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July 2017
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September 2017

But I Wasn't Alone



Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash


My mind did not initially register what I saw.

I walked toward where my car was parked and saw a white car with random parts on the ground in front of it, the bumper hanging partially off, the headlight busted. What happened to that car, I wondered. How did that even happen?


"You guys," I yelled to my friends, trying to keep the note of hysteria from creeping in. "Look at what happened to my car!" 

Melissa and Danielle rushed over from where they'd been headed and we gaped at the destruction. 

This was not how the weekend was supposed to go.

We had picked a random town in Wisconsin to meet up at the end of July. I hadn't seen Melissa and Danielle since before I moved to San Francisco but now that we lived in adjoining states, it was time to catch up. 

We've been friends for almost 20 years now and it's easy to feel like we're still in college when we're together, no matter how much has changed since then. Saturday evening  we'd visited a brewery and then found a restaurant serving our beloved fried pickles. We all agreed: these were as good as the ones at La Grotto's. No small feat. Sunday morning we'd planned on checking out a cute coffee shop we'd passed on the way to the brewery.

That plan was put on hold as it became clear my car had been the victim of a hit and run. While a few hotel guests had witnessed it happen late the night before, they had been unable to catch the license plate. 

On any given day, my mind is a wild cacophony of thoughts. Put me in some sort of difficult situation and those thoughts take a hyperbolic and/or fatalistic direction. Welcome to the jungle.

I needed to drive home that afternoon. Was my car even drivable? If it wasn't, how would I get back to the Twin Cities? I didn't know any mechanics there. How soon could it be fixed? What would I do if I had to stay in Wisconsin? What about work? 

Then looming behind all that: the knowledge my temp job would be ending soon without any good prospects on the horizon. I was about to be unemployed again while having to pay my deductible and a portion of the rental car for something that wasn't my fault. Stressed was an understatement.

This all passed through my mind in seconds.

Then I took a deep breath. If I'd been there on my own, I might have fallen apart. The last straw and all that.

But I wasn't alone.

I looked at Danielle and Melissa and this zen state came over me. Unlike most things in my life, I didn't have to go through this on my own.

Sure, there was still strong language but the hysteria that tried to take hold quickly ebbed away. Everything rolled off my back. I focused on one thing at a time: talking to the sheriff's department, calling insurance, determining if my car was drivable.

Emotional equanimity is the gift of the healthy Four and that day it was on display in full force. I am convinced my friends were a big part of that. Their presence kept me present. They kept checking on me because they were ready for the breakdown. I was upset but I held it together because what else can you do?

Instead, I focused on what I did have.

My friends stayed by my side while I made phone calls and waited for the police. They waited with me and took me out for tea while we waited for a mechanic and drove to get  gorilla tape and took my mind off of the weight of this new disaster. 

Unless you have been single for many years, I'm not sure you'll understand how much this means.

I wasn't alone.

Let me repeat that: I wasn't alone.

I'm in charge of everything in my life. Whether it's chores around the house or everything that comes with moving out of state, it all comes down to me. It can be exhausting but I'm used to it. I don't have a choice. Either I take care of things or they don't get done. Full stop.

When it came to this car debacle, I still had to make all the phone calls and deal with the car rental company and the mechanic. But I had two dear friends by my side and that made all the difference. Having Melissa and Danielle there to bear witness and help out in tangible ways was a balm. I didn't know how much I needed that balm. 

The gift of presence goes farther than any of us ever know.

Review: The Dream Keeper's Daughter by Emily Colin

The Dream Keeper's Daughter- Emily Colin

The Dream Keeper's Daughter


My Review - 5 Stars

Kickass lady academic main character? Check. Past-present storylines? Check. Time travel a la Outlander? Check. Lost love? Check. Swoon-worthy bad boy best friend? Check. Character with inexplicably accurate intuition? Check. 

This novel had my name alllll over it.

I raced through the pages, wanting to know more at every turn. The writing was evocative and crackled with energy. I could practically taste what the characters were eating and smell the various environments they inhabited. We primarily get Isabel's perspective in the present, as well as her memories of her relationship with Max leading up to when he disappeared.

We also get Max's perspective in 1816 Barbados. I did not know a slave uprising had occurred there and the depiction of the events leading up to it was done well. The uprising was ultimately unsuccessful and many slaves were killed as a result so Max wants to prevent it from happening, even as he is horrified by the way the slaves are treated. He walks a thin line on both sides as a strange white man, not wanting to arouse suspicion of the white slave owners while understandably not being trusted by the slaves. This leads to so many potentially interesting discussion questions.

My feelings were all over the map with this novel. From the opening pages, I was sure it would be a 5 star book. I inhaled the story. I was fascinated by the mechanics of time travel, in which Max has been gone for 8 years in the present day but he believes he's only been gone 2 weeks. I wanted to know more about their daughter Finn's ability, as either a highly sensitive and intuitive person or someone with ESP. Most of all, I wanted Isabel and Max to be reunited. Of course, I did.

But then I started to see where Colin was taking the story and I did not like this. Not because it was a bad plot choice but my own personal preference. I don't like love triangles and I wanted her best friend Ryan to stay her best friend, not her potential interest. Although let's be clear, I loved Ryan's character. His backstory was heartbreaking and I loved the way he supported Isabel and Finn. His scenes with Finn were incredibly touching. I decided to trust Colin but the novel was hovering at 3 stars in my mind.

I was right to trust the author. Her choices made for an ultimately more interesting story. There was no predictability to be found. Yes, you hope Max and Isabel's mom Julia (who went missing years ago) will make it back to the present but beyond that, Colin is making up her own rules. I wasn't sure I agreed with her choices but they were fresh and unexpected so the novel moved up to 4 stars. I grudgingly accepted the ending. It was not my preference but it made perfect sense for the characters and the story.

In the weeks that have followed, I kept turning the story over in my mind. The way the novel alternated seamlessly between past and present, the history of Barbados, the rich character growth. The bold moves with the plot. It all made for a better book and I couldn't help but respect Colin more for it. Because of all this, the book returned to 5 stars. 

This was an interesting ride, to say the least, and I look forward to reading more from this author.




An archaeologist discovers her presumed-missing boyfriend is trapped more than a hundred years in the past—a love story that transcends time and place, from the author of the New York Times bestseller The Memory Thief.

Eight years after the unsolved disappearance of her boyfriend Max Adair, archaeologist Isabel Griffin has managed to move on and rebuild her life with her young daughter, Finn, her last tie to Max. But after a series of strange incidents, Isabel begins to wonder if Max might still be alive somewhere, trying to communicate with her. She has no idea that the where isn’t the problem—it’s the when. Max has slipped through time and place, landing on his ancestral family plantation in 1816 Barbados, on the eve of a historic slave uprising. As Isabel searches for answers, Max must figure out not only how to survive the violence to come, but how to get back to his own century, the woman he loves, and the daughter he has only ever met in his dreams.


Buy The Book Here:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add To Goodreads


Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.

What I'm Into (July 2017 Edition)

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Oak Street Beach, Chicago 

Just as July didn't really feel like summer in San Francisco the last two years, it doesn't really feel like summer in the Twin Cities. But I don't miss the scorching heat and humidity I'm used to. Give me 70s and 80s in the summer and I shall be content. Life is trucking along here, even as I continue to wonder what exactly is going on. I never thought I'd still be looking for full-time work nine months in. But I have no regrets. Quitting grad school was the right call and I still sense something better is ahead. 


Read and Reading

PicMonkey Collage

I liked Goodbye Vitamin (Khong) right from the start but I had to adjust to the way Ruth was telling her story. The more I read, the more I was enchanted by her storytelling style and her asides. The family dynamics are complicated, part of why Ruth has stayed away from home for so many years. Ruth's relationship with her father was particularly interesting because she has not wanted to see him with anything but adoration, in spite of his actions and now in the context of his decline with Alzheimer's. Even though this could have been a heavy book, it's not. Ruth has a lot she's dealing with but she has a lot of unusual insights, which are often complimented by random facts. This makes for engaging storytelling, particularly the contrasts between her life and her dad's. This would make for an interesting book club discussion.


No one writes a book like Laini Taylor. Her mind must be a strange and wonderful place! (Side note: if you haven't read her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy yet, get on that!!) The world-building in her latest novel Strange The Dreamer sucked me in from page 1. This book is Taylor's ode to libraries and the love of books and stories permeates these pages. It is Lazlo's love for the written word that spurs on his dream of finding out what happened to the city now known as Weep, a city he's never seen but has heard stories about since childhood, a city that's no longer the same. He is drawn toward the mystery and becomes almost an expert on this city few people in his town care about. But this ends up being how he goes to Weep itself and this is where the story really takes off. Taylor's prose is beautiful and magical. She knows how to turn a phrase and it is always in service of moving the story forward. The symbolism is moving and serves the world-building. I loved thinking about dreams and nightmares and what's behind them- this particular element of the novel was incredible. She takes concepts you think you understand (good is good, bad is bad) and turns them on their head. Strange The Dreamer is book 1 of a duology. There is so much story there and I have no idea where Taylor will take us in its conclusion but I am here for it. I loved all of the characters and the cliffhanger in this one is a doozy but somehow I know (hope?) Taylor will not leave us wanting for long. She will find a way to redeem these threads and build them into a stronger story. I can't wait!


Joss and Braden's story in On Dublin Street (Young) absolutely stole my heart. They certainly had one of the most memorable meet cutes I've ever encountered! Particularly the second time they met. I'm giggling just thinking about it. This has cemented my fangirl status: Young's novels make me laugh out loud, they make me tear up, and they wrap me up in the story and characters. The plot is fresh and you can't help but root for the characters, even when they make a mistake. The character growth was incredible, for both Joss and Braden. They both had a lot to learn from each other and while there are missteps along the way, it rang true to life. I especially appreciated the role of Joss's therapist as Joss finally starts to confront her grief for the first time since her family died. It was an accurate depiction of grief therapy and I'm so glad it was therapy, in conjunction with her new community, that brings hope and healing to Joss. I listened to this on audio, which was a great choice. All those delicious Scottish accents, complimented by Joss's American accent. It made me want to take the first flight to Scotland and find a Braden of my own.


I haven't had a chance to review them yet but Penny Reid's Beard In Mind and Adriana Anders's In His Hands are out today and they are GLORIOUS. 5 stars the both of them and definitely favorite reads from this month.


I've always been fascinated by novels and movies about hostage negotiators. My hat is off to everyone who does this kind of work. When I started reading Never Split The Difference (Voss), I wasn't sure how much direct application it would have to my life and I was astounded by how much I learned. Chapter 4 on the role of No was a game-changer. And this is coming from someone who loves to say no! There are so many relevant applications, even for those of us not negotiating with terrorists or making business deals. Highly recommended.


Have you ever read a book and the author/subject's innate goodness leaped off the page? That was my exact experience while reading the Dalai Lama's The Art Of Happiness. I'm amazed by his philosophies and how he lives out his Buddhist faith. He is the real deal. If we could approach others with even an ounce of his compassion, we'd all be in better shape. I'll be reflecting on this book for months and years to come.


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

Currently reading: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance and Navigating the Path to Success (Probst), Milk And Honey (Kaur), The Animators (Whitaker), Down London Road (Young), The Long Way Home (Penny), Beautiful Secret (Lauren)



New discoveries: Phildel, Jacob Banks, GoldFord, Lights, Jessica Allossery, Tall Heights

I am full on obsessed with Kesha's new songs Praying and Woman. (Don't listen to Woman without earbuds if you're at work or around children.) After everything she's been through the last few years, her music sounds empowered and free and full of life. I'm here for it.

I'm working on a Spotify playlist of cover songs. It's going to be amazing!

Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.



Look at me actually watching TV again! It's all because So You Think You Can Dance is back. This season is shaping up to be the best yet. I'm not completely on board with the new role for the All Stars but we'll see how it plays out.

I could not stop laughing while watching Mike Birbiglia's comedy special Thank God For Jokes. Plus, there was surprisingly thoughtful commentary at the end. 



Has anyone else been listening to Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty? Super compelling storytelling about a complicated man.

If you need to laugh: The Popcast presents The Nos of Weddings.

Loved listening to my friend Amena Brown on episode 88 of What Should I Read Next? She and Anne had such an interesting conversation about creativity.

I'm giving Revisionist History a try after strong recommendations and was fascinated by The Foot Soldier Of Birmingham. I haven't listened to any other episodes yet but I'm pretty sure I'll be going through the archives. 





  •  My best friends Tracy, Erin, and I had a weekend in Chicago and it was so much fun. We had dinner at Maize + Mash in the suburbs where our old friend Mike works. The cocktails, food, and ambiance were top notch! We brunched at Bub City, shopped on Michigan avenue, and laid out at Oak Street Beach. 


Maxi dress by eShakti


  • We had an amazing dinner at The Allis. My cocktail had thyme in it and it was so refreshing. After dinner, we decided to get dessert at Little Goat down the street. I finally had the Fat Elvis waffles, which I always contemplate ordering when Erin and I go to LG for our annual Christmas dinner. They were perfection but so rich, I couldn't finish, which is saying something.


  • I loved our time together. It was such a treat to be with them without their families. We laughed and reminisced and talked about everything and nothing. We quoted our favorite movies and trotted out all the inside jokes. I can't wait for next time! 


  • My cousin Adam bought my grandparents' house after Grandpa moved to a retirement community. I drove out to the farm to help Adam move more of his stuff over. It was great catching up with him, my cousin Zach, and Uncle Terry. I love when we can get together in smaller groups like that.


  • Laura and I met for coffee. There aren't any Caribous left in Illinois so we don't have a usual spot to meet at anymore but we make it work. We sat outside and there were two different firework shows in the distance. It was perfect.


  • Ellie and I met up at Northside Park so her kids could play while we caught up. She is just a wonder and I can never get enough of the ways our lives intersect, even while taking us in such different directions.


  • Lunch at Front Street with Donna and Jill and then a stop for my favorite penny candy at The Popcorn Shop.


  • Linda and I sat in the park next to the library and it was Real Talk all the way. So good for my soul. Then we topped it off by visiting Prairie Path Books!


  • My friend Jen and her family happened to be back in my hometown the same weekend so we were able to meet up for drinks. Such a treat!


  • My hometown 4th of July parade. I had to drive back to the Twin Cities right after but I am always thrilled when I'm back for the parade. Even better: there were a number of floats and marchers speaking up for love and equality. Every year those groups grow bigger and their voices louder and it gives me so much hope.



  • Iced tea at Patrick's with a new friend


  • Breakfast with friends at Annie's


  • Helping Sarah and Thomas figure out their Enneagram types after a delicious taco dinner. It's a fair trade.


  • The porch swing at Annie's house, where I sat every day after work while housesitting.


PicMonkey Collage


  • Going for one last walk with Annie and Foxy before they moved away. I'm going to miss seeing them all the time!


  • Two good friends from college live in Wisconsin so we picked a nowhere town that was halfway between us to meet up. It was so much fun! We went to Sand Creek brewery, ate incredible fried pickles at Mocha Mouse, and enjoyed the treats and hot drinks at Revolution Coffee. I hadn't seen Melissa and Danielle since before I moved to San Francisco so it was wonderful to be back together.


  • Watching my friend's cat my house! Catsitting for someone else in your own home is the way to go. Plus, Hermione is such a sweetheart.


  • Roommate bonding time over Thai food at Sawatdee.



Favorite Instagram:

  2017-07-08 15.26.46
If that doesn't sum up the last 9 months...  Things are looking up, I swear.


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




What I'm Into

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Friday September 1. 

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What have you been into this month? 

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