Reading Roundup #8

Another month of reading is complete and my current count is 60 books! Still basically on a 12 book a month pace but am gearing up for that to slow down once my summer graduate school classes start in July. Now on to May’s top three!

If you want to see all the books I’m reading and rating check out these profiles and add me!



I definitely recommend checking these books out and as always, let me know what books you’ve been enjoying!

#3 The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

I knew absolutely nothing about this book when I picked it up other than I loved the cover and it was by the author who wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas meaning I was probably in for an emotional read. It is also quite a long book at 580 pages. It was so worth the length. It follows Cyril Avery through his entire life beginning and ending in post-war Ireland starting in the 1940s. He is born out of wedlock to a girl cast out of her strict, religious Ireland community and his life takes many unexpected turns along the way, both heartwarming and heartwrenching. It also follows his story of coming to terms with his identity and finding where he fits as a gay man first amongst this incredibly conservative Irish community and later during the AIDS epidemic in New York City. I realized I am talking about this book during Pride Month which feels appropriate as it gives an honest and eye-opening view of the struggles and prejudice experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community. As someone not a part of that community, but with friends who are, I think it is important to read stories like this and other works by authors in the community to gain a better understanding. That is just one part of this sweeping novel dealing with family dynamics, friendship, identity, and redemption. Will make you laugh as well as make you cry and by now you all know how I love a bittersweet book. Definitely, a book that surprised me in a great way!

#2 Happy Place by Emily Henry

This was our book club book for May as we have a lot of romance book girlies in our group. A lot of us had read her other books like Book Lovers and Beach Read, so we were excited she was releasing a new book this year! I really enjoyed this one because it dove into some different territory than her other works. There was still a love story at the heart of it between two characters who had broken up but neglected to tell their friend group. They end up all going on a last hoorah vacation to the place they summered together starting in college and they are forced to pretend they are still together. As you can imagine this results in some complicated feelings and general hijinks. But what surprised me about this novel was the heavier weight given to the friendship dynamics among the group. There were some very real moments of fighting and unresolved issues that crop up and made the side storylines sometimes more interesting to me than the main love story. It felt like a real look into transitioning from college friends to adult friends and how life changes can affect those dynamics. Definitely ranked high in my Emily Henry book rankings and is one I would recommend for those who are looking for a contemporary romance that isn’t as fluffy. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fluffy romance on occasion, but I really appreciated the extra depth in this book!

#1 The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Number one this month is this historical fiction novel written by the author who wrote The Alice Network. A five-star read for me that was even longer than the first book I discussed at 624 pages but I loved every moment of it. It centers around three female code-breakers at Bletchley Park during World War II and the spy that they must uncover after the war has ended. Taking place in 1940 is the story of how these three amazing women came to be code-breakers and their time working at this top-secret facility. The female friendship dynamics among the three of them as well as the ups and downs of relationships in a time of war provide their own intrigue outside the high stakes environment of their jobs. Woven in the midst of that story is a look at where these women ended up post-war in 1947, why they aren’t speaking, and the unlikely discovery of a mole giving out classified information to the enemy that brings them all back together. Expertly written with incredible character development, this book is everything I love about historical fiction. Bletchley Park itself is endlessly fascinating and I am now dying to go and take a tour of the place where women were celebrated for their minds in a time when society didn’t see them as valued outside social society and the home. I love this author because she creates complex female characters that give a voice to the women who have gotten lost in history. Definitely recommend any of her books if you are looking for a great historical book filled with intrigue!

Honorable Mentions:

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano: This is actually the newest book in the Finlay Donovan series and I highly recommend you read it from the beginning! It follows an author turned accidental hitwoman and that is as ridiculous and wonderful as it sounds. Funny, suspenseful, and with a touch of romance, it’s a wonderful and quick summer read.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub: I love the idea of time travel and how it would affect my life if I did it myself, so anytime that concept is the backbone of a book, I’m probably going to enjoy it. This book follows a woman who goes to sleep on her fortieth birthday with her dad dying in the hospital and wakes up on her sixteenth birthday with her father as vibrant as ever. It explores family dynamics, idealism, and hope in a beautiful way.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware: I’ve read all the books by this author because she always scratches that mystery genre itch that lives in my brain most of the time. This one takes place in two times of the main character, Hannah’s, life. One back when she met her friends in college at Oxford where unfortunately she discovers her roommate April’s body after she was murdered and one in present day where the man she helped put away for the murder has died in prison and has left questions of his innocence behind. She decides she has to be sure she helped put the right man away, and there are tons of twists and turns as she uncovers more of the story. Highly recommend this book and any other written by her if you just need a good classic mystery novel!

As always, I’m always looking for new books so send them my way and let me know what your favorites so far this year have been! I hope you have a great day!

Rachel (:

Fixation Mixtape #2

Summer is a time when everyone is releasing music and I am so here for it! So many of my favorite artists have put out albums or have them on the way. As work and grad school stuff starts compounding my anxiety is bound to increase so I’m happy it’s lining up with the boom of new songs. I’ll be updating this playlist every month or so and sharing why I love these songs/artists and I’d love to hear what music you are connecting with as well!

Songs I’m Loving at the Moment

Here are ten songs that I have fixated on lately. Definitely check out these songs and check out the other songs from these artists as well!

#1 Miracle/Little Bird by the Jonas Brothers: This is one of the new albums I was referring to in the intro and boy did they deliver summer bop after summer bop on The Album! I cannot just pick one song so I picked the two that have me the most in a chokehold but for different reasons. Miracle is an incredible, upbeat, opening track that sets the tone for the album and really shows what this new sound they created with Jon Bellion is going to be. On the other hand, Little Bird makes me emotional every time I listen to it and is more emotionally, and lyrically in-depth than the rest of their album. This will be everyone’s father-daughter dance at their wedding (including mine!) and there will not be a dry eye in the house.

#2 Curtains/End of Youth by Ed Sheeran: Ed’s newest album Subtract (-) is the second album I have been fixating on! My brother and I watched the visual album together and I highly suggest you do the same to get the full experience. There are simply too many songs I love, especially as someone who has experienced grief, but these two are my favorites at the moment. Both look at the concept of how grief changes you in different ways. One reflects on how it matures you immediately and the other about how it is something you have to work to move past inch by inch, even if that means just letting a little light back in the room. This is probably his most emotional album and I know it has been divisive, but I personally think it’s incredible. I think watching his documentary on Disney Plus helps you understand this album better as well, but be warned that you will need tissues as my roommate and I were a weeping mess on the couch when we started it last weekend.

#3 God Plays a Gibson/Mustang or Me by Megan Moroney: Okay, last time I cheat and pick two songs for one artist, but Megan’s new album Lucky also just has too many incredible songs to choose from. I had been anticipating Jonas Brothers and Ed Sheeran, but this album came out of nowhere. I had actually heard of Megan because I saw a video of her performing her song called Hair Salon (also amazing) at a songwriter’s night in Nashville, but I didn’t know she had released this project until my friend texted the group chat saying we all had to listen to it immediately. She is everything I love about country music. Catchy songs, storytelling, and lyrics filled with play on words. A perfect album to drive to or listen to on a rainy day. Both of these songs are some of my favorite lyrically and conceptually, but I really don’t think this album has a skip. One of my new favorite artists for sure!

#4 What Am I Missing by The Band CAMINO: I have seen them live four times and they are definitely one of my top two favorite current bands and this song is just quintessentially them. Upbeat and catchy! Looking forward to hearing their whole album and going to see them live once again.

#5 Changes by Joy Oladokun: I’ve really gotten into this local Nashvillian’s music this past year and her sound is so unique to her. She’s an incredible lyricist and this song really coincided with some life changes in my life and in the world and has been one from the album I listen to most. Go listen to all her music!

#6 Bad Blood by Trousdale: If you love groups with harmonies that will give you chills, this is the group for you! I love the sound these three women create and this song is just so catchy! I could have it on repeat and genuinely never get tired of it.

#7 Dancing in the Courthouse by Dominic Fike: His tone is so unique that a song by him could play in the background anywhere and I would instantly know who it was. He hadn’t released music in a minute and this was a great song to come back with!

#8 Someone You Once Had by ROSIE: This is from an artist that I found and fell in love with a couple of years ago and she is so consistent in terms of lyricism. She also loves writing sad bops which we know is one of my favorite things and this song doesn’t disappoint!

#9 The Feels by Labrinth (feat. Zendaya): I always love Labrinth’s production and this song has that atmospheric, ethereal, echoey sound I love from him while being really interesting lyrically as well. Plus any song that gets Zendaya back in the studio is a win!

#10: Favorite Kind of High by Kelly Clarkson: This one is brand new from this past Friday but oh man it is so good! Her first two singles were also incredible and I will be unwell when her whole album comes out, but this song is so catchy and so impressive vocally! If you were worried her album about the divorce was going to be more melancholy, this song disproves it. And please watch her sing this live here because she is just ridiculously talented!

Honorable mentions:

Play Dumb by Sam MacPherson

Thanks Anyway by girlfriends

When Does It Get Good by Chloe George

Street Noise by BLU EYES

Meltdown by Niall Horan

I’ve put all the songs mentioned in this post in my Pasted on Smiles playlist on Spotify so be sure to check it out! Let me know what you’ve been listening to. I’m always looking for new songs to fixate on for a while!

Rachel (:

Mental Health Lessons I’ve Learned

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and my main goal of this blog has always been to play a part in fighting stigma through my own transparency and vulnerability. Whether it’s through actively talking about the struggles I’m facing, or providing ideas of things that help me cope with my mental health struggles like books or music, it is all a part of a larger goal to make even just one person feel less alone in their struggles. Since this month is all about raising awareness and breaking stigma, I wanted to share five lessons I’ve learned along my mental health journey!

Struggling with your mental health does not make you inferior in any way.

This is the most important to remember. No matter what the mental health issue you are dealing with is, it doesn’t make you weak. I’d argue it shows your strength. Waking up and choosing to put one foot in front of the other when battling your own brain is so impressive. Choosing to get out of bed today when you couldn’t get up yesterday shows your resiliency. Every little thing you accomplish takes strength and it is important to remember that none of what you are battling mentally makes you inferior.

Therapy can help so much, but only if you’re honest.

I am a big advocate of therapy for literally anybody. Whether you are actively struggling with a diagnosable or diagnosed mental disorder, or not, I think it can be beneficial. Learning different techniques and tools to help combat my anxiety has been a game changer. I want to make it clear that therapy isn’t a cure. I still have anxiety, OCD, and have struggled with depression, but having someone to talk to who will not judge me and will give me some ideas on how best to cope, has helped me come a long way. The most important thing to keep in mind though is that in order for it to be even remotely helpful, you have to be honest. Even when you want to hold something you are feeling or thinking back in fear of judgment, it is important to share so that you can better understand how your brain processes things.

Taking mental health days is important.

I truly believe all companies should provide sick days and mental health days separately to their employees. I also believe that there should be excused absences in schools for mental health days. Taking care of your emotional and mental states is just as important as your physical health. Listening to your body and actually taking a day to mentally recharge and reset can make a huge difference in terms of stress level and productivity. Taking breaks isn’t lazy, it’s important.

Talking openly about your mental health struggles is powerful.

I think the tendency in most of us is to hide our struggles from people around us for various reasons. Maybe you don’t want family or friends to worry. Maybe you want to protect your image. Maybe you are just embarrassed that you are struggling when it seems like everyone else is fine. Well, one thing I have learned is that when you voice your problems out loud, often others will do the same. No one’s life is perfect. Whether they have a diagnosed disorder or are just dealing with stressors in their life, everyone is working through something. Once you believe that, talking about your mental health is so much easier. My friends often hear things about what Susan, my therapist, tells me. They know when I am having a particularly bad anxiety day. Talking about those things is freeing because it allows you to let go of some of that weight that accumulates from keeping it all in. And you never know when your own openness is going to make someone else realize that their struggles are valid and okay as well. Just talking about it helps fight stigma and makes an impact.

Boundaries are healthy.

Setting boundaries and sticking to them is a great way to positively impact your mental health. Whether that involves boundaries with other people, or just boundaries for yourself, they help keep you on a healthy path. For example, my friends know that whenever they go out drinking, I am not coming, unless it is for some special occasion. There was a time in my life when I felt like saying no to things made me a bad friend, but whenever I would push through to have the experience, I was miserable. The crowds made my anxiety worse. The drinking itself didn’t make me feel good physically. And I would end up regretting going. Now they know and I know that a boundary like that doesn’t mean I don’t love them or want to spend time with them. It just means I am protecting my own mental health and that’s okay. Learning what your boundaries are is part of growing up and listening to yourself and what you need to be your happiest and healthiest is important.

These are just some of the things I have learned along my own mental health journey, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the years to come. I hope they make you think about your relationship with your own mental health. I’d love to know what things you have learned in the comments below! Conversation and vulnerability are how we fight stigma and I look forward to continuing to do that with you here. Have a great day!

Rachel (:

Life Update

I relaunched this blog at the end of March and talked about how I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life, but I wanted to do a little update now that I have a true direction!

I am going to graduate school! For those of you who didn’t see my Barbie-movie-themed announcement on social media, I officially got into Pace University starting later this summer. I will be getting my Master’s in Communications and Digital Media. The one thing I have always been passionate about is storytelling. Both consuming it through books, movies, TV shows, or music, and creating stories myself. I love seeing someone’s imagination come to life on screen or in the pages of a novel and I want to be a part of that moving forward in my life. This online Master’s program will help me do that. I start on July 13th and will be taking Creative Writing for Media Professionals and Communication Research and I am so excited to dive in! Getting back into the swing of schoolwork will be a challenge but because these are subjects I am very interested in, I genuinely can’t wait to get started. I’ll keep you updated on my graduate school journey throughout my time there, but for now, everyone wish me luck as I jump into a sea of papers and projects!

I am going to be an online literacy tutor! When I was starting to think about the kinds of jobs I wanted to do while in grad school, I was looking for flexible part-time work and BookNook fell into that category. I was actually a literacy tutor at the YMCA in college for a couple of years, so it is something I already knew I loved doing. Watching kids make progress in their reading skills and helping foster a love of reading at a young age are two of the most fulfilling things I have been a part of and I look forward to doing it again. It is online and I set my own hours, so it is a perfect side hustle to have. It also keeps me working in the book world from a different angle. Looking forward to starting this month!

I am going to be working at a local store part-time! While literacy tutoring is a fun way to earn extra money, my other source of income while I am in school will be working at Abode Mercantile, an incredibly welcoming home decor, gourmet food, and gift shop right down the road from my house in East Nashville. It is a part of a street of stores called The Shoppes on Fatherland which are some of my favorite places to support local artists and businesses. Some things I love about the store I will be working at: the support they show local artisans by selling their products, the ability to meet all sorts of interesting people who come into the shop, the fact that they are dog friendly, and the ability they have to make you feel welcome the moment you walk in. I start training this week and I can’t wait to get started. Having this steady source of income along with tutoring gives me the flexibility I need to complete my schoolwork and also still have a life outside of all of those things. I didn’t want to look for another more corporate, stressful 9-5, 5-day-a-week job that left me nights to do schoolwork and then absolutely nothing else. Being able to do school and tutoring on days when I’m not at the shop, will leave some nights still free to hang out with my friends and maintain some work/school/life balance that I’ve realized is so important.

I saw Taylor Swift! This is not really the same kind of life update about my new path, but it is something that just happened that I will never forget so I must share haha! My brother who came down from Maryland, one of my best friends who came over from Utah, my roommate, and I all went to The Eras Tour for Nashville Night 1, and boy was it everything I ever dreamed of. How Taylor Swift has the stamina to do a 3 and a half hour show with almost no breaks I will never understand, but I’m so grateful for it. We got to scream the lyrics to all our favorite songs and witness the surprise announcement of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version). And if that wasn’t enough we also got surprise songs from the two eras I wanted them from: Sparks Fly and Teardrops on my Guitar. Truly a perfect evening! If you want to see us all experience the day check out this TikTok I made!

Life this year has been full of ups and downs, but I’m excited about the path that has started to form for me. Anxiety surrounding change still hangs around every day, but an underlying feeling of contentment and gratitude is there as well. I appreciate you going on this journey with me. If you would have asked me at the end of last year, where I’d be now, I wouldn’t have said any of the things I just listed, but that’s what makes life so interesting. Looking forward to seeing how the rollercoaster twists next.

What have you been up to? Anything in your life you are excited or nervous about? How do you handle change? I love hearing other people’s stories so let me know!

Rachel (:

Reading Roundup #7

Another month of reading is complete and my current count is 49 books! On pace to surpass my goal of 100 but we’ll see if I slow down once I start graduate school later this summer. Bought two new books yesterday at a couple of local bookstores for Independent Bookstore Day. Be sure to support your local bookstores! And if you are ever in Nashville, check out Novelette and The Bookshop. Now on to April’s top three. Fewer books to choose from since it was only one month but still a little difficult.

If you want to see all the books I’m reading and rating check out these profiles and add me!



I definitely recommend checking these books out and as always, let me know what books you’ve been enjoying!

#3 Slade House by David Mitchell

I picked up this book because the cover intrigued me: A hardcover, square book where only the yellow frame of the front cover lifts up to reveal even more of a maze on the inside page. I had never heard of this book or this author and going in blind made unraveling the mystery even more exciting. This book spans five decades from 1970 to the present and slowly reveals the secrets of the Slade House which only seems to appear down the street from a British pub every nine years. People investigate, people disappear, and people lose their minds a little as they try to piece together a supernatural-tinged puzzle. A bit of a genre-bender between fantasy, mystery, and horror and definitely unlike other books I have read. I liked that it felt like a short story collection with a common throughline because you read about a new character entering the hunt for the truth of Slade House every nine years. Inventive and definitely keeps you turning the page, I recommend it for anyone looking for something weird and brand new. I think this would make a cool miniseries one day if they did it right, but book adaptations always stress me out so maybe we should leave it on the pages.

#2 Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

This book is actually number five of a series but I haven’t read any of the others yet and didn’t feel lost in the slightest so don’t let that stop you from picking it up! It follows an eccentric family of private investigators as they track down leads, follow people from a safe distance, and for one client, check if they left their sink running in their apartment. The mystery of how several of their client’s cases end up working together is interesting, but the real fun is the family dynamic. It’s told from the perspective of the oldest daughter Isabel who has a habit of hiding from conflict and breaking into houses. She is observing the quirky behavior of her family as the stress of the business and life in general starts to take its toll. Her mother is taking up every new hobby known to man to avoid her mother-in-law who has moved in temporarily. Her dad and sister won’t stop speaking in codenames and secret passwords in order to add mystique to the family business. And her brother is at his wits end trying to keep his life afloat and get his baby to stop calling everything a banana. If that sounds nuts, it’s because it is, but in the most fun way. It’s conversational right down to the footnotes Isabel leaves for the reader and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a light-hearted mystery and some great laughs.

#1 The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

The recommendations came from all sides with this book. My mom, my therapist, and one of my old coworkers talked about this book and it has been on my list but I finally found it at my used bookstore of choice and got to read it! It’s a historical fiction book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. Esme, the daughter of one of the lexicographers, is fascinated with words from the time she can read the slips of paper being sorted to build the dictionary pages. As she grows, she collects words that she finds interesting and starts to realize that words used to describe the common folk and women’s experiences are going unrecorded. To fill this gap, she starts to build her own Dictionary of Lost Words to prove that these words do have value. It’s an empowering book for women and a wonderful read for lovers of words. There is also a bit of family drama, social commentary, and romance sprinkled in to make it an even more satisfying read. Set in the early twentieth century during the women’s suffrage movement, it brings up important conversations and fills in the gaps of history that didn’t make the narrative of history written by men. This is the kind of historical fiction I like. Character-driven and poking at the previously unseen or left out moments of history.

Honorable Mentions:

The Giver Series (The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, Son) by Lois Lowry: I reread this series for our nostalgia-themed book club this month and they still hold up incredibly well. Honestly, the messaging of the novels hit even harder as an adult. Definitely recommend going back to this dystopian world that is painted so vividly.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova: Read this book that became a movie and definitely cried in the back half of the book. It follows a woman’s journey through Alzheimer’s and is written with such care. Really helps you see the disease through the eyes of the one going through it, when I feel often we read books from a caregiver’s perspective. Heartbreaking but beautiful, I would definitely check it out.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid: This was another reread this month after watching Daisy Jones and The Six and it is still just a fantastic book. Character-driven like her other incredible books and taking place over the course of one night at a party thrown by rockstar Mick Riva’s abandoned children, it gets into the heart of family dynamics. The connection to her other books is wonderful here as well for those who read all of her books like me. I think it might be my favorite of hers.

As always, I’m always looking for new books so send them my way and let me know what your favorites so far this year have been! I hope you have a great day!

Rachel (:

OCD: How It Manifests In Me

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is often misunderstood by those who don’t have it. This is due to media misrepresentation, term misuse in daily life for someone’s slight eccentricities, and the hiding of the diagnosis from people because of the stigma surrounding mental health. But as someone who has OCD and is vocal about mental health, I thought I’d give some insight.

First, what is OCD? The International OCD Foundation defines it as “a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease distress.” It is important to note that while many people have traits or habits that are related to this disorder, it doesn’t mean we all have OCD. “In order for a diagnosis of OCD to be made, this cycle of obsessions and compulsions must be so extreme that it consumes a lot of time (more than an hour every day), causes intense distress, or gets in the way of important activities that the person values.”

Examples of Obsessions: Fear of contamination, doubts/being unable to handle uncertainty, needing things orderly or symmetrical, and violent or unwanted thoughts

Examples of Compulsions: Washing and cleaning, checking, counting, following a strict routine, or demanding reassurance.

This is not a fully comprehensive list but it gives you a better understanding of what obsessions or compulsions might be present in those diagnosed. I encourage you to click on the link for the International OCD Foundation to get a more thorough list of things that may be experienced. I’ll have other links as well below for more information.

So how does this manifest in me? My OCD has to do with cleanliness, routine, and struggles with accepting uncertainty. The first trait that I noticed involved cleanliness, specifically having to do with sheets on the bed. I cannot sleep if I know that anything “unclean” has touched my sheets. This means only my freshly showered body and clean pajamas are allowed in my bed. No one else is allowed to touch my sheets unless they are completely clean. An example of the lengths I will go to in order to make sure they are clean happened in college. During the first year I was living with my current roommates back in the dorm, we were getting to know each other and therefore my roommate did not know that I had this obsession about clean sheets. She had gotten back from the gym that morning and came into my room to tell me something. I noticed that she was resting her elbow on the corner of my sheets. Literally a minuscule part of her body on a minuscule part of my sheets, but I could no longer pay attention to what she was telling me. I got through the rest of the conversation and didn’t bring it up, because I didn’t want to be seen as “weird,” but as soon as she left the room I stripped my sheets off the bed and took them directly to the washing machine so they would be clean again when I went to bed that night. The part where this becomes diagnosed OCD is the way it greatly affects my life. I literally cannot sleep if I think the sheets are dirty or I am not showered before I get in the bed. I will stare at the ceiling and my thoughts will only circle around the uncleanliness. I used to not be able to sleep in hotels because even if I was clean when I got in the bed, I did not trust the cleanliness of the sheets since I was not the one to wash them. My parents kindly gifted me what I refer to as my “hotel sheet” that I take with me on any travel now that is basically a sleep sack in bed sheet material that I can put on top of the real sheets and slip into so I know it is clean. If I forget my hotel sheet, I am back to not being able to sleep.

The second trait that my OCD manifests itself as is strict adherence to a routine, specifically at night. I have specific steps I have to take before I go to bed, otherwise I obsess over the step that I miss and have trouble getting to sleep. I mentioned that I have to take a shower before bed, and there is a specific order of products used in the shower I have to do or I feel more anxious. Then I have a multiple-step process of self-care type things and actions I have to do before I go to sleep. I won’t bore you with the whole process but it easily takes an hour or more to get through it all. Another example of an OCD trait is within the routine. There is a specific game I have to play on my phone before I go to sleep and there is a score I have to achieve in order for the routine to be complete. The score is 500. I once got 499, and tried to reason with myself that it was close enough so I put my phone down and tried to fall asleep. That did not work and I spent thirty minutes willing myself not to pick the phone back up until I gave in and got a 502 and then went to sleep no problem. Obviously that is not normal “perfectionist” type behavior that people mislabel as “a little OCD” in daily conversation. The fact that I have to do this routine usually doesn’t bother me too much because I factor it into when I start getting ready to go to bed. When it really makes me mad is if we have a concert, event, or I get back to my house later than usual for some reason. Then I watch all my friends fall into their bed and go to sleep, while I have to shower and do my routine before I can doze off peacefully.

The other trait I mentioned, obsessions over accepting uncertainty, is also present in my life but is harder to explain in concrete examples. Basically I feel the need to try to make plans for all of the uncertainty in my life or create ways to alleviate the anxiety that accompanies uncertainty. My therapist and I were talking about when I first noticed things that may have been an indicator of an OCD diagnosis and I remembered around elementary school age, adding numbers either in my head or on paper, when I was feeling anxious in new situations or around new people. I would just start saying or writing the mantra “2+2 is 4, 4+4 is 8, 8+8 is 16, etc,” until I felt less anxious. It was my way of taking control over a small something in the midst of an environment I was not in control of. I do variations on that idea to this day in order to feel more in control. I often get trapped in a cycle of thoughts about uncertainty until I start making some sort of plan to work it out. This doesn’t mean I actually do the plan, as most of the time I just simply can’t be in control of the situation, but it allows my mind to calm down to just create steps. Again, this trait is harder to explain, but it is something that has been present in some way for many years.

Not everyone who has OCD experiences it in the same way. Not everyone you know who has diagnosed OCD will have the symptoms I described in myself. Many people’s lives are affected even more by this disorder than I am. It is one of those broad psychological topics that encompasses a lot of different things and a lot of different people. My hope is that by sharing my own experiences with things like my anxiety and OCD, others will feel less alone and less afraid to talk about their own struggles. Yes, I have these symptoms, but no it does not make me weird. My brain just processes things differently, and that’s okay. I am in continuing conversations with my therapist about how to manage it and that is what matters.

Below you can find some links to better understand OCD:

  1. International OCD Foundation:
  2. American Psychiatric Foundation:
  3. My OCD Voice blog:

Thanks for reading! I appreciate you letting me be open about my mental health journey. Have a great week!

Rachel (:

Fixation Mixtape #1

One thing I do that helps calm down my anxiety is going for drives and listening to music. Or coloring and listening to music. Or just listening to music in general haha! I am constantly finding new songs that I love and then fixating on them for a little while so I wanted to share some songs that I have been listening to so far this year! I’ll be updating this playlist every month or so and sharing why I love these songs/artists and I’d love to hear what music you are connecting with as well!

Songs I’m Loving at the Moment

Here are ten songs that I have fixated on lately. Definitely check out these songs and check out the other songs from these artists as well!

#1Blindsed by Kelsea Ballerini: I’ve been listening to Kelsea’s music for a long time but her newest EP Rolling Up the Welcome Mat is her best work to date. Incredibly honest, beautiful songwriting, and the hook on this song in particular, “Were you blindsided or were you just blind?” will stay in your head. A side note: this also reawakened my listening of her previous work that I obsessed over a lot in college and her song Graveyard has also been a fixture recently.

#2 Flowers by Joan: This is one of the songs off their newest album and I am just a big fan of this band’s vibes. Seeing them in concert this year and I can’t wait!

#3 20 Missed Calls by Braden Bales: He recently blew up on TikTok after Elyse Myers duetted his newest song Chronically Cautious (another great song!) but it led me to his other singles as well and this one has stayed in my brain. Super catchy. A bop with sad lyrics is one of my favorite things.

#4 Shoulder to Cry On by Alana Springsteen: She showed up on my new music playlist and I instantly fell in love with this song. I love a song with clever wordplay and country music often does it the best. I have also become fixated on her song Tennessee Is Mine in the past couple of weeks and the melody and the idea behind the song are just sooo good.

#5 Full Machine by Gracie Abrams: Gracie is my sad girl music of choice (lol) and her newest album produced by Aaron Dessner did not disappoint. This song in particular is some of the strongest songwriting on the album and one of the ones I have played the most since the album was released.

#6 Lonesome by Sabrina Carpenter: She released four bonus tracks adding on to her previous album “emails i can’t send” and the opening line of this song is one of the best lines I have heard in a song. I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped, it was so good. Also, the vibe of this song is watching tumbleweeds in a Western movie and it is so well done. All four of the songs she released in this drop sound different but she succeeds in selling it every time. She is definitely underrated as a songwriter and vocalist. Please check out all her music!

#7 All The Girls You’ve Loved Before by Taylor Swift: If there is one thing Taylor is going to do, it’s surprise drop songs and this previously unreleased track from the Lover era did not disappoint!

#8 Radiohead by Nightly: A native Nashville band who I have been loving for years dropped their newest song and it’s quintessential Nightly in terms of sound. Forever one of my favorite bands. Please go check out all their stuff!

#9 Waffle House by the Jonas Brothers: This song is just incredibly catchy and any song’s hook involving a restaurant chain wins in my book. They are releasing their new album this summer and I just have a feeling it is going to be the best one they have put out. Forever and always a Jonas Brothers fan.

#10: Lost the Breakup by Maisie Peters: I love her. She is great at making bops with scathing lyrics and this is no exception. It has gotten stuck in my head on multiple occasions since its release and I’m not mad about it.

Bonus: Daisy Jones and The Six from the incredible Taylor Jenkins Reid book is now an actual band with an actual album which is insane and the music is actually really good! Be sure to listen to the full Aurora album but Let Me Down Easy is the one I’m listening to most at the moment.

Honorable mentions:

Hyperfixations by Catie Turner

The Neighborhood by Grace Enger

Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? by Mokita

Five Three by Max Drazen

Think You’re Jolene by Emily Brooke

I’ve put all the songs mentioned in this post in my Pasted on Smiles playlist on Spotify so be sure to check it out! Let me know what you’ve been listening to. I’m always looking for new songs to fixate on for a while!

Rachel (:

Twenties and Trying #1

As a 25-year-old woman who has absolutely no clue how her life will turn out, but is trying her best to weave her way through her twenties, I wanted to share my journey. But I also wanted to share some stories of other people trying through their twenties, so I decided to interview my peers. I wanted this to be a safe space where we can talk about our failures, our triumphs, and our anxieties as we learn to be full-fledged adults in an ever-changing society. I hope these honest conversations will help you feel a little less alone. We’re all doing our best.

To kick it off, I wanted to share my answers. Vulnerability invites vulnerability, so it’s only fair.

A conversation with Me, Age 25

Profession and Place of Residence

Freelancer and Upcoming Graduate Student living in Nashville, TN

Are you where you pictured yourself at age 25?

Not even close lol! I think when I was younger I figured I’d be married or in a serious relationship at this point and would have a better idea of what I’m doing with my life. I also don’t think I would have pictured myself living in a city.

What has been the biggest triumph of your twenties so far?

Getting a job straight out of college in the field I went to school for. Especially graduating during a pandemic, options were limited so I was so glad that my work ethic shined through during my internship and they were willing to hire me full-time. Being able to be financially independent living in the city I wanted to be in was a great feeling and something I am definitely proud of.

What has been something that didn’t quite work out in your twenties so far?

Getting laid off at the beginning of the year. It was completely unexpected and threw me for a loop. I think I wasn’t really dealing with all my emotions surrounding being let go and it caused me to kind of lose who I was and wanted to be for a little over a month. I’m now turning that disappointment into an opportunity but it definitely took some time to get to a better headspace.

Are you in the industry/job you pictured yourself in? Where do you ultimately see yourself in your career?

I was in the industry I pictured myself in before getting laid off but as I mentioned in my first post back my idea of where I’m going is a little unknown. I just found out I was accepted to grad school at Pace University and will be diving into learning more about film/TV production and writing. Making an industry switch is honestly a little terrifying but I think it would be a fulfilling change. My dream job would be to write or produce book adaptations so that I could combine my love of all the storytelling mediums and hopefully help make book adaptions that fans of the novels can love instead of cringe at, which I feel happens most of the time haha! For now, I’m hoping to freelance in digital marketing for the book industry or do remote literacy tutoring to make money while I go to school.

Relationship Status? Biggest dating dos and don’ts for you in this phase of your life?

Status: Very single

DO: Only date if you are ready to date. It wastes your time and their time if you aren’t in a place mentally or emotionally to put effort into it. I haven’t actively dated for about a year because I wanted to work on my own self-esteem/mindset before actively trying again. I am feeling like I’m ready now so who knows maybe I’ll start swiping haha! Ideally, I’ll just bump into the love of my life at a bookstore or something though.

DON’T: Ignore red flags. I feel like a lot of times we watch our friends in relationships and want to experience that as well, so we brush past the couple of red flags we see in order to have someone. The issue with that is those red flags will always cause more issues down the road. So don’t waste your time. Also, don’t be afraid to have standards, even ones that seem ridiculous to others. It’s your life, so you get to decide what you are looking for. An example of mine: If I see Kanye West in your top artists on your profile or your entire personality is hiking, I will swipe left lol.

What is an adulting anxiety you’ve had in your twenties?

Making appointments. I HATE phone calls and I have social anxiety so the act of making appointments for all the adult things like the dentist, doctor, hair appointments, insurance, etc, is the worst. It’s a small thing and I do accomplish the task but man do I wish I didn’t have to do that. Also, the constant fear that I’ve forgotten to pay for something. I haven’t ever actually missed a payment on anything important, but I’m always anxious about it anyway haha!

If you could invite five fictional characters to a dinner party who would they be and why?

  1. Pippi Longstocking from Pippi Longstocking: She would 100% liven things up
  2. Ove from A Man Called Ove: I’d love to see the dynamic between a grouchy old man with a heart of gold and an off the wall, independent, pig-tailed little girl
  3. Celia from The Night Circus: She could bring a little magic to the party and I think she would enjoy a night away from the circus she is tied to
  4. Daisy Jones from Daisy Jones and The Six: She could provide musical entertainment and bring countless stories (although we may have to cover Pippi’s ears for some of them lol)
  5. Veronica from How the Penguins Saved Veronica: An older woman who makes me laugh and who I might be able to play matchmaker with between her and Ove

If aliens came down to earth and you could only use three objects you possessed to describe your life to them, what would you show them?

  1. A book (Maybe Phantom Tollbooth which kind of explores the English language and how wacky it can be, plus it is one of my all-time favorites)
  2. A coffee mug (one with a little personality or a pun so it gives them a sense of who I am, but also just denotes my love of a comforting cup of coffee)
  3. My car key (And I would relay to them my love of driving and listening to music, the love of having the freedom to visit family, all of the memories that are forever kept inside the confines of Bailey-my car’s name haha! If you don’t name your car, what are you even doing?)

What obscure TV show or movie instantly brings you back to your childhood?

Ok, the two that come to mind immediately in terms of “obscure” would be The Big Comfy Couch and Strawberry Shortcake. I was obsessed with those shows when I was little haha! The clock exercise on Big Comfy Couch was everything. I was so obsessed with Strawberry Shortcake that my first usernames for things was “strawberryrachh.” They’ve changed the look of Strawberry Shortcake over the years but I will always see her in the animation style of my time. Her hat is simply iconic.

If you could see five years into the future would you do it or would you rather not know what’s coming?

I think I want to be surprised. Hopefully the next five years are filled with good things, and I want to be able to experience that growth and those moments for the first time as they happen. But man would I be tempted!

I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little bit better and I look forward to you getting to know all of our upcoming interviewees! I’d love to talk with you about your answers so let us know what your life looks like in the comments below.

Rachel (:

Reading Roundup #6

It’s been quite a while since I did my last reading roundup and I have read a copious amount of books since then. Last year alone I read 134 books which is the most I’ve ever read in a year. And it was not for the bragging rights. It was because last year was a year of working on myself. That meant reinvigorating the creative side of me, working on myself physically, and working on my anxiety and self-esteem. I dove headfirst into the pages of books that inspired ideas, made me cry, made me laugh, and allowed me to explore the things that make us all human. Some of those things are not always pretty, but being forced to look at them always helps you grow. I got an idea for a novel. I found representation on those pages for my mental health struggles and a hope within that.  Books have been in my life through every up and down and are continuing to be a part of my journey as I grow even more this year. I decided to give you my top three books I’ve read so far this year. I’m currently at 36 books for the year so it was hard to pick but I will start doing these monthly again after this which will make picking easier I imagine. If you want to follow my reading journey this year and share yours with me feel free to follow me on Goodreads and Storygraph if you use either!



I definitely recommend checking these books out and as always, let me know what books you’ve been enjoying!

#3 Now Is Not The Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson

I’ve read all the books that Kevin Wilson has written so I was so excited to see his new one in our local independent bookstore when I went in last month! He actually is from Franklin, TN which is right outside of Nashville where I live so it’s always nice to support local authors as well. He has an extremely unique writing style and I bet I could tell you if he wrote the book without ever seeing the cover, which is a rare quality to find in the sea of books released each year. His concepts are always super unique and I usually read them in a day or two. This one was no different! It follows two teens, Frankie and Zeke, in a small TN town who meet one summer and decide they want to create art together. After they create a poster and start posting it around the town, panic ensues as no one knows where they came from or what they mean. As the public creates more and more theories, the consequences of their creative spirit snowballs into potential danger. Years later, they have never confirmed it was them who made the poster, but someone calls Frankie saying she knows her secret and wants her to tell their story. It’s funny and weird and makes you think about the power of a creative mind. I highly recommend it as well as any of his other books!

#2 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

This book came recommended to me by my roommate Jess and she didn’t let me down! This was a beautiful book about the ends and outs of friendship, ambition, and ultimately how your priorities affect your relationships. It is all set in the video game design arena and gives subtle Ready Player One vibes, but the relationship between Sam and Sadie is the driving force. I actually realized partway through reading the book that I had already read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by this author and didn’t connect the dots right away. Another incredible story to check out! Both of her novels lean on the bittersweet so that’s important to remember going into them. However, those are some of my favorite stories because it seems more true to life. The characters in her novels feel like real people with relatable problems and while escapism in books is great, it’s sometimes nice to feel like the people could be living right down the street. Definitely check this author out!

#1 Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Okay, this is a classic novel that I missed along the way somehow and I’m so glad I was able to read it! I had seen the movie a long time ago but as we know, the book is usually better. In this case, both are wonderful! I actually got this book at a bookstore in Chatanooga when my friends and I were wandering through local stores during my friend’s wedding weekend and they happened to have a “Blind Date with a Book” section. Basically, the book is covered in brown paper with only a few sentences on the outside about what the book is about, but you don’t know what you bought for sure until you open it at home. I’ve always wanted to do one and was so happy it happened to be this incredible story full of humor, heart, and charm. I’ll leave you with the description I was given before opening it! “Read Me if you’re looking for: A book from the busy brain of a born storyteller. A thoroughly entertaining comic novel. A now classic tale of 2 women in the 1980s, as one tells her life story to the other.” Definitely piqued my interest and I hope it does the same for you. And as a bonus, watch the movie after you read it.! Who doesn’t love Kathy Bates?

Honorable Mentions to Check Out:

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I love all of her books and her newest was no exception. Fans of tennis will especially love it!

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary: Just a cute rom-com when you are in need of something light and fun!

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal: A really great story of sibling relationships and discovering unknown passions. Great especially for craft beer lovers like myself!

The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner: Felt like I was reading an episode of Criminal Minds and as someone who loves shows like that, it was great!

S. by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams: Crazy concept of a book where there is an entire second book happening in the margins between two people trying to figure out the true identity of the author of the actual book. Really fun and shout out to my brother for gifting it to me!

As always, I’m always looking for new books so send them my way and let me know what your favorites so far this year have been! I hope you have a great day!

Rachel (:

Losing My Job and Finding My Path

This year is not going how I envisioned and I realized that writing and sharing my journey may help me feel less alone and encourage others who have no idea where their life is heading that it’s okay. Five days into 2023 I was laid off from my job with literally no warning. I got an email the day before asking if I could meet with my two bosses the next morning and got a bad feeling, but there had been no indication previously that I was going to lose my job so I was trying to convince myself that my gut must be wrong. But turns out my gut knows what’s up, unfortunately. I went through all the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and have come out the other side almost three months later, still jobless but with the knowledge that the world is literally wide open to me at the moment. That thought is both exciting and terrifying but I figure laying it all out in words on this blog may also help me make some decisions.

Let’s take it all step by step in my job finding/path finding process:

Part 1- Depression and Desperation

For the first couple of weeks after being laid off, I was grieving the loss of the job that I loved and applying to literally any job that I saw completely out of fear that I would never work again. Turns out that is not the best reason to apply for things. Ideally, your job is at least somewhat enjoyable or interesting to you. I know that doesn’t always happen, but you should at least try to reach out to companies that you actually want to be a part of. But when you are blinded by the new reality of being unemployed, it is easy to lose sight of that. So I was stuck in a cycle of scrolling through job sites and clicking “apply” on anything that was even remotely associated with my skill set. The moment I started to reset and realize that might not be the best approach was when I got an interview for a company and realized mid-interview that none of me wanted to work there. So when they said they wanted a second interview, I said no. At that moment I realized that I needed to figure out what I wanted and actively give myself grace as I grieved the loss of my previous job.

Part 2- Therapy and Acceptance

The fun thing about losing my job was that it happened literally two days after my last session with my therapist, Susan. I only see her every two weeks so that means during that two-week depressive, anxiety-ridden spiral, my therapist had no idea what was going on and I really needed to talk to her. I could have emailed or texted her but my brain was not at full capacity so I didn’t think about that until after the fact (of course lol.) Susan has always been good at keeping a straight face and being calm whenever I tell her things, as therapists do, but I’ve never seen her as shocked as when I said I lost my job. But almost immediately after she said, “Well now the world is wide open and you’ll find the place you were meant to be.” Throughout our conversation, I realized that even though I felt without control, in some ways I was more in control than I have ever been because I get to decide what my next step is. Reframing the situation put things into a new perspective that calmed me down some and made me really look at what I wanted my life to look like.

Part 3- Applying When Inspired

This started my journey of only applying to jobs that excited me when I saw them come up. I want to make it clear that I acknowledge the privilege I have to have savings and get support from my parents right now which allows me the opportunity to have the time to make decisions like this. Part of this was scrolling through LinkedIn and Indeed and some of it was actually thinking of companies I might want to work for and going directly to their sites to see if they were hiring for any positions. I felt more in control because I was picking the things that actually inspired me. It also wasn’t all jobs in my previous field. I was branching out and really taking stock of what my skills were. I got some responses for interviews and there were two jobs during this time that I was really hoping for. I got to the second round on both and the job ultimately went elsewhere, which does set you back a little bit mentally. This is when it was helpful to talk to family and Susan and reframe my thoughts again knowing that all of these interviews are great experiences and it just means these jobs weren’t the right fit right now. The job I’m meant to have will come. But all of this applying, interviewing, waiting, and waiting some more gave me a chance to realize that there were other paths to think about taking as well.

Part 4- Realizing There are Other Routes

As I was talking to Susan about things that relieve my anxiety, I was realizing that it mostly revolved around storytelling: reading, watching movies, listening to great songs, and watching TV shows. Watching other people’s creativity inspires my own creativity and being unemployed is the perfect time to lean into that. So I figured I’d restart my blog. And work on my novel idea. Flex my creative muscles that I felt like I was too tired to work on after a full day of work. Get reinspired and get back to doing the things I am passionate about. And then one day I thought “What if I go back to school? Is there a way to further my career in the world of telling stories?” After some intense googling, I found two graduate programs for “digital storytelling” which basically means learning how to write and produce stories for movies, TV, or even just for marketing purposes. All things that interest me. Susan also brought up the fact that she thinks I could make a good therapist and asked if I had ever considered it. As a psychology minor, someone who has a blog about her own mental health journey, and someone who has benefitted greatly from therapy, I have had that thought. Then I was googling masters programs for counseling. Suddenly new paths that I never would have considered while moving along in my last job emerged and got me excited about what my future could look like.

Part 5- Choosing Where I Go Next

Now it just comes down to what I decide to do. But while I’m figuring it out, I am taking all the little steps along the way so that I can make the big decisions down the road. Still applying for jobs. Applying for freelance jobs. Submitting the FAFSA. Filling out grad school applications. Doing all those things in stages makes it seem less scary and overwhelming and allows me time to really consider what I want my life to look like in the coming years. I’m just having to take it day by day, be kind to myself, and be patient. All easier said than done, but I am excited to share my journey with you.

So what will the rest of my year look like? I don’t know. But I’m 25 and maybe that’s okay.

Anyone else feeling like they don’t know what’s next? Tell me about it in the comments and let’s commiserate together!

Rachel (: