Imaginary Raja

As a shy, awkward, noise-sensitive, anxious child, I often imagined I had someone big and strong with me at school. As a kindergartener, I pretended I was friends with the Power Rangers, even lying to my classmates about knowing them to make myself feel less afraid, less unwanted, less small and powerless. When I got older, I imagined Raja, the tiger from from the movie Aladdin. Even older than that, I imagined Aragorn, who I envisioned as my really awesome uncle (making me a sort-of princess) but let’s talk about Raja.

Jasmine was one of my favorite characters. She was interesting and kind, and she had this big, cuddly, protective tiger who helped her, who was on her side 100%, and who was capable of scaring away all the people who made Jasmine feel unsafe and small. Sometimes as I walked in the hallways of my school, hoping to be ignored but desperate to feel special and seen, I imagined I had an invisible Raja with me. I’d even reach out my fingers with one hand when I particularly needed to feel comfort, pretending I could feel Raja’s fur as we walked. Doing so made me feel less alone and more confident. Raja wouldn’t let anything happen to me. Raja was big and strong and on my side. I knew he was there, I could see him, though no one else could.

My Sunday school teachers told me I should remember Jesus was with me, or God, and picture them when I was scared or lonely. (Not that they knew about Raja. I’d learned from the Power Rangers not to try to pass off the lies I told myself to make myself feel better as truths.) But some of the bullies claimed to have Jesus with them too. I couldn’t pit Jesus against himself. Even though I knew Jesus wouldn’t approve of their teasing, I also knew Jesus doesn’t love me more than anyone else. Prayer and other aspects of my faith were very incredibly important to me growing up, but in this matter I didn’t always feel like my faith was helpful. So I pictured Raja. 

I’d lean against his warmth. I’d brush his fur. He’d walk beside me in the halls and curl around my chair in class. Raja would let me lean against him on my bed at home and cry. Raja would sleep between me and the window, which I was afraid some thief or murderer would come through. Raja would bound along beside me at recess and in gym class. Raja would growl at the teacher I loathed and bare his teeth at the kids who were the meanest to me. I had Raja, even if I was the only one who knew it. 

I’d forgotten all about this until recently, when a friend and I were bemoaning how little Raja was developed in the live-action Aladdin, released earlier this year. Raja had been important to both of us, and we’d both been so disappointed not to see more of him in the movie. The admission of Raja’s role in my childhood slipped out, almost before I consciously remembered it myself. I realized I had never told anyone about Raja before. Nor had I remembered my Raja in a long time. But thinking on the character, introduced perhaps for the first time to a new generation of kids through the new movie, I wish that they’d had the supportive, protective figure in Raja that I knew as a kid, and that had so helped me.

Not-Summer

In Georgia, we basically have 2 seasons: summer and not-summer. At the changing of the two, however long that process might take, I tend to get migraines and tension headaches. The muscles in the back of my neck, just above my hairline, curl themselves into knots and squeeze. My temples take turns throbbing while I play medicine roulette. 

Let’s say I’m at home on the weekend and I develop a headache. Maybe it’s allergies? I take some Flonase and wait 30 min, also drinking extra water in case dehydration is to partially to blame. 

Nope. Maybe it’s a tension headache. Let’s try Advil and a hot bath. 

An hour later, the headache has gotten much worse. Admitting to myself that this is now a migraine, I ask Tyler to massage the knots in my neck as I lay in a dark room, my cold hands or an ice pack pressed to my forehead. Okay, Tylenol and caffeine. 

Except, of course, that after nearly two hours I’m often so eager to stop the increasingly debilitating pain that I bypass regular strength Acetaminophen and head straight to Excedrin Migraine, a mix of Aspirin, Acetaminophen, and caffeine. This medicine, at least for now, I know will start working in 30 minutes and leave me pain-free in an hour. But because it’s so strong, I try to exhaust all my other options first. My typical caffeine intake is one can of Coke per month, so two Coke’s worth of caffeine in one pill is a lot for me. And that’s just one element of this medicine. It’s the nuclear option. 

I’ve had 2 migraines this week (thus why this post is late), and a third weeks ago, all of which required the nuclear option to find relief.

Sunday, I got a migraine so suddenly—while the washing machine was leaking and Tyler was kneeling behind the dryer trying to figure out where the water was coming from—that I went straight to Excedrin Migraine. I could barely open my eyes in the brightly lit laundry room because of my photosensitivity, and Tyler needed my help immediately, not after a couple of hours of experimentation.

However, this was around 9pm. Remember when I explained how much caffeine is in a single pill, compared with my usual intake? Yeah, I didn’t fall asleep until after 3am. I went to bed early and appeared in the living room every hour until 1am like a sick child to talk to Tyler or hold the cat or just to take a break from the tedium of just lying there.

I continued to experience the caffeine’s effects Monday, feeling wide away at 7am, attentive through the usual 3pm slump, and as awake as ever throughout the evening. I didn’t feel tired until I woke up for work on Tuesday, nearly 36 hours after I took the dose. I hadn’t taken Excedrin Migraine so late in the day before, but now I see it isn’t a good option for evening headaches. 

Some of this is stress-related, I’m sure, so I’m exercising more and taking time every day to stretch and focus on my breathing. I’m working on mitigating the life circumstances (*coughworkcough*) which are contributing to my stress. My monthly massages, started 4 years ago to help prevent migraines, remain vitally important to their management. I’ve also started using an app called Migraine Buddy to help me track my symptoms and hopefully uncover some of my triggers. 

I’ll keep exploring other options, but let’s focus on the good for now: not summer is finally (sort of) here!

Being a Cat Lady

Before Tara, I’d only ever lived with dogs, fish, and gerbils. The gerbils were in childhood, the last of my 3 fish died just after college, and the dogs were my roommates in my working adult life. So living with a cat has been different. I knew and loved the feeling of walking with a dog, being greeted at the door, and I still love to surprise Addie and watch her bound toward me, wiggling with excitement.

While watching a friend’s two dogs and my roommate’s dog for the weekend, I enjoyed a small pack. I felt powerful and fun, with all these well-trained dogs who were so happy just to be near me, tumbling over each other to press against my legs as we navigated to the door and played in the yard. However, coming down the stairs the other day with Tara, who’d slipped inside to hide in the shadows of the upper landing, I realized that this is how being a cat lady feels. This sly, silent little kitty wants to be near me, will get into mischief and then follow me back out of it. With her tail in the air and her nimble paws on the steps, I felt trusted and graceful and capable. 

I like being a cat lady. When writing recently, Tyler brought Tara in to see me. Without speaking, he released her in the hallway and she came silently into the room, leaped up onto my lap, and stepped on my keyboard. I’ve heard writer friends describe this very scenario so many times, and now it was happening to me. I hoisted Tara up onto my desk and watched her explore it. When taking a long nap the other day, Tyler brought a sleeping Tara to lay on my blanket with me, a curled up comfort. And when he’d had a stressful day at work, I brought him out to Tara to cheer him up.  

Cat lady life agrees with me. I like being inside, like writing and reading and watching movies, like cuddling and napping. All of these things can lend themselves to life with a dog, but in my experience, the dogs get bored with me, and then I feel guilty for not being more fun. And I’ve enjoyed doing these things outside with Tara. No, I don’t enjoy the scratches of bites when Tara gets overstimulated (she is teething), but I’ve felt the tiny daggers of puppy teeth and taken my share of scratches from excited, bouncing dogs. I know that cats can be trained, much as dogs can. 

And, of course, Tara is adorable. Her latest game is to hide under my the full-length skirts before bounding out to attack a nearby toy. This game is similar to one she likes to play behind the curtains on the porch. Tiny but growing, she’s cuddly and pretty patient considering the number of times Tyler and I try to pick her up and cuddle with her. She’s got moxie, pushing against us to get down when she’s had enough without using her claws. Yesterday, she spent over ten minutes determinedly pulling a wand toy from her basket, then cheerfully dragged it around the room for another ten. She’s loving and gentle in surprising ways. She’s also stubborn, but that just means she’s part of the family. 

I love my cat, and I love being a cat lady. 

Welcoming Fall

Things have been quiet in the office lately. I’m finally caught up, press date has passed. This is the month of the year when I can take a few days off, even a week, and not have a single email in my inbox when I return. I love this time of year. But this month is especially quiet because two coworkers in my department have left in the past two weeks, three in the past two months. And none of them have been replaced yet. We aren’t sure when they might be. 

I feel myself drawing inward. I lean into the quiet, wrap myself in the soft sunshine and hush as I plod along at my work, struggling to motivate myself. I know that any day we could learn there will be a new coworker joining us, and we will gasp into urgent preparations for their arrival, but for now we have no news and no known timeline. 

In fall and winter, I make fewer plans, spend more time reading and crocheting and writing. I emphasize coziness. I light candles. I’ve talked about this before and I don’t want to harp, but I don’t remember my tendency toward drawing inward starting quite this early before. I assume it’s the silence. Like when an unseasonal cold snap sends the trees into color early, though temperatures rise again. 

I spent a little time going through out holiday decoration boxes last week to pull out our fall decorations. I wanted my parent, who visited last weekend, to see them. I’m also just ready for that change. I’m ready for my favorite season. 

I kneeled in the closet under the stairs, opening boxes, listening to Tara scrabble at the underside of the door to try to get to me. I found and stacked the Halloween-specific decorations for Oct. 1 but went ahead and set up the more general fall decorations: ceramic and crocheted pumpkins, the wreath, the welcome mat, a painting. I’ve also bought a few more decorative pumpkins, including one for my desk at work. I recently painted a somewhat Dali-esque pumpkin scene at a local art studio, which leans against the wall on the breakfast bar. I placed the fall decorations around the house and continued to wonder what I should do with all my candles. 

Yesterday, I took the day off and planned to do nothing but put books on my new shelves, bought and brought by my beloved parents. However, I had a headache most of the day, so lay on the sofa and watched Moana. I didn’t even feel up to pulling up Netflix until well into the afternoon. I played with the cat and let her sleep on me. I ate very, very badly. I didn’t read, didn’t plan, and would maybe put two or three handfuls of books on a shelf before I retreated back to the sofa. 

I’m looking forward to experiencing a new season in our new house. I’m excited to continue to decorate for the season, we’ve now officially entered. But I’m also down this year. Not sad exactly. Not depressed. Maybe my headaches are because of an allergen or the seasons changing. I do feel withdrawn, especially at work. Until things get better, so I’m going to enjoy some sunshine. 

Summer Reading, 2019 – Romance

Within the last month, both of my best friends at work (who are also very good friends outside of work) took other jobs and moved away. Several other coworkers, all on whom I get along with and have worked with for years, have also left the company this summer. In no small part because of this upheaval, I’ve found myself voraciously reading my comfort genre of romance. 

Here’s a list of some of my favorite romance reads from the summer.

Upcoming romances I’m excited about:

Meet Cute: Nemesis

I told this story on Twitter recently, and doing so in just 3 tweets reminded me how much fun it is. 

First! Definitions.

Meet Cute. The moment in a film or book (or real life) when love interests meet for the first time, usually in a cute or slightly unrealistic way. The terms can be used more broadly for any two significant characters meeting for the first time.

Examples: 

  • Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are introduced at a ball and he insults her (Pride & Prejudice)
  • Rapunzel hits Flynn Rider over the head with a frying pan, knocking him out (Tangled)
  • Jane Foster hits Thor with her van, then must take him to the hospital (Thor) 

Nemesis. They don’t necessarily hate each other, but they are rivals in all things. 

Examples: 

  • Thor and Loki (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
  • Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory (Goblet of Fire)
  • Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes)

Now, to the story of the meet cute with my first nemesis.

On my first day of kindergarten, I and the rest of my class were lined up alphabetically by first name. Directly before me was a boy named Jeremy. This line determined our seats and line order for the rest of the year (and, because our teachers were a little unimaginative, the next two years as well). Jeremy and I sat down next to each other and said hi. He seemed quiet and nice. He liked dinosaurs, but not as much as Bran, who really loved dinosaurs. I liked dinosaurs okay, but I wanted some girls to be friends with. I thought Jeremy and I would be friends. 

I soon learned that Jeremy and I made the top grades in the class. In true Ravenclaw fashion, I’d already decided that good grades would be my thing. I could not be outdone. Not long after, Jeremy broke the rules and talked during class to whisper-ask me how to spell giraffe, which to be honest I still struggle with. I hissed back that he should sound it out. And then I caught him looked at my paper, probably because it was a really confusing lesson and we were both on the wrong page.

That was it! Getting good grades, breaking the rules, and trying to cheat? Three strikes. This kid was now my nemesis.

And I kind of liked him. He had dark hair and he was nice and I liked that he was quiet too. I was painfully shy, but I didn’t feel like I was fading away or being eclipsed when I was around him. Plus, dinosaurs are pretty cool. I liked science. His favorite TV show was Kratt’s Creatures, which was my second favorite show after Wishbone. And yes, I remember how cosmically important I found this information when I learned it due to a class project in second grade. 

The one day in first grade when Jeremy and Bran invited me to play with them on the playground, a bee flew up my pants leg on the swings and stung me twice on the underside of my knee. I had to go to the office and get an ice pack while trying not to cry in front of everyone. They didn’t ask me to play with them again, and I didn’t ask. The universe had already decided: we were nemeses. No crossing of the streams.

Jeremy and I competed against each other from seats directly beside or in front of one another for two and a half years, until I transferred to another school. I went on to have many more nemeses, but Jeremy was my first. 

Fast forward to the summer after my freshman year of college when a bunch of my friends and a bunch of their friends all met up at the drive-in (yes, really) to see Toy Story 3. We’d grown up with the first two movies, so this would be great! So fun! Not heartbreaking at all.

We hung out at the concession stand and amidst everyone’s cars, seeing people we hadn’t seen all year and meeting their friends whom we didn’t know. When the movie started, we mostly ended up crowded on sleeping bags in the backs of the 2 pick-up trucks with the tailgates down. I hit it off with this one guy with dark hair. We sat next to each other, chatted, ugly cried at the end of the movie and tried to hide it—it was great. My friend kept giving me a thumbs up when his back was turned, and discretely distracted people who also wanted to talk to us.

That night after we all went home to tend out mosquito bites and cuddle our childhood toys, the guy found me on Facebook and sent me a message. When I saw his last name, my excitement was immediately replaced with stone-cold dread. I knew that name. 

“Uh oh,” he wrote, “I think we were elementary school rivals.”

It was him. Jeremy. Nemesis #1. He’d found me.

Except, there was no reason to be nemeses now.

“It’s YOU,” I messaged back. “You were my first nemesis! I thought you looked familiar.”

“Yup. We were the original Pepsi and Coke. So how have you been?”

He had a girlfriend. 

So close, universe. So close. 

Hurricane Prep

In the summers when I was growing up, my mom always kept several gallons of bottled water on the floor of the guest bathroom. During bad years, the bottles would duplicate and selections of canned food would work their way into towers alongside. Many years, I found myself on my hands and knees, reorganizing these nonperishables against the wall to make room for more. Thankfully, we almost never needed them. But every hurricane season, Mom took the extra oil for her hurricane lamp and the water in the guest bathroom seriously. Today, she’s evacuating from Dorian.

We always evacuated growing up. The Atlantic was very active in those years, and Mom always said that we were blessed to live in a beautiful place and blessed to live in a time with technology that told us when to evacuate. One season, we evacuated five times. We kept all our family photos in a single backpack and my brother and I each kept a huge box of toys in the living room, ready to be sealed and loaded up as soon as the governor gave the evacuation order. I learned to read maps on the evacuation route. I learned latitude and longitude as we tracked the latest storm locations on a family map with a green Expo marker. Our schools built hurricane days into the calendar instead of snow days. 

Because these memories were so common in my childhood, and our home always survived, many of them are fond ones. I loved putting puzzles together by the light of Mom’s oil lamp. I loved the rumble of thunder and watching the lightning flash outside as we watched a movie, all of us safe and cozy inside. I loved charting the hurricane’s new path and getting to ride up front with my mom, controlling the walkie-talkies while my brother and dad rode in the car behind.

Thankfully, we always had somewhere to evacuate to (grandparents’ house) and a mostly backroads route to get there. We didn’t have to drive for 24 hours like one classmate when evacuating from Floyd. We didn’t have to call ahead and ahead and ahead, praying for a hotel room, praying for a place that takes pets. We didn’t have to sleep in our cars outside a Walmart, where we could go in and use the bathroom 24 hours a day. We did sit in line for half an hour to fill up with gas. We did leave everything behind, wondering if we’d ever see it again. We did take refugees from Katrina and other massive storms into our schools and church and community. 

As an adult living inland, my relationship with hurricanes is different. During Irma, we lost power for 4 days, and it got cold and dark and no number of candles were as good as a lantern so I bought a lantern. I could take a hot shower, but only by candlelight. The house was so dark, the neighborhood so quiet, and I desperately missed my roommate and Tyler. I would have abandoned the house to sleep on a friend’s sofa if I hadn’t had my roommate’s dog with me. Even after the rain passed and my roommate got to come home, the nights were mostly long and miserable and the days were crowded and stressful.

In light of Hurricane Dorian’s trek through the Atlantic, I decided to pull together my hurricane stores over Labor Day. This required some digging through our many moving boxes for the supplies I’d somewhat haphazardly packed away, vastly overestimating how quickly I’d be unpacking and underestimating how soon I’d need these items.

I already had gallons of bottled water and canned food stored for us and our cat, as per my mother’s example. But I needed to find lighters, batteries, candles, our battery-operated lantern, and our phone-charging battery packs. My search was somewhat successful (the lantern remains elusive, but we bought a spare). We caught up on laundry and texted with friends who might need a place to stay. I watched the radar and checked on friends who live in places Dorian’s already devastated. We aren’t expecting any rain from this storm, but I’m still filling up with gas, going to the grocery store one more time, and checking on Mom’s progress to the place where she’ll wait until it’s safe to return home. And I’m thinking eastward thoughts toward Dorian. 

What kind of prep do you do for hurricanes? Do you have any good memories associated with hurricanes?

A Good Book on a Bad Day

I had both a very good weekend and a very tough one. Saturday was wonderful. Sunday was hard

Saturday I met a friend at B&N and spent hours shopping and chatting with her. That night, she and another friend came over and we all had pizza and hung out with Tara (the cat) during a thunderstorm and watched some baseball. Sunday, I slept poorly and felt drained. When I got up, I did so out of obligation to Tara, who doesn’t know when it’s the weekend and who I knew would be hungry. Very quickly, my beloved cat got overexcited and scratched me. I went inside for a few minutes to clean the scratch and eat something and reset my attitude, then went back out with her for over an hour. I didn’t want to. I felt so weighed down already, but it wasn’t her fault and I needed to play with her very intentionally. About an hour later, while she tried to keep me from going back inside, she hurt me again. This time I was done. I felt the house of cards in my brain collapse and I chose to collapse with it.

I changed clothes and got back in bed, where Tyler was just waking up. I started crying, and he stayed with me and talked with me, but I was done with the entire day. I stayed in bed or in our big armchair the rest of the day. I didn’t go anywhere I’d intended. I didn’t do anything I’d intended. Living inside my own head felt awful. So I wrapped up in blankets and read, and let my brain and body recover. My phone was upsetting me, so I left it in the bedroom and didn’t look at it from noon until 8:30. Any emergencies could come through Tyler. I let Tyler feed me whatever he came up with and I let him handle all the necessary chores and entertaining Tara. I didn’t avoid her, and I knew she didn’t mean to hurt me—she’s learning. I fed her both of her remaining meals and spent some time with her in the evening when I was feeling better. It was just a bad mental health day. Made even worse because the day before had been so good.

Looking back at my calendar, I see the warning signs. I haven’t had a weekend “off” like this one since June, and I spent it packing for a work trip and packing our apartment. I haven’t truly had a day at home to just stay in and rest since May. A good friend said some hurtful things that took some of the joy out of getting Tara. One of my very good friends is moving away, and Friday was her last day at work. Tyler had to go on a work trip at the beginning of the week, requiring me to single parent the kitten. I’m also living in a new house, with unpacked boxes in every room. My office and desk are still a dumping ground for misc items that don’t have a home yet. 

But let me tell you about the book I read Sunday. Evvie Drake Starts Over is about two people putting their lives back together after all their plans and hopes disintegrated. It’s so soothing, with a steady but lingering pace, and a slow burn romance set behind the main action. It was absolutely the perfect book for me to read on a cloudy mental health day, and it’s the perfect book for a cloudy day spent inside. I’ve already passed it on to a friend.

Yesterday was much better. I had lunch with some friends and someone in my life got really great news. The overcast days make me dream of fall and pies and Tyler’s and my first anniversary. I really needed a day of utter rest, and now that my brain is better, I’m glad I had it. 

3 Actions to Help the Amazon Rainforest

If you just recently learned about the massive wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, or if you’re learning about it from me right now, the situation is both dire and seemingly far away. This affects the very air we breathe and the overall temperature of the planet (trees store CO2; when they burn or die, that CO2 is released into the atmosphere). The fires were intentionally set by cattle ranchers and soy farmers. The Brazilian president accused non-governmental organizations (NGOs, charities basically) of setting the fires, then denied he said so. So what can we do about it? Here are 3 action items!

1. Learn and Share

For a wider context, this book about human-caused climate disruption includes a chapter on the forests, particularly the Amazon rainforest: The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail.

This article also includes a detailed list of action items, including organizations to which you can donate, petitions you can sign, and other products to avoid if you want to do more for the Amazon rainforest than what I’ve suggested.

Also, these wildfires have been raging for three weeks, but there’s been very little media coverage, even in Brazil, until a few days ago when the excessive smoke turned Sao Paulo as dark as night at 3:30 in the afternoon. Tell your friends and family what you’re learning.

2. Boycott Beef

This is probably the easiest and most impactful thing we can all do.

Cattle ranchers and soy farmers are the main people accused of setting the fires, and have been primarily responsible for illegally clearcutting the rainforest in the past. Soy, beef, coffee, and paper products are significant exports for Brazil, and all contribute to deforestation at the best of times, but I’m focusing on beef because it’s such a prevalent food in my diet. There are 3 main Brazilian beef companies. Look at each of their websites for lists of brands they supply. 

Just because a pet food, for example, advertises being “made in the USA” doesn’t mean they don’t source their beef from Brazil (see Redbarn Pet Products). Likewise, just because a steak house has “Texas” in the name doesn’t mean they don’t buy Brazilian beef. The same can be said about where the beef in your hamburger and on your pizza was raised. This is a boycott, not a lifelong lifestyle change, so when conditions improve, I’ll happily order a ribeye again.

It’s easy to vilify the farmers and ranchers who set the fires, but keep in mind that most are extremely poor, and are setting fires because they are desperate to support themselves and their families. Donations to organizations assisting local communities help people from getting into those desperate circumstances.

3. Write to your elected officials.

Below is my letter to my senators and congressman, which I sent on my lunch break. Feel free to adapt it for your own purposes.

In light of the escalating wildfires in Brazil, I am writing to encourage you to support the State Department in putting pressure on Brazilian beef and soy industries, which have been accused of setting the fires and have long been responsible for illegal clearcutting of the rainforest. The region is so biodiverse, and we still know so little about what lies within it. We’ve already lost countless species to these fires, and we will never get them back. We don’t even know what we’re losing because deforestation and now these fires are wiping out huge areas of life so quickly. The wildfires are now so massive that dieback may set in, causing a feedback loop of death in response to death, killing parts of the rainforest where the fires haven’t reached. This dieback would turn the “world’s lungs” into arid land, perhaps even a desert. The world’s lungs will be dead. Plants and chemicals only found in the Amazon and used for medicines prevalent throughout the Western world will be gone forever. These wildfires threaten the very air we breathe. Even without dieback, massive amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere by the dying trees, further contributing to climate instability and extreme weather across the world, including wildfires in Alaska and hurricanes in the US’s Gulf and Atlantic shores. This is not a tragedy isolated to Brazil, in cause or impact. Please respond strongly and swiftly to help mitigate the devastation. 

Summer Reading, 2019 – Audiobooks

We have a house! And a new kitten! Let’s look at the kitten.

This is Tara. She’s a rescue from Animal Welfare, and she’s precious and spunky and we adore her. 

Between her and the house and moving and travel for work and my brother’s wedding, we’ve had a busy couple of months. While packing, unpacking, cleaning, and traveling, audiobooks have grown even more important to me. They’re the main way I’ve consumed books since June, and they make my now longer commute far more enjoyable. I’ve also recently discovered Audible’s collection of original content, including one-person plays. Here are my top reads of summer/moving season:

The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption by Dahr Jamail

A former war correspondent and seasoned traveler, Dahr Jamail brings us around the world with him to witness the ways human-caused climate disruption is changing our world forever. He climbs mountains, snorkels reefs, hikes the woods outside his own home. He interviews elders in Alaskan fishing villages, the city planner of Miami Beach, Denali park rangers, and scientists all over the world, focusing on how our planet is already too warm for ice—our glaciers, ice caps, and ice flows—to survive. It’s just taking a few decades to melt. And once it does, what will our world look like? How high will the ocean be? How will the rivers and forests be affected? What coral and fish and trees will survive? This is a bleak but realistic look at the unfolding crisis, inspiring me to do all I can to engage with nature, push my elected officials for more stringent environmental protections, and visit these iced places before their ice is gone for good. 

Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic by Nick Carr (read by William Jackson Harper, aka Chidi from “The Good Place”)

After The End of Ice, I needed something lighter, and quick. I was interested in this Audible original, but when I saw the narrator, I was sold. And I’m so glad my love of Chidi led me here, because Wally Roux was delightful, exhibiting excellence in Sci-Fi, excellence in coming-of-age stories, and, of course, excellence in narration. I wanted to hand this wonderfully charming, realistically yearning book to all my coworkers, but of course it’s hard to do that with audiobooks. So if you have Audible, treat yourself to this delight, just under 4 hours long.

A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ben Garrod

I loved dinosaurs as a kid. I still enjoy seeing new reports and news articles about dinosaurs and other ancient animals. So I thoroughly enjoyed the 3-hour Audible original about what we know, think we know, and get wrong about dinosaurs. (Spoiler alert: Jurassic Park lied to us.)

Other books I read and adored this summer: