15
Sep 17

Reading Lately: September 2017

Today I’m linking up with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy fame to talk about what I’ve been reading lately.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I’ll receive a small commission if you happen to purchase one of the books I mention — at no extra cost to you. 

Reading Lately: September 2017

Original photo by Kari Shea

Admittedly, my reading has slowed down considerably since the summer. Do any other teachers out there feel personally victimized by the school year? Like, yeah. I want to shape the young minds of America, but I also need to escape into two epic fantasies, one romance, and some post-WWII fiction each week to stay sane.

The things I give up for those students…

Anyway, on with what I’ve been reading lately.

Reading Lately: September 2017 Click To Tweet

Reading Lately

Girl Walks into a Book: What the Bröntes Taught Me Life, Love, and Women’s Work by Miranda K. Pennington
Admittedly, I started this one during the summer, but didn’t finish it until fairly recently. That isn’t because it wasn’t good or that I didn’t like it. In fact, I loved everything about it. However, after the breakup, I’d been kind of in a weird place mentally, and the level of introspection in this book made me think too damn much about my own life for the state of mind I was in. However, once I finally got my head on straight and was able to finish it, I loved it. My good friend and Lit Gang leader, Mike, sent me a copy. Pennington writes about her lifelong love of Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brönte, and how it shaped her as a person. She’s so frank and honest about life and love and the complications of relationships, and how the Bröntes LITERALLY TAUGHT US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THAT OMG WHY HAVEN’T I PAID MORE ATTENTION.

One side effect of reading this book is that you begin to wonder about what book it is that has completely shaped who you are as a person, and what book is always there for your when you need a guiding light. I’m not ashamed to say that mine is The Hobbit.

 

Reading Lately

Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
Early I did a full review and talked about how writer’s can use Reading People to shape characters and conflict. As a member of the launch team for this book, I was really excited to get a copy. And if you’re the type of person who wants to know more about personality types in layman’s terms, I can’t recommend this book enough.

 

Reading Lately

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
The structure of this book was interesting, in that the author did something that I would generally think of as inadvisable, but it virtually made the story. Halfway through the book, I thought to myself, “You know, I know the town people better than I know the main character.” But the book kind of relies on you HATING the town’s people to an immense degree, so this had to be done. Also, the protagonist’s backstory is revealed at a really frustrating pace, but when you finally get everything about her back story, the ending pay off is perfect. More books should end by burning the patriarchy to the ground.

 

Reading Lately

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
The novel starts with two sisters burying their parents in the backyard of their house in Glasgow. And if that shakes you a bit, just know that by the end of the book, you’ll wish the girls would’ve buried their parents a lot sooner. Marnie is a teenager dealing with love, drugs, and all the big things that kids in an urban environment often deal with. Nelly, her little sister, has developed all manner of personality quirks to deal with their terrible life situation so she can escape it as much as possible. I fell in love with these two girls, and their neighbor, Lennie, who steps in to help the girls in anyway he can. If it sounds sappy, it ain’t. This book is a black comedy through and through, and I loved every last minute of it.

Additionally, I’m currently making my through It by Stephen King (and I anticipate finishing this thousand-page monstrosity sometime in 2067) and Code Red: Know Your Flow, Unlock Your Super Powers and Create a Bloody Amazing Life. Period. by Lisa Lister. (Check out Marie’s review of that one!)

What have you been reading lately? Click To Tweet

What about you? What are you reading?


13
Feb 17

5 Steps to a Better Night Time Routine

I’ve written before about how to be a morning person, and Kieran shared with you how to kick start your morning. But there’s one crucial thing to being a morning person, and that’s having a night time routine.

Five Steps to a Better Night Time Routine

I’m fanatical about routines, and I absolutely love habits. I think rom coms tend to make people think they have to be spontaneous and easygoing in order to be viable people. But let’s get real. I hate spur-of-the-moment anything, and I actively work to build better habits because I know they make me a happier, more productive person. (If you call me at 8 PM and ask me to come have a drink, I will not only tell you no, I will also lecture you on why you need to schedule with me in advance. I DO NOT DO SPONTANEOUS.) So that’s why I’m talking about my night time routine today, and the five steps you can take to have a better night time routine.

5 Steps to a Better Night Time Routine Click To Tweet

001: Get Un-Ready.
When I say un-ready, I mean undo all the things you did that morning to get ready. I pretty much put my pajamas on the minute I get home from work so I don’t get dog hair on my work clothes. So, for me, getting un-ready means washing my face, flossing and brushing my teeth, and applying like 6 different moisturizers. (I work with 20-year-olds. I feel like a haggard, leather face all the time. Don’t judge me.) I try to do these things around 8 PM because that means I’m physically ready to get to bed. And this is such an important part of my night time routine because if I wait until I’m too tired, I may not wash my face at all. (I’m gross, I know.)

002: Be Aware of the Time.
How many times have you started something around 9:15 only to finish up around midnight, when you fully intended to go to bed at 10? It’s easy to get caught up in things like projects, movies, or to do list tasks. That’s why I’m always aware of time when it comes to my night time routine. Chris hates it when I say we shouldn’t start a specific show on Netflix because it’s too late. (He’s a total night owl.) But I’m fanatical about going to bed on time, and to do that I always have to know how much time I have until I’d like to be asleep.

003: Turn Off the TV and put your phone away.
Now, you know I refuse to let my phone run my life, but I feel I should admit here that I’m not super into TV either. Sure, I like watching shows, but I feel like TVs have become such an intrusive presence in our daily life. They’re so big and so loud, and I don’t need a theater experience to watch the local weather forecast or Jeopardy. Chris and I have even talked about how if our TV breaks, we may not get another one. (That’s a post for another time. Also, we have computers and tablets that we stream TV from anyway. Do we need a TV too?) For me, I like to turn the TV off because I like quiet. And turning the TV off (or, going in the other room while Chris finishes watching something) is a great way for me to slowly unwind and enjoy some quiet before I go to sleep. I also put my phone down, and have it set to go into Do Not Disturb mode every night at 9 PM.

It’s worth noting here that there are all manner of studies about how lessening your screen time before bed can help you sleep better. So I won’t harp on it. Just know that backing away from screens is a great way to improve your night time routine.

004: Hydrate.
I always have the worst sleep when I’m dehydrated. Whether I’ve been drinking too much caffeine or alcohol throughout the day, or just not enough water, I always try to chug about 10-15 ounces of water about an hour before bed. This generally rehydrates me and helps me not have massive charlie horses in my calves. (I get these all the time, and sometimes they work their way into nightmares where the hook-handed guy from I Know What You Did Last Summer hooks me right in the calf. Luckily, it’s just a charlie horse. But unluckily, ouch, it’s a charlie horse.) Also, one of the main reasons I ever get up in the middle of the night is because I’m thirsty and need a drink. Rehydrating prevents that from happening. Also, since I do it an hour before bed, I’m able to use the bathroom before bed, and I never have to get up.

I should probably note that I still keep my full Nalgene bottle on my bedside table anyway. Just in case. You know, when I need 32-ounces of water at 3 AM.

005: Read.
Okay. So. Real talk. Reading is a big part of a lot of my routines. But I like to read right before bed. I always have. It doesn’t matter what I’m reading — something happy or scary or adventurous — I just like to read before bed. Most nights, you can find me crawling into bed around 9 PM to start reading, so I can be safely off to dream land by 10.

I never have issues with falling asleep after reading something intense, and I’m not sure why. It’s probably because I’ve been doing it since the first grade…

What's your night time routine? Click To Tweet

What about you? What’s your tried and true night time routine? Anything I should add to my night time routine?


02
Feb 17

Saving My Life Right Now: Winter 2017

The winter has always been hard for me. And I always hate the third quarter of the school year — that time between the start of the spring semester and spring break. (I thought it wouldn’t be so bad as an instructor, but it still feels like being stuck in quicksand.) Then, couple that with the current political climate, and it’s pretty easy to see why I haven’t blogged in over a month.

#mybad

I feel incredibly small right now, and like I don’t matter. I feel like the words I could say to my readers are functionally worthless. And I also feel like so many are going through so much worse than me right now, so why doesn’t it even matter if I post something?

I know all of this is unhealthy thinking, so in an effort to get back on the horse, I’m linking up with Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk about things that are saving my life right now.

001: My super tiny bullet journal.
I’ve written a lot about different planning methods I’ve used in the past, but this year I joined team #bujo. But I also knew I wanted to shrink down my planning as much as possible. So instead of using the standard-sized Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, I’m using a pocket-sized one. (I don’t think the world needs another blog post about bullet journaling, but I’ll probably write one very soon anyway.) I’ve been tracking the books I’ve read, what I’m grateful for, and what I’ve spent. I’ve really been looking forward to Saturday nights when I bust out the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners to make the spread for the next week.

002: Carrying a book with me.
I always used to carry a book with me, but got out of the habit when I was at the job from hell. I didn’t feel like reading pretty much the whole time I was there, so I never jammed a paperback in my purse to savor over lunch. Recently, I got back in this habit, and I’m happy to report I read 5 books in January alone. Also, office hours are great when they’re spent reading.

003: My Stanley travel mug.
I hate travel mugs that don’t actually keep the coffee warm. I also hate travel mugs that don’t have lids that close all the way. Luckily, Chris found this Stanley travel mug. He has one that’s 16 ounces, and I have the 12 ouncer. Not only does it keep my coffee warm for a few hours, if I throw it in my bag, it doesn’t dump coffee all over my laptop.

004: The Beach Body App.
I did a little survey on Snapchat the other day (username: GentleMarisa) and asked people what their favorite workouts were. The overwhelming response was that people liked the Beach Body app. My friend Liz sent me a discount link, and I signed up. This past week I’ve been doing Focus T-25 in the mornings, and the 3-Week Yoga Retreat in the evenings. And the best part of it is that I don’t have to leave the house, which is the hardest part about working out in the mornings in the winter. Seriously. I refuse to go out in the cold so I can get sweaty.

005: Good coworkers.
It’s just good to know when you have some coworkers who are like your comrades in arms. I probably have the most ideal working situation of anyone in academia, and any time I think about that, I’m just overcome with how lucky I am.

 

What about you? It’s important to remember that self-care isn’t selfish. What’s saving your life right now?


13
Sep 16

Reader Rant: 10 Reasons I Stop Reading Books

I once met someone who always finished every book they picked up. I’m not like that AT ALL. I think I’ve quit a lot of books, and always for different reasons. And while I may eventually pick those books back up again and finish them, there are some things that make me stop reading books and never go back.

Here are the 10 reasons I stop reading books.

And with that, I give you 10 reasons I stop reading books.

10 Reasons I Stop Reading Books Click To Tweet

001: The author can’t write women characters.
Look. It’s not that hard. Like, if you want to write but you don’t understand 50% of the population, then you need to reassess your path. I mean, sure, there are a ton of famous writers who get away with it, and have built huge careers (and cocaine addictions and subsequent sobriety) on it. But it’s 2016, and I like to think that readers won’t let you get away with it. I know I sure won’t.

I think Kelly Sue DeConnick said it best:

“So, there’s the Bechdel test. I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.”

And any book that has that sort of female character in it is absolutely not worth my time.

002: The story relies on stereotypes.
Try harder. Seriously. If you can’t make a character real and authentic, then you need to work on a new draft. And as a reader, there is nothing more boring than reading stereotypical characters or dialogue or scenes. It’s predictable and lazy. Also, when you read a stereotype, it seems like a place holder that the author put in there so they could come back and fix it late. And placeholders don’t move the story forward.

003: The book doesn’t live up to the hype.
Sometimes the hype machine gets itself all worked up and makes you think it’s totally worth paying $30 to preorder a hardcover copy of what promises to be the book that will define a generation. And then you get it, and it’s garbage. I definitely don’t preorder many books these days, just because I’ve been burned one too many times. So I’m always leery when a book is preceded by the sort of fanfare one typically reserves for a fifteenth century monarch. And if the book doesn’t deserve that fanfare, I stop reading it.

004: It’s not my cup of tea.
Sometimes a book isn’t for me. Simple as that. It’s nothing against the book itself.

005: The story is inspiration porn.
I really hate stories that tell us characters with disabilities or diseases are inspirational simply because they have disabilities or diseases. Characters with disabilities or diseases should not exist to make able-bodied readers feel inspired and good about themselves. Characters with disabilities and diseases should be in stories though, BECAUSE THERE ARE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND DISEASES IN THE REAL WORLD.

006: It’s one of those books that the pseudo-intellectual boys from college used to talk about.
I have a whole shelf of these, and I’m thinking about doing a blog post about them, and then giving them away to blog readers. I mean, I feel bad about giving you guys books I quit reading, but I also want that shelf real estate back and maybe these books are your jam. (Does anyone want a fuck ton of Bukowski and Salinger?) I only wish I still had the terrible mix CDs from the pseudo-intellectual dudes I knew in college. That would really be fun to go through.

007: The author’s hand is way too damn heavy.
I get my preachin’ on Sundays. At least, I would if I went to church. But suffice it to say that the minute a book starts preaching to me, I’m done. Or, if the book has a hella preachy tone with the message instead of just showing me the characters and their story, I’m out.

008: I can’t identify with the motivations of any of the characters.
This is pretty much why it’s impossible for me to watch Girls on HBO. Basically, I don’t understand why any of the characters do anything. And if I don’t get that, the story doesn’t make any sense to me. And if the story doesn’t make any sense to me, then it’s really hard to keep reading.

009: I can’t figure out what’s happening.
This one kind of piggy backs off the last one, but doesn’t necessarily require the previous condition. Sometimes, I feel like writers wan’t to pack as many subplots into a story as possible. Then, instead of being exciting and complex, the story turns into a garbled mess where I need a spreadsheet and a flow chart to keep track of all the stuff that’s happening and where the information all belongs. And it’s worth noting here that I’m absolute shit with spreadsheets and flow charts.

010: The author cares about the plot more than the characters or the story.
This is a very big pet peeve of mine. To me, the plot doesn’t functionally matter. I will gladly read books with no plot at all if the characters are interesting. But what I can’t stand is a quick-paced plot that I can’t care about because the characters are basically anonymous shadows of people. If I don’t have the thing to emotionally ground me in the story, then I don’t really see a reason to keep going.

 

What about you? Why do you stop reading books?


06
Sep 16

Guarding the Fuck Bucket

I realize “fuck bucket” may offend some. I’m also well aware it’s often used a derogatory term for a woman, but I’m taking that phrase and turning it into something else. I’m reclaiming it so I can talk about the amount of energy we have to deal with life. So if you got to this post thinking it was going to be closer to the Urban Dictionary definition, then you may want to leave.

Guarding the Fuck Bucket

You may also want to leave if you’re simply offended by the word “fuck.” I get that. You’re not alone. Plenty of people don’t like curse words. However, curse words are my love language. So, if you don’t like how many times I use the word “fuck” in this post, feel free to not read. I won’t apologize for saying fuck though, because soon you’ll see exactly how many fucks in my personal bucket that I have to give on that score. (Spoilers: It’s none.)

Curse words are my love language. Click To Tweet

Now that all the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s get down to business. How did the fuck bucket come about?

“Look at all the fucks I give!”

We’ve all said it before, or perhaps a more PG version. Basically, we hit a point where we acknowledge that we simply cannot care about something because we’ve hit a wall. That’s when we acknowledge that we don’t have fucks to give to a particular thing.

This is because everyone has a very specific amount of fucks they have to give to any given situation. It’s like a budget, if you will. We know, generally speaking, what we will encounter during the day. We tend to save our fucks and expend them on things we know we will have to give fucks about — paying bills, our friends and families, taking care of ourselves, home repairs, grocery shopping, etc. We also have some discretionary fucks to give for extracurricular things like office gossip, our favorite Game of Thrones characters, and which people from high school have blocked us on Facebook for no good reason.

For the most part, we allot our fucks subconsciously. We know we have to care about certain things, thus we care about them by giving them the majority of our fucks. Then, whatever we have leftover goes into our discretionary fucks. Sometimes you will have to spend more or less than you usually do, like when a family member gets sick or when you watched “The Red Wedding” episode of GoT. But generally speaking, the amount of fucks you give remains relatively constant.

Sometimes, however, something happens and we realize we don’t have enough fucks to give. For me, that happens when I don’t think about how many fucks I’m giving on things I didn’t budget my fucks for — like when your coworker becomes emotionally needy and wants to complain to you for an hour, or when you attend a large family get together.

So how do you ensure that you always have enough fucks to give?

Enter the Fuck Bucket

Everyone has a fuck bucket. It’s the bucket where you keep your fucks. Some people have gigantic 5-gallon Home Depot bucket for all their fucks. Others have those little tin novelty buckets you can get Michael’s to stick some Easter candy in. Your bucket size (mine is a good, sturdy Sterilite mop bucket with a spout in case I find myself needing to quickly pour out my fucks) determines the amount of fucks you have to give at any time.

Everyone has a fuck bucket. Click To Tweet

For me, I don’t have the smallest bucket, but I also don’t have the biggest. Like most fuck buckets, I have just enough to get me through the day comfortably. Sure, occasionally that bucket runs dry, and sometimes my fuck bucket runneth over. But generally speaking, I know with relative certainty how many fucks are in my fuck bucket at any given time, and how many I have to give for any given thing.

Lolrus and his fuck bucket

If you find that you’ve been running out of fucks pretty often lately, it might be time to take stock of your bucket. By looking at your fuck bucket budget, you can see where you’re expending the most energy, and where you can make some changes.

My Fuck Bucket Breakdown

My fuck bucket breaks down into the following categories:

  • Family (this includes Chris and my dog, Rosie)
  • Work and blogging
  • Writing and reading
  • Spending time at home
  • Discretionary fucks (yoga, social media, gossip, shows on Netflix, clothing, YouTube makeup tutorials, photography, cheese fries, etc.)

I also made this breakdown to show roughly how I allot my fucks:

This pie chart illustrates how I allot the fucks in my fuck bucket.

Your fuck bucket will look very different from mine. In fact, all fuck buckets should be different. And don’t try to give your fucks where you don’t want to. That way lies madness. Let them fall where they may. But if you find yourself running out of fucks, there’s only one thing to do.

Don't try to give your fucks where you don't want to. Click To Tweet

Guarding the Fuck Bucket

It’s easy to give fucks where you shouldn’t. It’s much harder to think critically about where your fucks are going and how you can stanch the flow. The first step to guarding your fuck bucket is to make sure it doesn’t run dry. And to do that, you have to stop giving fucks where you shouldn’t.

Right now, I’m sure you have something that’s bugging you, something that’s taking up your time, something that’s taking fucks away from something else. Think about that thing. Do you need to give a fuck about it? If it’s a leaky faucet or if your dog just puked, then unfortunately you do. But if it’s something that, in the grand scheme of things, you can avoid with little to no consequences, then fuck it. (Which is not a way to say that you should allot fucks to it, but rather forget about it.) There are infinite fucks in the universe, which means that someone else can generally give a fuck about the things that you can’t. Don’t give your fucks on things that you don’t have to.

There are infinite fucks in the universe. Click To Tweet

The second thing to do when you need to guard your fuck bucket, is get yourself out of situations where you have to expend fucks that you don’t have. You wouldn’t continue to pay for something you can’t afford, so why would you continue to spend fucks you don’t have? Getting yourself out of situations may sound big, but it can be really small. In some cases, it may just mean avoiding an intersection that bugs you, or not going into the break room when a specific coworker is there. Of course, it could also be big. It may mean quitting a job or getting out of a relationship.

Whatever it means, you have to do what you have to do to guard your fuck bucket. So, take a look at what’s in your fuck bucket, and where you spend the majority of your fucks. Think critically about where the fucks are going. Reset your fuck budget to balance your fuck bucket. Because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can.