My Literary Sins: Audiobooks

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I have decided to start a series on the blog. This started out as a bit of a joke between my sister and I. We make an event of spending time together once a week and that time is most often spent at the library. We like to commiserate on the (insert eye roll here) woes of that bibliophile life. Sometimes these lighthearted talks are nothing more than jest, but we have had our share of “me too!” moments as well.

I give you: My Literary Sins. All lovers of books have them. We do come in all kinds of varieties, with different values and systems that rule us all.

This year has been the year of the audiobook for me. This takes me by surprise because I used to have weird rules about audiobooks. I was against them for the most part and considered it to be lazy reading or for people with no attention span or imagination. Maybe my aversion for audiobooks started long ago. When I was in Kindergarten, every Monday in music class my teacher, Mrs. Hickey (you don’t forget a name like that) would have all of the students either lay down on the floor or across 3 chairs and close our eyes and listen to an audio cassette recording. The one that stands out the most to me was the famous ghost story of The Golden Arm. If this was their attempt at nap time for 5 year olds, these people had to be sadists. Every Monday was a terror. And the chairs were awful.

As I got older and my various English teachers would have us read along with a tape providing narration on the books for our class, I would just get annoyed at the narrators. I learned to tune them out and just read ahead on my own, which would then result in chastisement from my teachers.

Tisk. Tisk. Naughty. Naughty.
No reader left behind.
Groan.

As adults we tend to rather enjoy creating our own systems rather realized or not in which we navigate and manipulate our world. As such, I did the same for the prospect of audiobooks. I came around in the sense that I no longer utterly disdained audiobooks, but felt that I needed to maintain some integrity. A girl has got to have standards! So I reasoned that I would be okay with listening to audiobooks, provided that the book in question was one that I have already read on my own in the purity of my own mind. In some bizarre sense I felt that my imagination would be corrupted if I listened to an audio version before reading a book on my own.

My imagination is not maimed by the fact that other people have put their imagination to work in the art form of spoken word.

The change in my rigid thinking began in 2015 when I heard the brillant audio that accompanied Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is DeadAlthough I had read the book before listening to the audio, this was totally different. It was more than just listening to a book. It became an experience. Listening to this audiobook brought me back to my senior year of high school when I decided to try Oral Interpretation instead of a 4th year of Theater.

I started to see audiobooks through the same lens that I would view an Oral Interp performance. Every audiobook is just another interpretation of a written work. My imagination is not maimed by the fact that other people have put their imagination to work in the art form of spoken word. These days, I tend to seek out audiobooks from certain sources because of the fact that I do value their interpretation. This is especially true of authors who narrate their own works with great skill.

You guys. At the time of this writing, 22 out of 49 books I have read so far this year have been audiobooks. I think it’s safe to say that I have progressed on my narrow ways of thinking. I have gone from abhorring them → to being okay with them → to loving them. I used to feel so guilty about not being able to get more reading done because of my ever growing to-do list, but now that I have embraced audiobooks, I can have it all! And so can you!

♥ MM

Resurrection When You’re Reconstructing

Good morning, friend. We’ve made it to Easter. Resurrection Sunday! Jesus is alive! This is a day of rejoicing and celebration, the mother of all Christian holidays. But this year is different because I am different. This year at Easter I find myself for the first time that I can remember being without a church “home”, or rather a four walled building that I frequent week to week. This is my first Holy Week since I broke up with Evangelicalism, and I feel fine.

In years past, I wouldn’t have even given a moment’s pause to Holy Week– it was all about Resurrection. If anything Holy Week consisted mostly of hustle and bustle and anxiety to get ready for the big day on Sunday. There was no time to reflect on the Christ! If anything, we would pull out Isaiah 58 to use as a quip against our brothers and sisters who participate in Lent, leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

There were tasks to be done, lines to learn, programs to rehearse for, outfits to plan. Easter was one out of two days a year that we would target C and E Christians (those heathens who only attend church on Christmas and Easter) and make sure that they feel the proper amount of guilt for their presence  welcome in the house of God and sense the anointing of the Lord calling them back to the fold.

Since leaving the evangelical machine, I now have room to breathe. I feel like I am finally paying attention now that I’m not forcing myself to go through the motions for what feels like the first time in an eternity. I have given myself permission to reflect, question, doubt, and dream. I have cast aside a theology that romanticizes self hatred as sanctification. I have pushed back hard against my own self sabotage and am allowing myself to just “be loved” by God and extend that love to my neighbor. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I am curiously pondering if this is what it is to be real. Not having to force myself to transform into a Stepford Christian every Sunday and Wednesday is like a cool breeze on a hot day.

There is power in being okay with not being okay.

I know I am not alone. There are Christians everywhere who are square pegs so desperately wanting to fit into a round hole, but the Machine’s dogma won’t allow it. So we have created a community of misfits where our difficult questions and unconventional selves are welcome to the table, where all of our pegs fit. We are deconstructing every piece that has ever been given to us about this Man Jesus, so that we can reconstruct our beliefs board by board.

I don’t want to hang my hat on a set of bylaws, just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Until the Church no longer should be a place where space is made for all people and their questions, but actually is, I am happy finding Jesus in the small, unexpected places. What I am willing to do is bet the farm on the person Jesus. In all of our wanderings, he remains central. Resurrection when you are reconstructing is no solo project, but rather Jesus alongside you in your mess, your doubt, your crises.

Just breathe. Just remain. Just be. 
Hope is alive.

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.

♥ MM

Take a Moment

In the spirit of the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, I wanted to share about this nifty app I started using at the beginning of the year that has helped me stop wasting time and get my focus back where it belongs. As an introvert, my relationship with social media is a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, I social media with intention, being that I enjoy the life-giving communities that I am a part of online. As a matter of fact, I even met my husband through social media, so it’s not uncommon for me to feel a closer kinship to my online friends than some of the people I associate with IRL. On the other hand, too much screen time can overstimulate me and start the anxiety ridden FOMO cycle when I feel especially engaged in online dialogue (or as is often my case, a good round of oversharing).

The struggle is real, folks.

As awe inspiring as this technology that allows us to connect with humans, information, and data is, moderation is important. I know I am guilty of being run-run-run from the moment I wake up till the clock strikes 3:00 and it’s time for me to round my kiddo up from the bus. My day revolves around to-do lists, budget making, bill paying, meal planning, therapy scheduling, checking in with my loves on social media (of course!) and more, but rarely do I take a moment to check in and see how I’m doing. For the most part, my days run like a well oiled machine that is hardly self-aware of how close it is to the edge of burnout.

At the end of the dumpster fire that was 2016, I definitely felt the toll of taking on too much with too little self regard, when I heard about the Moment App. Sometimes I would find myself longing for a time machine to transport me to 1999 when the only phone I had was my hot pink cordless landline. I don’t want to regress in the advancement of technology, but sometimes the soul could use a good refreshing a la late 90’s.  If you are wanting a self assessment of how you are using your iPhone in hours and minutes of time wasted I would start here. For android users, there is a similar app called Quality Time that I would check out.

So how does it work?
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The app primarily runs in the background, you don’t have to think about it too much, depending on your settings. You can set daily limits  and goals for your phone usage. You can even exclude certain apps from counting towards your daily phone usage. For example, I exclude my reading and productivity apps since I use them to get things done throughout the day, plus it only counts time where your phone is unlocked. So if you are are like me and listen to music (or audiobooks) in the background while getting things done, it will only count the time where the app is lit up on your phone. The only engagement that you have with Moment once you have personalized your settings is a simple screenshot of your battery usage the first time you pick up your phone each day. This allows the phone to make a report of how many hours and minutes you are on your phone and specifically how much time you are spending on certain apps.

There is a feature of the app called Phone Bootcamp, which takes things to another level and really makes you conscientious of your daily habits regarding your phone. This feature is a 2 week program with 14 challenges. The challenges aren’t progressive, meaning you don’t necessarily have to keep following previous rules with each day, but I think it is beneficial if you do. Some challenges were more difficult than others, while some challenges seemed like a no brainer to me.

Like this one.

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I mean no judgement, but really? Ewww. Even if not for the gross factor, the graphic below makes a good point for the loss of precious time when you have your screen time on the crapper.

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(source)

The most bizarre challenge, also raised a very good point about what we are saying with our phone usage.

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This one was pretty eye opening as to how often we use our phones when we are around other people. It reminded me of that scene in Kate and Leopold where Leopold stands up “when a lady leaves the table”. I think the only exception to this would be if you are having screen time together. This definitely made me more aware of how often we are apt to pull out our phones even when trying to spend quality time with the people we love.

For me, the most beneficial challenges were the ones that involved altering my morning and evening routine and rituals.

Evening Routine

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I noticed that I had more energy in the evening when I gave my phone a “curfew”. Usually after I finally get my kid to bed I feel too exhausted to finish whatever items are left to be completed on my list, however without the encumbrance of keeping my phone on me in the late hours, I had a surge of motivation. Since I am an introvert, I do tend to live in my head most of the time. I’m constantly thinking about things that were said, plans that need to be made, connections between things that have happened in the day to other meanings– my brain is a busy place. Being able to slow down at the end of the day helps me slow down some of that busyness so that I can ease into the morning without going a million miles a minute.

Morning Routine

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Nothing stresses me out more in the morning than having to look at a screen upon hearing an alarm, still blurry eyes from the remnants of sleep and dreams from the night before. My mornings are busy enough with coaxing my five year old out of bed and getting him out the door for another day of school without the added chirps reminding me that my phone demands my attention in those early hours. Not feeling pressured to check in at the crack of dawn made making Day 11 a ritual rather than a one time challenge much easier. Writing is my thing. As much as I live in my head, self reflection doesn’t come so naturally to me. I have to be intentional about thinking about how I am feeling about certain situations or how I am feeling about myself. Being able to make a habit of getting alone with my own thoughts, working them out through writing has brought so much peace to my life and is a wonderful way to start the day, not to mention a great segue to morning devotions or prayer.

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The very last day of the challenge was to go completely off the grid (well, with 2 minutes grace anyways). This was a little unnerving since it was during a school day and I was a little nervous about my son’s teacher trying to contact me, but other than that it was pretty liberating to party like it’s 1995 even if just for a day. I have started trying to go cold turkey once a month on a day where I know I don’t need to be contacted for emergencies. It’s a nice little way to reset each month and refocus on what really matters and where I stand with the current goals/dreams I am trying to reach at this stage in my life.

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So if you are feeling the Daylight Savings Time blues today, I would consider giving Moment a chance and you just might find some extra minutes, if not hours in your day!

♥ MM

*Disclaimer* I do not work for the developer of the Moment app and am not being paid to promote their service, I just really love it and think you will too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Bookscapades

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CB068378” (CC BY 2.0) by Raoul Luoar

Hey there.

I wanted to try and sneak in one last post before 2016 is graciously no longer upon us.

There were some pretty exciting literary moments for me in 2016. Last year I put myself up to the epic quest of visiting every single SAPL Public Library in my great city of San Antonio. This year, I had the pleasure of experiencing the reopening and renovation of the Collins Garden Branch and the launch of the Potranco Branch.

[January 30th]
Grand Reopening of the Collins Garden Branch Library

[November 4th]
Grand Opening Potranco Branch

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Believe it or not, libraries are some of the most difficult places to take children to, especially if your have kids with sensory issues. We started out our trip struggling, but by the end of it, my son was having a blast.

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As you can see, he even transformed into Raphael! Being touched with a sponge full of paint is sensory territory my son would normally never entertain. I love it when my son loves his visits to the library. These memories mean the world to me.

Another one of my goals was to visit all of the Half Price Books locations in San Antonio. I ended up surpassing that goal. I visited all 5 San Antonio locations, one in Round Rock, one in San Marcos, one in Corpus Christi, and all 5 in Austin.

Why this madness?

Earlier this year I decided to recollect my favorite series as a kid, The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids. There is just such fun in the hunt for the books you loved as a kid. I only have 9 left (of 51) to collect.


No matter what I resolve to accomplish from year to year, I am never disappointed in deciding to never stop reading.

Happy New Year, bibliophiles!

♥ MM

The Cost of Living Free

self reflection (4) by Idhren, on Flickr
self reflection (4)” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Idhren

I like to step into every new year with a specific focus in mind. This year my theme was “Live Free”. Truth be told, I would have to say that from 2014 – 2015 I have spent much of my “public life” walking on eggshells and being hyper-vigilant about things I say or do as not to offend. Maybe this is the INFJ in me, because I really do care so deeply about the feelings of others, almost to a fault.

However, I felt like I reached the point where I wasn’t being true to myself and would constantly censor myself when I would feel that my questions or musings started going ever so slightly against the grain. Every time I would silence myself when I would see injustices peeking in (specifically revolving around gender equality in the church) I would die a little more inside.

No more.

2016 was going to be the year that I was going to be bold, not for the sake of making waves or causing disunity, but because I could no longer be silent. There was a primal rage deep within me that had been stirring for some time now. A holy fury at the indifference that slowly began to become evident all around me, like a fog that wouldn’t lift. Suddenly I began to identify with Guy Montag’s exasperation to apathy.

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I started to realize that there was something rotten in the state of Evangelical Land and resistance was not welcome. And it was not welcomed with a smile, a membership card, and a volunteer sign up sheet. Where is the conversation in all of this? I wanted so badly to sit down and “reason together”. This time I couldn’t let something so central to not only my faith, but my humanity be reduced to some uncomfortable crumbs to be swept under the complementarian  rug.

My year of living free has not been this cathartic release of suddenly being able to show the world who I really am. Living free is choosing to stand up for what is right when it would have been so much easier to let it be and look the other way.

To live free is to love, but not join arms with those who staunchly oppose full equality in the church and the world. Walking away from a community that I loved, but could no longer link arms with was hard, but looking in the mirror was harder still.

One of the most difficult things I faced this year were all the ways that I have hindered others from living free. It’s a cold, hard stare in the mirror to realize that the bondage you are running away from was once your own finger pointing at someone else. There are so many times that I wanted to dig my head in the sand as I began to recount the faces of so many friendships lost because of my own close-minded, all or nothing approach to what I thought was speaking “truth in love” in the name of Jesus.

The disaster of this election season was the microscope that revealed that the person I used to be reflected a hollow, counterfeit Jesus who cared about the outcasts of this world in word, but not in deed. I found myself wondering how I could go so many years being apathetic about issues that are so close to God’s heart. In a way I feel this election cycle has been a litmus test of sorts for the Evangelical Church, in which many feel their days of living free are numbered.

Living free wrecks everything. It will cost you pride, bondage, being right, and it might even cost you your religion. I suspect that living free doesn’t look the same for everyone. For me, living free meant that the Evangelical Church and I had to have a trial separation because I just couldn’t find Jesus anymore. When you can finally see that it is for freedom that you have been set free, you never want to be the source of that bondage for anyone ever again. When you taste that freedom for yourself you don’t know how to live any other way.

♥ MM

 

 

Sylvia Plath’s Post Election Day Advice

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Powells – The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath” (CC BY 2.0) by Photos by Mavis

On November 9th about half of the country woke up absolutely heartbroken about the results of the 2016 presidential election. I stayed up and watched in disbelief as I saw state after state get called in favor of Donald Trump. The outcome of this election crushed me and made many people like myself feel less safe. I cycled between sobbing and rage until I felt cold and empty. Then I turned to Twitter. And the first thing I saw was this tweet that totally resonated with me.

Oh Twitter.
Oh Sylvia.

For a moment I felt like I could breathe and let myself just be in silence for a bit. I started thinking about what other musings, advice, or lament that my dear Sylvia might have for me. As I lay ugly crying in my bed, I remembered this gem.

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I took her up on it.
I washed the snot from my face.
I was still a wreck, but I at least had a moment of repose.

“Let’s face it: I’m scared, scared and frozen. First, I guess I’m afraid for myself… the old primitive urge for survival. It’s getting so I live every moment with terrible intensity. It all flowed over me with a screaming ache of pain… remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted. When you feel that this may be good-bye, the last time, it hits you harder.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

The responses that I have seen from the right towards people on the left that minimize the trauma and grief felt by so many families that may be saying goodbye and parting ways upon Trump’s first days in office jarred me. Can’t we reason together? If you want to justify your vote for Trump, is there room enough to also justify the safety of your neighbor? How about some understanding?

“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath

I don’t want you to tell me that my future will be ok, while endorsing a man who promises that it won’t.

“I also hate people to ask cheerfully how you are when they know you’re feeling like hell and expect you to say “fine”.
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Let me yell.
Let me vent.
Let me cry.
Let me seethe.

Build a wall? Will you be my wall, neighbor? A soundboard that I can bounce my pain off of, in hopes of having a shred of solace bounce back to me? Just a little understanding, is all.

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of non-feeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

In all of this, please do not confuse my passion for hatred. I love you neighbor, but I will not censor myself to show my love. Understand that it’s not that I am hopeless, it’s just that now I hope less. I do not wish for doom. I don’t want to “let it burn”. I know you want to make America great “again”, but I think that people like you and people like me and people that don’t look or talk or think or pray like either of us are what make us great. And more than anything…

Please, I want so badly for the good things to happen.”
– Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

♥ MM

16 Songs to Get You Through Election Day

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A few weeks ago I was driving to the grocery store and listening to Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory album in the car. “With You” came on and I started cracking up because a line from the song reminded me of something Hillary Clinton had said early on in her campaign and has repeated since. Can you imagine Hillary Clinton getting inspiration for her campaign by jamming out to Linkin Park? Hilarious. So I started thinking about other songs that remind me of various moments in this unbelievable election season.

Well, it’s almost over folks. The anger. The passion. The name calling. The awkward family gatherings. The Fear. Let’s hope we can put most of these to bed by tomorrow night. For now I leave you with 16 songs – dedications if you will –  to the 2016 presidential candidates.  I hope, even if for a moment, you can laugh instead of cry on Election Day.

Hillary Clinton

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Bernie Sanders

25196039674_66387db7f4_o.jpgBernie Sanders” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

29496467614_705445fafb_o       “Donald Trump” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore
Brilliant list of songs to Trump here.

Ted Cruz

8571613486_2192245db0_o.jpgTed Cruz” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Ben Carson

16398673351_6018d2cd64_o-1Ben Carson” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Marco Rubio

24612452556_acfffb202f_o.jpgMarco Rubio” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

John Kasich

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Jill Stein

25619634422_5c366af3d8_o.jpgJill Stein” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Gary Johnson

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Gary Johnson” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

What songs would you add to the list? Comment below!

♥ MM