The October Getchas

I realize we’ve had historical months of struggle in our house in the past…April comes to mind from several years ago when it seemed that month was always out to get us a wee (or a lot) bit. What I’m learning this year via Facebook memories and current happenings is that October has often been the same. And while the struggle is often with schedules and To Dos, it also frequently comes in germ form, too, which we know complicates everything.

Having a Rough Go with germs in October is definitely not new to our family. Even without the assist from FB, I can still remember three years ago when I had just gotten back from my DC trip and walked into a weeks-long struggle with fevers and crud that just wore us the eff down. And then, of course last year’s October was a whirlwind of COVID-life plus pre-election insanity. Thankfully we didn’t have any big bouts with illness in Oct. 2020 but the general sense I have from that time is “nuts” so yes, I guess October can officially be added to the list of Sneaky Getcha Months.

For October 2021, the hardest hit by the Getchas is me. All three Welschie girls (plus Ben) have been struggling with a cold since early in the month, but I am the one who just can’t seem to kick it/is feeling that struggle the most. Maybe that’s a sign of age being closer to 40 instead of under 10 like the other two girls, but wow, I can’t tell you the last time I had a cold that lasted 17 days.

To make sure it wasn’t something else I went to the doctor yesterday and found out that I’m somewhere between a sinus infection and bronchitis which doesn’t surprise me based on symptoms (which are not and have never been COVID-like, thank goodness). But what I also learned yesterday is that those are typically 95% viral which means antibiotics do nothing for them AND because of my gut-reset protocol, antibiotics are super not my friend right now, anyway.

So. Here I am, still miserable and trying to figure out how to turn around this ass- (nope; sinus-) kicker month. That looks like going through fluids and tissues and sinus rinses like it is my job, while also trying to rest and trying to recover because let’s face it, even though we survived five weeks of five kids doing fall sports, life isn’t slowing down any time soon and this mama has to keep the plates spinning, even when her head and chest are filled with 10 lbs. of snot for weeks on end. (And seriously, we’ve gone through so many tissues this month, I single handedly killed four different boxes yesterday. Gross.)

The point here is that one, I need to get over this crud and sooner than later would be great, please and thank you. But also, two, I want to remember that October is out there in the future. I realize making plans is a good way to make the Universe/God/the devil laugh, but it is my sincere hope that next year I can remember, in say August or September, that the October Getchas may be lurking just around the corner and maybe I can come up with some way to fortify myself, be it in prayer, Vitamin C, or sage – whatever it takes to keep this month from taking me/us down with its whirly/swirly madness. That or invest in Puffs stock; that could work, too.

Just Keep Going/Don’t Know How Long

“Just keep going/keep going strong/just keep going/don’t know how long/just keep going/going strong/we don’t know what’s ahead of us just hold on. Just keep going/going strong/just keep going/we don’t know how long/just keep going….”

Sometimes a song comes along and plants itself not just in your ear but in your brain, heart, or spirit. Such is the case right now as I continue to navigate my gut reset protocol and my headaches with the above lines from a new-this-summer song from one of my faves, Rising Appalachia, titled (shockingly) “Keep Going.” Because whatever the case may be, I am still in it, where I have to keep going, and really still don’t know how long I’ll be at it before I really feel like me again.

To recap, I haven’t written in almost a month, in part because we went down in the trenches with sick kids for 10 out of 14 days and also in part because my situation is one that can ebb and flow, shift and shade its status at any given point on any given day. I can start out with a clear head for the day and be doomed by nightfall or I can sometimes manage to keep myself from tipping over the edge of the headache abyss and end up with a quiet night instead; I still just never quite know what the day/evening will bring.

I did learn, however, that the setback I wrote of in my last post is actually quite typical when going through a gut reset. It’s like the bad thing that brought you to this point is trying really hard to make things suck, even in the midst of all your trying, so you give up and let it stay. So kudos to me, I guess, because I have stayed the course and am still here, this many weeks later, still committed to the protocol, the diet, and the plan of slow and steady to get me through this. See why the reminders to keep going, to hold on, no matter how long, have latched onto me? I need them.

Because headaches or not, life continues. I’ve got kids coming and going and doing a million different things each week (OK, not quite, but even signing up each kid for one extra fall sport for five weeks made our calendar darn near combust with practices and pictures and games). New grades also mean new opportunities and with new opportunities come new tasks, like getting the cello home along with the siblings and back packs all amidst the end-of-day chatter, which you know, falls to the mama pack mule more often than not.

The kids have also had their own health waves to ride (including an ear infection for the littlest that we had no idea was there because she just kept popping nightly fevers but never once complained about her ear/head hurting) and their own big feelings about life and the world and school and all the things. I can’t shut that down (even though I do get after them so much more now about noise levels than I ever did prior to six months ago).

Instead I have to find ways to rest when I can, embrace the quiet when it comes, and find the strength to just keep freaking going, hoping that I’m closer than ever before to getting a hold on this, or, even better – to putting it behind me. Because eventually I’d like to have kept myself going so long and so far that this is all a distant, faded memory of perseverance, not my daily reality.

Too Soon?

Ugh. I sort of hate to admit that I’m a superstitious person because it goes against the logic and reasoning that I use to guide so much of my life, but also, I am a total kook about knocking on wood which I totally should have done when I posted my headache update last weekend. Because, this week, it would seem that in doing so, I jinxed the heck out of myself because not only have the headaches been back, they’ve been as bad as they ever were this spring.

Thursday night was the worst. After feeling the pressure and tension build throughout the afternoon, by evening I knew I was in complete hot mess mode. Still, I watched some AGT with my Bigs because we got hooked on it this summer and we’re still trying to work our way through episodes even though school is back in session. But by the time we paused the show and put a couple more kids to bed, I was just done and nothing was helping. Not a heating pad, not a shower, nothing. I finally gave up and crawled into bed just after 9PM, in so much pain that my stomach hurt.

Thankfully the next morning things were better, but there were more bad days than good ones in the last week which was rough physically. And I’ll be honest and tell you that when those bad days hit, the physical pain slides pretty quickly into being tough mentally, too. It’s hard not to fall into despair when my head goes sideways on me, especially when I’ve been doing ALL the things to help correct it and actually thought some of it was working. I mean, it really was better so why the sudden and severe setback?

Unfortunately, as has been the case this entire time, there’s no way to know. We’ve never been able to determine the actual cause of this shit show which thereby means we’ve never been able to target it with 100% confidence that we were doing the right things. And yes, I keep using “we” because this is not just a “me” effort but that of Ben and my family and the care providers that I’ve been working with for months now.

The takeaway? Chronic pain sucks. It’s awful to have to push through each day because what other choice is there but then, when you get a glimmer of “better” only to have that go away, too? That sucks even more because you start to think that life is always going to be this way and that’s a sad, hard, lonely place to be. It’s hard to tell people when you are hurting and then, when the pain does clear for a bit, it’s hard to get hopeful or excited because what if more bad days are lurking just around the corner?

Thankfully the weekend has been more so on the side of “good” (*knocks on wood* *knocks over a tree*) and because I’ve got that good, strong, and stubborn Scandinavian blood running through me, there is still some hope left that I am indeed on the right track and overall am making progress with my health. But if it seems like I’m reluctant or slow with the updates it is because this roller coaster just isn’t telling me when the ride is going to stop and I never really know from day-to-day where on that good v. bad scale I’m going to land. Plus my other takeaway from this week is, goodness graciousness – don’t jinx yourself!

Gut Check

In my last post I said I’d do a headache update here soon and apparently I have officially reached the age and stage where I blink and whole days and weeks and almost months can go by just like that because I had no idea the “here soon” would take quite this long, but sure enough, I am just now getting to that promised post.

In early July I changed a lot in my life, and that’s on top of all the things I had previously tried since April to help curb the chronic headaches. We’re talking new physical therapy, new supplements, new pillow, and even a whole new diet with going gluten free. While we’re not entirely sure what part of that helped the most, the good news is that since early July, my head has been improving. While I’m still not 100%, my light/sound sensitivity is better and I’m hovering between a 1.5-2 instead of a constant 7-9 on my pain scale. I say “my” pain scale because I’ve come to learn that those are super subjective and that I can both fortunately and unfortunately smile through a lot of shit. It’s not that everything you see that seems happy is fake but it’s also 100% true that there is always more to the story than we’re ever really telling each other and dealing with chronic pain touches all aspects of one’s life, even the happy bits.

Because I’m still not totally out of the woods, I’ve embarked on a 8-12 week process to reset my gut with the hope that in doing so, I can kick these headaches for good. This gut check included just that – a test to see what was going on with my body and now I’ll spend the next couple few months continuing the GF diet and taking gut-health supplements to clear out/rebuild my system.

The GF stuff is both not fun or easy but also not nearly as hard as it would been five years ago, for which I am grateful. There are a lot of GF products out there to try and now that the kids are back in school, I’m hoping to have an ounce more free time to plan and work out my meals so I’m really nourishing my body and not just cobbling this together to make it work. Crazy at it might sound, I am hopeful that the anchor of school will work in our/my favor and I really can get back to feeling like myself completely even though I’ve had to let so much of me go this year. Seriously, if you’d asked me in January if I thought I could give up coffee, alcohol, AND all things pizza, pasta, bread, and baked goods this year, I would have said you are freaking nuts. But here I am, doing what needs to be done and taking this gut check in my life not just in the stomach but in my head and heart, too.

May it all be worth it in the end. May that end mean no more pain. May it please come soon.

Firsts and the (Calendar) Flip Side

As my Facebook memories have been showing me the last few days, this is not my first end-of-July siren song post. In fact, that one I wrote five years ago had portions that I could easily cut and paste into today’s writing as our family prepares for all that is August and the not-so-slow shift out of summer mode. And now that I think about it, with our risk dial creeping up these last couple weeks thanks to the Delta variant of COVID-19, last year’s post could also unfortunately make a reappearance here today, but I am not ready to wrap my head around all things school + pandemic again, so I’m just not. I’m. Just. Not.

Instead, I’m standing in my general awe that we’ve landed on the last day of July. How did that happen? Where exactly did the last nine weeks go? Does anyone know?

I know that we were busy. I suppose anything would have felt busy after an entire summer (and spring and then some) at home last year, but even setting aside that, this summer had new obstacles, activities, and adventures for us.

For one, Ben taught summer school for the first time ever. I thought that sounded like a good idea until I realized how much it complicated the summer music program two kids were playing (three instruments) in, not to mention running various kids hither and thither for summer camps (yay for summer camps! they are great and this was also the first summer of all FIVE kids being old enough to participate in something somewhere!). We also had two boys back in city league baseball in June and my own online teaching and yeah, that month flew by.

I also continued to have approximately 237 appointments each week in June and most of July as I have continued to navigate my headaches which did not help lighten the calendar load. Fortunately the last few weeks have been a shift to more better days than bad days (hallelujah!!!) which is hopefully a trend that will continue and about which I’ll write an honest update for here soon.

Other firsts this summer included Colorado trips, both as a family of seven (first time there for the kids and first time in RMNP for all of us) AND as just a couple. Here’s the crazy part about that…we haven’t been away from the kids for more than one sleep in FOUR YEARS (NICU stay does not count. That was the farthest thing ever from a vacation)! Can you believe that? Um, I’m sure you can because it’s not hard to understand that it’s a big freaking ask to have other people watch this many kids so yeah, leaving them has been tough. But obviously that was way overdue and we took advantage of outdoor venues to see two beloved bands on our long weekend getaway, incidentally marking another first – our first live music post-pandemic (please; can we please be post-pandemic?).

During all that Ben had a ton of meetings for education association stuff and there were more hither/thither camps and we spent a week nursing sick kids through a nasty summer cold (and then damn near a week for me to recover from the same even though they were only down for two days each; I have learned that kids germs are a bit harder to kick when you’re breathing down the neck of 40).

So, yep. Just like that tomorrow is August. We celebrated by getting everyone’s school supplies this morning, which again – a first – includes all FIVE kids as Wilson finally gets to join the school schedule with her first year of preschool. About this she tells me that she will miss me when she’s gone and she’d like it to start tomorrow, please and thank you. You’ve gotta love the duality that is a 3yo!

But, actually, I get it because I’m feeling that flip side of all this, too. I’m excited for the new adventures and new schools (OK; maybe? One of those is middle school and I have not yet wrapped my brain around having a middle schooler either, but I am hoping for the best all the same). I’m looking forward to a return to routine and having, for the FIRST time ever since becoming a mom, a couple hours to myself each morning to work and be a person while they are all out of the house. But also there’s just a lot looming this fall and I like our summer bubble so I don’t really want to see it burst just yet.

I guess the good thing is, it doesn’t have to for a couple more weeks. Not officially, anyway, even though I know that first week of August is coming for us with a lot of To Dos. Hopefully it will just be good practice for what’s to come and can also give us a wee bit more time to just be before the real flip of the school year begins.

In the Weeds

It’s a whole new month today and time for an update, but before I go any further, let me clarify that I do know “in the weeds” is a restauranting turn of phrase that maybe seems like a stretch here but I’m applying it to my own life anyway as with the calendar flip comes another milestone in this mysterious health journey of mine….the three month mark of this head pain roller coaster.

First, a quick side note: big thanks and much appreciation given to those who have reached out with questions, possible therapies to try, and just general concern. That means the world to me and thanks to you all, I’ve been able to learn about and try some new-to-me treatments and approaches. I still haven’t tried every tool sent my way but it’s good to know I still have tricks up my sleeve if this sh!t continues to persist beyond current attempts in process.

The good news is, I have had some not just good but CLEAR days. 4.5 of them, actually, which probably sounds awful to most folks but after 2.5 solid months of a headache, I gladly welcomed that little window of relief. The crappy part was, it didn’t last and so the last couple weeks have been back on the roller coaster of up and down days with me still left to wonder what is going on, what can I do about it, and when in the world is it ever going to go away. As an uberplanner this unknown (that comes with chronic pain, no less) is incredibly hard on and frustrating for me. Hence the weeds and the continuing of trying of all the things to get out of them.

Since I last wrote I’ve started some new physical therapy techniques and exercises that seem to be helpful. Acupuncture continues to offer some relief and hopefully in time may get me to more and more clear days. I’ve also been toying with the idea of an elimination diet to see if my food is working against me more than for me, but that seems like such a daunting task, I’m pretty much dragging my feet on starting that just yet.

One thing I have been able to give up with ease has been alcohol. Turns out that when you already feel like you have a constant hangover, the thought of drinking something that could add to that pain is not appealing at all. I can’t say that this will stick beyond the headaches (see, still clinging to hope that this will all someday be behind me) but for the last two months I have been perfectly fine to take beer/wine out of rotation and feature sparkling water, kombucha, and hops water instead.

Here’s hoping that both the path forward and the pain clear soon and for good. I would give a huge, HUGE NA cheers to that development, for sure.

Headaches and Hiding

As if the last March-to-March didn’t make me enough of a hermit and homebody, the nearly constant, 90% daily headaches I’ve been having since early April of this year (that means I’m nearing the two month mark with that) have left me in very slow, very reluctant re-entry into the world.

OK, let’s be real. That’s not all the fault of the headaches. I’m one who would have come out of COVID life more slowly than most anyway but they certainly haven’t helped me feel up and ready dip a toe, really, much less dive back in to whatever life is these days. <– clearly I still have some feelings about this, eh?

But it’s been several weeks since I’ve written or done an update on the health front, and some folks have been checking in which is a good reminder to get on here and do some writing as part of the healing process, too.

After close to six weeks of constant headaches, I ran into five glorious, beautiful, wonderful days of Feeling Better. Not perfect but so much more myself that I was so relieved. Then came the backslide and it was not good. It also wasn’t a return to the height of pain, but still, to go backwards at all felt so defeating and even though things have improved somewhat since then, I still haven’t had another chunk of (or any) good days resurface. As a semi-side note, the level of awareness this has brought me about those living with chronic pain is huge. Being in pain every single day discolors and impacts every other area of your life, not just how your body feels. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, ever.

The good news is, my MRI came back clear. I’ve since sent off some samples for hormone testing and our house is currently being evaluated for mold due to our leaky roof over the last year (that’s a post/update all on its own, I believe). Either of those could easily be the culprit and I’m very curious to know results on both. I’ve also continued with chiropractor and acupuncture and some other therapies, all of which remain hopeful and positive that we will get this figured out/fixed. I’ll be honest that I struggle more days than not to keep that same faith, but I also know there has to be some resolution because I can’t accept this as my new normal. I just won’t.

Having the kids home for summer is both lovely and an added factor of difficulty in all this because in case you haven’t met them or realized from me yet, there’s a LOT of them and they are NOT quiet. Even when I’m feeling 100% I think my kids are loud, so imagine how it is with a constant headache. They’ve gotten way too used to me shushing them and also trying to find space from them somewhere, somehow in our very full house, now affectionately called The Pancake Stack. Thank goodness Ben is also home for the summer so I can indeed “run” and hide from time to time which I’ve been doing in some odd, creative, and unique ways. One of those is this crazy looking cool-pack headache hat thingamajig that arrived yesterday and requires me to sit for 15 minutes when I wear it. It’s freezing fricking cold for the first 6 minutes and I can’t tell if it actually works or just makes my head feel better because eventually I take it off, but again I tell you – trying alllll the things because somewhere an answer and some relief await me.

This is an odd start to summer vacation. It’s a rough patch after an impossibly difficult year. At some point, something has to shift because as much as I like to internalize and introvert, I miss my people and I miss myself.

I Don’t Know How to Do This

The last few weeks have been the perfect storm of All the Trying, All the Things, All the Info, and All the Changes…to put it another way, life has been a lot and much of it has been overwhelming, in both pleasant and painful ways.

Let’s start with All the Trying…my headaches have persisted since I last wrote about them which puts me at a solid FIVE WEEKS of a non-stop headache, sometimes with only a few hours “off” during the day but really most days have had ache involved at varying degrees the entire day and night. Since my last post, I have added in acupuncture and been back to the chiropractor. I also went to the dentist to get some adjustments made to my mouth guard (because, Holy Hannah, nighttime jaw clenching has been bonkers for me lately). I don’t fault myself one bit for being overwhelmed by this never-ending pain as I don’t know how anyone is supposed to be OK with a five week headache. That’s just insanely hard, full stop.

During these weeks of headache, however, I’ve had no choice but to keep going and doing through the other season of overwhelm that is also known as May. Even though we aren’t out of the Pandemic yet apparently May is back and ready to throw down in 2021. There have been a ton of fun things and end-of-year things and Big Exciting Things happening with the kids and their spring sports and their school and headaches or not, I didn’t want to miss any of it. I wasn’t entirely successful on that front and did end up missing some things, but for the most part I got to be there and be involved/spectate which made my mama heart happy even if my head was not always on board.

I’ve also continued reading throughout this last month+ which brings me to the All the Info and All the Changes portion of this as I’ve now finished several resources on the Enneagram and feel like I’ve landed on that at a very interesting time in my life and in our world. From these books I’ve learned more about myself and what drives me and also what’s potentially contributed to my stress levels over this last year as I am very much a One, The Perfectionist, and let me tell you – a One in a Pandemic is a tough place to be. I’ve spent so long trying to do the right thing and freaking out about other people doing/not doing the right thing or politicizing the right thing that I can’t believe my body waited until now to also freak the frick out. To clarify, I’m not saying I gave myself these headaches but also, I can look back over the last 14 months and very much see how I was numbing/stuffing my anxiety (hello, 42 books already in 2021) and how perhaps that stored tension over time has contributed to pain in my body. To make sure it’s not something beyond that, my doctor wants me to have an MRI next week and I’m very much on board as that helps eliminate or shed light on any of the potential scary causes behind this.

So now, after getting all this info about myself, we’re at the end of the school year which comes with All the Change in and of itself, but this week’s unexpected turn also included a sudden removal of masks in our classrooms and, just yesterday, the CDC announcement that fully vaccinated folks can drop the masks and go back to life essentially as normal.

Sorry, what? That’s a huge bucket of change to dump on this exhausted, perfectionist mama’s head and I’m not quite sure how to process it. In fact, not knowing how to do THIS (life this last year+two months, plus life with a five-week headache) has indeed been a huge source of the problem for me for some time now.

I thought getting vaccinated was going to make me feel so much better. I thought having masks go away would be a happy making announcement. I thought I’d be ready to do this but it turns out I’m a little stuck and a whole lot unsure of how to proceed. (PS: if you are a podcast person, check out Episode One of “We Can Do Hard Things” from Glennon Doyle; it’s all about anxiety and she spoke to this unease with coming out of Pandemic Life and it was like she was in my freaking head when she spoke about this because those are exactly the struggles I am having right now. Who knew I wasn’t alone in this?)

At some point I have to figure out how to navigate back in the world in a way that works for me but I have yet to come to an understanding of what that might look like. Will I stop wearing masks? No, I will not because my state, my health department area is hovering around the 40% mark of fully vaccinated folks and that doesn’t feel like a super great number even though it is definitely something and something that I hope continues to increase. Will I be more comfortable in outdoor gatherings and seeing vaccinated family and friends indoors? Yes, I’m trying but please understand that this shift is a big one and it’s going to take some time for folks like me.

If I’ve learned anything from the last five weeks, it’s that I’ve got to give myself some grace and self-forgiveness for not knowing how to do this. It’s going to have to be OK to not perfect this right out the gate because, frankly, none of us know how to do this, so why should I place sure pressure and expectation on my own tension-filled shoulders? The not knowing of what re-entry and recovery look like for me simply just has to be because clearly I can’t force this. I can only give it time and continued trying.

Spring Board

In a lovely turn of events, Saturdays are now our quiet days, our days to do nothing (or everything depending on how you look at it) and will be for the next five weeks as tomorrow marks the start of Spring Sports in high gear for our fam. Miss Raegan’s already been at it for a few weeks with her running program, Girls on the Run, and the two biggest boys started with flag football practices this past week, but starting tomorrow our weeks will be full of all of that plus Sunday football games and then weekly practices for the new kid track program that Ben is helping coach here in town, and while we’re at it, why not throw in orchestra rehearsals for HD and Kinder Orientation for TJ, this week too, eh? Because, yep; all that is happening, too.

And this is why this sweatshirt has the best-ever job descriptor of what my life is like as a mama of five busy Littles because chaos coordination is exactly what I attempt to do all the live-long day, and especially now that we’re getting into high levels of activity again with this new season.

To be fair, I often find spring a little overwhelming for these very reasons – all the things happening at all the times takes a lot of organization and planning, not to mention remembering and executing. But this spring has that not-so-little extra bit of anxiety built into it because we’re coming into this level of activity after a year of basically going nowhere and doing nothing and the overwhelm is not just to our calendar but also our senses and energy levels, too.

The good part of this is that Ben and I have both been fortunate enough to receive our vaccinations for COVID-19 in the last month, at least the first dose. He actually had his second just yesterday and I will have mine this coming week, so once we get through two weeks after that, life going back to semi-normal will feel a bit more possible. But there’s still so much to process from everything that is happened in the last year that makes it hard to just dive back in to active, calendar-full life, on multiple levels, which brings me back to these quiet Saturdays.

I need them.

My kids need them.

My husband and my house need them.

We need some time to decompress and be away from all the going and doing because we haven’t quite figured out how to re-enter that again, which I think is OK. Actually, I’m not sure I ever want to go back fully to what life was like before, but with this many kids in our family, even keeping them limited on activities still means we have a ton going on and eventually I am going to have to find a way to navigate that that keeps us all happy and sane. In the case of this year, maintaining that meant saying “no” to soccer for the littlest two because we just needed to keep one day of the week to ourselves while we still could.

I’d like to think that we can still keep quiet days moving forward and we’re doing well to lay that foundation now. I have to believe that the spring board back to the world at large can still leave such space and grace for ourselves and our families. Time to take walks and think. Time to play games both inside and outside. Time to listen to music. Time to unwind and reset for all that is to come (because, again, even with just a little, it all quickly becomes a lot in this house).

Is it wishful thinking to hope we can keep this forever? Yes. I know that. But for this year in particular, this feels like the best strategy possible to keep ourselves in one piece while also putting some feelers back out there for what that semi-return actually looks like for us. I think coordinated chaos plus once-a-week quiet days are a pretty good way to start.

2021 Reading List

Holy smokes. I didn’t expect to hit the ground running quite so hard with the books this year, but we’re a quarter of the way through 2021 and I’ve already hit 25 books. This has me thinking maybe I’ll up my goal from 75 to 100 for the year, but maybe I’ll just see what happens and how that plays out as the weather gets nicer and we’re outside more of each day and evening.

As always, what follows are the books I’ve read this year in chronological order. Bold titles are the ones I super recommend or enjoyed. The list that follows after the titles and blurbs is (just part of) my virtual To Be Read stack.

  1. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid — I zipped through this one mostly because I didn’t want to stop reading so I could see what was going to happen next. This felt so relevant and possible and real, plus it was great the way it moved back and forth from lead female character to lead female character.
  2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett — Although the first 20-30 pages were a little slow for me, by Part Two, I was totally hooked and found this to be a great read. I was intrigued by the characters and their life choices and by how society/perception played into all of that as well.
  3. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare — This one took me a bit to get into and essentially the entire book is filled with intense hardship, but the language is beautiful and revealing and the determination in it is just as remarkable as the crisis. The story may be fiction but the facts sprinkled through the later chapter titles show how it may not be far off from reality for some (many).
  4. Go Tell it On the Mountain by James Baldwin — The connotation of a word on the very first page threw me for such a loop, I struggled to get into the rest of the book, and as it turned out, the book had nothing to do with the meaning of that word. I stuck with it for the sake of a virtual book club. Eventually I caught on to what was happening with the structure and the focal point of one particular day/night in young John’s life but this was a hard read for me.
  5. The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power — I have been wanting to read this forever and was glad to finally get my hands on a copy. It’s big – 550 pages of memoir meets journalistic reporting on life in war-torn countries plus genocide and then into politics, so whoa – that’s a lot of heavy stuff. But I have always enjoyed Power’s interviews in recent years and she is a great writer/reflector and I’m so glad she’s back into government work with the USAID.
  6. One Day in December by Josie Silver — Given the book’s title, I was surprised at how much time and content the story covered. Even though I found it predictable, I still enjoyed it as a quick, romance-y read and was interested in the character’s growth over time. I also found it more believable than the previous Silver book that I read last year, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird.
  7. Conjure Woman by Afia Atakora — This would make an excellent book club choice in part because I have questions and ideas I want to bounce off others after reading it. Also, this is a debut novel?! Whoa. I can’t wait to read what she writes next! I love how the book jumps in time but not in giant leaps (for the most part); this builds the story and characters in such an intriguing way.
  8. Our Time is Now by Stacey Abrams — This was such an informative read. Granted, a fair bit of it went over my not-in-politics brain, but I also don’t think you have to have direct ties to politics to get something out of this book. It really speaks to our civic engagement in general which is so vital and important. It was interesting to read this given that the book was written before COVID-19 really hit and so that discussion along with the drama of mail-in voting that became our reality in 2020 was missing here (and about which, I am sure, other books will one day be written). It was also interesting to read this after Jan. 6 because that too feels like it plays a role in what Abrams had to say about voting and leaders and concerns for our democracy. All together, I learned a ton and I am so grateful that the Stacey Abrams of the world are out there to guide us and keep us going through it all. (finished 2.11.21)
  9. Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn — I grabbed this online because it was being offered as a community read from our library and it proved to be more than just a typical romance as it had some intrigue and mystery to the characters, too. It was the perfect palette cleanser read after some of the more dense books I’ve been tackling as of late.
  10. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory — Sometimes a predictable, quick, romance-heavy book is just what you need to read and this series is so good for that. I actually read Book 2 last year, so I liked going back in time to the first and plan to read the subsequent ones later in the year. I like Jasmine Guillory’s style, but fair warning – these are Harlequin in nature so pick a different book if that’s not what you feel like reading.
  11. The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia — I loved the way this was written and the way the story unfolded. The in-depth discussion of the 1918 Spanish Influenza caught me off guard because I wasn’t prepared for how relatable that would feel to life in 2020/2021, but that was not the whole focus of the book by any means. Although I was confused by the shifting perspectives and occasional odd jumps in sequencing at first, once I hit a stride with this one, I couldn’t put it down.
  12. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord — This book was adorable. It’s a YA RomCom sort of read but it still caught me by surprise and delight while reading, which was great because it was witty and fun without being too obvious or over the top. (Finished 2/23/21)
  13. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — This was neither light nor easy in terms of content but this book blew me away both in scope and style and I could not stop reading. I loved the approach of each chapter devoted to a new generation and how the stories and characters were woven together in this breathtaking, brutiful novel.
  14. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover — I expected this to be predictable and while it was, it was also a quick, enjoyable read and I liked some of the little nuggets that came at the end of the book in terms of life lessons. Also, if the characters had just freaking talked to each other, a lot of heartache and headaches would have been avoided, but then you also wouldn’t have had as much story to build, so, there’s that.
  15. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah — Although a relatively quick read, this is not light in scope or subject matter. I got so drawn into these characters and was so compelled by their story of hardship and struggle in the Dust Bowl 1930s. Oddly there were lines throughout the book that were spot-on perfect for and relevant to today’s (pandemic) world. I’ve read at least three of Hannah’s books and all were serious but good and I highly recommend this one!
  16. Kindred by Octavia Butler — this surprised me in content and style and was truly unlike anything else I’ve read. While I’ve read many books that travel between narrators and time, I’ve never taken on a story that follows one narrator through time in this way. Ultimately this was an interesting story with an impactful look at slavery and racism ancestry, and history.
  17. You Have a Match by Emma Lord — The miscommunication between characters drove me a bit nuts at times but then that’s probably pretty spot-on for teenagers, so I get it. I love how Lord weaves family dynamics into her books and that the whole story isn’t just about crushes or partying or totally typical teenage drama. (finished 3.13.21)
  18. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo — It took my editing brain a bit to calm down over the total lack of periods in this book, but once I got past that, I absolutely loved the characters and how this was written in interconnected trilogies that were multi-generational and so fascinating to watch (read) unfold. Loved it! Also, it had a totally unexpected connection to the book I read just prior to it which is always weird/cool when that happens.
  19. When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller — This was a great YA read that spoke so much to family dynamics and cultural backgrounds and young teendom. It was a quick read but I loved how it wove together in its own story the art, beauty, history, and magic that is story telling.
  20. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion — Even though the basic premise stems from an obvious and somewhat irritating miscommunication, that’s actually pretty on point with these characters and this series which remains enjoyable and fun to read. I read the first book not that long ago so it was easy to fall back into rhythm on Book #2.
  21. Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo — This was far from a happy, light read, but it was very well done from a layered, unfolding sense of both the characters and the story that details not only relationships but also parenthood in raw, honest ways. I’ve read a number of Nigerian-based books recently and this one blew me away as a debut novel.
  22. The Archer by Paulo Coelho — A simple, short read that is, of course, layered with symbolism and meaning and told through a basic story that could be applied to connecting any action in life to one’s soul, not just archery. The illustrations throughout the book are beautiful. This could be read multiple times not just for dissection of meaning but also because it is such a brief book. (finished 3.22.21)
  23. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot — I didn’t expect this to be such a page-turner but even in the midst of the science, the story and reporting of this sucked me in and I couldn’t put down the book. I learned a lot about cell cultures as well as the rights, privacy, and privileges given to medical patients over the course of our nation’s history. Ultimately, I was blown away by the questions this true story revealed and raised.
  24. If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane — Although the basis of the meet-cute and subterfuge were remarkably similar to another book I read not that long ago, I still enjoyed the story and the way the twists and turns developed throughout the book. I also appreciate that every romance book doesn’t have to be Harlequin in nature.
  25. This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith — this one surprised me in how, devastatingly at times, human these characters were. I also struggled to suspend my disbelief at how the beginning of the story unfolded but from there it was a beautifully detailed look at how even a few days can leave a lasting impact and connection between people. And, on an odd side note, the basic premise for a marriage ending in this book was the exact same as what happened in the book I just finished reading. How does that even happen? (finished 3.30.21)
  26. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory — I just praised a previous book for not being too “open door” and now I’m going to turn around a praise this one for being, well, perfectly open door in the way all of JG’s books have been. I read the first two books of this series out of order but that worked in my favor on Book 3 because the character carry over was more direct here and I liked that. For an it-is-what-it-is series, I really enjoy these!
  27. Vera by Carol Edgarian — It’s remarkable to read stories of survival after moments of devastating destruction and loss such as an earthquake + fire in the early 1900s which is the setting for this book. I liked how the story unfolded with a hyper focus on the days after followed by learning more of the story in a long arc sort of way beyond that. I ultimately was confused by a statement on page 1 that never did resolve (for me) in the rest of the book, which means either I missed something or something is missing. Either way, this would make for an interesting book club discussion.
  28. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayern — To be fair this style is outside my normal comfort zone so this was just an OK read for me but that may just be because I no longer read thriller/fantasy books much if ever. This one seemed part Hunger Games, part Handmaid’s Tale, part Twilight (not really, there are no vampires, just odd, surreal and supernatural messed up fairy tale stuff) but I appreciated the concept of a fairy tale turned on its head and the overall message behind the quest. (finished 4.4.21)
  29. Wonder by R.J. Palacio — Love this book so much. This is a second read for me as my own 5th grader just read it and wanted to discuss with me and all I could remember was how much I liked it. Now I remember why and can’t wait to discuss it with him.
  30. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy — I loved the way this was written (focusing on roughly a third of the members of a family with 13 kids) both in terms of the present day storyline and then the periodic flashback chapters to the POV of each parent each time it happened. It was such a good look at big family life, life in Detroit, and just life in general. I LOVED the line “Humans haunt more houses than ghosts do.” and the paragraph that followed it all about how houses become homes that mean so much to the people who reside in them.
  31. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall — This is a must-read and a must-read-again because the scope of everything being addressed within this book is wide and deserves to be given attention more than once. The subtitle on my copy is different from what is listed online; mine reads “notes from the women white feminists forgot” which is an accurate description of what the book entails.
  32. Behold the Dreamers by Imblo Mbue — These are characters and a story that crawl under your skin (in a good way) and settle in for longer than it takes to read the book. Set around the time of the 2008 Recession, this is written in such a tangible and honest way. It would make for an excellent book club discussion! (finished 4.15.21)
  33. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd — from the onset I liked the premise of Ana, a young woman set on being a writer who shares her voice even though next to no one finds this acceptable. As the story unfolded, I especially appreciated her relationship to Jesus and how the whole concept of the book was imagining what it would have been like had he been married and how it really could have come to be without us knowing seeing as how the majority of women in history have been silenced/ignored. SMK’s Author’s Note at the end of the book speaks well to this in terms of her inspiration and why a story such as this is worth conceiving and sharing.
  34. Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra — I wanted to read this because I love Little Women but because I love Little Women, I struggled getting into this. I also really disliked the Meg/John storyline for the first half of the book (just talk to each other already!!!) but of course enjoyed Jo’s arc from start to finish. By the end, I was more drawn in to the whole story and could definitely appreciate the risks and liberties Kantra took when recreating this classic in a modern way.
  35. Pride by Ibi Zoboi — It has been ages since I read Pride and Prejudice so the story there wasn’t super fresh in my brain while reading this, but there was enough in my memory to see how Zoboi played with that framework and also how she made this her own. I loved the combination of romance then to the real world now and this detailed look at Bushwick and Brooklyn which I’ve read about in many books but have never been to in real life. (finished 4.23.21)
  36. Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory — I wasn’t prepared for the departure in the storyline to a different generation of love stories, but still enjoyed the ease and predictability of the book. Curious to see what Book 5 is like.
  37. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile — This is my first foray into the full Enneagram and I learned a lot about myself as well as all nine types. I’m looking forward to learning more and will also be seeking out books on this subject that aren’t so faith-based; there’s nothing wrong with that element, but I also want to know more of the psychology behind each of these.
  38. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb — I laughed, I cried, I learned something, I saw myself reflected in this book, and just like I think therapy is for all, so too do I think this is a must read. I loved this book about what it is like to be a therapist/what it is like to be in therapy and I think it would be a good introduction to anyone considering seeking therapy themselves. My only caveat is that Gottlieb speaks to the ending of therapy which may well indeed be the case for some/many, but not all; beyond that this is a break-your-heart open look into the lives of her patients, her therapist and herself. I loved it.
  39. The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth — Perhaps I’ve read too many SH books at this point as I’m getting a little too good at figuring out the twisty-twists well before the end of the book, but this one just didn’t hit quite as good as some of her others for me.
  40. Simple and Free by Jen Hatmaker — I appreciated the seven different tasks Jen took on in this book and it was very interesting to read now, ten+ years removed from when she first did them/wrote this. The asides/additions/corrections she placed into the new publication of this were insightful and gave a very unique perspective to how certain seasons and challenges in life shift over time. I will carry some nuggets forward from this book and see what I too can implement to make like a little more simple, a little more free. (finished 5.8.21)
  41. Hana Kahn Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin — As with Jalaluddin’s first book, I enjoyed this modern take on an older tale. This was a quick read and although it touched on several heavier topics throughout, it was also fun and charming.
  42. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn — I’ve stayed away from WWII books for a while after being overrun with them, but this was a fantastic choice for revisiting that subgenre. I was blown away by the pulls from real life that this took and even though I did not understand the decoding/machines they used, I found the story and its unfolding to be very intriguing.
  43. Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane — I liked the character development in this one and found it both entertaining (I laughed so hard at one point, I scared the hubs) and heartfelt with the layered story-telling and character reveals. I’m making a more conscious effort o read lighter rom-com type novels and this was a good one for just that.
  44. Mom Babble: The Messy Truth about Motherhood by Mary Katherine Backstrom — These short, bite-size essays are a great way to get a laugh, a little misty-eyed, and a dose of inspiration on motherhood, too. I’ve followed MK’s work for years and am happy for her and her book publication; she’s one of my favorites to follow on socials because she is so funny.
  45. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile — Phenomenal. But you really need the audio and the hard copy to both hear and see the beauty that is this memor-ish (her words) book. (finished 5.31.21)
  46. A Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie — This book was so unlike what else I’ve been reading and I really appreciated both that and the view into the world of refugees and immigration that it gives. There is a sense of comedy and humor here which the author speaks to in the afterword, even though the subject(s) at hand is(are) quite real and serious. This one took me a while to finish but at no fault of the book itself.
  47. A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende — This was a fantastic read and oddly related (geographically and through refugee storylines) to my previous novel, but that perhaps made this all the more meaningful for me. I also couldn’t shake how much the stories of political division within the book echoed what I feel here in our present day. I loved following such a sweeping scope of the main characters’ lives and seeing both them and their loves evolve over time.
  48. The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy Reichert — I found myself confused by this simple read several times with both the family tree/timeline of past lives + the back-and-forth of the main relationship. I appreciated the way anxiety was featured within the book but the hot/cold/just fine without smooth transitions between events left me wondering more than once if I had missed something.
  49. Simmer Down by Sarah Smith — Girl meets boy with a side of Hawaii and food trucks (and steamy sex scenes and a helping of grief and mourning, too). This was just fine for a summer read. Being set in an off-the-beaten path venue with the unique cooking twist added to the fun.
  50. Beth & Amy by Virginia Kantra — Even though I wasn’t enamored with Meg & Jo when I read it earlier this year (I think I’m too invested in and connected to those two characters from previous reads of Little Women), I picked up this sequel to give it a try and goodness, am I glad I did so. I enjoyed this book so much. I don’t know why exactly (beyond aforementioned emotional attachment, or rather, lack thereof) it was easier for me to see these two (little) women in a new and updated way but it was and I did and I liked it very much. I won’t give any spoilers except to say that I greatly appreciated Kantra’s modern depiction of Beth’s disease and illness. (finished 6.29.21)

51. The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa –The wedding planner/formally knowing each other side(s) of things made for an entertaining take on this standard romance read.

52. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry — I loved the way this was written and that it didn’t follow a classic story structure for romance or a beach read. The back and forth in time POV from the narrator was done in an unpredictable way which made the reading go so quickly and also kept me waiting to see what would(had) happen(ed) in a non-cloying way.

53. The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs — I liked the sort-of mystery that went along with this book and that it didn’t fall into beach read romance territory. The language of the various narration felt stilted to me at times and I actually thought more depth/something sinister was going on at first, but in the end, I appreciated the way things came together and how various storylines were completed. (finished 7/9/21)

54. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon — I got completely swept up in this YA read and couldn’t stop until I finished, all in one day. Told from a teenage perspective and obviously written pre-quarantine life, this one comes with much more than your typical teen angst/first love story and it is also so relatable after the last year and a half. I don’t know how Yoon writes such compelling novels but she’s 2/2 for me so far on being great reads!

55. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult — This one comes with a giant * next to it because the entire time I was reading I kept thinking about how much I liked the way it was written, that is, until the final page and then I was just mad. I haven’t been that flabbergasted by a book’s ending for a long time if ever, so, if you’ve read it or do read it, message me because I need to discuss this with someone!

56. Dear Martin by Nic Stone — This should be required reading not just for high schoolers but all adults, too. The concept and the style of the writing both take center stage throughout the story development that is both compelling and heart wrenching.

57. Untamed by Glennon Doyle — second read of this one. Loved it even more than the first time. Probably going to need to reread this every year.

58. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey — This is RomCom with a heavy side of raunch but the Rom and definitely the Com countered the heavy, um, petting to make this a delightful read. I literally laughed out loud multiple times during this book because it was that entertaining.

59. You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story by Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn — The he said/she said way in which this is written was great. I loved that each chapter was told from one perspective at a time and that those two sections of each chapter both overlapped and at times totally contradicted one another – this felt very true to two people narrating their shared experiences, especially about a relationship/marriage. (Finished 7.31.21)

60. One Two Three by Laurie Frankel — Read this book! It’s content and story unfolding are fantastic but also, the way it is written? The love of language that seeps out through the personalities of the three main characters/narrators? It’s all so well done. Read it! Then, let’s talk about it!

61. Love Her or Lose Her by Tessay Bailey — Again, these have some awfully steamy scenes in them (as one would expect from a series called Hot & Hammered, no?) but I also appreciate how Bailey took a struggling marriage and managed to turn that into a fun love story.

62. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant — second read of this incredible book and I loved it more than ever. I can’t remember if I read this before children or after the birth of my first but my goodness, either way, I wash I Hadn’t gone quite so long between re-reads. It is such a striking story about the power *of* story and women and how those two things both get lost and re forever woven together.

63. Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh — This was a fantastic read full of incredible detail and description, but was also, for me, quite relatable in the sense that Smarsh and I are of a similar age and I also grew up on a working farm in the Midwest. I did not experience the same level of poverty, upheaval, or instability as she did, but her narrative did an excellent job of opening up her childhood and putting the reader right in it which is a great gift (both to have as a writer and to receive as a reader).

64. Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey — Loved the third book in this trilogy and how Bailey once again managed to take a romance novel and infiltrate it with some legit real-life-ness such as toxic perfectionism and the foster system. Of course the main point is the hot and heavy romance but overall this whole series was not just steamy but also fun and sometimes funny.

65. Dial “A” for Aunties — by Jesse Q. Sutanto — This book was a wild ride and oh my goodness, I both wasn’t prepared for what was coming and also couldn’t stop reading to see what craziness was going to come next. A couple times I had a hard time suspending my disbelief at everything but I also was entertained and amused by the whole mess of it. All I can really say is, you have to read it to get it (and, I am stoked that there will be a sequel).

66. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan — I love Kwan’s humor (and his footnotes) and this was a quick, fun read that was still over the top and rollicking but without quite so much family dynasty to follow as the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. A great end-of-summer read!

67. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan — There was more to this than I anticipated and in a good way. Of course it speaks to the behind-the-scene-life of the Royals but with some twists and turns that made it both easy/relatable to read and also fresh and fun in the storytelling.

68. American Street by Ibi Zoboi — Eye and heart opening, this is the kind of book that pulls you in, teaches you about life and humanity, honors culture and spirituality, and still keeps you turning pages to see what comes next and what other piece of the story is still waiting to be told. Zoboi is a masterful story-teller.

69. The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman — I enjoy Waxman’s books so much; my only complaint is that they go by too quickly and I always finish too soon! The characters were great and the underlying humanity within the storylines was also so good; for a book that made me literally laugh out loud multiple times, there were also a lot of serious questions and situations happening. (OK, one actual complaint: I call BS on some of the timelines here in regards to plants and gardens, but whatever…I’m no expert either so maaaaybe?)

70. American Royals by Katherine McGee — I am enjoying this Royal trend I’m currently exploring and this was another good little escape from reality as this takes American history and turns it right on its head in every (sovereign) possible way. After binge watching The Crown earlier this summer, I couldn’t help but think this fell right in line with “real” (or at least, made-for-TV-real) royal drama.

71. The Push by Ashley Audrain — Goodness. This book is beyond intense in both challenging and very interesting ways. All to do with motherhood – what comes before to make a mother and what comes in the actual moments of mothering and how to deal with those you are given to mother – this one pries into some dark and disturbed places. That said, I couldn’t get over the raw honesty of the struggle within it, too. I love the layered meanings of the title and the way the chapters are written in such short but powerful bursts.

72. HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes — a friend loaned me their copy of this after I shared with them about my new-found obsession over The Crown and it was such a treat to read. The visuals are beautiful and the book goes beyond just the surface of the clothes to really look at the lives, struggles, and impacts of these women. At times I found myself wanting more, pictures and detail of their significance, but of course no book could cover it all, especially given the scope of time and influence these four have had. (finished 9.7.21)

73. That Summer by Jennifer Weiner — I wasn’t prepared for the subject matter on this one but greatly appreciated the way JW took on this topic and the way in which she wrote about it. The story unfolded like a mystery and was certainly a page-turner. I found myself unsure of how it play out up until the very end of the book, which was helped by the style of writing from different POVs and different times in a very nonlinear approach.

74. The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende — This book is fire and full of wisdom, truth, and honesty about what it is to be a woman in this world. Part memoir, part manifesto, there were so many lines I wanted to highlight, but alas, this was a library copy, so I had to savor and move on to the next beautifully worded nugget and then the next.

75. Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall — This rom-com was a joy to read and would make for an excellent rom-com in movie format, too. The characters, the side characters, the unfolding plot that includes the serious and the silly…it was all so fun. I hope to read more by this author.

76. Dear Justyce by Nic Stone — Just as with Dear Martin, this should be mandatory reading. This is compelling and telling and I’m so glad this second book exists. Read it! (finished 9.22.21)

77. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid — I love how TJR books always make me circle back to the beginning of the story to see how everything came together right from the start and this one is no exception. It’s a quick read with interesting characters and lots of little side stories that do in fact make sense in the end.

78. Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers — I expected this to be just another romance novel but it was so much more than that in terms of its realness (even though the meet cute seems far fetched in the beginning) – in the friendships, in the family dynamics/struggles, in the discussion of mental health, the book touches on it all in beautiful, honest ways. (finished 10.4.21)

79. The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan — I don’t know what I was expecting from this book but what it turned out to be surprised and delighted me very much. I chuckled so many times while reading even though a lot of serious content and feelings are included in the storyline. Makes me wish the series would be extended!

80. Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski — Listened to it (excellent choice; the sisters are fantastic narrators) and loved it so much, I now want a hard copy that I can read again and again because this book is absolutely packed with wisdom, wit, sincerity, and sage-yet-scientific advice. READ (and listen to!) IT!!

81. Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke — This was an intense, powerful, eye-opening, parenting forward, and speedy read because I couldn’t stop flying through the pages of Burke’s life and mission. Add this to the Must Read pile! (finished 10/14/21)

82. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins — This was a second read for me, this time as a read-aloud to my 12yo son. It was just as gripping and page-turning-addicting as when I read it 12+ years ago! He loved it too and now we can’t wait to watch the movie and then get to the next book!

83. The Marriage Game by Sara Desai — This was a bit back and forth, back and forth for me in the will they/won’t they (but it’s romance, so I mean, yeah – they will) but I appreciated the character growth and some professional resolutions that came throughout the book in addition to the rom/com and steamy elements that naturally come with the territory.

84. Majesty by Katharine McGee — In hindsight, I can’t tell you what I was expecting, but this book surprised me in many ways and was such an intriguing follow up to the first book in the series. It’s so fun the way this draws from the British monarchy and Queen Elizabeth’s story, but also makes the stories and lives of these four young women fresh, unique, and totally American. (finished 10.25.21)

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Ordinary Light by Tracy Smith

Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Janye Allen

Queenie by Candice Carty Williams

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

A Song Below Water by Bethany Morrow

I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillian

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey

A Black Woman’s History of the United States by Diana Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross