Week of Booklr 2017 Goals

I have made a decision.

It hasn’t been an easy decision to make. In fact it makes me feel a little sick inside to do it.

I’ve been working through the Boxall’s List of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die for a long time now. I’m 118 books into it. And I feel like I’ve benefited from reading those books. Some of them. Others have been boring or over my head or just horrible.

There’s still a lot of books on that list I want to read–the list is a fantastic starting point for classic literature. But I no longer think it’s the end-all-be-all list. There are so many repeated authors, and the list isn’t very diverse. And 1001 books a LOT of books. When my TBR currently sits at 3652…removing most of those 1001 books will allow me to focus on others that I would prefer to read. Not that I will EVER get through all 3652 books on that list–and it is ever growing.

But at least I can get rid of some of the authors that I don’t agree with that I have hung on to ONLY because they were on the Boxall list and my OCD told me I HAD to read them. Because if they are on a list I have to, right? NO. I DON’T. I CAN SAY NO. I have that power. So I am removing the Boxall challenge from this blog. I’m removing the Boxall challenge from my Goodreads and my TBR spreadsheet. And I’m purging any of those books and authors that I don’t feel meet my reading standards (which means going through every tiny little strip of paper in my TBR jar/bag and saying yay or nay).

I’m going to be reading as many diverse authors as I can moving forward. I still have a lot of classic literature I want to read–but I need to shake things up.

Here’s to reverse resolutions, and to new ones too.

Be Thankful, but don’t forget your history.

This morning I was up long before the sun. It’s my job to make the turkey, and it’s a labor intensive process. First, I have to cook the brine. The turkey soaks in that for two days. Then, while my family slept in, I massaged it with butter and herbs and started the long roasting process.

It’s tradition–one that allows me to show my family how much I love them with one of the gifts I have been given–something I missed doing when I was in Dallas. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday–the food is always the best, there aren’t gift expectations or a million parties or organize, and it’s just a day about love and gratitude.

But that isn’t what Thanksgiving is for a lot of people–something I’ve never really considered until this year.

In school, we dressed up for Pioneer Day, and watched a blacksmith make horseshoes while we learned how to make “old fashioned cornbread” in the parking lot. We probably had turkey for lunch that day. Our Thanksgiving lessons always contained pictures and stories of how the pilgrims were starving and the Native Americans brought maize and taught them how to farm it. As a corn farmer’s daughter, that was especially cool.

I know we learned about the Trail of Tears when we were older, but those dress up days of peace and food (for some strange reason…hmmm) left a much bigger impression than those short cold lessons of disease and genocide.

Historically, Thanksgiving isn’t the Norman Rockwall painting I posted last year. Native Americans might have contributed to our corn farming–but we repaid them by stealing their land and massacring their people.

We can’t forget that happened. This holiday has a pretty dark past, and we can’t just look over all of that and pretend it all away. It might be our history, but we can make sure it doesn’t happen again now. Because guess what, IT IS HAPPENING AGAIN NOW.

I’m going to spend today loving my family and being grateful for the blessings I have around me. My life is full of privilege that others do not have.

But while I do that, I cannot forget that as I sit here, there are people fighting to keep the rights to their land and water in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Nation started this week of our Thanksgiving by having waterhoses and pepper spray turned on their peaceful protest camps–IN 25 DEGREE WEATHER.

Want to make Thanksgiving actually mean something? There are lots of ways to help with the Standing Rock Nation and the #NoDAPL protests. Here’s how (From the 98%):

1. Contribute to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fundraiser by clicking here

2. Call or Email your Congressional Representative or Senator. You can use this page to find out who they are and how to contact them.

3. Call or Email Denis McDonough, Chief of Staff to the President and Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of Army Corp of Engineers. Tell them to rescind the permits granted to Dakota Access:

  • Denis McDonough, Chief of Staff to the President
    dmcos@who.eop.gov
    (202) 456-3182
  • Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of Army Corp of Engineers
    joellen.darcy@us.army.mil
    (703) 697-8986

4. Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense Fund

5. You can donate items from the Sacred Stone Camp Supply List

6. Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit: (202) 761-5903

7. You can sign the petition to the White House to Stop DAPL

8.Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:

  • Lee Hanse
    Executive Vice President
    Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
    800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
    San Antonio, Texas 78258Telephone: (210) 403-6455
    Email: Lee.Hanse@energytransfer.com
  • Glenn Emery
    Vice President
    Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
    800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
    San Antonio, Texas 78258Telephone: (210) 403-6762
    Email: Glenn.Emery@energytransfer.com
  • Michael (Cliff) Waters
    Lead Analyst
    Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
    1300 Main St.
    Houston, Texas 77002Telephone: (713) 989-2404
    Email: Michael.Waters@energytransfer.com

If you’re worried about what to write when you contact officials, or need more background information before making phone calls, some sample language is available here.

If you’re on social media, these hashtags will help keep you up to date on all the news coming out of the camp: #HonorTheTreaties #NoBakken #SacredStoneCamp #STOPDAPL #MniWiconi #SacredWater #NoDAPL #RezpectOurWater #StandWithStandingRock

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.

I AM MAD

I have a lot of emotions, but the one I feel most overwhelmingly is MAD.

Mad that we are here today, uncertain about the future. Mad that we have a political system that cheats voters out of their true voice. Mad that so many of those voices are suppressed. I’m mad that we had a law that protected those voices and it was taken away because we are in denial that racism still exists.

I’m mad that the people appointed to lead our country are racists and bigots and misogynists. We have one man whose life is fraught with scandal and who shows us over and over how he tears people down, especially women and people of color. We have another who already has an extensive political career in harming women and LGBTQIA+.

But the real thing I am so mad at is that WE elected these men. MY DEMOGRAPHIC. 66% of white women voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence–two men who hate women. WHY? We were so afraid to let go of our privilege that we gave up our rights, and the rights of our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers.

And so I’m mad. FURIOUS.

But while I’m mad, my friends of color are terrified for their lives. My friends in the LGBTQIA+ community are scared not only that they will lose the rights they have fought so hard for, but maybe their lives too.

We have had bad presidents before, we have disagreed with those in government before. But this is a wholly different situation.

This decision could cost people their lives. Already after Day 1, we are seeing reports of Muslim women having their hijabs pulled off. Gay children are coming home in tears after being bullied, and 4 trans kids committed suicide yesterday. These are not isolated incidents. This election has basically told bigots “You are right! These people are gross and you need to tell them.”

So many of us are feeling helpless right now, but there are some things we can do.

  • If you see bullying like the above, DO NOT STAY QUIET. Either stand up to the bully yourself, or at the very least, be an impassive force by getting the person out of the situation.

Hi everyone! This is an illustrated guide I made as part of my co-admining work at The Middle Eastern Feminist on Facebook! It will be published there shortly. The technique that is displayed here is a genuine one used in psychology - I forgot the...

  • Donate to a suicide hotline. So many people, especially kids, are calling in for help right now. They need your support, so if you can, please donate. Here are some of the best (Also, if you need help, please do not hesitate to use these. They are there for you!):
    • The Trevor Project (LBGT+): 1-866-488-7386
    • Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
    • http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#
    • http://www.crisistextline.org/get-help-now/
  • Huffington Post also wrote an article with several places to donate.
  • Call or text or email your friends, family members, and coworkers who may be hurting right now. Ask them how they are. Listen to them. Really listen.
  • Check on your kids. There’s a lot of bullying happening, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are witnessing or hearing things they aren’t used to. There have been several articles written on how to talk to your kids about what is happening. I’m not a parent, so I’m not going to point you that direction, but I’m hearing it from several of my friends that this is affecting them already.
  • Consider joining an anti-racist group or civil right organization. Here’s a good resource that lists several, or hit google to find one in your area. This is a good way to get involved with the peaceful protests and movements that are happening.

I had a friend in another country make a joke about how silly the name of our country was:  The United States of America. And she was right. Because we haven’t been United. We need to be a united front in fighting racism and prejudice. We don’t know what is coming, and that is why so many people are terrified. We need to be a community more than ever. Be kind. Be loving. Be safe.

I love you all.

Basic Roast Chicken

I’m breaking my hiatus briefly because several people have asked me how to make roast chicken, and I thought this would be the easiest way to post my recipe. Or perhaps I should call it a technique instead.

I love making roast chicken, it’s probably one of my favorite foods to both make and eat. Once you learn to make a basic one, there’s unlimited possibilities in what you can do to mix it up.

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Here’s what you need to get started:

5 lb whole chicken (usually called a roaster at your meat counter, doesn’t have to be exactly 5 lbs)

Fresh Herbs (I usually use rosemary and thyme, but use what you like. Many stores sell a “poultry mix.”)

2 Onions, big chunks

Garlic, how ever many cloves you want

Veggies–This is where you get to mix it up. Root veg is traditional. Carrots, baby potatoes. Last night I used apples. You could use lemons or oranges, fennel. You want something you can put on the bottom of the pan to lift up the chicken, and the juices will run all over. Sometimes you may want to eat them later, like the roots, sometimes you may discard them, like the citrus. Up to you. Be creative.

Salt, pepper, spices.

 

Ok, now you’re ready to get started. Adjust your oven racks so you’ll have space and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Get out a big pan–for a chicken, you don’t necessarily have a fancy roasting dish like if you were doing a turkey, but you need something heavy enough to hold in the juices. I usually use a shallower broiling pan without the grill topper. I’ve seen people use a wide cast iron pan too.

Place most of your veggies in the bottom of the pan. Save some of the onion, garlic, and herbs.

On a clean cutting board, prepare your chicken. Pat it dry with a paper towel, then salt and pepper heavily. Use whatever spices you want. The salt is going to help the skin crisp and trust me–it’s the best part, so you want it to be flavorful.

Stuff the cavity with onions, garlic, herbs. You can also stick citrus wedges or apples up there. Anything flavorful that is going to give off steam and flavor. That cavity may look gross but IT IS YOUR FRIEND.

Put your chicken on the veg in the pan breast up! I don’t truss up my bird with twine, I just make sure everything is tucked in close–the wings usually come folded already, the legs you can lean in the ankles together.

Pop it in the oven for 20 min a pound. For a 5 pound bird that is usually a little over an hour and a half. The temp should be 180 at the thigh, since the breasts take a little bit longer to cook. When you are getting close to that temp, you can turn the broiler on to crisp the skin for 2-3 min. Just watch it, it happens FAST.

Once you take the chicken out of the oven, leave it to rest in the pan for 10-15 min. Remove to a clean cutting board and carve. Often the meat may just come apart in your hands, so be careful with the knife! There are plenty of videos on youtube if you aren’t sure how to approach this.

Spoon up your veg, plate with the chicken, and wha-la! Dinner. See, that wasn’t so hard! It just takes time, and there are lots of steps. But when stores put whole chickens on sale they are CHEAP, and it makes a good hearty dinner with lots of leftovers for two of us.

Plus…chicken skin, people. CHICKEN SKIN.

Taking a Break

I am going to take a little bit of a break. I have a vacation coming up in a couple of weeks, and this is what my brain looks like right now:

 

I had a horrible day yesterday, and my anxiety brain was telling me to shut the whole blog down, just stop and not come back. I don’t want to do that, but that’s usually a good indicator that I need to step away for a little while, bring myself back, and find my focus again. I have a lot of reading to do in the mean time, so I’ll come back with some great reviews and a full schedule–probably at the beginning of November.

Make sure to follow me on all the rest of my social media, because I’ll still be posting as usual there.

Twitter:  Hmills96

Instagram:  ilayreading

Facebook:  ilayreading

Snapchat:  hmills96

Mental Illness Awareness Week 2016 #MIAW

I saw this video on Facebook this morning, and shared it with the following post. I’ve been trying to think of what to post today, and I think this is exactly how I need to kick this week off. Thank you, Neil. You’re an inspiration to us all.

This poem will make you laugh. It will make you sob. You might think “Wow! This guy is NUTS!”

Neil Hilborn has a bunch of these kinds of videos out, I encourage you to go watch them. He’s brilliant. And devastatingly sick. People with mental illness struggle every day with the things Neil talks about in this poem. It may be humorous, but it isn’t a joke. This is real life.

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Take some time to listen to people’s stories, like Neil’s. Tell yours, if you have one. Do some research, donate to organizations like NAMI, if you can. They are fighting for bills in Congress to help us get better health care for the mentally ill.

But most of all, instead of thinking “Wow! This guy is NUTS!” Try and think, “Wow, this guy is so brave! He has been to the edge again and again and again and he still can see colors. He still has hope.”

Help us reduce the stigma behind mental illness. Replace it with hope, and love, and the courage to keep fighting.

Thank you.


If you need help, please reach out to one of the following numbers. Or, for people like myself who have trouble calling, there is also a suicide prevention chat now.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/lifelinechat.aspx

 

New Digs

Hey ya’ll, I’m sure you’ve noticed things look a little different around here. Sometimes, I just have to change it up, ya know?

The good stuff is all the same, I just have a new theme. Take a look around–things are in slightly different places, if something doesn’t look right, let me know. If you’ve ever made a blog yourself, you know–you look at these things so long that it all starts looking blurry after awhile.

I’m working on updating my categories, because I created them when I first started out two years ago and now that I’ve gotten some experience, they just don’t fit so well. We need to expand a little bit, remove some, etc. That means going back through 700+ posts and reorganizing. It’s a good project for lazy nights in front of the TV with the hubby, but it might take a little while.

Just don’t be surprised if you see some thing shifting around in the coming weeks. I’m done with the big stuff, though. I hope you like it! There is a new RSS feed button, along with some social links. Click them, give me a follow if you haven’t already.

Oh! Speaking of that. I have a new Instagram for the blog:  ILayReading. Make sure you go add that! I’ve also created an email address ilayreadingreviews@gmail.com. If you have comments, questions, suggestions on what I should read next–send me a note.

As always, thank you for your continued support!

Love is Love is Love is Love

I sit here, watching my Tweetdeck just roll and roll and roll. Most days it is filled with fandom and art from my super talented friends, sports commentary from whatever is in season, food and coffee and wine and beer.

But today there are only two extremes.

LOVE and HATE.

Thankfully, I follow mostly open-minded, welcoming people, so there is a heck of a lot of love on my wall today. An outpouring of grief from the LGBT community, and people already rising to fight back–not with arms but with peace–blood donations (for those who can legally give blood), calls to congressmen, vigils, monetary donations. Straight allies spreading the word and joining the fight that is not ours but we will do as much as we can for it anyway. This community has been hit so hard but still it is strong enough to love each other.

How do I know that? Because the government wants to tell us that it is radical Islam who did this. That the problem is the Muslim faith and we should hate them all. The hate on my timeline this morning isn’t from individuals. It is from the media and the politicians. And the response I have seen to that hate has been to tear it down. To hell with your hate. There are gay Muslims too, and just as much Islamaphobia as homophobia. The hate is the problem, the “-phobia”. Not whatever comes in front of it.

To take from Lin Manuel Miranda’s sonnet last night…because who can do it better than LMM:

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside
I sing them as a symphony

I ask you to put some love out into the world today. Whether you are gay, lesbian, trans, nonbinary, asexual, queer, or straight–however you identify–remember that love is love is love is love. Something terrible, horrible, devastating has happened. I’d love to stay unimaginable, but for some awful reason that is no longer the case. There are many things we need to do to fix this, but today, the first thing we need to do is love each other.

I love you.

One more thought. I felt the need to write this to show my support and purge some of the grief I feel for what happened. I did not want to keep quiet on this issue. However, my voice is not the voice you should be listening to, for I am simply an ally. Go and listen to the multitude of LGBTQ voices shouting and crying and mourning. They are calling out. 


If you need help today, here are some resources:

The Trevor Project:        866-488-7386
                                         http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

National Suicide Prevention Line:  800-273-8255
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx

There has been a GoFundMe set up to help the victims of the Pulse Shooting, please go here to help.

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!