Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

I catalog the books I read on Instagram. A picture, a note, and a number. For this particular book I wrote, “…[it] is such an important, timely book. Goodness, if you’re tired of seeing political discussions via memes on the Internet, this book is for you. And, if you’re making, posting, sharing, or even liking those memes (guilty right here!), this book is for you, too.”

In general, this book makes the case for being a better human being and gives concrete steps on how to do just that.

It’s a call to trust ourselves and others and to behave in a trustworthy manner.

It’s a call to stop bullshitting. (Thank you Internet. Again, guilty right here!) And, to call out bullshit.

It’s a call to connect with people on a human level.

It’s a call to stay vulnerable while maintaining the strength to endure the conflicts and criticisms that doing the above 3 things will cause.

I’m paraphrasing, of course. Brown says it simply:

People are hard to hate close up. Move in.

Speak truth to BS. Be civil.

Hold hands. With strangers.

Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

Honestly, this book got my mind racing and thinking about all sorts of experiences I’ve had. I wrote down a lot of quotes in my trusty notebook. For now, I’ll share this:

[Harry] Frankfurt explains how the widespread conviction that many of us share about needing to comment or weigh in on every single issue around the globe leads to increased levels of BS.

I think the Internet and self-publishing via social media and blogs have contributed to this. If you’re on any form of social media, you immediately have a megaphone. And, social media isn’t fun unless you’re posting something, anything, and garnering clicks, likes, and shares. There’s also a vast array of quick “articles” that have the sole purpose of getting picked up by Google searches, yet offer superficial information. (I could go on about this, but I’m still researching and thinking.)

I’ll say it a third time, I’m guilty! Here I am writing this on a blog! I’m a fan of memoirs and personal essays. I try to write them, but when I’m guilty of bullshitting, I twist my personal experience into “how-to” pieces that maybe, pretty please will rack up some traffic. But, that’s bullshitting. Why not just write my experience as a personal essay? It just may be more persuasive.

And, that’s all to say, go read this book.


Gurus vs. Role Models

Perfect weather on the lake.

I freely admit that I’m familiar with the self-help genre. I also am pulled toward gurus, especially in the marketing/branding industry. A guru (per one definition in my go-to dictionary) is “a person with knowledge or expertise: expert.” You know who I’m talking about. That personality doing TED talks. They have a large following on social media. They always have some tidbit of information that is so attractive and helpful. “Start here…” “You can’t do this unless…” “Remove the obstacles and then…” It’s all very, very smart. And, very, very inspirational. They know what they’re talking about. Wisdom oozes from their pores.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris

It wasn’t until I started reading David Sedaris’s Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002), that I remembered just how much I enjoy his writing and perspective. I love that he writes mostly personal essays and some funny short stories. He is probably the author that ignited my interest in memoirs. And, it wasn’t until I was reading Sedaris’s latest book, that I realized he is a great source of inspiration for me. I don’t read his work because it’s full of truisms about “the craft of writing.” I read it because it’s interesting and well-written. For this, Sedaris is somewhat of a role model. A role model is “a person whose behavior [skill, talent?] in a particular role is imitated by others.

I spend an embarrassing amount of time thumbing through Facebook and Instagram. I have followed multiple blogs regularly (before bloggers just focused on Facebook and Instagram). There are a lot of people out there defining themselves as gurus. (I’m guilty of posting aspiring guru-esque content.) It’s so tempting to write and post because it seems to be what gets liked and clicked and shared—social media currency. Maybe because I’m already tuned into self-help and marketing/branding gurus, my feeds are just a reflection. But, I also see people who are successful bloggers or have a large social media following take time away from their normal subjects and post something like “how to get more followers” or “3 ideas for creating an editorial calendar” or even, “here’s how I really do this—my life isn’t as glamorous as you think.” I get it, because I click through and, like I said, I, too, have written similar pieces. But, goodness, I’m yearning for something different.

The guru and the role model. They’re very similar. A role model could be a guru and a guru could be a role model, but that’s not necessarily the case. I want to follow fewer gurus and more role models. I want to know people who are just doing really cool things and creating really beautiful art and are really good citizens of this universe. I don’t want to know how they do what they do in 5 steps. I want them to just be role models. I want to imitate. I’ll figure out the particulars on my own.

My Pineapple Obsession Continues, Still

I mean, at this point, I’m not even trying to find pineapples. They’re coming to me. Seriously.

First, this costume:

Pineapple Halloween Costume

I don’t know if this means pineapples have finally reached superstar status, or if they’ve jumped the shark. For $20, I was tempted, but then, this is a one-size-fits-most…children. I am most definitely not child-size. My head wouldn’t fit into that pineapple crown. Plus, I already own a banana costume. Heads might turn and rumors roll if I start dressing up as other fruits. (ONLY ON HALLOWEEN, people.)

Then, Real Simple came through for me, again!

Pineapple Jack-o’-Lantern. Pineapple-o’-Lantern? Pine-o’-Lantern?

I can NOT wait to #IRL (@WomenIRL) this. That is, I can’t wait to make this myself. (IRL=in real life.) I have a hunch, just a little one, that it isn’t going to turn out as spectacular as the picture in the magazine (it never does, right?). The pineapple Jack-o’-Lantern is just so intriguing, I had to Google Dawn Perry. She’s the food director at Real Simple. I was kind of hoping she was a freelance writer cooped up in the Midwest and I could slowly befriend her, starting with following her on Instagram. Because, dreaming up kooky shit like a carved pineapple and writing about it for a national magazine is kind of my dream. Does such a reality exist for the freelancer?

I wonder what other pineapples the Universe is going to send my way. Stay tuned.

Cat Litter Pineapples

That title doesn’t seem to make sense. Cat litter pineapples. Pineapples in the cat litter? Cat litter made of pineapples? I know. My pineapple obsession has finally led me to cat litter. Fresh Step cat litter, to be exact.

I was flipping through the latest issue of Real Simple magazine, when I happened upon this:

Fresh Step, now with the Power of Febreeze Hawaiian Aloha scent!

Oh, just your average cat litter ad, right? WRONG! Do you see it? And, I’m not talking about the 3 kitty cats the art director “hid” in the ad. I’m talking about that BEAUTIFUL modern pineapple with the golden crown on the left!

I bet one of those cats is going to knock over that pineapple out of spite. Because, cats are like that.

Gasp! What a beauty! And, I have to say, the plants are pretty impressive, too. (I’m a self-proclaimed indoor leaf-peeper, remember).

On a non-pineapple-related note, I bet creating cat litter–any cat product, really–ads are akin to beer and condom ads. When I was in ad school, beer and condoms were strictly off limits. Not because we were prudes, but because supposedly coming up with cool, clever ads for these categories was too easy. Ditto for cats, right? I mean, throw in a cat pun and you’re done. I’m not kitten!

Pineapple Obsession in the Kitchen: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

My pineapple obsession isn’t just about motifs. It has moved into the kitchen. Specifically baking, which I love anyway. On Labor Day Weekend, I had the opportunity to bake for a family gathering. I tried my hand at pineapple upside-down cake.

I went to my trusty Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, printed in 1973 (copyright 1969!). Sure, I Googled around for a recipe first, but c’mon,  pineapple upside-down cake is a classic, right? It just seemed right to consult the Ms. Crocker.


Pineapple Upside Down Cake_04
Betty Crocker’s Cookbook

It was an easy cake to make. There weren’t any complicated steps. The best part was arranging the pineapple slices and maraschino cherries. I’m glad I cut them in half. It created more opportunities for a pattern and extra cherries.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake_02
Golden brown downside-up.

Turning the cake upside down wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. I let it sit upside down for the required “few minutes.” Still, my center pineapple and a couple of the surrounding pineapples stuck to the pan. But, using a fork and a butter knife, I easily placed the pineapple pieces where they belonged and and used the butter knife to scoop some of the lingering brown sugar-butter goodness to patch up the top.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake_03
Gooey-sweet fruity fun.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure how I’d like this cake. Chocolate is king in my book. I was pleasantly surprised. The pineapple-maraschino cherry combo was bright and fruity. The cake was moist* probably because of all the butter and juice on top. The cake was rather small. It was just a single 9″ layer. Really, the perfect size. I don’t think leftovers would have held up for a day or two.

I liked this cake so much that I’m dreaming of what else I could upside-down. Peach upside-down cake? Apple upside-down cake? Hmmmm…and mmmmmmm…


*The only acceptable use of the word “moist” is to describe a cake.