Reading List 2018

Yesterday I mentioned that one thing I really latched onto in 2018 was audio books. I should also mention that I started this because I got into a couple of podcasts and thought, “Hey, why not books too?” I am lucky enough to have a great public library that offers a huge selection of audio books and I’ve been able to read so much more than I have in years past! From here on out, if I say I “read” a book-you can safely assume that translates to “listened to.”

Audio books aren’t for everyone, but for me, it’s relaxing and just feels nice. It reminds me of being read a story which elicits great memories of my Grandpa who was the best story teller I have even known.

Unfortunately for my list-making mind, I had to change libraries in June and lost my book list in the switch. I even called my former library to see  if they had a way to view what I had checked out but  to no avail. I have since then started to use the Goodreads app as well as turned on my ‘track history’ in my current audio book app (Libby.) So this list isn’t complete but I tried to add the ones I could remember!

  1. Class Mom, Laurie Gelman (fiction)-This book was hilarious! Gelman’s follow up book to Class Mom should be coming out this year and I am pumped.  God bless the class moms-that stuff is no joke. A
  2. Turtles All the Way Down, John Green (young adult, fiction)-Eh. I wanted to like this more than I did. I really enjoy Green’s writing usually (and yes, I still like young adult. So.) I had a hard time connecting with the characters and the story felt a little disjointed at points. Not my favorite from him. Or maybe I’m just too old now. C
  3. Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks (short story, fiction)- omgomgomgomg. One of my favorite books of the year, easy. Also, Tom Hanks read me stories AND mentioned the town I live in-twice. (Tom Hanks’ brother teaches at the university in my town [I don’t think it’s the brother that does his voice work?] and sometimes HE VISITS HERE and my brother-in-law once served him frozen custard and I’M NOT WORTHY). Each story relates, somehow, back to a typewriter, which is such a neat idea. Hanks collects typewriters and there’s actually an app that you can download that allows you to ‘type’ on your device using typewriters that he likes. I love Tom Hanks. He can do no wrong (except that one movie he did that I did not like).  A+
  4. If You Were Here, Jen Lancaster (fiction)-  Solid story and I enjoy Lancaster’s work but I rolled my eyes a lot.  The main character was very superficial and I always struggle to really feel for someone who has it all complaining about the choices they decide to make. B-
  5. Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Holis (self-help?)-…speaking of eye rolls, I really struggle with people who have no idea about the privileges they have telling me to just suck it up, buttercup. Look, I know a lot of people who have had life-changing experiences with this book and I swear I just felt people close this browser when they started this sentence but NOPE. I’m glad it works for some, but I just yelled at the speaker a lot. I did finish it though. Girl, check yo’ privilege.  D
  6. Someday, Someday Maybe, Lauren Graham (fiction)-I liked it, solid story. B
  7. Talking as Fast as I can, Lauren Graham (autobiography)- Liked it, and she really did talk fast. I think I was hoping for a little more but it was still a good, light read. B
  8. Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger (fiction)- So one night while Derek was away at a work conference all I wanted to watch for some reason was Devil Wears Prada and I was m-a-d that it wasn’t on one of the millions of streaming networks we subscribe to and I actually had to get the DVD out. Anyway, that’s what inspired me to read the book. Interesting character development, I liked it. A
  9. When Life Gives You Lululemons, Lauren Weisberger (fiction)- I read all of Weisberger’s books this  year and was impressed. Lululemons takes place in the aftermath of Devil Wears Prada and I’d love if this one was made into a movie. A
  10. The Singles Game, Lauren Weisberger (fiction)- This one is out of the Prada universe and kind of gave me some flashback stuff initially because it’s about an athlete that gets hurt playing tennis and while I am really NOT an athlete I was playing tennis when I tore my meniscus which later reviled that I had no ACL (and hadn’t had one for like 5 years) but once I got over that I was good. If you haven’t figured out by now, I read a lot of ‘lighter’ stuff and this one was solid as well. I like Weisberger and look forward to more by her. A
  11. Leah on the Offbeat, Becky Albertalli (young adult, fiction)-So you know how you’re most definitely taught not to judge a book by its’ cover? Well I liked the color of the cover of this book and didn’t have anything available in my queue and that’s why I checked it out. I was originally looking for  another one of Albertalli’s books, Love, Simon, but it’s checked out for the next 6,000 years. That is what you get when you jump on the whole, “oh it’s a movie but I want to read the book first!” trend. Anyway, it was a good story and I enjoyed the perspective. It’s exciting to see young adult books taking on topics like sexuality and the complications that come with exploring who someone truly is meant to be. That didn’t really exist when I was a young adult, so kudos to growth! I’m looking forward to hopefully getting to her other works. B
  12. Yes, Chef: A Memoir, Marcus Samuelsson (autobiography)- This past summer we lost Anthony Bourdain and that was a rough blow. Maybe I’ll talk about how that impacted me at some point but long story short, I started digging deeper into some culinary works. I loved Samuelsson’s story (and he read it to me! I could listen to him speak for the rest of my life.) It was a great blend of culture and the great mysterious world of ball-busting work in kitchens. Hearing a story about a man from Ethiopia that grew up in Sweden and then worked all over the world but now calls New York City home? Loved it. I’m looking forward to visiting his restaurant when we visit New York City next year. A
  13. Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain (memoir)- I cried a lot. I’ve read it before. I don’t think I could be a chef but I’d like to think I’d give it an honest shot. A
  14. You’ll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein (autobiography)-I liked it, but thought I’d laugh more given that she is a comedy writer. The only memorable part I can recall is listening to it while I was taking a shower in my hotel room at Disney World and I don’t feel like that’s an indication of my enjoyment. C
  15. Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer (autobiography)- I liked it, it had depth and humor. I like Amy Schumer. B
  16. Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy: Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan (fiction)- Again on, “Hey this is a move I need to read the book!” series, the Crazy Rich trilogy is really, really good.  I admit, I saw the movie before I read the books (and had never  heard of the trilogy before then) but I am so glad I did. I’m kind of sad the series is done but look forward to the movies! It was also really awesome to see how this movie broke a lot of barriers in Hollywood. A
  17. My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh (fiction)- 😐 what. was. this. I just read some of the reviews on Amazon that this book, “shimmers with intelligence and empathy.” 😐 Maybe it’s because I work in mental health that I am a very harsh critic of self-help bullshit and books depicting mental illness, maybe. Or maybe this book was just flat. *SPOILERS IN CASE YOU CARE* She took a bunch of shit that would kill a human being LIKE A MILLION TIMES OVER and slept for a year.  I did not see a shimmer of any intelligence or empathy. It was 100% apathy. When I was done I kind of just stared at a wall and said, “what the hell” and went back to life. Honestly, in ways it reminded me of one of my favorite books from high school, Go Ask Alice. (I think Go Ask Alice may have nudged me into working with kids with trauma by the way but I digress.) So I stuck it out thinking that it would stop running me the wrong way but the blatant bullshit of misusing psychotropic medication I just couldn’t get over. I guess I get what she was doing with this, and perhaps some may see that as brilliant (that things don’t always come to pass, that sometimes we’re alive but don’t want to live, etc) but what she did would kill someone so it was hard to buy into the story for me. Maybe most folks don’t know that so it works for them? I was looking forward to this one because it was met with such high praise and if anyone else has read it and wants to enlighten me I’m super intrigued to hear what you may have to say-let’s talk. 😐 C-
  18. Love is a Mixed Tape, Rob Sheffield (fiction)- I’ve owned this paperback for years and never read it so I decided to give the audio a try. I cried a few tears with this one just because I related to the story of how a mixed tape can mean so much. It was a sweet book, and I want to read more by Sheffield. A
  19. 10% Happier, Dan Harris (self-help, also autobiography?)- So toward the end of the year I started being interested in some of the works I had heard about from a podcast I really enjoy, Savy Psychologist  (she’s awesome!! I’ve learned a lot from this podcast. A++)  My own therapist often told me that I should try to meditate and I basically would look at her like, “haha. no.” and we’d move on but I’ve read a lot of research on the topic so I decided to see what others had to say.  Harris was a guest on the SP podcast at one point and what he shared cleared up a lot of my misconceptions about meditation  (I had quite a few, oops. Sorry to my therapist for all the eye rolls). I gave his book a chance and it was fantastic! It was entertaining to learn about his journey into meditation.  I can’t say I knew who Harris was before (I don’t watch ABC News shows) but I am sure glad I do now. This book helped me to start clear some fog. Way to be engaging and helpful. A
  20. Wild, Cheryl Strayed (autobiography)-Oddly, I still haven’t watched this movie but this was another book I chose since  none of the ones I had on my list were available. It also helped me understand Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life better, too. It was fine. C
  21. Yes, Please, Amy Poehler (autobiography)- I started this book when it first came out and couldn’t finish it but I’m so glad I went back to it!  It was nice to learn more about the path she took to become who she is now and hear some interesting stories along the way. I love comedians. A
  22. Born Standing Up, Steve Martin (autobiography)- Did I mention I love comedians? I love Steve Martin. I loved his book. A
  23. One More Thing, B.J. Novak (fiction)- Sensing a theme here. These were awesome short stories that made me legit laugh out loud. I kind of want to re-read this one like right now. A
  24. Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher (autobiography)-come on. It’s Carrie Fisher. It was good. It took a while to be able to hear her voice, ya’ll. A
  25. Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher (autobiography)- see above. B
  26. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson (self-help, autobiography?)- I was skeptical at first but damn I loved this book. So eye-opening and really forced me forward in my thought process. A

And the final two books for 2018 were two that I enjoyed multiple times. Jenny Lawson has been a beacon of light on rough days. She speaks with such honesty and is freaking hilarious. I adore her ability to share her own stories about mental health and the struggles it brings and to add humor to the heavy. She is genuine and I listened to her tell me I mattered as well as stories about taxidermy animals and cried and laughed all the same. Lawson has a blog that I suggest you check out too. Jenny Lawson, you are a blessing. And I am number 26.

 27. Furiously Happy (autobiography, humor, self-help) A+

28. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (more autobiographical than self-help but still a mix even if by proxy) A+

And a bonus! She has a coloring book/self-help/just a nice book called You Are Here. This isn’t an audio book and I’m a proud owner of this one! A+

All We Need is a Little Bit of Momentum

See this for the lyric reference  I miss The Hush Sound. Ah, 2005.

Well hello there-it’s been a while!I suppose I have some explaining to do in the wake of my very long break.

I believe I shared back in the spring that I was going through a tight one. I had a significant struggle with a family member that really threw me into a loop of confusion and sadness. While I find myself as a pretty emotionally competent person, being rejected by someone who you thought loved you unconditionally can really take a toll.

Some days I thought it didn’t bother me and I suppose that on some days, it didn’t. But on the days it did bother me, it bothered me completely. Days kept coming and my sadness stuck around and grew  into the dark curmudgeon-y cloud depression is known to be. Thanks depression, you’re super swell. There were some hard days and often I’d feel guilty for being depressed. “Stop feeling this way. You have so much Good in life. Stop it.” Why does that never work. Well I am happy to report that the big bad rainstorm is over for now and I’m able to at least reflect back on the longevity of the last 10ish months. I can say now that this cloudy time was different and before I delve into explaining the hard parts I would like to first share the other piece of what happens when someone is depressed-a lot of cool, awesome, fun, and exciting things happened in my life. I just had to invite Mr. CC (Curmudgeon Cloud) along sometimes.

*disclaimer-this post really isn’t about what it feels like to be depressed, or even all the facets that come along with it.  It’s really just focused as a recap and explanation of the last 10 months or so.*

Here’s some highlights since we last chatted:

  • I didn’t resort back to old habits to numb my sadness. I successfully made progress with my eating habits. I had to make choices though because there simply weren’t enough spoons for the Full Monty of peak health-after the 5/10K I completed, I kind of stalled in physical activity. I tried to keep my steps up and did take walks when I could. I am really proud of this- more on the WW journey to come at a later time. (and, I recently signed up for yoga classes again, and plan on going to some fun group fitness classes!)
  • I was selected to the be the Midwest Ambassador of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council! I’m the only woman, too!  Really all this means is bragging rights but I received some very nice messages (and gifts) from some of my favorite Midwest hot dog establishments (SuperDawg and Portillo’s-you know your Ambassador loves you). I’m still hoping this will lead to like, a judge for a hot dog eating/tasting contest or something, but we’ll see. This was a legit highlight and has brought about some great notoriety for me-especially at work.
  • I became an Aunt again!
  • I learned I’m allergic to mango skin. This is a real thing. It is painful. I love fresh mango. I had to go through the ordeal twice to figure it out, too. Sigh. Okay this wasn’t fun-but funny maybe?
  • I watched my bffl be sworn in as President of a cause that is very near and dear to her. I love seeing my friends succeed and I was one of her VIPs at her induction.
  • I took a pottery class and it was a blast. I had this whole Wednesday agenda where I’d go be creative for 3 hours and then grab my favorite Indian food and go home and eat on the couch while watching TV. It was great!
  • I went on adventures! I saw great movies! I read like 35 books (a huge increase, more on this in a moment). I went to concerts! I ate delicious new foods! I spent time with my fantastic friends! I made a couple new friends! I even pushed myself out of my comfort zone!

And through most of all that, the cloud wasn’t too far away.  I’ve been depressed before, and I’m sure it’ll show up again, but I have to say this time was different. I have spent the last few weeks analyzing just what made it different so that hopefully, I can catalog away what helped me for the next cloudy moment. I know that the issue that took place in the spring (and happened to align with me not only starting WW but also this blog adventure) spun me into sadness because it triggered some very deep rooted fears and pains. So, while I sat with my feelings I also acknowledged the fun little boogers too. What I came to learn was:

  • In my heart of hearts, fear not being accepted by those I love and I fear being forgotten. I know where these fears come from and I now know that while the little voice in my head who, God bless her heart, is just trying to protect us, screams on and on about, “YOU ARE GOING TO GET US HURT STOP IT. STOP IT!” She is wrong. It’s that simple. She’s just wrong now. I am far too valuable to others to be forgotten and I am accepted by those with the capacity to accept me. Short of me being a complete ass to someone (which really isn’t in my nature), if someone decides that they no longer want to be in my life….it’s because of something they need to deal with. It’s not me and most importantly, it’s nit my fault. However, it’s still a painful realization, but it’s easier to digest. And that’s exactly what happened this spring. I still have moments where I have to remind Little Voice that it wasn’t us…it was them. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work through the sadness of no longer having that connection-but it does mean that I don’t have to live with the pain in my heart of being rejected or that everyone else will leave me too. Over time the pain in my heart related to what was being to me changed to pain in my heart for what that person must be going through. Knowing I do not have any way of helping them heal so that they can accept healthy relationships sucks-but that is a part of everyone’s own journey.
  • It is possible to acknowledge uncomfortable and unwanted feelings and not fall to hell. That, I guess, it what some may call recovery? Being able to acknowledge ‘X’ and not letting it rule your life? I’m still not quite sure this can be replicated in perpetuity but I’m happy to keep my optimism. This doesn’t mean there weren’t hard times. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have moments where I thought that nothing would ever feel good again. And it sure in the hell does not mean that it was/is FUN sitting with shitty emotions, thoughts, and feelings (UGH). It really just means that being able to acknowledge my feelings and what triggered them was really helpful and ultimately helped me walk out of the dark. This I hope to carry with me forever and help use as the ’emotional umbrella’ to help pass the future storms.
  • Once I noticed what was going on with me, I was honest about it. I told my sister in law (who offered support). I told my boss (who offered support). I told people close to me (who ultimately, offered support) and was honest about it. I normalized the feeling. I wasn’t asking for special privileges but just being able to be honest about being down was really freeing. And, side note, no one looked at me like I had a second head. No one pitied me. They were just good people-who would have imagined that? In the future I will strive to do this more. Radical acceptance, if you will.
I would say it’s been a solid two months of creeping back to ‘me’. Over the summer I reached out to my former therapist (who moved to another state) and we were able to chat through The Situation and she had, of course, given me some great insight. That whole “asking for help” thing. Blarg. So uncomfortable (I never like to inconvenience anyone, but, see above.) but I have learned that actually, asking for help isn’t the end of the world (doesn’t mean I’ll always be successful at it though. #checkonyourstrongfriend folks.) I made a choice after speaking with my Awesome Therapist (everyone should have one!) to make  a plan on how to let go of the pain The Situation brought me. It took a lot. Like, a lot a lot. But I reached out one final time and said my peace (truly, it was kind and peaceful while still holding my own boundaries). Unfortunately my peace was met with resistance… and that’s it. That is where that ended. It was so hard to do but once I sent my peace into the universe it felt like (haha) the clouds had lifted (see what I did there?) and I was back on a road that I could actually see.
The last 10-ish months have been hard but they have oddly been full of a lot of growth as well. The old adages of, “always darkest before the dawn” and something something ‘crawl’ something ‘walk’ come to mind I suppose. Here are some of the positive things that I have learned/started to do:
  • I’m not sure when I started this, but at some point I took to heart the whole, “treat yourself like you would a young child, or your best friend.” This meaning, I was checking the script in my head constantly. I was asking why I was putting myself through situations or into positions that frankly, didn’t want to be in and didn’t have to do. When I was sad I didn’t beat myself up -I would tell myself, “aw sweetheart, it’s okay to not be okay right now. Let’s have a tea. Let’s have a nap. Let’s have a moment.” I rested when I needed a rest. I stopped the “I should….” and replaced it with, “I would like to….” I lightened up on myself. I have tried to fill my life with as much contentment as possible. This.has.been.a.lifesaver. Seriously. It sounds a little cheesy I guess, but really, it’s freeing. Think KonMari but for your head. Does this mean that I only live on the Happiness Island? No. It means that I acknowledged my thoughts and digest them all while listening to Me and not the endless chatter of Little Voice.
  • This one sounds weird but let’s be honest, this whole blogpost is a free flow of conscious thought at this point. I am making a conscious effort to only surround myself with what is Best. Quality wins. Cozy wins (Hygge Life). Things that bring me joy wins. I do not have enough energy to waste on mediocre crap and I do not beat myself up anymore on walking away from anything that isn’t The Best. This means: I don’t have to finish this crappy cookie just because I took it and it was free. I don’t have to wear these jeans that kind of annoy me just because I typically wear my jeans til the thighs give out. I don’t have to finish this book because it feels weird to give up but UGH it really sucks.  (Harder parts of this are, I don’t have to keep space for people who don’t keep space for me.) These are all really related to the previous comment about “I should”s and overall-back to guilt or possibly hurting someone else. Letting it all go.
  • I read books by listening to them. Yep. Audio books. For a long time I was sad that spending a day reading a book made me feel incredibly guilty (YOU SHOULD BE DOING X INSTEAD) and couldn’t focus for more than a couple pages. So in 2018 I really focused on audio books and bam. problem solved. It’s incredible! It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I just love having a story told to me while I let my mind wonder as I physically complete some mundane task (showering, driving). God bless audio books. I have read some really awesome ones that I will recap some time. Many of them helped me navigate the rainstorm and come out stronger.
So what’s the point in sharing all of this? Well, because one of the underlying reasons that I stopped blogging so quickly was because I felt that every post had to relate back to a common theme (which was my journey into eating healthier, in case you forgot) and that became really tough, really quick (AKA too much pressure on myself). Because life is more connected than that and because often I wanted to share some random thought of mine but it just didn’t relate back to the ‘theme’ enough so I wouldn’t…and then there was nothing.  After giving it a lot of thought (and thinking very often that it didn’t matter and I’ll just never blog again, who cares), I’ll just do what I want and see what comes of it.
Well then, what are you going to write about? I suppose, everything and anything? I have some neat ideas in my noggin that I’d like to put into words, even if I am the only one who reads it. Having space to share and create is healing so I reckon that’s what I’ll do. Some will be light. Often it’ll be funny (or an attempt at the very least). Most likely there will be a hell of a lot of grammatical errors and meh looking photos. But it’s life, and life is sometimes out of focus and spelled incorrectly. Or something like that. I’ll be honest and open to discussion on topics that still have stigma (mental health, physical health, but probably not politics unless I’m feeling really ‘engaged’.) I’ll share recipes and updates and stories and adventures. I have creative juices back (the humor never left, though. What would we do without my awesome jokes?!) You’re basically reading my diary, if I kept one.
Buckle up, buttercups. It’s gonna be a fun ride!
Side note: I think the only people who read this are probably my husband and like two friends. So I’d like to say to you folks that I love you and thank you for your support. Maybe I didn’t share all the thoughts above out loud often, butI feel that 2018 was probably the year grew the most. I had to do a lot of that on my own. I am even more grateful to have the best people in the world be a part of my life. And to my husband, you have never judged me and have always supported me in all the right ways. You save space for me and allow me to take the time I need. You are my favorite human. The cats are my favorite cats.