Podcast Party

Since starting this blog last September, I have thrown around a few hints about how I listen to podcasts, and I then I joked:

Where have you been all my life?

Let me back up a bit. For the last several years I have had a 30-minute, one-way commute to work Monday-Friday on a country road past a handful of quintessential Ohio farms. Horses, llamas, cattle, and corn. I’m not much of a country girl but you know what? The visual is pretty soothing, which beats staring at tail lights and pumping my brakes non-stop while I inhale automobile exhaust headed in the other direction toward Cleveland.

It’s a bit hard for me to do nothing on the drive. It’s an hour of my day, after all. I’ve tried all sorts of things to occupy my time. I have tried listening to certain local radio shows, certain national radio shows, Sirius XM, streaming music from my iPhone, books on audio, silence (which, let’s be honest, wasn’t ever really silence because the voices in my head would talk the entire time about the situation I was leaving at home in the morning or at work in the evening), and prayer (because, well, the voices….duh).

A couple of years ago I was forced to find inspiration in every nook and cranny I could find it. Maybe one day I’ll get the courage to write about that story because it was one hell of a tough life lesson to live through, but I did. Believe me, it will take courage to tell that story. Courage is a muscle I need to build.

Without digressing too deep down the path of the above paragraph, let me share that one of the places I looked for inspiration was this uncharted territory for me: podcasts, an app on my iPhone I never bothered to use. This is pretty odd for me because I have always been one to gravitate toward and early-adopt technology.

I asked friends for some ideas on how to get started, and recommendations on any podcasts they listen to. Some early shows I listened to were The Ziglar Show, where I heard Mark Timm speak and got the idea for our own family’s Louie Scoop meetings, and Joel Osteen, because I figured if I’m gonna listen to inspirational speakers, why not have a Biblical basis for it?

I don’t listen to either of those shows anymore.

Don’t get me wrong: Ziglar is a very good show but the format started to wear on me. Now, you don’t have to be a salesperson to appreciate Ziglar. It really is great to hear these inspirational snippets from Zig’s talks but after two years of solid listening, I think my bucket is full on that one. It also seems the talks are frequently geared toward people creating a side hustle or being entrepreneurs so it doesn’t always hit the mark for me. That’s not the best characterization of the show as I definitely think it has merit, and it’s highly rated, to boot; it’s just not best fit for me going forward. However, I can imagine picking it back up again one day.

Osteen on the other hand? I had to stop listening to him after the Houston hurricane debacle when he wouldn’t open his facility to people in need. That just seemed so selfish of him, especially after you hear a pitch for buying his latest book or whatever at the end of each episode. Honestly I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. He just comes across as inauthentic, and at this point I’ve bucketed him with many of the other crazy, rich Christian evangelicals. If you’re gonna talk the talk, you better walk that walk as well. You know what I mean?


But that’s not my focus today. Let me tell you about the podcasts I love and why! Some of these shows are 20-30 minutes in length, while some are one hour long or sometimes even 90 minutes. Occasionally a show will feature a short, 2-5 minutes in length, to convey a singular, inspirational idea. I favor the 30 minute shows because I can listen to an entire episode during one trip in the car, but the longer ones aren’t all that bad. I just end up dedicating my outbound and return commute to listening to the whole thing.

IMG_6870I will highlight two podcasts that have held my attention ever since I started listening, plus three more I have adopted in the last six months or so.

  1. Happier by Gretchen Rubin (Gretchen Rubin)
  2. The Good Life Project (Jonathan Fields)
  3. Stay Tuned with Preet (Preet Bharara)
  4. The Keto for Women Show (Shawn Mynar)
  5. Oprah’s Super Soul (Oprah Winfrey)

Happier

Host Gretchen Rubin and her co-host sister Elizabeth Craft share tips and tricks to make life happier. They often feature ideas captured in author Gretchen’s books. I am intrigued by her concept of the Four Tendencies, and I love the Try This At Home ideas they suggest. Overall this is a light-hearted podcast, and it’s fun to listen to the two sisters banter back and forth. I feel like I’ve gotten to know their personalities and idiosyncrasies, and I laugh at their stories. Gretchen is a true literary fan so she’s always offering quotes from classic stories I haven’t actually taken the time to read. Overall I find their advice to be practical and immediately applicable.

The Good Life Project

Jonathan Fields holds hour-long, deep conversations with a wide variety of fascinating people who you may not be familiar with, people who are champions of the human spirit. I love deep, philosophical, thought-provoking conversations yet I hardly ever get to have them so this podcast is the next best thing.

Jonathan has mastered the art of conversation. It isn’t so much an interview as it is a really intimate talk between two people. His voice is so soothing, too. It’s like listening to a friend. He talks like I do in real life.

Jonathan released a book this past year called How to Live a Good Life, which is the question he asks of his guests at the end of each episode. In the book, he champions the idea that we have three buckets that we should continuously replenish: the vitality, connection, and contribution buckets. I could read this book again and again as it is loaded with powerful ideas to fuel your body, mind, and spirit. Given that I wanted and needed a boost in all three, this book resonated strongly with me.

Occasionally you hear side stories about how Jonathan was a gymnast once upon a time, but started his professional career as a hard-charging attorney for a law firm, working for a few years until he opened a yoga studio. Now he channels his energy into studying how to live a good life, runs a summer camp for adults who want to explore this topic, and hosts this podcast. I view him as a really hip, cool contemporary. This is a dude I will follow for years to come.

Stay Tuned with Preet

I suppose if the esteemed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York had to be unceremoniously fired by Trump, then I’m glad it happened because now we get to hear Preet Bharara deliver a weekly podcast that demystifies our justice system and all the chaos in Washington this administration.

Maybe Preet just physically reminds me of my dad when I was a kid, which is weird, but I really like the guy. He speaks in this calm, even-toned, moderately-paced voice that makes it incredibly easy to digest the gravity and complexity of the topics he discusses. I just find it so hard to comprehend stuff thrown at me rapid-fire by some of those news fanatics, like I’m wolfing down crappy fast food that leaves you with indigestion. Preet delivers his message in a nevertheless riveting way where you have time to absorb and think about what he’s saying. His delivery sounds unlike anyone else and I’m learning more about how our government works (or doesn’t) than I have since I studied civics in 8th grade.

The Keto for Women Show

Nutritionist Shawn Mynar hosts this weekly podcast covering the topic of a ketogenic diet for women, one that is high-fat and low-carb and promotes brain health as well as hormonal and digestive healing for the body, primarily for women.

I am not too bright when it comes to nutrition. I probably know the basics like everyone else, but it seems like the last 30 years have been filled with gobs of misinformation leading to today’s American obesity epidemic. It feels like we could use all the help we can get when it comes to nutrition, so I find so this podcast to be hugely educational about a way of eating that mirrors what I likely ought to adopt for my own health. Shawn is a nutritionist who is upbeat, informative, and focused like a laser-beam on women’s health not necessarily weight loss. Eating for health will lead in that direction, but she’s not about dropping pounds rapidly at any cost, when so many other fitness pundits are.

Shawn is just consistently upbeat in her delivery and I have learned so much from her. Love the guests she has had on her show as well.


I’m sure I’ve forgotten a couple of good podcasts that have come and gone over the last few months. Maybe I’ll update this post with additions should I think of any.


And now a word about podcast apps themselves. I’ve been listening by using the Apple podcast app all this time. It is the purple app in third row down on the far right in the image above.

I’m not a fan. It seems like just when I get used to the layout of the app and how it works, they change it on me, like they seem to do with iTunes which used to be intuitive once upon a long time ago. This app is not intuitive. I’m not a technology ding-a-ling but it is not easy to skip over or delete episodes I don’t want to hear without accidentally unsubscribing to the show altogether. I just don’t understand why they have to mess around with the layout.

Little did I realize there are other apps out there you can use to listen to podcasts: Overcast, Downcast, and Stitcher to name a few. Apparently even Spotify will work but not for all shows. I haven’t had a chance to check any of these out just yet so “stay tuned with Silonda” (Get it? I took a page from Preet’s playbook) to see what I think of these tools. It may take me a while to try them out and pick one I like. I just thought it was intriguing to hear there were other, quite possibly better, apps out there for our listening enjoyment.

I’d love to hear from you regarding which Apple podcast apps are your favorite (my platform of choice) but I’m eager to hear from Android fans as well. Looks like I have a global readership going on so let’s hear from you guys and thanks in advance!

The Standardized Vacation

On a recent Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, the host and her co-host sister talked about the benefits of a “standardized vacation”. It struck a chord with me.

I’m a travel buff. Have suitcase, let’s go! I’ve been one to explore new places as often as I can for as long as I’ve lived but there is something to be said about hitting the easy button especially now that we have kids. Enter: the standardized vacation.

Here’s the basic premise: same location, same hotel, same time of year, same length of time, same people, same restaurants, same activities.

Beautifully simple.

Nothing to think about, nothing to plan. Just do what you did last time, and build upon what you know, if you want.

anton-sharov-133628-unsplashMyrtle Beach, SC, has become our go-to vacation, like 5 million other Ohioans if I had to guess! We found our favorite hotel about 10 years ago, and we even get booked to the exact same room each time we go. It’s glorious.

We know exactly what to pack. Rule #1 is more bathing suits, fewer clothes. Rule #2 is bring a laundry basket and a small bottle of Tide so I can do a quick load mid-way through the trip and recycle what we wear. Rule #3 is bring whatever gadget you can’t live without and the charger. We’re not hard-core enough to unplug entirely while we holiday.

Last night my husband and I laid in bed and talked about how excited we were for this trip. We drive it. He’s not a fan of the drive, but he talked about how he was actually looking forward to it this year because he knows exactly what to expect. No thinking involved whatsoever.

Seriously, we laugh the whole way to South Carolina because nearly every car on I-77 has Ohio plates and we know where they’re going: Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head. It’s 11-hours non-stop, which means we have found ways to minimize the number of stops along the way and make it a 12 hour trip max, barring traffic.

Our routine involves hitting the road at 5am. We gas up and load the suitcases the night before. The kids sleep walk to the van with their pillows and PJs on, and they’re crashed out for the first four hours of the trip. From our house in Ohio this takes us to Charleston, WV, where the kids change clothes, we all get a potty break, we gas up if need be, and switch drivers. I’m better on the curvy roads though West Virginia regardless of the weather, courtesy of growing up in the tri-state area of Ohio, Pennsylvania, & West Virginia.

Waze is my favorite travel app for this trip. It’s crowd-sourced in terms of traffic jams, road hazards, and speed traps monitored by police or state highway patrolmen. Waze conveys the speed limit and whether you’re over it, and gives you that wonderful metric, the estimated time of arrival, otherwise known as the “time to beat”. LOOOOOOVE Waze.

The car is still pretty quiet as the kids are now awake but on their devices with their headphones or maybe they watch a new movie we buy and laugh. The two of us adults get loads of time to talk and talk, or we take turns napping while the other drives.

I drive four hours till we hit the North Carolina border while all of us nosh on ham sandwiches, snacks, and drinks we’ve packed, and then we stop again for a bio break, gas up and switch drivers for the last time. Then my husband drives the final four hours to our hotel where we check in, unpack, relax for a bit, and then head out to dinner.

We hit up Walmart for some food while we’re in the area. Our hotel has a kitchenette so we alternate meals out and in for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is free at the hotel so we eat up and take our time feasting on all kinds of hot and cold food items.

I remember the first time we made this trip as a married couple with an 18-month old baby in tow. I basically had my husband back the van floor to ceiling with the entire nursery: you know, Pack-n-Play, stroller, tub toys, travel high chair, lovies, baby food, an entire box of diapers….it was endless. You couldn’t even see out the back window. He looked at me like I was nuts. I wanted all the comforts of home. Nothing like having a baby attached to your hip on vacation. It defeats the purpose of getting away for a few days if you don’t have a way for your precious kid to be mobile, clean, and safe.

Now it’s funny how little we need. Beach towels, beach toys, electronic gadgets, headphones, chargers, bathing suits, sunscreen, sandals, laundry basket with detergent, clothes for three days to last us through eight, sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and that’s it. I don’t even sweat it anymore. If we forget something, we just buy it down there.

It helps that we go the same week each time, for the same length of time. We know what restaurants we’ll hit up. We rent beach chairs for the week. There is nothing else to even think about other than which putt-putt place we’ll visit on which day. If we want to sleep, we sleep. If we want to splash in the pool or lazy river, we do. If the kids want to build sandcastles or boogie board, they do. No debating, no thinking about it. We just rotate between 3-4 activities at most. It’s as low key as vacation can get.

And me? Mama Louie? I sit and read under a giant umbrella with my coverup, sunglasses, sunhat, and SPF maxed out, courtesy of a melanoma diagnosis 25+ years ago. It’s a bummer as all the kids just can’t quite understand why I can’t play with them in the sun. Thankfully they have these bronzed bodies courtesy of their Hawaiian and Asian genes and didn’t inherit my pale Eastern European skin.

Man, we love the ocean. Now some people prefer lower-key, very scenic Hilton Head over Myrtle Beach because they think the latter is over commercialized. Parts of it are, but we don’t do that stuff. We don’t walk Ocean Boulevard at all hours, slipping in and out of the souvenir shops. We just skip that. It’s pretty easy to avoid the mass of humanity while you’re there.

Yep, our hang is the beach itself and the amazing putt-putt places. Our kids think putt-putt (mini-golf to some of you) is the most glorious thing ever. It doesn’t take much to entertain our kids and we’re fine keeping it that way, at least for a few more years.

We’re all excited to go back. Hawaii, California, Utah, Colorado, and Florida have been incredible these last few years but it’s time to hit the easy button and return to our home away from home, just the five of us. We have often wished that we were there with a larger group but then we realize that others may not enjoy the next-to-nothing we like to do, so our week away is always just us.

I can already hear the waves in my mind.

Image by Anton Sharon on Unsplash.com