Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I Saw Glennon! (But I'm still waiting for Love Warrior)

Glennon Doyle Melton on stage

I have followed Glennon Doyle Melton’s work for years, since long before her first book, when she simply blogged. At the time, her blog, Momastery, had a sweet illustration of a monkey in monk attire with a little pink heart on his robe. It was a comforting space where she told her truth and I — with different struggles, and different paths — felt less alone. Someone else out there got it. She understood how hard it is to be “a sensitive soul in a broken world.”

When she announced her first book, Carry On, Warrior, I pre-ordered it so I could have it the second it came out. My copy arrived with the first few pages already falling out. It was broken in that perfect way that felt like her words were tumbling out to meet me where I was. As I read it, I highlighted passages, I laughed, I cried, and I wrote notes to myself that I would find a few years later as I sat down to re-read it.

Later, when the paperback was released, Glennon’s team offered me an opportunity to give away a copy of the book by sharing my own messy, beautiful story. I had already recommended the book to so many people and gifted it to a few friends. It made my day that I was being give a copy to share.

Glennon is one of the few people whose work I follow religiously. (My others include Gretchen Rubin, Shauna Niequist, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and poet Lang Leav.) There is something about finding someone whose words strike so true, so honest, so “Here I am, struggles and all.”

At the beginning of the summer, I found out she was going to be within 2 hours of my home at a fundraising event for Penn Foundation, so I bought a ticket. The price of the ticket included a copy of her new book Love Warrior released earlier this month. I have been waiting for this book. Somewhat patiently. Meanwhile, Glennon’s tribe has exploded. I have listened to her on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast and Rob Bell’s podcast, both of which I’ve played twice in the past week alone. I have watched her and BrenĂ© Brown teach about the power of story through BrenĂ©’s CourageWorks. I listened to Rebecca Schinsky rave about Love Warrior on the All the Books podcast, and learned the book was selected as Oprah’s book club pick for September. And I waited. Because it wasn’t time for me to receive my copy yet.

Last night, I got to see her. The event for which I purchased my ticket months ago finally arrived. After working a full day, I drove two hours to get there. It was everything I expected it to be. Her stories are familiar to me now from years of following along. Seeing her tell them in person was a gift.

And now I should have my very own copy of Love Warrior. But there was a mix-up, and the books didn't arrive at the event. Momastery will be shipping them out to attendees, so we still still receive the book. Just not yet. (I did, however, purchase a beautiful handmade ceramic bowl by Julia Castor Ceramics as part of the silent auction to benefit Camp Mariposa, a camp for children of families with addiction issues.)

Blue Handmade Ceramic Bowl

I am so ready to dive further into her story and to feel all the stuff. To compare and contrast her story with mine. Glennon is a grounding force for me, as she is to many other women. By telling her truths, she is helping me to understand mine. She is helping me to sit with pain to learn from it rather than numb it.

As I first typed the title of her new book in this post, I mistakenly wrote “Love, Warrior.” When I read it back, I realized my error and deleted the comma. But it feels appropriate. Glennon’s road has not been easy and sharing it is brave, like a love letter to the world signed “Love, Glennon.” “Love, Warrior.”

I can't wait to finally have this book in my hands. But wait I must. Somewhat patiently.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I purchased Carry On, Warrior and the ticket to see Glennon speak with my own money. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Photographs from the Edge; a book review

Photographs from the Edge book

Photography lovers and nature lovers, have I got a book for you! Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer's Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe with Rob Sheppard is out today, and it is beautiful!

Wolfe has traveled the world with his camera and tripod, visiting places most of us won't ever see. This book presents a collection of his work chronologically from the 1980s through January 2015.

The rich color and depth to his photographs is astounding as he presents landscapes, creatures, and cultures. Not only are the photographs themselves gorgeous, but each one includes a write up from Wolfe offering the story behind the picture, as well as a photo tip and the camera settings used to capture the image.

This is a book I will return to again and again for the cultural experience, the visual feast, and to soak up his photography knowledge, so I can apply it to my own work.

I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Amphoto Books, via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review, and I have used affiliate links throughout this post. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer.

Photographs from the Edge book

Photographs from the Edge book

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Future is Up to Me (and yours is up to you)

I had a realization one morning. I was going about my usual morning routine to get ready for work, thinking about my home, my bills, and the now of life, which led to thinking about my retirement and wondering how I will save enough to support myself through the future. (My thoughts tend to snowball.) After all, as a divorced mom, the future is up to me.

There are not two incomes to support the now and the future. There is one. Mine. And it must do both: the now and the future. Is it enough? Which tends to lead to the more difficult question: Am I enough?

Let that sink in. Am I – on my own – enough? This is a question a lot of us ask ourselves, I'm sure.

The answer now comes out of necessity. Yes, I am enough. I have to be enough. Because that is what I have to work with.

I could ignore it, pretend the future will be just fine without me having to think about it, but we all know that isn’t the case. I need to actively plan for it, actively take care of myself and my son.

This is how I came to the realization. I am the sole proprietor of my future.


Now, let that sink in. I am the sole proprietor of my future. What my future will look like is largely up to me. Will I allow it to creep up while I look the other way? Or will I plan, act, save, and greet it warmly like a welcome house guest?

I choose the latter.

When faced with divorce, there are a million questions and concerns and inner battles that come to surface. This – realizing that my future is up to me and me alone – that was a biggie. That is the one that drives me now.

I am the sole proprietor of my future. What will I do with it?

And I don’t mean to alarm you, but you are the sole proprietor of your future, too. What will you do about it?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Weapons of Math Destruction is a great read

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
by Cathy O’Neil
Published by Crown on September 6, 2017

Similar in concept to Freakonomics, Weapons of Math Destruction looks at how data affects action, sometimes negatively, in surprising ways.

Statistics are used to make decisions about a lot of things from baseball defensive tactics to weeding out supposedly less effective teachers. When looked at objectively (as in baseball where everyone can see the same statistics and draw conclusions), the data can help reduce risk in decision-making. When algorithms are poorly created or hidden from view, assumptions can be drawn and acted upon without seeing the full story.

Cathy O’Neil, who has an extensive background in analytics and holds a PhD in Mathematics from Harvard, goes into the perfect amount of detail in explaining how algorithms are designed, what they intend to measure, and what happens after the fact.

For example, she explained how the college rankings by U.S. News & World Report evolved through the years in an effort to improve accuracy. As colleges understood what data was being used to calculate their score in the rankings, they were able to game the system. Because SAT scores of incoming students factored in to overall ranking, some colleges paid the SAT fee for accepted students to retake the SAT for a chance to improve their scores, in hopes of raising the overall college ranking. Another college significantly raised its rank by hiring top professors -- professors who only visit the colleges for a few weeks out of the year, but claim the school as their affiliation thereby having all of their published work attributed to that school.

So what happens when organizations figure out how to work the rankings in their favor, and other organizations decide to cheat, too?

It happens in finance, prisons, schools, and just about anywhere. O’Neil also argues that racism is partly a product of poor data that has led to assumptions which, in turn, have led to people looking for statistics to match the assumptions.

Weapons of Math Destruction was a fantastic read. Her background in analytics is extensive and she has researched her topics thoroughly. This book will make you think.

I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Find Your Brave: a book review

Find Your Brave: Courage to Stand Strong When the Waves Crash In

by Holly Wagner

Published by WaterBrook -- an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House -- on June 21, 2016

This book title caught my eye on Blogging for Books, so I hopped over to Amazon to read the sample using their “Look Inside” feature. Though I wasn’t really in the mood to read another book drawing its meaning from the Bible, I was immediately taken by the author’s humor, like this passage:
"At first I was rather put off by Proverbs 31:15, the verse that challenges us to rise 'while it is yet night.' What? I don’t think so. I sleep while it is yet night."

I expected to see that type of humor throughout — this kind of commentary tends to propel me through books faster — but it was the exception, more than the rule.

Find Your Brave bases its premise on the story of Paul who, having been jailed, appealed for Caeser to hear his case and was put on a ship to Rome — a voyage which was fraught with troubles. The author puts these trials in the context of the trials women sometimes face in life. The ship theme recurs in many chapters, which helps to tie the whole text together, but sometimes feels a little “and there’s the ship thing again.”

There are references to other Bible passages sprinkled throughout. The book reads a bit like a sermon, so possible readers should decide if that is a style they like prior to picking this one up. The language is conversational and should be easy for most readers to follow.

Overall, this was a good book. I think I was in the mood for something a bit different, so the timing for me affected my enjoyment. That being said, I recommend this book for Christian women seeking to strengthen themselves in their daily lives. If you do not believe in Christianity, you’ll want to skip this one as it is a dominant theme.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Improve Your Emotional Agility

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life
By Susan David
Published by Avery (an imprint of Penguin Random House) on September 6, 2016

Organized in a thoughtful way, this book discusses from how we hook ourselves emotionally, what it takes to truly show up, why your “why” is important, and how to move on. Susan David then finishes with chapters applying the practices to work and parenting.

I recognized myself in her explanations, heard myself saying “yep” as she brought words to the emotions I only half recognized before. Her explanation of bottlers (people who hold things in) and brooders (people who stew over things indefinitely) was particularly insightful.

The chapter on raising emotionally agile children looked at some of the conditioned responses we, as parents, give to our children that are based on our own emotions rather than the emotions our children experience – like that knee-jerk response “it’s okay” when it clearly isn’t okay right now. She made the point that in rushing to solve our children’s problems for them, we imply that we don’t trust their own problem-solving skills.

While this book isn’t overtly about relationships, applying the information in this book would improve interpersonal skills.

This is a great book for people interested in human behavior and those who want to improve their emotional health.

Thank you to Avery and Penguin Random House for the advanced reader copy, which I received for free in exchange for an honest review. Please see my disclaimer.