Monday, August 11, 2014

My Past > My Future

Happy August 11th readers!

Let me begin by apologizing for not writing this blog post upon my return from vacation last week as promised in my last post. (FYI: If you didn't figure it out already, I went to Toronto, Ontario to visit family and attend their annual Caribbana Festival.) It was a road trip that left me both physically and mentally exhausted when I got home last Monday; and I needed the rest of last week to recover. However, I have been reading during my hiatus and now I'm ready to share, so please bear with me.

I've finally finished reading Steven Furtick's book, Greater, which I randomly bought from Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. It was on sale, a really good sale that I didn't take advantage of because I am on a tight budget since I'm moving into an apartment in a few weeks. Like I do with all my random book finds, I read the first few pages in the store (ain't no shame in my game!); and I'm happy to say that the book lived up to those first few pages.

Greater has a very down-to-earth tone that makes it both personable and easy  to read. It's just 190 pages long (though it took me much longer than it should have because of vacation obligations), and even better, it's not bogged down by a bunch of biblical scripture in an attempt to add fluff and length to the book. Instead, Furtick focuses on one specific bible story with a few personal stories of his own in between to explain the importance of letting God lead us, so that we can experience a life greater than we could ever imagine.

A greater life....what does that even mean? Well according to Steven Furtick, it definitely doesn't mean being greater than Jesus Christ; but rather, living a greater and more purposeful life with Jesus through His Spirit within us. It means having the courage to let go of anything or anyone that is holding you back from taking the next step in your life, the next step towards the greater life God calls us to.
The thing is, most believers aren't in imminent danger of ruining their lives. They're facing a danger that's far greater: wasting them.
Wasting my life is exactly what I'm afraid of, which is why at the ripe age of 25 I've become more fearless in my decision-making (read my review of Cheryl Strayed's, Wild to see just how gangsta I can be) and am making a real effort at pursuing all of my interests simultaneously. For example, I currently run a small business, write a weekly blog (thank you for reading it!), serve as the director of my church's youth choir while working a demanding 9-5 job that I enjoy. Sounds like a lot right? I'll admit that it is but I honestly feel as though it's what God wants me to do right now. However, I know in my heart that He wants me to do something greater; something that will have a much bigger impact than anything I do on my own.
God's greater purpose in any area of your life means giving up your false expectations of greatness to find the greater things He's called only you to do.
Furtick confirmed what I already knew, which is that in order to grow and serve a greater purpose in the world, you must be willing to let go of things and people that hinder your growth. That's why I'm trying to remove all of the barriers that could possibly be preventing me from hearing His voice clearer than I've ever heard Him before now. From personal experience, I know that one has to be willing to surrender all to God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. It's not easy (trust me I know!) but it's definitely worth it! At least I think so. 

Honestly, the best decision I've ever made was accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord & Savior. My faith helps me stay grounded and optimistic in situations where others become victims of nervous breakdowns, drug addictions, or even worse, suicide. Life can be difficult but knowing that my present help comes from God makes it bearable.

Should you Open or Close this book? Open it, especially if you're currently going through a quarter-life crisis like me, through a very demanding transition in your life, feeling stagnant, or like a loser. Read it even if you're not going through anything at all. My co-worker bought it for her friend after I told her about it and he loves it!
Would I read another book by this author? Yes.
What will I read next? Maybe Koren Zailckas signed copy of her novel, Mother, Mother.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Taking a Blogcation

Happy Tuesday beautiful people! As always, thank you for reading my blog. Your support is sincerely appreciated.

This post is to notify you all that I'm taking a blogcation this week. Translation: I'm going on vacation this with my mom; and in an effort to relax and fully enjoy our time away, I will not be blogging again until next Tuesday, August 5th. (I know, I know you'll miss me out whatever.)

I look forward to sharing some tid-bits about our trip with you all when we return. Until then, adios amigos!

p.s. Did you figure out where we're going based on the picture? If so, comment below.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Month of Madness



Susan Cahalan's, Brain On Fire is a frightening, informative story about an uneasy, biological chain of events that nearly claimed the life of this rising, NY Post reporter. In the book, Cahalan shares the intimate details about the autoimmune disease that changed her life forever when she was just 24 years old. This disease (which I won't reveal since some of you haven't read her book yet) flipped her young life upside-down and inside-out in 2009; and believe it or not, it all started with a bed bug scare. Go figure!

Cahalan (like me) prides herself on being autonomous becomes totally dependent upon her family and boyfriend of only 4 months at the time that her symptoms began to appear. I have to say that before reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I probably would have naively assumed that her boyfriend would eventually break-up because of all the pressure and burden brought on by her illness. However, now that I know men like to be needed and feel empowered when a woman trusts him to take care of her, I understand why he stuck it out with her. Plus, there's the whole he loves her aspect too but I digress...

The scariest part of Cahalan's whole ordeal is how quickly she began to deteriorate after unknowingly experiencing one of the common symptoms associated with her disease. In a matter of weeks, she literally went from being a promising, young, energetic reporter living in a Manhattan studio to a hallucinating, socially-awkward, borderline psychotic, 20-something year old. Her erratic behavior reminded me of the 2009 film, Paranormal Activity, specifically during those scenes when the female character, Katie becomes possessed by the paranormal force lurking in her home.

Unable to recollect most of what took place during this debilitating period in her life, Cahalan relies upon the memories of her family and friends, her father's personal diary, her medical charts, and hospital footage to write this book.  She walks us through step-by-step the stages of her disease, including her 28-day stint at NYU's Langone Medical Center where a host of  medical practitioners worked together to douse the fire in her brain. Luckily for her, a very brilliant, Syrian physician (with a touching underdog story) was able to figure out what exactly was causing her crazy behavior and get her on the road to recovery. Thank God because I don't think my heart could've handled it if at the end of the book, she revealed that she had written her story in her new home at Bellevue. 

Overall, I thought Brain On Fire was a good book mostly because I learned something new. I now know a little more about how the brain works even though there were some moments when I felt like I was back in my old AP Biology class. Luckily for Susannah Cahalan, she had a physician that was committed to not only putting out the fire in her brain but figuring out what exactly started it; and that's the kind of physician I think we all want overseeing our care whenever we seek medical attention.

Should you Open or Close this book? Open it, especially if you're a fan of science. It's definitely not your typical memoir.
Would I read another book by this author? Yes.
What will I read next? To be determined.

What did/do you think of Susannah's story? Do you believe it was as bad as she made it seem?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mood Changers


I woke up feeling a little blue this morning, so I immediately opened my "mood changer" books to get out of this funk: Break Out! by Joel Osteen and Acts of Faith by Iyanla Vanzant. I can't begin to express how much these books have helped me keep the right perspective about the good, bad, and unpredictable moments that we all experience in life. Joel Osteen's book is my favorite of the two and by far my #1 book purchase from Barnes and Noble to date! I began reading it last November during a 6-day (and might I add) long, overdue fast and it's still as uplifting today as it was then. Acts of Faith was a birthday gift from my former manager, which just so happens to be in December. I guess you can say that God was equipping me with some of the tools I would need to get through all of the life changes I have and am still going through in 2014. Hey, they don't call Him an on time God for nothing!

I am a huge fan of Joel Osteen's devotional podcasts, so I was pretty confident that I would enjoy Break Out! just as much. Just like his sermons, his book is very personable, oftentimes making me feel as though I'm literally sitting in Lakewood (his church) in Houston, Texas listening to him preach. However, what I love the most about Break Out! and Joel Osteen's preaching style in general, is his ability to effectively teach you the Word of God; while inspiring you to pursue your dreams and passion. He's a staunch advocate of "God-sized prayers", which simply means taking our limits off God and asking Him to make our biggest dreams a reality. This particular chapter of the book spoke to me a lot because I've been guilty of praying prayers that suggest I don't believe God to be as all-powerful and sovereign as I rightly know that He is. Therefore, I have to frequently remind myself to be open, honest, and bold while praying if I have any hope of prospering as an HR Professional, independent contractor, and freelance writer (even though the only thing I've managed to write freely so far is this blog). Did I mention that I am working towards becoming completely debt-free too? [Insert your gaping mouth here]

Let's just say that at this point in my life, I find myself needing a LOT more prayer, encouragement and motivation to remain sane, which probably explains why I've been reading so many memoirs as of lately. Indulging in the lives, mistakes, and success of real people living in this very real world has become one of my favorite hobbies mostly because (as weird as this may sound) it fuels my ambition to be successful even when the odds are against me. What's great about Break Out! is that it not only fuels my ambition; but has helped me realize just how much God has blessed me throughout the years, months, days, hours, and even at this very minute. As far as I'm concerned, it's a blessing to have this blog where I can safely and openly share my opinions with You about the books I read. You might not think so, but considering the number of people in the world that don't have access to the internet or the thousands of women who are forbidden from getting an education...trust me, it's a blessing!

Acts of Faith is a much different book than Break out!. It's a compilation of daily messages that I prefer to think of as little nuggets of wisdom for each day of the calendar year. Here's a few lines from the much-needed reality check Iyanla gave me this morning:

We give people too much responsibility when we entrust them with our business. We should only tell our problems to people who can help. We are quick to accuse our friends of betraying us, but do we consider how much we betray ourselves?
Listen honey, Oprah didn't give Iyanla her own show for nothing...

Should you Open or Close this book?I recommend OPENING either of these books if you need encouragement.
Would I read another book by this author? Absolutely!
What will I read next? I'm currently reading Brain On Fire by Susannah Cahalan

What do you do when you're feeling blue?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Blame it on the Alcohol

Happy Friday folks! I hope that you're feeling as great as you read and look today. 

As promised, I read Drunk Mom, a memoir about Polish writer, Jowita Bydlowska's 2009-2010 relapse with alcohol addiction and let me just get right down to it.... her memoir almost drove me to have a pity drink for her while reading it before I realized that it would do neither one of us any good, (did I mention that I hate hangovers) so I chose to write this review instead. Plus I think this is the safer choice in this situation.

For those of you that don't know, I randomly purchased Drunk Mom while visiting one of my favorite places nearly 2 weeks ago (yeah you guessed it) Barnes & Noble. Now I usually don't peruse through the books in the addiction section while I'm there; but they just so happened to be right across from the relationship books (I bought Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus during the same shopping trip). After reading a random page in Drunk Mom and being semi-intrigued, I decided to buy it.

Since I've never read an addiction book before reading Drunk Mom, my expectations of it were pretty normal. I expected it to focus on the drama that a careless, drunk of a mother causes in her life and in the lives of those around her; while failing to properly care for her own children because she's too busy drinking. Well, if Bydlowska was nothing else, she was definitely a drunk who happened to be a mom.

Bydlowska refers to herself as a "blackout drunk" in her memoir. Home-girl was drunk just about every second of the day during the first year of her son's life. It was so bad that she literally took the time out to Google the window period a breastfeeding mother should wait after consuming alcohol. This didn't do her much good since she was usually either drunk or blacked out, which meant that she almost always ended up pumping her breast milk down the drain and giving her son formula instead; but kudos to her for at least doing her research!

Bydlowska's memoir brings readers face-to-face with the physical, emotional, and even spiritual warfare addicts go through. Her experiences are real and raw; yet painfully sad too. Sad because after reading just the first few chapters, you realize how painfully hard it is for her to ignore her unquenchable thirst for alcohol let alone accept just how much her addiction was affecting her overall well-being and safety. There were moments when I felt like I was watching her entire relapse occur right before my very eyes, especially when she described how she frequently dumped bags of empty wine and vodka bottles on the streets while pushing her son in his stroller during one of their many outings. On the other hand, there were moments when I wanted to literally curse her out for being so careless and reckless; but I couldn't even fix my mouth to fuss at the pages of her book probably because deep, down inside I know that I have no way of understanding just how hard it is to break an addiction, so all I could do was continue to read and hope that the pages wouldn't lead up to some life-shattering tragedy.

However, once I finished the book, my mind drew a blank because I honestly couldn't settle on whether or not I was going to give this book a positive or negative review. I commend Bydlowska for sharing her story because it really gives non-addicts like me some insight on how addicts view and cope with their addiction(s). Unfortunately, I'm just not sure how many readers will appreciate this memoir, particularly those who can't directly or even indirectly relate to what it is like to have or know someone suffering with an addiction. What I failed to mention earlier is that I personally know an alcoholic, which is another reason why this book peaked my interest; and now that I have read it, I feel a little more knowledgeable about addictions.

Thank you for giving me a different perspective Jowita. 

Should you Open or Close this book? Open it ONLY if you're genuinely interested in the subject; if not, keep it CLOSED.
Would I read another book by this author? Yeah. I think she's a good writer.
What will I read next? I'm not sure yet. I just participated in a spontaneous book swap with a friend and she gave me a ton of books to read. Follow me on Twitter @ open_close_book to see what I decide to read next.

What do/did you think of this book? 
Do you think that it gives readers a better perspective on alcohol addiction?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Men are from Mars? Well, that explains a lot... - Part 2

So I literally just finished reading the remaining 7 1/2 chapters of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus a few moments ago and guess what? (Please entertain my foolishness by saying "what" aloud while reading this.) I still highly recommend this book! I mean I'm at the point in which I'd shamelessly pull this book out during an argument with my future partner just to refresh myself on how to proceed without being tempted to punch him in the throat. (I wouldn't actually punch him in the throat...maybe cuss him out but not hit him.) Some people may call Dr. Gray old school or even a sexist for reiterating what I believe the majority of us secretly agree with, which is that men and women are very different. We think differently, we react differently, we process information differently, we're different; and I personally don't think that that's necessarily a bad thing.

If you haven't picked up on this already, I'm a Christian. A Christian that believes that God created man from the dust of the earth and woman from the rib of the first man, Adam. However, I also believe that one of the reasons God chose to create woman from the rib of man is because he intended for us to be different from the beginning. C'mon think about it! Being the magnificent and sovereign artist that He is, God could've easily scooped up some more dirt and molded it into a woman in the same way He created Adam; but instead, He chose to put Adam to sleep (way better than any Tylenol PM might I add) and make Eve using one of Adam's rib. Not only is that mind-blowing but in my opinion, that reinforces my point that God intended for men and women to be different since the beginning of creation because man and woman came into existence in two different ways. But I digress...

Dr. Gray continued to call me out on my emotional pros and cons in the remaining chapters of his book. For example, his notion that women are like waves is a perfect description of my ongoing emotional state. He suggests that a woman's feelings and self-esteem have the ability to rise as high as an ocean wave but will periodically come crashing down. Finally someone who gets it! I experience this 'crashing down' or falling down into a 'deep dark well' feeling at least once a month, usually before or during my monthly visit from my unwelcome guest, Red Robin; however, these feelings usually intensify when I am in a relationship. The worst part is being fully aware of the fact that it is happening and oftentimes feeling like I can't stop it from happening. Like starting an argument with my partner even though deep down, arguing with my partner is the very last thing that I want to do. Doesn't make any sense right? Well, that makes two of us.

The best thing about reading what Dr. Gray had to say about this wave/dark well behavior is that I am not alone in behaving this way. Many other women do it too and just like me, they just want their partners to smother them with unconditional love while it's happening until their wave starts to rise again.
Even if a man can't fully understand why a woman feels overwhelmed, he can offer his love, attention, and support.
I tell you that Dr. Gray is a good man.

Enough about my emotional woes. Just do yourself a big favor and read this book. It will not only teach you how to better communicate with the opposite sex but how to accept yourself and your differences as a man or woman. Feel free to share what you learned from reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus in the comments section below. I'd love to swap thoughts on what you do and don't like about this book.

Should you Open or Close this book? Open it. You're bound to learn something.
Would I read another book by this author? Yup! He is very knowledgeable about the subject matter.
What will I read next? Drunk Mom, a memoir by Jowita Bydlowska

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Men are from Mars? Well, that explains a lot... - Part 1

If you follow any of my social media accounts then you probably already know what I'm about to say. *insert dramatic pause here* Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is a great book! It's so good that I haven't even finished reading it yet (hint: the Part 1 in the title); primarily because I have literally been meditating on every page I've read as I try to digest and accept the stark differences between men & women that Dr. Gray so eloquently writes about. Differences, might I add that have left people, including me baffled and frustrated with the opposite sex for centuries.

Since I started reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus last Saturday, (after coincidentally giving a guy that I was interested in one last chance to prove to me that he wasn't the ninja that I thought he was), I have been nose deep in the book highlighting what seems like almost one sentence in every other paragraph on each page. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if I received a phone call from the folks over at the Guinness Book of World Records informing me that I've been named the world's greatest highlighter maven of all time.

The truth of the matter is, Dr. Gray has successfully penned and articulated the emotional, social, and psychological behaviors and responses of men and women involved in romantic relationships with one another. In the 5 out of 13 chapters that I have read so far, he has managed to make me develop a greater appreciation of being a woman, reflect upon my conduct in past relationships, love the male specie even more, and want to slap the next man that I see. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that this book is so deep that I'm convinced an ocean would be jealous. Don't believe me? Keep reading...:
    ...a woman needs to recognize her boundaries of what she can give without resenting her partner. Instead of expecting her partner to even the score, she needs to keep it even by regulating how much she gives.
Prior to ever opening Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I had come to the realization that I suffered from what I like to call the "savior effect". I made it my business to try to save ALL of the men that I was romantically involved with from whatever circumstance or situation they were currently in at that time. Given my so-called 'good' track record in life thus far, I figured that my wisdom and direction could help them overcome whatever 'I thought' was holding them back, so that they could tap into their true potential and be a better man. Yeah right! As a result, I would often pour lots of my time, effort, tears, and hard-earned money into my man hoping that it would help him see just how much I cared for him and wanted him to do better for both his sake and for the sake of our relationship. Long story short, I always ended up resenting him and myself for doing so much because honestly, I have no desire to be a second mom to a man; nor be his personal coach for that matter. I want to motivate my man to stay on a good path in life but not be the shepherd that has to lead him down that path. I want exactly what Dr. Gray describes below:
 [I] want time off. Time to explore being [myself]. Time to care about [myself] first. [I] want someone to provide emotional support, someone [I] don't have to take care of.
Lucky for me, men want to be needed and trusted by women. A woman that trusts her man enough to fulfill her needs doesn't realize that this motivates and empowers him to give more. Dr. Gray states that:
Not to be needed is a slow death for a man.
That's deeeeeeep!

Despite my experience with playing the lead role in the majority of the romantic relationships I've been in (and trust me, I've had very, very few), I have not yet given up on love. I know that there are men out there who still want to be their woman's superhero and women like me who want that as well. In the meantime, I will continue to read this book and I hope that every man and woman: single, engaged, married, or divorced, reading this review will join me in reading it too (kudos to those of you that are). Even if you don't want a relationship with the opposite sex, this book can still teach you valuable lessons on how to interact with them.

What do or did you think of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus?
Could you relate to what Dr. Gray discusses about your gender in the first six chapters?
Could you apply any of the principles discussed in your current or future relationship?


Should you Open or Close this book? I plan on keeping this book open to read the remaining 7 1/2 chapters that I have left.

Monday, July 7, 2014

School's Out but I'm still getting My Education


At the end of my last two book reviews, I mentioned that I would be reading My Education, a novel by Susan Choi. However, the reality is that I stopped reading My Education last week, just a few days after I started reading it. Now before you guys start judging me on forsaking a book, hear me out because I deserve my day in bookworm court just like the rest of you!

Quite frankly, I don't find this Susan Choi's novel that easy to read. It is way more intellectual than I expected, (to be honest, I wasn't expecting to read anything intellectual in this novel) which is making it very difficult for me to enjoy. Michael Cunningham, a writer who penned the 1998 novel turned film, Hours, (according to my good friends over at Wikipedia by way of Google) praised Choi's novel stating that:
[Choi] had written lines that could be framed and displayed at a sentence festival.
And boy, he wasn't lying!

I feel like I'm reading a novel written by a social psychologist and the National Spelling Bee Champion. Between her 'experiment in process' writing style and use of what seems like every word in the dictionary that I bypassed because there is an easier one that means the same thing, I have been struggling to get past the first few pages (I'm only on page 14 to be exact). This highlighter maven who prides herself in capturing words of wisdom and life lessons in the books she reads, has now found herself highlighting words she needs to learn the meaning of. Talk about getting "my education" on!

With that said I have put a hold on reading My Education at least for right now; HOWEVER, make no mistake that I will return to this novel and conquer it! And write a worthy review about it of course.

Have you read this novel yet or any other Susan Choi book for that matter? 
What do you think about her books? What's your advice on getting through a difficult book?




Should you Open or Close this book? Based on what I've read so far, I think you should keep it closed. If I have a change of heart after finishing the book, I'll be sure to let you know.
Would I read another book by this author? Nope, but like I said, I'll let you know if I change my mind.
What I'm reading now: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, Ph.D.