Check-In

Hello, world.

TBH, I just haven't felt like blogging lately...so I haven't.

Apparently all I've blogged about lately are books, which kind of makes sense. I'm on book 10 or 11 for the year, and it's only the first week of February. This is a bit much for me, although I usually have peaks and valleys so maybe it's not as unusual as it feels.

In general...everyone has still been sick. We had a week, maybe two, of health. And then...

I GOT PINK EYE. I don't even understand how. Supposedly Babycakes had red eyes at daycare, but they decided it didn't look like pink eye so they didn't call us to get her. She was mostly fine but Saturday my eye started pouring goo and Sunday I woke up with it swollen.

Hubs had it a few weeks ago, due to allergy backup which I didn't even know was a thing, but his didn't swell so he got a little concerned looking at mine. I didn't want to pay for urgent care, but I remembered the new online doc thing so I tried that. 30 minutes from creating an account to seeing a doc and getting a Rx. For half the price of urgent care- WIN. I ended up taking Babycakes to the doctor on Monday just to be sure...so its eye drops every four hours and hand-washing every 4 minutes. Super fun.

I/we as a family had a great week, and then a crap week, and now...idk. It's fine. Living my life.

I'm getting tired of hearing from other people, to be honest, and tired of putting anything out there. The world feels noisy, and I don't feel like my particular noise is needed or wanted or, more importantly, helpful.

So things are fine, but my time and energy is just going to different places that are better for me.

And my blog is the one place in my life I don't have to defend myself, but for the very few who actually read this blog on a regular basis, I thought I would pop in and ensure that I am not dead.

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: February 2020


Hello, everyone. Haven't blogged since last month's SUYB, but I have read a fair number of books! For those of you who are regular readers, a general check-in is coming later this week...but hey, I'm alive.

I have two reading goals this year, which include 1) read more new releases, 2) read the Goodreads 2019 Choice Awards / Best Books of the Year.

Southern Lady Code Helen Ellis
This book was so hilarious. I loved it. Helen Ellis is classically Southern, who moved to New York, and recognizes the beauty and insanity of both worlds, and comments on them with incredibly wit.
4 Stars

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the future by Ryder Carroll
As someone who has been bullet journaling for over three years now, I kind of felt like I needed to read this book. It was a little much in some parts, where he gets very...introspective and thoughtful about some things that just didn't need it, IMO. But there are so many Facebook groups and YouTube channels that bullet journaling seem like it's only for people with unlimited free time and A+ artistic skills, so I deeply appreciated this reminder that the system was developed to be a useful tool rather than a DIY trophy to show off.

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country by Helen Russell
If it weren't for my family's inevitable freak-out, the ridiculously cold weather, and the fact that Danish is really hard to learn...I think I could move to Denmark. Nice to see a country that actually cares about it's citizens. I don't think we could ever get this socialized in America, for many reasons...but it's a dream.

The Line that Held Us by David Joy
Um...wanted to love this, didn't. I actually told my husband...maybe I've read too many female authors, because this felt very dude-y in a bad way. I didn't connect to the characters, one of them slowly descended into madness, and the ending was a fucking let-down and weird. It's from an NC author, and set in a world that I actually know really well (Southern, small town, hunters, tight families)...but it just wasn't the book for me.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
This book made me confident that I wasn't hating on male authors, just that last book. This one won the best Mystery & Thriller category on Goodreads, and for good reason. Nice psychological thriller. Not confident about all the psychology in it, certainly never heard of some of the theories put forth...but that's the psych degree talking. Overall a great read.

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth
 Another multi-perspective family story that completely won me over. The MIL relationship is super weird, and that was nice to see discussed. BUT, I really liked how things that seemed completely stupid and random and even offensive from one person's point of view, made complete sense and was actually super sweet from the other person's perspective. COMMUNICATION. As a species, we are not good at it. I identified with the DIL because, well, I am one- but I identified with the MIL personality wise.

The Hand of the Wall (Truly Devious #3) by Maureen Johnson
 This is the third and final installment of the Truly Devious series. I have the same review of it as I had of the last one- pretty good, probably would be better if I had just read them all in a row. I love a series, but do not do well with a gap between books. Fun and interesting YA read.

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong
Winner of the Goodreads Humor category. And for good reason! SO HILARIOUS. If you know women of child-bearing age, please at least read the chapters about miscarriage and new motherhood. Sounds lame, but if you know women going through either of these stages (which is just statistically likely) then you NEED to in order to not be an ass (probably, maybe you're naturally super smooth but most of us aren't). It's a testament to her skill as a comedian that these chapters are fundamentally hilarious while also perfectly encapsulating the range of emotions these stages come with.




What have you been reading lately? Link-up and let us know!
Life According to Steph

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: January 2020



It's the first SUYB of a new decade! Whoo hoo! Looking forward to lots and lots of good books in the upcoming year/s.

After rereading this...it sounds like I haven't liked any of my recent reads. But they were all good! Nothing that I absolutely loved but very strong reads.

The Books


The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michele Richardson
This book was good...not necessarily I wanted but good. My one complaint is that the word Kentucky is used way too much. The state of Kentucky, the river named Kentucky, Kentucky whiskey...I get it. It's about Kentucky. Sadly this is a trope of a lot of Southern novels...either because we have a chip on our shoulder and feel the need to defend, or because we are still thought of as "other" by so much of the country that it's important to reminder non-Southerners every five seconds so they don't loose the vibe of the story. Either way, if you remove half of the times that shows up it would be a better book IMO. Still worth reading, just...ya know, personal gripe.



 This was a more fun, slightly creepy in a Stepford-ish way. I did not suspect the true identity of Isabelle and was a little blindsighted. The end wasn't exactly wrapped up in a way that I loved, it was still a great book. TBF I have issues with the endings of a lot of books...so maybe I just get upset when things I like end?







Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
As expected, this was a good read. Is it Evelyn or Daisy level? No. But it was a good read. It switches back and forth between two "lives" of one character...really between two possible lives, showing the two different paths a life can take based one single choice. Interesting to see the things TJR let stay the same between the two options, and what she made seem almost trivial or easily swapped. I liked one story better than the other...but enjoyed both. Each chapter was both exciting and frustrating because I wanted to keep the current story but also check back in with the other one...an interesting experiment.


This book was...hard. It was long, and simply written. Which is fine...but I prefer slightly more emotion, and even the emotional parts were laid out somewhat matter-of-factually. Which is sometimes good to read and sometimes not as fun to read. The span of the main character's life...so long. So painful, and also joyful. So strong, and so...random, regarding the occurrences and who survived and who did not. So far this review doesn't sound like I like it, but I did! It just had a lot to chew on, and I'm not done yet. If some books are light and fluffy like cotton candy, this was more like a steak. 



 
Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha #2) by Tomi Adeyemi
Oh, boy. This is a complicated one. Here's the thing: I did not like reading this book. It did not immediately pull me in like the first book of the series. However...it did what it did really well. Like any good dystopian rebellion...it was intense. And super frustrating at times. But what it did an excellent job at is beautifully expressing the ways our personal feelings and viewpoints can have drastic effects. It is a war, and war is uncomfortable.

 




This is another one that was a slow burn- after three in a row, maybe it was me! I was actually thinking of not even continuing the series (#3 should come out sometime this month)...but by the end I was sucked in. TBF, had I went back and read #1 I probably would have liked this more. But some things were foggy. It's very much a "whodunit" YA...and I like those books but sometimes I just don't feel like analyzing everything, so it's a slow burn until the character completely figures it out and tells me what's going on, haha.







What have you been reading lately? 
Link-up and let us know!
Life According to Steph

Books of the Decade


 original image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash



It's standard for SUYB to do a best books of the year post, but until my local library posed the question on Facebook I didn't even consider thinking of the best books of the decade.

But, once the idea was in my head I couldn't get it out.

First are just the best books I could remember off the top of my head. Then I went to Goodreads for my challenges for each year, which date back to 2011, to see what jumped out at me from those lists. The dates listed are the dates I read the books, not the dates they were released...because I'm selfish and count it by my experience rather than a published date.

Note: My reading life definitely improved around 2017...not sure why, but returning to those books made me smile. 2015 & 2016 were also good reads, but the other years were not as happy to look back over. The few I listed are really the only ones of worth and lots of the ones from my Goodreads lists felt pointless and regrettable. It also tracks that since my overall number of books read increased as the years went on, the number of "best" books each year also increased.




The first books I thought of off the top of my head were:




2019:
As previously stated, Daisy Jones & The Six was by far the standout book for me last year. Check out the rest of my 2019 top reads here.


2018:

Circe by Madeline Miller

Puddin' by Julie Murphy
 
A Tyranny of Petticoats, edited by Jessica Spotswood

All the Ugly & Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado

Honorable mentions: Dr. Greta Helsing series by Vivian Shaw





2017:








2016:

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

You by Caroline Kepnes

Honorable mentions: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, Scandalous Women by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon



2015:







2013 & 2014
Not sure why, but these years are sparse on Goodreads! Like, less than 10 books for two years. Not sure what happened...for 2014 especially I don't know why I didn't track more.

All I have listed for 2013 is about the first 20 books of the Stephanie Plum series. Not the best, but they were mental junk food that got me through a super hard time in my life.



2012:

Millennium Trilogy (aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky




2011:





2010:
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Honorable mention: What Southern Women Know about Faith: Celebrating a Heritage of Grace and Strength by Ronda Rich

I was clearly homesick in Colorado, and needed some Southern in my life. One of the many blessings of books.



What books really stuck out and meant something to you in the last decade?

2020 Reading Goals

 Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash


I don't typically do a lot of specific reading challenges or goals. In the past, it's felt restricting and made reading not enjoyable for me.

So this isn't a challenge or resolution or goal that I'm going to kick myself over if I don't meet it every month (or at all).

But, sometimes loose guidelines are more helpful than restrictive. And the SUYB link-up has confirmed that I'm terrible at keeping up with new releases and popular reads. And sometimes that's okay, because not everyone likes everything. But I do like having general knowledge of pop culture.

So, I've come with some goals for 2020.

First, the overall goal of reading 60 books this year. That feels like a lot...but I read 64 books in 2019. Which was 14 over my goal. I've been doing Goodreads challenges since 2011 and the number of books read has slowly increased almost every year. My 2011 goal was 26, so definitely a big jump in 9 years.



My second goal is to read the winners of 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards. I've already read two of them. And for two categories I'll be reading the runner up, because the first choice is either a second in a series or I just really didn't want to read that author. My goals, my rules.



Lastly, I am going to attempt to read more new releases. Previously, my habit has been to wait on reviews and then grab a book. This leads to a lot of waitlists at my library...so I'll attempt to request books earlier and actually track new releases. This will probably be the hardest...but we'll see how it goes.

Post 2019 Holiday Wrap Up

Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

Hello, internet. TBH, I can't remember how long it's been since anything appeared on this blog because I think I scheduled a bunch of posts before starting my holiday break, but I'm not sure and I'm too lazy to check.

There has been an intro to 2020 post, but in general it's been a few weeks since I blogged anything current.

 Since I work in education, I have a very long break for Christmas. This year it actually ended up being over two weeks.

It was supposed to be a little less than a week and a half, but one day was taken off early to visit my in-laws. The day that was supposed to be my last day at work, Babycakes woke up throwing up at 0430. And I was supposed to go back last Thursday, but half of my office was out and since Hubs & I have been trading a cold back and forth for two weeks, I decided to rest.

So, from that brief synopsis, you may guess that it's been an interesting few weeks and basically I have no idea what's going on either in the world at large or my own life, really. Let's go back a bit and tackle this in chronological order.

The Thursday that was supposed to be my last day of work, Babycakes woke up around 0430. This isn't normal but it's not exactly strange either, kids wake up at random times. She complained her tummy hurt, but since she didn't eat dinner the night before I figured she was just hungry. Sometimes she doesn't eat if she doesn't like dinner or is grumpy or tired...we do not do "special meals" in our house for her, because...just no. But, she hadn't even drank her milk at dinner which was weird. Anyway, 0430 and I'm half asleep so I get her a small cup of milk and an applesauce pouch. She takes a few sips of each, says she doesn't want anymore, and lays back down. Before I can get a cup of coffee made, she's calling me again. Go back to her room and she's sitting up vomiting.

Not ready for this. Take her to the bathroom, wipe her off, throw PJs and bedding into the washer, and pray it was just the cold milk on an empty stomach. Try to take her to my room and lay down, knowing I'll have to call out of work because daycare rules state she can't attend until 24 hours fever/vomit free. We lay there maybe 45 minutes, not sleeping because...she never sleeps if I'm around. Then she throws up again, manage to get her to the bathroom and over a trash can. At which point she says "Mommy I need medicine" in a super pitiful voice. I have to meekly explain that...there isn't a ton of medicine for stomach bugs, you sort of just have to deal with it, and also ya know...it's kind of early and I'm not dragging her out to the store right now. She does not take this well and sadly goes "But no, I need special medicine" because this is the first stomach bug she can remember and thankfully she actually rarely gets sick so she doesn't understand and it was that moment as a parent where it just sucks because you can't help and she doesn't understand because, hello, parents kind of know everything right?

So I have a sick kid and I'm stressing about missing my last day of work and leaving to visit the ILs the next day and my husband wasn't there so he calls to say he was on the way and when I tell him Babycakes is sick he has the same "Fuck this timing" thought I did (we are good parents, promise, but...holidays are a stressor, okay). And then he says he would just want to go anyway and I almost throw my phone because multiple hours in a car with a vomiting child sounds like torture for me and her and yeah I almost lost my shit. Anyway. 

Babycakes and I watch television because WTF else do you do when you are sick? Thankfully, I guess because she didn't have much on her stomach anyway due to not eating, there were no more incidents. And actually...by 0900 she was fine. Like, energetic and eating and talking and I'm going WHERE IS THE COFFEE I NEED AN IV because...0430 vomit wake up call, guys. She didn't even want to take a nap and I explained she had to because she was sick (and also 0430 vomit wake up call for mama) she goes "But I'm feeling better, I'm not sick" since she hadn't thrown up in a few hours. Thanks to the mom network, found out there were 2-3 other kids who either were sent home or didn't come in from her daycare class for the same thing.

Anyway. She was fine after that, thankfully it was a fluke fast stomach bug, but that ended up being an ominous start to the holiday break.

The next day we leave for my ILs. It was a good visit, especially since Hubs & I hadn't been to stay in a while. Babycakes has gone for several visits but it just hasn't worked for us to join them. We got one huge "joint" present this year instead of separate gifts, and it's really like 70% for Hubs. But, we also got cash and the joint present was expensive so I tried to smile and pretend to be as happy as he was. I do appreciate the gesture a lot, but the gift itself (a sound bar, so makes TV/music sound...super cool?) is just not something I personally care about at all. Bonus, we went to a German restaurant because my Hubs loves German food and we don't have one in our town...and I actually found something I really liked! German food just isn't my jam, but my only issue was the slight saltiness. Otherwise, it was very nice.

On the ride home I started sneezing a lot and...thus it began.

I got a weird sinus thing/cold I don't even know, so by the time Christmas rolled around and we were going to my parents I was living off of Alka Seltzer (which, btw, actually isn't bad once you put the correct amount of water...instead of half the amount suggested which is what I did for the first two days). So...more TV for Babycakes because something like loading the dishwasher zapped all my energy.

To add insult to injury, my nose was so clogged that my heart rate was already constantly elevated because I couldn't breath so I couldn't even drink coffee to try and get some caffeine energy. If I took more than 4 sips my heartbeat went crazy which made me feel worse. I had plans to be a good mom on this break...and it was just TV central.

Side note: whoever said TV was not a baby-sitter...good for you, but what-the-fuck-ever man. TV saved me. And I'm sad about it but I'm also not because...fuck, y'all. Mom-ing is hard and being sick is hard and holidays are hard and it was the best choice that allowed cuddle time and rest for us both.

Sorry if this post is more cussing heavy than normal...I've been around a small child for almost two weeks straight and have had no where to let my eff-bombs out.

Anyway. On Christmas Eve we made cookies to put out for Santa, along with beer. Hubs made a joke last year that Santa loves beer, and Babycakes took it very seriously. So that's our new tradition- a Guiness along with cookies. Obviously, Santa gets milk at all the houses and could use something special every now and then.

The next morning Babycakes opened her gifts...and y'all. Two major things. One, she loved her dollhouse and it's her favorite gift ever. Love that she is getting to the point where she can really uses her imagination and create her own stories and also that she immediately went for the biggest gift first, bahaha. Two...a watch that Hubs got her while we were all shopping together months ago made it in the Santa presents. Immediately upon opening it, she goes "But Daddy got me this, how is it from Santa?"

Three. She is fucking three. And we've already fucked up.

Insert scrambling story about mailing it to Santa and blah blah blah. People act like kids will forget shit, but let me tell you...they are smart little fuckers. With ridiculous memories. This came up at least twice after the holidays. Hoping she doesn't remember next year... but who knows.

After that, she played a little bit while we scrambled to get ready to go to my parents. It was a really nice visit, and I especially loved seeing her with my great-grandparents. All of Hubby's grandparents have passed already, and mine are definitely showing signs of aging. But they are here, and we were super close when I was younger, and I'm grateful Babycakes is getting to know them.

I started feeling slightly better, but by the time we got home Hubs started feeling sick. Y'all...it's been rough. Babycakes never got sick after that very first day, but Hubs & I have been battling something for two weeks now. He has a job with very long, weird hours and his worst shifts happened over Christmas. It's fine, we dealt, but I'm not going to lie...it was tiring. I am not a SAHM for a reason. Add in the traveling...and it was almost a week before we got our tree down. And the normal decorations haven't made it back yet. Just...whoops. Also Hubs & I just weren't on the same wavelength. This happens in marriage sometimes, or at least ours. Some days we click and sometimes we just don't. We got in an argument this past week and Hubs went to lay down in our bedroom, which he never does. He woke up four hours later and came to apologize for disappearing for that long...and I was napping on the sofa. So, we know it's been a lack of sleep and health.

He had to work on New Year's Day, so I'm pretty sure we packed it in around...1700. Don't even care. We started feeling slightly better so I think we are officially on the mend. Whether it's the weather or just run it's course or the Elderberry gummies I picked up because I'm so desperate...we're both off the Alka Seltzer at least, bahahaha. We're GETTING SO OLD.

Oh, and in the midst of all this our washing machine finally died. It's truly not even a big deal because this has been coming for YEARS. Our old one, which came with the house and was probably 12-13 years old, has been having error messages for years. It might run a full cycle with no problems, and it might stop like 4 times and require us to go poke at the wires. But seriously, at least once a year I would research a new one and we'd save up and then it would magically work for 6 more months with no issues. We looked into repairing it, but everything we could find suggested it would be 85% as much as buying a new washer, so we just did it.

Shout out to my awesome husband, who just got a raise, and whose raise + holiday pay allowed us to buy it without even super stressing financially. Overall, it was the least stressful home appliance purchase ever. We didn't even research that much and I started to feel bad when our friend asked if we knew what we wanted (he was there for muscle and to lend his truck, God bless him). But, turns out the one he and his wife just purchased last year when they built their house was on sale and within our price range, so we pretty much immediately agreed to just trust their judgement and picked it.

Everyone has gone "Oh no" when I said we had to buy a new washer immediately after the new year...but I'm honestly so happy. I knew it was coming, it's been hanging over my head for a long time. Now it's done and that's a huge relief.

Afterwards we treated him to a burger and visit to our favorite local brewery as a thank you. His wife joined us when she got off work and it was a great way to end the holiday break, with some calm friend hang out time. Also, I got a little tipsy...because I rarely drink anymore and it only took about 2 beers.

Oh, and I also did a New Year's 5K! I rucked it instead of running.

Rucking is walking with a weighted rucksack, aka backpack. Or, as GoRuck puts it, cardio for people who think running sucks. 

I've tried to be a runner, y'all. It's just not for me, I hate it so much. But rucking I can do, and do relatively well. Hubby rucks all the time, it's been a huge factor in his recent weight loss, and it's something we both actually enjoy doing together. I've been wanting a ruck sack of my own, so Hub's got me one for Christmas! I've already been...four times. So that's awesome. Lots of my FiA friends ruck, and plus this is something I/we can do with Babycakes. Overall it's very exciting. Now I just need patches!

Anyway. Tomorrow I start back to work, and I am slightly sad but also very happy to get back in the routine I know is coming. Babycakes has had a bit of a tough week at daycare/weekend at home, and I can't super blame her because things have been so weird lately.

What's up with you lately?

Hello 2020

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash



Happy 2020! I hope it will be happy anyway. Isn't that always the hope for a new year?

And this is a new decade. I don't know what that feels so significant this year. I don't remember every even registering decades in the past...but this time I feel much more aware of the significance of that. Age? Parenthood? General state of the world? Who knows.

I'm not really interested in looking back...really only in looking forward. That said, I did take a look back at my first post of 2019 just to see how I generally start of the year here on the blog.

It made me both sad, because 2018 was hard for me, and happy because...I think 2019 was a good year for me as a person.

So if I am choosing a word for 2019, it would be more like Replenish. The damage has been done. It's time to clean up the mess, identify the foundational cracks, and restore things back to normal. I can't and won't handle pressure to be better or different this year. I'm it. I'm me, and this version of me is just going to have to be good enough. I'm taking this year to enjoy myself and my life.

That feels true. Last night during bedtime prayers, Babycakes put her arms around Hubs & I and said "I'm so glad I have y'all."

That is exactly what I wanted when I went into 2019. I wanted to get to a place of a replenished soul. And I think I got there. My relationships feel better. My head feels clearer. While there aren't really things I can point to as accomplishments in the traditional self...I have accomplished a lot of small, personal goals.

And you know what? They don't feel small. They feel...good. They make me happy. I'm focusing on the little things and you know what...they fucking matter. They matter to me. Does anyone else care that I painted my living room after five years of regretting a paint choice or replaced some home decor or learned to accept big parts of my personality or learned to be super honest and concise about what I need?

No. But I feel so much better. And while I'm have traditionally liked doing the Word of the Year...I can't find one this year. Because I just want to enjoy where I am. I want to just...keep going in the direction.

Actually, as usual writing it out helped me figure it out. My word for 2019 will be nurture.



I don't want to focus on specific things anymore...I want to focus on the kind of life I want, and the kind of person I want to be. And things that line up with those desires will be implemented in my life.

Show Us Your Books: 2019 Favorites



TBH, this post was difficult for me. Originally I just looked at my 2019 Reading Challenge to see if anything jumped out. The only one that really did was Daisy Jones & The Six...because, I friggin' love that book. It's by far my favorite read of the year.



The next two that I thought about were After I Do and Church of Marvels. These are probably two books that I have thought about on and off a lot since reading.  After I Do had a line about marriage that I think more people need to take to heart. Church of Marvels featured a LBTQ+ love story in the late 1800s-early 1900s and mental health issues and family drama and has stuck in my brain.



From Here to Eternity was an enlightening, weird journey across different cultures and just...peak positive 2019.



But, 4 out of 60 seemed like not much. So I looked closer and was surprised to see that I had actually rated a few books as 5 stars this year.

Becoming and Where the Crawdads Sing...there's just nothing else to say. They've been rightfully praised everywhere and by nearly everyone.



Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and An American Marriage were also big hits, and for good reasons. Eleanor was an adorable, quirky heroine who was quietly brave and this was heartwarming. An American Marriage was...the opposite. It was a hard read. The characters were sometimes hard to root for, the situation was scary, the relationships were twisted...but it was relevant and important and worth a read.




Bannerless and The Crossing Places were great intros into new series. Bannerless is a bit of a dystopian world, which may have peaked as a genre overall but this is still a very worth-while read. The Crossing Places introduced an anthropologist and detective that definitely gave me a little UK Bones vibe...in a great way. Myth and mystery are intertwined in a great read.


Speaking of series...gotta mention Courting Darkness. I'll always love anything that deals with the His Fair Assassins world. While this book has been touted as a companion series rather than a continuation...it's totally a continuation IMO. Whatever you call it, you need to read the first three, then read this...it's a super BA series.



What did you love this year? Link-up and let us know!
Life According to Steph

Three Things: Christmas 2019


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Decor
red plaid
White lights
burlap ribbon

Traditions
Riding around to looking out for Christmas lights
Daily Christmas Countdown
Leaving a beer for Santa
(hubs said this as a joke last year, & Babycakes ran with it...so Santa gets  Guinness at our house)

Wish List
non-flannel PJs
bedroom shoes
solid color V-neck sweaters

Carols
Away in a Manger
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
Baby It's Cold Outside


Christmas Movies
The Star
Eloise at Christmastime
How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Survival Techniques
Do as much shopping as possible before December
Schedule quiet time in front of your own tree
Lots of wine

Merry Christmas, y'all

Bullet Journal 2020 Walk-Through

Writing my BuJo & Anxiety post was an interesting walk down memory lane. I've definitely tried and kept and lost a lot in the past 2.5 years.

The thing I love most about bullet journaling is that it is completely customizable and can be used for all purposes, all the time. Mine consists of lots of little lists and projects that aren't really worth sharing (like, Christmas gift spreads or shopping lists for Babycake's birthday party, etc). These are super helpful at the time, but I don't move them from one bullet journal to the next.

Each year, I like to start a new journal. The past two years I have been using the Leuchtturm1917 notebook. This is a popular choice, and I really like it. But, I haven't been filling it up in a single year. So when I found these notebooks on sale for 2$ at Hobby Lobby, I bought several and decided to give them a try (mine were on clearance, but looks like HL sells them regularly now just with newer designs).

Pros: I actually like the lined graph more than the dotted graph, simply personal preference. The paper quality is very good- the LT1917's most popular complaint is "ghosting" where you can see through from one side to another. It didn't bother me personally, but I can definitely tell a difference.

Cons: the pages aren't pre-numbered, only one ribbon bookmark, no envelope pocket on the back cover for storage, less pages.

I only numbered the even pages, which wasn't too bad. I can easily make do without the bookmarks, I'll just use some washi tape or a paperclip instead (I pretty much only bookmark my currently monthly & weekly spread, so will most likely paper clip my current monthly). And I may tape an envelope to the back cover to make my own storage pocket. So, all in all, completely serviceable at a much lower price.

The first pages in my bullet journal are always my key and my index pages. Pretty simple.
 


Next I do 12 traditional monthly calendar layouts, instead of the "future log." Since my journals usually last a year, this is just more logical. This is by far the most time-consuming, since every month starts on a different day of the week/has different number of days/etc. Which is why it's set up starting in November, so I can work on it in my spare time and not feel rushed. If I have time, I may add a banner with the month name or some seasonal doodles once the month hits.



Probably my favorite spread is this bill tracker. I don't know how I ever kept up with any bills before this. Seriously...it's crazy. I did not expect it to work...but it just does. I like being able to clearly see what has and hasn't been done. I also sometimes note my account numbers and stuff like that.



This is another very helpful, but random page. The left page, Random Dates, has become a place to track car maintenance and when I changed my contacts, haha. I'm not sure when I will stop migrating this full list...I'll think about that more once I actually fill up a full page of it.
The right page is supposed to be Random Notes...not another Random Dates. This has stuff like usernames for accounts I rarely use, password hints (never the actual password), after hours info for our pediatrician office, and the shades of my favorite lip color.



I posted a while back about my Personal Commandments. I have a little post-it with these on my desk, and I still think about them. Not saying I follow them perfectly every day, but when I am struggling this is a good way to reign my thoughts back in and ground myself.
I made this little "Eat the Rainbow" spread for myself because I am a huge snacker, and I really want to start making healthier choices and eat a bigger variety of foods. We'll see how much it's used...




Another one of my favorite pages is a list of our favorite meals. This makes meal planning soooo much easier. Part of the reason I've been so annoyed at hubby's diet changes is because it no longer WORKS WITH MY SAVED MEALS. So, we're slowly working to update that, haha.



Living near the coast of North Carolina means we get a yearly hurricane. Rather than Google the best hurricane prep tips, I've written my own list. Yes, I should remember; but writing things down does help me remember. So even if I never look at that list again, the act of writing it has imprinted it on my mind.
There are lots of little projects I want to do around the house...this helps me keep it all straight, focus on one area at a time, and stay on budget. 



I often order from an online store that is super cheap, and run by a local person from my hometown...but does not have the best updates. So I made this Online Order Tracker for myself so I can keep up with what has arrived and what hasn't.
The right side is an Alastair calendar- basically it's a yearly calendar for 2021 so the few days I need to keep track of for the next year are there but don't take a lot of room. Looks weird if you aren't used to it so check out the post about this type of calendar.



I'm very excited for these pages. It's not meant to be a checklist, so much as a reminder of the variety of ways we need to take care of ourselves.



Some pages I will be giving up in this new BuJo, at least initially (unless I find I miss it, in which I'll add it back):
  • Date night ideas
    • Just didn't go to, & we've figured out our fav spots
  • Cleaning spreads
    • We are doing better about doing this without needing a list, but I am glad I always have it in my back pocket if I start feeling overwhelmed
  • Blog planning
    • Going digital- I am ALL ABOUT ANALOG but since I have to blog on the computer...it makes sense to keep my blog schedule digitally
  • Outfit of the Day Tracker
    • This was helpful when I was newly postpartum and felt like I was wearing the same thing all the time, to make me switch it up, but I've fallen way off lately and don't miss it, so won't be doing it anymore

Bullet Journaling & Anxiety

Fun fact: since I use my Bullet Journal every day, I thought I had blogged about it a ton. But I haven't mentioned it in about a year, according to my archives. At least not enough to deserve it's own label.

My first mention of Bullet Journaling was in August of 2017. It's so funny to go back and read that post. So much has changed, and the way I use my BuJo has changed...but that's the point. It's something that can grow and be adapted as needed.

For instance, many of the pages I talked about in this walk-through from February 2018 are ones I don't use anymore. But there is a line from the Boho Berry Challenge I completed in October 2018 about why I plan that is still 100% applicable to my current BuJo habit:

It was nice to be using my hands, nice to be being productive, nice to feel useful and back in charge of my life. It helped. Life was being kept on track.

I read a quote somewhere recently that said "What you are not changing, you are choosing."

That really sums up a big part of my BuJo journey. I started it because I was suffering from Mommy Brain & (undiagnosed) post-partum anxiety and I knew I couldn't continue; things had to change or my life would, quite literally, fall apart.

I needed to identify what wasn't working and try something, anything, different.

So I grabbed a notebook and started making some lists and plans and goals.

For some people, this sounds terrible. But I am the kind of person who needs to think of things from all angles, to have a clear and direct plan, to write out my problems. Yes, it takes time and energy. But it's time and energy that I'm not spending having anxiety attacks, time and energy that benefits my mental health and family life rather than taking from it.

This is a trend I've seen repeat itself over and over in the bullet journal community. Many of us are struggling with something- anxiety, depression, OCD, cancer. And this is a way to cope.

Some people dislike the idea of having to create their own spreads, but as mentioned above...it's good to give my hands something to do. It's good to focus on something. It actually quiets my mind. I guess this is comparable to puzzles or running or any other hobby. No, you don't have too...but there are benefits of doing it.

Bullet journaling has also helped me let go of some perfectionist tendencies. This is something I struggle with, have always struggled with. But again, seeing it on paper...seeing what I can do versus everyone else, feeling the difference in what feels good to do versus what feels like I have to do...this has helped me so much. And it's bled over into other areas of my life.

Apparently seeing it and feeling it on a small scale lets my brain make connections and go "Hmm, maybe this is the case in other situations too."

Also, part of the system is migrating tasks. Basically, if you don't do something then you move it to the next day/week/etc. The system is all about getting stuff done. At first I didn't really like this, I thought it was dumb. Obviously if you don't cross something off your day's to-do list...then you just failed.

But that's a really negative way and it's not good for my mental health. Like, that might sound silly and dramatic, but it's not. It's a small thing but it's indicative of an overall negative state that is really bad for me.

Anyway. I would migrate something, and once I migrated something for about a week. And I finally just had to admit- I was never going to do this thing. Again, this has bled over into other areas of my life. I've literally seen, on paper, my personality. And I've had to just either change or accept it.

All this stuff could also be attributed to age, and medication, and those play a role; but this is essentially a part of cognitive behavior therapy for me. Self-prescribed, figuring out on my own, but...the results speak for themselves.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people's difficulties, and so change the way they feel.

I'm not sure this is really coming across as clearly as I wanted it to, but I wanted to talk about it because I hear so many people talk about feeling stressed and having so much to do and this being the reason they can't plan or keep up with things. 

And...anxiety and depression lie. It takes the same amount of time and energy for me to try and remember all the crap I need to do than it does for me to write it down and just do it. But one has a negative affect on my mental viewpoint and one has a positive effect on my mental health.

This may not be your thing, the way it is mine. But I hope and encourage you to try something. You don't have to drown in stress and frustration. And if you grab one life raft and it starts deflating, grab a door a la Titanic style. But give yourself a chance. Try something.

Christmas Wish List



This year for Christmas, I made an Amazon wish list for myself. And also a Google doc for the things not available on Amazon. This is basically for my husband, since the rest of my family finds gift registries offensive (let it go Brittany, just let it go...).

Last year people at least asked what Babycakes wanted...but apparently everyone is full-blown psychic this year.

I can definitely tell I am getting old based on my wish lists...bless. Here's what I actually need/really want this year:

  • New hair straightener Y'all, I'm using the same one from college...and it was cheap then.
  • New mixing bowls Not storage bowls, mixing bowls with no lids, because we end up using our storage Pyrex bowls to mix stuff for dinner then have nothing to store leftovers in unless we want to wash the dishes directly after dinner (which, obviously, I do not).
  • Casserole dish carrying case
  • Caffeine mints & gum trying to cut out sodas and Starbucks, but I can't quit caffeine.
  • Silk pillow case heard it's better for your skin and hair.
  • Immersion blender I make this baked potato soup and it's good now, but would be better if I could blend it.
  • Essential Oils starter kit Mainly because I like to use vinegar as cleaner, and my hubs hates this smell. Lots of cleaning recipes say essential oils cover this up.
  • Sally Hansen Miracle Gel nail polis, Step 1
  • CoverGirl Outlast Lipcolor shades Wine to Five (538) or Blushed Mauve (550)

What's on your wish list this year?

Show Us Your Books: December 2019



Hello, fellow readers! Hope you are having a great month and able to squeeze in some relaxing reading time during this holiday season. Merry Christmas, or Happy Everything, whatever you are celebrating! And if you aren't...I hope you still eat lots of good food and feel some love.

I'm extra thankful that my reading slump from last month is officially over! I've been on a roll with good books and enjoyed all my recent reads. With that, let's get on to the books.



Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan
I super enjoyed 95% of this book. It is an honest, snarky, only slightly exaggerated, realistic view that was me the first year after having a baby (minus, I wasn't staying at home). The last 5% of the book was a little cheesy for me, and unnecessary, which makes it 4/5 rather than 5/5. But I'd still overall recommend. 4.5/5







I will always read/watch/listen/intake Caitlin Doughty's work. She is a mortician who advocates for the good death (literally, that's her organization). She is all about being realistic about death and knowing the different ways to handle it. This book is full of questions that she's gotten from children regarding death. They are super interesting and she answers straightforwardly with slight snark. Also, surprisingly adorable death cartoons. 5/5
Small gripe not specific to this book: WHY DO ALL NON-FICTION BOOKS NEEDS SUPER LONG SUBTITLES?!?! Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? is a great title. It needs nothing else.





Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead
This is one of those books that didn't super have a point. That's fine, I can enjoy those, but I don't think it was done quite as well as it could have been. Laura is a WASPy New Yorker who gets pregnant off a one-night stand. The book weaves in and out of Laura & her daughter's view year by year. It's an interesting look at a super privileged person who does still have some semblance of concern and awareness, but not a complete awareness. This was also one that I liked until the last chapter...it was just random and ambiguous, and there is one way it could go that I would be fine with and another that I would be very against...anyway. 3.5/5



The Crossing Places and The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths 
(Ruth Galloway #1-2)
I read The Crossing Places without realizing that it was part of a series. Pretty sure this was on my TBR from this link-up, so thank you to whoever shared it! But it was really enjoyable, so when I logged it via Goodreads and saw that it was a series I decided to read the next one. They follow an archeologist and police detective in the UK who end up working a case together. Seeing as how I love Bones, this isn't a surprise that this made it to my TBR. This was like the Goldilocks of books for me, in lots of ways. There was just enough mystery, just enough history, just enough myth, just enough everything without being too much anything. The relationships got a little weird, and the first book was slightly preferable. But I'll likely continue the series. There's something like 10 books, so not sure I will read them all straight through, but at some point. 4/5 for both


What have you been reading lately? Link-up and let us know!
Life According to Steph