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Not Giving a F*ck

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

Who is Mark Manson, and why has he written a self-help book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living the Good Life?

Not a Ph.D, not a therapist, Manson is a regular guy in his 30s who started writing a blog in 2007 for his own enjoyment. His funny, irreverent style and refreshingly blunt philosophy caught on with the masses; hence, his book became a best seller.

Not Giving a F*ck

I am not typically drawn to books in this genre, but with a title like this one, I had to check it out. I downloaded the audiobook from Audible and listened to it while doing stuff around the house last weekend.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Note: There are a sh*tload of f-bombs throughout. Let this be a warning if you are listening to the audiobook as I did.

Manson contends that the lets-all-feel-good-about-ourselves mindset we’ve been spoon fed for years is just wrong. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if we’re not in a constant state of happiness, well, there must be something wrong with us. Not true!

The self-love philosophy that encourages us to buy more, earn more, be more, actually serves to remind us of what we are not, what we have failed to be — why haven’t we reached those higher plateaus? Realizing we’re not good enough, we try even harder, get more neurotic, tear our insides to shreds, and become less happy, not more.

Manson believes that the more we pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied we become, the more we give a f*ck, and the vicious cycle continues.

Giving too many f*cks is bad for your mental health. As Manson says, we’re here on earth for a short time. The key is to not give a f*ck, and you may find that when you stop trying so hard, things start to fall into place on their own.

What the f*ck is wrong with coming in second?

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F*ck positivity,” Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f*cked and we have to live with it.”

When everyone on the soccer team gets a gold medal for just showing up, it does our kids no favor in the long run. We think we’re protecting their feelings, but pretending everyone is extraordinary is perpetuating a myth. The truth is there are winners and losers among us, and that is often isn’t our fault. It’s just the way the cards were dealt.

It is unrealistic to think that things will always turn out the way we want. What makes us stronger — and happier — is dealing with adversity.

Manson knows from whence he speaks.

Like the road not taken, Manson says, it was the f*cks not given that made a difference in his life. He quit his job in finance after six days to start an internet business. He sold most of my possessions and moved to South America. No f*cks given.

F*cks should be given about the important things. That said, the art of prioritizing the important things in life is not an easy process. Over the course of our lives we identify the most meaningful components and eventually discard the things we thought were important but really aren’t. We ultimately realize that we can’t give a f*ck all the time because then we will be disappointed when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

A benefit of aging is realizing when to give a f*ck.

We reach maturity when we learn to only give a f*ck about what is truly f*ckworthy.

As we grow older, we come to accept who we are and not aspire to some unrealistic version of ourselves. This is liberating.

I hear this from many of my contemporaries. We no longer need to give a f*ck about everything. We reserve our f*cks for our friends, family, our passions – this is as it should be. Happiness will come as we adjust our expectations of life and accept who we are.

Everyone will have pain, but avoiding it or denying it will just bring more pain. Happiness comes from not avoiding problems, but solving them.

So what the f*ck can we do about it?

Manson says to get real about our limitations — own them and accept them. It’s not wrong or weak to acknowledge our fears and faults; it’s actually empowering. Avoiding the truth leads to unhappiness, but if we can tackle our fears straight on we will actually find happiness through the resilience to deal with them.

Like “don’t sweat the small stuff,” not giving a f*ck can be liberating.

What in your life do you not give a f*ck about?

 

 

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Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up”

Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir, "I Can't Make This Up"

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

If your typical day is like mine, you spend a considerable amount of time in the car. Whether it’s getting to work and back, running errands, shuttling kids to activities, or visiting family and friends, you are behind the wheel a good part of the day.

I find myself flipping from music to talk shows to news, anything to distract me from the boredom of sitting in a traffic jam. Fortunately, there is another option: listening to an audiobook on Audible. When I want to catch up on a novel I’ve missed or discover a new author, I can search through Audible’s vast selection of titles and come up with the perfect choice for the moment.

These days, I often find myself needing to tune out what is happening in the world. I yearn for a selection that will take me away. Something that will make me laugh.

And laugh I did, all the way through Kevin Hart’s funny and heartfelt new memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons.”

Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir,

If you are familiar with Kevin Hart, you know he is an accomplished actor and stand up comedian, as well as a successful businessman. His meteoric rise to fame is all the more admirable because of his humble beginnings in North Philadelphia.

North Philadelphia both then and now is a tough neighborhood besieged by drugs and violence, and Kevin Hart’s family was not immune to the temptations on the street. As he describes, he was born an accident to a father who became a drug addict and was in and out of jail. His older brother was a crack dealer and petty thief. And his mother, although well meaning, was strict to the point of being abusive, beating him with whatever she could get her hands on, whether it was a frying pan, a belt, or even one of Kevin’s toys.

Now how can all the above be funny? Kevin Hart turns tragedy into comedy, and listening to him narrate the book is like attending one of his stand-up concerts. His delivery is what makes this audiobook superior to the written version, in my opinion. You feel like you have a front row seat to his comic genius.

Not that the written version is any less funny. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review. “[An] emotion-filled memoir full of grit and humor…Inspiring and thoroughly entertaining, Hart’s memoir brings his readers into his hilarious universe of stories and philosophy.”

In addition to all his other talents, the man can write. And what makes this particular memoir stand out for me is not just the funny stuff, but also the life lessons Kevin Hart shares from the bumps in the road. He is introspective, humble, down-to-earth and philosophical. He could have succumbed to the drugs and crime in his neighborhood. He could have grown up angry and rebellious.

But that is not the way he is wired. He chose to find meaning from the life lessons at every turn that helped him forge a way out of the poverty and violence and into a career that has made him adored by millions of fans.

Although this was not written as a self-help book, Kevin Hart’s memoir is truly motivational as well as funny as hell. His message is that we all have challenges that can be overcome through determination, and using laughter as a coping mechanism never hurt anyone.

 

 

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The X-Files: Cold Cases

The X-Files: Cold Cases

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

An undercurrent of eerie, robot-like intonations emanates from a group of hooded, robed cultists. The creepy sound gets louder and more ominous. The tension in the air suddenly explodes with a gunshot blast. I gasp in horror. A doctor was shot leaving her office late at night and no one is there to help her.

Shocked, I turn up the volume in my car. I am listening to an episode of the original audio drama The X-Files: Cold Cases released this month by Audible.

The X-Files: Cold Cases

The X-Files was new to me.

True confession: I had never watched this show. I know, my bad. I had no idea who Mulder and Scully were and what they did and why they retired from their super secret jobs. That said, I don’t think I was at a disadvantage listening to these audio episodes for the first time. They were easy to follow and I became totally absorbed in the drama unfolding in the confines of my car as I traveled on the New Jersey Turnpike. Needless to say, traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike is not fun, but The X-Files made the trip go by fast.

The Audible audio drama, taking place after the last movie but before the new TV show, features narration by the actors who starred in the series: Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning Gillian Anderson, playing Scully, and Golden Globe award-winning David Duchovny, as Mulder, plus several other characters such as Walter Skinner, The Lone Gunmen and the Cigarette Smoking Man that fans will know.

The X-Files: Cold Cases

What pulls the dynamic duo Fox Mulder and Dana Scully back into the fray? There’s been a database breach at FBI headquarters, and an unknown enemy is accessing information about cold cases that had never been solved from the secret department once known as The X-Files. Curiously, friends and foes from the old days of the agency begin to materialize. With attacks on their department boding ill for the security of the US government, former FBI agents Mulder and Scully reappear to tackle a conspiracy designed to wreak havoc on the country.

It was easy to pick up on the chemistry of the two characters. Between Duchovny’s droll sense of humor and Anderson’s let’s-get-this-done practicality, they make a great team. Each of the four episodes in this audiobook could easily stand alone, but listening to the broadcast in its entirety gives more depth to their background, relationship, and the forces of evil that they are fighting together. The production quality and the sound effects are superb.

For both die-hard fans and newbies to this series, The X-Files: Cold Cases is an entertaining four hours of drama and intrigue.

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Book Buzz: It Ends With Us

I am a person who needs a book handy at all times. Hence, you will find one not just next to my bed, but also in the bathroom, in the side pocket of my car, and on the kitchen counter.

Audible has enabled this quirk of mine by offering hundreds of audiobook titles that I can listen to anywhere. This is especially nice when I’m in the car or out for a daily walk. I can get so wrapped up in a good tale that those 10,000 steps seem much less arduous.

The buzz over author Colleen Hoover’s latest novel, It Ends With Us, had intrigued me, so I eagerly downloaded it from Audible.

Romance, yes, But so much more. A complex story that takes on a harrowing subject with frankness and emotional depth, It Ends With Us is a novel that left me breathless even before getting winded by step #5849.

Book Buzz: It Ends With Us

Listening to It Ends With Us on Audible, I found my emotions running the gamut, and because I was moved from highs to lows over and over again, I may have unleashed a few expletives on my neighborhood jaunts. Hopefully I was out of earshot of the neighbors.

The narration bounces from 15 year-old Lily reading entries from her diary to the present day Lily. The younger Lily writes mostly about her relationship with Atlas, a boy from her school, and the older Lily brings us up to date 10 years later.

It Ends With Us

Adult Lily meets hunky Ryle in the most romantic of ways: on the roof deck of a Boston apartment building late one night, each one seeking an escape, with the stars and lights of the city twinkling above.

Lily, distraught after failing to deliver an appropriate eulogy at her father’s funeral that day, needs a refuge where she can be alone with her thoughts. Ryle, a brash neurosurgeon, has come up for air as well. At first she is annoyed that her space has been invaded, but as they strike up a conversation she starts to feel a spark. It lasts just a moment, and they go their separate ways.

My reaction: Meh. He sounded dreamy at first, but way too aggressive for my taste. If a man was that coarse with me I would be outta there. You’re well rid of him, Lily.

Some time later they run into each other and although Ryle has steadfastly opposed getting into a romantic relationship, he falls in love with Lily. Initially wary herself, Lily is deliriously happy.

My reaction: Dismay. Lily, this guy may be cute, but his quirks make me shudder. Like taking your pulse during sex to see how high your heartbeat will get? Gross.

Without giving the plot away, let’s just say that eventually Lily finds out in the most shocking of ways that there is another side to Ryle that rocks her physically and emotionally.

My reaction: Horror. Lily, girl, get away from that creep!

Out to dinner one night, Lily and Ryle run into Atlas, Lily’s boyfriend from long ago. Although she is in love with Ryle, Lily realizes that she still cares for Atlas as someone who once was so important to he.

Atlas can read Ryle like a book, and out of concern for Lily he wants to intercede, wants to tell her how this guy is wrong for her, but holds back.

Thus begins Lily’s personal struggle to justify being with a man whose behavior is reminiscent of her own father, the father whom she was unable to properly eulogize at his funeral. Her own experiences have taught her one thing, but now in the moment herself, she is vacillating between her love for Ryle and her own self-respect and survival.

This is a portrait of what happens in too many homes behind closed doors. The shame of the victim often shields the perpetrator from scrutiny until it is too late. As observers, we can be judgmental or sanctimonious, but we can’t truly understand the anguish of this situation unless we walk in the victim’s shoes.

Reading It Ends With Us will put you there. After the final sentence, which gave me goosebumps the author revealed what prompted her to write this story.

My reaction: Wow. Read this book!

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
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Summer and Springsteen

Summer and Springsteen

Like cotton candy and sticky fingers, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, and warm nights in the yard catching fireflies, the music of Bruce Springsteen means summer to me.

Summer and Springsteen

Springsteen, just a regular Jersey boy.

When I was in college I had a summer job at the Jersey shore – a rite of passage for many of us who live in the northeast. Shucking clams by day and partying by night, surviving both romantic flings and crushing heartbreaks, I had the time of my life.

I worked in a beach community on a small barrier island a far cry from the glitz of Atlantic City, without a boardwalk or large concert halls. There were few venues for musical entertainment other than smoky motel bars or dilapidated watering holes like The Acme and The Rip Tide that we college kids flocked to night after night. If you wanted to hear live music, you might catch a local act. Or you might get lucky and witness a performance that in time would become legendary.

This is what happened to us.

Bruce Who?

We heard one day that there would be a performer at the improbably named Le Garage, a small warehouse that was usually a venue for teen dances. Some guy named Bruce Springsteen was performing. No one had ever heard of him, but we had nothing else to do that night, so why not.

Summer and Springsteen

From the book “All Things LBI” (Down the Shore Publishing)

At 10:30 that night the place was full. How many it held, I don’t remember, but probably not more than a couple hundred stood perspiring in the heat. The lights were dimmed as we waited for the show to begin. Bruce Springsteen, in all his grungy, unknown glory, his guitar slung across his hips, ambled out on center stage blanketed in a spotlight. He opened with the song was 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy). That voice, as gritty as the sand between the rocks in Barnegat Light, that song, so Jersey shore soulful, that moment, that would become a memory to cherish. The crowd was spellbound and the ovation that followed was thunderous.

That man would become The Boss.

As of that night I was a fan forevermore, and this song would always evoke a pang about that moment, the salt air, my sunburned shoulders and peasant blouse I wore, how our ears rang as we walked out into the night air talking about the music.

Over the years my devotion to Bruce has never wavered and to my delight, the Boss published his autobiography, Born to Run, which fans and critics alike have enthusiastically endorsed. When a fellow Bruce fan and friend of mine raved about the audiobook version, I made it my next Audible selection.

So here is the thing about autobiographies on audiobooks narrated by their authors: you feel like you are having a private conversation with this person. I loved hearing Springsteen talk about his early years in Freehold, his introduction to the music world, and everything that came after. I loved hearing him talk about meeting Stevie Van Zandt, another Jersey musician trying to make it in a competitive business.

No surprise, Springsteen is a gifted writer, and I was as blown away by his book as I was by seeing him live at that little club so many years ago.

Here is Springsteen just a few years after I first saw him, performing 4th of July, Asbury Park, (Sandy) live. I would see him in concert again and again, but that first time was the best by far.

Enjoy.

And Happy Summer.

Do you use Audible? You can try it out for a month by going to Audible’s free trial site and have access to hundreds of titles.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

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Book Buzz: The Handmaid’s Tale

Book Buzz: the Handmaid's Tale

If you’re like me, you have an ever-expanding list of books TBR (to be read). I do read a lot, but there are many classics heretofore unread, and Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, was one I regrettably had not gotten to.

Book Buzz: the Handmaid's Tale

The buzz is already out about the Hulu version coming out next week, starring Elisabeth Moss in the leading role. The reviews are glowing. Critics are wowed by the script, the performances and the stunning visual effects. I can’t wait to watch, but I really wanted to read the book first.

Only one problem. I’ve got at least half a dozen review books in my queue. Also, it’s a busy time right now, with holidays and birthdays and family obligations. My reading time is limited.

But thanks to Audible, and these lovely April days, my problem was solved. I’ve listened to the audiobook version during my daily walks and I’m all caught up. Narrated by Claire Danes, it is a riveting novel, especially relevant now.

Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale?

It is quite a stunning piece of work, as most readers of Margaret Atwood’s feminist novel will agree.

It is the year 2195. The Handmaid’s Tale recounts “the new normal” in the Republic of Gilead, the totalitarian state that exists in what was formerly the USA. A fundamentalist Christian faction has assumed power and stripped women of their rights. In response to a precipitous drop in birth rates, the new government imprisons women who are determined to still be fertile and forces them to work as handmaids, AKA breeding surrogates. Their freedom and their access to the outside is taken away. Their names are changed; their identities are erased.

Offred, the protagonist, once had a husband, a child, and a normal life. When the drumbeats got louder, she and her family tried to cross the border into safety, but she was captured. She clings to hope that she will be reunited with them someday, but her memories of life “before” are slipping away.

With themes of gender oppression, authoritarian leadership and religious politics, some might draw parallels to our current political reality. Read this excerpt and tell me it isn’t chilling:

“I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen,” Offred said. “When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up then either. They said it would be temporary. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”

Will these themes hit too close for comfort? For me, yes. Part of the shock is learning about Offred’s life before the regime came into power. It was so normal, so mundane, just like our lives. And then it’s not. That’s all I will say about that.

Audible always delivers, and as an added benefit, there are extra goodies in this recording. I enjoyed hearing the exclusive content written by Margaret Atwood at the end because it deepened my understanding of the book. The novel extends beyond the original final line, “Are there any questions?,” by adding the questions and answers that the people at that Symposium, occurring in 2195, might ask.

Do you use Audible? You can try it out for a month by going to Audible’s free trial site and have access to hundreds of titles.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

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Women’s History Month: The Rules Do Not Apply

Women’s History Month is resonating strongly with me this year. Not since the 60s have women’s collective voices been so clear and purposeful, as evidenced by the Women’s March and beyond. The political climate seems to have opened a channel, empowering women to candidly share their deepest emotions, their challenges, their fears.

Listening to Ariel Levy’s actual voice narrating her new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, I felt that this was one of those times when the audiobook surpassed the written version of a woman’s poignant, wrenching story.

Women's History Month: The Rules Do Not Apply

The Rules Do Not Apply

In her brave but vulnerable whiskey-husky voice, Levy opens with this:

“In the last few months, I have lost my son, my spouse, and my house. Every morning I wake up and for a few seconds I’m disoriented, confused as to why I feel grief seeping into my body, and then I remember what has become of my life.”

Suffused with shock and grief, she obsessed over the choices she had made over the course of her life. Before the tragedy, she had always laughed in the face of convention, finding her own interpretations of sexuality, work, love, marriage. Loss had never figured into her life plan. But then, does it ever?

Levy began her career doing scut work at New York Magazine and landed the plum job of staff writer at The New Yorker in 2008. Her beat was often the offbeat: traveling to rural South Africa to track down Caster Semenya, a female Olympic runner whose gender had been under pubic scrutiny; reporting on a gang of lesbian separatists named Lamar Van Dyke. As she wrote in “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” the New Yorker essay for which she received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism,

I’ve spent the past twenty years putting myself in foreign surroundings as frequently as possible. There is nothing I love more than traveling to a place where I know nobody, and where everything will be a surprise, and then writing about it. The first time I went to Africa for a story, I was so excited that I barely slept during the entire two-week trip. Everything was new: the taste of springbok meat, the pink haze over Cape Town, the noise and chaos of the corrugated-tin alleyways in Khayelitsha township. I could still feel spikes of adrenaline when I was back at my desk in New York, typing, while my spouse cooked a chicken in the kitchen.

In fact, it was in Mongolia, on a reporting assignment (and the topic of this essay) that Levy lost her baby. A nagging pain in her abdomen became stronger, and then excruciating. Her baby was born in the bathroom of her hotel room and died minutes later.

Later, her doctor told her the miscarriage had been caused by placental abruption, a rare problem that usually arises from high blood pressure or heavy cocaine use. Or because of the pregnant mother’s advanced age. Levy was 38. It could have happened anywhere, her doctor assured her. Traveling was not the factor. Nonetheless, Levy was wracked with guilt.

Her mother came to stay with her for a while. When Levy asked her, what will become of me, her mother answered, you will be fine. Other times she said, you are not alone. During Women’s History Month let us celebrate the voices of women who can share the universal emotions of grief and loss and survival that let others know that we are not alone.

The Rules Do Not Apply is painful, honest, revealing, and intimate. Levy is unforgiving of herself, but you will want to hug the person behind the voice.

See for yourself. Try out Audible with a free month of accessing a vast list of selections.

 

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See You at the Movies

See You at the Movies

I’ll see you at the movies.

If you’re a film buff of a certain age, you might recognize that quote from the late Roger Ebert, sorely missed, especially this time of year when movie awards season is underway. Ebert and his colleague/antagonist, the late Gene Siskel, hosted a weekly show reviewing the latest releases. I enjoyed watching their interplay, sometimes funny, sometimes heated, always passionate.

I love movies. Fortunately, so does my husband, so this Sunday night we will get comfy in bed with a bowl of popcorn and settle in for an entertaining event.

And the nominations are …

These days, of course, everything is readily available on the internet, but back in the day, I would be poised with my paper and pen when the announcement was made at 8:40 am on Good Morning America, followed by Gene Shalit giving his impressions of the picks. I loved hearing his take on the surprises and the snubs. RIP, Gene.

Why was I in a frenzy to scribble down the selections? Well, I had to call my husband to let him know RIGHT AWAY which movies we absolutely had to see before the awards ceremony. We both like to see all the nominated best picture films so we can be fully invested.

Alas, this year we have not seen every nominated film, one of them being Hidden Figures. I’m sad that we won’t see it before Sunday, but I did the next best thing and listened to the New York Times best-selling book on Audible.

See You at the Movies

Audible is a cinch to use. I have the app on my iPhone and enjoy browsing the titles and downloading audiobooks to listen to in the house, my car, or when I travel.

The award goes to …

Wow. If you haven’t seen the movie, let me fill you in (and I don’t think this will spoil it). Hidden Figures is a true story about female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space.

Mind you, this took place in the 1940s, before information was accessible by googling it. These women, known as “human computers,” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space.

Among the group of mathematically gifted women, numbering in the hundreds, were three African-American women whose contributions to the space effort have flown under the radar, so to speak, until now.

During World War II, there was a shortage of qualified talent in the aeronautics industry, then in its infancy. Anyone with the “right stuff” was encouraged to apply for positions in the fast-paced Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Virginia.

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson were math teachers in the South’s segregated public schools.They answered the call and found themselves in the fast-paced Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Virginia.This was in the industry’s infancy: before John Glenn orbited the earth, before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Unbelievable now, but at that time they were required to be segregated from their white counterparts, and the author delves into the impact of this shameful part of our country’s history. Langley’s all-black West Computing group did have the “right stuff” and their contributions helped America achieve a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

These women were trail blazers and incredible role models. Listening to the enormous challenges they faced, and the courage and dignity they displayed in dealing with them, makes this book inspirational as well as educational.

Now I am ready, as Siskel and Ebert used to say, to sit back and enjoy the show.

See you at the movies.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
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Discover Your Inner Child With Coloring Books

Discover Your Inner Child

My husband paused on his way to the refrigerator when he saw me sitting on the stool hunched over a book with a look of concentration on my face.

The mere fact that I was engrossed in a book would not have sparked his curiosity, because I am always with a book. In the kitchen while I’m cooking, by the bathroom sink when I’m blow drying my hair, in the car for when I get stuck in traffic. God forbid I shouldn’t have something to read.

But this time the book was oversized and flat with a lot of white space and I was drawing in it.

“A … coloring book?” he asked.

“Sshh, I’m almost done,” I murmured without looking up, magenta colored pencil in midair. My husband fell silent.

He watched. I colored. The only sound was the soft scritch scratching of the pencil as I oh-so-carefully filled in the design.  Then I held the book aloft so I could scrutinize my work from all angles.

“What exactly do you do with it when you’re done?” my husband asked.

I thought for a second. “You start another one,” I said.

Adult coloring books have been A Thing, you probably know, for a couple of years, and their popularity continues to grow. There have been articles written about them in The New York Times, CNN, The New Yorker, and more.

Ten Speed Press offered me a copy of The Time Garden: A Magical Journey and Coloring Book by Korean artist Daria Song and I was eager to try it out. The book tells the story of a young girl transported into a fantasy world within an ancient cuckoo clock and her journey back home. The designs are intricate, whimsical, and simply charming. It took me hours to complete just one page because of all the detail. Here are two samples. See what I mean?

Adults have embraced coloring books as a way to relax, to de-stress and unwind. And I get it now. When I color, focused only on the tiny spaces my pencils will fill, my mind is freed and calm. A break from the incessant over stimulation of social media, a coloring session is meditative and restorative, much like yoga is for the body.

The demand for adult coloring books has occasionally exceeded supply. I know this because my local bookstore completely ran out and is restocking for the holiday season, which I am glad about, because these make terrific gifts. I just bought one for my best friend.

I may be late to the adult coloring book game, but I’m addicted now. Would you like to see my work? You would? Really? Well, OK, if you insist.

Here is one I completed.

Discover Your Inner Child With Coloring Books

And here is another still in progress.

Discover Your Inner Child with Coloring Books

Don’t look too closely. I still can’t stay completely inside the lines. But I know that really doesn’t matter.

What matters is the color of green to choose next. Should it be chartreuse, spring green or olive?

The nice folks at Ten Speed Press are letting me give away a copy of The Time Garden to one of my readers. Leave a comment and I will choose a winner randomly. US addresses only, please.

I received a copy of The Time Garden from Ten Speed Press for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

During a visit to my childhood home last weekend, my mother, daughter and I rummaged through my old bedroom closet looking for potential hand-me-downs, and discovered a mysterious cedar box with a clasp on it.

I looked quizzically at my mother. “I forgot about this,” she said softly, lifting the lid.

Our eyes opened wide at the veritable treasure that lay before us: decades-old cookbooks and index cards with family recipes. Newspaper clippings of weddings and funerals. Birthday and anniversary cards. Dozens of Hints from Heloise columns yellowed with age. And cards sent by my grandfather to my grandmother, written in his perfect penmanship, the words of love so sweet and tender.

With delight, we sat down on the floor and read them aloud. Three generations of sentimental women fell silent as we imagined this young couple besotted with one another, almost a century ago.

“They were so in love,” I murmured.

My mother nodded, her eyes glistening.

My 20-something daughter sighed. “Letter writing is a lost art,” she said.

She is so right.

But lucky for all of us romantics — including my grandfather — Hallmark cards have been around since 1910, helping us express often indescribable feelings to the ones we love.

Hallmark cards are woven into my family history.

We are all senders, and we love to receive them. Want to know how much?

Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My MouthI have saved them all. This is just a smattering.

When the occasion calls for it, I know that a Hallmark card will help me say it better, conveying just the right emotions to the people I love.

To inspire us with the art of love letter writing, Hallmark has created a special #PutYourHearttoPaper campaign on its website.Take a look at the site and I dare you to come away dry-eyed after watching several couples express their love and appreciation for each other.

Hallmark sent me a sample of its new line of Valentine’s Day cards. The designs are just gorgeous.

Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My MouthI love Hallmark cards, which give me the words that are in my heart but sometimes hard to articulate. And when it comes to love, Hallmark has its finger on the pulse. Did you know Hallmark was the first company to recognize Valentine’s Day?

Thank you, Hallmark, for spreading the love and allowing me to do the same. I will give one lucky reader the same Valentine’s Day pack that I received. Just leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly in enough time to mail these cards to your loved ones.

I have several shoe boxes filled with cards I have received over the years, stacked in a closet in my room. I don’t look at them very often, but on days when I am feeling nostalgic, I make myself a cup of tea and take a peek. It is almost like looking at old photos.

Maybe someday my children and grandchildren will find these boxes of memories and sit on the floor entranced, reading words of love from long ago.

This is a sponsored post. I received greeting cards from Hallmark in exchange for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I do.

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