Thursday, February 28, 2019

What Saved My Life in February

For me, February has some high highs and low lows.

It's my birthday month for starters and I enjoy Valentine's day because we keep it pretty simple and find ways to show our love for each other.  Presents, chocolates, love...all good. 

At the beginning of February, we get a snow day or two that has the buzz of excitement.  Schedules get simplified, the air is different: crisp and cool with little flakes of hope falling from the sky.  The first snow days of the year are for reading and hot cocoa.  We all go out to play.  It's a fun change of pace. 
walking Ruby in the snow

But by the end of February, I am done with the snow.  And the missing of school.  And the havoc it wreaks on routine and schedule.

Ennui sets in over gray days spent inside trying to keep warm.  This is a time to look on the bright side.

So, I've been staying current with my list of what saved my life this month and here are the highlights:


I haven't kept up this as much as I would have liked but every time I've sat down and written three pages, longhand, in my journal I've felt like a weight has lifted off my shoulders.  I read the first part of The Artist's Way workbook back in August and it always surprises me how spot on the author's recommendations are for fueling creativity.  I used to start and stop journals all the time but the way I journal now is less a memorialization of days and more a purging of my brain.  And it always feels so good.

A Shower Cap

Weird, I know.  But my hair looks so much better when I can style it and then not wash it for four days.  It's healthier, too.  I needed a solution to keep my hair dry and still get in a shower each day and my white shower cap with hot pink polka dots solved that problem.

Hand Wash

Our family has had a winter marked by colds and stomach viruses.  This month I got really tough on my kids about washing their hands.  We have soaps that smell good and I demonstrated just how lovely it could be to wash your hands for two minutes.  Suds, warm water, and the promise of less illness.  Ahhhh.

Random Sunny Days

The gray of February gets me down but every now and then we get a random sunny day that makes my heart sing.  Maybe it's the contrast that causes me to appreciate it so much.  The kids put on short sleeves and I take the dog for a nice walk to get some sun on my face.  We can feel spring around the corner and that makes us so happy.

just call me Olaf

Soft Sweaters and Warm Blankets

When your house is cold you figure out quickly which sweaters in your closet are the softest and which blankets are our favorite for cuddling under at night.  I have this big blue J. Crew sweater that I could wear every day of this month and be happy.

Book School with Anne Bogel

If you're part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club you get six video chats with Anne Bogel about writing and talking about books.  There have been many evenings when the pressures of life and the dark evenings have weighed on my mind and book school has been the perfect distraction that has kept me learning.  Plus, there's homework.  It's so fun doing homework about something you love.

Buying Fewer Books

In January I thought I'd keep a little list in my bullet journal with all the books I bought in the year.  I figured it might help me be more intentional about the books I was choosing and maybe spur me on to self-control.  Well, that's exactly what happened.  After January I was SHOCKED by how many books I had already purchased just one month into the year.  I included gifts and books for my kids so they weren't all for me, but still...

This month I've tried to read what I own a little more and kept in mind that I have lots of books at home whenever I'm out and about.  Just because I'm in a bookstore does not mean I need to leave with a bag full of books.

Doing this has calmed the stress I feel from the stacks and stacks and stacks of books around me.  I've saved a little money and going to a bookstore and coming out with nothing has empowered me to know I actually do have an ounce or two of self-control.  

me and books...also, me and pizza


This could probably come up every month.  

I've been listening to classical music while I write.  I have resorted to pumping white noise in my headphones so I can read while my kids are being loud.  In the car, before dinner, or weekends during breakfast we are listening to The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, U2, Rend Collective, and an apple music playlist called Ina's Favorite Love Songs.  Quiet is a challenge for me right now and varying music genres is keeping me very happy.

What's making you happy or giving you hope?  What saved your life in February?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Reading Recap: January Edition

I got down to business this month.  I downloaded the Libby app and listened to some audiobooks, I reduced my TV time by a lot, and I always had a book on my person.  I even abandoned a book this month.  Who am I?  

I've heard people who read a lot suggest all of these things over the last year, but I mostly scoffed at that advice.  "Sure, whatever, but they must be able to stay up reading late, or not have so many kids, or skim more."  I decided to just give these strategies a try and surprise, surprise, they worked.

This month I logged 7 books.  That is more than I read in any month last year.  I am super excited about 2019.  It feels like my phone and TV have less of a draw and I can foresee hours reading, writing, and being engaged with my family.  #bestlife

I'll Be Your Blue Sky

I started the month with this audiobook.  It was readily available on Libby and I had heard enough podcasters talking about it to give it a try.  I had read another book by De Los Santos, in this series, and *strongly disliked* it.  But this one was different.

I really enjoyed the story, the characters, and the historical context.  It didn't feel as contrived or predictable as the predecessor I read last year.  I listened to it while I folded laundry, made Beef Borgnine, and started a new puzzle.  All the winter things. 

the Beef Borgnine recipe was courtesy of my best girl, Ina

Sold on a Monday

This was the opposite.  It was contrived and predictable--once I knew what the story was.  The cover and marketing copy was misleading and that always annoys me.  

The language was flowery and a bit over the top.  I kept wishing for a red pen to cross out the superfluous words.  The novel reminded me of Christian fiction, which can be over-written, but with a few swears thrown in here and there to make it more "gritty."  I was not a fan. 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

I had procrastinated reading this book for a looong time.  Then, I saw a trailer for the movie and I couldn't get it out of my head.  The book has been sitting on my shelves for a while and winter was the perfect time to read it. 

I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!  I'm pretty picky about pop fiction.  But I can't stop thinking about it.  The way it's told (in articles, emails, flashbacks, and doctor's notes) was so interesting.  I felt like I was tracking down the mystery of Bernadette's life from the first pages.  The characters were so real I was dreaming about them.  I had a visceral connection to the book and that hasn't happened to me in a while. 

A big reason why I loved it so much was the theme of motherhood and work.  These themes have been tossing about in my brain for a while and to see these ideas played out in figurative and literal ways on these pages was illuminating for me.  It's easy to disappear yourself these days and society isn't always super welcoming when we decide to be who we are meant to be.  

I can't say enough about this book and I will be the first in line to see the movie. 

The Advocate's Daughter

A friend recommended this to me as a good distraction which is something I was desperate for in January.  It was excellent for that purpose.  I got this on audio and listened to it a lot in the car.  

This is a legal thriller that takes place in DC.  It was plot driven and immersive.  I learned a thing or two about the legal world and the Supreme court and that was a fun little bonus.  

Side note: there was one really annoying part: a character who kept being referred to as "Chipotle man."  It bothered me so bad that I started yelling, "Stop calling him that," every time he was mentioned.  I'm weird.
we all love chipotle, but use the dude's name

Golden Child

This was my Book of the Month pick.  I got it and decided to start reading it the day it arrived because I have so many BOTM books sitting unread on my shelves.  I will get better about this.  

I haven't talked to anyone else who has read this, but I feel like I need to.  It was good but not obvious good.  Does that make sense?  Probably not.  

The writing had sparse quality.  The author created a strong sense of place with few words.  The more I think about it, the more this author reminds me of Hemingway.  

It had me thinking big thoughts and considering the role of society, class, and ambition on decisions we make.  The characters were all deeply flawed and I loved them...well, most of them.  

This scratched my literary fiction itch in a big way.  If you've read it, let me know in comments, I need to know what other people thought.  

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

My 9 year old is reading Harry Potter and she wanted to do a book club with me like I do with her older sisters in the summer.  She asked me to read the 4th book in the series and I agreed.  It's been years since I read this book, but it holds up well (duh).  

I was surprised by the way a book that is beloved by children could contain so many governmental intricacies.  In this installment, the reader looks carefully at the workings of the ministry of magic and Harry competes in the triwizard tournament.  There's a lot of excitement but also breaks in the action where Rowling is world building and developing characters.  It's really masterful.  

Another thing that impresses me about Harry Potter is the way Rowling combines reality and fantasy.  Yes, we're talking about a magical government but yes, we're also talking about the same corruption that happens in regular government.  Yes, we're talking about the mistreatment of house elves, but yes, we're also talking about broader inequality and that there are no easy answers and that it takes courage to stand up for others.  It was stunning to see how relatable a group of kids with magical gifts could be to me, a mom in her late thirties with no known magical talents whatsoever.  

I ask myself this all the time
The weather was frightful this month, but it made for excellent reading conditions.  

What did you read in January?

Friday, February 1, 2019

What Saved My Life In January

I mean, the obvious answer is: books...there were a lot of them in January.  I will post a reading recap in a day or two so you can see those.  

But, aside from quiet moments spent with a book opened, these things made my January so much better. 

Tea Time
There is something so calming about routine.  I heat water in my pretty orange kettle that my husband got me two Christmases ago.  I choose a mug with a saying or picture I like.  I pick my tea.  The steam warms my face and I take a nice, long breath.  It is everything I need in the winter.  

Cute Pencils, Pretty Pens
I use colorful pens sparingly and I think that self-control adds to my appreciation.  Occasionally I remember to pull out my pen/pencil bag and mark up my bullet journal.  A little pop of color on the pages goes a long way.  Also, writing with cute pencils reminds me of being in grade school.  I have a CW Pencil subscription and it is one of my favorites.  I look forward to something fun to write with every time I get a shipping notification.  

Reading Challenges
I did a whole post on these and this month my dedication to various reading challenges helped me turn off the TV and put my phone down.  I have to read.  I don't have time for another episode of Parks and Rec.  My momentum may not last, but it sure helped make January better.  

Grocery Store Flowers
Almost every time I was in the grocery store this month I bought a bouquet.  Costco, Trader Joe's, or Giant, I found the flower section and allowed myself to pick something pretty.  Having happy flowers around definitely improved my mood.
my life motto

Nail Polish
I always forget how much I love painting my nails.  It is a relaxing thing that doesn't take two hours.  I'm far from perfect and accepting this is helping me overcome my natural perfectionism.  When I look down and see pretty fingers tapping away on my laptop it makes me smile.  #worthit
I am not pro

Valentine Stickers
I went to Target the other day and got some Valentine stickers with one of my daughters.  Then I stole the pack and started putting them randomly in my planner and bullet journal.   Whenever I go to add an appointment I see a little owl with a heart or a kitten and puppy embracing.  This warms my heart every time.  And it's been keeping me honest about actually using my planner.  

I am here for all the cute animal Valentines

January is the month for exercise resolutions.  I didn't make one because I know that doesn't work.  But, a couple of weeks ago the chaos of a busy season made me feel like I was going to buckle and my natural response to stress is to sit in a chair for hours with a book, ignoring reality as hard as I can.  There were audible sounds of old doors being forced open when I finally stood up after a long reading/destressing session.  Something had to be done.  The thought of running made me wince.  I figured yoga would be a good way to cheat on exercise, easy but it still counts.  

I'm here to tell you that I have been SORE for the last two weeks even though much of my exercise time is spent laying on the floor or sitting still and breathing.  My posture is getting better each day and I feel more open and optimistic.  Maybe this will last.

I think I'm nailing the poses but I actually look like this

What is saving your life now?  Do you drink tea?  If so, I need all your best recommendations for new flavors.