My Reading List: August 11-15

Remember how she just seamlessly stepped in to tell Miranda what was going on? This is The Skimm. Photo Credit: The Devil Wears Prada
Remember how Andy just seamlessly stepped in to tell Miranda what was going on? This is The Skimm. Photo Credit: The Devil Wears Prada

1) Starting a new job in a new issue area (healthcare), I have been reading a lot lately to catch up to speed. No, I’m not going to post any articles on meaningful use or ICD-10; however, having to digest a lot of really wonky stuff in a short period of time leaves little room in my mental hard drive for reading anything else, like why the U.S. decided to introduce itself to the new non-state actor on the block in Iraq or why the FAA put a no-fly zone over middle-of-Flyover Country Ferguson, Missouri. For people who just want to know what is making headlines but don’t have time for big words or the helpless realization that journalistic integrity is taking a backseat to ideological houses made of ticky-tacky, you need to sign up for an e-mail subscription with The Skimm. Picture a rom-com movie scene with a quirky, relatable, and totally loveable assistant who has big dreams, yet her/his immediate task is to follow her/his power-suited boss around with a clipboard, prattling off messages and meetings and tasks for the day and the boss has this seamless look of control on his/her face even though s/he is only half-listening to the assistant and half-juggling all the confidence of being in-the-know. That’s The Skimm. They read the headlines so you can at least have the benefit of truthfully saying, “Yeah, I read about that today/saw that in the Post/heard that was going on,” when you’re in line for coffee or any other awkward encounters your day may bring, and they tell you about it in a carefully crafted conversational pattern that fits in well with our overloaded mental circuits. Recently, I unsubscribed my Yahoo email address from The Skimm, reserved for the bottom-dwellers of spam email campaigns who ignore your numerous ‘unsubscribe’ requests, and updated it to my Gmail account, reserved only for personal/professional contacts and really important subscriptions. Our relationship has taken a big step forward, but I think we can handle it.

"Besides which you see, I have confidence in me!" Photo Credit: The Sound of Music
“Besides which you see, I have confidence in me!” Photo Credit: The Sound of Music

2) I’m considering going to the beach some weekend soon, now that I have a car and can make the 3-hour drive to Bethany Beach, Delaware anytime I want, but I also realized that my Kindle is seriously lacking in delicious reads. I typically keep an Amazon Wish List of books that I want to download at some point and, while browsing it last night, I came across a book that I listed months earlier but hadn’t downloaded yet: The Confidence Code by BBC World News anchor Katty Kay and Good Morning America’s Claire Shipman (Claire Shipman even favorited a tweet I wrote about it, how cool is that?) Now, while some might not consider this book to meet the standards of an indulging, guilty pleasure beach read, the personal relatability of the subject matter makes it a fast and thought-provoking read. I figured, too, there is no better time than when I am starting a new, big job back in Washington, DC to read up on this area that I admittedly struggle with in every facet of my life. Already on my way in to work this morning, I got some delicious food for thought: “Perhaps, most striking of all, we found that success correlates more closely with confidence than it does with competence. Yes, there is evidence that confidence is more important than ability when it comes to getting ahead.” But, not so fast– two lines up, they point out rather poignantly that there is a difference between confidence and bravado. My guess? The ability to think before you act.

3) Back in the day, I declared loudly and proudly on a number of occasions that “my 20’s were my decade to do what I wanted to do” because I knew that adulthood was waiting for me right around the corner and that I’d be more than likely to embrace it with open arms than greet it terrified and unprepared. Well, I stayed true to that declaration: I earned both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I traveled alone to a China to teach English for a summer, moved to Washington, DC where I had a wealth of experiences working for two U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill, and generally just enjoyed doing stupid things like staying up until 4AM to drink cheap wine and watch campy horror movies with my roommates, inhale just enough fast food for my metabolism to keep up, and buy the damn shoes to cheer myself up on an overcast Tuesday. There are a lot of things yet that I want to accomplish, like volunteer in the Amazon rainforest, go sky-diving, and crap or get off the pot about law school or a second Master’s degree already, but this article from BuzzFeed has really made me think about other things I need to accomplish before I become a parent (besides finding the guy, of course, and dude, where the heck are you anyways?) Instead of thinking in terms of everything I want to do for myself, what do I need to do to prepare for the responsibility of caring for a tiny human? As impatient as I am getting about all of it, sometimes it becomes blatantly clear to me when providence and timing are staring at me from across the room and telling me to take a deep breath because God put them in charge of my life. P.S. Thanks for #14. The idea of Harvey Spector being a parent would actually superc

This has to be one of my favorite goofy photos of Robin Williams.
This has to be one of my favorite goofy photos of Robin Williams. Photo Credit: The Huffington Post

4) Monday evening, I was just lacing up for a run when I got the news alert of the summer that Robin Williams was dead at 63. Generally speaking, celebrity deaths don’t affect me too much. The news absorbs with every press clip I come across that talks about it, and I hit various levels of realization that life is short, s/he was too young, what will the world be like without him/her? When I got this news, however, I actually cried. It physically hurt. Growing up, Robin Williams, through his movies, was sort of my ideal of a dad– not that I had a terrible one or anything, quite the contrary! My parents divorced when I was only 7, so my childhood of ballet recitals and horseplay and being his little girl ended before it even started, and it was replaced with weekend visits and splitting holidays between him and my mom and being sad every time I had to say good-bye. I loved it when my dad was silly and played games with us, but now that could only happen “during visiting hours.” So, Mrs. Doubtfire” resonated with me because I know the emotion of being a divorce kid and feeling guilty for “choosing sides” when you couldn’t live with both parents or for thinking your new stepparents were actually kind of cool, and hoping against hope that your parents could somehow still live under the same roof because that’s logic and “we’re a family” and you’re a kid who doesn’t know what they know about love. My dad actually took us to see “Hook” in the theatres on one of those visits, and watching Peter Banning transform from a no-funny-business, misprioritized lawyer back into Peter Pan and wanting to grow up so he could be a father, how could I not appreciate that? Watching “Jumanji” sparked my imagination as I spent my childhood reading books and writing stories and transforming games into reality. Every time I saw “Aladdin,” I was giddy when I heard his motorized improvisations and I just remember feeling so grateful that there were adult actors in this world who didn’t mind and even enjoyed being silly so kids could feel safe with their own imaginations and silliness. Just this past weekend, needing something familiar and light to watch as I unpacked in my still-strange new home, I watched “Jumanji” and “Hook” on Netflix, blithely unaware that this comedian who I grew up with was about to leave us all only the next day. Even in his more serious roles, like “What Dreams May Come” and the strangely empathetic “One Hour Photo,” I was so grateful that it was Robin Williams playing those roles because of his sheer honesty. Everyone who loved him as an actor and comedian is mourning his passing in their own way, but reading and educating myself about depression and trying to understand it has been my way of finding closure. And, for the first time ever, I feel compassion and understanding that people who find themselves at this point are led here by something sinister that has followed them everywhere they go. I don’t understand this enough to write anymore about it except to say that everything I once thought I knew about depression and suicide, I’m fully reconsidering. For now, I’ll take the advice of his family and remember all the laughs I shared with millions and such brilliant moments as this (of his many). Rest in peace, Alan Parrish/Peter Banning/Mork/Genie/Eufegenia Doubtfire.

5) Between training for the Chicago Marathon, packing and moving, and adding walking and stair-climbing and sprints to catch the Metro every morning, I’ve put my body through a lot this summer. It’s probably no wonder I haven’t been able to run lately– I’ve likely lifted way too many boxes and took way too many road trips to keep my body in proper alignment to train well. But I’m not giving up on the marathon yet. Instead, I am praying to God that all that heavy lifting has made me stronger, all the walking is keeping my runner’s muscles intact, and all the swimming I have started doing lately means my fitness levels are where they need to be to hopefully pick up running again next week. So, when I came across this article  about how to use the pool as a tool to train as a runner, I felt like I was on the right track. Somehow, slicing through the water feels much more peaceful than pounding on the pavement, and it makes me feel like I am doing SOMETHING. I just hope that swimming is enough to keep me in the game…

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