I reached over and silenced my phone’s alarm, Uncle Jesse barely lifting his head in acknowledgment. As soon as I got out of bed, he stood up, stretched, and curled into a ball right on top of my pillow.
“Not today, Uncle Jesse, you’re coming with me,” I said, shuffling over to my dresser and yanking out a pair of clean black stretch pants.
Hearing the upbeat tone of my voice, he jumped off the bed and eagerly sniffed the clothing in my hand. Deeming the scent what must have been ‘baked-in exercise funk,’ he twirled in a circle and began his stretching routine.
It was 7:15am on a Sunday and Bend, Oregon’s high desert summer sun had finally worn me down. “I WILL go running before it feels like Satan’s belly button,” I had vowed the night before as I’d set my alarm.
When our run was over, I fixed a healthy breakfast and set to work on my latest project – another course with Plant-Based with Robin: “Is that Bird Food?” I was excited about this one.
By the end of the day, I felt proud, strong, and accomplished. …Until about 9pm. When I wanted snacks.
All the snacks.
Instead of putting myself to bed -for an even earlier, harder work-out the next day- I caved.
Toast sounds great. And those peanut butter pretzels… Ooh and that chocolate Kate just sent from Germany!
I went to bed full, and full of knowing I’d be unhappy with myself in the morning. On the heels of last week’s shame spiral, I wondered how I could let such a good day slip through my fingers in its final moments.
Was it anxiety? Lack of willpower? Plain ol’ fat-sugar-salt addiction?
Or had I subconsciously decided at some point -based on my unique blend of childhood experiences and genetic make-up- that my ‘ceiling’ was this? Living somewhere halfway between my old life and my new, not quite fully realized, new one?
Robin and I have talked a lot about progress vs. perfection as we develop our plant-based living courses.
“I get it. We all have those days,” I said in our first course [about easy meal ideas during quarantine]. “So plan for them. Are you going to be running around all day on Wednesday? Social distance happy hour-ing on Friday? Get the frozen pizza, get the margarita. Plan on it. Work with your schedule and preferences instead of against them.”
It was easy to give this advice, so much harder to swallow it myself.
One thing had changed, though. Instead of thinking that all hope was lost (“what’s the point? Might as well eat nothing but fried Oreos!”), instead of making a series of harsh, empty promises (“tomorrow I’ll eat nothing but lettuce”), I laid my head down on Sunday night and thought, just as I had after last week’s disastrous outing: Tomorrow is a new day.
Disclaimer: Names and identifying features changed or omitted.
I pulled off the offending lace tank top and hung it neatly back in the closet, pausing to admire the uniformity of my new wooden hangers. I’d always wanted matching wooden hangers and a closet that looked like a high-end boutique shop. I might not have achieved the latter when I moved to Bend, Oregon last year, but the hangers?
I tried on two more shirts, holding a small mirror in front of my face and glancing backwards into my full-length mirror.
Do my arms really look like that? And my back? Is it the bra? Oh god. I can’t wear my hair up like this. Look at my double chin.
I yanked the bobby pins out of my side bun. Two months of calorie counting, weight lifting, yoga, and running 50 miles a week, and the reflection in the mirror still betrayed me. I settled on a red floral shirt, dark wash jeans, and a low ponytail.
“I’ll be there at 4:30 to pick you up, if that still works,” I texted my friend, Meghan.
“What are you wearing?” she replied.
I snapped a selfie, strategically cutting out my arms, and surrendering to the fact that this was just as good as it was going to get today.
When I pulled into Meghan’s driveway, she stepped outside in a jaw-dropping maroon dress, her hair and make-up perfect. Playboy bunny meets red carpet knock-out.
“You look gorgeous, as always,” I said, popping out of the car to give her a hug (we had decided weeks earlier that we were definitely “COVID family,” thus able to enjoy embraces).
I hoped I sounded sincere, because I was. Even if I suddenly felt even older and haggier than ever before. We spent the late afternoon enjoying outdoor live music at a lake lodge, every head turning as Meghan walked by, two men even stopping to ask if she was staying at the lodge. The afternoon beer eventually turned into an al fresco “frosé” (frozen rosé) at a bar closer to home.
“Those guys keep looking over here,” Meghan giggled, her eyes fixed on a few men behind me.
I tried to casually pivot, turning back to Meghan with a grin.
“You can say that again.”
“They’re leaving now,” she whispered a minute later.
One of them paused in front of Meghan, the final traces of daylight catching his rugged stubble.
“I just have to tell you, you look great,” he said earnestly, staring Meghan down.
“Thank you so much,” Meghan replied, her picture-perfect smile and big, bright eyes shining. “Where are you from?”
“Seattle,” he replied. “I’m here for a bachelor party and leaving tomorrow.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Meghan said, a wink in her voice. “What’s your name?”
“Scott,” he answered. After an awkward half beat, he glanced my way.
“I’m Julie,” I heard myself say. “Jules” felt too unfeminine.
He immediately returned his attention to Meghan and I downed the last of my frosé. After he left, the server started putting up chairs and wiping down tables.
“Want to try The Lot?” Meghan asked, referring to another outdoor bar just two blocks away. “I think they’re open ’til 10.”
It was 9:30pm, which is when most of Bend shuts down on a Saturday night, international pandemic or not. As we headed to The Lot, a young man shouted out his car window to ask where we were going, his gaze fixed firmly on Meghan.
As soon as we reached our destination and approached the bar for a drink, three men descended.
“You have to come sit with us,” they insisted, practically dragging Meghan to their table.
I waited for our drinks and then sat down next to Meghan, tugging my high-waisted jeans over my gurgling stomach. We had skipped dinner and all I could think about was my couch, my dog, and the delicious cauliflower pizza I wished I was eating.
Within five minutes, the three, scruffy-haired, patchouli-drenched men offered us mushrooms (which we politely declined) and told us about their Pacific Crest Trail through-hiking adventure.
“Because of those six months, we really learned how to read people,” the tallest, and youngest, of the crew said.
The cutest guy in the group had already cornered Meghan, forcing me to face the remaining two intoxicated men on my own. This is so not where I want to be right now.
“For example, I can tell that she,” the scruffiest and oldest one began, nodding towards Meghan, “is way more open and spontaneous than you. You’re really closed off.”
He went on for a minute and now had Meghan’s attention. Is this really happening? Are they going to keep talking about how this bombshell next to me is superior in every way, including her entire essence?
“That’s no way to live,” they both went on. “You’re clearly so rigid and uptight.”
Meghan took one look at my face and interjected,
“We need more people like Jules. Jules is one of the greatest people I know and I always tell people about the dinner party I invited her to when we first met. She showed up with so much amazing wine and food and even labeled it in case anyone had allergies.”
By then I’d missed my opportunity for a graceful escape to the bathroom. Tears rolled down my cheeks.I am 38 years old, crying in front of strangers. In the middle of a bar. I eventually made it to the bathroom, with Meghan, and found myself saying,
“Yeah, I guess we can go with them to the dive bar downtown.” I can’t ditch you, and maybe I can redeem myself.
An hour later, Meghan was missing and Mushroom Man #3 was two inches from my face, shouting over the blaring music.
“I need you to hug me and prove you can connect on a deep, genuine level with another human being.”
“I’m good, thanks,” I said, staring at the shot of whiskey he had given me.
“Come on,” he persisted, and I wound up with my arms around his short, solid frame. A decision I’d later regret for many reasons, not the least of which involved reeking of incense for the rest of the night.
He wouldn’t let go, so I eventually pulled away, knowing I had -purposely- not given him what he was looking for.
“See, that still wasn’t genuine,” he said. “You’re so closed off. You’re living your life all wrong.”
“No, we’re nothing alike,” he retorted, staring directly into my eyes. “You’re never going to experience what life has to offer if you don’t open up.”
My eyes filled for the second time in as many hours.
What if he’s right? Why can’t I be one of those women who goes on spontaneous camping trips, seduces strange, stubbly men, and embraces her mismatched hangers?
…Why can’t I be a little less me and a little more Meghan?
As I felt the hot tears trickle down my face, Meghan returned.
“He’s being mean again,” I said shakily, reduced to a toddler’s verbal range. “So I’m leaving, and you can come if you want.”
I bolted out the nearest door and pushed through the 20-somethings scattered on the bar’s back deck.
“How the hell did this night happen?” I wondered as I made the long, solo trek back to my car, choking back sobs and grateful that I’d sobered up so I could get home safely.
As I passed through Drake Park, the midnight sprinklers pivoted, drenching me. I almost laughed. Well isn’t this cinematic. I pictured the scene from The Holiday where Kate Winslet bends over her gas stove range, turning on a burner and inhaling deeply. She quickly chokes, running to the window, cracking it open and sighing,
Low point, Julie Jules, low point.
As soon as I got home and opened my apartment door, Uncle Jesse lavished me with licks and whines, watching curiously as I sat on the couch and wept – as deeply and fully as I’d wanted to all night. When I ran out of tears, I went to the fridge and fixed my long-awaited dinner, surprised that I had no urge to open a bottle of wine.
The cauliflower crust immediately crumbled into 17 pieces as I tried to flip it and I felt like crying all over again. Why does everything always fall apart?
“I’m home, are you okay?” Meghan texted a little after 1am. “I’m so sorry I didn’t leave with you. I came outside, and you were already gone.”
“I’m glad you’re home safely,” was all I could manage.
I collapsed into bed a short while later, clinging to my favorite life line as I drifted into dream land.
“This is one of the highlights of my week,” I grinned, staring at my laptop camera lens. Does it look creepy when I do that?
“Mine, too,” Karla replied with trademark sincerity.
We said goodnight and each retreated back to our respective lives – mine in central Oregon and Karla’s in central New Jersey.
“The tacos here are amazing,” Karla gushed.
“Oh my god, I love them, too,” I agreed.
We both spoke loudly over the din of a sprawling Mexican restaurant known for their cheap -but strong- margaritas and piping hot, freshly fried tortilla chips.
“I used to be a cruise ship director,” Karla began once our food had arrived.
I nearly dropped my fork. Whenever I was forced to dine dined with my Big Pharm colleagues, stories usually began with, “I majored in biology in college” or, “I first discovered my love of Bunsen burners when…” I would smile and nod and wait for the inevitable confusion when I shared my own background: “Well… I have a degree in creative writing…”
Karla finished her story and I stared at her for a long moment.
“You HAVE to turn this into a memoir.”
“You know, I’ve always thought I might do that,” she said.
And thus, a creative seed was planted.
That was 2011, and it would take nine years, but eventually the universe brought Karla and I together with the joint purpose of nurturing that seedling.
When Kris Tucker, an instructor from my Masters program and founder of Creative Writing with Kris, approached me about teaching the class, I felt utterly unqualified and certain it would lead nowhere. But before long, someone signed up. And then Karla signed up.
“Oh my god, is it memoir time?!” I wondered.
Suddenly, all of the stories that had peppered our conversations for so long began taking form. Karla was turning out page after page. It was happening.
“That’s the thing about dreams,” I said one evening to Karla during a weekly video chat. “They never go away.”
Dreams will haunt us or heal us, and we have the power to decide which one it’s going to be.
Whether or not your dreams feel “artistic,” rest assured they’re steeped in creativity, and our world would be a little less colorful without them. We need them brought to life just as much as you do.
When I started this blog nine years ago -another small, seemingly insignificant act- I had no idea it would change my entire life. And you don’t have to know either. Just start somewhere. Anywhere.
And speaking of helping each other realize our dreams…
If you’d like to help artists struggling during the COVID-19 crisis, here are a few handpicked places where your generosity will be put to good use:
Through their GoFundMe page, you can help the Arts Leaders of Color reach their $100,000 goal in support of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists AND administrators (consultants, facilitators, box office staff, seasonal/temporary employees, etc.) who have been financially impacted due to COVID-19.
Not too shabby. By the way, all of the posters featuring Second Husband were already sold out! You go, Darren!
If you’ve ever experienced the awe of watching the curtains part on a Broadway (or any live) show, you’re probably having trouble imagining a world where all of New York City’s iconic theaters have gone dark. Help shed a little light by donating here. Your support will provide urgent additional resources for the vital social service programs of The Actors Fund, including emergency financial assistance, health insurance, counseling and the operation of The Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts.
Tomorrow is Dakota a.k.a. Rainbow Cloudjumper’s birthday!
If you’re familiar with Dakota and his world-class blog, Traipsing About, you know that there’s a 98.7% chance he’s out scaling big rocks or van life-ing somewhere spectacular to celebrate the occasion.
Which is why I thought I’d give him a present that won’t spoil:
A BIRTHDAY BLOG POST!
While I would have loved to have filled this post with a series of Photoshopped images, placing Rainbow Cloudjumper in a number of compromising positions, I thought I’d try something different.
I have a story involving Dakota, a story so bizarre and cool that you just have to read it to believe it – and even HE hasn’t heard it yet. I kept meaning to share it with him and [his spectacular wife] Chelsea, but it just never came up.
I was willing to do anything and everything to see this dream through. Since I had the practical side locked down (I am a project manager, after all) -the saving, the lists, the planning- I decided to delve into the metaphysical side. Could creative visualization, meditation, and energy work help? I mean, it couldn’t hurt, right?
I started listening to metaphysical podcasts, which eventually led to daily meditation. I immediately began having all kinds of…interesting…experiences. Things like the perfect name for my thesis project would hit me in the middle of a meditation. I’d set an intention to find a friend on a similar journey and POOF, she’d appear.
You see, something happens when you start believing in the scientific fact that we’re all just wiggly bits of energy – and that that means we have far more influence over our surroundings than what seems possible.
Fast forward a few months to August 2018, and I was so giddy about the remarkable results of this energy work that I decided to do something REALLY crazy. Something called Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique (QHHT) – basically a two hour-long hypnosis that can unleash insights from your higher consciousness.
I know. F&@&% weird. Stay with me. (And delight in the fact that, by now, Dakota is probably wondering what the hell is going on. Is this a birthday post or the confessions of a clinically insane -but very cute- blogger?)
You can read more about the experience here, but in a nutshell: that shiz was craaaaay. Crazy cool! What most people don’t realize about hypnosis is that you’re fully conscious and aware the whole time, just deeply, deeply relaxed – almost like the twilight feeling between waking life and dreaming. (You also typically get an audio recording of the session, as I did in this case.)
There are several things I didn’t mention about this experience in my earlier blog posts – because they didn’t make any sense at the time. Towards the end of my session, lying down on a comfy bed with a slight breeze wafting through the window, I suddenly giggled and blurted,
“Oh! That’s the rainbow!”
What rainbow? Who cares about rainbows? part of my mind wondered.
“It’s a rainbow. It’s from New Jersey to Oregon. The wholllllle country,” I smiled, my mind’s eye picturing a map of the United States, with a giant, colorful rainbow starting in New Jersey, my home state, and landing in Oregon – a place I’d visited only once, nine years earlier.
“One giant rainbow,” I said again, a goofy grin plastered on my otherwise serene face.
My session ended a couple of minutes later, and I spent weeks wondering what the hell that could have meant. While I’m big on signs and symbols, rainbows had never played a significant role in my life.
The following month, I was invited by a friend to a small, five-day gathering in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, organized by Dakota’s wife (who I didn’t know at the time). “A Vegan Creatives Retreat,” they called it, and asked me to present my Masters thesis to a group of seven fellow vegans. My thesis was about conscious consumerism on the path to financial independence. It had first been inspired by discovering the blogging genius, Mr. Money Mustache – someone who, despite his cult following, not many people had heard of.
Nervously, I walked into the beautiful, gray-shingled home where I’d be spending the next four nights, knowing only one person. In the kitchen, an attractive couple with mega-watt smiles greeted me.
“Hi! I’m Dakota and this is Chelsea.”
After a minute of niceties, Dakota said,
“We’re from Bend.”
My jaw dropped. Bend…Oregon?
That night, using a silly letter code system on the back of a cereal box, we were each given “unicorn names.” Dakota’s name? Rainbow Cloudjumper.
It didn’t hit me until later that night, as I went to bed. Holy forking shirtballs. He’s the rainbow.
Over the next few days, diligently sticking to our unicorn names, Rainbow and I discovered all kinds of uncanny overlaps in our interests, including the fact that he not only knew of Mr. Money Mustache, but was friends with him!
When the retreat was over, I shed a few tears as I bid goodbye to my seven new best friends. Something about that handful of days made my dreams feel more poignant; I realized just how deeply I craved a heart-centered, creative, nature-filled life, yet it still felt worlds away. Moreover, I was afraid I’d never hear from any of them again. (Ah, the never-ending after effects of childhood bullying.)
Dakota, being the Friend Ninja and Inadvertent Life Coach that he is, reached out to me just a couple of days later. He texted a stunning picture of Bend, Oregon. “Move west already!” he wrote.
These kinds of encouraging messages, from a guy who barely knew me let alone my deepest desires, filled the coming months, as did the undeniable signs from the universe. Thanks to them, by June 2019, I had the courage to quit my job, sell all of my stuff, and drive across the country to a town I’d never so much as visited.
Just a mile down the road from Dakota and Chelsea, Bend was instantly the home I didn’t realize I’d been dreaming of my entire life.
Today marks exactly one year here, and I still pinch myself every day.
So thanks, Rainbow – now you know why I can’t help but continue to call you that. I hope your birthday is filled with the kind of awe-inspiring magic that you bring to the world!
Photos: “Wall of Love” by Westfield, NJ residents. Photos taken by me in Feb 2018.
Like many of you, I’ve been struggling lately with how best to contribute in the march for equality. I thought about skipping this week’s blog post altogether. After all, how could I, a privileged white woman with a blog about her chipmunk fascination, possibly add value?
If I shared good news, I risked gaslighting the very real struggles and heartbreaking treatment of people of color. If I continued to avoid the topic, I seemed tone deaf, or worse, unaffected.
And then it hit me.
My place has never been on the soapbox, but rather by your side, offering encouragement and support. To each of you who has participated in peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations, thoughtfully shared fact-based posts and articles, and stood in solidarity against systemic racism: thank you.
Turning this ship around, however, will require incredible, consistent, compassionate resolve.
In my years of human rights, environmental protection, and animal rights advocating, bearing witness to unspeakable suffering as I earned my Humane Education Masters degree, I learned a number of strategies that have given me staying power. Perhaps some of them may serve you as you help light the path to peace.
Disclaimer: I can only write from a place of white privilege, with the sincerest hope of helping readers in a similarly privileged position. Together, if we can avoid burn out-inspired apathy, we can continue to stand up for love, equality, and chipmunks justice.
1. Advocacy starts at home.
There are emotional stages as you process the kind of horrific information that leads to activism. You may want to yell, fight, and/or tell everyone what you’ve just seen or heard. Remember that being a good advocate means being good to the people within your direct sphere of influence. They didn’t ask for, and likely won’t benefit from, lectures or condemnations. When you feel frustrated by “unwoke” friends or family members, remember that they might just be the perfect practice. First and foremost, model the compassion and change you want to see right where you are. At home.
2. Consider reframing: what are you fighting against standing for?
Have you ever heard the story about Mother Teresa being asked to march against war? “No,” she allegedly said, “But I WILL march FOR peace.” (Even if the quote isn’t hers [though a number of online sources seem legitimate], my point still stands.) Sometimes this simple reframing can reinvigorate your passion. By moving away from words like “fight” and “battle,” I believe we can achieve the same end (and have a lot more staying power while doing so): peace and equality.
3. Take a break when you need to.
While this can certainly be considered a privileged tactic, please don’t let anyone, most especially that nagging little voice in your head, tell you that you’re “failing” if you decide to take a break from active campaigning, the news, and social media. If you consider yourself a remotely sensitive person (and I’m willing to bet you do or you wouldn’t be reading this), you WILL NOT survive the long game if you don’t give yourself some time-outs. After all, even while you’re sitting down, you still stand for justice, right? (Sorry. So corny. The chipmunks made me say it.)
4. Find your happy place.
Related to #3, develop your own personalized self-care strategy. Maybe it’s watching stand-up, funny cat videos, a hike, a bath, or a phone call with a friend. Advocacy burn-out is very real, and the world needs you at your best. Your joyful, laughing, hopeful best.
5. Choose your words (and shares) wisely.
When you’re fired up, it’s tempting to share, share, share and comment, comment, comment. Sadly, this kind of activism often gets lost in the sauce. Your audience is far more likely to pay attention if you have a proven reputation of speaking and sharing thoughtfully and deliberately. And please, please, pretty please investigate your sources before passing ANYTHING along. (You should have seen me Googling that Mother Teresa quote…)
6. Choose your company even more wisely.
One of THE MOST effective things you can do for your advocacy staying game is to surround yourself with positive, like-minded activists. The kind of crew whose energy invigorates and inspires you to be and do your best. Not sure if that’s the situation you’re in? Listen to your gut. When you picture a particular person or group, do you feel a tight, heavy feeling? Or a bubbly, effervescent one? …I think you know what to do.
Whether this is your first or fiftieth time here, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. Now get on out there and BE THE CHANGE.
Last week, I mentioned how I’d once given up my favorite pastime, reading. By the time I was about 15, I thought I was only allowed to read “smart” books. You know, the books on the 100 Titles to Read Before You Croak list.
And just like that, reading went from an exciting adventure to an excruciating chore.
While I’ve since liberated myself from the notion that I had to read anything on any list, I now experience a sort of late onset ADHD whenever I sit down with a book – no matter how fun and indulgent the title. (Weird, huh? I mean, it’s not like anything going on in the world would make someone feel anxious to the point of being unable to focus, right? ha ha…)
Thankfully, with the advent of library apps like Hoopla and Libby (in which all you need is a valid library ID card to access thousands of free, virtual “borrows”), I’m now able to burn through dozens of audiobooks while I run marathons. I simply download the audiobook on my phone, then set it to airplane mode while I run to ensure I don’t drain the battery or my data plan. When I’m done, I delete it, freeing back up the space on my phone. Boom! (The only downside is that every ten seconds you’ll be forced to debate whether or not it’s worth stopping your running watch and covering your phone in sweat and trail dust to jot down the author’s truth bombs.)
I’ve read listened to so many books over the past couple of years this way that, as we head into summer reading season, I thought it was high time I gathered my own list of Books to Read Before You Croak!
Side note: If your library offers a choice in apps, I find Hoopla far superior in both selection and number of borrows permitted per month, though the interface is less sleek than Libby.
Let’s do this.
Disclaimer: The below recommendations contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission if you purchase any of the titles, but the recommendations are 100% my own and unsponsored.
To give this some structure, I’m organizing my list in the order in which I enjoyed these books (purposely leaving off the titles that, ah, didn’t speak to me…well, I mean, they spoke to me because they were audiobooks, but, OH MY GOD THIS IS ALREADY MY LONGEST POST OF ALL TIME AND I NEED TO MOVE ON):
Right up front, let’s get one thing straight: I’m into the woo-woo. All the woo-woo. And it took 36 years for me to admit that – even to myself. Now, as a gift to disillusioned, 15-year-old Jules, I let myself read alllll of the books that fascinate and delight me, even if others might call them foolish. And it has transformed my life. Becoming Supernatural is right at the top of the list in busting open conventional beliefs about who we are and why we’re here. If you think you can handle it.
Based only on hearing that this was written by a former actor turned guru, you’d probably sooner eat wood screws than read this. But wait! I still think of this book regularly. The way Rydall describes human life compared to an acorn becoming an oak is… well, you’ll just have to “hear” for yourself.
Oh, boy, did I ever think this former bestseller would be a clunker. (And sorry, Mr. Chapman, if your love language is also verbal affirmation. I, in fact, think this book is fabulous.) I stand corrected! I felt like Oprah based on the number of “ah hah!” moments this book led to.
I’ve already written about how much I f@&$# love this woman and this book, so I’ll keep this short. This book is for everyone – introverted or not. Laugh out loud funny, relatable, and endlessly engaging.
Similar to Pan’s memoir, this recounting by Jamie Wright gives you a no holds barred peek into her world – as the very worst missionary. Wright never shies away from telling the truth about what’s really behind some of the so-called “work” done in the Lord’s name, and she does it with the kind of acerbic self-awareness that makes a humor writer like me swoon.
A cute fiction book about a woman who takes no small delight in her class mom role – emailing parents with often wildly inappropriate comments and suggestions – leading to, as you might imagine, some pretty amusing hi-jinx. This is what I’d call a “classic summer read.”
Written by Stanford psychologist Gay Hendricks, this book exposes the many ways in which we put a “ceiling” on our own possibilities – including how happy we’re allowed to be. Even if you’re thinking you’ve heard all of this before, I promise you’ll gain some surprising new insights into why you STILL HAVEN’T FINISHED THAT G.D. NOVEL ALREADY.
The way the authors weave research and personal stories through this book is masterful. If you’re a teacher looking to blow your students’ minds, an office worker hoping to transform your organization, or anyone trying to create more meaningful moments with loved ones, I’m confident you’ll walk away moved and empowered by this book.
OH GOD THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD. In this part memoir, part historical exploration, Mooney (a now-father raised by anything but normal parents) delves into the origins of normalcy in a way that absolutely blew my mind. While the tone is conversational, the content is rich with fascinating data. If you’ve ever felt misunderstood or ‘less than,’ this book will be your new favorite.
This is a young adult fiction title recommended to readers who liked Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Um, helloooo, only my second favorite kid’s book of all-time! (Bested only by Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.) It was gripping. I cannot believe it’s meant for 8 to 12-year-olds. It also includes some fantastic education around Type I diabetes if, as a parent or educator, that might come in handy.
If you loved McDougall’s smash hit Born to Run, or anything by Bill Bryson, you’ll definitely dig this one. A true life historical recount told like an action-packed blockbuster, this book explores the ancient art of human badassery – though I can’t say I agree with all of the dietary recommendations near the end. (Here’s a much happier way to eat .)
Whew. Grab the Kleenex before diving into this memoir by the late neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, who passed away from lung cancer at age 37. He left us not only this beautiful book, but his shining yet realistic example of selflessness. (All the more moving thanks to the absolutely poetic closing chapter by his wife.)
Whether or not you’ve ever heard of the enneagram model, this book is a fantastic read. Exploring the history and details of the nine personality types described by the enneagram, you’ll laugh (and groan) as you gain insight into what makes you, and others, tick.
I don’t know how I made it until May 2020 without erecting a shrine to Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and more. This woman OWNS primetime drama and is a beacon of hope for any female writer or introvert with a dream.
I know! DJ Tanner writes books (yes, plural)! I didn’t realize this until my friend, Sandy, mentioned it on her blog. Entering in with rock bottom expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Cameron Bure’s got something. And no one can deny this woman’s work ethic. A little memoir, a little self-help, and a whole lotta Jesus… I’d read more.
If, like me, you’ve ever described yourself as a “sponge person,” absorbing all of the energy and emotions of the people around you, you’ll adore this book. It’s woo-woo all right, and it explains EVERYTHING.
I was late to the Rachel Hollis game, and apparently this is like her 47th book. Sort of a shrill Tony Robbins, admittedly, there’s no denying that Hollis MAKES SHIT HAPPEN. My inner project manager geeked out on this brutally honest, practical how-to, and I definitely recommend it if you identify as a woman stuck between dreaming and action.
Like many with a creative dream, I’ve been a HUGE fan of The Artist’s Way‘s 12-week program since I was a teenager. In this three-part audio series, Cameron addresses an audience, answers questions, and then faces a one-on-one interview – all in under two hours. I was delighted to find that I still have so much to learn from this prolific, spiritual powerhouse.
“YES. That’s IT!” I thought, putting down the newspaper clipping.
I gazed around my bedroom, its dusty rose walls matching my new 15-year-old style: shabby chic. My artwork -mostly sketches of my favorite actors- filled the walls, and next to my desk, where I spent long hours writing fan fiction, sat a collection of intensely sincere CDs by singer-songwriters I worshipped.
On top of the stack was Jewel’s Pieces of You, an album I listened, warbled, and cried to for roughly 99.98% of 1997. Which is probably why my dad thought to hand me that particular news clipping, featuring an interview with Jewel herself. The title quote was, “Do I have to be angry to be intelligent?”
I thought back to my 8th grade class, who, at the end of the school year, had voted me “Most Likely to Host QVC.” As a sensitive, straight-A student who’d never once thought about peddling jade brooches while sporting a fake tan, I was flummoxed.
“Why?” I finally worked up the nerve to ask my classmates.
“Because you’re always smiling!” they replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
I inwardly scoffed. I shared a home with not one, but two, bonafide geniuses, and while I never reached their intellectual heights, being smart was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.
By the time Jewel’s quote found its way into my hands a year or two later, I felt completely misunderstood. Just because I was smiling and non-threatening, did that automatically make me clueless and dopey?
“PREACH!” I wanted to cry as I read the article.
Jewel, a fellow blonde who, like me, loved art, animals, nature, and poetry, had had a similar struggle in being taken seriously. And while I use the word “struggle” loosely, fully acknowledging the privileged place from which I write, this issue has resurfaced in my life time and time again.
In fact, by the time I was an adult, I had almost entirely stopped reading -once my favorite pastime- because the books I wanted to read weren’t the “smart” ones.
After what felt like a brief hall pass to study creative writing in college, I had to choose a career. I wanted to work on screenplays, but was that “smart”?
So, naturally I picked a career that looked intelligent, even if it was laughably opposed to the artistic, spiritual, independent person I actually was.
During my 20s and 30s, not a single person genuinely questioned that choice. In fact, it was usually admired and celebrated – or completely ignored because it was sooo obviously the right decision. Just like going to college, having a steady corporate job meant you were smart. And smart, much like extroversion and facial symmetry, wins.
It was 2011, and I was now a married homeowner (more “smart” decisions). I called it “Go Guilty Pleasures!” and aired all of my secrets – all of the embarrassing, ridiculous, wonderful things that I liked just because they made my heart sing. ‘NSync, Glee, reality TV, dogs in costume, slap bracelets… I had a lifetime of skeletons to reveal.
Some things just scream, ‘Winner!’
My 27th birthday, at Medieval Times, natch.
The blog may have seemed over-the-top silly (and, er, probably still does), but that was the point. I was on a mission to prove, if only to myself, that “smart” and “silly” weren’t mutually exclusive. And if they were? Well then, dammit, I was choosing silly.
Still, though, a part of me was haunted by this notion that I’d never seem intelligent because I was too busy having fun. In 2016, when I became vegan and enrolled in a Humane Education Masters program (so I could seem smart about my new lifestyle), I spent two and a half years studying the world’s atrocities – from human rights to environmental protection to animal rights.
More often than not, I felt enraged by the suffering of my fellow beings and the planet we shared. I wanted to cry and scream and tell people how their choices were impacting ev-e-ry-thing.
But I didn’t.
In biting my tongue, I felt like a failure. I began to wonder if my entire life philosophy -the Golden Rule- needed revisiting.
“My brother called the other day and, for the first time ever, it’s like he read the news. He was PISSED [about the state of the world],” a friend recently said. “I was like, ‘Finally!'”
I stayed silent, wondering for what felt like the ten thousandth time: Do we have to be angry to be intelligent? By now, my age-old question had grown to include: What role does anger have in our lives and in our advocacy?
Is it okay to allow anger to fuel us? Where is the line? Do we break into animal labs and set executives’ houses on fire? What about lecturing our friends?
Or is anger simply a step on the journey? One we use to help pry open our own eyes so that we can better understand ourselves and the plight of others? If someone chooses to operate -and address others- from a place of anger, is this the easy choice or the hard one?
When does anger stop being inspiration and start becoming toxic?
For instance, how would you have reacted to this post had I come in guns blazing, instead of telling a story and then posing the above series of questions?
I get it. When things are f&#*ed up, anger is the first choice. It’s the natural choice. Sometimes we need to light shit on fire (IN THE METAPHORICAL SENSE, people). Anger can inspire change and the courage to point out injustices. But I’m not convinced that anger is the final stop. After all, anger may help shine a light on society’s faults, but will it fix them?
Again recognizing my limited and wildly privileged perspective, I can tell you that working through and past anger is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – and I do it every. Single. Day. If I can’t? I try to avoid public gatherings and conversation topics entirely.
Because I think you deserve better from me.
Because I think my campaigns deserve better from me.
And because I believe we all deserve to live from a place of peace.
I think we should all take a moment to reflect on how far my PowerPoint skills have come since this.
This is the part where I could have put up photos of B-Man in drag, but I’m a good friend.
And it looked like not much had changed: HE WAS STILL INSIDE MY HEAD. So, I’ll let him cover the quarantine goals category, and I’ll gladly move on, my party hatslap bracelet firmly in place. (Although it’s worth noting that I already had the rest of this post written as part of my original draft, including the retro B-Man shout-out.)
Acquiring new skills seems kinda hard, anyway. Besides, if these are end times (and who says they aren’t?), what are the most marketable skills we already possess? How can we prove to our quarantine comrades that they shouldn’t eat us first? I’ll take a crack at it, and then I want to hear from you!
Go Jules Go’s Quarantine Survival Skills
1. …give fantastic compliments. Did you know you’re the only person I write this blog for?
Last year, I got some really good phenomenal advice – which is generally how I like the transaction to occur. You, Oh Wise One, give advice, and I, inferior and questioning little human, smile and nod.
“You have to remember that where you are right now is exactly the right place from which to teach,” this Sage Advice Giver said. “There is someone out there at this very moment, experiencing what you did a few months or years ago, and they need to hear from you, just a step or two ahead.”
“Huh,” I replied, nodding, still not completely convinced.
“Think about it,” Ms. Guru continued. “If you had just held your first basketball and Michael Jordan announced he was your new coach, what would happen? Everything would sail over your head because he’s like 14 feet tall you’d have no idea what he was talking about, you’d be intimidated, and you’d probably throw in the towel thinking how you’d never get to his level.”
“Mmm,” I said, starting to catch on.
“We need coaches and mentors who are still on the same playing field. There are people who need and want to learn from you, right where you are, just as you are, today.”
And there it was.
In that instant, everything changed.
I, Go Jules Go, lover of chipmunks and pouring the last, saltiest, kettle cooked BBQ potato chip crumbs down her pie hole whilst googling Stephen Colbert’s astrological sign, was reborn.
Fast-forward to present day, when one of my good friends mentioned that she’s toying with the idea of running a marathon in 2021.
“I have no doubt in my mind that you could do it with far more ease than you think,” I texted.
“Well that’s good to hear! My only goals would be to finish and not die,” she replied.
“You have the best attitude and strength, physically and mentally [of anyone I know]. It’d be a done deal,” I went on, feeling only slightly guilty about the blatant peer pressure.
As we went back and forth, I began to think of all of the things I wished I had known about marathon running several years ago, and how great it would have been to have received that advice from, well, someone like me. Someone whose goal was also to “finish and not die.” Someone who didn’t run track growing up, who didn’t (and still doesn’t) understand the phrase “zero drop sneakers,” and whose childhood influences were more, “Let’s watch TGI Friday and order more cheesy breadsticks” than, “What do you want in your green smoothie?”
When I ran my first two marathons in 2014, my life was a Made for TV Special: divorce, job lay-off, new romance, new failed romance, moving back in with my parents (…at age 32…). I’d never run before and, fueled by chaos and cute men, I went too far, too fast, quickly paying the price with an I.T. band injury.
While I completed two marathons, it was ultimately painful and punishing.
Because I never really loved myself.
When I decided to pack up and move across the country in 2019, I knew everything would be different. I would run again, taking advantage of central Oregon’s outdoor splendor, and it would be good.
Last fall, settled in my beautiful new home, I began training in earnest with one simple goal: to make this the most painless experience possible.
Now, after having just run three marathons in nine days sans injury (chyeah I did just say that), I’m happy to report: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. So let’s do this.
Expect to have 14 different races in one marathon.
Running 26.2 miles is kind of like watching Tiger King. You are now on an emotional rollercoaster full of ups and downs you simply could never have prepared for.
SLOW DOWN, Buck-o.
On race day, you’ll be raring to go. Go slower than you can even stand to (and then silently judge all of the jackals who take off like their race bibs are on fire). Your body will thank you later. Like on mile 23 when all you want to do is find a bean bag chair and a box of wine.
DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
I’ve been known to eat Nutter Butters and falafel wraps before and during long runs. But please don’t do anything weird on race day. Don’t try new food or compression socks or chaffing sticks or, god forbid, shoes.
Incorporate as many plant-based meals into your diet as possible.
This will reduce inflammation and help your body recover in ways you can’t begin to imagine. (Don’t believe me? Check out The Game Changers.) I was vegan for almost four years before running three marathons in nine days last month, and that never would have happened without a plant-i-ful diet.
Miles 20 to 26.2 won’t kill you, but you might want them to.
You’ll never hate the fraction 2/10 more in your life. No amount of physical training can prepare you for those final miles. You have to want it, mentally. Unlike U.S. banks, you have to think, “THERE IS NO BAIL OUT PLAN.”
And most importantly, know…
You don’t have to ‘look’ or ‘feel’ like a runner (whatever the hell that means) to crush a marathon.
Just. Start. Running. You WILL have shitty training runs. You won’t want to leave the house. Do it anyway. Because, often when you least expect it, you will also have AMAZING runs. You will feel highs you didn’t know you could feel without potential jail time.
As we neared the sprawling, single-story, brick building, the butterflies in my stomach morphed into fire-breathing dragons, clawing at my insides, tearing through my heart, desperate to escape. My skin felt clammy and I started to sob.
“Please don’t make me go!”
My mom turned her right blinker on, steering our blue Dodge minivan towards the dead end street just before Terrill Middle School.
“Just calm down. Breathe. We’ll take a minute here.”
We were living in some nightmarish middle school version of Groundhog Day. Each morning was the same. We’d agree to drive through Burger King for an egg and cheese “Croissan’wich,” and as I lost myself in the familiar comfort of melted American cheese and processed pastry, I’d feel certain I could make it to my 6th grade classes without incident.
I can’t remember what triggered the first panic attack. In fact, I don’t remember anyone even using the phrase “panic attack” to describe what was going on. All I knew was that I was a chubby, sensitive, soccer playing 11-year-old, who, every time she approached her new middle school, succumbed to sheer terror.
My parents and the well-intentioned administration tried everything to get me to go to class. They sent me, a gold star-covered Honor Roll student, to the principal’s office (where I was both impressed by his en suite bathroom and horrified that he seemed to have used it right before I was sentenced to sit with him). They made me take IQ tests that I was sure I failed, arranging red cubes on a counselor’s tiny desk.
Finally, they made me sit in the guidance counselors’ conference room, where they closed the heavy tweed curtains so I couldn’t look out onto the courtyard at the students passing through windowed corridors, oblivious to the girl trapped by her own fear. I wasn’t allowed to read, write, draw, nap, or do anything except sit in that empty room. They thought if they took away my one true love –books– I might finally relent.
“Ha,” I thought. “I’ll sit here until I can vote if it means I don’t have to walk those halls…with those jerks…”
The prior year, I had had my first real encounter with The Mean Girls. The group who’d once been my ride or die squad turned on me for reasons I couldn’t fathom at the time, going so far as to arrange a fake shopping date to buy the latest toy, only to leave me standing in the store, alone, next to an empty shelf where the toys had been (the girls had bought them all before I showed up). Later, I realized my gap-toothed smile, big belly, and questionable fashion choices didn’t jive with their burgeoning popularity.
My parents sent me to therapy, where I also sat silently, daring the therapist to figure out what was wrong with me. How could she know what I didn’t even know? The entire year unfolded like this, and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been on my parents.
“You have to cut this shit out and go to school!” my father, a well-respected educator himself, shouted one night after finally snapping. He threw something down the hall in my general direction while I cowered on the ground. I’d never seen him lose it before. Didn’t they all know that if I could just fix it, I would?
My heart goes out to that little girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders. After having several panic attacks in my adult life, I finally realized that the source of my fear was simply the fear itself. Anyone who’s ever had a panic attack knows that you’ll walk through fire before facing the ‘thing’ that triggered the panic in the first place – however irrational that may look to the outside world. Most adults describe the feeling as “being sure [they were] going to die.” How the hell is an 11-year-old supposed to cope with that?
That year shaped the rest of my young life. Thanks to those unrelenting panic attacks, I missed most of 6th grade and attended only two hours of high school. When I was 16, I got my GED and started working full-time at a local independent bookstore.
Now, as every corner of the world swirls with uncertainty, grief, and fear, my inner 11-year-old nods, holding out her small hand, wanting to offer the only comfort she can.
I know how you feel.
If you’re looking for courage, camaraderie, and/or inspiration during these unprecedented times, I hope you’ll consider joining me live this Friday, May 1, 2020 (5:00-6:00pm PST / 8:00-9:00pm EST) for a free, interactive Zoom seminar!