Spine of Roxane Gay's Hunger

The Story of a Body

“What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?”

I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gay‘s for a while — it started with Bad Feminist, then I followed her on Twitter (trust me, you want to, too), and then Difficult Women. They are all varying in genre: nonfiction, fiction, memoir, and Gay brings her unflinching honesty + powerful voice to each of them. But Hunger might be the most vulnerable and important of them all.

“Writing this book is a confession. These are the ugliest, weakest, barest parts of me. This is my truth. This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not.”

Gay’s experience is not mine, which, aside from wanting to read all of her work, is why I was so eager to get my hands on a copy. It’s important we read books that aren’t always echoing our own lives — especially in our current society. Approaching someone’s personal story with an open mind and heart is crucial to creating a more open and accepting society. Gay’s raw vulnerability makes it impossible not to feel empathetic, and to think differently about the way we view others and the assumptions we make.

At times painful and heartbreaking, Hunger should be required reading for all humans.

“I hope that by sharing my story, by joining a chorus of women and men who share their stories too, more people can become appropriately horrified by how much suffering is born of sexual violence, how far-reaching the repercussions can be.”

Big thanks to Harper Collins for sending this — I have no doubt it will stick with me and be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

For more of what I’m reading, follow me on my bookstagram (aka books on Instagram) at @kathareads.

(Fair warning, this book deals with difficult subject matters like rape, drugs, and eating disorders.)

Don’t miss her interview on NPR’s Fresh Air!

headphones for listening to podcasts

On Podcasts

I love podcasts. I’m starting to hoard them the way I hoard books — with the intent to listen, but in denial of how many hours I actually have to do so. There are a select few of which I never miss an episode, while the rest of them I pick and choose which episodes to devote time to based on topic/interest.

Podcasts keep me entertained anytime I’m in the car, when taking walks, while I do laundry, when I cook, and even when I can’t fall asleep. So here are a bunch that I think are worth checking out! Tell me: What podcasts have your ears?

If you like true crime…

Accused* — I devoured this in a matter of days.
Criminal — Short episodes, perfect for a commute.
Missing Richard Simmons* — This has since wrapped up, but it’s 100% worth the few hours of listening.
S-Town — From Serial and This American Life, all seven episodes will be released on March 28. I obviously can’t personally vouch for this, but I’m excited to see what it’s about.

If you like politics, news, current events, and culture…

NPR Politics* — I love love love this one. It’s a great way to stay up to date
Pod Save America* — Hosted by Obama’s former speechwriters, this is a no BS political podcast for those of us trying to stay sane during 45’s presidency.
On Point with Tom Ashbrook* — A good way to stay on top of current events. Plus, Tom has a very soothing voice.
On the Media — “The smartest, wittiest, most incisive media analysis show in the universe.”
This American Life  — I hope this one needs no introduction!
Code Switch* — Honest, at times uncomfortable, and always important conversations on race.
With Friends Like These — A new podcast from Ana Marie Cox, a political columnist and culture critic.
Pop Culture Happy Hour — A roundtable discussion about books, music, movies, TV, and anything else pop culture related.

If you like women-run podcasts…

Another Round* — Heben and Tracy are funny, have fantastic guests, and talk about everything from race and gender, to squirrels and mangoes.
Dear Sugar* — Hosted by Cheryl Strayed (and Steve Almond) and based off of the Dear Sugar column. Need I say more?
The Broad Experience* — Conversations about issues facing women in the workplace.
Call Your Girlfriend* — As they say, “a podcast for long distance besties everywhere.” And their theme song is Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.”
Death, Sex, and Money* — “A podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.”
Embedded — “Hosted by Kelly McEvers, Embedded takes a story from the news and goes deep.” This season tackles video of deadly police encounters.
Nerdette — Interviews with everyone from authors to astronauts.
Note to Self* — Host Manoush Zomorodi tackles the effects technology on our everyday lives.
Women of the Hour — A miniseries about friendship, love, work, bodies, and more, hosted by Lena Dunham.
Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert — Anything Elizabeth Gilbert does, I’m there.
Stuff Mom Never Told You* — Even though this podcast has come to an end (insert sadface emoji), it’s still worth listening to the archived episodes, all about what it’s like to be a woman.

If you like books…

All the Books!* — A Book Riot podcast that comes out every Tuesday to discuss the best of that day’s new book releases.
Lit Up — Interviews with authors on life, love, and all things literary.
MashReads* — I just started listening to this one and I’m obsessed. Definitely go into the archives and listen to some of their earlier episodes, too.
That’s What She Read — Again, new to me but liking it so far. They did a re-branding of sorts and are focusing on books that “spark conversation and community around pressing social justice issues.”
Book Club Appetizer — Dubbed a “snackable podcast to enhance your reading adventures.” Yes, please!

Believe it or not, I subscribe to more than those listed… BUT those are the ones I listen to the most frequently. I’m happy to reveal others if you’re curious 🙂

* top 15… because narrowing it down any further gives me anxiety. Don’t make me choose!

On Life with CF

Next month–March 27, to be exact–will be 16 years since my diagnosis. Sometimes, I feel like I’m managing okay. Other times, like the past few weeks, I feel like I’m drowning.

I worry that I’m not doing enough. That I could be fitting in more treatments. Working out more. Getting more sleep.

But I also have a beautifully full life, which means I constantly feel torn in a million different directions, with my health–and this constant fear of the “what if”–at the center of it all.

I have a full-time job that I enjoy. Freelance gigs I want to continue. Stacks of books calling out, “Read me! Read me!” Advocacy work that I love and is fulfilling.

I have a husband who I love and want to spend time with. A puppy who needs my attention–and whose cuddles I want to hoard while I can. A sister, a mother, a father, an aunt, a cousin, relatives in far away places. Friends here in Baltimore, Chicago, Ohio, California, New York.

And what I’m giving never feels like enough.

It took me years to get to a place where I understood the importance of taking care of myself. Some of that was denial–not wanting to admit the reality of all that “taking care of myself” entailed. And now that reality is all too clear.

I rarely miss a treatment, I participate in clinical trials, I regularly visit my CF clinic, I get a yearly flu shot, I do my best to stay away from people who are sick, I wear a mask whenever I’m at a doctor’s appointment. And, most recently, I’ve committed to working out–weight lifting, training for a 5K, weekly cycle classes.

But it takes an enormous amount of time and energy, both mental and physical, it never feels like enough.

This disease is relentless. Despite my best efforts, CF still rears its ugly head. And I never get used to that part.

This morning I woke up to my latest sputum culture results: a new bacteria. I immediately called my clinic to see what they had to say. Thankfully, they aren’t overly concerned–but they do want to treat it: a month of antibiotics. The last time I took this drug was a little over two years ago (which is awesome–I’m reminding myself of that) and it was rough. The first week, each dose–a powder I inhale through a handheld device–sent me into fits of coughing, making the twice-daily doses take 20 minutes to get through, leaving me feeling sicker than before, and giving me a serious case of laryngitis.

All things considered, it’s not that bad. I can get through the first week, and the following three. I’m just tired.

Tired of doing all the right things and still watching this disease win. Tired of never getting a break from CF. No day off, no babysitter I can call, no vacation I can take. Cystic fibrosis, and all that it asks of me, is with me every single day.

I have a truly incredible support system–which helps immensely and makes the rest of my life possible. But I still have a hard time knowing that everyone else can walk away from CF.

I know I’m lucky. It could be much worse. But every time something like this happens–my PFTs decline, I culture something new, my symptoms worsen–I worry. I worry that the worst is happening. That I won’t bounce back. That this is my new normal.

After 16 years of (knowingly) living with this disease, I’m still not used to it. I still find it impossible to accept my reality. I know how easy it is to look at me and think I can’t possibly be living with this ticking time bomb inside me, because I look in the mirror and think the same thing.

This bacteria is a minor setback, one that we can hopefully defeat thanks to the power of medicine. And eventually I’ll find my footing again. For now I’m going to go easy on myself, try to relax as much as CF will allow (think lots of tea, maybe a book purchase or two, some binge watching, and some delicious food), and hang on to hope ❤

On Loss and the CF Community

The CF community has been hit hard the past couple of months. Many have lost the fight, while others are spending the holiday fighting as hard as they can. No matter how close we are, or how well we know each other, the loss of one of our own never gets easier.

This morning I learned that a man I had only started to get to know passed away. He was an incredible force in the community and had dedicated his life to advocating for this devastating disease.

The news popped up on my Facebook feed in the middle of a meeting, tears immediately springing to my eyes. I silently slipped out, took a few minutes, got a hug from a coworker, and went back in. But this sadness has stuck with me. Sadness for him. For his family. For his community that ran wide and large.

And sadness for those of us with CF. It’s impossible to explain what it’s like to watch your friends die. To know that it’s only going to keep happening. That the older we get, the more friends we’ll lose.

To watch people die from the very disease you have is its own kind of torture.

Sometimes it’s enough to make me want to shut it all out. To turn away and not face what’s happening. But these are the people who understand me the most. Who know my fears and frustrations and anger. We NEED each other–we provide a support that no one else can.

Which is why we have to keep fighting. Even when it feels like an uphill climb we can’t win. ESPECIALLY when it feels like we can’t win.

My CF BFF and I made a pact: that we’ll be here, supporting each other, until we’re 80. And I’m going to do my damnedest to make that happen–for every. single. one of us. And I can’t wait for the day we can celebrate our win, together.

 

Picture of neutral colored lipsticks

April Favorites + a Playlist

It’s time for more things I’ve been loving, watching, eating, and reading! Let’s get right into it. And, as always, tell me what YOUR April favorites were.

Loving

The Lively Show. My podcast obsession is real – I currently subscribe to TWENTY-FIVE. (Please tell me somewhere out there listens to more than that… anyone?) The past few weeks I’ve been consumed Jess Lively’s podcast, listening in the car, at work, while cooking dinner, on walks, etc. No matter the episode, Jess + her interesting guests always leave me feeling motivated + with a renewed life perspective.

Lipstick. I. love. lipstick. And while I’ve been all about bold lips in the past, I’m feeling particularly partial to nudes at the moment, the ones that look like your lips but better, ya know? The newest additions to my ever-growing collection are: Nars Audacious in Anita, Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche in Fig (might be my new fave), and Velvet Teddy + Peach Blossom by MAC.

Clothing. I’ve been paring down my closet the last few weeks in the hopes of figuring out my true style + making it easier to get dressed in the morning. This has also meant adding some pieces with one rule: I must love them. And the LOFT Linen Cotton Sweater (in white) is so good I bought a second… in the same color.

Watching

Vivianna Does Makeup. I have a confession: I love YouTube beauty gurus. And my most recent discovery, thanks to The Lively Show, is Anna. Her style – from makeup, to hair, to clothing – is everything I aspire to be. Anna, can we be friends?

TV. I had fallen a little out of love with “Nashville,” but after catching up on the last few episodes I’m hooked again. Connie Britton is everything. Mike and I have been trying to finish “House of Cards” and we’re getting close! Claire + Frank’s relationship is fascinating. And spotting Baltimore locales is my favorite part. I have a love/hate relationship with “Girls” because it always makes me incredibly uncomfortable but I also can’t stop watching. Somehow the characters seem a little more tolerable this season – maybe I’m just finally getting used to them?

Movies. “Sleeping with Other People” is much cuter than the title suggests. A super fun + sweet romantic comedy. And Jason Sudeikis + Alison Brie are adorable. Two movies I’ll be seeing as soon as they come out: “Girl on the Train” + “The Light Between Oceans.”

Reading

Books. I finally finished Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. And I really liked it. As soon as I turned the last page I started reading all the reviews I could get my hands on. Partly because I couldn’t figure out why I liked it so much, and also because there was so much to think about. I found this particularly helpful in articulating what I liked about book. Anyone else read it yet? I also read B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. It was a quick + funny read that I really enjoyed. (This was April’s pick for The Bookly Club and our reviews up now – check them out!)

This. All of it. I want to read this every morning before I get out of bed.

Letting Patients Tell Their Stories. “Doctors are trained first to diagnose, treat and fix – and second, to comfort, palliate and soothe. The result is a slow loss of vision, an inability to see who and what people are outside the patient we see in the hospital.”

Eating

Vegan sloppy joes + blueberry breakfast quinoa. I’m trying to make one to two new dishes per week, so far so good. These two were both delicious and simple, and have been added to my regular recipe rotation.

The Pines. I visited my sister in Brooklyn a couple weeks ago and she treated me to dinner – their bread was reason enough to go, and the other food super yummy, too.

Tell me: What did YOU love this month?

Where else you can find me…

RIF: Books to Give Mom
The Bookly Club: April review of One More Thing
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation video: Thank You, Volunteers

April Playlist

A Little Less Lonely

This post originally appeared on the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s blog. While this was written a while ago, much of it still applies – and gives a peek into life with CF.

The other night I got in bed around 11 p.m. to read until I fell asleep, which I hoped would be soon as I was anticipating a 6 a.m. wake-up call for my first round of treatments before work. Just as I lay my head down after closing my book, a cough bubbled up in my throat, as if my lungs knew I was attempting sleep. I spent the next two hours sitting up in bed coughing up mucus, getting more and more anxious as each minute passed and my hours of much-needed rest dwindled.

Somewhere around 2 a.m. I finally drifted off, with only four hours between me and the start of the day, knowing that this would follow: I’ll wake up, drag myself downstairs, spend about two hours doing my treatments, and then get ready for the day. I’ll arrive at my office at 9 a.m., coffee in hand, makeup on, and no one will know what my night actually looked like.

It is in these moments – when cystic fibrosis tries to get the best of me – that I feel most alone.

For most of my 30 years, my life has been on the same path as my peers’. I graduated from high school, and then went away to college where I did college things like go to parties and join a sorority. After college I got a job, moved into my own apartment, and started my adult life. I got married and bought a house. All the things my friends were doing, too.

But suddenly things feel different. Friends are advancing in their careers, starting families, and planning their futures. And I’m not sure I’ll be able to do any of those things.

Instead, I worry about why my cough has increased, what my next sputum culture will show, and how I’ll be able to make it through the day on four hours of sleep.

I spend my days doing treatments, going to work, doing more treatments, getting some (restless) sleep, only to wake up and do it all over again. I’m often tired, and constantly coughing or congested.

And that’s just the physical stuff.

Emotionally, I struggle not to feel like I’m suffocating from the unending sadness that comes with having a life-shortening illness. I struggle to feel joy for my friends and their milestones. I struggle to relate to almost anyone. And that is so very lonely.

Isolation, according to the all-knowing Merriam-Webster, is “the state of being in a place or situation that is separate from others.”

And that’s a pretty good definition of how I have felt as I’ve entered my 30s. To live a life, day in and day out, that few people understand is hard – especially when us CFers look mostly healthy on the outside but often feel a lot worse on the inside.

Creating a community online has been an immense help in fighting this loneliness. It will never be a substitute for a real hug or a coffee date, but it helps make us all feel a little less alone, a little less misunderstood and a little less like we’re in this by ourselves.

March Favorites + a Playlist

Hello? Anyone still there? I don’t want to dwell on the fact that it’s been months (MONTHS!) since I last used this space, because it is what it is. And this place doesn’t need to become something I feel guilty about, but, that being said, I do miss it.

I figured I’d ease back into this here blog by sharing some things I’ve been loving, reading, eating, etc. this past month (to be a total cliche, HOW is it April already?!), as well as (what I hope will be) a monthly playlist. Let’s get to it!

Loving

@iamhertribe. This Instagram account has quickly become a favorite. Their daily, life-affirming quotes inject some (often-needed) clarity into my day.

Snapchat. I’m late to this party, but I’ve been loving it. Less pressure than Instagram (although Insta will always be my fave) and just lots of fun. You can find me at katharinescriv. Come say hi!

Life Lately Podcast. Clara + Brooke are two friends who live long distance and realized the conversations they had with each other might be of interest to others – and they were right! I’ve really enjoyed all the topics they’ve covered, from holistic wellness to sex + relationships, and look forward to new episodes every week. This week’s is on loneliness, something we all experience at some point in our lives – check it out!

Beauty products. Confession: I have a problem. I CANNOT get enough of hair products, face primers, masks of all kinds, etc. etc. etc. In the interest of trying to save a little bit of money, I’ve started exploring drugstore brands to see if I can find more affordable products to mix in with my higher-end stuff. My most recent finds are:

  • L’Oreal Micellar Cleansing Water. This has replaced toner for me and I swear my skin has been behaving better since using it.
  • Covergirl Ready Set Gorgeous Foundation. I was skeptical that a $9.99 foundation would work, but it did! Made my skin super smooth + flawless, and it lasted for hours.
  • Covergirl Lash Blast + L’Oreal Telescopic mascaras. For work I use the Covergirl mascara on its own (great volume, less lengthening, and also great for reapplying later in the day – no clumps!) and for going out/special occasions I use the two together for both volume + length. LOVE.

Birchbox. I abandoned this for a couple years but am back and loving it. My current favorite sample-turned-full-size purchase is the IPKN Radiant Primer. Adds a bit of glow under your makeup – perfect for the warmer weather that’s (hopefully) right around the corner.

These shoes. I desperately need new shoes, and these were my newest pair – comfy + cute!

Reading

Books. I recently finished Anne Lamott’s Help Thanks Wow and WOW. This has earned a permanent spot on my nightstand for daily reference. I’m a few chapters into Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi and like it so far. Final thoughts to come. Next on my TBR list is One More Thing by B.J. Novak, this month’s Bookly Club pick (come read with us!).

Articles. Joy Bryant wrote about not having kids in Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter and YASSS. As someone who is still undecided on the kids/no kids issue, it’s a discussion that fascinates me and I’ve been reading anything + everything I can get my hands. Joy Bryant does a great job using humor to defend the choice not to have kids. I also loved a piece in the New York Times about women + friendship, and the benefits of female relationships that romantic ones don’t provide.

Blogs. The REWM. Rachel shares some of the best articles floating around the internet and I look forward to her weekly “week in review” posts each, well, week. A Practical Wedding. I’ve been following them since I got engaged and their content is still relevant as a married person. Full of smart + educational articles about all sorts of women-centered issues.

Eating

Buzzfeed’s Tasty. Two recipes that have made it into my regular rotation: Hasselback Chicken + Ratatouille Boats. Simple + delicious.

Galley Foods. I’ve used them once a week for about the past month and it’s been a lifesaver. Their menu changes weekly and they offer five different dinner choices every day, ranging from $12 to $16. Via their website or app, choose the day, meal, + delivery time and a fully cooked + delicious meal arrives at your door. All you have to do is heat it up for 10 minutes! Sadly, it’s only available in Baltimore right now, but I love it. If you’re in the area, I suggest giving it a try. (If you use my link, you get your first meal free!)

Relay Foods. A couple weeks ago I was sick but needed groceries. Battling crowds at the grocery store was the last thing I wanted to do, so I turned to Relay Foods, an online grocery store I’d been wanting to try for a while. I was able to take my time choosing what I needed and was able to pick it up the next day at a location near my home. Again, lifesaving. (And if you use my link, you get $20 off your first order. Pssst, they also deliver!)

Clavel + La Cuchara. Over the past couple weeks, I was able to cross off two “must-try” restaurants – a list that keeps growing thanks to the wonderful food culture here in Baltimore. Both of them were delicious + worth checking out if you live in the area.

Where else you can find me…

RIF. My latest writing gig might be my favorite because it involves books, and validates my book-buying habit. Check out my latest round-up: Books to Keep You Warm Until Spring Arrives.
The Bookly Club. My review of our March book, Betrayal, is up! Check back at the end of the month for our reviews of April’s pick, One More Thing.
CFF.org. This past month I was honored to participate in a panel on cystic fibrosis + relationships. Andy, Julia, and I had a wonderful discussion on the ways in which having CF can complicate relationships. While its focus is CF, a lot of what we talked about applies to all of us.

March Playlist

 

Phew, this was a long one. If you made it to the end, I love you. And I’d love to hear what you’re loving, reading, and eating this month!