“Ten Years of No Progress is No Progress.”

It’s that time again. I’ve been catching up on my “reading” with audiobooks during my mega-commute. Here are some of the books I’ve been listening to:

(To read my other audiobook reviews, click here and here and here.)

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the DomeI bought this physical book a LONG time ago and was planning on reading it in all the free time I had to read books for pleasure after graduating college. I barely got into it before I decided it was a little too graphic for me. Fast forward to around Christmas when my mom was telling me about the TV version of the book that had just been made into a show. She loved the TV show, so I had to re-try the book. This is also the first Stephen King novel I’ve read. Yep. I’ve read his nonfiction book On Writing (which I absolutely recommend), but never a fiction piece by him. Anyway, this one is about a small town that has big problems. No one realizes it, though, until they all get stuck under a giant seemingly magical dome that traps them in and everyone else out. The town splits into factions–some standing behind the good-guy Dale Barbara, others choosing to follow the corrupt Big Jim Rennie. From there, the two groups battle it out on their own as the federal government tries to figure out how to get rid of the dome.

This is a long one, but it kept my attention the whole 30-something hours. I definitely recommend it. The narration was good for this one, too, if you choose to go the audiobook route.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean InWhen this one first came out, I remember listening to reports about it on NPR. There was some controversy surrounding this book, and I remember sitting at a red light listening to another woman talk about how Sandberg was all wrong. And then I read it. And I love it. I can see why it made some people mad, as Sandberg talks about how women can succeed in today’s workplace. Her solution includes working WITHIN the classic gender role system to move yourself up instead of bucking the trends. So, yes, I see why people can be mad that she recommends women ask for raises differently than men. But, in my mind, she’s just trying to tell us how to get what we want instead of waiting another 50+ years for equal pay and treatment in the workplace.

Some of my favorite elements of this book include the results of an interesting study about Heidi/Howard syndrome:

“In 2003, Harvard Business School ran an experiment to test perceptions of men and women in the workplace. They chose the case study of Heidi Roizen, a real-life entrepreneur. The case described how Heidi was successful thanks to her outgoing personality and networking abilities. The same story was read by 2 groups of students with one difference: one group was working on Heidi, for the other, her name was changed to Howard. When asked for their thoughts, both groups found Heidi and Howard equally competent, which made sense, their accomplishments were identical. Nevertheless Howard came across as the more appealing colleague, whilst Heidi was seen as ‘selfish’ and ‘not the person you would like to work for.’ The same data with a single difference – gender – created very different impressions.”

Also this:

“We’ve ceased making progress at the top in any industry anywhere in the world … In the United States, women have had 14% of the top corporate jobs and 17% of the board seats for 10 years. Ten years of no progress. In those same 10 years, women are getting more and more of the graduate degrees, more and more of the undergraduate degrees, and it’s translating into more women in entry-level jobs, even more women in lower-level management. But there’s absolutely been no progress at the top. You can’t explain away 10 years. Ten years of no progress is no progress.”

So let’s go and get in our favorite position, ladies: CEO.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainThis book kept showing up at the top of the Audible charts. I’ve trusted Audible before and loved some of their recommendations and have been burned on others (like when I tried to listen to All the Light We Cannot See–I really wanted to like that one… But The Martian was phenomenal). This is the story of a seemingly pitiful woman, Rachel, whose life has mostly fallen apart. She’s divorced, an alcoholic, jobless, and all-around in a sad state of affairs. She takes the daily train from where she rents a room to where her job used to be so her roommate/landlord doesn’t know she’s jobless. The train stops at the same spot in the middle of her trip almost every day where she sees a happy couple often sitting on their patio drinking coffee or wine, talking, and enjoying life. She makes up an imaginary life for them, which comes crashing down when she witnesses something that changes everything.

Our narrator, an unreliable source of information at best, gets involved in the scenario. Her obsession is cringe-worthy, but the more you read the more she becomes integral to the story. It’s a thriller you’ve got to read/listen to. Sure, it’s not mega literature, but it’s definitely a fun read.

And in searching the internet for more info about it, I see that DreamWorks has acquired it for a film. Huzzah!

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl novelThis was another Audible recommendation. It’s about the kidnapping of the rich Dennett family’s black sheep daughter, Mia. Don’t worry. This isn’t a spoiler. The way the story’s written establishes that from the very beginning. I’ll admit that I’m actually not finished with this book, but I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out less than halfway in. I won’t spoil it, but I’m not going to say this one’s 5 stars out of 5. The writing is painful at times, and it’s even more obvious when someone else is narrating it (the joy of audiobooks!). The way the story is told is an interesting concept: shifting narration from character to character and jumping through time before and after Mia’s escape from her abductor. However, the execution of the story leaves something to be desired. Apparently, this is the author’s debut novel, so a lot of people are cutting her some slack due to that. I’m going to finish it (mostly to prove that I’m right about who’s behind the kidnapping), but also because I paid for it outside my Audible subscription.

What books are you reading or listening to?

That Time I Got a Dog

SpaceDoge2Unless you’ve been living under a rock, if you even barely know me you know that I’ve wanted a dog for forever. I’ve been asking Sean for thousands of years (it feels like that long) if we could adopt a dog, and because he’s the sensible one and also a lover of all things money-saving, he’s always passed on the idea of a dog. That’s putting it gently. In his favor, 2 of our 3 cats have had major surgery costing upwards of $1,000 each (removal of all the teeth in Lyra and bladder stone removal surgery for Pudge). So, all signs point to “We have spent too much on animals already.”

But, in a moment of weakness, Sean told me last year that once I paid off a certain bill, I could get a dog. In Sean’s mind, that meant, “We’ll at least have a year or so before we get a dog.” In Carolyn terms, that means, “How soon can I pay off this bill?” The answer was *very soon.* I, obviously, wanted to adopt an older dog who was homeless. Sean was less into that option. So, the compromise was to adopt a retired racer–a greyhound.

SpaceDoge4Now, let’s rewind a bit. I follow a lot of animal rescue groups on Facebook, including SEGA (Southeastern Greyhound Adoption). I followed their social media stuff and read almost every article on their website over the past year. I did A LOT of research on getting a dog because I know that an animal is a lifetime commitment. I even made Sean take me to a greyhound adoption event last year (maybe in like March) where we met some adopted greys and their owners, asked a whole bunch of questions, and just hung out with the dogs (until Sean was like, “The event is over, and they’re trying to leave but they can’t because of you…”)

SpaceDoge5Fast forward, I saw a dog on the SEGA website that seemed like the perfect for for our household. We’re pretty busy, so we’d need a dog that didn’t mind just chilling during the day, but also didn’t mind a good walk or even a short jog. We’d need a dog that was good with cats, especially because Lyra thinks she runs the world. With Sean’s permission (not like he owns me, but this is a mutual decision), I filled out an application, and we set up a time to meet the dog.

I spoke on the phone with the adoption coordinator, and asked a million questions while she told me about the dog’s personality. His foster mom and I talked on the phone and I asked a million questions. And then we were set to meet him.

We met le doge and his foster mom at Kennesaw Mountain on a Saturday afternoon. It was a chilly, windy day, but we managed. And… we walked away with a dog!

SpaceDoge3His racing name was Slatex Mancos, and his foster called him Manny. Sean had decided on Space Ghost before we got him. So he’s Space Ghost now.

He’s a pretty interesting character, so far. Being a racing dog meant that he hasn’t grown up like other dogs have. He was not really used to humans–except for the people who came to feed him and take him out to potty. This means that he doesn’t really understand what petting and love is all about, though he has gradually warmed up to accepting our affection if he’s in the mood. Being a retired racer also means he doesn’t get the concept of toys, stairs, or other “regular dog” things.

SpaceDoge1Space Ghost, or Ghostface Killah as I sometimes call him, is adjusting fairly well. We’ve had only a few mishaps–like him chewing through a bunch of cords for funsies or pooping in Sean’s car onthe way to the vet. We definitely have a LOT of work ahead of us, but we’re already seeing progress, and that’s promising (we finally got him to WANT to go for walks just this past weekend).

So here’s the part where you give me all your dog advice. Thanks in advance.

She’s a Goal Digger

I read an article somewhere (BuzzFeed? Mashable? FastCo?) about all these apps that will help you organize your life in 2015. There were the typical scheduling apps, diet apps, fitness apps, and whatever else apps. But one that I actually downloaded was called Coach.me. (I’m not paid to support these people; I just wanted to tell you about it.)

Coach.me is an app where you set goals, how frequently you’d like to achieve them (daily, weekly), and reminders. You choose from a huge set of pre-entered goals, but pretty much everything has been thought of for you to add to your list. You choose how often you want to achieve that goal, and then you set a reminder from the app. Then, you go out and achieve the goalz.

Goal Digger

It’s hard to write, “Launch my start-up” on an app like this. But, if you know the steps it takes to get to your bigger goal (launching a business, a better marriage, losing weight, writing a book), then you can make incremental, regular mini-goals to help achieve those bigger ones (put in 2 hours toward start-up every day, say “I love you” and mean it every morning, pack my lunch 5 times a week, write 2 pages every day).

My current goals on the app include the following:

  • Read before bed: Sean and I have been reading “Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up” by Harriet Lerner little by little every night before bed. It’s broken up into 1-2 page snippets of thoughtful commentary on how to listen, how to speak to one another (or not speak, if the situation doesn’t call for it), what serves as effective criticism, etc.
  • Homework for 1 hour: I set this one to be achieved every day. Small steps toward larger goals. Last semester, I spent too much time worrying during the week, and then flooding my weekends with homework. I didn’t want this semester to be the same stress mess. By making myself do at least 1 hour of homework every day (sometimes at work at lunch, sometimes when I get home from work on nights when I don’t have class), I feel less stressed even if I know there’s still the bulk to do on the weekends.
  • Eat a vegetable: I am usually ok about this (except maybe on a weekend when I binge on Gushers and waffles), but I feel accomplished marking off a health goal every day. It’s a sort of self-confirmation thing, an e-high five for doing something I know I should do. The check on the app when I mark it off is the mini-reward for treating my body the way I should.
  • Tell Sean I love him: Sean and I are actually really good at saying “I love you,” but I wanted to remind myself to take the time to STOP. Look him in the eyes. And say “I love you.” And really mean it. Not just the habitual “Iloveyou” in passing and at the end of phone calls.
  • Write 3 positive things about today: In essence, to practice purposeful gratitude.

Grateful

There have been many studies that prove that actually writing down positive thoughts or things you’re thankful for perpetuates more thankfulness.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Thankfulness begets thankfulness. And, also, I’ve reasoned that when I have a bad day or just have a bad attitude, I can look through all the positive things I’ve written to remind myself that things really aren’t as bad as they may feel in that moment.

I admit, that by the end of the day, it’s sometimes a little hard for me to think back on the positive things that happened (especially if I’m just out of traffic). Other times, I feel like writing the same thing over and over. But I try to find positivity in both the big (Having a job with a great company and working with funny, laid back people who also like me and my work) and the small things (mac and cheese when you’re starving).

So, I encourage you to take the extra 5 minutes it takes to sit and think about the GOOD that happened in your day. You can write it in a notebook, or even on the notes app of your phone for a time when things don’t seem to go 100% awesome.