We’re in this together

Take a deep breath.

It’s been a weird and stressful week. Church services, social events, sporting events, travel plans and more have been cancelled. The shelves of many grocery stores and convenience stores were wiped clean as people went out and bought items in a panic.

Many people have experienced confusion, anxiety, stress, and feelings of not knowing what to do.

People have been advised to wash hands often and practice social distancing by avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance when possible.

And although it can be a scary time for an individual, it’s not about one person. It’s about all of us. It’s about being safe and careful but also being there for one another and lending a helping hand whenever possible.

It’s about choosing to think about others because individual actions impact those around us.

Brene Brown wrote about this recently and said we all need a shift in mindset: “We need to stay awkward, brave, and kind and love each other and stay calm.”

My husband and I spent the weekend embracing the time to slow down while spending time together at home. We worked on home projects, cooked food together, read books, watched some shows, and took our dog for a walk and enjoyed the fresh air.

Times seem weird and hard right now but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for the blessings surrounding me. I’m thankful for being able to worship from home today and watch the streamed church service. I’m thankful for friends and family. I’m thankful for the ability to get outside, listen to music, get lost in a good book, and write down my thoughts.

Take another deep breath.

We’re all in this together.

February in the books

February was a fun month for reading. I had a mix of genres— historical fiction, dystopian, thriller, non-fiction, and romance.

Here’s a look at what I read:

7) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 3.75/5 stars

This book pulled on my heartstrings. I listened to the audiobook while traveling for work. I enjoyed the audio version but at some points it was hard to follow because of the non-linear timeline. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it got better as it went on. I also enjoyed that although most of the book takes place during World War II, it’s very much a coming of age story. I did have some questions when I finished the book, but I think the author had some plot holes in there because of the setting.

8) The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – 4.5/5 stars

I really liked this book! It’s a young adult dystopian novel that felt like a combination of the Handmaid’s Tale, Hunger Games, and Romeo and Juliet. It was unique and the plot twists were unexpected- I really didn’t guess what was going to happen at any point while reading. There was lot of hype to this book and it held up to it.

9) Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – 4.5/5 stars

I listened to a skip-the-line copy of the audiobook on Libby through my local library. This debut novel was both readable and thought-provoking. It’s about class, race, and relationships. I laughed out loud at times, gasped at others, and got mad as I learned more about the complex characters. The ending wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t hate it. I’d suggest this book to those thinking about reading it.

10) The Wives by Tarryn Fisher – 3.25/5 stars

This book was okay. I will say I don’t always enjoy books that have unreliable narrators so that’s one of the reasons I didn’t love it. The book has been compared to the Silent Patient, which I also didn’t enjoy. I thought it was odd that the major shift happened halfway through the book and then when it seemed like the book was wrapping up there was still a quarter of the book left. I was surprised by the twist at the end and thought the ending was unsettling.

11) The Library Book by Susan Orlean –3.75/5 stars

A nonfiction book about libraries sounds boring, but this book kept me engaged and interested. I also have a newfound respect for how important libraries are in communities around the world. The author talked about fond memories she has going to the library with her mom. I have similar memories with my mom. I loved that time and still enjoy going to libraries today.

“It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for. Such a thrill anticipating the new books we would read.”

12) The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – 3.25/5 stars

I thought this book was super dramatic, but I honestly couldn’t stop reading. I finished it in two days. There were so many secrets that kept being revealed throughout the book that made it a page-turner. I was also surprised by the ending.

13) Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker – 4.75/5 stars

This book started out a little slow and I didn’t care for the banter between Calla and Jonah over the suitcases and makeup. But, the characters and the story grew on me. I loved that the book was set in Alaska and it had a lot of heart. I ended up falling in love with the character and story and full on cried at the ending. I ordered the sequel and can’t wait to dive into it.

14) Nameless series by Dean Koontz – 3/5 stars

I thought the series was pretty good. I enjoyed that they were short stories that were brief and easy to read. I liked learning a little bit more about nameless throughout the series. I haven’t read anything by Dean Koontz before this but will plan to read some more of his books.

My goal is to read 55 books this year. Each month I’m keeping track of which books I’ve read. You can see my January list here.

Writers write, right?

I don’t remember how old I was when I figured out that I wanted to be a writer in some shape or form when I grew up. I do remember writing that I wanted to be an author in a “what do you want to be when you grow up” prompt in grade school.

I remember writing short stories on tan paper with wide lines that were used for writing lower-case and upper-case letters. They were mostly tales about a girl exploring a woods and pasture and discovering a magical tree. No doubt, inspired by my childhood home and the books I read at that age.

I remember my high school English teacher approaching me and telling me about a contest that involved writing a novel. I procrastinated until the week it was due and spent a day and night writing nonstop while my mom and cousin helped me edit it.

I remember getting ideas for stories or novels and filling line after line in moleskin notebooks that still line my plastic organizer draws in my office. I haven’t reread all of them, but I have reread some of them.

For the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to write for different jobs I’ve had. It’s been behind a computer screen instead of a pen and loose paper, but I know I’ve been lucky to be able to keep that dream alive. That’s one of the reasons I restarted this blog. I wanted to get back to writing for fun and for me.

Marie Forleo, in her book Everything is Figureoutable, highlights something that’s been on my mind:

“One of the biggest obstacles to figuring out your dream is this: you incorrectly assume that ‘it’s all been done before.’ You don’t believe you have anything original, valuable, or worthwhile to contribute. You don’t feel special or talented enough to add your voice to the mix. It’s time to set the record straight. No matter how many times you think an idea or creation has been shared in the world, sometimes it takes that one person expressing it in their unique voice, at the right time, in the right place, for it to actually make a difference…there’s always room for more. There’s always room for you.”

I’m using this little space on the internet to share more of my voice. Thanks for joining me along the way.

January in the books

The first month of 2020 was filled with a lot of rest and reading for me. I was sick with a cold for most of the month and although I spent a lot of time traveling for work, I still got in a lot of reading.

Here’s a look at what I read in January:

1. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan – 3.5/5 stars

I’ve enjoyed reading the series. I preferred the first book but thought this was a solid continuation. It was funny, outrageous, and fun. I am team Rachel and will read the third and final book in the series at some point this year.

2. Verity by Colleen Hoover – 4/5 stars

This book was creepy. I read it in less than 48 hours because I wanted to know what happened. I had an idea where this thriller was heading plot wise but still ended up being somewhat surprised. The ending was a little ridiculous, but it got under my skin. I want to check out some other books by Colleen.

3. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators – 5/5 stars

I listened to the audiobook and was floored. I thought I knew the story but there was so much to it that I didn’t know. I do suggest listening to the audiobook and hearing Ronan Farrow tell his own story. It is infuriating at most times because of the amount of people who have been silence and hurt by people in a position in power. It’s a powerful read and ended up being my favorite book I read in January.

4. The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – 3/5 stars

I enjoyed this book. It’s not earth-shattering but it kept me guessing the whole time. I enjoyed learning more about each character as the book went on. I thought each character was guilty at different parts of the story and didn’t guess the ending. It’s fun to read a thriller or mystery novel that keeps you guessing.

5. Circe by Madeline Miller – 4/5 stars

I honestly was surprised I liked this book. Circe has a lot of great reviews, but I personally put off reading it for a long time because Greek mythology isn’t something I’ve enjoyed reading in the past. I downloaded the audiobook and couldn’t stop listening while I traveled for events. I enjoyed that it was a coming of age and a story about choosing your own path.

6. If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais – 4.75/5 stars

Have you ever finished a book and exhaled and just sat in silence for a little bit as you thought about what you read? That was this book for me. I didn’t tear through it and it’s not a quick read at just over 400 pages. It took me a bit to get into it because of the short chapters and shifting perspectives of the three women, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with the book and the women in it. It’s both haunting and beautiful as well as heartbreaking and uplifting. Bookstagram made me read this one and It didn’t disappoint.

What books have you read so far this year? Would you recommend them?

How my bullet journal is helping me plan, organize, and keep memories in 2020

This new year I decided to start a bullet journal. Before getting started I read The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal. I was a little overwhelmed at first wondering if I would be able to keep up with it.

Although I’m still a newcomer to the process it really has helped me plan, track, organize, journal, and keep memories.

The Bullet Journal really clicked for me when I saw it all come together on the page. The future log (for the year), monthly log, and daily log helped me feel more clear-headed and like I had the capability to tackle whatever task, work event, or errand I need to.

In the past I would buy planners and use them for three months before I set them aside and used them less and less as the year went on. The journal has allowed me to keep track of both work and personal stuff. I added a section to each of my daily logs to reflect on the day and keep track of memories.

I also started a section to keep track of the books I’m reading. I created a double spread to write down the books I read each month as well as a bookshelf where I can decorate a book cover. There is another double spread of a “book bracket” where I will choose the best book I read each month and narrow it down throughout the year until there is one book chosen as the book of the year.

One quote in the Bullet Journal Method book is, “in a cut-and-paste world that celebrates speed, we often mistake convenience for efficiency. When we take shortcuts, we forfeit opportunities to slow down and think. Writing by hand, as nostalgic and antiquated as it may seem, allows us to reclaim those opportunities…true efficiency is not about speed; it’s about spending more time with what truly matters.”

The first thing I learned about the bullet journal is that there are a lot of different versions. The creator of the method keeps his journal minimal but very detailed and creative spreads can be found on Instagram and Pinterest. I decided to make my daily logs a little more detailed but have attempted to start small and simple as to not overdo it.

I have created some special collections outside of the monthly and daily logs and the book spreads. I created a gratitude log, a short-term and long-term goals log, a photo log that I’ll update throughout the year, as well as a spread where I tracked the kind of tea my husband and I liked.

Here’s what I’ve used to create my bullet journal: A5 Dot Grid Notebook by Archer and Olive, a six-inch acrylic ruler, Tombow brush pens with soft and hard tips, Sakura Pigma Micron 05 Black pen, Midliners, and Crayola super tips markers.

Do you have a Bullet Journal? What tips do you have?

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.