What I learned from an adult summer reading program

If you know me you know I love libraries and books and have fond memories of growing up and picking out books to read and participating in the summer reading program. That’s why this summer I decided to sign up for the adult summer reading program.

It has been probably a good 17 years since I did a summer reading program so I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up really enjoying it. The only con I have is that I read a large volume of books really quickly to make sure I completed the activities. I think I read 18 books in July when I usually read anywhere from 4-12 books a month. I’ve slowed down this month and am just reading for enjoyment rather than tracking what I read.

My favorite part of the program is that it encouraged me to read a diverse stack of books. Here’s a look at what I read in the program.

Hours read: 13,560

Books read: 30

Read a book by an international author: A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Read a book by a Black author: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Read a book by an Asian author: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Read a book by an LGBTQ+ author: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Read a book by a Latinx author: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Read a book suggested by a Librarian: Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Read a graphic novel: Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

Read a favorite book from your childhood: The Magic Treehouse #1

Read a book and then watch the movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Read a book about Indianapolis: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Listen to an audiobook: New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Check out a lucky day book on the Libby app: Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet

There were more books and more challenges but this is a good representation of what I read. Overall, I would participate in another summer reading program but think I would focus more on taking my time and enjoying the books rather then reading as many books as I can.

Did you participate in a summer reading program or have you before as an adult?

For everything there is a season

2020 has been challenging in just about every way. Between the pandemic and racial and political divisiveness, this year has been draining at times.

For me, this season has been for reflection and personal growth. It’s been a season for kindness and forgiveness. A season to slow down and reconsider priorities. A season to count every single one of my blessings and help others.

In this season I’m thankful. I just celebrated my 31st birthday and I’m carrying this gratitude with me. I’m not waiting for 2020 to flash by so we can celebrate a new year and forget this one happened.

Instead I’m laughing so hard I cry with my husband. I’m reading more because it’s something I love. I’m cuddling with my pets. I’m cherishing time with family. I’m journaling and writing as a creative outlet and praying about any anxious thoughts.

For me this hasn’t been a season for hustle. It has been a season to slow down and see the good in the bad. It has been a season for grace and self-compassion. Instead of wishing the next 153 days away, I’m going to continue to carry hope and thankfulness with me.

What are you thankful for and what are some silver linings you’ve found in 2020?

No, things can’t just go back to normal

I saw a few posts in recent weeks from people wanting life to go back to normal. These comments are especially tone deaf in the middle of a global pandemic and national unrest because of the gross racial injustices in our country.

Things can’t go back to normal. We can only move forward. But we can’t move forward until we recognize systematic racism. We can’t heal until we admit that there are racial injustices and actively work to address and change those inequalities. There can’t be justice without accountability and we must address our shameful past to even begin to move forward from our divisive present.

We have to start with humility and empathy and understand that no matter how socially conscious or progressive we think we are, we have old bias regarding racial stereotypes and prejudice.

We have so much to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

I’ve been listening, learning, and checking my heart to figure out how to be a better ally.

I started with reading White Fragility. It’s a book by a white women for other white people about why it’s hard for white people to talk about racism without getting defensive. She highlights the biases white people have toward race while saying they don’t see color and think everyone is equal. It’s an important look at history and how bias are part of every day even if you’re “progressive” and “mean well.” Nice doesn’t mean not racist and racism doesn’t just come from mean/bad people.

I took a look at what I consume on social media platforms and made sure I’m following and amplifying black voices, artists, activists, content creators, authors, and more.

I’m diversifying my book stack and am reading more books by black authors. I recently finished The Water Dancer and just started Men We Reaped. Just Mercy, Rabbit, Stamped, Queenie, and Party of Two are also on my TBR list.

I’ve donated to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and had conversations with people about white privilege and how comments like all lives matter are not valid or appropriate. You cannot tell people how to mourn or how to feel about recent events. And offering up preferable reactions to someone else’s trauma is not only hurtful but it’s harmful. Being defensive, denying these injustices, and making tone deaf comments is not helpful.

“Interrupting the forces of racism is ongoing, lifelong work because the forces conditioning us into racist frameworks are always at play; our learning will never be finished. Yet our simplistic definition of racism -as intentional acts of racial discrimination committed by immoral individuals- engenders a confidence that we are not a part of the problem and that our learning is thus complete”- Robin Diangelo

I’m still learning and I’ll forever be learning. What I do know is that I won’t stay silent. I’ll put in the work to educate myself and continue to act and stand with the many people hurting right now.

Looking for helpers during the pandemic

After weeks of social distancing, quarantining, staying home as much as possible, an overload of information on social media, and daily news briefings, it’s not uncommon to feel tired, anxious, restless, and just plain unsure.

As a journalist, I’ve been getting weary of writing COVID-19 stories at times. Brene Brown recently said that everyone is handling the pandemic in different ways, but collectively, people are tired— physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.

In challenging times, I am reminded of the quote by Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” It’s a quote that still resonates today.

I’ve been able to look for the helpers in my job and report about some of the things that people are doing to help others during the pandemic. Many people are making face masks for health care workers and donating hospital gowns or other protective gear to nursing homes and others have donated food and time to serve community members.  

There are endless stories of people helping others and I’m choosing to focus on that and look for ways that I can help when the weariness kicks in.

How are you doing? what helpers have you seen during the pandemic?

We’re in this together

Take a deep breath.

It’s been a weird and stressful week. Church services, social events, sporting events, travel plans and more have been cancelled. The shelves of many grocery stores and convenience stores were wiped clean as people went out and bought items in a panic.

Many people have experienced confusion, anxiety, stress, and feelings of not knowing what to do.

People have been advised to wash hands often and practice social distancing by avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance when possible.

And although it can be a scary time for an individual, it’s not about one person. It’s about all of us. It’s about being safe and careful but also being there for one another and lending a helping hand whenever possible.

It’s about choosing to think about others because individual actions impact those around us.

Brene Brown wrote about this recently and said we all need a shift in mindset: “We need to stay awkward, brave, and kind and love each other and stay calm.”

My husband and I spent the weekend embracing the time to slow down while spending time together at home. We worked on home projects, cooked food together, read books, watched some shows, and took our dog for a walk and enjoyed the fresh air.

Times seem weird and hard right now but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for the blessings surrounding me. I’m thankful for being able to worship from home today and watch the streamed church service. I’m thankful for friends and family. I’m thankful for the ability to get outside, listen to music, get lost in a good book, and write down my thoughts.

Take another deep breath.

We’re all in this together.

Writers write, right?

I don’t remember how old I was when I figured out that I wanted to be a writer in some shape or form when I grew up. I do remember writing that I wanted to be an author in a “what do you want to be when you grow up” prompt in grade school.

I remember writing short stories on tan paper with wide lines that were used for writing lower-case and upper-case letters. They were mostly tales about a girl exploring a woods and pasture and discovering a magical tree. No doubt, inspired by my childhood home and the books I read at that age.

I remember my high school English teacher approaching me and telling me about a contest that involved writing a novel. I procrastinated until the week it was due and spent a day and night writing nonstop while my mom and cousin helped me edit it.

I remember getting ideas for stories or novels and filling line after line in moleskin notebooks that still line my plastic organizer draws in my office. I haven’t reread all of them, but I have reread some of them.

For the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to write for different jobs I’ve had. It’s been behind a computer screen instead of a pen and loose paper, but I know I’ve been lucky to be able to keep that dream alive. That’s one of the reasons I restarted this blog. I wanted to get back to writing for fun and for me.

Marie Forleo, in her book Everything is Figureoutable, highlights something that’s been on my mind:

“One of the biggest obstacles to figuring out your dream is this: you incorrectly assume that ‘it’s all been done before.’ You don’t believe you have anything original, valuable, or worthwhile to contribute. You don’t feel special or talented enough to add your voice to the mix. It’s time to set the record straight. No matter how many times you think an idea or creation has been shared in the world, sometimes it takes that one person expressing it in their unique voice, at the right time, in the right place, for it to actually make a difference…there’s always room for more. There’s always room for you.”

I’m using this little space on the internet to share more of my voice. Thanks for joining me along the way.

How my bullet journal is helping me plan, organize, and keep memories in 2020

This new year I decided to start a bullet journal. Before getting started I read The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal. I was a little overwhelmed at first wondering if I would be able to keep up with it.

Although I’m still a newcomer to the process it really has helped me plan, track, organize, journal, and keep memories.

The Bullet Journal really clicked for me when I saw it all come together on the page. The future log (for the year), monthly log, and daily log helped me feel more clear-headed and like I had the capability to tackle whatever task, work event, or errand I need to.

In the past I would buy planners and use them for three months before I set them aside and used them less and less as the year went on. The journal has allowed me to keep track of both work and personal stuff. I added a section to each of my daily logs to reflect on the day and keep track of memories.

I also started a section to keep track of the books I’m reading. I created a double spread to write down the books I read each month as well as a bookshelf where I can decorate a book cover. There is another double spread of a “book bracket” where I will choose the best book I read each month and narrow it down throughout the year until there is one book chosen as the book of the year.

One quote in the Bullet Journal Method book is, “in a cut-and-paste world that celebrates speed, we often mistake convenience for efficiency. When we take shortcuts, we forfeit opportunities to slow down and think. Writing by hand, as nostalgic and antiquated as it may seem, allows us to reclaim those opportunities…true efficiency is not about speed; it’s about spending more time with what truly matters.”

The first thing I learned about the bullet journal is that there are a lot of different versions. The creator of the method keeps his journal minimal but very detailed and creative spreads can be found on Instagram and Pinterest. I decided to make my daily logs a little more detailed but have attempted to start small and simple as to not overdo it.

I have created some special collections outside of the monthly and daily logs and the book spreads. I created a gratitude log, a short-term and long-term goals log, a photo log that I’ll update throughout the year, as well as a spread where I tracked the kind of tea my husband and I liked.

Here’s what I’ve used to create my bullet journal: A5 Dot Grid Notebook by Archer and Olive, a six-inch acrylic ruler, Tombow brush pens with soft and hard tips, Sakura Pigma Micron 05 Black pen, Midliners, and Crayola super tips markers.

Do you have a Bullet Journal? What tips do you have?

A conversation with Bob Goff

Bob Goff is the New York Times Best-Selling Author of Love Does and Everybody Always. But more than that he’s kind, loves Jesus, loves others, and helps people go after their dreams.

I had the opportunity to interview him recently and kept my cool on the outside, but inside I was fangirling. If you’ve read his books you understand he’s a gifted storyteller and I was honored to be able to hear some of his stories in person.

Bob discussed the power of love, availably, and building character rather than career.

“Instead of telling young people what they should do, we should remind young people about who they are and then they’ll figure out the rest,” he says. “…I want us all to take a genuine interest in each other.”

He told the story of a women named Kelly who received a heart transplant and now travels the world climbing mountains with her new heart.

“But here’s the deal, her heart always thinks it’s at sea level so she had to figure out how to whisper to her heart,” he says. “I hope young people are reminded about whispering to their heart about who they used to be, who they want to be, and what they want to be remembered for. I want to remind people about who they are – that’s where it gets good.”

His biggest advice is to maintain childlike faith as you get older.

Maintain youthful idealism and enthusiasm,” he says.  

Some other takeaways:

-There’s power in availability. Bob printed his cell phone number in the back of his book. He believes there’s a power in being present and available to the people in your life.
-God doesn’t think less of you because you keep messing up. Failure is part of the process and it’s more about how God helps us keep going.
-We can’t fix what we don’t understand. Go deeper to understand who you are and what you want to do. That will help you be able to change the things you want to change.
-Use what you already have to get what you want. You are gifted with certain skills and character traits. Use them to get what you want and encourage others to do the same in the process.
-Your words can impact others. Words can change everything for someone and God made it so ordinary people can launch each other.

I walked away from the conversation with a smile on my face. Bob’s smile and laugh is contagious as well as his love for others.

Want to know more about Bob? He’s an attorney and the founder of Love Does- a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda, India, Nepal, Iraq, and Somalia.

Growing through loss

I had an epiphany at an Andy Grammer concert.

If you don’t know Andy Grammer, he is an American singer/songwriter and some of his singles have included “Keep Your Head Up”, “Fine by Me”, “Honey, I’m Good”, and “Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah).”

His latest album came out in July and is called Naïve. Grammer has said it’s for the light bringers and the people who choose to see the good in everything, even in the overwhelming chaos of bad. Some of my favorite songs from the album are “I Found You”, “She’d Say”, “Stay There”, and “Best of You.”

My husband and I attended his concert in Indianapolis on Sunday night and it was everything I thought it would be- joyful, inspiring, uplifting, positive, dance worthy, and sing-along-able.

When Grammer got to his song “Wish You Pain” he talked about how going through life’s difficulties can make you a stronger person and can help you grow. To illustrate this idea at his concert he asks an audience member to share a lesson they’ve learned from a painful time in their lives and then writes a song about it on the spot.

It was during this time that I started thinking about the past several years and how I’ve had some of these hard times. My father passed away three years ago, my father-in-law passed away two years ago, and my grandma passed away one year ago. But during that time I met and leaned on my now husband. I prayed more and leaned on God because all of these things were out of my control. I spent more time with my family. I spoke more openly about heartache, grief, and loss. I read and wrote more. I let myself be sad and happy and I spent more time growing into who I am right now.

I still miss them every day but I also know that a part of them is with me. So I’m choosing to lean into that and grow a little each day.

“If it’s stupid to see the good in everything, then call me naive.”

Andy Grammer

Learning to work from home

For the past two years I’ve worked remotely. I travel quite a bit on work assignments, but it has still been an adjustment.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about working from home. Be honest- did you just picture someone working in their pajamas, watching tv, and doing laundry and other chores whenever they want? You’re not the only one, but that’s not what it’s like.

I still don’t have it all figured out, but here’s what works for me.

1.) Create a morning routine

I can’t just jump right into work right away because my brain still needs to wake up in the morning. So each morning I read a devotion. I’m currently reading 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs. I then spend 5-10 minutes meditating. I like the guided meditations by Tone It Up. They are free online and really set the tone for the day. Click here for an example of one.

2.) Take breaks

If I don’t make myself take breaks during work I will sit at my desk all day. I try to take a 10-minute break in the morning and the afternoon. Sometimes I take my dog for a walk and other times I read a chapter or two of a book outside on my deck. Giving my eyes a break from the computer screen and my brain a break from work helps me come back to the desk refreshed.

3.) Create a welcoming space

I have a giant canvas photo over my desk. It was a gift from my brother and it was taken at Holden Beach, one of my favorite places in the world. I have a standing desk with a tall chair so I can sit if I want but I also have the option to stand. I have a globe from my grandma and some wedding photos in frames around the room. My office is in our guest bedroom and the windows are at my back when I work, so I also bought a floor lamp to light up my workspace (I found some cute décor at World Market and Target).

4.) Stay organized

There is something at home that makes it harder to stay organized. I purchased a desk calendar and a planner to keep organized. I have a lot of interviews and meetings throughout the week so the only way I keep them straight is with seeing them on the calendar and planner. I don’t like setting calendar reminders on my computer because I get too many of them and seeing them in writing on my desk keeps me on track.

5.) Shut the door to your office and walk away from your work at night

The one thing no one told me about working from home is how easy it can be to keep working through the evening. When you go into an office you physically leave the building and drive home at the end of the day. That doesn’t happen when you work from home. It’s so easy to continue answering emails and keep working into the evening hours without realizing it. I’ve made a conscious effort to stop working at a certain time, turn off the lights and my computer and walk away from my desk. I sometimes still check my email on my phone, but I’m working on it. 🙂

These are some of the ways that I’m learning to work from home and maintain that work-life balance.

What about you: do you work from home or have you worked from home in the past? What works/worked for you?