Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Return of Be Your Own Book Club! January 2017

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Be Your Own Book Club is a book club for ladies who want timely book recs and optional conversation with zero commitment. Each month I'll share one fiction and one nonfiction title. Feel free to read either or both. Throughout the month I'll share favorite quotes, ask questions, and foster conversations in comments on the Be Your Own Lady Facebook page, and on Twitter/Instagram using the hashtag #BeYourOwnBookClub. 

I am so grateful to each of you who took the time to answer the survey questions (if you missed the survey, it's still available here, please take it!) and have used the info to try and get a feel for who is following along and what our interests are. I'm going to keep the survey open through the end of the month and will report out the findings in February. For now...It's a new year and we are the same lovely people so let's read some books together.

Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Description from GoodreadsBig Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads. 

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?) 

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay. 

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.  

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. 

I picked this book because people were looking for strong moms and escapism. I absolutely loved What Alice Forgot, also but Moriarty, so I'm looking forward to diving in! 

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Description from Goodreads: The mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying YES for one year changed her life―and how it can change yours, too. 

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the uber-talented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say NO when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No. And there was the side-benefit of saying No for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.

Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say YES to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed―and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life―and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.

This description doesn't really do the book justice. Neither does anything that people recommending it can say- I heard people raving about Year of Yes for months before I picked it up, but it wasn't until I started listening that I really understood the power of this book. I suggest audio- hearing Shonda Rhimes read about her own self makes it more genuine, and every speech that she references is copied into the audiobook. I loved the speeches. January is the perfect time to take a peek at ourselves. Nothing in this book is a resolution. It's self examination. I can get behind that. 

So that's us getting started! I'm so excited to talk about both of these books. Please let me know if you are planning to follow along! Use the hashtag to show off your bookish pics or let us know what you think about the books! Let's read more in 2017.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: The Year I Realized I Was Numb

So I started my year in review. I used my favorite tip about going through and reliving the year through social media updates. I reread my January post about what I hoped for the year. I ruminated a little bit on all the jokey 2016-needs-to-be-over memes and the slew of celebrity deaths. I think I have a word for the year that just passed: Numb. 2016 was the year I could no longer maintain my level of numb. 

2016 was big. I started writing for Book Riot and bought a new house. Both of these events honestly brought out the worst in my personality, and that was something huge for me-- to recognize that trying times show off my ugly, and to actively wonder about how to change that. Trying times have made me a little monstrous my whole life, but I worked up a cocoon of numb. When the bad moments passed, I would paste my smile back on and move forward. This year, the numb started getting worn down in places. I couldn't shove my own crappiness away easily. Things that hurt me hurt me harder, or longer. 

Writing for Book Riot was easily the most growth-inducing thing that happened to me this year. When I got word that they were considering me for a contributor position, I was over the moon. Then I became part of the back channel conversation, and I promptly experienced high anxiety for about three months. Part of it was realizing that writing for the site was about much more than benignly enjoying reading. Part of it was realizing that I am not as smart, worldly, or well-read as I allowed myself to think I was. Part of it was that this place did not allow for numb. Writing there this year, and observing the conversations of other contributors and our editors, I have learned a stupid amount, and very little of it is about writing. I've practiced listening to learn, and keeping my mind open enough (and my numb dialed down enough) to recognize when I know nothing about something. I've encountered clashing opinions, seen ways to validly justify them, and juuusssst started edging into forming my own, as opposed to accepting the opinion of someone I know to be more versed in the issue. This might seem like beginner stuff, but I have been numb for a very long time. The most important thing I learned from Book Riot this year is that everything is political. The most important thing I saw confirmed is that books can be lifelines. 

Buying a house was harder, and I was more numb. Ben took care of SO MANY of the details, because I was really struggling with leaving our little house at all. It was too small for us. There wasn't space to breathe or grow. We couldn't fit toys for our kids or BEDS THAT WERE COMFORTABLE but I kept saying "We're fine, this is fine, it doesn't hurt because I'm numb!" There were so many sweet memories in that little house. Leaving it was nearly impossible, and then we hit snags in the logistics, which is SO COMMON in house-buying but I could barely handle it. Being on medication helped, but I'm going to be honest- at times, it made me feel a little numb. We had support every step of the way, people helping us pack, people listening to my vent, dear friends letting us live RENT FREE until situations were ironed out. We put things in storage and took things out of storage and finally we signed the papers and passed our first home to the sweetest little family in the universe. Then we signed the papers and came here. And now this is home. I know that I can't be numb about this new place because there is so much work to do and I want to be a part of it. I want to be connected to the paint colors and the way we set up the outdoor living spaces and I want the fireplace to be in working order and if I don't fight for that- if I just mention it to Ben and go back to being numb about where I live- it won't happen. Which is fine! If I want to be numb about things. But if I want to read in front of the fire. I have to call a chimney sweep. I have to reject being numb.

Being numb has been a coping strategy that I have used my entire life. When kids picked on me in elementary school, when my dad died and I had to go back to conversations where his name might pop up, when my high school boyfriend used to scream at me in the halls between classes, when I knew that I hurt my friends but was too embarrassed to apologize (this is a recurring pattern that I have experienced everywhere I've ever lived, childhood thru college and on), when I look back on the shitty way I treated my sisters when I was younger, when I recall every single time I've ever gotten blackout drunk and depended on someone else to take care of me, when I think of some of the terrible fights I've had with my husband. Whenever something bad happens, I go numb. Whenever I am faced with my own mistakes, I go numb. Pretend not to care, or even more pointedly, pretend the problem does not exist. This year, I realized how much I go numb. I started seeing some of the patterns I use to duck my head and keep my feelings shoved DOWN. Uncomfortably, I started realizing that none of it goes away. It's all still there. Shoved really far down. READY TO BLOW.

In 2016, I wrote the same story over and over. I watched the same three TV shows hundreds of times. I escaped into HOURS of mindless scrolling on the internet in an effort to stay very, very numb. And for the first time in 31 years, I started realizing what I was doing. 2016 started to wake me up. I've started paying attention to the bigger world and I've started really evaluating how I feel about everything from diet culture to story structure to local politics. Silly? I don't know. I think apologizing for or gently mocking my emotions has been one of my ways of staying numb. So fuck it.

Some numb-busters I've already encountered? An amazing writing class where I converse with women I admire about our stories in a serious, non-apologetic manner. Choosing something I care about and really researching it- I've been reading about and sorting my feelings around diet culture most of this year, and it makes me think, really hard. It kills my numb. More of these issues are going to pop up, because I'm going to stop avoiding them. 2016 was a mind-screw because so many things changed, but the biggest change was my own outlook. I hope when I come back here in 2017, I can say that I kept this trend going.

(Boom Boom Pow image by Allison Black via Pinterest

Monday, December 26, 2016

Putting The Year To Bed: Tips For A Year-End Review

This is my absolute favorite time of the year. Christmas is winding down and we get to start planning for the year ahead. I'm not talking about resolutions. I'm talking about a genuine examination of what we want/need/expect from 2017, and I honestly don't think you can achieve that without looking back at what just happened in the past. You need a year-end review.

A few years ago, before kids and medication, I used to live SO HARD in the lifestyle/Mommy blogging world (read: obsessively reading and comparing myself to these filtered, cropped families), and I built up some huge ideas about who I wanted to be. Every year, I would write out a fresh, huge list of resolutions that would transform me.  One year, I had 12 goals, one for each month. I was going to learn to sew using vintage patterns, grow all my own veggies, lose a ton of weight, redecorate my home, and basically become a new person by the end of year. I could link to this blog post but it's actually so sad that it hurts to think about. Okay here but I warned you.

I didn't think about who I was or what was actually happening in my life. I just wanted to look like those other fancy 20-somethings. In actuality, I was so unhappy that I was chain smoking on my back porch and hiding from most in person social interaction, but I thought if I ran fast enough and screamed loud enough on the internet, I could forget that shit and start a shiny new year. GUESS WHAT DIDN'T WORK LOL. I still get depressed and still sometimes dream about transforming into an interesting, vintage-wearing coastal millennial with a Polaroid deal on my blog, but those are fleeting thoughts. Looking back at the life I'm living helps ground me. Then the real work of planning the next year can begin.

Here are a few of my tips for reviewing the year you just lived:

1. Make your own highlights reel. Write down each of the 12 months on a piece of blank paper, and write the big events that happened for each. It's up to you how big to go. Add weddings, funerals, job changes, large trips, momentous news. This is data, people. Was a part of the year loaded with downer news? Did you travel a lot during a certain time period? The 12-month-paper method helps you see some of the things you accomplished and some of the things you survived. 

2. Read about yourself. People will use all their available air vilifying social media overshares, but screw 'em, because you are about to get a review of your year on the daily level. Go back through your most used social media accounts. If you are a person who posts often or even semi-often, it can be super valuable in getting a feel for how things actually were in February. Warning: this can take a surprisingly long time. There might be a lot of comb through, but this isn't homework- do whatever feels good. (Some sites will run the numbers for you- the music service Spotify has a playlist of your most-listened to songs, and Goodreads will show you your year in books.) 

3. End with a little freehand. Write, draw, list, whatever, but after going over the last year, give yourself time to really think about how you feel about it. It's hard to separate the way you feel in the post-holiday burnt-out haze from the way your entire year actually went. Give yourself permission to name the year. You're about to leave it behind, anyway, so no need to be polite, 

And links:

How To Conduct Your Own Annual Review  (different article with similar title!)

I hope you take the time to do a review of the year, because I'm selfish and I want to read what you came up with! When I complete mine, I'll share it, and I would love you to do the same- send me a link or post something in the comments! Let's put this year properly to bed. Next up- 2017! 

(image credit: Taryn Knight)