So you want to start a book club?

It has been a hot minute since my last blog post (341 days to be exact). Life has been pretty heavy lately so I’ve decided to ‘choose joy’ & focus some of my energy on writing again.

One of my biggest hobbies (especially in 2020) is curling up with a new book & getting lost in a story. Since 2014, I’ve been a part of a book club and it has honestly been one of my life’s greatest treasures. I’ve cultivated tremendous friendships, read books I would have otherwise never considered, & supported every local eatery along the way πŸ™‚

If you’ve ever been slightly curious about how to go about starting your own book club, here are my best tips!

#1: Establish a virtual space

Yes, I know you are probably already in 101 other Facebook groups right now, but listen: your book club needs a Facebook group. When my friend Nicole started our book club in January 2014, she created a small little Facebook group and invited a few of her closest friends & co-workers. Establishing a virtual space to keep all things book club related is a smart idea. We use our group to choose the next book, discuss location/date of our meetings, and plan other fun book club events (*see my bonus tip below*). Creating a FB group also allows you to easily invite new members to check out your book club.

#2: Book Choice

I’ve read a lot about different book club set ups & they can all vary quite a bit. Some book clubs choose a ‘theme’ for the year or have a predetermined list of books that they will read. I love my book club because I’ve never once felt that we were stuck in a certain genre. Our philosophy has always been that the host chooses 3 or 4 books and the group votes on which one they’d like to read. On rare occasions the host has just picked the book outright, but our preferred method of choice is to vote!

#3: Time & Location

Once you’ve established the book choice, think about picking a date/time + location for your meeting. We prefer to put up a poll in our Facebook group to find the best time for everyone (or at least the majority).

When it comes to location, spice it up! I highly recommend switching up book club venues often.

  • Dine at a local restaurant
  • Cozy up in the host’s living room
  • Meet at a quaint coffee shop
  • Find an open spot at a park & have a picnic (bonus points if food trucks are involved)

#4: Discussion Points

Despite popular belief, our book club actually discusses the book. I know, crazy right?! Yes, we do love a good bottle of wine and pitchers of blood orange mimosas, but we also enjoy sharing our thoughts & opinions with one another. When it comes to discussion points, here are a few things to try:

  • A lot of books these days have discussion questions either included in the back of the book or guides that are easily accessible online
  • Have members come up with one question they’d like to ask the group–put it on a sticky note, toss it in a bag, and pull out questions at random.
  • Do you picture your book becoming a full length feature film? Write down which actor/actress you’d want to play each of the main characters. Have the host save the lists & maybe years down the road you’ll have predicted the cast!
  • Share connections you made with the book: either personal or with other texts.
  • How did the book rate? We always share a 1-5 rating at the end.

#5: Just keep going

Your biggest challenge will likely be how to keep your book club going. It’s easy for people to get busy & caught up in the daily grind. If you can establish the next host at the end of each meeting, it will go a long way! We have a core group of 5 or 6 of us who rotate turns hosting: any new members who join us get the chance to host next (if they want).

Within a few days after your meeting, have the next host pick (or vote on) the next book & throw out a general timeline of the next meet-up. If you can get into this habit, it will help you to keep the momentum going!

*Bonus Tips*

The five tips that I’ve included above are a great place to start if you are wanting to begin your own book club. If you happen to already be a book club member, here are some additional ideas for taking your group to a whole new level πŸ™‚

  • Plan a movie date together — It seems like every other movie being released is based on a popular novel. If you’ve read it in book club, go see the movie! One of the first books we ever read was Gone Girl, so it was extra special to watch that madness go down on the big screen together.
  • Don’t be afraid to try personal development — While most of our selections have been fiction, we’ve also dived into the world of personal development together. I’m a super big fan of this genre & it was extra special to read a book like Girl, Wash Your Face with some of my favorite ladies. I even hosted a Made for More movie night at my house complete with personalized notebooks, pens, & White Claws for all πŸ™‚
  • Reach out to the author, you never know what they can offer you — A few years back we read an amazing book called Maude. The host got in touch with the author and she actually called us during our meeting & did her own little book talk with us. That was probably one of my favorite book club moments by far!
  • Local library author talks — On a similar note, we’ve found authors who have scheduled visits to local libraries and chosen our selection based on the opportunity to meet them. In 2014 we read Finding Amy by Kate Flora and participated in her book talk (complete with a group photo at the end).
  • And sometimes you might have a friend with a celebrity connection….. — My friend Nicole, who started our book club, is the niece of Patrick Dempsey. At our very first book club meeting , we read The Art of Racing in the Rain and got to talk to “Uncle Pat” about the Hollywood side of making a book into a movie. Yeah, she set the bar REAL high for the rest of our meetings πŸ™‚
  • Get on Goodreads — If you don’t already have the Goodreads app, go download it STAT! Most of us use it to keep track of books we want to read, our progress on current books, and it’s a great way to keep tabs on who is reading the book club pick.

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A hard reset.

A teacher’s summer vacation is untouchable: a necessity that only those who teach truly understand. During the winter, I made a promise to myself that I would take this summer off. It wasn’t an easy decision, being the people pleaser that I am, but I was thankful to get 100% support for my decision. Coming off my most trying school year yet, if I didn’t have the opportunity to start taking care of myself, I was fully prepared to not come back to my job in the fall.

Prior to the start of 2019, I set my intentions and worked really hard to focus on my mental and physical health. For the first three months of the new year, I was proud of the habits I had created. Nevertheless, the last three months of the school year derailed my feelings of success and I felt like I was back at square one. It was super defeating and once those thoughts of failure creep into your head, it’s hard to push them out.

As I began my first true summer off just a few weeks ago, I delved head first back into a few key habits that I had lost touch with. Today I will share a few daily habits and overarching thoughts that I’ve been intentional about recently. Perhaps something will resonate with you. Perhaps nothing will. Nonetheless, thanks for reading up to this point.

Have a plan.

Cringy, right? Danielle, it’s summer vacation, why do you need a plan? Girlfriend, just RELAX!

The truth is: I’m lost without a plan or some level of organization in my life. During the school year, everything is regimented. When I have a plan going into the day, I am at my best.

I began using my 30-day Push Journal again and truly believe it is one of the best ways to start my day. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go back and read on of my first blog posts and purchase your own here. Essentially, I write down three tasks that I want to achieve that day. Anything else I get done is bonus! I’ve also found that time blocking has been huge for me. When I set aside dedicated time each day to work towards a specific goal or task (i.e. grad class, blogging, fitness, etc), I can get so much more accomplished.

I think the biggest mistake we make when taking a ‘vacation’ is throwing aside all our normal habits. Some level of planning [at least for me] keeps me sane and feeling on track.

Move your dang body.

I’ve always had a hard time openly talking about my exercise habits with people. I don’t do it to lose weight, but after the year I’ve had I’ve realized that movement is the only way I can generate energy.

I was SO exhausted every. single. day. My mind would run a mile a minute during the school day and wouldn’t shut off at night. I physically felt weak and lame. I’ve had huge gut health issues [likely attributed somewhat to anxiety of the job] that have only added additional worry to my already full plate.

Brendan Burchard [one of my favorite personal development gurus] says, “the power plant does not have the energy, it generates it.” This is SO true. No wonder I was in such a ragged mental and physical state, I couldn’t take care of my body or mind. Energy wasn’t going to magical appear at my doorstep each morning. Deep down, I know that part of my fatigue was working at job that I didn’t enjoy anymore.

My promise to myself this summer was to find a way to move my body every single day. I once ran a half marathon [I don’t consider myself a runner at all]. That has been one of my single greatest accomplishments and a reminder to myself that I can go from NOTHING to something big in a short amount of time. This summer I’ve picked up running again and have fell in love with the Peloton app. I feel most alive when I’ve completed my morning workout. The secret is to get it out of the way early in the day, it truly sets the tone for how your day will go.

So if you aren’t moving your body, just do it. It won’t be fun all the time, but it is the cheapest therapy that exists.

Learn something new everyday.

While I’m technically not working at my school this summer [I’m still doing some private tutoring on the side], my desire to learn is always present. I’ve found so much enjoyment and satisfaction in doing lots of reading and podcast listening this summer. I even read a book the other day about the importance of starting your 401(k)….I know, exhilarating πŸ™‚ Regardless of what I’m reading or listening to, I take a few minutes each night to reflect on what new things I’ve learned and find it even more helpful if I can talk with someone, like my husband, about it.

What is my ONE thing?

So this isn’t really a habit, but it’s something that has been on my mind and heart a lot lately. I’ve always been notorious for working myself to the ground. A self-proclaimed workaholic and YES [wo]man. I’ve juggled a lot in the last decade: professional teaching career, part-time Ph.D student, small business owner, tennis instructor. I could go on. The point is, I’ve come to learn that I can’t maintain a high level with every little thing I do. I put on a good show for people, but it’s tough living up to other people’s expectations [along with your own].

Last week I read Gary Keller’s book The ONE Thing. For those who haven’t read it, he basically poses the question: what is your one thing? What is the most important thing in your career, business, life, etc? Keller convinces his readers to ‘go-all-in’ on your ONE thing and realign your priorities based on it.

Teaching is for sure my ONE thing. And it takes on many forms for me. Whether it be working with my middle schoolers, graduate students, or helping women to feel more confident by teaching them easy beauty tips, I know that teaching is what I’m meant to do. With that being said, I’m aggressively becoming more open to my ONE thing looking different for me within the next few years. There are many ways I can use my teaching talents to build up and to empower others. I guess I will leave it at, this journey is ‘to be continued’…..

Life is too short to spend it at war with yourself.

The Ripple: My year of dissociation, shame, & hypervigilance.

Perhaps you are searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots.

Sometimes, it is difficult to remember Before.

When you are confronted with the unexpected, it is hard to predict the end result. More importantly, you must consider that some things will never be tied together in a pretty bow; reassembled and fit to put back on the shelf.

I felt much less anxiety Before.

I knew my self worth Before.

I thought I was the perfect judge of character Before.

I never felt so lost After.

Some of you are familiar with my story. It is inaccurate to say that it is ‘my story’, for I am merely one piece of the narration.

But, it is accurate to say that it remains the single most impactful event in my life. And as I reflect back on that phone call with the detective, exactly one year ago today, I thought I’d have it all tied up in a little bow by now. I was a confident person who knew my worth. I could overcome this. No one was going to make me feel inferior.

365 days ago, I wouldn’t have predicted the silent suffering that would still be occurring 365 days later.

Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance takes the form of mental discomfort: when the beliefs you’ve held in your mind run parallel to contradictory information, tension occurs. We’ve all experienced moments of dissonance. For example, if you’ve grown to idolize someone in mainstream media and suddenly learn of a terrible act that they’ve committed, you are likely to feel uncomfortable. Better yet, you may begin to speak to yourself a series of comforting lies. I just can’t believe it. They would never do something like that!

We compartmentalize in hopes of avoiding the impending cognitive discomfort.

When I first received the news that a co-worker and friend had taken videos of me in my classroom, positioning his cellphone between my legs, beneath my dress, I experienced immediate dissonance. What I was being told that had occurred was in total misalignment with my memory bank. How could it be true? It couldn’t be.

Why didn’t I see it coming?

And that is when shame takes over.

Shame

I am a victim. I will carry no blame.

I repeated those words over and over again.

It won’t come as a surprise that my thoughts kept coming back to my outfit that day. Sitting alone, in a sterile interview room at the local PD, being shown cropped still images of my upper half, I couldn’t help but begin the self shaming. In my head, of course, because those aren’t thoughts you say aloud to a stranger.

Those who stepped up to comfort me during the aftermath all had the same message–you are not to blame for this, don’t even think for a moment that you are at fault.

Was wearing a dress to work ‘asking for it’? Of course not. Unfortunately though, I know there were people who read this story in the news and dismissed its severity. Some people reading this are likely to have their own thoughts–their own judgements about me as well.

People find it hard to sympathize with someone who has been called ‘skinny’ all their life. I hesitated to even write that sentence because I can see the eye rolls now. But, those who truly know me know that I’ve always hated that label. For someone to address me first by my outward appearance has forever made me uncomfortable. Despite my noticeable discomfort, it hasn’t yet deterred people. The simple fact that I’m a tall girl with a thin build would be enough to justify, in some people’s minds, that I was predisposed. And if we’d like to take this one step further, there are some people out there who would suggest I take it as a compliment.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that has conditioned the masses to believe that women are just ‘asking for it’ and that ‘boys will be boys.’ That sentiment is too often used to normalize men being aggressive, predatory, and sexist. Women are routinely told that they need to just accept this as factβ€”once again, pedaling the subversive agenda of our current society. We need look no further than to the President of the United States.

I wish I could write this post and tell you that shame has not been my burden to carry, but indeed it has lived as a tiny, pestering voice in my head for the last 365 days.

Hypervigilance

I was not prepared to cope with hyper-arousal.

Days and weeks following the revelation, I was experiencing night terrors. I would wake up in the middle of the night to soaked sheets. I’ve had recurring nightmares, as recent as last week.

Symptoms of anxiety kicked into high gear. In the midst of an already challenging year at my job, it was sometimes just too much. But again, I chose, in part, to suffer in silence: so as not to drag anyone down into my metaphorical trench. I’d lock myself in the staff bathroom for minutes at a time, trying to compose myself. I came to work everyday, because in our society, that is the expectation. Mental health stigma is a real.

You know that instant panic you’ve felt, for example, when you’ve left the house and thought you had left the stove on? Or maybe you’ve slammed your brakes suddenly for an unexpected pedestrian? Your heart starts palpating and your underarms start to sweat?

I get this exact feeling every time I see someone who looks like Him.

It happens all the time at the gym. Sometimes at the grocery store. Once in a while I do a double take when I visit with other schools. It is a symptom of my trauma that will likely never go away, but will hopefully become more manageable.  

Hope

What once were some of my fondest moments in my teaching career are now muddied.

I examine more closely people’s intentions.

Trust does not come easily.

When I pictured writing this composition a year ago, I had a different vision, a different hope for myself. I had hoped to free myself from the feelings of betrayal and shame. I had wished for clarity.

I’ve taken measures to ensure some self care this year. I know that I need to be better and I know that I will get better. I don’t subscribe to the saying, ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I think that is a comforting lie that I could tell myself.

What I do know is that I have a lot of amazing things going for me in my life. I am forever grateful to my family and friends who have lent to me their shoulders and their ears.

I have the potential to empower those around me by not silencing my narrative.

I will continue to heal and I will continue to share my story, because it is not just for me. I am not unique. There is a collective message waiting to be told by so many other, brave, beautiful souls.

With all my love,

Danielle xoxo