• Bookish,  mental health,  Writing

    Mean Girls & Mental Health Awareness

    Mean Girls: the cult classic

    Mean Girls: the memes

    Mean Girls: the musical

    Mean Girls: the pandemic


    March, 2020

    I remember when everything shut down a little over a year ago.

    There was lots of talk of when we could be back together, how things would be different, and the appreciation for human contact.

    But as the year continued another storyline developed – the mean girls (and guys) who emerged from the pandemic.

    Plot twist

    It was easier to be a Mean Girl.

    Hiding behind a computer keyboard in an email.

    Texting passive/aggressively and ending said text with a smiley face.

    Or the worst, hiding in plain sight on Zoom calls. Prime time to say things in a public forum to someone’s face without in-person consequences.

    All because of distance and screens.

    I loathe Zoom

    The last scenario recently happened to me and it was a virtual face slap that hurt worse than a real one.

    Why?

    I was alone. I had no one sitting next to me in that meeting.

    And because we have all grown so numb to these virtual interactions, no one knew what to say.

    No one stood up for me as a person.

    No one told this woman to stop her baseless attack.

    It was only after she finished her attempted assault on my character and reputation that I was able to get a word in to defend myself.

    I am convinced that this never would have happened had this been a meeting where we all physically occupied the same space.

    And even if this person had been so bold, I believe the consequences would have been very different without screens to separate us.

    Eventually one person did speak up and told this woman why she couldn’t get her way. But the damage had already been done.

    Mission accomplished, drama mama.

    Context

    We have lost our context, our human frame of reference.

    We get our groceries delivered, we wear masks, and we stay home to hide behind technology.

    Here’s some context for the Zoom interaction I had: my mental health was at its lowest point in over a year.

    I struggle with depression and anxiety and always will. I have PTSD that will never fully resolve.

    Guess what is a trigger is for me?

    Being blindsided and attacked. And all this happened at a time where pulling myself out of bed some days was an accomplishment.

    Did this woman feel bigger? Better? More important in that square on the computer screen? You bet.

    But back to the context. Did anyone know where I was coming from?

    Sure, a few knew that I had spent the better part of the year being bullied by this person.

    But no one knew the context – where I was standing or functioning on a daily basis.

    Or how I felt that night in the meeting, alone in my study, facing a screen of many who I thought to be friends.

    Or what it’s taken in these past weeks to pick myself up and move on for my own health.

    Off/Mute

    When this incident happened to me on Zoom, I was mortified.

    People who didn’t know me at all and certainly had no context saw me as someone called out, questioned, and attacked.

    I was in tears but I could turn my camera off, hit mute and exist in a dark square that only displayed my name.

    But the day is coming where that won’t be possible and these pandemic mean girls won’t be so brave.

    Half the time I dread this and the other half – bring it, girls.

    Mental health awareness month

    So why share this story and parts of my own mental health struggles?

    May also happens to be the month we focus on mental health.

    The month we talk about removing the stigma.

    The month we talk about having open conversations with our friends.

    The month we acknowledge that many struggle with mental illness.

    This month – as the pandemic hopefully is winding down – is the perfect time to really be aware of those around us.

    Because some of us have been wearing more than one mask during COVID.

    Return to “normal”

    As life slowly returns to whatever our normal is going to look like, be gracious with one another.

    We have little or no context for the lives we are entering back into for the first time since COVID began.

    Take the time to understand. Talk. Ask questions. Don’t assume that everyone came out of this the same as you.

    And certainly don’t continue the entitlement some felt as they were hiding behind technology, doors and masks.

    Enough hiding.

    No books, no sequels, no musicals, no memes… Mean Girls: the pandemic is coming to an end.

  • Audiobooks,  Book Reviews,  Writing

    The Good Sister: book review

    Title: The Good Sister

    Author: Sally Hepworth

    Publish date: 4/13/21

    Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

    Genre: Domestic thriller

    Pages: 320

    Synopsis

    There’s only been one time that Rose couldn’t stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

    Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be…dangerous.

    When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

    Fern’s mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of what families keep hidden.

    Review

    Writing impressions: What a story! I love books that are partially told in journal form and the diary of Rose was critical to this book. The author did a wonderful job of writing about Fern and her sensory processing differences. I also appreciated that she met someone who genuinely understood and cared about how she saw the world and did little things to ease some of her anxieties.

    Characters: Twins. It’s a trope and it’s one of my favorites. It’s always interesting to see how the author develops them as siblings and as individuals. Fern and Rose could not have been more different and were both well developed with their own storylines that intersected. It was also interesting seeing Fern’s job – a librarian – through her eyes.

    My thoughts: The good twin vs. the evil twin made for a fascinating story. I figured out the twist pretty early on but that didn’t detract from the book at all – it was interesting to see how the author developed the story.

    If you enjoy domestic thrillers then this book is for you!

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Thanks to Libro.fm for the the advanced audiobook copy. The narration is fantastic!

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Writing

    My Ride or Die: a book review

    Title: My Ride or Die

    Author: Leslie Cohen

    Publisher: William Morrow

    Release Date: 4/20/21

    Pages: 321

    Genre: Humorous fiction/Female friendship

    Synopsis

    A timely and hilarious millennial women’s fiction novel about two friends who decide to give up their search for a perfect man and devote their lives to each other—but their careful plan soon begins to unravel with unexpected consequences. 

    Fall in love.

    Get married.

    Turn to your female friends to be truly understood.

    Friends for over a decade, Amanda and Sophie decide it’s time to flip the script. Why not spend their lives with each other and keep men on the side for fun, sex, and occasionally fixing things around the house?

    Amanda is a lawyer who excels in her professional life but crumbles at the slightest sign of a common cold. Sophie is an aspiring artist who has lived all over the world and doesn’t crumble, period. Together, they’ve been through it all. But when their romantic lives implode at the same time, they decide enough is enough. Enough pretending that traditional relationships work for everyone. Enough fantasizing about an old-fashioned ideal.

    They decide to form an alliance: They will rely on each other and give men the secondary role that they deserve. And much to their surprise, it actually works. They fix up a run-down brownstone and create the home they’ve always wanted. Soon, they have love and emotional support as well as a wide variety of male “crushes” on the side. But when one of their crushes becomes something more, Amanda and Sophie must reconsider the life they’ve begun to build and how far they’re willing to go to keep it.

    In this brilliantly funny novel, Leslie Cohen asks: must friendship always be second to love? This is female friendship at its finest. Smart. Witty. And no holds barred.

    Review

    Two best friends done with looking for the perfect man, buy a DIY brownstone to create a life together – with men only on the periphery.

    The premise of this book was so unique in how intentional Amanda and Sophie were about the next steps in their lives. I appreciated that there wasn’t any angst or waffling in the beginning. They knew what they wanted.

    The characters were well-developed and interesting without being annoying or overly quirky. I loved the detail around Sophie’s creation of her artwork – the author either has a background in art or did some fantastic research.

    The writing was sharp and the banter was witty with several laugh out loud moments. The alternating points of view were at times difficult to follow but certainly were not a deal breaker for me.

    This was a fun book to read over a weekend after a few heavy reads. I won’t spoil the ending but it strikes the perfect balance of tension and resolution at the end.

    This was a solid ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5 for me. This book is available now!

    Thanks to William Morrow for the gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

     

  • Book Reviews,  Writing

    Book Review: Boss Up!

    Title: Boss Up!

    Author: Lindsay Teague Moreno

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson

    Pages: 233

    Genre: Entrepreneurship/Business

    Release Date: 8/6/2019

    Synopsis

    Boss Up! will help you put your business on the map and the ideas you’ve previously only dreamed about into the marketplace. It will help you overcome your fears and guilt to find a fulfillment that changes you and your families for the better. And it will help you break free of the hard and boring and allow you to have fun along the way.

    In Boss Up! Lindsay helps you gain the confidence to know that having ambition doesn’t make you a bad mother or wife. That it’s okay to have a desire for something more than endless sippy cups, clean-ups, Band-Aids, and groundings. That no matter your education or experience, you can tap into your passions and create businesses that give you increased flexibility, fulfillment, and financial security.

    And Lindsay doesn’t just do this through commiserating but, instead, through giving you the tools for change. Using the lessons she learned on her own path to success, Lindsay shares real, solid business principles with ten distinct success philosophies that you will encounter on the journey to entrepreneurship, such as:

    • Think Long Term
    • Be Unapologetically Yourself
    • Use the Unsales Tactic
    • Understand Your Why
    • and many more

    Stay-at-home mom turned multimillion-dollar-producing business owner Lindsay Teague Moreno doesn’t just have a passion for entrepreneurship. She has a deep passion for helping women of all walks of life gain the confidence and skills to tap into their ambition and achieve success in their own business endeavors.

    Boss Up Ain’t Your Momma’s Business Book

    Review

    We live in a gig economy. It’s not unusual for someone to have a side-hustle in addition to their day job.

    I have one myself as a mom and a freelance writer. I work with many entrepreneurs – some successful and some that simply flounder.

    I was excited about the opportunity to read and review this book, primarily because I wanted to see how the author approached entrepreneurship. Because if you’re like me, you’ve run into more than one friend from high school who sends you a friend request and then wants to tell you about an amazing “opportunity”.

    That approach is tired, it often financially harms people who buy inventory, and many are built upon lies of success. So when this book began with the author starting with an MLM, I was almost out.

    But I stuck around and I’m glad I did.

    This book is part workbook and takes people through a blueprint for discovering their strengths, their desires, and what they are passionate about – those are the things the business is then built upon.

    I can get on board with that.

    She also gets into the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur and I appreciated that because it’s a common source of confusion. There is planning involved for both paths but they are different.

    This book is also practical. It discusses identifying your target market, standing out amongst the competition, and discovering what sets you apart and how to leverage these positions. It also speaks to how to set up a business – something I am continually amazed by when working with business owners who operate out of their personal checking accounts.

    Boss Up! closes with the creation of goals that you won’t quit on – something vital to the long term success of a business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched entrepreneurs wander from opportunity to opportunity because they haven’t been provided with a practical roadmap like this book.

    If you are a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or an individual trying to find your place in your target market – then this book is for you.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours, Thomas Nelson and W Publishing Group for the gifted copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

     

     

  • Writing

    The Book vs. The Author

    You read the blurb, you see a few reviews on Instagram or Goodreads, and you settle in to read your new book.

    But what happens when the talented individual behind the writing turns out to be a terrible human?

    A.J. Finn

    I recently had the opportunity to participate in an advanced screening of the trailer for The Woman in The Window by the infamous A.J. Finn.

    Included with this opportunity was a live Q&A with some of the actors. And they are heavy hitters – Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason-Leigh… you get the point. It should be an excellent adaptation of a great book.

    But there’s just one problem: the author has done terrible things. A.J. Finn appears to have lied about so many things in his personal life that he can’t even keep those straight. And I have no doubt that he has a serious mental illness, or two.

    His behavior is frequently blamed on his mental health. And while it’s another extreme, the violence so prevalent in our society is also blamed on mental illness.

    More on mental health in a moment because it shouldn’t be the scapegoat here.

    J.K. Rowling

    Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that Rowling has made multiple problematic and transphobic statements. When confronted, she doubled down.

    She made a conscious choice to take that stance. It cannot be blamed on mental health – she is simply an intolerant, transphobic, narrow-minded person.

    So what about the books?

    Do we look past the problematic authors in favor of the art? Or do we throw our Harry Potter books in the trash?

    For centuries reader have devoured books by authors without knowing much much about their backgrounds. There was even a time when a reader didn’t even know the gender of the author.

    The art prevailed.

    At least until a later time when truly problematic behaviors were unearthed.

    So what’s next?

    J.K. Rowling is making a conscious choice to be transphobic. She has been given opportunities to make things right – because really, there’s no room for hate – and she has chosen otherwise.

    Books in the trash.

    A.J. Finn has major personal issues, serious mental health issues, and a terrible reputation that is bypassed because of talent.

    Art prevails.

    I’m aware that there are other questions about his work but there’s too much to cover here. The New York Times has an excellent article that dissects every part of his story.

    Mental Health

    In America, we love to blame mental health on bad decisions, tragic events, and horrific behavior. But that’s all we do because it’s the easy target.

    Do we make mental healthcare accessible to everyone?

    Absolutely not.

    It’s a mechanism of sensationalism in both fiction and real life.

    So why would we want to tackle the issue head on?

    It runs the media, it sells books and tickets to movies, and quite honestly it’s a sick fascination.

    The book vs. the author

    If an author’s words and actions are harmful to a group of people – I’m out.

    If an author’s words and actions are harmful and self-destructive towards themselves, then you can bet that I will be advocating for access to mental healthcare.

    That makes far more sense instead of making it a sensational headline and a reason to blame bad behavior.

    Sorry to the media and the rubberneckers – focus your efforts on access to care instead of questioning if a book should be published or movie should be made.

    Let the art prevail and create access to mental health care for all.

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