truelane Book Club: October 2018

My 2018 mantra was this: “Read more, also hustle.” My little sister was even kind enough to embroider it on a wall hanging for me, and it has certainly helped me succeed. Being on a mission to read more has forced me to get serious about my Goodreads account and pay weekly visits to my local library, putting me in contact with thousands of new-to-me titles. It inspired me to share some of them with you all, and I decided to create the official truelane book club.

It’s a fun one because there are no rules. There are no time limits or deadlines. I select a “book of the month” off my reading list and share it on the #truelanebookclub hashtag, and I couldn’t believe that others shared too! Seeing everyone’s posts brought me so much joy and truly reminded me that social media is a community, not just an avenue for me to promote product. As an influencer, it’s easy to feel like you have blinders on because those promotions pay your bills. But I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills this way if it wasn’t for my stellar readers, so thank you for being readers & reading along with me!

The October book of the month was The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. I love historical fiction and anything set in the art world, so I had high hopes for this novel. Thankfully, all of us participants loved it overall! Here are a few quotes from the #truelanebookclub crew:

“Loved it! Couldn’t put it down.” - @maburns103

“Loved the book. I didn’t see her as a forger at all. I liked how she prevailed in the end.” - @aliciakeiser

“I loved the plot of The Art Forger, but the writing wasn’t very exciting or descriptive. And it ended kind of abruptly. It took me a second to realize I had finished the book.” - @dresstothrive

“I've never read a book like this before. Although I'm only a few chapters in, I'm very much enthralled. It's excited to see what the protagonist will do with every opportunity given.” - @musicforghosts

(How nerdy am I that I’m so excited I got to use the quote feature on Squarespace? Very.)

I agree with @dresstothrive that the writing didn’t really capture me, which is a necessity if a book is going to become a favorite of mine. The protagonist of the book, Claire, is a painter and makes a living painting copies of famous works that are sold as reproductions—totally legal. However, she’s propositioned to create a forgery of one of the most famous works in recent history; a Degas that was stolen in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990, which is totally illegal. With every discovery that unfolds, it makes you question which characters are the true artists and which are the true forgers. I was satisfied with the ending, although it did feel sudden and rushed. Plus, I was so excited that it was set in Boston (one of my favorite cities!) so I loved the setting as well.

Feel free to leave comments here if you have any more thoughts on the book! Stay tuned on the #truelanebookclub hashtag for November’s title, and please feel free to send any of your favorite books my way.

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"Andy Irons: Kissed by God" Film Screening

When my dad texted the family and asked if anyone wanted to join him at a movie screening downtown, I was the first one to say “sure.” I clicked the link he sent over and sort of glanced over it. It was a surfing movie, and the featured athlete had bipolar disease, but it was titled “Kissed by God” so I assumed the story would be one of redemption and he would overcome his obstacles to become a beacon of light to others in his situation.

No one else in the family could make it, so I looked forward to a fun night with my dad.

When the next Monday came around, that was exactly what I experienced until about a minute and a half into the film. One of the opening scenes showed Bruce, the brother of the featured surfer, Andy Irons, in front of a simple black backdrop with tears streaming down his face as he breathed through the flood of emotions. The first sentence he chose was something along the lines of, “I never thought I would have to sit here and talk about my brother,” and it hit me in the heart as the lump formed in my throat. This wasn’t going to have the happy ending I expected.

I sat through the two-hour film getting more anxious as it went on. The sweeping, glossy scenes of gigantic waves and 1970s Hawaii calmed me in between shots of his rampages with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and more. Half of the scenes were dramatized events featuring shadowy actors who resembled the real people, but the way it was shot made you feel like you were the one high on whatever they were. The camera was shaky, the noises were loud, everything was fuzzy and flashing with lights. The way all of his friends and family spoke about Andy Irons was searing. Clearly suffering from but not officially diagnosed with bipolar at a young age, he turned to opioid drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin to self-medicate. The longer the film went on, the sicker I felt about what I knew was going to happen.

The opioid crisis in our country comes to my attention in waves. Seattle, particularly, has a staggering population of people experiencing homelessness, and it’s hard not to wonder when you walk by a crowd of twenty or thirty tents how many of their inhabitants are struggling with this exact disease. Just a few months ago, I heard a heartbreaking story (and I feel that’s an understatement) about a local treatment facility that allowed NPR to interview one of their patients—a young woman who was addicted to heroin. She’d been in for weeks and was full of hope. “This time I’m going to get better. I’m really doing it this time,” she’d told them. And at press time, they’d reported she had left the center and was back on the drug, living on the streets. I think about that woman now and then. I heard her voice—she was real, she was humanized. And I wonder, is she even here still?

I struggled with my growing anxiety as the film progressed, but the hardest part came at the end of the film. My anxiety gave way to aching sadness when the filmmakers asked, “What would you say to Andy now, if you could talk to him?” And Lyndie Irons, Andy’s stunner of a perfect southern California beach goddess wife, could barely get the words out. “I want to tell you about our son, Axel.”

I bit my tongue hard to avoid drowning in uncontrollable sobs, and then harder when the slow-motion scenes of young Andy Axel Irons running across the terrains of Kauai kicked on. Lyndie had been eight months pregnant when Andy died in a hotel room from a drug-induced heart attack, on his way back home to Hawaii. The six-year-old ocean wonder, little Axel Irons, surfed as well as anyone I’d ever seen. How special—what a blessing—that Andy could leave Lyndie with this miniature half of a surfing legend, at precisely the time she would need him.

Andy’s profession glamorized his sport, and glamorized the partying, so much so that it could be hidden easily from the public. No one knew until after the movie came out that he won competitions and medals and championships high on cocaine and alcohol. Andy Irons’ is a huge story, one I hope millions of people get to see, because it forces you to look outside the movie screen and realize this is the small story of thousands of people just in our country alone. Over 115 people die from opioid overdoses every day in America. Tragically, so many of them are on the streets with no access to help or support, but some run in much flashier circles, or even in our own.

Of course, the opioid crisis is just another one of those things in our country and our world that need our attention, compassion, and our dollars. It’s a sad truth and reality that we can’t fix everything—but we can always help, and work towards something better. I’ve shared on truelane before that I donate 10% of all my income, and this month, I will be sending half to the Andy Irons Foundation and half to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The darkness that some people face within their own minds shouldn’t have to be faced alone—and even though it’s up to them to seek help or even just accept it, the rest of us must never stop trying to offer it.

Growing Up Too Fast...Again

“Don’t grow up too fast.” A phrase you hear all the time as a kid, especially around the time you might start to wear makeup or have your first crush. When you’re in the quintessentially awkward phase of being a teenager, instinct tells you to propel yourself out of it and into maturity, but that’s easier said than done. When you’re fifteen and trying to act eighteen, that’s all it can really be—an act.

Thankfully, those days are far behind me, but I’ve discovered a second quintessentially awkward phase of life: your twenties. It feels like you’re sailing a too-small raft on a too-big sea, and I’ve felt uncomfortable navigating it throughout the entire journey. Now that I’m closer to thirty than twenty, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, although I’m one of the few people I know that doesn’t have a fear of the big 3-0. I’m ready to turn thirty. Heck, I’m ready to turn forty.

Here’s the thing. Many of the things I enjoy are stereotypically enjoyed at a much later age. The only kind of concert you’ll find me at is one where I have a seat, with earplugs in my pocket. I spend hours on a Saturday working on jigsaw puzzles. I only drink decaf coffee these days, and I’ve become more of a wine snob than I ever thought possible. I can actually identify a cheese on a cheeseboard just by looking at it. I can’t watch scary movies, I don’t trust technology, and my idea of a perfect Sunday morning is reading the newspaper in my bathrobe before tending to my patio planters or starting my James Madison biography. Think you stumbled upon a blog for baby boomers? Surprise, you’re still reading truelane.

Of course, dozens of these activities can also identify with personality type, not just age. The fact that I would rather be at home with my books and movies than do anything else is classic introversion, something you realize more and more people identify with thanks to how tightly the Internet has woven our lives. These days, it’s becoming cool to say that you’d rather stay home than go out to a bar with your girlfriends. Saying you have an “old soul” has become a bit romantic. The “self-care” movement has turned what sounds like a boring evening—a face mask in the bath while reading your favorite book with a little too much wine—into something glamorous. Doing a puzzle is a brain exercise. Caring for plants is a stress reliever. Rather than being exclusively relaxing or even just lame, these activities serve an actual purpose for people in their teens, twenties, and beyond. You can embrace them at twenty-five or sixty-five.

Part of me wonders if I’m trying to find a reason to push myself into old age because my hobbies no longer make me different. Even just a couple of years ago, people would be surprised to find out that my favorite thing to do is make popcorn and watch Frasier, or that my maximum is two glasses of wine unless I want a raging hangover the next day, and think I was nothing more than a lightweight hermit. I went on a date once where the guy actually said to me, “Are you like, the most boring person ever?” But these days, people take pride in Instagramming their quiet weekends at home and their hours spent with adult coloring books. Interests that used to make me unique now make me part of the herd, and I guess it’s embarrassing to admit, but I kind of miss that. Of course, I know that there are thousands of people in the world like me—but before, there weren’t as many in my circle, or even on my radar.

There’s also the part of me that just wants to feel settled. Many of my friends are older than I am, and buying houses or Porsches, having children or dinner parties, and the fact that I still have years to go before moving somewhere with a yard (technically never, in the Seattle-area housing market) pains me. I’m ready to settle into a two-bedroom house with my dog and my mid-size SUV and my fine China dinnerware settings. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with two of my siblings, and feeling too old to be in this living situation makes me seem ungrateful for these few years that the three of us get to be in the same space.

One of my most used phrases these days is “I’m too old for that.” My left knee gives out on me more times than I care to admit, my eyeglass prescription is so strong I’m nearing blindness, and I actually walk around my bed to make either side instead of leaping across like I did when I was fourteen (and, of course, had to be asked several times before I actually made my bed). There are things I do that make me feel older than I am, but I don’t know if the mind or the body is more at fault. Everyone you know who’s made it to sixty or seventy or eighty say the same thing: it’s all gone by too fast. I’m in what’s considered the prime of my life. Why would I want to skip any of it?

Maybe it’s the wondering about all these things that keeps you tied to your number. The fact that I’m wondering and worrying about trying to process these feelings could be telling of my age already. Overthinking everything is what your twenties are for, isn’t it? While there are a lot of things that make me wish I were thirty-seven this year instead of twenty-seven, I need to remind myself of everything that will happen in those years between twenty-seven and thirty-seven that I wouldn’t give up for the world.

I guess having this 1000-word conversation with myself is just a reminder not to will myself to grow up faster, but to enjoy myself and my life right where we are now. It is, after all, the older and wiser thing to do.