Book Club: The New Wilderness

I am a little disappointed in myself this month.  I had been doing really well reading multiple books a month for the last few months, and then I blew it for September.  I only managed to read our one book club book this month.  I honestly don’t know what happened.  I just stopped reading once I finished that book and didn’t even attempt to start another one.  Anyway, I have to get back on track for October for sure! Reading is my escape, and I need it for my sanity. 

Let’s dive into my September pick, The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.  I was actually excited about this book when I chose it.  It gave me that Hunger Games/Divergent Series type vibe when I read the description and reviews.  I thought the concept of the story had a really good chance of being right up there with those two popular series.  However, I was left very underwhelmed.    I think there was so much potential to be a great storyline, but it certainly didn’t live up to that potential.  I was left wanting so much more.  I don’t feel like the characters were developed well, and I thought a lot was left out.  It left me filling like I had to fill in the blanks with my own imagination for much of the story.  It also skipped around a lot which meant that some parts weren’t every fully developed in my mind.  There were parts that I liked, but overall, I thought it was a big letdown.  I always hate when I have to say that I didn’t love a book, but I have to be honest with you all.  This one wasn’t all that I wanted it to be or anywhere near to what it could be. I just feel like there was so much wasted potential.

This story takes place sometime in the future after years of pollution, development, and over-population had not only destroyed the planet but also made children and other individuals very sick.  There was only one area of the world that was untouched by humans. It was called the Wilderness State and was to become the sight of a lengthy experiment.  Twenty individuals were chosen to be the subjects of the experiment.  They were to be ripped from their lives in the dying city to be dropped in the middle of the Wilderness State to become the “Community.”  They were to live off the land without leaving any kind of footprint behind.  The environment was always to appear undisturbed. They had to hunt for food, use animal skins to make their clothes, and were unable to build any type of shelter or permanent structures.  They were not allowed to remain in one location for more than 7 days and were forced to check in with Rangers periodically for assessment.  Those check-ins were the only time they had any communication with the outside world as they were allowed to send and receive letters to love ones they had left behind. However, there was sometimes months or years in-between those letters and packages. It truly was a daily battle for survival for them out in the harsh wilderness. Three of those individuals that were part of the experiment were a family consisting of Glen, the soft-spoken brains behind the initial experiment, his sometimes aggressive wife Bea, and Bea’s daughter, Agnes, who was one of the children who had become very ill.  They, along with 17 other individuals embarked on the journey of living in the wild.  While Agnes’s life was saved when she was finally able to breath clean air, many others lost their lives while battling the elements.  Those people were eventually replaced by “Newcomers” from the city.   It was a story of mother/daughter relationships, survival, and extreme isolation that never quite reached its peak for me.  While it did hold my interest to some extent as I hoped it would improve, I just couldn’t shake the feeling of being let down by all that this book wasn’t. I almost wanted to rewrite it in my head as I was reading. I sadly would give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. 

Now, on to my pick for October.  I am going to switch it up a bit this month. While I know that summer is officially over and I may be a little late to the game, I decided to go with Jennifer Weiner’s newest New York Times Bestseller, Big Summer.  I can honestly say that I have never read a book by Jennifer Weiner despite knowing her popularity and large following.   Her genre of the more “chick lit” is not typically my first choice, but I thought I would give this one a chance as it has great reviews like so many of her other novels.  I like to read things that are outside of my usual bubble every now and then just for variety.  I am hoping this will be a welcomed change that will get me back on track for reading more books. Check out what Publisher’s Weekly has to say about this novel.

“Weiner’s story of a female friendship (after Mrs. Everything) mixes a splash of romance, a dash of humor, and a pinch of mystery to create a deliciously bloody poolside cocktail. Daphne Berg, a young woman struggling with her weight and self-esteem, has become “#fiercefatgirl,” a powerful plus-size media influencer with thousands of followers. Her world is turned upside down when an old high school frenemy comes looking for a favor. Drue Cavanaugh, a high-society darling, was everything Daphne wasn’t in high school: rich, gorgeous, and a mean girl to rival all mean girls. Back then, Daphne did anything she could to simply exist on the fringes of Drue’s world. Now, Drue is planning her splashy Cape Cod wedding to a reality TV star, and she wants Daphne to be her maid of honor amid her family’s infighting and doubts about the groom. Trouble has been brewing under the surface, and Daphne finds herself at Drue’s beck and call at a grotesquely ill-fated celebration that reveals the dark side of Dru’s seemingly perfect life. Weiner’s surprising tale is hard to put down.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

**This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Insecurities

I feel like people often view me as a strong, confident, independent woman; but that couldn’t be farther from reality.  Inside I am really just an insecure mess.  I’m always worried about something. I worry about what others think of me, about the way I look, and about the things I say and do. I am always tearing myself down in my head and second guessing everything I do.  I can certainly put on a good show outwardly so that you would never know what was going on in my brain at the same time. I guess maybe in some ways I am strong and independent, but that is because I have no other choice.  I have to keep it together for everyone else’s sake while crumbling inwardly.  No matter how strong I am, I am equally just as insecure.  Why is it that as women we feel like we have to hide our insecurities?  We all project this perfect life when it is often a lie.  I feel certain that the most secure and powerful women in the world have insecurities as well.  As a society we see insecurity as a weakness, so we just hide it and suffer through it alone. We don’t talk about how we feel about our bodies or about our worries about being a mom, wife, business woman, or whatever else we judge ourselves on.  We hold it all in until it manifests its way into anxiety and sometimes depression.  

More and more women are being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and are taking medications to help manage it.  While I have never been diagnosed, I am fairly certain that I have it as well.  There is nothing wrong with needing and asking for help, but we do need to ask ourselves why this has become such an issue with women in the first place.  What are we doing as a society that the cases of anxiety disorders are on the rise? Why are we allowing the pressures of the world to affect us so much? Yes, I put the pressure on myself to look and be perfect, but where did I get the idea that I needed to be that way in the first place? It’s because we’ve been programed not to show our weaknesses. We don’t talk about it…ever.  We put our best life on social media and hide the truth. The so called “perfect life” is on display for us 24/7, and we feel like we are failing when ours doesn’t look the same.  Those little snapshots don’t show the whole picture, though. Those filters don’t show who we really are, but that is what we put out for the world to see. We don’t show those insecurities.  Instead, we try to hide them.  It is something that we as women should talk about.  Think of how much better it would make you feel to know that those strong, powerful women you idolize felt the same way you do. Think of the power it would give you to know you aren’t alone! 

We also don’t believe it when others say something good about us. We don’t accept compliments.  My husband gave me a compliment last night and I laughed it off, rolled my eyes, and said “yeah right!” Instead of saying thank you and allowing myself to feel good, it made me think about all the negatives about myself.  We as women do this all the time.  We say, “Thank you, BUT…” and talk ourselves out of the compliment. We end up putting ourselves down either verbally or in our heads instead of letting the kind words sink in and warm our hearts.  We don’t allow ourselves to believe that anyone else could really believe those nice things about us.  We turn the compliment into destruction. I do it all the time. I honestly don’t know if I know how to truly accept a compliment. I let the compliment fuel my insecurities instead of taking it for what it really is.

Women have got to band together and put a stop to all of this and make a real change.  Having insecurities is not a sign of weakness, but there is a way to get past them.  We have to start by having real conversations with our friends, family, or spouse about our insecurities. This will make them not so taboo.  It will allow us all to see that we are normal for feeling the things we feel and maybe make the insecurities go away. Next, we have to stop only putting the good out for others to see.  Stop using filters. Show the real you. It’s ok to say that you had a rough day or that you are struggling with something. This will keep us all from having a skewed view of real life and real women. It will be actual proof that we aren’t alone. Then, start believing the good about yourself.  Allow a compliment to sit in your heart and fill it with joy. Don’t allow yourself to turn it into something it’s not. Take it in and feel it. Only then are you going to change the narrative in your head. Finally, give your self compliments. Speak positive affirmations to yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell your self boldly and proudly that you are beautiful, strong, and confident. The more you tell yourself that, the more you will come to believe it. It is the truth!

Let’s work together to empower each other and force that anxiety curve to plummet downward!

Anchored,

Fashion Finds: Amazon

You guys know that I am all about fall, and the fall weather is here! This weekend was amazing with the cooler temps, and I couldn’t be happier. It feels like heaven! Cue the sweaters and boots! I was just fooling around on Amazon yesterday and found myself adding some cute fall items to my cart.  Does anyone else do that? I do it all the time.  I am browsing online and start adding multiple things to my cart until the bill climbs to be a ridiculous number.  Of course, I am not going to checkout with all that in there.  When I am done browsing, I will go through my cart and attempt to narrow things down.  I will click to save some things for later, delete some, and occasionally check out with a few items.  More often than not, though, I never pull the trigger to buy.  I don’t know why I do it because I know that I’m probably not going to buy it.  After all, money doesn’t grow on trees, right? Anyway, I thought I would share some of the adorable things that are currently either still sitting in my cart or that I have added to a wish list for the future. They all have great reviews, too! How cozy do all of these look?

Striped Pullover Sweater/Heart Pullover Sweater/Leopard Print Knitted Sweater

Turtleneck Asymmetrical Tunic Sweater/Chunky Knitted Turtleneck Sweater

Oversized Popcorn Boyfriend Cardigan/Striped Color Block Cardigan/Buffalo Plaid Wrap

Fall Graphic T-Shirt/Long Sleeve Pullover Tunic/Long Sleeve Crew Neck T-Shirt/Color Block Cutout Sweatshirt

Multi-Star Hoodie/Sherpa Pullover Sweatshirt

Happy shopping!

Anchored,

*This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

FRiday Favorites: Project Repat

It has been 20 years since I graduated from college.  Yes, I am old! I went to a small women’s college nestled near the North Georgia mountains that I loved so very much.  It was the perfect school for me.  It was just far enough away from home that I got away from my little hometown, but it wasn’t too far away that I couldn’t easily go home to visit on the weekends.  It was also the perfect size school for this shy, innocent teen at the time.  I loved every minute of my 4 years there.  Even though I hadn’t planned to, I joined a sorority and met the most incredible women who I have bene lucky enough to call friends. While I was there, I collected a plethora of t-shirts as I think most college students do, and I have hung onto (or at least my mom hung onto) them for the last 20 years with the intent of one day creating a quilt out of them to capture all my memories.  At one point my mom was going to try to do it, but she really didn’t have the time or know how.  Then she was going to have a friend to do it, but life always got in the way and it just never happened.  Of course, it got brought up every now and then over the years that we really needed to do something with the shirts or get rid of them.  Well, it may have taken 20 years, but I finally was able to get it done! My mom ended up getting my sister and me gift cards to Project Repat for Christmas to cover the cost of a full-sized quilt.  It then took another 6 months before I got my act together and mailed in all my shirts, but I finally did it, and I couldn’t be happier that it is finally done.  

The gift card was for a full-sized quilt which allowed for 30 shirts in 12X12 squares.  My first chore was to go through all of my shirts and select the 30 I wanted to use.  That was not as easy of a task as you might think.  There were some of my sorority letters that I decided to keep in the hopes that maybe one of my girls will pledge the same sorority one day.  Wishful thinking, I know!  Anyway, once I had selected my 30 shirts and chose the color backing that I wanted them to add to the quilt (I chose grey), the instructions were to cut the shirts so that just the side you wanted shown on the quilt was mailed in.  They had a video to watch that showed you how to cut them, and it was super easy to follow.  My fingers did get a little sore after cutting up 30 shirts, and it was a little heartbreaking to cut them into pieces.  I had to keep telling myself that it would be worth it in the end.  Next, I packaged them up and mailed them in, which was a little nerve wracking.  I was terrified that they would get lost in the mail.  In fact, they did end up taking a few detours along the way, and I thought they might be lost forever.  Thankfully, they eventually showed up in the right location.   I did end up paying an extra $20 over my gift card in order to make the square size a little larger (14×14) to allow me to use some shirts that had a larger design. I didn’t want anything to get cut off.   There was one shirt that got a little off center and got cut off a bit, but I will forgive them for that because the rest of it is so amazing! It took around 3 weeks to get the quilt back once it arrived at their facility.  I cannot tell you how much I love the end product.  It is exactly what I wanted and is now one of my all-time favorite things. 

I highly recommend Project Repat if you have a collection of shirts you want to keep. It is certainly a cool way to hold on to those memories.  I don’t think they are very expensive, and they offer sales and discounts throughout the year so it is a very affordable option if you are unable to sew it yourself.   I have actually been saving all of my daughters’ gymnastics and cheer shirts for all these years to do the same for them when they graduate from high school.  I thought it would be a neat thing they could take to college with them.  Anyway, I am totally in love with my quilt and I know that I am going to be curling up with it for years to come. 

Anchored,

Time for a Break

I love my children with my whole heart. In fact, they are a large part of the reason that I am no longer teaching.  For so many years I had given my heart and soul to my students to the detriment of my family.  I’m sad to say that they always got the stressed out, worn down mom and were often put on the back burner. I finally realized that it was time to give my heart and soul to my family, and that required me to walk away from the classroom.  I just didn’t have the capacity to do be a good teacher and a good mom at the same time.  It truly has turned out to be an unexpected blessing.  No, it hasn’t been easy giving up that second income and relying solely on my husband’s income and I really miss my students, but there have been far more rewards that have made it all worth it.  I have always had a close relationship with my oldest daughter.  She is a lot like me in many ways, and I just get her (for the most part).  Our relationship has only grown stronger since I stopped teaching.  I love that she feels comfortable talking to me about important things.  On the other hand, my youngest and I have butted heads majorly for most of her life.  She and I are like oil and water, and she has blamed me for every single thing that has ever gone wrong in her life.  She is the kid that would argue with me just for the sake of arguing over whether or not the sky was blue. For many years, our relationship was quite combative.  She would yell at me and I would yell right back. That was basically the only way we communicated.  Over the last couple of years, I have really worked to repair our relationship and learn how to best communicate with her.  Thankfully, we have done a 180 and get along so much better.  I think she actually likes me now!  I truly love the relationships I have built with both of them now that I devote the majority of my time to them.  

Again, I love my children. I really do! However, I NEED A BREAK FROM MY CHILDREN! Yes, that is really what this post is all about, and I am totally not kidding.  Being secluded with them for the past 6/7 months has been A LOT. It was great at first.  We got to spend time together and actually talk to each other instead of running from one thing to the next never really having time to even see each other much less talk to each other.  Now, however, they are just bored out of their minds, and they come out of their rooms and just sit and talk NONSTOP, mostly about nothing important at all! They even follow me from room to room not even coming up for air.  They both have ADHD and talk super fast anyway.  When they aren’t doing anything to burn off all that excess energy, they instead talk.  They talk and talk and talk, and they do not recognize my cues that I am either busy or not listening at all.   They are completely oblivious. They just continue to talk about nonsense.  It seems to have amplified with the start of school, too. They hold it all in while they stare at their computers.  Then at the first break in their day, they just explode.  For example, my oldest just came down because it is her lunch break.  She went on a 10 minute spiel about the new update on her phone. I had to remind her multiple times that she needed to be eating her lunch instead of talking to me.

Each kid as a different show that they like to watch with me. I DVR it and then we watch it in the next day or two. In theory, this is a good thing. They still want to spend time with their mama which should make me happy, right? WRONG! I cannot stand watching T.V. or movies with them because they do not stop talking through the entire show.  I can’t pay attention or even hear what is going on in the show because of all the talking and questions about every little thing. If they would just be quiet and listen, they would know what was going on.  IT DRIVES ME NUTS!  I honestly can’t imagine living inside their heads.  Their brains work so different from mine and it seems to be running 90 miles a minute, and I just can’t keep up.  Half the time, they talk so fast that I can’t understand them.  Sometimes I can’t even follow the conversation because they jump all over the place and it just doesn’t make sense to me.  I know that is part of living with ADHD, but wow! Sometimes it is overwhelming.  I guess I should be thankful that they can at least hold it together for school.

I know that I just said at the beginning that I love that they talk to me, but I don’t have to love it 24/7, do I?  Sometimes, I just need a break.  I need an escape every now and then.  When we are stuck in the house together for 90% of the time, I just get a little stir-crazy and need some time away.  They really need to go back to school!!  They need someone else to talk to besides me.  I think all moms feel that way sometimes.  It doesn’t mean we are bad moms and don’t love our kids.  It just means that we are human, and we need to take time for ourselves to recharge (or our ears to stop ringing).   I told my husband on Saturday that I needed a mommy break, and he kind of laughed and told me that I should enjoy it while it lasts.  He says one day I will want these days back.  I know he is probably right.  It’s easier for him to say that because he isn’t here getting the brunt of it all day, everyday. I just really like quiet time, and I’m not getting much of it lately. I need it to be quiet in order for me to think and be productive. That is the difference in my brain and theirs.  They need constant noise, and I can’t operate with noise. 

I’m going to say this a third time…I love my kids.  I love being their mom.  I love their unique personalities.  I just need a break sometimes, and right now is one of those times! Seriously, can I just walk around with noise canceling headphones?

Anchored,

Fall Target Style

Leaves are starting to turn, the temperature is dropping, and I am in heaven! I know it isn’t officially fall yet, but, in my book, fall is here! It is my most favorite time of the year.  Beautifully golden leaves, pumpkins, cozy sweaters, jeans, boots, warm jewel tones, plaid, the start of school…I love it all! I especially love fall clothes.  I may even have a slight obsession with sweaters, boots, and jackets.  I can’t help it.  I just love how cozy they make me feel.  To get all of you in the fall mood (I’m already there!), I have chosen some of my favorites from Target’s new fall releases.  Some of these are just too cute to pass up.  I actually had to limit myself or this post would go on forever.  I left off shoes and jackets for now.  However, if you love those two things like I do, I highly recommend checking them out on Target’s website because there are some adorable ones available right now, and I don’t think they will stay in stock for long.  

Dresses

Mixed Print Short Sleeve Dress/Floral Print Long Sleeve Babydoll Dress/Long Sleeve Tiered Dress/Short Sleeve Waffle Knit Babydoll Dress/Puff Long Sleeve Sweatshirt Dress/Long Sleeve Babydoll Dress

Tops

Long Sleeve Lace Detail Knit Top/Ribbed Long Sleeve Knit Top/Puff Long Sleeve Blouse/Striped Bishop ¾ Sleeve Blouse/Long Sleeve Waffle T-Shirt/Animal Print Cami

Bottoms

Mid-Rise No Gap Waist Twill Skinny Pants/High-Rise Corduroy Skinny Jeans/Alligator Pattern Faux Leather Pencil Midi Skirt/High Rise Wide Leg Pants/Super High-Rise Skinny Jeans/High-Rise Full Skinny Jeans

Loungewear

Cropped Hoodie/Animal Print Pajama Set/French Terry Crewneck Pullover/Buffalo Check Cozy Pajama Set/Tie-Dye Lounge Joggers/Tie-Dye Lounge Sweatshirt

Seriously, how cute are these? Fall style is definitely in the air!!! I think I NEED that faux alligator skirt and lace detail top! I may or may not have just added them to my cart. <wink, wink>

Anchored,

**This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Time to Get Crafting

I am a crafter by nature or maybe genetics as my mom is also a crafter. I think maybe part of it is the teacher in my too.  I love making things and being creative.  I am one of those people that will see something cute and think, “I can make that.”  Instead of just simply buying it, I either then kill myself to recreate it or buy all the supplies to make it and never follow through.  This is why there is an entire wall in my office of shelves that are full of crafting materials and unfinished projects.  It isn’t that I don’t have full intentions of completing them.  It is that for so many years, my life was so crazy that I never really had the time to devote to finishing things that were for fun, so they kept getting put to the side.  Now that I have some more time on my hands, I have gotten around to a few projects like the new wreath for my front door that I am totally in love with.  (I won’t even tell you how many unfinished wreaths/door decorations I have just waiting to be done.  Let’s just say it is an outlandish number.)  It is usually the projects for my house or for me personally that never get done.  Things that I do for others are much more likely to be finished. That usually means that it is either a gift with a deadline or I am being paid to create it.  No, I don’t have a crafting business to add to my long resume of job titles, but I have been known to create things for family and friends for a small fee.  I’m not really good at charging people, so I typically only charge whatever it cost me to make it. I know…that isn’t good business, but it is what it is. 

While we were in South Carolina last week, I decided to embark on a new crafting/home improvement project.  Since we bought and moved into our house a little over a year ago, we have had the same Roman shades in the living room that came with the house.  We have 4 windows that have an arch at the top, so these shades had to have been custom made.  Traditional Roman shades don’t work with the arch so I have been searching for a similar shade that would work with the windows to replace these since they do not match the rest of my décor.  That task has proved very difficult and has been a source of much angst.  I found people that could custom make them for me, but they were going to cost me a fortune.  I finally decided that I was going to attempt to make them myself.  Keep in mind that although I am a crafter, I do not sew or own a sewing machine.  My one attempt to make curtains using my mom’s sewing machine years ago was a total disaster, and my grandmother ended up taking them apart and remade them.  I don’t know why sewing is difficult for me, but I could barely figure out how to operate the sewing machine much less than sew a straight line.  How is it that I am going to make Roman shades without sewing them you ask? Well, I am going to attempt to use that iron on tape (stitch witchery) in place of stitching.  I may be totally kidding myself in thinking that I can make this work, but I have to try. 

My task while in SC was to get my mom to help me find all the materials that I need to make the shades including fabric. Well, finding a fabric that I liked, that would work for the project, and that had enough yards in stock proved to be quite difficult. I needed a fabric that was a little stiffer to make it work.  My windows are basically floor to ceiling, so I needed more yards than any fabric store had in stock.  Every time I found a material I liked, we quickly discovered there wasn’t enough.  My mom later had the genius idea to look at regular curtain panels that I could convert to the shades.  The task then was to find a curtain that I liked that had 4 panels in stock.  This was much harder than anticipated.  I guess many places are low on inventory due to COVID production delays.  Anyway, after two days of looking, I finally found something that I like that I hope will work.  The fabric isn’t as stiff as I would like it to be, but I am hoping it will still work.  I may spray a ton of starch on it to see if that helps.  Now, I believe I have all of the pieces and parts that I need to get started.  I think my biggest task will be cutting the length of the panels to the right width.  I am not sure I will be able to cut it in a straight, even line.  At this point, though, I am not sure I care how it looks as long as it matches.  I seriously have not wanted people to come in my house for the past year because of the totally nonmatching shades. 

I seriously don’t know why I do these things to myself when I know it is going to totally stress me out! Actually, yes I do.  I would much rather kill myself trying to make them for around $150 than to pay someone else $1000 to do it for me. Can I really make shades without sewing??? Stay tuned to see the fruits of my labor.  It could be a masterpiece or an utter failure.  It may take me a whole year (or two) to get it done, though, so don’t hold your breath.

Anchored,

Patience, Grace, and Prayer

I have been MIA for a little bit because we made a last-minute decision to head to South Carolina to visit family one more time before the crazy life of virtual school and cheer begins. We practiced a little social distancing but got to see everyone at least for a little bit.  I do have to admit that social distancing in South Carolina vs. social distancing where we live is night and day.  At home, you rarely see anyone without a mask, and stores and restaurants are fairly empty.   Down there, people were hanging out together in groups, not wearing masks, and stores and restaurants were crowded.  Schools had been in session for a couple of weeks and were in person.  We started school here today, and it is 100% virtual.  It’s just a totally different mentality, I guess.  It makes it hard to know which way is the right way.   Despite the differences, we had a great time and were hopefully cautious enough. I despise the long drive to and from every time, but it was worth it to get to spend time with the ones we love.  My one regret was that I didn’t take a single picture! I guess that means I was just living in the moment.

As I mentioned, school started for my girls today.  It is certainly not a normal first day of school by any stretch of the imagination with school being 100% virtual for the foreseeable future.  I did make them get up early and get dressed despite the grumbles I got.  We shall see how long that lasts.  I also made them go on the porch for a first day of school picture, which they said was pointless and dumb.  Then, I was forbidden to take a picture of them at their computers!! Got to love this age! I mean, I have to get at least one, right? I have to post them along with just about everyone else I know today, right?  No, they weren’t in their usual cute first day of school outfits, but it is still a momentous day. It is hard to believe that I have a junior and a 7th grader.  Where has the time gone? I have no idea how long virtual school will last or if or when things will ever get back to normal.  I just pray that my oldest child’s last 2 years of high school aren’t ruined because of this virus.  I really do hope that they will be able to go back to school and enjoy the traditions and rights of passage that come with these last few years of school.  I do like the fact, though, that I didn’t have to do any back to school shopping this year.  We didn’t buy new school supplies as my “school supply collection” from overbuying during my 17 years of teaching provided the majority of things they needed.  I haven’t bought them new clothes in a while either because they have been barely getting dressed for months.  I figure at some point we will need to do some clothes shopping. Maybe for Christmas???

I know that this school year isn’t like anyone wants or cares for, but it is the card we have been dealt.  We might as well make the best of whatever our situation may be. My heart is with teachers all over the country, whether it is their first day or 15th day.  I can’t imagine the stress you are all under. While I am not in the trenches with you anymore, I know that your hearts are hurting for your students and that you are giving it every ounce of energy you’ve got trying to meet the needs of every student.  Give yourself some grace and try to remember to spend a little time on you in the midst of it all. Trust me, I know that is easier said than done, but it is important.  I was never good at that and it is part of why I am no longer teaching.  I don’t want you to burn out like I did.  You’ve got this and you will get through it.  Who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be your best year yet! No matter what, you are all deserving of Teacher of the Year this year! 

Parents, I encourage you to also give yourself grace. I know this is hard for you too.  I know you are juggling a million different hats, and you are stressed to the max.  You can do it too. When you are frustrated or discouraged, take some time to walk away, take some deep breaths, and then jump right back in with a smile on your face.  You’ve got this! I also need you to give grace to all the teachers working overtime to meet the needs of your child.  It isn’t their fault that the technology is not working.  It isn’t their fault we are in this situation.  They are just doing their best. The only way to get through this is together…you, your child, and your child’s teachers. You have to support each other or we will never make it over this mountain before us. We are all in this together.

This year isn’t going to be easy for anyone, but we can get through it together with a little bit of patience, grace, and a whole lot of prayer.  We can do it! 

Anchored,

Shop with Purpose

Over the past couple of years, I have really become more and more aware of the tragedy that is fashion in the world and what a negative impact it has on both the environment and on the people that create it.  I have really tried to seek out socially conscious, ethical brands that are taking a stand and are trying to change the fashion industry as a whole.  Does that mean that I only shop with socially conscious brands? No, I don’t, but I am trying to do better by doing my research and buying better.   Sometimes that means that I have to spend more than I like to, but it makes me proud knowing that I am shopping with a purpose. Whether that is through fair trade, through brands that think about the environmental footprint their products leave, or even brands that give back, I want to do better. Below are some of my favorite ethical/sustainable fashion brands.  I encourage you to think about what you are buying and do your research about brands to see which ones are making a real difference.    

SAVE LANDS

Save Lands is a socially conscious brand that plants 12 trees for every item they sell to help fight pollution and preserve the environment.   

Better World Long Sleeve Tee/Let It Be Hoodie/Bee Happy Cotton Candy Tie Dye Hoodie

REFORMATION

Reformation’s design mission is to make effortless silhouettes that celebrate the feminine figure by sourcing the beautiful, sustainable fabrics to bring those designs to life quickly. 

Marla Zip Sweatshirt/High & Skinny Jean

EVERLANE

The Organic Cotton Crewneck Sweater/The Organic Cotton Long-Sleeve Crew/The Texture Cotton Cardigan/The Modern Breton Tee/The Forever Sneaker

PASSION LILIE

Passion Lilie is a fair trade and eco-friendly apparel brand with a mission to empower artisans in India by creating dignified employment opportunities. They are also committed to using eco-friendly materials throughout the supply chain and preserving the artistic and cultural talents of their artisans.

Navy Stars Midi Skirt/Odin Midi Skirt

THE MUSTARD SEED MARKETPLACE

The Mustard Seed Marketplace is a new store that I found and love.  They believe that your purchases can make an impact on the world. They are committed to fight against human trafficking, keep families together, and help artisans around the world to thrive. 

Empire Dress-Navy/Long Sleeve Tee-Cayenne/Open Cardi-Riverside/World Changer Tee/Peplum Top-Checkmate

ABLE

Able is an ethical fashion brand that is challenging the culture of the fashion industry by creating transformative opportunities for women to rise up out of poverty. They invest in and educate women so they can earn a sustainable income.  

Renuka Puff Sleeve Tee/Srishti Knot Front Dress/Sangeeta Mock Neck Dress/The Aracelly Skinny Jean

Next time you go to purchase something, think about who made it and under what conditions it was made. Think about the impact you are making on the Earth and on the humans who are working to create the things you wear. Can you proudly stand behind it? Choose to shop with a purpose!

Anchored,

Book Club: My Dark Vanessa

I was a totally book nerd this month and read 4 books! That’s a lot for one month for me.  I usually do good to get through one and maybe halfway through a second with my crazy schedule, so I am pretty proud of myself. It really boiled down to interest.  As you all know, I really love historical fiction, and I got stuck on a historical fiction series that I was really enjoying.  I wanted to finish all three books in the series before I started my book club pick for this month.  It was a series by Pam Jenoff, who also wrote The Orphan’s Tale, which was my book club pick last September.  I really enjoyed that book, so when I saw she had a series; I knew I had to read it.  It was initially a 2-book series, but then she released a prequel book to the series making it 3 books total.  I was uncertain whether or not to start with the prequel or start with book 1 as she wrote them.  I decided to go with the order in which she wrote them and read the prequel last, which I think was the right decision for me.  The books are entitled The Kommandant’s Girl (Book 1), The Diplomat’s Wife (Book 2), and The Ambassador’s Daughter (Book 0.5). If you are a fan of historical fiction, particularly books that take place during World War I and II, this is a great series.  I love that each book could also be a stand-alone title too.  While some characters overlap, each book has different main characters.  Anyway, I highly recommend this series as I really enjoyed all three books.

Now onto my actual pick for August, My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.  This was Russell’s debut novel, and it became an instant New York Times Best Seller.  I knew from the beginning that this pick might be a little controversial or at least make some people uncomfortable.  It is a sensitive topic.  Although not based on a true story, this novel seems like it has been ripped right from the news headlines of the past few years as part of the “Me Too” Movement.   I will admit that it was a little more graphic than I was comfortable with at times and hard to read at some points. I understand the need for it, though, to get the full scope of what was going on and a better understanding of the psychological aspect of it. The book should definitely come with a warning as the topic could trigger some very negative feelings for anyone that may have experienced something similar.  Having daughters near the ages of the main character at the time her abuse began really sent my mind into some dark places as fears about them began to creep in.  Just be aware of the sensitive and graphic nature of this book before you jump into it. 

This story rotates back and forth between the past and the present as a way to show how the events of the main character’s childhood trauma occurred and the impact that trauma left on her for years and years to come. As a self-conscious, naïve, 15-year-old student away at a boarding school, Vanessa had become a loaner after a fallout with her best friend and former roommate the previous year. This left her vulnerable to the eyes of her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane.  He prayed on her vulnerability, her curiosity, and her need to feel desired and wanted by another human being.  This was a classic case of grooming as he used her vulnerabilities and insecurities to make her feel like what they were doing was totally normal.  He played on her interests in poetry and literature by initially complimenting her on her writing and giving her provocative books to read that glorified adult/child intimate relationships.  He made her desire him in ways that never should occur at that age. He singled her out and made her feel special and desired.  Vanessa as an adult said, “to be groomed is to be loved and handled like a precious, delicate thing,” and that is exactly how he treated her.  He manipulated her into thinking it was all her fault that he was the way he was with her.  SHE was the one that chased after him.  SHE was the one that was willing.  SHE made it hard for him to resist. He told her, “I never would have done it if you weren’t so willing.” He also made it very clear to her what the consequences would be if she ever told anyone what they did together. He told her he would be ruined.  He said he would be fired, and she would get kicked out of school.  He told her he would end up in jail and she would end up in foster care.  He even told her she would never graduate or go to college.  Her response was always, “I’d die before I tell,” and she really meant it. The way he manipulated her psychologically was beyond comprehension for me.  It sickens me to think that things like this happen all the time in real life and that these men can get away with what they are doing to these children.  The ways in which he continued to manipulate her far into her adulthood was just incredible, and the hold he had on her was unreal.  It left her totally broken and damaged.  She was so messed up that she moved from job to job as an adult doing menial administrative work that had nothing to do with her degree or interests.  She coped by abusing drugs and alcohol and lived a life of misery with a skewed view of what a relationship should look like. It truly was a sad situation.

I do think this was a very well written story that really showed how easily children can be manipulated and taken advantage of.  The psychological aspect of it was truly fascinating to me and so well done by Russell.  I could really visualize how everything that Strane did and said to Vanessa affected her every thought and action.  He knew exactly what he was doing and every single thing he did was calculated.  It is an extremely hard topic and, as I said, could be very difficult for some people to read. It is hard for me to say that I would recommend this story to anyone because I do think there are people that likely shouldn’t read it.  I guess I would say that I recommend it with conditions.  You have to be well aware of what the story is about going into and be prepared for the graphic nature of some of it.  It is a very dark story.  I am glad that I read it, and I think that it gave me a lot to think about, especially when it comes to talking with my own daughters about sensitive things like this topic.  If you feel like you can handle this topic, I think it is a very well written story that truly captures what it is like for so many children who are taken advantage of and abused both physically and mentally. Just know that I warned you before you jump into it.

My next pick is, hopefully, a much lighter read.  For September, my choice is The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.  It is a story about a young girl who is slowly dying from the pollution of an over-populated city life.  Her mother is willing to do whatever it takes to save her and agrees to move to the Wilderness State, the only untouched, protected land where no one was allowed to inhabit until now. It is to be a sort of an experiment to see if they can survive in nature without destroying it.  Here is what Publishers Weekly had to say about this novel.

“In this wry, speculative debut novel (after the collection Man v. Nature), Cook envisions a crowded and polluted near future in which only one natural area remains, the Wilderness State. Twenty people volunteer for a government experiment in how humans fare in the wilderness. It’s been so long since anyone tried that no one remembers. Among the volunteers are Glen, ‘an important person’ at the university; his wife Bea; and Bea’s daughter, Agnes, and they, along with the others, collectively called “The Community,” learn to eke out a precarious existence hunting with bows and arrows, tanning animal hides, and negotiating dangerous terrain. As the years pass unmarked other than with Bea noticing a fourth annual appearance of violet blossoms, the volunteers gradually abandon their communities to the study, though they remain expected to obey rules enforced by Rangers, never stay in one place longer than seven days, never leave a trace as members die off. More waitlisted refugees, called Newcomers, arrive from the city, and Bea perseveres, driven by hope for Agnes’s future. Cook powerfully describes the Community members’ transformation from city folk to primal beings, as they become fierce, cunning, and relentless in their struggle for survival and freedom, such as when Bea faces off with a mother coyote. Cook’s unsettling, darkly humorous take explores maternal love and man’s disdain for nature with impressive results.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored,

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