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Archive for the ‘Resolutions’ Category

I recently rearranged part of my living room because, once I put my Christmas decorations back in the closet, I couldn’t bring myself to move the recliner back to that corner. I like it where it is. So instead, I moved the small table with my record player over. 

It works better there. It’s easier to access, and I use it more often now that it’s not hidden behind the couch and a bookshelf and some throw pillows.

Eventually, though, I want this whole wall to be tall bookshelves, so it and the records will need to move to one of those. I’m running out of space for records anyway. And I want more bookshelves on the opposite wall. Get rid of the couch. Add reading chairs and a lamp in its place. My plans just snowballed from there.

This small move inspired me to take pictures of all four of my main rooms – living, dining, office, bedroom. That way, I have “before” pictures. 

But y’all. They are a MESS. The picture above is literally the only one I’m willing to post on the intrawebs. And I’m annoyed with it, too, because why is the diffuser in the middle of the floor. Ugh.

I get used to the clutter when I live in it every day, but looking at it in a picture that I am considering showing other people makes it more real to me. On the one hand, that’s moderately motivating enough to inspire a few tidy sessions in the days that follow. But once that motivation passes, it will most likely just leave me overwhelmed and make me even more hesitant to ever invite people over. 

I keep reminding myself that this is a process. But it’s difficult to stay optimistic because I know not only my vision of what I want it to look like but also how very, very many steps it’s going to take to get it there. I yawned and daydreamed about taking a nap just typing that sentence. 

So maybe I’ll delete most of those pictures, and I’ll wait to take new ones until I have visual confirmation of having completed one of the steps toward my end goal (like the picture above). Proof of a small move in the right direction is more likely to inspire further plans and their enthusiastic execution than thorough documentation of my overall chaos.

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January 2023 TBR

New year, new reading goals! I’m excited about becoming more familiar with the books on my shelves as well as (slowly) whittling down my massive TBR. Here’s the plan for January.

Book Clubs

Home

First, I’m finishing up Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian. It’s a great reminder to be true to myself (and also to figure out what that means in the areas where I’m still a little fuzzy on the subject). 

For many people, home means family. I still refer to the farm where I grew up as home, because even though I haven’t lived there for almost thirty years, the people who brought me into this world, whose influence shaped a lot of who I am, are there. And I feel at home at my sister’s house. I know where things are and how it runs and what’s expected of me there. 

I also have a circle of chosen family – people I know I can call on and count on at any time. Maggie, Michelle, Sarah, Steph. Then there are others in the circle from Spiderweb and church and work who would definitely have my back in a fight (not that I am in such situations very often…at least physically). As someone who lives alone, I have to make more of an effort to see my family – both biological and chosen – than those whose family is in their house, and the older I get, the more I value relationships with people who seem to put as much effort into them as I do. Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer focuses on female friendships, but I expect that the concepts expand across gender, and I am excited to tuck into it!

TBR 

I know I said 3-4 selections, but my TBR is soooo large. I’ll calm down in a few months. Probably.

  • Series – Having never read anything she’s written, I already like two things about Diana Xarissa. First, her last name will let me check off the letter X on my alphabet reading challenge. Second, all the series she’s written are titled in alphabetical order. For example, the Markham Sisters series starts with The Appleton Case, then The Bennett Case, etc. I will probably read those at some point, but this month, I am intrigued by the first book of her new series, the Midlife Crisis Mysteries, which was released in November, called Anxious in Nevada. I am also happy to report that it’s my turn with the library’s copy of the latest Inspector Gamache mystery – A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny – so I’ll be reading that one, too.
  • General fiction – I have this one marked with the notation “read without knowing the premise.” Intrigue! So while I’ve linked you to it, I have obeyed Past Me and not read the blurb. This should be fun. As an added bonus, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler also contains one of GirlXOXO’s January keyword prompts (all), so it’s my selection for this challenge.
  • Memoir – Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith, has been on my list ever since I heard my friend Lois talking about it. It’s a series of letters the authors wrote to their friends while they were traveling to all 59 national parks.
  • Food memoir – I’ve thumbed through the library’s copy of Sobremesa by Josephine Caminos Oria, and I may just end up buying it before the month is over. It looks like everything I love in a food memoir.
  • Essays – I have been a fan of Laurie Notaro since The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club, although it hurts my feelings a little to notice that it came out 20 years ago. I feel like she and I have grown up together, so I’m excited to hear her take on middle age in Excuse Me While I Disappear.

Collection

For the past year (or three?), any time I’ve put a book on a monthly TBR or was given it as a gift, I moved it to one of the shelves in the living room so that I had easy access to it. Then I put it back where it belonged when I finished it. As a result, I have quite a few books lined up on my living room shelves that I meant to read but didn’t (and thus haven’t made it back to their usual home). So I’m going to read a few this month that I’m still just as excited about as when I first planned to read them. 

  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – This book was planned to fulfill one of the prompts for last year’s POPSUGAR challenge (set in Tokyo, a sister city to New York), and it’s one of the first books I ever bought at Patchouli Joe’s
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King – I can’t exactly remember how this one ended up on this shelf other than I really like the title and the cover. My best guess is that I ran across it when looking for books with the word “winter” in the title (Lily King also has a book called Five Tuesdays in Winter) for last year’s GirlXOXO challenge.
  • A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White – Knowing my love of foodie fiction, Michelle gifted this to me a while ago. It’s one of the ones I pick up and read through when I just have a few minutes, so I’m going to actually finish it this month. Hey – another book to discuss at Rise and Shine! I really am going to try not to dominate the conversation. I promise.

What book are you most excited about reading next?

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Reading Resolutions

I finished my reading goal for 2022 in the nick of time. Even with a slow October and November, I stayed enough ahead most of the year to finish strong with a few days to spare. Of course, I didn’t read everything I wanted to read, but that’s to be expected. One day, I’ll learn to bend the space/time continuum to my will. Until then, I guess I’m stuck with a few limitations.

This year, my monthly TBR will look a little different. I still want to focus on book clubs and my theme word for the year, but I also want to make a dent in my constantly expanding, grand list of books I’d like to read as well as the collection of books that I own.

Book Clubs

I have seven book clubs in total. I meet with three of them in person, three online, and one hybrid. I am consistent with attendance to the in-person and hybrid meetings, but not so much with the fully online ones. While I don’t promise I’ll want to add any more Zoom calls to my schedule, I would like to engage more in the online message-board-ish discussion of the subscription books each month. 

Just keeping up with the reading for all my book clubs will result in finishing at least six or seven books a month (one of the in-person meetings is centered around genre, not a specific book, so I often have already read several in the month’s category that I can discuss). 

Theme Word

As I revealed yesterday, my theme word for the year is home. I find that I am better able to focus if I choose a book to read that delves into some aspect of the word. I am still working through Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian I began in December, and that is the perfect start. Each month, I will choose one book to help me discover something new the theme has to teach me.

TBR

My TBR list is massive and out of control. I keep track of it on a spreadsheet that is divided into 21 different categories. The smallest number of books listed in any category is 7. I’m not even going to tell you what the largest number is (but the category is general fiction, so suffice it to say it’s a large, three-digit number). 

It may be overly optimistic to believe that I can make a noticeable dent in this gargantuan list, but I’m going to give it a whirl. First, I’m going to slow down when it comes to adding new things, and I’ve already started the process of reviewing the existing list and deleting books that I’m really not interested in after all. I’m going to be more selective and more realistic about whether I will actually ever choose to read a book before I will put it on the list. Second, I will commit to reading a few from the list each month this year. I may end up reading more (especially if I get hooked on one of the series I have listed or if one of my book club selections is also on the list), but planning for at least one choice from three or four different categories is a solid effort.

Collection

My personal collection? Also massive (but not out of control. Every book has a home.). I don’t have it divided into as many categories as the TBR, but I want to read a little out of all of them this year. So I’ll also be choosing three or four from my personal collection to read each month.

For those keeping track, that’s 6-7 selections for book clubs, one for my theme word, 3-4 off my TBR list, and 3-4 from my personal collection. This totals 13-16 per month, which is how I got to the goal of 180 total for the year. Challenging but not impossible. Wish me luck!

Reading Challenges

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may notice that something is missing. As I’ve discussed before, I love reading challenges. They introduce me to books I may have never chosen on my own and have me reading out of my comfort zone on a pretty regular basis. 

I don’t typically finish them, though, because I take on too many. I want to do them ALL. And also read all my book club selections. And the next installment of one of the many series I enjoy. And also random books I find at the library that sound interesting or that are recommended by friends. I find that sometimes (i.e., most of the time) I really resonate with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s you-don’t-need-another-challenge proclamation from a few years back, and I just want to read what I like without worrying about if it’s smart or challenging or important enough to merit my favor. 

Frankly, I just need to get paid to read. I could read so much more if it were my full-time job. Or if I could figure out that bending space and time thing. Or just become immortal. But I digress.

I think I’ll still get the diverse reads that I’m committed to through my book clubs and my TBR, so I’ll still be challenging myself in that way. But this year, I am limiting myself to two outside challenges and one of my own. I know, that doesn’t sound like “limiting,” but hear me out. The first two are simple ones I’m familiar with.

I do love MMD’s summer reading challenge, so I’ll do that one when/if it comes out in May. This challenge has many books on it that have some popular buzz, so I’ve usually already read a few of them before the list is even posted. They’re usually pretty quick reads (i.e., summer/beach reads, dynamic memoirs, and feel-good fiction, as well as some gems that I can usually get at least one of my book clubs to read), so I’ll have that going for me, too.

I am also going to complete the GirlXOXO Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge. It’s only a book a month, and I have free reign to pick something I’m excited about as long as the title includes one of the month’s keywords. Limiting the number of challenges I am trying to complete will let me give this one a fighting chance. 

The third challenge is alphabetical. I want to read 26 books with authors whose names start with each letter of the alphabet and 26 books with titles that start with each letter, too. I realize that’s 52 total books, but with an overall goal of 180, this shouldn’t be a problem. Also, there are relatively few names and book titles that don’t start with a letter, so almost everything I read will fit this challenge, especially the first few months.

The catch is this – any book I read for a challenge also has to fit one of the other categories I’m focusing on this year (i.e., book club, home, TBR, or collection). The alphabet challenge in particular is broad enough to add extra motivation that will help me cull my home collection without getting stuck on Allende (although if you really must be stuck somewhere, that’s a good place to be). 

As for updates, I am going to try something new. I will have an anchor page (posting two tomorrow and the MMD one when it comes out later) for each challenge and update it as I finish books. If the book happens to get its own review post or I actually write a review of it on Goodreads, I’ll also post those links on the anchor page. 

So that’s the plan for the year. Do you have specific reading goals you want to meet? I’d love to hear them!

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I typically spend December reflecting on the year that’s ending, and part of that process is reading through my journals and blog posts. Several times throughout the year, I have mentioned home and pondered what it meant. One particular quote stood out – “Perhaps home care is self-care?” Home isn’t just the place I live physically, although one’s environment is important. It also involves a sense of belonging – of being secure and loved and accepted – particularly within myself, so that no matter who I am with, I can still be at home. So even before I started reading Najwa Zebian’s Welcome Home, I was already preparing my mind to explore it in this context, but of course, there’s always more to learn.

Merriam-Webster defines home as…

“…one’s place of residence”

I always enjoyed having people over and feeding them in The Before Times. But then COVID protocols shut that down, and the adjustment was hard and, at times, heartbreaking. In many ways, though, it was also nice. I really do like having the space all to myself. It can be a mess, and I don’t feel the need to explain or apologize for it. It’s also less of a mess because there’s no panic cleaning (which results in some actual tidying/cleaning but mostly consists of “oh, shit, I don’t have time to actually go through all this paper on my table because people will be here tonight so I’m going to shove it into a bag and put it in the office closet where it now lives forever and ever amen.”). Additionally, being home alone sets a clear boundary for when I need solitude.

Every once in a while, though, I get a little pang of nostalgia (usually when I’m looking at entertaining arrangements on Pinterest). I’d like to find more of a balance this year that honors my home as my sanctuary but also is welcoming to those I want to invite into it.

“…house”

*sighs; wants*

I would love a house. With a backyard for some (very) minor gardening but mostly for looking at the sunrise and birds and the moon while I drink my coffee/tea/wine, undisturbed by passing cars or neighbors. With a garage so that the neighborhood squirrels will stop chewing on the wires in my car, the neighborhood cats will stop peeing on it, and the multiple hailstorms each spring will stop adding dimples to its hood. With a decent kitchen and laundry room. With walls and a ceiling I don’t have to share with strangers. With more room for books.

This is unlikely to come to pass this year, unless I suddenly get a huge promotion/raise. So instead I’m focusing on how to make my apartment, which has its odd quirks but overall is a decent place to live, more homey.

“…the social unit formed by a family living together”

This one is a little tricky, as I do not “live together” with anyone. I’m expanding it to include those who are family (both biological and chosen). I’m pretty good about spending time/keeping up/supporting some of them; I could do better with others. 

“…a familiar or usual setting; congenial environment; the focus of one’s domestic attention”

Last year – my lush year – I paid special attention to the places where I feel like I fit the best and that brought me the most joy/peace/calm/etc., so I feel pretty well set up for this one. It’s been interesting to see how quickly I notice not only when a setting feels off for me but also when it’s just right. It’s made decisions about which social situations, responsibilities, and tangible objects to take on and which ones to give up a lot easier.

“…habitat”

This makes me think about nesting, which can go a number of ways for me (not all of them good). I do tend to make cozy nests, which I really love while I’m using them, but then I leave them where they are, and as it turns out, an unoccupied former nest is just a lot of stuff out of place and probably some tea/coffee cups that need washing. I may need to find a way to create more permanent, aesthetically pleasing nests that I (and the occasional guest, I guess) can enjoy without having to put them together and take them down every time. I have some ideas.

“…a place of origin”

As my parents age, I’ve been spending more time at the farm. I used to make it home three or four times a year, but I’ve been going at least every other month for a while. I like to check in on them because they (and by they I do mean we as a family) tend to downplay struggles, so it’s good to see with my own two eyes what’s happening. I also just like the drive. It’s one of my favorites. 

“…at home”

  • Relaxed; comfortable; at ease – This is not my standard MO. I tend more toward the tense/anxious/fidgety end of the spectrum. But I look forward to finding ways to mosey toward the other side (or at least in the direction of middle ground) this year.
  • In harmony with the surroundings – I’ve been trying a few new habits at home already that seem to make it cozier and more harmonious. Work may be a challenge. I have a few steps in mind, including taking more frequent breaks any time I start to feel overwhelmed, using broader scheduling blocks for tasks (to adjust for inevitable interruptions to them), taking mental health days when I first need them rather than waiting until they’re almost an emergency, and, just in general, advocating for myself as fervently as I advocate for others.
  • On familiar ground; knowledgeable – I love learning, so this part is exciting. There are specific topics/skills I want to improve this year, including music theory and experimentation, reading/speaking Spanish, editing fiction, writing poetry, etc. I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the year progresses.

“…to be at one’s place of residence”

So much of my stress and mental health struggles could be more easily handled if I would just say no and stay home more often. I never, ever regret staying home. I really like it there. I don’t know why I find it so difficult to make it happen more often. I want get better at it this year.

“…to a vital, sensitive core”

This phrase jumped out at me, but so did the use-it-in-a-sentence example they gave. “The truth struck home.” I spent a whole year examining my core values, but that process has continued in the years that followed, because as we change, so do the things we value most sometimes. Currently, I would still list hope, generosity, and joy as some of the main things that drive my decisions, but the older I get (and thus, the more I discover there is to learn), the more important it seems to keep curiosity in the forefront of my mind, too. I’m sure these values will play a role in my exploration of home this year.

Two of the ways I want to do that is through two things I love – eating and reading. 

I’m going to make recipes that remind me of home. I haven’t decided if I’m going to post recipes and stories throughout the year or if I want to compile them for discussion as a 31 Days series in October (leaning heavily toward the latter, but we’ll see). 

Welcome Home was a solid start for books with home as part of the title and/or theme. I probably won’t get to all the ones I’m considering this year, but here’s the list so far:

Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer

At Home by Bill Bryson

My Hygge Home by Meik Wiking (February)

A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home by Frances Mayes

The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser 

Patricia Wells At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells

The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

At Home on an Unruly Planet by Madeline Ostrander

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

Eat, Drink, Nap: Bringing the House Home (Soho House)

This is Home: The Art of Simple Living by Natalie Walton and Chris Warnes

Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace by Christie Purifoy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Do you have a theme word for the year? I’d love to hear what it is!

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I am winding up the pause that typically is the week between Christmas Day and New Years. This is the actual most wonderful time of the year for me. I’m glad that I made my list of resolutions a few weeks ago, because that was Ambitious Me. Today, the person editing the list is Relaxed (and Slightly Feral) Me. With their powers combined, I’m more likely to end up with goals that are challenging but also attainable. 

I have certain things I want to accomplish at home, but they fall more into the category of ways of being rather than specific goals, so I’ll save them for my theme word post tomorrow. I’ve divided my six goals into three of the sections I use to track my progress and have stated at least one tangible, measurable long-term goal with each in bold.

Art/Words/Creativity

Read 180 books. This is quite a leap from last year (20% increase, to be exact). To the untrained eye, it may seem that I’m pushing myself too hard. But for me, picking up or tuning into a book is one of the best ways to relax. So in addition to giving me more time to embrace the simple joy of reading books, what this goal does is quietly beckon me to put aside space where I can be calmer and more at peace.

Set (and meet) weekly creative goals. I got away from this practice for a while, and I think that’s one of the reasons why my fiction writing and other creative pursuits have taken such a hit in the last few years. It may take a few (or six…or nine)  months to build the habit back up, but by the end of the year, I want to see not only a weekly plan but consistent follow-through (i.e., checking off finished tasks) in my goals planner (see the cute one I’m using in the picture above, gifted by my office Secret Santa).

Health/Wellness/Energy

Strength train three times a week. For a while in my middle adulthood, all exercise was a chore. But now? Cardio is no problem. I can cardio every single day. Dancing and brisk walks are my most common go-tos. But I dread strength training. I don’t actually mind it while I’m doing it, but getting motivated to start? UGH. The worst. It’s so, so good for you, though. And strong muscles (particularly core muscles) make it less likely that I will hurt myself during all that cardio. So three times a week – I can work up to that by the end of the year. And maybe as I get stronger I’ll learn not to dread it so much? I hope.

Take at least one weekly extended time out. This involves several steps to get started (some of which are mentioned as other goals in this list), but I think once I put all of them in place, I’ll love it so much that sticking to it will be easy. I need more downtime to rest and rejuvenate. The additional stressors at my full-time job are the most noticeable, but they’re really only part of the problem. My tendency to push toward what I think I should be able to do rather than what is actually healthy is also an issue. By the end of the year, I want to have established at least one major time out a week (that I actually plan and put on the calendar). This can look like a lot of things – a day off work with a fun or nonexistent schedule, a day in which I don’t leave the house at all, a completely work- and meeting-free evening, etc. 

Finances

Build a $1,000 cushion account. I am pretty frugal in general by necessity of my limited income, but I could sharpen some of my already decent habits to lessen some of my financial stress. Specifically, my goal for the year is to set aside a cushion for unexpected expenses. I can think of a lot of things I may suddenly need to upgrade or replace at some point within the next few years, but “unexpected expenses” covers all of them.

Identify one new way to save or make money a month. One reason I don’t already have a solid savings built up is that I have been content to meet my monthly budget and call it good enough (until something comes up, of course, and suddenly it isn’t anywhere close to good enough). I’m super anxious about money in general, but I think I have the bandwidth for one small change a month.

So that’s the list. Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear what they are!

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A fitting start to my resolution recap is a quote from Luvvie Ajayi Jones’s newsletter

“The goals we set aren’t sacred oaths.” 

My 2022 resolutions were perfectly reasonable at the time that I set them. Things happen, though, and sometimes those things cause a big enough disruption (good or bad – still a disruption) that previous intentions either no longer represent what we want or simply aren’t feasible. So we adjust, and we extend compassion to ourselves (the very hardest of all compassions for me to muster). 

For better or worse, here’s the year in review.

Read 150 books – I read a lot this year, but not exactly what I planned to read. I finished the majority of the books chosen for in-person book clubs, but I didn’t read a lot of the online club selections. I made a pretty big dent in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, Girlxoxo’s Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge, and the 52 Book Club’s Reading Challenge, but I didn’t finish any of them. However, I discovered some new series and authors that I love, and still met my goal of 150 books. According to Goodreads, in those 150 books, I read 44,892 pages, which put my average book length at 299 pages. Most of all, I had fun, so I am calling it a success!

Write 5 short stories – I think I wrote zero short stories this year. I may have finished one for a What Now? submission, but I don’t recall specifics, so probably not. On the plus side, I have definitely written more words of fiction than in other recent years, so at least I’m getting back into the habit.

Finish expanded rough drafts of Feast and Epic Meal Planning – Welp. Hmm. Nope. This did not happen. I did make an impressive (read: intense) to-do list for each project to keep me on track. I’m pretty sure doing that just overwhelmed me, though, especially as life (read: work) itself got more overwhelming.

Earn $7500 with copywriting job – This also did not happen (see above re: overwhelmed at work). I have a couple of new teams that pay more per word, though, so it’s starting to become easier to work back up to the paycheck I need. This leaves me hopeful.

Build a consistent practice of an average of 30 minutes/day of movement – I’m so proud of myself. I’ve been really consistent with this. It’s mostly just been walking with a few dance breaks scattered in, but my doctor assures me that it counts (take that, overachiever brain). The main difference I’ve noticed that it has made is having fewer aches/stiff muscles, especially when I get up in the morning. 

So, two out of five. Not what I’d hoped for, but still progress. I learned some things, and I’m (working on) being satisfied with that. 

Did you make resolutions this year? What did you learn from them?

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I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections challenge (sporadically, at least), and the prompt today was “biggest challenge of 2022.”

That’s an easy one. My new desk location. I haven’t really talked a lot about it here, as it’s more of a conversation to have with my supervisor. But I’ve had several of those conversations already, so it’s not like it’s a secret. Plus, it has had such a huge impact on all the things I do talk about here and the energy/focus I have to do them that it seems like a relevant part of the discussion.

I also want to talk about it because I want you to know that if there are obstacles like this in your life that are hindering your well-being but that, for whatever reason, are difficult to remove (at least without causing a whole other set of problems), you’re not the problem, and I see you. I know you’re doing your best.

When we moved to the new building a few years ago, we weren’t really excited about it. Instead of being in a joint office like we were before where we were a little removed from the passing traffic, which made it easier to do our many tasks that require concentration and, more importantly, gave the students who came in a little more privacy as they were spilling the catastrophic reasons they needed to be released from their contracts, we were being relegated to what is essentially cubicles in a hallway.

The only perk was that we got to choose which cubicle we wanted. So one of my coworkers chose the one where she could be in the middle of the room with more open space and as much of a view to the outside as possible. I chose one in the back of the room that was less likely to get traffic and noise, as my sensory issues make focus impossible when I’m overstimulated (which happens relatively easily).

But in May, the office was reorganized and I was moved (despite my fervent objections) to the space at the front of the room. The space with the MOST traffic and noise. The space where the receptionist usually sits.

There’s nothing wrong with being a receptionist, of course. I did that job for 11 years prior to moving over to this office, and I was good at it. But I have a different job to do now, and getting stuck in a spot where I’m routinely called upon to perform receptionist tasks (and I can’t even blame people for asking, because logically, that’s who the space says I am) pulls me away from it a lot.

It’s also right in the path between the break room and the two areas the part-time staff use. Which means there’s almost constant noise and disruption. And while they usually try to stay quieter out of consideration, which I appreciate, it’s still so loud. There’s no way for it not to be when there are that many people milling about.

And the students who come in to talk to me about their financial, medical, or mental health challenges have to do so right in the middle of it. It makes some of them pretty uncomfortable, but other than straight up not doing my job and pawning them off on someone in a little more private space, there’s not really anything I can do about that.

The impacts of this decision bleed over into other aspects of my life. I’m so constantly overstimulated at work that I usually have a headache and am completely exhausted by the time I leave. That makes having any kind of social life or reaching out to a support system or doing my second job (which I need to make ends meet) a lot harder than it was before.

The most frustrating thing about the situation is that it could have been easily avoided. There was a much more logical solution, even from the beginning, that did not involve reorganizing and disrupting the whole office and putting me in a space that is harmful to me and makes my job harder to do. We could easily implement this solution at the end of this semester, too, but I have no reason to expect that’s going to happen or that anyone really cares how this affects me or my work. That realization has been disheartening.

Still, I have just enough hope that I haven’t had the picture mounted to the wall yet. I may just be torturing myself.

One good thing that has come out of it is that it has forced me to be hyper-consistent with the ways that I take care of myself. I am guarding my downtime more carefully, and I am using my PTO more liberally (PSA – use your PTO like it’s your paycheck. Because it is.). Still, there’s only so much that a strict self-care regimen can do. A friend in counseling put it this way, “You can do everything right and it still won’t matter if you’re drinking poison eight hours a day.” Well…damn. Thanks for the encouragement?

Anyway, thanks for listening, and I hope you’re doing well.

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December TBR

Hello to the end of the year. Or the beginning of the year, if you prefer to go by the liturgical calendar.

Anyway, a transitional time.

This month, I should easily meet my reading goal for the year, and I hope to finish at least one of the reading challenges I have been working on. I’m sure there will be a recap or five later in the month about what I’ve read, what I liked the most, what surprised me, what I learned, etc. 

But for now, the last TBR of 2022.

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

For my GirlXOXO selection this month, I chose the keyword “night,” so the Calvino classic listed above that Follow the Reader is reading will do nicely. I’m mainly going to focus on one of the challenges because I’m so close to finishing the 52 Book Club Challenge. I’ve started most of the ones that I have left, so the odds are in my favor. 

  • A second person narrative – Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
  • A book picked based on its spine – The Saturday Book: 26, edited by John Hadfield
  • A book that has an alternate title – The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • A book that intimidates you – Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian. Zebian’s Instagram is challenging, in the very best way. I expect that I will have a lot of intense feelings while reading this book.
  • Author published in more than one genre – When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry
  • Job title in title – Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon


Library/Series/Just Because

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We’re all mad here.

I love costumes. I usually dress up as food (e.g., one year for Halloween, I was a strawberry milkshake), but this year, I am the Mad Hatter. It’s so much fun. The spool sash took forever but is definitely my favorite part of the outfit. One of my coworkers squeals, “You’re so cute!” every time she walks by. I enjoy that.

I can be fairly sensitive and serious, but any chance I get to insert a little whimsy into my life, I jump at it. I love opportunities to be creative, and I notice that I do better mentally when I make an effort to seek them out. To that end, I track creative tasks as part of my ongoing goal-setting for the year. This year, I have eight categories I’m tracking, and while I have specific goals for each (see parentheses below), I try to work most of them in as often as possible:

  • Writing – My writing job and blogging basically track themselves, so I limit this category to other projects, such as poetry, fiction, and newsletter or journal submissions (at least four times a week).
  • Needlework – Most of this is knitting, but I also have been playing around with embroidery and cross stitch (at least twice a week).
  • Piano – I have been working through a book of sonatas, trying to keep my sight-reading skills fresh, but I’m also (slowly) composing a piece. It’s the first song I have written since I busted out “Texas Is the Place for Me” for a piano recital when I was in junior high, but unlike that little gem, this one is strictly instrumental (at least twice a week).
  • Art journal – I have a lush-themed art journal for the year as well as an ongoing scrapbook sort of thing. I also include coloring in this because most of those pages serve as page backdrops or cover art for my various art journals (at least three times a week).
  • Cooking/baking – Is cooking creative? It is the way I do it. Also, have you seen Pie Lady Books? But even if it’s not that elaborate, I like playing around with ingredients and seeing how it turns out (at least once a week, but usually more, especially if I have several free days/evenings).
  • Collaboration – Creative tasks are even more fun with other people. Choir practice and jam sessions are typically how this pans out, but the occasional studio or art party counts, too (at least once but often twice a week).
  • Performance – I usually sing with the choir in service on Sunday mornings, but I’ve been dipping my toe into being on other stages for the last couple of years. I have a performance coming up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned if you’re local (at least four times a month).
  • Miscellaneous – Dang, I love a craft project. I like figuring out how to build or make things, especially if I can use them to decorate or accessorize. At any point in time, I likely have three or four projects in process, and the only reason there aren’t more is that I am limited on space (at least twice a week).

Speaking of goal tracking, I would be remiss if I did not wrap up this month of writing about creating a lush life without revealing the specific things I have been trying to put into practice on a regular basis this year. I didn’t set a specific goal number for them; I’m mostly just logging them for informational purposes. There are five main categories that I use to track lush living:

  • Cozy – Big surprise there, I know. This category is super broad. Any day that includes sufficient cozy elements (this category is also super vague) gets a check mark. Mostly, this is an opportunity to reflect at the end of each day on whether I have made time for myself to relax.
  • Pleasure/self-care – Closely related to cozy (and sometimes they do overlap), this category is more for specific self-care actions like facials and getting my hair done and foot soaks.
  • Socializing – If left to my own devices, I will hermit away and hardly ever leave the house. But several things I’ve talked about this month involve actually connecting with other people, so I give myself a little shout-out in my goal chart when I do something social.
  • Journaling – Sometimes this seems like too much navel-gazing (particularly this month when I’m also journaling daily-ish online), but it is vital to my mental health. I’m so much more grounded when I take a little time every day to write my thoughts out. My journals bounce between total stream of consciousness and well-organized, multi-tiered arguments. It’s a wild ride. I may have to appoint someone to burn them when I die.
  • Adulting – For lack of a better term. I tend to procrastinate unpleasant tasks until I am desperate to get them done. This is unnecessarily stressful and counterproductive when it comes to living a lush life. In addition to putting the week’s to-do list in my planner, I give myself credit for each task in my chart, and it’s working so well that I’m going to keep doing it next year.

And that’s the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series of posts on creating a lush life as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Hopefully, you found the occasional nugget that can help you make your life a little lusher, too.

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Remember when I was going to post updates every quarter? What an ambitious plan that was.

I love reading challenges. In fact, I love them so much, I’ve got five going right now. I would not have picked up some of the great books I’ve read this year if I didn’t need them to fulfill a prompt from a challenge:

A lot of the prompts, though, just feel like homework. That’s fine occasionally – I am an avid proponent of reading outside one’s comfort zone. But I also get that from my book clubs pretty often, so I’m not sure I need an extra dose of it. I know for certain I don’t need five extra doses.

So I haven’t decided if I’m going to commit to a specific reading challenge next year, or just read for pleasure. I am currently leaning toward reading for pleasure, as I have a lot of books at home that feel neglected as well as a ridiculously long TBR list (curated according to my favorite genres). I may just decide that comfort reading is my focus next year:

  • Cozy mysteries (or mysteries in general)
  • Books about books (collecting them, reading them, writing them, solving mysteries near them, etc.)
  • Books about food (fiction, memoir, magical realism, cozy mystery set in a bakery – I love it all)
  • Romance (but only for characters I like. I will DNF a romance faster than anything if I think a jackass character is unworthy of the person the happy ending trope demands they end up with. I do not need this particular fiction to mirror real life, thanks.)

Also, I’d like to actually read all my book club books (not just the ones I actively discuss in person).

No matter what I decide to do, I know one thing will remain constant. Having a rich, lush reading life will continue to be one of my most treasured priorities.

I’m writing about all the things that make life lush for me this month.

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