We’ve Moved!!

I’ve hinted at coming changes for a little over a month now, and the day has finally come! Now that I’ve had steady traffic here for over a year and a half, I decided to make the move to my own hosted site so that I can hopefully stretch to bigger and better things.

The new home for I Lay Reading is http://ilayreading.com/. Can’t wait to see you all there soon!

 

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Reading as an Experience

When I approach a new book, I often know very little about it.

Many have been on my TBR for years–recommendations from acquaintances long forgotten–“Oh, you should read this!” Any one who finds out how much I read has a book for me, so it goes on The List. Bestsellers often end up on there, popular books making the rounds on Tumblr, and of course, the Boxall 1001. The List is over 3,000 titles long.

I will usually read a brief description of an ARC before I request it, but even then, it’s a month or two before I actually read it, since I prefer to wait until just before release to do the review. I have a general idea of most of the popular classic novels, but just an outline or topic. Only in the rare occasion that I really love the author and have been anxiously waiting a release, or it’s a book with a huge publicity push will I actually have a strong knowledge base before beginning.

Why do I do so little research about the books I read? Two simple reasons.

  1. I read almost a book a day. At that volume, it would be impossible for me to read pre-reviews on every single book. Nope, can’t do it.
  2. The biggest reason, though, is that I’d much rather go into a book blind. That way, every twist and turn is new, every character I meet is unexpected. It’s the same reason I often don’t watch every movie trailer anymore. I want to experience the book fresh. Sometimes with ARCs I hardly even pay attention to who the author is. I take notes with my reactions, mark down quotes, etc. With difficult books, I will often Wiki it, to make sure I am understanding what is happening–though I don’t usually do that until later in the story, or afterwards, unless I am really confused.

Reading for me is an immersive experience, and I try to get as much out of it as possible. It is enjoyable, but it is no longer just a hobby. I learn a great deal from the books I read, and so I have expanded the breadth of what I am taking in.

I’ve discussed this multiple times here before–how much I read, what I read, how I do it. I won’t get into that now. But learning is important to me, and I get really excited about it.

 

However, I’ve had a few conversations about reading as an experience this week. Not everyone reads the same way I do. And you know what, THAT IS OK!

I had one conversation where we geeked out about the toxic relationships in Wuthering Heights and analyzed the perception of that novel as a romance vs what the book really is. We talked about how we think all classics are well-written because the language is so much different than modern day English, but in reality, the authors fought with each other about their writing style as much as we do now.

But you know what also makes me really excited? Talking to someone who struggled with reading for years, hating it because they had trouble with dyslexia or any other reading disorder. But then someone gave them Harry Potter (or Twilight or Percy Jackson or INSERT BOOK HERE) and it opened up words for them. And it may take them a month to read one book but now they can do it and we can geek out together about our favorite stories. And it has nothing to do with the great masters of writing or the state of the world. It’s just words on a page that fit together to make a story that we all can share.

 

My point is this–read what you like. For years I read Nora Roberts and Rachel Gibson smut. I read every JD Robb In Death book in order for like 4-5 years. Maybe longer. That’s no longer my thing, but if it’s yours GREAT! If you’re an adult who loves YA, thumbs up. If you’re a kid who likes adult fiction, YES! Comics, newspapers, magazines, shampoo bottles? Done.

I’m kind of joking about the shampoo bottles, but I can’t say I haven’t done it when there’s nothing else in the bathroom.

Paperbacks, hard covers, ereaders, audiobooks. All valid sources. Guys, let’s stop arguing about what people like to read, and get excited about everyone who loves it as much as we do. Bookworms have gotten made fun of since the beginning of time. Let’s not beat up on each other too.

I firmly believe that reading is a process. It starts with that first book we fall in love with, and we just keep going. Every next book drags us a little further down the line. Maybe one day we step out from our normal genre into something new. Maybe next time it’s a bit more advanced than what we are used to. That process can be fast, or it may take a long time and be really gradual–and it may change hardly at all. My grandfather read Westerns his entire life…until the last year or two when he started reading Amish Christian fiction. So don’t let me or anyone else pressure you to step outside your comfort zone, but I do encourage it, when you’re ready.

There is a whole world of books out there! And you know I have a full List of recommendations for you!

Happy reading everyone!

Taking on the World

First off, I just want to thank everyone for all their love and support after I posted My Journey Through Depression and Back. I was so nervous about putting it out there, because it’s the most personal thing I’ve ever written, but the reception was amazing. I heard so many stories similar to mine–guys, you are NOT ALONE! Keep telling your stories, and reaching out.

Now that I am healthy, my brain is going in a thousand different directions. I want to take on EVERYTHING. I started this post to apologize for not having a review up today, but the reason I don’t have one, is because I am doing SO MUCH on the back end of the blog that you cannot see. I have a regular job that pays the bills, but when I am not doing that, my brain just doesn’t stop. It just continually sucks in information, and if I am not feeding it, it yells at me. It’s like a baby or a cat. I am so excited that I feel this way. I have never loved learning as much as I do right now.

Here’s just a taste of what I am working on right now:

Every day I read a chapter from The Ramayana, a section from The Treasury of Poems (which is usually 4-8 poems), and a chapter from whatever book adultbooklr has chosen for the month.

I am also taking a class on Coursera–The Psychology of Popularity–so I do a module of that.

I have a few Youtubers I make sure to catch up on at lunch.

And then of course there’s whatever book I am reading for me (and for you)! Right now it’s Les Miserables…which is why there is no review today. It is a bit of a monster and is taking me longer than I expected to get through. This is not a one day-er!

 

I just started a big project yesterday that I’m quite excited…and nervous…about. I’m hoping to have it completed by the beginning of next month, but I’m not going to make any promises. It’s a pretty large undertaking, and something I’ve never done before, so we’ll see! I’ll let you guys know when I have more information to give you 😉

 

Anyway, just wanted to give you something for today, and a little window into my daily life. Phew. It’s a lot. But, I’m loving it, absorbing it all. I’m sure I won’t be able to keep on this pace forever, but I’m going to take it all in as long as I can!

My Journey Through Depression and Back

I’ve wanted to share this post for a while now. I originally wrote it in May, but shortly after I did, my grandfather passed away and so my recovery took a pretty heavy hit. By now I’ve talked to a few of you about this, at least bits and pieces. I’ve even gotten closer to a few new friends who have or are going through similar things. I wrote this to cleanse my soul of the darkness, but I am sharing it so others can benefit from it. I want you to know that there is light at the end of it. It hasn’t been easy to get here, and I’m still working every day to stay in the light, but I’m here, and it’s beautiful.

I have depression. To be specific, I had a Major Depressive Episode in late February that tumbled me over the edge into darkness. There are a lot of factors that led to that episode—I am not going to discuss them all here.

I am going to start by telling you that I have had anxiety for several years. Mostly, I can deal with it, but around the holidays last year it started ramping up to uncontrollable levels. That was the first red flag that something was wrong, but I shrugged it off. It didn’t go away. It only got worse, and I started having some weird obsessive behaviors I’d never had before—racing thoughts that my body just couldn’t keep up with. If you’re a regular follower on this blog, you know that’s when I started pushing myself to read harder books, “study books,” I called them. That’s only a tip of the iceberg. I was trying to be better at everything. Full-on perfectionist mode. Lists EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t stop, and I was ramping up to a crash.

In February, my anxiety really hit a peak, along with a truck load of stress. And then, at the very end of the month, my cat Smokey, who I had raised from a kitten to 16, got very sick and I had to put her down. That was the tipping point. The grief of losing my best friend and furbaby just tore apart any last strength I had. As much as I love Dallas, I hadn’t built up much of a support system here yet, and without friends to reach out to, I just broke.

At first, it just felt like grief. I tried really hard to shrug it off. She was just a cat, right? Why do I feel this devastated? My husband and best friend (who lives several states away) tried to reassure me, but I couldn’t pull myself up. It just got worse instead of better. My motivation for work and yoga fell away. I slept a LOT. I work from home, so the obligation to get up and drag myself into the next room is all that kept me from calling in every day. Cleaning was impossible in any room but that one—where my almost contradictory manic anxiety kept me rearranging drawers and shelves daily. My normal multitasking focus was at a grinding halt—and I didn’t care. I was hardly even reading or blogging (even though my racing perfectionist brain was screaming FAILURE FAILURE!). I stared at my books and lists trying to find the motivation.

I read the first 20% of Moby-Dick three times. I watched a LOT of Gilmore Girls in bed eating pizza my friend ordered me (from Florida) so I would remember to eat something. I didn’t go to yoga for weeks at a time, or would skip classes regularly.

The thing was—there was still a part of me deep inside who wanted to be normal. She wanted to go to yoga with her favorite instructors. She wanted to read and review the books on the list she’d so carefully made for March. And since when is eating ever a problem? Not to mention the added stress of watching the problems at work and not being able to focus enough to fix them, and putting all the household duties on my husband.

But I couldn’t make myself care. And so the two parts of me were at war with each other. This fostered so much self-hatred and self-doubt that it consumed everything. This is the hardest part of my illness to conquer. Normal Haley is a fairly confident person. But I have been reduced to shreds of that now.

I was never actually suicidal. I am grateful that while the darkness consumed me, it could have been much worse. I did suffer from what I was told is “Passive Suicidal Thoughts”—which scared the living hell out of me, and is what led me to get help. These thoughts—like taking a couple of Advil for a headache and then thinking “What if I just took the whole bottle?”—were not a plan, and were never wanted. They popped into my head randomly and usually left me sobbing on the floor. I didn’t take that Advil by the way, headache be damned.

Scary as they were, I know those passive thoughts are a normal part of the monster. And those thoughts and feelings scared me into reaching out for help. With the encouragement and support of my husband, I contacted my work’s Employee Assistance Program for a counselor. My counselor was helpful in breaking down the cause of what I was going through and gave me the diagnosis of what is going on. She also included R in one of the sessions so he could more easily understand what I was going through.

We determined that medication would be helpful, both for my depression and anxiety. It took a couple of tries to find the right anti-depressant that worked for me, but thankfully I have a fantastic physician, and when we found the right one it was like turning on a light.

I still have a lot of work to do, and after several months most of my days are pretty great. Every once in a while I’ll have a few days where I wake up and go “oooooh no, ooooh no.” But for the most part, I’m doing much better. My yoga practice has strengthened again, and I’m reading enough that I can do blog posts most every day. I’m feeling much more organized, and I’m even taking a free psychology class online just because.


This is a very long post, I know, but I have just a few more things to say before I’m done.

I did leave some details out on purpose. I’m not going to disclose all of the original triggers for personal reasons, so please don’t ask. Keep in mind that while I am much stronger and am mostly out of depression, my anxiety is still a constant battle. Please be respectful of that.

I am not going to list the names of my medications, mostly because different meds work for different people. I don’t want you to make decisions based on what works for me—I think part of our problem today is everything is advertised now. Don’t just try what you see. Talk to your doctor, he/she may have ideas of what is best for your situation. Also, if something isn’t working for you after a few weeks, tell them. Don’t stay on a medication that makes you feel worse! My first AD made me want to sleep for 18+ hours a day, and the minute I walked in to my doctor’s office, he knew we needed to change it. When we did, suddenly the lights came on, almost to the point where I was disoriented because I didn’t know where all the energy came from and I overcorrected a bit. Things have levelled off now.

I have done a lot of reading on mental illness over the years—it is a personal interest/passion of mine. I have also had depression before, although I did not seek help at the time. Self-diagnosis can be a helpful thing when the symptoms are mild—you can find all sorts of resources online now. But there came a point when I couldn’t combat the monster myself anymore. Sometimes it’s just too big. And that is OK! Depression is an illness, just like the flu. Sometimes, we can defend ourselves. But other times, we need a doctor’s care and medicine, before we can fight it off. That doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human.


 

How can you get help? There’s so many different ways!

I went through my Employee Assistance Program. Most larger companies have some sort of system like this through their benefits program, and usually they are set up so employees can get help without the HR and managers knowing about it.

Colleges also have similar programs set up. Depression and anxiety are so common where students are in unstructured, stressful environments away from home. I know mine had a whole counseling center for that purpose.

For those younger people, talk to your parents if you can. If not—find a mentor. Guys, I PROMISE there is an adult out there who has noticed a change in you, even if you don’t realize it. A teacher, a religious leader, your favorite librarian. Someone. Reach out to them. They can help.

Depression is SO hard. And everyone has their own monster to fight. There is pain, there is apathy, there is self-hatred, and there is all consuming darkness. But I promise, at the end, there is light. I know because I can see it. I’m not all the way out standing in it yet, but it’s there, and it’s getting closer. And so I reach for it, every day.

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I can’t do a post about depression without giving you the most important resources–where to go if you REALLY need help right away. Guys, there is absolutely no shame in admitting that you cannot do it alone anymore. *raises hand* I had to admit it. Below are some hotlines if you are in crisis, or know someone in crisis.

I’ve listed a lot of numbers below, but did you know there’s also now a chat set up? For people with anxiety, it’s pretty great. I don’t know about you, but I really hate calling people (pretty ironic for someone who talks on the phone all day, huh?)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/lifelinechat.aspx

 

Blogoversary

I just realized, when I tore my calendar page off today, that my first blogoversary passed in April completely unnoticed. I had quite a bit going on at the time, and I completely forgot about it!

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing for over a year. I’ve had blogs before, about food mostly, restaurant reviews, travel. All of them fell by the wayside. I lacked motivation and inspiration, subject matter, audience. I knew I wanted to write, but I just didn’t know what to put out there.

When I started I Lay Reading, it was part of my Happiness Project. I wanted to read more, read harder, read better. Part of that goal was to interact with other people about what I was reading, and write more in depth about what I was learning. And so, this blog was born. I never expected to write every day, or for very many people to see it. I certainly didn’t expect for any of my posts to go viral on Reddit or Pinterest. But those things have happened. And every time they do I sit here and just stare at my computer in wonder. People like me, they really really like me! It’s such a joy to share my love of reading with each and every one of you. Thank you, for joining me in this journey.

A little bit about me, for those who have found the blog along the way:

I’m a recent transplant to Dallas, by way of Indianapolis. We’ve been here just under a year now, and are learning to love this big, hot metropolis. I’ve been reading since before I can remember–and I read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on. Seriously, everything. My TBR is in the thousands, so I am not always reading the most current books (although I try to keep up), but I’m constantly cycling through to read what I think is most interesting. I am also trying to complete the Boxall’s 1000 Books to Read Before you Die, so you’ll see me reference that quite often. I love recommendations, so if you see me read something and think of something I should read next, let me know in the comments! I do read every comment, guys, and I love chatting with you. Twitter is my favorite mode of communication, but Instagram and Tumblr are great places too!

Again, I just want to thank all of my followers, and all of the bookish friends I have made in the last year. You make reading and blogging so much fun!

For My Grandaddy

Grandaddy.

 

My favorite person in the entire world.

 

Since I can remember, we had a special bond. Maybe it’s because I was first, or maybe there was just something between us that I can’t name. But whatever it was, it was THERE. You were my Grandaddy. Solid, upstanding, loving, funny, and going to outlive us all.

 

Why? Because you were the most stubborn person I’ve ever known in my entire life. If there was something you wanted, by george you were gonna make it happen. And if you felt that something was right, well, you stood unshaking in your conviction.

 

That created a family full of stubborn, opinionated, strong-willed people. The P. blood in us does not waver much. We even have a pout that we master early when we don’t get our way. Even the newest of us waited so long that is mama couldn’t be here today. But around 830 last night, my new nephew was born, giving Grandaddy one more grandson.

 

But even with all that stubbornness, you were also one of the most loving men I’ve ever known. You were the patriarch of our family, and you wore that badge with honor, praying over every meal, hugging the grandkids—making sure every one of us knew we were loved, shown through gifts, mementos, trips. We all got rings on our 16th birthday—mine doesn’t quite fit anymore, but it’s here.

 

One of my favorite memories is going to the Kentucky Horse Park for my 13th birthday. A whole weekend just for me. My favorite horse was Romeo, a red and white dapple that I got to ride on the trail with you. And we ate blackberry cobbler in the cafeteria—your favorite.

 

The love of Grandaddy’s life was…KENTUCKY BASKETBALL. Sorry Nana, you were probably a close second. Since long before I came into the picture, he was obsessed. And even while I was born into a Boilermaker family, Kentucky Blue trumped all. He even bought a Tennessee-loving boyfriend of mine a Kentucky hat once, because heaven forbid he wear orange near Grandaddy. But then, I accidentally committed the ultimate crime. I planned my wedding in October. That’s right…I did it. I made him choose—his beloved granddaughter’s wedding…or the Midnight Madness basketball practice he had been going to for decades with my uncle. It’s been a running joke in the family ever since. At least…I hope it’s a joke. I’ve been forgiven for that, right Uncle S? *fingers crossed*

 

Still, a few years later, when that marriage ended, and I felt I had let everyone down—it was my Grandaddy who was there to take me out to lunch and make sure I was taking care of myself. It was a tradition carried over from college, and it meant the world to me, especially then.

 

It was on those dates when I really got to know my Grandaddy. He was such a great storyteller when you got to know him one on one, and he had so many to tell—from growing up in Chicago, to meeting Nana and living in Kentucky. He loved to travel and could remember landmarks from any road trip he’d ever been on. And by landmark…I really mean BBQ joints.

 

It wasn’t really until I met Richard that I realized my whole life I had been looking for a man like my Grandaddy. I joked before, Nana, but he sure loved you. I grew up with a model of true love and friendship every time I saw Ed look at Carol—when I came in the kitchen early in the morning, and saw them sharing the newspaper, he with his cheerios and bananas, Nana with her tea; or in the afternoons when he’d rub her back so sweetly before her nap. He was a helpful, guiding, affectionate husband—and he was always teasing her about something with that ornery twinkle in his eye. And Nana would usually give it right back to him. That’s what I wanted—their partnership. I don’t remember a difficult moment, or a happy one, where they were not together. And so I thank you both, for being such great role models for us all.

 

Richard and I were home in February for a late Christmas, and we spent and afternoon visiting Grandaddy on our way north. Nana asked if he knew who I was and, with that same ornery twinkle in his eye, he winked and insisted my name was Elaine…at the same time he hugged me. I am absolutely certain he knew exactly who I was, and was just ragging Nana on—because he asked us a lot of questions about Dallas and work and, of course, BBQ.

 

My last conversation with my Grandaddy, my favorite person in the world, was about a hole in the wall joint called Blalocks, between Dallas and Texarcana. We pulled it up on our phones and it was just as he remembered. He was, of course, stubbornly determined that he was going to get better and we were going to go get BBQ there next summer. I said, “Absolutely. You come see us in Texas and we will go to Blalocks for BBQ when you feel better!”

 

Grandaddy, I will always love you. You will always be my most favorite person. And I know you will be there when Richard and I stop in Mt. Pleasant, TX on our way home, for that feel good BBQ. Think they’ll have any cobbler?

French History

Whether it is just the chunk of the Boxall list I am working through at the moment, or the random books I am choosing from my Goodreads list–for some reason I seem to be reading a lot of French literature lately.

Or trying to.

I am getting really frustrated, because I am not enjoying the books as much as I want to. Either they are taking way too long to read, or I just find them excruciatingly boring. Mauprat wasn’t bad, but I am into my second Dumas novel, and I think I have figured out why I hate him so much.

Dumas writes about real events–his books are basically James Bond books of the 1800s. They are about espionage and war and real kings. Maybe the heroes are fictional, but all the history is real.

And I do not know that history, so I am COMPLETELY lost. Hence my frustration! I know all about British history, because I’ve been reading about it for years…but French? Nada. I know there were rough relations with the Spanish for awhile, but I don’t know if they ever went to war. And I know there was a revolution with Napoleon…which I think is what this book is talking about. But without Googling it, I couldn’t even tell you what happened there. It has been years since my World History class in high school.

So. Dear readers. I need your help. Enlighten me. I need more French History. What are your favorites? Biographies. Period histories. Fact-based historical fiction about real people (you know the kind I like…I’m not talking romance novels here). Give me some good stuff that I can read up on the kings and queens and drama.

And don’t worry…I probably will use Google. But reading in depth is so much better! Thanks for your help!