30th Birthday Resolutions

Today is my 30th birthday.

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A week ago, I made a joke about the world ending before I made it here. I honestly was kidding, but it really has felt like that since Election Day.

Turning 30 in this environment is so much scarier than I had anticipated this phase of my life to be. I wanted to try again at sterilization–but that may be even harder now. The progress that had been made towards mental health reform is possibly at a halt too. And who knows what is going to happen to our economy and investments.

But I’m a privileged white CIS woman. So many of my friends are scared for not only their rights, but their lives. They are being harassed daily online and in real life. I do not live with that fear.

I turn 30 today, in a world fraught with uncertainty. Big resolutions aren’t normally something I do–I usually start small and work up, since that is easier on my anxiety-ridden brain. But I have some specific thoughts about how I want to present myself to the world in this next decade.

I have been listening, watching, learning for awhile now, trying to understand how I, as a white CIS woman, should treat my marginalized neighbors, and how to fight for them. I will still be doing this. I will never be done learning.

But I need to speak more. My voice is needed more. Racism and bigotry and misogyny and prejudice is getting worse every moment–this election gave so many people permission to hate openly. I cannot stand idly by while my friends become casualties.

I cannot expect myself to be perfect–and that is what has held me back up to this point–but I have to expect myself to be better. I must be BETTER than I was in my 20s. Always learning, always fighting.

This blog is a safe space. I will not tolerate prejudice against marginalized peoples of any kind. And please know that if you feel I have made a misstep, as I probably will, unintentional as it may be, your criticism and correction will be heard and appreciated with an open mind and heart. I can always be reached on any of my social media, or my email address is ilayreadingreviews@gmail.com.

Thank you, my friends. I love you. Be safe.

 


 

I had planned on doing a completely different, shorter post today, just a blog update. But, I wanted to let you know what was on my heart.

Still, I want to give you a little update on what you will see as far as posts, as I am changing up the format. I’ve been expecting way too much of myself for awhile as far as content, and I cannot keep up with the 5 day-a-week post schedule I was racing towards prior to my break. It completely broke me down.

So, as of today, I will have posts on Tuesday and Friday. Tuesday’s posts will often be new books, as those are when the ARCs I am reading are published. Fridays will usually be older books. This pattern won’t always follow, but that will be generally what happens.

I have plenty of book reviews scheduled from the hiatus, so stay tuned. There are lots of things coming up! Again, thank you for your patience. I very much needed that break.

Inside My Obsessive Consciousness: On Negative Reviews

I feel like we need to have a talk.

It’s probably going to be uncomfortable, and not everyone is going to agree. But there’s been a lot of chatter about this subject, and I have kind of an unpopular opinion.

Sort of.

The topic of how bloggers approach negative reviews has been brought up over and over lately. I’ve seen it a lot from authors, some from bloggers. And I completely understand the sensitivity and power that we as reviewers have. Especially when it comes to new authors–we can really affect the marketing of a book by a few bad reviews.

Reading is a subjective thing. What I like will be disliked by someone else, and visa versa. Which is why most of the time, I try to give suggestions in my summaries–“If you like this type of book, you’ll like it, if you don’t you wont…” sort of thing. I’m always very careful to tag my genres and key words too. And for the most part, with a few exceptions (bestsellers, classic lit, deceased authors), I try not to tag the author on 1’s and 2s.

However.

When I started ILR, my goal really wasn’t to be a reviewer at all. I mean, that comes with the territory of being a book blogger. But my overall intention for this blog was to facilitate discussion of the books I was reading. I read such a huge variety of books–old and new–that I wasn’t seeing in the blogging community, and I wanted a place for that. It’s why for the first year I didn’t even have a rating system (I’ve started going back and filling those in whenever I deep link something). I just wanted to talk about the books.

I’m taking on new books more often, and those I am always gentler with. Unless the book is just outright disgusting (racist, bigoted, etc), and there have been a few, I am very careful to give a solid and standard review. But the older ones–like High Fidelity on Friday? That thing has been around since 1995. It’s a movie. It’s a best seller. I’m not going to hurt Nick Hornby’s pocket by giving a wholehearted rant on that one.

And sometimes, as a blogger, I have to do that. If I can’t be honest and emotional about the books I have strong feelings about, why am I doing this? I want to illicit a reaction. I WANT discussion. And most of the time, a standard 123 review is not going to do that. And hell, my Nick Hornby rant might just get someone to go buy that book so THEY can find out why I was so dang angry. We live in a reactionary culture.

I have all the respect in the world for authors. Good god, if I had one ounce of the talent in my body that some of them have, I would probably explode. Even many books I don’t like for content are extremely well written–and I want to make sure I stress that. My discussions and analysis are usually about the plot and characters, with a little bit of culture thrown in for color commentary–not about the author as a person (excepting memoirs, of course). I would never EVER condone a personal attack on the author because a series doesn’t go the way you wanted. I didn’t care for Cursed Child–it wasn’t my ending–but it was JK Rowling’s ending. A negative review is NOT the same as an attack. These are not the same thing. And I want to make this very clear, because after I originally wrote this Friday night, an author was personally attacked online. THAT IS NOT OK. Authors DO NOT OWE US a story. We are gifted with their work, and we can choose to read it or not.

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Again, not everyone is going to agree with me. And I’m probably going to ruffle some feathers along the way. I never ever set out to write a blog to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. But if I ever stop being authentic here, then I’m going to have to stop blogging. Because if I can’t be completely honest when I don’t like a book, then how does anyone know if I really truly love a book as much as I say I do?

People ask me how I read 5 books a week, and the answer is simple. Books are my oxygen. I breathe them in, I breathe them out. And before I take another breath, I log in and take a moment to share that oxygen with you.

Goodbye Dallas

Dallas.

This week two years ago we announced to everyone that we were moving south. I was excited, scared, anxious. It was the first time I had ever moved out of Indiana. While doing so was something I’d always wanted to do, when it finally happened, moving so far from my family wasn’t everything I expected.

Making friends was almost impossible. We met people we could talk to, but those conversations never lasted longer than one brewery meetup. And as prepared as I thought I was for that first holiday away from home, it hit me like a semi-truck.

Dallas. You threw me into the biggest mental breakdown I’ve ever had. I didn’t know depression could be like that. My anxiety essentially exploded. Everything about my personality has intensified.

But maybe that’s not all such a bad thing. Because of my time in Dallas, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever have before. I’ve learned to listen to my body and my brain and not to ignore when it calls. Being sick doesn’t make me weak. It actually makes me stronger.

My husband and I are closer, because we’ve had to be. Communication is crucial when we’ve gone through as much in four years as we have.

I also fell head over heals for Paws in the City and the people involved. Volunteering with them probably had more to do with my recovery than anything else did. What started as an every other day Twitter gig quickly turned into a friendship with a super supportive group of people who wanted to see me succeed. Not to mention the dog therapy, as I called it.

If you’re ever feeling depressed, volunteer for a dog shelter or foster organization, and roll around on the floor with a bunch of dogs (or cats). It may not totally cure you, but it’ll sure lift your spirits. And the dogs benefit quite a bit too.

By the way, all the dogs in this post (except the last one, she’s MINE) are available for adoption in Dallas, or you can donate HERE.

Dallas, even after all you put me through the first year, you made up for it in the second. I will miss you. It’s been hard to say goodbye these last few weeks. You’ve given me some great friends and wonderful memories.

But, it’s time to move on. See you guys next time from Peoria!

PANIC! instead of sleeping

Last week I shared a journal entry written during a migraine. It was dark, and helped to illustrate a bit of depression’s tunnel of misery. But one thing I’ve never been able to do is write from within an episode anxiety. It’s just too intense and unfocused.

But then I read Sarah Gailey’s “Dissociation is Scary” Article on Boston Globe, and was blown away. I knew I’d have to try it. If you haven’t read Sarah’s post yet, you need go check it out. It’s incredible. Part poem, part essay–she illustrates just how terrifying a PTSD episode is.

Last night, my brain would not settle. I’d had a horrible day, and I was exhausted. But, of course, as soon as I hit the pillow, all that stress fired up.

I didn’t quite have what I consider a full panic attack, but it was definitely an episode. I didn’t sleep much at all last night. At some point, I wrote down the exact chaos that was running through my head.

I can’t I can’t I can’t
OK.
Yes.
No. No. No.
Breathe 123456
123456
123456
I am dying.
That’s different than I want to die.
Right?
It’s different.
Different.
Different.
Different.
Different……..
Can’t Breathe can’t breathe can’t breathe
Get upgetupgetupgetup
You piece of shit.
My chest hurts.
Take a pill. I should take a pill.
No. Bad. It’s bad. Addictive.
Don’t.
Why? Need it.
That’s why you have it. Take it.
No don’t waste it.
You may need it more later.
I can’t sleep. Need it. Can’t sleep can’t sleep.
TAKE A PILL DUMBASS.
FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK
It’s not WORKING.
Wait…wait…waiiiiiiit…….
Work FASTER. NEED TO SLEEP.
Still can’t breathe. Stop thinking.
Eyes hurt.
Chest hurts.
Want to sleep.
Cry…

 

Just Walk Away

It is totally acceptable to remove yourself from a stressful or uncomfortable situation before it triggers you. In fact, I recommend it. Few arguments are ever worth a panic attack–it won’t solve anything.

Just get yourself out, go calm down.

I have to do this at home sometimes. One of us will be overtired, the puppy will be naughty, or our team will be losing. Something stupid. Whatever it is, the tension starts simmering and I know if I don’t go to bed RIGHT NOW I won’t be able to get out when everything boils over.

I will just sneak upstairs when The Hubs turns his attention elsewhere, or sometimes I will just tell him that I have to go. 9 times out of 10, he gets it. He usually asks me about it later, but I think for the most part he understands that when I reach that point, it’s better for me to fly than fight.

And that’s OK! I tell you all the time, KNOW YOUR LIMITS!

If it is a real issue, I know we will discuss it later, when things are calmer. Most of the time, though, it’s just us being grouchy butts. Things are tense in our house right now because of the relocation and store shut down. But, I know in a few months, everything will calm down and we’ll be exploring a new city together. That’s marriage!

 

Heads Carolina, Tails California

As much as my life calls for it, I don’t handle change well. My brain demands routine. The same schedule, the same people, the same places. I even rotate my teas–just enough for variety–but not too much and always in the same order. I require structure and a plan…most of the time.

So when something causes that structure to crumble, I become overwhelmed very fast. My face turns red, it gets hard to breathe. Lists start forming in my head faster than I can write them down as a survival tactic, until I’m drowning in them.

Three things have happened all at once. My team was shifted to a new, unfamiliar manager. The client I’ve worked with for six years is changing vendors. And Monday we found out that R’s store is closing and we are being relocated.

It will happen fast. 4-6 weeks at the most. Location TBD. He has to close the store first. Arrangements have to be made. Then, after two years of settling in, we pull up those fragile roots we’ve let ourselves feed out, and move to new soil.

It could be anywhere at this point. We could move closer to home, we could move somewhere just as far away. It’s an adventure, but it’s all unknown at this point. We are at a planning standstill.

I have so many emotions about this. To say I am overwhelmed is the understatement of the year. I may be more excited once I find out where we are going, but for now I’m very stressed. I’m sad to be leaving friends and an organization I’ve grown to care about very much. (By the way, check out Paws in the City, and donate if you can!) We ALMOST bought a house here. Thank goodness we didn’t!

We will know when we know. As The Hubs and I often say…

And we are….

MOVIN’ ON!

 

Pain Level 7

Because this is Mental Health Month, and the point is to educate, I think it’s important to be honest and open about what mental illness looks like. So I’m going to share something I wrote late at night in the middle of a migraine episode. I’ve lived with these migraines all my life, and they are scary, dark places full of excruciating pain, but also horrible anxiety and awareness. When I come out of them, I am back to myself, but during an episode–which could last a few hours, or sometimes days–I am often incapacitated.

This time, I managed to write down some of what my brain was cycling through. Be aware–it could be triggering to some.


My brain goes to some pretty dark places when I have a migraine like this. How do I make it stop? Will it ever stop? I can’t function and I am wasting everyone’s time. I want to die. What if I am still like this tomorrow? What if it gets worse? I want to die.

The thing is, as far as migraines go, the pain isn’t that bad. Maybe a 7? I’ve had way worse. But the aura is killing me. The pressure is a weight upon my shoulders, dragging me under until I drown. I can hardly breathe for it. There’s so much pressure I fear my skull might crack. I can’t move my neck. Pain adds to the anxiety, anxiety adds to the pain–they just compound against one another and I can’t see my way out of this.

How do I make it STOP?

APRIL HIATUS

Guys. I have a problem. I have hit a book slump.

 

IT IS AWFUL. I’ve read three books in a row that I just haven’t really been able to get into or focus on, and today’s read is Passenger. I should be LOVING this one, right? EVERYONE is loving this. I don’t think it’s the book, I think it’s me. I just have so much going on, and I’m just in over my head. I’m rushing to get material out on time for the blog, and get through the stack of library books I have. I have two other big projects I’m working on, and my day job, and a new puppy.

It’s a LOT.

 

So I am going to give myself a break. My next ARC isn’t due until the end of the month. I’m going to keep reading, but if I don’t have to worry about posting every day, then I can slow down. I will write the reviews for what I read this month, schedule them for May, and I’ll be back next month. I just need some time to catch up with myself.

I promise it won’t be forever. But I think if I don’t take a mental health break….my mental health might actually break.

Thanks for understanding. In the meantime, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat username hmills96!

 

The Secret Life of A Book Blogger

Lissy, I should have known you would tag me in this! And I happen to actually see it in a timely manner, when I have time to sit down and respond! Dammit. You caught me.

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How long have you been a blogger?

Oh geez. I’ve been blogging since before my first marriage. I started with food blogs, and I’ve had a couple. I tried a travel/restaurant review blog once…but you have to actually travel to do something like that. Why didn’t I just start with books? They are my one true love. I’ve been doing this for almost two years now!

At what point do you think you will stop?

Why is this a question? Do you want me to stop? I’m never going to stop reading, and I’m never going to stop talking about reading. I certainly don’t plan to stop writing about it either any time soon.

What is the best thing?

Do you know how many friends I have made since starting this? SO MANY. Not only that, but I’ve completely changed the way I read–it’s more focused, and my range is more expansive. Reading is just a much better experience now, and I LOVED reading before.

What is the worst thing? What do you do to make it okay?

“So I mentioned all the friends I’ve made, but stinks is that most of them live so far away from me. But it helps that I can talk to them online all the time.”

I really can’t add anything to Lissy’s response. ALL OF THIS.^^^^^^

How long does it take to find/create pictures to use?

For my standard review posts, I use Goodreads and Amazon pics. Anything else is generally stuff I take myself.

Who’s your book crush?

I don’t have a great answer to this. I fall a little in love with someone in most fiction books I read (usually the villain), but do I have someone I’m in love with wholeheartedly? Not really. I could be cliche and say Darcy…but even he’s a pretty big asshole. There’s Draco, but I’m more in love with his fanfiction creation than the version JK wrote and hated. I’ve always had an inappropriate crush on Father Ralph from The Thorn Birds, for obvious reasons, but that’s mostly the book projecting itself on me. And don’t even get me started on the heroines who have made me question who I am over the years. There’s just too many books, you guys.

What author would you like to have on your blog?

Again…would it be cliche to say JK? She IS the queen. I also would love to have someone like Jenny Lawson or Allie Brosh on to talk about mental illness. Interviews are super scary and awkward for me though, so I don’t do them as often as I’d like.

What do you wear when you write your blog?

Almost always yoga pants and a tshirt. My work from home uniform.

How long does it take you to prepare?

I keep notes in my journal while I read, but mostly I write each review as soon as I finish a book. It’s my Book Hangover Cure. Helps me move on before I start the next one.

How do you feel about the book blogger community/culture?

Sometimes there are conflicts, but for the most part, it has been so rewarding to be a part of it.

What do you think one should do to have a successful blog?

Try to be consistent as possible. You don’t have to write every day, or even every other day. But try to find a rhythm and stick to it. Your followers will be more likely to look at your website if they know when to look!

Who do you tag?

I always feel super awkward tagging people, so feel free to play if you want to!

Take My Hand and Show Me Your Bunker

I’ve never been very good at spontaneity. There’s always far too much planning involved–what are we doing, when are we doing it, how much money is required, who is driving?

Every minute of the day there is a constant chatter going on in my head of what may happen at some point in the future. That may mean one minute from now, one hour, one day, or one year. The thought may be completely realistic–what happens when my puppy poops…or completely bizarre and unlikely–what happens when my puppy poops and I step in it and slip and fall in front of all the neighbors and I break my tailbone and my puppy gets away and gets hit by a car.

Yes, that really is a thought that my brain just had.

Until anxiety took over my life, these thoughts were just contingency plans. Sometimes prefights in my head. If she says this, I’ll say this. If not, then I’ll go this other direction. If the teacher calls on me, here is what I’ll do. Constant diligence and preparation for every single moment of every single day.

I still do this, I can’t help it. My husband says I fight with him more in my head than I do in real life. And I often see problems at work before they become huge because I am so obsessed with finding every detail in its rightful place.

But more and more, my “contingency” plans are more “doomsday” plans. Every time I want to walk down the stairs, I imagine myself falling down them. Or when I think about getting up from the couch, I imagine hitting my teeth on the desk. I always think my boss is going to fire me when he emails, calls, or texts. Every plane that flies overhead is obviously going to crash into my apartment building. And yes, I might even slip on my new puppy’s poop.

The brain chatter is constant and terrifying.

That is Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Having an injury or being sick is even worse. I clearly have bone cancer or multiple sclerosis. When I have a migraine, it’s a tumor. When I wrote this, I was awake in the middle of the night because I had laryngitis and couldn’t sleep because of all things it could be, even though it really was just a bad bacterial infection.

The other night I had a panic attack because we were locked out of our home and I thought we were going to have to sleep in the car.

I know all of these things are ridiculous, but they are also all extremely real to me.

These are just the every day things. There are bigger things too–Donald Trump terrifies me, so does war, and many others. Sane Haley thinks it’s all bullshit, but if you ever see me zoning out with a terrified look on my face…pour me some tea, take my hand, and show me your bunker.

 

Update 2/23/2017–It is interesting to look back on this post a year later with a new diagnosis of OCD. Everything about this makes so much more sense now. The fears are still real and huge, but now I know that they are called obsessions, and while that may not make them exactly easier to deal with, at least I have a name for them. There really is two parts of me–the obsessive part that has these awful scary thoughts, and the other section of me that looks at these obsessions and knows that they make no sense. 

Also, Donald Trump IS ACTUALLY PRESIDENT. That isn’t just something my brain made up, unfortunately. So maybe we might actually need that bunker, for real.