It’s no secret 2020 was an incredibly hard year, full of heart ache and heart break. I had 9 patients die in 11 days. For context, that was a quarter of the building. It sounds dramatic, but I don’t think I’ll ever recover emotionally. Then you add a management team that not only laughed at the request for hazard pay for time spent working in COVID units, but then approved company wide pay cuts at the turn of the year. Talk about demoralizing and dehumanizing.

While I strategically turned my $0.78 pay cut into a $3 raise (that’s a story for another day), I knew I was putting a huge target on my back. In lieu of the pay cuts, diminishing morale, and the release of the COVID vaccine, Kyle and I started to plan a summer vacation to get away from it all.

What started out as a dream, 2 to 3 week road trip to see my brother and visit a couple National Parks out west, quickly expanded as our imaginations ran wild and our road trip wish list kept growing. It became clear to us that we weren’t planning a 2 week road trip, but instead a 10 to 12 week cross country road trip.

And thus, the Great American road trip (or GART) was born.

We knew we would need to quit our jobs and decided on the end of July. It just so happened we had no weddings and no other commitments in the months of August, September, and the first half of October.

We jokingly started calling this our first retirement, but the sentiment has really stuck.


Why should we wait to travel when we’re in our mid to late 60s? Shouldn’t we be exploring the USA and National Parks in our 20s? When we physically can climb mountains? Hike 20 or more miles? Sleep on the hard ground? Live off of pop tarts and goldfish?

No pets. No house. No kids. It’s now or never. So we picked now.

In February, July seemed so far away, but here we are, just a week left until we leave.


This definitely didn’t happen over night. The planning nor the saving.

Kyle and I spent about 3 weeks finalizing the list of cities, states, and National Parks we wanted to visit along the way, knowing our 3 main stops would be Lincoln, Seattle, and San Diego because these are the major cities where we could stay for 3 to 4 days with friends and family. From there, Kyle spent another 4 to 5 weeks researching each NP to read up on relevant COVID restrictions, securing back country permits, and getting campsite reservations for primitive sites inside a majority of parks. I’ve been focusing on setting up hotel reservations in the major cities we are stopping through and compiling a list of local coffee shops, bakeries, donut shops, breweries, barbeque joints, pizzerias, etc., and of course, used book stores.

Financially, this has been quite the undertaking. We started saving back in March of 2020, when we were hoping to just go to Yellowstone and Grand Teton in October of 2020. That didn’t happen due to COVID restrictions, but never the less, we continued to save. By February of this year, we had saved about 3k with the goal to have 10k set aside for the trip in total.

We haven’t even left Ohio yet and I think combined we’ve already spent 6 to 7k, cue heart palpitations.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much new camping gear we’d be buying e.g. a new light weight tent, NEMO sleeping pads (2), camping pillows (2), backcountry backpacks (2), light weight day pack (1), trail runners (2) , 2 burner camp stove (1), backcountry stove (1), bear spray (2), bear canisters (2), assorted tools, kitchen supplies, first aid kits and medical gear.

One of the largest expenses has been our new Canon point and shoot digital camera, which we hope to have for years and years to come. Then of course we needed to buy a camera case, strap, and tripod. Our new motto became, another day, another hundred dollars.

We made a majority of large purchases from REI at the end of May when they ran their anniversary sale where we scored a lot of big ticket items for 20-30% off. Given the amount of weight I lost in 2020, I needed to update my camping and hiking wardrobe. I bought shorts and base layer items from REI during the sale, then sourced short sleeve and long sleeve polyester tshirts from Goodwill and found some really great stuff for a couple bucks each.

While the upfront cost of all our new gear has stung, it’s a relief to know we bought high quality gear that we likely won’t have to upgrade or replace for 5 to 10 years, maybe even longer. Other than buying groceries and replenishing first aid kits and medical supplies, our future camping trips shouldn’t cost anywhere close to the cost of this 11 week trip.

This time next week, our adventures begins. We are so excited to explore the stunning and diverse landscapes of our vast country – from the rainforests of Washington, to the Glaciers of Montana, to the deserts of California, to the red-rock formations in Utah, and everything in between.

Until next time, Meryn



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SUMMER + ROAD TRIP TBR linked here


I first drafted this blogpost on June 4, 2020. With this being the last week of work of my first full time PT job, it’s time to reflect

1 | Patient
I definitely feel like I am more patient since working with predominantly the geriatric population. I used to get irritated very quickly trying to help my parents trouble shoot tech issues and now that I do it all the time at work with patients, it doesn’t make my blood boil nearly as much

2 | Protective
When the COVID19 pandemic hit and all nursing homes went into lockdown, restricting visits from loved ones (for good reason), those who work in nursing homes, effectively became stand in family for all of our residents, a task I didn’t take lightly. I’m not exaggerating when I say it tore me apart to know my residents weren’t getting to be with their loved ones, in some cases, even prior to death. I know as healthcare workers it’s not recommended to get attached to your patients, but how could I not? We were the only family they had? Especially as the therapy team, we became such a source of joy and happiness for our residents who were isolated from peers and loved ones

3 | Flexible
There’s really no choice but to be flexible working in the nursing home setting. Thought you only had a 6 hour day so you decided to sleep in an extra hour? Ha, jokes on you! You have 3 surprise evaluations and a 9 hour day. I feel like at this stage in my life e.g. no kids, I am able to manage the variability in work hours day to day, but I can’t see doing this long term once kids arrive. At that point, I’ll be seeking out a job that covers only 1 facility, or maybe 2 small facilities at most to manage the schedule a family with two working parents demands

4 | Intuitive
In the past 2.5 years, I’ve come across a wide variety of patient personalities, from the most highly motivated, to self-limiting, to the most apathetic. While no two patients are the same, I definitely have gotten better at “reading people” aka being able to call people out on their bullshit, both figuratively and literally

5 | Unflappable
No, I did not pull that word from my personal vocabulary. I Googled, word for calm in high stress situations and out popped unflappable, see also composure. I have had a handful of moments in my short career where I have felt fearful and scared for my safety as a result of the actions or exchanges with a patient, most commonly a psych patient. Hell, one of my sites just had a patient elope after breaking 3 windows on the top floor of our building! While there are times I’m apprehensive to approach certain patients or to give undesired instruction, I find that I am more confident in my position of power and authority

Until next time, Meryn


The people, places, and pleasant pastries that defined my year

Year 27 highlights:

1 | 30 pounds weight loss

2 | exploring Detroit

3 | Traverse City for Kyle’s birthday

4 | solo half marathon

5 | COVID19 vaccination

6 | 7 years with Kyle

7 | BFF’s wedding in Presque Isle, Michigan

8 | longest run of 10 miles

9 | quitting my job to travel for 3 months

10 | car camping in Brighton, Michigan

Until next time, Meryn


I have a lot to say, so much that I had to write an entire blogpost about this book

WARNING: spoilers ahead

Survive the Night was my most anticipated book of the year, and I’m so disappointed. I consider myself a bandwagon Riley Sager super fan. To this day, I credit Home Before Dark for reigniting my love of reading in June of 2020. It’s easily in my top 5 favorite books. I recommend and I think about it on a weekly basis, the unease, anxiety, and fear it brought me. I’ve been dying to re-read it, but am forcing myself to wait until closer to Halloween.

While I had incredibly high expectations going into STN, I also knew, based off the synopsis, this wasn’t likely going to be a 5 star read for me personally, and I was right. What I have loved so much about Sager in the past is his atmospheric settings, e.g. the Baneberry Hall of HBD and the Bartholomew of Lock Every Door. But half of this story is told in a car traveling from New Jersey to Ohio, can’t say I find anything atmospheric about the interior of a slate-gray Pontiac Grand Am. Also, Sager is quoted saying this is a “love letter to the movies” which just isn’t my vibe as I’m not much of a movie watcher. Unfortunately, a lot of the 90s film references went right over my head. If I was born in the earlier 80s and growing up in the early 90s, I reckon I would feel very differently.

Now to actually discuss STN. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like for any mega Riley Sager fans, the final twist will have been very predictable and underwhelming. Given HBD was marketed as a book within a book (not a spoiler), I went into this with the strong inkling there would be a movie script/screenplay tie in, and what would you know. As the story got more and more ridiculous, ahem, cinematic, it further reinforced my assumption. Also, with such a small cast of characters, the murder reveal was not shocking in the slightest. I didn’t exactly guess the motive of the murderer, but guessing their identity wasn’t difficult given the limited character list.

Regardless, I was still entertained and caught by some smaller plot twists. A very quick read I sped through in less than 16 hours. This is my lowest rated of Sager’s books at 4 stars, but definitely the most disappointing given how much I hyped it up in my head. I just can’t give it a 5 star rating having guessed the two biggest plot twists.

I will forever be a Riley Sager fan, catch me hyping up book #6.

Until tomorrow, Meryn

Other stand along book reviews:


A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Deacon King Kong
Author: James McBride
Publication Date: March 2020
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

This just, wasn’t the book for me. I was struck by the cover last year and kept getting drawn into it. Opted for the audiobook which wasn’t a great option for me personally. It quickly became background noise. I went into it basically blind, I don’t think I had barely skimmed the synopsis once before hitting play. Their definitely were unique characters, shout out to Hot Sausage, and I was amused throughout, but I really couldn’t tell you anything about the actual plot other than Hettie hounding The Deacon about that damn Christmas money. In it for the time, an okay good time, but not for a long time.
Buzzword Readathon: June selection

Author: Yaa Gyasi
Publication Date: April 2017
Genre: historical fiction
Method: paperback

Heart breaking and heart warming. A beautifully woven story covering the lineages of two, interconnected families through eight generations. I had to take my time with this book. Each chapter felt special and important, it couldn’t be rushed through like a mystery or thriller. Reading the book cover to cover felt less like a singular, cohesive story and more like a collection of short stories, given the back and forth nature of Gyasi’s story telling. When I come back to this book in the future, I think I’ll read alternating chapters as to follow one half of the family tree more closely. I also think it would be really unique to read in reverse, to travel back in time through the generations.

The Guncle
Author: Steven Rowley
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: fiction, LGBT
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

If a warm and meaningful hug could be boxed up into a book, like you’re favorite classic 80s or 90s family sitcom. When I say I laughed out loud, know that I really mean it. If this isn’t adapted for tv, that’ll be a damn shame – Patrick’s one liners were iconic. I loved the references to day time TV, the Emmy’s, Golden Globes, but most importantly, Hollywood Squares, that definitely unlocked a memory for me from the late 90s. I do feel like the story overall was disjointed. It’s almost as if there were 5 sub plots loosely related to the main plot that never really circled back or concluded. The cuteness and wholesomeness gets a 4 star rating, the discombobulated plot keeps it from being a 5 star read.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: May 2018
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

This was my first Ruth Ware and wow was I impressed. I started the audiobook very much on a whim and was captivated from the first chapter. This book had a lot of elements I love in my thrillers: large cast of characters, various timelines, flashbacks via diary entries, atmospheric setting (Trespassen was the Gothic house of my dreams), familial drama and secrets, and a new favorite element, distribution of wealth and/or inheritance. I also loved the tarot cards and readings woven throughout the story. I thought the pacing was excellent and well executed. Chapter after chapter I had so many questions, some that didn’t get answered until the very end. And some that are left unanswered, which puzzle me. There was a point in the last 10% of the book that I feel genuinely unsettled and sick to my stomach. As the family drama was unfolding, I was getting more and more scared and anxious. I loved it so much. I’m obsessed. The Dutch House, but make it a mystery thriller. Perfect and articulate review by Abby of CBTB linked here.
Buzzword Readathon: June selection

The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: July 2016
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have started a Ruth Ware audiobook directly after finishing a Ruth Ware audiobook. But, in my defense, I was so enamored and impressed with The Death of Mrs. Westaway, that I just had to dive back in, but it wasn’t a runaway favorite like TDoMW.
There definitely was a mix of pros and cons, which landed by rating just about in the middle with a 3 of 5 star rating. I enjoyed the large cast of characters, the luxury ship setting, and the various story telling formats including email messages, breaking news alerts, forum discussions, and BBC online articles.
However, what I didn’t like, what I never like in thrillers, is an unreliable main character. It’s just so overdone in the genre. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the unreliable, alcoholic main character in The Girl On The Train, but it was the first thriller I read with that specific trope, and every other story I read following just hasn’t been as impressive or Earth shattering.
I’ll likely read all of Ruth Ware’s backlist this year, much like tackling all of Riley Sager’s books in 2020. Up next, hopefully, is The Turn of the Key, which I have very high hopes for with a 5 star prediction.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


We leave for our 3 month road trip in less than a month! I’ve spent the past few weeks curating a list of books I hope to get to throughout the summer, keeping in mind we will be on the road for the entirety of August and September.

I maybe be totally over estimating how much time I’ll have to read during our trip but I’d rather be over prepared than underprepared when it comes to reading material. I’m also in the middle of making a road trip essentials card game kit, which will have 2 sets of playing cards, dice, dominos, and 1 or 2 books/manuals for card and dice games we can play in the evenings while at campgrounds and hotels.

I’ve been working on downloading ebook copies of these titles to load onto my Nook. I wish I could bring the physical copies of these books, but we’ll be tight on space in my car considering all of our camping gear.

I bought the audiobook of Project Hail Mary on Audible, hoping to turn my boyfriend on to audiobooks with this new sci-fi release. I listened to Andy Weir’s The Martian earlier this year and loved it.

I’ve got a good mix of genres, new releases, older titles, and even a high school re-read I hope to get to during our trip!

July Hopefuls

Road Trip Ebooks

Road Trip Audiobooks

Until tomorrow, Meryn




Birthday weekend camping trip near Brighton, Michigan (Brewery Becker and Bourbons Brighton), packing and moving out our of first apartment, last minute purchases for our road trip


Tomato basil frittata, grilled hot dogs, baked beans, and pasta salad for Father’s Day


Double dates at Twin Oast Brewing, The Heights, and Bronze Boar, Garden Harvest, Mr. Freeze sundaes for Father’s Day, authentic Amish donuts in Pennsylvania


Sibling Revelry Brewing’s Blood Brood, Twin Oast’s Kellys Island Pilsner, Ship Burner, and Legitimate Swells, Wilhelm Winery (Hadley, PA) samples and Fredonia


Many trips to the library, Twin Oast Brewing, Delaware, OH for PT classmate wedding, The Lodge in Pennsylvania for the annual Fourth of July pig roast


Audiobooks, exploring new coffee shops, new library books, double dates with friends, Book of the Month subscription


Color coordinated book collages, an aesthetic bookstagram


Again, but always, moments of calm and serenity surrounded by beautiful landscapes and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, the next chapter, together


Relieved finally announcing my resignation, excited for this next chapter, proud of our courage and gusto for quitting our jobs, foraging our own path, thankful for the support from family, friends, and coworkers

Listening // Books + Podcasts

Listening // Music

Albums: SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo, Normal People soundtrack
Spotify Playlists: Today’s Top Hits, 2020 Half Marathon Jams, Grand Teton by Parks Project


Wedding of two PT classmates, resignation from my first PT job , 49 books read in the first half of the year, coworkers 30th birthday, 100 followers on this blog and over 1,000 views


As an employee, you are always dispensable and replaceable to your employer


More bike shorts from Old Navy, sports bras from Aerie, vintage America’s National Parks book for our trip, pre-ordered Riley Sager’s new thriller Survive the Night

Monthly Mood Board

Until next time, Meryn


And in the blink of an eye, half of 2021 is gone. In this post I’ll be sharing all 49 books I’ve read this year, an update on the facts and figures from the past 6 months, and reflecting on my 2021 reading goals and intentions!

Facts and Figures

Nonfiction: 14
Autobiographical: 5
Feminism: 1
Race: 3
Self-help: 2

Fiction: 35
Fantasy: 2
Fiction: 10
Historical fiction: 5
Mystery, suspense, thrillers: 12
Romance: 2
Science fiction: 4

Physical books: 28
Audiobooks: 21

Library or borrowed books: 43
Personal collection: 6

Book of the Month purchase: 3
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 14
Buddy reads: 11

2021 TBR: 10

5 star reads: 15
4 star reads: 14
3 star reads: 20

Reading Goals + Intentions

1 | Backlist titles from 2020 favorite authors: Goal met
In this goal I specifically called out The Ghost Bride and Everything I Never Told You, both of which I read this first quarter of the year

2 | 2021 releases from 2020 favorite authors: Ongoing, 25% complete
Finally made progress with this goal! I happened upon an ARC copy of The Maidens, sadly I didn’t love it. As I type this, I have a copy of One Last Stop in my possession from the library and I have 2 copies of Survive the Night on the way to me
☒ Alex Michaelides’ The Maidens
☐ Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop
☐ Riley Sager’s Survive the Night
☐ Paula Hawkin’s A Slow Fire Burning, to release August 31st

3 | New to me authors: Ongoing, 37.5% complete
Couple more knocked of this list, Leigh Bardugo and Ruth Ware. Fingers crossed I get to at least one of Turton’s books in the next 3 months to scratch his name off this list!
☒ Fredrik Backman
☒ Leigh Bardugo
☐ Alice Feeney
☐ Lisa Jewel
☐ Lars Kepler
☐ Jo Nesbø
☐ Stuart Turton
☒ Ruth Ware

4 | Author diversity and inclusion: Ongoing, 50% complete
Of the 49 books I’ve read, 21 are titles by BIPOC authors and 2 identify as queer. I selected S. A. Crosby’s new release for my July BOTM pick, so hopefully by Q3, I’ll be knocking his name off this list
☒ Oyinkan Braithwaite
☐ S.A. Cosby
☒ Eva García Sáenz
☐ David Heska Wanbli Weiden

5 | Genres and reading format: Ongoing
Still haven’t tackled any comedy, poetry, or memoir selections this year, but definitely have knocked out non-fiction, fantasy, and science fiction genres. Of the 49 books I’ve read so far this year, 21 have been audiobooks. I can’t believe I waited until 2021 to start listening to audiobooks

6 | Buddy reads: Ongoing
Currently failing my brother, I made him get a digital copy of Let My People Go Surfing and then got a copy for myself from the library but they had to return it because I couldn’t renew it any more times… Still hope to get to Atomic Habits this year, but I don’t really see that as a buddy ready with him anymore. I think sticking to science fiction, fantasy, or thrillers would be best

The buddy reads I’ve done this year with my BFF have been very informal. Basically one of use reads a book, loves it, then forces the other to read it, then we discuss. This has happened a couple times, for example: The Dutch House, The Lost Apothecary, Pachinko, Beach Read, and The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. And yes, I did finish Homegoing, we just haven’t gotten around to discussing it yet!

7 | General goals: Ongoing
☐ 49 books (goal 60 books)
☐ 15,410 pages (goal 20,000 pages)
☐ 4 book about race/racism (goal 5 books)

Until next time, Meryn

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP 2021 // 42 BOOK UPDATE linked here

2021 TBR // SECOND QUARTER UPDATE linked here


Half way through the year and half way through the Buzzword Readathon! Of the 7 books I read in the past 3 months for this challenge, 3 I gave 5 stars and 2 I gave 4 stars with no real duds in the bunch. I know it’s barely the middle of the year but I’m already excited to find out the 2022 prompts!

April – space/galaxy terms

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
The Martian by Andy Weir

May – “house/home”

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

June – name/title

Deacon King Kong by James McBride
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

What I’m planning to read in the next 3 months:

July – “last”

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

August – time of day

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Survive the Night by Riley Sager
Endless Night by Agatha Christie

September – “dark”

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

BooksandLala blogpost linked here
Goodreads group linked here
INTRODUCTION linked here

Until tomorrow, Meryn


And in the blink of an eye, we are half way through 2021! As I write this, I’m just under 50 books read this year which puts me way ahead of schedule for my 60 book goal. I’ll be spending a majority of Q3 on a cross country road trip with my boyfriend and my hope is to knock out another 10 or so titles on this list!

I read 5 more books this past quarter which brings up my completion percentage to 33.33%. I think that’s pretty good considering there is still 6 months left in 2021. I was easily distracted by new releases from the library the first half of the year which pulled my attention away from this list. However, the entirety of August and September I’ll be living out of my car while we travel cross country with no library access (to physical books), so I expect to get through a good chunk of these on my year long TBR.

My predictions for what I’ll have finished by end of Q3 include:

1 | Circe by Madeline Miller

2 | Survive the Night by Riley Sager

3 | One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

4 | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5 | The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

6 | The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

7 | Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

8 | The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

9 | Memorial by Bryan Washington

I ran through my 2021 TBR with a friend the other day and their excitement over some of the titles gave me just the push and spark of inspiration I needed to knock more books off this list!

What book would you recommend I read next?

Until tomorrow, Meryn

Original blogpost READING GOALS + TBR LIST // 2021 linked here
Goodreads 2021 Bookshelf linked here