I have moved away from writing book reviews in recent years because I’ve come to realize just how subjective they can be. Though I might love a book and totally resonate with it, that may not be the case for someone else. But, every once in a while, I come across a book that I love so much that I want to share my thoughts about it with others. Us, in Pieces by Tasha Cotter and Christopher Green is that kind of book. The characters are brought to life on the page and the writing is so beautiful. About twenty pages in, I was thinking about how much I would love to see their story in film. And when I saw the pages thinning towards the end of the book, I waited an extra day to finish, because I just didn’t want Lilly and Adin’s story to end.
Part of my love for this novel is that I’ve previously been in a rekindled relationship from the past, and I can totally resonate with what the characters go through. But more than that, the novel addresses what happens when we don’t communicate face-to-face. So much of our communication these days is in the form of text messages, e-mails, and social media, and this novel accurately portrays what happens when we try to interpret what someone is trying to say when we don’t have them in front of us to see their facial expressions or hear their tone of voice. So much gets lost, so much miscommunication happens when we are too afraid to face each other and say what it is we think and feel. The novel highlights how far we’ve moved away from being vulnerable in our communications (choosing texts and e-mails over face to face or phone conversations) and the consequences. I love that the novel alternates between the two main characters – Lilly and Adin – and that the reader can see their perspective on what is happening. It gives us a birds-eye view of how our intentions can be misinterpreted with digital communications and wreak havoc in people’s lives. But more than that, the alternating narrative puts up a kind of mirror that exposes the self. In trying to interpret digital communication, all of our own insecurities and preconceptions rise up like an ugly monster and are promptly placed on the person who is not there in front of us to defend themselves. We do this so we don’t have to look at the most vulnerable parts of our self.
Something else that really spoke to me about this novel was how well the authors portrayed what it is like to rekindle a long-lost relationship. We often believe the person, even ten years later, is still the same person that we fell in love with so many years before. That is almost always not the case. And so, we must navigate the loss of the person we thought they were while also figuring out if the person they have become is a person that we can love and share our lives with.
An underlying current in the novel is a shared love of music between Lilly and Adin. The authors put together a playlist which I thought was really cool. You can find the Us, in Pieces playlist here.
A few favorite lines:
“This was my only chance to see what had become of Lilly,
this girl who had become almost like a character from a book that I had once
loved as a child” (p. 33).
“It was even darker now, a heavy low-hanging sky pregnant
with snowfall” (p. 133).
There are so many more lines like these that make you pause and take a deep breath so you can take in their beauty.
I have been working through Effy Wild’s May FB Wilderhood challenge which includes creating my own personal symbol dictionary, but also exploring what symbols mean to me personally. As part of that process, I signed up for Tangie Baxter’s Symbology Project Workshops and have been doing one page a day. I’ve always wanted to learn more about symbology, but always felt too stupid to “get” it and had a lot of trouble trying to keep what all those symbols were supposed to mean in my head.
So, I’m really loving exploring my own personal meaning through the course instead of researching what something means through researching it in someone else’s book or on the internet. I’ve found that these symbols hold very deep personal meaning to me, which I had not been aware of before, and it makes me feel like I “get” it now on a personal level. It feels good to know there is no need right now to research what others think about a symbol in order to get it “right.” The process has added an entirely new layer to my life and my work.
Below is my take on the symbol dictionary Effy created in her class. I LOVE how it turned out. It has my favorite colors and textures and includes a lot of the symbols that show up in my creative work again and again. I’m planning on adding it to the front of my Moonshine art journal soon, but I love looking at it every day on my art desk. For the amazing texture on the folders, I used two of my favorite Sarah Trumpp stencils along with acrylic paint. The folders are made out of torn sheets of watercolor that are stitched together. The cards are made out of watercolor paper that I painted with acrylic on one side and watercolor on the other, and then cut out with decorative scissors. Then I used stamps or hand drew the symbols that show up most often in my work. The total size of the dictionary is 8″ x 8″.
BULLET JOURNAL – Two weeks ago, I was feeling INCREDIBLY stressed out heading into my third revision of the novel I’m working on. I was constantly asking myself where the day had gone, and consistently felt like I had done nothing all day. Time just seemed to get away from me, and I couldn’t figure out why. So, I sat down on a Sunday and spent the entire day refreshing my bullet journal. I had previously had a lot of success tracking habits and to dos in it, but I had allowed someone else’s opinion about it to usurp my own needs and had stopped using it. But, I had reached a critical point where I could choose to continue to wing it every day and let this person’s critical voice silence my own, or I could choose to do what I knew would help me get more organized. I decided what I needed was more important than what they thought.
I created a page with my editing/revising schedule for the novel as well as some tracking pages for other daily projects I was working on. On my daily page, I added circles for each 8oz water I drank, a time tracker, a mood tracker, and a space for a daily tarot/oracle card where I could put a brief description of what resonated with me from the message so I could look for patterns. Then I listed all my to dos. One column for daily items and one column for things that needed to get done but not necessarily that day. I also added a vitamin/medication/food log, and moved my gratitude/proud/preferences list that I’ve been writing out every night for 268 days now. For that list, I write three things I’m grateful for, three things about myself I’m proud of, and three preferences I would like to manifest in my life such as how I would like the next day to go, something I might want for someone else, a physical item I would like to bring into my life, or a resolution to an issue going on in my life (a practice from Mary Shores that I modified slightly).
Because of the changes I’ve made, my life has turned around dramatically in less than two weeks. I know exactly where my time goes now. I have a list of what I’ve accomplished each day. I remember what needs to be done because it’s all right there in front of me instead of whirling around in my head. Restarting the bullet journal is one of the best things I have done for myself this year, and BONUS: it silenced that critical voice of the person who kept telling me tracking everything was stupid and obsessive. BOOM!
MIRACLE MORNING– I used to do the Miracle Morning routine, and it was so beneficial for my mental health and my daily productivity. I would get up somewhere between 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM and fit in ten to fifteen minutes on each of the following: meditation, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and writing. It really filled me up. Well, the person who didn’t care for my bullet journal tracking also didn’t care for my early morning routine, so I had stopped that, too. (Side Note: that person is no longer in my life!)
When I was feeling so stressed out that Sunday, and trying to figure out how to get my life back in order, I remembered that a Facebook friend of mine had been posting in the Miracle Morning group, and it really inspired me to start practicing again. So, I made a plan, got my resources together, and started the next day, and I have been doing it ever since. AND, I absolutely LOVE it!
NOT PULLING THE WEEDS – I usually spend a lot of time planting a small garden in my backyard. I’ve been really busy with the novel, but I’ve also been very frustrated by neighbors allowing their dogs to poop in my garden and tear it up and never clean up after them or even attempt to redirect them away from my garden. There has also been a groundhog each year that sneaks down and eats many of the plants destroying them, so it’s been a real struggle maintaining a garden even though it’s important to me. I’ve often thought there is a message in my experience with this garden and the fact that my boundaries keep being crossed no matter what I try to do to protect them. This year, I just let the garden go. I was tired of doing all that work only to watch it get destroyed. I had plans to pull out what I thought were weeds, and at least keeping the area clear. But, I got distracted with the novel revisions, and have not had the chance to get out to do it, and it’s a good thing I didn’t because it is now filled with beautiful flowers! Somehow, seeds I had planted three years ago, that I had completely forgotten about, just decided to bloom all over the garden. And I love it! It’s so beautiful. I love opening the blinds to my back door and looking at all of them standing tall among the weeds I didn’t pull. They bring me so much joy.
EFFY WILD – Another really good decision I made this year was to join Effy Wild’s Moonshine 2019 course. I loved the class so much, I joined her Effy 365 which includes all of her class offerings this year. I love her authenticity so much. I love that she does not sugarcoat anything. I also love that I can see so much of myself in her, and that makes me feel less alone, less alien, especially since she is so confident in who she is. She gives me hope that one day I will be able to just be me as I am without the constant need to intuit others needs and transform into who they need me to be. The reason I am loving on her so hard this week is because I was having a really bad day the other day, and I found solace and healing in one of her Wilderhood FB videos, and the rest of my day shifted into a wonderful, productive day. I love that I have access to the healing space and energy that she holds so that I can seek solace, and grow, and evolve at the pace I need.
ONE SMALL STEP CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE– As part of my Miracle Morning routine, I started reading this book that I had bought over a year ago and hadn’t had time to read. I love it so much. I am someone who has always believed that I had to make huge life changes all at once in order to see any results. I am also a person who has felt like a failure for most of my life because I’ve been unable to implement those changes long-term. I love the Kaizen Method author Robert Maurer discusses in this book. It is the idea that even teeny tiny steps can add up to big changes. For example, he suggested starting out an exercise routine by just doing something like standing or walking in place for one minute. Then you can add a minute the next week and the next week, and the next week. Doing this helps you bypass your fears and beliefs that keep you from moving forward. Basically, if you do something small enough, it will not trigger your fight or flight response, and eventually your brain will be conditioned that what you are doing is normal and will no longer trigger a fear response. I love this idea so much, I can’t wait to start implementing it into my life.
As the novel writing, revising, and editing has taken my over my life, I’ve had to rethink the way I use my time. One way that used to help me be more efficient was incorporating the Miracle Morning routine and a bullet journal into my daily life. Unfortunately, I stopped using the routine and bullet journal because I allowed someone else’s opinion about using them usurp my own needs. However, something I have been working on lately is listening to my inner voice until I can hear it louder than any of the other voices/opinions vying for attention in my head. This led me back to restarting my Miracle Morning routine and tracking in my bullet journal last week, and it has helped me immeasurably in managing my time and my stress. It’s helped me so much that it’s left me wondering why I ever let someone else’s opinion convince me to stop.
Part of the Miracle Morning routine is “Scribing” (journaling). I decided it would be cool to write all my thoughts for the week on the same page. Each morning, I chose a different colored pen, and wrote over my thoughts from the days before. The first photo is the result. I love looking at it. It’s mesmerizing. I find it fascinating to see a visual representation of my thoughts, but also a visual representation of the chaos that’s been running around in my head.
Then I decided it would be cool to create a piece of art over top of the writing. So, I covered the writing with white acrylic paint and then chose Ady Almanza’s Abstract Dreams technique to create art out of my thoughts (second photo). I loved it so much, I have decided to incorporate this art over journaling process each week.
Below is my new moon spread for Effy Wild’s Moonshine 2019 course. I had a vision of a goddess pregnant with the earth, infusing it with magick. I’m not sure if I exactly captured that here, but I definitely tried my best.
For this spread, I used Daniel Smith watercolors, tombow dual-brush markers, Faber-Castell PITT artist pens, and white and gold acrylic and gel pens. The willow leaves were inspired by Effy Wild’s full moon lesson, and I used a crystal sticker from Sarah Trumpp.
I have a wide range of interests and things that I love, so I thought I would start posting each week about what I’m loving at the moment. (Please note: These do not include affiliate links these are just the things that are bringing joy to my life this week.)
Yo Soy Candle – These are by far my favorite candles. This company is a one-woman-owned, small business, and the candles are made from earth conscious materials. My favorite part besides the luscious scents? You can reuse the jars to store items (even art supplies!) and have encouraging “I AM” statements throughout your home. My favorite right now is the new coffee bean scent and the equally inspiring jar of “I AM” matches. Check out Leslie’sMother’s Day gift sets and her subscription club.
The Aqua Notebook – This is the newest poetry collection from one of my favorite authors, Tasha Cotter. I love the way this collection is structured by specific moments in time, and how the language of each poem denotes the passing of time in subtle but beautiful ways.
Here are a few of my favorite lines so far (shared with permission from the author):
“…she wrote extensively; in her diaries, sorting her soul away; from the experience of living.”
“The past branches off, ends in green; bud – as if that end was what was meant to happen all along.”
“I do my job and get rinsed free; of feeling. The messiness that is in me; still hides underneath. Sitting at my desk; I know something’s missing.”
“We sat there, in silence, sensing; a disaster, both not wanting to admit it; and give the moment that kind of power.”
“And when I tell others I don’t; care, there’s a part of me; that breaks off from the whole; damaged.”
“There is fury to this love, a good madness; in the strong will of a woman.”
A Discovery of Witches – the book and the show – I binge-watched the new show on Sundance Now and loved it. The book had been on my reading list for quite some time, and I loved the show so much, I decided to buy it. I’m about 100 pages in, and I love the book as much as I love the show. The descriptions are incredible, and I really like to have the images of the characters and place in my mind as I read.
Sketchbook Revival – I took part in this last year, and it was incredible. I learned that a creative practice can be made up of just about anything, and that it didn’t have to result in a pristine, finished product. I love learning all the different ways to bring more creativity into my life through these sessions. Though I’ve been very busy with novel revisions, I’ve been dipping into the sessions to free up my mind and bring some joy into my day. Sketchbook Revival is the creative genius of artist Karen Abend and is free and still going on for the next few days. You can sign up here.
I hope you liked these suggestions. I’m looking forward to sharing more things that I love with you each week.
And now for a novel update. Right now, I’m working through a third revision of the novel, and my goal is to have it completed by the end of next week. Then, I will be sending it off to the beta readers. Yikes!