Feb 22, 2018

WHAT I'M READING / 4 BOOKS

Amazon links are affiliate. 


I used to stick to a two-books-at-a-time rule.  At some point it bumped up to three and for the past few months it's been more like four at a time (or sometimes five).  It sounds kind of crazy, but it's working for me.  

Currently, I am reading:

When I stuck to two books, I thought it was important that one was fiction while the other was non-fiction.  It seemed like that little distinction helped to keep each story/idea in it's own little compartment in my head.  Which kind of makes sense, but also is kind of silly because - obviously - any two books you read are going to be different and should naturally find their own way into their individual compartment.  Right?  

I don't know.  

Even though I'm no longer all-in on a set number of books rule and am questioning the validity of my system, I find myself making these (possibly illogical) logic arguments with myself about why and how it is possible to read a lot of different books at one time.  I'm sticking with the fiction / non-fiction distinction.  And have now added a category that divides things by the way I am reading them.  By which I mean physical book versus reading on my phone with the Kindle App versus listening to an audio book.  

My current list includes two fiction, two non-fiction / one audio, one ebook and two physical books.


I really like that when I have a few minutes to read, I have a lot of options.  The different formats work well in varying situations.  I always have my phone handy, so ebooks and audio books are always available and I am happy to take advantage of five minutes here and there to read or listen.  With non-fiction books, I much prefer a physical book.  Sometimes just because having things on paper and being able to flip back and forth through the book helps me to process the information.  Sometimes because I like to underline or add additional thoughts and notes.  And sometimes (no matter what the genre or type of book), it is just nice to hold the physical book in your hand.

An additional advantage to having lots of books in process is that when I finish one, I don't experience the lull that often otherwise finds me as I try to "get into" the next book.  And that keeps me reading.  

I set a goal of reading 52 books in 2018.  It is currently week 8 and I've finished 10 books, with these four slotted to be numbers 11-14.  So, I'm ahead of schedule and 100% enjoying all of the time I make for reading.  

Feb 10, 2018

FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2017



I read 44 books last year.  A lot of them were good.  A few of them really weren't.  But, when it came time to pick favorites, I really felt like I could only name four.  So, four it is.  And they are all fiction.

Of those four, I have a clear top two.  These two books will definitely be on my reread list in a few years  I loved them so much that I know I will find great pleasure in reading them again, once the stories have faded a bit from my memory.

1/ The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Oh my.  This book was a delight.  I laughed so many times while I read it.   It has a sort of Forrest Gump feel to it, as the main character  keeps bumping up with major historical events and figures.  I'm not usually one to talk a lot about the books I'm reading, but I kept giving updates to Brian as I read.  Like, "Now Allan met Mao!" and "Now he is drinking vodka with Harry Truman."

2/ Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This book worked forward from life in tribal Africa in the 18th  century to present day America.  Each section moved the story forward by a generation.  There wasn't a lot of "happy" in this book, but it was so beautifully written and made me stop to think about where I come from and how my life will impact future generations.

And the next two may or may not be on my future "re-read" list, but they were wonderfully crafted and I have thought about them many times in the months since I read them. 

3/ Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

This is something of a coming of age story of twins that came into the world through very unexpected circumstances.  It is set in Ethiopia and the landscape and political climate are almost an additional character in the story. 

My only fault with the book is its length.  It is almost 700 pages and although it was one of my favorites, I might have loved it just a bit more if it were a hundred pages or so shorter.

4/ The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Much like "Homegoing" the subject matter for this book was challenging.  This book required me to physically set it aside a few times because it was just so intense.  But it was beautifully written and tells such and important story from our nation's history. 

- - - - -

If you are a fan of literary fiction, I give my full recommendation to any and all of these books. 

Feb 1, 2018

GOAL REVIEW AND NEW GOALS FOR FEBRUARY

 

Okay friends, let's start with looking back at last month's goals.

1 / Assess the sewing situation.  

Done and then some!  Oh, this is such a good hobby and I'm excited to dive deeper into it this year.

As soon as I got my sewing machine out of it's box, I was all in.  I have already started on one quilt and also sewn the binding on another that had been hanging out in the almost-finished phase for a very long time.  Woot!  And then I went a little crazy (excited by this post by Elise Cripe) and bought a pattern and some fabric to make myself a tank top.  So, yep.  This goal was definitely met.

2 / Get my Etsy shops up and running again.  

Done.  I planned to reopen both shops, but reassessed and decided just to do the one for now.  If you're in the market for an easy, modern cross stitch project, a goals workbook or journaling prompts, I'm the lady for you.

Getting this done only took 15 minutes and I've already made a sale.  It's a win! 

3 / Solid start to my collage project.  

Yep.  I am happy to report that I'm off to a good start...

And that I think I'm already done.  (Womp womp.) 

I successfully posted a collage the first 28 or 29 days of the month and managed to get things organized in such a way that actually doing the art wasn't taking a crazy amount of time.

It was fun, but was taking more of my time and mental space than I wanted and I've felt a disproportionate amount of relief after taking a break for these past few days.  So... we'll see if I pick it up again or not. 

4 / Buy interior house paint.  

Eek.  Nope.  It was on my weekly to-do list for a few weeks, but I kept putting it off.  Then, I finally went and was totally overwhelmed with the options.  I left without any paint.  ...need to just do this! 

5 / Complete 15 days of Biblical devotions. 

Done!  And I had a few good break-throughs that have made my life happier / more peaceful in the past few weeks.  I'm always greatly rewarded when I make time for this.

- - - - -

And onto the goals for this month.

1 / Buy myself jeans, a cardigan (or two) and a new chambray shirt.

Well, this is a fun goal.  I feel like I've finally found a wardrobe groove that is easy, comfortable and that makes me feel good about my body.  And these are the things that need replaced / updated as soon as possible, in order to keep me thus clothed.

2 / Finish that quilt I started.

My biggest hurdle, at this point, is finding some concentrated time to put into the cutting.  I cut most of the fabric, but then changed my mind about one color and mis-measured something with one of the original colors.  So, ick.  This is the part about quilting that I don't like.  I am not a details person and this is all details.

But, happily, I know that if I just put in this time up front, I will enjoy the rest of the process of piecing the top and quilting! 

3 / Host a "friends" birthday party for Sam.

This will be a new endeavor for our family.  I am feeling anxious about it because we invited four of his classmates, but I don't know any of them / their families.  I feel like it is going to be a rather awkward social gathering if the parents decide to stay and I am also afraid that no one will show up and Sam will be upset. 

But (assuming someone shows up), I know that in the long run, this awkward social get together will be for the good.  I would love to get to know some of his classmates and their parents.

4 / Buy paint. 

Okay.  I'm adding this to the list again.  My game plan, this time around, is to do more research BEFORE going to the home improvement store and to bring Brian with me - as I know he won't let me leave empty handed.  He's also really good at asking for help - while I am not. 

5 / Finish the furnace room organization project.  

I got this allllllmost done in January, but need to put in another hour or so to just get 'er done. 

Jan 2, 2018

DECEMBER GOALS UPDATE AND JANUARY GOALS



It's the beginning of the month again - time to look back at last month's goals and set a few new ones for January.  

An update on my December goals: 

1 / Improve my eating and exercise.  

Meh.  I didn't move backward, but didn't do great either.  We'll call it a wash.

2 / Hang photos in the living room.

Done.  And I love the result.

3 / Watch and take notes on one workshop from the Read Aloud Revival membership site by 12/15 and then cancel my membership.  

Yep.  I completed an excellent workshop titled "Focus and Align" by Sarah Mackenzie.  It was focused on helping families find and prioritize the things that are most important to them.  It was a nice mix of "big thinking" and practical ways of making the big ideas part of regular routines.  

4 / Post two more blog posts.  

Done. 

5 / Finish my goal planning for 2018, so I can start the new year off  on the right foot.  

Yep.  

So, woot!  December goals were (almost all) a win and I'm content with where I stand.

- - - - - 

And onto goals for this month:

1 / Assess the sewing situation.  

I plan to complete (a minimum of) 5 sewing projects this year.  I purchased a new sewing machine in December, but have yet to even take it out of the box.  I have a stash of fabric in my basement, but at this point don't really remember what's all in there.  And, I have a few ideas of projects I want to complete, but no concrete plan for what I want to do first. 

So, my goal is to remedy these things this month.  I would love to go into February with a solid plan for a sewing project and at least a basic understanding of my new machine. 

2 / Get my Etsy shops up and running again.  

I have two Etsy shops that I have allowed to completely lapse.  While I'm not currently interested in spending my time promoting the products, the income is almost all passive and - therefore - easy.  I don't know how much time it will take to get my shops back up, but I'm guessing it will be less than two hours.  It seems silly to not just put in that time to get them back up and running. 

3 / Solid start to my collage project.  

As I shared previously, I am doing a 365 Day Project / Year of Creative Habits Project that involves creating, photographing, writing about and sharing a collage each day this year.  I am super excited about this project, but it isn't all just going to happen magically.  I would love to put in some extra legwork this month, to make the process all a bit smoother as I continue through the year. 

4 / Buy interior house paint.  

I received a nice gift card to Lowes for Christmas and the first step to getting anything in our house painted, is to buy the paint.

5 / Complete 15 days of Biblical devotions. 

This is also part of a bigger goal - completing 4 or more devotion books in 2018.

- - - - -

And thus concludes my January goals.  I do have a few blog posts that I am itching to write, but with all these other goals to work on, I'm not sure if they will get written in January.  So, I decided to leave blogging off the goal list for this month. 

Cheers to you and I hope the new year is off to a great start!


Dec 19, 2017

2018 GOALS & PROJECTS & PLANS


Okay friends.  Here's what I've got lined up for this coming year and I'm so, so excited to get started on each of these things.

Goals //

Complete a "Year of Creative Habits" project.  I had so much fun with my 100 day project this year, that I'm planning to extend it in 2018.  I will be a bit less stringent about the rules than I was for the 100 day project, because a year is a long time and I will inevitably be met with unexpected time constraints or other variables.  The collages themselves will also be slightly different from those I shared this year.  My goal is to post a collage to Instagram each day of the year, but I'm not going to be strict about making each collage on the day it is posted.  I imagine there will be some days when I complete two or three collages and others where I just spend a bit of time working on the project. 

Complete 5 sewing projects.  I have hopes that once I get going, I will enjoy it and complete many more than 5. But 5 feels like a nice solid goal.

Read 52 books.  This feels like just the right number for 2018.  More than I've read this year, but not a ton more.  A book a week.  A challenge for sure, but still doable as long as I just keep reading.

Complete weekly Project Life layouts for our family PL album.  This has been pretty well on autopilot for the last few years, but I'm switching things up in 2018 by planning to use the Project Life App (versus physical paper and photos).  I'm crossing my fingers that it will be a fairly seamless transition.

Complete 4 devotion "books."  I had (and met) this same goal in 2016, but didn't make a similar goal in 2017 and I need the accountability.  Books is in quotations because I like to vary my Bible studying a lot.  Sometimes I complete actual devotion boos  and other times I just like to take notes about a bible passage I've read or sermon I've heard.  In those cases, I write out my thoughts on one of my devotional notepads and count the completion of a notepad (50 sheets) as a "book."

Review annual goals weekly and monthly.  Yep.  I made a goal about goals.  For the past several years, I have used my membership to One Little Word and the monthly email / prompt as my reminder to review my goals.  I feel like this reminder is hugely helpful in keeping my momentum and remembering to keep the important things ahead of the urgent.  I am not doing One Little Word this year (so will not have have that monthly reminder) and also want to experiment with reviewing my goals more frequently.  So, my goal is to do a brief review weekly and a more thorough review once a month.  I've added these reviews to my to-do lists in my planner, to help keep me on track.                                                                                                                                                                         
And a few other projects and plans for the year:

Travel Plans //

  • Spring break trip to Illinois (just the kids and me, as Brian doesn't get a spring break)
  • Estes Park trip with my sister and brother-in-law (and maybe my mom and step-dad)
  • Camping x3 - this will be a brand new adventure for our family
  • Small trip with Brian - somewhere close, and just two or three nights away

My goals for these trips are to put in time beforehand to make them enjoyable, to not "miss" any major highlights or opportunities and to have money saved and set aside before the trips begin so everything can be done with money we already have in the bank.  

House Plans and Projects //

Paint most of the rooms and most of the trim, upstairs.  Seven and a half years and three kids later, our "new" house is looking pretty rough around the edges.  I don't really know how or when I will get this done - without the kids just making bigger messes with the paint - but somehow, it will get done.

Reorganize the store room.  When I did this in the early months of 2016, I somehow thought I would then be "done" with this project.  Ha!  The mess is back with a vengeance.

Set up a legit tornado shelter and create a new emergency backpack. 
The tornado shelter has been on Brian's wish list for a long time, but we've never made it happen.  We had an emergency kit, but everything expired and we need to start anew.

Make the house feel "happier."  This is my overarching house goal for the year.  I tend toward "happy" furnishings and decor items, but there is a lot of room for improvement.  I have hopes that all the painting will make a big impact on the happiness meter.  I don't have specific ways to measure this goal in mind, but I think when I reach the end of the year, I will know if I've met it or not.

And //

Make seasonal family activity lists for January through April, May through August and September through December and stick to them.  These lists are how we plan most of our weekends and help us ensure that we are keeping up with family traditions and also exposing the kids to new experiences and new places.  You can read more about these lists here. 

There are two more big projects that I'm not quite ready to share, but that I would love to at least make progress on this year.  I've written them on my private goal list and hope that all those weekly and monthly reviews will push me to be brave and get to work.

All that plus, you know, life, should keep me more than busy for the next twelve months!

Dec 15, 2017

AROUND HERE


Wow.  This week just flew right by and now it is almost weekend again.

It will be a working weekend for me and I expect to be pretty well worn out by Sunday evening.  In addition to the usual patient work, I have a ton of paperwork and additional testing to do before the end of the year.  This is the downfall of working so rarely.  Instead of having these things spread out over several weeks, I am always trying to cram them into a twelve hour shift or two.  If I can't get everything done during my scheduled hours, I can go in and finish in the evenings after Brian gets home from work.  Since that doesn't sound like a lot of fun, I'm going to put on my game face and see if I can just crank it all out this weekend.  We will see.  

The low moment of this week was Tuesday morning when Brian and I were both convinced we were going to be told that Mabel (our almost 12 year old beagle) was in her final days.  She was acting really strange and we could tell she was in pain.  But all of her lab work came back normal and the vet's suspicion was that she had injured her back.  He put her on a couple of medications and she was back to her usual self by the next morning.  

Following my online holiday shopping spree, my email inbox has been completely out of control this past month.  I decided to do something about it this week and have been happily unsubscribing to things right and left.  This is such an easy thing to do, but for some reason I tend to put it off.  

Someone drove into Brian's car door as we were getting out of his car, a couple weeks ago.  Trying to get insurance companies to pay for the damage and figure out if we wanted to fix the car or buy a new one has felt like a giant headache.  Big props to Brian who has done 98% of the legwork on this not-fun project.  We ended up with no money in our pockets, but decided to just fix the car for now and it is nice to just have that decision made.  Now, we are anxious to get the car back and get back to being a two-car family.  Thank goodness for carpooling and for Brian's carpool partner being so willing to drive while we've been down to one vehicle.

Sam has been anxiously awaiting his turn at being "The Star of the Week" at kindergarten.  He has talked about it almost daily for the past month or so.  On Wednesday, he got in the van after school and said, "Look what happened!" and then pulled the Star of the Week bag out of his backpack.  So, next Monday is his chance and I'm happy for him.

I've been feeling surprisingly unhurried and unstressed about the holidays.  We've been enjoying things as the come and nothing has yet felt overwhelming.  On my to-do list for this next week is planning our Christmas Eve party, which mostly consists of planning and setting up Minute To Win It games for about 15 people, and also figuring out menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  ...oh, and I think there may be a few big gifts for us to assemble when we have some kid-free hours.

And that's what's going on around here.  

Dec 5, 2017

GOAL SETTING FOR NEXT YEAR



For the last several years, I've chosen a word to direct and focus my annual goals and intentions.  I've then applied the word, as it fit, to various areas of my life and made plans accordingly.  It's always been sort of a mix of finding a word that fits with my goals and finding goals that fit with my word.

For 2018, (I think) I've decided to leave out the word and just set goals.  I'm still considering choosing a focusing word for the year, but a word hasn't yet found me and I'm kind of liking the idea of leaving it out. 

My goal planning process, this fall, was not a lot different from what it's been in the past, but I recently read this blog post from The Simple Dollar and decided to add one of the suggested process tips to my own.  The key suggestion that I took away was to make a plan and then sit on it for a few weeks.  The hope is that the rest period will give room for ideas and plans to percolate and improve.

So, a couple weeks ago, I spent a few hours doing something of a review of the various areas of my life.  I chose to focus on:

Marriage
Parenting/Family
Spiritual/Faith
Body/Health
Money
Career/Job
Hobbies
Friends/Extended Family

One of my favorite takeaways from doing reviews of this sort is realizing just how much these varying topics relate to one another and overlap.  It looks like a list of defined topics, but they are all a part of life and life is definitely not compartmentalized like this.  When I start writing about our marriage and realize how much our kids and careers and financial situation play into our marriage, it really highlights how important each area is to the others. 

My process looked like this:

I filled up a notebook with a quick assessment of each area - giving it a rating of good, bad or ok - and then followed up with more details on what was going well in each area and what was not going well.  I then went back through and made a list of goals, projects and other fairly specific things I could do to improve each area and move me closer to where I want to be in the future.

I'm currently playing the waiting game.  I'm taking the advice of The Simple Dollar post and just letting thoughts work their way through my head and heart for a few weeks.

I want to have things finalized a week or two before the new year.  So, I've put a reminder in my calendar for the week of 12/18.  At that time, my plan is to re-read what I wrote, add new thoughts, insights and plans and then come up with a finalized goal list for 2018.

And about the waiting period - I'm already seeing it's value.  New ideas have come to mind.  I've had time to talk with Brian about a few of the specific projects, to ask for his input and to verify that the goals we have for our marriage and family are in alignment.  I've been able to think out more specific ways of working toward end goals and had time to reconsider what is most important in this phase of life.

Good stuff.  I'm already excited about new plans and goals to come and will share more in a couple weeks.