Friday, December 31, 2021

What I Read: 2021

 This year I set myself a goal to read 60 books and ended the year with 67. This is a really unsatisfying number, but I also didn't love 66 and knew I wasn't going to make it to 70. So 67 books it is. Discomfort makes us grow, right? 

Non-fiction for people who don't like non-fiction: I have come to accept that while I love a historical fiction, I do not love a non-fiction or a memoir. And after years of trying, I'm just accepting that some people like different things. And then here come a couple books that prove me wrong. So if you typically don't like non-fiction, I'd still try these out. The Soul of An Octopus: I was gifted this book from a friend and read it on the plane.  It's beautifully written and fascinating, even if you don't know that you love octopuses (yet). Also, you can use your octopus trivia to impress your friends when we can eventually be around people again. Broken: This originally was a DNF, but I picked it up later in the year and devoured it. So I think that means that this is one of those books that you need to have on hand and ready, but you also have to be in the right mind space for it. 

Books with clever premises: I think cleverness is my favorite strength. I love when something is so unique and interesting and makes you rethink what you thought you knew. These books were all so clever and fun in their own ways. Miracle Workers: A Novel: I tried to tell people about this book as if it was a show I was watching (it is a show now, BTW, but I haven't seen it.) The premise is hilarious and the characters are awesome. This was a quick read and super fun The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter: I stumbled on this one accidentally while I was browsing in Barnes and Noble and OMG. SO GOOD. The main characters are all the daughters of classic horror monsters. It's the first in the series and the only reason I didn't keep going is because book 2 is about seven million pages long. It's high on my list for 2022 though. Outlawed: I love a story that tells a historical event from a different perspective or with a twist and this one did not disappoint. I loved this one so much that I gave it to my sister for Christmas. 

Books that lived up to the hype: There were a lot of books this year that "Everyone is reading!" and to be honest, lots of them fell short for me. These are not those. These books got a lot of attention and 100% deserved it. The People We Meet on Vacation: I really hope they make it into a movie. The Vanishing Half: Amazing. Beautifully written. I was rooting for everyone, even when they were terrible. The Midnight Library: This was one of the top three checked out books at my library and I get it. This book was lovely and sad and inspiring all at the same time.  

Books that made me question reality: You know this is my all-time favorite genre. I just love a good mind fuck. A few times this year I found myself staring at my To Be Read shelf thinking "I just cannot do another weird right now." The Upstairs House: Dude. That was a weird one. Little Eyes: If you watched Ron Gone Wrong, this is that but with add in some toxic manipulation and weird sex stuff. I'm also surprised that these aren't a real thing yet. You'll Thank Me for This: Coming from a small town where things seemed normal and now seem like TERRIBLE ideas, I could relate to "Hey! Let's drop all the kids off in the woods at night and see how they do!" Mirrorland: I love when a book makes you wonder what's real and what isn't and this one did it so well. 

Delightful books that I'd recommend to everyone: Usually the "feel good" category is my sparsest, but I guess maybe being on year whatever of the apocalypse made me reach for these more often. The Dictionary of Lost Words: I love words and this was such a lovely perspective. It made me want to read The Professor and the Madman (currently on my hold list). Mary Jane: Oh this was lovely. The author wrote an adolescent protagonist so perfectly. Florence Adler Swims Forever. I cried real tears reading this book. The Family Fang. Another one that needs to be a movie. This one was fun and silly and still poignant. 

So there you have it! And this is year FIVE of a yearly wrap-up, which feels like an accomplishment. If you want to check out my previous wrap-ups, you can find them hereherehere, and here. I always go back to my old ones when I start to write this and it was fun to see how I'd organized previous lists and how my numbers fluctuated. I really do think that the 60-70 range is my sweet spot so I'm going to stay there for next year. I plan to incorporate more audio books, especially on my commute. Now that I've discovered the secret of listening at 1.5x or 2x, I find that they hold my attention much better. I also want to make more of an effort to read my BOTM club books in a more timely manner. That TBR pile is getting kind of out of hand.  

I was originally inspired to do this by Sarah, who reads an INSANE number of books and does a really nice monthly wrap up that I always reference when looking for something to read. If you do anything similar, please comment with your link! I'm always looking for ideas on what to read next.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas 2021 (photo dump)

 Merry Christmas :) The holiday was chaotic (but I also watched three movies and ate my weight in cinnamon rolls) so it seems fitting to leave the pictures in random order. I hope your day was fun and your cinnamon rolls perfect! 

Friday, December 24, 2021

A very merry Christmas surprise

 I was checking my email last night and saw a notice from my student loan holder. They’ve been hounding me to update my information in advance of payments resuming so I typically don’t pay them much attention. 

Guys? It wasn’t that. It was a notice that they’d audited my account under the temporary Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver and as a result, the remaining balance of my student loans had been forgiven. ALL OF IT. No fight. No “file this in triplicate.” No sitting on hold forever. Just…gone. 

I’ve been working towards this for years. Made job choices with this in mind. Dutifully calculated and recalculated. Watched as my outstanding balance never seemed to go down even though I was paying so much towards it. Accepted every time my end date got extended. Nodded my head when mortgage brokers and bank loan officers “just want to confirm that this number is accurate because it’s…a lot.”

I still hadn’t fully appreciated how good this would feel. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Happiest Season


We’ve reached the part of the holiday season when my bathtub is full of gifts, my garbage disposal is manually operated, and I just tore my house apart looking for a gift that turns out hasn’t been delivered yet. Happy Holidays! 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Squirrels don't need coffee!

My mom had a scan on Friday night, which is typically kind of a mundane appointment. However, I have never been privy to this VERY SPECIAL waiting area before. Imagine that you've trekked through the deepest recesses of a very stereotypical hospital, at night, on a Friday, only to be ushered into THIS room

What in the actual fuck? It's not a pediatric area. It's just the regular radiology area, except late so the main waiting area was closed. This weird, skinny room had lots of signs for "patient changing area" so I'm guessing it's where patients go once they're brought back? I have no idea. It is NOT soothing or relaxing though. It's like a weird acid dream if you were also on Chantix and in another dimension. Plus the seats had this weird 8 inch gap where a backrest should be, forcing you to literally perch on the edge of your seat.  
Why is there a sloth? Sloths don't share habitats with red squirrels, foxes, and bunnies, right? I mean, I think it's like a whole different continent. And why are the butterflies so fluorescent? And why is this squirrel drinking from a tiny to-go cup?!?! 


Thursday, December 9, 2021

Stream of consciousness

It has been A WEEK. Averson tanked after her second shot. Choices were made in the house that resulted in a lot of consequences and strong feelings. I was PMSing, so everything felt that much more terrible. And yet. There have been some delightful silver linings. 
Averson finished soccer with a tournament that was so cute and she *almost* got a goal! It was also ridiculously cold because it's California and none of us thought to bring coats. 

The teenager has been spending more time in the common areas of the house, and it's been delightful. Like, really really nice. C and I were both remarking that we didn't realize how much we missed him. If you get a chance to temporarily seize all in-room electronics, I highly recommend it. 

I chaparoned a middle-school skate outing and this guy surprised me by showing up to keep me company. We had a delightful couple of hours pretending we'd never seen our children before. 

Someday. Someday I will learn not to shop too early for Christmas. Averson presented this as a speech, so of course I had to track it down. And of course of course, this Lego series is retired and going for STUPID money on ebay (BTW, WTF?), which triggered my competitive spirit and now I have to completely revise my present tracking sheet because... of course.

And finally, because there's no good segway so I'm going to hide my humble brag here. I had been whining to a friend (see above re PMS) about the gym and feeling like I wasn't making any progress. I missed a few days (see above re "week from hell") and went back last night. Two completely different people commented on how different I look, and another person described my squats as "absolutely beautiful" and asked how much weight was on my bar. I try not to rely on external validation, but it felt good last night and I loved hearing it. 


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Yay Science!!!


And with an enthusiastic skip down the aisle at a CVS, "a little pinch," and a celebratory fidget, sucker, and National Geographic magazine , every single member of my household is vaccinated. We'll still wear masks out in public but now that we're all at least partially protected, I suspect that we'll begin to loosen up more about socializing etc. It feels good to be heading back towards "normal" or at least back to my normal anxiety levels


PS: Six people vaccinated. Disappointingly, no one has developed superpowers or magnetism yet :( 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Gratitude 30/30 (!!!!): Memories


I was JUST thinking about how I should have added this journal to my "Love" post, and then Memories came up! It was meant to be. 

I like to think of myself as a writer but I've always struggled to consistently journal. Some days, the idea of putting my thoughts to paper feels daunting. Other days, I get frustrated trying to find just the right words. And then still other days I just forget or don't feel like anything of particular import happened. And unlike the blog, I can't rely on pictures to balance out where my narrative is lacking. I remember finding my journals from adolescence (OMG, I wish I still had them!) and feeling kind of sad and disappointed in myself that I only ever wrote when I was sad or angry or angsty (which admittedly WAS often, but not always). I don't like the idea of only memorializing the bad things, and there's so much research around  gratitudes, but at the same time, I knew I wanted to keep a record both good and bad. 

I have scores of partially completed journals. Gratitude journals. Bullet journals. A notebook of funny things the kids said that I'm really sorry I didn't keep up on. All of them petered out either because they turned into bitch sessions or I got busy or I got writer's block or life happened. I have one journal that stops abruptly the day my dad died, and it felt too symbolic and weird to have a time gap so I just...didn't. So even though all evidence pointed to the idea that I was not a daily journaler, I still wanted to be. That's what was so attractive to me when I first starting hearing about the idea of a "One sentence journal."  (This is a great article that talks about the idea) So a couple years ago I gifted myself one for Christmas and then let it sit in anticipation until January 1 (I couldn't start the journal on December 26th because I'm not a psychopath, obviously). 

I have missed, I think, a total of about three days over the last two years. I love this journal and this year it's been so interesting to see what I wrote the year before. Kind of my own personal "On this day in history." For example, on this date last year apparently the most salient thing that happened is that C and I argued about ant farms. 

What I love about this format is that there is no pressure. Each page is split into fifths, so you really only get about two sentences. Many days are just a funny thing a kid said, or something notable in the news, or just "God. Some days are SO LONG." But they're also things that would have gotten blurred in the totality of my memories from last year. Instead, I get a tiny, crystal clear glimpse back. 

My grandma kept a journal all of her adult life and while I never got to see them, I love hearing my mom describe them. After she died, my mom snuck into her room to peek at them, to see what the most innermost thoughts of a very stoic, pragmatic mid-western woman were. Each day she noted the high and low temperatures (SO mid-Western!) and a brief sentence or two about the day's events. When she looked back to the day my grandfather died, it was a high of 72 and a low of 57. "Bill died." It's about the most Juanita thing she could have written and I love it so much. I hope someday that my kids will peek into my stash of line-a-day journals to see what I wrote and discover that on December 15th, 2020 the prison their mom worked at declared their first COVID outbreak and remember that on November 26th, 2021 we watched Son-in-Law and ordered Chipotle. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Gratitude 29/30: Truth

I have been deep in my feelings for a few days. This year has been rough, and this week was especially rough, and on top of all that we can throw in PMS and holiday crazy/anxiety, just for funsies. 

I WANTED to lay in bed after work and eat my weight in chocolate while I watched dumb tv. But I knew that the truth was that I would feel better if I went to class (even if the WOD had 50 thrusters.)

The truth hurts (and so do my legs). 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Gratitude 28/30: Technology

 I agreed to take Sydney to meet her friends for coffee this morning. I also agreed to sit far away and pretend that I didn’t know them. I had big plans to sip coffee and read for an hour but halfway here I reached into my purse and realized that I FORGOT MY BOOK. So I’m especially grateful for technology today, which is allowing me to pivot and watch Ted Lasso instead 

*Update: It was a really sad episode and I 100% cried in the corner of Starbucks. In front of three tween girls. So that’s awesome

The empty spot where my book should be :(

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Gratitude 17/30: Beauty

There’s something about this season that makes me want to start making things. I saw these today and I really want to make a pair. Aren’t they pretty?!
I asked before I took this picture, but that didn’t make it any less weird



Friday, November 26, 2021

Gratitude 26/30: Weather

 I’m going to take a pass on this one too, since when a California girl talks about weather in mid-November, they tend to look like a real asshole. 

But it IS cozy weather. This morning after waking up FAR too early for a holiday weekend I quietly crawled out of bed and snuck downstairs with big plans to snuggle up on the couch, drink my coffee, and finish my book, all in wonderful, glorious silence. 

Sydney stumbled down about thirty minutes later and I reminded myself to be grateful for the time I got blah blah blah. But then she curled up next to me and went right back to sleep. 

An hour later I was up two cups and had finished my book and she was still snuggled in. It was amazing

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Gratitude 23/30: Knowledge

 Here is a thing I have learned/am learning. 

Give me a scarcity mindset and I lose my ever loving mind. Give me a scarcity mindset and throw in a good dose of FOMO, and I lose my mind AND all of my money. And my time. And my ability to have a reasonable conversation. Turns out that I am 100% absolutely NOT a moderator

This post brought to you by the nap dress. 

A friend of mine is OBSESSED with these dresses, and wears them daily. They look adorable on her. So I checked out the website. They're cute. The smocking is precious. They are...not cheap. But it's an investment! The whole concept is that they are cute enough to dress up but comfy enough that you can (and are encouraged) to literally sleep in them. So I join a FB page (in retrospect, here's where it went off the rails.) Then I find out there's a DROP! Like, patterns that no one has had. And then the drop happened and the dresses sold out fast and all of the sudden I became OBSESSED with getting one. But of course, now I couldn't because they were sold out. I could buy on the FB page, but the prices were super jacked up and I didn't feel great about sending a stranger a bunch of money for a dress that I didn't know would fit etc. 

Guys? I have now bought FOUR. One from my friend, and then three from the website when there was a rare restock which I was alerted to by the thousands of women on FB. And here's the thing. It's not super flattering on me. Turns out small chests + big ribs + smocking is NOT the cutest look. I figured that out on the first dress. But nevertheless I persisted. 

Today on the FB page someone posted about a DIFFERENT brand of dress that is both more my style AND cheaper and suddenly it was like the Reasonable Adult Angels sang and the Logical Sun shone again. I don't need to force these dresses to work just because lots of other people adore them. I'm a grown woman and can wear, or not wear, whatever I want. And I don't want four dresses that make me look like one of those match-a-head books where the bottom half is 12 and the top half is 40. I can just, stop obsessing about it. So I'm committing to my recover plan. One of the dresses is pretty cute, so I might keep it. The others I'll either return or sell, before I take myself out of the group (because that's not a great influence.) And then I'll buy the cute flattering one for cheaper on Friday :P

I am such a sucker for the "Must Have" I even googled it this morning trying to figure out what to get Averson for Christmas (my other two literally have socks on their lists). If you are a fellow sufferer of Must Have FOMO, what tricks do you have to keep yourself in check? I need your best ideas! And if you have any good ideas for a fun Christmas present for an eight year old that is NOT a living, breathing, animal, throw those my way too

Monday, November 22, 2021

Gratitude Challenge 21-22: Home and Animals

I made a point to prioritize my reset yesterday, even though we had a lot of running around to do, and I am definitely grateful for it today. My plants are watered, my laundry is done, my carpets are vacuumed, and we spent a stupid amount of money on food at Costco and Raleys. Costco trips are always one of those touchstones that remind me how far we've come from being really, really broke. What an absolute privilege it is to be able to buy what we need (and a few things we want), when we need to. 
I'm doubling up today since we were so busy yesterday. I'm also grateful for my cozy house that is filled with these ridiculous old hellbeasts. They're obnoxious and fat and stinky (OMG. SO stinky) and I love them an awful lot. 


Saturday, November 20, 2021

Gratitude 20/30: Creativity

I challenged myself to only use examples from today. It was a fun project :)


Friday, November 19, 2021

Gratitude 19/30: Fun

When Eli was a baby, it became vitally important to me that we get family pictures taken. This was back in the olden days before selfies and we lived far away from family, so there weren't a ton of pictures of the three of us, and it obviously NEEDED to be a professional picture. So I agonized over our outfits (SO much thought went into this to land on matching v-neck black sweaters.) We dedicated a whole afternoon to trekking to the mall to go to JCPenny's (a step above the Walmart studio but not quite as fancy as Picture People) and sit in a back corner smiling for what I was absolutely certain would be the most beautiful and lasting testament of our new family ever. I waited with bated breath while the photographer pulled up our proofs, gazed upon the computer monitor, and then promptly burst into tears. Tears that did not stop for HOURS. I was four months postpartum, crazy, and not prepared for a photograph that would so perfectly capture all of my insecurities. 

I wish I could tell her now that eventually not only would family pictures not make her cry, but they'd actually be fun. That she wouldn't freak out when people changed their outfits multiple times at the last minute, resulting in a lot more beige than she'd originally planned but totally ended up working. That no one would pee on anyone else. That she wouldn't have to bribe or cajole or threaten anyone to listen, look at the camera, for the love of God would it kill you to smile? 

And that the most she'd have to assure the photographer that we wouldn't implicate her if her family ended up getting arrested for trespassing on an unattended city truck. Totally worth it.


Thursday, November 18, 2021

Gratitude 18/30: Nope

 Okay. Real talk. Today's prompt is "Self-Love" and honestly, everything I thought of had to do with *ahem* self-love or was so saccharine/cliché that I felt a little nauseous. Neither of those are really on brand, so I'm practicing self-compassion by deviating from the prompt today. Because while routine is wonderful, sometimes self-care means changing it up. 

So how about a generic update instead? 

We have family pictures this week and I'm about thisclose to cancelling the whole thing. One of my children, who shall remain nameless but who does not tolerate anxiety well, is freaking the freak out about their outfit and has changed it about 7 times in the last 24 hours. Each time, I'm slightly more tolerant and so this may be a really sophisticated manipulation because I've gone from a certain color scheme and level of formality to "I don't care. Just make sure it doesn't have food on it." And honestly I'm assuming the photographer can edit out the food so we're sliding fast. Alternative option is that our Christmas card this year is just a professional picture of me and stick figures of the rest of the family. 

I met my 2021 reading goal this week and according to Goodreads I'm 9 books ahead of schedule. I'm not sure I'll read nine more by the end of the year, but maybe! I've read some really good ones so far. 

I've also started Christmas shopping/list making. We're pulling back on screens a bit after recognizing that some of us are much happier without, which is lovely but has also cut down on viable gift options quite a bit. I'm thinking that this year is going to be a little more reserved. I really love the "want, need, wear, read" convention and so without tech, I'm focusing on "read." It's been fun to comb through booklists trying to find ones that suit each of the kids and their interests. Averson is reader so choosing her books has been easy, but I'm hoping I can get a few books that Eli and Sydney will be excited about too. I'd love any recommendations anyone has! Eli likes memoirs and Sydney typically likes believable fiction. If you have an 8-11 year old, on Averson's list so far is the Unicorn Rescue Society series and the Avatar graphic novels. I think I might get her the Tuesdays at the Castle series too. That seems like her gig. 

I'm also combing through my Read list to find books to give as adult gifts. Have you gotten a book as a gift that was a delight or a slam dunk? I love to gift books since as adults, we typically buy anything we really need or want for ourselves. 

Other things... A really wonderful friend has been making soup every week for my mom, and it's inspired me to up my soup game too. So far I've made a pumpkin soup that sucked the first day, and then was amazing as leftovers, a vegetarian chili with lentils, and a really good chicken and gnocchi. My friend delivered a parsnip and pear soup that was a huge hit and a broccoli soup that I put over meatballs and literally licked the bowl after. 

We're back to being busy despite all my best efforts. Eli had his first high school wrestling meet yesterday, Averson is finishing out soccer, and because of course, C took on the middle school basketball team after their coach quit. My efficiency muscles are a bit rusty, but we're getting there. And we've still managed to start Squid Games which, I know we're behind the times a bit but seriously, WTF? I finish every episode thinking "Why am I doing this to myself?" 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Gratitude 17/30: Food

They are eating out of coffee mugs with mixing spoons. We are so invested in our ice cream situation that we don’t even let the mysterious disappearance of most of my spoons stand in our way. 

Edit because it aligns with the theme for today: I'm reading this article about Trader Joes and just came across the fact that the owner/CEO intentionally made efforts in the 70's to employ women full-time in the stores. Since he also wanted to ensure that all employees could do all of the tasks, he also intentionally did not stock any product that came in cases weighing over 40 pounds. This seems like pretty masterful allieship, right? What do you think?