HMB Book Club :: November Recap and Our Next Books

HMB Book Club:: November Recap and Our Next Books | Houston Moms BlogAnd just like that, our THIRD book club meeting has come and gone! Thank you to everyone who joined us and for those of you who came back and watched later–it’s not too late! The link to view the recording of our Facebook Live {obviously it isn’t live anymore…} is here.

We discussed Brene Brown’s powerful book Daring Greatly:: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.  Nicole and I dog-eared and highlighted many pages in our books! Nicole began our discussion with an explanation about where the phrase Daring Greatly comes from. It is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. . .”

Then came Nicole’s first question::

Vulnerability is____________;   Vulnerability Feels Like ___________________

When Nicole posed this to me, my first reaction was to agree with a description from the book. It feels like being naked in public. Totally exposed. Nicole was not phased by the idea of being naked in public, but I sure was! Pages 35-39 address different responses from people Brene Brown intereviewed. Kimberly commented, “Vulnerability feels like sharing your insides. It can feel so life and death when logically it’s not. It’s such a primitive, instinctive reaction.”  Yes! Nicole described vulnerability as stepping out of her comfort zone, and related to moving from Canada to Texas. She has been putting herself out there and has reached out to new people in attempts to make new friends.  That is definitely vulnerability.

Vulnerability is not weakness. Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness” {37}. 

What’s worth doing even if I fail?

When Brene Brown walked up to the stage to give her talk at the TED Conference in Long Beach, she describes it as “one of the most anxiety-provoking experiences of [her] career” {40}.   As she walked up to the stage, she whispered to herself, “What’s worth doing even if fail?” 

Nicole compared the vulnerability states described by Brene Brown to those from her education and experiences as an occupational therapist. The self-regulation framework called “The Zones of Regulation” and those degrees of vulnerability reflected an escalated state of arousal which is an internal, neurological state they call “The Yellow Zone.” She felt that regardless of semantics, it is the same visceral reaction. Nicole observed, “No wonder it is so uncomfortable to us all!”  Amen, sister.

Marble Jar Friends

The conversation moved on to the concept of having friends who support you and are kind to you it is as if they are putting marbles into a proverbial jar. When they are mean or disrespectful or betray your trust, it is as if they are taking marbles out. One of our favorite lines says, “Trust is built one marble at a time.”  Nicole related it to the universal “bucket-filling” concept.  She points out that it took several months after they moved to Houston before her kids made good “marble jar” friends at school.

How Are We Engaging/Disengaging With Our Children?

Nicole points out that on page 52, Brene Brown says, “When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears…”  She posed a very thought-provoking question: Do you find that you stop requesting invitations into your child’s life? How do you combat that?

I accidentally skipped ahead in the book {all the way to 223, I realize now that I am looking for it!} and mentioned the part where she talks about lighting up when you first see your kids. She points out some fantastic advice she caught from Toni Morrison on Oprah. Ms. Morrison said, “You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?…Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk into the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”  I worry that I often light up more for my little 3-year-old than I do for my 9-year-old. This is something I definitely want to improve IMMEDIATELY.

Nicole points out the slippery slope that exists, especially when our children become teenagers if we begin to lose that enthusiasm with them or we stop asking them to tell us about their lives. This was a timely warning to mothers to maintain strong relationships with our children, we must maintain constant engagement, even when it doesn’t always seem reciprocal.

I confessed that after reading this, I have considered my reactions when my kids first cross the street and meet me after school. Sometimes I am good at enthusiastically greeting them and lighting up and asking about what they did that day. But other times I am saying, “Son, let’s tie your shoes” or “Where’s your jacket?”  I want to do better at saving those criticisms and focus on how glad I am to see them instead.  These little details can make all the difference for our children and for our relationships.

Saying NO

Are there “no”s that you regret?

I am trying, personally, to be better at saying “no” and to not feel bad about it. I have to focus on the priorities I have predetermined and accept that there will be some things I just can’t do.

Nicole pointed out that we are far more empowered when we focus on doing “enough” instead of doing “it all.”

Shame, Shame, Shame

Sharing something you’ve created is the epitome of daring greatly. But we cannot attribute our self-worth to those things that we have created.   I pointed out how I learned this after publishing my first children’s book. I am still working to remember this important face. Nicole related it to her sister who is a jewelry designer. The value of each piece of jewelry comes in the fact that it was created in the first place, not in its popularity or price.

I admitted that I am also nervous about how my children will be received and how they will be valued outside of our home. Can you relate?

Men and Shame

On page 95, Brene Brown shares how there is a double-standard that we, as women, perpetuate as we express desires for our husbands/men in our lives to be more vulnerable and to share more about how they feel, but if they really did, we wouldn’t be able to stomach it. 

I pointed out how I had read a similar concept in a book entitled Wife for Life {it’s an amazing book, by the way}. I am not bothered by a crying man, personally, and I have a father who openly cries and strong brothers who I have seen cry. My husband is less of a crier, but I have not felt any alarm when I have witness him in tears.

As mothers, Nicole points out that we can raise our boys to go forward into life engaging effectively. When necessary, they can be openly emotional and when necessary, they can maintain composure.

I shared an experience from our household earlier in the evening. My son was fighting with all of his siblings, even yelling at his 3-year-old sister. I brought him upstairs and sat beside him and asked him to tell me what was really going on since I knew he wasn’t actually upset this his little sister was laughing. After a tearful moment, he opened up that someone at school had upset him. I held him for a few minutes. Then, thinking of what I had just read, I explained that being “strong” isn’t going downstairs and fighting with everbody. I encouraged him by saying he was showing strength right then and there by talking about his problem and for allowing himself to feel his true feelings. I didn’t want him to hide his emotions or be ashamed of them, but to feel those feelings and move past them.

Nicole recalled that Brene Brown mentions this idea of “leaning into” the discomfort of hard emotions {you can find more about that in chapter 4, beginning with page 142}.

The whole point of the Houston Moms Blog is to share our stories and perspectives–essentially sharing our vulnerabilities with you, friends, so we can strenthen and support each other.

The Vulnerability Armory

There are 3 main ways types of “armor” mentioned in this book: foreboding joy, perfectionism, and numbing.

Which armors did you identify in your armory?

I acknowledged my problem with “foreboding joy.” I am still processing how deeply engrained this is in my life! Every time I celebrate something great, I have this nagging feeling that something bad is on the horizon and that entertaining such thoughts will in some way “prepare” me for what lies ahead. Which, now that I am admitting it and processing how silly that sounds, is totally wrong. I mentioned the example from the book:

A man in his early sixties told me, “I used to think the best way to go through life was to expect the worst. That way, if it happened, you were prepared, and if it didn’t happen, you were pleasantly surprised. Then I was in a car accident and my wife was killed. Needless to say, expecting the worst didn’t prepare me at all. And worse, I still grieve for all of those wonderful moments we shared and that I didn’t fully enjoy…” {120}.

This TOTALLY rang true to me. I am still trying to process exactly how I am going to apply what I have learned to my everyday life. I want to be perpectually increasing the joy in  my life, not driving it away!  Brene Brown says the antidote to this line of thinking is in gratitude. She gives some great suggestions from her research and I fully intend to incorporate them into my life from here on out!

Nicole’s struggle is with perfectionism. She said it took her into adulthood before she realized that perfectionism is not a positive trait, but is really crippling!  Brene Brown says the cure for perfectionism is to appreciate the beauty of cracks and to have self-compassion.

Minding the Gap

Our conversation moved on to the examples Brene Brown shares in chapter 5 as she illustates what she calls, “The Disengagement Divide” {176}. 

Could you relate to any of the examples?

The value in this chapter is in how we can take those gaps between our ideals and our actions and try to make things better. I shared a quote from page 181: “The lesson here is ‘I do want to live by my values and it’s okay to be imperfect and make mistakes in this house. We just need to make it right when we can.'”

Admit mistakes. 

Nicole pointed out how much she appreciated that the principles in this book were very doable and not too high and lofty that they seem inachievable. They are all inter-related, too, so as we progress in one area, it is helping us progress in other areas as well.

The Daring Greatly Manifestos

The Leadership Manifesto in its entirety can be found here.  

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto can be found here.

These are two fantastic resources!

Wholehearted Parenting :: Daring to Be the Adults We Want Our Children to Be

Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be?

Nicole liked that it gives us room to be our own persons and not repeat the mistakes of our own parents/forebearers.  She shared an experience she had in another book club where one of the gentlemen in the group mentioned that he was in four different book clubs and that his mother was, too. She said she hopes her children follow in her footsteps in those sorts of ways! She wants to be the example for them that she didn’t have when she was growing up.

This perspective is so empowering!

I shared how I had considered this concept of being the adult I wanted my children to be the most when I had my daughter. I want to be the strong woman that I want my daughter to be. I want to show her what the looks like. I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone more than ever before. I wanted her to see that I reached for my dreams. I published my first book (and second and third) after she was born!

Nicole pointed out that her children are champions of hers. They cheer her on when she tries new things or goes out of her comfort zone and they celebrate her successes. 

Creating a Sense of Belonging in the Home

How do we do that?

I mentioned how our family tries to do this through a sports analogy. We are all on the same team! We work together, we belong together, we are all contributing members of one team.

Nicole shared her emotional reaction when she read the comparisons between “fitting in” and “belonging.” You can find Brene Brown’s explanation beginning on page 231.  It is heartbreaking to consider the kids in the world who feel like they don’t belong. We both felt passionately that we want our kids to always feel that they belong, no matter what.

Have you had a wholehearted parenting moment? {The example on pages 236-237 is strong!}

Nicole wants to print the Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto. She encouraged us all to consider putting it on display in our homes. It is SO good!

Don’t Judge

As a final thought, I shared one of my favorite quotes from the book. It can be found on pages 229-230:

“You can’t claim to care about the welfare of childrne if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they’re making….if we really care about the broader welfare of children, our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and support other parents who are doing the same. Our job is also to tend to our own worthiness. When we feel good about the choices we’re making and when we’re engaging with the world from a place of worthiness rather than scarcity, we feel no need to judge and attack.” 

I love this!  We are making the world a much better place by eliminating judgement.

What Do We Do Now?

Nicole’s final question is exactly what we need! What will you do tomorrow, and in the future, because of this book?

I am still processing the concept of “foreboding joy” that I mentioned earlier. I am grateful to be conscious of this and to recognize that I could be experiencing far greater joy if I would allow myself to dwell on the positive instead of seeking to “prepare” myself for the potential heartbreak of tomorrow.  I compared it to denying myself the warmth of the sun as if that will better prepare me for when the cold winds come. I might as well enjoy the sun while it is there.

This is one of those books that you really want to read more slowly {sorry we rushed through it in a month!}. There are so many takeaways!

Nicole says she feels like she has been given permission to take care of herself.  Often moms are constantly giving giving giving and we aren’t taking the time to work on ourselves. She wants to create a legacy of daring greatly that she can pass on to her own children and that comes by putting time and energy on herself sometimes.

More Resources

You can find lots of valuable resources here, on Brene Brown’s website, including an audiobook download of her chapter on wholehearted parenting.

Coming Up Next…

Our December Book Club book will be VERY short–seriously, you could read it in an afternoon. The book is Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini. You may recognize his name from titles such as Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns. He is a phenomenal writer. This book is different than his novels in one distinct way: it is SHORT!  This is a very short, but beautiful and poignant narrative–a father speaking to his sleeping child on a moonlit beach. When the sun rises, they and those around them will embark on a perilous sea journey in search of a new home. All author proceeds from this book will be donated to help fund life-saving relief efforts to aid refugees around the globe.

We hope to see you on Facebook Live on Thursday, December 20, 2018, at 8:30pm!

We get it. December is BUSY for many. And a time for gifts for many, too. In light of those two details, we want to share January’s book with you early. We will be discussing Michelle Obama’s new book Becoming.  Please do not fear :: this is not going to be a political discussion. As we do with every book, we will be considering how it applies to us as women and mothers and this book includes LOTS of application to both.

We hope you’ll join in on our conversation on Facebook Live Thursday, January 24, 2019, at 8:30pm!

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Alissa is a wife to her best friend {since 2003} and a grateful mother to four boys {2009, 2009, 2010, 2012) and one girl {2015}. And if you're going to be friends, you should know she has a deep and abiding love of chocolate. She's survived infertility, IVF, two NICUs, cloth diapers, a food allergy, and so much more! In 2017, she officially began writing and publishing children's books and LOVES it! When she's not writing or picking her kids up from school, she'd like to be reading/singing/laughing/napping/traveling/crafting/learning something new. But in reality, she's probably grocery shopping/cleaning something/telling her boys to stop fighting. She lives in Katy, blogs at, and occasionally visits Instagram {@alimcjoy}, and Facebook {@alimcjoy}. She is a big believer in living life--especially mothering--with intentionality. If she's learned anything it's that accidental success is a myth: decisions determine destiny. She will also be the first to tell you she is not even close to perfect, but she's giving life her best shot one jam-packed day at a time.


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