also have an impact. It can be the minor things, such as backhanded compliments (you know, someone saying that dress is nice, however it’s not my taste. But on you it’s nice!) social media comments, or flat out insults. Furthermore, this also includes saying something to someone out of anger. You know, calling someone a bitch or a loser. You never know what that can come off as sometimes. Therefore, it’s important to watch your words — no matter what the situation may be.

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Month, I’m asking that we take a moment to press edit. Whether that may be that moment when you’re trying on a dress and thinking that you’re ugly because you’re not a size zero. Or, that moment when you’re having an argument and might say something in anger that you normally wouldn’t say. Those words might just have a bigger impact that you can imagine. And, once they are out, sometimes you just can’t take them back.

In those moments, let’s try to reframe ourselves. For example, if you’re feeling anxious and the thoughts spiral, try to press pause and take a breath and reframe the thought. Or, if you’re arguing with your boyfriend for whatever reason, instead of saying something mean, take a moment and say ‘do I really feel this way?’ Chances are, you don’t.

So, let’s work on our inner and outer dialogue. And, let’s work on making them positive ones.

Good Days, Good Mental Health

Did you know that May is Mental Illness Awareness Month?

If you didn’t, then today you learned something. To help raise awareness for mental illnesses, I am going to dedicate several posts to discuss the importance of mental health awareness as well as acceptance.

Why?

Well, mental illness isn’t as uncommon as you think it may be. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) page Mental Health By The Numbers, one in five adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with a mental illness in a given year. Furthermore, one in 25 adults experience a mental illness that is so severe that it disrupts regular life activities. ]

NAMI had an interesting info-graphic, which is included below:

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Not gonna lie, these are some big numbers here.

With that being said, what are we going to do about it?

There’s a common stigma that whoever suffers from a mental illness is someone who is tainted and is damaged goods. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

And, that statement is the very reason why so many refrain to get the help they need. When that happens, they are not given a chance for healing and for hope.

As many of you know, I suffer from anxiety. It developed when I was an overwhelmed college student, and despite having a kick ass therapist, continues to exist in my life. It sucks, but I overthink just like the best of them.

One of the main reasons why I’ve started a blog was to promote mental health awareness, and to say that it’s okay to admit that you’re not okay. And, sometimes you need a little help on the way. That’s fine too. I hope readers who read my blog regularly — assuming that is that there’s people that actually do that — are inspired to discuss their own experiences and even be proud of the journey that they’ve come.

Therefore, I make it a point to dedicate a few posts every May to Mental Health Awareness Month.

So, look out for more posts about mental health. And, to conclude, I’m going to quote Dr. Fraiser Crane: “Good day, and good mental health.”

Why It’s Okay to Unfollow Someone

It’s safe to say that I practically grew up with social media. In middle school, I would stand in front of a mirror (or with a friend) and throw up a duck face. #classy I then would edit the picture using Picnic, throw up a cheesy quote, and then dedicate an entire Facebook album to those edits.

However, social media has created the argument of etiquette. It has become an arena of constant statuses, where whenever you log on, you see see several statuses and photos all at once. All of a sudden, you can see the thoughts of every person you’re following in your newsfeed.

Sometimes, this is a good thing. But have you ever had a friend that just made you feel upset or angry whenever you log in. Or, have you ever had someone that just makes you feel depressed every time that you log in.

I bet you have at least one name in mind. But, here’s the thing — you don’t have to deal with it.

Hence the unfriend/unfollow button.

One of the reasons why I am consistently struggling with is the fear of confrontation of this person. I know this is a strange thing, but what if you encounter them on the street one day and they ask you why you unfollowed them? I don’t know what the likelihood of that happening actually is, but hey you never know.

However, at the end of the day, I’ve come to realize this. If something doesn’t make you happy 95 percent of the time, chances are you might need to do a cleanse of them. Admittedly, I forget that I have the power to do so.

Recently, I’ve encountered this dilemma. I would see this person’s posts, and suddenly hop on a bus into self doubt lane where I would just feel badly about myself. Therefore, I decided to unfollow this person. Doing so caused me to feel so much better about myself.

With that being said, I do realize that in this scenario I should have taken this as an opportunity to practice positive self talk. But, at the same time, I have learned one thing in therapy — if something doesn’t make you feel okay or happy, then you are allowed to do what is best for you. This may not make sense to others, but at the end of the day, if you’re happy that’s all that matters.

Furthermore, let me raise this point — we are on social media a lot. Chances are, it’s the first thing that you do when you wake up, and you’re on it a few different times a day. This is a lot of stimuli.

Thus, this will have an effect on your day without a doubt. But, what is cool about this is that we can control it. We can control who and what we see. And, if something does bother us, we have the power to try to change it. 

Therefore, no matter what your situation may be, don’t be afraid to hit unfollow if the situation calls for it. Whether it may be an exboyfriend, a friend who leaves mean comments, or otherwise, chances are it will make you feel better.

Takeaways From Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Today is the final day in April. In addition, it’s also the final day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). However, I would like to point out that everyday, we should work to promote and educate about consent and assault/rape.

Now, we all can agree about the meaning of no, right? It means stop. It means don’t collect $200. It also means that you respect that solid no, and not try to change that into a solid yes.

Back in October, social media exploded with the #MeToo movement. That movement was a huge wake-up call to us, who didn’t realize how big of the magnitude of the problem. But, I must ask you this. Now that we are awake, what are we going to do about this problem?

I have a few ideas.

The first is to create a world where victims of assault and rape feel as though they can come forward without the fear of not believed. Furthermore, this world needs to also offer them the protection of being safe from their perpetrator if they are threatening them. It’s sad to say that many women don’t come forward and get the justice they rightfully deserve. That needs to change.

Additionally, we need to also try to prevent this from happening as much as possible. This means promoting consent, healthy relationships and listening to your partners’ wishes. In addition, this also means healthy communication. It’s hard to achieve sometimes, but you can do so.

At the end of the day, assault and rape isn’t just a woman’s problem. It’s a problem for all genders. Thus, we need to listen to the victims. We need to create a better world where they are not only believed, but also win their justice and are allowed the respect to go through what they need to go through to heal.

Together, I think we can get there.

Therefore, let’s educate our children to respect all of the nos. Let’s learn to believe the woman who says she was raped on campus one late drunken night at a party. Let’s learn to believe the children who were helpless victims in an older person’s path.

I hope that by next April, we are closer to that goal.

Living For Loving (Yourself)

It’s safe to say everyone out there at one point or another often lacks confidence. It can be the teenager who lacks self image due to bullies in the high school hallways. It can be the result of a diet of magazines and feeling like one is not enough. Or, finally, it could be the result of being in a relationship where your partner (or even someone who is supposedly your friend) would continually work to cut you down. And, while the relationship is long over, the effects of it still remain ingrained in us for God knows how long.

If I’m being real here, I can especially relate to the last one. I had experience with former friends and partners that just continually cut me down. For example, I have an ex that sometimes during a relationship tried to cause me to feel completely and utterly stupid. He would constantly dismiss my love for teen romance novels and say that my writing needed work (I mean I’m not perfect and can take criticism, but I do think it’s offensive for your partner to say that it’s a chore — and really he said that — to read your articles that you work so hard on).

And, that’s only one major example. I’ve had friends insult themselves in front of me, which in turn, helped me question my own self image and myself in general.

Needless to say, that caused me to feel subconscious about myself.  While the relationship is long over and I’m even in a new one, the effects still remain. Every now and then, I question whether or not I’m good enough or pretty enough.

But, I am working on it.

However, I’m going to be honest here. I am absolutely certain that I am not the only one who has or does feel this way. And, there’s a number of reasons why someone would be feeling that way.

With that being said, I do have a message for all of those who do. Repeat this mantra to yourself as much as needed, because I think that this something that everyone needs to hear.

And that mantra is:

You are wonderful. You are beautiful. You are intelligent, and you are an awesome human being. Why? Because you are you. It doesn’t matter what size you wear, or if you’re the top of the class. You are worthy and deserving of love, and wonderful things. And, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

With the rise of social media — in our culture in general — we often lose sight of ourselves. This, meaning that we don’t see ourselves too clearly. I mean, we see thousands of stimuli daily, and it’s bound to create some insecurities about our lives. I am guilty of this. But, we don’t need to be.

Therefore, I am going to work on seeing myself as the wonderful being I am. But, sometimes, I need some help. So, here’s how I’m working to see myself clearly — even when I feel awful upon myself. Hopefully this inspires you to get going as well!

  1. Keep a journal and write in it regularly. You can do a few different prompts with this. One thing that I like to do when I’m feeling down about myself is write a list why I am awesome. Another thing is to write down your feelings. Chances are, the more you do, the better you’ll feel.
  2. Do something that makes you feel good. For me, that’s putting on some lipstick or remembering to wear makeup. Others, however, can have a different approach. For instance, some can wear an outfit that helps you radiate confidence. Whatever it may be, it’s okay to pamper yourself and remind yourself that you are awesome.
  3. Look up positive quotes on Pinterest/Google. After all, it means a lot to see it on your phone. And, you can even download them onto your phone and use it as a wallpaper. The more you see it, the more it resonates.