Show Us Your Books: 2017 Favorites

Merry Christmas! Hope it was wonderful!

and if you don't celebrate, hope you had a good day anyway.



As an extra special gift, it's time for a special edition of Show Us Your Books! Today is all about your favorite books that you've read this year. Here's mine:




I can't recommend this series enough. Three very different women, all trained assassins, and old gods and myths and love and Death and royal politics and war...a great read.


I can't say it any differently- if you have EVER wanted to truly understand the phrase "rape culture," read this book already. It lays it out. It takes a long time to do so- because it's nuanced and important...but the payoff is so huge.


This was great in so many ways. Classic John Green and his introspective teenagers, which I am a sucker for. When you add in representation of OCD and anxiety...it's a win. It's a 2017 win.



Ahhhhh OMG I loved this one. It was everything I wanted in a book. The characters were relate-able and lovable and infuriating and I've met those Mothers so many times in my life. 



Again, everything I wanted in a book. The characters were so real and the relationships were so raw and there was pain and endurance and the slightest hint of bittersweet hope and ugh. Broke my heart so good. 



Sometimes we need a reality check. This is it. Hilarious and insightful- you can't lose.


A super fun and cute and vivid sci-fi reinterpretation of several classic fairytales. Touches on stereotypes and mental health and PTSD and lots of other important things.


This is one of those book that has been a slow burn. I return to it often. It's a fictional account of the lives of the five women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus Christ. I never really paid attention, honestly- those "X begat Y" verses are super easy to skip. But every one of these women had their morality questioned...but they lead to a miracle. It's made me so much...less righteous. How do I know the mistakes I believe I witness aren't leading to something amazing?
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.


 What were your favorite reads of 2017?

Life According to Steph

Celebrating a Christian Christmas

 

Every year, there seems to be a lot of talk about Christmas is getting more and more commercialized. 

I think everyone hears this at least a little, but it's definitely talked about within the Christian community.

The hard part is...sometimes I'm not sure exactly what it is people are mad about. A cashier saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas?" What the cup they drink their 5$ coffee cup out of looks like?

I just have trouble going "Yep, you're right, that's what my Christmas is all about!"

Supposedly it's all about keeping Christ in Christmas. Which, as a Christian, I am ALL FOR. But...I just don't think it comes down to yelling at a cashier.

And these same people are also the ones who would be SUPER upset if I give my kid gifts from me and my husband instead of Santa...but that's another whole conversation.


I'm not personally upset about other people celebrating a holiday differently than I do, or not celebrating at all. Actually, I'm kind of grateful.

Because it's making me really stop and think about what it means to celebrate Christmas as a Christian. Shouldn't it be about more than a flippant saying as I leave a store, where I just spent hundreds of dollars? How is showering my child with dozens of presents from a fat guy with a beard teaching her about the Savior of the World?

What exactly is it that will make Christmas a Christian holiday in my home?


Here are some ideas I have come up with so far:
  • The Giving Manger
    •  The link takes you to an "official" kit, which is gorgeous and I kind of really want. But, I also read about someone who just made their own. All you need is a basket, a baby doll, and "straw." Each day in December, you perform an act of service for someone. It can be big or small, but it's about teaching kids (and reminding adults) to be like Christ by serving the people around us. 
  • Donating Toys & Clothes
    • I remember my mom talking about going through my old toys and clothes around November for donations. It's partly self-serving, because it basically just makes room for new things that will show up soon. But it also teaches how to not be hoarder and generosity and other good stuff. Nowadays there are probably more regulations and lots of shelters, etc want new items- which I totally understand! But even if it means buying new things for others, I really want to make a point of helping others. Which leads into...
  • Operation Christmas Child
    •  We've done this every year for the past 2-3 years. You fill up a cardboard box or other similar sized container with gifts for children and they are distributed (along with Christian pamphlets) by Christian missionaries.
  • Singing Happy Birthday & Birthday Cake on Christmas Day 
    • Yes, this one is kind of silly. But it's the holidays! I always had to say "Happy Birthday Jesus!" before opening any presents from Santa. I'd like to kick that up a notch and do a cake and sing and the whole nine yards. Plus, birthday cake is Tank's favorite. And there are lots of "birthday cake" options- cookies/fudge/dip/etc. Just a little something to tie a traditional birthday celebration into Christmas.
  • Three Gifts from Santa
    •  I was always told that we exchange gifts at Christmas to represent the gifts that the Wise Men brought Jesus. And while I have really fond memories of lots of toys around the tree...I really, really don't want to turn into one of those people who goes crazy with presents. I can already tell it's going to be suuuuuper hard. But hopefully this rule would help keep that in check and also further cement Christ's birth as the center of our Christmas celebrations. We will give additional presents as parents (maybe the four categories) and obviously the grandparents and other family members won't have a limit or anything (because they wouldn't listen if we tried).

Tank & I haven't officially decided on all of these (or even discussed, actually, some of this is just me thinking out loud); Babycakes is still small- not even two. We have some time to figure it out...but I'm actually really grateful for this "war on Christmas" theory that has forced me to examine my beliefs.

I am grateful to have a close group of Christian friends to talk about this with thoughtfully and non-judgmentally. I'm grateful that despite the culture I'm in, good or bad, Jesus is constant. 

Oh, and we also will do some standard not-specifically Christian Christmas things. We go look at lights, either by ourselves or with a city tour, we watch Christmas movies like The Grinch, etc.

And since we are often out of town visiting family I started a tradition of making orange rolls on Christmas morning. I can do this wherever we are, and it can be enjoyed by everyone, at any age, for many years. Traditions that are reliant on a specific location or time or schedule just aren't logical for our family.

If you celebrate a Christian Christmas, what Christ-focused traditions do you enjoy? 


Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash, edited with Canva

Three Things: Christmas Edition 2017

 photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash, edited with Canva


Borrowed this from Jana Says, who borrowed it from someone else.

3 Things I Love about Christmas

  1. Decorated Christmas trees. I never think I care...but then I see my tree lit up and it's so peaceful and joyous.
  2. Stockings by the fireplace. Seriously, what is more homey and Christmas-y?
  3. Candelight Christmas services at church. I don't always get to attend, because I have to travel so much to see family and sometimes schedules just don't work out. But they are beautiful and moving every time.

3 Things I Dislike about Christmas

  1. The Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. This was Jana's but YEP. Or actually, NOPE. It's a no for me.
  2. Trying to coordinate schedules with family, and then family acting butt-hurt that they have to be scheduled. Dude, it's life. No, no one single person or family is the MOST important thing in the world. I'm not three, neither is my husband, we gots shit to do and people to see even in December.
  3. Trying to decide what to get people and how much to spend and what they want.

3 Favorite Christmas Movies

  1. Eloise at the Plaza.
  2. The Grinch (mainly because Hubs likes it).
  3. A Christmas Story? Idk, I'm really not huge on the movies.

3 Favorite Christmas Treats

  1. No bake goodies- they are basically peanut butter balls with chocolate chips & powdered sugar & nuts & condensed milk. My mom (who is not a baking type) makes them every year and they are so yummy!
  2. Cider. It's a great drink anytime it's cold, but even better at Christmas (by the fire with the stockings hung, duh).
  3. Eggnog. It's a desert you can spike & drink- yes, please!

3 Favorite Christmas Traditions

  1. Driving around to see Christmas lights. Since we are out of town so much and can't count on doing specific things at specific houses on specific days, our "tradition" for our family (ie us & kids) is to ride around looking at lights. We do a city tour and/or a "scavenger hunt" (found on Pinterest). We can do it anytime and anyplace.
  2. My husband & sister have an ongoing war to give each other embarrassing gifts or gifts that are crazily wrapped (like, three layers of duct-tape or glue). I don't participate but it's funny to watch.
  3. Does opening presents count? I mean, it's pretty fun.

3 Favorite Christmas Songs


  1. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
  2. Baby It's Cold Outside (yes, I understand it could be problematic- I choose to view it as coy & playful)
  3. All I Want for Christmas is You, cheesy but fun.

3 Favorite Christmas Gifts Received

I really don't know! Strangely I tend to remember birthday gifts better. Christmas presents get lost in the shuffle of the holiday.
  1. Oh, my Pandora bracelet. That was a really good one from hubs.
  2. My MIL always buys me Barnes & Nobles gift cards- WIN!
  3. I'm out.

3 Gifts I Want to Give the World

  1. Compassion. There is not enough of it in this world.
  2. Open-mindedness. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Daily. Hourly. Consider it from the other side. We will not solve the world's problem until we learn to respect each other's positions. Ask why.
  3. Hope. Sometimes this feels like a foolish burden of it's own...but it's how we survive.

Current Thoughts: December 2016




  • Already had a family fight regarding Christmas! But, kinda glad we got it out of the way early. Now everyone knows that everyone is unhappy with reality (re: multiple families and inconvenient work schedules and ya know, the fact that we can't duplicate ourselves to be everywhere at once) but we're gonna smile like we enjoy the holidays anyway.


  •  While I super love my non-denominational "contemporary" church, I feel myself drawn more and more to the traditional habits of the Christian faith. We don't do Communion every week, but it affects me whenever we do. Baptisms make me cry, with hope and joy and faith. I want to do more research about these traditional practices but I'm not sure where to go- I don't want just a dry history book. I want something living and breathing the faith of those who follow Jesus. 

  • Took a sick day recently- a legitimate, home in bed alone sick day. Y'all, I needed that. It was 60% physically sick, 40% mental health day. I can't remember the last time I had a day where I did nothing but take care of myself. Usually my "sick" days include taking care of Babycakes, or when she goes to visit the grandparents and I'm "off" Mommy Duty I am still on Wife/Adult duty and bust my butt trying to tackle projects around the house that are difficult with her around.  We did a ton of stuff this weekend, basically our immediate family Christmas celebrations (pictures with Santa, city Christmas lights tour, a birthday party) plus a ton of cleaning and I think the busyness (that looks wrong...) plus the nasty weather just took me down (thinking allergies or a sinus infection, because Hubs & Babycakes are fine, which is why I sent her to daycare). But I feel restored in my soul. Honestly, I need to do that more. Probably need to just schedule an actual mental health day for myself every few months. 


  •  Babycakes' daycare is closed for a full week after Christmas. I'm kind of terrified to be home with her alone that long. It will be the longest time since my maternity leave. I feel like some people think that is weird or bad, but umm...being a SAHM is a specific skill that I haven't fully developed yet. I love my daughter fiercely, and I'm sure there will be some magical moments and I'm so thankful for the time with her. But the fallout from routine will be hard and being 100% responsible for another human drains me sometimes, even when it's also what fills me up. I am already putting out the SOS call to my SAHM friends and asking them to help! Thankfully, they are awesome and gave me suggestions of stuff to do throughout the week and volunteered to hang out with us.


  • I ended up with a 92 in my class!!!! Whoop whoop, yay me, not bad for a 5 year break and working full time and mommying and general adulting.



What's up with you lately? 

Show Us Your Books: December 2017


It's the last SUYB of 2017!!

Actually, that's not true- because in a few weeks on Dec 26th there is the 2017 Favorites link-up.

There are many more books on that list than this one...apparently I've been a bit of a slacker lately.

This book...made me think SO MANY THINGS. It's about a Catholic priest who breaks his vow of celibacy. It discusses sex and religion and while there are things that are obviously sacrilegious and hard for me to handle...it's also a freakin' beautiful look at faith and love and lust and grief and responsibility and sexuality and...a completely worthwhile read. It's rare to see a true mix of secular living and desire so fiercely intertwined with a soul deep faith. Full disclosure- I'm not Catholic. But I don't think you have to be to get something from this story- if you have ever felt at all close to a God or a religion, or are curious, it's there.


Dysfunctional family with secret letters hidden in books, which are taking over an old house. I put this on hold literally within 60 seconds of reading the description, which proved to be a solid life choice.



What have you been reading this month? 
Link-up & let us know!
Life According to Steph

I did a thing!

     ecard by Kristi3655


There is a free workout group in my town, and thanks to a good friend agreeing to go with me I have been going pretty regularly for the past few weeks.

Recently there was a burpee challenge- do 30 burpees every day for 15 days. 

Possibly inspired by this article, or maybe just thought up out of nowhere. I don't know.

But I did it. 

Every. Single. Day.

I literally forced myself out of bed one night because I had forgotten to do it before laying in bed after my shower.

I ran (half walked) a 5K like 3 years ago, but other than that this is the first "challenge" or physical event I've ever done.

It's not changing the world, but it's a personal milestone. 

GO ME!

Christmas Gifts that Keep Giving



While lots of people celebrate the winter holidays differently, almost everyone gives presents. Everyone. You might purchase them for a different reason or wrap them in different colors or give them weeks apart- but you probably give and receive gifts at some point in the November/December months.

I want to encourage you to think of long lasting gifts this year. 

The gift of experience and time can be so much more rewarding than just things.

Yes, it's possible to give fantastic random physical gifts that people love. But it's a lot of pressure for a statistically low pay-off. Especially now as a mom...I don't necessarily need more STUFF to keep in my home with my kid. I need an excuse and activity to stop the madness and boredom and routine from being in the same four walls ALL THE TIME. So please, this year consider giving something that will last a little longer and encourage more bonding. They may cost a little more, but not compared to buying 3+ smaller gifts.

Here's a few ideas I know my family and I would use and deeply appreciate:
 
  • Zoo/aquarium passes
  • Amusement park passes
  • Xbox live/gold/whatever subscription
  • Netflix/hulu subscription
  • Audible subscription
  • Subscription Boxes
  • Cleaning service 
    • This one may be controversial, but I know SO MANY PEOPLE who say a one-time big cleaning day from a service was a GAME CHANGER. For 100$ or less (I was shocked and thought it would have been way more, honestly) you can give the gift of time and less stress and a clean and happy home. Maybe ask ahead of time, but just say "Hey, I know day-to-day life and upkeep can be stressful. Would it be helpful to have XYZ service? Not that you can't do it yourself, clearly, you're awesome! But this is one of those things I personally could/have used and it was super nice to just not have that thing to juggle." 

What are your favorite experience/long-lasting gifts you've given/received?

New Nightly Goals

I have two new nightly goals that I want to strive for, every single night. 



I know, I know. It's friggin' stupid how easy this is.

Let's get into why these are difficult for me though, and why they will make such a big difference.

Putting down the phone is hard for two main reasons: my husband and my mother.
  • My husband works long hours and it's always possible he will be several hours late coming home. It just happens in his job. I generally try to keep an eye on my phone so I know whether he has left yet, mostly for my own peace of mind and scheduling purposes (if he gets out at a regular hour, I can start dinner later and wait on him to help me give the baby a bath...if he's late I need to plan extra time for doing the bedtime routine alone, etc). 
  • My mom tries to Skype at least once a week...and I feel really bad if I miss her asking (this is not necessarily her fault- I accept this as my penance for living far away and gladly pay it to not be in my hometown).

I'm considering trying to hook up my bluetooth so I can hear specifically if either of these special people call or text, but this requires a few extra minutes and I need too ensure all other sound notifications are turned off my phone.

This will make a huge difference because I can focus only on what is actually physically going on around me. It releases some of the mental burden by taking one extra ball out of the air. 

Plus if I am focused on all the things I can do, I'm not sitting staring at the phone worried and procrastinating about what I might be able to do if no one calls or everyone calls at the same time, or just weeding out all the random not-at-all-a-priority notifications the iPhone sends. Both of these people will live if I take a few extra minutes to respond to them.

Basically I am a better mother, wife, and overall person when I am not constantly listening for the phone and mentally managing all the notifications.

On to goal #2: while I am ALL about my Bullet Journal during the day at work, I can often leave it in my bag at home. This is mainly because I'm scared to leave it at home by accident and not take it with me to work the next day. 

But I need it at night. I've always been a list/note taker, and the reason I have stuck with the bullet journal for several months is because it allows me to put ALL the random things I think of in one spot. Appointments, grocery lists, blog topics, whatever- it goes in the BuJo.

And my random thoughts don't stop just because Babycakes is in the room or I'm cooking dinner- in fact, those are the times I need it the most because there is no way a random thought will stick around longer than five seconds. 

Pretty much anyone who is not a solitary spinster can relate- you get home and your kids or partner or pet or parents or whoever inhabits your home with you starts taking up your mental energy and time. And that's FINE- it's part of the beauty of having a family. But it doesn't mean that tomorrow you won't be out of deodorant or need to email someone. So I want to note it in the BuJo and quickly get back to whatever I'm doing.

Yes, I could make notes on my phone. But truthfully, my phone does TOO MUCH. It is how I talk to people and how I keep notes and how I entertain myself. I don't want to be the parent who is constantly on her phone- I hate it when Tank is on his all the time. It's too easy to reach for it for a note and end up on YouTube or some other thing that should NOT be a priority over my child (or husband or homework or home).

Keeping my notes in my BuJo is faster and easier for me personally anyway, plus it allows me to better demonstrate to my child what my priorities are (our family and needs rather than Facebook- she isn't going to know the difference in what I'm doing on my phone, just that I'm on it). Plus, if I look at my phone for five seconds Hubs automatically looks at his and then we are two losers on our phone. NO. NO NO NO. I'm tired of it and my eyes hurt.

To be clear, if you do or don't do any of the things mentioned in this post- good for you. 

What works for one person does not always work for others. I get that. This is not me trying to make anyone feel guilty, or working from guilt that anyone else has caused me to feel.

I'm just trying to identify my priorities in life, and then identify what takes away from those and what enhances them. These two goals will allow me to weed through what I don't care about and remember the little details that I do care about.

Doesn't that sound lovely?

Add It To My List: November 2017



 Link-up creators are Lauren from Eat, Drink, & Be Lauren and Bre from Bre Writes. Basically, they are always recommending things to each other- podcasts, television shows, music, blah blah blah. And they figured- why not share even further?


Recipes
Making a new attempt to eat different types of food- I've been doing monthly menus for almost a year but I'm stepping up my game. This month, each weekday was divided into a different category: vegetarian, beef, pork, chicken, and seafood. This is making me step out of my comfort zone regarding recipes but there have been some real winners lately!



Articles & Videos & Blog Posts


Products

    • Kiwi Leather Instant Wax Shine
      • I feel like I go through work shoes SO QUICKLY. I'm tired of wasting the time and money to buy a new pair every other season- especially my basic white girl black boots and wedges that I wear constantly...so I figured I would try something. This was around 5$ at Walmart and it made such a big difference! Not perfect, but my shoes will last at least another season. Maybe more if I do it consistently.
      • My mom is a products person and is always passing along hair and skin care products. I rarely end up actually using them and almost never asking for more. BUT- this stuff is amazing. I have suuuuuper thick and coarse hair. Basically, think of a horse's tail but like...a LOT of it. I almost never do anything with it because it's so hard to shape into anything other than long/thick/just wavy enough to not be straight but not wavy enough to be a style.  This is seriously the only thing in 20 years that has ever made my hair feel soft. Like, potentially pliable enough to style (although to be clear, I'm way too lazy and impatient to try it). I'll actually go buy my own when the bottle my mom gave me runs out (only 10$). I do it maybe 2-3 times a week, maybe a quarter size if that much, so it will definitely last a while and be fairly cheap to maintain.
       
       
      What recommendations do you have this month?

    Surround Yourself [Quote of the Month November 2017]




    I have been part of an all female workout group about a year and a half now, on and off. I went more right after Babycakes was born, which is when the group was first formed. I've taken weeks and months off at a time...scheduling is hard with working full time and having a baby and wanting to occasionally see my husband. But a friend has been going with me and we've gone at least once a week for a while now.

    We usually close with a prayer or positive quote, and the one listed above was shared recently.

    The group is very much about starting where you are at, and encouraging to yourself and others.  

    It's a really positive environment and I'm enjoying it.

    But it also makes me a little bit sad. 

    I'm so glad at this new culture that's been growing the last few years between women. I'm seeing women be more and more supportive and inclusive and it's amazing.

    But I'm also hearing a lot of "don't trust girls who don't like girls."

    And the truth is...I don't have a long history of female friends. I tried. But they moved or I moved or they partied or I got married or blah blah blah.

    Plus, I grew up being told that girls can't be friends...that they were competitive and catty- which I wasn't. And that's why I thought I couldn't be friends with most girls.

    So it feels like the script has suddenly been flipped and now I'm being punished for believing the crap I was told as a kid (to be fair, other girls believed this also and behaved accordingly). 

    I'm trying to correct that- I just hope other women give me a chance to do so. 

    There are lots of examples in pop culture where people found their tribe later in life, and as silly as it is I hold on to those (Leslie & Ann from Parks and Rec, Meredith & Christina from Grey's Anatomy who I think are still friends although I abandoned that a while back).

    My tribe is growing, little by little, and it will be the right tribe when it's fully formed. 

    ETA: just logged on to Twitter and saw a comment about how white people need to stop appropriating the world tribe. FML, being a non-shitty human is really fucking complicated sometimes, which is also why I sometimes stop bothering with having other humans in my life...but again, I'm trying, okay? I hope that counts for something.

    Current Thoughts [November 2017]


    • My number one work complaint is when people cannot take criticism or admit they made even the tiniest mistake. Humans are human, y'all. You are inevitably going to make a mistake. Throwing someone under the bus is not going to make you look good. Also...don't tell people you have a lot of initiative unless you are interviewing for a job. Once you are actually working the job, let your work speak for itself. Trust me, if you're as good as you think you are the rest of us will notice. 

      • Babycakes is going through...something. Teething- working on those last molars which are supposed to be the worst? Maybe just hitting the toddler tantrum stage. She gets super upset super quickly for seemingly no reason...sometimes I can calm her down but usually not. Daycare drop off has been basically traumatic for us both. There are definitely good times, but there's been some rough moments also. 
      • But on the plus side- no more pacifier!!! It really wasn't as bad to take as I thought. She apparently ONLY used it at home/around Tank & I anyway. She would go all day at daycare w/o it but then start asking for it literally as soon as I showed up to pick her up. So I had the feeling it was more psychological than physical need. The first night we tried nighttime without it, it was a fight and we gave in. But about a week later I just hid them all and she was tired and laid down without it. Once they were out of sight, it only took a few days to pretty much be done. 

       
        • We have gotten into the "screen time" thing with her though. She is now obsessed with this Baby Shark video...and while I feel bad sticking her in front of the TV...it's now what she does while I make dinner. Mommy's sanity is worth an hour or so of screen time a day, right...
        • Went to a local holiday shopping event and knocked out like 80% of my Christmas shopping list. Yes, I spent a ton of money...but honestly it was about on track for what I normally spend on presents and it was smaller local businesses. Plus I bought my OWN presents with approval from Tank- these are things that have been on my "Want" list for months and he literally just has to throw them in a bag...


          • It's our anniversary this month and we seriously cannot figure out what to do. I'm almost over it because I'm trying to hard to decide on something and neither of us can commit to the "right thing."



          What's up with you lately?

          Show Us Your Books Link-Up: November 2017



          Yay, SUYB! This month was a pretty good month...a lot of books that were okay-ish but a few standouts.

          This is really highly recommended in the foster care/adoption blogosphere. It was...okay. There was some helpful tips and coping mechanisms and information, but the presentation was a little dry and repetitive. I took some great notes but also had to force read parts.
          ★★★


          This has been sitting on my Nook app forever. It was good, a good thriller for October. Some points were a little on-the-nose regarding descriptions and feelings...I like a little more subtext. But overall a good read with some disturbing moments (I skipped some of the violent, sexual descriptions).
          ★★★★
           

          This book is standard John Green in a lot of ways, which I personally love! 

          I know some people think John Green is over-hyped as an author; if that's you, I'm not sure this book will change your mind. I'd still go for it if you are really interested in an Own Voices depiction of OCD and anxiety, but much like real life a person is not separate from their mental illness...it's still very much his voice and style and story.

          Personally, I really enjoyed this slightly different twist from a favorite author and will re-read soon. I also got my signed copy which is always nice :) 
          ★★★★★
           

          This has been on my Nook app for ages...maybe a Nook Free Friday? It's a pretty typical supernatural YA novel, about a teen girl who is...basically a type of werewolf. It's okay, held the interest fairly well but I'm not in a rush to get to the rest of the series. 
          ★★★


          This is a somewhat standard self-help Christian book...but there is a reason these keep getting published. It was good to read and remember what my focus in life should be (and it isn't popularity). I'd recommend for the right person at the right time...basically if this sounds like something you'd like to read, do it. If not, you're probably not missing out.  
          ★★★★

          What have you been reading this month?
          Link-up & share!

          Life According to Steph

          Erin's Reading Challenge 7.0- I'm done!


          I finished this challenge months ago, it seems, but didn't update. I really enjoyed almost all of theses books, which you probably know if you have been reading and seeing my Show Us Your Books posts.

          The Banned Book choice was Faulkner and as a good Southern girl I wanted to love it...but it was terrible.

          •  25 points: The ALA’s “Banned Books Week” occurs while our challenge is happening. Read a book from this list of the most commonly banned books in America (submitted by Christina)
          • 35 points: Read a book a Disney movie was based on OR a book based on a Disney movie (submitted by Kirsten- don’t forget to check that the book is at least 200 pages)


          So I guess I technically didn't complete the challenge...but I'm totally done.

          If you are doing the challenge, how's it coming along?

          Words are Weird

          I'm a reader, and a kind-of writer or blogger or whatever you call it. I tend to enjoy words. Not just words put together to form a book but words in general.

          Words can be super weird. The same word can mean different things, or change meanings over time. Or just mean different things in different countries- or different parts of the same country!

          In fact, while this post was sitting in draft this video about words that changed meanings was posted on Mental Floss and Amber from The Sensible Mama did a collab with a northern friend that resulted from confusing everyday conversations.

          This comes up a lot in the Facebook groups in I'm in for Bullet Journaling. It's hard to define a bullet journal for a lot of people. I think this is because it is a combination of several things, and each person can add or subtract or prioritize different aspects of it. But it came up in a conversation that the word "diary" means different things in the USA and the UK.

          Here in the US we typically use diary to refer to a journaling of thoughts, sometimes daily. Apparently in the UK is refers to what I would call a planner- a system of organizing events and dates usually following a calendar method.

          There's no real point to this.

          Just...it's worth considering when having a conversation I guess.

          Semantics matter to a lot of people. It can affect things.

          It's hard for me sometimes- especially when "discussing" things with Tank. Or at work when I'm training people. I have forwarded emails to my supervisors with the apology "Hello, XYZ problem, but I have run out of ways to say this. Any suggestions or assistance would be greatly appreciated."

          I  can't do that with Tank...but sometimes I need to.

          I need to figure out how to use words and understand them better, even when they don't make sense.

          Add It To My List: October 2017


           Link-up creators are Lauren from Eat, Drink, & Be Lauren and Bre from Bre Writes. Basically, they are always recommending things to each other- podcasts, television shows, music, blah blah blah. And they figured- why not share even further?
          • Printed Post-It Tutorial & Layout
            • This is several years old but I just found it and used it for work- love that I can be Post-It organized without having to display my messy handwriting ;) 
          • John Green's video on Trump & Russia, where he talks about what we know but also what we DON'T know...and why it's important to acknowledge both.
          •  
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYSjPZUqLdk 


          • The other Green brother, Hank, and his video about wanting media to be about something
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWeJ7OM3mo4
           
          • Aldi's apple fritter bread
            • NOT their coffee
            • but also their cheese sticks
            • and raspberry ice cream sticks
          •  Yet another Hank Green video: The Secret to Hank's Productivity
           What are you loving this month?


          Busy, but Happy

          In case you haven't noticed, I've been a little MIA lately. Just got way out of the blogging flow.

          We turned in the majority of paperwork for foster care licensing. I think the only thing left is to give the doggies a rabies shot (Tank did it himself last time, so no record, but it's due anyway so just have to find time to take them to the vet). So now...we wait, apparently. Oh, and maybe go get another set of fingerprints because apparently one is not enough.

          Babycakes & I visited my parents for a family reunion. It was short visit and it was weird that Tank had to work and couldn't go- but it was nice to see them.

          It wasn't the best timing, because I had my second test the week after so I missed a weekend of cramming. And the FC/A meeting was the day before my test so I was scrambling to make sure all of that was taken care of also bit into study time...so I'm not sure how I did. Probably still passed, at least? But almost certainly not as well as my first test.

          And we have a Halloween party at our house this weekend. And my freakin' one year old has SPIRIT WEEK at daycare next week! What is that?!? So...I'm gonna try to think of something for that (I refuse to buy a shirt from this daycare for "school spirit" though...not spending over 10$ on something she will wear maybe 2x in her life...). But I'm not too upset, because I figure Halloween/Spirit Week is an excuse to work on her "dress up" box.

          Although, it really gives me a new project because I have this old but small chest that was mine as a kid/teen that my mom gave me (along with many other matching pieces) when we were setting up the nursery. But I had no idea what to actually put in it so I haven't bothered to scrub or repaint (because when something just sits for 10+ years, it starts looking very sad). But it's perfect for dress-up/costumes because I don't actually care if they get wrinkled/etc so they can just be tossed in, and Babycakes loves playing with it empty half the time.

          I also had an amazing girls night! It was super low-key and something my friend started, a...support group? That sounds so cheesy and awkward. Basically a get-together, specifically for new moms, to have an excuse to hang out with friends and support each other. It's very positive, both in regards to yourself and your female friends, and it was ah-mazing. Shout-out to our husbands, because while the "careless caveman" portrayal of husbands/dads is definitely something our culture perpetrates...none of ours blinked an eye when we peaced out of the house on a weeknight to do this, because "Yeah that sounds great, you totally need/deserve that." Plus, I had some delicious caramel hot chocolate and pastries so ya know. Win-win.

          Oh, and I started working out/walking again. Not very much- maybe 1-3 times a week. But it's something, and it's good for me.

          So, I've been busy. And it's been slightly stressful. But...it's been good. I'm doing things I want to do...I'm living my life.

          It's pretty darn great.

          Current Thoughts [October 2017]


          original photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

          FYI: renaming the "Mid-Month Updates" to "Current Thoughts"

          • Can someone who disagrees with kneeling during the National Anthem please explain to me what is an appropriate means of protest? Because it is nonviolent, does not block roadways or workplaces, and takes up no ones time.
            • And just a reminder that, FYI, protesting is part of the  Constitution...you know, the document and ideals that is actually supposed direct our laws and governing rather than bullshit opinions of people who didn't pay attention in history class. 

               
              • The military is not a single person or school of thought. Like the NFL and literally every other group in America, there are diverse opinions and beliefs and races and religions. Gettin' real sick of people speaking out about how "soldiers" feel about politics and the above-mentioned forms of protests. This idea that there is a single prevailing opinion within any group of people is exactly what has our country in the fucked up position it is currently in. 
              • I think I might be getting carpal tunnel between school & work and typing/writing all day. Trying to take asprin & do some stretches to help...might break down and get a wrist brace.
              • There is a consignment sale for kids coming up and I am PUMPED. I am not a super Black Friday shopper or anything like that, but this is only 2x a year and it's the easiest way to get baby clothes. Even asked for help to line up a (free, thankfully) sitter. 

                 
              • Still riding that bullet journal train. Y'all, it's like magic. I am not working any harder than normal but I actually feel like I'm being more productive, because instead of wasting time trying to remember what all I have to do I'm just...doing it. And it's all there in a tiny little book. I'm such a nerd. 
              •  Babycakes got bit at daycare...twice in one week. She was the biter for a while, so I try to be understanding...but one of them left a bruise that lasted about 4-5 days. She's skinned knees and stuff, but that's while having fun. This is the first time someone else has truly left a mark, and while I know it happens it's still uncomfortable.
              •  
                via GIPHY

              • Pretty much our whole family is feeling icky. THANK JESUS no stomach bug, which is going around. But snotty and Babycakes had a fever, so she had to stay home from daycare. I'm about 90% sure it was due to teething because as soon as she came home and had one dose of Tylenol she was totally fine, maybe 15% snug-lier and whiny than normal...but no more fever and up for playing. Which sinus headache-y mama was not prepared for (I stupidly thought we'd have a sick cuddle day...ahahahaha).
              • It's freakin' October and I'm still having to shave my legs, because it's like 75 and about 1000% humidity at 5 am. GET IT TOGETHER, MOTHER NATURE. I need it to be cool enough to wear leggings, okay? Because again- ickyness all over the house. And it's hard to be sure anyone has a fever when realistically we could just be sweating because everything is sweating because it's seriously almost 80 when we wake up. 

              • It's so frustrating to me when people don't just FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. I'm having to train new people at work again and ugh it's the worst. People who don't grasp things baffle me. And I'm sure that's a privilege that I have...but ugh it's soooo hard. Especially when I'm not a friendly person to start with. 
              • I'm officially addicted to caffeine. If I don't have a cup of coffee or can of soda by lunch I have a raging headache and feel quite stabby. Based one a post in a moms group though...I may be able to blame pregnancy. Apparently it can make you resistant to caffeine- like shaking after a cup of 1/2 decaf, or make you dependent on it (aka me). 



                    This turned a little more rant-y than I expected...but this is sort of where I get things out and all the fun stuff I like typically goes to the Show Us Your Books or Add It To My List link-ups. One rant-y post a month seems fair.

                    What's up with you lately?

                    Show Us Your Books Link-Up THIRD ANNIVERSARY: October 2017


                     You guys!!!

                    It is the third anniversary of Show Us Your Books! That's so amazing. This link-up is by far my favorite bloggy day of the month. 

                    Thank you to all participants, and our wonderful hosts Steph & Jana, for creating such a fun and welcoming and bookish community. You guys make me happy every second Tuesday of the month.




                    Now, on to the books!

                     ★★★★★
                    Did I mention this series is about  ASSASSIN NUNS WHO WORK FOR DEATH and OMG WHY AREN'T YOU READING IT ALREADY IT'S SO AMAZING. And there's some love and political intrigue and in this one in particular some deeply disturbing incest but still READ THESE BOOKS.

                    ★★★★
                    Third book in the trilogy, you learn more about the various gods and their followers which is cool...and also see above aka READ THIS SERIES IT'S AMAZING.

                    ★★★★
                    This book was a really interesting look at disability and what makes a human a human and "us versus them" and personal responsibility and all that happens within the context of a standard but still interesting police thriller.

                    ★★★★★
                    If you have ever wondered what the term "rape culture" means, read this book. It's the best illustration of it ever. Yes, the book is a bit of a beast and it took me a while to get into it. But it's so. damn. worth. it. Seriously. Just read it. It looks at friendship and sex and family and personal responsibility and mentors and sports and small towns and loyalty and right and wrong and gray areas and it gave me all the feels. I will say it may be closer to a 4.75 because 1) those parents have been through a fuck of a lot and while tragedy does not gaurd against tragedy, it seems awful; and 2) that girl handled everything like a MF'ing champ. And while I respect that and appreciate that she wasn't broken...she had a right to be affected more than she was.

                    ETA:
                     ★★
                    The Girls by Emma Cline
                    Y'all, I had to write this blog post twice because instead of hitting "Publish" I hit delete.
                    Both times, I forgot to include this book. It seemed to have really divisive reviews and I went in expecting...something. I literally got nothing. I wasn't shocked or disgusted or moved or anything...if it's not the first time a book has done nothing, it's the first time in a loooooooong time. I did skip over the description of the actual murders, because...reasons. But since we knew about them from the start...it just never clicked. I was never given a reason to care. There was no motive, there was no disgust...it just all felt distant and pointless. I can't recommend.

                    What have you been reading this month?
                    Link-up & let us know! 
                    Life According to Steph

                    Books as Memories

                    It's a well-known phenomena that hearing certain songs can take you back to a certain place, or situation.

                    I think I have this with books.

                    The Twilight series got me through my husband's deployment (judge, IDGAF).

                    Books 1-21 of the Stephanie Plum series got me through what turned out to be basically a super stressful friend-breakup, within about a 2.5 week time period.

                    The Hunger Games got me through my last years of undergrad.

                    And the His Fair Assassin series just got me through my first test of grad school. 

                     When I hear about these books, I don't just think of the characters and plot. I think about where I was emotionally when I read them. I think about every detail that lined up and made those stories exactly what I needed at that moment in time.

                    Memories and emotions are strange, double-edged creatures. Our memories are almost never as trustworthy as we typically believe.

                    If I read Twilight today, I might be a hater. There are certainly people out there who trash it. But it will always have value to me, despite it's problems. I don't pretend there aren't problems, I just know how it was useful to me despite them.

                    Is it good for every person in every situation? 

                    Probably not.

                    But that could probably be said for all books, in the end.

                    So often the snooty literary folks will pretend a book is good solely because of the specific words in the specific order on the page. But that's sooo not true.

                    It's about the culture the story was written in, and it's about the reader. That's what makes being a reader so amazing and magical. You get to personally connect with a story- sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. But like everything in life, the personal background of a reader absolutely shapes the lens in which we view the story.

                    There was a Christian book I had heard a lot of hype about and was excited to try. Pretty much as soon as I started it (via audiobook) I could tell me and this author just didn't jive. He ended up saying what was- to me- an incredibly sexist statement and I flat out DNF'd. When I mentioned this too someone else who read the book, they said that sentence never even registered- they didn't remember it being in the book at all, and walked away feeling like it was a great book. Think she actually had some kind of personal connection to the author, and therefore probably went in predisposed to think highly of what he had done or even just with a better idea of the heart behind the statement*.

                    *because saying something out of ignorance and saying something out of hate are very different, and I do believe if we want to change the world for the better we must be ready to stop being angry at people for being ignorant and work with them to educate...although this is a much longer thought subject for a different post

                    Anyway, it happens. It doesn't make her a bad person or bad reader. Pretty much all of those series I listed have gotten tons of flack for various reasons. And I'm sure at least one person would say I can't be a feminist and enjoy Twilight. But...I definitely consider myself a feminist- and I still stand by the appeal of that series!


                    Do you link books and memories? 
                    If so, what are some of your connections?

                    Reading Q&A

                    I'm taking this from Teh Megan, who took it from someone else...blogging is all about connection, right?

                    If you came up with this & want credit, let me know & I will be happy to link your blog/etc!

                    How many hours a week do you spend reading?
                    This really really varies due to about a million factors.
                    Anywhere from 1-10, let's say. More if an audio-book is involved.

                    I like Megan's answer:
                    "I don't count the hours of things I enjoy."

                    Do you prefer digital or print books?
                    All of the above.
                    Nothing is as cozy or relaxing as cuddling up on the couch with a
                    blanket and a physical book. It's also easier on my eyes. 

                    However, ebooks are so handy!
                     I can read on my phone at lunch or my iPad
                     and binge a series super quick through the library. 



                    via GIPHY
                    2 favorite genres?
                    General Fiction
                    after that, it's a free-for-all
                     

                     2 not-favorite genres?
                    deep sci-fi (Journey to the Center of the Earth type)
                    after that, it's more dependent on writing than genre
                     

                     Biggest book pet peeve?
                    super sweet love stories
                    not necessarily cliches, but just...
                    when nothing goes wrong or people are "all-in" immediately
                     


                     Favorite thing about reading?
                    the escape it provides- it allows me to "hide" from real life
                     


                     Bookish confession?
                    I used to dog-ear pages constantly.
                    As I get older I understand why this is so upsetting,
                    but for years I was guilty as sin.