Book Review: “Blooming Bare”

Cover illustration: Asher Berard

“Blooming Bare”

Author: Morgan Richard Olivier
Publisher: Concise Publishing (North Carolina, USA)
Publication Date: February 2021
Genre: Self-help, inspirational, poetry
Pages: 277

Written by Morgan Richard Olivier of New Iberia, Louisiana, this book is a collection of affirmations that you can read whenever you need a little reassurance or a big confidence boost. The book’s title, “Blooming Bare” is part acronym with “BARE” representing the four sections and themes of the book: Breaking; Assessing; Redirecting; and Embracing.

From the book’s introduction, the author states that she “so badly wanted to find my place in this world and in the hearts of the people who resonated in mind that I got lost along the way. I found burdens, bruising, and brokenness. Yet, in all of those, I found the awareness and meaning to push through my pain and see the bigger picture.”

I read the book in one sitting and found myself putting sticky notes on dozens of the author’s revelations (often written as poems) that struck a chord with me. For example:

An excerpt from Untitled, page 70:

We make time for people and things
that mean something to us.

If someone loves you,
they will give you their effort
-not their excuses.

An excerpt from Bigger, page 100:

Don't let small minds or small towns lead you to limit your dreams, make you feel stuck in their idea of you or cause you to believe that what you see is all that is out there.

An excerpt from Wait for It, page 139:

What's meant and aligned for you will come at the right time. It will come at a time that you are truly ready to handle, appreciate, and understand it.

An excerpt from Growing Pains, page 149:

If it doesn't help you grow, you need to let it go.
As difficult as it may be to release people, mindsets, and environments that are familiar to you-I promise the burden is much heavier whenever you try to carry them into a season where they don't belong.

An excerpt from I'm A Woman, page 244:

I'm not a princess looking to fit in glass slippers.
I'm a queen who is ready and able to shatter glass ceilings.

The following entry appears toward the end of the book (in the Embracing section), but it was my introduction to the author’s work when I first saw it on Instagram.

An excerpt from Unapologetic, page 264:

I'm no longer the “I'll always be there for you” type of person. It's not because I don't love you or because I think I'm too good now. It's because I know my worth and have to protect the person I'm becoming.

Without ever going into specifics, the author manages to relay the many relatable challenges she has experienced and how she came out stronger and wiser. It’s the kind of book I wish I’d had when I was desperately searching and shaping my own identity in my twenties! If I’d had this book then, I would’ve been a little less hard on myself. The author’s words remind you to keep the faith because everything works out eventually.

Overall, this book serves as a soothing reminder to take care of yourself, specifically your mental wellbeing. That’s great advice at any age!

About the Author

Morgan Richard Olivier is an American author, advocate, wife, and speaker. Her goal is to crush the image and pursuit of perfection by captivating the raw beauty of sincere progress.

You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you purchase her book through her website like I did, she will sign it for you (just let her know when you order the book that you want it signed).

My Christmas Wish: Compassion

Ever the optimist, I sent out this Christmas card in 2019:

smiling family in Memoji with thumbs up
Thumbs up: my family and me in Memoji

Yeah, I got it wrong. So wrong.

My positive outlook for 2020 was due to everything I was looking forward to, including:

  • celebrating my husband’s milestone birthday
  • traveling with my daughters to Berlin to visit my dear friend and her family
  • moving to a new home
  • watching my daughters’ graduations, one from high school and one from elementary school
  • sending my older daughter off to college

While these significant personal life events have brought me much joy, I cannot ignore the most extraordinary challenge the year has brought: the global health crisis of COVID-19. Currently, there are nearly 70 million cases worldwide.

The statistics that we’ve all heard about people directly affected by COVID-19 are visibly grim: over a million people have lost their lives. People have lost their jobs and revenue from their businesses. Frontline medical professionals and other essential workers continue to work extended hours. But they are more than numbers, they’re people!

The economic uncertainty, inconsistent lockdown restrictions, and confusing face mask protocols aren’t helping either. They’re causing invisible harm in the form of depression and anxiety.

All I want for Christmas is a cure for COVID-19. But until then, I wish for compassion.

As this unprecedented year comes to a close, I hope that we can be compassionate toward ourselves and each other. I hope we can own our feelings, without apology.

To paraphrase line 56 from a Robert Frost poem, I believe “the only way out is through.” If we acknowledge our feelings, name them, feel them, and not suppress them, we can heal much faster.

For instance, when I think about everything going on, I get overwhelmed with a feeling that I can’t adequately describe. Is it grief? Sadness? Hopelessness?

I tell myself that it’s probably all of those feelings and that it’s OK to feel them. It helps to talk about how you’re feeling with others, too.

If you’re happy, that’s good. If you’re tired, stressed out, confused, or sad, that’s OK, too. Just be sure to reach out to someone. Chances are they need to hear from you, too.

Our society places so much importance on the jumping-up-and-down kind of happiness. We should strive for contentment instead.

For me, contentment means:

  • having my daughter home while she attends her first year of college virtually (or maybe this is more a feeling of relief?)
  • feeling fortunate that I’m part of an incredible team at work and that I’m able to work from home
  • having access to technology that provides a virtual lifeline and some semblance of person-to-person connection with family and friends, both nearby and across the miles

The point is, we don’t have to put on a smile or be happy all the time. If we remind ourselves of what we have and not focus on what we lack or what this year has taken away from us, we will feel our hearts filled with gratitude. Who knows? From thankfulness, maybe a genuine smile will naturally emerge after all!

As nice as it sounds, I won’t say “we’re all in this together” because we’re not; we’re feeling the effects in varying degrees.

However, I hope that, regardless of circumstance, we all come out stronger than before — and not only stronger in the sense that we have escaped or recovered from COVID-19.

During this time in lockdown, maybe you’ve strengthened some coping skills. Perhaps you’ve developed an increased tolerance for discomfort, become more patient, or discovered hidden talents, like baking or TikTok dance moves. Whatever you did, you made it through this rough year. Let’s keep going.

Our struggles can be visible or invisible. That’s why we need to be a little more kind, understanding, and compassionate toward ourselves and each other. Please reach out to someone if you need support.

I’d like to wish you a safe, healthy, and calm holiday season. Enjoy Christmas (if you believe). Thank you for reading.

Best wishes for 2021.

Darlene

Just checking in… How are you?

Book Review: “Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back”

Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back

Author: Alicia Cook

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Genre: Poetry; 240 pages

My thoughts

I enjoy reading and writing poems. I’ve even self-published several books of my own poems. While I admit writing them was cathartic, the poems helped only me.

The poems in the book, “Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back” are different. Mental health advocate and author, Alicia Cook offers poems that aim to help others.

I’m happy to see contemporary poems written in this sort of navel-gazing, confessional style gaining in popularity; however, the thought that so many people share similar trauma makes me feel a kinship and a sense of dread simultaneously.

Track Thirty-Three by Alicia Cook

The Devil's making lemonade
out of my dilemmas.
I'm not antisocial-
but I don't speak venom.
It's a slippery slope,
to deny it or cope.
Won't know 'til I hit water
if I will sink or float.

The more you console me,
the lonelier I get.
I know you can't handle
the loose threads in my head
I must be something to see,
weeping under the willow tree,
trying to get out the knots
in the necklace you gave me...

(an excerpt from page 40)

Since the book is a mixtape, the poems have track numbers instead of titles. I liked that I didn’t have an idea what the poem was going to be about until I read it. Common themes are love, grief, hope, with frequent mentions of anxiety, drugs, and alcohol.

At the end of each poem, there’s a name of a song and artist that the speaker of the poem is currently listening to, which is a fun feature if you love music.

🎧 (By the way, I’m currently listening to Courage to Change by Sia) 🎶

I recommend this poetry book to:

  • poetry fans
  • readers who think that they just don’t “get” poetry
  • people who need a break from vitriol

Overall, the poems drive home the point of a popular quote going around social media that goes something like, “Be kind. You don’t know the struggles others may be going through.” A smiling face doesn’t always mean that all is well.

In challenging times like these, especially, even a quick message shows you care. It could make someone’s day!

About the Author

Alicia Cook has written 2016’s bestselling book of poetry, Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately; 2018’s I Hope My Voice Doesn’t Skip; and 2020’s Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back.

Cook dedicates much of her life to shedding light on how drug addiction impacts the mental health of families.

She received an MBA from Saint Peter’s University and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Georgian Court University. She currently resides in Newark, NJ. She loves her family and iced coffee.

You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.

To buy the book, visit her website or Amazon (this is not an affiliate link).

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Awesome Music Project Published My Music Story

I shared my music story (stylized #MyMusicStory) with The Awesome Music Project (AMP) and they published my contribution today (May 24, 2020).

Based in Canada, AMP’s goal is “to build a community that can accelerate solutions to mental health through music” in Canada and beyond.

I’ve always believed in music’s therapeutic quality, so I was more than thrilled to answer AMP’s call for submissions on their website asking for readers to write about “a song or a concert or a musical moment that had a powerful effect on you.” Each day in May, they are publishing one story for Mental Health Awareness Month on their website.

AMP hopes to fund more research initiatives involving music and mental health. They have worked with researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) of the University of Toronto who are studying the benefits of music and music therapy. The researchers have found that music reduces stress, eases depression in kids and teens, reduces agitation in dementia patients, and benefits babies born prematurely.

“This song makes me feel normal and that I fit in”

Columbia Records (2012)

There are so many awesome songs that it was definitely challenging for me to pick one. For my music story submission, I finally decided to write about “Born and Raised” (written and performed) by John Mayer.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Once in a blue moon, you encounter a beautiful piece of music that heals you. At this stage in my life, the song makes me feel normal and that I fit in.”

To read the other 185 words of my music story, visit the AMP website:

#MyMusicStory: Born and Raised

Watch:

John Mayer Performs “Born and Raised” Live on Letterman

I hope my music story inspires you to share, too. Tell me in the comments below: What song has made a powerful impact on you?