Weekend Reflections and Intentions 01.13.2019

Despite my highest hopes, this last week went nowhere near as smoothly and joyfully as the week before. Mostly due to circumstances beyond my control, but…nonetheless, it’s been a pretty crappy week.

On Monday it was pouring, but I also really, really needed to run errands. I did them as quickly as possible in the midst of a horrible headache. Then I spent most of the day doing various food prep and trying to get a bit of work done. I felt so disjointed and frustrated for once again expecting too much of  myself and not living up to my own ridiculously high standards.

Monday night brought the terrible news that my uncle had been found dead in his apartment. I won’t divulge all the details, but cause of death is still unknown. He was very reserved and had really isolated himself from the rest of the family for over a year. We’ve all been in varying degrees of shock and grief as we try to deal with everything. My uncle didn’t have a significant other or any kids, so the bulk of taking care of everything he left behind has fallen on my mom and my remaining uncle and a few cousins. It’s an undertaking that nobody was prepared to deal with. But, it needs to be done.

That clearly set the tone for the rest of my week. I wasn’t sure if my help would be needed for anything, so I cancelled my Tuesday morning friend date and my Thursday craft night. I kind of went into a shell and just didn’t really want to interact with anybody. I barely knew my uncle, but it’s still so hard to realize he’s gone, and with it any opportunity TO know him.

Despite being in such a little pit of sadness, I tried to keep busy working and taking time to read and rest on Wednesday. On Thursday I felt like I desperately needed to get out of the house and do something – anything – so I went to Walmart and just wandered around for over an hour and then stopped at a new coffee shop for a treat before heading back home to work some more.

Adding a bit to Thursday’s sadness, I was getting instagram bombardment of the start of that craft retreat I was supposed to be at. The AMAZING craft retreat at The Whatever Craft House in Kansas. The one I had my ticket to and then had to beg to be let out of once I realized my maker friend bailed on me and I didn’t want to do the 12 hour drives there and back by myself in unpredictable winter weather. I know in the end it was probably best I didn’t go. But it was pretty hard seeing everyone’s awesome photos and everything I was missing. I wish it could have worked out for me.

Friday morning brought a spark of joy when I got the email that my 23andme results were ready! I’ll maybe do a full post on this at a later date, but it was really exciting to see everything they could find out from my vial of spit! The ancestry reports were not much of a surprise since my mom’s side of the family has always kept extremely detailed records going back hundreds of years. But I loved that I could look even further in depth to see exactly which areas of the countries my ancestors were from. My Irish ancestors were from all over, but most heavily in the areas that I’ve visited myself AND were my favorite part of the country. My English ancestors are only from London, so I think I definitely need to add that to my travel bucket list. My German ancestors were from the northernmost regions. I didn’t get that far north in my high school trip to Germany, so I’ll have to go back there too. 🙂 Anyway, it was just really cool to see. And since my sister-in-law took the test last summer, I was able to combine my ancestry reports with hers so I can now give the boys definitive numbers on their own ethnicities. It has definitely gotten pretty muddy by their generation, but they are still predominantly 40% Irish/English, which is cool.

Knowing I really just needed to get out of the house, I kept my plans to go to lunch with my friend Laura. I worked in the morning and then she picked me up and we tried this new place called Full Mile in Sun Prairie. It was such a nice place! And really great to just have a chance to hang out with a friend. I desperately needed it. We prolonged our outing by getting Starbucks afterward and then shopping through Menard’s (lol).

I spent Saturday helping my parents, uncle, and two cousins start the work of clearing out my uncle’s apartment and looking for important paperwork that will help everything from now on go more smoothly. Honestly, it’s a task that’s probably going to take weeks. SO MUCH WORK. We all put in a full day and then went back again this morning. I bowed out after a couple of hours today. It’s overwhelming. My mom and uncle will continue to work all week while everyone else chips in between their jobs and families. I have another cousin flying in on Wednesday to help too. I hope for everyone’s sakes it starts picking up speed and can be completed earlier than expected. I think we made a lot of progress this weekend, but there is still a lot to go.

Sunday Intentions

Moving ahead to this week. I really need to get some work done. January is just flying by and I’ve not been as productive as I had hoped to be! I have eight dolls that are half done, so I’m hoping I can complete them by Tuesday afternoon. I also need to run a few errands tomorrow, but I was apparently very overzealous in my shopping last week as we still have a pretty full fridge! I should try and get some walks in with Annie too. I’ve been neglecting her (and my whole family). Actually, we did walk to school last Wednesday and Thursday since there wasn’t any ice and it felt SO GOOD. I think I’d be pretty happy if we just continue on with this almost snowless winter. It sure makes my life easier!

It sounds like Wednesday night as much family as available will be gathering for a dinner somewhere. The one good thing about a death in the family is that it brings everyone else closer. I’m kind of ashamed of how rarely I see my cousins that only live half an hour away from me. Not counting this weekend, it’s been an entire year and a half since we’ve been together. We’re all so busy. But maybe from now on we’ll try harder?

On Thursday, Greg and I are celebrating 19 years of being together. (We keep celebrating this since we were together 6.5 years before we got married, so this original anniversary still feels very significant!) We usually go on a fancy date every January, but this year I happened to see an awesome groupon deal, so we’re going on a little one night getaway. I do feel a bit bad going in the middle of everything that’s happening. But…it’s already paid for and everything and I think Greg and I need the little break from reality. The boys and Annie will have a sleepover that night at Grandma’s and then hang out at her house until we come back Friday, as there’s no school.

And I expect next weekend might be more family or apartment cleaning stuff. I’m leaving it open if I’m needed.

Anyway, that’s about it! A lot of unexpected emotions swirling around these last few days. But I’m trying to keep busy if that’s what it seems like I need or take breaks if that’s what I seem to need. I’m trying to keep my schedule pretty loose and flexible. It feels much better to help out when I’m needed, than to stick to some pre planned agenda. I think I need to work on being better about that in general.

Have a good week!

Sunday Intentions 01.06.2019

I have felt like quite the slug today. Desperate to finish a novel that has been taking me six days to read (too many! so many books waiting!!), I thought I could sit down this morning and knock it out in an hour. Well, I finally finished that book around 1pm, even though I spent almost the entire morning in my chair trying to read. So. Many. Distractions.

Anyway, then I went to take a nap, even though I didn’t really need one. And finally I forced myself to hook up Annie and go for a real walk. I missed out on yesterday’s nicer weather completely. I went out once at 6am and once at 9pm. What a shame! It’s colder today, but I needed that fresh air and movement. I also assumed after yesterday’s warmth, all the sidewalks would be free and clear of lingering ice. Well, they weren’t. There were just enough people that left their snow from earlier this week and their sidewalks are now thick slush/hard puddles of what is surely mostly ice. So that’s my little PSA for the day – SHOVEL YOUR SIDEWALKS. Seriously, just do it. And if you have a neighbor that hasn’t shoveled theirs, just assume that they have a very good reason and do it for them. It doesn’t take that long and it assures the walking safety of so many people. I can’t even tell you how much walking outside stresses me out when I come across even the tiniest sight of slick ground ahead. I don’t want to be a total hermit for the entire long winter either. Just shovel!

Moving on! This upcoming week life is picking up its pace again, though mostly just for my own schedule. I have a coffee date with a friend on Tuesday, a craft night scheduled for Thursday, and a lunch date with a different friend on Friday. I’m giving the renewed friendship thing my best effort this week! I probably can’t have three friend meet ups every week and still expect to actually get any work done. But I deemed it a very high priority for this week.

So my main intention for the week, social engagements aside, is to try and live the same way I did for those three normal days last week. I’ll have to run errands tomorrow morning, but the rest of the week I want to keep focusing on balance. Get Annie to the dog park and exercised in the morning. Or walked, if it doesn’t snow anymore, though I think it might be coming again. Then put in a solid few hours of work. Have a leisurely afternoon to take care of myself with sleep and books. Make a full and complete meal for my family and spend time with them if they’re interested. And then finish out the evening with something that brings joy to my soul. It’s a pretty simple plan, but I think it’s exactly the kind of life I’ve been striving for all these years. I just didn’t realize how easy it was to get, once I let go of most of my neurotic need to constantly be DOING.

I’m hoping to start adding meal plans back into these Sunday posts, mostly to keep myself more organized, but also to provide some easy ideas for you guys. But…I’m not yet prepared. I still have a stack of new cookbooks I bought myself for Christmas that I’d love to look through before committing to anything. I CAN tell you that I’m planning to throw together a bunch of leftovers and create a chicken tortellini soup for dinner tonight. I also have some steak in the freezer that I’ll probably take out for an easy dinner tomorrow. And I’ll probably have another week of spicy chicken and rice bowls for my lunches. Last week I decided to splurge on a package of Kroger Chicken Verde at Pick ‘n Save for myself. I expected it to be like most pre-cooked meals – kind of gross, but edible if you’re desperate. But, it was surprisingly delicious! The chicken was grilled and the sauce was plentiful and tasty. I think the $6 price is worth it for at least three delicious and incredibly easy lunches for myself!

Well, that’s it for now. Have a great week!

Saturday Reflections 01.05.2019

Happy Saturday! I’m sure it has a bit to do with my absolute enthusiasm about getting back into a regular routine after what felt like the longest ever winter break, but this past three day “week” has been AMAZING. I’ve never felt so balanced and on top of my life. Can it last?! My pessimistic nature is telling me no way. But I’m feeling like maybe, just maybe, it can. If I learn from these fragile routines I’m beginning to establish and try to live my life this way every single day….things could be really, really good.

Somehow over winter break I managed to reset my sleep schedule and I think it’s really helping me stay a lot more positive. For all of November and December I was getting a max of five hours of sleep a night, usually waking up between 3 and 4, and despite my best efforts I could rarely fall asleep at my usual afternoon nap time either. No explanation for either, but it sucked big time. Suddenly after Christmas I was getting at least seven, sometimes even close to eight hours a night! Plus a good nap on the days I choose to take one. Maybe that’s contributing to me suddenly feeling like I’m on top of my life. The only downside is that I’m not waking up with any of my coveted morning quiet time, or the chance to shower and get ready before the boys are off to school. A lot of the time it’s not a huge deal, but I do really prefer feeling fully ready for the day by the time I need to leave the house with them. At least in winter, giant coats and hats and scarves can disguise how gross I must look!

On Wednesday morning Greg stayed home a bit later because it had snowed some more overnight and then he took the boys to school. I ran out later in the morning to do some desperately needed grocery shopping.

On Thursday and Friday morning I started the day at the dog park. I love being there on a winter morning – when it’s not super cold. It feels so invigorating and inspiring. Annie was LOVING having more outdoor exploring time. I did a pretty bad job at keeping her exercised over break.

I worked for a few hours each on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, today. I think the biggest positive change I’ve made on that side of life is accepting that I’ll get done as much as I get done in those hours and it just needs to be okay. I spend SO much time berating myself for not getting as much done as I think I should have. And I’m sick of it! I’m sick of constantly beating myself up for some sort of unimportant standard that I only put on myself. I like just working for four straight hours, doing my best work, and calling it a day, moving on to something else that needs to get done. I’m not sure I can keep up with this mindset as the pressure for producing as much as possible, as often as possible, gets so intense around the upcoming holidays. But I’m really going to try. It makes me much happier and it keeps me a better artist and business owner.

I think the greatest thing about this week is that I’ve given myself so much down time. As much as I love the simplicity of my Keurig, I’ve really gotten into pourover coffee lately and the 5-10 minute process of waiting for my water to reach a perfect temperature and then slowly pouring it over the ground beans again and again and again until I have the right amount for my cup. I always drink my coffee in the afternoons since I have no problems feeling awake and energized in the mornings. It’s been providing a great transition for me from work day and me time into family time/dinnertime. This particular kind of coffee – Sweetheart Blend from Barnie’s – is literally the best at home coffee I’ve ever had. It’s seriously amazing. If you love chocolate and cherries and sweetly flavored coffees.

The other great thing about this week – BOOKS. Great books! Life giving books. NONFICTION books. When do I ever say that?! With my renewed vigor to read the books I already own this year, I’ve jumped back into many of the books I haven’t given much attention to in the past couple of months. I’m also determined to read all the books I’ve gotten as gifts or bought for myself in the last month as top priority. They’re really great. I’ve also been listening to an audiobook all day that is basically the best and most entertaining self help type book I’ve ever read. I’m dying to finish it so I can write about it. Basically, I’ve been spending the entire evening for the last three, or more, days just in my big chair reading. Which also means I’m totally ignoring my family, which isn’t so great. I mean, they’re busy doing their guy things, video game things, in the other room. We did attempt playing Spoons this afternoon, which ended with both boys screaming and throwing their cards and the spoons around the room because they are the biggest sore losers OF ALL TIME. We have so many board games, but can never play any of them because it always ends in the exact same way.

The only real downside to this week is that I’ve been so excited about eating delicious food again that the scale is slowly sliding back up, instead of down the way it’s supposed to be this month. Case in point – I made this DILL PICKLE BACON PIZZA for dinner last night. It was amazing. I’ve been so sick of my homemade pizza for months and months and months, that I rarely even eat it anymore. Shepard is so demanding about his flavor choices – he hates pepperoni pizza, or anything traditional. He usually just wants bbq week after week after week. That used to be my favorite kind of pizza too, but we’ve overdone it. Making something totally new and salty and filled with fun and bursting flavors just really brought me so much joy. Which is good for my head! But not good for everything else! The candy is still overflowing in the house and my cravings are out of control. Counting calories is what really kicked me into gear two months ago, but I really, really don’t want to resort to that again. I might have to.

Overall, it’s been a pretty great week and start to the year. It’s helped that I haven’t had to leave the house or really DO anything this week, besides get a  few groceries. It’s also proving to be quite liberating, with this no excess spending month. I haven’t been wasting a ridiculous amount of time looking at online sales because I know I don’t have the option this month to buy anything. It’s been making me appreciate the things I have more too – like all my amazing books I can’t wait to read. We finished taking down the trees and getting all the Christmas stuff put away this morning. The sun has been shining, the weather is getting warmer, and the house – at least the part of the house I spend all my time in – is so beautiful and clean and inviting. I’m happy this week. And it’s been wonderful.

January 2019 Goals

Happy new year!

Is everyone as THRILLED to go back to school and work tomorrow as I am?! These last couple of days have seriously just sucked the life out of me. I think because we were so jam packed busy the first half of winter break, we’ve been ridiculously lazy and unmotivated the second half. I’ve resigned myself to only wearing pajamas because getting dressed is too much work. I’ve been eating super crappy food because I haven’t had the energy to go to the store and buy fresh food to cook with. I’ve been laying in bed for hours every afternoon because I don’t want to face any people or responsibilities, and then I wonder why I can’t fall asleep at night. I haven’t been getting any exercise and I haven’t been giving Annie any exercise, and I feel like I’m about to lose my mind with the constant noise of video games and annoying youtubers. I miss walking (no chance for awhile after the ice that showed up last night), I miss quiet, I miss listening to my podcasts and watching my tv shows during the day, I miss only having to make a meal for myself, I miss working, and did I say yet that I miss QUIET? Tomorrow is going to be awesome.

Anyway! Our New Year’s Eve celebration was really lame and barely worth mentioning. I got too tired to make the meal I planned on, so we had chicken nuggets and jalapeno popper dip for dinner, with giant cookies for dessert that nobody wanted  to eat because I mistakenly believed my family preferred crunchier cookies since they complain every time I make softer ones… I drank too much sparkling juice and felt painfully full, so I never opened up the wine I’ve had waiting in the fridge for at least four months when a celebratory alcohol needing moment might pop up. Greg was in a bad mood from the get go because there was a huge dump of heavy snow that took way too much time and energy to shovel away. I was in a bad mood because I was so strung out from being surrounded by loud and obnoxious noises the last twelve hours (plus eleven days). We settled in and watched the movie Mowgli with the boys and sent them to bed at ten. And we finished the year watching Bird Box. Both movies were way too stressful and angsty to pair with the moods we were all currently in to begin with. It’s the first year in ages that I actually stayed up until midnight, but I probably would have been better off just going to bed when the boys did. Lame city, you guys.

So I’m really excited to jump into January! Fresh starts and all that jazz. I’ve been pretty lax with my productivity in the last month, so it’s time to take a deep breath and tackle some big goals. Ideally I think I’d like to stick with about three accomplishable goals a month so I can readily have them on my mind with every decision I make. But I’m going to go a bit above and beyond this month and flat out expect more from myself. We’ll see how it goes.

1 – No excess spending

This is the biggest one. After six weeks of crazy present buying and being way too indulgent with picking up things for myself, I need a bit of a detox. My plan is to avoid all online shopping – not even any looking. No new books, coffee, clothes, snacks, or treats. The only things I’m allowed to buy are perishable foods and household items we absolutely can’t live without – like cat food, which is just about gone. But I’d also like to get more creative with a lot of the random food we have stored in the basement and figure out ways to use it before buying anything else. My only exceptions to this rule is if I find birthday presents for my mom and Shepard (the February birthdays), and if I find an awesome Valentine mug. Since I decided to have rotating seasonal mug collections, I’ve been itching to find one or two great Valentine choices. So if I happen to see one in one of the few stores I’m allowing myself to walk in this month, I have permission to buy it. 🙂 Everything else? Off limits.

2 – Lose 3 or more pounds by the 30th

I have my next doctor’s appointment on the 30th to recheck my liver levels and blood pressure and everything. I was doing so great for about two months, and this last week just totally let go again. My original goal for this appointment was to lose 10 lbs since my appointment at the end of October. I’ve been hovering at the 10 or 11 pound mark for the last month. I want to get a lot more strict with myself and push for at least 3 more pounds and obviously still a lot more after that.

3 – No fast food

I think going without fast food in November was really helpful to resetting my system. I didn’t go overboard in December, but I did stop for food three or four times simply because I was really hungry and that was easy. Really, going hand in hand with my no spending, I’m just not going to allow myself to eat anywhere unless it’s using one of my gift cards (Chipotle or Qdoba!), or on a date. Dates get a free pass for any kind of food.

4 – Make 20+ Valentine dolls

Valentine’s Day is one of my biggest holidays for sales. I think because I usually take most of December off and then I’m freshly motivated and start pumping out pink and red dolls in January, everyone is itching to buy them. I’ve picked up a lot of new fabric in the last few weeks and I’m really excited to start creating again. But hopefully only in small batches so I don’t overwhelm myself and get burned out. I think making 20 should be relatively easy, though. It’s a pretty quiet month. (so far!)

5 – Read 4 books from my shelves

In my new bullet journal I wrote out all the books I own that I haven’t yet read. Want to know the number? Probably not, lol. 113. And there are three smaller areas of my house where I didn’t even count those books. So, I have a lot of books to read! One of my favorite hobbies is researching new books and getting excited about all the possibilities. As I was organizing my shelves and writing down all those titles yesterday, I was so excited about the books I already have. I genuinely want to read a lot more of them this year, even though the majority of them are nonfiction.

6 – Have a great anniversary getaway

Desperate to get something on the calendar for just the two of us and not ready to plan an actual anniversary vacation in May yet, I found a really great looking hotel through Groupon and booked us a night in mid January to celebrate our 19th year of being together. I think it’ll be really great to have two full days to ourselves.

7 – Spend time with friends

I’m hoping this will happen! When a bunch of us got together a few weeks ago on two separate lunch occasions, we all made a point of wanting to do that more often. I already set up a craft night and plan to get back into hosting those as well. And I’m trying to get together with one of my friends who moved away. I don’t want the months to keep passing by with no girl time on the calendar. I’m going to make it happen!

I think that’s enough to keep me busy this month! Happy January, everyone!

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

I recently discovered that instead of writing straightforward lists of resolutions and goals for the year, some people chose to write out what they’re looking forward to in the new year instead. It’s still a way to get your greatest hopes and dreams for yourself out in the universe, but you’re writing them as something to look forward to instead of something you have to do to make your life better. I loved this idea and became a lot more excited thinking about 2019 in these terms. I still fully plan on giving myself smaller accomplishable goals at the beginning of every month to truly focus my time and energy, but for the year as a whole I’m really liking this format instead!

In 2019, I am looking forward to…

1 – Becoming a healthier and more energetic human being.

I’m going to use what I’ve learned in the last two months and continue to take better care of myself. I’m going to go back to only eating the foods that I know will make me feel good and avoiding things like fast food which I know will make me feel bloated and gross the rest of the day. I’ll walk Annie as often as I can and find exercise videos to do in the house when I’m too freaked out to risk slipping on ice if I go outside. I’m going to continue to take my internal health into consideration with many of my choices because that’s what has a greater influence on my motivation than the number on the scale or the way my clothes fit.

2 – Having a better work-life balance.

I think a lot of my work frustration in the last few years is that I expected to be able to just jump into making this a full time job now that my kids are in school all day. I need to – and I WILL – accept that I only have a part time job slot in my life right now. And THAT’S OKAY. The internal war has been waging for years on what I should be giving the most of my time to and no matter what option I choose, it feels like the wrong one. This year I am going to give myself grace and remember that sewing dolls is not the most important thing in my life. People matter more. Life happens. I still want work to be part of my life – but only PART. I’d like to strive for only working 20-30 hours a week with as few nights and weekends as possible. I’d like to prioritize my family and friends if I’m in a busy season where that truly matters more. And I’m not going to feel guilty about it or start worrying what other people think of me. I believe I can have the best of both worlds and this is the year I’m going to figure out how to do it.

3 – Going on vacations!

I’m excited about going on some fun and much needed vacations this year. Greg and I have a one night getaway scheduled in a few weeks to celebrate 19 years of being together. In early February we’re going to Nebraska to see Guster play with the Omaha Symphony. We may or may not bring the boys, but either way we’ll be staying with my brother and spending some time with Hudson too (as long as the weather holds out!). In the middle of February we’re all going Florida to see Universal and Harry Potter World with Greg’s parents, which should be an awesome family vacation. In August I have tickets to Book Bonanza, which will bring me to Texas for the first time. I’m hoping we can take an actual three or more night vacation somewhere new and special for our 13 year marriage anniversary in May or June. Greg has been talking about wanting to take one or both boys to San Francisco, so if that happens I’ll either do something special with the remaining kid or have one heck of a staycation by myself! We’re hopefully going to have a really full year of getting away and making some amazing memories.

4 – Reading all the books and tracking them closely.

Reading is and forever will be a huge part of my life. But it still deserves a big spot on what I’m looking forward to in the new year! I’m hoping that maybe audiobooks will eventually win me over and might start replacing some of my tv time. I think I could be much more productive sewing that way since I don’t need to constantly be looking at a screen! But I also have to get better at paying attention with my ears. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading MANY of the physical books I have on my shelves. I’ve re-fallen in love with physical books and may have gone a bit crazy buying them in the last six or so months. Now I need to read them! I’m also looking forward to tracking them much more closely on the Book Riot tracking spreadsheet, as well as continuing to track on my own spreadsheet and Goodreads and writing about them every month.

5 – Really just tracking all the things!

I’ve used a bullet journal for most of the past year and it’s been an awesome way to keep track of my daily to do lists, meal plans, work hours, gratitude lists, etc. This year I’m planning to take things a step further and track things like how much money we save, how much weight I lose, the dates we’ve been on, the books I’ve read from my shelves, as well as all my usual stuff – tv, podcasts, movies, happiness levels, etc. I want my bullet journal to basically be the one thing I can’t go a single day without sitting down in front of and writing in. Not because I have to, but because I love it so much.

6 – Writing more and reformatting my website so it’s more accessible.

I really do love to write! This year I’ve found the most joy in writing recaps and intentions and lists of things I’ve consumed each month, with books being my favorite. I feel like most of the stuff I write about is really personal and is probably much more interesting to me than anyone who happens to read it. And I’ve been okay with that. But I would like to try just a tiny bit harder at growing my readership. I will be more active on instagram to promote my posts, plus just more about my everyday life. And I’ll figure out how in the world to reformat my website so posts of similar content can be grouped together and easier to find. I have no clue how to go about doing that, but I will learn!

7 – Reenergizing my relationships.

Mostly with Greg. But also with friends. And maybe with Greg AS my friend and not just my parenting partner, which is sometimes what it feels like. I want to make monthly OUT OF THE HOUSE date nights a real and exciting thing that I cherish and look forward to more than anything else in the month. I want to kiss more and laugh more and find things to do together that we both enjoy besides just watching tv every night. I love watching tv together, but I think we need something more. I also look forward to spending more time with my friends and maybe making some new friends! This last year has been so weird with me being locked away in the house for so many months and everyone just being “too busy.” Well, guess what? If it’s important, we will make time. And I’ll start taking the initiative again to make sure those things happen.

8 – Using my cookbooks and making actual meal plans on a weekly basis.

I adore cookbooks. I have a ton of them. But when it comes to making my meals I always just look to pinterest because it’s fast and easy and convenient. But my cookbooks are overflowing with amazing inspiration and new ideas and foods that will bring us all joy and excitement. I plan to start with just picking one cookbook at a time and finding 2-3 meals I want to make from it in the next week or two. Nothing crazy or elaborate or stressful. Just take the five minutes it requires to open a book and find something fresh to make. It will be so worth it.

9 – Having one massive, mega, crazy garage sale and then donating whatever is left.

Our garage is overflowing with items that didn’t sell at our last garage sale, two years ago. I fully planned on having one last summer, but then didn’t feel up to it with my lack of walking abilities. This summer, hopefully right in early June, it will happen! And when it’s over I’m not going to save everything for some future sale. This is it. I want it all gone. It’s going to feel AMAZING to get rid of all those boxes of things we no longer need. It’d be great to make a little money in the process, but really – I just want it all gone.

10 – Learn how to be good at hand lettering. 

I usually have some hobbies at the back of my mind that I never seem to get to. This year the only thing I can think of are these two new hand lettering books and brush markers I got for Christmas. I would like to go through each of those books carefully, practice, and become pretty awesome at writing things out fancy and cool. I have no real purpose for this other than my bullet journal and my own enjoyment, but it’ll be worth it!

I think it’s safe to say that 10 is enough! I truly think that 2019 is going to be an amazing year. Happy new year, everyone!

My Favorite Books of 2018

It’s time to share my favorite books of the year! While I do write about the books I read at the end of every month, I find it a lot of fun to create a final list of the best of the best to share at the end of the year. Last year I think I only shared my absolute favorite 5* books, but this year I’d like to share my 5’s as well.

This is how I usually rate the books I read:

1 – I’m not sure I’ve ever actually rated a book a 1 because if I like it enough to finish it I feel like it at least deserves a 2. So if I rated my pile of “Did Not Finish” books, they would have 1’s. But I don’t want to rate them because that would skew the data on books I actually read!
2 – I managed to finish it, but I did not like it. I’d say it’s pretty rare for me to give a 2 as well, but I will often give a rating of 2.5 if I really didn’t like it.
3 – It was okay. I enjoyed reading it, but I will have probably already forgotten what the book was about by the time I write about it at the end of the month.
4 – I really liked the book. There might have been one or two issues that bothered me enough to give it a higher rating, but overall I found very few things to dislike.
5 – I loved the book! It made me feel things intensely. It was unputdownable. It made me laugh out loud and/or it made me cry. It felt like something very important and vital to my being. It brought me tremendous joy.
5* – This extra special rating is reserved for books that I love so much I want to share them with everybody. They’re the books I’ll actually talk about to people, even if they don’t seem to share the same interest in reading as me. They’re also usually the books that I love so much I would probably re-read them at some point and want to own a great copy for my own shelves. They also might have a swoon-worthy character in them that I ADORE. 🙂

Looking back on my list for 2018, I think I’ve either been reading a lot better books or I’ve become much more liberal with my ratings! 19% of the books I read were given a 5 or 5* rating. That’s quite an upgrade from the 10 I deemed best and wanted to share in 2017! Considering five of my eleven 5* books were in December, I think I might have been feeling a bit generous. Some of them don’t exactly follow my criteria – I wouldn’t read them again (the thrillers). But I loved every page and know I’ll never forget their stories!

The Best of the Best 5* Books (maybe, a little bit, in order)

1 – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I loved this delightful workplace romantic comedy SO MUCH. I laughed through the entire book and adored the characters and seriously, it just made me swoon. It is one of my favorite books of all time because it’s just so FUN. It made me so happy.

2 – Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford

I loved reading through this book one short essay a day. With a few months off here and there, it took me over a year to read through it, but I was never tempted to totally set it aside like most (or all) devotional books I start. I thought this book was so beneficial for guiding my soul to focus on love and only love, especially where my children are concerned. Her words really made me consider the choices I make and the things I prioritize. I loved it and fully intend on reading through it again.

3 – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows

I have a serious weakness for books that center around letters/emails/notes being exchanged. Though this book is entirely written in letters, it still has such an amazing sense of plot and characters because there are so many different voices. I found the entire book to be an absolute delight. I also thoroughly enjoyed it on audio and in its Netflix adaptation!

4 – Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Okay, when I first read this book I was blown away. It’s one of the only nonfiction books that I tore through because it felt so vitally important to my outlook on life. In the six months since then, as Rachel Hollis has become mega popular and there have been a lot of negative things written about her and her book/message, I’ve been wavering a bit on how much I maybe actually should have enjoyed this book. Greg pointed out to me that this is on some list for top five top worst books of the year because she writes so much about her white privilege. And yeah, that’s a valid point. She also has a message about loving your body and yourself, while at the same time basically fat shaming you if you’re not at your ideal weight. But still, after taking some of those things into consideration, I do believe that Rachel Hollis genuinely has a great message out there to empower women to take charge of their own lives and DO SOMETHING. This is an idea that I also feel very strongly about and it helped to read a book that pushes that idea so strongly. So! If you need some encouragement to make changes in your own life, this will be a great read.

5 – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I see that I gave this first book in the series a 5* and the second book a 5, though in hindsight I feel like I maybe liked the second book a tad bit more. Either way – this series is fantastic. I try to steer clear of reading a lot of fantasy series because there are always so many random things to keep track of about their world and I seriously just don’t care. I’m all about the characters. And this series has some AMAZING drool-worthy characters. 🙂

6 – 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Another book written entirely in letters, though this one is the real deal telling the actual friendship between an American book lover and an English book seller. I really just adored this book because it celebrates books and the passion for reading. Helene’s letters were incredibly delightful and I found the whole book to be an absolute joy.

7 – Verity by Colleen Hoover

I can’t have a top list without Colleen Hoover! She continues to amaze me. Verity is even completely out of her typical genre. It’s a psychological thriller that will mess you up. For real. It was really, really great, though. I can’t talk too much about the plot because it might give things away. I loved this book, though.

8 – Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Surprisingly, this is the only YA-ish book to make my top list this year. It’s about a college girl with boyish features who decides to dress up as a boy in order to join a male a capella group. While you think this story will be pretty straightforward, it takes a lot of interesting turns and spends a lot of time examining gender roles in today’s society. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

9 – Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher

This is the last book I read and I couldn’t put it down. The two main characters who have an awkward and unusual past, are kidnapped and trapped together in a small cabin in Alaska with nowhere to go. The expectation is that they’ll fall into some sort of desperate romance as they work together to survive, but the story is so much more complex than that. Their dynamic is complicated and sobering, but ultimately ends in hope.

10 – Bird Box by Josh Malerman

I think I rated this book so highly because it was so far outside the box (ha!) in the type of books I usually read. The creepy factor was through the room and I think it’s such a crazy story that I’ll never forget it. It was scary, but not in a way that makes me scared to walk around my house in the dark (the reason I don’t usually read horror). The resilience of the characters really amazed me as well.

11 – Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

I read this book while I was recovering from my broken ankle and it provided me with so many unique and interesting things to think about as I read letters that people write into Cheryl as “Dear Sugar” and her insightful responses to them. It’s the only thing I’ve ever read by her, and I found it so full of wisdom and wit. The depth of both the letters and her responses were just the distractions I needed from my own pain while I read.

The Other 5 Star Books from 2018

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Beard Science by Penny Reid

Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly

A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

And that’s it for 2018! I’m going to be using a much more elaborate bookkeeping system next year so I can give all the stats on how much fiction vs nonfiction I read, memoir vs graphic novel, books by women vs books by men, average page number, etc. I’m really excited about this! I think I might try and go back to being a very harsh critic when it comes to rating my books as well. We’ll see on that. 🙂

I’d love to hear YOUR favorite books of the year!

What I Watched December 2018

It felt like a pretty light month for tv watching. I usually only watch tv by myself if I’m working and I only worked the first week of the month. But I fit in a lot of netflix movies!

TV – Alone

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

I started this because I wanted something light that I didn’t have to pay a ton of attention to. It was entertaining enough. I think I watched about half of the first season on netflix and I’ll eventually get back to the rest. It’s nice to see comedians when they’re not completely “on.”

Modern Family

I guess I don’t have a ton to say about this. Still on it!

Million Little Things

I’m still really liking this new show! I do have to say that it’s so selfish of Delilah to make Eddie pretend he’s not the baby’s father. I hope she eventually changes her mind.

Safe

I only watched the first episode of this on a very rare night I had the tv to myself. But I’m anxious to watch more of it! It seems like in my month of light tv watching there are suddenly SO many shows back that I can’t wait to start up again!

TV – Together

Daredevil

We finished up the final season and I really enjoyed it. I liked seeing so much more of Matt and Karen. And as much as I like Wilson Bethel in Hart of Dixie, I could have done without him as Dex in this show.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

We FINALLY got to the episode with Skylar Astin appearing as the new and unrecognizable Greg character. It still feels really ridiculous, but I do love Skylar Astin and it feels like maybe they finally have a GOOD singer on the show again. So I guess I kind of approve. But original Greg was still my favorite character and I’m bummed he wouldn’t come back.

Superstore

Still a great show!

Outlander

I’m really enjoying this season! I’m actually liking the season so much I’m very tempted to pick up the book series again. I only read the first four books, so I’m only knowledgeable up through this season. The Jamie and Claire actors just have so much on screen chemistry, it’s hard not to love them. Roger and Brianna, though? I’m not feeling it AT ALL.

Bodyguard

It took us a crazy long time to get through all six hour long episodes of this show. I don’t think it lived up to the hype that social media made me think it would be. But I’m still glad we watched it. That final episode was so stressful!

Movies

Christmas Inheritance

I really was not a fan of this holiday movie. Just something to pass the time while working.

The Shape of Water

Wow, this movie was bizarre. We did not like it.

Dumplin’ 

I enjoyed watching this after having read the book a year or two ago.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

I thought this movie was ridiculous. I really liked the first one last year, but this – ick.

The Little Mermaid (not the cartoon)

Again – not that great. I love William Moseley, but the movie was not worth watching.

Christmas Wedding Planner

This holiday movie was so unremarkable that I just had to look it up again to remind myself what it even was. Again – pretty lame!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

We just saw this today and I loved it! I didn’t have the highest of expectations because I’m not really a fan of animated movies in general. But I liked it so much! It was so well done and SO funny. I think the adults watching it probably enjoyed it more than the kids because of the humor. After a month of crappy movies at home, this was really, really great.

What I Read December 2018

Well, the month (and year!) are not over yet and I hate writing these end of month posts until the actual end of the month, even though it causes a backlog of how many posts I want to write. But I just finished my 125th book of the year, so I think I’m going to call it! If I happen to finish any more books in the next two days, they’ll have to roll over into January.

That being said, December was a fantastic reading month! I read NINETEEN books this month!! I’m sure that must be a personal record. Granted, some of them were really short, one was a graphic novel, and two were on audio. But I wanted to make reading a top priority this month and I really followed through. The books I read this month were even so good that I had quite a few 4.5, 5, and 5* (my extra special rating for best of the best) star books! Here they are!

The Christmas Star by Donna VanLiere
Rating: 4 stars

It’s been quite awhile, but I enjoyed going back into this sweet and touching Christmas series. I didn’t have a ton of recollection of the previous books – it’s not necessary, but still nice to have a working knowledge of some of the side characters. But I enjoyed this story of Gabe the custodian, Amy the insurance worker, and the little foster girl Maddie who brought them together. It’s definitely a short and oversimplified story, but a nice fast paced and uplifting read during the Christmas season.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Rating: 5* stars

I never, ever would have found this book on my own – or picked it up if I had seen it. But in my facebook book club group so many people started recommending it and I was intrigued. It’s a collection of real life letters between Helene, an American script writer in the 1950’s and Frank, an English bookseller. The letters span about 20 years and were shockingly delightful in their celebration of the written word. I read the entire book in about an hour and I LOVED it. I laughed out loud and I cried at the end. It was awesome and the perfect book for anyone who just plain loves books!

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this sweet story about a single mom and her 12 year old son who inherit a beach cottage in Maine and visit it around Christmastime to fix it up to get ready to sell. The cottage sounded so lovely, it really made me want to start repainting and changing things up in my own house (if only those things were as easy as the book made it sound!). I did find it a bit unbelievable how eager and helpful Jackson, a 12 year old boy, could be. But it was sweet to see the story of dreams coming true and building a new life that is better for everyone. I just wish the ending hadn’t been so abrupt and unbelievably perfect.

Coming Home to Maple Cottage by Holly Martin
Rating: 3 stars

So my rating does not reflect this, but I made the mistake of assuming this was going to be a Christmasy read because of the snow on the cover and because so many other of Martin’s books take place at Christmastime. But in reality most of this book happens around Halloween and only the epilogue is at Christmas. Just so you know!! I saved it to read in December and was a little disappointed. Anyway, it was a sweet little romance between two very likeable characters and an adorable five year old boy who brings them together. But you have to deal with a lot of frustrating hardship trying to pull them apart just too many times. I read it relatively quickly and enjoyed it, just nothing super special about it.

Verity by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

Colleen Hoover never lets me down! Despite straying from her usual genre, this psychological thriller was amazing and unputdownable. I’m so glad I started it on a weekend so I could read it all in a day. So good! But also very twisted and dark. If you have trigger warnings with things happening to children, this might be a book to avoid. But the storyline as a whole was so great. And not without her usual amazingly written romance woven throughout the pages! I loved both Jeremy and Lowen so very much. I don’t want to say too much about the plot so I don’t give anything away – but read this book if you like fast paced thrillers. It was SO GOOD.

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock
Rating: 2.5 stars

I was pretty disappointed in this Christmas book. Terri Blackstock has proven to be a pretty great author to me over the many years I’ve been reading her, but this particular story felt like it had such an agenda toward all kinds of random little things and it drove me nuts. The first half of the book was so repetitive and boring. There’s a tiny bit of way too fast to be believable romance. I think the second half was slightly redeeming in its message about putting family and personal connection first. Overall, a pretty fast read, but just not that enjoyable.

Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford
Rating: 5* stars

I’ve been slowly working my way through this book for over a year now. Not because it necessarily takes a long time to read, but because I wanted to savor each nugget of wisdom and inspiration. This book is kind of set up like a devotional with 1-2 pages devoted to each topic for the day. I really loved every page and got so much out of it. This would be an amazing book or gift for any mother, especially mothers of littles. I highly, highly recommend it.

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Rating: 4 stars

I made the mistake of assuming this would be a very light and fluffy Christmas read. I was definitely unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster I’d go through with the main characters over a span of nine years. To be fair, I really wasn’t that interested in it the first one hundred pages. But I read through the rest of it over the course of a day as it got a lot more interesting. The premise of the book was pretty frustrating. You can take a good guess on what will happen, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch happen. But overall, I really rather liked it! The characters and their friendships and love for each other even in the worst of times was so strong and endearing. A great Christmastime read.

No Exit by Taylor Adams
Rating: 4.5 stars

Wow, what a crazy book. You will get about a quarter into it and start wondering what in the world could possibly happen for the rest of this book with five strangers trapped in a rest stop overnight during a blizzard? Well, A LOT. Granted it happened on a day I didn’t have anything else going on, but I read this book practically nonstop for an entire day to its end. It was fast paced and stressful and quite a ride. I definitely recommend if you’re into this genre.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
Rating: 4.5 stars

It took me a bit longer than 84, Charing Cross Road to get into it (I missed the letters!), but this little book was every bit as endearing and sweet as the first. Helene’s writing brings so much nostalgia for a time and place that feels magical. A world where people just want to know each other and love books and simply want to experience every bit of life together. This book is basically journal entries of Helene’s trip she finally takes to England. Still so much fun and emotion packed into every entry. I think I would have gotten more out of it if I knew all of the landmarks she visited and there were definitely an overabundance of characters that were hard to keep track of. But it did remind me of my own two trips to Europe and while I wasn’t in England I could easily imagine all the old world charm. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to getting my hands on the third!

The Noel Stranger by Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 2.5 stars

Richard Paul Evans rarely disappoints me and I always look forward to reading his annual newly released Christmas story. But this one just did not cut it for me. While there was nothing wrong with it, per se, I was just bored by it. I get so annoyed by characters (and people!) who are purposely vague when being open and honest would eliminate so much confusion and strife. I get that without that element there wouldn’t be anything to this story. But it annoyed me. And I just couldn’t find much interest in either character.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung
Rating: 5 stars

I happened to see this book listed on a graphic novel recommendation list and promptly requested it from the library because it looked so fitting. And it was! It’s the PERFECT creative rendering of what it’s like to be an introvert. I’m not entirely sure that all introverts could relate to everything Tung drew and wrote about because it obviously has a lot to do with the rest of her personality type as well. But honestly, basically every page just totally hit it on the head for ME. It’s always nice to see a book like this that validates my own feelings and personality traits, especially with how I could relate to feeling down on myself for being the way that I am. It’s better to learn more about yourself so you can accept the way you are and see the benefits to being a person like that out in the world. I’m never quite sure how to give star ratings to graphic novels, but I’m going with a solid 5 for this one because it was perfect for me. And on the plus side – it only took about half an hour to read and counts as another full book for my end of the year attempts to pile on as many books as possible! 🙂

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
Rating: 3 stars

This is a short and sweet little story about a dying man who was an absent father that provided his son with all the material goods and comfort he’d need, but none of his time or presence. As he’s facing death he has the opportunity to do something that will save the life of a little girl and has a huge decision to make. I did feel that this was perhaps a bit more abstract that I was looking for – or I was just really, really tired when I read it at the end of a long and stressful day. But it’s valuable in its lesson about what really matters in life and nice for a short read if you have it lying around.

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (audiobook)
Rating: 3 stars

If you’re in the market for a unique and short (about 3.5 hours) audiobook, this one fits the bill. I was looking for something to listen to besides podcasts for a few days and this was a new release on my Libby app. I had the book earmarked to read at some point, but knew it was unlikely I’d ever have time for it. Anyway, the book is a memoir about the harsh life of a Native American woman (though she only refers to herself as “Indian.”). I have to admit that audiobooks are really hard for me to concentrate on and I never feel like I got as much out of it as if I would have just read it. This memoir is heavy. And it was very disjointed. Disjointed in a way that somehow works, but it was also hard to really feel quite everything she had to say. I also did not find Mailhot to be a very likeable person at all and I had a hard time finding much sympathy for her. Anyway, I don’t regret listening, but still wish I had gone ahead and read it with my eyeballs instead.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (audiobook)
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really fun little romp of an audiobook (less than an hour!). This book has been on my radar for awhile as something to possibly get for Caden. I saw someone recommend the audiobook online, so I went ahead and checked it out. It’s read by Gaiman with a really great production value. While I can’t say it was terribly exciting for an adult, I think a middle grade reader or child would really enjoy it. Perhaps as a family listen on a long car ride. I did end up buying the book for Caden and it has a lot of great illustrations, so either method would work well with the right age group.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Rating: 5* stars

This is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read! I probably never would have even considered it since horror is a genre I adamantly avoid, but I saw the trailer for the Netflix adaptation and it looked so good I wanted to read the book first. A small group of survivors band together in a house against unknown creatures that upon sight cause people to go mad, murdering anyone within reach and then killing themselves. While I do wish there was a little more information given about the creatures and they weren’t such a vague unknown throughout the entire book, I was still held in rapt attention through every page. I loved how it went back and forth between the present journey and the events leading up to that desperate day. This was quite the page turner and did not disappoint!

Blind Kiss by Renee Carlino
Rating: 3 stars

This book annoyed me so much. I don’t like stories about missed opportunities and longing for a different life when you could take control of your circumstances and make the changes that would bring you your happiness. Stop being a dormat and letting other people make choices for you. That’s really all this book is. One long lament to the wrong choices that were made and a life filled with the resulting unhappiness. Too much angst and strife to get to that happy ending so much further down the line.

My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak
Rating: 3 stars

I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book. Jackie is a 16 year old who just lost her entire family in a car accident. She is sent to live with her mom’s friend and their 12 kids – 11 of which are boys – 6 of which are in the high school with her. The family itself is just a bit ridiculous and unbelievable. But I found most of the characters to be endearing and I did like her actual “life with the Walter boys.” I just had problems with the total lack of parental involvement that surely would happen if the situation were real. Jackie also finds herself constantly trying to figure out which of two of the boys she truly had feelings for. The one we’re supposed to be rooting for is such an egotistical jerk and I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for him. But then the second one starts coming across as so immature and pathetic that you don’t want her to pick him either. I think I would have liked the book more if it had nothing to do with falling in love with one of the boys and was truly just her new life in that family.

Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 5* stars

I bought this book on a whim because Colleen Hoover (my favorite) is constantly talking about her author best friend Tarryn Fisher and other than their combined series, I haven’t read anything by her. And I’m so glad I did because this book was good. I read it in a day because I was so drawn into the story. Senna, an emotionally complicated and distanced writer is raped in the woods and found by Isaac, an oncologic surgeon. Drawn to help her, he shows up at her door every single night to help her feel safe, despite how she gives him nothing of herself in return. Years later they are both drugged and kidnapped and wake up in a deserted locked cabin in the wilds of Alaska. I was pretty apprehensive about reading this book because the original cover (not the one above) made it seem like the book would be some kind of weird and kinky romance about a woman and her kidnapper. It’s not. At all. It’s about learning to trust and learning to love and opening yourself up to the unexpected. Overall, I found this book incredibly sobering, but I also could not put it down. I highly recommend it.

Reflections on 2018

2018 was pretty much a year I would like to forget. Reflecting back, there’s really not a whole lot of joyous events that can redeem for all the sucky health related things that happened this past year. The whole year was just plain HARD. But I also think I learned a lot about myself and was able to come out ahead, despite all the trials I had to face.

January did get off to a good start with a lot of fresh enthusiasm for exercise and taking better care of myself. I did a 30 day yoga challenge and if I remember correctly, I only missed one day – if that. I was so proud of myself for following through on something that was really tough for me. I was also doing a lot of walking outside every chance I could. I was on track for really changing my habits around and getting in better shape. And then that awful day at the end of February went and ruined everything.

The day I slipped on that invisible bit of ice and broke my ankle in three places and severely sprained it enough to probably ruin my tendons forever was the worst day of my life. The proceeding surgery and months and months of recovery were a nightmare. The pain alone was horrific, but there was also so much stress and frustration and depression that came along with suddenly not being able to do ANYTHING for myself. There were weeks of slowly crawling across the entire house in blinding pain so I could shower and have one tiny bit of normalcy. Not that that was normal either since I had to wear a bag on my leg that cut off my circulation the entire time I had it on and I needed Greg’s help with everything. I lost control over what foods I could put in my body, what things needed to be shopped for, my ability to take care of my kids or Annie, and I felt completely useless, and worthless. You’d think with some forced down time I could have gotten some reading or rest in, but the pain was so bad and my concentration was completely shot. I was so angry and depressed all the time. I felt like I lost a lot of my friends, or at least the depth of our friendship. (Though the entire situation also showed me who my truest friends were, for which I am grateful.) When Greg had to go back to work I was suddenly on my own with a crazy hyped up dog that I couldn’t do anything for, even if she was practically attacking me because she desperately needed to go to the bathroom. The recovery was so much harder than I ever would have expected. Even now, 10 months later, I’d say my ankle is only at about 60% what it used to be, and the doctor told me that it might not get any better. That’s a sucky diagnoses at age 34.

On top of all my ankle stuff, which really just felt like what the entire year was all about, Greg was also going through some things and had to have surgery in August. It went fine, but he had to suffer through months of pain before the hospital could get around to putting him on the schedule. That definitely didn’t add any joy to our summer.

At the end of summer I was officially diagnosed with high blood pressure and was put on medication. A month later after a bunch of blood tests and an ultrasound, I was also diagnosed with mild fatty liver, which is basically an irreversible condition that happens when you’ve just spent thirty years not taking very good care of yourself. Both things were a huge wake up call that I think I really needed to finally make some changes in my diet. Both conditions would also really be helped with more exercise, but my ankle is still making that quite difficult, especially at this time of the year when I’m scared to death to walk outside for any reason if there’s even the tiniest possibility I might slip on snow or ice.

And to just add to everything else, I’ve also had an infected toe on my left foot for the last nine months. I was on three rounds of antibiotics that didn’t do a thing to help it. Finally, now, it’s just about back to normal.

We also finished up this year with both Shepard and Greg needing glasses. We are just on a roll with health crap. The good news, maybe??? We used up our massive deductible after my surgery at the end of February, so everything else the rest of the year has been “free.” But we also had to spend most of the year paying that deductible off which didn’t leave a lot of extra for vacations or fun.

Speaking of vacations, I did have to cancel my original spring trip I had planned to DC in April because of my ankle break. Originally the physician’s assistant told me that I should probably be okay to still take the trip, which in hindsight was absolutely ridiculous since I still couldn’t even walk without crutches until over a month after that trip would have happened! Fortunately, I was able to go in October and despite some lingering pain, I was able to enjoy it.

We weren’t able to have a big anniversary trip this year, but Greg and I did spend one night away at the end of May to celebrate 12 years together. Honestly, I was still in so much pain from trying to walk that I really don’t remember any of it.

In August, I was feeling well enough to go ahead with the trip I had planned to Minnesota to see my favorite author, Colleen Hoover, at a book signing. I spent two days going to basically every TJMaxx and Marshall’s in the Twin Cities. 🙂 Then I drove down and met Greg and the boys in La Crosse for two more nights. That trip was overshadowed by the bedbug Greg found the first morning we were there. That was the first of not one, not two, but THREE bedbug scares/issues we had in three months. For the record, we never had any bedbugs in our actual house and the third issue turned out not to be bedbugs at all. But all three incidents were enough to make us wary of going to hotels ever again.

In September I was able to go on another little trip by myself to Chicago to see my favorite podcast, The Popcast, live. Greg’s sister joined me for the show which was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that trip even more because I happened to come across an amazing vintage market on my drive down. I’m planning to go to that market annually, it was SO amazing. I finished up the month going to Cranberry Fest with my parents as usual. Though between my ankle and my mom’s hip, it was a bit more of a subdued adventure than usual.

One of the saddest things that happened this year is that my brother and his family decided to move to Nebraska for new jobs. It came as an incredible shock after the rest of the family made the wrong assumption that they were in Wisconsin to stay after they just moved back a year earlier. We’ve still been able to see Hudson about every two months or so, but it’s really sad we can’t all be more actively involved in each other’s lives the way we thought we were going to be when we were given that new (and only!) nephew/cousin.

In Heartstring Annie related news, despite being out of commission for a month or two after breaking my ankle, plus taking almost all of October and December off for more personal time, it’s been my biggest year for sales. I made 224 sales and sold 297 dolls. Plus all the dolls I made that didn’t sell, and dolls I made for gifts and giveaways. That’s a lot! It kind of surprises me, especially at the moment when I haven’t had a single sale in over three weeks. This year has really proven to me that the more I put into it, the more sales I will make. I have a big enough following now that when I make something new, it almost surely sells right away. I got a lot more creative this summer and pushed outside the traditional Raggedy Ann boundaries. It was really fun to follow my more artistic side instead of constantly letting “what people want” force my creative path. I’ve definitely had some serious ups and downs trying to decide if sewing dolls is really what I want to do with my life, but after a month of trying to let myself focus a lot more on writing – my other favorite careerish prospect – I realized that I really do like making dolls for money and keeping the writing as a hobby. So for now, that’s what I’m going to keep doing!

I do think that in the midsts of all our trials, Greg and I have become closer this year. I never could have gotten through those horrible months without him. Without a single complaint he took on full time parenting and dog caring all while still working his full time job and doing everything around the house and out of it. He was truly amazing. I don’t think I would have lasted a week if our situations had been reversed. I don’t believe caretaking is in my genetic code! We definitely still have plenty of ups and downs. It’s really hard to stay connected in this stage of parenting when our kids still need us and want us (mostly him) and our attention constantly. We’ve also gotten a lot busier this year. But he is an amazing partner in life and incredible dad and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. We’ve been trying to make date nights out of the house a more regular thing again and I look forward to prioritizing our marriage more in the coming year.

I think Caden has grown a lot this year as well. We still struggle – a lot. I might regret saying this, but I truly think he’s gotten better in the last few months. He’s becoming more mature. He’s also had to take on more responsibility, walking Shepard home from school when I couldn’t last spring. It worked out so well and I started feeling like it was such a waste of my time  to go myself that he picks Shepard up every day after school this year too. We continue to get raving reports from his teacher about how amazing he is in class – so helpful and smart and patient with his classmates. I still think he’s using up all that patience and helpfulness while he’s at school and saving very little for at home with his us, but…it’s okay. He’s getting there. I’ve been very proud of him lately, especially over the holidays when he’s usually at his worst. He’s really been great this Christmas.

Shepard continues to surprise me in how helpful he can be when he wants to be. He usually makes breakfast for both him and Caden every morning. For the kid who took seven years to fully potty train, it still comes as a surprise when he’ll just randomly start doing things that seem so beyond his years. Or at least things that are beyond Caden’s limited capabilities – usually in the kitchen. He has such a curious and silly spirit and is always up for new things and helping people with projects. Ask him to read for ten minutes or clean his room, though – NOT going to happen. His crazy stubborn streak is still very much alive and well!

And things continue to be well with my sweet babes. Jack and Rory turned 13 in April and are still healthy and well. Jack is starting to have some issues, but nothing decisive yet – he just drinks a ton of water and goes through a massive amount of litter. Both cats are pretty grumpy with each other and Annie, but love being around the four of us more than ever. And my beautiful Annie is happy and wild and still lives for the chance to play with other dogs at the dog park. Despite those rough few months (in which a few friends did help me out by bringing her out to play a few times a week), I think all three of the pets have had a really good year!

So looking back on the year, it was not as bad as it could have been, that’s for sure. I do think I grew as a person and I think I needed those internal health scares to really get me thinking about what I need to change to live a long and prosperous life. I can’t think of any ways that breaking my ankle helped me out. That just sucked. But it is what it is and I just have to keep working and hope it gets better. I’m glad to see this year come to a close, though. I think 2019 will be a much more exciting and joyous year and I can’t wait for it to begin!

Christmas Crazy

Merry Christmas!

The last five days have been such a whirlwind of holiday festivities for us! We’ve been jam packed with family get togethers, lots of quality time, and way too much delicious food.

Friday was my dad’s birthday and the last half day of school before break. I spent the morning running around doing cleanup and then Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson came over! We haven’t seen them since Halloween, which felt like forever. Hudson was in such a smiley and fun mood the whole night!

We all had some Christmas coffee to try and wake up. Shepard was wearing his brand new long underwear, which he’s pretty much been wearing for the last six straight days. I did wash them once in the middle of that span… Two more pairs will be delivered tomorrow, since apparently long underwear is the coolest thing ever!

Getting our selfie in!

Hudson and Annie were pretty much glued to each other’s sides the entire night. They were both fascinated with each other. It was pretty hilarious!

The point of the get together was to celebrate my dad’s birthday, though we weren’t sure he’d be able to even make it. But he switched for a Columbus route and was able to come over during his 30 minute break. I think we set a record for world’s fastest birthday party! We ordered pizzas from a local place, I had Caesar salad and garlic bread made, and we had a giant chocolate Costco cake for dessert. It was a really fun night!

On Saturday morning we had our family Christmas. It was definitely a rocky start because one child did not want to stop playing video games. But we eventually got them in the room and they noticed their new bikes, which we made no attempt to wrap! Both were a little bit too big. I’m not sure Caden will be able to ride his at all yet. We realized later that Shepard’s bike was actually broken and couldn’t be ridden at all. 🙁 It was damaged in the mail, but we Greg didn’t realize until after he had built it and Shepard actually got on it.

Anyway, once everyone settled down, it was a nice morning. The favorite gift was definitely the shared hoverboard. We decided to go with only getting one and having them share, though it’s caused a ridiculous amount of fighting since then. They’re so expensive, though! Plus – bikes. Greg gave me a new end table to go next to my reading chair, a book, a candle, two pairs of earrings, and a couple of Willow Tree figurines from the boys. Oh, and an upholstery cleaner! (lol)

Mid afternoon Greg’s family came over for the night. We just hung out and everybody took turns cuddling under Caden’s new weighted blanket.

Shepard had to show off his hoverboarding multitasking skills. We had Italian roast beef sandwiches for dinner, but also snacked all afternoon on a big cheese tray, veggies and curry dip, and chips and salsa.

On Sunday morning we headed to the big extended family party on Greg’s side. Shepard continued to have epic tantrums every day for one reason or another. I assume they were born from him just not feeling the greatest with a long lasting cold. But still – so annoying to deal with. Besides hoverboard fighting, Caden was shockingly really great the entire week!

Chilling out during the party.

Looking a bit tired!

After the party we took Shepard to Walmart so he could pick out a new bike, again. They didn’t have the same one in stock, but he liked this one more because it was so shiny. It was already built (hallelujah!) and he got to walk it through the whole store and out to the car. Every single person we passed commented on how cool it was and told him merry Christmas. I’ve never seen so many nice people at Walmart!

Greg spent the rest of Sunday playing board games with his family and I took the boys back home for some down time.

Christmas Eve is our biggest day. We got going as early as we could and went to Greg’s parents’ house first. I didn’t really take any pictures besides this one. But we had a big breakfast and then opened all our gifts. The big exciting gift that the boys got to open was our trip to Universal and Harry Potter World in February! Greg’s parents are taking the six of us over Shepard’s birthday weekend/week (because they’ll miss the least amount of school in that time frame, not necessarily because it’s his birthday). I’m so glad they finally know about it so we can talk openly! They were both super excited and immediately started going through the guidebooks to pick out places to eat and rides to go on.

After things died down, I went back home to just sit and chill for an hour. It’s hard to be around people nonstop, even when nothing is going wrong. I also had to get Annie since she couldn’t stay locked up all day. While I was home Greg’s new glasses finally arrived! I brought them back with me and then we had to take another selfie with his new look. He hasn’t really adjusted to them yet.

We ate A LOT of food while we were waiting for my dad to get home to open presents. Gracie was being very protective of my mom and her food!

It was pretty chaotic and crazy once the present opening started. Hudson only lasted a few minutes and then went up to bed. I didn’t take any photos besides this one. But it was a really great day!

Back at home Greg got the boys to bed and Santa came! We have about the world’s biggest stockings, but I still can’t get all the presents into them.

Everyone got up around 7 on Christmas morning – even Greg! We took our time opening our stockings and the boys’ gifts. Santa mostly brought books and board games, but also karaoke microphones and saucer chairs that are supposed to be in their rooms, but they are both using as gaming chairs right in front of the tv.

Annie took it upon herself to finish Santa’s cookies. Jack had to come running to see what she was getting that he wasn’t. He drank Santa’s milk the night before and immediately threw it up everywhere. It was only like five drops, but he is apparently EXTREMELY lactose intolerant!

We hung out at home for a few hours and then went to see Greg’s family for a bit and then mine. It had snowed overnight – an unexpected white Christmas! And Hudson just got new boots from his other grandparents, so he was outside checking out the snow when we got there. Such a wonderful smile!

We had a repeat table full of delicious snacks and then hung out and soaked up our last few hours with Hudson.

And we finally went back home around 4:00 to settle in for the rest of the night. Shepard immediately went to work weaving bracelets together. He also learned how to finger knit on Friday and made himself a gigantic purple “scarf” that he wore all weekend.

I finished up the Christmas night snuggled on the futon with Rory next to me and Annie below me and a pile of books at my side. It was a really nice Christmas and I’m so glad that everyone was able to travel to be there, completing the families on both sides this year. But I do sometimes wish the days could be a bit more laid back with a lot more relaxing and comfy clothes and no responsibilities. I guess that’s what the rest of the week is for!

I hope everyone else had a very wonderful Christmas as well!