The Benefits of Joining a Book Club

Benefits of Joining a Book Club

I strongly believe in literature. The best way to pass time is with an iced coffee in the summer/hot latte in the winter, and a great book in your hand. When I was 5, I sat on the couch with my mom – who valiantly homeschooled me for two years before my dad begged her to give up homeschooling and ship my social butterfly self off to a public school – practicing phonics and learning to read. As soon as I started, I was “hooked on phonics.” Ha. Get it? Anyway, I love reading and can spend many an hour submerged in an alternate universe. In fact, I would get in trouble as a child for reading too much. If I was supposed to clean my room, maybe I would clean for a little bit, but then I would get distracted by reading. Whoops.

There was a time or two I legitimately was grounded from reading. Now that I’m an adult and married, I can read all I want – as long as I feed and water my husband daily.

Two years ago, I graduated with a B.A in English with an emphasis in creative writing. It is my lifelong dream to get paid to drink coffee, read, and discuss literature. Ever since I graduated, I wanted to start a book club. So as soon as life settled down (aka I wasn’t wedding planning anymore) I started the book club, A Novel Idea. I can’t take credit for the name; I googled clever titles.

Once a month/once every six weeks, between 6-10 women meet up at a local coffee shop, book in hand, caffeinated, ready to discuss our most recent pick.

I knew I needed intellectual discussion to enlighten my life, and I must say I leave quite invigorated from our book club meetings.

The Benefits of Joining a Book Club

The benefits of a book club are immense.

First of all, you discover new genres you didn’t know you liked.

Book clubs are a great way to pull you out of your literary comfort zone. While I love a good poet, I’m not one to pick out a collection of poems for a book club. But as some of the ladies in our group were going through finals week, we picked Milk and Honey one month and I found it to be one of our favorite reads. Each of us came armed with a poem and our analysis of it, and I was in awe of how we each picked apart our respective poems.

You see the world through multiple lenses.  

One of my favorite things about getting together in groups is the discussion that lights a fire under our idealogies. Because I come from a liberal arts background, I prefer to learn through engaging in discussion rather than a lecture based atmosphere. An aspect I enjoy about book clubs is that we see something one way, and someone else comes at it from a different perspective. Our personal stories shade the way we view the world, and the way which we view literature. We get to grow and honor each other as we learn to see through someone else’s lense.

Likewise, books open our eyes to see the world a different way. We recently finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I absolutely adore her writing style, but even more so, I appreciate that she speaks so vulnerably about something like immigration and the cultural nuances between the American and Non-American Black. As a white lady in the South, if I’m not surrounded by diversity,  I’m not going to know or understand immigration or the cultures associated without opening a book (or a journal article, etc.)

Your vocabulary expands. 

For instance, I can now identify when a Coquette. Of course, I could always identify when a lady was particularly flirty, but if I had not read “Lady Susan” recently, I would not associate “coquette” with a flirt because I didn’t even know the word “coquette” existed until yesterday. Had I not taken the moment to look up this new word, I would have assumed “coquette” was the same as “etiquette” because they sound similar. Thank goodness for smart phones, because now we have a dictionary at the flash of a few typed letters. Back in the olden days, I had to get off my couch, pick up the dictionary and thumb through an actual hard copy of a dictionary.

(I am now envisioning Rory Gilmore’s dismay at the smart phone; no one appreciates the old OED anymore! Remember when her dad tried to buy her the entire Oxford English Dictionary set? I kind of drooled at that scene.)

You form deeper relationships. 

There are friends, and then there are book club friends. When you have traipsed through the emotional roller coaster of an intense 600 page novel, you emerge finding yourself in a deeper community. I loved all the ladies in my book club, but now that we have been together for going on six months, exploring the depths of our society, femininity, and racial tensions through the written word, I am acknowledging a relationship that can only come from sharing a love for literature and discussion of novels and the world around us.

Benefits of Joining a Book Club

I am, of course, feeling slightly romantic as I type because I signed up to audit a Jane Austen seminar for the next month. It will be like a book club on steroids and give me the nostalgia for my collegiate days. I set up in our dining room last night surrounded by notebooks, books, pens, high lighters, and of course potato chips, and coffee, and fell in love with learning all over again (much like I do each time I open a good book.)

I will do my darndest to be consistent with posting in this little corner that I love so much, but if you find that I’ve fallen off the earth, never fear, I’ve fallen into the arms of Mr. Darcy. (Mr. Darcy, consequently, being my super supportive husband who encourages me to chase my dreams and is very appreciative of this course I’m auditing because it means I will be holed up in our dining room, allowing him more FIFA time.)

Until then, I bid you adieu.

Have you ever participated in a book club?
What are your top 3 favorite reads?

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10 Budget Friendly Summer Date Nights

10 Budget Friendly Summer Date Nights

Date nights are one of my favorite things. I am such a quality time girl, and unfortunately, hanging out in groups with a bunch of people doesn’t fill up my quality time tank quite like it should. I’m more of a one on one kinda gal. My dad says I’m high maintenance in the attention category. . . and maybe I am.

As newly weds, we aren’t going to the fanciest restaurant in town to wine and dine, but we do like to do something fun at least once a week – whether that is cooking together, going on a walk, or setting up a legit date night. Today I’m going to share with you a few of my fav budget friendly summer date night ideas!

Hammock Date! 

I’m a huge fan of grabbing my double nested ENO, setting it up by a creek or a river, and snuggling and talking about our day. Or just snuggling and reading a book not saying one word to each other. . .

Picnic in your backyard

OK confession, Pai and I have had many picnics in our backyard because our dining room table was so full of wedding stuff/stuff that needs to go to Goodwill. . . six months into this whole marriage thing. Yup. But cooking dinner together or grabbing takeout and spreading out a picnic blanket in the backyard makes an ordinary meal *romantic*.

10 Budget Friendly Summer Date Nights

Stargazing

I always find it suuuper romantic to be out at night under a clear, velvety sky, looking at the scars. Extra points scored if someone thought to bring a yummy drink. Lying all cozy under the stars always leads to great conversations with your lover.

Trip to the Farmer’s Market

We don’t go to the Farmer’s Market enough, but I absolutely love it when I do go! Artisan bread, fresh flowers, herbs, succulents, delicious coffee – what more could you want on a Saturday morning?! Going to the Farmer’s Market with my boo is one of my fav things to do. Plus, I enjoy supporting local farmers.

Snocone Zone

Pai loves ice ceam, I love snocones. There’s a local food truck here that does ahhmazing snocones! First you get your snocone, then they put ice cream on it, then you can pick out a topping (I got pineapple once, and she poured sweet and condensed milk all over that goodness!) It’s pretty delightful. But if slushies aren’t your thing, milkshakes are equally fun.

10 Budget Friendly Summer Date Nights

Lake Day!

Recently we went with a group of people on a Sunday afternoon and rented kayaks for a couple hours. I got nice and light pink, was sore for several days after, but had the time of my life! Kayaking, paddle boarding, white water rafting – anything that gets you outside and moving under the summer sun is a great way to connect with your boo.

Slip-n-Slide

This is another great date idea where you can invite a lot of people to join in. On a super hot day, grab a tarp, find a hill, suds it down and get your bathing suit on because it’s slip-n-slide time. It is sure to be a hilarious and fun time.

Hot Tub Hot Date Night

OK this one may not be feasible for all. But if you don’t have a hot tub but have a friend with one who doesn’t mind you climbing over their fence to hang out in their hot tub late at night, then this could be a fun and giggly date night. Grab your favorite drink and enjoy a steamy evening with your boo (because hot tubs are steamy.)

Make Your Own Beach

When I see everyone else on the Instagram bummin’ it at the beach, I get kinda jealous. Because I want to be on the beach. But when life doesn’t give you a beach, make one yourself. Put a beach front image on your TV, the waves sound on your white noise app, lay out the towels on your living room floor. If it’s hot enough in your house and you close your eyes, you can semi-pretend you’re on the beach.

Camping

Nothing is more romantic than sitting out by a fire, eating hot dogs, roasting s’mores, and then sleeping on the cold, hard ground. While I’m more a fan of “glamping,” I don’t mind roughin’ it for a night with my boo.

Budget Friendly Summer Date Nights

What is your favorite way to spend a date night? 

If you want a gorgeous necklace for your next date night, enter this giveaway!

24 Notes of Encouragement
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5 Ways to Fight Loneliness

5 Ways to Fight Loneliness

I spent Friday getting my nails done with my friend, Saturday with my husband at a nice dinner and at a bonfire with friends, Sunday with my family and grandparents, and Monday with my Zim family and spiritual parents. I celebrated quite the birthday weekend filled with non-stop action, laughter, and a whole lot of cheesin’.

On Tuesday night, after spending quality time with quality girls studying our God, I got into my bathtub and waited for Pai to come home. I was feeling slightly anxious and sad. But why? After some introspection, I pinpointed the feeling of loneliness. But loneliness? That makes no sense. I just spent an entire weekend surrounded by the people I loved and who loved me. I just spent 3-4 hours being vulnerable with ladies who have a common goal as me – to find out who God is. So why, after they left and I was by myself, was I feeling lonely?

I remember being a senior in high school, on my couch with my dad holding me, crying because I hadn’t been invited to something (I honestly don’t even remember) and feeling lonely. I had people to talk to at school, but only my family to hang out with on the weekends. Granted, my family is awesome, but as a teenager, we all desire that acceptance from our peers.

Do we ever outgrow that desire for acceptance? I don’t think so. And I think that striving for that acceptance leaves us lonely at times. I always say, as an ESFJ, I need affirmation. I’ll make a decision and then say, “What do you think?” It drives Pai nuts, which cracks me up. He says, “Just make the decision!” But as an ESFJ, I say, but I need you to affirm this is the right decision!

Relationships require vulnerability

This is not just an ESFJ thing. It’s a human thing. We all were created with the desire for relationship, and part of being in relationship is being vulnerable, mirroring conversation/feelings, opening yourself up to constructive criticism, and opening yourself up to positive affirmation. Some days it feels like we have opened ourselves up and been left on the operation table. The vulnerability door has been opened, but no positive affirmation has stepped in. It’s in these moments when we start to question ourselves: Am I worth it? Do I have any friends who love me enough? Do I have any friends? 

On being left behind

Some days loneliness doesn’t stem from a lack of affirmation, but instead from a feeling that everyone is moving on without you.

I always felt slightly stressed in elementary school when my best friends were placed in a different class than me. When my friends graduated and went to college before me – stress. As an adult it’s a little different. We’re not in different classes, but we are in different stages of life. Everyone is married and you’re single. Everyone has a baby and you and your spouse do not. Someone achieved their dream job and you are still in the waiting room.

Being in our 20s is like the teenage years of adulthood. We had time as a teen to figure out who we were, and then we hit our 20s and our bodies started changing again, relationship dynamics change, and you find yourself liking things you never thought you would (like broccoli, and salad, and vegetables.) Everyone is in a different stage even though we are all relatively the same age, and it’s hard to measure up.

A disconnect in communication

Another stream of loneliness is feeling like there is a disconnect between our head and our mouth. It can be incredibly lonely to know in your head what you are wanting to say, trying to communicate it through your mouth to someone else, and they are not understanding you. Why do you think there is so much teen angst?

So how do we fight loneliness?

First, we don’t fight loneliness.

Loneliness is a part of life – always has, and always will be. See above: I was feeling lonely even though I spent so much time with all the people I loved. I’m secure in my friendships, but I still feel lonely at times.

Learning to live with loneliness in a healthy way will help us to learn to love ourselves in a different way. When we wallow in loneliness, rather, we wallow in self-pity. And no one wants to hang out in your pity party.

Find something to do when you are feeling lonely. Go for a walk, read poetry, take a bubble bath.

Help someone else feel less lonely.

One day I have this dream of starting a ministry that just goes and hangs out with people in the nursing home. I imagine how lonely they must be – sometimes the only physical touch they receive is the nurse coming to change their bed sheets or help them to the restroom.

I have found that on days when I am feeling lonely, if I do something to get out of my head, I then find I am no longer lonely and immensely blessed.

Write a letter to a loved one, ask a friend out for coffee, check with your elderly neighbor to see if they need help grocery shopping, weeding their garden, etc.

Get off your phone.

How easy it is to be lonely when you are by yourself, in your house, eating ice cream out of the carton and you’re scrolling through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and see that everyone is hanging out. Perhaps without you. Let’s reality check for a second: what if those people just put up that picture reminiscing about the weekend while they are in their house, by themselves, eating ice cream out of the carton and scrolling through Instagram. You’ve done it and I’ve done it, too. We’re all guilty of making our lives seem cooler than they actually are.

So get off your phone, and put your nose in a book, or an adult coloring book, or something else that will remove you from the world of social media.

Because that’s what it is. Media. And we all know that the media is slant – even your social media.

Get creative.

They say that Emily Dickinson was a recluse, likely one of the loneliest people. Her art was underappreciated at its time. Maybe you’re the next Emily Dickinson. Loneliness is OK. It gives us a chance to explore ourselves, explore nature, and explore our creativity. I find that my best poetry comes when I am a) all alone b) feelin’ some type of way and c) not feeling like I can express myself to anyone else in a way they would understand.

When you are feeling lonely, grab your pen, grab your paper, and write. Even if you’re not great at writing! Draw – even if you don’t think you can draw! Dance – even if that means you have to Youtube some dance instructional videos!

Know you’re not alone.

The thing about loneliness is that it isolates our experiences. We are feeling lonely, therefore we are alone and no one else in the world ever feels lonely. Except that everyone experiences loneliness. Even Chrissy Tiegen. Accepting that loneliness is a reality in life allows us to take it in stride with the good times, too. Because after all, if we didn’t have the lonely days, we wouldn’t appreciate the full of friendship days as much either.

Have you experienced loneliness?
What is something you do to occupy yourself when you feel lonely?

PS – sometimes if I’m feeling lonely, I like to treat myself. So treat yo’self with an entry to win this opal gemstone lariat!

24 Notes of Encouragement

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24 Ways to be Encouraged (+ a giveaway!)

24 ways to be encouraged

Year 23 was quite a full year. When I look back to this day last year, I’m astounded at how much God did this past 365 days. Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day and my birthday in my hometown with my parents. We spent the afternoon by the pool and the evening by a bonfire. I looked around at all my siblings, my husband in the mix, my parents and grandparents and realized how incredibly blessed I am. God gave me the privilege to be the daughter of two amazing parents who daily show their affection and commitment to each other, the older sister to five siblings who make me laugh and make my heart burst with joy, and wife to an incredible husband who is my number one encourager and dream pusher.

So you know those papers people put on bulletin boards where you can tear a piece off and carry it with you all day? That’s kinda what we are going to do today. Except, because you can’t tear a piece off the screen of your mobile device or computer, you can just pick out an encouragement below and carry it with you throughout your day. One of my favorite things to do is write little poems or encouraging thoughts in my journal, daily planner, and post-its. Even if I don’t need it that day, it will get filed away into my rainy day pile.

24 ways to be encouraged

24 Encouraging Notes

1 – The sparkling passion in your eyes ignites those around you to change the world.

2 – The way you chase your dreams and goals shows a resilient strength.

3 – You make the best chocolate chip cookies this side of the Mississippi.

4 – Your laugh is a joyful noise.

5 – You’re having a really great hair day.

6 – You love people in a fierce, genuine way.

7 – You are beautiful.

8 – You are incredibly loved.

9 – Your smile invites others into your world.

10 – People think you are awesome.

11 – You give the best hugs.

12 – By loving yourself, you are encouraging other women to love themselves, too. Go you.

13 – You always smell like sunshine and flowers.

14 – You have the intelligence and wit to command an army.

15 – You are someone’s favorite person.

16 – Today is the day you are going to do something amazing.

17 – People believe in you, you got this.

18 – The way you sing at karaoke makes other people jealous.

19 – Your eyebrows are on fleek today. (Or are they lit? I can’t keep up.)

20 – You are brave.

21 – Other women believe in themselves because they have you.

22 – You’re a great encouragement to the hurting around you.

23 – Bonfires wish they were as hot as you, because girl, you be smokin’.

24 – You are a phenomenal human being.

Now for a birthday giveaway. . . 

24 ways to be encouraged

I am stoked to partner with GingerandPearl to give away an adorable necklace to one lucky winner in honor of my birthday week! Grace from GingerandPearl is a new mom (and sometimes she shows her adorable son on the Instagram.) She is not only a fantastic jewelry artist, but also a wonderful lady herself!

Entries will be counted from June 19 – June 26.
Winner will be contacted on June 27 via Instagram Direct Message for mailing address.
Entries open to U.S. residents.

24 Notes of Encouragement

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6 Things That Surprised Me About Marriage

6 Things That Surprised Me About Marriage
Last Saturday, Pai and I celebrated our 6 month anniversary with him camping, me exploring Asheville with my blog bestie, Tiffany, and then a game night with a few friends. I collapsed into bed at 1:30 after a spontaneous trip to a bakery, we said Happy 6 months, and rolled away and went to sleep.

When I thought about how we would celebrate this half a year celebration 6 months ago, this is not what I thought would happen. Likewise, marriage is not everything I thought it would be, and it’s even MORE than I thought it could be. Basically, marriage is awesome, and completely surprised me.

Intimacy is not like the Movies

Let’s just clear this one right away. Now, I knew intimacy would not be like the movies, but I’m quite surprised at how much it is not.

For instance, last night Pai and I were watching Batman v Superman and Clark Kent hopped in the tub with Lois Lane with his clothes on. ALL HIS CLOTHES ON. EVEN HIS SHOES. And he had just been grocery shopping! Pai looked at me and said, “That is definitely the movies.” Uh, yeah. Rather than laughing like Lois Lane, my reaction would be more along the lines of, “Ew, no, you’ve been walking outside with those shoes on, what if you stepped in dog poop! This is my clean bathtub, this is my alone time!”

My Selfishness

They always say marriage is like a mirror. While Pai definitely builds me up, encourages me, and loves me well, I see a lot of flaw in myself. And it’s not because Pai points them out. It’s just his general goodness. He is so selfless, compassionate, and kind. He will work late just so he can help out his employees so they can get home sooner. He teaches me a lot about being available to love on people, and not hiding in the bathroom when it’s socializing time at church. (Sometimes that is 100% me.)

The New Relationships We’ve Formed

So, part of this is more likely because we also switched churches shortly after we got married. One of our favorite things to do is have people over for dinner and game nights. In the past six months we’ve made several new friends who are AWESOME. We wanted to be sure that we weren’t the old married couple who hid out and watched Netflix on their couch every night. We are both relationship people, so we make sure that we make a couple nights a week available for girl time, guy time, and time together with friends.

6 Things That Surprised Me About Marriage

The Sexiness of a Clean Kitchen

I truly underestimated how much of a turn on a clean kitchen is. On the days when I come home from grocery shopping, or a long day at work and I see the dishes loaded in the dishwasher and the counters wiped off, I am overjoyed with gratitude. We attended a Valentine’s Day Brunch back in February at our church and there was a discussion panel on marriage. One of the female pastors said, “It’s the sexiest thing to walk in the kitchen and see my husband bent over a dishwasher.” I didn’t understand then, but boy do I now.

How Much I Enjoy Being a Housewife

Even though I consider myself a strong, Christian feminist, I find that I truly enjoy doing the little things at home. Cooking dinner for my husband and myself is a way I get to serve my husband, and a fun stress relief after work – and when Mr. M loads the dishwasher after dinner, it’s even better. We’ve separated house chores pretty well, too. I consider myself lucky that I have a man who loves to do my least favorite chores and vice versa.

How Awesome my Husband Is 

I obviously already knew how awesome my husband is because I chose to marry him. I’m still not used to saying “husband” and signing my new last name. I still get a little giddy inside every time, because I’m just so dang proud of my husband and am so honored to be a part of his family. I learn so much from Pai every day. I learn so much about him, too. The idiosyncrasies we both have are somewhat hysterical. We are both so particular about certain things, and we’re both just learning to let it be so. I love how Pai is so passionate about whatever he sets his mind to – his most current adventure being gardening. He gets hyper focused and incredibly enthusiastic. He loves me in a way that shows me the love of Jesus. His love for people comes from a source of joy that can only be from an intimate relationship with God. He makes me want to be a better person. And he’s stinkin’ hot, so that’s pretty awesome too. 😉

6 Things That Surprised Me about Marriage

 

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