Thursday, March 27, 2014

100 Happy Days

It has been more than 100 days since I last wrote here. And they certainly were not all happy days. It was a long, cold winter spent studying the "Cellular and Molecular Basis of Medicine". And I'll admit it: I let it get to me. My cynicism (and even bitterness) related to school, which equates to my life in general, reached a peak this winter. 

I generally consider myself to be an optimistic and positive person. I try to look on the bright side, find joy in the little things, and I truly believe that things will always work out for the best. But, between the bitter cold that prevented time outside and the massive amount of studying I had to do just to keep up with school, I became pretty negative. And I don't like being that kind of person.

But now there are signs of spring in the air (not counting that snow we had a few days ago), I passed my second semester of med school, and, oh yeah, I turn 25 tomorrow. There's no better time for a fresh start. 

So, in order to get my "happy" back and to start off my quarter of a century year in a positive way, I've decided to join the #100HappyDays challenge, starting tomorrow. 
Haven't heard of it?

All you have to do is share a picture every day, for 100 days straight, of something that made you happy that day. You can share it via a social media platform (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter... just use the hashtag #100happydays or your own hashtag), or it's something you can just keep to yourself. It's not meant to be a happiness competition, but it certainly is a challenge: 71% of people who started the challenge have not finished due to "not having enough time". We shouldn't have to make time in our day to be happy.

By consciously trying to find something in each day that makes you happy, by the end you hopefully will remember to appreciate all the good things in your life, and about life in general, as well as be more optimistic and a happier person. At least, that's what I'm hoping to get out of it. 

Sometimes, it's easy to get caught up in the busyness and stressfulness of everyday life, but I think that if you really look, even on the worst days, there's always little moments and flashes of joy. 

So no matter how much you have to do, or how little time you have (see what I did there?), there's always time to be happy. Sometimes, we just need reminding. 




Feel free to follow along with my 100 happy days on Instagram @mandilyn. Or, even better, start the challenge yourself! Just sign up on the website at the link above!

Here's to a happy Spring!




Monday, November 11, 2013

Why I Run

I have officially survived my first term as a med student.

Getting through anatomy has not been easy by any means, but I ended up coping with it easier than I thought I would. 

One thing that really helped me to stay sane these past few months was running.


I've always loved running, but I've often fell victim to the "I don't have time" argument in the past. But over the past few years I've learned that being outside and taking the time to do something for myself are usually the times when I am happiest (#tooniceadaytobeinside). So I knew that if I wanted to make it through school without being a total mess, I would have to make no excuses and try to get outside and run (or bike, or hike, etc.) as much as possible.


There were many many days when I had to combat the panicking feeling that I couldn't take time out from studying or the overwhelming need to just take a nap, but I knew that once I forced myself to put on my running shoes and just do it (that's not a Nike endorsement by the way) I would feel better and not regret it.

Those runs, whether they were a quick 20 minute study beak or long and steady, have been the times when I feel the most confident and happy. For a brief period of time, I can look at the sky and the trees, get lost in my steps or whatever 90's pop-punk song I'm jamming out to, and let my mind be completely free of everything in my life that I don't have control over. 


Taking a bit of time each day to do something for myself when I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anyone, means that I have a few minutes in which I can feel confident and in control of my own life.  I can't control what my professor is going to tag on the anatomy lab final, but I can control how far I run. I can't control the cost of my tuition, but I can control how fast I run. And in a society and time in my life where there are a million things that I have no control over...that's a pretty great feeling.


But it doesn't just have to be running, it can be the same for someone who loves to bike or swim; or artists have control over their colors and lines and writers have control over their words and stories...the list goes on and on.

Just make sure that you take some time to do something that makes you happy and that you have control over; something that you do just for yourself and no one else. Those few minutes will help get you through the times when life seems too overwhelming.

That's why I run.



So, this weekend, one week after being able to check "Get through first med school term" off of my list, I can check off "Run first half-marathon", which is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I certainly won't be the fastest, not even close, but that's okay, because I won't be running to try to prove something or because someone said I have to. I'll be running just for me, because I want to. And I'm going to feel darn good doing it too!


Friday, October 11, 2013

Listening as of Late

It's officially Fall.

Did you know that?



I know I'm a little late with my official declaration, but I've been caught up in a whirlwind of cranial nerves, face and neck muscles, white coats, etc.

Oh, but I noticed.

Even in my med school-induced haze, I've been breathing in the smell of falling leaves, consuming pumpkin EVERYTHING, and just enjoying my favorite season.

And with a new season, comes, of course (my go-to writing topic) new music.

There have been a lot of new releases lately that I have very quickly become obsessed with. I love how the music released at this time of year just feels autumn-y, you know what I mean? Or just me?

Okay. First up:


The Paper Kites - States

Remember these guys? One EP and two whimsical music videos and I was smitten. Another EP, another smile-inducing video, completely hooked.


Well, the long-awaited (at least for me) LP (and, quite possibly, my favorite music video of all time...one word: Bubbles) was finally released in the US and I am officially head-over-heels in love.


The songs on States has a wider range than the two EP's partly because a few songs (Cold Kind Hand, In Reverie) feature Christina Lacy on lead vocals. While some songs, such as Tenenbaum, St. Clarity, and Young are as dreamy and soothing as ever, songs like A Lesson from Mr. Gray are a bit of a deviation from their up-to-now style (think: more guitar, less banjo), but still so good. (Side Note: Does anyone else hear a similarity to I Am The Walrus? Just me again?)

This whole album deserves a listen. It is seriously the perfect thing to listen to on a crisp (probably rainy) fall Sunday as you drink hot apple cider and read anatomy textbooks...whoops, that's just me again. Feel free to leave out the anatomy textbooks.


Agnes Obel - Aventine

Here's another new release from an old Fall-favorite!


Agnes Obel is back with her second album, Aventine, and it is just as gloomy and haunting and beautiful as her first.

So perfect for October. Her album artwork always look like movie posters for scary psychological thrillers. And her songs would then be the creepy underlying soundtrack. But, like a good creepy. Just maybe not listen at night, by yourself, in the dark. Whoops.



(Added 5 minutes later: So. Remember that so-called scary psychological thriller I was talking about? Apparently, it's her music video below. Again, don't watch by yourself, at 1 in the morning, in the dark. You've been warned)





Haim - Days Are Gone

Switching gears to more sunny-Fall-day music, this is another highly anticipated (by many people) first-release LP.



These three wacky sisters are crazy-talented, and have been getting a lot of well-deserved attention as of late. They have a very unique sound (Fleetwood Mac plus 80's-90's synth, with a little R&B thrown in for good measure) that you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.




Echosmith - Talking Dreams

Okay guys. Let's stop, take a minute, and just watch (or only listen, if you must) to the video below:


Okay, now I can tell you that these three fellows and one gal that make up Echosmith are siblings and...wait for it... all under the age of 18. Craziness I tell you.

If you don't check out iTunes' weekly free (!) Single of the Week, you really should...they have been hitting it out of the park lately in my personal opinion. And guess what this week's is?!


Which means, that up until a few days ago, if you asked me who Echosmith was I probably would have come up with some really terrible joke about a guy who lives in the mountains crafting echoes...

But today, if you said "Echosmith" I would echo (no more corny jokes after this, I swear) back: "Obsessed".

If you listened to the two above songs, some of you may be thinking: "They sound kind of pop-punk synth-y, and I've been too cool for that since, like, 2005". And you may very well be right, but, trust me, this is another album that has a lot of range with different sounds for different tastes. Even if you hate it, then you at least have to have a lot of respect for this troupe of siblings, just sayin'.

My favorite:




The Vernons - Volume I EP


Here is another recent free download I stumbled across (no longer available) that I instantly loved.



The Vernons are an Australian band that just released their debut EP in September. Blues-y rock, so good. Especially for Fall.




Arcade Fire - Reflektor

Dude. Arcade Fire has a new song. And if you listen closely you can hear David Bowie. And they have a whole new album coming out October 29. This is just awesome on so many levels.


And the music video is so weird and so beautiful in a way that only Arcade Fire can pull of.



The Head and The Heart - Let's Be Still

Guess who else has a new album out in a few days?! These guys (meaning The Head and The Heart...if you couldn't tell from above)!


I was excited to see how they followed up their debut self-titled album since each song was different from each other, but all lovely, and then when the first single was released, I got REALLY excited.



Based on this, I could tell that we were still going to get the same sound that we knew and loved (both playful and sorrowful indie folk), just kicked up a notch further.

Don't feel like waiting until next week to give the whole album a listen? Me neither!

Here you go! (Yes, that is a link to where you can stream the album in it's entirety for free)


Random

Great new(ish) albums to listen to for Fall that I don't have time to go into more detail about:







Here are a few honorable mentions of songs that have been on rotation on my iPod lately:

WE ARE TWIN  - The Way We Touch



A good song to help get you going in the morning. And, no, they're not actually twins, bummer. (Another free Single of the Week...seriously, check them out...they're free).



City and Colour - Unthinkable (I'm Ready)

One of my absolute favorite artists just released the third EP in his series of cover songs, and this Alicia Keys cover is addicting.





Ou Est Le Swimming Pool - Dance the Way I Feel

Best. Band Name. Ever.





And then, because, you just have to when it's Fall:




Enjoy.

Let's hope that we can get through October this year without some kind of Frankenstorm/Hurricane/Snow & Ice Storm playlist having to be made. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

So Much To Do... No Time

Guess what?

I started med school.

After so many up's and down's, it's finally here. It was a really tough road, but I wouldn't have had it any other way because I now feel 101% confident that this is the right path for me and it's one that I am ready to take.

The transition has been so much easier than I was expecting. I am strangely comfortable dissecting a cadaver (those OCD tendencies are pretty handy!); I love having an apartment and a city that I can really call my own for the first time; I was able to fall right back into the pattern of going to class and studying; and I am with a bunch of people who geek out about the same weird things as me. 

Don't get me wrong, I really really miss coming home at the end of a long day and having dinner and talking with my mom and then getting to just relax and watch movies or read books for fun, but it's also pretty great to come home to my little hipster-y (unintentional...really) studio and cook dinner....and then memorize the branches of the axillary artery and the muscles that they supply blood to.

Home Sweet Home


But I'm trying to remember the importance of balance, so I plan on spending time with friends, going to a few concerts, keep up with a few TV shows, etc.

Oh, and this...


Don't worry...I'm only doing the half-marathon.
What better way to celebrate the end of my first term of med school than to run for 13.1 miles?!


In short, my balance of time just got way more interesting, but I plan on trying to pop in here every once in a while to therapeutically write about things and share things. Whether anyone actually continues to read or not doesn't matter, I have a tough road ahead and sometimes you need  a place to just write about silly things or serious things.

So, that's what I plan on doing.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No Fear.

Yesterday I learned about the horrific events at the Boston Marathon shortly after I left work. 

I took my still new walking route to the Market East Station, thinking about how chilly it was for mid-April. I waited on the platform for the 5:10 train and pulled out my phone for my post-work checking of text messages, emails, etc. 

The very first message I saw was a SMS alert from The Pottstown Mercury reporting explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

I gasped and immediately tried to look up further information (on the train I noticed that anyone who had their phone out was doing the same thing). I read the reports of casualties and grave injuries. I saw the pictures of first responders carrying the injured. I tried to understand the timetable of events as various new reports came in.

As I stood on the platform surrounded by fellow commuters going about their daily routine, I struggled to hold back tears. I thought about the victims and their families and what they must be going through. I  thought about what kind of person could possibly have committed such a crime against humanity. And I thought about my brother.

My twin brother is a semi-pro runner and track coach. While he does not run marathons, he has run several races in Boston, he worked for the organization that was in charge of the New York Marathon, and all of his friends are runners. And as hard as I try, I can't help thinking how he could just as easily have been there as any of the victims.

But today I realized that by letting myself think that way, I am doing exactly what that faceless monster who made those bombs wanted... I am giving in to fear. 

This past year in the US we have seen more cruelly ironic and horrific acts then ever before. We now live in a society where children are targeted in the place they go to learn and grow; where people who go to see a movie about a man wanting to protect the innocent, are faced with a real-life bad guy from hell; and where individuals and their families who put an emphasis on movement and activity in their lives, lose their limbs. 

In a society such as this, it is easy and instinctual to give in to fear; fear of living our lives as we would without school shootings and terrorist attacks. But by doing that, we only perpetuate the terror and panic that these sick bastards are trying to spread. 

Horrible things happen. More so than before it seems. But I refuse to let the fear of something horrific happening to a loved one or me affect how I live my life. So, tomorrow I will ride the train in to Philadelphia and go to work without fear that a gunman will appear or a bomb will go off, I will enjoy Spring, I will #runforBoston... and I will say a prayer for the victims and their families and tell my family I love them. 

I refuse to let evil people in this world determine how I live my life. 

So, please, if this event changes how you live or think about your life, let it be modeled after the runners who worked towards a positive goal in their lives, and their families who cheered them on. Let that be the kind of society we live in.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Back...With Lots of Music for Spring (Part 2)

I'm back. Again. As promised.

This time with some new music releases I'm really looking forward to over the next few months.

Cold War Kids - Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

Coming off their success of 3 previous albums, indie rock band, Cold War Kids, released their fourth studio album just yesterday. Cold War Kids definitely have their own unique sound, one that you tend to either love or hate. But if you have heard any of their past songs then you will certainly be a fan of this new album.





This French band had more wide-ranging success after their 2009 release, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (possibly as a result of this).  Ever since, fans have been clambering for more, and on April 22 that wish will come true. 




She & Him - Volume 3

I love M. Ward. I love love Zooey Deschanel. So, I love love love She & Him and was so excited when they announced that they will release their new album, Volume 3 (their third, after Volumes 1 & 2, not counting A Very She & Him Christmas of course) on May 7. Based on the new single that was recently released, we can expect just as much 1960's-sunny-California-ukele goodness as before.




City and Colour - The Hurry and The Harm

I do believe I could listen to Dallas Green's voice crooning songs under the name City and Colour every single day for the rest of my life. So it's probably a good thing that he is releasing his fourth studio album, The Hurry and The Harm, on June 4th. This small taste released yesterday makes me think we will get the same "sad music" style that he has come to be known for, but a little bit more rock'n roll perhaps.





The Postal Service - Give Up: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

This may not exactly count since this is just a re-release, but there will be two new songs as well as new versions of previous songs, and, I mean, this is The Postal Service. Re-releasing the one beloved album they have ever released. It's kind of a big deal. To some people anyway...including me; music nerd that I am. This drops in less than a week, on April 9th.




I have a feeling I am forgetting some others. Any ideas/suggestions?


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Back...with Lots of Music for Spring (Part 1)

So. It's been awhile.

Do you ever feel like you have so much to say that you avoid having to actually write it all out? Well, that's how I have felt about blogging over the past few months. But I've decided that I don't have to blog about everything that I would like to...if I don't write it all down then that's okay. I need to just do what I can.

For those of you who may still even be remotely interested in what I have to say, I thought I would make up for my absence with a lot of new music.

Spring is a time of year when I love to try new things, and am usually itching to explore new music. Fortunately for me, this spring also seems to be a time for lots of great new releases from old favorites to add to some new favorites.

Here we go.

First some new discoveries that have really been putting me in the spring mood:

Lord Huron

An LA-based indie folk band (my favorite kind!) that makes me feel like running through the desert yelling and dancing. You'll understand once you listen. Hopefully.





Haim

I had heard mentions of Haim, made up of three LA sisters, this past winter and made a mental note to give them a thorough listen. But to my delight I got to see them perform live shortly after! You see, these three cool chicks have recently been touring with Mumford & Sons. And I had the SUPREME pleasure of going to the Mumford show at the Barclay's Center in February. I was blown away by how much these sisters could rock out, and for an opening act, they really knew how to work the crowd. I don't think you can get higher praise than Marcus Mumford saying you're the greatest band in the world. (On a side note, the other opening act was Ben Howard. Score. And the finale consisted of Haim, Ben Howard, and Mumford & Sons all performing The Weight. Life made.)




The Lighthouse and the Whaler


The Lighthouse and the Whaler is another indie-folk band, but an indie-folk-pop band (is anyone else starting to get confused by the ever increasing names of music genres?). Their most recent album, This is an Adventure, does indeed make you want to go on an adventure. A good up-ity, road-trip album.





Lemaitre

Speaking of up-ity, Norweigian duo, Lemaitre, is a little outside of my comfort zone being an indie-electronic band, but it's infectious. And the music video below makes me giggle.





Slowing it down a bit with the "dream-pop" band, Houses, their music is perfect for a rainy spring day. Beautiful, peaceful, and melancholy all at once.




Beach House

Staying in the realm of slower, dream-pop indie music, the name alone of this Baltimore-based duo makes you think of warmer weather and salty breezes.





Ski Lift

In contrast, the name "Ski Lift" may not put you in the mind of springtime, but their music would beg to differ (more indie-folk-dream-pop type stuff, go figure...getting sick of those words yet?), and I'm obsessed. Maybe it's because they have connections to this band. Fifty points to the person who can figure out the connection.


Youth Lagoon

When I first saw a picture of Youth Lagoon, a.k.a. Trevor Powers, and read his description of his process of writing music, I immediately thought of a modern-day Bob Dylan. But his music sounds like anything but Dylan. More dream-pop. More imageries of exploring woods on spring mornings.




Langhorne Slim & The Law

However, if you are on the lookout for some modern-day Bob Dylan-esque music, then check out this fellow-PA'er. Courtesy of the big brother.




Father John Misty


I'll admit, I only gave Father John Misty (also known as Joshua Tillman), a listen because the title of the song below caught my eye for certain reasons. But then I immediately liked it. Tillman was once a member of Fleet Foxes, which I think you can pick up on, but he definitely has his own style with lots more folk influences.




MS MR

This one is probably the least like the rest of the bands in this post (although another boy-girl duo as many of these are....hmmm) but their EP, Candy Bar Creep Show, has seemed to be popping a lot lately, and I don't just mean on my iPod. And then there is the music video for the first single off of their debut album (see below). I can't stop watching as much as I would like to sometimes. Watch and you'll see. As the name of the EP and the music video would suggest, their songs are dark but still captivating and grand. "Chillwave"was one description I read...is that another weird new genre name??



Okay, I think that is plenty for today. Come back tomorrow and I'll do some new old favorites. I promise. And I'll try to keep the weird imagery stuff to a minimum.

In the meantime, feel free to let me know what great new Spring-like music you've been listening to lately.