My Dream Library: Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe

Hello autumn angels,

Sometime around my 12th birthday, I started dieting for the first time. I understood the game but not the stakes. I’d been surrounded by images of thin women, glorified in romantic comedies and princess cartoons, and highlighted on magazine covers and in advertisements for everything from yogurt to razors. I knew what I was striving for, but not what it would cost. I didn’t know it would take me years to unwind my tangled-up relationship with food and my body. I did it; I am free now, and incredibly grateful for it. I just wish it didn’t take so long. And I wish nobody had to get lost in those woods to begin with.

I initially read Body Positive Power: How to Stop Dieting, Make Peace with Your Body and Live by Megan Jayne Crabbe a few years ago, when I put together this list of body image books on BuzzFeed. While reading it through again this year, I kept thinking, man, this is the book I wish I had when I was younger. Megan, a body positive activist and creator who became well-known on Instagram, has created an amazing starting guide for healing your relationship with your body. Each chapter dives into a key topic, from beauty ideals in the media, to the diet industry, to our relationships with food and exercise. In each chapter, she explores the topic at hand from a variety of angles, incorporating her personal experiences, pop culture examples, and research studies. By the end of the book, it’s so clear that us getting stuck in this game of trying to control our bodies was never our fault. It was designed for us to lose (and keep playing).

But there is a way out, where we can find joy and freedom in the bodies we’ve been given. The things that I have personally found healing are ones that Megan addresses in depth as well. Intuitive eating? It’s here. Finding joy in movement as opposed to using exercise as punishment? Yep. Throughout the book, Megan even includes “Belly Love Tips,” as that is a body part that so many people have struggled to love (myself included). One of the tips is to create a gallery of photos or artwork of people with stomachs of all shapes and sizes, to remind yourself how beautiful they are. Strangely enough, I had already started doing a version of this in the year prior to reading this book for the first time.

All this to say, if I were to build a time machine and visit my teen self, I would certainly be packing this book. But since such an invention is not in my sights, instead I am going to enthusiastically recommend this book to you. If you’ve got a body, I think it’s got something for you.

xoxo

Marie

P.S. Megan recently started a newsletter called “Is it Just Me Or…” which you can subscribe to here. Other links are below!

Megan on Instagram

Body Positive Power on Amazon

Body Positive Power on IndieBound

“Every Version of You is on Your Side”: Words of Wisdom from Ashley C. Ford

Happy Sunday, my sweet summer sparklers,

Instagram is my social media platform of choice. Of course it has its flaws, but I love seeing snapshots of the lives of people I know (or would like to know, or once knew). And maybe this is strange for a photo-heavy app, but I love the words I come across. Every once in a while I’ll scroll onto a colorful background with a few lines of text, read them, and think, Whew, I needed to hear that. So on this cloudy July day (perfect for cozy reflection), I wanted to share one of my recent finds with you:

Ashley C. Ford is a writer who recently published her first book, Somebody’s Daughter, to rave reviews. The memoir is “A story of reckoning with your past to take hold of your future—of finding love for those you have yet to forgive.” Specifically, it delves into Ashley’s experience growing up in Indiana while her father was incarcerated. This quote is from an episode of the podcast Hear to Slay, hosted by Roxane Gay and Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, in which Ashley discussed the challenges involved with writing about (and making peace with) her past.

No matter what kind or size of challenges you have faced, I think the idea of letting your past selves exist as who they were, without trying to change them or hide them, is so powerful. One thing I’ve been working on in the past year or so has been learning to not be so hard on myself. I know beating myself up doesn’t make me a better person; if anything, it makes it harder to stay in the present where I’m needed. Sometimes I get stuck in a loop of reevaluating past choices. Or, not reevaluating, but just looking back with a deep groan like, Ugh, why did I do that? Reflecting on Ashley’s words, I thought, what if I let every younger version of me just exist, as is? Not only as a character in a different chapter, but one in a whole different story. Someone who was wholly imperfect, but perfectly suited for the journey she was on at the time. I don’t need to go back and stretch 13-year-old me, or 18-year-old me, or 23-year-old me into my 30-year-old frame of how things should be. It’s unfair to all of us.

If you ever get stuck in the past, I hope this quote gives you a little lift out like it did for me. Links to the podcast episode and Ashley’s work will be listed below. I highly encourage you to check out her writing; her spirit shines a light of grace that I think we could all use more of.

xoxo

Marie

“Let’s Just Be Honest” – Hear to Slay

Ashley C. Ford’s website

Ashley C. Ford on Twitter

Ashley C. Ford on Instagram

Somebody’s Daughter on Amazon

Somebody’s Daughter on IndieBound

My Dream Library: The Pretty One by Keah Brown

The Pretty One is a collection for the people who give a damn, for the girl who saw her differences as dangerous and ugly, who lived most of her life trying desperately to wish herself into another body, for the person who just wants to experience joy through a little sadness and laughter along the way.” – Keah Brown, The Pretty One (page 9)

Hey bookish babes,

The first book recommendation in My Dream Library series is a book I’ve listened to twice and thought about often. Like many people, I first become familiar with (and a big fan of) Keah Brown and her writing via the viral hashtag she created, #DisabledAndCute. After listening to her debut essay collection, The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me . . . let’s just say, I know we aren’t friends, but her vulnerable, honest, funny, and passionate work makes me love her as if we were.

The best way I can describe this book—which traverses across topics and throughout Keah’s life—is that it is like a stained-glass window. Each essay illuminates a different piece of her heart. In “Love You, Mean It,” we see Keah as a sister, grappling with the jealousy she felt towards her twin, who does not have cerebral palsy. In “The Human iPod,” she takes a deep-dive into the music that has been the soundtrack of her life thus far, from Toni Braxton to Demi Lovato. And in “I Like Me Now, Too,” Keah shares her journey to self-love, which is an incredibly personal one, but also a path that has brought light to so many others.

Taken individually, each essay is colorful, glowing piece to enjoy. Put all together, we get to see the kaleidoscopic beauty of what it is to really know someone, when they’ve shown us all the corners of their heart (from being a fan of cheesecake and The Sims to dealing with depression). I think it is incredibly masterful that Keah was able to capture such a thing on the page. It’s a gift, and I’m so glad she was willing to share it.

Links to Keah’s work and social accounts will be linked below. If there’s a book that’s really lit you up as of late, let me know in the comments!

xoxo

Marie

Keah Brown’s website

Keah Brown on Twitter

Keah Brown on Instagram

The Pretty One on Amazon

The Pretty One on IndieBound

Introducing a New Series: My Dream Library

Hello my dream angels,

For any endurance-testing endeavor, you gotta know your why. A few years ago, I wrote a mission statement for my (eventual) first book and posted it on my virtual bulletin board, to keep my purpose in sight. It went like this: “My mission is to write the book I wish I had when I was between 12 and 16 years old. My aim is for the book to be engaging, informative, and most importantly, empowering. I hope it serves as a model for girls to think about the different pieces of their life in new ways.”

Pretty good, right? Really, I think that statement captures the essence of what I’d like my whole career to be about. But in regard to this particular project, I’d change just one word. I don’t want to write the book I wish I had, I’d like to write a book I wish I had. If I got the chance to go back and guardian-angel my younger self, do I really think I would bring her just one book? Heck, no! I’d build her a whole dang library! One filled with books by the vast group of authors I’ve come to love, with a variety of perspectives on the topics I was so hungry to learn more about.

So, I thought, why not build that here?

I’m going to continue to fill this blog with reflections and celebrations on life, pop culture, and fabulous people (female and otherwise). One piece of that will be this new series of book recommendations called, of course, My Dream Library. If I can’t enthusiastically share my faves with my younger self, I’d love to do so with you, dear reader.

I’ve already got my first pick lined up, and I can’t wait to share it. In the meantime, check out some of my previous recommendations below. And let me know in the comments what’s well-worn and well-loved on your shelf!

xoxo

Marie

BuzzFeed: 5 Books to Guide You on Your Body Image Journey

BuzzFeed: 6 Teen Nonfiction Books for Girls of All Ages

Girl Presence: How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh

Girl Presence: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

HuffPost: 4 Books for Young Women Going Through a Quarter-Life Crisis

HuffPost: 5 YA Makeover Novels Where Inner Beauty Prevails

Gold Coins & Phone Calls: Life’s Little Anchors

Photo by Ilse Orsel on Unsplash

Hello my little mermaids,

Has anyone else been feeling a little seasick lately? Since 2021 began, I’ve had so many weeks start out smooth sailing, only to be tossed over by unforeseen waves partway through. Near record-breaking snowfall (and cold). COVID-related disruptions. And more. I’ve found joy wherever possible. Snow is fun, and so are unexpected snow days! But I’ve also never looked forward to a so-called “normal” week more. “Boring” sounds good right now!

I recently read Didn’t See That Coming: Putting Your Life Together When Your World Falls Apart by Rachel Hollis. In the chapter on developing good habits, she wrote: “Your great habits and positive rituals are the anchor you need in the storm, not just because they’re good for you but because your brain isn’t wired to handle intense discomfort and keep making good decisions. Meaning, if you haven’t already built your muscle memory for making consistent good choices, you’ll find it nearly impossible to do so once life gets hard.”

She makes a great point, and I don’t know that I’d ever really thought about it that way. Stability in the good times can help you navigate the rocky seas with a little more ease. What has impacted me from that chapter the most, though, is the word “anchor” as she used it in that passage. It has been floating in my brain ever since I finished the book. You could think of a metaphorical anchor as a bad thing. Who wants to be tied down, stuck in place? Not me! But I do sometimes want to be held steady, which is what Rachel was describing.

The more I’ve thought about anchors, the more I see them everywhere. I’m a meditation novice, but the most helpful thing I’ve learned from my recent attempts is the technique of using your breath as an anchor. When your thoughts try to carry you away, you come back by focusing on your breathing. But anchors can be more personally specific, too. My daily phone call with my dad is an anchor that has steadied me for years. Sometimes when I’m anticipating a challenging day, I put a small object in my pocket. I use it as part good luck charm, part fidget object. Sometimes it’s a mini teddy bear, smaller than my palm, from when I was younger. Lately it’s been one of my grandpa’s gold coins. Tiny, sweet anchors.

Of course, there are times to get carried away. During the past couple months, I’ve listened to Taylor Swift’s evermore over and over again and got lost in the lyrics. One of my best friends had her first baby, and I’ve been swimming in joy, excitement, and love for her family. When she asked me to be her son’s godmother . . . let’s just say I will ride that wave of excitement forever!

All this to say, I hope this next month brings you waves of joy, and a perfectly suited anchor if you need one.

xoxo

Marie

Hannah Montana was Right: Learning to Challenge My Perfectionist Thoughts

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.” – Brené Brown

Photo by Jonathan Hoxmark on Unsplash

Hello my digital angels,

I came across the above quote while working on my book. (Mark my words, it will be done before my next birthday!) I decided to add a preface, and I was reading through the first pages of books I admire for inspiration. On page 2 of Daring Greatly, that line jumped out at me. Like something I needed to hear. And that surprised me.

You see, I think of myself as a recovered perfectionist; I wrote about it for Gurl.com (see below!). My sophomore year of high school was the peak of my perfectionism. I took AP classes for the first time and was diligent with my homework. (I remember reading my World History textbook on Friday evenings.) I was active outside of classes, participating in cheerleading, theatre, Key Club, and concert band.

Gurl.com no longer exists on the web, but it does in my heart (and this screenshot). ❤️

And I monitored every bite of food I ate, in search of the “perfect” body.

By junior year, I learned to be more realistic about my schoolwork. On the first day of AP U.S. History, when the syllabus was passed out, I realized I couldn’t complete the work to my satisfaction and stay sane. So I switched to the regular version of the class. By the end of the year, I acknowledged that being a cheerleader was more about what I wanted to be (popular) than what made me happy, and I quit. As for eating, it took me a number of years of ups and downs to unlearn the desire to control my body, but I did it. One night recently, I was standing at the kitchen counter at 10 PM eating cold Chinese food. I stopped and marveled at the fact that I can do that. Silly as it sounds, back then I never would have dreamed it. I listen to my body and enjoy food without constraints, and that’s a miracle to me.

I worked my way out of all those modes of perfectionism. I know, and not just because Hannah Montana told me, that nobody’s perfect. So why did that quote hit me?

Then I realized, even though consciously I know I am not expected to be perfect, I sometimes react in a way that suggests the opposite.

One of my greatest fears—and anxiety triggers—is hurting others. This year, my mind has been a little harder to manage than usual, for understandable reasons. Lately, when I feel I’ve made a mistake (or remember one from months past), I go into a downward spiral. I think, over and over again, about what I did wrong and how it could have negatively impacted someone else. Anxiety takes over my body, and I can’t slow down my thoughts or heart rate until I talk to someone else or “fix” the perceived problem.

Of course, it’s normal to feel a sting when you think about how you could have done something better. I care so much about doing things well, and I don’t expect that to change. But when I go into full-on meltdown mode over things that do not warrant that, what I’m telling myself is that it’s not okay to ever make a less-than-100%-perfect decision. And that’s not okay.

Recognizing this problematic pattern of thinking has already been liberating. Not that I’ve “fixed” it—you can’t be perfect at not being perfect—but I realize the path I’ve been walking, perhaps longer than I realized, is not one I want to continue down. I want to be kinder to myself. I want to give myself the love and grace I think everyone deserves in moments of struggle. I want to live a life of self-compassion.

I have so many more thoughts, and a few resources, to share with you, but this seems like a good place to stop for now. What I ask of you is this: if you find yourself being your own worst critic, stop and examine the standards to which you’re holding yourself. And if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. Your compassion belongs to you, too.

xoxo

Marie

Writing for BuzzFeed: “5 Books to Guide You on Your Body Image Journey”

Hello, my digital cuties!

I wanted to share my most recent publication with you. I wrote an article for BuzzFeed entitled “5 Books to Guide You on Your Body Image Journey.” It’s mostly exactly what it sounds like! But it’s also about why books are so important to me, and how they helped me find my way in life at a very critical juncture. 5 Body Image BooksWriting this article was a test in perseverance. I actually started working on it months ago. Granted, I got a little bit distracted by life for a while. I don’t like that I do that, but sometimes I do. When I came back to working on it, I found myself struggling to move forward. I liked the introduction I had originally written—that stayed mostly intact for the final version—but I got stuck on the descriptions of the books. I found myself delaying writing them, and then when I did write a couple of them, I didn’t feel anymore confident about where the piece was headed.

But I kept showing up, and I finally realized what wasn’t working for me: the book blurbs I had written were kind of boring. I felt so passionate about the books I chose and the authors who wrote them, but that was not coming across on the page. I had written the book descriptions the way I thought I “should”—in second person,  focusing solely on the subject matter of the book. Basically, my own miniaturized version of Amazon summaries. It hadn’t occured to me to do them differently. In part, I was just going off the many other book lists I’ve read. I also wanted to let the books stand on their own, and for readers to get a clear sense of what they’re about, so they could decide if they wanted to read them.

But realizing what wasn’t working for me opened up room for new idea. Since my introduction was so personal, more than usual when I write an article like this—it actually made all the sense in the world to be more personal in the descriptions as well, and share how each book impacted me in the moment they came into my life. Once I figured that out, I suddenly had all this momentum. I was able to finish up the article pretty quickly, and I was proud of how it turned out.

Which is all to say that this experience is a good reminder of what I have learned to be true over the course of my writing career: you just have to keep showing up. When you’re working towards a goal, sometimes progress feels slow, or the solution to a problem might not be immediately apparent. But if you meet that resistance with persistence, you will get where you’re trying to go. I wholeheartedly believe that.

If you’re looking for a new read or interested in becoming more educated on body image and related issues, check out the article. And if you’re moving, climbing, (sometimes) trudging towards a goal, just know that I’m right there with you.

xoxo

Marie

GP Reads—How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh

Hello Internet friends, and happy 2018!How to Be a Bawse

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Lincoln, Nebraska it’s been really cold lately. The temperature right now is 49°F, and that feels like summer compared to how it’s been! The good news, though, is winter provides the perfect opportunity to do one of my favorite things: get under a blanket, snuggle up with my cat, and read.

One of my most recent picks was—you guessed it!—How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Surviving Conquering Life by Lilly Singh, who rose to fame through her YouTube channel, IISuperwomanII. In the past few years, I’ve noticed an explosion of books by YouTubers on the bookstore shelves, and to be honest, at first I was a little skeptical. But after I got hooked on Lilly’s videos sometime late last year—in addition to being hilarious, she’s positive, empowering, and wonderfully honest—I decided to give her book a go. Besides, who doesn’t want a few more strategies for conquering life?

I’m really glad I did. Each chapter of the book addresses a different lesson Lilly has learned on her journey about achieving goals, from “Get Uncomfortable” to “Let Go of FOMO” to “Be Santa” (you’ll have to read to find out what that means!). What I appreciated most is that Lilly is really specific, both in how each strategy has worked in her life (which often includes a cool story, such as meeting Selena Gomez) and how it can apply to yours. While Lilly’s success has come through being an entertainer and entrepreneur, I honestly think her advice can apply no matter what goals you’re working towards. Additionally, in four sections of the book, Lilly opens up about her experience with depression, and contrasts that time in her life with what it’s like now that she’s overcome it. I am hopeful that her openness will inspire those who are struggling to know it is possible to overcome dark times, and to seek the help they need.

For more positivity, inspiration, and laughs, check out Lilly’s YouTube channel (if you haven’t yet!):

Note: Common Sense Media recommends this book for readers 15 and older.  There are some mentions of adult drug and alcohol use, as well as abbreviations of bad words. 

xoxo

Marie

P. S. If you have book recommendations for other GP readers, please leave them in the comments below!

Writing for BuzzFeed: “6 Teen Nonfiction Books for Girls of All Ages”

Hello, digital friends!

I have exciting news to share with you! This previous week, I published an article on BuzzFeed about some of my favorite books from my favorite section in the bookstore. You can check it out here.

BuzzFeed 6 Teen Nonfiction

While putting together a proposal for the book I’d like to write, I’ve been eager to share what I’ve learned or come across, as with my previous blog post. One key part of a nonfiction book proposal is a rundown of the “competing” or complementary books for the one you want to write.The point is to show where among the many books in the bookstore yours would fit. With that in mind, I have spent extra time this year exploring what’s new in my favorite section of the bookstore, teen nonfiction. What I found inspired me to share some of my favorites. Hence, this article!

I find writing book lists valuable for a few reasons. For starters, I like browsing book lists, and I hope that I can help someone find a new read they’ll enjoy. But also, I love getting to shine light on others’ creations. Putting yourself out there, whether it’s through writing or music or something else entirely, is such a special thing, but also a potentially nerve-wracking one. So when I come across a great book, I love getting the chance to share my appreciation.

On top of all that, every once in a while, you get to hear back from the authors themselves, and that’s really cool:

Erin Chack Twitter

If you enjoy teen nonfiction and have any favorites you’d recommend, please let me know either in the comments or on Twitter! I would love to check them out.

xoxo

Marie

 

Literally, Darling: “Cheryl Strayed’s Truth Bombs Inspired Me to ‘Write the Thing I Needed to Read’”

Hello, Internet friends!

I’m excited to share that an essay I wrote was published on Literally, Darling, an awesome website designed with millennial women in mind, this week. The essay is titled “Cheryl Strayed’s Truth Bombs Inspired Me to ‘Write the Thing I Needed to Read.’” It’s about the lines in books that resonate like nothing else can, which I like to call “truth bombs,” and the impact my favorite author has had on me. cheryl-strayeds-truth-bombs-home-pageThe inspiration for this piece sprouted from seeing Strayed speak last year at the writing conference AWP (on my half-birthday, no less). But the seed was planted, so to speak, two years ago, when I included Tiny Beautiful Things on this book list for The Huffington Post and first used the term “truth bombs” to describe my experience reading her work.

My essay—which was originally titled “‘Truth Bombs’ an
d the Subjective Magic of Reading,” and then “On Cheryl Strayed, ‘Truth Bombs,’ and the Magic of Reading”—went through a lot of changes to get ready for the web. I ended up cutting what I thought was the final draft almost in half. Doing so was not only helpful in making the piece more succinct, focused, and easy to read, but also a good exercise as a writer. However, there was one part of the original essay that got left on the cutting room floor that I still really wanted to share with you, because I think it shows how powerful books really are—and the whole experience was also just a bit wild.

Sometime during the fall where I was going through a tough time (that I mention in the essay), I had this line pop into my head: “Allow yourself to be gutted.” I didn’t know that I would ever find a place to use it in my writing, but I thought it was good, so I saved it in a note on my phone, just in case. A few months later, I pulled out my copy of Tiny Beautiful Things, and realized that along the right side of the front cover was a line from the book: “Let yourself be gutted.” Oops.tiny-beautiful-things

Then something else happened. I started writing my essay last spring, and I realized I hadn’t read Tiny Beautiful Things since the spring semester of 2013, so I decided to reread it in between working on my draft. One day, I wrote a section where I compared reading a truth bomb to falling in love:

That’s why—and I’m going out on a limb here—I think finding a truth bomb through reading is an experience made out of some of the same stuff as falling in love. Because, just as a person in love can detail all the things they love about their loved one, without the magic glue that holds their reasons together, there’s no way others will be able to observe the same picture.

Later that day, I was reading Tiny Beautiful Things, and in one letter from Sugar/Strayed to three women who are considering leaving their current partners, she compares her second marriage to her first: “My two marriages aren’t so different from each other, though there’s some sort of magic sparkle glue in the second that was missing in the first.” What?! I had written my own “magic glue” reference mere hours before, years after reading that passage for the first time. I was legitimately flabbergasted. I take those two freaky/cool experiences together as proof that the books we care about weave themselves into our minds, perhaps even in ways of which we aren’t aware. Books have changed my life for the better, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

xoxo

Marie