Category Archives: Brainpower

On Believing and Being Believed

A few weeks ago, I posted a story in my mid-week round-up. It’s the first story in Carmen Maria Machado’s book Her Body and Other Parties, and it’s called The Husband Stitch. The story is Machado’s adaptation of the “the girl with the green ribbon,” a spooky story you may be familiar with (and still terrified by) thanks to Alvin Schwartz’s In a Dark, Dark Room.

Have you read it yet? You should.

(I’ll wait.)

Now you should go read Jane Dykema’s essay, “What I Don’t Tell My Students About ‘The Husband Stitch'” found HERE. Dykema explores the ways in which Machado’s story brings up questions about who we believe and why.

From the essay:

“Of all the stories I know about mothers, this is the most real,” Machado’s narrator begins, and goes on to tell a story of a mother and daughter traveling to Paris. The mother falls ill and the doctor sends the daughter to get medicine, a task which takes so long, a meandering cab ride, the doctor’s wife making pills out of powder, that when the daughter returns to the hotel she finds her mother gone, the walls of their room a different color, a hotel clerk who doesn’t remember them. Then the narrator says there are many endings to this story, one in which the daughter persists, stakes out the hotel and starts an affair with a laundryman in order to finally discover the truth: that her mother died from a highly contagious disease and in order to prevent widespread panic, the doctor, cab driver, his wife, and the hotel employees conspired to erase any trace of the mother and daughter’s existence there. Another ending to the story is that the daughter lives the rest of her life believing she’s crazy, “that she invented her mother and her life with her mother in her own diseased mind. The daughter stumbles from hotel to hotel, confused and grieving, though for whom she cannot say.” I would tell you the moral, the narrator says, but I think you already know.

We are taught to value simple, elegant truths. In science, philosophy, theology, and politics, we apply Occam’s razor, the idea that between competing hypotheses, the simplest one is the right one. That the daughter is crazy is a much simpler explanation than that a whole cast of characters conspired to hide her mother’s death and erase their existence, simpler than the introduction of a contagious disease, simpler than the construction and remodeling done to the room. And yet —

Dykema notes that when teaching the story, a woman will confess she cried while reading it and when asked why, she’ll reply she doesn’t know. I didn’t cry when I read The Husband Stitch, but I did when reading Dykema’s essay. Why? Because right now, we urgently need discussions about believing and being believed. Her words resonated and I hope you’ll read them…and then start a discussion of your own.

In class, I don’t say to my students, “Do you feel it, too? Or can you imagine it? The perils of living in a world made by a different gender? The justified and unjustified mistrust? The near-constant experience of being disbelieved, of learning to question your own sanity? How much more it hurts to be let down by ‘one of the good ones?’”

Instead, Dykema discusses the narrative tools her students can apply to their own writing. But outside the writing classroom — I’m ready to start asking.

Have you read a short story or article lately which sparked an important conversation? Would love to hear! 

(Image above is an illustration by Dirk Zimmer from In a Dark, Dark Room, a book which still haunts me to this day.)

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5 Ways to Incorporate Mantras in Your Daily Life

When we think about mantras it’s easy to imagine a pretzel-legged yogi, chanting in near-coma calm, a look of transcendence on their face. Maybe there’s a Tibetan singing bowl involved, maybe the lights are dimmed.

But what about those of us who need the power of positive thought so we don’t slam into a pedestrian in a fit of road rage on our commute? The folks who want to harness their affirmations so they nail an interview, not transcendence?

I think mantras have a place in OUR mouths, too!

Remember: A mantra has the power to drown out excess noise – like negative thoughts about traffic and bad interview results – to help you quell the accompanying emotions – such as rage and fear.

Often, the situations in which we experience the most excess noise are the very times we can’t commit to a 30-minute meditation practice. But we can still turn to a mantra to guide us through.

Here are a few ways to incorporate mantras in your daily life…

1. As you prepare for your day. Laying in bed after your alarm sounds is a great time to set an intention for your day. Then, you can repeat the intention throughout your morning routine to infuse the mantra in every step of your preparations, setting yourself up for greatness! As you brush your teeth, blow-dry your hair, prepare your coffee pot, and pull on your shoes–repeat your mantra. Try: Today, I will choose happiness. 

2. During your work out. Whether you’re rolling out your mat or lacing up your sneakers, there’s definitely an opportunity to infuse a little mindfulness in your fitness plan. Mantras can be a great motivator (even Nike uses “Just do it!”) but they can also serve as an opportunity to give thanks for the strength and power your body holds. Try: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

3. In quiet moments of solitude. Sometimes your mind needs a quick reset in the midst of a hectic day. When you stumble into a second of peace – kids finally napping, you’re alone in your office for the first time all day, or hey! a bathroom stall (I’m not judging!) – use the time to focus your thoughts in a way that will serve you. Try: Taking a long, hard look in the mirror reminds me of who’s boss. 

4. When negative thoughts creep in. We all have our negative thought triggers. Whether yours comes from road rage and interview stress like the examples above or perhaps as a result of fear of public speaking, a toxic relationship holding you back, or just reading the news each day, mantras are a powerful solution. Instead of trying to silence these thoughts (impossible!), use new thoughts in order to transcend them. Try: I am filled with positive actions.

5. Before you fall asleep. After a long day it’s nice to reflect on what you’re grateful for. Instead of the thought spiral that can lead to sleeplessness, identify those things which truly served you in positive ways today. Did you know the happiest people do this daily? Jump on board! Try: I am thankful for [fill in the blank!].

Will you try these out? How do YOU incorporate mantras in your daily life? 


In this multi-week series, #MantraMania, I’m going to lay the ground work for you to make mantras a part of your life. Here’s what you can expect from the series:

  1. Do you use mantras?
  2. How to Incorporate Mantras in Your Daily Life
  3. Revealed: People Share Favorite Mantras
  4. A 30 Day Mantra Challenge to Welcome Positivity, Productivity, and Self-Care (+ FREE activity guide)

My Birthday Book & Movie Haul

In case you can’t tell by the title of this post, I recently had a birthday! Just last week, in fact. I was blessed with some amazing gifts (like this beautiful bar cart from Chet and a huge box of Gilmore Girls themed coffee from my mom!).

But my favorite way to treat MYSELF for my birthday is to pick up whatever book(s) and movie(s) I feel like! Usually I’ll talk myself out of book and movie purchases because of a little thing called the library and another little thing called Netflix. On my birthday though? Well – I deserve it! 🙂

Here’s what I picked up:

Movies

Stephen King’s IT

Who doesn’t love watching a scary movie (or three or four) in October? I still really want to see the new version but I mean c’mon! So many famous faces in this one. Including, but not limited to, John-Boy from The Waltons sporting a rad early 90’s ponytail.

The Edge of Seventeen

This movie looked reminiscent of two of my favorite coming-of-age flicks – Cheaters and Juno…and the back cover likens it to a modern day The Breakfast Club (another fave!) – so I was all in. Plus, I love Woody Harrelson!

Books

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends On Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

Since I left the world of speech & debate, and no longer sit through tons of informative speeches every weekend, my annual dose of pop psychology has drastically diminished. This looked like an interesting and fun way to rectify the situation. I’m excited to dig in!

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998 so this book seemed like a good bet. 😉 The subject matter, a city hit by an epidemic of “white blindness,” reminded me a little bit of Station Eleven. Not to mention it won a ton of awards and received rave reviews! So, although it’s not a book I would normally gravitate to, I couldn’t resist.

Which of these interests you most? Have you bought any books or movies for yourself lately? I’d love to hear!

I have an idea…

When you see one of those flashing speed limit signs that tells you how fast you’re driving, even if you’re only going a notch over the ridiculously low speed limit, you slow down, right? You take your foot off the pedal. Start to coast for a few seconds until you’re a safe distance away. In fact, these signs are ridiculously effective.

Studies repeatedly show that when alerted by a radar sign, speeders WILL slow down up to 80% of the time. Typical average speed reductions are 10-20%, and overall compliance with the posted speed limit will increase by 30-60%.

Which got me thinking…could we harness the power of the radar speed sign for other applications? And then, *lightbulb* You see, try as I might to be mindful of my posture as I work at my desk. I fail. A lot. But what if I got a reminder to straighten my spine and not sit like a Notre Dame resident as I power through a project?

What if I saw a photo flash across my screen of someone displaying bad posture? And what if these photos kept coming in the form of intermittent pop-ups any time my desktop was on? Would my back grow taller? Shoulders loop? If the efficacy of those speed limit signs are any indication…my money’s on YES.

If this is already a thing please let me know! If not, I’m ready for it to become a thing. Alright Monday… LET’S DO THIS! (with as straight a spine as possible.)

Do you have any tips or tricks for better posture during computer work? I’m all ears. And if you take this idea and make a million dollars off of it, you’re welcome! 

(Photo via here.)

Do you use mantras?

Do you use mantras? I find them wildly helpful for setting intentions, practicing mindfulness, and chilling the eff out. Haha! In fact, I named this very blog to honor one of my favorite mantras of all time. FIND DELIGHT.

As you go about the tasks of your day, your mind is constantly popping in with new thoughts and ideas. And there are emotions that go along with these brain intruders. Sometimes a thought will bring up self-doubt, an idea will instill fear. A mantra has the power to drown out the excess noise, and to quell the accompanying emotions, by repeating something neutral or even empowering!

So why does it work?

“Put simply, it’s because it employs the thinking mind instead of trying to ignore it, silence it or subdue it. It uses thoughts to transcend thoughts, which is an extremely skillful method.” 

As I mentioned before, FIND DELIGHT, is one of my faves but I’ve used many others to help me focus my thoughts in a direction of my choosing. If you’ve never given mantras a try, I encourage you to do so! Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting more about mantras so check back if this sorta thing tickles your fancy or you’d like to learn more. Until then choose a chant that suits ya…

I AM STRONG.
I AM ABUNDANT.
I AM CONFIDENT.
I AM HAPPY.
I AM ALL I NEED.

BE BRAVE.
FIND DELIGHT.


In this multi-week series, #MantraMania, I’m going to lay the ground work for you to make mantras a part of your life. Here’s what you can expect from the series:

  1. Do you use mantras?
  2. How to Incorporate Mantras in Your Daily Life
  3. Revealed: People Share Favorite Mantras
  4. A 30 Day Mantra Challenge to Welcome Positivity, Productivity, and Self-Care (+ FREE activity guide)

What books would you paint on a staircase?

Here’s a fun thought experiment for your Tuesday…

Recently, my mom texted me the picture above and asked, “If you were going to paint a 13-step staircase in your home, what books would YOU include?” 

After great and labored consideration, here is my list (although I feel like it could change tomorrow–or maybe even in 10 minutes!):

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Christy by Catherine Marshall
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Which 13 books would YOU choose??? Please indulge me and leave your answers below. I so love finding out what books resonate with people (especially enough that they would paint the spines of said books on their staircase!!).

*Photo and idea found here.

What are you reading this summer?

reading summer travel

Everyone loves a good beach read, right? (I certainly do!) There always seem to be a few that get a ton of buzz during the season. For example, I keep seeing Into the Water and A Window Opens pop up on beach-y Instagram posts. And several people have told me they’re packing The Marriage of Opposites as a road-trip read. But there are so many great options out there! What about the beach reads that go unnoticed? Not everyone reads what everyone reads…if you know what I mean.

So, I’d love to know, what are you reading this summer? Is it an Instagrammable title or a little more off the wall? I just finished The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser…and while it might not be everyone’s beach read cup of tea, it is certainly mine. I couldn’t. put it. down. And to me, that’s the mark of a truly perfect beach read.

P.S. I’m off to Kentucky on Wednesday and still can’t decide what book(s) to pack. I was planning to read Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan next but that seems a little intense for travel. Decisions, decisions!

Beth’s Reading List – Too Many Books, Never Enough Time

50 books from my reading list

I’ve always been a reader. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book going (and sometimes 2, 3, or 4). If I find myself bored, and there’s a book around; it doesn’t matter what the book is about, I’ll probably pick it up and start reading. Why not?

Which is all to say, I’m not very discriminating when it comes to literary tastes. Novel, non-fiction, memoir. Give me one of each please and keep ’em comin’!

So, I guess it should come as no surprise that I have a rather VAST reading list. Around five years ago, I started keeping track of every book I read or heard about that sounded remotely interesting and recording each title personally recommended to me. As I’m a fan of so many types of books, and find myself interested in a whole slew of subject matter, that list has grown…and grown….and GROWN. I’ve collected hundreds upon hundreds of titles! So many in fact that keeping the list has sort of become a hobby in and of itself. (But, hey! I’m not complaining…I low-key LOVE lists and list-makin’.)

In case you’re curious about the type of books that make it on to my “too long to ever type out in it’s entirety” reading list, I decided to provide you with a sampling. Here goes!

1. You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

2. Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl 

3. So Many Ways to Sleep Badly by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore 

4. The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle, also by Walls, is one of my all-time faves! I can’t wait to see the movie

5. Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail by Zach Davis 

6. The No Recipe Cookbook: A Beginner’s Guide to the Art of Cooking by Susan Crowther
Cookbooks are books too! 

7. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

8. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

9. Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine

10. Strange as This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake
Lots of folks who know my love of Barbara Kingsolver have recommended this one to me.

11. Prairie Tale: A Memoir by Melissa Gilbert
For obvious reasons. 

12. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

13. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

14. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trooper
I’ve seen the movie but I hear the books is better.

15. The Promise: A Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride, and the Power of Love, Loyalty, and Friendship by Rachelle Friedman

16. A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

17. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs 

18. Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray
I don’t have kids but this seems like an important read nonetheless.

19. That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore

20. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
I have a special place in my heart for sports journalism. 

21. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari 

22. Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Thomas Hoving

23. Conquering Chaos by Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra
Because MTV reality tv is my vice and I don’t even care. 

24. Between Wrecks by George Singleton

25. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

26. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

27. Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself by Sarah A. Chrisman

28. The Clasp by Sloane Crosley 

29. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub
I have a huge girl crush on this author! 

30. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

31. Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History by James Higdon

32. Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle
One of my favorite bloggers. 

33. Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World by Susan Silverman 

34. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe 

35. Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
STILL have never read any of Vowell’s books and have GOT to get on it!

36. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

37. Ann Tenna by Marisa Acocella Marchetto

38. The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death, and the Search for the Meaning of the World’s Strangest Syndromes by Frank Bures
I mean COME ON! Tell me that doesn’t sound good?! 

39. Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens 

40. High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas
I will read, watch, or listen to anything about Mt. Everest and Himalayan mountaineering.

41. The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West by Lesley Poling-Kempes

42. I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro 

43. A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran by Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd 

44. You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein 

45. Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen by Alyssa Shelasky 

46. The End of the Perfect 10: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’ Top Score – From Nadia to Now by Dvora Meyers
For those of us who pretend to be gymnastics experts every 4 years. 

47. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer 

48. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
May as well see what all the fuss is about!

49. Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
Can you believe this is the same woman who wrote The Lottery?

50. The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

What are some books on YOUR reading list?

Finally – Do you have any of the books listed above? I’m ALWAYS down for a book-swap!! I’d love to pass along a book from my collection that may be on your reading list. Let me know!

Blog Love: I Can’t Get Enough Of These 5 Blogs

favorite blogs

My Bloglovin feed is ever growing but there are a few tried and trues I return to again and again. If you don’t already follow these five, I think you’ll love them too! Have a nose around and let me know if you find a new favorite.

Reading My Tea Leaves
www.readingmytealeaves.com

Why I love it: The site has such a beautiful, calming aesthetic. I could literally scroll through all day and never tire of the bright, crisp images. The posts focus on simplicity and practical ways to live a more sustainable life. Areas in which I’m always willing to listen and attempt to incorporate.

Why YOU will love it: Erin is an amazing writer and photo stylist. [She even has a beautiful book to prove it!] Reading Tea Leaves is a happy marriage of these two skills with a nice balance of writing-driven posts and image-driven posts.

Posts for your reading pleasure: Simple Stuff: Hangers, Floral Ice Cubes You Should Not Make, My Week in Objects Series, Out and About: Seattle, and Habit Shift: Dinner Outside.

And Then We Saved
www.andthenwesaved.com

Why I love it: Budget based content is some of my favorite to read. It might be a strange topic of interest but I always find helpful information and inspiration when perusing  this budget blog. (Plus, there’s such a sense of “we’re all in this together and by this I mean the rough world where stuff is hella expensive”. Ya feel me?) Bonus: I’m a sucker for a great list post and Anna writes some great list posts.

Why YOU will love it: If you want to ball on a budget, and who doesn’t really, you will find some great tips and hacks for doing so.

Posts for your reading pleasure: Spending Fasters SeriesHow to Grow an Organic Garden on a Tight Budget, 29 Ways to Make Money, 17 Ways to be Happier (Because Feeling Down is Costly), and How a Zero-Waste Lifestyle Leads to Saving Money.

A Cup of Jo
www.cupofjo.com

Why I love it: I started reading A Cup of Jo when I was too poor to afford internet in my apartment so I would go to work early to read posts from the archives until I caught up with real time. (I’m nothing if not a VERY dedicated blog reader.) IMHO, Joanna is the best in the biz when it comes to lifestyle bloggers.

Why YOU will love it: The daily content is truly “lifestyle” with a healthy mix of home, beauty, travel, design, and relationships. There’s literally something for everyone! Plus, a great collection of series that will leave you begging for more!

Posts for your reading pleasure: 8 Great Gifts for Hosts, Packing for Vacation, A Week of Outfits Series, How to Avoid Panty Lines and Other Reader Questions, and Motherhood Around the World Series.

Yes and Yes
www.yesandyes.org

Why I love it: Posts on Yes and Yes always bring some sort of REAL value to my life — and in all sorts of arenas too! Everything from self-care to business, road trips to balancing spending and happiness.

Why YOU will love it: Sarah‘s writing style feels like you’re listening to a BFF and not just someone you found on the internet. Plus, the site features fantastic interviews and time-suckingly wonderful link round-ups.

Posts for your reading pleasure: True Story Series, How to Chase Your Dreams Without Hating Your Life, Mini Travel Guide: Georgia (The Country!), 9 Train Travel Tips You Didn’t Know, and My 5-Second Money Saving Trick.

Budget Bytes
www.budgetbytes.com

Why I love it: Simply put, I love a good food blog…and I especially love a good food blog that ALSO ticks my ballin’ on a budget box! The budget-lovin’ nerd in me is obsessed with the cost break-downs on each recipe.

Why YOU will love it: Budget Bytes features tasty recipes that turn out delicious no matter your income. Plus, each post includes tons of great step-by-step photos so you’re way less likely to mess up the recipe. Score!

Posts for your reading pleasure: Sweet Potato Grain Bowls with Green Tahini Sauce, One Pot Bacon Broccoli Mac and Cheese, 5-Minute Microwave French Toast Mug, Spicy Baked Black Bean Nachos, and Lemon Poppyseed Two-Bite Scones.

What are some of YOUR favorite blogs???

Do you play board games?

A few items on my FIND MORE DELIGHT LIST (namely “24 hour digital detox” and “play a super involved board game”) have me wondering — Do you play board games? And if so, what are your favorites? They always seem like a fun way to “log off” and spend a random evening with a partner or roommate. (But then I forget I think that and just turn on Netflix for the millionth night in a row.)

And what about when you have a group of friends over? Do you bust out a game or just sit around and chat?

In high school, my friends and I loved Balderdash and Scattergories and Taboo. These days, everyone seems to be into Cards Against Humanity…but I just don’t think it’s that fun. Alternatively, I think this game looks promising. As for “super involved” games–Settlers of Catan and Risk seem to be go-to’s but are there others I should look out for? (Like has anyone played this?) All suggestions are greatly appreciated!

P.S. Looking for games of a different sort? I recommend taking a trip to the arcade on rainy Saturday afternoons!