Wednesday, April 26, 2017

(Un)Filling the Spaces

This week, I put three Post-Its on my computer monitor.

Why? Well, here's the thing y'all - I'm phenomenal at keeping up with my social media feeds. It's my time-filler. It's my, "Wait, how did I even get here?!?" moment more times than I care to count. It's also my safety. In a world full of all the things, it's something I can control. If I can stay up to date with this better than anyone else, then I've got it together. Right? Right?!?! 

How does that even make sense?!?! 

It doesn't.

I've had some hard conversations with myself recently. I've recognized the way I spend my idle time is draining my energy. In trying to fill the in-betweens, I've drained the reserves for my actual passion and purpose. And that's got to stop.

So, I've started making some changes:
  • When I've got a free hour or so, I sit and listen to an episode or two of a podcast I've been wanting to check out for personal (and professional) development. Because it's me, and I'm super nerdy, I even take notes. I read all the time as y'all should know by now, so information is always coming into me. However, doing this for "fun" is such a strangely energizing experience as I do nothing else, but just sit and listen for me.
  • Last Saturday, I spent the morning running my errands solo. When I lived in Texas, this was my jam. Every Saturday morning, I'd get up and spend a couple of hours about time going wherever I felt like going. (Note: When there was a home football game in the fall, I amended my schedule until kickoff. Don't try to contend with Aggie game day traffic.) It wasn't that I had errands to run, it was just getting out and about. I realized this particular Saturday that my Saturday morning game has gotten a little rusty. It felt funny to be in a store and not have a "Why?" for being there. When I went back home empty-handed, I felt defeated. It's taken me a few days to process those emotions, and I've started to realize how I need to get back to these "just because" trips.
  • I've cleaned up my online content. I've unsubscribed. I've unfollowed. I've hid. I've unpinned. I've stopped adding without pause. When the quantity of the content is so high, there's no quality. I can't see what I need to see. I can't read what I need to read to actually fill my cup. I'm allowing emotion to be given into spaces I just don't need it to be. This meant I have to get over my "social media guilt" of what people are going to think. I had to remind myself the real issue is when I can't connect and give to the people I truly care about in my life.
  • I've stopped - just stopped. There are books that will always sink to the bottom of the book queue. There are shows I don't need to start and/or finish. There are things I've said yes to out of obligation and then grow to loathe. So, I've evaluated where I'm at. I've donated the books I won't ever read, so someone else can. I've removed the shows from my lists that I won't ever get to because I just don't need that. Most importantly, I've started saying no and stepping down. A lot of these were a long time coming, but I have put quitting on my to-do list, and then I've ACTUALLY quit that thing.
  • I started creating and completing a to-do list for my life outside of work. Y'all, I accomplish the heck out of a workday. Especially now that I work from home, I get a ridiculous amount of work done. However, while I'm in beast mode when it comes to making sure I have productive work days, I rarely do this for things that are not work. So, I've started making lists for myself related to the rest of life. It's amazing how much I get done when there's the looming possibility of being able to check off something. For once, I'm making outside work like work for good.
  • I've listened to myself. Without all the noise, I've started to ponder what I actually want to do. Who are the friends I miss? How can I reconnect? What are the cards and letters I always mean to send, but never do? What are the projects I want to try (and maybe fail miserably) around the house? What are the opportunities I need to seek out in my community? It's been hard to listen because the voice is soft, but it's slowly coming back.
I won't tell you I'm writing this as a piece where I've magically now got this all figured out. Quite the opposite, y'all. Making this shift is a strange struggle. Old habits die hard, but I'm pushing through. I'm looking forward to having unfilled, purposeful spaces.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What's Making Me Happy - 4/21

First off, where did this week even go? Where did April even go? How is 2017 nearly 25% over?!? Anyway. . . let's talk happy.

One of the resolutions I made for this baseball season was to listen to more Royals games on the radio. There's just something about listening to Denny Matthews (and Steve Physioc and/or Ryan LeFebvre) call a game that I have always loved. I've listened to every game on the radio this week, and I've found it particularly calming and enjoyable. I'm able to just sit and listen and chill (pending the Royals are doing okay). 

Also, have y'all seen Moana yet?!!? I Redboxed it a few weeks back and watched it twice. This week, my turn came up on the holds list from the library, so I am watching it again (and again). And then, and then, it was Disney Night on Dancing with the Stars, and Sasha and Simone dance to "How Far I'll Go," and it was so great. Now, this song which I for-ev-er love is in my head.

You know what else made me so happy? DONNY OSMOND! I think "I'll Make A Man Out of You" is one of the all-time best Disney songs. I'm not ashamed to say it's because I love Donny's voice like whoa. Also, Normani and Val are an incredible team, and in my opinion, the front-runners right now.

Finally, a few weeks back I asked friends for new podcast recommendations. One of my friends recommended Mortified, and y'all, Y'ALL it is the best. I listen at the gym, and I'm sure all the people wonder who this woman is who laughs through her workout. This week, I listened to one called Titanic Ruined My Love Life, and it was my middle school love of Leo encapsulated in a podcast. I cannot tell you enough how wonderful each and every episode is with brave souls revisiting their childhood diaries in public. I'm happy they're bold enough to share, and it also makes me glad that mine (which I actually shredded - they were never not going to be theworst) will never, ever see the light of day. That said, even though the pages of my tween and teen musings are gone, these podcasts allow the memories to come flooding back for an hour or so - which is just the right amount.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April Reads So Far

Note: I'm putting these out a little early only because I can't get my next Blogging for Books title until I post about my last fix. And in case you haven't figured it out, I need my next fix. So, here's what the month's looked like in pages up to now.

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty is actually a book that's been around since two book sales ago. I'm not sure why I didn't get around to reading it until now. It was a good book, and the story kept me interested enough. My only qualm was that the book took place in both the present and the past, and you kind of had to figure out for yourself where it was. 

Go Set A Watchman was okay. I haven't read To Kill A Mockingbird since high school, so I am not really a fangirl who can offer any sort of comparison. I feel like what needs to be said about the book has already been said by people who are not me, particularly about the plot. I will say Harper Lee is a fantastic writer, and this book was a reminder of how she has a gift with words.

BeDADitudes: 8 Ways To Be An Awesome Dad was an ARC I received from the publisher. It's weird to read a book about being a dad when you're not a dad. However, this was a good piece on family and faith. There some really great reflection questions, and it allowed me to think on my own  relationship(s) in a different and needed way.

The Power of Meaning was good, but honestly, it wasn't what I thought it would be. I was hoping for more tangible reflections for me on how I could find more meaning. The book did have some great stories and research to illustrate the ideas of meaning that I enjoyed. The book is subtitled "crafting a life that matters," and I finished reading not having any ideas how to do the crafting, but having a better idea of what makes up mattering. P.S. This book was provided to me courtesy of Blogging for Books in exchange for this review right here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What's Making Me Happy - 4/13

And we're back!

The first thing making me happy this week is the outpouring of love and support from last week's post. It was a needed reminder of the awesome community I have around me. Just putting my feelings out there was a weight off my shoulders, and it has opened up some really amazing conversations.

Next, this picture is a 2-for-1 Happiness Special.

Happiness Item #1 - This Royals jersey may be the best deal of all-time. While at Marshall's, I found this on a rack for $9.99. Y'all, this is a real deal Majestic jersey with the World Series patch AND gold stitching. I'm 99% sure this was actually supposed to be marked $99.99, but that's not for me to decide. So, I have an authentic Royals jersey for the first time in life that I can rock indefinitely.

Happiness Item #2 - These are my new Royals-inspired Jamberry nails. A few weeks back, my good friend Hillary and I video chatted, so I could learn all about the wonderful world of Jamberry. I'm mostly terrible at painting my nails, so for someone like me, Jamberry is an ideal option. This is my second full Jamberry manicure, and y'all, I'm hooked. 

With Easter on the horizon, I also have some happy from a few weeks back that I may recreate today. YOU GUYS, I FIGURED OUT HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER EGGS. First off, I saw this recipe here.

Second, I tried my hand. And y'all, Y'ALL, these taste just like the real deal. Also, the fact that I made Reese's Missouri, Kansas, Texas and triceratops were pretty great.

Finally, HAVE Y'ALL SEEN BEAUTY AND THE BEAST?!?!?!? Because I did, and it is amazing. It's beautiful and wonderful and even more awesome than I hoped it would be. My mom and I are thinking of going again because it's that great.

How 'bout y'all? What's your happy this week?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Resourceful Reading

Y'all, in case you haven't yet figured this out, I read a lot. In a book is my favorite place to be. As an avid reader, I obvs need a good supply of reads, and I obvs go broke if I paid full price for all of them. I've learned to be resourceful in my reading, and today I'm giving y'all a window inside how I read!

1). I USE MY LOCAL LIBRARY. I have spent my life being a library lover. I get all I can out of my library card. In fact, I was just there this afternoon. These are my "best practices" for libraries.

  • Step #1 - Get a library card. It may be stating the obvious, but if you don't yet have a card, get a card.
  • Step #2 - Use holds. I love walking the shelves of a library happening upon books. However, I really love the convenience of being able to pre-select what I'm going to read next. It's so easy to select what I want, have the magic library elves pull it from another branch, and the Library Fairy drops it off at my friendly, local branch. This is also a nice option for more popular books. I either put these on hold before they're released and/or as they come out. I then patiently wait my turn!
  • Step #3 - Use the e-reading options. My local library has an awesome collection of e-books and e-audiobooks. The app is easy to use on my phone and on my tablet. 
  • Step #4 - Use inter-library loans. Inter-library loans are an underappreciated benefit of Library Land. Do you know you can actually access every library in the world? If your local library doesn't have a book you want in their catalog, try expanding your search. WorldCat is the most well-known database if you want to try this out.
2). I HAVE A BOOK CHRISTMAS. The first day of the Friends of the Johnson County Libraries Used Book Sale is the very best day of my year. In fact, there are two days I take off work every year - My Birthday and the Opening Day of this sale. Imagine a gymnasium full of tables on tables on tables of books. Imagine that all these books are only $2 for hardbacks and $1 for paperbacks! Right? RIGHT??!? This is the one time a year I buy books in mass, and this is then the bulk source of my reads for the next year. Here's my haul from last year's sale.

3). I GET BOOKS FOR FREE. I've been able to find my way into a world where advanced reading copies (ARCs) make their way to my mailbox. You see, before books get published, publishers want "buzz" to be out there. So, the publishers put ARCs out into the universe to get bloggers, reviewers, and such to read and offer their opinion. I enter a few of these giveaways each week. I never know what I'm going to get, and it's a fun surprise when I go to my mailbox and see a book inside. Case and point? Yesterday, Laura McBride's 'Round Midnight showed up. P.S. Read Laura McBride's We Are Called to Rise soon if you haven't already. 

Lots of folks have been asking for my book pipelines, so here are some of my best:
  • Shelf Awareness - This is a daily email newsletter, and it's my most consistent source of reads.
  • Blogging for Books - This is a new source for me. The expectation is that you read a book, then post a review. You can only receive one book at a time, and then to get your next read, you have to directly link your review from the last book. I am currently waiting on my second book from this source.
  • Book Riot  - Book Riot is a site with all the resources and recommendations on books. They have newsletters for specific genres, and they run giveaways fairly regularly.
  • Goodreads - Goodreads is amazing in all the ways. One of the neat features is they let you know when a giveaway is running for a book you've shelved. I enter all of these because hey, if I want to read a book, why not read it for free?
  • Audible - Audible is Amazon's e-audiobook arm. They run free trials and promotions all the time. If you watch Groupon, they'll have free three-month subscriptions. Also, if you've never tried the service, you may be able to just sign up for free right now. The subscription lets you get one free e-audibook per month. This is a particularly good perk for recent releases.
4). I SHARE WITH FRIENDS. For the last decade (Whoa!), my friend Kristen and I have exchanged books. We used to mail them between California and Texas, then California and Kansas, and now we both live in KC, so we do in-person exchanges. It's an easy way to share good reads with someone. It's a fun way to get a second read out of a book, and it's neat to have someone to discuss the books, too. 

Pro Tip - If you are mailing books, mail them media mail. This rate is significantly cheaper than any other mailing method. When you do this, you can only include books, but it is such a reasonable rate.

In a given year, I spend no more than $100 on books. For the last two years, I've read 120 books annually. In other words, with these methods, I'm able to spend about $1/book!

So, now you know not just what I'm reading, but how I'm reading!

Friday, April 7, 2017

This week hasn't been great, and that's okay.

I live an anxious life. I always have, and while I'm mostly managing anxiety better than ever these days, it'll always be a part of me.

When I started blogging, I knew I would write about this eventually. I've eluded to it in some posts, and goodness knows I think about it all the damn time. Writing about this in the midst of an anxiety spiral means this may not be the most eloquent writing, but I also have come to know I need to accept that and write anyway.

I knew it was going to be a bad week because I can literally feel my anxiety. It's been bubbling for a few weeks. In my mid twenties, anxiety took up residence in my ribs. It's actually a legit condition called costochrondritis, and it means the cartilage in between the junctions of my ribs inflame. Weird, right? When I first started feeling it, I went to WebMD, and it told me I was having a heart attack, so that was neat. When I went to the doctor and got an x-ray, nothing showed up, so that was cool, especially when I got the bill for my ghost pain. When it was finally figured out, it was good to at least know there was indeed something there. However, it's discomfort is also what tells me that things aren't going well. I suppose it's good my body gives me a heads up, but the process is anything but enjoyable.

Anxiety for me is a million things. It's not one tipping point, rather it's literally all the things. It's all the worst case scenarios that ever were running through my head simultaneously. Because if I have everything planned out, nothing can surprise me, and I maintain control, right? (Spoiler Alert - Wrong.) It's an endless to-do list that I've built for myself with deadlines that I won't just meet, but beat because that's just what I do. It's saying yes to all the things because I worry what the alternative is and how I'll be seen if I don't do it all. It's feeling like everyone is going to find out I don't have it all together and doing everything I can to overachieve to ensure that never, ever happens. It's a Groundhog Day scenario with a loop of all the feels over and over and over again. . .

Nearly a year and a half ago, things got to a pretty unmanageable point. I left a job that had driven me to my unhealthiest. The most terrifying moment came in November 2015 as my time in the role was winding down. It's a day I don't talk about often, but I think it's important if I'm going to really talk about this stuff. After a really terrible day, I was driving home. As I drove, I was processing my extreme frustration. As a commuter, my car-time was often my destress time. However, with this job, it had started to become my overstress time. As I drove that day, I looked in my rear view mirror to see flashing lights. I calmly pulled to the side of the highway which in retrospect was odd because I'm all emotion, all the time. The officer walked up to my window and said, "Is everything okay?" I looked him in the eyes and said in an extremely calm demeanor, "Honestly, I was just thinking about work." He explained to me that my driving was erratic, and he was concerned. He didn't write me a ticket in that moment. He just wanted to make sure I was okay. The truth? I obviously wasn't. Knowing the way stress and anxiety overtook me as I drove was terrifying. It still is.

At the start of 2016, I started therapy. It had been a literal year in the making. In Fall 2014, I'd gotten a recommendation for a therapist. I'd gotten "busy" and had to cancel my initial appointment and never rescheduled. For months on months on months, I wrote the therapist's name and phone number on my weekly to-do list. And ultimately? I actually didn't call. I brokered a deal with my husband that if he'd call for me, I'd do some other chore. I'm grateful he didn't tell me how ridiculous it was I couldn't find the courage to dial ten numbers, and even more grateful he loves me for better or worse to help me when I need it most.

Starting therapy was the scariest and most comforting thing I could have done for myself. I'd been to therapy in high school, but this was going to be more raw. Anxiety was the core of me. For 2016, I was in therapy every other week working through my mess and on me. It was relearning my default responses. It was understanding how to manage my own thoughts. It was learning to live in the moment instead of the comparisons and FOMO moments that were the fuel to my anxious "I'm not good enough" fire. It was learning I had become my own worst enemy, but teaching myself I also could (and would!) turn it all around.

When I started therapy, most days were anxious days. As I progressed through the process, things got better. I learned how to say "No" again. In the workplace, I'd actually forgotten how to do that. I was finally able to acknowledge that I'm really good at what I do. For years, I had lived in a world where I didn't actually think I had any talent or skills, but also worked tirelessly to prove that I did. Therapy helped me see (to paraphrase Glinda the Good Witch) that I had the power all along. I just had to realize that for myself. I even learned how to accept compliments without analysis of if the compliment giver was actually telling the truth. These all seem like basic and reasonable skillsets now, but I'd lost them along the way.

At the start of this year, I felt confident enough in my anxiety management to go at it alone. I don't think that's a forever arrangement, but for right now, I wanted to give it a go. 

For the last few weeks, I haven't been managing well. My OG defaults have taken over, and I'm doing too much. I didn't realize it in the moment, but now that I'm on the other side (oh, hey, inflamed chest), I see the error of my ways. 

The first thing I did was acknowledge I wasn't okay. I told myself, and I told those in my life who needed to know where I was at. Now, I'm working to reset. As far as I've come, I'm not quite as okay as I thought I was. I was reminded this week that anxiety is always going to be a process I work through. Right now, I'm still trying to dig through the muck of the week. The triggers for it have come fast and furious, and I sort of let them pile up as my body (and mind) are now reminding me. I'm now in a more active management role and confident in what I can take on, so we shall see. And if I don't get where I need to be, I'll just keep going. After all, I'm nothing if not resilient.

There's really no clean way to end this post. It won't be the last time I have a week like this. I don't know if I'll always write about it, but I do know that for today, I feel a whole lot better airing my anxiety for all to see.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

#WUT - A Book Review

I stayed up late finishing this read, and now I'm wide awake. So what else is there to do, but post a review. Okay, cool. . . Here we go.

This is a book built on family secrets interweaving the past and the present. The twist is not knowing what the common threads are, but knowing there must be something. The suspense in this story is then trying to figure out what the heck that something might be and how it has impacted the characters both now and then. In other words, STUFF WENT DOWN Y'ALL.

Admittedly, I'm still trying to process how I feel about this book, and if someone else checks this out, please let me know. The tragedy of the family is emotional and intense, and all the things. Also, I would offer a content warning for a central theme of abuse. It's tricky to mention because it's part of the secrets (however not enough info here to also warrant a spoiler alert), but I don't want anyone to pick this one up not knowing what lies within the pages.

Oh, and I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Books I Read in March

The Hypnotist's Love Story was okay. I think I would've liked it better if I hadn't LOVED (with a capital L-O-V-E-D) Liane Moriarity's other books so much. This one is about a hypnotist (go figure) and her boyfriend's ex who is a stalker, and she doesn't realize she's already met. I felt odd reading about stalking in this manner though, and that was a hangup throughout. Overall, you're okay passing this one up even if you're fangirling for all the Liane Moriarity things rn.

Sarah's Key was actually a re-read. My online book club was reading it. It's been quite a few years since I read this one, so some of the more salient pieces of the story were in my memory, while other pieces were as if I was reading for the first time. This book is fantastic in its tragedy. It's incredibly well-written and captivating. It focuses on a story in both the past and present, and the stories blend incredibly well. If you haven't read this one before, it's worth checking out.

You Are Here: An Owner's Manual for Dangerous Minds is really mostly a coloring book. However, there were some words and stories throughout, so I counted it as a book I read as well. Jenny Lawson is fantastic. I love her books and the way she has expanded the conversation on mental health. This book built out the conversation even more. The sketches in the book were beautiful and funny and all the things she always is. 

Love, Ish was an advance reading copy. For a book meant for 8 to 12 year olds, this book sure packs an emotional punch, and I wonder how the kid version of me would've handled this one. The story of Ish starts as one where she is beginning middle school, missing her best friend and dreaming of living on Mars. Her world soon changes when she receives a cancer diagnosis. Through it all, she's also navigating new and old relationships, while trying to remain true to herself. Even as a thirtysomething reader, I found myself captivated by Ish and the rest of the characters. This was an unexpectedly beautiful read, and one I'd absolutely recommended checking out.

Hamilton: The Revolution was an audiobook. I've read the physical book already. However, I checked this out because IT WAS NARRATED BY MARISKA HARGITAY. I found I actually learned more by listening to this book than when I read it. The book is scrapbook form, so you're trying to read and digest all the things. In the audio version, Mariska keeps the focus. Lin Manuel Miranda actually narrates his own notes at the end of the book part. There's a PDF that you can access to follow along. I didn't do that, and I actually found it more fun to try to guess what part of the show he was talking about. Overall, I can't get enough Hamilton, and this was a great window into the show. . .again.

She Wanted It All was an absolutely bananas true crime book. It came to me via a recommendation from my friend Kristen. Y'all, I can't even begin to explain the plot on this one. Think of Dateline with a twist and then another twist and another and another. . . . and just whoa. As much as I love a good true crime show on TV, this was the first time I read one. I'm not sure why I waited so long. This genre is bonkers in the best of ways.

Nothing To Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard was a book I saw somewhere on social media. It was probably for the best I read it after a week with a true crime roller coaster, and it was a good piece to center me. I liked this one. Admittedly, there are other books in this vein that I like better, but this one was still a good piece. The point that stuck with me the most was having an understanding of what the "cheap wine" in my life is that keeps me from connecting with my faith. A point I needed to ponder and have thought about lots.

Exit West was a book I received via Book of the Month. I intentionally picked it because it was different than my normal reads and timely. It focuses on a love story and refugees. It's always tricky for me to review books grounded in tragedy because you don't always feel great reading them. I liked this one, and I can certainly appreciate the beauty of its words.

Catstronauts: Mission Moon and Catstronauts Race to Mars were graphic novels I received as advance reading copies. The target audience for these reads is elementary schoolers, and they read as such. That said, reading as someone who's a few years out, I could clearly see the messages they were trying to teach. They did a great job of talking about teamwork, leadership and such through the cat's space adventures.

March Exploreading

I was drawn to this cover when I saw it in the Goodreads newsletter. So, We Are Okay aptly became my Book I Chose Because of the Cover. Honestly, y'all, I thought it was a graphic novel, and I thought I'd like drawing in this vein. Well, it's not. This one was okay all-around. The story was emotional and well done, but if I'm being honest, it just wasn't totally my jam. Still a solid cover though.

For a biography or memoir of someone I don't know much about I decided to check out Joe Buck's Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, and the Things I'm Not Allowed to Say on TV. I have spent a lot of time with Joe Buck via baseball games, but have come to realize I know very little about him. I decided I'd give him a chance and check out his memoir. I went full Joe Buck because I opted for the audiobook when I was traveling to and from St. Louis for work. Y'all, I never thought I'd say this, but this memoir is phenomenal. It was honest and funny and sad and enjoyable and all the emotions. As I drove, I laughed out loud. When he talked about his dad, I cried alone in my car. The book gave me perspective on Joe Buck I didn't know I needed, and I go into this baseball season ready to spend quality time with Joe Buck. Whoa.

For a book with life advice I could utilize, I found There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love. I have been a big fan of Emily McDowell's work for awhile, and this was a different spin on it. This book focuses on grief and empathy and what to do (and not do) when shitty things happen to those you love. It was fantastic. I checked it out from the library, but I'm going to buy my own copy, too. The blend of illustrations and really valuable advice was brilliant. Everyone should find their way to this book because everyone will be affected by these topics, and it's my current go-to recommendation for all the people.

For a book of poetry, I chose The Princess Saves Herself In This One. This was fantastic. The poetry was right in my lane - Unrequited love, aspiring to be a fairy tale, the emotions of love, the emotions of loss, etc. etc. It left me wanting to read more from the genre. There are some beautiful pieces in this one. I'd share them here, but you really just need to find your way to the whole collection.

Finally, I squeezed in a book that's set to be a movie this year with Wonder. I have heard about this book for ages, seen it all the places, and have just never read it. Y'all, I was missing out. This book is beautiful. I loved Auggie as a character. I also loved how his story is told both from his perspective and those who are in his life. If you haven't yet found your way to this one, you must.