Remember Me?

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It’s been awhile since I wandered into the land of this blog. So long, in fact, I seriously considered turning it off and not coming back. I thought about just closing this part of my story and moving on to a new…thing…

It’s not like anyone has really noticed I’ve been gone.

But, blogging has always been for me, not for the “masses” (or the 5 randoms that still read this thing). It’s been a way for me to process life and to just keep the writing part of my life active an engaged.

So, here I am…again.

Since August? I’ve been in a play. I’ve finished grad school. I’ve finished journeying down the Mother Road. I’ve spent hours in front of my computer writing papers and discussion posts. I’ve stumbled through another fall and winter season at work. I’ve gone to Harry Potter World (Universal Studios Florida). I’ve watched entire seasons of new shows. I’ve cleaned my house. Several times. I’ve decorated for Christmas. I’ve seen a few shows.

I’ve lived a lot of life.

And here it is – the almost end of another year. There have been amazing successes and deep sorrows in this season. There has been a lot of good. And some bad. I didn’t spend as much time with family as I would have liked.

I’m looking toward 2019 with anticipation. There is a lot to think about and a lot to process. I’ve already picked my word for the year. I’ve planned how I want to clean out the mess that is my house. I want to travel. I want to see family. I’ll turn 40. 2019 is going to be a good one.

So, here’s to new beginnings…and new tomorrows.

(Also, WordPress has changed and I’m not sure I like it.)

Can we stop with the shame game already?

Have you ever really wanted to write a blog, started it a dozen times, and then not finished? Well, that is how this one has been. It’s something I want to write, but it’s been hard. Hard because there are some emotions involved. Hard because, with time and distance, it seems silly?

That’s this post. I’ve sat on it off and on for two years, sometimes mad, sometimes thinking it’s not worth writing. Then, today, the photo that prompted it all showed up in my time hop.

The caption with the picture reads “not only does amazon not deliver on release day, but my book is all jacked up. #disappointed”

I was annoyed that my book had come mangled after a shipping mishap, and put the photo up. Looking back, it wasn’t worth the social media post, but I don’t regret that I did it. I have a lot of bookish friends and we were all waiting – anxiously – for the latest installment in the life of the boy who lived. I had a good laugh about it with some friends, called Amazon and got a replacement book, and set this one aside to send back. And went on with my day.

The next morning, I opened the blog of a mutual friend of mine and saw that my mini rant/annoyance was pointed out, in just a sentence in her blog. It was a blog about struggles in her life and my seemingly less than important issue. I saved the blog because it bothered me that much, but I won’t quote it here or link it. I think it was written in a moment of high emotion for her, as well. The summary of it was this: can you believe that people complain about these things when the world stinks so much sometimes?

She took issue with my annoyance (and called me out on it without mentioning me) because there are hungry people in the world that need our help.

My “issue” was not an issue because there are people in the world whose lives are much worse than mine.

Here’s the thing, though. I get it. I know that being frustrated about something that was totally a purchase made from my “blow” money is kind of silly. I know there are starving and hungry people in the world. I know there are homeless people in my city. I know there are hurting families surrounding me. I know that things like a “fancy” hardcover book are splurges that many people won’t ever even think of making.

But, can we please, please, please stop shaming people for their choices? Can we please stop making people feel somehow less because they bought a book they wanted instead of spending that money on something “more worthy?” Can we stop shaming people for liking what they like and wanting what they want?

Can we acknowledge that people can be compassionate, despite their “selfish” wants? Can we acknowledge that I can both be annoyed by a crumpled book and still want people to not be hungry, scared, or alone at night?

Buying a book, movie, shirt (insert whatever your latest purchase was here) doesn’t lessen your compassion for the world.

Now, don’t get me started on that whole #firstworldproblems hashtag that floats around on social media every now and then…that’s another blog for another day.

We’re Here to Help Your Book Club! Check Out Our Book Club Kits

Book clubs are a fun, exciting way to combine friends, food, and the written word. While the actual book club day is fun, sometimes finding your next read is a little more difficult. We want to help you find your next great read with the help of our Book Club Kits. These kits contain copies of the book, extra information about the book, and questions you can discuss to move your book club along during the nights.

Check out more by watching the PSA below.

 

 

 

 

Ready to pick up your next Book Club Kit? Go here and see what’s available now!

 

How Reading Challenges Shape my Reading Life

Ah, the reading challenge. There is something about having a little guidance that makes my never-ending log of books I want to read a little more manageable. For the last several years, I’ve focused mostly on the Goodreads Challenge. There are no rules to the Goodreads challenge; just set a book number goal for the year and go for it!

The lack of rules is nice. The pressure is a little crazy. At my peak, I read 155 books one year. But, here’s what I realized about myself last year? With a few exceptions, there were books I didn’t read in 2017 because I knew they would take too long. They were too long or too dense and I knew that giving the time to reading them would mean that I wouldn’t be able to hit my goal. So, I didn’t.

This year, I want my reading life to be different. I’ve set a slightly smaller goal on Goodreads, but I want my reading life to be about things I love and books that challenge me. So, I’m focusing on a couple different challenges.

The Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge

I love Anne Bogel. Like, a lot. I read her blog for awhile and loved it, but then got busy with life. However, her podcast, What Should I Read Next, is one of my favorite things ever. So, I’m focusing on her annual reading challenge first.

The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

Book Riot is a great reading resource and this challenge is hard! It requires a lot of reading and a lot of stepping out of your comfort zone, book-wise. But they also do regular blogs with the categories and what they suggest reading from each.

Check out all the details here.

I’ll do a post soon about books in each category I’m planning on reading, but what category above excites you the most? What would be the hardest category for you to fulfill?

What book challenges are you doing this year? I’ve had a hard time finding new ones (even though there were approximately 11 billion in 2017).

(Anxiety) Demands to Be Felt, Too

In ‘The Fault in Our Stars,” John Green wrote: “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” Has there ever been a more true statement? The thing about pain is that, if we don’t feel it, don’t allow ourselves to feel it, it gets even worse.

The same can be said about Anxiety. I have blogged before about my battle with anxiety. It’s not a secret I care to keep a secret any longer. Because talking about it means I can begin to heal from it. There need not be shame or hiddenness about the experience of feeling overwhelmed, out of control, and even lost.

But, here’s the other side.

There is also no shame in healing.

About 17 months ago, I did one of the scariest things I have ever done. I reached out for help. Between the anniversary of my dad dying, work being overwhelming, friendships changing, and deaths in our families, I was overwhelmed. I was scared. I was completely at the whim of my anxious mind.

So, I called a therapist. And then I made an appointment. And then I actually went. And kept going. Showing up week after week was hard. It meant telling my boss I needed the 90 minutes in the middle of the workday for me. It means working late to make the time up sometimes. It meant having a standing appointment that was creating relief but still causing shame. Because I didn’t want people to know.

But here’s the thing. Much like pain, anxiety demanded that I feel it. It demanded that I look at its ugly face. It demanded that I stare it down, and, in turn, find the tools I needed to control it.

And now it’s been a little over a year. In December, I was officially “released” from therapy. Am I suddenly CURED? Heck no. But, through a lot of hard work and a lot of tears, I have the tools to feel the feelings, but also control them. I have the ability to look at situations and see where it’s my anxiety talking, versus the reality of the situation.

I feel better than I have in years. I feel like Emily again.

Treating my anxiety was like learning to breathe again. Suddenly I realized I didn’t have to feel lost. I didn’t have to let these thoughts win. I didn’t have to be in control and I didn’t have to be the only one experiencing them. I am more honest with my husband now. I am more honest with my family and friends. I am more honest with myself.

I still have those moments: the moments where I think “OH MY GOSH I CANNOT DO IT.” I have moments where I feel like the future is overwhelming and the possibilities are scary. I have moments of worry and anxiety and stress. But, they no longer control me. They no longer define who I am and how I interact with the world.

Turns out, anxiety is a chapter of my life, but it’s not the defining story arc.

Come Alive: The Promise (and Problems) With the Greatest Showman

Things I’m a sucker for:

  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Movies that make me feel all the feelings

In the span of about 72 hours, I managed to see “The Greatest Showman” twice. Once with my lovely husband and once with a dear friend. I left the theater both times smiling like an idiot and having had a wonderful time. There was something magical about that theater experience; the empowerment and promise all wrapped up in one.

At its core, “The Greatest Showman” is about humanity at it’s best and worst. The outcasts, the ostracized, the lonely…they all find a place to belong in the world of this PT Barnum and his circus. The film is a celebration of what the world should be like – a place where you are loved and cherished for who you are – a place where you can find your tribe – a place where everyone has a place.

With the music, the spectacle and the joy, “The Greatest Showman” stands as a film that is both shocking in simplicity and empowering in its message. If you can walk out of the theater and not spend the next few days humming the songs, you’re a better person than I.

But, there is more to consider. It is well-documented that the real PT Barnum was, well, not a nice human. He was accused of treating his “freaks” poorly, his animals even worse, and a number of atrocities. There is a lot about the life of PT Barnum that is not brought up on the surface of the movie. His life was about the bottom line, about fitting in, about being the best.

For some, those errors are reason enough to not experience the movie. For others, they don’t care because the movie is never billed as a history or biography of the great Showman.

Here’s what I noticed upon the second viewing: If you watch and know, there are moments when the darker side of Barnum’s character come out:

  • When trying to recruit his first “freak,” he says, “They’re going to laugh at you anyway, so you might as well make some money.”
  • He’s call out for oddballs and oddities is cruel; the people that point out the “freaks” to him are even crueler
  • He exploits and contorts some of his sideshow participants to make them even more “freakish” than they already are to the world
  • He lies and cons his way into money more than once, and without talking to his wife.
  • He’s more concerned with the show than the hearts of the people
  • He abandons the people he brought together when the “legitimate” Jenny Lind comes along
  • He has an emotional (at the very least) affair with Jenny Lind
  • He makes fun of Carlisle for living the very life he himself wishes he had

The great showman is not always the hero of his own story. He is shockingly human and flawed. But, at its heart, “The Greatest Showman” is not the story of PT Barnum; it’s the story of the misfits and miscreants that he threw together that somehow formed a family. Despite all Barnum doesn’t do for them, they are family and family sticks together.

For me, the wonder outweighs the need for it to be true to life. There is a lot of dark, scary, and worrisome in the world. I will take a couple hours of dreaming about how the world could be over a real-life biopic any day of the week.

2672 Review: March (Book Three)

   Title: March (Book Three)

Author: John Lewis (with Andew Aydin)

Illustrator: Nate Powell

Publication Info: Top Shelf Productions (2016)

 

 

Summary:

March (Book Three) picks up right where the first two left off, telling the story of Senator and civil-rights activist John Lewis. The first two books deal a great deal with Lewis’ growing up years and the early years of his activism, but book three jumps right into a world and country in chaos.

From the beginning, the March books captured the public’s attention. Not only were they the story of an ugly part of American history, but they felt contemporary and deeply personal as race issues continue to plague who America is and who we, as a country, want to be. From his childhood to the streets of Selma, Alabama, Lewis’ mission to change the way America sees people of color is clear.

The March trilogy is a crash-course in the civil-rights movement. You will learn more in these three books that you probably encountered in all your history classes. It’s powerful and disturbing. From churches being burned to bodies being covered up, Lewis tells it like it was – including the moments where he lost a little faith and wasn’t sure the way they were trying to change America was the right way.

My only frustration with March is that the end of the third book feel so rushed. There is still so much between the conclusion of the book and the publication of March Book One that I would like to have known. Getting the vote was just the first step; it was not the last. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. Lewis and Nate Powell when they spoke in Bloomington in 2015. Lewis’ stories are fascinating!

Read-Alikes and other Books:

Websites and Other Activities

S672 Book Review: Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio

Title: Out on the Wire

Subtitle: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of the Radio

Author: Jessica Abel

Publication Info: Broadway Books, a Division of Random House (2015)

 

Summary:

To say I loved this book would be a grand understatement. I picked it from a list, just because I was trying to get a variety of books and opinions throughout the class. However, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Out on the Wire is a comic book about the radio, a medium that most people consider completely auditory. What author Jessica Abel says, however, is that radio is visual (like one of her close friend, NPR’s Ira Glass), says.

 

We are all storytellers!

Out on the Wire is a captivating look at what it means to make good radio programs that go beyond talking heads a little music. But, it does so in such a funky, modern way that you forget that you’re learning a ton about the radio process. The graphic novel illustrates everything from picking stories to editing, and does it seamlessly, all while telling the bigger narrative of why the radio still matters today, no matter how you listen (in the car, at work, online, etc).

What surprised me the most about Out on the Wire is just how good it is. It’s all black and white pencil illustrations, and there is a lot of dense information in it. But, at the same time, it’s powerful, funny and interesting. This is a book about capturing people’s stories and the essence of what makes them human. It legit made me want to read more about the radio – and turn on the radio.

Read-Alikes and Other Books

Out on the Wire is the perfect book for people interested in a career in radio or podcasting. Other great resources include:

Websites and Other Activities

 

S672 Book Review: Big Top Burning

Title: Big Top Burning

Subtitle: The True Story of a Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and the Greatest Show on Earth

Author: Laura A Woollett

Publication Info: Chicago Review Press, Inc. 2015

Suggested Age Range: Grades 5 and up

 

Summary:

Big Top Burning is the true story of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus disaster of 1944. A fire broke out, and just a mere 10 minutes later, the big top had been destroyed. All told, 167 people lost their lives that day. Amongst those affected by the tragedy were Mildred Cook and her three children, Donald, Eleanor and Edward. Though injured, Mildred and Edward escaped the fire. Donald was rescued by another family and taken care of until he could be reunited. Edward later died in the hospital from his wounds. But the real mystery is what happened to little Eleanor Cook? The mystery of Eleanor and what started the fire is central to the book.

spectators run from the fire in 1944

Big Top Burning is factual without being graphic, even when talking about the dozens of children burned, and the bodies of people that were unrecognizable after the fire. Author Woollett uses photographs from that day to highlight what happened, as well as setting the background for why the circus was such a big draw during World War II America. Even when the book provides “answers,” it is quick to say that this is what the current thoughts are, but impossible to know for sure.

Big Top Burning is factual and fascinating. I learned a ton about something of which I had only a vague memory. Interestingly, the author also includes stories from famous families that are still a part of circus lore, like the Flying Wallenda’s, who were performing when the fire broke out.

Read-Alikes and other Books

Websites and Activities

S672 Book Review: Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

Quiet Power Cover

Quiet Power CoverTitle: Quiet Power: The Secret Strength of Introverts

Author: Susan Cain (with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz)

Illustrator: Grant Snider

Publication Info: Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Young Readers Group (2016)

Suggested Age Range: Grades 5 and up

Summary:

Susan Cain’s remarkable best-seller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking, changed my life. Definitely for adults, Quiet validated everything I had felt as an introvert who actually can spend time in front of people and with people. Cain, a former lawyer turned personality advocate, wants to help everyone feel comfortable in their own skin and the way they were made. What Quiet did for adults, Quiet Power: The Secret Strength of Introverts can do for kids of all ages.

illustration from Quiet Power: How to Leave a Party Early
Every introvert has an escape plan. The “right” way may be a polite goodbye, but that isn’t always what happens.

Cain uses her same theories and stories, but makes them relatable to what youth are going through today. From the fear of being called on in class to the need to escape from uncomfortable situations, this book gives introverts the words to express their world, and extroverts a way to understand their introverted friends better. There is a common misconception that introverts are standoffish, snobbish, and/or enjoy, isolation. The reality, however, is that introversion is about how you get refreshed, not about your ability to be around others.

Quiet Power is broken up into four parts: school, socializing, hobbies, and home. Each section walks through how introverts experience these parts of their lives and how introverts can and are changing the world.

As an introverted kid, nothing scared me more than being called to the front of the classroom to do a math problem. There were two reasons for this: I was embarrassed…and I was really bad at math. I’m pretty sure I did one of each of the above at some point in class, but the “preemptive strike” was usually the last ditch attempt to not be asked something I didn’t know.

As an introvert to this day, the Fortress of Solitude is how I recover. Find a way to recharge your batteries; it looks different for everyone.

Quiet Power is a book I wish I had as a teen; and it’s a book I wish more people would read now. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert OR an extrovert. We just have to know what we are, and how to deal with those different than us. Schools and social settings are designed with the extrovert in mind and books like this help introverts find their place, too.

Read-Alikes and Other Books

Has Quiet Power made you (or someone you know) want to read more about their unique style of recharging and relating to the world? Here are some great resources:

Websites, Activities, and More