The Bookspired Linkup (June 2016)

Welcome to The Bookspired Linkup! Each month we share posts that fit The Bookspired Linkup theme: exploring how a book has inspired you. You can read about my inspiration for starting the linkup here. Check out the linked-up posts through the blue inLinkz button at the bottom of this post and add your own, or participate through the comment feature.

Words of Wise Women

Last Friday my favorite podcast, Sorta Awesome, released one of its best shows yet, Episode 63: What We Know Now That We’re Here. You should just download and listen to it because my description won’t do it justice, but it’s basically a pep talk from two lovely big-sister-type ladies (Megan and Kelly) about what they’ve learned about their minds, bodies, and souls thus far in life. It sounds like a heavy topic but they don’t take thylblemselves that seriously, which makes it just right.

After listening to the podcast, I guess I was in an advice-seeking mood, because when I saw that the Kindle version of Eleanor Roosevelt’s memoir You Learn By Living was on sale for $1.99, I immediately bought and downloaded it to start reading during a short road trip. I’m about halfway done with it and although I don’t love all of Mrs. Roosevelt’s advice – She once told a little boy that if he needed to cry, he should go “cry alone into the bathtub” (???) –  many of her words are wise, such as these

“Our emotional interests, our intellectual pursuits, our personal preoccupations, all change. So do those of our friends. So the relationship that binds us together must change too; it must be flexible enough to meet the alterations of person and circumstance.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

My podcast and book choices this week got me thinking about some of the other wise women whose words I’ve taken to heart lately. I’ve been into reading memoirs recently, and I’ve also taken an interest in the self-improvement genre through podcasts and books. Although I like to think I have a good head on my shoulders, I don’t claim to be an expert on most things, and I look for opportunities to learn new things every day. My favorite sources of wise words are lovely, smart, brave, interesting women. Here are just a few of the wise women I’m listening to these days:

Emily Freeman – Simply Tuesday23411600

I bought this book on a whim and thought it would be mildly entertaining or kinda good. I had no idea how connected I would feel to Emily and how much I would take to heart her words about the importance of “small moments.” I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, and I don’t award stars willy-nilly. One of my favorite tidbits:

“But Tuesday teaches me that part of living well in ordinary time is letting this day be good. Letting this day be a gift. Letting this day be filled with plenty. And if it all goes wrong and my work turns to dust? This is my kind reminder that outcomes are beyond the scope of my job description.”   -Emily P. Freeman

Sarah Bessey – Out of Sorts23492740

I joined Sarah’s book launch team for the release of Out of Sorts because A. It sounded like fun, B. I would receive an early (free) galley copy of the book, and, most importantly, C. I was smitten with Sarah’s writing, which I knew from her blog at Sarah is a big picture thinker and seems to be a wonderful combination of funny, serious, and devoted to both her family and her call to preach. There’s something magnetic about her. My favorite nugget from the book:

“May we be the ones who don’t give up on radical inclusion. May we be the ones to whisper to one another, every now and then, on purpose, at the right time: You belong here. There’s room for you. There’s room for all of us.” – Sarah Bessey

Gretchen Rubin – The Happiness Projectthehappinessproject

This was another book I expected to enjoy but ended up loving. Gretchen Rubin is very different from me. She seems extremely intense and driven, and I’m just not that wound up or motivated. But I adore her, and I especially love her tips and tricks for habit formation and increasing happiness in everyday life. What I love most about her, though, is her honesty about her own self-discovery.

“I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am.”  – Gretchen Rubin

Eleanor, Emily, Sarah, and Gretchen are just a few of the wise women who I’m tuned to these days. I’m always looking for new inspiration – Who are your favorite wise literary ladies?





The Bookspired Linkup (May 2016)

Welcome to The Bookspired Linkup! Each month we share posts that fit The Bookspired Linkup theme: exploring how a book has inspired you. You can read about my inspiration for starting the linkup here. Check out the linked-up posts through the blue inLinkz button at the bottom of this post and add your own, or participate through the comment feature.

This month I’m also hosting a giveaway! Details are at the bottom of this post. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and Other Things I Love

A year and a half 7284508ago, I was scrolling through my Goodreads updates feed and this book caught my eye: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim. How could I resist the saucy title, the Pepto-Bismol-pink cover, and the collage of one of the best TV villains from one of the best TV shows, Little House on the Prairie? I put the book on my Christmas list, and my parents fulfilled my wish.

I was so intrigued by Arngrim’s stories about her days on the TV set that I read while holding my newborn in one arm and the book in the other. I loved learning about Arngrim’s relationships with Melissa Gilbert (they were and still are close friends), Melissa Sue Anderson (not so close with this Melissa), and of course our beloved Michael Landon. Arngrim had a difficult childhood, and her persistence through some terrible situations, along with her wit and likeable real-life personality, puts the character of Nellie Oleson into a whole new light.

In addition to loving this book for its own story, reading Confessions of a Prairie Bitch sparked my interest in reading other memoirs so that I could dive into the details of other people’s lives, learn more about their true personalities, and understand the good (and sometimes the not-so-good) things they’ve done. Some of my favorite memoirs from the past couple of years are:

Dad is Fat and Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

Nellie Oleson now has a special place in my heart. I owe her, and the talented actress who played her on TV, for fueling my interest in good memoirs. Here’s to the biggest bitch on the prairie!

Giveaway Details:

I’m giving away my copy of Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post to explain why you want to win the book. All commenters will be entered into a random drawing after the linkup closes in one week. One entry per person, please.




The Bookspired Linkup (April 2016)


Welcome to The Bookspired Linkup! After announcing the linkup last week, I came down with some sort of illness involving fever, congestion, and general yuckiness which zapped me of the ability to write a new post for this week. So instead, I’m sharing a past post that fits The Bookspired Linkup theme: exploring how a book has inspired you. In this case, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman helped me to sort through some thoughts about fictional characters and their real-life counterparts. Check out the linked-up posts through the blue inLinkz button at the bottom of this post and add your own, or participate through the comment feature. Thanks for stopping by!

Atticus Finch, Cliff Huxtable, and the Nature of Good Fiction

originally published March 7, 2016

“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.”

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Last summer I read Harper Lee’s much-talked-about draft novel, Go Set a Watchman. There are varying opinions about whether or not the draft should even have been published; I don’t know the answer to that question, but I did love reading the book. Ms. Lee’s first, raw attempt at exposing the reality of racism in her world (in our world still) is fascinating, especially to a former book editor.

24817626What I appreciate most about the book, and what’s at the heart of any good book, is the truth revealed within it: all of us are far from perfect, some are seriously messed up, and most can’t get away with pretending everything’s rosy forever. Our beloved Atticus Finch is no exception to this rule.

I’ve been thinking about this lately while wrapping my head around the allegations that surfaced against longtime American entertainment icon Bill Cosby. Like many, I grew up watching The Cosby Show. I cried through the last episode, especially during Cliff and Clair’s final dance across the living room and off the TV set. At one point during my teen years I mailed a fan letter to the man himself and received an autographed picture in return. Two years ago, I took an early lunch break and hustled down the street to catch a glimpse of Bill cutting the ribbon at the opening of Ben’s Chili Bowl in Arlington, Virginia. I’d call myself a fan.

When the allegations first hit the news in 2014, my heart lurched and I hoped, of course, that none of it was true. At that time, it seemed like there was some possibility of serious misunderstanding or gross exaggeration or a pandemic of made-up stories. I had just finished packing a hospital bag, including season one of The Cosby Show, for my second baby’s birth. Shortly thereafter, as the allegations were building, I took the DVD out of the bag and put it back on the shelf.

Now, more than a year later, it seems probable that Bill Cosby did some terrible things. Setting aside the real problem – Cosby’s alleged actions and their effects on the people involved – I can’t help but wonder how to handle my relationship with Bill Cosby. Should I throw away all of my DVDs and pretend Rudi’s goldfish, the Gordon Gartrell shirt, and all of Denise’s crazy boyfriends never existed? Should I return the autographed picture? Are my good memories ruined because they never should have existed in the first place?

For me, the answers lie in separating fact from fiction, man from character. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why I’m so personally disappointed, and I think it’s because in my mind, Bill Cosby was Cliff Huxtable. I transposed the character qualities (admirable father figure, standup citizen, just the right balance of smart and funny, someone you can trust) onto the actor himself. And maybe Cosby does have some or all of those qualities to some extent. But Cliff Huxtable, not Bill Cosby, was my childhood TV hero.

Back to Atticus Finch: many people have been severely disappointed by how Atticus was portrayed in Go Set A Watchmen, as a racist who barely resembles the favorite hero-Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird, and there is some resentment that this “bad Atticus” exists. My own take is that Harper Lee created two Atticus Finches: one hero and one anti-hero. One doesn’t cancel out the other. Our favorite, classic Atticus is still a fictional hero to celebrate and emulate.

Like good Atticus Finch, Cliff Huxtable has already been created and can’t be undone. He is still and always will be a fictional hero who loves his five kids and wife and eats giant submarine sandwiches and delivers babies. The man who played Cliff may have done some terrible things, and hopefully he will be held accountable for any and all true allegations. But Cliff Huxtable is the epitome of good comedic fiction, which exists separately from the real, much more complicated world in which it is created. It teaches us lessons, keeps us company, and makes us laugh, even if the real world is breaking our hearts. We may choose never to watch The Cosby Show again. I’m still not sure where I stand on that. But no matter what, I think we can keep our good memories.