Tip Tuesday: Gratitude and Fulfillment

I recently finished reading “How to be a Bawse” by Lilly Singh (which was ah-making, seriously check it out if you haven’t already!). I listened to the Audiobook on Audible, which was read by ||Superwoman|| herself! I don’t care if you are absolutely in love with her YouTube channel or if you have never heard of her before, this book inspired the sh*t out of me, and without it this post wouldn’t be here.

First off, I listened to this book while struggling to decide upon a topic for NaNoWriMo. I do not definitively know what in the book helped me pick my topic, but I do know that it inspired me to try harder and write more. Hearing her talk about her dedication and love for her work inspired me to find something I was passionate about. It still took some effort, and some ideas that were thrown out, but I never gave up. Now, I have ideas for not one but two books.

I also found somewhat of a second wind at work. I was absolutely dead a couple of weeks ago. Last week I worked extra hours every single day so that I could take Friday off and travel home and spend the weekend with my family without worrying about a thing. Although I did still worry some, I was able to really relax and be present with those that I don’t get to see every day. On top of that, I felt really great about everything I had gotten done, and that was in part because of how hard I tried.

In addition to all of this, the one thing from the book that has stuck with me the most is how often we take things for granted. I’m sitting here typing this with a Bluetooth keyboard onto my 2018 iPad while watching the Green Bay Packers game on TV and the Milwaukee Brewers game on my phone. My house has a roof and heat, light and internet. I had a great dinner and bought foods that we eat just because we want to at the grocery store today. I have a husband that loves me and made sure the house was spotless before I got home. Even in my darkest times, they really aren’t that dark in comparison. It’s really hard to remember this, but taking the time to think about all the good and practice gratitude goes a long way.

You can have it all, just not all at once -Oprah

Another thing that has really stuck with me, was her discussion of discipline. I still feel like I don’t have enough time for everything that I want to do, but I also feel like I am fulfilled in the things that I have to do. I know that I could rearrange my day; I could try to figure out how to get by on less sleep. I also know that it’s not that big of a deal to me. If it really and truly mattered that I fit everything in every single day, then I would find a way. The important thing now is that I learn not to complain about not being able to fit everything in, when it would be nothing more than a different sacrifice if I decided to try. I need to be grateful.

Sensing a theme here? Gratitude and Fulfillment. I’ve written about gratitude in the past, but I haven’t really written about fulfillment much. At the end of the day, all of the little suggestions about finding gratitude in every day, ties into feeling fulfilled in your life. You cannot control every situation, but you can control your reaction. You can take the baby steps to work towards your goals. You can create a vision board with the things that will truly fulfill you. And, you can find happiness at each step. Understand that your journey is (1) yours and (2) a journey. Take pride in the fact that you are on a journey and keep going.

Have you read anything truly inspiring lately? Do you have a way to practice gratitude? Do you feel fulfilled most or every day?

Book Reviews (Part 2)

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Pre-Ordered on Amazon)

Rating: 4.5 stars

Mood: Love, Perseverance

Would Recommend?: Definitely yes

Wine Pairing: Skip the wine and go straight for the bourbon

Summary: Lale voluntarily travels to Birkenau with the promise that it will save the rest of his family. He arrives and quickly contracts typhus, but thanks to the watchful eye of Pepan, the Tatowierer (German for tattooist) Lale becomes his apprentice.

Although Lale loves all women, he tattoos a woman whom capitvates him immediately. This woman is named Gita, or prisoner 34902. It is with their love that Lale and Gita fight through the terrible conditions of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In addition to the love they have for one another, Lale also has the unique ability of being (1) very valuable as the Tatowierer and (2) very valuable as multilingual. He uses his smarts to help him survive day after day.

What I Loved This was based on a true story, and yet it was such a light read considering. Lale is such a brilliant man, and he knows how to use people in ways that ensure he survives. He also looks out for the best interests of Gita and tries to keep her safe as well. Although Gita is far more guarded than Lale, I feel like they are a perfect compliment of a couple. Also, for once I didn’t look into the spoilers to see how this book ended, so I was legitimately surprised as events were unfolding.

What I Disliked As weird as it may sound, I didn’t like how light of a read this was. I totally powered through the book and the most difficult parts were those that mentioned Mengele. It was absolutely shocking to me that a story that takes place entirely in Auschwitz-Birkenau would be so light hearted. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very real things speckled in, but it was very minimal in comparison to other books.

Who Should Read It I think this is a great story for anybody. I would recommend it more heavily towards those who have read a few WWII era novels in their day. I found that the knowledge I had floating around in the back of my head popped up when I needed it, and I think that was good. As I mentioned, it was a very light hearted version of events, and as such having an understanding of the references was helpful.

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Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (Audible Audio)

Rating: 4 stars

Mood: Motivational

Would Recommend?: Yes

Wine Pairing: Water, definitely drink water

Summary: Most people prefer the ability of somebody to work hard despite fighting the odds over innate intelligence or talent. It is great if you have both, but it is not necessary.

What I Loved As a PhD student who had to fight to get to graduate school, this book speaks to me on a deep level. I have always thought that being able to work hard is a skill, but let me tell you, the amount of times people tell you that is very minimal. So, hearing the perspective based on someone’s career and actual research was wonderful. Additionally, this book is read by the author, which means that all of the tones and feelings are still true in the audiobook as the author intended. Always a plus.

What I Disliked It’s non-fiction, and it’s about as boring as your average non-fiction. I enjoy listening to non-fiction books, particularly those that make me a better person. I started this book on a morning that I had a long to-do list head of me and I really needed it. It was legitimately wonderful to have, but every time I stopped listening (except when I was in the car) was because I realized that I zoned out.

Who Should Read It Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest here. My husband loved Outliers and I hated it. I loved Grit and my husband will hate it. What I’m trying to say is, as much as I wish this was a book for everybody, it definitely is not.

What’s in my beach bag? Books of course!

Hello wonderful people! I have a summer goal of one book finished per week. This could be an audiobook, ebook, book, whatever, but I want to finish one every week. I often read more than one book at a time, so I am hoping this is an achievable goal, but we will see.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I have owned this book since it came out. I was a big fan of The Secret Life of Bees and was more impressed than I thought I would be with The Mermaid Chair. However, I have not been able to convince myself to pick up the book and read it. At first, it was the tiny print that scared me. I knew it wouldn’t be a quick read, which her other two were for me. However, I believe that it will be a good summer read and there is no time like the present. Additionally, in June, Kidd’s daughter will be releasing her first novel, so I feel some kind of obligation to support an author that I know I enjoy.

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown

More and more every day, I am texting my mother about all of the “adulting” that I am doing. I am now 25 years old, I have a car loan, I have a steady income, yada yada yada. At the end of the day though, I have NO clue what I am doing most of the time. So, I am looking forward to this humorous book to guide me a little bit. I haven’t seen a review of how useful the content is- and I would like to keep it that way for now.

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Let’s Get Lost is a coming of age novel about five individuals all connected to one person. I actually started the book last night while lying in bed trying to fall asleep, and so far so good. I don’t recall what originally drew me in to this book, but I definitely think it will be both a quick and fun read. The writing level is definitely young adult, and I cannot decide if I feel like the intended reader was male or female, from the description or from having already started the book.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I received Wild as a birthday present over a year ago from a friend who had really enjoyed the book. I am notoriously awful about reading books that I receive as gifts, and this was no exception. I haven’t even tried to start it, and I don’t have a good reason why. I just put it on the bookshelf and always know that it is there, but never pick it up and start reading it. I am excited to read it though, because I have no desire to see the movie (sorry), and because I feel like it isn’t a super hyped up book, but everybody who reads it enjoys it.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Between starting this post and finishing it up, I have actually gotten off the hold list and have the book downloaded to my Kindle, so it is my “up next.” Considering 3/5 books on this list I own… this seems like a good idea. Anyway, I decided to read this book because I do enjoy a good psychological thriller, and because I want to see what all the hype is about. I have heard from more than one reliable source that the audiobook isn’t that great, which is a shame since this is the sort of book I would prefer to listen to on audio. In any case, I’m looking forward to a binge reading session or two to crank this one out.

The Hidden Figures Did Small Great Things

Within 24-hours I finished listening to the Small Great Things audiobook and reading Hidden Figures. I have strong feelings about both and they are not what I expected to feel in either case. Hidden Figures was slow, it was boring, it was redundant and I do not feel like it carried those women to the heights it was designed to. On the other hand, Small Great Things was wonderfully woven and showed that people can change at any stage of their lives, and also that awareness can still be clouded. I know this is a little bit like comparing apples to oranges as Hidden Figures is a non-fiction novel and Small Great Things was inspired by a true story. However, I feel that careful comparisons can be made between the two which is what I intend to do here.

That so many of them were African American, many of them my grandmother’s age, struck me as simply part of the natural order of things: growing up in Hampton, the face of science was brown like mine.

This really bothered me from the moment I read it. Growing up in Milwaukee, there were plenty of brown faces but none of them were the face of science. As an engineer now working on my PhD, I cannot even imagine how different my life had been if every black person I saw held this job. And honestly, I don’t know if I would have gotten here on the straight path that I have taken. The fact of the matter is, the face of science is not black. The face of science is white and male. While the book definitely makes this clear to the reader, there is something lacking. The milestones of the women at Langley are mentioned in less explicative detail than the stories about their marriages. One of the details I remember best from the book is about Katherine Johnson caring for her sick husband. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that Katherine Johnson was a brilliant woman shortchanged because of her breasts and her brown skin.

Racism is also about who has institutional power

This was in the author’s note provided by Picoult and I must say that author’s note is one of the most beautifully written ones that I have ever read. This becomes particularly annoying when you factor in how long and boring the epilogue of Hidden Figures was. I feel like both women were trying to justify their actions, but it is very difficult for me to understand why. For Picoult it is obvious, and she says it, she is a white woman trying to write about the experience of blacks in America, but she has never been black in America. For Shetterly she is a black female who grew up with many of the men and women she is writing about, so why does it feel like she’s hiding behind the story more than Picoult? I really would love an answer to this question, if anybody has an idea.

Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.

This is quite possibly the most beautiful line in Small Great Things. What both writers do exceedingly well in the books is discuss how racism, and institutional racism, affect women of color in America. Here’s the part that is really difficult for me: I am a woman of color, so I love that these books highlight women. However, I understand that being a black woman in America is still different from being a black man in America. Neither book hammered on that point at all, and I do understand that space constraints and scope of the storyline impact this, it would have been nice if the black men mentioned in Small Great Things were without power rather than wielding power. It would have been nice if the male support in Hidden Figureshighlighted some of the men better. But again, I do understand why such decisions are made.

Women, on the other hand, had to wield their intellects like a scythe, hacking away against the stubborn underbrush of low expectations

There are so many more quotes that I have in my notes from these books that I cannot work into this post. There are so many feelings in my heart that I cannot find the words to say. There is so much missing from this post that I feel like I am doing a grave injustice to each book, and that makes me no better than either Shetterly or Picoult. I cannot describe how I felt reading these books because I do not think the words exist for people who have not lived through being black in America. I do not think that a post-civil rights era child can understand the struggles the Langley women encountered at work. I know I cannot fully understand what it must have been like to use a bathroom not intended for me- or to designate bathrooms more strictly than male and female. This came up numerous times in the book, and today we have our own issue with bathrooms which does help some with the context. However, was which bathroom these women used really what demoralized them? Sure, it’s awful to think about, but is that what brings a person down? No, what brings a person down is the way other people treat them. As Picoult said in her author’s note, “recognize that differences between people make it harder for some to cross the finish line.” How does a toilet hinder you from crossing the finish line? It’s unjust to be sure, but it does not stop success.

They put me in chains. Just like that, they shackle my hands in front of me, as if that doesn’t send two hundred years of history running through my veins like an electric current. As if I can’t feel my great-great-grandmother and her mother standing on an auction block. They put me in chains, and my son- who I’ve told, every day since he was born, you are more than the color of your skin- my son watches.

I would like to end with this: it does not matter what color you were given by birth. There is a rich history for every colored person in every nation, and the more we talk about it, the better equipped we will be to listen and make others listen. The opportunities that you are granted may be a direct result of your color- whether that be given the benefit of the doubt because you are white or a job because of Affirmative Action. Your hardships and setbacks benefit others. However, what you get to see while you are growing up helps you grow into the adult you become. A caring and compassionate individual often saw that in their upbringing. An overt racist often saw racism as the norm. A black women who writes about black women who did something amazing and were among the firsts to do so with casual language, thought it was normal. A white woman who writes about a black nurse staying quiet her whole life has stayed quiet with the topic of her novel. That same white woman who writes about a public defender who thought she was fair, but realizes she still has a great “distance… yet to go when it comes to racial awareness” recognized it within herself. We all have biases, and we are not aware of all of them, even if we think we are. All that we can do is our best to be fair, and open, compassionate, and treat everybody with both equality and equity. But also, it’s about giving people the credit and recognition they deserve, in the capacity in which they have earned it.

Yes Please! A Pseudo-Review

I listened to Amy Poehler’s Yes Please during a car ride in November and this book has stuck with me. I find my mind responding with a hearty “yes please!” (though usually just in my head). What I learned from Amy Poehler is that you never know what is going to happen in five minutes from now, let alone five years. Therefore, spontaneity should be embraced. That said, it is still good to have plans.

I really enjoyed the audiobook version because I got to hear Poehler telling me all these things she worked so hard to share. It also reminded me that the author of this book wasn’t some obscure being, but a real human person most people are familiar with. Hearing this real live person reading her own words made me feel like I could “grab the world by the lapels” (Maya Angelou).

We all know shit happens. Shit can happen really suddenly all at once, or gradually over a long period of time. Regardless of how shit falls upon us, we must push through. There is no just waiting for the shit storm to pass, we have to actively try to work our way out. What better way to do that than to stand up tall and say “YES PLEASE!”