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February TBR

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My inner overachiever made this stack. We’ll see. The month is busy, self.

I was just looking at the calendar, and I have something planned for every night except one for the rest of this month. Sometimes I wonder why I am the way that I am.

I forge on, however, in my reading goals. These are the books I’m working on/starting this month:

For book clubs:

  • Educated by Tara Westover – I finished listening to it a few days ago. Many parts of it horrified me in an are-they-for-real sort of way. Other parts horrified me in a that’s-exactly-how-it-felt-for-me sort of way. Horror aside, I recommend it.
  • Midnight’s Children by  Salman Rushdie – I am about 60 pages in, and I love it already. Beautifully written story. I’m also listening to it during my commute, and I recommend the audiobook read by Lyndam Gregory. I hope to carve out a lot of reading time this weekend, because we’re discussing it next Tuesday.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin – Excited to start this one!
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin – I started this one years ago but didn’t finish. I look forward to reading it next week.
  • American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of the American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson – I just got the notice that this has been shipped today, so it should arrive soon.

Other reads:

  • Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin – The recipes in this book are fantastic. This is going on my cookbook to-buy list.
  • The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott – Humor? Check. Magical realism? Check. Themes of religion, loneliness, and love? Check. So many things that I love in a book.
  • Something Old, Something New by Tamar Adler – I’ve read a lot of her articles in food magazines, and I loved An Everlasting Meal. I expect to love this one just as much.
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman – The second in the series. I enjoyed Seraphina, so I’m excited to see what happens next.
  • Jazz by Toni Morrison – I have a lot of Toni Morrison books on my shelf, and this is one I have never read. Excellent so far.

What are you reading?

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The book books (as opposed to the audio or ebook selections)

“Whatcha thinkin’ about?”

I would get this question from a friend when he thought I was being quieter than usual. If I felt like staying quiet, I would lie and say, “Nothing.” But mostly, I answered with the thing that was foremost in my mind, usually the book(s) I was reading at the time and what intrigued me about them.

I read about 10-ish books a month. This month, I’m finishing up a lot that I have started, including a couple from my Spiderweb book club that I love so far but didn’t finish in time for discussion night. I’m in three (oh, wait…now four…I joined the Bloggess’s Fantastic Strangelings) book clubs so that’s about half of my reading every month. I also added a few from my own collection that I’m re-reading or have been making lovey eyes at for a while. Or ones that are due at the library soon.

This month’s reading:

  1. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – I actually listened to this one on the way to the farm for the holidays. I do not recommend listening to this in the dark while you are driving, particularly if you are driving through an area known for wildlife that has a habit of darting out in front of moving vehicles. On the upside, the hyper-vigilance *cough*paranoid jumpiness*cough* this book inspired means that no wildlife were harmed in the listening of this book. My book club was mixed in its reviews. I enjoyed the parts that she wrote (much of the book was pieced together from her notes after her death).
  2. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok – I finished this one last night. I related to the title character quite a bit, and this book is helping me work through a rediscovery of an old self whom I miss. This line in particular stuck out to me – “I kept my attraction a secret because I had learned that to do otherwise was to invite the gods to mock you.” More on this in a later post.
  3. The Power by Naomi Alderman – I’m starting this one today. The Spiderfriends in book club have been talking it up, so I’m super excited about it.
  4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – This is the supplemental read for Spiderweb, and I’m enjoying the re-read. I forgot how much I love it. I’ve just finished the first part wherein she compares two different meals. Enjoy: “And if anyone complains that prunes, even when mitigated by custard, are an uncharitable vegetable (fruit they are not), stringy as a miser’s heart and exuding a fluid such as might run in misers’ veins who have denied themselves wine and warmth for eighty years and yet not given to the poor, he should reflect that there are people whose charity embraces even the prune.” Glorious.
  5. Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford – This is the first selection for Fantastic Strangelings. I haven’t heard a lot about it, but I trust Jenny Lawson’s judgment wholeheartedly.
  6. How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones – This is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read, and I really love memoirs. The writing is lovely, and the flow is perfect. Great first book to start the month.
  7. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen – This is my car book this month (listening, not reading, to be clear). I liked the first novel about the Waverly sisters. Light magical realism, enjoyable enough if you like that genre and easy to pay attention to.
  8. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – One of my top five favorite books. I’ve read it a couple of times. On New Year’s Eve Eve, Spiderweb had a party and a book exchange, and this is the one I brought. So of course I had to read it again. I find new treasures each time.
  9. Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog – This was the supplemental read for November, and I’m still working my way through it. It’s fantastic but heavy, so I am taking my time.
  10. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa – Another book I’m finishing from Spiderweb. I usually tab the books we are discussing, but I found myself tabbing every page, so I stopped and just decided to enjoy it. I am about halfway through.
  11. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – I met Roxane Gay when she came to UNT, and this was the book I brought for her to sign. I got to tell her how much Hunger meant to me. She was delightful and present. It was a great night.
  12. French Lessons by Peter Mayle – I like to read at least one book about food a month. I love everything I’ve read by Mayle, and I expect this one will be no different.

What are you reading now?

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First page of new planner. A reminder for when I forget.

I love resolutions. Even the ones I abandon halfway through the year (although I would not mind getting to a place where I don’t get all riled up about something just to fizzle out). I like looking forward and fostering hope for making new magic and dreams (and yes, a little madness). I have a lot of small goals for the year, but they all center on a few themes:

  1. Reading – I exceeded my original goal of 100 books last year (by two!), and so I’ve upped the challenge to 120 this year. I have three book clubs, because I love talking about books with people. I think it would be nice if I did that more here, too. Possible posts to look forward to are periodic recaps of what I’ve read and what I’m about to read. I really love what Brenda at Don’t Stop Believing did here, and I really adored some of the things I read in 2019, so you may see something similar around these parts soon. For this year, my focus is going to be on actually finishing the book club choices before we meet (I did this about 60% of the time last year) and reading some of the hundreds of books on my own shelves that I have squirreled away for “someday.” Someday is 2020.
  2. Writing – I finished Fishbowl in 2018…and then I edited it. Now I need to finish it again, because as it turns out, I have no problem killing my darlings. I may enjoy that too much, actually. So this year’s main writing goal is to get it ready to go to beta readers (yes, Maggie – you first)/an editor. I also have a short story project that I am working on, and I want to continue my microfictions on Ello (anyone else on Ello?). I haven’t posted there in a while, but I have a few that I should be ready to upload by the end of the month. I anticipate writing (maybe performing) something in collaboration with Spiderweb Salon this year, too.
  3. Health – I need to be better at keeping up with doctor’s appointments. Just…all of them. I’m terrible at this. That’s a big goal for the year. With my Pilates practice last year, I re-discovered how good I feel when I’m paying attention to strength and flexibility and alignment (hello again, dance!), so I want to continue to build there.
  4. Work – I want to continue to explore the next direction my work life should go. I don’t have a lot of answers here, but I have lots of advice and guidance. Sifting through all of that. We’ll see.
  5. Word of the year – I wasn’t going to have a word of the year, but then I kept seeing quotes about coming alive or being alive and every one of them made me tear up a little bit so now my word of the year is “alive” and I’m pretty enthused about it. My gut reaction for how to pursue this is through music, dance, learning new things, making beautiful things and feeding people, but I’m leaving the possibilities open. I have a short-term bucket list for the year that includes things like “read a book in Spanish with minimal need for a dictionary” and “start learning sign language” and “walk/run more miles each month”  and “brush up on music theory” and it will be fun to see how many of those I stick to. In related news, I may be in the market for a French horn or trumpet soon. You’re welcome, neighbors (but let’s be honest, you kinda have it coming).

Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them!

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Unraveled

Another year wrapped up. If I had written this post a couple of days ago, it may have been a different, more hopeful post. But I put it off until tonight, so you get me at a discouraged point instead. My Southern upbringing wants me to offer an apology for this, but that doesn’t feel quite right. I am where I am, and that’s okay.

I wish I had a nice, tidy bow to tie everything up with, but the truth is that 2019 kicked my ass. I was going to figure out so many things and be in a better place, and I’m not sure that happened. Sure, I’ve learned some things and worked really hard and made some progress. But I still don’t know what I want to do. Even the things I thought might be interesting at the first of the year have lost some appeal. At this point, I’m just applying for jobs that pay more because if I’m going to do something boring that I have no passion for, at the very least it can be one job that pays all the bills and lets me plan for a good retirement to look forward to. And as for changing my luck in love? Ahahahaha. I’m more convinced than ever that some people just don’t get to be loved, and I’m probably one of them. Loving other people isn’t the hard part. It’s finding someone who loves me back that’s tricky. Do these people even exist? If so, where are they? I’m clearly haven’t thought to look there.

I did meet my original goal of reading 100 books, so I have that going for me.

Actually, that’s not all I have to show for the year. It may have run me over, but I fought back. Relentlessly. I kept going out with people and letting myself feel things despite the 100% failure rate of all my dating/interest efforts. I applied for a better job within my department even though it has demonstrated time and again how little it values what I bring to the table (and continued to demonstrate this by not even extending me an interview). I have embraced the role of the greater fool who keeps showing up and doing all the things, hoping against hope that someday I will be able to say that all this effort has not been in vain.

Someday.

I still have hope. So I’m going to go to sleep (eventually – I had a lot of coffee today) and wake up and start again…again. Maybe I’ll find what I’m hoping for soon.

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So it’s not really Friday. I get that. But it’s the post that was meant for Friday, so here we are. One goal of a 31-day series is to get back in the habit of writing every day (or, rather, writing something other than for work). It’s a process.

To finish out the week of talking about tools I use to help me keep my life on track, I want to mention apps that I use to keep up with goal progression. I love making resolutions, but for most of my life, I would make them and then promptly forget about them. I think a lot of people have that experience. When I started tracking my goals, though, I had more success. Here are five of my favorite ways to track my goals:

  1. Club Pilates app – I know. Again I’m talking about it. I just love it. And now that I have a new phone that actually supports the app, I can track a lot of my health goals as well as schedule and keep track of my classes. Every smartphone comes with a health app, though, so even if you don’t go to Club Pilates, you can still have an easy way to track just about any health goal you have.
  2. Goodreads – I started with a goal of 100 books for the year. Then I extended it to 120. No matter how small or big your reading goal, though, you can track it with Goodreads. I also get a lot of recommendations from friends on this site/app.
  3. Spreadsheet – Looking at a long-term goal can be daunting. It’s important to break down resolutions into smaller goals. To this end, I keep a monthly spreadsheet that tracks daily progress toward goals. I broke my five resolutions into ten smaller goals, and I set a monthly goal for each. Then I tally each day that I reach part of the goal. For those of you who like to bullet journal, this can be not only helpful but cathartic.
  4. Fetch – I’m not sure how long Fetch has been around, but I love it. If you can’t tell, point systems really work for me. For the last few years, I have wanted to cook more at home and make better food choices. But if I don’t have groceries at my house, it’s not happening. Fetch rewards me for buying groceries. I’ve been using it for three weeks and just like magic, I have food in my house. I’m also more than 75% toward my first $10 reward. I do enjoy free things, and free things that help me meet my goals? Double bonus.
  5. Art journal – Different people use art journaling for different reasons. When one of your goals is to pursue creative expression more often, however, it can be a way of showing the progress of that goal. My art journal is a collection of collages, found and blackout poetry, stained-glass-style doodles, and song lyrics I want to set to a melody at some point (yes! I’m excited about it, too.). I have a pretty broad range for what I consider creative pursuits, but I track most of them by art journaling about them.

Do you make goals? If so, how do you keep track of your progress?

 

I’m talking about making my own luck this month.

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This is my view from the desk in my office. It’s amazing that I actually get any work done.

The benefit of cleaning my office is that I can actually see the books I have as I organize them.

The drawback of cleaning my office is that I can actually see the books I have as I organize them.

Last night was a light writing night, and it’s a good thing, because I definitely spent a good hour going over which books I want to read next. There are so many I haven’t read, and so many I want to read again. Just right there on my shelves.

And what you see is only about a fourth of the books I have (…in my office. There are other bookshelves by my kitchen and in my bedroom. There are so many books.).

Many of the book lovers I follow on social media have been tackling their unread shelves, and I want to start doing the same. It will start slowly, as I have a lot of unread library books left to read this year. As those dwindle down (probably around Christmas), I think my goal will probably shift to reading the books my book clubs read, listening to audiobooks, and diving into the books I own.

There’s so much joy on my shelves waiting to be discovered!

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I was going to post a list of five reasons I love Club Pilates. And make no mistake – there will be gushing, so be prepared for that. But there are so many things I’m enjoying/looking forward to right now that I’m actually doing in real life (i.e., not just on the internet) that I wanted to give them their moment in the sun.

  1. Club Pilates – It’s the most expensive exercise program I’ve ever used, and I LOVE IT. Worth every penny. I have been pretty consistent with my Pilates practice on my own, but this takes it to a whole new level. Come to a 30-minute intro class. You’ll be hooked (quite possibly literally – there are often straps involved).
  2. This weekend is the 24in48 Readathon! I’m finishing up a few books I’ve been working on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and starting a couple new ones. I’m mostly going to post on Instagram and Twitter about it, but I plan to check in a couple times here with challenges. Stay tuned tonight for the TBR stack.
  3. Dinner Club – My church has started dinner clubs again. Each family (or pair, for those of us who are single) takes turns being the host, co-host, and guest, and we rotate groups each month so that we get to have dinner with everyone eventually. I’m taking a break from reading to attend my first one this weekend, and I’m very excited!
  4. I’ve joined another book club. I’m reading the two first two books we’re discussing this weekend, and we’ll meet for discussion on Thursday. It’s hosted by a local artist collective that I recently started supporting so I’m looking forward to talking to the ones who come to book club and seeing how/if we’re a good fit for each other.
  5. Re: the artist collective – I may be taking an editing workshop with them in February. I haven’t chosen the piece I want to take to revise, but I’m trying to talk myself into going. Perks: It’s perfectly in line with certain life changes I want to make, so of course it makes logical sense that I would do it. Drawbacks: Change compounded with socializing with strangers makes me itchy. Just putting this one in writing so that I can’t deny that I said it.

 

 

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