Show Us Your Books Link-Up: July 2020




Hello! How is everyone? Personally...I'm still riding the 2020 roller coaster. It's a mess. I have hope it is a rough season that will end, and the good times will come again...but definitely a roller coaster right now. 

Possibly to deal with that, I'm getting back in a reading groove. At one point my Goodreads yearly challenge was showing a deficit of 6 books, now it's down to 2. Which is definitely manageable. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This book...I love it. The Mothers is one of my all time favorite books, and I was almost scared to read this one because sometimes a sophmore attempt just doesn't quite spark as much as a debut. But this was amazing. It discusses confusing and difficult topics, but in such a beautiful and relatable way...it goes down smooth. Reading it was like eating cheesecake- slow and smooth and delicious. 
★★★★★

A Wedding Thing (The One #3) by Shea Serrano, Larami Serrano

Full disclosure- I got this confused with another book (The Wedding Date). I figured out pretty quickly that it was a different story altogether, and enjoyed it...and then it was over! I didn't realize that it was part of a series, The One. But I'm definitely going to finish, because I enjoyed this so much and really love the idea of small, true love stories. 
★★★★

The Upside of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane 

I feel like I remember seeing this a lot a while back...it's fairly popular on Kindle Unlimited. Either way, it was a cute enough little love story. I wouldn't say it's a must read at all, but (to quote Steph) it passed the time just fine. 
★★★


The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

This was one of the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards- History & Biography. It was...good. The writing wasn't exactly the most engaging, and it could have been shorter IMO. That being said, I enjoyed the reality of looking deeper into the lives of people who were, essentially, written off as "one thing" in the media (in this case, prostitutes). Hearing of the riots and sensationalist news and poverty and health issues...it made me both incredibly tired and also somewhat hopeful. As I said in a previous post: Disease- protests- poverty- family drama- looting...it is both hopeful and depressing to realize all these years later, for all our progress, we still have the same issues. To different degrees, and in different places, but humanity struggles on. The absurdity of the human condition.
★★★




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

Things That Are Helping

Hello, world. 

It's been a rough few months, we all know that. Literally everyone I know is struggling. Anxiety, depression, general blah-ness...we're all under a bit of a cloud. And fucking rightly so- I don't say this as a diss on anyone. 

I've heard it said and it's worth repeating- we are living history. 2020 is literally going to be one for the fucking history books, and that takes a toll on people.

I recently read The Five, which TBH wasn't my favorite book but I can't stop thinking about it so it was a very timely read. It talked about the different victims of Jack the Ripper, but what really struck out to me was the culture of the time. There was a lot of discussion about class and poverty and alcoholism and morality policing...basically, it was just a big reminder that humanity always has struggles and frustrations and suffering is a part of the human experience. That doesn't make me feel better in myself, but just looking at all the shit humans as a whole have endured makes me feel like...there is hope. Even when I don't feel it, even when it feels like the shittiest Groundhog Day ever...humanity survives. We survive more shit than feels possible. 

Anyway. This is sounding more negative that I really meant to get. Weirdly, that last paragraph inspires me.

The human spirit is indomitable. And that pushes me to go through the motions. 

My husband has been on a...weight loss journey, I guess, is probably the most well-known term. But that doesn't really feel like it describes it. Life-change would be better, but ugh- doesn't that sound pretensious AF? Anyway. He's lost like 50 lbs in the past year. And his mantra has been "Discipline over motivation." Because he realized early on that while he had days that he was feeling good and really inspired, there were also days when he didn't want to put in the work. And it has been work. But, a year later, he's blown past his original goals and inspired lots of people. Not because he's been constantly motivated, but because he's consistently put in the work. 

The last few months have been a roller coaster, and my carefully balanced routine was pulled out from me. I've floundered a little and my mental health has suffered. 

Something I heard Dax Shepherd say a long time ago on his podcast, and something that I have seen in practice both in my lives and the lives around me, is the idea of a list of things to keep oneself on the right track. For Dax, it's in terms of addiction- he's been open about his participation in AA and sobriety, and he says when he is having a tough time or not feeling right that he has a list of actions he checks. Has he worked out, called a friend, etc. in the last X days. 

I haven't been working my list. 

But I'm coming back.

Things I'm doing that are helping:

Made myself a morning routine list. It's been real tough to adjust to working at home- first with Babycakes, now with her at back to daycare, then a co-worker had a family emergency so I took over some of her responsibilities...it's been a roller coaster. And more days than I care to admit, I've been in my PJs at noon and never "got around" to brushing my teeth until after lunch. I KNOW- it's gross. But the past two days I made myself a list, with time-blocks, and it's helped me feel somewhat more like a normal person. 

Reaching out to friends. I don't love doing this, it's hard over the phone, but again- everyone is struggling right now. Miscarriages, deaths in the family, general parenting woes...a lot of life is on pause, but a lot of shit keeps on coming. It hurts to see people hurt, but it also breaks down some walls of "I'm fine." Be real with your people. Whoever they are, family or friends or whoever. And be sure you are giving them space to be real with you.

Deactivated Facebook. I'm not going to say nothing good comes from social media- it does. But the bad was overwhelming the good for me. I personally find it easier to love people when I don't have access to every thought that enters into their head. Especially because you can "share" something with literally not even 2 seconds worth of thought. I don't think Facebook profiles always represent a whole, thoughtful picture of a person...but I also don't think they encourage thoughts. It's complicated, and it wasn't helping me.

Acknowledging what I can control and what I can't. This is hard...I have control issues, and guilt issues, and together those make it hard to chill the fuck out. We joke that my husband is the all-or-nothing personality, but lately I haven't been good at respecting "good enough." There is a huge social justice push right now to stop complicit silence, and demand...what feels like perfection. I get that. It's fair. But I've internalized it to a place that is not useful. I can't be 100% of everything all the time. So I'm working on realistically working on what I can do. There is a parable (story) in the Bible where Jesus talks about a farmer sowing seeds. Some seed never takes root; some takes root and grows but is choked up by weeds; some grows and is able to be harvested. All I can do is live by my morals and stick to my convictions. I cannot hand plant every single seed of everything in the garden of every person. And what I do probably won't be enough in some people's eyes, and it will be too much in other's. 

Be realistic about what I put myself through. After a lot of emotional turmoil, I recently went back on my anxiety medication. I had weaned off earlier this year and had not planned on returning so quickly. However...2020. It's been a motherfuck. And I was crying and talking to Hubs about how I wasn't sure if I should take it or not...and he made some great points, and said a lot of things I have said to him in the past. When I acknowledged through my tears that he was right- and he definitely was being fair and supportive and logical in a way that I couldn't be- he asked if it was frustrating for me to hear. He said when he was in his dark times, it was frustrating to hear me be logical. I wasn't frustrated. I was sad. I was sad that I had to be told what I already knew, sad that I was putting myself and my family through this...just sad because life is fucking sad. And right now, my life is hard and people I love are hurting and...life is sad. I've also made my first ever appointment for therapy. I've been considering it for a while because...while the medication has been an amazing thing that I'm so grateful for, I also want to do the mental work. I think realizing our mental patterns and coming up with defenses against those are very worthwhile and beneficial goals. 

Watching Say I Do. I used to cry all the time when I was younger. Around my mid-20s, I stopped. And I truly believe that somehow that repression is tied to my anxiety- because even while my husband in Iraq, in a literal war zone- I did not feel like I have felt during my anxiety periods. I think part of it deals with giving myself permission and time to feel my feelings. So, I watch cheesy shows to help me cry it out. Also, I fucking love seeing all these men being loving and respectful and in awe of their female partners (so far, it's been all straight couples). It's literally an anecdote to all the negativity currently abounding in the world. 


What has been getting you through lately?

Thoughts

Man, 2020 is not letting the eff up huh?

COVID is still there, but sometimes feels like it isn't. I've been pretty strict about wearing my mask, but completely forgot a few times. Finally had some time just me & Hubs, and truthfully those have been so rare since COVID that my mind backtracked a few months. Strolled right into those stores without a though. Have mixed feelings about this. Happy that things are getting back to normal...but then I come into a very empty office and talk to my boss about how we may not be back to fully normal operations until January- and realistically, depending on what happens during the colder months, maybe not even then. So it still feels...very surreal in so many ways.

And of course...what we are seeing everywhere...the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. Because it was murder. It was wrong.

It was also the tip of the iceberg. My city had a protests and additionally some property damage from those who decided to use the protests as a cover for destruction. We had threats to municipal buildings and officials. These have affected my family personally. It's also caused a lot of personal reflections.

I grew up with and maintained for far too long the idea that if I was just nice to people, that was all that could or should be asked of me. I ignored little racist comments and believed manipulated statistics. I have not been an ally to people of color, is what I'm saying. I wouldn't have called myself a racist (but surprisingly few people do)...but no one could have called me an anti-racist. Didn't even really know this term existed or what it meant until a week or so ago.

I'd like to become one. I'm not sure when I will be able to truly claim it. But I can claim- I am going to be a white ally. Being me, I'm working on specific and detailed goals that I can put into action to help ensure this actually happens. It's nothing drastic, and it's baby steps that I'm taking at the age of thirty. I can't change my complacency in the past; I'm working to not fall into it in the future.

On top of the general 2020 fuckery, family issues have popped up.

My grandparents have been in great shape for a long time, until they weren't. My grandma's memory has been going and is officially on a rapid decline. No specific diagnoses, but anyone who has experienced it knows what I mean. My grandpa had a stroke maybe 6 months ago and is not recovering. I can't even say not recovering well- it's been a near constant decline. I told my mom (not for the first time) to let me know what I can do. She told me to come spend more time with them...so I've gotta figure out how to do that. I am not sure exactly what I will be doing other than...being there. Which is probably going to be a little weird. I'd like to go on specific weekends so I can take Babycakes, because honestly kids are a great focus in these situations and she can get in as much time with them as possible. But...I also don't want to just take up my parent's house and time. Specifically my mom, who works in retail and can't always adjust her schedule and I don't want to cause more stress. Also slightly worried about my dad because I am pretty sure I heard him saying in the background that I should have already been making this a priority. I love my dad very much, but he sees the world one way and everyone who doesn't meet those expectations is wrong. He would never describe himself that way, I'm sure, but it's definitely how it feels to me...and honestly, it's part of what keeps me away. Again- I like complacency and I will often do nothing if the option of doing something is the least bit controversial...aka the opposite of my dad, who can best be described as brash. Each have their place, but rarely together. I have literally one goal- that is to help my mom, and do whatever causes her the least amount of stress during this time. We shall see what turns out to be.

Hubs has already said to do whatever I need, we'll make it happen. And I actually saw my boss for the first time in a long time yesterday, in person, and gave her a heads up that I may need to do some adjusting for a while. I'm already on a telework agreement due to COVID, and going into the office only 1 day a week, so it shouldn't be as a big of a deal as it would have pre-COVID. But she completely understood. I have said it before and I'm sure I will say it again- I LOVE my supervisors. The head of my department has made it very clear that family is a priority and always respects a need. Not saying she is a pushover- hardly. But she is a woman with a family, she respects hard work and juggling and knows it when she sees it. Also...she is dealing with some similar issues within her own family so she knows personally the exact toll and needs required.

In Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered, Kilgariff talks about her mother having Alzheimer's as being in the movie Jaws. You know the shark is coming for you, everyone on the beach is running away and no help is coming, you are flailing around and so tired..and the shark is still miles away. But it's coming, and you just keep flailing, and it's taking forever but never happening but you know it's coming for you. This feels accurate to my life right now. I told my boss this during our conversation, and she thought for a minute and then laughed. "That's so good. That is such a good way to put it!" Then we told each other "It just sucks and I'm sorry." Because, it does and we are. There's no escaping it. The Jaws music is slowly getting louder, in my ears and brain every second now, and who knows how long it will be playing.

Not to mention- do we wear masks? Are we going to make them sicker if we go? How do we make that decision?! And I don't know if Hubs is even "allowed" to leave the county, technically, due to his job as an essential worker...

The absurdity of the human condition. I started reading The Five and it sets up by describing the poverty and living conditions in London in the late 1800s. Disease- protests- poverty- family drama- looting...it is both hopeful and depressing to realize all these years later, for all our progress, we still have the same issues. To different degrees, and in different places, but humanity struggles on.

The absurdity of the human condition.

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: June 2020




Hello, everyone. Hope you are doing okay...there's so much right now. It's overwhelming, and I hope you are all okay...or at least, feel like you will be soon.

There's really nothing to say that hasn't already been said. So, onto the books.

Glad I started with the anniversary author's note, or I would have been so confused. TBH, these books are kind of crazy. They are just so long! And it feels like each one could have been at least two books...but the series is like 7-8 books long! I am scared to even think of how it goes from here, haha. But it was an enjoyable read. Side note- the television adaptation is one of the better book-to-visual media ones I've seen. Not saying it's perfect or exact but it's very good.


Another honesty moment? I rarely like books about readers or book lovers! I know, I know, insanity. But so often they feel a little cheesy to me. And this one was maybe cheesy in some bits, but I loved it. Really. I appreciated how they took a love of books and reading and applied it to real world situations- education, diversity, social inequality...it was great. I liked that Amy failed to include a diverse rang of stories, and once that was pointed out she fully acknowledged it and was open to ways to do that. That part felt extra timely.

Part of my reading goals for the year was to read the 2019 Goodreads Choice winners. The Nonfiction winner was Rachel Hollis with Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals. I read Girl Wash Your Face and just couldn't stomach the idea of reading another Hollis book*, so I went with the runner up. Did not know going in that this was by the people who hosted the podcast My Favorite Murder, which I have heard of but never listened to (went through a huge true crime phase in high school but it passed). This was still an interesting and very fast read, a nice "break" from all the current heavy (which is saying something about 2020, given that it's by people who refer to gruesome murders a lot).
*short review of my opinion- some parts were great, some were super repetitive and some were super full of white privilege which...I get, because I have it, but also...acknowledge that sometimes it's not realistic for everyone..


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

Time Management

I suuuuuuck at time management.

That is one of the lessons COVID 19 is teaching me. If you have been around for a while, you have heard me lament about my struggles with control and anxiety. To me, they are one and the same.

I have worked very hard to structure my life in a way that works for me. I have routines and I have coping mechanisms and I have to place things on a calendar and to-do lists because otherwise I will just feel like they are having over my head.

This time away from my office has been so difficult. A friend said that she feels like she should have more time than ever, but she can't figure out what to do with it. I'm the same. Somehow I have no clue how to do the things I need to do. In theory I am working the same 8 hours, and Babycakes is back in daycare...but I can't figure out how to use my time. I start working earlier, but somehow have no lunch break to run errands or enjoy a sliver of quiet time to myself.

In all fairness...nothing has been "normal" yet really. I've had two different doctor appointments, so that's two days thrown off. They were originally scheduled on the same day so I would only have to miss one day of work, but that was months ago, pre-COVID. Also, our city- like many others- has been busy with both peaceful protests sparked by the death of George Floyd and also with agitators who use these protests as an excuse to commit unlawful violence and damage. Since Hubs works within the law enforcement/criminal justice field, this has meant some extra time away from home...and not always planned. This has been a disruption for me both practically and emotionally. Not to mention that Babycakes started swimming lessons this week. So...yeah, it's been a juggling act.

To a point, I know that's life. I know that's especially mom life. 2020 is taking everyone on a roller coaster.

I'm hanging on, but I can't exactly say that I'm enjoying it at the moment. Feeling a bit weary and just...unsettled.

This too shall pass...eventually.

More Thoughts on Moving Forward

NC recently moved into Phase 2 of post-COVID life. This wasn't as much as originally hoped for- playgrounds are still shut, bars did not open (there was arguments that restaurants could open and bars couldn't...anyway). But the recommendation from officials seems to be "We're legally allowing things to open, but please still stay home as much as possible."

Babycakes has gone to daycare, which is a big deal. It's helped a LOT...like, I can't even describe it. I am working 40 hours a week instead of 20, but it's SO much easier. Working from home isn't terrible when you aren't also parenting a four year old.

Although, I do want to say...I feel like the last few weeks of COVID quarantine really saw some growth in Babycakes. I don't know if this was due to my attitude, her boredom, the new stuff she got over the quarantine (playset, bike, etc). But one thing we really started working on was getting her used to playing alone. This has come a LONG way in the last few weeks and I feel good about that.

That being said, she is SO happy to be back at daycare. She is such a social creature...I don't share that quality with her, but I recognize it. I can tell she isn't used to it, because she comes home so tired every day, haha! Things are still different there, because of state requirements due to the health pandemic, but it's interaction and stimulation besides what she gets at home.

Our church has bumped up some things due to the new exceptions to NC's gathering rules. They will be opening soon...and I don't think we will be going. There are lots of people who feel the need to be back in that building...and I am, quite frankly, a little hesitant. I appreciate how hard the church staff is working, but it seems like a lot of effort and I'm just not sure about it. And part of me feels really bad about that. But...thinking it over, I don't do hoops. I just don't.

A friend from our small group talked about maybe doing a group online watch, because our church has always done online streaming anyway. So I am hoping to start with that smaller group and then move on.

We did a photo scavenger hunt throughout town with that group, and then had an outside meeting to talk about moving forward, so that was really great because I got to see people I hadn't seen in months (that I used to see nearly every week). The "leaders" are being very respectful and cautious and I appreciate their level of thoughtfulness in moving forward.

I really want to go back to my workout group...but I have a sore throat. I called my doctor just to be sure, and he did not bother testing me for COVID 19 or telling me quarantine. Probably because I have no other signs/symptoms. But I do still feel slightly irresponsible going out in public without a mask for the moment. So, I'm not sure. I read that only about 10% are known cases get a sore throat anyway, and it's rarely the only symptom, so the odds are very slim. But I have serious beliefs about responsibilities and don't want to be a hypocrite (even though...I did go through all the proper channels).

I was able to get our beach trip rescheduled. Last year we went to Oregon Inlet which we loved, but it's a national park and isn't opening back up until two days after our reservation. The state parks I could find that were near the beach were mostly under construction, either planned or from last year's hurricane seasons...so we are going to a small private campground. We'll see how it goes, but I think we will all need this getaway.

All in all, I'm basically going to do a slow burn back to normal...if normal is even a thing, I personally think it won't be all the way normal again until next year after we have a vaccine and it's been in place for a few months. But, again...I don't do hoops. I don't do lines. I do calm and orderly and fun and realistic. And those people who need to be out and about? They can have it. I miss my people, but I don't need restaurants and in-person retail and my faith is not harmed from a building being closed. I've come to terms with my decision. The thing that has bugged me is everyone acting like if you aren't going to restaurants every night and walking into stores without masks you are "living in fear." No homie, I was never that person and wearing a damn $5 masks is no more frustrating to me than wearing a seat-belt. I'm fine.


But I will say- please don't be a dick. Not sure why that has to be said, but don't. I don't agree with all the choices people are making, but there is a 0.5% chance that being a dick will help. My mom works in retail and has to wear a mask and take extra precautions now as part of her job. A customer was very rude to her about it. Dude, WTF?! IT IS LITERALLY PART OF HER JOB, and how about "If you don't like it, get the hell out/go back where you came from (aka home, where you should probably be anyway)."

Strangers don't want to hear your opinions. Not if they are pregnant, not if they are wearing a mask, not if they are wearing a mask incorrectly...lament to your friends, your close circle, if needed, but DON'T BE A DICK.

COVID Quarantine Journal Prompts


1. Quarantine has taught me _________. I can handle being at home. I usually do not like to sit at home. On the weekends, back pre-COVID, I liked to go-go-go. My job is your standard boring office job, and I don't get a lot of interaction or movement so I like making up for that. But this has taught me how to enjoy being at home, and how to really appreciate what I have. Also it's helped me realize that I can interact and play with Babycakes and come up with activities much easier than I originally would have guessed. I may sound like a terrible mom, but I can easily over-analyze things and put unnecessary pressure on myself. No where is this more true than motherhood. It's been nice to see what I'm capable of when that time crunch/expectation is gone. 

2. I'm really glad I don't have to ______ anymore. Hmmm...this is harder than I thought it would be. Right now I can only think of things that I want to do. Maybe I'm glad to not have to sit in traffic? 

3. I've realized I've been taking _______ for granted. My family. My home. My town. I said it before, and it's just true- I'm so blessed to be where I am. I know there are good things and bad things about every place people live. But I grew up in a town where I knew I didn't fit in, and always felt like I was meant to leave. I loved the opportunity to live in different places during Hubs' Army service, but we always knew those places were temporary. I'm thankful to have a nice home with a big yard, and to live in a place with mild weather, so we can get outside a lot. Also to live in a place that has lots of outdoor trails and paths and greenways that we have been able to take advantage of during this quarantine. I feel like we are in as good of a place, physically and community wise, as we could possibly ask for, and that is a great feeling. 

4. If I could have anything for the rest of this, it would be _________. Hmmmm. Maybe the laptop desk I ordered on Amazon, that I didn't order until a month and a half of working at home, and that won't be here until I am close to going back to the office? 

5. I'm going to tell my kids/grandkids that this was _________. A roller coaster. Seriously. Some days I love the extra time with Babycakes, I'm able to stay calm and realize that staying home is one of the easiest things to do to help others. Other days I can't shake the concern for my family, my community, my state, my nation, the world at large...I've never experienced anything even close to this. There are so many questions and unknowns. Sometimes I loose my temper with Babycakes. I am scared that she's having trouble processing but can't identify or express it. I'm worried that I'm not challenging her enough or teaching her enough or being patient enough...or being strict enough or that I'm letting her watch entirely too much TV. I'm frustrated with people not taking this seriously, and I'm annoyed at people choosing to believe hype over fact, and ignoring science, and blaming people...and I'm also trying to face reality that some people are ignorant (some by choice, some very much not by choice but don't know what they don't know) and some are just having trouble keeping up (because this is hard to keep up with). 

6. The easiest part of this whole thing has been ________. Binging TV? Sleeping? 

7. I'm increasing my knowledge by ________. Um...not doing this. What knowledge am I supposed to be increasing? I'm surviving and trying to keep myself and my family sane. 

8. I was looking forward to _______ but it was canceled. My kid's birthday. My husband's birthday. My first time attending a local race that is a big deal within my workout group. A local mud run. A beach trip with friends in June that was canceled because the park isn't reopening until two days after we were scheduled to be there.

9. One thing I wish the world would learn from this is ________. You are not a solitary being. None of us are. The ties that bind us may feel loose, but they exist.

10. The worst part of all this has been ________. The times I lost my temper with Babycakes. I didn't beat her or lock her in a closet or do anything traditionally terrible. But I lost my temper, and yelled and it was right. 

11. The most bizzare thing I've heard yet is ________. The crazy conspiracy theories about who let this loose on purpose. The distrust in the CDC and science in general. FYI, if someone "knows it's coming," it doesn't mean they created it or hid it...it could just mean they were paying attention to something you weren't paying attention to. 

12. My binge-worthy show has been __________. Community. When it's good, it's fantastic. But I'm not going to lie- there have been some terrible episodes also. 

13. The first thing I'm going to do when all this is over is __________. I would really like to have a date night with my hubby. This is a stressful time and we obviously haven't been able to have Babycakes visit her grandparents or get a sitter, and our time together has just been...slim, not to mention repetitive. 

14. I'm taking this as an opportunity to _______. Stop. Just stop doing things. Some of this is good, some is probably bad, but yeah. I'm just quitting expectations and worries and literally doing whatever makes me not feel crazy each day.

15. Something I've learned about myself during this time is _________. I definitely made the right choice not to be a stay-at-home-mom. Additionally, I can do more mom-ish things that I would have expected. I do have a mom grove, and I found out where it is and where it isn't. 

16. The best source of entertainment has been _________. Harry Potter & Outlander. 

17. The biggest way my life has changed is ______________. Honestly, how do I pick this? I'm responsible for Babycakes education, which is scary and hard, especially while working (even though I am able to do part-time). I can't see my friends or workout. 

18. One thing that will never change is ________. My family holds it together. 

19. I've been practicing how to _________. Learn grace, both towards myself and others.

20. An average day for me now looks like __________. It depends. If Hubs is working, I wake up at 4:30 and telework for 2-3 hours until Babycakes wakes up. Then we eat breakfast. We may go for a walk or bike ride, or do some supposedly education activities from Pinetrest. Then it's lunch and nap/quiet time. I may work some more or I may nap or read till she wakes up. Then we play until it's time to make dinner. Post-dinner is the only time that is the same: eat, bath, story time, prayers, and bed. If Hubs is not working, I can sleep will 6-7 usually, have breakfast with the fam, and then work anywhere from 4-6 hours. May have lunch with the fam or just emerge later in the afternoon to hang with the fam.

21. My go-to snack has been ___________. Cheese sticks and Gatorade protein bars. 

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: May 2020


Hello, fellow readers! Hope you are doing well. I didn't link up last month, for the first time in what feels like literal years, due to the COVID pandemic. Mostly because, when I began staying home in March...I stopped reading new things. Part of me feels like I have handled all this very well, but for a while I could not read new material. That is a sure sign of something being wrong in my life.

I've learned over the years that when my brain is feeling...overwhelmed, I can't take in new stories. Or if they are new, they must be the lightest and fluffiest of stories that I feel absolutely no investment in/don't take very seriously. Instead of reading anything new, I finished rereading the last 2.5-3.5 books of Harry Potter...again. None of these felt like a good option for a SUYB post, and to be honestly I didn't really want to read any other posts either. Sorry, but I knew I wouldn't be in the head space to actually track or focus on the recommendations, so I took the month off from blogging and reading along with everything else.

Thankfully I finally found my stride and have since read a few new things (if you think I didn't consider just starting back at Sorcerer's Stone for HP though...you're wrong).



Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

This book was...interesting. I enjoyed the story, even though occasionally the waiting for the two timelines to meet up make me impatient. But, I keep reading these types of stories so obviously I don't mind too much. Would recommend if you like other Chamberlain books.
★★★★

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

This book was not the usual Jackson story...it was still good, and still compelling, but the...twist was really not something I was prepared for. Not sure that it was necessary. It also still felt a little random, both that big twist and how things would have gotten started anyway...but still a decent read. Just be ready for something deserving of a trigger warning. It wasn't the worst or super explicit, but it was icky. According to Goodreads, I rated it 5 stars...I always rate right after reading, so now I might bring it down to four but clearly I liked it.
★★★★★

#IMomSoHard by Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley

Funnily enough, I rated this 4 stars and would probably now move to 5. These ladies are hilarious and I'm super jealous of their friendship.
★★★★

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Finally fell down the Outlander hole. I love a good series and to avoid falling back into the HP trap, I picked this one. Enjoyed it, definitely see what the fuss was all about.
★★★★



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

Preparing to Return to...Normal?

It's time to start thinking about...not being in quarantine. After a month and a half of being at home, working from home, not going to church, barely seeing any friends (and seeing very few friends when I do), of canceled plans and not visiting family, of drive-through and pick-up everything...it's time to slowly move forward into a new normal.

I am still not 100% clear what is going on with my work. I've been using some pandemic leave to help with childcare, but that runs out this week as the state Stay at Home order ends. I had planned on keeping Babycakes home with me as long as I was not going into the office, but trying to work 40 hours with a small child at home is brutal. I know- the rest of the world has been doing it for weeks. But it feels like a sign that it's time to get ready and move forward. Not to mention our daycare center has been doing discounted rates for those keeping kids at home, and that is coming to an end soon as well.

I have plenty of work I can do from home, but it's busy work if we're all being honest. It's not pointless, but it's not a normally a priority and not my usual duties. As with most state entities, my employer is updating kind of last minute...our current instructions officially end today, and I'm expecting an update this afternoon if at all. There has been no clear move to return to the campus, but I would be a good candidate to go back soon. I already work separately from the rest of my department, in a space that is not accessible to the public at all. And due to funding, the temporary workers I was with (only 2) have been let go. I thought the official stance was "Stay home," but I don't know if the return will be as clearly defined or up to departmental discretion. In discussing things with my supervisor, she also mentioned some other things I could potentially help with...not sure if she wants me to be more productive with this time, or additional help is needed due to this being the busy time of the office, or just getting me cross-trained since we had been moving towards that before the pandemic hit. 

NC is currently working on a phased return to...normal. Although again, there won't be a true normal for a while. My church is quite large- like, could easily have 600-1000 people on a Sunday. Heard through the grapevine that it's looking like it could be months until we are able to meet together in our sanctuary. That hurts, as church is a pretty big part of our lives and routine. Although I do seriously want to thank our pastors, especially our kids pastor. We have always live-streamed our services, but they have stepped up and done a great job trying to stay connected during this time. They have emailed, called, done daily video devotionals over Facebook...yes, I'm sure they are generic and mass emails, but if I respond I get a personal response back. And that effort means a lot. Our children's pastor has done live-streaming where she says hello to every kid/family who comments on the stream, sent postcards, and organized pick-ups of coloring sheets+snacks. She's also done videos for the kids from the volunteers, and vice versa. Babycakes loves it, and I'm so thankful for the chance to keep Babycakes connected to "her" part of church too.

At this point, I'm waiting on the approval for 25 people to gather so we can have our "small" group meetings again. Since our church is so big, these are little groups kind of like Bible Study groups to help make sure we actually know people and are involved in the church, versus just being a bunch of random faces. It's also a way to help the church pastors know if there are any big needs- our lead pastor is very upfront that it's hard for him to keep up with our entire congregation. We are supremely lucky that our small group has truly turned into our best friends. It doesn't happen that way with every group, but we see our SG all the time. We started out for married couples, of all ages and both with/without kids. As the years have gone by, we sort of narrowed into a demographic of (now) late 20s/early 30s, and we all ended up having kids around the same time. Our kids love each other, we baby-sit for each other, we vacation together, half of us have ended up living on the same side of town and/or using the same daycare...especially for us, since we don't have family in town, these people are our local family. 

Babycakes misses her friends, and will be going back to daycare the week after next. This will be almost exactly 2 months of staying at home. It's crazy...she needs people. She has always been very people oriented- even as a baby, she would rather watch people than play with toys. We have done little outings- like picking up ice cream and eating it in the socially distanced parking lot. She is straight up creepy staring at other kids and families! My poor child. I am slightly worried because...guys, 2 months of being together basically 24/7 may lead to some separation anxiety. And I can't blame her! I went into my office for like 3 hours the other day and she bawled when I left (poor Hubs, he's a great dad but he is essential...aka, he's working normally so it has not been quite the same intensity of togetherness). The first few days will probably be okay due to excitement of seeing people again, but I'm steeling myself for some meltdowns. Especially because the daycare center has been doing modified drop-off more like elementary schools- instead of walking them in and using our keycards/etc, the teachers are picking kids up at the door to minimize exposure on door handles/etc. Not sure if this will be able to continue when the bulk of kids return, so that will be interesting too. Overall we are doing well, but it's illogical to assume these world changes are not affecting the little ones. 

We had a parents-only beach trip scheduled for late June with some friends...got a refund yesterday since the park will be opening 2 days after we were scheduled to camp. So...currently trying to find somewhere accepting reservations for that same weekend. After a few months of quarantine, we need a vacation for sure! One friend said at this point, it can be tents in a backyard. She will spray saltwater on us and buy an oceanic sound machine if we can't get a beach campsite! Bahaha. As long as the kids finally get to visit their grandparents and we get some chill time. Yes, we all love our kids...but no one should spend that much time together. It's just not good for a relationship, IMO. 

Also, super thankful for Facetime/etc. We were literally video calling my mom every single day. I hope Babycakes can visit soon. Hubs & I have been diligent about keeping our social circle very small during this quarantine. I think the transition out will honestly be harder. There is no clear rule or benchmark, and that is very frustrating. I don't like it, to be honest. It feels like being reasonable is a hard line to walk right now. My mom works in retail, so will have more public contact (although they are doing masks, social distance marking, etc) and will likely have a harder time getting days off now. My ILs own their own business and have been able to decrease their contact more, and will likely have more time soon, so hopefully we can do a visit there too. Also we have so many make-up birthday parties/etc! Bahaha. It's going to be hard to keep it calm and not rush back, but also...life can go on, and should.

Covid 19 Check In #2

Hello, everyone. I'm alive. So is the fam. No one is sick. We are just...surviving at home. My hubby is working normally. I am working about half my normal hours, and using a "pandemic leave" to thankfully cover the other portion of my hours and keep a full paycheck. I have no clue how people who need to work 40 hours a week and take care of a kid are doing it- it's so hard just doing 20! 

But, we are doing okay. Financially we are fine, even better than normal since we are not paying full daycare fees or spending gas (seriously, I think I used half a tank in the last month) or other random expenses. 

We are getting a little restless...and definitely feel like some days our familial tension is just high. 


It's tough. It's tough on me and Babycakes, because we are doing nothing but being at home. I mean, we go on walks and little things like that but...I was not built to be a stay at home mom. There is a reason I do not work in childcare. And my social child needs more than me.

I am getting a bit weary. 


She is getting weary. I know why this is happening, I understand it...but it is hard. It is frustrating. 

My husband is still working, but he is feeling it in different ways. He is feeling the lack of the gym (this may sound superficial but he is about 8 months into a significant weight loss; not to mention exercise is paramount to mental health in our family). Also, he has no alone time because on his days "off," we are still here. And I really want him to be in charge of Babycakes on those days so I can  work without distraction. Of course, I don't have any alone time either. And he's asked what he can do to help...but help is limited right now. 

There just isn't a break, and I am feeling that today.


It's exhausting trying to teach a little person how to not be an asshole, quite frankly. Then add in trying to balance working on letters and numbers and staying physically active and gross motor skills and fine motor skills...fuck, man. Parts of me are glad she isn't in school yet, because then we would have specific stuff to do and I couldn't just have my "give up" days where we binge TV all day. But also, making this shit up and trying to balance and be literally everything to someone is so exhausting

Don't get me wrong- there are great moments as well. We bought her a bike for her birthday, and watching her learn that has been amazing. We have had some great bonding moments and I've learned a lot about her and there are some things I hope to carry forward into "normal" life, whenever that resumes. 

But, this is hard. I am in an incredibly privileged position, and it's still hard. 


And I know there are others who are much worse off than me. It doesn't take the frustration away, but it does help remind me to be thankful for what I do have. It does make me even more convicted in certain areas...but there just isn't much I can personally do at the moment, and that is hard too. The only thing I can do is...stay home, so I am doing it. 

Everyone is suffering, whether we can see it or not. Whether we feel it or not- this period will be affecting us for a long time. 


Walked away from this to check on Babycakes before hitting publish...she now has a fever. There goes my "NO TV TODAY" rule. Bless.

Covid Check-In

Hello, world! Hope you are all reading this from a nice and cozy spot at home. And if not...dude, go home. Seriously. Wherever you are. Except on the slim chance you actually have to report to work right now, but in that case...you probably shouldn't be reading this.

Last week my employer started talking about preparing for telework and limiting social contact and all the stuff the rest of the country was starting to grapple with. North Carolina public schools were closed over the weekend. Somehow, daycares were not closed so Babycakes went on Monday and I went to work per usual. But everything was so crazy and seemed like it was about to shut down, as grouping restrictions went from 50 to 25 to 10. Daycare remained open but basically asked us to keep our kids home if we could, to ensure they stayed open for as long as possible for those who do not have another option.

So we preemptively started our restriction on Tuesday once I got the full go-ahead to telework from home. I have a daily schedule and lots of Pinterest activities in my back pocket, so we'll see how it goes. The uncertainty was more than I could handle, and choosing to stay home was my small grasp at somehow having control. Also, I just really did not think daycare would last this full week.

Although apparently they were doing some form of "health checks" that included taking temps at drop-off, according to some friends. They are about to start this at Hubby's work also- anyone with a fever is sent home and immediately supposed to do a 14 day self-quarantine at home.

Teleworking is interesting. The only part of my job I can do from home is a busy-work type of job that wasn't a priority. However, there's a lot of it and it will keep me busy for a while and was on the horizon eventually. I'm getting up early and staying up late, so I am not just on the computer all day while Babycakes is zoned out in front of the TV. It's slightly easier on Hubby's days off, as he can be the "front-line parent" so to speak. Apparently our time-keeping site does not like my night hours though, as it's not recording it correctly. So that's interesting. Some specific paid leave has been granted for certain positions for sickness or care duties, so I am hoping to potentially do part telework and part paid leave. I've been going to bed at 10-10:30 and waking up at 4:30-5:00, which is less sleep than usual. Not terrible, but not sure I can do it 5 days a week.

I'm a little bit in "Army Wife" mode. That means...a part of me has just accepted that things are crazy and I've narrowed focus and am just sort of absorbing the hits. This is unprecedented, but some feelings are familiar. Unpredictable schedule? Check.  Feeling isolated? Check. Relying on technology for social interaction? Check. Disrupted life for the sake of a greater good? Fuckin' check.

To be clear, I accept this likely means I will have a breakdown after all this is over. That seems to be my pattern. It's not a bad patter, honestly, and I'm cool with it. Just want to be clear.

Babycake's birthday is next month. We were supposed to have a party at a local park, and also visit my family who live a few hours away. Both of those things are up in the air at the moment. Currently though, she is basically loving the fact that we are together all day. I've honestly stepped up my mom game a lot, bahaha. So she's doing cool new activities and we're playing outside and she gets to watch at least one Disney movie a day while I work (maybe 2, because...life).

I hope people listen and just stay the fuck home. If everyone would just calm down, rest for two weeks, recharge, and stay away from each other...this will pass. It will pass anyway, but the idea of someone's pride killing others is one that really fucking angers me.

A lot of it is truly ignorance or a coping mechanism, IMO. A friend was being annoyingly blase about the whole thing, and it wasn't until she realized how seriously the hospital she worked at was taking things and heard a local doctor speak that it sort of shook her. So we were almost a week apart in our journey to understand this...think of how many people she could have infected in that week if she was sick. And she wasn't even one of the ones going out to eat or anything, because our city had already clamped down on some of that.

She did comment that it was a little scary seeing the government impose restrictions. Y'all...freedom does not come free. Everyone pays a price for it. Freedom to live > Freedom to eat in a restaurant. Get better priorities. And reminder- freedom is not individual. It is collective. No man is an island. You have connections, more than you realize, and your actions have effects. You are not free from the consequences of decisions.

Anyway. Basically...we're fine here at home. At least for the moment.

Now, really...how are you?

Show Us Your Books: March 2020


Another month gone! Y'all, February was a long one for us. My family got pink eye...repeatedly. My husband has a beautiful straight nose I've always loved...and he's always claimed it doesn't work right. Apparently this is true, because he has been plagued by sinus issues this month...which, FYI, can cause pink eye if it gets bad enough. After two rounds, I've told him I love him with all my heart but he's quarantined. I'm on the couch until he has fully recovered*.

He offered to take the couch. But it's easier to wash the bed linens than the couch, and it's easier to keep Babycakes off our bed than off the couch. This is just the most logical option.

Anyway...Babycakes & I seem to be doing okay, it's been several days without drops and our eyes are nice, light, healthy pink. We're keeping a safe distance, taking ALL precautions, and Hubs went back to the doctor for some super antibiotics so let's all pray that in 7-10 days I can kiss my husband again!

Until then, I have my books to keep me company. That's why we're all here, let's get to it.


One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Lying #2


This was a fun and frustrating who-dunnit. Again, as I've said...I really just need to accept that I like to binge read a series. Wish I could have remembered a little more about the first in the series- it wasn't super relavent to the plot, but since it was in the same community I'm sure it would have been a more enjoyable read had I actually gotten all the references instead of constantly thinking "Hmmm that sounds vaguely familiar." Rated it 4 stars on GR, probably more like 3.5.
★★★★


The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao


This book was slightly creepy. It was a slow, calm creep though. I didn't necessarily feel sucked in but I just interested enough to keep going. This may not sound appealing to everyone, but I loved it. The ending was dissapointing...I am just not a fan of that particular twist. Eh. Rated it 4 stars on GR, probably more like 3.5.
★★★★


A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum


This book was hard. I did not like reading it. I wanted to quit so bad, but forced myself to keep going because it's been SO well lauded. The writing is fine but I kept thinking some form of hope would show up and...it kind of did and kind of didn't. A question was answered literally on the last page, but even that answer was a "Well yep that's exactly as fucked up as I should have expected" more than an "Aha." As someone who tries to be very open-minded and liberal and understanding and all that jazz, it honestly made me super uncomfortable to read about such a closed community because I felt like I was reading every stereotype about a group of people and that's the opposite of what I want. But at the end there an interview with the author (and I cant remember the appropriate term but...she was a part of the community she writes about...own voices?) and she did talk about her side of that fear; that it was bad for the community at large and would she be critized for drawing more fire on them...but that she had to speak up because, like the characters, she never saw that part of her story. It's not all Muslims/immigrants but it is something she witnessed repeatedly, to varying degrees. Maybe this is an important book to read, but as a woman it was so. fucking. hard. I didn't feel good at the end. But...everyone deserves to know they aren't alone. And sweeping things under the rug isn't good. Just...be prepared, because I was not, and it put me in a dark space. I guess I'm saying...trigger warning.
★★★★


When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald


This book was exactly what I needed after A Woman Is No Man. It has some of the same issues (violence, socio-economic problems, abuse/neglect) but in a hopeful way. Zelda, the main character, was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She's high-functioning but also sees things in very simplistic terms, and doesn't always pick up on nuance. Maybe because of this, she was a fucking delight to read. I want to say sweet, but that has a negative connotation nowadays. She's tough AF, determined, smart, very logical once you understand how her mind works, and cares. She wants to be a Viking and she fucking is. This was a story of redemption and determination and loving your tribe and loving yourself and fucking READ IT.
★★★★★

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who's Been There by Tara Schuster


I really enjoyed this book, to the point where I ended up buying the ebook. As someone with anxiety...it's both comforting and frustrating to realize that all self-help books basically boil down to to the same things: journal, exercise, eat well, spend time in the sun/nature, and build social boundaries. These things can be done differently depending on personality, but they need to be done. I appreciated all the step-by-step suggestions and rituals. I appreciated that she was upfront about hard things, and how she felt. It's interesting to see that while she certainly does have some privilege and in some ways has an enviable job (re: money+career+travel, etc)...she's dealing with the same feelings that many people with anxiety have...because anxiety doesn't care where you are in life. It's just the worse.
★★★★★



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

Another Check-In / Recommendations

Hello world. Still not up for full time blogging, but I am starting to think "Hmmm I should blog about that" so that's an indication I might be back more regularly soon.

This feels weird to say, because you don't really hear this a lot, but the hubs & I have been having a really good week or two. Sometimes in a marriage (or really any relationship) two people aren't on the same wavelength, and it can be fucking annoying. Right now, we are pretty in sync- mainly due to good communication. That's a super hard thing to get right, but it's felt really good lately. Our church had a very focused sermon a few weeks ago that encouraged a deep talk and while I'm sure it sounds cheesy to some, it was really helpful and sparked a good attitude and increased communication and I'm feeling very happy and comforted. Babycakes went to visit her grandparents this weekend, and we started to make all these big plans for our kid-free weekend. Instead we ended up sitting at our kitchen table talking for three hours. From internet memes to politics to where we were going for dinner, it was just a random old-school conversation with the person I love. It feels very special to have that with my high school sweetheart, my first love, after 16 years together (literally over half my life). He's my fav.

If you haven't watched the Taylor Swift documentary on Netflix, go do it. I've sort of been all over the map regarding my viewpoint on her...as a famous person. I was slowly starting to come back around to the "Hmm she seems kind cool, I actually do like her music surprisingly (not a big pop person), and I could easily see how maybe some things in the media are twisted." This documentary solidified that and put me firmly in the pro-Swift camp. As someone roughly the same age, I've been part of her target audience so to speak, and to see all these things from her point of view from the last 15 years...it was eye-opening. Loved it, can't recommend enough.

My kid's daycare teachers have this sheet of paper outside their door with a list of all the kids who can count to 30. Babycakes was the first kid in her class to do this, which is cool...but also, she's 3. Do we really need to publicly praise/shame a friggin' 3YO? Is it to encourage parents to work on it more at home? It feels icky to me. And my kid is on the list! I can't imagine what it's like to be one of the parents or kids who aren't on the list (not even mentioning special needs kids, which is a whole other topic...). Love the school, glad Babycakes is doing well and learning, but it just feels like an icky aspect of our culture.

I've recommended multiple episodes of The Armchair Expert podcast by Dax Shepherd before, and I'm doing it again. I've read Peggy Orenstien before, and want to read more from her. She's written about culture and media and girls for a long time, and recently wrote a book looking at boys and sex. Hearing her and Dax talk about this is so enlightening and I love this conversation. Listen Here

I'm feeling a bit down and isolated lately...just like my support system isn't there. This could be a chicken-or-egg situation; not sure if I'm down because the lack of support, or if the fact that I'm down makes me feel less connected. I've talked about this before, and maybe it's specific to my certain group of friends, but it seems like a lot of women are just not willing to make friendships a priority.

Along the same line...I skipped my FiA workout this weekend, but I think it was good for me. I spent some time having coffee and reading Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies (also highly recommend). Between the two, I was inspired and ended up going for a two mile run. I didn't stop or slow down until over a mile in, which is a big deal for me (I can work out, I can ruck, but I usually hate running). I think it was good to feel self-motivated, rather than my group workout which I LOVE and know is good for me but was feeling like a checklist item. Getting out there and reminding myself of why it's good for me and why it matters was mentally healthy for the day.

Oh and I gave up FB for Lent. I never practiced Lent as a child, it's not practiced in all Christian denominations. I've mentioned it before, but the older I get the more I appreciate these religions traditions...not just for traditions sake, but for the purpose behind them (clarity, closer relationship with Christ, etc). At first it was really difficult, because it's my go-to...but after almost a week I realized today that I hadn't even thought of it until I was almost at work- which is a big deal for me. I definitely notice that I still reach for my phone- I've spent more time on Pinterest and Instagram (haven't posted on Instagram in forever before last week). So far the only part I truly miss is having access to the groups for recommendations (places for Hubs & I to go for our date night, insight on fountain pens from my BuJo groups since I'm kicking the idea round of getting one as a greener alternative to my gigantic pen/marker collection). But, I also know I scroll through those groups mindlessly through the day and get annoyed because I see the same questions over and over because it is 2020 and people still don't know the search feature exists. And that aspect isn't good for me. So I think this break will hopefully help me moderate myself better.

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?