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March 2015

What I'm Into (February 2015 Edition)

Nash weatherI wish this collage conveyed the particular joy of chipping through inch thick ice on your car and driveway. And by joy, I mean expletives at winter whenever I managed to dislodge a chunk of ice.

For such a short month, February certainly showed off its flair for the dramatic. Job search woes! Week-long Icepocalypse! 0 degrees! Best Friend Reunion! See, it wasn't all bad.


Read and Reading

The Girl on the Train (Hawkins) didn't enthrall me the way Gone Girl did but the presence of two potentially unreliable (and frankly, unlikable) narrators hooked me in. I did figure out the twist about a hundred pages from the end. However, I enjoyed sifting through the characters' memories and experiences and trying to figure out exactly what they'd seen and done.

While I have a few qualms about the relationship dynamics presented in Wildalone (Zourkova), overall I enjoyed the ride, especially learning about the mythology and how it connected to Thea's present. Having a main character who is Eastern European gives the reader many unusual viewpoints. She's believable as a college student and I liked the angle of her virtuosity on the piano and the way that inspires and hampers her. I'm definitely looking forward to what happens in book 2.

I commend Stevenson for the good work he's done through the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal practice dedicated to serving the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden. And I commend him for the good work he's given us with Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. The book is part memoir, part treatise on the state of the legal system. We follow the story of Walter, a man on Alabama's Death Row who proclaims his innocence, and meet Stevenson's other clients as he built his practice in the 1980s and the subsequent areas of injustice they've battled to this day, including death penalty sentences for children and the treatment of the mentally ill. This book is a game changer, a must-read. 

Haunting, beautiful, insightful. All the Brights Places (Niven) was an experience and I didn't go in thinking it would be.

We'll be discussing Found by my friend Micha Boyett next month on The Red Couch. My introductory post will be up next week.


You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: We Make the Road By Walking (McLaren), Amazing Grace (Norris), De Niro (Levy), The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Perelman), Strong Inside: Perry Wallace the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (Maraniss), Are You My Type? Am I Yours?: Relationships Made Easy Through the Enneagram (Baron and Wagele), Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History (Garelick), The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip Hop (Williams)


(I read 12 books this month.)



Must-see TV: Madam Secretary, Jane the Virgin, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Once Upon a Time, Downton Abbey, Being Mary Jane, Hindsight

I'm behind on Fresh Off the Boat but I really like the episodes I've seen.

VH1's Hindsight has been an enjoyable trip down memory lane, since it's set in the 90s. Thanks to Mary Carver for the suggestion!

The finale of Parks & Rec was perfection. Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, and the rest of the gang will live on in my heart forever.



After watching the documentary Bill Cunningham New York, I wanted to wander the NYC streets until I ran into Bill, not so he could take my picture (although, sure) but so we could become pals. What a delightful man!

The Theory of Everything deserves all the accolades it's received, especially Eddie Redmayne's acting. While I understand hardly anything of Stephen Hawking's work, I swear I felt smarter afterward. Remarkably touching film and now I want to read his ex-wife Jane's memoir to find out just how much they Hollywoodized the story.



New discovery: Bears Den, Laurel

Listen to the What I'm Into 2014 playlist.



I'm a huge fan of Mary Oliver's work so I was thrilled by her interview on On Being with Krista Tippett. How fascinating to hear how some poems came to be.

The must-listen award this month goes to This American Life for their two part series: The Police See It Differently (here's part 1 and part 2). They really do see things differently. Some of the stories shocked me, which at times made for hard listening. (Why, why, why are there horrible cops? How can we get rid of them?) There are examples of cops and precincts getting it right, too, which gives me hope. Here's to continuing the discussion.

A reader told me to listen to Death, Sex, and Money so I've been going through the archives of this remarkable show. Favorite episodes: A Funeral Director's Dead Reckoning (featuring my friend Caleb Wilde! I don't know how I missed it), The NFL Made Me Rich. I Won't Watch It Now., This Senator Saved My Love Life

Start Up ended its first season. It's a great time to catch up if you're not already listening.


Things I Love:

  • Super Bowl Sunday was a lot of fun, even if the Seahawks lost. What a game, what an ending!
  • Drinking my favorite tea with my favorite friend Amanda at Edgehill Cafe. Sometimes you need to set the busyness aside, sit across from one another, and talk as fast as you can about All The Things.

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  • Bitmoji, my new obsession. How would you like Emojis that look like you?
  • Babysitting the sweet girl I used to nanny. I'm so grateful we still get to see each other.

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  • Katie Gibson and I have been internet friends for a few years and we finally got to meet while she was in town visiting a friend. Such a treat to drink tea and talk books face to face.
  • My roommate and I turned ice storm lemons into lemonade by watching BBC's Pride and Prejudice. Because Colin Firth makes everything better, forever and amen.
  • Even though I couldn't leave my house for a few days due to the aforementioned ice storm, I was grateful I could still work at home, thanks to Virtual Assistant work and a side project for a friend's company. Technology, man.

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  • Best friend reunion weekend! So great having Erin and her family be a part of the Nashville crew. I'm glad she, Tracy, and I got to have our own time together (at McKay, no less). Even though the weather was horrible, I love that we could just hang out at Tracy's house and still have a good time together. So much reminiscing, so much laughter.
  • Snuggling Matthew and Jess's sweet baby boy and, of course, catching up with them.
  • This link up is posting early because tomorrow I head out to meet my baby niece! Prepare yourself for future gushing.


Favorite Instagram:

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Carrying this line from Mary Oliver with me today.
(From New and Selected Poems: Volume 1.)

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)


On The Blog:

If Your Life Was a Hallmark Movie... made me laugh while I wrote it and I'm glad it's made so many of you laugh, too. 



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What have you been into this month?

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If Your Life Was a Hallmark Movie...

Bridal WavePhoto source

If your life was a Hallmark movie, the man of your dreams would have happened to go down your street while you were de-icing your car. He'd gallantly pluck the ice scraper from your hands and send you back inside to read and drink tea while he freed your car from its icy tomb. It wouldn't be enough to de-ice your car. He'd retrieve the snow shovel from the trunk of his car (he's always prepared) and start clearing your driveway. As he chipped away at the ice, he would also be chipping away at the ice around your heart.

If your life was a Hallmark movie, Mr. Right would be your precise kind of tall, dark, and handsome. He'd probably be white. His name would be Coop, Gridley, or Luke. He would be unconventional in some way, like wearing flip flops at the office or selling driftwood creations.

If your life was a Hallmark movie, you would find Mr. Right to be insufferable at first. Shakespeare himself would be inspired by your banter. No matter how you treat Mr. Right, he will remain loyal and persistent, ready to help you in your time of need.

Surprisedbylove-0426Photo source

If your life was a Hallmark movie, your life's calling would be clear. You would enter the pie baking contest, run a twee bookstore, or join the family business. You would rehab a house without prior experience. Opportunities land in your lap and you seize the day. You would be dedicated to your work because you believe in helping people or because you're a workaholic who needs to learn a lesson about the real meaning of life.

If your life was a Hallmark movie, every risk you take would pay off in spades. Therefore, your life is glorious. You are (Queen) Midas with gold everywhere. (I hate you.)

If your life was a Hallmark movie, you were probably dating or engaged to the Worst Guy Ever. Everyone knows this guy is a douchecanoe but you would be oblivious. Until you met the Best Guy Ever, who was bummed you were already dating/engaged to someone but he liked hanging out with you anyway. He believed you would see the light and wasn't bothered by your obvious lack of discernment. And then you did see the light and you broke up with Worst Guy Ever, even if it was at the altar on your wedding day. It's a good thing Best Guy Ever was already waiting in the wings.

Recipeforlove-0469Photo source

If your life was a Hallmark movie, you would have the perfect wardrobe. You would wear dresses and heels to work or in the garden. Your hair would always look like you just left the salon. Most important, you would still look beautiful when you cry. Somehow your tears make you radiant in your distress. It is possible tiny flowers and rainbows bloom wherever your tears land.

But if your life was a Hallmark movie, your sorrows would be temporary, just like your bad luck. No one would stay mad at you for long because just look at you. So adorable, even when you're awful.

If your life was a Hallmark movie, you would win the lottery the first time you bought a ticket. Anna Wintour herself would save you a seat next to her during New York Fashion Week. Your first novel would be an instant best seller.

If your life was a Hallmark movie, you'd have a secret. You would know you need to tell your special someone. You really should tell him. But you won't. You would let fear win. Because of that, the secret will come out at the worst possible time and you will believe you have lost everything. Your life is ruined. But take heart! Your life isn't ruined because true (Hallmark) love conquers betrayal and lies. Welcome to your second chance with Mr. Right.

Acrushonyou-0011u-0457Photo source

If your life was a Hallmark movie, you would save the town- nay, you would save humanity- with one swiftly deployed marketing campaign. 

If your life was a Hallmark movie, you would have a Sassy Best Friend and several peripheral acquaintances, whom you only see at celebratory occasions. Your SBF would tell you what you need to hear, even when you don't want to hear it, because sassy is what sassy does. Your SBF would always listen to you, even when you complain about the same old thing. You would mean to listen to SBF but her problems just pale in comparison to yours. It's a good thing she's so understanding.

If your life was a Hallmark movie, you would learn the true meaning of Christmas: falling in love with a hot guy.

The Sleep Schedule and Other Tricks to Beat Insomnia

The Sleep Schedule and Other Tricks to Beat Insomnia via

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I've always been a night owl. I wasn't more than a couple years old before I started trying evasive bedtime tactics. Anything that would allow me to stay up a few more minutes.

As I grew older, I started going to bed when I was told but that didn't mean I fell asleep any sooner.

Starting in junior high, nights would come with only a few hours of sleep at best. At first, the insomnia was infrequent but by my sophomore year of college, entire weeks would pass where I slept no more than two or three hours a night.

Of course, I tried different remedies to help me sleep. Nothing helped.

My insomnia seemed to be worse when I was stressed but it didn't always correlate. It became something I lived with. I'd get weeks or months of regular, for me, sleep and then weeks with very little sleep. I was tired, so tired, but I functioned.

Then in 2007, my grandma died. I was a hospice social worker and grieving the biggest loss I'd faced thus far. Sleep offered no solace. This time I knew I needed a lasting solution. 

In desperation, I borrowed a good dozen books from the library about sleep and insomnia. I pored over all of them and they seemed to have the same suggestions, which had already proved futile for me or which I was disinclined to try, i.e. sleeping pills. Then I picked up Desperately Seeking Snoozin' by John Wiedman.

Wiedman introduced me to the concept of a sleep schedule and this changed everything.

The sleep schedule retrains your body into a healthier sleep pattern. Here's how it works.

  • Calculate how much sleep you need to stay rested. We'll call this S.
  • Then using S as your guide, use what time you need to get up in the morning and subtract S from it. This will determine what time you need to go to bed. Use this handy bedtime calculator if you need help. It's based on 90 minute sleep cycles.
  • You are only in bed for whatever time you determined to be S. Even if you don't fall asleep right away. Even if you go to bed later than your new bedtime. When your alarm goes off in the morning, you must get up. No hitting the snooze button. Just get up.
  • You must do this every day and night, without fail. Go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time. Even on the weekend.
  • No naps allowed. Naps will throw off the new pattern you're developing for your body.

In 2007, I guessed I needed 7 hours, 45 minutes to feel rested. At the time, I started working from home at 8 and would wake up at 7:30 or thereabout. My sleep schedule became going to bed at 11:45 pm and waking up at 7:30 am.

This meant no more staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish reading a book. No more sleeping in on the weekend. No longer relying on the snooze button for 9 more minutes of sleep.

I could still stay up late hanging out with friends or going to shows but I had to get up at 7:30 regardless.


But it changed everything. After a couple of weeks, I noticed myself actually getting tired as 11:45 approached. I didn't fall asleep right away but it started taking no more than half an hour to an hour. This, my friends, was revolutionary.

I've been using a sleep schedule ever since.

My Other Tricks

The sleep schedule dramatically improved my sleep but that doesn't mean I haven't experienced insomnia since. When I'm stressed, insomnia likes to make an appearance for a night so I've developed an arsenal of tricks to keep it at bay.

First, there's my bedtime routine. This is the complement to the sleep schedule. I start this about an hour or hour and a half before lights out. I take out of my contacts, wash my face, and so on. Then it's reading time. I switch over to a print book as screens can mess with our ability to fall asleep. I rarely read fiction right before bed because it's the equivalent of saying, "I don't feel like sleeping tonight." Having at least 30 minutes to read helps my body transition from wakefulness to being ready to sleep.

Second, dietary changes. Doing the Whole 30 in Fall 2013 showed that dairy and nuts exacerbated my eczema, which affected my sleep. But having those things can also cause insomnia for me. It explains so much.

Third, if I do have dairy, I take doTERRA DigestZen essential oil or a digestive enzyme tablet as soon as possible and then take melatonin before bedtime.

Fourth, I practice mindfulness. My thoughts race constantly. Mindfulness helps me be aware of my thoughts and consider why they're coming to attention. I might use this time to meditate but often I try to center my thoughts and focus on peacefulness.

Fifth, during stressful seasons, I take melatonin before bedtime because I need extra help shutting my mind off.

Sixth, the newest addition to the arsenal: I use the 4-7-8 method. You breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Keep repeating until sleep comes. By doing this, I am falling asleep within 15 minutes, instead of the usual 30 minutes to an hour.


A good night's sleep is crucial to being healthy and saving your sanity. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it's saving my life during this season of transition.