My year in books

This year I decided to make more time for reading. I grew up reading a lot of books and getting lost in the different worlds and I wanted to get back into the hobby that I enjoy so much. I set a goal of reading 50 books this year and today I finished my 54th book.

Shortest book: Elevation by Stephen King – 146 pages

Longest book: The Stand by Stephen King – 1153 pages

Least favorite books: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames and The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Favorite books: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple, and Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Favorite books broken down by genre:

General fiction – Beartown by Fredrik Backman and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Fantasy – After the Flood – Kassandra Montag

Mystery/thriller – The Whisper Man by Alex North

Horror – The Institute by Stephen King and Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chobsky

Memoir – Know My Name by Chanel Miller, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and Educated by Tara Westover

Young adult – Tell me three things by Julie Buxbaum

Science fiction – Recursion by Blake Crouch

Romance – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Unhoneymooners by Christian Lauren, and Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Historical fiction – The Huntress by Kate Quinn and Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

True crime – I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Detection fiction The Cuckcoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Debut Novel – Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Some of the other books I read this year: Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, The Night Oliva Fell by Christina McDonald, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, The Other Woman by Sandie Jones, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, One Day in December by Josie Silver, River by Peter Heller, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

It felt good to set a goal this year and meet and exceed it. I plan to continue reading in 2020 and have set a goal for 55 books next year. Some books on my to be read list include China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren, Children of Vengeance and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi, and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

A conversation with Bob Goff

Bob Goff is the New York Times Best-Selling Author of Love Does and Everybody Always. But more than that he’s kind, loves Jesus, loves others, and helps people go after their dreams.

I had the opportunity to interview him recently and kept my cool on the outside, but inside I was fangirling. If you’ve read his books you understand he’s a gifted storyteller and I was honored to be able to hear some of his stories in person.

Bob discussed the power of love, availably, and building character rather than career.

“Instead of telling young people what they should do, we should remind young people about who they are and then they’ll figure out the rest,” he says. “…I want us all to take a genuine interest in each other.”

He told the story of a women named Kelly who received a heart transplant and now travels the world climbing mountains with her new heart.

“But here’s the deal, her heart always thinks it’s at sea level so she had to figure out how to whisper to her heart,” he says. “I hope young people are reminded about whispering to their heart about who they used to be, who they want to be, and what they want to be remembered for. I want to remind people about who they are – that’s where it gets good.”

His biggest advice is to maintain childlike faith as you get older.

Maintain youthful idealism and enthusiasm,” he says.  

Some other takeaways:

-There’s power in availability. Bob printed his cell phone number in the back of his book. He believes there’s a power in being present and available to the people in your life.
-God doesn’t think less of you because you keep messing up. Failure is part of the process and it’s more about how God helps us keep going.
-We can’t fix what we don’t understand. Go deeper to understand who you are and what you want to do. That will help you be able to change the things you want to change.
-Use what you already have to get what you want. You are gifted with certain skills and character traits. Use them to get what you want and encourage others to do the same in the process.
-Your words can impact others. Words can change everything for someone and God made it so ordinary people can launch each other.

I walked away from the conversation with a smile on my face. Bob’s smile and laugh is contagious as well as his love for others.

Want to know more about Bob? He’s an attorney and the founder of Love Does- a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda, India, Nepal, Iraq, and Somalia.

Growing through loss

I had an epiphany at an Andy Grammer concert.

If you don’t know Andy Grammer, he is an American singer/songwriter and some of his singles have included “Keep Your Head Up”, “Fine by Me”, “Honey, I’m Good”, and “Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah).”

His latest album came out in July and is called Naïve. Grammer has said it’s for the light bringers and the people who choose to see the good in everything, even in the overwhelming chaos of bad. Some of my favorite songs from the album are “I Found You”, “She’d Say”, “Stay There”, and “Best of You.”

My husband and I attended his concert in Indianapolis on Sunday night and it was everything I thought it would be- joyful, inspiring, uplifting, positive, dance worthy, and sing-along-able.

When Grammer got to his song “Wish You Pain” he talked about how going through life’s difficulties can make you a stronger person and can help you grow. To illustrate this idea at his concert he asks an audience member to share a lesson they’ve learned from a painful time in their lives and then writes a song about it on the spot.

It was during this time that I started thinking about the past several years and how I’ve had some of these hard times. My father passed away three years ago, my father-in-law passed away two years ago, and my grandma passed away one year ago. But during that time I met and leaned on my now husband. I prayed more and leaned on God because all of these things were out of my control. I spent more time with my family. I spoke more openly about heartache, grief, and loss. I read and wrote more. I let myself be sad and happy and I spent more time growing into who I am right now.

I still miss them every day but I also know that a part of them is with me. So I’m choosing to lean into that and grow a little each day.

“If it’s stupid to see the good in everything, then call me naive.”

Andy Grammer

And just like that it’s fall

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost October. This year has flown by, especially these past two months. I’m really taking advantage of the new season to reset, slow down and enjoy the apples, books, pumpkins, cozy sweaters, fall-themed candles, cider, cooler temperatures, and turning leaves.

Here’s some fall inspired quote to kick off the season:

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” -Oscar Wilde

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Breathe in, folks. Smells like fall.” -Gilmore Girls

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” -Albert Camus

“Fall is a three-month exhale.” -Mari Andrew

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ―L. M. Montgomery

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me / Fluttering from the autumn tree.” -Emily Brontë

What’s your favorite quote about fall? Did I miss any?

My very own summer reading program

One of my favorite childhood memories is participating in my library’s summer reading program. Basically the more books you read, the more points you earn and you can exchange your points for prizes.

I decided this summer I would do my own summer reading program, if you will. No, there aren’t points or prizes. I’ve just been checking out books from the library and reading as much as I can.

Here are some of my favorite books I’ve read.

1). Beartown – Fredrik Backman

I started Beartown in the spring and read a few chapters before I put it down. The chapters were short but there were so many characters it was hard to keep them straight. I decided to pick it up again in June and I’m glad I did. It’s a slow burn, but the character development and story is so good. Beartown is a book about a hockey town, but it’s not a hockey book.

2). Us Against You – Fredrik Backman

I loved Beartown so much I had to read the sequel. Sometimes sequels get a bad rap, but I didn’t find that to be true with Us Against You. The book broke my heart into a million pieces, but in the best way. I fell in love with the characters and hurt when they hurt and cheered on their successes.

3). Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

Miracle Creek was more than just a thriller or courtroom drama. I thought the author did a great job of conveying deep, complex, and messy people. The book tackles family ties and facing the consequences of your actions. It also kept me guessing until the end.

4). The Lost Girls of Paris – Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris started a little slow, but after awhile I couldn’t put it down. It’s a historical fiction novel about women working with the SOE as spies during World War II. It was nerve-wracking and pulled on my heartstrings at the same time. I can’t say I loved everything about it, but it did a great job of showing how fierce and resilient women are.

5). The Wedding Date – Jasmine Guillory

After diving into some historical fiction novels and thrillers, I needed a break. The Wedding Date was just what I needed. It was a quick read and it was charming. I loved reading about Alexa and Drew. I also read The Proposal – the second book in the series. The third book, The Wedding Party is up next for me.

Just like everyone, I have also read books that I wish I could unread.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames was that book for me. I thought it was unnecessarily long and unnecessarily depressing. It has a lot of good reviews on Goodreads, but it was not the book for me. I will say the beginning was intriguing and had a lot of promise and I liked reading about the Italian-American immigrant family. But, I found it so grim and depressing that I wouldn’t recommend reading it.

What about you? What are you reading? What did you like and what ended up on your did not finish list?

Learning to work from home

For the past two years I’ve worked remotely. I travel quite a bit on work assignments, but it has still been an adjustment.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about working from home. Be honest- did you just picture someone working in their pajamas, watching tv, and doing laundry and other chores whenever they want? You’re not the only one, but that’s not what it’s like.

I still don’t have it all figured out, but here’s what works for me.

1.) Create a morning routine

I can’t just jump right into work right away because my brain still needs to wake up in the morning. So each morning I read a devotion. I’m currently reading 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs. I then spend 5-10 minutes meditating. I like the guided meditations by Tone It Up. They are free online and really set the tone for the day. Click here for an example of one.

2.) Take breaks

If I don’t make myself take breaks during work I will sit at my desk all day. I try to take a 10-minute break in the morning and the afternoon. Sometimes I take my dog for a walk and other times I read a chapter or two of a book outside on my deck. Giving my eyes a break from the computer screen and my brain a break from work helps me come back to the desk refreshed.

3.) Create a welcoming space

I have a giant canvas photo over my desk. It was a gift from my brother and it was taken at Holden Beach, one of my favorite places in the world. I have a standing desk with a tall chair so I can sit if I want but I also have the option to stand. I have a globe from my grandma and some wedding photos in frames around the room. My office is in our guest bedroom and the windows are at my back when I work, so I also bought a floor lamp to light up my workspace (I found some cute décor at World Market and Target).

4.) Stay organized

There is something at home that makes it harder to stay organized. I purchased a desk calendar and a planner to keep organized. I have a lot of interviews and meetings throughout the week so the only way I keep them straight is with seeing them on the calendar and planner. I don’t like setting calendar reminders on my computer because I get too many of them and seeing them in writing on my desk keeps me on track.

5.) Shut the door to your office and walk away from your work at night

The one thing no one told me about working from home is how easy it can be to keep working through the evening. When you go into an office you physically leave the building and drive home at the end of the day. That doesn’t happen when you work from home. It’s so easy to continue answering emails and keep working into the evening hours without realizing it. I’ve made a conscious effort to stop working at a certain time, turn off the lights and my computer and walk away from my desk. I sometimes still check my email on my phone, but I’m working on it. 🙂

These are some of the ways that I’m learning to work from home and maintain that work-life balance.

What about you: do you work from home or have you worked from home in the past? What works/worked for you?

Missing my dad on father’s day

I’ve written about my dad passing away unexpectedly at 60 years old and I’ve written about how my grief has changed over the past two and a half years.

I wouldn’t say it has gotten easier, because that’s a strange way to think about it. It sure hasn’t gotten easier he isn’t here. But, I would say as time has passed my grief has changed. I still have some off days but they come and go.

This week I had a few of those days. I was easily annoyed and a little sad and I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until I saw a Father’s Day commercial that it clicked. I was really missing my dad. I saw a grief counselor after my dad died and her words came to mind. She said that your body has a time clock and even if you aren’t thinking about an anniversary or holiday coming up you can find yourself being in a bad mood or upset. She said your body just knows.

That was happening to me. Instead of trying to fix it or push it away I let myself feel sad and then I thought about things that my dad has taught me.

He taught me how to work hard. Whether it was a sport or a career he taught me what it means to work hard at something.

He offered advice when I was unsure of something and it showed me that I am more capable than I might realize. It taught me to believe in myself and to be kind to myself.

He taught me how to ask for help when I need it. He was always there anytime I needed something and today I am able to accept help and ask for it when I need it.

He taught me to let things go and to not take myself so seriously. I tend to take things to heart and overthink things and he helped me learn how to laugh at situations and myself.

I could go on and on because the list doesn’t stop there, but I will just say that I am thankful for the time I had with my dad even if it wasn’t nearly long enough.

Instead of staying here in this feeling of sadness I’m thinking about the countless softball practices my dad took me to and hearing his voice say “finish” during softball games. I’m thinking of summers and bonfires and swimming when he would quiz me while I was on a raft and if I got it wrong he would tip me off of it. I’m thinking about him taking me to see the Disney movie the Princess and the Frog in theaters and watching tv in the basement. I’m thinking about simply sitting on the porch and talking or not talking but just enjoying the time together.

Thanks for everything, dad. I miss you.