What Will Happen When You Start Reading More Non-Fiction

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I’m a big believer that everyone should be reading more. Did you know, 1 in 4 Americans didn’t read a single book last year? For someone who has always considered myself a bookworm…this blows. MY. MIND.

Of the books out there, I think non-fiction gets an especially bad rap. They’re all like those school text books that put you straight to sleep, right?

WRONG!

In fact, besides the multitude of non-fiction books that are just as page-turner-friendly as their fictitious cousins, reading non-fiction can come with a lot of benefits…

You’ll Learn Valuable Lessons

When you read non-fiction, you can learn a ton of valuable life lessons. You could read about a specific time in history or read the biographies of interesting folk, giving you insight into both tragedies and triumphs. Reading non-fiction can help guide you when new opportunities come your way. They can offer you a powerful lens through which to view the world around you.

You’ll Improve Your Concentration

Reading requires a ton of focus. Increasing the amount of time you spend reading non-fiction each day can drastically help with concentration and productivity levels. I have found reading for 15 minutes before tackling a task that requires a lot of focus preps my brain to concentrate. Other times this may be of benefit to you? On a public transit commute, before you go to bed, or while you’re waiting for an appointment. 

You’ll Master New Communication Skills

Did you know that reading non-fiction can improve your communication skills as well? Your vocabulary will certainly expand, but you’ll also be able to begin mirroring how accomplished authors formulate their thoughts into words with the greatest efficacy. This can help you look more professional in the workplace and it can also help you gain confidence when expressing yourself.  You’ll find that many language learners practice English by reading aloud. Even as a native speaker you can take a page from their book (pun intended!) and brush up on your skills with a little at-home oration!

You’ll Gain General Knowledge

When you read non-fiction, you can easily boost your level of general knowledge as well as your intellectual level. (And if you’re still in school, actually doing the assigned reading will make sure you’re better prepared for those quizzes as well.) Regularly reading non-fiction will help you to better answer questions on the spot and give you fantastic talking points when you meet people who have similar interests to you.

If you’re convinced, here’s a reading list of some of my favorites to get you started —

A Few Non-Fiction Faves:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Kitty Genovese by Kevin Cook (I blogged about this one HERE.)

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (I blogged about this one HERE.)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky (I blogged about this one HERE.)

* * *

At the end of the day, non-fiction will expand your knowledge and increase your intellectual confidence. When you put the work in and set time aside for reading, you can easily reap these benefits. Reading non-fiction is such a wonderful way to learn more about new subjects and expand your interests! So go do it!!!

 

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My Dream Jewelry Capsule

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When it comes to curating a personal look, I tend to invest most of my efforts and money into the main body of my wardrobe. You know – coats, jeans, blouses, tops, and a whole array of different shoes. When it comes to accessories, I’m a sucker for bags and scarves.

However, something that can really add a little je ne sais quoi to your look? Jewelry. Jewelry can function as a signature item that will add a personal touch to whichever ensemble you might have chosen that day. Sometimes it really is the little touches that count.

It’s these little touches that I’d love to start focusing on. And YOU KNOW I love a good capsule. A capsule helps you focus on building a collection without going overboard. Below, I’ve highlighted my favorite types of jewelry and a few options for each.

Here’s what I’d include in my JEWELRY CAPSULE — 

Watches

Option 1 // Option 2 // Option 3

Statement Earrings

Option 1 // Option 2 // Option 3

Diamonds

Option 1 // Option 2 // Option 3

TIP: A key piece of advice to bare in mind when buying diamonds is to know what you’re talking about before heading into a shop. Take a read through VVS diamonds information at Whiteflash. A little knowledge can go a long way and will ensure that you are getting the right kind of stone for your money. 

Birth Stones

Option 1 // Option 2 // Option 3

Handcrafted Pieces

Option 1 // Option 2 // Option 3

Pearls

Option 1 // Option 2 // Option 3

TIP: If possible, opt for artificial pearls. You generally cannot tell the difference and it makes your jewelry cruelty free

What about you? What are your favorite types of jewelry? What dream piece would  you love to splurge on if you had the chance (and the extra cash)? 

mid-week round-up

What have you lovely lot been up to? Chet and I went to an aquarium (in Chattanooga) last weekend, which is our favorite way to celebrate his birthday. And tomorrow I’m flying to Kentucky to hang out with my mom for the weekend. Summer – SLOW DOWN! Hope you’re having a great Wednesday, and here are a few interesting internet offerings…

“How Pixar’s open sexism ruined my dream job.”

The forgotten story of The Radium Girls, whose deaths saved thousands of workers’ lives.

An advertising campaign that highlights the remarkable.

Dealing dead people’s things.

Looking into reading options for when I’m done binge watching E.R.

How science is saving ballet dancers.

A summer reading list curated by Ann Friedman and readers of her weekly newsletter.

The arrest of a Russian belly dancer exposed simmering tensions in Cairo’s belly-dancing scene.

Great sale if you love OXO products. (*raises hand*)

The rise and fall of the family-vacation road trip.

This documentary looks NUTS!

Sign up HERE to be a rapid response volunteer for immigrant parents and their children.

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Book Review: The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger and 18 Movies to Watch When You’re Hibernating (because sometimes summertime heat is cause for hibernating in the A.C.).

On the most beautiful work of all

Have you ever read the book Just Kid’s by Patti Smith? I read it years ago but it’s one of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve closed the back cover. In it, the renowned artist recounts her exceptional relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe as they navigate New York City, specifically the Chelsea Hotel, in the 60’s and 70’s.  It is one of the most beautiful depictions of friendship I have ever read.

While the couple parted romantically, they remained close friends and it is clear they understood each other and each other’s art more than anyone else could. Truly artistic soul mates.

Recently, I stumbled upon the letter Patti wrote to Robert days before his untimely passing – a letter he was never able to read. It made my breath catch just as it had the first time I read it.

Dear Robert,

Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain, or feeling alone? You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand. Grip it hard, Robert, and don’t let it go.

The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of your work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.

Patti

Isn’t that so heartbreaking and extraordinary? What a lovely reminder to us all – amidst the pressures we encounter every day to do good and beautiful work, to create, and to leave something behind that’s bigger than us – that we can be the most beautiful work of all. That people will remember a smile or a kind ear or our unfaltering friendship before anything else.

Just something I’m sitting with and thinking about and wanted to share. xoxo

Beautiful Work:

If you’ve never read Just Kids, I HIGHLY recommend picking it up.

Here’s a great interview Patti Smith did about Robert Mapplethorpe.

Looking for another great read? I recently finished Some Girls by Jillian Lauren and it’s a really fun and fascinating memoir. In it, Jillian Lauren often asks herself, “What would Patti Smith do?”

What do you think? What does Patti’s letter bring up for you? Let’s chat in the comments below. Love y’all! 

Chet’s Birthday Trip to the Tennessee Aquarium

Chet’s birthday was yesterday, so this past weekend, we took a day trip to Chattanooga to visit the Tennessee Aquarium. Here are a few pictures I snapped with my phone, if you’d like to see…

The aquarium is separated into two buildings — Ocean Journey and River Journey. The former houses the saltwater habitats and showcases playful penguins, touchable stingrays, beautiful butterflies and a spectacular coral reef with big sharks and schools of fish.

They also had a HUGE jellyfish exhibit featuring every type of jellyfish you could imagine plus a bunch of art inspired by the species! I loved how extraterrestrial these guys looked…

…and these glass blown pieces were STUNNING.

Digger and Louie the otters! You can read more about the Tennessee Aquarium enrichment practices HERE.

If you didn’t know, Chet adores visiting aquariums and creating/maintaining little sea-life ecosystems of his own is one of his most beloved hobbies. (We even visited the Newport Aquarium the day we got engaged!) Needless to say, he had a ball!

The River Journey building included exhibits featuring rivers nearby (like the Tennessee River) and around the world (like the Amazon). The Mississippi Delta exhibit, and Alligator Bayou specifically, felt very familiar.

Random highlights? Pig-nosed turtles…

…a Twitter powered by Electric Eels…

…and a tank dedicated to the very lake we drove across to get to Chattanooga!

Such a magical way to spend the afternoon. Just observing all the beautiful creatures…

…and making wonderful memories!

Thanks Tennessee Aquarium! We had a wonderful visit and hope to visit again soon.

The birthday boy gave this adventure a big TWO THUMBS UP!

Here are a few other adventures we would recommend:

Salato Wildlife Center
Florida Everglades
Festivals Acadiens

Everything You Need to Know to Find Your Blogging Niche

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Finding your blogging niche is one of the best and most powerful ways to grow your audience and start making a profit from your little corner of the internet. Admittedly, I’m interested in LOTS of things (you probably are too) and I’m still working on whittling down what I include on my blog. However, over the years I’ve come to realize that my posts about books, career, travel/packing, and life management systems (like capsule wardrobes and meal plans) perform the best…and not just that…I enjoy creating them, too. They’ve become my own lil “lifestyle” niche! Sure there are other things I’d love to write and share about. But they’re better left outside of Finding Delight. 

So, what are some of the steps I took to find this mystical niche? Read on for everything you need to know.

I Looked Closely At My Interests And Passions

To find your niche, you first need to look closely at your interests and passions. You’ll feel far more fulfilled when what you’re researching and writing and SHARING align with what you love. So, one thing I did when trying to find my blogging niche was write out a MASSIVE LIST of everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that I was interested in, passionate about, or enjoyed doing/researching. Then, I went in with a few highlighters to start identifying some themes. 

I Looked At My Skills and Talents (And My Weaknesses Too!)

Next, I evaluated my skills and talents to figure out how to best use them for creating blog content. Of course you should love your niche, but you need to be good at it too. For example, there are a lot of systems I’ve successfully put into practice in my own life to eliminate decision fatigue. I would say I’m skilled at creating them. So I started working them into my blog posts. Not just because I enjoy coming up with them but I’m good at it.

Finding your niche means knowing your weaknesses, too. I love the idea of posting elaborate recipes on my blog (I even did a fair amount of recipe posts back in the day) but I’m just not that great of a cook. I don’t have the patience for taking process photos as I create a dish because cooking itself is already taking up all my concentration. I don’t enjoy it because I’m not that great at it! (I do think there are some exceptions to this wherein you blog about something you want to learn about a la Julie and Julia or if you’re charting a fitness journey. But overall I’d say steer clear of finding a niche based on a weakness.)

I Figured Out What Problems I Could Solve For Other People

I started to think about what problems people were facing and how my blog posts might be able to solve them. Now I know this sounds high and mighty but think about it! When you type something into the search bar of Google, what are you looking for? Usually a solution, right? It might be how to DIY a really expensive piece you fell in love with at Anthropologie or home remedies for seasonal allergies or even the answer to some obscure celebrity-gossip query.

Solving problems for people is a key aspect of your niche. It’s also an almost guaranteed way to increase readership. (When people are searching on Google or Pinterest for an answer–they might just click on YOUR solution!) But I also wanted to take current readers into consideration when evaluating the type of problems I could solve. 

I’ve conducted two reader surveys on my blog over the years. Both of which asked readers to answer,

“What challenges or frustrations are you facing in your life right now?”

Many of their answers went on to become topics I tackled in future blog posts!

[Related: Librarians solve people’s problems every day! USC has an awesome library science degree if this is a path that speaks to you beyond the world of blogging –  learn more on their website.]

I Learned From My Competition

Your competition can be used to your advantage. When identifying my specific niche within lifestyle blogging, I began to look at other blogs less as something to emulate and more for what I could do differently than them. What could I do better? Not really in a competitive way…or in a wishing them ill-will sorta way. But my life experience and expertise and passion are uniquely mine. So my niche and my blog should be uniquely mine, too! I want ALL of our blogs to succeed because of who we are and what we love. Not because we’re trying to tick a bunch of boxes of what a blog “should” include. Make sense?

I Constantly Experiment

When you think you’ve figured out your niche, run tests and experiments. No one needs to know about these tests and experiments…they’re just for you! They will help you to figure out whether your ideas are something that should be pursued in the long term. Whether your readers will love it, if your traffic will grow, and most importantly, if you will enjoy it. If you find some posts in the new niche are meeting all of the above — take note! And then look into ways you can double down on that sort of content. 

But don’t be afraid to drop something that hasn’t worked and move on to the next experiment. You might decide you want to start reviewing brunch locations everywhere you travel to…and then find you’ve started resenting an activity you once enjoyed. Or what about a crochet tutorial that you spend hours photographing and uploading…only to find it got 5 views? 

Not everything will work, but you won’t know until you try! And you can always move on to the next great idea!

What steps did you take to find your blogging niche? Any content ideas you love in theory but just didn’t work in practice? SPILL! 

List 2: Things I’m Good At

A new series in which I share lists which I hope will help you to get to know me better. Why? Because I started this blog what feels like forever ago and there’s bound to be some new faces peering in once and awhile! So these posts are kinda like an introduction (or a reintroduction for those who’ve been with me since the jump!). A nice to meet ya, so glad you stopped by, now STAY AWHILE! Why lists? Because I love making ’em! (+ it’s the summer and I can give myself some grace when it comes to not posting overly-elaborate blog posts.)

Things I’m good at …

Keeping a list of everything I want to read (thousands of titles!)
and always having a good book at the ready.

Creating systems that help eliminate decision fatigue.

Listening.

Making marketing materials
and writing copy.

Writing emails.

Researching.

Keeping calm in emergency situations
and taking the lead when others won’t.

Sending snail mail.

Packing lunches.

Airport travel
and packing my Tom Bihn backpack.

Knowing the names of celebrities children.

Managing people kindly.

Pointing my toes.

Helping others find their voice and share it.

Binge watching really long TV series
and finding obscure YouTube channels to obsess over.

Tell me a few things that YOU are good at in the comments below! xoxo

mid-week round-up

What’s up you guys? Monday was our two-year anniversary and we celebrated by going out to dinner and buying a couch! (I feel like that’s an appropriate gift for the “Cotton” Anniversary, no?) Now Chet’s birthday is right around the corner (on Sunday)! So much to celebrate in July!! Hope you have a fantastic Wednesday, and here are some little corners of the internet I think might be worth your time to travel to…

What is collagen?

Many people struggle to say no when their manager asks something unreasonable. Here’s how.

Lizzo creates the playlist of her life.

Related: This song is everything.

Camping this summer? This will let you drink from a creek without dying!

Related: 8 necessities for long hiking trips.

Yoga for the Cancers out there!

The woman who made jewelry for Billie Holiday and Brigitte Bardot.

This movie looks break-your-heart good.

What’s going on in your child’s brain when you read them a story?

Related: Our storytelling minds.

A clarinetist’s career gets derailed by an ex-girlfriend.

21 tips, tricks, and pieces of great advice for making your vacation that much better.

Positive vibes.

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — In need of a pep talk? and Tips and Tricks for Surviving (and Cooking) in a Tiny Kitchen.

3 Actions to Take if You’re Falling Out of Love With Your Job

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Does your job keep you up at night because you’re thinking about the horrors the next day will bring? Does the thought of clocking in give you a queasy feeling? If so, you may feel as though you’re trapped, but I’m here to tell you that there is a way out. 

Falling out of love with a job happens. Here are some ways to break free — 

BRAINSTORM your perfect job

A wise person once said if you can find something you care about and mix it with something you love doing …bada bing, bada BOOM… you have found your perfect job. Sadly, not many of us approach our career in this way, and this is often what leads us to get stuck in the first place.

Luckily, there’s still time to work out what your task preferences and passions are in terms of work. This will help narrow down the field. For example, you may feel passionately about educating others and facilitating learning, while the sorts of tasks you enjoy involve visual creativity. If so, then a suitable combination might be an art teacher or a graphic design artist that works in the education sector. In terms of freelance work, you may want to explore creating infographics. 

What this example demonstrates is how identifying your passion and your preferred tasks  will put you in a much better position to brainstorm jobs which combine the two. Making the work meaningful AND rewarding.

FIND your perfect job

Of course, once you have a perfect job to work towards, you need to plan how to get there. This may involve starting a job hunt as you inch towards a completely new career. It could also mean speaking to your superior about taking on tasks at your current job that better fit the bill. 

If seeking further education is necessary to make your perfect job a reality, some great options that allow you to work while you do so. Just a quick google search for options in my own area led me to the online degrees available at https://businessdegrees.uab.edu/ but there are options all across the world.

Another great way to find them besides a google search? Seek out someone employed in your perfect job and ask them the steps they took to get there! Do they recommend a specific school or certification? Most people love talking about themselves so don’t be shy. 

CREATE your perfect job

Finally, if you are falling out of love with your job, starting a side hustle (lots of great ideas suggested here –  https://www.ryrob.com/ or your own business can be a fantastic idea.

In fact, doing so could provide you with the opportunity to see if the combination of your passion and preferred tasks are actually a good fit, as well as giving you the chance to work towards something that has meaning for your life and that you control.

A few years ago, I realized I was passionate about helping small businesses communicate their brand and that I loved writing and creating marketing materials. Unfortunately, I was already employed at a job I wouldn’t describe as perfect. Instead of looking for a different job that would fulfill my passion + preferred task criteria…I just started doing it. I found businesses and people to work with, offering my services until I found a way to make it stick. At the time, this side hustle was a perfect way for me to stay in love with the not-so-perfect job. And now, I KNOW that combination is a good fit! 

So, if you find yourself falling out of love, make the first move. Ask yourself – What do I care about? What do I love doing? The rest will follow if you let it!

Have you ever fallen out of love with a job? What did you do? Are you dealing with this now? Sending you love and motivation! xoxo