Mom Antoinette is a definite advocate of 1,000 stories before kindergarten, and son Malcolm can attest to that! (He is going to be a genius.) But, she still makes time for herself; besides, what would we do without Antoinette's reading recommendations, both for kids and adults?
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So, I have to admit something that really bothers me....I did not have any experience with Star Wars until about 2 years ago. It was not something that my parents watched, and therefore I never really experienced it from them....and of course, when the prequels were coming out, I was fully entrenched in the Harry Potter universe, so....
But I am making up for lost time now! This new series of trade paperbacks about everyone's favorite villain, Darth Vader, are so. good. I am a huge fan of the extended universe stuff within the Star Wars universe, simply because they expand on and add so much depth to these characters that the movies themselves, while amazing in their own way, leave me wanting a lot more (however, I may be a rare breed where I feel like I need to know every character's every thought and emotion, but I digress...).
All that is to say, if you are a fan of Star Wars, I definitely think this series is worth checking out. The art and writing are great. They really are quick reads (as a lot of graphic novels/comics are), and since they currently have the first 2 trade paperbacks out (6 issues per volume), it's a good time to pick it up and be ready for the 3rd (released in Septmeber).
Surprisingly, I have never read this book, despite how popular it has been for so long. I did a thing that I generally don't like to do...I watched the Netflix show prior to reading the book (gasp!). But as good as the show was, the book was just as good, if not better (isn't that always the way?).
I think it's widely known that the book (and show) are about the tapes left behind from a teenage girl who fell victim to suicide (and yes, this is a much better (and truer) way of talking about this, because mental illness and depression are serious things). The tapes are given to the people who Hannah feels either helped cause the snowball effect leading to her suicide, or (in Clay's case) who she felt needed to hear her reasoning and her story.
I won't say anymore, other than that the book is exceptionally written, the story is extremely moving, and it is a kind of book that will leave a lasting impact on the reader.
There are really a handful of books that I've read in my life that really have shaped the person I've become, or have truly made an indescribable impact on me (and please pardon my incessant use of ellipsis, 4 years of English courses in college did nothing to stamp that out): the Harry Potter series...Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollack....Wasted by Marya Hornbacher...The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (see previous staff pick)...and now this book.
Stafford's book came to me at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed and overburdened by not only the excess of technology and social media in my life (and our society), but by the sheer amount of stuff and to-do's that I felt were important. More important than really living in the present moment, apparently. I have been on a journey towards a more minimalist, simplistic lifestyle for quite some time, but even so, it's so easy to fall back into old habits...like scrolling through Instagram/Facebook/Tumblr/Pinterest/insert your chosen social media drug here "just for a minute" and then getting lost in the black hole that they are, and not paying attention to the world around you.
Upon picking up Stafford's book, I soaked everything up like a sponge. She makes taking on the lifestyle of being "hands free" seem so much more manageable, and, which I find important, she is kind in the way she goes about it - meaning no scolding or making the reader feel terrible about something. She breaks down each chapter into personal stories in her journey, and each story includes weekly intentions; each chapter concludes a reflection and reflection questions. Since taking the plunge to truly strive towards a hands free lifestyle, I have deactivated my Facebook account, put away my iPad, traded in my iPhone for a slider keyboard phone to use only for calling and texting, and have made a deliberate choice to live without the internet at our new apartment. As a side note, I think it's funny (in a sad way) that these actions are considered radical....when did that happen?
I thought a lot about this. When I was in high school, after I finished homework, what did I do? How did I spend my waiting time in doctor's offices/auto places/etc.? I read, or I had conversations with the people around me. Since undertaking this challenge, I have become much more aware of when people are glued to their phones or laptops or whatever connected device they can't live without.
The biggest motivation for picking up Stafford's book and dedicating myself to living differently in my little boy, Malcolm. We just celebrated his 1-year birthday, and it's really hitting me just how quickly everything is going. I want to be present and experience as much as I can, and be there for him as much as I can. Stafford mentions that a blog reader of hers commented that "being responsible for someone's childhood is a big deal. We not only create our own memories, but we create our child's memories" (57). Such a sobering realization. Such a life-changing realization.
I can see myself re-reading this book every couple of years, if not more in between, or just thumbing through to find specific passages when I need them most. I truly cannot reccommend this book enough.
Just in the last year or so, I have been striving, slowly, for a more simplistic existence. I've read a few books here and there on the subject of not only downsizing/decluttering your possessions, but simplifying other areas of your life in the quest for minimalism. However, none of these books (so far) have moved me as much as this one - so much so that I finished the book in a day and a half (and remember, I have an almost-8-month old).
I'll be honest, Kondo's method at times seemed a little intense, particularly when you're just starting the book; so much so that if you're a newbie into the art of simplifying, it might scare you away. But she notes that if you come to her book, it is the right time for your to receive the information.
To summarize Kondo's basic idea, you must follow her order of discarding by simply asking yourself with each item, "Does this spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it." That's it. One thing she says that really resonated with me was "we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of." This made me pause and reflect on how she managed to take a subject that can become stressful for people and puts a positive spin on it. Shouldn't we all want to surround ourselves with only those items that truly bring us joy? Shouldn't we all aspire to a life that is not controlled by our consumeristic desire for items, but where those items are just a small part of our overall life?
She begins by telling us to "think in concrete terms so that you can vividly picture what it woud be like to live in a clutter-free space;" meaning, what does simplifying mean to you? For me, I want to live in the moment with my husband and little boy, and focus on doing things together, in the moment. I want to have park dates, go hiking, take stroller walks, read books together, play together. I often feel that we have too much stuff and rely on technology to entertain us too much, and those are not traits that I want to pass down to Malcolm. Therefore, I was more than willing to continue reading.
Kondo's method is first discard, and then store. She says that people who believe they don't have enough storage space actually have a lot of useless items - again, if you only surround yourself with items that "spark joy," it will be easy to store them. Everything will have a place. She recommends that one starts with clothing, since that's probably the easiest place to discard items. From there, you move onto books, paper, misc., and then mementos.
I felt a sense of anxiety while reading this, only because I wanted to get started right away with discarding items. However, I told myself to finish the whole book before diving in.
I honestly cannot recommend this book enough. I think it would resonate with everyone, and I mean everyone. Perhaps we all need a little decluttering and tidying, so that we may all be inspired to live in the moment more.