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Fall TBR

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I am participating in Book Riot’s Fall into Fall Readathon, and every day we have a bookish prompt. Monday, I chose one of my summer TBRs (to be read) and put the rest in the DNF (did not finish) pile. I only had three left anyway, and two of them had already gone back to the library, so that was easy. The one I chose to move over to my fall list is Anna Karenina. I started it last night, and I think this is the start of a beautiful relationship. I also think the time it will take me to read it is going to last longer than some of my past relationships.

Yesterday’s task was to make my Fall TBR list, including at least one classic on audiobook. I usually make a monthly list, but I like the idea of making a list by season. My list for this season is somewhat practical (because book clubs) but mostly eclectic. I tend to read several books at a time (I am currently on 5 different books), and I have 44 more books to go meet my reading goal for the year. That’s finishing one almost every other day, which is doable but a little daunting, but that’s why there are so many on the list.

I’m also counting “fall” as to the end of December, even though technically we’re in winter by then. That gives me a few holidays and a couple of free weekends to get some reading done.

Without further ado, here, in no particular order, is my Fall TBR (which I reserve the right to amend as books I’ve forgotten to include are published or finally become available at the library):

  1. Anna Karenina by Lev (Leo) Tolstoy
  2. Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg
  3. The Summer Without Men  by Siri Hustvedt
  4. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
  5. Bet Me by Jennifer Cruisie
  6. Kindred by Octavia Butler (audiobook)
  7. The Elephant Company by Vicki Croke
  8. Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin
  9. Faithful by Alice Hoffman
  10. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White
  11. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  12. 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman
  13. Black Dove by Ana Castillo
  14. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  15. Evening by Susan Minot
  16. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  17. Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons
  18. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  19. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  20. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
  21. The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
  22. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  23. The Folded Earth by Arundhati Roy
  24. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
  25. Forty Rooms by Olga Grushin
  26. All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo
  27. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
  28. The Little French Bistro by Nina George
  29. Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
  30. The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
  31. La Vida Imaginaria by Mara Torres
  32. A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
  33. The Shaking Woman, or, A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt
  34. Slam! by Pamela Ribon
  35. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  36. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
  37. Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer
  38. Version Control by Dexter Clarence Palmer
  39. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  40. No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol
  41. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
  42. A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
  43. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
  44. Womanist Midrash by Wilda Gafney

And maybe I’ll start Don Quixote again before the year’s out. Maybe.

 

What are you reading this fall? See anything in the list you want to read and discuss?

 

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Favorite thing about summer. FAVORITE.

Fresh peaches that practically burst when you touch them. Snow cones. Festivals and retreats and reunions. Lounging and reading. Air conditioning (because it’s already dabbling in triple digits here and Lord have mercy).

Ah, summer.

I don’t have to talk myself into fall and winter. I have made my peace with spring being my least favorite season, because allergies.

But the people looooove summer. And I just…don’t. But I also know how annoying it is to me when people complain about winter (just…shhhh. Let me enjoy the five minutes a year I’m not in a constant state of sweat and nausea in peace). Therefore, in the interest of not being the gnat swarm at everyone’s picnic, I decided to follow Joy the Baker’s lead and make a summer bucket list.

I know the purpose of a bucket list is typically accomplishment, and there’s an element of that in here. Mostly, though, this is a list of the things I’m looking forward to doing this summer.

  • Finishing Fishbowl. I’m super close to finishing my first rough draft of a full-length novel. Like…within-the-next-couple-of-weeks close. I’ve been playing with this manuscript for so long that I can’t imagine it being finished (well, the first step of finished, anyway). And it may expand in the editing process later, as I have pesky notes of a side view, and I’ll have to read it through to know if that’s a distraction or an important part of the story. But the bones will be written. So, so soon.
  • Road trip to Virginia to the writers’ retreat where I will be presenting my workshop. There are still spaces available, and you can read about it and register here.
  • Leave the house on purpose at least twice a week for fun. Not because I have work or errands or a meeting. Just to join civilization. It’s not something I need to do every day, but life is richer when I get out regularly. Summer is an easier time to do that.
  • 3rd annual Hemingway party. There may be dancing this year. There will definitely be alcohol and mixers and lots of food.
  • 24in48 reading challenge! July 21-22. Sign-ups are coming soon. I’ll keep you posted.
  • High school reunion in July.

I also need to settle into a better daily rhythm with the things I know that feed my soul. I started off well in January, but the goals have sort of fizzled. No, that’s an understatement. My resolutions tracking sheet (post forthcoming) is a desert. As most of the resolutions I set are activities designed to help me maintain balance and sanity, it makes sense that I have been scattered (tidy euphemism) as of late. I’ve been in survival mode for about three months. I know that there are other factors involved, so getting back to stability is not as simple as checking things off a daily to-do list, but the things on the list can help.

What are you doing this summer?

 

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What im into

What I’m always into

I’ve had a productive January. Even by my typical January standards. What I’m mostly into this month is how well my point system I set up to help me meet goals is working (perhaps more on that later this month – I’m pretty nerdily excited about it). I set my resolutions, and they’ve been going well so far:

  1. Reading – I’ve read 9 books toward my 100-book goal. I may be imagining it, but Goodreads seems shocked that I’m one book ahead of schedule. My month did include my second round of participation in the 24in48 Readathon, but I would have been on schedule even without it. My favorite two were The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence. I now need to read every book in this list.
  2. Reading long books – I am starting Don Quixote again this weekend. I’m going to try to finish a long book every four months this year. I may have to rewatch The Newsroom while I read this one.
  3. Finishing Fishbowl manuscript – My Fishbowl draft is trudging along, somewhat aimlessly at this point but at least steadily. I am consistently moving in random directions, which I suppose is pretty fitting, given its narrator.
  4. Editing Epic Meal Planning – I have added a few pins to my Epic Meal Planning board, and this month, I am testing some of the recipes on the board. Next month (March), I want to start testing my own recipes on friends.
  5. Learning Spanish – I have tired of Duolingo (perhaps I just need a break), and I have started going through my old Spanish textbooks. I find taking the old route to work through exercises methodically helpful.
  6. Taking a solitary writing retreat – I have looked into rental beach cottages and train trips. Vaguely. I will be more excited about it once I have enough saved up to take the trip. Or if I find a really good deal. Or if I just decide I’m going to hole up in a hotel room and write for a weekend.
  7. Visiting coffee shops/wine bars – Oddly enough, this is the one that got away from me this month. Double down in February? I think so.
  8. Building up emergency fund and paying off debt – I’m ahead of schedule here, too. I like the momentum. If I keep up this rate, I may get to add another goal before year’s end.
  9. Improving my health (specifically, my gym attendance) – I have teamed up with a friend to go to the gym 3 times a week. Consequently, I have been to the gym more times this month than I went last year altogether.
  10. Trying new recipes – I made jambalaya from scratch for the first time this month. If I had known how easy it was and how much better it is than anything I’ve made from a box, I would have done this years ago.

Aside from resolutions, the thing I’ve been into most is saving time.

  • My friend Michelle introduced me to Instacart, and it’s fantastic. Basically, someone does your grocery shopping for you at your local store and brings it to your house. If you want to try it, I think my code for $10 off and free delivery with your first order is still good – click here or use code STERRY1EB1CF.
  • I also am loving Grove. I set up delivery of home products, and they come to my door. What I appreciate is that it gives me a heads-up email so that there are no surprises when I inevitably forget it’s time, and I can skip delivery any time. If you want to try it and also want $10 off your first order, click here.
  • Speaking of home products (my apartment is so dusty and I’m over that – can you tell?), I am super excited to receive my first Norwex order. I had a party, and I scored quite a bit of free loot, even though my orders only reached the lowest level. I think I’m most excited about the Envirowand. Beware, dust! My friend Brenda is a consultant, and she loves doing online parties. You can peruse the catalog here – contact her if you have questions!

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – come share what you’re into!

 

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The goal for this weekend is fun reading. I’m going to tuck into some romance/mysteries, read a couple of memoirs, a little bit of poetry (I’m going to try to read the side in Spanish first, a baby step toward my resolution), and decorating books, which I love almost as much as cookbooks.

Not pictured in the stack – one of my Audible selections when I get tired of sitting and maybe a little trip down memory lane with the Boxcar Children.

Are you participating in the Readathon? It’s not too late to join. You can still win prizes even if you don’t finish the whole 24 hours.

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Hope

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One day I hope my skin will be less habitually dry.

Sometimes, I talk to students for a long duration of time. And then I see it. The moment that they realize I will not be able to help them do the thing they need to do and how much that is going to disrupt their lives. They end the conversation abruptly before the tears that fill their eyes betray them by spilling.

Inevitably, I spend the evening and significant portions of the week (month…sometimes year…anxiety is hell) that follows rehashing how it could have gone better and trying to figure out if there was anything I could have done, any miracle I could – even now – pull off to help them recover. Anything to erase the reality and thus the memory of their despair.

We have all been where they are in one way or another. We all know those moments. The one when we realized the person we loved most wasn’t going to be our forever person. The one when we discovered that, no matter how tightly we crunched the numbers, there was no saving the business we had poured our soul (and all our savings) into. The one when we knew that truck absolutely was going to hit us, and there was nothing we could do about it.

I believe that these moments are unavoidable, but more than that, I believe they aren’t the last line of the story. I mean, the intermission that follows these moments might get really long. And that’s okay. Things take as long as they take. But eventually, there is more.

I believe in hope. That is, I desperately need hope.

When I made a plan to dissect my core values this year, I figured hope would be in there somewhere. Maybe in the middle, keeping all the others motivated. Maybe at the end, enjoying its grand finish. But the more I looked over the list I have started, the more I realized that it has to be first.

Everything for me starts with hope.

I’m not what most people would call an optimist. I see details and patterns and wayward caveats too easily to ignore all the things that could go wrong. To disregard them would register in my brain as irresponsible. I can’t shake the idea, though, that for every way something could go awry, there’s at least one way it could go really well (eventually. Sometimes the path to well is paved with awry. So much awry), and I’m addicted to the hunt for it. I don’t always find it, but I want to think that it’s out there. Otherwise what’s the point of anything?

Hope is often unreasonable. I like that about hope. There are many posts this time of year about why we should say no to making New Year’s resolutions. They paint a picture of discouragement and disappointment when those resolutions don’t ever come to pass. But disappointment is not usually my experience. I go into the year suspecting that I will probably not meet every extravagant goal I set (as an example, I mused the other day, “Hey – I could combine my goal of reading Don Quixote with my goal of reading a book in Spanish this year!” Isn’t that precious.). And I suppose I could set simpler, more sensible goals that I would have no problem attaining. Part of that would be gratifying, as I do enjoy checking things off lists. But another part of that is just super dull. At my core, I would rather risk failure than stagnation. I may periodically land at mediocre, but I’m certainly not going to aim for it. I see the potential for better, and that is where my hope leads.

Hope is overwhelming. You may be overwhelmed just reading about it. That’s not an uncommon reaction. I know that my hope is showing when I’m part of a group that is tasked with coming up with one thing we could do better, and the more our excitement builds, the bigger everyone’s eyes get as I calmly and rationally explain that all I want is for us to un-break the world. God help the group if there are more than one of us.

My hope is unruly, lively, persistent, often annoying. But it’s mine.

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Core

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Making my dream board/goals collage/etc. was oddly invigorating.

As I briefly mentioned in my 2017 review, I’m not quite done with wild, my one word for 2017.  Experiences of the last two years have left me bruised and skittish, and I think that impeded my courage to step out more than I imagined it would. I had visions of going on hikes and long walks in unfamiliar places by myself, but that didn’t happen. I had plans to be more spontaneous with my time, and what will surprise absolutely no one is that I really don’t like doing that. I’m more cautious than I’ve ever been before, and wild has just barely started to rear its head. I want another year with it.

Being more physically active helped. Running is exhilarating and also exhausting and omg I feel old. But it’s part of my wildness. I can’t be wild in the way I am wild without running, just like I can’t be my kind of wild without dancing. My wild is inherently embodied.

Running isn’t just important in the literal, physical sense, though. I want to run my life better. I don’t rest the way I talk about resting. I don’t eat the way I talk about eating. I don’t give the way I talk about giving. I don’t move the way I talk about moving. I am not as responsible, hopeful, well-read, and about 10,000 other adjectives as I want to be.

Before you jump to my defense, let me assure you that I am not lacking in confidence. I don’t feel bad about these things or about myself (for the most part – everyone has those days). I just see where I want to be, and I know I’m not there yet. I am also rational enough to realize that I won’t magically be there at the end of the year.

But I can get closer to it.

The way I’m doing that this year is by focusing on the traits that are most important to me. I was just going to sail through the year, clinging to wild, and then this post on Chookooloonks’s blog punched me in the gut.

Or, if you will, in the core.

Core is my word for 2018. I will examine what my core values are, and listing what I plan to do to better exhibit those values. Periodically, when I gather enough to say about one of them, I’ll outline it in a post. By the end of the year, I hope to have a list and, if not a whole post, at least brief descriptions of each.

I may end up with three core values. I may end up with twenty (and let’s be real – twenty is more befitting my personality than three). Most likely, I will end up somewhere in the middle.

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THE BEST DAY!!!

New Year’s Day is easily one of my top ten favorite days of the year. Maybe even top five. I love setting new goals or revising old ones. I love – if even for just a day – looking forward and being intentionally cheerful about what the year might bring. I looooove breaking in my new planner – saying my official goodbye and thank you to last year’s calendar with its scuffs and battle scars and breaking out the shiny new one.

My word for the year is “core.” I have a pretty strong sense of what is important to me and what traits I want to cultivate the most, but this year is devoted to saying those things out loud (or at least on the internet). I am going to talk more about this later this week, but by the end of the year, I want to see a marked improvement in how my core values shape my goals, commitments, and strength.

I have listed a lot of goals and dreams for the year in my 52 Lists journal, and I won’t bog you down with all of them. But here are the key ones:

  1. Read 100 books. That’s just two a week with a couple of weeks off. That’s how much I read when I am reading consistently. Reading grounds and calms me. I fall out of the habit when I over-commit to other things that leave me drained and stressed, so ideally this goal will help me do more reading and less stressing this year.
  2. Make some of these books really long ones. Specifically, I want to read Don Quixote, Infinite Jest, and Anna Karenina.
  3. Finish the first draft of Fishbowl. My hard deadline for this is June 15, so the year’s end may even find me in revision mode. But the first step is just to finish.
  4. Finish Epic Meal Planning edits. Possibly even publish?
  5. Continue learning Spanish and read at least one book in Spanish (with minimal dictionary usage) by the end of the year.
  6. Take a solitary writing retreat. Criteria: 1) outside Denton, 2) two days minimum, and 3) no Internet.
  7. Go to a coffee shop or wine bar at least once a month. Write more about coffee shops.
  8. Build up my emergency fund and get back in the habit of paying off credit cards fully every month. I’ve lapsed a little, and I don’t like it.
  9. Financial/health combo goal – actually use my gym membership regularly or cancel it. Paying for something I don’t use is ridiculous. So is being sedentary.
  10. Try at least one new recipe a month. My meal planning is in a rut. I need new ideas. Feel free to post your favorites in the comments section.

What do you want your 2018 to look like?

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