Tuesday, October 9, 2018

September Book List

My Book Tower!



Non-fiction

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

Sedaris' work is always flawless, and after reading "Calypso" I wanted to go back and explore essays I hadn't read before. Most fans have already devoured "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim." I will probably read it again since Sedaris' insights about family and his never-ending humor made this book a quick read that I loved.

Fiction

Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

Dunbar is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear. Henry Dunbar is stuck in a sanitarium after handing his company over to his greedy oldest daughters. He escapes with a fellow patient in tow, but his two oldest daughters, as well as Florence, his youngest daughter who wants nothing more than for him to be safe, attempt to find him, and it's a race to see who will make it to him first.

This was a good story, though the ending felt quick.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

When Greer meets Faith in college, her life changes. She wants to impress this feminist leader who has an effect on her life the first time they meet, and this helps direct the course of future events. Wolitzer has written a beautiful book about feminism, friendship, and the decisions we make that shape us and those around us.

Greer and Faith are both well drawn characters, as is the entire cast we're introduced to throughout the story. This book spans years, private and public tragedies, and it has a voice in today's world with all the issues currently in the spotlight. I highly recommend this one.

Hey Ladies! The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss

I grabbed this one strictly for entertainment, and it did not disappoint. Written in emails, with an occasional text thrown in for variety, "Hello Ladies!" shows what some female friendships look like and the hilarious, cringeworthy, and heartfelt outcomes.

Yes, the characters are stereotypes, exaggerated for laughs. However, any woman who has ever been stuck on an email chain or group text or at the mercy of a Bridezilla will recognize these conversations and laugh her ass off. It's for entertainment, and it's entertaining.

Severance by Ling Ma

The world is coming to an end, but Candace doesn't feel the need to waver from her routine. Working in New York, an orphan after her parents died years ago, she goes about her life with her boyfriend and routine-driven job as those around her succumb to Shen Fever. What does it say about our lives that we can live so much of them on autopilot as the world around us falls apart?

Candance can't make it on her own forever, so she joins a group of survivors who have also evaded Shen Fever, a condition that leaves those suffering from it in a sort-of zombie state, though not aggressive zombies. They simply repeat their routines over and over again without cognitive awareness.  But Candace's need to partner up with others introduces new challenges, and Ma unfolds this story using flashbacks and beautiful language.

This one ended abruptly to me, but that's my only complaint. Ma tackles the popular apocalypse genre in a way that adds depth to what otherwise would have been a familiar story.

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff

I wanted to read this one and I didn't want to read this one. "Putney" is a story told from three different points-of-view about an affair that happened years ago. The problem is the affair was between an adult male and an adolescent girl, and the friend who watched it happen is still disturbed by the way it played out (as anyone in their right mind would be.)

It takes a skilled writer to handle the issues of consent, grooming, and abuse in a way that audiences can keep reading through their rage and disgust. Zinovieff is one of those writers. This book was heartbreaking, disturbing, timely, and wonderful. She effortlessly explores sexual abuse, telling each person's perspective flawlessly. You'll be pissed when you put this one down, but it's worth it.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

In the future, abortions are illegal, as is IVF treatment for infertility, and only  heterosexual married couples can adopt. This world is where Zuma creates a story of the interconnecting lives of women, where she digs deep into big issues without being preachy.

Zuma offers characters we care about living in small-town Oregon who are affected by the current policies and whose decisions are fueled by desire and desperation. She introduces these women at  first by their titles-mother, daughter, mender-but expands on what those roles mean to them and who each woman is at her inner core.

I finished this one and immediately passed it to a friend. Imagine me placing it into your hands now because it is an intelligent, full read.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Poornima and Savitha become friends and fight for their places in a world not made for ambitious women. When Savitha is subjected to horrible cruelty, she disappears. Poornima follows closely behind, and this story unravels as each girl overcomes obstacles to try to survive and reunite.

This is not an easy read. After reading the non-fiction book "Half the Sky" years ago, which informs readers of the myriad of challenges many women face in the world daily, every word of "Girls Burn Brighter" read true to me. I'm not sure I could have believed all the author led her characters through if not for that previous book.

This is beautiful, tragic, and determined work.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Radical Resilience Building and Other Ways I Persevered in September

I love fall, so I was happy to welcome the Texas version of it in September. Now, if October could just bring cooler weather, I could persevere at not sweating.

Not Throwing Away Food

It has been determined that since I am lacking the ability to smell and a large decapitated rat was found in our yard last weekend, I cannot have a compost pile in the back yard. D feels this combination of issues will inevitably spell disaster, and he's probably not wrong.

Since I can't compost, I have upped my efforts to not waste any food if it's at all possible. We eat every bite of leftovers. I buy smaller amounts of perishable items at one time, and we just go back to the store often so we don't let them rot. I have gotten crazy creative at disguising leftovers as "new food" when everyone is over it in order to keep from throwing it away.

This is hard and ongoing, and I am still constantly surprised at how much we waste. Still, we're trying.

Resilience Building in the Midst of Chaos

If you had to make it through September watching a bunch of people not give a shit about sexual assault victims, I am so sorry. If you are a victim of rape or assault like I am, I am especially sorry for the hell this has been.

The minute the "Well even if he did it, does it matter?" questions started flowing, I flashbacked to all the things that were said when Trump openly admitted to violating women and certain voters did not care. I knew it was going to be this way and I still was not prepared for the flashbacks, the anger, or the anxiety that shadowed me this month as I wondered what I would do if I was Dr. Ford. Would I be as brave as she was, coming forward knowing I would receive death threats and my family would have to go into hiding? Would I recall my rape publicly in a room of people ready to rip me apart and question my integrity? Since it took me 13 years to tell anyone I had been raped, would that be the only question I received? Why didn't you come forward? Look around, folks, is it that hard to figure out?

In the midst of this I did not want to spiral down to a bad place, so I practiced radical resilience building, also known as self-care. When I call it resilience building, I sometimes take it more seriously.

I ran. I rested. I had coffee with girlfriends. I talked it out when I needed to. I got outside everyday for hours under the green canopy of trees. I unfriended people on social media. I counted the Beto signs going up all over my town. I meditated. I took stock of where my emotions were headed daily. I read poetry. I lit candles. I wrote. I gave thanks for Prozac. I parented calmly while rage at this world bubbled right under the surface. I made it. It was hard.

Self-care needs to be practiced regularly, not just when everything hits the fan. Having the habits already in place helped me stick to them when I really just wanted to unravel. Yes, I did consume a few alcoholic beverages and partake in too many baked goods, which was self-comfort over self-care. But I definitely chose wisely more times than not, despite feeling like a piñata that the GOP enjoyed beating the shit out of daily.


Following the Perfect Curriculum for Us

We have found our happy place with Oak Meadow homeschool curriculum. It fits perfectly into our lives and values, and the kids love it. We are on a pretty consistent schedule, though we move around what time of day we school based on book club, Lego club, or park playdates. That's the beauty of homeschooling.

No one will ever be as cool as Eowyn hacking into the
library's computers in her beanie.



Continuing the Writer Life

The creative life is weird. After not submitting often and simply trying to consistently write, I ventured back into the world of seeking publication. I had a solid week in September, with two pieces accepted and an assignment offer from a Dallas magazine six months after submitting my resume. The horizon will probably be dead for the next seven or eight months, but I am happy for the abundant periods.

And for October, I leave you with the wisdom of Pooh and Piglet. Happy October!

Photo courtesy of Pinterest





Sunday, September 9, 2018

Trusting the Process: Persevering In August

Homeschool Planning

First day of kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 4th grade




Working in pajamas


I spent weeks in August planning our homeschool calendar until Christmas. It was hard and rewarding work, especially since we just finished the first week and everything, so far, is going according to plan.

Planning doesn't mean we'll stay perfectly on track, but it gives me daily goals to shoot for, and I need that.

Running

Running might not be the right word for what I'm doing. Jogging is probably a stretch. It's not walking, not dying on the sidewalk, but I'm sure I don't look like one of those really determined runners who just can't get enough. I think the expression on my face probably reads, I really love this, oh shit, I'm going to die, slow down, wait I can't go any slower without stopping. Yay for me because I'm still moving! Oh, I really might die. But it's been great, and I mean that sincerely.

I won't be posting about dramatic weight loss or how many sizes I've gone down because I am not weighing or attempting to drop inches during this process. If it happens, okay, but this is about how I feel.

After I weaned the twins and my body did not come back to me with the same functioning parts as it had before all my pregnancies, I started losing hope that I would ever again feel strong or have endurance. Add in mental health issues, and I wondered what had happened to the girl who used to work out for fun for hours a day or who hiked through mountains in Oregon. I wanted to hang out with her again.

I started very slowly, and I will likely remain very slow. I'm on week six of the Couch to 5K program, but I have no intentions of running a 5K or a marathon or anything really. I want to be able to run three solid miles just because, anytime I want. If I get there and want to do more, great. If not, I'm good.

Sidenote: Any Meniere's sufferers should know that running is great for the condition. I know, how the hell are you supposed to run when you can barely stand and have trouble hearing cars that might mow you down as you trot? You don't until you are ready.

My chiropractor, who I have been seeing forever and who has been helping me deal with my Meniere's since the beginning, said, "Running is one of the best things you can do for vestibular disorders" after I told him I was about to start running. I asked why he had never told me this before, and he said I wasn't ready before. The Meniere's had wrecked me, and he didn't want to send me out to fall on my face, literally, before my body was in a better place. Now that it is, he is cheering me on. That, and adjusting my sore but happy body.


Panda Planning

My friend showed me her Panda Planner when we were having coffee one night, and I was intrigued. When I received an Amazon gift card for my birthday, I decided to take a chance and purchase one. I still use my other planner on occasion, but the Panda Planner has definitely taken center stage in my everyday life.

Using positive psychology and a layout that offers a chance to write down monthly, weekly, and daily goals, this planner is the first thing I grab in the morning when I wake up and the last thing I write in before going to bed. I have been more productive and have been able to see where I lose time since using this planner. It's my new personal favorite.

Creating

The calm down kit is created.
The art/dining/homeschool room is painted.
I am creating pockets of quality time with each child, pretty much daily. It may just be snuggling in the chair or going outside to look at bugs, but it's focused. This time can slow down a chaotic day and bring me back to focusing on who and what is right in front of me.

It's called stormy blue, and I love it.

Shake something, spin something, draw something: just calm down.


Monday, September 3, 2018

August Book List

Here are a dozen fabulous books to choose from. Enjoy!

Fiction

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

A friend put this book on my radar, and I am so glad she did. Ganshert develops her characters beautifully in a way that reminds me of Liane Moriarty, but the story was all her own and it resonates.

Camille, Anaya, and Jen's lives overlap because a school in Missouri loses its accreditation, and the well off people of Crystal Ridge are forced to let these students attend their schools. Among protests and tension, Ganshert shares the personal lives of these women while also addressing the storm brewing in the community because of the changes. She is brilliant at creating understanding and sympathy, offering complex, flawed characters that readers will care about, and opening the eyes of readers to the real-life racism that exists throughout this country. This is a must read, and you won't be able to put it down.


Any Man by Amber Tamblyn

I had know idea actress Amber Tamblyn also wrote, but after reading this book I will likely pick up more of her work. Tamblyn takes a look at rape culture through the lens of men who are being preyed on by a merciless female rapist named Maude. Using poetic prose, texts, messenger, tweets, and conventional chapters, Tamblyn makes the reader feel compassion and shines a light on not only the horrors of rape but the horrors of the after, the shame, the trauma, and the victim blaming.

This one is a quick read because it's hard to put down and is as terrifying as it is sympathetic. Even being a relatively short book the characters are full and multi-dimensional, and it's not hard for readers to connect with them. I devoured this one and then passed it to friends.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Horowitz has a way of messing with readers' minds right from the very start. In Magpie Murders, he offers readers a book within a book, a mystery within a mystery, and it is brilliant. In The Word is Murder, the protagonist is, well Horowitz, and he reveals so much detail about the narrator(him) that matches up with his real life that it's hard to remember this is fiction and Horowitz did not, in fact, live this story(as far as we know).

A woman goes to a funeral home to plan her funeral service so her family won't have to. That night, she's found dead. Coincidence? Not in Horowitz's book. His narrator teams up with a Sherlock Holmes type so he can write about the case and help the detective make a name for himself. What unfolds are unforgettable characters and a story that left me guessing until the end. Grab this one for a summer read since fall is still technically three weeks away, and we're still baking here in Texas.


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

This book slaughtered me. At over 400 pages, it's lengthy, but the chapters are short and alternate between the point of view of Yale in 1985, a gay man living in Chicago during the AIDS outbreak of the 80s, and Fiona in 1995 who is looking for her daughter in Paris. How their stories overlap and the devastation of the AIDS crisis are revealed in beautiful writing that builds characters the reader will care for, root for, and cry for.

Makkai doesn't leave out the hard parts, like how AIDS victims were treated when the disease was considered a gay man's disease or how the U.S. watched its own citizens die after the battle they fought left them largely isolated since most people feared going near them. She touches on friendship and family and what it means to lose those around you while still being left in the world. It's a heartbreaking and wonderful book.


The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Esther Hicks has been on television her whole life because her family stars in Six for Hicks, a reality show based around their religion. Essie's teen pregnancy doesn't play well with the hellfire morals they preach, so her mother makes a plan to deal with the pregnancy in a way that benefits the family and their ratings. Essie, however, has a plan of her own, and she enlists a classmate named Roarke and a reporter, Liberty, to help her pull it off.

This story was beautiful and horrifying due to Weir's ability to tap into the reader's emotions and push every button. None of it felt contrived, and that's why it worked. The characters were real, some of the plot lines could have been ripped from the news, and the back stories given along the way for Essie, Roarke, and Liberty moved the story along at precisely the right speed. I wanted to stand and applaud when I turned the last page while simultaneously wanting to start the whole book again.

Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams

The Apricity machine tells users the three things they need to do to be happy by testing their DNA, and Pearl is one of the employees who gives these tests and reads the results. Results can range from taking a walk to cutting off an appendage, and those who believe in the machine's suggestions are adamant about its knowledge, though some, like Pearl's son, have their doubts. Isn't this just another attempt to sell happiness to desperate consumers?

William's story deals with our obsession with happiness and technology while also expertly weaving in our preoccupation with fame and the complications of personal relationships. I felt like she touched on so many topics, including art and betrayal, and she did it in a way that felt authentic every time.

Each chapter seems to shift focus to a different character, but the book is beautifully interconnected and satisfying. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one. It's one that leaves you thinking, and I always love those.

The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher

I was touched by Schumacher's Dear Committee Members, almost to the point of being in tears when I finished it. It was hilarious because Schumacher has her finger on the pulse of the absurdities of academia, but it was touching and sincere as well.

Schumacher picks up her tale of Jay in this sequel, who is now department head and dealing with an Econ department that wants to cut the English department completely out of the equation.
Still heartfelt and full of characters I cared about, it didn't strike the same note for me as "Dear Committee Members." However, as a former English major, I always have a place for the writer brave enough to defend liberal arts and pull together a cast of professors who remind me of the ones I had in college. This is a solid book and Schumacher is reliable at portraying imperfect but lovable characters.

You Think It, I'll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld

I love short story collections and don't read nearly enough of them. Curtis Sittenfeld made me grateful that I picked this one up since she writes beautiful modern stories that peel back the layers of human behavior and emotions using characters that any of us could know or be in real life.

In "A Regular Couple" a couple on their honeymoon struggle with their differences while also contending with an acquaintance from high school. "Prairie Wife" follows Kirsten as she tries to figure out if the now very public life of a past friend is real or posed. "Do-Over" takes a look at the casual sexism in everyday life and what happens when two people attempt to confront the past.

These stories often go to unexpected places, but they don't feel contrived or manipulating. Sittenfeld is just good at looking at how humans work and pulling back the curtain on our behavior. I highly recommend this one. Take a story a day, if you can pace yourself, because each one will leave you with a lot to think about when you finish.

Nonfiction

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir  by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Patrisse Khan-Cullors, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement, writes candidly about her life and her mission in this memoir. The entire book was captivating, including Khan-Cullors journey through her personal life. It felt the strongest to me when she discussed national issues, specific cases that led her to  help found BLM, and the discrimination she faced for simply doing so.

After the killing of police officers in Dallas at a BLM rally by a rogue gunman, Khan-Cullors and other movement leaders were labeled terrorists, and she is able to set the record straight and explain why BLM is a necessary and non-violent group(the BLM leaders denounced the gunman, who had no connection to the BLM movement). However, many taunted the BLM movement leaders with the terrorist label, and I am glad the founders are using their voices to explain the important work they are doing, as well as how and why.

Body Full of Stars: Female Rage and My Passage into Motherhood by Molly Caro May

I was drawn to this book for personal reasons. May struggled with postpartum rage likely connected to PMDD after the birth of her daughter. Oddly, my mental health issues connected to PMDD and a couple of other factors started after my youngest hit the toddler phase, but I wanted to read the words of someone else who had been through it. May's words were exactly what I needed.

May's writing has a poetic element while also cutting to the basics of any sentiment. She explores her physical body's connection to her emotions and her mental health, and encourages women to get back in touch with their bodies. May's not afraid to shed light on what female rage looks like and the effect it can have on others, and she's breathtakingly honest about what she's gone through in her female form.

I wish women were warned that getting the baby out of the body is not always the beginning of the healing process, that there are times when other things break, though I'm not sure I would have wanted to have heard that while pregnant or trying to conceive because it's a lot to handle. Plus, I don't think I would have believed it. This book is for the woman who needs to hear now that she is not alone, that giving birth to a child can feel like new life and the death of certain parts of her physical health. It can mean rage, but it can also mean healing.

I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux

I heard Arceneaux speak about this book on NPR's Fresh Air, and I decided to grab it based on that interview. Arceneaux is from Houston, and he defines himself as a recovering Catholic. As a gay, black man, the church and his family don't know what to do with him, leading him to question his faith. His essays deal with that struggle and other issues he's faced throughout life.

These essays were both hilarious and touching, telling and hard to put down. Most of us have questioned why our churches and faith leaders draw the lines in certain places and not others, and Arceneaux does a wonderful job of exploring this openly and sharing the effect it's had on his life. He also explores dating, the college life at Howard, and his personal Queen, Beyoncé. There's a lot here, and it's good.

Creativity Takes Courage: Dare to Think Differently by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst

There is pretty much nothing that the editors of Flow produce in book form that I don't buy, and I don't frequently buy books. I'm a library lover, but readers need to purchase this interactive journal that offers tips for tapping into creativity, as well as ways to set realistic goals that can lead to life-changing results.

Each chapter discusses a way to tap into creativity, such as spending time alone or going off-line, and there are tiny workbooks or questions at the end of almost every chapter. This allows the reader to write down their intentions and discover ways they want to grow their creativity. I love it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Praise for Prozac and Other Ways I Persevered in July

Started Medication



For over two years I've been working to get my mental health on course. This has taken the form of dealing with Meniere's disease symptoms, taking supplements for adrenal issues, having my thyroid meds adjusted, and being treated for anemia. I started a progesterone supplement a few months ago hoping that would knock out the last of the anxiety and depression I sometimes deal with, but after a promising start, it stopped working.

On July 7th, I took my first Prozac. I talked to my OB about both PMDD and my Meniere's, and she thinks they are overlapping to introduce me to a fresh hell every month. When she offered an antidepressant, I didn't even hesitate. I knew when I called her that I was ready to take whatever was offered.

I'm still taking extra omegas and exercising, drinking my water and meditating, and I feel like doing those things more often now that I'm on Prozac. There are side effects and I feel them at times, but they aren't more distracting than what I was going through before, so we'll see.

An antidepressant doesn't make a person happy, but it does give me a choice, a buffer, a distance from my emotions that I didn't have before. I respond, not just react. I feel more like me, the me I was before my body and brain just sort of collapsed. I am so grateful for that.

I am glad I finally committed to this because I avoided it for too long, I fear. It was like I had been shot but refused to see a doctor because I wasn't quite dead, just bleeding profusely. If I could have even a slice of a good day, I talked myself out of medication. This is not the way to go about things. I'm so thankful to all the people in my life who have been open about their mental health struggles. I admired the way they persevered in taking care of their mental health, and now I'm joining them.

Cooking with Kids

Some people may have always loved getting in the kitchen and cooking with their kids, but I was not one of them. It's messy, it takes twice as long, and our flour costs $12 a bag. I had to bite my tongue to keep from screaming when it came flying out of the bowl while children attempted to stir.

Now that my oldest are actually capable of making something without leaving the kitchen looking like a crime scene, they helped menu plan in July and used a cookbook to buy ingredients for some great meals. Then, they either helped cook them or cooked them on their own. It was beautiful and tasty. Also, being on Prozac most definitely helped this process go smoothly for me.

Summer Elongated

I've decided to kick it 1980s style and not start homeschooling the kids again until after Labor Day. We spent July swimming, on play dates, and making no particular plans for the future. Wren's curriculum arrives this week so I can start planning for September, but until then I am strictly about the summer vibes.

Monday, August 6, 2018

July Book List

Non-fiction was the majority this month, but all the books were pretty great. It was a good month for words in my world.

Non-fiction

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

I did not know who Rachel Hollis was before picking up this book, but I enjoyed her work. Hollis, who is a mother, businesswoman, and eternal optimist, shares a rule for life in each chapter. She weaves her personal story between the pages and works to lift women up and help them realize their goals.

This could have easily fallen into the self-help, cheerleader fluff, but Hollis did pretty well at keeping it out of that territory. She reminded me to keep promises to myself, a great reminder to obligers if there ever was one, and that I don't have to waste my time on what other people think of me.


Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide by Kay Redfield Jamison

I saw a lot of well-intended tweets and FB posts after the slew of suicides in June, and many of them made me nauseous. I know, that sounds awful, but so many were off the mark about suicide and mental health, and they left  those of us who have weathered the harshness of depression thinking, "what the actual f*ck are you people talking about?!?"

Writer Sloane Crosley then tweeted about this book, how it had all anyone needed to know about suicide, and she was right.

It's a very difficult read, especially if you have suffered from suicidal thoughts or know someone who has taken their own life. Jamison paints the devastation through suicide notes, research, case studies, and her own experiences as a woman who suffers from manic depression. The takeaways are many, including the most effective ways that have been found to treat mental illnesses, which Jamison found are a factor in over 90 percent of suicides. Though this was written years ago, Jamison's work is extremely relevant, and her ability to paint a picture of what mental illness looks like through both research and personal stories is a gift.

Read this book. Those who have been to the dark place will understand and know they aren't alone(but be warned you may also have some strong flashbacks, and those aren't easy to weather) and those who haven't can hopefully develop empathy for people who have historically been thrown aside even after their deaths, sometimes even having their bodies refused burial.

Calypso by David Sedaris

Sitting down with an entire book of Sedaris' thoughts is always a treat. In his latest collection, he covers everything from family to middle age, from the devastation of his sister's suicide to having a tumor removed from his body to feed to a turtle. His writing is so hilarious that the serious, tough lessons hit me hard enough to knock the wind out of me. This is a fast read and a delight.


50 Beautiful Ways to Draw Your Beautiful, Ordinary Life by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst

I am drawing my way through this book and loving it. I am not finished and will likely take a full year to get through all the artistic activities, but I wanted to mention it on the book list because of the pure joy I feel every time I pick it up.

I am horrible at drawing, painting, anything related to visual arts, but I have still thoroughly enjoyed attempting to capture what I see. This book has made me a better observer, and time seems to slow down when I sit to draw. I have to remain focused, something that is a challenge in our fast-paced world, and that brings a stillness to the day no matter how my picture turns out.


Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Super Power by Brittney Cooper

Britney Cooper writes honestly about what it means to be a black feminist in a world where feminism often doesn't do a great job of considering anything but white women's needs. Cooper still sees choosing to support feminism as worth it, and her words can help all of us make the movement better.

Cooper uses her anger, which many women are told is a bad thing to feel, in service of change. Her rage is eloquent, as the title implies, and she tells readers about harnessing her experiences and the feelings that come with them to affect the world.

Cooper shares her life, as well as research and deep analysis, and created a book I couldn't put down. I will likely pick it up to read again. I've never seen someone make such a convincing argument for black women owning and using their rage.


I adore pretty much anything Rachel Cusk touches. She wastes no words, gets to the heart of an issue, and writes with such beauty that I often find myself holding my breath while reading her work. Her non-fiction book on motherhood is further evidence of her skills.

This was published years ago, but I found the emotions she expressed are familiar no matter when you become a mother. Far from being unloving, her thoughts were honest and conflicted, complicated and all-encompassing, just like motherhood. 


If I had a coffee table, this book would be on it, not just because it's gorgeous but because I need to read these pages regularly. McAlary writes about how postpartum depression and a prompt to write her own eulogy led to a life change that helped her simplify and slow down. She covers everything from how to declutter to how to responsibly use technology without letting it overrun our lives. She's honest about the challenges of trying to live a slow life in a fast-moving world, but the solutions she offers are practical and effective.

McAlary's section on mindfulness beautifully explained everything I've learned about this approach and how using mindfulness techniques in our everyday encounters can transform our lives. I recommend this book for everyone.


Even my crappy photography skills can't ruin
the beauty of this book.


Fiction

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

I'm not sure what those who award the Pulitzer Prize look for in a book, but the 2018 pick was charming. Arthur Less, a semi-successful writer, decides to escape his own life when a man he's been in a sort of relationship with gets engaged and marries someone else. He takes invitations to teach in other countries, to attend writer's retreats, and anything else that can fill his calendar so he can escape from his own feelings.

I loved the characters in this book, and Greer isn't afraid to poke fun at his protagonist while still obviously caring for his well being. I found this book to be charming.

The Only Story by Julian Barnes

Barnes tells the story of Paul, a 19 year old who begins an affair with a married woman in her 40s. Paul lets his readers know that this isn't simply a sexual entanglement but a real relationship that spans time and challenges, and we see how the entire things unfolds from start to finish.

Barnes' writing is beautiful and even, flowing effortlessly. I enjoy his work and found this novel to read quickly and be full of compassion.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

"Things Fall Apart" is the first book in a trilogy, and many people read it in high school. I missed out, but I feel lucky that a friend recommended it to me. 

Okonkwo is a warrior in Africa who is not happy to see both religion and politics affect his community. Achebe spends the first part of the book getting readers acquainted with the customs of Okonkwo's community and giving insight into the man himself. When the European's clash with Okonkwo's community, affecting even his closest family, he struggles to find his place. The longer I read this book, the harder it was for me to put it down.


It's hard to describe how I felt about this book. I enjoyed it and recommend it, but it was also heartbreaking due to White knowing how humans work so well. 

Adrian Mandrick is an anesthesiologist who is also obsessed with birds, to the point that actual humans sometimes take a backseat to adding birds he's seen to his list.

When Mandrick's mother tries to reach him, we start to see his past story unfold alongside his current situation with his wife, his children, and his addiction. Though a couple of the last scenes felt a bit forced, the story was captivating and devastating in equal parts, though I believe White meant to offer hope in there as well.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Birthday Girls

My youngest kids are now five years-old, and that is just totally weird. Sticking to tradition, they were sick the week of their birthday, which has happened every single year since they turned one. The actual day of their birthday was fever-free, but the next day Asher came down with croup and Eowyn followed two days later. We had to postpone their party for a week, but they eventually hit the pool with friends, pizza, and so much sugar. I took no pictures of this party because I suck.

When Wren and Sam went to VBS in June, I was with Asher and Eowyn on their own for a couple of hours a day for a week. This is something that pretty much never happens because we're all usually together. We went to the library everyday, and people kept telling me how kind they were and how well they shared. 

I'm not going to lie, I was kind of shocked. All of the things those people said were true, but I had stopped seeing them. Having four kids is wonderful, but it leaves me simply commenting on bad behavior a lot in an attempt to keep the train on the tracks. Asher and Eowyn especially get this from me. That week reminded me that they do so much good, and I notice very little. I'm working on it.

Eowyn this year




She tried spicy chicken and loved it.
She loves roller coasters at Six Flags and cries when she isn't tall enough to ride one.
Eowyn played lookout/potty flusher/evidence destroyer for Asher when Asher swallowed a non-edible item. We were waiting for Asher to poop it out, but she was adamant that she never swallowed it. Why, then, did she have her sister flush the toilet every time poop hit the water? Asher was still going while Eowyn was frantically flushing. I just hope these two use their forces for good. If not, sorry.
Eowyn stuck a Perler bead up her nose. It was not awesome.
She loves books and drawing, and D has even taken some of her characters and transformed them into adult art pieces.
While mad at Asher, Eowyn screamed, "I don't want to be your twin!" to which Asher replied, "That happened in mom's stomach! You can't change it!"

Asher this year






She likely swallowed broccoli Shopkins, but who really knows.
She is standing out on her own by choosing not to ride as many roller coasters as Eowyn.
She is a total water baby who petitioned to remove her floaties and won.
Asher loves to draw and loves books. The Ling and Ting series is a favorite of them both, and Asher really likes Peppa the Pig books.
She interprets song lyrics to hilarious effect. We all now sing Sweet Dreams are Made of This with the lyrics, "Everybody's looking for dumplings."
Eowyn smirking.


These two are starting kindergarten this year, and I have no doubt they will be great learners. I'm lucky to have them.