I've Learned SO MUCH from the By the Book Podcast!

I listen to numerous podcasts but one of my current favorites is the By the Book podcast! I discovered it earlier this year through an ad on the Freakanomics podcast (which my husband listens to obsessively) and was instantly HOOKED. I’ve listened to every episode since then (which is saying something since they have several seasons!

by the book.jpg

The premise of this podcast: The brilliant and hilarious Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer read through a self-help book for every episode and try to live by it for two weeks straight. They chronicle their adventures with wit and thoughtfulness and I’m pretty obsessed. I’ve learned so much from so many episodes! It’s also helped me to be a lot more careful about my own self-help reading and encouraged me to take a closer look at the authors and what they’re really saying.

For example: The Miracle Morning book has personally really helped me in the past. After getting my depression under control (FISHER-WALLACE STIMULATOR, SERIOUSLY Y’ALL), The Miracle Morning has changed my life more in the past year than anything else! Going through the SAVERS approach regularly (silence/meditation, affirmations, visualizations, exercise, reading, and scribing/journaling) helped me remember that I have ALWAYS wanted to be a writer and got me on track toward pursuing that path really seriously. However, the By the Book episode on Miracle Morning pointed out a lot of issues with the book and its author and helped me realize that I had been doing a lot of “take what I want and throw away the bad” in my own approach to it. Which is totally fine. I still use it sometimes. But a lot of the advice in the book is kind of victim-blamey and makes me uneasy when you actually look at closely. So now I’m more careful about how I suggest that book to friends; I include a lot more disclaimers and points about how I actually use it.

By the Book has also made some really significant changes to my life in the past year! It’s inspired me to make numerous changes.

Here’s what comes to mind now (I may add to this later as I remember things or add more!):

Things I do now or have done because of the By the Book podcast: (links go to the episode on Stitcher’s website)

Look! Plants I’ve somehow kept half alive, plus an old soda bottle I now use to water indoor and outdoor plants, and our compost pail!

Look! Plants I’ve somehow kept half alive, plus an old soda bottle I now use to water indoor and outdoor plants, and our compost pail!

  • We now plan out our family meals ahead of time and try to do all the grocery shopping once a week. John and I pick and make the recipes together and have found it makes our life WAY simpler when we actually know what we’re eating at night. (From the “America’s Cheapest Family” episode) 

  • I published a short story as an ebook on amazon. I had already written this story and submitted it to an anthology. When it was rejected, I thought - YOLO and decided to put it on Amazon as an experiment. It’s been fun! I’ve earned about $40 from it, which is cool. (From the “how to write an ebook that makes you money forever in 7-14 days” episode)

  • I’ve invited friends over to work at our house whenever they like. Not many people have taken me up on this, but I do love that as someone who teleworks full time and has a pretty big house, I can provide an escape for my student friends or other friends who work from home. (From “a girl’s guide to joining the resistance”)

  • I reuse and recycle more things, have started composting (blog post coming about this soon!), and make my own reusable wet wipes for cleaning. (“zero waste home”)

  • I focus on only saying nice and supportive things to myself. (“What to say when you talk to yourself”)

  • I try to use my phone less when I’m out and about (“bored and brilliant”)

  • I try to only check my email and social media twice a day. Honestly, I’m pretty bad about this, but just knowing it’s an option for days when I REALLY need to focus is good. I also now outsource time-consuming tasks i hate to people on Fiverr . I’ve found a cool personal assistant guy and have had him do some cost-comparison research tasks which have been really helpful! (“4 hour work week”)

  • So Kristen and Jolenta have only done one “diet” book and it had such a bad effect on Kristen that they don’t plan to do another one. This episode and a lot of their conversations in later episodes helped me come to grips with a lot of my disordered eating habits (I tend to either over-eat or under-eat, and neither is healthy) and develop a more healthy approach to my body. I don’t weigh myself any more and I don’t really plan to again; it’s highly triggering for me. Instead, I eat healthy most of the time, avoid too many processed foods, practice delaying my first meal until 12 pm or 1 pm (which effectively means I usually am intermittent fasting for 14 hours), and exercise regularly. And that’s enough for me. As long as I’m feeling healthy and happy with how I look, I don’t need to know my weight; it’s just not important. Thanks K&J for helping me realize that! (“French Women Don’t Get Fat”)

  • I’ve worked to define what types of clothing and accessories are and aren’t my style and have been donating or selling things that aren’t my style. If I go shopping now, I’m much less likely to impulse buy anything, as I know exactly what I like and what looks good on me and I’m not willing to spend money on things that don’t fit in those categories. (“curated closet”) 

A snippet of the pinterest board I made for the Curated Closet.

A snippet of the pinterest board I made for the Curated Closet.

Look at these plants I’ve managed not to kill yet!

Look at these plants I’ve managed not to kill yet!

  • I actually let myself actually watch TV without doing work sometimes. I mean, not all the time, I usually am working on some craft or blog post or something if I watch TV, but sometimes! (“Pantsdrunk”)

  • I’ve really tried to walk outdoors more and keep my house plants alive more consistently. I re-planted our dead herb garden and have managed to keep 4/5 plants alive for the last few months! (“nature fix”) 

  • I’ve let go of some project ideas that were GOOD but just not for me. This book specifically talks about letting go of the ideas that aren’t a match for you so they can go “find someone else” they’re better suited for. This was how I finally let go of the idea of writing a non-fiction book about marital surnames. It still fascinates me and I think it needs to be written about, but I just don’t have the passion to pursue that myself. I prefer my fiction writing. (“Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”)

  • I had actually already “konmari-ed” several parts of our house but this episode has helped me retain some of the ideas - specifically, does this item give me joy? If not, I should donate it and let someone else enjoy it. (“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”)

Podcast: Stuff You Missed in History Class - History of the White Wedding

Stuff You Missed in History Class, "A Brief History of the 'White Wedding,'" April 25, 2016. Hosts: Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey.  

Queen Victoria's Wedding Portrait

Queen Victoria's Wedding Portrait

Again from the cultural and historical side of things - this is an episode from one of my very favorite podcasts. The hosts of Stuff You Missed in History Class are super organized and hilarious (just the way I like my podcasts to be), with just the right touch of witty back and forth mixed in. 

This podcast addresses numerous "white wedding" traditions. Here are just a few tidbits from it! 

  • White wedding dresses were a fashion started by Queen Victoria, who loved her husband Albert in the most passionate and adorable way ever (seriously, I ship them). After his death, she built him a magnificent memorial and wore black the rest of her life.
  • Wedding rings date back to Ancient Greece and Rome and may have derived from the tradition of breaking a coin apart at the wedding and giving a half to the bride and a half to the groom. 
  • Cakes have been part of weddings for a very long time, but only recently did those actually come to resemble what we actually consider cake today. For a long time, "cake" referred to almost any type of bread good. 
    • Queen Victoria's cake was 10 FEET in diameter and weighed 300 pounds. 
    • Tiered wedding cakes really started in 1851 and piped decorations on cakes weren't really a thing until the 1890s.

 Bonus Material: "How the Women Behind Stuff You Missed in History Class Became Unlikely Celebrities," By Josh Green, Atlanta Magazine (August 2016) - I love this profile of podcast hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey and their work and I exceptionally enjoy the accompanying photographs of them in fancy dresses and feathery headpieces.


And of course, this blog post wouldn't be complete without this: 

Podcast: What would a feminist do? Keep your last name or take your spouse's?

By  swirlingthoughts on Flickr . Used under a Creative Commons License. Available at

By swirlingthoughts on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons License. Available at

"What would a feminist do? Keep your last name or take your spouse's?" 21 minutes, Host: Jessica Valenti, guest sociologist Laurie Scheuble, May 26, 2016

A friend recommended this podcast via Facebook and I found it incredibly interesting and helpful.

UPDATED POST with review 


Valenti starts out the podcast with a monologue wondering about people's hesitance in admitting that the tradition of a woman taking her husband's name upon marriage is a sexist tradition. As she says, "I think we all negotiate living in a sexist world in different ways," and she doesn't judge anyone for taking such actions, but claiming it's not a sexist tradition is disingenuous. She also points out that though women who change their names often discuss how much they dislike their last name, you never hear the same thing said by men with terrible last names, and it's entirely possible to change your last name before marriage. (I question this a bit actually - you can change your name before marriage but it's made very difficult by most states. It costs a considerable amount of money, there's usually a publication requirement, and you have to appear in court. It's all about preventing people from changing their names just to commit fraud and avoid debts). 

In the main podcast, where Valenti speaks to Scheuble, the sociologist opines, "[T]here's no norm that operates as strongly as women changing their last name when they get married. ...it's so structured. We have convinced men and women that 1. If a woman loves a man she'll change her name and 2. The guy is obviously convinced that this is what people do, why are you even questioning this?" She doesn't foresee any shift in this phenomenon any time soon. She's also seen a great deal of defensiveness and rationalization among women who change their name. 

Valenti and Scheuble discuss numerous other topics, including people's intense hatred for hyphenation (Why do people hate hyphenation so much anyway? I need to know.) There's also a touching segment that includes viewpoints from a variety of women, including one woman who said she wanted to take her husband's name so she'd have the same name as her children after she saw her aunt struggle with picking up her kids at the airport due to having a different then them.*

Scheuble wraps things up by pointing to a few interesting facts. She's currently conducting a study that does seem to indicate that men identify and attach more to children with their last names, with the effect appearing particularly strong in sons. There haven't really been any studies on surname trends among married homosexual couples yet, pretty much because gay marriage is so new in America still, but statistics that are out there do seem to indicate that people in same sex marriages are less likely to change their surnames. Scheuble surmises that this could be the result of the fact that these couples are generally older than your average heterosexual married couple and have simply had more life experience with their birth name.

 My Thoughts:

I find the entire podcast to be mostly nonjudgmental of women's decisions, but there definitely is a bit of a bias toward women who keep their birth name. Both the host and the expert kept their names and do tend to come at the issue from that standpoint. I do love that Valenti straight-up notes that this is a sexist tradition. It's hard to deny that, but people do it all the time. It may have a different meaning in your life and in your relationship, but there's no denying that its roots are problematic.

Similarly, wearing a wedding dress has sexist roots, as does wearing a wedding ring and any number of traditions in both weddings and day to day life. I am wearing a white dress on my wedding day. I also quite proudly wear my engagement ring and I really enjoy engaging in several feminine traditions that originated and are continued partly because of sexism, including wearing makeup and pretty clothes and keeping a lovely house. However, there are several traditions I reject as too sexist for me to handle - such as having my dad walk me down the aisle or the entire garter thing. Again - "We all negotiate living in a sexist world in different ways." (Can you tell I really like this quote?) I'd rather have my eyes open to all these things, think them through, and then make my choice about which traditions to embrace and engage with in my own life than to just pretend there aren't any problematic histories involved with them. Others may prefer to take a different approach, and that's fine too. We don't all need to overthink things as much as I do (I fully admit that I'm a little eccentric in wanting to know everything about everything. It's also just plain exhausting sometimes. You are welcome to live a less examined life and probably sleep better at night than I do, neurotic as I am.). Either way, I'm not going to judge you. 


*I've really wondered about this. I never had trouble growing up with a mom with a different last name then me, but people can be much more paranoid about security now than they were in the 90s when I was a young'un. Is this a real problem now?