June 14, 2018

Self Care: Why is it Always the First Thing to Go?


When things get crazy in your life and you just can't do it all, what are the first things you drop off your to-do list? I can tell you, without the least bit of hesitation, the first things to fall off mine:

Exercise
Meditation
Healthy eating
Downtime
Hobbytime
Sleep

Which means that when I'm stressed out, the first things I stop doing are the things that help me manage stress.

Brilliant, I know.

Am I only one who does this? I have to believe I'm not.

Nowadays, the month of May and first half of June are almost as crazy as the back half of November and the month of December. Of course, in all the wisdom of my pre-kid-self, I conveniently gave birth to my children in December and May. (Who knew?!?) So in addition to all the other craziness that we all have in those months, I also have kid birthdays. Which basically means I'm insane in May and December. It also means that I am stressed out, more likely to have anxiety attacks (a new-this-year added bonus!), and I consistently stop exercising, meditating, eating healthy, having downtime, and sleeping enough.

Insert eye roll here.

Games: I heart bananagrams.
Which is why I find myself here, on June 14th, trying to pick up the pieces of my crazed and bloated self.

We survived the end of the school year and all that comes with it and now we're on vacation and...it's just lovely. There's swimming and golfing and camp and games and reading and napping...and just loads of self care for everyone. Which means lots of smiles.

So if I know this, if I know that self care equals smiles for all, why do I ever let anything get in the way of it? If I'm miserable when I don't exercise and meditate and chill, why do I ever let those things go?

No really, I'm asking you why. Do you know? Do you know what possesses me (us all) to push ourselves to exhaustion and frayed nerves when we know a better way? I am old enough to know better. I DO know better. So why do I still do it?

Any of you out there who don't drop the self care when the going gets tough, please share your wisdom. Please tell me how you do it. I know the why, I just haven't figured out the how.

And every time I come out the other end of one of these crazy times, I vow that I won't do it next time. I swear the next time things go haywire, I'll keep the self care and let other things fall away. And I never do.

So I thought I'd try some accountability:

On this day, June 14, 2018, I vow to continue doing the things I need to do to feel good even when life gets hectic. You all are my witnesses. Next time you see or hear me all stressed out, please remind me of this vow and send me off to do a meditation or go for a walk or something, okay? You have my permission to sit me down for a good, stern talking-to. Put me in a time out, please.

Because I don't like feeling like this. I don't like feeling fat and bloated and tired and frazzled and scattered and short-tempered and all of the awful things that I become when I let the good stuff go.

So if you're at all like me, if you've stopped the good stuff, the things that make you feel like your true and lovely human self, then consider this your good, stern talking-to:

Stop right now, and go take care of yourself. Go for a walk or a run. Do some yoga. Meditate. Pray. Sleep. Have a salad or a smoothie. Play a game. Paint a picture. Read a book. Watch a Rom-Com. Sit on the patio and stare into space. Do your version of real self care (not fake self care, like eating an entire bag of chips while scrolling Facebook...do the real deal).

Eventually, I believe we'll all really, truly learn this lesson and we'll never stop doing the good stuff again. At least I hope.

Until next time, take care of yourself and encourage others to do the same. Let's all be healthier, happier, and saner.

Namaste.




May 3, 2018

Summer Planning and Being #OOFs



I just read this Instagram post by Glennon Doyle that shows a photo of a woman walking her dog from a golf cart. Glennon had named this woman the "VP of the #OOF Club" (that's "Out of Fucks to Give Club") for "carrying a bucket of coffee the size of Florida and finding a way to beat the dog walking system at its own game-- driving 1 mile per hour in front of me and not even considering pulling over or speeding up for me." Glennon wasn't mad; she goes on to say, "HERE'S TO WOMEN WHO REST WHEN WE'RE TIRED."

(And we're tired.)

This made me think of the notes I put in the kids lunch boxes today. For the last 8 months I have written a fun joke and a note to each of my kids and put them in their lunches pretty much every day. These notes are on colorful, cute-shaped sticky notes; they are written in multi-colored pens; they are usually done the night before.

This morning I scribbled I <3 U on a sticky and tossed it in.

This then made me think of the meme or video or something I saw recently showing a mom just sticking a hunk of cheese into her kid's lunch box and calling it a day. Which then made me think of the meme from Jen Hatmaker I saw yesterday that said, "We were awesome back in October; don't forget that."

Which all makes me think that I am not the only one that is just done...with all of it. I know that when August rolls around I will be craving routine and days without the kids all up in my business; but right now, I am done with it all...the early-rising, the lunch making, the rushing, the spelling words and rocket math practice, the after-school activities, the dinner making, the bed-time routine...ALL THE ROUTINES! And all of the obligations and schedules and planning and time-figure-outing.

So, of course, right when we hit this point of DONENESS, that's when the schedule gets the craziest of all...I'll take you're already busy schedule and throw in multiple t-ball games a week, and prep for dance and music recitals, and school concerts, and school field trips, and scouts field trips, and end of year parties, and Saturday activities, and birthday parties, and...ACK! I can't even.

And just when I CAN'T EVEN...let's throw in SUMMER SCHEDULING!

I'm sorry, but when did this become a thing? When did scheduling summer activities, lessons, camps and trips WAY IN ADVANCE become such a stressful, logistical nightmare???

I'm so stressed by the prospect of actually doing the summer planning-- figuring it all out and committing to everything-- that I just keep putting off doing it. Figuring out when we're traveling is enough to make me want to stay home; then add swim lessons and cool camps and camps to go to the same weeks friends are going... My brain feels like it's going to explode.

I thought about just not signing up for anything and not planning any trips; but this, as it turns out, is more of a delayed punishment for me than anything else. (Delayed punishment is like delayed gratification, but not as much fun.) If I want to be able to work or have a break at all this summer, my kids need to do some camps. And I don't want them to drown, so swim lessons are pretty important. And everything has to be signed up for WAY in advance. Plus trips to see family and just get away are a must...and make sure not to double-book anything! So?


So, here I am, staring at the summer calendar and the list of activities...and they're staring back at me, demanding to be figured-out. I empty the dishwasher and come back. They're still there. I make the beds. Still there. I do yoga. Still there. I check email. Still. There.

Fuck! Leave me alone!

Still there.

Sigh. If anyone needs me I'll be in my padded cell plotting a calendar.

Until next time...oh, I don't know. It's May, I'm all out of fucks to give.






April 23, 2018

Spring Pea and Quinoa Salad with Honey-Lemon Vinegrette

photo from pinchofyum.com
It's been a while since I shared a recipe and this one was so good, I knew that it would be my next post. Sadly, I did not realize this until after we'd devoured the entire batch...so I have no pics! I'll likely make it again next week, so I'll come back and add some pics then.

So, this quinoa salad is pretty simple; it's nice and light, making it perfect for spring/summer; it's healthy, so you can feel good about eating; and, of course, it's delicious!

Let's get to the recipe!

Spring Pea and Quinoa Salad with Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette*

For the salad:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
3 cups frozen, organic peas
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 slices turkey-bacon, cooked and chopped
1/2 cup raw almonds, pulsed in a food processor until crushed (or super finely chopped)

For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 tbsp raw honey (or to taste)
2-3 tbsp basil paste (or to taste) or 1/2 cup fresh basil minced or pureed
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

Rinse and cook the quinoa according to package directions. (I like to soak my quinoa in water for at least a half hour before I cook it.) You can make the quinoa as you make the salad, or you can make it up in advance and keep it in the fridge for when you're ready to use it.

While the quinoa is cooking, cook the turkey bacon in a pan over medium heat until cooked and crispy. Let cool, then chop or crumble. (You can cook the bacon up in advance as well.)

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until crushed.

Bring a pot of water to a boil then remove it from the heat. Add the peas and cover. Let cook for a few minutes, until bright green. Drain.

Puree all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor or whisk briskly/shake in a shaker or jar with tight-fitting lid. (Just get 'em good and mixed, and emulsified however you can!) Note: I use the Gourmet Garden basil paste shown here and it works great. You can find it near the fresh herbs at the grocery.

Toss the peas with the cooked quinoa, then add the feta, and crushed almonds. Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients; salt and pepper as needed; and top with chopped bacon.

Enjoy!


Until next time, eat more good, whole, healthy foods and you're body will thank you for it!


*Recipe adapted from pinchofyum.com. Check her out. I plan to try other recipes from her site.


April 13, 2018

Fear

Fear is a funny thing. It can invade our subconscious with ninja-like stealth and get us to do things we don't really want to do without our even realizing it. Fear is the creepy puppet master behind so many of our bad decisions.

After lots of hard work, I am staring at the near-end of my work on one of my books. I am so excited to get it done and I want nothing more than to share this story with the world.

Until fear enters the picture.

The next step in the process is to have a few people beta read the book before I ready it for agent pitches and queries. While this is something you can pay someone to do, my plan is to ask people I know to read it and share their thoughts. It's not line by line edits, but bigger picture feedback, like: "It gets a little slow in the middle;" or "I didn't really like this character;" or "This chapter made no sense at all;" or "This totally sucks."

As a writer, you hope for mostly glowing responses, mixed with some great insight that helps you make the story even better. But there is a big risk in letting people-- especially people you know, in my opinion--  read your writing.

And risk breeds fear. And fear breeds anxiety. And fear and anxiety breed the fight, flight, or freeze response.

So I start what-if-ing.

What if it sucks? What if people read it and think I'm a terrible writer? What if they read it and wonder how I could possibly devote this much time to something I'm so bad at? What if they think it'll never get published? What if they think I should stop writing? What if I embarrass myself? What if I look like a complete ass?

What if, what if, what if???

I'm not much for fighting, but it's easy to consider running away...in this case, that might look like letting everything else in my life take over my time, suddenly making myself too busy to finish the work; or freezing up...ever heard of writer's block?

As I get closer and closer to the point of no return (sending the book out to people), I find my psyche doing a dance between pushing toward the finish line and taking side street detours. I burn through another chapter of revisions, then schedule a bunch of activities that take away my time to work. I refocus, push through another chapter, then freeze, and spend an entire day just staring at the words on one page, making zero progress.

Why is this not done already? I ask myself. What is taking me so long?

It's the dance.

Which is to say: It's the fear.

So I force myself to take small but bold actions-- things that can be done quickly and force accountability-- to try and outsmart the fear. I post on Facebook or Instagram something about my writing, my deadline, or my goals. I tell friends and family about what I'm up to. I write blog posts about it. ;-) In hopes that making it public, will make me accountable.

But it doesn't lessen the fear or what ifs. It just makes me bulldoze over them, full-throttle: "Watch out suckers, I'm coming through!"

And in the quiet moments, I challenge the what ifs.

What if it sucks? Then I'll rewrite it and make it better; or I'll learn from it, like I did the last one, and the next one will be better. And, by the way, what if it doesn't suck?

What if they think it'll never get published? Then either they'll be right, and I'll move on; or they'll be wrong...

What if I embarrass myself and look like a complete ass? Would I rather embarrass myself now with bad writing, or embarrass myself later by never having pursued my dreams and having lived a wasted life?

And that's really what it all comes down to, isn't it?

"We tiptoe through life hoping to safely make it to death." --Anonymous

Fear is never going to go away. So here's to bulldozing right on over the top of that shit!

Until next time, challenge one of your fears. Don't wait for it to go away. Just push on past it and get on with your bad self.

xo



April 5, 2018

Anxiety Confessions


Confession: I don't know what to write. I'm here. I showed up. I'm ready to write. But...about what? I have lots of thoughts: jumbled thoughts, tangled thoughts, fast running thoughts, lazy river thoughts. But, fast or slow, I can't seem to catch any of them. They slip through my fingers like dandelion fuzz on the wind. I feel jittery and scatterbrained and, at the same time, heavy...like one of those over-loaded old pick-up trucks carting a house-full of belongings strapped on with bungee cord and riding low to the ground. It's a weird dichotomy of physical and mental sensations. Hence the jumbliness of it all.

Confession: Things have been weird on the inside lately. My inner world is the manifestation of a tired, old, wooden roller coaster. Ups, downs, and some extra fear thrown in because you're never quite certain if the whole thing might not just come down right in the middle of the ride. And there's buzziness. I'm pretty sure that the buzziness I'm feeling is a sign that I should call the doctor and try a small increase in dosage. But the buzziness is so unreliable. Every time I think, Okay, I'm gonna call tomorrow and just do it, tomorrow comes and I feel better and I think, Nope, I'm fine. It was just an off day.

Because I am totally fine. You guys, I look and behave like a totally normal person. And so often I feel like a totally normal person. But sometimes I don't. Sometimes the weight of everyone else's stuff makes me feel like I'm going to jump out of my skin because I want so badly to fix it all. I want to make everything okay for everyone. Rationally I know that I can't do that. Logically I know that this is how things are supposed to be. We're all supposed to have tough times. We're all supposed to face challenges. This is life as a human on earth. But rational, logical thought is not what's at play in my brain when I'm doing this.

Confession: It's anxiety.

That bitch.

Because of her, one minute I can be singing I'm Ready by AJR at the top of my lungs in the car, and the next I can be, mentally, mumbling and running my hand through my hair like crazy Jim from Taxi. One day I can be focused on goals and manifesting my dreams and doing yoga and meditation, and the next I can be bouncing like a pinball between those little flicker things that knock the ball around: revisions, blog, random thought, Facebook, Instagram, random thought, email, text, random thought, Google search, to-do list...Bing, Bing, Bing, Bing!

You might think that I'm sitting here worrying about things, like people with anxiety might do. But I'm not consciously worrying. I'm not sitting here twisting a hankie in my hands focusing on bad stuff. I'm not. But in the background, like malware running behind the scenes on your laptop, that shit is going down.

Confession: As I focus in on the anxiety, as I sit here at my coffeeshop table and write about this, the thrumming in my body is increasing to the point that it fills my ears; my body's vibrating with it; I'm getting lightheaded and a bit spacey; my hands are a little shaky. It feels a lot like I've had boat-loads of caffeine on an empty stomach...and I mean BOAT-LOADS. Like, a really big boat...like a Disney cruise ship full of espresso.

But I bet none of the people around me in this coffeeshop have any idea. I've got ear buds in and I'm listening to Daily Calm sounds of water and birds. I look like a regular working person.

Confession: I AM a regular working person. Though it may not be fair to say that everyone experiences exactly what I'm experiencing, I think it is safe to say that everyone experiences their own version of craziness on the inside. We just don't all talk about it (or write about it)...or recognize it; or focus on it; or admit to it, even to ourselves. We all are riding some kind of roller coaster. We all have ups and downs. I just see fit to share it with all of you.

Why?

Because it aligns with my purpose. That sounds weird, but it's true. If my writing about this does anything to make anyone else feel better about their own inner experience; to feel a little less alone in it all; then it's totally worth it. It's the reason I blog. It's the reason I write books. (Or, at least, it's one of the reasons.) Plus it's therapeutic, this journal-writing type thing. It's good for the soul. Try it.

Confession: It's possible that the Americano I drank might be making this worse. (I did eat yogurt with fruit and granola, though, so I didn't have it on an empty stomach, I swear.) So I'm gonna go get a peppermint tea and eat a Larabar and see if I can get some novel revisions done...cuz I got goals, people. And I'm not gonna let a little anxiety get in my way. Anxiety can go fuck herself.

Confession: You can tell anxiety has me amped up because I've cursed three times in this post. I tend to get extra feisty when I"m like this. But seriously, anxiety is a bitch and she can go fuck herself, because I do have bigger fish to fry.

Confession: I don't fry fish. I don't eat fried fish. It kinda grosses me out. But it's a saying. I do, however, sometimes bring home the bacon. Literally. Uncured, turkey bacon, but still.

Ugh. I'm getting off track. Damn crazy brain. I should go.

Until next time, share your own confessions. Get a journal. Open a word doc that'll never see the light of day. Talk it out with a therapist. Whatever your jam is. But get it down. Get it out. Express your thoughts and feelings. And maybe, possibly, lay off the espresso...







March 27, 2018

The Power of Taking a Break...The Power is Ours


My family has been on edge, people. February was yuck. And March wasn't any better for them.

The recipe has looked something like this:

2 cups Winter Blues
1 cup Cabin Fever
1 cup General Life Stressors
1/2 cup Grey Skies
1/4 cup Freezing Temperatures
2 tbsps Stuffy Noses and Sore Throats
1/2 tsp Aches and Pains
1/3 cup Sick of Everything
Mix all together for a big batch of blah, and then go back to bed.

My husband's been massively stressed out at work. My daughter doesn't even want to go to school because she's so sick of the noise and chaos of stir-crazy kids. Everyone's so on edge that they're blowing up and breaking down over even the smallest annoyances. Even my always happy little man has a lower tolerance for frustration these days.

This family is in massive need of a mental health break.

And that's exactly what we're doing right now. It's Spring Break week at the kids' school and we have run away to North Carolina for a change of scenery, slightly warmer temps, and a little family R&R. It is a much needed break that I hope will re-energize everyone.

But the truth is that we all needed this break a while ago. For months I've felt like some sort of task master urging, encouraging (pushing, prodding) everyone forward on this seemingly never-ending trek from January to the end of March.

As overseer of this family's mental (and physical) health, the fact that my family is completely burned out feels a lot like my fault. But I've felt beholden to the kids' schedules. School is school--no questions there, right? And we signed up for all of these activities-- we've committed to them and we've paid for them, so we have to go, right?

Me thinks, maybe, no.

These days, I think we have a tendency to massively over-schedule our kids just like we over-commit ourselves. I try not to do that with my kids (and I'm trying not to do it with myself, as well), but it's surprisingly hard. And I'm not even talking about the peer pressure around this matter-- the keeping up with the Joneses or the competitive busyness culture.  I'm thinking more of the fact that there are so many great opportunities out there for experiences and learning, and I want my kids to be able to try out all the things they're interested in as they hone in on what they really love. But I also recognize their need for unscheduled time and open play and relaxation-- a need that is actually the most important one they've got after food, water, and sleep.

But the school year doesn't really allow for that. We're up before 7am and out the door before 8am. School starts at 8:15am and they don't get off the bus until almost 4pm. If they've got an activity at 6pm, that only gives us two hours for downtime, dinner, and driving to said activity. And an 8 or 8:30pm bedtime doesn't allow for anything else but a little reading time before lights out. Thank goodness our school doesn't assign homework, or we'd have even less time for play and relaxation!

The truth is, we don't need more time at school or more time in scheduled activities. What we need more of-- for kids and adults alike-- is play. More play, more relaxing, more fun, more imagination, more exploration, more naps, more downtime. Less stress, less life being dictated by a clock, less direct instruction.

We've been watching old family videos lately from when the kids were babies/toddlers/preschoolers. (It's so fun! There are so many things I'd forgotten about!) Well, one night after watching videos, while my daughter and I were laying in her bed, she said to me, "I wish I was still three like in the video. Everything was so easy and fun." She nine, you guys. Nine! How is my nine year old feeling the pressure of day-to-day life? She said she misses preschool, when learning was done through play (a testament to the play-based preschools she attended!), and that she wishes school was still a half day so she could be home more.

All of this has got me thinking about how our go-go-go, do-do-do society has taken over our kids lives in quite the same way it has taken over ours. And it seems like the only way to truly override this is to pull your children out of it completely, and homeschool them. It's not something I really want to do, but I'll tell you, there is something really appealing about being able to call the shots on what my kids' day looks like and how they learn; to allow for more play time and down time and open exploration. I wish I had it in me...

Since I'm not ready to pull out of school society completely, I've been thinking about simpler ways to lighten the load. We already try to keep as many of our evenings and weekends as open as possible. But I think we could stand to allow for more spur of the moment decisions that allow for a break when it's really needed. Something like, "You don't feel like going to dance tonight? Okay, we'll skip it this week. And that's okay." And I think that may have to go for school as well. (Gasp.) The good news is that my daughter has been really healthy this school year, so no sick days...but maybe she needs the occasional mental health day.

Maybe we all do.

Maybe we all need to play hooky every so often. Maybe we need the occasional day to sit at the park with the sun on our face, or catch a matinee movie with a tub of popcorn, or sneak off to the paint your own pottery studio or the driving range. Maybe we need more spur of the moment decisions to take an overnight trip to another city even though it'll mean rescheduling that meeting or orthodontist appointment, or missing a spelling test.

I think there's power in taking a break from everyday life when you need it. The key phrase being WHEN YOU NEED IT. Maybe it can't always align with the school or office schedule. The power is ours to take care of ourselves and our families; to decide when we need a break, when we need some fun or some rest. We need to assert ourselves and make certain that we're all getting the open playtime that we so desperately need. (And we need to remember, that unless our job involves life-saving surgery, we can miss a day, and no one dies.)

Sometimes the natural rule-follower in me forgets that. Like the last few months. Instead of marching us all, in plodding, rule-following fashion, from our last break in January to our now break in March, maybe I should have gifted us with some intermediate breaks along the way. Instead of pushing through my daughter's tears, maybe I should have taken it as a sign and taught her that it's important to care for ourselves. It's not about giving up when the going gets tough or shirking our responsibilities or not taking our commitments seriously; it's about listening to our bodies and our spirits and caring for them the way we would a dear friend.

If you're spirit is telling you that you need a break, listen. And take a break. Even if it's something small...like stopping for donuts on the way to school and arriving a little late for drop off; or surprising your child by picking them up from school for a quick lunch at Panera. Maybe it's skipping soccer practice for a nice family dinner and a board game instead. Or, maybe you need to do something big...like jetting off to Florida for the weekend, or driving to Great Wolf Lodge for some serious water time.

The point is to listen. Listen to your body; listen to your spirit; listen to yourselves. And listen to your children. Hear their words. Watch their body language. Read between the lines of their tears and tempers. And trust your gut.

Because, truth be told, my gut's been telling me we all needed a break for a while. I just let my rule-following, do what I'm told self call the shots instead.

A wise woman (Maya Angelou) once said, When we know better, we do better. I hope now that I know better and will do better.

Until next time, honor your power, your self, and your children, and take a break when you need it.








March 23, 2018

Books I've Been Reading


I know you've been wondering what's keeping me from turning out the light at a decent hour lately. Well, here's what I've been reading the last couple of months... Hint: After writing this post, I realized that there's a clear theme here-- perspectives different from my own. I'd say it's been an eye-opening few months! :-) So here's a quick run down on the pages I've been turning...



An Abundance of Katherines by John Green...I really enjoyed this book. It's a generally light and easy read. I think Green captures the voice of teenage boy on the cusp of manhood so well, and I LOVE the best friend character. It's a fun little ride. Recommend.






The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion...I wasn't sure about this one when I started it. Getting into the main character's "Autism-spectrum" voice, because it was so unlike my own, took a few pages. But I'll tell you what, it was so worth it. This book was entertaining and a little eye opening, and I love that about it. There's something to be said for reading first person narratives from someone (character or real person) very different from yourself that can really broaden your perspective. I feel like if everyone could do more of that, we, as a society, might be a lot more tolerant and respectful of others. There's a short period in the middle of this book when I wanted it to move a little faster, but that may have been my own impatience for wanting everything to work out. (I DO love me a happy ending!!) Recommend.


The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd...I am a HUGE fan of Sue Monk Kidd's book The Secret Life of Bees. It's one of my all time faves. And her book The Mermaid Chair was also quite good. This book follows suit...it is quite good. But don't read it when you're looking for something uplifting-- this is a great way to learn more about the days of slavery and burgeoning women's rights...important history to understand, but not light reading. The characters are well-drawn and the story is full-bodied. I feel like I learned a lot, and I defiantly cared for the characters. But it was a little long in the middle and pretty heavy stuff. Still, I'd recommend it.

Young Elites by Marie Lu...I really enjoyed Lu's Legend trilogy. I read all three books. But this one just didn't do it for me. It was okay, but I never really got into it. I kinda had to make myself finish it; and I had no interest in reading the rest of the trilogy. But, I'll still give her other books a try at some point. Not all books can connect with all people, you know.







The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas...Another eye-opener. My niece recommended this one to me last summer, so I put it on my book club's list and we read it last month. Thomas does a great job exposing her reader to an interesting perspective--a main character who straddles two worlds. This makes her broadly relatable, because most anyone can relate to at least one side of her life. And at the same time, they're also confronted with the other side as a new perspective. My niece is right, everyone should read this book-- especially if you're white and live in a safe part of town. Recommend.




The One and Only Ivan, A Wrinkle in Time, and Half Magic...These are all middle grade books that I've read along with my daughter. A Wrinkle in Time I read long ago, but it's on my nightstand to reread since I saw the movie. Here's why: the movie was visually beautiful and I loved its message, but it felt quite different in the details from how I remember the book...so now I've got to reread it to see if I'm misremembering. The One and Only Ivan was beautiful and I totally cried at the end. It's a quick read and completely worth your time whether you're a middle grader or an adult. My daughter read Half Magic for school and she enjoyed it...I read it to play along. It was okay, but I think it's a better read for kids than adults.

What I'm reading now: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline...I just started this one and I want both my husband and I to get it in so we can go see the movie next month. I love the description of it: Willy Wonka meets the Matrix. #Girlboss by Sofia Amoruso...This was a random library pick-up. It's interesting, another story so different from mine, and will be a quick read. I'm also relistening to You Are a Badass...because you know how much I love listening to Jen Sincero! I totally want to be friends with her.

What's up next in adult fiction? Here's what's on my list: Left Neglected, All the Light We Cannot See, Little Fires Everywhere, Beartown, and The Secret Chord.

On deck in nonfiction: Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, Farmacology, and Lab Girl.

And in middle grade fiction: Maniac Magee and Number the Stars (the next two books in my daughter's school book club!).

I'll keep you posted on what's great!

Until next time, happy reading, dear friends.