A Book & A Show

Oh this is January, and what have you done?

I think I just spliced several different concepts, songs, quotes but we’re all good with that right? Right. Happy New Year everyone! Times they are a changing and it’s 2016 in the big town baby.

Wow, my brain is just one giant pop culture machine.

So, as you may have noticed I haven’t blogged in a while. There I said it. The old me would be obsessing over this fact, but obsessing is so yesterday people (thanks Hilary Duff). Also, as part of my job I have to blog for 4-7 other entities, post to a myriad of social media accounts as a ghost writer (spooky), and type until my little fingers chap (yum), but I know, I know…I should dutifully blog for the few folks who love books, television, traveling, more books, and general craziness.

Guess what, though? This blog is for you, yes, but it’s also for me. It’s a way for me to be bonkers and discuss the things that make me happy—the same things that I think might make you happy—and so I’m not going to apologize because enough women out there have apologized for lame reasons (I’m sorry for you bumping into me. I’m sorry for serving food that’s too hot. I’m sorry for being smarter than you.) so I’ll just refrain this time.

Whew, now that that’s over with, let’s get down to biz-naz.

Everyone loves talking about goals and resolutions and new beginnings in January. Not sure if you’ve noticed that…

Normally I love digging into a good cliche and tearing it to pieces through thinly veiled sarcasm and biting apathy but this time, you guessed it, I’ll refrain. I mean what’s wrong with trying to be better? What’s wrong with trying to push yourself to learn a new language, try a new workout, stop guzzling Diet Coke (too good, though, y’all.  Just…too good), or make an online dating profile (a personal nightmare of mine).  The new year is exciting and fresh so it’s kind of a no-brainer people would grab on to it with all of their might, even if that zest only lasts a month or so. 

There was my (second?) soapbox and now on to what you really want—recommendations. Let’s start the new year off on the right foot with some quality. We get enough trash already with the internet and television (even though, when one consumes trash willingly say, by binge watching Real Housewives…that’s, like, a whole other thing) so why not try out a few things with some substance?

The Book

After finishing this book I had that thick teary glob that gets stuck in the throat and kind of hurts but also kind of reminds you you’re alive. Anyone tracking with me?

When I get the glob, I know it’s a good book.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the real deal people. J. Ryan Stradal brings to life the food, the flair, and the people of America’s Midwest through weaving the lives of each character around the story’s protagonist—Eva Thorvald, a cooking savant.

Each character that is introduced is real and engrossing and their stories, although varied and unique, seem to somehow orbit cohesively around Eva and her cooking abilities. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy the book, though. The way Stradal shifts from lighthearted tales of young love to deeper situations like the death of a mother or divorce will keep you guessing and prevent you from feeling complacent.  Even though, if you’re a foodie, you’ll definitely enjoy the descriptions of every type of food from new age organic concoctions to homemade butter-laden “dessert bars” passed down from generation to generation. There are even recipes in the book!  Kitchens has a whole lot of heart and exhibits deep, beautiful knowledge of the unique Midwestern culture. It’s the perfect way to begin your reading journey for the new year.

The Show

I’m a self-proclaimed Netflix fangirl. Also, I adore Parks and Rec. So when Aziz Ansari came out with his show on Netflix called Master of None, I was sold. The show chronicles Dev (played by Ansari) and his dating experiences in New York.  It’s a whole lot more than “The Bachelor: New York Edition,” though.

Firstly, it’s not total garbage.

Secondly, it’s got range.  From what happens when everyone around you starts having kids, to dealing with racism and sexism, to trying to navigate how to live with someone, Master of None strikes the perfect balance of biting commentary and farce—the writers acknowledge that millennials are self-centered and insecure while creating endearing, hilarious characters you can’t help but love. Master‘s wit is biting and the stories are memorable which is basically what everyone is looking for in a television show.

So there you have it, a couple worthwhile things that can fill up your time without making you feel like a total sloth.

 

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A Rant and a Book Review

I’m back at it again, and because life is, well, life, I’m going to flip the script and rant a little bit. Everyone loves good old fashioned rant, right? It’s just, there’s something I’m so over.  I’m sick of it hanging around or trying to burst my perfectly normal life bubble. And here’s the deal, it’s something everyone struggles with at one point or another.

Nope, it’s not a Netflix obsession, though many strong men and women have fallen at the feet of this powerful entity.

It’s fear.

Let me set the stage a little. As part of my job I am required to stay up to date with current events.  I’m also heavily involved with social media.  Although this helps me tremendously in the doldrums of small talk or at fancy parties (Can you believe what *fill in the blank of a politician’s name* said? The Kardashians are truly taking over. Why yes, the stock market does suck right now.), I also find myself inundated with some truly horrible and heartbreaking news on an hour by hour (or with social media, on a minute by minute) basis. This is tough even for the most stable and formidable person, though, I’ve never really described myself as stable or formidable, so occasionally I find myself feeling a teensy bit overwhelmed.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Recently, a news anchor who was fed up with violence and bad news said he was going to only post positive things for an entire day.

 It’s odd that something like this is odd, but it is.

Fear is just the worst. I think one truly horrendous aspect of it, is its ability to morph into anything.  Fear of failure, fear of death (ironic, because it’s the only unavoidable aspect of life), fear of looking like an idiot, fear of dealing with idiots, fear that you’ll never see Gwen Stefani on tour, fear your children will grow up and hate you, fear your children will never grow up, and on and on.

I think in today’s society the inundation of information is sometimes good, but sometimes it’s very, very dangerous.

We’re expected to absorb so much information from so many different avenues in so many different forms (long form rants on Facebook, airbrushed photographs on Instagram, flashing red news headlines on Huff Post, 140 characters of horrifying but weirdly tantalizing stories on Twitter), it’s no wonder our levels of anxiety occasionally topple the scales.

I have found really fantastic ways to combat anxiety and fear–there is nothing a big bowl of carbs and/or mug of the blackest of coffee with a best lady friend can’t heal.  Meditation, my faith, exercise, and trashy celebrity magazines help tremendously, as well–but sometimes I feel like the kid from Matilda who had to eat all the chocolate cake even though it was an impossibly large cake (too much freaking cake)–overstuffed and nauseated.

But yesterday I bought one of my favorite author’s book so that’s something to smile about.

Rising-Strong

I’ve talked about Brene Brown before because, homegirl is a boss lady. She speaks truth like this without a thought:

The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.

*drops the mic and walks away*
She so eloquently speaks to the fear of vulnerability everyone carries. She also talks about shame, an ugly little demon that loves hanging around in our psyches. In her most recent book, Rising Strong, Brown delves head first into the crap of life. She unabashedly goes there. She talks about how we, as a society, love a story of triumph.  We love a good underdog tale where the hero overcomes an obstacle and ends up on top. We just don’t want to know all the muck she had to wade through to get there.
Ouch. 
We love hearing about the CEO that started at the bottom, but fought her way up the ladder, achieving all of her dreams to the soundtrack of “Go the Distance” from Hercules.  But we as a society aren’t exactly ready to hear about the 6 months she was unemployed and how her depression got so bad she couldn’t leave her house for 3 of those months.

Talking about the dark stuff is uncomfortable and shabby and weird. Why is that?

Just because we avoid discussing the dark times, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In fact, I think when we don’t talk about them they grow larger, stretch out their legs, and decide to stay a while. Our emotions are amazing, but if we let them rule us, they will oblige most enthusiastically.

I think speaking the darkness is the only real way to combat it. It’s the only real way we can show up. In her book, Brown gives great advice on finding ways to communicate struggle and show empathy to others.

Fear can also hinder us from taking chances. It whispers that we should live small, shut our beaks, and hope no one notices us.  This comes from a place of people pleasing and worry, but it’s no way to live. When we speak our stories, we’re leaning into fear (fun times, right?).  The leaning in is big, it can even be life changing, but you have to pull your head out of the sand and face whatever it is that’s waiting for you.

Here’s a hint: It’s probably not as bad as your mind’s making you believe. If it is as bad, or worse, then that’s when you turn to your core support group to hold space for you.

And because Tina Fey is a genius,

LOS ANGELES - JAN 27: Tina Fey arrives to the SAG Awards 2013 on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA

Follow your fear, which in improv usually leads to someone making you sing an improvised song or rap, which is the worst thing that can happen. But the larger thing is the notion that if something scares you a bit, it means that you should follow it a little bit.

Let’s get our improv rap on and face fear with defiance.

How do you deal with fear? Have you read any Brene Brown? What books inspire you? 

Lady Love: 2 Reasons Peggy Olson is the Cat’s Pajamas

Well hello there. We’re off to the races with another Lady Love post because we all need a little motivation during the summer months. Especially when some mornings, the alarm is your arch nemesis. Especially if you walked out of the house wearing two different shoes.

Adulting is tough, y’all.

So for those who have been snoozing beneath a rock or another heavy object, Peggy Olson is one of the main characters (the main character? Ah, now there’s an argument) on AMC’s uber popular show, Mad Men. The show’s about a glamorous advertising agency filled with exciting clients and unstoppable people brimming with business acumen…oh yeah and alcoholism, depression, addiction, infidelity, and egregious, never-ending sexism toward women each time they try and, you know, use their brains. Peggy Olson goes from a meek lil’ secretary to a BAMF copy editor with her own money, her own office, and her own set of lucrative clients…in the 1960s…when women were basically seen as shiny, skirted baby making housemaids without the capability of having ideas.

Wherever Peggy goes, the tunes of Destiny’s Child plays faintly in the background.

So because inspiration is good and showing some lady love is better, here are 2 reasons why copying my girl Pegs is a good idea.

She has Confidence

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Peggy knows what she’s worth. She understands her value and her talent and she doesn’t shy away or demur from her successes. This wasn’t really the case in the beginning of the show, but soon after taking a job as a secretary it becomes evident that Peggy has a good case of the believesinherself.

Even though we live in a time where women are kicking butt and taking names, I think it’s so easy to fall silent when someone asks “Who wrote this?” or “Who made this happen?” It’s so easy to strive for being liked.  Make no mistake, this happens with men, too, but it happens way more with ze lay-deez. As a lay-dee, I would know. Though being a total toolbag is not something for which I advocate, I think being likable will only get you so far.

Gasp.

This is such a difficult concept for a born again, recovering people pleaser, but the older I get the more I realize this.  Being liked is nice, it’s comfortable, and sometimes, it’s necessary. Heck, everyone wants to be liked! From childhood we are taught to make friends and play nice, but the kind of like-driven striving I’m vying against is the kind that comes at a price.  Because y’all, there’s a big difference between being liked and being respected. I think we owe it to the world to be kind and selfless; however, when we sell our souls and our futures at the altar of people pleasing (maybe a little dramatic?), the next thing you know you’ve forgotten who you are and what you’re worth in the process.  For example, you may be a super capable employee, but out of fear of standing out or showing off, you hide, you put your head down, you keep your mouth shut.

This is no bueno.

Peggy is a fabulous illustration of this because there are many times over the course of the show when her coworkers, friends, and family don’t really like her. Her family thinks she’s too wild, her coworkers think she’s too ambitious, her friends think she’s too busy, but when copy needs to be written you can bet they call Peggy. Peggy understands her worth; by season 7 she walks into her office with purpose and swagger. It’s her confidence that allows her to be seen, and then, respected…and then RICH. (muahahaha)

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She’s Willing to Change

cha-cha-changing

The Peggy from episode 1 of Mad Men is most definitely not the confident, talented Peggy at the end of the show.  Yes, the culture around Peggy shifts and moves, but Peggy changes, too. Her wide eyes grow harder, more astute, and through her experiences with Don Draper, Joan, Pete Campbell (what a twisted, perfect friendship) Sterling Cooper (then Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, then SCDP Cutler Gleason & Chaough, then SCDP and Partners…whew) she grows. Over the course of the show it’s evident that Peggy is a good person and that stays true, but she definitely transforms; there’s a very obvious arc to her character.

Peggy is open to change. She’s willing to see when she’s wrong, when she isn’t giving herself enough credit, when she trusts too much (or not enough) and she learns from it and adapts. Let’s not forget Peggy was the one who both (briefly!) doted on Don as his secretary and later became his rock, saving him with tough love and empathy on numerous occasions.  If she wasn’t willing to change, to see both Don and herself through a new lens, their relationship wouldn’t be what it was at the end of the show.

The show itself is obsessed with change. Changing identities, changing marriages, changing jobs, changing fashion (I die for the 70s fashion), and I think Peggy’s strength comes from that change. NPR agrees with me on this!

The show’s main fascination, of course, is change: whether it’s possible, what it does to people, and who pays the price for it. Holmes, NPR

In Mad Men, if you don’t change, you get left behind. We see this with Betty (poor, poor Betty) and Rodger, at times. Seeing Peggy successfully navigate life’s many shifts and shift with them is liberating. She chameleons her way to the top,and it’s awesome.  I mean the cigarette smoking, dirty painting wheeling, late for work Peggy that saunters into her new job is not the same little mouse that squeaked into Don’s office in episode one.

It’s kind of nice knowing I’m not expected to be exactly the same person for the rest of my life, because, you know, the shoe incident of 2015 was pretty embarrassing.

Photo Cred

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