2019 Reading List

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My reading year has started off intensely with ALL the library requests coming in at the same time (naturally) and some really long books (because, why not?) and just life, but here’s the start of the list, what I’ve read to the children, and what I hope yet to read in 2019. As always, titles to add are welcome!

Read:

  1. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty — I go back and forth with Moriarty’s books. Some I love a lot and others not as much. This swung to the loved side for me. It was a fun, easy read that didn’t seem as cloying as some of the others. Plus it had me laughing out loud at times throughout the whole book which was fun. Nowhere near as solid as What Alice Forgot, but a quick, light read. (finished 1.2.19)
  2. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. Holy Hannah. My first Powers novel and does he ever give you a lot to chew on in one book. Good. Ness. Overall, I enjoyed this first foray, but one observation about the landscape of NE as a character of sorts within the book: not everyone who visits or lives here finds it to be the desolate drag the novel implies (thanks).
  3. The Winter of the World by Ken Follett (book club) — We upped our reading timeline and decided to finish all of book two instead of just half of it by the end of January, so I had to hustle and read a LOT (all 940 pages to be exact) in less than two weeks’ time. I liked Part Two of the triology quite a bit and enjoyed getting to know the second generation of characters. And, to follow up on my critique of KF’s writing after reading the first installment, this one is thankfully slightly less teenage hormonal when it comes to sex. Slightly.
  4. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (book club pick) — None of us knew what we were getting into with this one and I’m here to say, don’t do it. Ever. This book is terribly and porny and nothing like the romance the back cover and blurbs claim it to be. I finished it only because I read too many pages to abandon it and the time I spent on it (it’s short but dense) , so damn it, I was going to finish and add it here, if only as a warning not to bother with it (finished 1/26/19)
  5. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens — Oh, this book! One of my dear reader friends suggested it and she was totally right: I loved it! Oddly, birds and nature featured as another dominate character, much like they did in The Echo Maker, but a totally different setting and tone to this one, which was essentially a murder mystery.
  6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — When OverDrive from the library rains, it pours, so another one of my Must Reads came dropping down in the midst of due dates, but I got it done and I adored it. Such a different story with some twists and turns I saw coming and others not. Would make an excellent book club selection. (finished 2/4/19)
  7. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan — I feel like I’ve met my quota of WWII books, however, this one was a good addition to that large pile of books read under the same category. The twist here? Based on a true life story and set it Italy. I don’t know if I just got tired or impatient, but the end of the book dragged on for me quite a bit, even though the first 400 pages were captivating.
  8. Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley — This was tough on many levels. I’ve obviously heard of conversion programs, but never read about someone’s account of having gone through ex-gay community. When you add assault and the mental distress of Conley, it is all just painful and heartbreaking to read. On a picky, literary note, I also struggle with memoirs containing overly descriptive passages/dialogue and this contains a lot of all that, too.
  9. An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao (book club read) — I’ve read about the partition that created the separate states of India and Pakistan before, but this collection of short stories knocked the wind out of me. First, it’s one of the best SS collections I’ve ever read in that the stories are so different and yet so interconnected in smart but less than obvious ways. Second, the subject matter and abuse and struggle is just grueling. Not very much uplifting to share out of such a tumultuous boarder/political/religious split. (finished 2/17/19)
  10. Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy (book club pick) — this was a fun listen (in my case) and is such an interesting look at body image, high school, family relationships, friendships, love, etc. I realize it’s not the most serious book ever, but I think there is a lot that a lot of people can relate to in it. Looking forward to discussing with friends at book club. Also, the Netflix version is fun, but of course different and not quite as good as the book.
  11. This Blessed Earth by Ted Genoways — (One Book One Nebraska pick) Being a farm girl from SD, this subject matter is not foreign to me, however it was never the plan for succession to happen in my family, so reading about the passing from one generation to the next and all that farmers, the markets, and the planet must endure because of our current Ag situation/climate in this country was fascinating. My only contention with the book is that Mr. Genoways claimed that Milford, NE (my hubs’ hometown) is “just outside” Omaha. Y’all, it’s an hour and a half away from Omaha. Just sayin’. (finished 2.28.19)
  12. Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett (Book Three, Century Trilogy) (KFC book club read) — holy moly cow. At 700 pages, I thought I was getting close to the end. In reality, I still had 400 to go. In some ways, the storytelling in this, like the other two, is fantastic. In other ways, the history of it all is a damn slog (and I’m still super annoyed by his portrayal of women and sex. I mean, UGH/gross/stop). Also, I’m not going to miss trying to read these great big heavy books in bed at night without injuring myself or Ben with them. I loved the group of women who comprised the book club that took on this challenge, but I’m pretty sure I’m done with Follett books for a good, long, maybe forever while. (finished 3.17.19)
  13. You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero — totally cheated and read this “read in bits and pieces book” in one sitting. Was loaned it by someone who gets it, and I’ve already ordered myself a copy of it so I can indeed have it on the shelf to pick up for now and then reminders and prompts of badass-ery.
  14. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (book club read) — I am so sad to be missing the discussion on this one later this month. It was such a pleasure to read and holds so much potential for discussion. The book is at our library as a book kit for clubs and I can totally see why, as it is captivating and full of considerations. (finished 3/20/19)
  15. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult — Whoa. Added this to my library request queue simply because it was the newest Picoult title, and although I struggled a bit with the narrative structure, she once again managed to blow me away with a novel centered on an issue that divides us in so many ways. I admire the humanity she shows in the last few books of hers that I’ve read and she manages to keep me guessing (for the most part) to the final pages as she does so.
  16. Overcoming Trauma through Yoga by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper. I have been putting off reading this in full because trauma work is WORK and hard work at that, but I’m glad to have finally gone through this title. Some stuff I’m already doing in my own teaching is there but there was also much to learn, as is always the case in this life.
  17. Becoming by Michelle Obama — everyone needs to read this book. That is all. (finished 4.6.19)
  18. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (book club read) — my friend A picked this for book club because it is her favorite book but she hasn’t read it for age and wanted to see if it stood up to time. It was a first time read for me and a slog at that. It wasn’t that I disliked the book, but it was slow, slow going for me. Over 500 pages, long, there were lots of little parts that seemed like maybe you could skim over them, but then they’d be referenced later and sure enough, the last five pages brought together so much of the seemingly small bits from earlier in the book. Curious to discuss this one (finished 4.22.19).
  19. The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden — this YA book was good in that it was quick and thought provoking, and I could see where it would be a helpful read for its intended age range (8-12 yr-olds). It’s about a girl living in poverty also dealing with domestic violence and issues at school and it beautifully latches on to (pun intended) the imagery and superpowers of the octopus throughout the text.
  20. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant — although it was not the stand out of Diamant’s The Red Tent, this was an easy, enjoyable read that took on some slightly different points of an already much discussed time period and spoke to many taboos that have started to lessen with time.
  21. “The Deal of a Lifetime” by Fredrik Backman — I don’t normally include short stories on my Read list, but I also don’t normally read shorties, sooooo….this one landed here because of my quest to read everything and anything by FB. I tend to Love or REALLY Love all of his work and this one again landed in the oh my gosh, I want to read it multiple times because it makes me think and feel so much category, so the streak clearly continues.
  22. Miss You by Kate Eberlen — grabbed this one off OverDrive because it was available. Turned out to be a slightly different take on chick lit that I enjoyed reading.
  23. Surprise Me by Sophia Kinsella — I am in the mood for fluff, so I’m running with that, and this one sort of redeemed itself in the second half, but the main characters and their “dilemma” at being faced with a long healthy life of being married to each other annoyed the crap out of me.
  24. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms — Happened to be at the lib with RL and saw this on the New Release shelf; nabbed it because it looked fitting based with my recent reading trend. Turned out to have more meat to it than the Kinsella (thank goodness) and I enjoyed the characters and storyline quite a bit. (finished 5.27.19)
  25. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Eveyln Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Read Aloud Books:

  1. Crenshaw by Kathryn Applegate — my first Applegate book, about an imaginary friend helping a 5th grader go through some hard times with his family as they find themselves without enough money for food and housing. This one caused some good conversations with my kids about recognizing that others don’t always have the same living situations that we do. This one I read to the 9, 7, and 5.
  2. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DeCamillo — again, read this to all three of the bigs and they seemed to enjoy it, even though we got behind and strung it out over too much time. The chapters are short and the vocabulary done in an entertaining yet educational way, and the message of light vs. dark is of course age old and always good. (finished 2.24.19)
  3. The Wishing Tree by Kathryn Applegate – so good. SO good. My big three loved it and I loved it, too. Gave me hope, made me cry, made me laugh. Highly recommend!

 

To Read:

The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Antidote by Shelley Sackier

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Sticks & Stones, The Dorito Effect, Delivering Happiness, Shoe

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

There There by Tommy Orange

The Witch Elm by Tana French (crime)

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

 

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Pass the Manual, Please

img_3096Of course there are exceptions, but it seems that I don’t land here as often as I once did to write. I suppose part of that is time or lack thereof, but I think another of it is that as my kids have grown, I’ve slowed down on the amount I’m willing to write about them in this public space. I just can’t put all of our stuff here (not that I ever have, as much as it may seem like I have (over)shared in the past).

That’s perhaps a little ironic considering that the point of this post is that I am once again lamenting the lack of a Definitive Guide to Parenting. As in, why don’t babies come with a fool-proof manual that totally works every time for every kid please and thank you very much? Is that really so much to ask? Just because I can’t or won’t write about all of our Stuff, couldn’t somebody please do it so I could turn to that reference guide when it feels like everything is just a bit too much?

Now, I’ve written about parenting books before and how I own plenty of them (and no, I have not read all of them, so again – the irony), so it’s not like there isn’t a plenty big library out there of this stuff. But the impossible dream I’m asking for is a way to know I’m doing the right thing for each individual kid in each individual moment and there is just no book out there that’s ever going to fill that need.

It doesn’t help that we’re nearing the three month mark with house projects which is a less than open book story, so when you add in adulting and parenting and project-ing (you get my point), it’s no wonder that my brain feels a bit spun out and my overall system wishes that the magic of books and words really could come to the rescue right about now.

Grand scheme of things? I don’t have all the answers. I know that none of us do. Rather, the most we can do is keep trying. Keep learning. Keep inching our way forward, whether the manual was included or not.

In Bits and Pieces

Like many people, especially in Nebraska, our January was neither terribly healthy nor very happy at times due to rolling sickness in our household. Spending eight days of various children coming down with various degrees of fever was exhausting and even though we’ve been fever free for a week now (knock on ALL the wood), we’re still recovering.

Today also marks the end of our first full week of school since the Christmas break. That’s in part due to breaks and weather, but mostly illness, and holy moly cow, we are feeling it. Or, at least I am, as it feels like the only word that truly describes this week + my children would be: RELENTLESS.

img_2967Actually, that’s not fair. It mostly pertains to one particular child who absolutely will not leave my side (NO: I am not pregnant. It is not that kind of clinging) and will not let me get anything done because he wants me to build with him all the live-long day. And it’s not just asking, it’s whining and demanding and oh. my. gosh. Do you know how many Lego towers and gas stations I have built this week? Me neither, but I wish I had a nap for every one because I bet in that case, I’d feel a whole lot better than I do right now.

How am I writing this then, if TJ has been so stuck to me? Finally, a blessed bit of Netflix to the rescue. Now, if only I could decide which of the 50 things I need to do most in this moment of quiet (grade papers, fold laundry, read a book, pee, do the dishes, eat, yoga, absolutely freaking nothing). But instead, I need to write because January sucked for that and long as they are, these days are worth documenting, too.

Now, it doesn’t help that our house is in bits and pieces still, too. And will be….forever, it seems, but really at least for the very distant, foreseeable future as not one of the five (so help me Baby Jesus) spaces is actually complete yet and we’re already two months in to the process. I am not going to complain about the fact that we are working and able to make our house work better for our family, but I am going to lament the hell out of the fact that progress is slow, my day-to-day privacy is nill, and there is still SO much left to be done before we can get back to normal.

For the sake of fairness, not all of January was crap. It got me through 2/3 of my first time teaching two classes in one term for BU. It gave me (OK, I took by staying up too late) time to read. I did 30 Days of yoga through an online challenge AND attended some kick ass public classes taught by friends, including one with sweet RL on the mat next to me. I even added some yoga teaching back to my schedule for the coming month.

But bless it, I really need a respite from the building…of Legos, of house stuff, of all the things that are distracting the bejeebies out of me right now because it is crazy making.

And of course none of that is possible because that’s not reality. Reality means I have a 3-yr-old who needs me right now, so I have to be there for him, even when it mean building my umpteenth Lego tower of the week. Reality means we’ve committed to home improvements that are going to take t-i-m-e while we live in the chaos of it, so I have to be patient even when I want it all done yesterday, please and thank you.

And reality means continuing to find ways, in whatever blessed little bits and pieces I can, to carve out time for that which calms me down and brings me back to center. Like this, and like whatever I can eek out next to keep the system going.

Four Words

Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the last time I did a New Year’s resolution. Maybe if I went back on the blog and looked I would see, but as good as my memory can tell me, it has been a while.

2019 will be no different. No resolution, no promises.

What I have instead, rattling around my brain, are words. Shocking, yes?

For a few weeks now, I’ve been wanting to make a list of words to use when I meditate, when I practice yoga, when I cook, when I’m driving the kids to school, whenever I am doing whatever I happen to be doing…words to guide and ground and remind me.

So today seemed like a good day to make that list and narrow it down because, another shocking revelation, I can get extra wordy sometimes and I wanted my list to be short enough to be able to remember but long enough to still mean something.

I settled on four. Four words that I’ll use as long as I need into this calendar year to keep me coming back to home base, back to self love, back to center.

They are as follows: nurture, focus, dedicate, calm.

These are the words I desire to fill my heart and my mind with in the coming days and weeks (maybe months) as we step back into work and school and life following this long winter break.

I want to remember that I nurture myself when I take time to honor what I need in any given day. I also give greatly and am happy to do so when I nurture others.

I want to stay focused on both the present moment and¬†future goals. Juxtaposition? You bet. But that’s life. Focus works both ways; it keeps us grounded in what is happening here and now AND it keeps us working toward where we want to be, what we want to accomplish.

I want to stay dedicated. To those goals, to my self, to my practices. We’ve got a lot of moving parts happening around here in early 2019 and if I don’t stick with the things that keep me sane, it won’t be a pretty sight. I’m also kicking off the year with a 30 day Yoga fest with Yoga with Adriene online called Dedicate, so the stars aligned on that one.

And lastly, calm. It’s what I’ve been seeking forever it seems, and perhaps I always will. That doesn’t mean I’m doing this life stuff wrong, it just means I can still get spun up in the details and think myself into circles, so calm is the ultimate goal. The navigation of all the ups, downs, and around and arounds.

So there you have it. Four simple words. Four lofty goals. Four important reminders. Four ways to move with intention into all that this new year holds.

Happy New Year, friends. I wish you all the best with your words, whatever they may be! (side note: some of my words were inspired by the stones in a new mala that was recently gifted to me. inspiration is everywhere.)

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Captain Distraction

Lately I have been noticing some habits, some tendencies of mine, that are in need of checking. Please consider this the check.

Like so many, I live with my phone in my pocket, my hand, or on a nearby surface. Because I stream music from it (a LOT), I almost always hear the few little chimes and dings for messages which means I pick up/look at my phone a LOT in a given day. More often than not, these little check-ins turn in to little scroll sessions, mostly on FB, thanks to the power of the little red notification dot. And lately I’ve been feeling ickier and ickier about the pull this has on me.

I am too distracted by the dots. Too drawn away like I have zero attention span to read a comment or see what’s new since the last time I checked. I don’t mind that my kids see me on my phone; it’s that I don’t think my habits are especially helpful for my own self right now; rather, they warrant a change.

So I did a thing and deleted FB off my phone.

It is ridiculous how twitchy I’ve been about it all.

Of course this doesn’t mean I’ll never touch it again (it being both my phone and FB); there are still messages to keep up with and I’m still on my computer every day for work, so I can get my FB fix there; but at least during the awake hours of my kids, I won’t get sucked in to so many little checks of it. Which again, is as much for my own sanity as anything.

I love social media and all the power and potential it holds for connection; what needs to change for me, for now, though is the power it holds over my focus and my scroll-happy hands.

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No Time for Time Frames

As all aspects of life do, my journey with body image struggles and body dysmorphia have had an ebb and flow feeling to them in the last year. At times I have been far too (read: entirely) consumed by the tasks of mothering and me-ing to be all too concerned about how my body looked and if I was “getting that post-baby” body back. At others I have been bogged down by the very fact that no, I am not getting that.

But honestly, after nine years of pregnancies (I found out just after Thanksgiving, 2008 about the first and delivered the fifth just before Thanksgiving 2017), what does that body even mean? What exactly would it even look like? Does any 36 yr old much resemble their 26 yr old self? With or without child bearing and birth?

I think what’s getting under my skin right now (beyond the fact that my three oldest children are of that age and we are of that stage where they’ve maybe been trained to start expecting a pregnancy announcement sometime soon [nope; never again] and keep making ridiculous statements about my belly) is that Wilson’s almost a year old. That means I’ve totally passed the sort-of accepted “40 weeks in/40 weeks out” time frame in which we give moms out to “bounce” back.

Yeah. Not much bouncing around here, folks.

I could give you a laundry list of reasons as to why (laundry could be one of them, come to think of it) this is so. The one that interests me most currently is that as much as I still feel societal and internal pressure to be as trim/fit/what-have-you as I have been before, I also am working really, really hard to just be OK with what IS.

And this is me:

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For the last month, I’ve hardly worn jeans or real pants. It’s been leggings and workout pants and sweats on constant repeat [Full disclosure: it’s probably going to stay like that for a while because my littlest two littles keep sharing germs with each other and me]. So I don’t really have my normal markers of knowing how things fit to gauge how I feel. (I haven’t been on a scale and actually seen the weight on it in five years. I can’t know those numbers and also know my sanity). I have still been doing my 30 minutes a day of yoga, but even that hasn’t been enough to keep the negative thought spiral from happening lately. Clearly, I have to keep working on that, and part of that acceptance and moving through it is honesty.

That pants in that picture (in which my shirt matches the wall AND my phone)? Those are maternity leggings and I LOVE them. I bought them last year to get me through the end of Wilson’s pregnancy. They were a size bigger than I normally wear in maternity clothes. And I’m still wearing them now, just shy of her first birthday. And they’re not all that loose. And you know what? That is what is. Am I thrilled about it? Not really. But does it define me? Hardly.

My weight at my six-week post-delivery appointment with Baby Lincoln is what sent me to counseling in the first place for body image concerns. I just knew I couldn’t keep living with that pressure. While the pressure and the thought spiral both still exist and get worse some times more than others for me, I can look at these leggings that I love, that I never thought I’d still be wearing and say: OK. Here is where I am in this body right now. Time frames and pressure to be different be damned.

I know I won’t feel quite this OK with what is every day, but any day that I can get a little bit of that peace? I’ll take it, leggings and all.

 

 

You Gotta Be

Recently I had to tell someone “no” to a request of my time. Full disclosure, I had already (many, many months ago) told them “yes,” so my “no” was totally a backing out which isn’t great to do, but sometimes it is just as necessary as it is shitty.

As has been pretty clear on the sparse, random posts of this month, 95% of October has kicked our butts. After the baby got sick and everyone else either recovered or maintained health, I got a full-on seven day sore throat that wrecked the majority of last week for me. I am just now, on the 29th of the month, sort of coming out of the fog of travel and sickness and pure on exhaustion. So no, when I got the call to remind about the thing I said I’d do darn near a year ago, “yes” could no longer be my answer even though I knew that was going to be displeasing and problematic for the asker.

I get it. It sucks when people leave you hanging. But it also sucks when you run yourself ragged for the sake of others. And I was honest. It would have been easy to lie and say that I had an appointment and couldn’t be there. But instead I straight up said we’ve had a crazy, draining month and that I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.

Let me be real for a second….

I have no day time help (minus the fact that Ben can alternate preschool pickup with me most of the every-other days). I run a shuttle service. I am a professional waiter (not of food, but of time during speech and before/after preschool). I provide all the food, play, naps, bathroom duties, and the million other jobs of a daycare provider/SAH parent. I also own a business and work a separate job from home (which is bonkers hard, y’all, when your little people are still in that same home with you all the live-long days). I survive on coffee, social media, uplifting and also snarky GIFs and messages with my girlfriends, and books. And yoga. Always yoga. I don’t get to go out for lunch because I can’t afford a babysitter, much less find one, and my sweet 11 month old baby still won’t let anyone besides B hold her, so no. I don’t really have much effort or energy left for commitments outside the home because my home sucks every last drop out of me.

Clearly I feel guilty for backing out. You see that, right? But I’m writing this to remind myself of two things: 1) it is 110% OK to put my own air mask on first by saying “no” to something I don’t want to do. Even if it doesn’t feel that way, it IS. And 2) when I am no longer in this stage of parenting, may I please forever remember that when I ask something of a mama who IS still in it, that I always, always lead with, “How can I help?”

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