Taking Stock

Three Things About My Reading in 2018

I've reached that time of year . . where I begin reflecting.  Looking back over the past year -- before I look ahead to the coming year.  I usually start with some easy reflecting (what did I read, for example) before I tackle the harder stuff (did I accomplish what I hoped to accomplish, for example).

So. Let's talk about reading, shall we?

IMG_6038

According to Goodreads, I've 66 books so far this year.  That's fewer books than I've read in years past, but that was actually by design.  (Yes.  That's right.  I opted to slow down my reading this year; to focus more on what I was reading, and to try to make deeper connections with the books I did read.)

Turns out I read mostly 4-star books (by my own grading system), which is typical for me.  I'm pretty choosy about the books I read, and I have a good idea of what I tend to like, so it doesn't surprise me that most of my books end up with 4 stars.  Besides, for me, 5-star reads just don't come along very often.  (A book has to be really fabulous for me to give it 5 stars.)  That said, I also read a few real duds this year, too!

My top 5 books of 2018? *

And here are three things I've learned from my reading in 2018:

  1. Early in the year, I decided I wanted to focus more on my reading.  I spent a while thinking about what that meant, exactly.  (Especially because I have always - all my life - focused on my reading!)  I came to the understanding that what I wanted . . . was to focus more on making my reading meaningful.  I decided to slow down.  To make better connections with what I was reading - and to, ultimately, remember more about the books I read.
  2. I started taking notes about each book I read this year.  I don't mean . . . notes like you take in school or anything (I certainly wasn't outlining chapters here).  But I did create a format for myself so I could jot down a basic synopsis, a list of characters, my impressions, and quotes I particularly liked from each book I read.  I discovered that by taking notes, I was connecting at a deeper level with what I was reading -- and I'm certainly remembering the books more than ever before.  These notes helped me write reviews on Goodreads (another reading goal of mine for the year), and it helped me create . . . space . . . between books.  In years past, I would open another book as soon as I closed one.  By taking the time to go over my notes and put together a review, I was creating a boundary between my books -- and that turned out to be a great strategy for me in slowing down and finding more meaning.
  3. I used my library more than ever.  While this was frustrating for me sometimes (because I couldn't always get the books I wanted WHEN I wanted them), it taught be other lessons.  Like just because a book finally pops up on Overdrive -- along with 3 others! -- you don't have to pressure yourself to read it Right Now.  You can put yourself back on the hold list and read it later.  (That was a big lesson in letting go for me.)  There were still times I purchased a book because I didn't want to wait (my Overdrive wait for Michelle Obama's Becoming was 8 months long, for example, so I purchased it on Audible), but I was much more likely to wait for books from my library.

Looking back, it's been a really great reading year for me.  I know that there will always, always be far more books out there that I'd like to read . . . than I'll ever have time to read.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that!

How about you?  What were your favorite books this year?

==========

* My other 5-star books this year:  Calypso (David Sedaris), The Overstory (Richard Powers), From a Low and Quiet Sea (Donal Ryan), Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf), Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)  The Ninth Hour: A Novel (Alice McDermott), The Light of the World (Elizabeth Alexander), The Temporary Gentleman (Barry Sebastian), Winter (Ali Smith), and Reservoir 13 (Jon McGregor).

==========

Be sure to visit Carole today, for more Three on Thursday posts.

 


18 in 2018: A Mid-Year Update

A couple of weeks ago, on their Happier podcast, Gretchen and Elizabeth checked in on their 18 in 2018 lists for the year.  It was interesting to hear how they're progressing, and what they've learned about their lists so far in 2018. 

You might remember that I created one of these lists for myself back in January.  I actually refer to my list at least once a month, just to see how I'm doing and to remind myself what I was hoping to accomplish this year.  

IMG_4387

I thought it might be a good exercise for me to join Gretchen and Elizabeth with a little update of my own!  Here goes:

  1. Remove wallpaper and paint the dining room.  DONE.  (And I am over the moon with the result!)  (And, mostly, I am thrilled that I can finally remove this item from every list of goals I've made since 2003.)
  2. Plant 3 trees in the garden.  HAVEN'T STARTED YET.  (But very much planning to do; most likely in the fall.)  (Which is a very good time to plant trees, by the way.)
  3. Establish a workable daily structure and morning routine.  ACTIVELY WORKING TOWARD.  (Although I have made progress, I'm still working on the "daily" part of things.)  (I'm thinking this might be ongoing for the rest of time, actually.  Because things change all the time, and any "daily structure" needs to be flexible above all else.)
  4. Organize a "system" for photo review and storage.  ACTIVELY WORKING TOWARD.  (I have worked out a pretty good "system" for myself, but it's one of those things that is hard for me to keep up with.  )
  5. Create a wedding album for each kid.  HAVEN'T STARTED YET.  (But very much planning to complete before the end of the year.)
  6. Replace everyday dishes.  DONE.  (I got simple white dishes that look good, and are inexpensive and easy to replace as needed.)
  7. Digital re-organization complete (documents, Evernote, inbox).  ACTIVELY WORKING TOWARD.  (I have completed re-organizing my computer documents and inbox, and now I'm chipping away at my Evernote files.  I fully intend to complete this over the summer.)
  8. Do the Cooking Light 3-Day Detox.  DONE.  (And I'm thinking of doing it again.)
  9. Get Tom's website LIVE.  DONE.  (And damn proud.)  (Want to see for yourself?  Click here.)
  10. Plan trips to visit kids in CA and CO.  HAVEN'T STARTED YET.  (Will plan these trips soon, though.)
  11. Complete "Month of Letters" and maximize Postcrossing.  DONE.  (Easy-peasy -- and fun.)
  12. See all the Oscar-nominated movies.  DONE.  (And can't wait to do it again for 2019!)
  13. Hit monthly Apple Watch challenge at least 9 times.  NOT DOING/REMOVING FROM LIST.  (I was trying to include a fitness challenge for myself, but doing the random Apple Watch challenges is not an effective way for me to meet that kind of goal.  At all.)  (I've actually put a lot of thought into this -- so watch for a future blog post about . . . counting what counts . . . soon.)
  14. Finalize estate plan (wills, etc.).  DONE.  (This one feels so . . . adult.)
  15. Lunch or coffee date with a friend at least 1 time per month.  ACTIVELY WORKING TOWARD.  (This goal is fun and easy, and I'll definitely complete it by the end of the year.)   (I included it because I wanted to be very intentional about keeping in touch with local friends on the regular  -- and having this goal encourages me to take action and set things up, rather than waiting for things to emerge "organically.")
  16. Create and send monthly surprise packages to the kids.  ACTIVELY WORKING TOWARD.  (I've always been a care-package-kind-of-mom, and now that my kids are grown up and married, I see no need to stop.  I enjoy putting together little surprises for them each month, and will have no trouble completing this goal by the end of the year.)
  17. Create new path in back garden and move "puddle pond."  DONE.  (Although we didn't move the "puddle pond.")  (Originally, I thought we'd need to move the tiny pond in order to create the new path, but in the end, we didn't need to.  BONUS.)
  18. Plan/take a weekend trip to Chicago with Tom.  DONE.  (And - another BONUS - my sister came with us!)

So, out of my original 18 in 2018 goals . . . 

  • I have completed 9 items.
  • I am actively working on 5 items.
  • I haven't started (but plan to complete) 3 items.
  • And I have removed one item altogether (because it was poorly crafted from the get-go).

Not bad!  

How about you?  Did you make an 18 in 2018 list?  And, if you did, how are YOU doing?


Next Up: Adventure

Last month I told you about Jen Tulson's Sacred Invitation Deck -- a set of beautiful cards I won in a random drawing -- that I'm using as a tool in creating an "area of refuge" for myself.

The first card I chose was . . . savor.  And the card did its magical work!  Every time I glanced at it, I found myself thinking about simple things that I savored in my life (looking out the window at the snow, being able to throw a hand knit shawl over my legs when I was chilly, the smell of food cooking in the kitchen . . . that kind of thing).

I liked the savor card!  It brought me comfort and a daily gentle reminder to notice the little things.  I was in no hurry to switch it out with another.  And so it remained, sitting on my desk (in a little stand-up card holder I had stashed away in my junk drawer) for nearly a month.

Until it wasn't.

Over the weekend, it must have fallen to the floor under my desk.  And this pup . . . 

IMG_2381

normally so well-behaved - but with a strange penchant for cardstock (and only cardstock) that she finds lying on the floor - decided to, well . . . savor it herself!

IMG_2445

I decided, then, that the time had come for me to choose another card!  

IMG_2447

But I'm gonna be honest here.  When I saw my new card - adventure - I was disappointed.

Adventure?

In the middle of February?

I mean, seriously?  Adventure . . . conjures excitement and new and plans and going somewhere.  Not . . . exactly what my life looks like right now, y'know?

But I stuck the card in the little holder on my desk anyway.  I'm going to live with it for awhile and see where it takes me.
Because hmmmm.  
You never know.

 


Time for Compassion

Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

                                                                                                                       ---- Dalai Lama

IMG_5787

Working hard today . . . to maintain my balance.  And find peace.

Compassion . . . is the way forward.

==========

I also want to share this read on staying sane in challenging times.  It helped me yesterday.  Perhaps you will find it useful as well.

 


More Than Just a Storage Solution - It's a Way of Life

When I read the prompt for this week's Think Write Thursday post, it made me chuckle.  How I stay positive when it feels like everything is going wrong.  Because ... well.  This has been my daily struggle for a while now.  Y'know?

So much going wrong.

So many attempts to stay positive.

So many ways this blog post could go.

Like . . . I could write about meditation and mindfulness practice.  (Because that helps.  A lot.)  Or I could write about journaling.  (Because that is essential for my well-being.)  Or I could write about the power of a good workout.  (Because pushing your body is powerful and sweat is GOOD.)  Or I could write about knitting or weeding or drawing.  (Because those activities are grounding and help me find my center.)

But, instead . . . I'm going to write about Ziploc bags.

IMG_3405

Yep.  Ziplocs.

You see, somewhere back in time - probably college; maybe earlier - when I first started dealing with time management issues and that feeling-like-everything-is-going-wrong thing - I came up with a sort of Scarlet O'Hara tomorrow-is-another-day approach to dealing with things.

Stick it in a Ziploc.

Yep.  Just stick that thing/idea/future to-do item/problem in a Ziploc bag.  Seal it up nice and tight.  And store it in your brain.

The trick?  Keep. It. Sealed.  Do NOT let it out.

And, just like real Ziploc bags of real stuff in your real life, that thing/idea/future to-do item/problem will just sit there in your brain.  

Safely stored.  
Marinating.  
Gathering dust.  
Or rotting.  

And you can open that Ziploc bag whenever you are ready.  Or when it is time.  (Or somewhere between 2:30 and 4:00 am, when the seals, sadly, tend to be at their weakest.)

I'm not talking about denial here.  I'm just talking about compartmentalizing.  When things/ideas/ future to-do items/problems are overwhelming and when it feels like they're all closing in on you and you just can't manage . . . that's when it's time to do a little sorting-and-storing.  

Fill up your Ziploc bags with things that you really can deal with/think about/do LATER -- so you can deal with the more immediate issues NOW.

It works for me!

==========

This post is part of Think Write Thursday.  Read more posts on this topic here - and sign up to receive the weekly prompts here.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Juggling On a Friday

I really can't believe it's the middle of October already.  

Thankfully, we've had several very nice fall days lately.  Lovely afternoons where I can sit in my swing for a few minutes and . . . well . . . just pull things together in my head.

FullSizeRender 92 copy

Which is a good thing.  Because I've got a lot of stuff going on right now.  

Many, many balls in the air.

(And if you don't happen to hear from me for a day or two?  It probably just means I got hit in the head with one of my flying objects...)

(Such was the case yesterday.)

Have a great weekend.  (I'll be remembering that last year at this time . . . I was at Rhinebeck!

 

 


Seeking Normal

I've been Not Blogging since August 11.

I'm going to admit it . . . it's been rather nice to not "think in blog" over the past couple of weeks.  There are just too many other things to stress and worry over right now.

In fact, I can see . . . never blogging again.

Because it is so hard to be upbeat and cheery when life just . . . isn't.

IMG_1930

I'm traversing some uncharted territory.  Picking my steps carefully and trying not to fall over the edge.  Nothing feels quite right at the moment.  I'm not eating or sleeping well.  I haven't worked out in weeks.  I'm not knitting or gardening or drawing.  I'm not blogging.

Nothing is normal.

Everything stinks.

Last night, laying there in bed (not sleeping, of course), I decided I need to flip the switch.  I am not going to be able to face what is ahead of me if I don't . . . seek some Normal in my life.

So.

I'm going to yoga tonight.

I'm going to do some deadheading and weed-pulling in my garden.

And I'm going to blog.

Because I NEED some Normal.  (And I also need all of you.)


My Summer Bucket List

Summer . . . 

FullSizeRender 88 copy 4

My goals this summer are really pretty simple.  I want to . . .

  1. Spend as much time as I can outside, soaking up the sun and enjoying the hot, summer air.  (It's what gets me through the winter.)
  2. Mix things up a bit in my garden beds.  Nothing drastic -- just moving a few things around and into better "spots."  (It happens.  Things grow differently - or bigger - than you first imagine.  And then you have to do a little housekeeping.)
  3. Plant a tree. (Or two).
  4. Visit faraway places.  (Kind of a no-brainer at this point, since I leave for Scotland and Ireland in a couple of weeks.)
  5. Enjoy some of my favorite places closer to home.  (Can you say Lake Michigan beaches?)
  6. Unplug from the Internet now and again.  (I give up.  I'm retreating back into my cave.)
  7. Sit outdoors and try more plein air watercolor painting.  (My latest art class - now complete - involved 4 weeks of painting plein air.  Intriguing.  But I need a lot more practice!)
  8. Bike the Kal-Haven Trail.  (Possible plans for this Friday.  Let's hope the weather cooperates.)
  9. Try a paddle board on our lake up north.  (I'm looking for an on-sale, low-end paddle board.  Because that's all I'd need.)
  10. Sit on the patio - or up at the lake - and watch the fireflies.  (My all-time favorite summer wonder.)

How about YOU?  What's on your summer bucket list?

==========

Find out what everyone else has to say here.


Rambling in the Face of It

I'm sure many of you are aware that Kalamazoo is the latest (in a way too long line-up*) of cities-in-the-news because Senseless Gun Violence.  

Today, as I write this post . . . well.  Let's just say I'm rambling, and not really sure where it's going to go.  Because This Is My Town, Damnit.  And I'm still processing.

But I'm going to start here.  With a BB.

FullSizeRender 52

One day last spring, I was out walking my dogs -- and I got shot in the leg with a BB.  (That very BB.  I saved it.)  It hurt like hell.  But, mostly, I was shocked.  It could have been just kids playing around, an errant BB ricocheting off a tree.  But I couldn't quite get over the feeling of . . . being shot AT.  Like . . . on purpose.  Someone with pretty good aim . . . considered me (or maybe my dogs) a target.  I limped home that day, and called the police.  They were nice -- but it was already too late for them to do anything.  (And apparently they don't run ballistics on BB pellets.)

I was really angy about my BB incident.  I mean . . . I was just out walking.  In my neighborhood.  Where I feel safe.  And where I should never be shot at.  

Because, you see, the Social Contract is in place.  Organized society depends on - and is invested with - the right to secure mutual protection and welfare.  In other words, I can walk the streets . . . and you won't shoot me.

I'm not trying to compare the my own silly little BB incident to the carnage here in my city on Saturday night.  Not even close.  But I am saying that random shootings - like we've had FAR TOO MANY OF - are a disruption of the Social Contract.

People should be able to load their children into the van . . . 

Or shop for cars in a dealer's lot . . . 

Or go out for dinner after seeing a show . . . 

(Or go to school.  Or to a movie.  Or a Christmas party.  I'm sure you get my drift.)

WITHOUT FEAR OF BEING SHOT AT!!!

Because these are NORMAL, every day activities.

Things we all do.

Every day.

And we should be able to do them . . . without thought.  Without pause.  Without fear.

Because that's the Social Contract.

==========

(I so thank all of you who contacted me via text, email, and Facebook yesterday.  It meant so much.  XO.)

==========

*  According to the Washington Post, the Kalamazoo shootings on Saturday night represented the 42nd "mass shooting" this year.  It's only February, folks.  That means . . . mass shootings have happened in the US in 2016 (so far) at pretty close to . . . well . . . once per day.  This. Is. Appalling.

 


Intentions

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come.
                                                     
  --- Alfred Lord Tennyson

IMG_9228

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but I do like to take some time at the end of each year to kind of . . . take stock . . . and think about the year to come.  I usually set some goals for myself (which are not really the same thing as resolutions at all), and I always come up with a list of two-word intentions for the new year.

Here's my list for 2016:

Dive in.

Look again.

Be present.

Onward, upward.

Bold strokes.

Cultivate courage.

Nourish friendship.

Stitch together.

Keep swimming.

Live in color.

Here's to 2016!  I have a feeling it's going to be a very interesting year.