Thursday, September 27, 2018

Two Love Stories, Washington and Wrestling?

Yes, as the title indicates this round of books has two love stories (one mostly sad and one mostly happy), as well as a book on professional wrestling, and another about George Washington.

The Two of Us by Andy Jones was a book I thought I'd love based on cover alone. The summary and quotes made me think that this one was going to be a romantic comedy in book form. However, that's just not what I read. This book revolves around Fisher and Ivy. Fisher and Ivy have been a couple for just 19 days, and they already sense they've got something that could last for awhile. The book revolves around where the relationship goes from there as Fisher narrates through the events and emotions of their relationship. Here'e the thing - This is sad book. Nothing on the cover said that, so my guard for the feels was down, and that was definitely not the type of book I went in expecting/needing. I also wanted more depth with the relationship "stuff" for the love story of it all, but when only one person in the relationship (Fisher) narrates, you get what you get. All in all, this one left me more emotionally drained than I was anticipating, and while this is totally on me, I wanted something different than what I ultimately got in this read.

Read this book if - You're looking for a book that's going to get really, really into your feelings. You want a love story with a lot of realness.

Perfect Harmony by Emily Albright was an absolute treat of a read. When I read YA, I like to think back to when I was in the target demographic. Y'all, this one spoke to the high school version of me like you would not believe. First of all, the main character in this one is Pippa who is a cellist in her high school orchestra. For those who don't know, I was all about orchestra (I play violin), so on that plot point alone I was here for this story. Then, there was the storyline of Pippa's long-time crush on her brother's friend, Noah. Noah is a jock, and without taking an unnecessary (and unwanted) trip down memory lane, the unrequited love wrapped up in this spoke to teenage me like whoa. Pippa's world is then rocked. First of all, Declan arrives. Declan is a cellist, and he's coming for Pippa's first chair status. Then, things might be changing in her relationship with Noah. Pippa now has to navigate these two men in her life while also hoping she'll get into her dream school. I cannot tell y'all how much I adored this read. It was the romantic comedy that I would have written for myself as a teen. I loved so incredibly much that the heroine was in orchestra, and I also loved that experience was so authentically written. There was a depth to the orchestra experience that isn't always in a story like this. So often they focus on the trope of the "nerd" and/or the want to be popular, and this one instead focused on centering the things Pippa loved throughout. Orch dorks don't always get love stories like this, and my heart was so happy to see this happen. Oh, and a big thank you to NetGalley for bringing this book into my life.

Read this book if - You were in high school orchestra, and you want a love story that was written just for you. You love a love story that reads like a romantic comedy.

Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War that Changed Pro Wrestling Forever by Tim Hornbaker focuses on the rise of Vince McMahon's vision of a nationwide wrestling program. However, rather than exploring Vince's process, this one really focuses on the regional wrestling model and where it all fell apart. For those who aren't aware (ad admittedly I didn't know a lot of this information prior to reading the book), pro wrestling used to be built on a regional model. Different promoters "ran" different cities, had regular venues in those cities, and had their own talent. With the regional promoters, there was some crossover with superstars, but they each maintained their niche. With Vince McMahon's rise, he sought to change this and expand the reach of a wrestling organization. For me, I found this to be a captivating read (and a thanks to NetGalley for letting me check it out). I learned a lot about the beginnings of some of my favorite wrestlers from the nineties. Not knowing the "way things used to be" with wrestling, I assumed that they'd just come through the WCW/WWE circuit. This was very much blowing up what I thought I knew and providing me some intriguing perspective on the industry. This is both a "what might have been" had the business plans of some organizations gone differently, as well as a "how this came to be as it is" explanation. It was a good dose of nostalgia, while also doing an in-depth exploration of the industry.

Read this book if - You were a fan of professional wrestling in the 70s, 80s and/or 90s. You enjoy reading history around sports. You like sports books that also infuse some business strategy.

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot Against George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch was an outstanding read about a historical happening . This one won't be released until January 2019 (I read it as an ARC from Flatiron Books), and y'all will want to add this one to your to-read list now. This was nonfiction that read like a thriller which is a rare feat. It was a book that I asked my husband "Did you know. . .?" as I read another happening, and/or I recounted what I had just read because it was so fascinating. This book focuses on the realities of the Revolutionary War. While there were those who were focused on fighting for our new country, there were also Loyalists. Part of the battle wasn't just the war, but devious plans to gain an edge. One of these plans was to (literally) take out George Washington. This book does an amazing job of trekking through how that plot came to be, all the players who were involved, and how the still forming government addressed the issue. This was a book where I learned so much and couldn't stop reading because I needed to know what happened next. Obviously, I knew George Washington was going to end up okay, however I didn't know how that all came to be. I absolutely loved this book in a way I don't normally love nonfiction/history. It had all the drama and all the twists, and this is a book I'll be recommending for readers of all types for the foreseeable future.

Read this book if - You're really into history. You're really into thrillers. You're looking for something that'll keep you turning the pages because you are so wrapped up in the (true) story. You want a nonfiction read that makes you say "Wait, that really happened?" throughout. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

One Thrill & Three Feels

Hey, it's me.

Here are some more books I read.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis is a book that has been recommended to me directly and indirectly many times over by family and friends. I was excited to be approved for a copy by NetGalley, so I could see what this one was all about. The book is built around the lies that the author has told and believed about herself. With each of these, she candidly talks about the doubt, struggle and angst that has come with the lie. There is a honestly and authenticity with which she writes, and I could identify so much when she was talking about the messages she had convinced herself were true. What I appreciated even more that in addition to talking about the lie, she talked about what she had done to overcome it. She also offered tips for how to do the same if you were in a similar situation. What I love about this one was that it was such a flowing, conversational read. It was written in a tone that acknowledged we've all been in some of these spots, but we didn't have to stay there. This was a particularly well-timed read for me, and it was the dose of realness, inspiration and grace I needed.

Read this book if - You need a faith-based reflection on life. You want to book that brings all the honestly and authenticity about life. 

In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It by Lauren Graham is a short, quick read. Literally, y'all, it's only 50 pages. This is an expansion of a speech she gave as a speaker at her high school's graduation - as an adult I mean, not as a student. There were some good nuggets in this. She focuses on accepting what you have and realizing that might be just what you need and where you need to be. She talks about letting go of worry and just living your life. Of note, this is not a BOOK book, as you can read it in less than half an hour. I'd honestly classify it as a speech transcript from Lauren Graham more than anything else.  

Read this book if - You need a quick injection of inspiration. Reading a speech Lauren Graham once gave sounds appealing to you.

The Likeness by Tana French is the second in the Murder Squad series. It's been a minute since I read In The Woods, but I did remember the characters and emotions that carried into this one. This book focuses on Cassie Maddox who has since left the Murder Squad, however something returns her back to the team. Long ago, she had an undercover persona as Lexie Madison. Detective Frank Mackey alerts her to the fact that a woman has been murdered, and her name is Lexie Madison, and she looks just like Cassie. To find the killer, Frank and Cassie decide she'll go undercover into Lexie's life. This means she takes on Lexie's life, including moving in with Lexie's four roommates. To explain the situation, her roommates are told Lexie was seriously injured, but has recovered. Y'all, this one was a pageturner. Cassie goes all-in on the undercover experience - emotions and all. This one kept me reading as I had to know just what the heck happened to Lexie, but also I wanted to see what was going to happen to Cassie. Tana French is masterful when it comes to thrillers, and I'm looking forward to taking another one of these on, especially given I've got three more in my book queue. 

Read this book if - You have previously read and enjoyed In The Woods. You enjoy a thriller that is emotionally intense and keeps you guessing throughout.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman was a fiction read with a heaping helping of truth bombs. This one opens with Maribeth how has a heart attack and doesn't realize it. She's so busy managing work and home that she's overwhelmed herself. Even after her heart situation, she still feels the stress of what her life has become. So, she decides to leave. She gets in her car, and she drives away. She leaves it all behind, and honestly, it's a way that we've probably all thought about at least once. With her time away, she finds new relationships and addresses some "stuff" that has always been there. Y'all, this one was a lot of feels for a fiction read. However, I will also say this is my fourth Gayle Forman, and each generally gets me emotionally. This one made me think about those times when things have felt like too much for me personally. It made me consider how to address that before it gets to the point Maribeth was at with her health, as well as that unavoidable feeling of wanting to escape. Under the guise of a fictional story, this one was a powerful real-life read. I felt both captivated by Maribeth, and her story really made me think about my own. 

Read this book if - You want a fictional story that will make you think about your own reality. You want to feel the feels of overwhelm as a way to reflect. You're looking for a book that covers the gamut of emotions.

Onto the next ones. . . 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Battling with Enough

Here's the thing y'all, I struggle with enough.

It looks so pretty on the graphic doesn't it?

Well, it's not.

For such a simple word, it gives me one heck of a time in life.

Our relationship has been fraught with tension for some time. 

Way back in 2012, I was unexpectedly promoted into an interim director role at work. I won't delve into the details of the what/how/why because that doesn't matter for this post here.

What I will you is this - I spent a year in that role convinced I wasn't enough. I told myself that I was never meant to be in that position. Do you know what that feels like? I believed that no matter what I did, I was a big phony inside. I believed that it was only a matter of time before everyone figured it out. In the meantime, I told myself that while I could never do enough, I still had to try. I had to put on the external show that I had it all together. Have you ever been in that quest for enough? It's legit impossible, but you go after it anyway. I spent my time doing all the things, but feeling as if I wasn't doing anything right. Any positive feedback I received was heard, but I didn't listen and absorb. I felt like I was acting a part for that year, but not as the lead. Rather, I treated myself like an understudy, and it was only a matter of time before the star returned.

I left that job due to the want to be in KC, and for so long, I felt the guilt of enough. I could have done more. I should have done more. I just didn't do enough.

With my view of self skewed, I entered into another role. I fell victim to enough again, but in a different way. I found myself in a highly unhealthy work environment - Some of that was inevitably my own doing, and some of it was systemic factors I was never going to change. It was an environment that I was convinced if I just did enough I could change. So much of that was out of my control, but I didn't believe it. The quest for enough convinced me otherwise. I felt the burden of doing all the things to balance out the mess. I believed if I did enough I would fix the situation. Y'all, I did not say "No" to an opportunity that came my way in the entire two years I was in that role. Meetings, committees, literally anything was a "Yes" from me. 

I left that job, and it took me a long time to come to terms with what happened. I didn't feel the guilt like the job before, but rather it was the realization of how off-kilter I had let myself become. There were pieces of that environment that were never going to get better until the core of the issue was addressed. No amount of work I could have done would have ever been enough.

Even though I'm five years out of the first role, and three years out of the other, I am still processing how I've let enough have such a hold on me. I'm definitely still not free of all that this word does to me, but I've been thinking about it more and more.

You see, enough as a stopping point is a great place to be.

There's a recognition that you've done just what you needed to do.

There's an acknowledgement that you've met the goal.

There's an acceptance that you can stop right where you are, and you'll be okay.

For so long, I've built enough to be so much more than it is. Rather than seeing it as my finish line, I keep moving that finish line further away. 

Oh, I can just do this one more thing.

Or two more things.

Or three more things.

I mean, I have the time, why not?

In building up enough, I've reduced myself to empty.

Y'all, this one is a hard habit to break, but I sure am trying.

It starts simply with a Post-It on my desk that says "Pause before saying yes." There's also another that says, "Listen to the want to say no." I'm trying to recalibrate. Some of that means I have to revisit where the heck these default settings came from and how long they've had their hold on me.

Some might wonder why I put this in such a public forum. Couldn't I just process through this alone? I could, and I do. But at the same time, I think there's power in sharing where I don't get it right. I feel better when I more honestly and authentically share where I am. I love writing it out, pain and all, and I think there is such value in putting my reality out into the world. 

I know the battle is not won. I know there are still days where I am going to lose. However, I also know there can be even more of those days where I can win. 

So, I'm still at it. Still fighting.

And that is definitely enough.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Come on in! I'm introverting!

So hi, I'm Andrea, and I'm an introvert.

bored american idol GIF

For those who know me well, you probably read that and said, "Um, we know." For those of you don't know me that well, you likely also could see the writing on the wall and saw this a far from earth-shattering declaration. 

As a lifelong introvert, I really resonated with this article on Six Strategies to Help Introverts Thrive at School and Feel Understood, and as I read, it immediately struck me as a great piece to translate to other environments via a blog post. So, as a self-proclaimed expert level introvert, here are my thoughts on how to better empower and engage the introverts in your life.

The article says: Make Space for Quiet Reflection

comics tea GIF by SLOTHILDA
Andrea says:

  • For goodness sakes, can I get an agenda up in here? Y'all, I have thoughts, and one of the best ways to get those thoughts is let me formulate them in advance. Previously when I've been in workplaces where meeting agendas weren't a priority, I've even volunteered to build these. Having that bit of time to think is the pre-work I need to be more engaged in the meeting IRL.
  • The meeting is not the end for me. Lots of times, a meeting is only the beginning. Those initial thoughts means that my mind just starts going as the wheels begin turning - and just won't stop. I'll connect other ideas, have new ideas, and/or want to do research to close any loops. Don't be surprised if my "meeting of one" reflection results in additional feedback.
  • Can I get some awkward silence? The article mentions this, too, but having that moment to gather myself before a question to the group allows for me to be ready to participate. I also much prefer self-selecting to participate, and to not be asked immediately to share my thoughts.
The article says: Consider the Physical Environment

awkward lunch GIF by SLOTHILDA
Andrea says:
  • Cubicles are the devil's work. Okay, so maybe that's a little extreme, but not really. I once worked in a large conference room that was repurposed into offices via cubicles. You know what that meant? We still worked in a large conference room. Y'all, I loved the people I worked with there. You know what I didn't love? Constant human interaction. With cubicles, you're never, ever, ever alone. You are always accessible. You can always hear people. People can always connect with you. My cubicle even had a door which was the biggest of jokes. At the end of my days, I was often exhausted just for the sheer fact that I had been around people for the entirety of my day.
  • Let me do my own thing. At a conference or in-person program, I love the opportunity to learn from and interact with others. However, I also don't NEED or want that for the entirety of the experience. Oftentimes, I'll grab my morning coffee extra early (which is saying something because I'm not a morning person) just to have time to be by myself. This is particularly important to me as it's part of my daily work from home routine. The best way for me to "fill my cup" is to take in a quiet cup of coffee, and then I promise I'm ready to face the day full of other humans.
The article says: Provide Previews

meryl streep meeting GIF

Andrea says:
  • Retweet here my earlier comment on agendas. 
  • Let me know what a meeting is going to be about. I recognize that there are times I'm not going to be privy to 100% of the content that will come up in a meeting and/or conversation. It's the nature of interactions with other humans. However, I appreciate when I can be given some context about what a discussion is going to focus on in advance when it is known. I also think it's helpful to do this beyond a general topic. Is this a need for clarification? Is this an issue you're having? Do you have feedback you want me to provide? On the fly, I'm often not fully equipped and programmed to reply, and you just don't get the best, most knowledgeable version of me. That becomes super frustrating because I do really know my stuff.
The article says: Watch Your Language

jennifer aniston stop GIF

Andrea says:
  • Introvert does not mean shy. These words are not synonyms. I can definitely be shy in environment, however this isn't an absolute as part of my introversion.
  • Stop saying to me, "You're so quiet today!" "Why are you so quiet?" and/or "Wow, you're so much more quiet than usual." You want to really grind my gears? Try this one with me. If I have a thought, I'll share it. Sometimes, I need a minute. Sometimes, I don't have anything to say, AND THAT IS PERFECTLY OKAY. Quiet doesn't mean I'm not listening. Quiet doesn't mean I'm unengaged. Quiet doesn't mean I don't have thoughts, rather I just don't have verbal ones in this moment. I'll be sure to let you know when I do.
  • Respect what introversion can bring. Introverts can really help if you let them. You just have to understand they interact differently, and that's okay. I think this piece from Quiet Revolution does a really great job of explaining how you can frame up those contributions - The Quiet-Friendly Comment Guide.
The article says: Scaffold Meaningful Stretching

sad why me GIF by The Room

Andrea says:

  • Tell me why. I am never going to choose certain things. Walking into a room of people I don't know to network? Ugh. Small talk? Not so much my thing. However, if I can understand the context of a situation, I can become far more comfortable. If you explain to me that you want me to talk to these people about this topic, it gives me that initial "in" to begin. No amount of training and practice is going to make me totally comfortable and immediately excited about these type of situations, however having a better understanding of intent can ease me in.
  • Give me time to prepare. Look, I know, there are times where I have to move beyond the introvert life. I do it all the time in my work. I just need that time to get "in the zone" for what I'm going to do. As a result of my introversion and mostly because of who I am, I will do lots of preparations for the education and such that I do. It's how I "top off my tank" to be ready to go.
The article says: Structure Temperamentally Inclusive Group Work

basketball wives time to go GIF by VH1

Andrea says:
  • How we do the work matters. I once had a supervisor who hated agendas and didn't really give her team the option to use them. At our first meeting, she then brought up a point and said, "Come on! This is part of the meeting where you're supposed to argue with me!" My fellow introverted colleague and I must have had a look of sheer terror on our faces because she quickly realized that wasn't going to work. Taking that moment to understand who works how is so critical to success with teams. CliftonStrengths can be a great vehicle to do this, but also just taking the time to talk about group needs and expectations can set everyone up for success.
  • Group work doesn't mean all the things, all the time. Look, I'm down to do group work. I will even enjoy it. However, if I have to do every piece with everyone else, it's not going to go well. I think it's important to delegate the work, and think about where the whole group needs to be involved and where individuals can take on pieces on their own.

Beyond just the work, I have a few other thoughts I'd share on introversion:

  • I don't hate people. In fact, I quite enjoy them.  However, sometimes I just need a break. The best way for me to recharge is to have some time with me, myself and I. 
  • Take NO as a "Not this time," and not a "Never ask me to do this again." Sometimes when given the offer to makes social plans, I'll say no. Many times, this is because I'm busy. Other times, I just need that time to rest and recharge. When that happens, you should never take it personally. It's not you, it's literally all me. That said, ask me again sometime. When I can make it work, I will. 
  • I will let you know if I'm not doing okay. I actually had this conversation with my husband yesterday. He had a day off, so he got to see what a work day looked like for me. At the end of it, he asked me some questions about working from home, particularly around perceived human interaction. I shared with him I'd had a video call earlier, and I had communicated with people other ways. Working remotely does absolutely mean I have more time than most to be alone. I've learned with this that I have to seek out interaction, even with things as simple as running to the grocery store to see other humans. I'll own that I don't always do the best with prioritizing this, and I am currently trying to recalibrate a bit. Through remote work, I have learned it's possible to have too much introversion, and I will try to address.
  • Avoid the introvert guilt. This is more for the introverts in the crowd. Sometimes, I think I feel the obligation to give a yes. Even when I know my tanks are on empty, I feel like I'm letting others down if I don't say "Yes!" to an outing. However, I've learned/am learning to prioritize what I need my own self-care to be. Sometimes that's going to mean I can't be all the places with all the people. It's finding that healthy balance, and that's okay.
As a final thought, I'd acknowledge that this is how I personally see life as an introvert. I think there are transferrable pieces to other introverts, but I'd also encourage anyone trying to better understand an introvert in their life to ask them questions to identify their wants and needs. Let them share their perspective on the stuff I shared, rather than making assumptions and generalizations. I also can't and won't speak here to best practices with extroverts. Any piece I'd write on that would inevitably bring in my introversion, and I would be annoyed if someone did that for my introversion. 

So, that's what I got. If you need me, I'll just be over here (re)charging. 
bed chill GIF by SLOTHILDA

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Books For Thinking and Feeling

Hello from the other side of 100 reads on the year! Here's yet another round. Three of these were advanced copies. Y'all there's some great stuff coming to a bookshelf near you soon-ish! Also, the non-ARC in this bunch BLEW. MY. MIND.

The Circle by Dave Eggers was simultaneously outstanding and terrifying. The book centers around the experiences of Mae at an internet company called The Circle. In the not so distant future (and/or this could be happening right now), The Circle is dominating the internet. By connecting real-life identities to internet personas, there is an enhanced way for people to do all the things online. No longer is there an individual log-on for each thing you want to do, rather everything is connected. Mae begins in the customer service department of this company, and she starts to learn the ins and outs of what The Circle has built. She is instantly captivated, and she becomes quickly enthralled in this world. The Circle is also seeking to expand their reach as there is a push for more and more people to go "transparent" and share all things, all the time. Y'all, there is so much happening in this one. I wouldn't even classify this as dystopian because this was too real to life. It so clearly lays out what social media has become, and in only a few steps more, this could be the life that we all live. Through Mae's dilemmas and decisions throughout, this one really makes you think about how much is too much to share. It also makes you think about what your privacy and being able to live your life beyond online is worth. I will also say the ending of this one rocked my world, and it's still blowing my mind days later.

Read this book if - You want to explore the extremes of the impact of social media. You want a thriller built around technology. You want a read that poses some intense ethical dilemmas around technology.

Lies by TM Logan was a pageturner of a thriller. This was an advanced reading copy I received (although I read it the week it came out) from Shelf Awareness. This was one with twists I didn't see coming which is what I'm always looking for in a book like this. Joe finds his wife in an unexpected situation with their friend Ben. In this moment, Joe's world is rocked. He confronts Joe, and things escalate quickly as Joe physically assaults Ben. In the heat of this moment, Joe's son William has an asthma attack, and he must leave to address this. After William is doing okay, Joe returns to the scene to check on Ben. Only problem is that Ben is gone. Over the next week, Ben is missing - except he is also continuing to taunt Joe. Through social media and his phone, "Ben" contacts Joe. The evidence also slowly mounts - through work that "Ben" is doing. Joe must now try to understand what was happening while also maintaining his innocence. This one takes place over the course of a week, and y'all, what a week this is! There were several moments I couldn't believe what was going down, and I didn't know where this one was going to lead! I read this one in two sittings because I was so captivated, and I had to know where this one was leading.

Read this book if - You need your next great pageturning thriller. You like a book that escalates in intensity as it goes. You like something with fast paced emotions.

Crush by Svetlana Chmakova was a gem of a middle grade graphic novel. This is actually the third of a series, but the first I read. I got a sneak peek thanks once again to my pals at NetGalley. I loved this one y'all. This one revolves around Jorge who is navigating the mess that middle school can be. As he goes through his days, he realizes that he has his first crush. The feelings he experiences in this were too real. Even all these years later,  I still totally identified with what Jorge was going through. Jorge, along with his friends, are also navigating changing friendships and the quest for popularity. This story was too real - in a good way. It perfectly captured the feels of middle school. There is that want to fit in, that want to find love, and that want to just figure out who you are. This was just one of those stories that put a smile on my face.

Read this book if - You want a book that'll temporarily transport you back to middle school. You want a book that'll hit you in the feels.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the RIchest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh was an exploration of SES/poverty through the author's experience that I was able to get an early peek at thanks to NetGalley. This memoir details the author's experiences - and the experiences of her family - growing up in Kansas. For me as a reader from Kansas, the Kansas connection was an added dimension of emotion and connection. The author writes this book for a child she ultimately never created/had. Through this lens, she explains what it has meant for her family to be poor and the realities of poverty through the generations.  The author recounts how her family got be where they are now. She explains her own childhood, including what she did (and didn't) realize about how her family was doing, as well as the experiences of her mother and grandmother. Throughout, she reflects on the systemic constructs that limit how her family is able to advance. She explores so well how she and her family were fed the message of "working hard" to advance, but the reality is the barriers persist to prevent this from happening. Given this was a memoir, not an sociological study, the emotions throughout were particularly strong. These were the author's experiences, and they're also the reality of so many in our state. I say that because I've seen it, and the author puts words to it so well. 

Read this book if - You want to explore poverty through a well-written memoir. You want to understand the realities of rural Kansas. You want to understand a social issue through the lens of a real-life experiences of many generations.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Breaking Up With Paper Planners

For those of y'all who know me, this is somewhat of an earth-shattering post. However, I felt like I should share with the world where I am at in my relationship with planners.

Today is apparently my seven year anniversary of first bringing a Life Planner into my life.

There was a time that I adored the Life Planner. I spent more time than I care to acknowledge picking out the perfect cover. For years, I carried that thing everywhere. I loved talking planners with people, and I regularly spread the message of the joy that a Life Planner could bring.

kate mckinnon weekend update GIF by Saturday Night Live

About three years ago, Life Planners and I broke up. It wasn't so much them. It was me.  I moved into a role where my days were structured differently. Working from home I don't have the volume of meetings and events I once did as when I was based on a campus. I found I was carrying around a planner (which was also really, really heavy y'all) that was mostly empty. I was writing in it out of financial obligation more than anything. So, I just straight up stopped using it midyear. For the rest of that year, I found a planner for $15 while I made up my mind about where to go next.

For this year, I've opted for a Simplified Planner. I LOVE Emily Ley's messaging around living a more simplified life. I credit her work with the significant de-cluttering that Dustin and I have been able to do this year. I was excited for this planner. I mean, y'all, it had SIMPLE in the title. For the most part, I've liked using this one. I can track what I want to for life - Honestly though, that's mostly the books I've read, some birthdays, and replicating the work meetings that are already in my Outlook. While I will always love Emily Ley's work, I can't say that my planner has been anything but a space to write some stuff down.

As the time neared to make some decisions on next year's planner, I didn't feel that excitement I have felt in years past. Release dates have previously been like a holiday for me. I labored over which format and cover I wanted, and I could not wait for the new year to start so I could roll out my new planner. With each one, I vowed that this year would be different in one way or another.

So, as this year's release dates happened, I ultimately decided to not order one. I came to realize that for me, being a paper planner owner had started to become an obligation. (P.S. If a paper planner works for you, that's awesome, and for goodness sakes, you do you.) It had started to become a "have to" purchase. I have to get this to visually show I'm organized. I have to put this stuff in a physical planner to be officially organized. It was almost this weird status symbol/component of my identity. I mean, everyone knows me as this organized person, so I don't have a planner, am I still that person? 

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I recognize that may seem deep for the simple act of owning a planner, but y'all, that's the reality of what maintaining a planner has been for me. 

As I start preparing for 2019, I've already got some strategies laid out for how I'll schedule my work/life. The good (and not surprising) news is that even without a paper planner I've already got some solid organizational structures in place:

  • Just use my Outlook. Basically, I'll use the system and structure I already have to know when my meetings are. I don't need the additional paper to reinforce.
  • I'll be better at using my Google Calendar. My husband and I share a Google Calendar. I try to update it, but sometimes I forget - Sorry, Dustin. When kept well, this allows us to see what we individually and together have going on. 
  • I'll dabble in bullet journaling. The key on this one is not to overdo. I don't want to build a bunch of layouts and structure that I just don't use. I would like to have the means to track a few items of life, but not all the things.
  • I'll maintain a to-do list. I have somewhat always done this in life, but I'm making this a more formal process. I keep a list of what I need to do for work. I've also added one for non-work life which was a super helpful suggestion from my life coach. With this second list, it's not just the chores I need to do, but more the things I need/want to do for hobbies, blogging and such.
For me, acknowledging that I need to end this relationship is huge. Rather than continuing to go through the motions (something I've often done), it was taking an intentional look at what this purchase was really doing for me - or not. It was also recognizing that not having a planner doesn't strip me of my ability to be organized, to be recognized as being organized and/or to build my own systems to know what the heck I need to. It was forgetting those outside messages of "have to" and embracing my own messages of "need to" as I figured out what I actually wanted to do for me.

We'll see how 2019 goes on this one y'all. I won't rule out us getting back together ever, but for right now, I'm enjoying the new territory.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Accepting The Crack In The Foundation

On Sunday, Dustin and I celebrated two years as homeowners. As you do, I posted a Then/Now shot of our house. Wonderful and beautiful, right? Well, let me tell you the whole story.

Last week wasn't one of my favorites as a homeowner. What they don't tell you about being a home owner What they do tell you about being a homeowner, but you think, "Oh, it can't be like that!" is that home ownership can be exhausting. These past few months have really pushed my emotional limits as a mortgage paying human. In what became a comedy of errors, we spent much of our summer navigating an issue. Then, just as we thought we were through, and life in our home was back to normal, last week was yet another unexpected bump in the road. For me, it was just too much. To the point that there may have been an ugly cry sobfest or five in there.

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You see, we have an issue with our foundation. When I realized it was our foundation, I went to the extremes. I catastrophize like a boss y'all, so you can only imagine what I came up with as we figured out the issue. 

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Some phone calls (and sobs from me) later, we realized that it's just a crack in the foundation. While it sounds extreme, it turns out it's an easy-ish fix. I mean, like all house things, it costs money, but it is a far simpler remedy than the levels I went to on my initial (and comically uninformed) assessment. Right now, we're living with the crack in the foundation. We recognize it's there, have plans to get it fixed, but for right now, we just acknowledge we've got the issue. 

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I tell you this to say that after my ugly cries and frustrations (because in addition to the house, there's some other "stuff" I've been navigating that only adds to the stress), I realized we've all got those cracks in the foundation. And yes, this is part of the story where I shift to an analogy about this all.

It's easy for me to acknowledge and share all those happy pictures of how well things are going. I can easily filter the yucky part(s) of life out, and I do - Goodness, we all do. It's harder for me to tell you about the cracks that are there. However, at the same time, there's such relief in sharing that part of the story. You see, we've all got those cracks. The more we talk about them, the better we feel. The more we get to hear, "I've been there, too." Today, I'm telling you I have a crack in my (literal and figurative) foundation. It's nothing that's going to stop me from living my life, but I'm coming to realize the freedom in telling you that it's there.  

Some days I ugly cry. Some days I only sort of cry. On those same days, I generally also laugh and smile. I don't have my life all together, and I have come to terms that I never fully will - After all, no one does. The joy I am coming to find is in the journey of the attempt.The joy comes in living authentically - cracks and all.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hitting 100!

Y'all, for the fourth straight year, I will have read at least 100 books! While it's becoming a bit commonplace for me, it's still an exciting moment to hit this moment in my reading journey for the year. So here's the quartet that got me here.

The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves was outstanding. This is an ARC I received from St. Martin's Press. My biggest critique? This book doesn't come out until April. I will now spend the next seven months telling people they must read this one as I wait to have people to discuss this gem of a read. Y'all, this was just one of those books you speed through, but also you hope it'll last forever. The story revolves around Annika and Jonathan. The two were once connected over chess while students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the early 90s. The book picks up in 2001 as the two reconnect. Through the voices of Annika (rhymes with Monica) and Jonathan in both the 90s and the present, the story of their relationship is built. Annika has a certain quirkiness about her, and Jonathan finds himself drawn to her. The two find love in those years. However, as I said, in 2001, they are no longer together, or even connected. The book pieces together how they were connected, but also then how they fell apart. This was such a unique read, and Annika was one of those characters I was absolutely captivated by as I read. This one was an emotional and beautiful ride (especially the last 30 pages, my goodness), and I cannot wait for those love story to get shared with the masses in 2019. 

Read this book if - You want a book driven by characters and relationships. You enjoy love stories with a twist. You are looking for any book to read after April 2, 2019 because y'all NEED to read this one in life.

The Art of Secrets by James Klise is a YA mystery of sorts told in a unique format. Saba Khan's family's apartment is burned down, and there are questions of this being a hate crime. Given the family has lost everything, the community rallies around them to help them rebuild. One of the fundraisers they have for them involves an auction, and by way of this, a very expensive piece of artwork is donated. This piece of art can give the Khan family the financial support they need to rebuild. That's great until the artwork goes missing. The book is then piecing together what the heck happened. Through a variety of correspondence, including emails, police statements, and news articles, the question of "Whodunnit?" is raised and explored. The answer to that question was one I definitely didn't see coming. I liked this one, and I did appreciate the way privilege was explored in the community as fingers were pointed, and assumptions were made. 

Read this book if - You want a book that looks at the complexities of privilege and identity in a unique way. You want a YA novel with a mystery twist.

Cypress Point by Diane Chamberlain was an older read, but I loved it. As I've said before, Diane Chamberlain has become one of my go-to authors. This one started as a story about Joelle, a hospital social worker. Joelle's best friend Mara had brain damage during the delivery of her son. Joelle reaches out to a healer from her childhood in hopes that Carlynn can help her now as she once did then. Oh, and in the meantime, Joelle has connected with Mara's husband Liam. The story goes back and forth between present day, how Joelle and Carlynn connected, and how Carlynn discovered her gifts. I will say that while the story was centered on Joelle, by the end I was most captivated by what was happening to Carlynn. In fact, I'd almost forgotten about Joelle's stuff because the emotions of Carlynn's part of the tale got me. Diane Chamberlain has a true gift for writing about relationships, and 16 years after putting this one out into the universe, I'm glad I could go on this journey.

Read this book if - You want a book with incredibly complex relationships. You want a book that has a lot of emotion with some unexpected twists. You are a fan of Diane Chamberlain and haven't yet read this one.

Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older is an upcoming release that I received as an ARC. This one is a kid's book about dinosaurs in the Civil War. . . I'll pause for you to re-read that one. Yes, there are dinosaurs. Yes, it takes place in the Civil War. This one is a bit of alternate history. The story focuses on children from the Colored Orphans Asylum which was real. The children are trying to find safety (from the war, slavery, and dino-based risks), learn who they are, and navigate a very different world. For me, I think this would have read easier as a graphic novel. I visualize as I read, and it was hard to simultaneously navigate a vision of the experiences of the kids, the happenings of the Civil War and the presence of dinosaurs. I recognize this is a children's book, but I just needed so much more detail. I loved the premise as it's so uniquely ambitious, but again, I just had so many questions as I crafted the story in my own head. I would be intrigued to see if the target audience (who is not me) was able to digest and dream this one as they read.

Read this book if - You are a fan of alternate history. You want to see what a story about the Civil War and some dinosaurs is like.

Onto my next hundred reads!

Monday, September 3, 2018

All The Feels & Some Thrills

Hey, here are these books I read. 

Find Your Awesome: A 30-Day Challenge to Fall in Love with Your Playful, Imaginative & Colorful Self by Judy Clement Wall was a quick and enjoyable read that I got to check out thanks to my pals at NetGalley. This one is in a journal/checklist format, and it provides challenges around self-love and putting more kindness into the world. I didn't obvs take the 30 days to do all the challenges included, rather I just read through to see what this one was all about. I really enjoyed the concepts here. Some of the ideas were things I'd heard before (but appreciated hearing again), while others were new and useful ways to put more good into the world. I also really dug the style of this one. It was just designed in a really fun way that brought some additional positive energy to the read. I didn't go into this one thinking I'd get so much out of it! I wrapped this one with new strategies for how to make my dreams more of my reality.

Read this book if - You need a quick jolt of energy to be more creative, more positive, happier and/or more full of self-love. You're looking for new, simple strategies around self-care. You want a challenge that isn't terribly time-consuming and will help you do you.

Fly Away Home was a book I picked up because I knew what I was going to get. Jennifer Weiner is one of those authors that always just "hits the spot" for me. This book was really focused on three women's stories - A mother and her two daughters. The story begins with it coming to light that the father in this family has had an affair. As he is a senator, this story is national news. However, this is only one layer of this family's drama. One of the sister's is a recovering addict, and the other is a successful doctor, but in a loveless marriage. Each of the women narrates throughout as they each try to make sense of what's happening with the scandal, the aftermath, and all the other "stuff" they have happening in their life and relationship(s). For me, this book was just what I needed it to be. I couldn't decide what to read next, and this one delivered a captivating story about humans as I hoped it would. I love the way Jennifer Weiner writes about relationships, and I always enjoy the time I spend in her universe. 

Read this book if - You are a fan of Jennifer Weiner (duh), and you haven't read this one just yet. You need a good beach-ish read about the complicated nature of relationships.

Perfect GIrls by Alison James was a thriller I received from NetGalley. I liked it. This one is apparently the third in a series about Detective Rachel Prince. This is the first of the series I'd read, so if there are things this character is known for and such, that was totally lost on me. Anyway, the story revolves around murders that appear to be connected to the CasaMia app which is an Airbnb-ish tool. When women who were using the app are murdered, Rachel goes into action to figure out common threads and what the heck is going on. There were parts of this one I really liked. In addition to following Rachel, there were chapters where the culprit narrated. As the story want, more was revealed about who this voice was, and I found I looked forward to this parts of the story to know more. There was also a twist on this one that I didn't see coming, and it was definitely an angle I hadn't seen before. Overall though, it just didn't grip me throughout for a reason I can't totally pinpoint. There were moments I had to know where the suspense was leading, but then there were others where things drug a bit. I would be interested in reading more Rachel Prince books just to get to know who she is for perspective.

Read this book if - You are looking for a thriller with a really unexpected twist. You've read other Rachel Prince books?

P.S. There is also a book called The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan that I've previously read. I also have a book called The Perfect Girlfriend on my NetGalley shelf. So, that's super confusing.

Taylor's Gift: A Courageous Story of Giving Life and Renewing Hope by Todd and Tara Storch was an emotional and beautiful read. Todd and Tara are the parents of Taylor who was tragically killed at 13 in a skiing accident. This book focuses on the after of this tragedy. The largest component of this is their choice to donate Taylor's organs. There is also the authentic and honest portrayal of the aftermath of the loss of Taylor, including the varying ways grief shows up in their family. Y'all, this one was a book I read in one sitting because it was so captivating. There were moments where tears streamed down my face as I read of their pain. With that, there were moments I smiled as I read about the hope they found in what happened. The book does an incredible job of talking about why organ donation matters. Since Taylor's death, the Storch family (and even some of the recipients of Taylor's organs) have worked to raise awareness around organ donation. This book was the selection of my online book club, and Tara Storch will be joining us for the chat. I am really looking forward to hearing more of her and Taylor's story. While a heartbreaking read, there was also incredible beauty in the faith and family of this one, too. You should absolutely take the time to go on the emotional journey of this one.

Read this book if - You want something that will fill you with all the feels, but such hope and inspiration of how one life can have an incredible impact.

Until the next round!