My Top 5 Favorite Books of the Year

This year has been a great year in books. As I get older I am finding that I am choosing more books not only entertain but make me a better and more aware person. I love reading about strong women overcoming great odds. I hope by reading books like this a little of their strength will pass on to me.

5. Final Girls by Riley Sager
Quinn Carpenter survived a horrible mass murder right out of a horror movie. She belongs to a trio of women called the “Final Girls” since they all were the last ones standing after horrible crimes. But one of the Final Girls has died under mysterious circumstances, and the other Final Girl has shown up on Quinn’s doorstep. What does it all mean!!
I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book. I half expected it to start out slow like most mysteries and build but it had me at the first page. Once you start it, you won’t be able to not finish it.

4. The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane by Colin Falconer
Only one word describes Kitty O’Kane, survivor. Born in the slums of Ireland and raised by an abusive father, she goes on to be one of the few survivors of the Titanic, and the sinking of the RMS Lithuania in WWI. Just how much tragedy can one life handle? If you’re Kitty O’Kane a lot. Despite every set back, she finds a way to keep moving forward.
Though some of the historical facts in this book might be off, it’s still a testament to the human spirit. Kitty suffered through abuse, wars, famine, bad relationships and somehow found the will to keep going. If it had been me, I don’t think I would’ve made it. She was dogged in her pursuit of happiness, vowing she would never return to the slums of her childhood, or be under the thumb of a man. I love a story about a strong woman making her own path by whatever means necessary. I also loved that she wasn’t perfect, she made some very clear mistakes which came back to bite her but she learned from them. I want to get this one in hardcover so I can treasure it forever.

3. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays by Scaachi Koul
Koul, a writer for BuzzFeed, through hilarious essays gives us a peek into the life of a millennial Indian-American woman. She touches on topics like interracial dating, growing up as the only person of color in her school, body hair and other joys of womanhood.
I love when a book literally makes me laugh out loud. And though I am not Indian, and don’t come from immigrant parents, I still found Koul’s essays relatable on the level of being a millennial women of color in today’s world. I love the how she shared about the prejudices within the Indian community which I knew about but didn’t know all the facts. At the end of every chapter she shared email conversations between her and her father which were so funny. For me, Koul is one of those writers that I look up to. I only hope to be as sharp and as hilarious as she is one day.

2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr is high school girl who witnesses the shooting death of her childhood friend, a young black man who was unarmed, by a police officer. The drama that follows is life defining, not only for Starr but for her family and friends.
This book is right on time considering all of the deaths of unarmed black men by police in recent news. In this book you get a front row seat to the lives of those directly effected by these deaths. I cried with Starr, I laughed with her, I got angry with her. I wondered how would’ve handled witnessing something like that. How I would’ve handled news outlets and even friends disrespecting my dead friend. I love when a novel makes you self reflect, but still is an enjoyable read. I recommend this book to everyone no matter their age or race. It definitely gives some very good perspective on what it’s like being black in America. They’re currently making a movie based on this book and I hope they do it justice.

1. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid 
In a country that’s never named somewhere in the middle east war has broken out. It’s terrible timing for Nadia and Saeed because they have just fallen in love. In a very short time they entire lives have turned completely upside down and they are forced to flee their home or die. There are rumors of doors that have popped up around the city that lead to different countries. Are these doors real? Real or not Nadia and Saeed have got to try.
This book is so relevant because at this very moment in places like Syria and Yemen conditions are abysmal and the people are desperate to flee. I love how Hamid presented a somewhat magical solution to the problem, because honestly it seems that fixing these countries is an impossible feat that no man can handle. Saeed and Nadia’s relationship is so interesting in this book because they’d only just began their relationship when all hell breaks loose. Now they are going through this crazy traumatic event together. Will they still be together when it’s all said and done? You’ll have to read and find out.
This book gives light to the immigrant experience and all the hardships that come with that. I definitely finished the book with a better understanding and more empathy for my immigrant brothers and sisters. In a country where they are regarded with contempt and hatred by the people in power, books like this are absolutely needed to wake the sleeping.

 

 

 

 

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Cliches That Dating Apps Prove to be True

I have been single for four years.
I wasn’t purposely single but I wasn’t actively looking either. I thought that I’d meet someone organically in my everyday life, but it never happened. So a few months ago I decided to get intentional about this dating thing and enter the world of dating apps. I created accounts on Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, and OkCupid.
I told myself I was going in without any expectations, but I was lying to myself. I’m a dreamy type, so I had daydreamed about going out on coffee dates, having great conversations, sending flirty texts, first kisses, the whole nine. I wasn’t expecting to meet the “One” or my “Forever Person” because I’m just a tad too cynical for that, but I had hopes of vibing with someone. I do realize that being a cynical dreamer is kind of a contradiction but hey I’m an onion, I have layers.
Anyways, my experience has been fascinating to say the least.

“Men are from Mars”
I could never claim to understand men that much before, but I can definitely say I understand them even less now. I realized that some men hit the like button just for kicks, they have no intention of actually getting to know you. I don’t understand this, and I’ve given up trying. Also, I have been in the middle of what I perceived as a flowing conversation and then out of nowhere a guy will stop responding. It was frustrating at first, but I now just put less stock in the likes I get.

“There’s plenty of fish in the sea”
There really is, it’s a good thing and bad thing. If a guy rubs you the wrong way or God forbid asks for nudes there’s a ton of other guys to choose from. On the other hand the endless scrolling can be overwhelming, especially on apps like Bumble and OkCupid. I started logging on every few days just to keep myself sane.

“Watch out for the wolves in sheep’s clothing”
You would think in 2017 with MTV’s “Catfish” in it’s sixth season that “catfishing” would be a thing of the past. But it is not. I was texting back and forth with a guy for about a week, and something just felt off. He “spoke” like no dude I’d ever met before, it was very flowery, and romantic. And his vernacular did not match the person he claimed to be. I did a reverse image search on his profile photo just like they do on the show and very easily found his identity to be false. I was really annoyed but also proud of myself for not getting duped.

“Love is a battlefield”
The quest for love for me has been long and arduous. Even just getting to the point of meeting someone in person has taken more effort than I thought it would. I’ve given myself to the 22nd of November to get something going and if it doesn’t happen I’m getting off all my apps and will revisit this next year sometime. I haven’t given up hope completely but I can say that my hope has dwindled.

***

I want to hear from you. What has been your experience with dating apps? Which ones do you love? Which ones do you hate? And is there hope in this crazy world to find real connections?

 

Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

An Honest Poem

I was born on a chilly October night, 26 years ago.
I’m 5’6, with brown eyes, and black hair and my weight is none of your business.
I’m not a dog person, and I’m allergic to cats.
I’m kind of like a baby jumping spider, cute but creepy.
I’m a good writer, listener, and I can carry somewhat of a tune.
But the thing I’m most talented at is avoiding my problems.
I’m an absolute pro at it.
If there’s a problem, I run in the complete opposite direction.
I run to my books and hide from the world.

In books, things happen for a reason.
The plot is set, the character’s path predestined.
Real life isn’t like that.
I could have never predicted the path that my life has taken.
I barely recognize myself these days.
I’ve abandoned everything that used to define me.
So if I’m no longer the student,
the youth leader,
or the devoted churchgoer.
Then who am I?
That is the million dollar question.
Sometimes I feel like I’m 10 different people from one day to the next.
Which one is the real me?
Or are they all me?

I’m prone to melancholy.
Have been for as long as I can remember.
I’ve daydreamed about wandering into a field during a thunderstorm and being dissipated by a lightning bolt.
Like the end of the movie “Powder”.
My therapist calls this a suicidal fantasy.
I call it what happens when I’m alone too long in my thoughts.

I feel broken.
But I’m a Christian and we’re not supposed to say that.
Isn’t that why God sent his son?
So that I can be whole?
Well me and God aren’t really speaking as much as we used to.
I try not to dwell too long on the state of my faith.
If I do, a pain so deep radiates through me that I can barely breath.
I’ll just sum it up in one word, unraveled.

I attempting to date.
Me, the perpetually single girl.
I was always waiting to be better, more prepared, more successful, more perfect.
I always wondered if anyone could ever truly understand and love me, with all of my chaos.
So far it’s been a huge bust.
I was catfished, but isn’t that a millennial rite of passage?

My name is Tawni.
I love indie rock, Mexican food, and spending time with friends.
Even though I don’t know if I really have anything in common with any of them.
My hobbies include:
fighting my inner demons,
pretending that I’m fine,
and overthinking everything.
Nice to meet you.


A week ago I stumbled across Rudy Francisco’s spoken word piece “My Honest Poem” on Facebook and it moved me. You can watch it here and read it here. I thought to myself, I should do one too! It was definitely harder than I thought it was going to be but at the same time oddly cleansing.

 

Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

I Am My Own #Goals

Life has literally taken a bat to everything I held dear, so while I am rebuilding, all of my goals are under construction. 

When my friend Terasha thought up this blog challenge “I am my own #goals” I inwardly groaned. The phrase brings to mind someone who is out there getting things done personally and professionally and doesn’t need to look to social media for their goals in life. Personally and professionally I’m flailing and I have been guilty of coveting the lives of people on social media who seem to have it “together”. Life has literally taken a bat to everything I held dear, so while I am rebuilding, all of my goals are under construction.

I’m trying to be okay with being on this undefined road. They say there is something to be learned from every season of your life and I want to give myself the chance to learn from this experience. What I’m learning is that just like seasons change, goals change too. You could be moments from the finish line and realize this wasn’t the right race for you. And that’s completely okay, there is no definite map.

I’m discovering that comparing yourself with others is pointless. We scroll through our feeds seeing our peers sailing through life, living out their dreams or so it seems. Social media only shows a slice of that person’s life, not the whole pie. That person may have fought, cried, and bled to get to where they are. They could be terribly unhappy while still smiling in their Instagram post. I can’t compare my entire life to a slice of someone else’s. I have to figure out what is right for me, and what I want to accomplish and I won’t find that on social media, I am my own #goals.

Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash

I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just A Little Unwell

Your thoughts are racing, jumping from one problem to the next, your heart rate is accelerating, there is a pain in your chest like an elephant is sitting on it and you’re one upset away from bursting into tears.
Your good friend Anxiety has come to visit, and she is showing out.

I have been dealing with anxiety for a few years now and what I have found instrumental is knowing what my triggers are and trying my best to avoid them. My hope is that by listing my triggers someone reading this will recognize the same patterns and make changes, or at least someone will receive some much needed validation.

Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!

We all get a little cranky when we don’t get enough sleep. As a highly sensitive person that deals with anxiety sleep is my life’s blood. Too many nights with less than 6 hours of sleep can turn me into emotional mess of a person. Exhausted Tawni has no patience, gets angry at the drop of a dime, and takes any small dig extremely serious.

Get out of the House!

Loneliness is a huge trigger of mine. My introverted side scoffs at the idea but I need human connection. That doesn’t mean I need to go out every weekend. Sometimes just going to a coffee shop and reading a book, or writing can be enough. I need to be reminded sometimes that there is a whole world out there and to keep myself balanced I need to go out in it sometimes.

Pray!

If I’m not communing with God then everything just seems a bit worse than it already is. Daily prayer and meditation helps me feel centered and gain perspective on my problems. Go too long without it and my mind will begin to feel cluttered and overwhelmed, prime ground for anxiety to grow.

Take time for yourself!

My life can be busy between work, friends, and everything else. Being constantly on the go can makes me tired and irritable even if I have had a good nights sleep. I sometimes have to remind myself that taking a day to lay around the house and watch Netflix is okay. I work hard Monday-Friday and I deserve time to myself. Getting immersed in a new series or watching something that makes me laugh is a good way to get my mind off of things.

 

Self-care is a term we’re hearing a lot lately but it’s legit, especially for those who deal with mental health issues. We have to be good to ourselves before we can be good to others. My prayer that anyone reading this will take a good look at themselves and see where they can improve in their own lives. Self-care means different things to different people, maybe Netflix isn’t good for you but a stroll in the park is. Whatever you can do to help yourself do it!

 

 

Photo by Afonso Coutinho on Unsplash

 

An Unexpected Gap Year

I’ve made peace with the fact that my education will be on hold for a year, and I have something now that I haven’t had in awhile, a lot of free time.

In spring of this year I experienced one of the worst bouts of depression and anxiety in my life. I was struggling to balance a full-time school schedule, increasing responsibilities at work, responsibilities at church, and just life in general. As summer began I decided to end my work with the church and with no school I felt like I could finally breathe. I caught up on all my tv shows, read a lot of books, and rested when I wasn’t at work. But there were still things to be done, as much as I didn’t want there to be.

There were 3 exams I needed to take in order to be fully admitted into the Teacher education program at my university. I wanted to study for them, I did. I bought the practice tests and the study guides, I scheduled time in my week when I would sit down and study. But when those times came I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The thing was I dreaded returning to school. I was not ready to jump back into the hectic life of a working student. So I put off my exams as long as possible. My choice had consequences. I would have to wait all the way until next fall, a full year, before I could be fully admitted. At first I was upset, what a mistake I’d made! I was afraid that this dream I had of being a teacher would never come true.

I’ve made peace with the fact that my education will be on hold for a year, and I have something now that I haven’t had in awhile, a lot of free time. It feels like I’m an artist sitting in front of a blank canvas, I can do anything with this time. I can focus on things I haven’t had time to before. So what will those things be? Maybe I will focus on my writing, finish that short story, or join a writing group. Maybe I’ll buy that camera I’ve been wanting forever. Maybe I’ll resume learning to play the Ukulele. There’s literally a ton of creative endeavors on my to-do list and I finally have the time to do them. It’s exciting and overwhelming as I try to figure out what to do first.

All choices have consequences but not all consequences are bad. Sometimes they open doors you never had before.

Love: Myth or Legend?

In reality love does not make the baggage magically dissipate. I could be the perfect girlfriend, wife, partner and none of that will erase what happened before we met.

Lately love, romantic love, has been on my mind a lot. Specifically how it has changed from being something that was a certainty in my mind to more of an abstract idea. If you’re familiar with my blog then you know that “singledom” has been a mainstay in my life, so I don’t have much experience with love. Despite that, I am a die hard romantic. I’m the type of girl that will leave love notes in your shoes, only give you handwritten birthday cards professing my undying devotion, and will regularly send you songs that explain how I feel about you. I have watched Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley version) a hundred times and rewinded the part where Darcy confesses his love to Lizzy probably 1000. I LOVE love.

I owe my obsession with romance to Disney, Twilight, and all those sappy YA romances that sell an unrealistic idea of love and relationships. They’re all pretty much the same story. Boy meets Girl but there’s an issue. Boy is from the wrong side of the tracks, or Boy loves the taste of human blood. Girl has some deep dark secret that could ruin them, or Girl has someone else fighting for her attention. But 90 minutes later or a few books later their love conquers all of that.

In reality love does not make the baggage magically dissipate. I could be the perfect girlfriend, wife, partner and none of that will erase what happened before we met. It won’t make him deal with his issues, or undo the unhealthy relationships I’ve witnessed in the past. Real people have problems, real relationships are difficult, and risky. “They lived happily ever after” is a big fat myth. What they should say at the end of the story is, “They worked at their relationship and hoped it would last forever.”

So how do I undo the ideal I dreamed up while drifting through the halls of high school? How do I stop finding real life men so damned disappointing compared to the ones in my books? How do I stop longing for someone who doesn’t exist?

 

Picture by Jacob Culp