I feel like most of my posts start with me talking about a migraine recently. Ha.
While I don’t have a migraine today (for once), I am feeling pretty bleh. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. And I want nothing more than to go back to sleep. Could be because my husband and I went to Atlantic City overnight to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary! (We’ve actually been married for two years, but the big wedding was March of 2022). I love Atlantic City, but I am definitely a slow living kind of a lady. Between the lights, sounds, and smoke, I think today is going to be about rest. However, I did have an excellent time…even though I lost to the slot machines. : (
Any way, enough with the weird Debbie Downer life update.
I’m back with another book review since I’m actually starting to finish books now (seems I’m slowly coming out of my slump). And this last book was an excellent one, so I’m really excited to share it with you and maybe even push you toward reading it if it’s been on your TBR.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
The novel is the alternating and entangled stories of Tova Sullivan, an older widow, who works the nightshift at the Sowell Bay aquarium in the Pacific Northwest; Cameron Cassmore, a down on his luck young man looking for his father; and Marcellus, a very clever, giant Pacific octopus, who befriends Tova.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
If you liked anything written by Fredrick Backman, you’ll love this book.
The characters were so captivating and well-written. Marcellus was incredibly charming. And the writing flowed so beautifully. I found myself rooting for each character as they went on their own personal, yet intersecting, journeys.
Van Pelt does an excellent job of creating a peaceful atmosphere with all her descriptions of Sowell Bay and even the home that Tova lives in. There was a really rich sense of history that added to the fullness of the characters. I was very emotionally invested in all of them.
I also enjoyed all the other characters that made the novel come to life, like Tova’s Knit Wit group and Ethan, the manager of the grocery store. There was a beautiful sense of community between the residents of this small town and the love they have for each other.
This book is a definite must read if you’re looking for something literary with a strong emotional connection to the characters and place. And this is a great book for anyone looking for a little something different. (While I loved all the characters, Marcellus was definitely my favorite!)
That’s it for now, folks.
I’m going to go drink some tea and get my life together. Maybe lay down for a little while. Until next time, happy reading!
I figured I’d just jump right in. Why mince words when you can get straight to the point.
I have been stuck in a pretty bad migraine cycle this month. I’ve been doing all the things to end the migraine pain, if not make it tolerable. My front line defense includes Advil and caffeine (Coca-Cola, lemon flavored Arizona iced tea, or I’ve been enjoying a combination of apple cinnamon and black tea with lemon and honey if I’m feeling particularly fancy.) If that doesn’t work and the nausea has set in, I go for the big guns: Benadryl and Advil. All of this is supplemented by a healthy dose of rest, whether that means sleep or just zoning out watching Real Housewives of New Jersey for the millionth time. And there’s also the Cefaly device my husband bought me for Christmas, hot baths with candles and Epsom salts and bubbles, and ice caps that freeze the pain away.
I thought that when I left teaching, my migraines would magically disappear. Forget that I have had migraines since I was 3 years old. My first memory of having a migraine is from when I was 7, but I was told by my family that it was even earlier than that. But with the more migraines I get, the more it feels like I am trying to be alerted of something.
Life changed for everyone when the world shut down. Covid changed everything, whether because of the experience of loss, of having Covid, of being isolated, life slowed down. And it turned out that I liked the slower pace. Where I’ve struggled is that as the world goes back to normal, I feel like I can’t keep up. Especially because it feels like my migraines and my anxiety make it so that sticking to a routine for me is essential.
I keep thinking about how “comparison is the thief of joy (Theodore Roosevelt)”. Not only have I been comparing myself to other people and the amount of activities they are able to do that I don’t seem to be able to. But I am also comparing myself to younger versions of myself that would overcrowd my days with events and activities. I’d stay out all night. I’d wake up early to get the day started. It feels like at this point in my life I can’t do that anymore. And with that feeling comes a bit of mourning for my past self and for the self I don’t know if I ever will be again.
Was I happy running myself ragged? Do I need to overfill my calendar with things I don’t want to do, so that I can’t enjoy the things I do want to do? Does it make sense to say yes to everything only to crash and need to cancel plans last minute?
The short answer is no.
I read through an old journal of mine and realized that all the things I’ve been worrying about not being or about all the parts of myself I feel like I’ve lost, I haven’t actually lost. Turns out, I’ve never wanted to be the person who says yes to everything, who overcrowds her days, who crashes and then feels guilty that she needs to cancel plans the morning of.
I read through countless journal entries of my very own talking about how tired I was, how burnt out, how socially, emotionally, and physically exhausted I was because even though I had a migraine or just didn’t feel like doing something, I was still obligated to show up.
At this point in my life I want to do more than show up. I want to be present. And in order for me to be present, it means I need to learn how to say no. I need to learn how to not compare. I need to realize that there is nothing wrong with embracing a slower paced life. (In fact, my migraines are screaming for it.) And it needs to be ok that sometimes, I will have to cancel plans last minute because my body has reached its limit.
I spent my entire life believing that working past your limit was something to be celebrated. As I sit here writing this with the beginnings of a migraine triggered by time spent at an event several days ago that I attended out of obligation, I am committed to giving up the belief that pushing past your limits makes you strong.
I know I am strong. Strength is being able to cry. Strength is saying no. Strength is not only showing up for yourself but being present, giving your body and mind what they need.
Right now, my body needs some Advil, a cold Coca-Cola, and some rest.
Until next week, friends. Don’t ever let comparison steal your joy. You are good just the way you are.
In my last book review, I said I was going to start doing singular book reviews as I finish my TBR, instead of waiting to put them all together in a blog post.
And then I hit a reading slump.
For a while it’s been like every book I pick up, I put down after two hundred pages. Maybe it’s because I had such a good reading month in February. Maybe it’s because of this migraine I can’t seem to shake that has slowed me down considerably.
Who can say?
Well, I finally finished my first book for the month of March. (Only took me 15 days.) And here are my thoughts…
The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth
Summary*Trigger Warning: suicide, mental illness
Gabe and Pippa Gerard and their two daughters live in a cottage on a cliff known for being a popular site for people looking to take their lives. Since they moved into the house, Gabe has been able to talk those looking to commit suicide off of the edge. However, one night there is a woman who he is unable to save. Her suicide sends Gabe and Pippa’s lives into a whirlwind, leading them down unimaginable paths in an effort to keep their family safe.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
I got this book as part of my Book of the Month subscription, so be advised that it doesn’t come out, officially, until April 2023.
As mentioned above, this book talks a lot about suicide and mental illness. Of course, check for other trigger warnings.
Overall, it was a compelling enough read. I’m really in my thriller era, so I enjoyed the twists and turns of this one. And, I must say, there were a couple twists that made my jaw drop.
I did have some issues with the book. In terms of the writing, the final sentence of each chapter was pretty repetitive. A lot of “And then, he did” or “And then, it was over”. So, after a while, that phrasing got a little irritating.
I thought the discussion of one of the character’s mental illness felt a little hollow to me. Maybe it lacked research or the author has never experienced mental illness personally or via someone in their lives. Maybe the author has. I don’t know. But there was something missing from the depiction of the discussion of mental illness in this book that made it feel like a convenient plot device rather than a fully fleshed out aspect of the character’s experience.
To that effect, most of the characters felt two dimensional. The story is told from duel perspectives and timelines. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the characters, I guess. But I wanted more. I wanted to connect with them more emotionally. Like the depiction of mental illness, the characters felt hollow.
This novel reminded me of The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. The premise is interesting as is the setting. But, in the end, it just fell flat. I wanted more from the characters and I didn’t love that some of the twists were pieced together very conveniently in a way that made me go, “Really? *side eye*”
The Unhinged Spoiler Review
There was one twist that really gave me the ick. Like seriously. You’re really expecting me to believe that your husband cheats on you and has a baby six months apart from when you and he had your baby…and then when the woman he cheated with dies…you’re like, “Oh! Let’s go adopt your affair baby!” I understand there are people who will forgive anything their partners do because they are afraid of losing them, but come on! I did not believe half of the things the character let her husband get away with.
And maybe I am wrong. Please correct me if that is the case. But how could the doctor have misdiagnosed the character with ADHD when it was clearly bi-polar disorder? I am not a doctor, but the way the author portrayed the character’s mania and depressive episodes was so very clearly textbook bi-polar disorder. I don’t know why this made me so angry. The mental illness aspect of this novel just felt like a mess to me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read or are planning to read it. And, of course, I’m always looking for book recommendations.
Currently, I’m between four other books, none of which are really exciting me at the moment. (Except maybe The London Seance Society. I have to get back into that.) So, my plan is to get back to you soon with another one of these single book reviews.
Anyone else on here get migraines? I’ve been getting them more frequently lately. The irony being that I have overhauled my life considerably to be less stressful, and yet…the migraines persist.
This week during Tammy Evans’ PUSH group (which I’ve talked about here before), she gave us two prompts inspired by a poem and a piece of flash fiction that got me thinking about my migraines.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my migraines are a way of forcing my body to slow down and mother myself. The problem is…I don’t know how to be a mother. You’d think it would be easy to know how to take of yourself, but the fact of the matter is, knowing what you need in order to heal takes work and patience and compassion and commitment. Sometimes healing takes learning to say no, to set boundaries, to make sure you are giving yourself breaks. Those things are hard when you’ve spent a whole life not doing them. But for me, personally, I’m committed to trying.
So, what was the prompt, you ask? Let me share.
Writing Prompt: Read this micro fiction piece by Jon Jon Moore. Then, write whatever comes to mind based on a line that stood out to you or a topic that was uncovered in the text.
This is what I wrote.
Migraine – Age 3
I don’t remember the pain. It’s someone else’s memory, but I wonder why it came. And stayed.
How can you be the mother and the child, tending to a wound that never healed and a need that was never met and a trauma you can’t remember?
How can you love being well without being sick?
Body, we don’t need this age old ache any longer.
It helped you survive, but now it’s time to set it aside.
I don’t need to be begged to slow down. I’m here for you. I hear you.
No matter how quiet your voice. No matter how silent your whisper.
That’s it for now, friends. I hope this inspired you to keep on keeping on through your journey, whatever your journey may be. And I wish you a week filled with healing and happiness. Until next time!
I’m back with another Book Review for February. This month has been a pretty prolific reading month for me considering it was only 28 days, and I was able to read 11 books. Within those 28 days there have been some hits and some misses, but overall I’d count it as a really good reading month.
Please feel free to comment if you’ve read any of these books. I’d love to talk to you about them!
On to the reviews!
River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Beautifully written and heartbreakingly bittersweet, I cannot recommend this book enough. I was captivated by Shearer’s storytelling from the first page. The novel is about Rachel, who is freed from slavery only to be forced into an “apprenticeship”. She flees the plantation and goes on a quest to find her children who were sold off years before. Rachel then takes a journey from Barbados to British Guiana to Trinidad in order to reunite her family. This book is gorgeous and gritty. It’s a story about family, both the family we find and the family we create. But at the heart of the story, it’s driving question is: what does it mean to be free? I loved Rachel. She’s strong and nurturing, and she will give anything for her children. I was surprised that this is Shearer’s debut novel. The writing was phenomenal and the story was tightly woven. This book is an absolute must-read.
The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, & Karen White
Rating: 2 out of 5.
I had high hopes for this book and was totally disappointed. The book is told from three perspectives: Sarah, an author looking to write a book about the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, Caroline, a society wife caught in a love triangle on board the Lusitania, and Tess, a criminal aboard the Lusitania looking to get her hands on a very important document possessed by Caroline. The authors could have gotten rid of the Sarah chapters all together. Her sections were super slow and didn’t add anything to the storyline. Honestly, every Sarah chapter felt like filler to me. They focused so much on a romance between Sarah and another character that it took away from the suspense of what she was trying to uncover about the sinking of the Lusitania. Also, her chapters were written really choppily. As for the Caroline and Tess chapters, the authors could have made one book for Tess and one book for Caroline. There was so much there to explore that ended up getting smashed together hastily in the end. Tess’s romance on the ship felt like it came out of nowhere. Plus, certain characters who were integral to the story weren’t fully developed. And why the hell did they keep talking about Margery Schuyler’s cold sore? They made so much mention of it that I thought it was going to be an important part of the story, but alas, it was not. It was simply at odd detail. The historical fiction aspect of the novel was well done, but as for the stories themselves, the book came up short. The Glass Ocean was an unfortunate miss for me.
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 out of 5.
I know this is one of those books that people are die hard fans of, and I must say that I did enjoy reading this book as well. For a four hundred page book, it reads super fast. However, I had some issues with the storytelling. The book is about Macy and Elliot, who were best friends as kids when Macy and her father bought a summer house next door to Elliot’s family’s house in a small woodsy town in California. But then something happens where Macy and Elliot don’t talk for 11 years, until they run into each other at a coffee shop. This is the exact same book as Every Summer After by Carley Fortune. Like, the exact same book almost scene for scene it felt like. The authors use the word growling A LOT to describe Elliot’s voice to the point where it made me cringe. Some plot points were used for convenience rather than being well-thought out, and some storylines and characters, like Macy’s fiance Sean, were discussed and then forgotten. That whole part of the book (the Macy/Sean relationship) was just strange to me. The main story between Macy and Elliot was really tightly done, but it felt like the supplementary storylines were forgotten and then picked up when the authors remembered they had other stuff going on in the book. Also, I found a good portion of the sex scenes in this book problematic for a variety of reasons, one of which doesn’t even get the time or care it deserves. (If you read this, you’ll know what I mean.) There was a lot in this book that made me roll my eyes, but overall I enjoyed reading it. I was invested in the characters and felt like the story moved at a good pace. If you like friends to lovers and second chance romance tropes, then you will love this book.
This book was super fun! It’s about Eric Ross and his daughters, Dess and Stacy, who are on the run. Looking to make money, Eric takes a job for eccentric millionairess, Eunice Houghton, who is looking to break a decades long curse that’s been put upon her family by the man who once owned the spite house and is still, supposedly, haunting its halls. Eric is tasked with awakening the ghosts of the spite house, if they even exist. I was coming off the heels of Home Before Dark, and while this is DEFINITELY a haunted house story, it was more Pet Sematary than The Shining. The book has many moments of suspense and a few scenes that gave me the chills. But where the story missed the mark was in the pacing. The novel is told between a variety of perspectives, so some information gets retold, which slows the story down considerably. Overall, if you are looking for a fun, ghost story with tons of twists, I highly recommend this one.
The Villa by Rachel Hawkins
Rating: 4 out of 5.
I picked this book up on Friday night and was done with it by Saturday morning. I couldn’t put it down. The story is about Emily, who goes on a trip to Italy with her best frenemy, Chess, in the hopes of writing the next installment of her cozy mystery series. Soon after arriving, Emily becomes obsessed with the story of a murder that happened in the house in 1974. The novel is told from the duel perspectives/timelines of Emily in present day and Mari in 1974. The dust jacket says the book was inspired by Fleetwood Mac, Charles Manson, and Mary Shelley, and I could definitely see where those elements were present in the telling. Add to that the Italian villa setting, and I was in! This book definitely has it flaws though. Some characters were underdeveloped, so when we got to the main event, it felt as though everything was rushed and there wasn’t that emotional connection you feel as the reader when the author takes their time to build the characters more fully. This book also wasn’t really suspenseful like other thrillers. I thought this was going to be a haunted house book, but instead it had a twist like the twist in Verity by Colleen Hoover. It veered off into women’s fiction territory and a study of friendship rather than creepy, occult book. Overall, I really did enjoy reading this. The pacing was very quick I think in part to the mixed media interwoven throughout. Sometimes the story was told in text, podcast transcripts, and excerpts from magazine articles. I think it’s worth a read if you’re looking for something fast and entertaining.
The Butcher and the Wren by Alaina Urquhart
Rating: 3 out of 5.
This book was interesting and a fast-paced read. It’s the story of a serial killer and the medical examiner who is trying to find him. The chapters alternate between the serial killer, and Wren, the medical examiner. I found Wren to be a little insufferable in the beginning. There was lots of medical examiner speak that felt more like the author was trying to impress the reader with her knowledge of terminology rather than helping us understand the inner workings of one of her main characters. She also references a lot of serial killers, which again, felt more like the author was trying to impress the reader with her knowledge of true crime, then give us insights into the world of the novel. I found the end to be unsatisfying, and the twist in the middle was reminiscent of The Silent Patient, but not as well done. Overall, it was a quick read and interesting enough to keep my attention. (I did feel a little spooked when I turned off the lights to go to sleep.) And I believe this is the first book in the series.
Sign Here by Claudia Lux
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I’ve had my eye on this book since October when it showed up as one of the Book of the Month picks. But at 400 pages, I was hesitant because…what if it sucked? Totally turned out to not be the case. I read it in a day because the minute I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. The story is about Peyote Trip, a man who works on the fifth floor of Hell in the Deals Department and is looking to get a promotion by finishing one final deal. The book alternates between Peyote’s story and the story of the family he is waiting to make a deal with, but interspersed are other equally fascinating storylines. Lux’s voice is dry, dark, and funny, and she is very good at keeping the twists twisty. There were some revelations that I knew were coming, but I have to say there were a lot that caught me by surprise, especially the end. The characters aren’t necessarily likeable; however, I found myself rooting for Peyote. I also really thought the take on “Hell” was very interesting, like how the bars only serve Jager and the most annoying things on Earth are pretty much what comprises an eternity in “Hell”. I’ve never read a book like this before, so I was really into the story. It had it’s flaws, but nothing that took me too far out of the novel. Overall, this was definitely a hit for February.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Rating: 2 out of 5.
I am so disappointed by this book. The premise was everything I love in a novel. Historical fiction based in Mayan mythology told as a fairy tale including a Cinderella-esque character. However, the execution lost me. My mind wandered all over the place while I was reading this book, and I think that was in part to the way Moreno-Garcia wrote. The writing was very clunky. Certain parts were more fleshed out than others. The action of the story felt like we were going from one event to the next in a whiplash kind of way. I couldn’t keep my head in the text. The story is about Hun-Kame, one of the Gods of Death, who is brought back to life by Casiopea, our Cinderella of the story who is abused by her wealthy grandfather and cousin. Hun-Kame takes Casiopea on an adventure to help him find three important items and to reclaim his throne as God of Xiabalba. I’m even thinking about the ending as I write this and am like, “Really? You had to do us dirty like that with that ending?” I am still a Silvia Moreno-Garcia fan and am looking forward to reading The Daughter of Doctor Moreau. I’ll let you know how that goes. But when it comes to this novel, it was a miss for me.
Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I can’t say enough good things about the Gilded Newport Mystery series by Alyssa Maxwell. If you love the gilded age, historical fiction, Newport Rhode Island, and cozy mysteries, this series is worth a read. I have read this book at least three times already, but with Murder at the Elms being released this August, I was inspired to read through the whole series again. The first book is about Vanderbilt descendant and lifelong Newporter, Emma Cross, a journalist who works for the Newport Observer, who happens to be at the scene of a murder during her cousin, Gertrude Vanderbilt’s coming out party at The Breakers. The book follows the exploits of Emma as she tries to find the truth behind the murder in order to exonerate her half-brother, Brady. The book is just fun. Maxwell does a great job of making Newport in the 1890’s come to life. I love her descriptions of Emma’s home at Gull Manor and find the writing to be easy to follow. Emma is a compelling character, and while the “who-dun-it” might be easy to guess, the atmosphere that Maxwell creates carried me through. I love this series and can’t wait for August for the newest installment!
Murder at Marble House by Alyssa Maxwell
Rating: 5 out of 5.
After reading Murder at the Breakers, I was really inspired to reread the second installment of the Gilded Newport Mystery Series, Murder at Marble House. Book 2 of the series finds our heroine, Emma Cross, having wrapped up the mystery from the previous book and onto an afternoon at Marble House where her aunt, Alva Vanderbilt asks Emma to speak to her cousin, Consuelo, about her impending nuptials to the Duke of Marlborough. When a fortune teller turns up dead in the gazebo and Consuelo goes missing, Emma must find the killer and her cousin. Just as with the first book in the series, Murder at Marble House is everything you want a cozy mystery to be. I love that Newport is as much a character in the story as the people, and Maxwell does a great job of creating a comforting sense of atmosphere. I can’t say enough about my love for the series.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I probably listen to this book at least once a year. I also have it in print. But what I enjoy most about this book is the discussion of creative living and how to apply it to your every day life. I know Elizabeth Gilbert is kind of a polarizing author (you either love her or hate her). I happen to like her… a lot. If you are someone who is interested in pursuing your creativity in whichever way that happens, this is a great book to motivate you, especially if you are just getting started on your journey. Plus, Gilbert reads the book herself. *Weird fact about me: I can only listen to non-fiction audiobooks that are read by the author* I don’t know why. I can’t listen to fiction books. My brain completely tunes out, but it doesn’t do that with non-fiction. Any way. I highly recommend this book for people looking to emphasize creativity in their life. She also has a Big Magic Podcast for extra inspiration.
That’s all for now folks! I’m currently reading Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan since I heard such amazing things about it. So far, I am enjoying it and have decided that along with a monthly book review, I will also do reviews of the books I finish as I finish them. Be on the look out for my first single book review next week!
Until next time, may this week be filled with all the things that bring you joy, and I hope to see you in the comments so we can discuss these reads!
Back at it with another writing prompt from one of my favorite writing communities: Tammy Evans’ PUSH Group!
I’ve talked about PUSH Group before. We are a group of writers and creatives that get together on Monday nights to talk about wins, share what’s going on in our lives, and most importantly, write together, all created and facilitated by author, Tammy Evans.
Back at the beginning of the month (February 6th, to be exact), she gave a round of writing prompts that really got my brain going.
One was a poem by a person on Instagram who goes by the name @maryoliversdrunkcousin called “Sorry I Didn’t Answer Your Call”.
The poem is essentially a list of reasons why this person didn’t answer their phone, from the mundane to the existential.
Writing Prompt: Write a poem titled, “Sorry I Missed Your Call”, then write all the reasons from throughout the day why you would have missed someone’s phone call.
This is what I wrote. (I amended it a little.)
Sorry I didn’t respond to your text / I was busy being grateful that I don’t have to teach anymore / Making eggs over easy and watching AntiChef videos on YouTube / Proud of myself for putting avocado on my toast / I was writing my words, but not perfecting the story / Not yet any way / I was chopping vegetables for chicken stock and brushing my teeth / Writing emails for work while Real Housewives of New Jersey hummed in the background / I was listening to Debussy while walking under a winter sky / Forgetting to take my probiotic, but never my Zoloft / I was showing up for everything and wondering when my energy would run out, when the next migraine would hit / I was petting my cat / I was thinking about jury duty / I was wondering if this book I’m reading will ever get good / I was happy, finally.
That’s all for this week friends! Feel free to share this or use it to spark your own writing. As always, I’d love to hear about your writing journey and what you’re working on currently in the comments. Until next week, wishing you days of happiness!!
When I was first dealing with anxiety, it felt so big and scary. Not just because the physical feelings and intrusive thoughts were big and scary, but because I didn’t know how to make any of it feel less big and scary. I didn’t have the language to discuss or express it. Worst of all, I didn’t have ANY tools to control it (as much as anxiety can be controlled.)
My first year with anxiety, I spent a lot of time in trial and error trying to find things that worked, at the very least, to make friends with my anxiety. Part of that process was research. Living with anxiety can feel so isolating.
So, for anyone currently dealing with anxiety, please know that you are not alone and that while you may be uncomfortable, you are most certainly not unsafe. Here is a list of methods I use whenever I am having BIG anxiety days.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this is not an exhaustive list of potential solutions to manage anxiety. This is simply what has worked for me.
1. Mint Chewing Gum
When my chest feels tight and my vision starts to get wonky, I break out the mint chewing gum, and it works every time. The mint will help open your chest and make you feel like you can breathe easier, while the chewing will give your brain something else to focus on other than your physical symptoms. You can also use Altoids or any other mint flavored food. But I always have mint gum on hand for occasions when the anxiety is big.
2. Hair Ties
The reason for hair ties is actually many fold. When I am having a high anxiety day or moment, having a hair tie in my hands give me something to fidget with. I flick it. I twist it around my fingers. And the movement, just like with the chewing gum, gets my mind off of the physical symptoms in my body, gets my brain thinking about something more focused, and moves the adrenaline around even a fraction. Also, my anxiety tick is that I am constantly doing and redoing my hair in a ponytail or bun (my anxiety makes me really warm all of the time and I hate having my hair down when I’m hot), so the hair tie helps with getting my hair out of my face and off my neck, while also giving me something to do.
3. Give Your Anxiety a Funny Voice
Let me formally introduce you to my anxiety and panic disorder, Martha. My niece said Martha sounds like an intense name. To which I said, “Well, she’s an intense lady.” Martha also sounds like the “Why’s it so spicy?” sound on TikTok. Intrusive thoughts and panic thoughts are terrifying, but I have found they are not so terrifying when you give them a funny voice. How can the thought that you are going to go crazy on an airplane be scary if it speaks the fear to you in the most ridiculous voice you can think of? I also have that anxiety voice apologize to me because it turns out, we have more control over the anxiety voice than we think we do. Giving anxiety a voice of its own THAT IS NOT YOUR VOICE takes away its power. No longer is it your conscience saying things to scare you, it’s a different, outside entity with its own voice. In fact, it’s a voice that you can laugh at.
4. Repeat/Listen/Watch a Mantra/Song/Show that Makes You Feel Safe
Repetition in the throes of anxiety and panic can feel like a lifesaver. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been on an airplane or a long car ride and listened to the same song on repeat for hours and hours because it made my heart stop racing. Or how I can watch Modern Family and a few other comfort shows over and over because they make me feel warm and cozy when my brain won’t shut off it’s anxious thoughts. And when the panic has been super big, I repeat, “I am uncomfortable, not unsafe.” It’s the repetition of a thing that allows us to lean in to it. Maybe it’s a lyric or a certain beat. Whatever it is, don’t be ashamed to repeat the thing that gives you comfort. And remember, however your body feels in that moment, you will survive it. Uncomfortable is not unsafe.
5. Move Your Body
One of THE BEST WAYS to help anxiety is to get moving. Get outside. Go for a walk. I know anxiety makes you want to stay at home until the uncomfortable feelings subside (or at least anxiety makes me personally not want to leave the house), but that’s exactly when you have to get up and move. Dance it out in your living room to a favorite song. Go for a walk around the block. Pace. But moving gets the adrenaline flowing out instead of staying stagnant, and your brain gets the benefits of all those feel good chemicals it creates naturally when you’re moving. Any movement is good movement when it comes to anxiety, so get up and get going.
Journaling for me has been a game changer. Through journaling I have been able to uncover personal patterns that have given me insights into my behaviors and even physical symptoms that I didn’t even realize were part of my anxiety. For example, two days before school started in August of 2020, I got hives. I hadn’t eaten anything different. I hadn’t used any new products. But there they were, itchy and insistent. Annoyed by the fact that Benadryl would only work for so long, I took to my journal to write about my frustration and ended up writing about how scared I was that teaching was going to take up all of my time, as it did every year, so that I would have no time to write. Wouldn’t you know, as I was writing about my fear the hives cleared up? I’m not even kidding. That’s how powerful this process is. Now, every time my anxiety starts to make my body and brain feel out of whack, I take to my journal and getting all my fears and feelings out on the page helps me feel less alone. You can find journaling prompts or just free write. Nicole Sachs has some great prompts on Instagram. But no matter how you approach journaling, be prepared to get more out of this than you could ever imagine.
When I was in the throes of my anxiety and was too afraid to take medication, the ten minutes a day that I would spend meditating after I journaled (or sometimes before) were some of the only times I could get my thoughts to slow down and could actually feel peace in my body. If you are a first time meditator, start with a time limit of 5 minutes or so and just notice your thoughts. Let them pass without judgement. And if you feel you are too focused on one thought or aspect of your body, bring your focus back to your breath or a positive mantra. My favorite one is from a Gabby Bernstein guided meditation where you are told to repeat, “I am not my body, I am free.” I love a guided meditation. In fact, if you’re looking to begin a meditation practice, Gabby Bernstein is a great place start. You will definitely see the benefits of meditation when you practice regularly, and it gives your body and brain a safe space to return to to help it reset when it gets too big.
As I stated earlier in the blog, this is not a complete list of all the things you can do to manage anxiety.
For example, therapy is an awesome solution to help manage and treat anxiety, however, not everyone has access to that method for a variety of reasons.
I didn’t include a discussion of medication and supplements in here as a solution because A. I am not a doctor and B. not everyone is interested in walking down that path. For me, medication has been a game changer because my brain just a needed a little extra help at this iteration of my anxiety. But I can honestly tell you that these methods at previous points in my anxiety journey were able to help me into a period of remission from anxiety and panic disorder completely.
That’s the other thing that no one talks about in terms of anxiety. It’s a chronic illness, and like any chronic illness, it can go into remission. But, regardless of where you are with your anxiety right now, know that you can live a happy life with anxiety.
I hope these tips help you grow your toolkit. And if you are dealing with anxiety, please let me know in the comments what works for you! (My personal anxiety toolkit is forever growing.)
Until next week, friends. May you enjoy days of happiness and creativity!
I was going through my writing notebook and found a piece that I wrote at the beginning of last year. It was during a Saturday afternoon writing class with LA Writer’s Group, which I’ve talked about previously on this blog.
It’s a first draft, written in the space of 12 minutes, and upon reading it again a year later, I grappled with whether I wanted to share it here or turn it into something. I guess I can always turn it into something bigger later, even if I publish it here.
Thank you for allowing me to write out my thoughts as I think them. : )
I’ve been really into writing witch stories in recent years. Probably because I would love to live in a world of perpetual autumn. I love Salem. I love historical fiction. I love Halloween. And writing about witches helps me to keep that world alive, even after the trees lose all their leaves.
What was the writing prompt that inspired me to write yet another witch story?
So glad you asked!
Writing Prompt: Fractions
This is what I wrote.
“2/3 of a tablespoon of frog’s liver. 1/4 of a teaspoon of nutmeg, but no more than that.”
She pinched a little extra into the cauldron and winked at me. Her back was stooped and her straggly, white hair fell into separated tendrils over her shoulders.
“1/5 of a dove’s heart.” It made a splash.
“She won’t actually drink this?” I asked, disturbed by the liquid that bubbled and smoked, casting light that made shadows dance on the walls of the witch’s hideaway.
She turned to me then and smiled. “My dear, love is just desperation in disguise. And I dare you to find me a soul who wouldn’t do anything for love.”
“Well, I wouldn’t,” I said, folding my arms across my chest like a petulant child.
The witch turned back to her cauldron as if she knew some secret I didn’t yet know.
“All in good time,” she said, taking a sip from her spoon.
That’s it for this installment of Writing Prompts and the Stories They Inspired (a working title for this series.)
Please feel free to use the prompt for your own writing or to check out the LA Writer’s Group for really great classes and inspiration!
And, as always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your writing/reading journey.
Until next week! May your days be filled with happiness, creativity, and words!
I’m terrible with TBR’s. I’m a mood reader, so really, I buy a bunch of books in genres that I enjoy, knowing that ONE DAY I’ll get to them…when the mood strikes.
So, a refresher for the January TBR. When I posted, I said I was going to read:
Lock Every Doorby Riley Sager
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
What Lies in the Woodsby Kate Alice Marshall
The Glass Oceanby Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas
Good in Bedby Jennifer Weiner
When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle
Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
I was actually off to a good start! Except when I remembered that I am a member of two different book clubs…and I completely spaced on putting those book club books on my TBR.
Therefore, I present to you…what I actually read in the month of January.
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Rating: 4 out of 5.
I started the year off keeping to my word and reading the first book on my TBR. This book felt like Rosemary’s Baby meets The Paris Apartment. I loved Rosemary’s Baby. I did not love the Paris Apartment. But I felt the story of this was compelling enough to keep going. The novel is about Jules, who is down on her luck after losing her job, going through a break up, and having no place to live. She takes on an apartment sitting job at the Bartholomew, thinking this is the answer to her current situation, but she soon runs into issues, like weird rules about the job and the fact that a series of previous apartment sitters have gone missing. She then sets out on a mission to find the truth about the Bartholomew tenants. I found the perspective of the narrator to be interesting, and I wanted to know the secret behind what exactly was happening at the Bartholomew. Overall, it was a fun read, but it definitely kept to all the common tropes and arcs and whatnots of contemporary thrillers. So, if you’re looking for something original, I don’t think this is the book for you. However, it was still a good time.
What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall
Rating: 3 out of 5.
*TW: discussion of suicide, mental illness, and gun violence
Ok. I went into this figuring it would be your run-of-the-mill of thriller, and it definitely was. But my issue was more with the depiction of mental illness in the novel and the idea that it was mental illness that drove certain characters to violence. When the author revealed the killers and the truth of the issues that had been teased at throughout the book, the revelation was surprising, I guess, but I found myself thinking, “Ok, that turn makes sense.” I didn’t have that same pleasing sense of suspense that I usually get from thrillers, and I was mostly annoyed while reading this because so many characters were introduced and none of them were very compelling. Marshall is obviously a good writer. But the content of this particular novel fell short for me. I wanted more. More fleshed out characters, more surprise, and a more compelling voice from the narrator.
The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Here is where we get into the book club choices that I completely forgot about. And this book was such a fun ride! The premise is that Sarah Morgan, a prominent criminal defense attorney in D.C., must defend her husband, Adam, against the death penalty when he is accused of murdering his mistress at his and Sarah’s lake house. The book has dueling chapters told from the perspectives of Adam and Sarah, and the story is full of twists that kept me in suspense. However, the reason I gave it four stars is because there were some discrepancies in the telling. For example, there’s one scene where a character is wearing sweatpants and then in the same scene, literally on the next page, that same character is unzipping their fly. I’m not sure about sweatpants with zip flies, but to each their own. Plus, there was a sex scene that seemed to be between one of the characters and a ghost. (Not really a ghost, but the narrator never tells us who is in the room with them and the experience is never discussed again after it happens.) Also, why is Adam so stupid? If you read this book, I would love to discuss because hot damn that man does some dumb things. Any way. Overall, this was a fast read, akin to The Silent Patient with lots of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Especially that last one. Woah.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Rating: 5 out of 5.
This. Book. Though. From the minute I picked it up I couldn’t put it down. It’s a suspenseful thriller and a haunted house story all rolled into one. The novel is about Maggie Holt, who inherits the house her family fled from in the middle of the night 25 years earlier. She is told to never go back to the house, but she does in fact go back to find out the truth behind the book her father wrote about their time in the house. The twists in this one were twisty. The atmosphere was the perfect combo of The Hacienda and Mexican Gothic meets Amityville Horror. The writing felt like I was able to read at the pace that would get me to the answers more quickly. I even stayed up late to finish it because I NEEDED to know what happened. Highly HIGHLY recommend this one.
It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 4 out of 5.
This is the next installment of “Books I Forgot I Needed to Read for Book Club.” My book club read It Ends With Us a few years back, and with the release of It Starts With Us, we felt the need to return to the story of Atlas and Lily. I am not a huge CoHo book fan, as the kids call her on BookTok, but I appreciated what she did for her characters in this book. It Starts With Us takes up where It Ends With Us left off. The main character, Lily, has divorced her abusive husband, Ryle, (the names in these books give me the ick, but any way). For a year and a half, she has been living as a single mother, taking care of her daughter, Emerson, and running her flower shop, when she runs into her long-lost love, Atlas. Again, with the names. The book is all about the relationship between Atlas and Lily and is a semi low stakes account of their relationship complete with a happy ending. I know there were people who obsessively loved It Ends With Us and were mad about It Starts With Us. But I think what people need to remember is that It Ends With Us was taken from the pages of Colleen Hoover’s own experience. It was hard enough for her to write that book, so it makes sense that she would want the experience of writing It Starts With Us to be less traumatic, both for her and for her audience. Overall, it was a quick read, and I enjoyed the portrayal of Lily and Atlas’s relationship.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Rating: 4 out of 5.
This is the last of the forgotten book club reads for the month. I’ve never read anything by Fredrik Backman, but I heard good things about all of his books, including this one. The story is about the intersecting lives of 8 people being held hostage by a failed bank robber during an apartment viewing in Sweden. Mostly, the story is about mental health and anxiety, which, if you’ve read my blog, you know is a personal struggle of mine. I wasn’t bowled over by the book the way I thought I would be, and the writing style reminded me of Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. However, there were so many poignant moments in the book that resonated with my own experience dealing with anxiety and panic attacks. The relationships between the characters is heartfelt and very touching, and the way mental health is discussed is…comforting. I found myself making note of different parts of the text to come back to. It’s absolutely worth a read and is a book to be read slowly. Also, for anyone who has read this book, what’s the deal with the constant repetition of “How’s tricks?” I’d love to discuss.
Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Rating: 3 out of 5.
I said it in my TBR post, but I’ll say it again for good measure. I loved Love and Gelato. I liked Love and Olives. And after reading Love and Luck, I’m still lukewarm about this one. The story is about a girl named Addie, who begrudgingly accompanies her brother, Ian, on a tour of Ireland with his friend, Rowan, to chase down a story about his favorite band, Titletrack. It’s all about getting over heartbreak and the bonds of friendship and family. I really loved the depiction of Ireland in the novel. I went there on a trip in the summer of 2016 and had the most magical time. All the places I had been to on that trip were depicted in the book, so it felt like I was back there. But the story took a long time to get going. There was a secret being kept that was constantly being teased at, but then never discussed fully until a few pages before the end of the book. It didn’t have the same emotional suspense that Love and Gelato had. It’s an easy read, however, it was missing something for me.
Books I Am Halfway Through
I will give these books a full review at the end of February, but for now…
When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White
Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell
I am not even going to set myself up for failure with a February TBR, but apparently these books are going to be on it. : )
Let me know in the comments what you’re reading! And if you’re reading/have read any of the books above, please tell me your thoughts. I’d love to hear your reviews.
Welcome back to another installment of writing prompts and the drafts they inspired. It’s a working title for this segment of the blog. : )
In March of 2022 I met a wonderful writer named Tammy Evans through a writing community called Stop Writing Alone. Tammy and I were assigned to be critique partners but quickly kicked up a friendship over writing, tarot cards, and general life overlaps.
I am constantly looking for writing communities to be a part of because community is the one aspect of teaching that I miss. Well, Tammy just so happened to be the facilitator of a writing group, and for the last several months, I have inconsistently been a part of Tammy’s PUSH Group on Monday nights.
It is a small group of writers from all over the country who share our wins and…well…write together.
If you’re a writer looking for community, I highly recommend Tammy’s group. You can click here and here to read more about Tammy’s work. (She’s an extremely talented writer and writing teacher, so I urge you to read her stuff!)
Back to the long titled point of this blog.
On the first Monday of the New Year, I decided to join PUSH group for the evening (my goal is to be a little more consistent in 2023) and was very pleased with my draft.
The writing prompt for the evening was a free write based off of Jim Gauer’s poem, “Will This Thought Do?” I’ve included a link to the poem, but The Paris Review requires a subscription to read the whole thing.
Writing Prompt: Choose a line from the poem, “Will This Thought Do?” and write for six minutes about whatever the poem brings up for you. There are no rules. Just free write.
This is what I wrote.
Lines that Stood Out to Me: What a relief to be wide awake / How sweet to be fully alive for just this morning.
We can put our things aside for now. As the plane lifts off. As the clouds become the world around us. As it all gets left behind.
Sometimes life gets too heavy to carry. Sometimes my muscles ache with the weight of holding space for other people’s happiness. Sometimes I get lost.
But then there’s quiet. And in the quiet there’s truth. There’s peace. There’s my voice.
What’s the truth today?
Today was good. And tonight I am tired. Ready to settle into my bed, surrounded by soft sheets and let the mattress and pillows cradle me to sleep.
I embrace tomorrow and whatever she brings. But now, the truth is silence. Of letting something else entertain me for a while. My thoughts spin and soak in all the what ifs and what could have beens. But there’s also the end.
When time ends.
When the night ends.
That’s it for now, folks. I hope you enjoyed this piece. Please feel free to use the prompt for your own writing, and I’d love for you to share what you’re working on and how your writing journey is going.
Like I said, I would love to have a big community of writer/reader friends! So, leave a comment or a like or share this if you feel so inclined.
Wishing you days filled will all the things you love! Until next week!
For a long time I thought I could live without them. After more than a year out of teaching, it turns out that I thrive on routine.
And even though my routine has changed over time, there is one part of my week that has stuck around: SUNDAY. NIGHT. BATHS.
There’s a bit of a story here. So, please, indulge me as I tell it.
When my then boyfriend (now husband) and I moved in together, the house we were looking to rent had a jacuzzi tub. Being someone who lived in an apartment for seven years with the world’s smallest tub, the idea that I’d be able to bathe with all my parts covered by water sounded like luxury.
At the time we rented the house, I was still teaching. This was pre-pandemic. October 2019. My anxiety was bad. I hated my job. I needed a break. But there was no way to stop the train from moving forward. So, most nights, I’d fill up the tub and lay in the warm water and thought about the kind of life I wanted. There were also tears. Lots and lots of tears. And lots of watching old episodes of The Barefoot Contessa on my phone while envying the seemingly simple life of Ina Garten.
Then, in March 2020, the world shut down. I finally had a break at the expense of public safety. But at the same time, I finally learned what life could be like without the stress of being in a classroom everyday. I was hooked, and I had to find a way to make my work from home situation permanent.
I applied for writing jobs with tutoring centers because I wanted to be a writer and I knew my niche would be education, having been in the classroom for thirteen years. But we went back into the classroom in April of 2021. I had a new job at that point, but wanted to finish out the year before resigning. The energy it took to show up to teaching, the energy it took to be Ms. Neilsen, wrecked me.
I’d come home from school on Friday afternoon, put my pajamas on, and fall into bed until Sunday at 2 PM, when I’d say to myself, “You have to get up.”
I’d light the candles around my tub, fill her up with warm water and Dr. Teal’s Rose scented Epsom salt and lavender bubble bath, and soak while listening to Paul McCartney sing “It’s Just Another Day”.
“So sad/so sad/sometimes she feels so sad”
I’d sit in the tub with my Sunday scaries, surrounded by suds, and I’d sob. But at the end of it, I always felt better. Lighter. Ready for whatever came next.
When I finally left the classroom, I was hit by another wave of anxiety and depression that I hadn’t been anticipating. And during that time, I held onto my Sunday night baths. Light my candles. Fill the tub with warm water and bath salts and bubbles. Listen to Paul McCartney and classical music. Read What to Do When You’re Feeling Blue. In the winter, I’d time my baths for 4 PM, right as the sun was about to set. And I’d soak until the day went dark.
No matter the kind of week I’ve been having, my Sunday night soaks are one of my favorite parts. They are somehow healing, probably because they are something I do just for me. A small moment before dinner gets cooked and the week begins to just sit, surrounded by music and candlelight and the scent of lemon and lavender.
For a long time, I didn’t have rituals that were mine. I didn’t really have outlets for stress and anxiety. Mind you, I definitely thought I did. My panic disorder, however, would beg to differ.
But these baths are mine. A small, simple gesture of kindness to myself.
Because we all deserve kindness.
That’s it for now. Wishing you a week of peace and happiness filled with rituals and routines that feed your soul.
It may seem cushy since you get to live in your imagination, creating stories and worlds and characters that hopefully connect to an audience. AND you get to make your own hours.
BUT you get to make your own hours.
For mood writers, like myself, it can be hard to get up every day and find time to write if you just don’t feel like it. I don’t know how Toni Morrison woke up every morning at 5 AM to write when she had kids and a day job. When I was teaching there was no room for writing fiction, but I digress. Kudos to Toni Morrison.
I have this tendency to work on something full throttle for months, and then burn out and not touch it for more months than I was working on it. I even took a course over the summer geared toward finishing a novel. Spoiler alert, I did not, in fact, finish my novel over the summer.
However, I did finish my novel, and it wasn’t because I was in the mood. Here’s what I did to combat my writer’s procrastination.
1. Open Your Lap Top
Or whichever device you’re using to write (notebook, notes app on your phone, word processor, etc.)
The first step to going to the gym is to put on your workout clothes, right?
I figured opening my lap top was the first step to actually writing something. I’d update my GoodReads, check my email, and then see the little tab for my novel open at the bottom of my screen and think, “Hmmm…I can add a few words to this…” Which gets me to…
2. Don’t Give Yourself a Word Goal to Start
Word goals are great, but if you’re trying to beat procrastination, they can be intimidating. If you don’t meet your word goal for the day, it may even deter you from showing up to your writing the next day. So, whether you write 100 words or 1000 for that day, words on the page are a win and any amount gets you to your ultimate goal of finishing your project.
Eventually, with consistency and time, you can work up to a word goal. But to start, give yourself space just to write without parameters.
3. Start With a Very Small Time Limit
Success starts with small wins amassed over time that lead to bigger goals being achieved later on. We need small wins in order to build the confidence necessary to keep showing up.
It’s like building a muscle. You’re not going to start with the heaviest weights. (I don’t know what it is with me and gym analogies today.) So, start small.
When I first reopened my projects to work on them, I started with 10 minutes, then built to 20, then 30 until I felt comfortable creating a word goal that I’d be able to hit in under an hour.
When it comes to giving yourself a time limit, consider things like your attention span, your schedule for the day and how much time you can allot to your project, and what you’re able to creatively give to something before you run out of steam.
4. Create a Sustainable Schedule.
Consistency is great. I am all for consistency. But if you are saying to yourself that you have to write 10000 words a day 7 days a week, you’re going to burn out. Especially if you start off with such lofty ambitions.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you’re trying to combat writing procrastination, not turn yourself off from your work. Start small and be honest with yourself.
What is a schedule you can set for yourself that you can actually show up to? Is it five days a week? Are you going to take it day by day and see what feels right?
Creating a sustainable schedule for yourself is key because sustainability breeds consistency. If you feel like you can do what you set out to do, you will. So, set yourself up for success, whether that’s one day a week of five.
5. Leave your phone in another room.
For my fellow scrollers, I know how tempting it can be to say, “Oh let me just take a quick break and scroll around on TikTok.” An hour later you’re watching fan page edits of celebrity before and after’s and videos of slow living enthusiasts showing off their 5-9 before their 9-5. Or is that just me?
Even if you’re not a scroller, the phone has all kinds of distractions. Text messages. Phone calls. Email. Instagram. The list goes on and on.
So, I suggest, if possible (I understand there are certain circumstances that require one’s phone for emergencies) leave your phone in another room. Not only will it keep you from being distracted, but when you are finished writing, going to get your phone will give you a reason to stretch your legs and move a bit. It might sound silly, but I’ve found that leaving my phone in my bedroom while I write downstairs, then gives me a good transition to the rest of my day when I go back upstairs to get it.
If writer’s procrastination or writer’s block has you questioning your worth as a writer or even has you questioning if you’re cut out to be a writer, well, let me tell you: MOST, IF NOT ALL, WRITERS GRAPPLE WITH THESE QUESTIONS AT SOME POINT IN THEIR WRITING LIFE.
You are absolutely not alone, and you are most definitely cut out to be a writer.
Personally, I’ve gotten myself to a place where my sweet spot seems to be Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 10 AM, and I’ve worked up to 1000 words in a sitting. However, if I don’t meet the 1000 words for the day, no harm. I just pick up the next day. It is this schedule that has helped me finish my second novel and begin the next novel in the series I’m writing. I’m currently at 11,000 words. Something I feel is worth celebrating.
Shout out to Pooja G. of Lifesfinewhine for writing her piece about struggling with writing procrastination that inspired this blog post.
I’d love to hear about your writing journey and tips for beating writing procrastination in the comments.
That’s it for now, friends. Wishing you a week filled with happiness and creativity. Until next Saturday!
Truth be told, this one knocked me out. Between the migraines and the recuperating from my migraines, I had a rough go of things. However, I am grateful to have had time with family and friends to celebrate the season and some down time to rest.
My reading has been slow over the past month with all that’s been going on, but I have set my Good Reads reading goal for 100 books in 2023.
I have never made such an ambitious goal before, but after having read 70 books between June and December, I feel I am up for the challenge. So, let’s do this! *I say to myself and whoever else wants to join me* (You also DO NOT need to read 100 books.)
A while back I bought myself a three tiered library cart from Amazon to house my TBR pile. As you can imagine the pile keeps growing, especially since I joined Book of the Month. I have found the service is totally worth it. You get hard covered books for $9.99, and the novels they release are a great mix of genres from popular and new authors. Click here to check it out!
Back to the TBR.
If anyone is interested in reading any of these books, I’d love to do a buddy read, read-a-thon, book club, or any other co-reading experience. You can also leave your recommendations, TBR lists, and opinions of the books here in the comments!!
I’m pretty excited about the book list for January. It’s a little thriller, a little historical fiction, a little romance. What are the books, you say? I thought you’d never ask. : )
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
I am currently in the middle of reading this book and am really enjoying it. It’s about a woman, Jules, who takes a job as a house sitter at the infamous Bartholomew luxury apartments in NYC after she loses her job and her boyfriend. But when her neighbor goes missing, Jules is on the hunt for the truth about the building. Is it haunted? Is it not? What’s the deal? It’s a fast-paced, ghost story akin to Rosemary’s Baby.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
I promise this is the last Riley Sager book on the list. This is a haunted house story about a family who flees from their home in the middle of the night. Twenty-five years later, the daughter of the family returns. I love a haunted house story, regardless of the season, and I enjoy the supernatural elements that Sager incorporates into their stories. So, I’m excited to get started on this one.
What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall
This was my Book of the Month pick for January. The story is about a girl who is the victim of a stabbing when she is a teenager. Her and her friends get the man who committed the crime convicted, but there is a secret they’ve been keeping about the event. I haven’t read anything by this author before, but I was intrigued by the concept. And, so far, I have been pleased with the Book of the Month thriller picks.
The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White
Over the summer I read The Lost Summers of Newport by this same set of authors and absolutely LOVED it! I am also obsessed with Newport, so that could have been another reason for my love of the novel. However, to their credit and not my bias, these three women are excellent writers who can weave a compelling tale. The Glass Ocean is about the past and present relationships of two women to the RMS Lusitania.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I am a Silvia Moreno-Garcia fan after having read Mexican Gothic. And even though I am not really a fan of fantasy, this story is described as a mix of fairy-tale and mythology inspired by Mexican folklore set in Mexico during the 1920’s. This is literally a mix of all the things I love. Myth. Fairy-tale. History. The story is about Casiopea Tun, who is tasked by the Mayan god of death to help recover his throne from his brother. How good does that sound??
The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas
I started reading this book in June when I got Covid, but the slow burn was a little too slow for me. I love anything set in Spain, and I can also get behind an enemies to lovers trope. So, I’m thinking now is the time to finish this. The story is about Catalina Martin, who needs a date to her sister’s wedding in Spain, so she invites her work enemy, Aaron Blackford, and love ensues. This is not a spoiler. This is always what happens in these books.
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
This novel is one of my all-time favorites. I read it when I was 20 and had such an emotional reaction to it that it still lives on in my memory. I haven’t read it in 17 years, but I am compelled to return to its pages to relive the feelings. It’s a “coming into one’s own” story about a woman named Cannie Shapiro who embarks on a path to make peace with herself after her ex-boyfriend writes a scathing article about her. I can’t wait to dive back into this story!
When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle
Every Rebecca Serle book is a five star read in my opinion, I think because every one of her books has a little bit of magic in it. (If you haven’t already read One Italian Summer, go do that for yourself.) So, when I saw this on the YA table at Barnes and Noble over the summer, I immediately picked it up. It is a Romeo and Juliet retelling from the perspective of Rosaline. I’ve been saving this because I don’t want it to end…if that makes any sense. : )
Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
I started reading this on my Disney World trip, but put it down. I loved Love and Gelato. I liked Love and Olives. I am feeling slightly lukewarm about Love and Luck. The story is about a girl named Addie who goes on a trip to Ireland with her family, but when she is supposed to go visit her friend in Italy, (our girl from Love and Gelato), things go awry. I’m halfway through the book and waiting for things to be revealed. It is a cute read.
Ok. Ok. I know. Nine books for January is a lot. But in my defense, January is a long, cold month.
Again, if anyone is interested in reading any of these books, I’d love to do a buddy read, read-a-thon, book club, or any other co-reading experience. You can also leave your recommendations, TBR lists, and opinions of the books here in the comments!!
And please feel free to share this list with anyone looking for book recs.
I’ll be reviewing these books for my first post of February, but in the mean time I’ll be back next week with a writing prompt post.
Happy New Year everyone! I wish you days of happiness, creativity, and many, many words!!
On the eve of New Years, I’ve got to thinking about resolutions.
How many years have you promised yourself that come January 1st you’ll stop eating poorly, start exercising, do a certain thing every single day until you — lose the weight, write the book, get the dream job — you get the jist.
I know, personally, I have spent many years making promises filled with hope that deep down I know I am never going to make good on. And all those promises end up doing is making me feel like crap at the end of the year when I didn’t do any of the things I set out to do.
So, as we march into 2023, I’d like to give up on the New Year’s Resolution and adopt a new way of looking at this next year.
I’m going to pick a word, and I resolve to make that word the thing I seek out every day of the year.
For 2023, the word is … celebrate.
I often think of celebrations as the party at the end of a long road. The graduation. The wedding reception. The birthday party. Markers of milestones. But how often do those milestones occur in our lives? And as we get older, the milestones become fewer and further between until we’ve relegated our celebrations to annual holidays.
Life happens every day. The reaching of milestones, big and small, happens every day. And I want to celebrate those.
There’s so much that I want to achieve in the coming year, but making my year about discipline or consistency isn’t necessarily part of my plan.
I want to enjoy. I want to find happiness in every day. And I want to celebrate the small stuff.
What are some of your goals or words for the New Year? I’d love to know in the comments!
I didn’t think I’d write a post this week, but I was reading something that really resonated with me and wanted to share.
Since the beginning of November, I’ve been dealing with near daily migraines. The pain is not the worst I’ve ever felt, but being in any sort of pain, big or small, for long stretches of time becomes exhausting.
With the pain has come nausea, aches in my neck and shoulder, and fatigue. By the end of the day, I don’t have much energy to do anything aside from read and doom scroll on TikTok.
And I have tried everything in my power (outside of going to the doctor) to get myself out of this migraine cycle, from CBD cream to medication to ice caps and electrode devices (Cefaly, to be exact). It’s all worked, to a degree, but I wake up in the morning back at square one.
I know this has something to do with the time of the year. The holiday season has historically been a chaotic period (as it is for most people), especially as I have never been the best at creating space for rest. But this migraine has made rest, not only essential. Rest is mandatory. My body is forcing me to say no, to take breaks, to lay down.
For anyone dealing with chronic pain, you may have dabbled in the world of TMS and the mind-body connection. For those who don’t know about this, the idea is that our stress and anxiety manifest themselves in many different ways, one of those ways being flare of ups of chronic conditions like IBS, migraine, thyroid issues, etc.
One of the ways to release the stress is to journal about the underlying emotions that are triggering the flare. (Nicole Sachs is a licensed therapist, who hosts a podcast and course about this called Journal Speak. You can find her on Instagram. I’ve found her prompts to be helpful.)
My issue is that, I couldn’t seem to get to the bottom of the well with this one. You know when you have the realization and something in your body pops to life? In all the journaling and meditating, I wasn’t having that moment. And the pain persisted.
Then, I started reading Don’t F*cking Panic by Kelsey Darragh, a podcaster, YouTuber, and self-proclaimed lifelong anxious person. And as I was reading, there was a quote in the book that popped out and made my pain suddenly make sense.
You must forgive yourself for doing whatever it took to survive.
It might sound wild, but migraines are a way that I survived. Counterintuitive, I know. How could pain help you survive? But pain was what my body created when I couldn’t enact boundaries for myself. And the holiday season is full of boundary-less landmines. From an early age my body decided, “If you’re not going to say no to the things you don’t want to do, then I am going to say no for you.”
*Migraine has now entered the chat*
You’d think that I’d feel relieved to have a reason to get out of plans. I’m an introvert after all. But some of those plans, I actually look forward to. And because of my migraine flares, I often times have to disappoint people last minute, which feels absolutely awful.
In realizing this, I’ve had to mourn a version of myself that doesn’t exist anymore because my body won’t allow her to. It means becoming the version of myself who is honest with everyone about how she’s feeling without fear of judgement.
Scary f**king stuff.
But also liberating. My friends and family can trust that what I’m telling them is the truth, instead of saying what everyone wants to hear. It means showing up and being completely present in the moment. Enjoying myself. That’s pretty wonderful, if you ask me. It’s a better version of me.
However, letting go of old, ingrained habits is hard. My body holds onto pain like a shield because it trusts that people understand pain, but it doesn’t trust that people understand the word no. I guess part of this then is that in teaching people to trust me, I have to learn to trust them. I have to learn to trust that just because I enact a boundary, doesn’t mean they are going to be angry with me, or worst of all, decide to never talk to me again.
Recovery is a slow road, and growth is not linear. But it’s worth it if it brings us peace.
This holiday season, I hope you enjoy all the good moments, whoever you decide to spend it with and however you decide to spend your time.
But for those who are struggling, I hope you also give yourself compassion and grace. Just because you didn’t show up to the holiday party at your friend’s house or didn’t jam pack the season with every single holiday activity that would make an elf at the North Pole jealous doesn’t make you boring or terrible.
You deserve to enjoy this time and all the days of your life however you choose without guilt. So, give yourself the gift of letting go of expectations. Rest when you need to. Say no when you want to. Give yourself space. And forgive yourself for doing whatever it took to survive.
Happy holidays, friends. I wish you days filled with happiness and creativity as we roll into the New Year! See you next week.
I gotta be honest, I haven’t been doing so great. Don’t get me wrong, my anxiety has been under control, but I’ve had a migraine since the beginning of November. There have been a few pain free days here and there, but the migraine symptoms like foggy headedness and fatigue follow me around like a stink. It’s awful and makes it impossible to get anything done.
I’m happy to report, though, that as of the day I am writing this post, I am on my second pain/migraine symptom free day! I feel human as opposed to a walking Zombie doing her best impression of “alive”.
It’s the holidays that do it for me. The drastic change in weather and temperature. The 4:30 PM sunset. My muscle memory associations with the season. In years past, there has always been so much to do and so little energy with which to do it. But as I continue therapy and actually enacting things like BOUNDARIES! And CONSISTENCY! And SAYING NO! I’ve found that there are parts of me I have to mourn, the parts of me that did everything, said yes to everything. But then, that version of me was resentful of the people who made demands of my time and energy when I had neither. So, this version of me is better. More consistent. She doesn’t show up to everything, but when she does she’s present. And it’s the presence that counts most.
Being pain and migraine symptom free has inspired me to share some writing. In March 2020 when I threw myself back into writing, I started taking courses with The LA Writer’s Group. I had originally been looking for the Gotham Write-In’s I used to take in the city on Friday nights, figuring they’d be online since Covid had shut the world down. But I was pleasantly surprised to find Nicole Criona’s class.
LA Writer’s Group is a magical space. And Nicole does a fantastic job of nurturing her students and teaching practical application of writing strategies in a low stakes environment.
This group was where I found the inspiration for my first novel. It’s also where I met someone who would become one of my best friends.
If you are looking for a writing group, LA Writer’s Group is where it’s at. And since classes are offered via Zoom, it’s highly convenient, no matter where you are in the world.
Back to the scheduled program.
So, earlier this year (January 8th, 2022 to be exact), I logged into a class with Nicole and wrote a little something that I want to share here.
The Prompt: Describe a scene in which a character is in a noisy, busy place. The goal is to use sensory details and setting to create the scene.
This is what I wrote.
I sat in my car in the parking lot steeling myself for the impending chaos. I tried to get here for 9, but that was no guarantee of peace.
One breath. Two breaths. Close my eyes. Go.
I leave the safety of my Corolla and tread cautiously across the pavement, stopping short when a champagne colored Nissan Altima swings into the lot with a head of write curls at the wheel. Someone’s grandma fresh from the salon.
A woman with a screaming toddler gets to the carts before I do.
“I want to go home!” he yells.
“We just need to pick up a few things,” the mom says as she wipes down the sticky looking orange bar with a Lysol wipe. She hoists the grumpy kid into the basket, and me and the toddler make eye contact.
Me too, kid, me too.
I ride the wave of anxiety through the automatic doors.
Here we go.
FLOURESCENT LIGHTING! A Muzak station of Hall and Oates blasting from an invisible speaker! The produce section swarms with people, fat, thin, young, old, who all resolved to be better in the new year. They inspect organic lettuce and check tomatoes for bruises.
I get to the peppers, only to be cut off by a frat boy in a backwards cap and joggers. I look like a potato in my oversized hoodie and yoga pants. So, I smile awkwardly and vow to go back to the peppers later, when Mr. Abs is gone.
The dairy aisle is no better. The sea of patrons is thick. People hug in the middle of the aisle like a family reunion because that’s what people do in small towns.
But me? I’m just here for a brick of cheddar.
Well friends, that does it for this week. Let me know in the comments how you’re doing this holiday season, what you’re reading, what you’re writing!!
I’ll be off next week, but will be back with a post on December 31st. In the mean time, I wish you days of happiness and creativity.
2022 has been a big reading year for me. (Which sounds ridiculous considering I have been a life-long reader who majored in English and TAUGHT English for 13 years). But really, I didn’t have time to read voraciously until my life slowed down. Any way.
In the last six months, I’ve read around 70 books. Kinda crazy. I know.
And within those 70 books, I have read among a variety of different genres. Since it’s December, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past year and felt like talking about some of the books that I considered to be the best of the bunch.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you’ve read any of these or have recommendations! I’d love to discuss!!
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
It took me a minute to get into this book, but once I did I was hooked! The novel is about two friends who become video game creators, but it’s so much more than that. The story really dives deep into the world of creativity and creating, friendship, love…and there’s one line in the book that made me absolutely ugly cry. 10/10. Highly recommend.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
I was almost embarrassed to admit how much I loved this book…but I loved this book. It’s about Olive and Adam, two scientists, who begin fake dating for their own personal reasons, only to end up falling in love. That’s not a spoiler. If you know the trope, then you know it was going to happen that way. And while the trope is done again and again in the same formulaic way, I found Hazelwood’s writing to be really compelling. Plus, I pictured Adam Driver as the Adam in this book…so…
I could not for the life of me choose between these two books. So horror gets two recommendations. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia and The Hacienda by Isabel Canas.
Both are gothic haunted house historical fiction stories with horror tropes set in Mexico. However, The Hacienda takes place in 1800’s while Mexican Gothic takes place in the 1950’s.
Both novels were fast paced with compelling narrative voices and terrifying descriptions of horror elements.
These books are both a 10/10 for me. You can’t go wrong with either. Trust me.
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA
I listened to this book via audible, and highly recommend the audio book. Sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski talk about the stress cycle, how society locks us in stress cycles, and give actionable steps for completing stress cycles. A super informational but digestible read that’s great for the New Year.
Chick-Lit with a Touch of Magic
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
I loved this book so much that I read it in one afternoon. I also love Rebecca Serle books in general because they all have a little element of magic to them. The writing makes you feel like you’re in Italy with the main character. But the story itself is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s about a woman who plans a trip to Italy with her mother, but after her mother passes, she decides to go on the trip and magic ensues. I’m doing a terrible job of summarizing this. Just trust me. It’s good.
What are you currently reading, or what are some stand outs from your reading year? I’d love to hear your recommendations and thoughts in the comments!
We’re half way through October, which I just can’t believe. How are you all doing?
I returned from a girl’s trip to Las Vegas last Sunday, and the next morning my husband left for a three day trip to Charlotte for a work conference, which meant that I was in the house alone overnight for the first time in three years.
What’s a book loving introvert to do with all that time?
A 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, of course!
I became obsessed with the idea of doing a 24 Hour Read-A-Thon after deep diving into the land of BookTok and BookTube and seeing all the creators making their cozy, read-a-thon content. However, I never seem to have an uninterrupted 24 hour span to engage…until this past week. And can I say, it was absolutely delightful.
A quick word on my read-a-thon however. I didn’t do a “pure” 24 hour read-a-thon. It turns out that, as much as my brain thinks I can sit and read for 24 hours straight without any sleep, my body (migraines and anxiety) needs breaks and sleep. So, my 24 hour read-a-thon spanned five days. But I did keep time on my phone’s stopwatch and only counted the time I spent reading. Whenever I was eating, watching tv, working, etc., I stopped the timer. And in that 24 hours I was able to finish 6 books. Some of the books I had already started (I’m generally a slow reader), but here are my reviews of the books I read during the read-a-thon!
1. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
This book was a bit of a departure from my spooky season tbr, but I didn’t feel like reading about witches and autumn when I was on vacation. Ya know what I mean? This book was the perfect vacation read, which feels redundant to say considering the title. But the story is about Poppy and her best friend, Alex, who vacation together every summer. They stop talking for two years after an incident on one of their trips and come together for another vacation like old times. The book alternates between past and present, which adds a lot of depth to Poppy and Alex’s relationship. I enjoyed this book so much and highly recommend. It’s a quick, easy read, especially if you’re looking for a good book to bring on vacation.
2. Invest in Death by Anne-Marie Sutton
Invest in Death is part of a cozy mystery series that takes place in Newport, Rhode Island. And if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I am a sucker for anything set in Newport, especially a cozy mystery. I want to love this series, but I’ve read two books from it now and would give both two stars. This particular book is about the death of investment broker, Althea Tanner. Amateur sleuth Caroline Kent and police detective Lt. Hank Nightingale are on the case to discover Althea’s killer and the shady dealings behind her investment business. The stories of this series always feel lost to me between being set in the present but using language that makes them feel as though they are set in the past. The books are less than 300 pages, so they read really fast, but the story just wasn’t that interesting, sadly. And there were certain points in the dialogue or character’s actions that felt unnecessary or out of the line with who the characters were.
3. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Rosemary’s Baby is a horror classic, but if this book is on your tbr for October, go in understanding that it is very much a product of it’s time and the language and themes of the novel reflect that period. The story is about Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband, Guy, an actor desperate for fame. They move into the Bramford in NYC, having been warned of the building’s reputation for housing members of the occult over the centuries and soon befriend their odd, old neighbors, the Castevet’s. Rosemary becomes pregnant and chaos ensues. Overall, the book was good. But I definitely got hung up on the writing because, like I said, it’s very much a product of the time in which it was written and published. And the way Rosemary is gaslit through the entire book coupled with the way the Castevet’s are all up in her business made me so angry. However, if you’re looking for classic horror, this one is worth a read.
4. Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney
Go read this book. I read it in a day. Fast paced, super interesting and atmospheric. It’s a mix between The Sixth Sense and And Then There Were None. On the eve of her 80th birthday, reclusive author, Beatrice Darker, invites her estranged family to her home for a reading of her will. That night, members of the family begin to die, but who is the killer? I love Alice Feeney’s writing, except for when she breaks out of the narration to give these little philosophical asides that kind of took me out of the story. However, it was not enough to pull me out completely. I loved how she set the house on a remote island on Halloween on a dark and stormy night. It was the perfect book for October. Highly, HIGHLY recommend.
5. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
I have been trying to finish this book for, what might have been, a year. It’s the story of the Eastwood sisters, living in New Salem, and trying to defeat the terrible, Gideon Hill, who has been terrorizing witches for centuries. I wanted to love this more than I did. It’s historical fiction. It’s witches. And magic. And the main narration is interspersed with fairy tales, and I LOVE fairy tales. (Can I get a woot woot for Faerie Tale Theatre with Shelley Duvall??) But I felt like the story was slow and that the action got lost in the words. Underneath all the nuance, I did enjoy the bones of this book. And this is definitely more literary than fluff, which is totally fine. I love a literary witch book. I also took issue with the fact that some of the dialogue felt out of place because it felt so modern. Overall, worth a read if you’re looking for a smart book about witchcraft, fairy tales, and magic.
6. The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
This book was cute. It was like Book Lovers by Emily Henry, but with ghosts and a touch of Six Feet Under if the show had been a comedy. Ghostwriter, Florence Day, goes to her hometown for her father’s funeral and is haunted by the ghost of her new editor, Benji Andor, who has recently passed away. What I enjoyed most about this book was, yes the romance between Ben and Florence, but more than that the relationship between Florence and her family. I loved the way Florence’s parents were written and the way each member of the family loved one another and their home. It made me want to be a part of the Day’s. And, for someone with death anxiety, it made death not so scary. It was actually really beautifully written. I did get frustrated that Florence’s narration repeated itself A LOT. So, her feelings were really driven home by the redundancy of her thoughts and dialogue. But, overall a cute read for any time in the Fall!
Did you read any of these books? What are you thoughts?
I’ll be back next week with a writing prompt and draft. But in the mean time, I hope you are reading some great books (and if you are, please send me your recommendations! I need more books for my ever growing tbr pile!)
Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you next Saturday!
Is anyone else having a most delightful autumn/October? It’s seriously my favorite time of year. I think I have reverse seasonal affective disorder, where I get sad in the summer and happy in the fall and winter. Maybe it’s the fact that summer feels so stressful. Like you have to be going out and doing things all the time or else “you’re wasting the good weather.” I don’t know when 900 degree heat in the blistering sun became good weather, but ok. You do you. Imma be in the air conditioning with my books and my bad attitude until the leaves start to turn.
I just finished a micro fiction course with Sarah Freligh and wanted to share a prompt and some writing that it generated. If you have time or are interested in taking a writing course, I highly recommend Sarah Freligh. She gave lots of great prompts, and her feedback was super helpful.
One of the prompts was about writing a sort of “how to” guide in 300 words or less. I chose to write about my first panic attack at a cafe in Barcelona. A most memorable experience, if I may say so.
My thirties have been defined by this particular trip. I’ll go into detail in a later post, but for now, here’s a condensed version of that experience.
Prompt: The Why or How of It
Start with a how or why title – “How to Make Your Mother Cry,” “Why I Live at the Laundromat,” “Why I Don’t Date Men With Children,” “How to Lasso the Moon” – and on and on.
Now write a story that answers the question — or better yet, don’t! 300 words or fewer.
This is what I wrote.
How to Have a Panic Attack in a Cafe in Barcelona
It starts with a flight to Spain, where you’ll spend a month in a sixth floor walk-up in the heat of July with no fans or air conditioning. There’s no relief. It’s 100 degrees in the shade. You and your friend, who you are sharing the apartment with, walk the cobble stoned streets of the gothic quarter marveling at cathedrals and roman ruins between visits to coffee shops to cool off and use the Wifi. Because, did I mention, you and your friend, slightly homesick, use up all the Wifi within the first three days of arrival. Twenty-one days into the trip, it’s your 30th birthday. On a jaunt with your friend, you cry while sitting on the rim of a potted plant. Because you miss the person you went on this trip to get away from. So, you call him. But he’s not saying the things you want him to say.
Your friend leaves a week later, giving you space. And silence. And a lot of time to write and think. You go shopping at H&M and buy clothes you can’t afford with a maxed out credit card. You write a bad story. You listen to the rain fall outside your apartment terrace and pack for your trip to Portugal. And then one morning you wake up with a migraine because you get those sometimes. You take two excedrin on an empty stomach and go to the cafe where you drink coffee and write emails and ignore your body’s need for breakfast. And that’s when the adrenaline hits. Head dizzy. Heart racing. Legs wobbly. You leave the cafe and stumble toward home. Up the stairs. Into bed. And you are absolutely positively certain that this is how you die.
That’s all for now, folks. I currently have a bit of a migraine and am two hours away from getting on a flight to Las Vegas to spend a few days with friends. I’ve packed a million books, so get ready for some recommendations next week!
In the mean time, wishing you a week filled with creativity and fun! And feel free to share about your experiences with writing, reading, anxiety, or travel. I’d love to hear from you.
It’s raining here in my neck of New Jersey. I love rainy days no matter the season, but I especially love rainy days in Fall.
Anyway. We’re not here to talk about the weather.
I’ve teased at this topic in many of my blog posts, but I decided I finally wanted to talk about it today. Anxiety.
My experience with her spans 37 years, my entire life. For a time, she showed up as severe migraines. Still does sometimes. But for the last 7 years, she’s shown up as panic disorder. Those terrifying physical symptoms and ruminating thoughts that convince you you are going to die.
I’ve had three periods over the last 7 years where anxiety has shown up like a constant companion. The first time, she came with chest tightness and breathing issues, but I was able to defeat her with medication. The second time medication couldn’t beat her, but while she was scary she was manageable.
This third time though. Can I just say…wow. Anxiety did not come to play this third round. Beyond the physical symptoms, she came with terribly disturbing thought patterns and agoraphobia.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year stuck inside my body, unable to go long distances or else the bells and whistles would go off in my brain. There was a lot of crying. A lot of certainty that “something was really wrong this time.” I go to therapy weekly. I meditate and journal. I’ve completed anxiety workshops and courses, left my high stress career as a teacher, taken supplements. But there was no getting rid of her.
Part of me wanted to write this post because throughout all my cycles of anxiety, there’s a point where I find myself googling, “Can I live happily with anxiety?”
I remember one such moment back in 2019, crying hysterically on my couch as I waited for an uber to pick me up and bring me to the airport for a three week trip to Europe with a friend. But my anxiety made my chest tight. Made my heart race. Made me dizzy and my legs wonky. And that one thought that ruminated, “Will I be ok?”
So, as I waited for the Uber, I googled, “Can I live happily with anxiety?” And the hits were bleak. A lot of no’s. A lot of … well you can, but it’s a struggle.
I got on the plane that day feeling defeated. And doomed. But I was ok in the end. And the three week trip to Europe was great, anxiety and all.
You can live happily with anxiety.
The other reason I wanted to write this post was to talk about taking anxiety for medication. If you’re currently sitting with a bottle of anti-anxiety meds in your hand, scared because of all the what ifs…do it! Take the meds.
In my recent state of anxiety, I spent a lot of time not taking medication out of fear. What if I get sick? What if I have an adverse reaction? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t find a medication that works? All the what ifs.
But where I was in my brain and body was so bad that I took the risk. All the what ifs be damned. And the risk paid off. There are still anxious days, but they are nowhere near where I was in April, unable to stop crying, fear wracking my body, stealing my thoughts, and ultimately, my freedom.
I realize this blog post is probably all over the place. I’d love to hear your experiences with anxiety in the comments. It’s nice to not have to go this road alone.
And I’m sure I’ll write more about anxiety in the future. But for now, this is a start.
I said I was going to stay consistent. I said I was going to post on Saturdays. I said all of these things to myself. And it’s not that I lied. It’s that life happened. As it does. And then we as the responsible parent of ourselves is on the hook for making sure we do the thing we say we are going to do.
I am currently in my rebellious teenage phase of adulthood. Probably because I never got to have a rebellious teenage phase as a teenager when it was age appropriate. But I say all that to say that some of the things I am rebelling against are alarm clocks, saying yes to things I don’t want to do, and saying yes to things I know are good for me. Like writing. Like sitting down and doing the work that I know will help me mentally as much as a good long walk does. I’ve also been rebelling against mental health walks that I know will 100% help my anxiety. But apparently my rebellion doesn’t want to make any sense.
Next week, I’ll be writing a post about mental health and my anxiety. But for now, let’s chat about the final writing prompt of the Catapult class.
I think I failed the assignment. Because, again, my rebellion was like, “I don’t want to write about that.” Petulant child that she is. But I did write about it in a way. My writing piece became an ode to my former self. To my 13 year old self. Who feels as real to me now as when I was living in her body some 24 years ago. Or the 22 year old version of me who, during her first year of teaching, cried every day and wished for a life that felt entirely impossible.
Turns out the life that I wanted wasn’t impossible. But what it took to get here was hard. There were sacrifices and tough decisions that needed to be made. And then there was the nuclear fall out from those decisions that I never could have imagined. I wanted to tell her, that 22 year old me, that we did it. We’re on the other side.
So, the prompt was this: Choose a date in the future and write what happened up to that point.
This is what I wrote.
After the novel class ended, we wrote every day. It started with 10 minutes. Then 15. Half an hour. Until we hit the sweet spot. Until we wrote past the corner we’d painted ourselves into. And then we rewrote. And we edited. And we found our spark. Our sparkle. Because you spent so much time comparing yourself to others that you shut off your ability to tell stories.
You redefined success. And redefined what it meant to be a writer. And found the fun again. Because what you thought it could give you was never really what mattered. What mattered was that the 13 year old version of you who spent Friday nights writing stories on her typewriter got to live her dream. Because the 22 year old version of you who thought she’d never leave teaching, did. Once you dropped the pressure to perform, everything fell into place.
Remember that for if it happens again. Success is measured in units of happiness. And writing will always bring you joy.
Until next week friends. I hope you find happiness in the days to come.
It’s time for another “Catapult Class Writing Prompt”!
I’ve been spending this Saturday reading Love and Olives, which I’ve been enjoying very much after reading Love and Gelato. My anxiety has been high for the last week or so, and my current fixation is “books that take place in Greece”. I also read My Mamma Mia Summer. So, if you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun, I highly suggest these two titles. They’ve really helped me get out of my head for a little while.
What I really should be doing instead of reading is writing my flash fiction piece for NYC Midnight. But I still have another 24+ hours before that’s due right? *insert sly smile emoji*
So, this week’s writing prompt with Catapult had to do with punctuation. Now, before I give the prompt, I want to give fair warning – even though I was an English teacher for 13 years…I am not good with grammar conventions or punctuation.
It was always funny when I would tell people what I did for a living and their response would be, “I need to watch how I speak so you don’t judge my grammar!”
To which I’d smile politely and think, “If they only knew that I have no idea how to use a semicolon.”
I say all this to say: don’t come for my lack of punctuational understanding. Let’s just be friends, comma splices and all.
And, as always, feel free to use the prompt if it moves you and leave comments to tell me about your own writing journey!
This week’s class prompt was: Choose a single form of punctuation that’s not a period or comma. Then write a story where that’s THE ONLY punctuation you use for the entire story.
This is what I wrote.
Summer – she sits at the plastic table covered in a seashell print table cloth – relics of a sea she hasn’t seen in years – is it years – was it last year – when she went down the shore in November with an old friend she can still remember meeting for the first time – they played games on the empty boardwalk and ate slices of pizza the size of blue whales and sat in the sand on a turquoise sheet she’d brought from home – it was November – the end was only an imaginary game – health insurance – what will you do to make up your salary – I’ll find a way – she sits in the backyard watching the leaves shiver in a heatwave breeze dappled in sunlight and it doesn’t feel the way she thought it would – to be free but not – to have summer time – to have summer time but no sea – will she just have to wait for fall to feel the relief she’s still waiting for –
Until next week friends! May your week be filled with words and everything that gives you joy.
I know it’s been a while. I’ve been busy trying to figure out my anxiety, which I will be talking about in a later post. Know that things are going pretty well and, hopefully, getting consistently better.
Last year, I wrote a post about leaving my career in teaching, which, like anxiety, will be another topic I discuss in later posts. But the point of leaving teaching was to give myself more time to write.
I say all this to say that I am currently taking a writing course with Catapult (check them out!) and have been generating some writing that I wanted to share somewhere. So why not share it here!
For the next five weeks of courses, and beyond, I am going to use this space to share what I generate each week through writing courses and workshops. Feel free to use any prompts for your own writing. And, of course, please comment about your own writing journey. I would love to hear from you!
This week’s class prompt was: write a piece that includes an element of synesthesia, contradict yourself at least twice, and include a lemur.
This is what I wrote.
Portugal tastes like tomatoes. Like the feira where men turn roast chickens on a spit. Clouds of smoke pluming into the hot heat of August. Rancho spinning wildly from tinny speakers that call you home. Or is that Spain?
I can’t remember. But I can because the lemons and oranges that sag the tree limbs outside Sao Bento’s hidden church on the river where the town flooded is alive like a memory.
Or is that England?
A cool night in July after a couple of Magner’s at the pub. It’s only 8 PM but the world of Boringwood…was that the name…shut down. Off we go to the Howard Johnson. Or was it the Holiday Inn? Singing songs in a voice that doesn’t know sadness yet. Jumping on your best friend’s back shouting, “I’m a lemur” because you’re 25 and the world tastes like freedom. And this is only the beginning of a shooting star scented life.
Until next week, friends. I wish you many days of words that flow and minutes filled with whatever brings you joy.