I actually feel a bit vulnerable sharing my reading list. Like do I really want everyone to know that I enjoy reading psycho-thriller novels? Well I guess you know now.
Some of my favorite authors in this genre are Ruth Ware, B.A. Paris, Rachel Hawkins, and Lisa Jewel. There are a few others including Alex Michaelides, The Maidens, and Silent Patient, where the jury is still out.
I do find some of the books fairly predictable, especially when I have read every book by the author, but I still find them to be enjoyable as I read towards whatever twist there is in the end. I have always been a fan of mysteries and these types of books satisfy some of that intersest.
It is hard to talk about enjoying these types of books because the topics are generally pretty dark, but the twists and turns of the story keep the reader engaged. Being that these books are often on the top of the bestseller lists, I know I am not alone.
Here are some of my favorites, please don’t judge me I do not advocate for any type of violence.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware
The Invisible Girl, Lisa Jewell
The Therapist, B.A. Paris
The Wife Upstairs, Rachel Hawkins
Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris- this one was particularly chilling and horrifying all at once.
My next post will be about a lighter topic- Romance Novels.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. When I was a child, I remember reading every Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Bobbsey Twins book as well as many other titles. Book fairs and libraries were such great resources for me. My mom is also a reader and it has certainly been passed on to me.
In the past year I have read over 50 books. When I mentioned that in a post, several people asked for favorites and recommendations. I thought I would use this space to share some of my thoughts.
I like to read multiple books by the same author. Once I find an author I like, i generally will read everything they have written. Libby has become my best friend for ebooks. I also love going to the library. I also like Chirp and Bookbub for finding free and low cost books.
So, starting with my next post, I will share authors and books I have enjoyed over the past year. I would love to hear about authors and books you like as well.
I am not sure I should admit it, but I like to read pretty much everything with words. Of course, there are some genres I like better than others, but I just really love to read. That being said, if I don’t like a book from the beginning, I generally will not finish it. This is how I found out I can actually return books to Amazon and Audible (Not that I am encouraging this).
Lately, I have been reading historical fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Marie Benedict, Kristen Hannah, Pam Jenoff, and Jillian Cantor. I recently read several books by Marie Benedict and I liked all but one.
The ones I have read are The Personal Librarian, Carnegie’s Maid, The Only Woman in the Room, and The Other Einstein. I struggled with The Mystery of Mrs. Christie which is about Agatha Christie. I might turn out to be good, but I gave up around chapter 3.
The Personal librarian is a story about J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian Belle da Costa Greene. Born to the first black graduate of Harvard, Richard Greener, Belle hides her identity as she passes for a white woman. This is based on a true story and the author and co-author (Victoria Christopher Murray) do a superb of weaving in the issue of race and racism.
The Only Woman in the Room is the story of actress Hedy Lamarr. Her story is captivating as it takes the reader from her 1st marriage to an Austrian arms dealer to landing in Hollywood, and finally to her idea that would revolutionize modern communication. I read this one in just one sitting straight through.
The Other Einstein was the first book I read by Benedict. The book is certainly a piece of fiction and should be read that way, more for the story than to accept it as fact. The reviews on this book range from 5 star to people who are angry that the information portrayed is not backed up by fact. If you read this book, it is good to do some additional reading about the Einstein couple. Scientific American posted this blog which tells more of the story. Time Magazine also printed a story that talks about the lack of historical standards. I found it to be an enjoyable book and wonder how much of the story is actually true.
Lastly, Carnegie’s Maid is definitely fiction as the author created the character of the maid, but it still provides a glimpse of the life of Andrew Carnegie and how he rose from a poor immigrant to become very wealthy and eventually philanthropic.
I plan to read Ms. Benedict’s other books including Lady Clementine, about William Churchill’s wife, and Her Hidden Genius about Rosalind Franklin who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, which will be released on January 25th.
I didn’t write a single post in 2021 until now. I had to get one in before the year ended.
This year has gone by so fast.
Some of the highlights:
Family Shuffle- my son moved from Tallahassee to Miami, my parents moved from Miami to Winter Park, my daughter moved from Seattle to Atlanta.
Travel was limited. I did get 2 brief, but relaxing vacations to Cancun and Blue Ridge. Our annual Europe Trip didn’t happen. Hopefully, COVID will subside so we can try again in 2022.
I read over 50 books. I will do a separate post soon about what I read since many people have asked. Some of my favorites were The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah, The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict, and hard to read, but important Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.
My work has given me the opportunity to speak at several conferences including participating in a panel with the UN Foundation and Brookings alongside the City of Orlando. It has also been very challenging and meaningful.
I am not going to promise to write more in 2022, but I hope to.
Yesterday, I said my word for 2021 will be kindness. I want to add a second word (I figure I am a grown adult and if there is a one word rule, I am breaking it.) FOCUS.
I have so many ideas. So many things I want to do. Places to visit. Changes to make. The thing that makes it hard to accomplish everything, is lack of focus.
Where do I start?
What is the priority?
What if I fail?
What if I succeed?
Does it matter?
Will anyone care?
So many thoughts. So many things to do.
I started a notebook of projects and goals. This year I added strategies on how to accomplish my goals. I figure if I treat life projects the way I treat work projects, I might have a good chance of reaching my goals.
So this year coming up, my words to ponder and rest on are kindness and focus. What are yours?
Every year around this time I return to this blog and make a few posts. Along the way, the year happens and I either put writing on the back burner or write and don’t publish. I have a few 2020 unpublished posts, but not many.
This has been an interesting and challenging year. Working from home, visiting with family by zoom, missing hugs and in person events…
Like many, I am looking forward to 2021. I have no illusions that when the year turns over things will immediately be different, but there is that glimmer of hope that maybe with a vaccine, we can see people in person again and I can visit with my mom and dad.
My word for 2021 is kindness. We need more of it. There are so many people who are angry and polarized. There is more to life than politics and we have to remember that we are all neighbors and we are Americans.
Everyone has heard the phrase you can’t see the forest for the trees. The truth of it is, sometimes just trying to take then next step is overwhelming. Sometimes that leads to settling on a decision or project that isn’t the right one or wont solve the problem we are trying to solve.
The same goes for the phrase we don’t need to invent the wheel. What if we do? Carriage wheels are not exactly a good fit for our sports cars, are they?
The government and communities outsource their biggest problems to under-funded and under-resourced nonprofits and expect them to control their overhead and give every dollar to the program. This really isn’t a feasible way for us to expect complex problems to be solved.
The problem is that when we are in the midst of chaos or crisis, we can’t think about the long term. We wont let ourselves think that our project or ideas might not work. We can’t, we have to make it through to the next day or the next crisis. Complacent board members and donors with heavy restrictions complicate this situation.
What if we were to take a step back and look at the big picture? What if, we brought all of our knowledge and expertise to the table? What if people stopped accepting group think and started to ask questions before a decision was made? What if there were no good ideas so we started over from scratch?
The questions above require a culture shift. They require listening, thinking, deliberating, researching, and even being wrong. The idea of being more nimble, failing fast, and pivoting our work needs to be more welcomed and accepted in the nonprofit community.
I challenge people to think bigger, be bolder, and bring your full self to the table. The status quo isn’t working. We need to do better.
Since COVID happened and we are home all the time, like many others, we have started cleaning out drawers and closets and looking at ways to get rid of the stuff we have accumulated over the years.
We have closets full of things the kids left behind, as well as things I have held onto because maybe one day I will be a size 2 again…. I have an entire rack of suit jackets that I am pretty sure I will never wear again. Someone might like them, but this is Florida and they are just too hot for my taste.
What I have realized is that I also need is to purge my brain of useless stuff. There is too much happening in the world to just keep taking in. While I am fascinated with so many things, there is so much going on right now that I find disturbing and disheartening. If I am not careful, I can get so caught up in the muck that I won’t see the things that need my attention.
The world has led me to a whole range of emotions. I am mad. I am sad. I don’t understand people’s logic. There are so many people and things that have made me feel let down because they have gone down roads I can’t rationalize, but yet, I am a hopeful person. I see the good in people. I am always working on making things better.
That leads me to cleaning up. I am determined to spend less time on the negative. Less time reading people’s opinions, and more time reflecting on the good things. I don’t plan to bury my head in the sand, but don’t want to fill my head with things I can’t control either.
I was in a conversation the other day where we were discussing a potential Request for Proposal (RFP) for a program that will be changing hands. I asked if we had considered one of our local nonprofits as a potential partner. We had not. One of the people mentioned that another group member who had left early was on the board of this organization. I asked why this person didn’t bring this up and was told that he keeps his work and personal life separate.
The next words out of my mouth were “I am working so hard to get people to stop doing that”.
We have all heard the term that we wear different hats. My hats include my role at the Central Florida Foundation, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Orange County, member of the Mayor’s multi-cultural committee, wife, mother, animal lover, world traveler just to name a few. We all play different roles in our lives, but how often do we think about integrating them? What benefits one group you are in, may benefit another. I get confidentiality and conflict of interest. Those things are important, but not sharing information can be a conflict as well.
The other area we often get stuck in is group think. How many times have you walked out of a meeting only to join up with a group in the parking lot (pre-COVID) and a bunch of people are complaining about the outcome? I worked for an agency that didn’t buy a building that was a great price because one board member thought we shouldn’t take out a mortgage. I received calls after the meeting from board members who asked why we made the decision not to buy the building. My simple answer was “You voted against it”. Would the outcome have been different if they had challenged the idea of not taking out the mortgage? I don’t know, but at least we could have had a real discussion.
Some of biggest challenges to bringing your full self are distractions and stress. Distractions are easy to define. They can be texts coming in, emails you feel like you need to answer right now, or even boredom (I get fidgity when meetings go too long). Stress may be more subtle. I have had to learn to re-set myself to go from one meeting to another or moving to another task. I think it is important to give your full self to others in the meeting you are in. This one I have to work on all the time, but it is that important. I have learned to practice mindfulness, listen to calming music, and also to take a deep breath before I walk into (or call into) a meeting.
So before your next meeting, ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I bringing all of my hats?
2. Am I willing to go against the flow? This doesn’t mean creating conflict, it can be as simple as asking probing questions?
3. Have I eliminated distractions and stress?
When you can answer yes, you can show up as your full self.