Daring Greatly

I know it wouldn’t seem like it, but if you want to feel motivated to do big and exciting new things and to take chances, you should read a book about shame.

Ok, don’t just read any book about shame.  And really, don’t read a book JUST about shame.  Read one that is about getting rid of shame and being vulnerable.

Just go read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

The book looks small.  It’s only seven chapters, but there is a lot packed into those seven chapters.  I grossly misjudged how long it would take me to read.  Not because the reading was difficult, but because there was a lot to absorb. Plus the reading was definitely engrossing, and my time to let myself be engrossed in things is in short supply as of late.

The subtitle of the book is “How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” I do all four of those things, so I jumped on this book (plus I really love Brene Brown).

The first few chapters are devoted to Brown leading the reader through her shame research–how shame gets in the way of our letting ourselves be vulnerable.  These chapters also focus on myths of vulnerability–what being vulnerable is NOT.

The next part of the book moves into all the ways we throw up barriers so no one sees our vulnerability, while also giving strategies for how to shed that armor.

The last chapters help us apply what she has taught us to the work place and to our family life, particularly with parenting.

It’s a legitimate concern to think that a book by a PhD on “research” is going to be heady and full of jargon.  Luckily, it would be an unfounded concern.  Brown has a very conversational, easy way about her reading that makes you feel like you are having a cup of tea with a friend who just happens to be a professional shame researcher.  She shares personal stories and anecdotes from years of experience.

This book is important.  There is so much in this world telling us that we are not good enough, not skinny enough, not beautiful enough, not mom enough, etc.  We begin to believe this message and we begin to carry around shame.  Yesterday I looked at the faces of my teenage students as they walked the halls–they already carry this at their young ages.

Brown stresses how it’s ok to feel our feelings, but we need to become “shame resilient”; we need to believe we are enough.

Such a powerful message.

I found myself relating on many levels: as a mother, teacher, wife, woman, writer.  I found my purpose for why I blog written more eloquently than I could ever say it:”Shame hates having words wrapped around it,”Brown writes (67). I found myself underlining this in ink and flagging it.

Yes.  This is why I blog. This is why, even when I feel like maybe I am the only one…maybe I’m not.  Maybe if I say it, the shame will be lifted and something else…something good…can replace it.

The biggest misconception is that to be vulnerable and share your shame is weak.  That is shows that you are less. The book’s message on this is clear: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage” (37).

I encourage you to pick up this book and follow our discussion about it at BlogHer Book Club.

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I was compensated for this review by BlogHer Book Club, however all opinions are my own.

The Chaperone {a book review}

I have been teaching American Literature (11th grade English) for over a decade, and my favorite part is teaching The Great Gatsby.

Part of that love comes from the amazing conversations, thoughts, and questions that come up as we tackle a reading that is pretty difficult for most of my students.  It’s also one that, on the surface, is hard to relate to for them.  I mean, what does a book about a bunch of rich white people and their problems have to do with them?

But the rest of my love comes from my obsession with the Moderns.  The authors of the 1920’s. America in the 1920’s and 30’s.  It is by far my favorite time period to read about/study.

I am that book nerd who reads everything by Fitzgerald and Hemingway and others just to be able to put my mind and imagination into The Jazz age and out of my reality for a little bit.

So when I saw that BlogHer was going to be doing The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty for one of its summer book club reads, I was super excited and couldn’t sign up fast enough.

As soon as I saw that it was an historical fiction about Louise Brooks I got very excited. In all of my reading about the 1920’s, Louise was one of the stars that stands out in my mind as being fascinating.  I use her and Zelda Fitzgerald as examples in my classroom, so to find a novel fictionalizing her first trip to New York was beyond thrilling for me.

The Chaperone isn’t only about Louise though.  It really centers around her fictionalized chaperone, Cora Carlisle, whom her parents hire to accompany Louise one summer to NYC as she attempts to win a coveted spot on the prestigious Denishawn dance troupe. Louise is Cora’s reason for going to NYC to search for something from her past.  Something she is sure will bring her the happiness that she feels is lacking from her life.

Of course, it is evident right from the beginning that Louis is not just going to be a simple charge for Cora.  She is rebellious and “difficult”.  In fact, it almost seems that Cora is not just being hired to take Louise for a chance of a lifetime, but to get her off her parents’–mainly her mother, Myra’s–hands.

The novel is a quick read.  At least it was for me.  Some have said the first chapter drags, but I found it to be one of the most delightful to read; it was rich with description of Cora’s surroundings in Wichita, which I found to be a necessary contrast for the later description of the fast-paced New York City.

I enjoyed how the novels chapters in the beginning alternated between the present (1922) and Cora’s childhood.  Once caught up, they alternated between Cora’s home life and her current situation and escapes with Louise in the city.

Up until Cora returned from New York, I was enjoying the full description, the interesting dialogue, and the movement of the plot. The last third of the novel, while interesting, was less “showing” and more “telling” to me.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and knowing what became of Cora, but I felt like the end was just a recitation of events that was crammed together so we could get her full life in the book rather than developed out.  True, the novel would have been incredibly long, but after such detail in the first two-thirds of the novel and the back and forth structure of the chapters, the final five chapters seemed like a biography of a fictional character.

Overall, I really liked the book and would totally recommend it as a great summer read.

Want to know what others thought?  Head on over to the BlogHer Book Club for more discussion about The Chaperone!

The Legal Stuff: I was compensated for this book review by BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions are all my own. 

Why Women Need Fat

A few months ago when I joined BlogHer Ad Network, I also had the opportunity to sign up to be part of BlogHer Book Club and be reviewer.

I jumped at the chance.  Especially since I got these sexy reading helpers, I was excited to dive back into the joy of reading!

The first book I signed on to read was Why Women Need FatYup.  I know.  Women needing fat.  I saw it too.  That is why I signed up for it all the while praying, “please don’t be a ploy…please don’t be a ploy….”

 

I guess you could say I was skeptical…I mean, it’s written by two dudes.  But it didn’t take long for this book to draw me in and win me over.

First of all, I love the way it is organized.  The introduction lays out the problem so many of us have.  We weigh more than our mothers did; we weigh more after having babies; and we diet with yo-yo results.  Then it tells us how it is going to break down the problems and give us solutions.

As a teacher, I was already nodding my head.  This sort of set up is best practice for people to actually learn something.  Nice.

Then the book is divided into three parts, sort of a cause/effect organization:  Part 1:  Why and How we Got Fatter, Part 2: Why Women Need Fat (talking mostly about figure and why women are shaped the way they are), and Part 3: How to Achieve Your Healthy Natural Weight.  And yes, it includes being able to eat that dessert up there on the cover of the book.  YUM!

I had about a million “ah-ha moments”, as Oprah would call them, as I read this book.

The first part of the book blew my mind.  I always thought fat-free and low-fat foods seemed to be, well, missing something, but I had no idea that what was missing was actually better for you than what it was replaced with.  And that the dietary guidelines are all just another part of a huge political money thing.  You know, like everything else in America.

The second part of the book expanded on my knowledge of why women are built the way they are by discussing why it’s better for women to have bigger hips and butts compared to their waistline, and how this actually benefits the babies we have.

The third part mainly reiterated what you can gather from parts 1 and 2 about how to better your health, lose weight, and stay there.

I loved this book because it is saying what I believed all along:  DIETING DOES NOT WORK.  Americans diet more than any other country (because we are fatter.  because we are eating chemically made fat that makes us unhealthy by saying it’s healthy.  seriously, read the book) and yet we are the fattest.  STILL.

Finding your natural weight (yes, it exists.  We are not all meant to be a size 2.  Genetics DO have something to do with things, you know), eating REAL food (not crap that was chemically altered to be edible.  ::shudder::), and regular exercise will help you lower your weight.

The problem is it’s not all drastic and insane…the results that Americans like.

We are a nation that feeds off from instant gratification instead of steady hard work that will pay off eventually.  We want things NOW.

This book teaches what I always believed:  being healthy is a way of life.  But they have science and studies to back them up.

Oh, and a wicked sweet appendix breaking down foods and their good vs bad fats–including popular fast foods.

So to review…

I loved this book because it tells me I can eat REAL butter, REAL chocolate, lots of fruit and still be healthy. And I will probably be cutting out as much vegetable and soy oil as humanly possible.  Blech.

I say that is a win.

Want to see what people are saying about the book and it’s tips and claims?  You can check out our chats in the BlogHer Book Club.

Talk to me about what you do to stay healthy?  Do you pay attention to fats or calories?  Do you exercise?  I would LOVE for 2012 to be the year Sluiter Nation gets healthy and stays that way.

NOTE: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

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