Stacey Loscalzo

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Oct 18

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Book Review

by Stacey

Strangely, as much as I love reading, I do not enjoy writing book reviews. I always overthink them and can’t ever get the right balance between plot summary and opinion. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace though? This book deserves to be discussed so I’m going to give it a go.

A few weeks ago, I had coffee with a friend and we got talking about what we were reading. While she wasn’t currently reading Robert Peace’s story, she said she couldn’t stop thinking about it and to me, that is the description of a book that I have to pick up right away. Somehow I don’t remember ever seeing this book or hearing anything about it although I now know it received much critical acclaim when it was released in 2015.

Robert Peace was born into poverty in Newark, NJ in the 1980s. The book follows his life through predictable and equally unpredictable turns. While there are many spoiler-ish things I can’t reveal about Peace’s story, the fact that he dies an early death is clear from the title. When discussing this book with my friend, she said over and over again, “It’s just that he didn’t have to die.” As I read, her words kept echoing in my mind. It was hard to read this book quickly as the material is heavy but at the same time, it read like a thriller. I knew that something bad was going to happen but I didn’t know what or when so with each turn of the page, I held my breath.

We hear all the time about the cycle of poverty and how hard it is, if you are born into poverty, to escape that cycle. Having never lived in that world, it is tricky to fully understand but this book painted a very vivid picture. Robert Peace is a man that had both every disadvantage and every advantage that a young man could have been given. This book is the story of how he lived his life and ultimately how his life came to a tragic end.

When I turned the last page, I thought back to my friend’s words and wondered. Peace didn’t have to die but also, how could he have lived? I know that sounds a little woo woo and I guess it is but that was my take away. Sadly, I came away from this book feeling pretty darn depressed about the poverty cycle and wondering how on earth it can ever be truly broken.

If you have read The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, please let me know. And if you read it, let me know. This is a book that needs to be discussed.

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Oct 09

A Rebel’s Thoughts For Wednesday

by Stacey

One of my favorite people to follow on Instagram is Hitha Palepu. She is a mom, an investor and a super smart person to follow. Her #5smartreads are part of my must-reads every day. All that said, she wrote something super simple in response to a question on her IG stories the other day that just might have gotten me out of my writing rut. When asked which of Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies (if you are unfamiliar with Rubin’s work, here is a good summary of her Four Tendency framework) she was, she responded ‘rebel/wanna be upholder.’ 

Ah ha!! I’m not sure why I need this reminder all the time but I do. I think I am an upholder- someone who meets both outside and inside expectations. Therefore, I set myself up for routines like ‘Thoughts for Thursday’ blog posts that will keep me to a schedule. But you know what? I am actually a rebel and therefore this structured approach backfires every single time I try it. 

I wish Rubin had chosen a different label for this personality type as I believe most rebels do not actually think they are rebels. Anyone else out there rebelling against their rebel label? Perhaps if I wasn’t picturing that guy from the Breakfast Club in the leather jacket, I would attach more to my actual tendency. And yes, my memory in general and my ‘famous-person-name-recall’ is actually so bad that I have no idea this rebel’s real or fictional name. I’m sure you all can help me out? But anyway, Rubin defines rebels this way- “Rebels resist all expectations, both inner and outer alike. They want to do what they want to do, in their own way, in their own time — and if you ask or tell them to do something, they’re very likely to resist.”

I certainly don’t want to believe this of myself but you know what- the older I get, the more true it is. I was an upholder as a student for sure. But as a regular old adult- I have rebel written all over myself. 

Therefore, after I decided that I would write a weekly blog post titled Thoughts for Thursday, you know what kicked in strong? My rebel tendency with a strong side of perfectionism. And you know what happened then? I didn’t write. Each Thursday recently, I have sat down at my computer or with pen in hand and thought and thought and thought. I had lots of “thoughts on Thursdays” but none of them really seemed ‘good enough’ for the “Thoughts for Thursday” post so I wrote nothing. And then I focused on the picture. If I wrote something would I have the ‘right’ picture to go with the post? To post on IG and FB?

So I am here on a Wednesday instead with some thoughts. And a totally random and unrelated picture. Here’s hoping some more follow soon. 

And in the meantime, here is a link to Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz. I would love to know what tendency you are!

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Sep 19

Thoughts for Thursday: September 19

by Stacey

“What is my purpose in life?” I asked the void. 

“What if I told you that you fulfilled it when you took an extra hour to talk to that kid about his life?” said the voice. 

“Or when you paid for that young couple in the restaurant? Or when you saved that dog in traffic? Or when you tied your father’s shoes for him?”

“Your problem is that you equate your purpose with goal-based achievement. The Universe isn’t interested in your achievements…just your heart. When you choose to act out of kindness, compassion and love, you are already aligned with your true purpose.

No need to look any further!” 

-raise.the.vibe.tribe

You know when you are scrolling Instagram thinking about how much time you are wasting scrolling on Instagram? Earlier this week, I was doing this very thing when I stumbled upon a reminder of why sometimes scrolling is not a waste of time after all.

A friend posted the quote above to her stories and I stopped short. So many of my conversations of late have focused on purpose. By virtue of the fact that our children are getting older, my friends and I are looking at larger swatches of time when our children simply do not need us. Many of us have not worked outside of the home for all these years and now, we can’t stop thinking about how we should be filling this new found time. I feel guilty that I am not financially contributing to our family at this point and truthfully, I feel bored. But beyond that, I feel something a little bit bigger. What is my purpose right now?

Yesterday, I read an old high school friend’s bio. I have lost touch with her and while I knew she was a doctor, I didn’t know all details. I won’t list them here but let’s just say that the word impressive does not do her justice. As I read her long list of accomplishments, I found myself justifying my choices and crossing my fingers that, when I got to the end of the article, I would learn that she had no children. Mean-spirited but true. I would feel somehow ‘better’ if she had achieved all she had professionally at the expense of creating a family. I’m sure you can see where this is going. She has three girls including a set of twins.

I know that reading the quote above will not stop my head from spinning. It won’t stop me from desperately trying to find that ever elusive high paying job that you can complete between the hours of nine and one only on the days when school is in session. But I am grateful that for a minute I was able to stop and realize that there are things that I do everyday that are important. There are things that I do that would not show up in my professional bio but maybe, in the grand scheme of things, they are things that matter to the universe.

 

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Sep 05

Thoughts for Thursday

by Stacey

Like so many of you, September is my new year. Although I am no longer a student or an educator (officially at least!), I still feel like the new year begins in September. The girl’s first full day of school was yesterday and I am ready to have a schedule and do my best to focus on goals of my own. One of those goals, is to get back to writing regularly and publically…so here goes. When I promise to write every day, I disappoint myself every time so for now, I am aiming to write a post once a week. Think some general thoughts, book recommendations, what I am loving and more. And I am going to call it Thoughts for Thursday cause I had the idea in the grocery store last week and I am sticking with it 🙂

SOME THOUGHTS…

One of my favorite people to follow on-line is Jessica Smock, who writes at her site, School of Smock. Jessica describes herself as a “mom of two young kids, a former teacher and educational researcher and an imperfect parent.” Given this description, it is no wonder that nearly everything Jessica posts resonates with me in some way.

A few days ago, Jessica shared the image above on her Facebook group and I quickly scribbled ‘write about Jessica’s post’ on one of the many scraps of paper that litter our kitchen counter. Surprising noone, the paper got lost and I forgot about it. Then Katherine came home from her first day of eighth grade and told us that her teachers had started talking about high school and class placements. On the first day of eighth grade.

Sigh.

It is my wish that all of us- parents and teachers included- could let our kids be kids. Let them be who they are right now. I do know that I fail at this sometimes too and in many ways I am getting worse at it instead of better. True confession: I nagged Caroline to do SAT prep work last night on the second day of school and months before she will take the test. It is so easy to get focused on children’s futures instead of just letting them be who they are right then.

So a huge thank you to Jessica Smock for the reminder above.

A FAVORITE THING…

A few times a week, I am lucky enough to practice  yoga with Coach Stroker, a retired teacher, coach and all around local legend. His classes are all about building a tribe of like minded people who love sharing thoughts and community with a little bit of yoga thrown in for good measure.

Last week, Coach Stroker shared this video and I wish the whole world could see it. Click here to watch and I dare you not to cry.

In my imagination, these weekly posts are longer but I am knee deep in planning a huge fundraiser for Caroline’s soccer team on Saturday so that is all the writing I have in me today. To be continued 🙂

 

 

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Aug 20

An App Can’t Fix the Childhood Obesity Crisis

by Stacey

I had heard rumblings about a new Weight Watchers app for kids but hadn’t understood the specifics until last night when my sister in law sent me an Instagram post to read. And now I am mad. 

I know we have an obesity problem in America. I get that. And I am not blaming Weight Watchers, as a business, for trying to make money by addressing a problem. They are after all, a business. But encouraging young children- as young as eight years old- to diet, is not the answer. Beyond the fact that this app will lead to disordered eating in younger and younger children, an app will do nothing to address what I see, as the root causes of this problem. In this country, we are obsessed (not only with dieting) but with targeting the symptoms of a problem instead of the cause. 

Admittedly, I have not done the research, but I am now curious to study the correlation between obesity and socioeconomic status. We live in an affluent town. We can afford to feed our kids all the food. And you know who I don’t see in our schools, on our sports fields or walking through town? Obese kids. Do I know exactly why, from a scientific and economic standpoint? No. But I can take a few guesses. 

We have the money to afford healthy foods. 

We have access to healthy foods. For example, on Sunday we went to the farmers market at the train station for produce and bread. We went to Fairway for shrimp. We went to Whole Foods for steak. And we went to Kings for all the other things. Other weekends, we will throw in Trader Joe’s and Stop and Shop for good measure. And we have to travel no more than ten minutes to reach any of these places. 

We have access to education. And we have the money to afford this education. If we or our children run into issues with eating a healthy diet, we have the ability to talk to nutritionists or doctors about how to prepare and encourage our children to eat more healthy foods. 

We have access to exercise. We have easy access to more fitness centers and sports programs than we know what to do with. If our children need help to get moving, we have the access and the money to make that happen. 

We have time. We have the time to research, purchase and prepare healthy foods. We have time to take our children to fitness centers or drive them to practices and games. 

So maybe instead of creating apps that will encourage disordered eating in small children, we should really dig in our heels and address the real problems in our country. First, access to healthy foods and exercise for all. And then the big one- breaking the cycle of poverty. 

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Jul 08

Happy 16th Birthday Caroline!

by Stacey

As I sit and write this post, you have just landed at JFK after celebrating a friend’s own sweet 16. You were gone for 5 days in a foreign country and as you know, I missed you an awful lot. You had traveled without me before. To overnight camps and on school trips. You’ve flown without us and been gone for much longer periods of time. For some reason though, this one got me. I spent a lot of time thinking about why and I think one reason might be because it was a glimpse in to our very near future. The one in which you are more on your own then dependent on us.

Of course, raising independent humans is what we are striving for as parents but looking up one day to realize just how independent your once baby has become, can be hard. Sometimes you think I am too strict with you. Well, all the time you think that I am too strict with you. You wonder why I don’t trust you when over and over again, you prove that you make smart decisions. And I know you are right. I shouldn’t worry. You have grown into an amazing sixteen year old girl who is deserving of all our trust. (Note: I still will worry so don’t use this post against me in the future.)

This past year, you set many lofty goals for yourself and you met each and every one. From making the varsity soccer team to qualifying for Deca nationals. To excelling in a course load that I feared was way too intense. To writing for the high school paper. I worried (Hmmm- I’m sensing a theme) that you were doing too much but again and again, you proved that you could accomplish everything you set out to do.

All these accomplishments are amazing of course but it’s the other stuff that makes me the happiest. In all of your activities and all of your classes, you make the most amazing friends. People that you may share a common interest with or maybe just someone who makes you laugh. When you were little, I remember a friend of mine saying that come high school, you were the kind fo person that people would gravitate toward. She said that people would just want to be with you. And you know what? She was right. All people, kids and grown ups, like having you around. I don’t think there is anything more I would ever hope for a person.

And I am proud to say that this extends to your family. So often, you hear tales of teenagers who are either fighting with everyone in the house or locked up in their room. Sure, we’ve had a few slammed doors around here this year (see paragraph two re: strictness) but for the most part, we really don’t fight. And when you are home, you like to be with us and we all like to be with you. The relationship that you have with Katherine makes me happier than you will ever know. You are really each other’s closest friend and it watching you choose to be with each other is just the best.

So here’s to another amazing year, sweet girl. I truly can not wait to see what this year will bring.

Happy Sweet 16 baby girl. I love you.

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Apr 10

Happy 13th Birthday Katherine!

by Stacey

Dear Katherine,

It’s the day before your birthday as I sit and write this letter. Earlier today I went to Party City to get balloons as we will celebrate your birthday at breakfast tomorrow. This early celebration will happen because you will be at dance rehearsal until long past dinner on the day you turn 13. This feels both weird and totally logical at the same time- a reminder of this liminal space you hold. You are still a child who will love coming downstairs to see the table decorated with balloons and confetti but with each day you are becoming more and more the adult you will soon be.

I’m not sure how it is that you are turning thirteen. Each year when I write these letters, I shake my head in confusion that you could possibly be so old but this year, objectively, is a big one. You will be a teenager. We no longer have any children in the house. That said, part of what I love the most about you is your ability to be both mature and so fun loving. I was talking with one of your favorite dance teachers last night about your maturity but then also about your ability to be with girls younger than you and still have a great time. This is pretty unique behavior for a teenager. You have always followed your instincts and surrounded yourself with people who make you feel happy regardless of their age or who their friends are or what your friends think of them. You are fiercely independent in your choice of friends and it is something special to watch.

This year has been such a huge year of emotional growth for you. You have found your voice and the strength to use it. For years, you were more of an observer during family conversations. You would always tell me your opinion on things but more often than not, you would wait until we were alone. Now, you are are active part of our conversations and I love hearing your thoughts (and of course your quiet humor) mixed in to our discussions.

Academically, you continue to grow as well. I love watching you make a plan to get all your work done before you leave for the studio. You often have to juggle a lot and you have created a way to plan ahead and get everything done in the limited amount of time you have. You still say you don’t love school but you are telling us more stories about things you learn and conversations you are having in the classroom.

And of course, I can’t write a birthday letter without mentioning how much you, as a dancer, inspire me and everyone around you. Your dedication and commitment to your art are truly remarkable. Each year it seems that you find a way to work harder than the year before. While I change my mind about my loves every time the wind blows (or at least sometimes it feels this way), you have never wavered. From your years as a tiny girl, you have promised that you will dance professionally one day. I used to think that this might be a passing phase but with each year, your resolve grows stronger. You are laser focused on your goal and all your hard work shows. You are beautiful to watch on stage. I never tire of it.

So… Happy Birthday baby girl. May today and this year be all that you want it to be.

 

 

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Apr 03

Books of Winter 2019

by Stacey

I am going to force myself to believe that winter is behind us. The sun is shining, I have a window open and I am not shivering- for now at least. So… that means it is time for a winter book summary.

Here goes…

This is probably a funny book to start the year off with but I like to begin the year with a short, fast paced book to set the tone and this one did the trick. It was a little bit of a thriller but it was really much, much more a dark comedy. I liked it while I was reading it for sure but looking back on it, I don’t think it will make my favorite list of the year.

Friday Black is the first short story collection I have ever finished. Every year, I promise myself I will read more short stories but truth be told, short story is just not a genre I really love with the apparent exception of Friday Black. I mentioned on Instagram that the first story in this collection should be required reading for all Americans and all these months later, I am still thinking about the Finklestein Five.

I think that Stephen King is one of the most amazing story tellers of our time. 11/22/63 is on my list of all time favorite books. Elevation was ok but that’s about all I have to say about it. I don’t usually like to give negative reviews (and tend to not finish books that I don’t love) but my guess is that Stephen King won’t be impacted by my thoughts on Elevation 🙂

Karen Thomas Walker’s book The Age of Miracles was so amazing that I think I got a bit too excited for The Dreamers. It was a really great book but I liked Age of Miracles more and I really did not like the ending of The Dreamers. All that said, I think I am in the minority here so add this one to your list for sure!

As a mystery and thriller reader, I had been meaning to read Lisa Jewell forever. This was my first of her novels but it will definitely not be my last.

Like Lisa Jewell, Karin Slaughter has been on my list of ‘to be read’ authors for a long time. Unlike, Lisa Jewell, I think this might be last Karin Slaughter book. I am usually fine with the whole suspension of disbelief thing. I mean really, in the world of thrillers, fortunately, many of the premises are unrealistic but this one was just too unbelievable even for me.

I feel like one of the few readers in the world that hasn’t read and loved Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. I think I may have gotten to it too late when the hype was too great? Or maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I went to read it? Regardless, I put off reading The Great Alone as I wasn’t sure if I was a Kristin Hannah kind of reader. I am so glad I went ahead and gave this one a try. I am not usually a reader who is drawn in by the setting of a book but oh my goodness- Alaska! After reading this book, I really feel like I have been to Alaska and know exactly what I would need to do to survive a winter there. p.s. I wouldn’t survive a winter there.

A blogger that I have followed for a long time, Sarah’s Bookshelves, listed this as a book she would recommend to anyone and I couldn’t agree more. I had never heard of this book or this author but it was a great read. I was excited to learn that Dolan-Leach has a new book coming out soon and I will be reading it for sure.

This book has been all over the place and rightly so. I rarely find ‘important books’ that are also page turners but A Woman Is No Man fits well into that category. I really learned a lot while reading this book and still find myself thinking about the characters. The ending was also one that had me reaching out to reader friends for discussion.

This winter I  read a lot of books that are getting or have gotten a ton of attention on Bookstagram- my favorite little corner of the Instagram world. For some reason, this book is not among them. I feel in love with this author’s writing immediately and found the characters and the story to be super compelling. If you are triggered at all by talk of eating disorders, do not read this book but otherwise, I really want more people to read it so that I can talk about it.

Daisy Jones and the Six is probably the most talked about book of the season. I first read Taylor Jenkins Reid when her book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, got a ton of attention last year and I loved it. I was therefore really excited for this new title and it is worth all the hype. I am not a huge music person but in the same way I adore the movie Almost Famous, I absolutely loved the world that Reid created in this book. I wasn’t sure if was the best thing ever until I got to the end but at that point, I was sold.

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Dec 30

Favorite Books of 2018

by Stacey

In January, I promised myself I would track my books so that I could compile a year end list of my favorite reads of the year. I used the hashtag #staceyreads2018 on Instagram and I will say I did a better job than usual sticking with a system of record keeping. I do know that there are a few titles missing because for some reason, I didn’t record a few books I read in this fall. To be honest, I have no idea what the missing books were which is frustrating but I guess ok for this activity- if I don’t even remember the titles, they must not have been favorites, right?

So, I’ve written here before about the fact that I do not finish books I do not like. Therefore, every book I read this year is a book that I liked enough to read all the way to the end. I think this is part of what makes year end favorite lists so challenging. I really liked pretty much all of the books that I read. Therefore, in an attempt to make this trick task a little bit easier, I’m going to break it down a bit. And just cause I can’t not, I’m including my complete list of books read in 2018 at the bottom of this post.

Ok, here goes…

Favorite Literary Fiction: 

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

Favorite Historical Fiction: 

The Address by Fiona Davis

Favorite Thriller: 

Unsub by Meg Gardiner

Favorite Young Adult: 

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Favorite Memoir: 

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

Favorite Non-Fiction: 

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Favorite Back List Title: 

We Are Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Favorite Book of the Month Title: 

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Favorite Shelf Subscription Title:

Foe by Iain Reid

 

Complete List of Books Read in 2018- except for the ones I forgot 🙂 

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Imbue

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Only Child by Rhiannon Javin

A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Unsub by Meg Gardiner

In to the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

We Are Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

That Kind so Mother by Rumaan Alam

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

Social Creature by Tara Isabelle Burton

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Outsider by Stephen King

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Us Against You by Frederik Backman

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reed

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

His Favorites by Kate Walbert

To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Foe by Iain Reid

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lepena

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Address by Fiona Davis

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

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Nov 23

What To Do If You Are A Black Friday Mall Avoider (like me)

by Stacey

I used to love shopping. Now it tends to overwhelm me so Black Friday Shopping sounds like my own personal hell. The girls, however, are both at the mall with friends as we speak so whatever floats your boat, I guess.

If you are with me and looking for stay at home, alternatives to the mall, I’m here to share a few of my current non-shopping related favorites.

Podcasts

If you’ve been around here for long, you know I am a podcast fanatic. I listen to podcasts in the car, while I am getting ready in the morning, while I’m cooking dinner, while I’m folding laundry and all the rest. Here are my top recommendations.

New favorites:

Currently Reading

He Read, She Read

No Thanks, We’re Booked

Old favorites:

From the Front Porch

Sorta Awesome

NPR’s Up First

Book Riot’s All the Books and Get Booked

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour

To-Be-Listened to List:

Bear Brook

Slow Burn

Television

I am in a serious tv watching rut. I can’t stop watching shows like Criminal Minds in which I know that everything is going to be ok and I can predict the arc of the story. My current watch is Bones which is based on the Kathy Reichs novels which I read and really liked years ago. This is far from high quality tv but it fits what I am looking for these days in terms of a show. That said, any and all recommendations are welcome!

Books

I have been tracking my reading this year on Instagram and loving every minute of it. If you don’t follow me there, please come visit me @staceyloscalzo and join in on the fun.

Currently, I just finished my first and not my last Fiona Davis book, The Address and really liked it. There is more Fiona Davis to come for me but for now I have dived in to Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens. This book is all over bookstagram so I have to see what all the fuss is about.

Blogs

A lot of people will tell you that blogging is dead but I don’t agree. I still love reading and connecting with bloggers and some really smart people are sharing their writing in this way these days.

A few of my current favorites are Kelle Hampton, Modern Mrs. Darcy and 10 Things to Tell You. I think this collection really represents what blogging has become. Each blog is different from the other but they are all super valuable in what they are sharing with the world. Kelle writes a ton of awesome content about everything with a focus on connection and celebration in her family. She write a lot and I am super jealous of her ability to write all the words. Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy writes pretty specifically about books with an occasional glimpse into her everyday life. And Laura Tremaine of 10 Things to Tell You writes on her blog rather infrequently but when she does write I am always grateful for what she has to share.

And what I love about blogging today is that there are more ways to connect with the writers you love. Back in the old days of blogging, you would have to wait for your favorite bloggers to post new content. Now, most bloggers have a big presence on Instagram so you can connect with them in a really informal and more consistent way.

 

So how about you? Any recommendations for fun, non-shopping ways to spend Black Friday?

 

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