For What It's Worth

Thursday, June 8, 2023

How to Be Fine: What We Learned Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg , Kristen Meinzer

A humorous and insightful look into what advice works, what doesn’t, and what it means to transform yourself, by the co-hosts of the popular By the Book podcast.

In each episode of their podcast By the Book, Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer take a deep dive into a different self-help book, following its specific instructions, rules, and advice to the letter. From diet and productivity to decorating to social interactions, they try it all, record themselves along the way, then share what they’ve learned with their devoted and growing audience of fans who tune in.

Before they began their podcast, Jolenta wanted to believe the promises of self-help books, while Kristen was very much the skeptic. They embraced their differences of opinion, hoping they’d be good for laughs and downloads. But in the years since launching the By the Book, they’ve come to realize their show is about much more than humor. In fact, reading and following each book’s advice has actually changed and improved their lives. Thanks to the show, Kristen penned the Amish romance novel she’d always joked about writing, traveled back to her past lives, and she broached some difficult conversations with her husband about their marriage. Jolenta finally memorized her husband’s phone number, began tracking her finances, and fell in love with cutting clutter.

In How to Be Fine, Jolenta and Kristen synthesize the lessons and insights they’ve learned and share their experiences with everyone. How to Be Fine is a thoughtful look at the books and practices that have worked, real talk on those that didn’t, and a list of philosophies they want to see explored in-depth. The topics they cover include:

Getting off your device
Engaging in positive self-talk
Admitting you’re a liar
Going outside
Getting in touch with your emotions
Seeing a therapist

Part memoir, part prescriptive handbook, this honest, funny, and heartfelt guide is like a warm soul-baring conversation with your closest and smartest friends.from Living 

Source: Library Audiobook via Hoopla

The Bookpusher: Lauren from Shooting Stars blog after seeing her Instagram post about the book.

Review: Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer host the By the Book (& now the How to Be Fine) podcasts where they follow a self help book for 2 weeks then break it down and discussing the pros and cons of each book.

Personally, I am not a fan of self-help books. I find most authors make too many promises like - THIS IS THE ONE BOOK TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE. If that were the case there would not be approximately 1 bajillion diets and self-help books. And most authors, if successful, end up making a franchise out of whatever slogan they're selling. Which again, to me, if it works so well why am I still spending more money to make it work? It is a multi-million dollar industry after all. If you don't have a problem - they don't make $$. 

Having said that, I have been reading more about my anxiety and have found several books, podcasts and youtuber's that have been an enormous help. I also believe that what doesn't/does work for me might not be the same for someone else. So, I was really curious to read about two women who were going into this endeavor open minded and from differing backgrounds.

How to Be Fine is broken down into three sections:

Part 1: Thirteen Things That Worked (acts of kindness, positive self talk, get off your device...)

Part 2:Eight Things That Didn't Work: (meditation, wake up early, forgive...)

Part 3: Eight Things We Wish Were More Books Included (stop comparing yourself to others, do things in chunks, make friends with your body...)

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The authors have a nice casual, talking with friends vibe. They were (very) open with their personal stories to show how the different advice either did or didn't work for them. Each subject ends with a letter from a listener disagreeing with or questioning their outcome to which they address. Basically, their response was always - you do you Boo 😜 They were never pushy about anything - this was just their experience. 

For example, things that required self pampering alone time were horrible for extroverted Kristen - who derives restoration and energy from spending a lot of time with people. While Jolenta, an introvert, reveled in self care. 

It was funny because Jolenta is more of the "believer" going in and, honestly, got the most out of the advice from what I can tell, but ended up more skeptical of self-help books, overall. 

They bounce around the different books (& their POV'S) and I found that to be a bit of a bummer. There was kind of shorthand in discussing some of the books as if the reader has read or knows the rules of them all. I haven't read any of them so I didn't always understand the basic premise of the books they were discussing - even though I'm aware of several like - Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus, Marie Kondo, Rachel Hollis. They do dig deeper into some more than others. 

It's a nice way to learn about the various books and authors though if you wanted to read them later. 

What I didn't love as much was Part 3 where they discuss what they wish self-help books did include. I absolutely agreed with each of their points but this is where they let loose the most and spent more time slamming books/methods or basically giving their own self-help advice. Again, there was not one thing I didn't agree with them on but this section felt more like a rant.

I did like how they acknowledge that most self-help books are about gaining more *things*, are targeted at people who mostly are doing ok but are still unhappy, and don't take into account the real bias's or disabilities. And as sexual abuse survivors - they call out how so many of the books want you to forgive and take on the blame for any of the bad things in your life as a way to move forward but I agree - a lot of these books don't take into account real trauma.
The book is very short (I think about 200 pages in paperback?) - I listened to it in just a few hours so it's fun for it's intended purpose. It would probably mean more if you read self-help books but it did help me to find their podcast, which I love!

Good for fans of self-help books or those who aren't but are still curious about some of them really do have any value.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Review: Mrs. Nash's Ashes by Sarah Adler


A starry-eyed romantic, a cynical writer, and (the ashes of) an elderly woman take the road trip of a lifetime that just might upend everything they believe about true love.

Millicent Watts-Cohen is on a mission. When she promised her elderly best friend that she’d reunite her with the woman she fell in love with nearly eighty years ago, she never imagined that would mean traveling from D.C. to Key West with three tablespoons of Mrs. Nash’s remains in her backpack. But Millie’s determined to give her friend a symbolic happily-ever-after, before it’s (really) too late—and hopefully reassure herself of love’s lasting power in the process.

She just didn’t expect to have a living travel companion.

After a computer glitch grounds flights, Millie is forced to catch a ride with Hollis Hollenbeck, an also-stranded acquaintance from her ex’s MFA program. Hollis certainly does not believe in happily-ever-afters—symbolic or otherwise—and makes it quite clear that he can’t fathom Millie’s plan ending well for anyone.

But as they contend with peculiar bed-and-breakfasts, unusual small-town festivals, and deer with a death wish, Millie begins to suspect that her reluctant travel partner might enjoy her company more than he lets on. Because for someone who supposedly doesn’t share her views on romance, Hollis sure is becoming invested in the success of their journey. And the closer they get to their destination, the more Millie has to admit that maybe this trip isn’t just about Mrs. Nash’s love story after all—maybe it’s also about her own. ~ goodreads

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Review: Mrs. Nash's Ashes was a fun opposites attract (grumpy/sunshine), road trip, story interwoven with a bittersweet LGBQT (lesbian) romance from the past. 

Former child star, Millie Watts-Cohen is coming off a tough break-up from a boyfriend who was using her former star status to try to launch his own writing career, followed by the loss of her unlikely best friend and roommate - the elderly Rose Nash.

Before her death, Rose had confided in Millie that her true love was not her husband but, Elsie Brown - a woman she had met while serving in the military in the 40's. 

Millie makes it her mission to reunite Rose & Elsie (well, Rose's ashes at least) and prove that true love exists to her broken, jaded heart. She buys a ticket from DC to Key West to hopefully get to Elsie - who is in hospice - in time to tell her how much Rose loved and still thought of her. 

But fate has something else in store.

Millie is being harassed by a fan at the airport and is saved by her former bf's friend - more of a frenemy/acquaintance really, and author, Hollis Hollenback. She's immediately drawn to his gruff exterior, convinced he's a secret cinnamon roll - yet he remains aloof.

When all flights out of DC are cancelled from a software glitch, the two are forced to share a car to FL - her to see Elsie - him for a yearly sex hook up with his f-buddy. 

The story is told in the two timelines - Millie/Hollis's hilarious road trip and Rose/Elsie's blossoming romance and eventual separation. 

Honestly, I loved getting swept away in Rose's memories more. You could feel the love, fear (of being found out and trying to make a same sex romance work in that time) and eventual heartache. That story, while not always the *feel good* story I long for was still really beautiful and touching. 

Millie and Hollis are both scarred from past relationships (family and romantic) and are easily triggered by events that seem to be following the same course and react, in not so great ways, but I did enjoy seeing them fall for each other and break down those walls.

The humor is of the madcap variety - having sex in a B&B with 20-ish paint by number Jesus paintings overlooking you. Millie becomes the Broccoli Queen - complete with crown at a local festival but everyone is sweet and sincere so it works. 

One nitpick was a plot point about Hollis. He has writers block - hence the sexcapades to clear his mind - but finds inspiration in Rose and Elsie's story, as well as his own developing romance with Millie. Writers find inspiration from everything so no issue there - but I felt he crossed a big line. It's addressed, but not in a satisfactory way for me but not a deal breaker. 

SPOILER -> He basically steals the Rose/Elsie story to sell to his publisher and writes about he and Millie's romance without her input or consent. He even looks in her backpack to read more about Rose/Elsie. He apologizes later saying this was before he knew he was falling for Millie. Once he knew her better - he felt guilty. Ex-squueze-me??? That was never ok. Whether you like her or not. <- END SPOILER

Overall: Fun, madcap, bittersweet at times. If you can handle the mix of sadness and humor in your romance then this would make a great beach read. 

Monday, May 29, 2023

In the Garden: Electric Blue Penstemon

 In the garden...

I love Penstemon - or I should say - hummingbirds love Penstemon and I want more hummingbirds so I try to plant more Penstemon. Most varieties are some range of pink, purple, reds - so I was excited to find "Electric Blue" Penstemon.

It's such a beautiful pop of color. I've had it three years but never in the right place I guess, for maximum flowering. I moved it last fall and I think I hit the jackpot this year. I got a bit of a surprise being able to see the buds before the bloom and I  have to say that I think the rainbow/hombre effect might be even prettier than the actual bloom!

I had a huge butterfly garden in FL but only get one or two out here (in WA) so I'm always trying to lure some in. Hopefully, this plant will help. But in the meantime, the hummers are happy!