Sunday, March 19, 2017

Coffee and Blogs No. 28

Coffee + Blogs took a much longer break than I ever anticipated. I'm always trying to adjust to the ebb and flow of life, and I'm trying to find it interesting rather than alarming to see the way certain things fade out and bloom back. This weekend I am in a particularly delicious place, staying in my sister's house while she is on vacation. It is silent here, and I finally broke out of my reruns/pajamas slump to get some work done. A new planner, the Pomodoro Technique, and Spotify playlists are kicking my butt in the best best best way.  Without further ado, here are some lovely things to read.

1. Do My Friends Secretly Dislike Me? This is such an important read for the anxious mind, and pretty much every person ever who has had a moment of insecurity about their friends and acquaintances. (Let me just reiterate for the 100th time that I wish to god Rookie had been around when I was a mess of a teen)

2. How to be a good listener: the expert's guide Being a good listener is on my lifetime skills-to-learn list. It took me a long time to realize what a terrible listener I am, and now I love reading about ways to get better. After a few frustrating interactions lately, this advice really struck me: It took a while for me to understand that if a friend is in a dark place, the most compassionate thing we can do is to climb down into that place and sit with them for a while.

3. What's Your Happiness Recipe? And How To Create One To be completely honest, sometimes these articles weary me. I get it, I get it, I need to remember to drink water and take a moment for myself and light a candle. But then I find myself three days past my last shower, sucking on my fifth coffee and crying in the living room because I can't remember how to summon the energy to turn the TV off and stumbling to bed seems too hard, so I sleep on the couch. THEN THESE ARTICLES DON'T SEEM SO GOOFY. I think the biggest step is to actually write stuff down.

4. The Strange Case of the Reincarnated Egyptian I love stories of children connecting with past lives and find it incredibly interesting to speculate about reincarnation. Do you believe?

5. One Thing At A Time An adorable comic about a girl who gave up mulitasking.

6. How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind I'm not sure if I've already shared this, but I think this is an important monthly read. I've been falling way behind on issues, overwhelmed by my personal problems, and relying on Twitter for my news WAY too much. This article outlines important steps for adjusting yourself to the new realities of resistance to keep yourself from burning out, and most importantly, TO KEEP TRUMP FROM SEEMING NORMAL. He's not. This isn't. Don't get used to it.

7. On a similar note, here are some tools that have been extremely helpful to me in staying connected without feeling flooded with information: The Skimm is a M-F news update delivered to your inbox with an overview of the news and links for further reading. Countable is an app I've used for awhile to keep track of issues that are important to me. You can share how you would vote on issues, discuss in forums, and directly contact your representatives from inside the app. I've fallen out of the habit of calling my reps, and I am going to remedy that. 

8. True Story: My Husband Used To Be A Woman I love Sarah's True Story series, and this one was great. I'm trying to normalize different family narratives for myself,  and Nick and Anna's story was touching, real, and romantic. 

9. This photo series celebrating iconic black women during Black History Month is gorgeous and enpowering. 

10. I've been calling my sickness/apathy/inefficency over the past few months everything from a slump to a minor depressive episode. I've blamed it on overbooking myself and my medications. But in my deepest core, I know that hand-over-hand work is the only thing that can pull me (I am not diagonsed with depression, and I know that some people cannot just "try harder" to "snap out of it." I, on the other hand, cannot use mental illness that is not mine as an excuse to not put the work in) out of the hole I've lined with blankets and crawled into. In that vein, here are some articles that slapped some sense into me: from Rookie, Rethinking Self Care (what a beautiful and dangerous phrase) and from Xandra at Heroine Training, What To Do When You Don't Feel Like Doing Anything . I'm in the middle of reclaiming some discipline and taking some responsibility, and these articles have helped me see the light.

That's what I have this week! Follow me on Instagram to see what I'm reading/buying, and on Twitter to see what hilarious hot takes I'm retweeting. 

image credits (1, 2, 3)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

February Be Your Own Book Club Recaps and March Book Reveal!

February was not a hugely successful reading month for me, despite having a vacation and a few snow days tucked in there. I'm here to share my triumphs and failures around our February Picks.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon- I adored this cute YA pick. It only took me a few days to read and the fluffy plot was exactly the amount of tension that I needed (read: almost none). There were aspects that I found SLIGHTLY unbelievable, but I was 1000% willing to suspend disbelief because I enjoyed the characters and the romance so much. I'll definitely see this movie when it comes out. I've heard that Yoon's second book, THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR, is even better, so it's on the list!

HIDDEN FIGURES by Margot Lee Shetterly- I failed here. I tried to get into this book. I wanted to get into this book. When print didn't draw me in, I tried the audiobook, and in both formats, it just didn't grab my interest. I was supremely disappointed in myself for awhile, because I think this book is important and I'm proud of the conversation around it and I wanted to educate myself. Then I took a deep breath, recognized that it might just be the timing, and gave myself permission to put it back on my Want To Read shelf. 

I think that's a pretty important message to stress for anyone trying to keep to a reading list or a reading habit or participate in a book club- it's okay to bail on a book. Sometimes it's an indication of the book being "good" (oh, the tangent I could get on about what that even means), but more often it's timing, your personal preferences, your stress level- anything can factor into why a book isn't a great fit for you at the moment. You don't need my permission, but if you're beating yourself up about, consider this your pass: you can put a book down at any moment with zero hard feelings. 

One trick I use when I'm trying to get into a book that I think just needs a solid chance on my end is to start reading in a place where I can't stop. I'm in the middle of COME AS YOU ARE, an amazing nonfiction book about women's sexuality. I took it with me when I was going to get a pedicure- I couldn't very well leave and switch out the book if my mind wandered and I started craving some fiction. This trick also works if you read at the gym or on a commute. But then sometimes, all tricks aside, you need to put it down.

For March, I've stuck with the formula of picking one fiction and one nonfiction title. 

Fiction- The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

From Goodreads:  A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery--the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes--will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.

At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamá fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America.

Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.

Nonfiction- Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling 

From Goodreads:  In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it's falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you're constantly reminded that no one looks like you. 

In "How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet's Confessions", Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, ("Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn't the land of appropriate-this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman s traditional hair color is honey blonde.") "Player" tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. ("I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.") In "Unlikely Leading Lady", she muses on America's fixation with the weight of actresses, ("Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they're walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.") And in "Soup Snakes", Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak ("I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.") 

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who's ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who've never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.

I'd love to know how you're feeling about the book club picks. Is there something you'd like to see more or less of? Would you like more interaction, question style? I'm still triyng to find the best format for discussions during and after reading, and would love to hear your thoughts.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Five Books That Call Bullshit on Diet Culture

I'm finishing up our February book club picks and putting the final touches on the books for March, but in the meantime, I wanted to share one of my favorite pieces of writing about feminism and diet culture. I have shared the link to it's home over at Book Riot a few times, but I wanted to have it here for posterity. 
This piece was originally posted on Book Riot on September 19th, 2016.
In 2016, I learned that I was fat. I’ve been fat my whole life, off and on, and even when I was smaller (obediently shrinking, absorbing compliments left and right, hearing comments about how gross I used to be) the word “fat” was rarely used. Not even the meanest people will actually call you fat. They might ask you if you like donuts, imply that your furniture is on the verge of breaking, or congratulate you for ordering a salad, but people rarely say “fat.” I think that’s why claiming the word, typing it and having it come flying out of my mouth, feels so damn good. This word is a descriptor, one that applies to my fabulous self, and if you were going to try and search for condescending terms to discuss this situation with me (overweight, larger, curvy, hefty) I’ve trumped you. I’m fat. I like it.
I was not always so proud. I have been searching for, about to start, or struggling with a diet for my entire life. I have tried Weight Watchers, Atkins, 21 Day Fix, low carb, no carb, simply eating significantly less food, eating all organic, eating only berry cereal, not eating after 9pm (then 7pm), drinking lemon water, drinking salt water, taking laxatives, taking vitamins, counting calories on seven different apps. I have stood in front of diet-approved workout DVDS, listening to an angular woman chirping to me that I am finally going to look good in my bathing suit this year! The fat woman modifying the exercises to her right looks as weary as I feel. “Don’t tell me what looks good,” I whisper under my breath. “I’m trying to stay alive.”
Because that is the new vicious lie that has developed since I started dieting as a girl. No longer is fat simply unsightly, a barrier that keeps you from a happy life trailing scarves behind you on the beach. Now it is insidious. It is trying to KILL YOU. You are, at all overweight times, MOMENTS FROM DEATH! You’re going to DIE! It will choke you, stop your heart, poison your blood, slow your breath until you fall over. Cause of death? Fat. Lazy, stupid, idiotic fat accumulating on your lazy, stupid, idiotic body. You’re not smart enough, strong enough, dedicated enough to follow the SIMPLE STEPS to keep the fat off your body. You’re going to die, and you deserve it. Bullshit.

Diet culture is the perpetuation of this lie. Diet culture is gushing “Oh, I’m going to be bad!” before biting into piece of cake or a donut or a Hershey’s kiss. Diet culture is feeling virtuous when you order a salad. Diet culture is your Facebook feed full of people selling you shakes and workouts and wraps to help you drop the pounds. Diet culture is the pervasive chatter about the morality, quality, and quantity of any food eaten in any order during the lunch hour in any building that employs women. Diet culture is the cashier at Dunkin Donuts proclaiming “good girl!” when I order a bagel with no cream cheese (for my husband). Diet culture is a male supervisor complimenting a mostly female staff on the lovely potluck breakfast they brought to celebrate their hard work, then commenting that the weather should be nice enough over the weekend to get out there and burn off all those calories. Diet culture is so pervasive that you might be shrugging right now, thinking none of these examples are really that bad. Diet culture is something I have had to identify, face, and choose to ignore in order to live my best life. Diet culture is something I actively navigate everyday that I live on this Earth as a proud, happy, fat woman.
How did I get here, calling myself a fat woman, proudly brandishing a word that used to represent my worst nightmare? Why I am finally okay with the one aspect of myself I have actively tried to “fix” for my entire life? Oh, you know, books. Badass, life changing, body positive books. The internet is a terrible and beautiful place, but I will be forever grateful because it was my window to the body positive movement. I found bloggers writing powerful manifestos and gentle truths. I don’t have to be skinny to be happy? I don’t have to be ashamed of myself? It took me almost a year of immersion before I was ready to call myself fat, and thanks to these amazing books, I’m never going back.
There are thirty-one essays, one for every day of the month. If you’re just beginning to dip your toe into body positive literature, these bite-sized pieces are great on length, but pull no punches in the power department. You’ll want to read each one, written by a different voice and highlighting a different experience, with enough time to process the fists-raised message. Hot and Heavy features stories about porn, cancer, car crashes, pecan pie, masturbation, speed dating, fashion, burlesque, a place called the Cook Islands (which we all need to visit immediately) and much more.  The works are broken up into three sections, titled Life, Love, and Fashion, but I found a theme of childhood memories (almost impossible to avoid when talking about being a fat person in our society) and sexual positivity (never easy to find in our sex-shaming society) prevalent through most of the essays. This book is a font of empowerment and an introduction to so many strong voices that advocate for pleasure and confidence. It is diet culture’s antithesis, and you need it in your hands.

This was my very first introduction to fat girl literature. I had followed Baker’s online presence for a few years (her blog, The Militant Baker, is a don’t-miss) and was so excited to read her book. I love to take pictures of what I’m reading for Instagram and Listy, but I hesitated with this cover- I was still getting used to flaunting the F word. I posted a picture of it…then started reading it in public. After a few empowering chapters, I was reading this on the elliptical at the gym, head held high. Baker covers a ton of important topics, but her statistic-filled chapter breaking down the mechanics of the diet industry was the most important thing I took away.  It should be obvious that an industry that can only exist if we are unhappy with how we look will have a vested interest in keeping us unhappy with how we look, but Baker explains the patronizing way that diets and the companies that profit from their use perpetuate self-loathing and then reach out, calling themselves the solution to our low self-worth. Baker specifically calls out diet culture for the bullshit it is.

You Dont Have To Like Me Alida NugentYou Don’t Have To Like Me by Alida Nugent
This series of essays is about Nugent’s embracing of feminism, and guess what? You can’t discuss feminism without touching on the screwed up social messages that women receive about their bodies. I strongly related to the essay about claiming a “one of the guys” persona and perpetuating sexism in order to feel accepted- that’s definitely a place I’ve been in the past, and reading about someone else in that position was heady relief. But her chapter about her struggle with bulimia and the myriad of issues that caused her body so much damage was also a powerful punch. Few women have avoided a struggle with some form of disordered eating, and hearing other women speak about this is kind of like becoming an adult and realizing that every woman you know has faced sexual harassment. Nugent calls bullshit on perfection, on traditional standards of beauty, and on beating yourself up. It’s fierce and empowering.
I started loving Lindy West because of her writing on Jezebel (her piece about Love Actually actually made me pee myself) and her amazing work on This American Life. I knew Shrill was about feminism and body positivity, and I knew that West was funny, but I didn’t realize the combination would make me throw up praise hands so many times while reading. Shrill expertly covers topics such as dating while fat, being a woman in comedy, defending yourself against shamers- things you might expect. I found it more interesting when the chapters delved into less-heralded topics: disagreeing with/standing up to someone you like- her boss, Dan Savage- and her own need for acceptance of other fat bodies. West talks about her original shock at seeing larger bodies naked and celebrated, and how she had to immerse herself in images of fat bodies to normalize them for herself. As a person who has received the sometimes screamed message to COVER UP AND CROP FROM THE NECK UP, this resonated with me. West fights diet culture by refusing to accept that her body has to look different before she develops a rewarding career and finds love. West fights diet culture by fighting back against trolls and never allowing herself to shrink in the face of bullying. She also laments about counting almonds in a way that me laughcry.
Dietland Sarai WalkerDietland by Sarai Walker
Dietland is the only work on fiction on this particular list (although I’ve celebrated fictional fat heroines in the past) because Dietland specifically spears diet culture directly in the jugular, with heavy swipes at rape culture and the porn industry in the process. Plum Kettle is not the slightly-plump almost-plus-sized heroine that often represents the struggle. She’s 300+ pounds, and she has been obediently trying to get smaller her entire life. The first few chapters illustrating the minutiae of her following the strictures of her diet were so difficult to read as a former crash dieter. Her discomfort on the street. Her future thin persona that is so real to her that she names it and buys it a wardrobe. Her complete confidence that nothing will derail her from her number one goal- to shrink. She will get thin or die trying. Transformations occur and they are DAMN empowering. This is a book for anyone who is sick of the trappings of being a woman in our patriarchal society. This book is about calling bullshit, and stomping on that bullshit with army boots laced over bright tights. Read it.
Am I missing anything? I’m hungry for more fat heroines, more books that skewer the diet-culture myth that people need to be slim before they can be happy. I need more books that call bullshit on this bullshit diet culture.