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    Wednesday Words: Turning the Page

    I am a planner – a complimentary way of referring to myself as a control freak. And I will own it because it is a good quality to have in certain situations.

    Financial planning using data and analysis – yes.

    Life – no.

    2018 was The Year of Perpetual Rug Pulling Out From Under Us. One thing after another in the form of trauma, loss, depression, anxiety, grief, betrayal, injustice, and finally acceptance.

    Oh, acceptance – as in I don’t even have an Ikea bathmat left to stand on – that’s a big one for a control freak. But that is where I arrived after a heart to heart with Steve one late night after Christmas.

    •    •    •    •

    Note: If you are fortunate enough to find a partner in life who tells you every evening before they make you a drink that you are their “favorite sound in the world”, you have something pretty awesome.

    But if you are fortunate enough to find a partner in life who will tell you the hard things that you need to hear and still tell you that you are their favorite sound, you have something rare.

    Steve is both awesome and rare.

    •    •    •    •

    I woke up the next morning with a new sense of peace. I went about my business, threw a New Year’s Eve party for Chaney and her theater friends – it was very dramatic and fun – kissed Steve at midnight, and fell into bed at 2 AM when the boys went home.

    The next few weeks were a whirlwind. Steve is incredibly talented and because of his hard work and reputation, the job opportunity of a lifetime appeared almost out of nowhere. Practically overnight everything changed.

    I knew and even wrote last year that it was time for a change in the direction of my own career and life. Steve and I talked about it but had no idea how we were going to make it happen.

    Then it happened last week and my first writing assignment was to help Steve compose his resignation letter. He didn’t need help because we were on the exact same page full of mixed emotions, gratefulness, and excitement about the future.

    Yesterday I closed the book on a 20-year career in finance. I will miss my clients and will cherish the stories, lessons, and life experiences they shared with me. I have held hands with widows, shared with adult children how much I enjoyed working with their parents, and I will miss the clients who dropped in for nothing more than coffee, conversation, and a hug.

    So what’s my plan now? 

    We joke that it’s whatever I want and here’s what I want – more time with family, time to read and write, time to continue my Book Oblivion courses, and most importantly the time to support Steve and Chaney in their dreams and next chapters.

    In the fall my plan is to begin a low-residency MFA program in creative writing.

    But in the meantime, outside of the above, you can find me here compulsively cleaning the house, finding my fitness groove again, managing a home remodel, and making peace with two beagles who love me but don’t love to mind me.

    Here’s to turning the page.

  • Bookish,  Himalayas of Literature

    2019 Reading Goals: the super-nerdy book reading schedule

    When I decided to read more books in 2018, I had no plan other than to read a book a week. That worked out well and I felt like I read a decent variety of books. But it was very haphazard; most book selections came from glowing reviews on Goodreads or Instagram.

    Late last year I joined the Himalayas of Literature group through Book Oblivion. The experience thus far has been exceptional. So when I had the opportunity to enroll in the How to Read More course series in combination with their Critical Theory & Philosophy course, I jumped in with both feet.

    These two courses fit perfect with what I was looking to accomplish in 2019: read more and read more books covering a deeper subject matter. Plus the added bonus of great instruction and a community of like-minded readers.

    The first assignment for the How to Read More course was to create my super-nerdy book reading schedule – yes, it’s really called that and it is the perfect description of what you’re about to see. Super nerdy.

    Broken into months and then seven reading categories, I was able to plot out my entire year of books.

    For the first six months these are my categories:

    • Himalayas of Literature assigned book
    • Critical Theory & Philosophy assigned book
    • Book Club for Introverts monthly pick
    • Female Written Fiction
    • Person of Color Author
    • Poetry or Essay
    • On Writing

    For the last six months of the year here are my categories (the first three are the same as above):

    • Feminist Fiction or Nonfiction
    • Classic Lit
    • Short Story or Poetry
    • Research

    From there I went to the books I already own and filled as many monthly categories as possible. Another one of my reading goals was to read the books I already have because I might have a few that bookstagram made me buy. If you’re on Instagram, I know you are nodding in agreement right now.

    Don’t worry, I won’t tell your significant other if you don’t tell my husband. 

    I filled in the remaining categories with books that are on my to-be-read list on Goodreads.

    This exercise took all of 30 minutes to complete and I am thrilled to know what I’m reading each month. Maybe it’s just me but I used to get overwhelmed wanting to read all the good books and struggling to choose. I know, I have problems. If that’s not just me then you don’t have problems and neither do I.

    Win/Win

    I did not include audiobooks in this schedule as those are going to be my free picks so I don’t feel completely left out of the latest and greatest book releases.

    This was a nerdy but fun exercise and I can see this being a part of future years as well.

    What are your plans for reading this year? Do you have any particular goals set beyond the number of books you want to read?

     

     

  • Bookish,  Lists

    2018 Books: favorites, surprises, misses, and reflections

     

    2018 was a lot of things but at the top of my list was re-discovering my love of reading. In January I set a goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks. Once I realized I was going to surpass that goal, I set a new goal of 75 books read for 2018 and I met that goal. Here’s the breakdown:

    • 75 books completed
    • 26,121 pages
    • Longest book – A Little Life, 720 pages
    • 38 audiobooks (I drive A LOT)
    • 30 five star books
    • 13 nonfiction books

    My Top 10 Books of 2018:

    1. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
    2. A Little Life – Hana Yanagihara
    3. The Incendiaries – R. O. Kwon
    4. The Nix – Nathan Hill
    5. The Rules of Magic – Alice Hoffman
    6. Bitter Orange – Claire Fuller
    7. Bear Town – Fredrick Backman
    8. Heavy – Kiese Laymon
    9. Next Year in Havana – Chanel Cleeton
    10. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

    For me, the top 10 list is always the hardest to write so here are a few surprise favorites that didn’t quite make the list but should be on your To-Be-Read list:

    The misses a.k.a the books other raved about that I didn’t love:

    • The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah
    • Still Lives – Maria Hummel

    Both of these were misses for me for the same reason – graphic domestic violence/violence against women to the excess and wasn’t necessary to the plot.

    My one abandoned book was Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I just didn’t get the Pulitzer award given to this book. And maybe I would have liked it more if it hadn’t had that hype before I picked it up to read.

     

     

    2018 was one of the hardest years of my life both personally and professionally. On the personal front, I’m happy that our family is bringing this year to a close and we are all healing and healthier. On the professional front, we will have to see what 2019 brings but I’m encouraged by the direction I am headed and so very thankful for my husband and his unrelenting support and encouragement.

    I am also thrilled to have reconnected with my love of writing here on my blog as well as other outlets and I’m looking forward to seeing where that takes me in 2019. In addition to that, the bookstagram community on Instagram is a wonderful and supportive place to find fellow bookworms and I am so happy to have connected with so many like-minded readers and writers.

    And last but not least… two communities I connected with late in the year, The Himalayas of Literature and Book Club for Introverts. Both of these groups have been highlights of 2018 for me and I can’t wait to continue with both in 2019.

    All in all, 2018 has been a year of goals met, lessons learned, new directions, and finding the things to be thankful even in the midst of the valleys.

    Here’s to a new year full of promise! Happy New Year!

  • Book Reviews

    Book Review: The Farm

    The Farm – Joanne Ramos

    ✂️✂️✂️/5

    Welcome to the future – welcome to The Farm.

    Jane is a single mom and a struggling immigrant from the Philippines. She is presented with the opportunity to be a host and live at a luxury retreat of sorts – Golden Oaks.

    Massages, gourmet food, expert medical care, and generous pay with one caveat – you are pregnant as a surrogate for a wealthy family or individual and cannot leave the grounds. Oh, and you are continuously monitored. It’s a business and you are simply a host with a number instead of a name.

    Jane accepts the opportunity and leaves her daughter, Amalia, in the care of Ate, her cousin they are living with. While motivated to provide a better life for her daughter, Jane still struggles with losing contact with her daughter and the outside world.

    As a mother myself, my heart broke for Jane, especially when Golden Oaks used contact with her daughter as a means of control. The other hosts were in similar situations – missing family and significant others.

    Naturally the hosts bond and one by one you learn their own backgrounds and experiences at The Farm; some in more detail than others.

    This was where the book went sideways for me. I was initially captivated by the difficult choices Jane had to make and the big business of surrogacy. But as each host and their individual lives were introduced, the plot became crowded with characters and none of them felt well developed.

    When I finished the book I felt like something was missing. There was a lot of potential to examine the ethics of a surrogacy farm, the control of their bodies that the women gave up, race, imbalances of power, and motherhood and the sacrifices mothers make. The author briefly hit on all of these issues but almost seemed hesitant to fully weave them into the plot.

    Overall the book was written well and the concept was unique and creative. It was entertaining in parts – it just lacked depth.

    Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  • Himalayas of Literature

    The Himalayas of Literature: a challenge

    Do you have bucket list books that have languished on paper or in mental notes for longer than it would have taken to read the books – twice through?

    On December 1st I posted an Instagram picture of my to-be-read (TBR) stack that included three of my ultimate books to conquer. I had read 75 books in 2018; my original goal was 52. To celebrate exceeding my goal I thought it would be interesting to tackle a few books that checked the challenging box.

    But oddly enough, for the first time ever, I received some direct messages about my book choices that were less than kind or encouraging. It was strange and very unlike the typically supportive bookstagram community. I’m going to bypass that the messages were all from men because that’s not the point of this post – but, UGH.

    A lovely Instagram follower noticed this stack and introduced me to an online course reading these and three other challenging books. Did you know that there is a term for this group of books?

    I didn’t. I was buying Infinite Jest and Amazon suggested that they are frequently bought together and I wanted next day shipping for my book and magnetic bookmarks so into the cart they all went. Well played, Amazon.

    These books are referred to as the Himalayas of Literature. I love ridiculous goals so here they are:

    1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – 1078 pages
    2. The Waves by Virginia Woolf – 297 pages
    3. The Recognitions by William Gaddis – 976 pages
    4. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon – 776 pages
    5. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce – 628 pages
    6. 2666 by Robert Bolzano – 912 pages

    This is a six course bundle that spans a year. I purchased the course and for what I get – commentary, essays, live discussions, and interactions with other readers – it will be well worth it.

    A post like this is probably as good of a place as any to bury the fact that I am bored. I have a successful career in finance that spans 20 years but there is more. I know there has to be more. This isn’t a surprise to people who really know me but it feels good to write this. My hope is that this challenge helps me chart a course.

    I also love a good book cover…

    I love a good book that I can finish in a few sittings. But I know that to become a better writer, you have to be a better reader. The Himalayas of Literature seem like a great place to start so here goes.

    I am certainly not forsaking great, current books; I just want to stretch myself. But I have to admit, after reading Infinite Jest all day, it was nice to pick up Nine Perfect Strangers that our book club is reading this month.

    I don’t know how often I’ll blog about this journey because the books are long and involve discussions but it’s still nice to write about the direction I’m headed for 2019.

    What are your reading goals for 2019? Do you have any writing goals as well?

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