February Book Club & Tips For Reading

This was so well received when I brought this up at the end of 2017. We'll start the book at the first of the month, I'll have a quick newsletter check in at the middle of the month, and at the end of the month, we'll have a discussion on our Facebook group. 

This February we'll begin All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Rules

  1. The first rule of book club is you can absolutely talk about book club. Feel free to invite you family, your friends, your friends family, their dog, your neighbor.. whoever. This is open to everyone that loves to read and discuss books. 
  2. Be respectful. I highly encourage discussion even if it doesn't align with what everyone else is saying. 
  3. Have fun. There aren't any strict rules here and only very simple guidelines to follow. I want this to be a place to come and relax, to enjoy, to step back from your real world and enter into some place entirely different. 

Feel free to leave recommendations for future books down in the comments below!

Reading Tips

  • Keep track of your favorite quotes or paragraphs.
  • Write down any questions or comments you have.
  • Read in the bathtub. Set yourself a relaxing bath with bubbles or a bath bomb. Bring in some tea or coffee or a delicious drink. Light candles if you want, bring in your favorite scents, and, most importantly, your book. Completely free from distractions.
  • Go to the library. What better place to read than a library itself? It provides the perfect atmosphere: great lighting, solitude, and quiet. It may even inspire you more to be surrounded by books. 
  • Whether it's any of the above two, find your reading spot. The spot that helps you focus, that is free from noise, that allows you a moment to breathe and soak up the words on the page. This could be anywhere from your bed to your couch to a wooded area with a blanket. 
  • Wear earplugs. If you're easily distracted or in an area with a lot of background noise, these will help tremendously to drown sound out. 
  • Turn your phone off. Seriously. It's so refreshing. I am less likely to worry about it when it's off and put away.
  • Set a timer. Setting aside a specific time to read will give you space to know how long you should be reading for. You can even start out in small increments (15 minutes) and see how you're feeling by the end of the timer. 
  • Try audiobooks. If reading absolutely isn't for you or if you're often in a car, an audiobook might be a better option for you. 
  • Set a goal. Set a goal. 10-15 pages a night. Or 5 pages in the morning, 5 at night. A small amount within a month adds up if you read everyday. 10 pages a day equals 300 within a month. 
  • Use a pointer to keep you focused. Using a bookmark or your finger to follow the words as you go along helps keep your pace and makes sure you aren't reading the same words over and over again. You can follow along at your own pace. 
  • Keep practicing. Reading is a common skill but as with everything: with practice, comes greatness. Not everyone is a natural born reader especially if it's not something you do a lot. Don't be discouraged if you're having a tough time focusing. Take it slow and allow yourself time, patience, and practice.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

When will we have our discussion? The discussion will occur on the last day of the month and everyone is welcome to join in at any time after it starts. 

What if we don't like the book that is chosen? There are a couple options I suggest. 

  • Read it anyway. Books often surprise us and we may find a book we didn't think we would be interested in, turns out to be incredible. Even if you wind up hating it, you'll be an asset in the discussion and may even turn a few heads to look at the book with different eyes. I do hope this book club inspires readers to step out of their usual "book comfort zones" and read a different type of book than they are used.
  • Skip it and come back the next month. Feeling forced into reading a book isn't beneficial to anyone. You are always welcome to skip a month and come back on the first of the following month. 

I have already read the chosen book of the month, what should I do? If you liked it, you are more than welcome to re-read it to refresh your memory and mark down your favorite things. If you don't want to re-read it, you can just come back at the end of the month to join in the discussion!

Can we recommend books? Absolutely! However, I cannot guarantee it will be one of the readings but please don't let that put you off from recommending one. You can recommend a book here.

I'd like to keep track of the books I've read, how can I do that? I recommend signing up for a Goodreads account. You can keep track of the books you've read, the books you want to read, and the book you are currently reading. Once you finish reading the book of the month, you can rate and, if you'd like, review it. These are great tools for the author and other readers. If you make one, my account is here and you're welcome to add me.

How can I keep track of my questions and comments I have from the book? Either write them down in a separate little journal OR (and I'm sure someone out there will find this blasphemous) write in the book. Underline, highlight, write little notes in the borders of the pages, place sticky notes on the pages so you know to go back to them during discussion time. 

I'm very excited for all of us to be here together. In this book club, we are here to encourage other members to keep forth and share our personal experiences with reading. Whether positive or negative.  Everything and everyone is welcome in this space to share words and share stories. We are all busy with full schedules. I'm a mom and now a full-time student so I get it but we can do it. Don't stretch yourself thin but it is important you feel something, a little pull. I am always here if you need encouragement. 

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Shayna Shattelroe

25 years old. Mama to Maddox. Word weaver. Lover of love. Coffee addict. Psychological science student. 

A woman of curious nature, my name is Shayna. I am wild & reserved. Humbled & proud. Quiet & clamorous. Strange & familiar. I live in the trees of New England typing away as lifestyle blogger. You can always find me with a coffee cup in one hand and a book in the other.

Blogging since 2005, I’ve had an innumerable amount of blogs on a vast number of platforms. Finally, I’ve found one to call home: The Lovely Cicada. This blog is a piece of myself I extend to you.

8 Self Care Apps For A Better You

Self Care Apps For A Better You

 Calm

Having a mindfulness practice is something I incorporate into my daily life. Allowing me time to reflect in silence and simply be has made me an all around calmer person. With Calm, I'm able to enhance my mindfulness. They have the most beautiful sleep stories, meditation options, sounds, and music. Simply opening the app is relaxing with their beautiful visuals and soothing sounds. They have sessions for guided meditation, walking meditation, open-ended meditation or even topics such as stress, kindness, forgiveness, and so many others. As you meditate, Calm begins to compile a calendar for you so you can visual how often (or how seldom) you are incorporating meditation and calmness into your days. To keep you motivated, it even gives you the amount of time you've meditated, the amount of sessions you've done, and your longest day streak. For sleep, they have sounds you can play or even sleep stories to listen to. There's a melody called "Milky Way" and the tune is ethereal, otherworldly, and so calming it puts my son out within minutes and makes my eyes heavy as I lay down with him. There are so many amazing options within this app. It's perfect to add a little calm to our busy lives.

Headspace

Headspace, like Calm, is a meditation app. Headspace believes that meditation and mindfulness is a necessary to help relieve stress and anxiety while upping creativity and focus. Even if you've never meditated before, Headspace will guide you through it. If you're busy, they even have mini exercises you can do at any time that last anywhere from 1-3 minutes. If you're looking for something specific, they have sessions for anxiety, productivity, anger, regret, and more. A simple 10-minute meditation is a great beginner to start becoming more mindful and aware of oneself and Headspace allows you to do just that. 

Happify

Happiness relies on games and activities for emotional support and happiness. Each track within the app is science-based to help train your thoughts into positivity and reduce your stress and anxiety. Follow the tracks to help you acquire the skills you need to conquer the negative thoughts. Each track is different ranging from guided meditation to writing exercises. There is also an option to see your "skills" which is composed of five different ones: Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give, and Empathize. As you do the activities, those status bars begin to fill up. They also have a section that tells you "why it works" and the literature even has footnotes to links so you can read or research more. The app is great if you like science-backed apps, games, and positive thinking. It sounds like a lot but the app is user-friendly and extremely innovative for  online, personal mental health support. 

Grateful: Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal will help focus on your appreciation for the things that matter most. It's easy for us to get caught up in the negative moments but it's important to remember the little things, the things that keep our heart beating and our laughter loud and our smile wide. Each journal session begins with a prompt to help guide your thoughts. You can use one of theirs or even create your own prompt. It also allows you to add a photo – maybe you took a photo of your kids that day or were really grateful for an amazing meal or attending an exciting event. When you want to go back and reflect, the app makes it easy by allowing you to view as a timeline or as a page. If you want to turn it into a physical journal, Grateful makes it easy to export as a PDF so you can always be reminded of what made and makes you grateful. 

All Trails

Love hiking? Well, this app helps you locate any and all trails (get it?) and even allows you to choose between length, difficulty, rating, location, and so forth and gives you detailed trail maps.  Not only that but you can favorite different trails to tackle in the future and find which ones are dog and kid friendly. When you find one and are ready to hit the trails, you can turn on your GPS and it'll follow you along the trail making sure you don't get lost. Connect with friends to share and find trail inspiration. Nothing beats the outdoors and this definitely ups the game to make your hikes even more exciting. 

Think Dirty

As you're shopping, scan barcodes of beauty products and Think Dirty will tell you how bad or good the ingredients. With almost 900,000 products, Think Dirty will tell you how good or toxic the ingredients are in the items you use daily. All you have to do is scan the barcodes of your beauty or personal care products and it'll let you know how "dirty" it is on their "dirty meter." It also lists off the ingredients for you so you can judge yourself. If you want, you can even save products for future shopping trips so you have your good and bad list on hand. The app also allows you to track your progress on limiting the bad products and will give you a score on toxic your bathroom shelf is. This app is great to keep you aware of what's going on your body. 

Stigma

1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder. Stigma is a mood journal that is meant to help relieve some of your suffering. It allows you to choose the mood you're currently feeling and then gives you a journal space to describe who/what/why/when/where/etc that may be attributing to how you're feeling. Not only that but as you set your moods, the app begins to generate a calendar for you so you can see how your mood rises and falls throughout time. Mental illness often focuses on the negative days and weeks you may be having but this app can show you the positives as well so you have a visual that the bad can and does pass. It also provides a community for those struggling with mental health and gives you "penpals" to connect to. 

Acorns

Saving and investing money can be a daunting task, but Acorns makes it easy by setting aside your spare change to grow your own personal wealth. Acorns syncs with your cards and rounds up the change from whatever purchases you make. So if you bought a coffee for $4.50, the app will invest $.40. The perk is – it seems so painless you'll never really notice it's gone but it'll all start adding up into a nice little savings in the long term. Don't knock off spare change and start investing it today with Acorns. 

These apps should not replace stepping away from technology and practicing mindfulness in a more "natural" fashion. However, these are great teachers to help us start somewhere and track our mental health. 

Whats your favorite self care app? 

Cure For A Cold Winter's Day

It's no secret that I can be found curled up with a cup of coffee and a good book on a cold winter's day (or any day for that matter, honestly.) While I still enjoy going outdoors and try to make it outside for a short walk everyday in winter, they are often very short walks. I'm still building a better supply of winter gear that makes being outside in New England weather much more bearable. Even my little wanderer has trouble wanting to be out in zero degree weather and who can blame him?

On these days, we have to improvise. It includes lots of our chalk board lessons, books, playing, creating, baking, cleaning, running errands, catching up on old projects, and trying to stay as warm as possible. It's hard not to feel a little cooped up during this time of year when the sun sets so early and it becomes a little tougher to make it outside for hours at a time. Even just a step outside and a quick snowball fight followed by hot chocolate can make all the difference during this time of year.  

Things To Do On A Cold Day

1. Stay inside.
2. Complain about how horribly cold it is. 
3. Play board games with the family. 
4. Make forts (no matter the age!). 
5. Lots of hot cocoa with marshmallows and baking.
6. Put music on and dance. 
7. Cuddle and watch movies.
8. Bundle up and go for a short walk. Winter walks are seriously so calming and peaceful. Just make sure you wear warm clothes & snow boots!
9. Do that DIY project you've been putting off. 
10. Cuddle your animals, your kids, your spouse, your blanket. 
11. Face time your best friend.
12. Make a delicious soup. 
13. Add some light therapy against these dreary winters.
14. Make some tea and coffee and do what I do - curl up with a book.
15. Go to a cafe and enjoy your coffee.
16. Visit a museum. 
17. Make butterbeer (an essential for Harry Potter fans).