Monday, March 30, 2020

March Reading

**** I began this post at the beginning of the month, when I had no idea we'd be dealing with social distancing due to the coronavirus. As you might be able to tell, I spent quite a bit of time reading this month.

These are my March reads:

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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I am reading this for my regular bookclub, but this fits my Keyword Reading Challenge for the word "House" too. Some of the women at book club are really raving about this book and really love it. I liked it but I don't love it. Maybe sometimes I am a little less forgiving than others? I'll be curious to hear more from the women at book club about why they all loved it.
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Einstein's Beach House by Jacob M Appel- I don't often read short stories. This has been sitting on my shelf for a few years and I'm glad I finally picked it up. You know stories that are so odd that you feel, "Yeah, totally unrealistic," but then you meet a weird character and think to yourself "I know that person...." Well, this book was like that for me. The stories were weirdly amusing. My favorite one was about a depressed hedgehog. Maybe I'll try to read more short stories.
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Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier. I got this advanced reader copy from Netgalley.  Thank you!  This book was about an affluent couple whose 4 year old son goes missing while the mother is answering the father's text while Christmas shopping. Despite the best effort of mall security, police, FBI and a private investigator, there have never really been any true hints about what happened after the boy left the mall. Eighteen months have passed and life has changed- the wife has joined a support group of people with missing children while her life seems to be getting away from her a bit. The husband keeps working in hopes that he can move on.Without giving away a bunch of spoilers, the wife gets a call from the PI asking her to meet. At the meeting she learns that her husband has been having an affair with a younger woman.Chaos ensues.
         To be really honest, I wasn't sure I'd like this book- 1)I'm a teacher and a mom of boys- so, missing kids is not usually an entertaining subject for me. 2) I don't read romance so I'm not used to steamy scenes... there were a few in here. 3) I felt the beginning was predictable and at the start, I wasn't really liking the characters. One night, I went to bed early but work up a little before 11. I thought I'd read a chapter and go back to bed. Well, I ended up reading for a few hours until I finished the book. Then I e-mailed the author to tell her how surprised I was to have liked it. (She responded and seems super cool.)

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling.  This is another "shelf-dweller" that I'm glad I picked up. (Y'all- I might have only one "to read" bookshelf by the summer instead of a bookshelf with a giant pile next to it.) This is a play that opened in London in July of 2016. I'm delighted that I had no idea about the story. This is a play about what happens years after the Harry Potter series had ended. Harry, Ron and Hermione have grown up and have jobs and families of their own. One of the main themes of the play is growing up with a legacy that you did not ask for- growing up the son of the famous Harry Potter. Of course, anyone who has read the series will know that Harry also had a legacy he did not ask for, as "The Boy Who Lived." I let both of my sons read this before I did and it was fun to discuss the book with them. I also enjoyed this one a lot. 
 
What It Means To Be a Teacher  by Jenn Larson.   This was another Netgalley Advanced Reader Copy. Thanks!  This book made me laugh. Sometimes books that are written "to celebrate" a classroom are obviously written by people who have not been in a classroom for many, many years. This book made me feel like others totally get what I do. I'm writing this post on 3/30- about 2 weeks into our social distancing from school. There are a lot of little moments in my day that I really miss- a check in with kids in the hallway who "accidentally" pass me at the same time every day, the weird responses I get to questions on a test, the cute doodle I find in the corner of an assignment... it's these kinds of things that I miss. This book has mentions of those types of things along with with everyday teaching issues. I related to this book a lot.
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The Life We Bury- Allen Eskens- I read this for my Book Hive book club. Joe Talbert is a student who is assigned to interview a stranger to write a biography for a class at university. He goes to a nursing home to see if he can find someone to connect with and a nurse points him in the direction of Carl Iverson, who is a Vietnam vet but also a convicted murdered who is only out of jail because of his life-threatening medical problems. While he is trying to learn about Carl, he is also forced to deal with his dysfunctional mother whose drinking and selfishness put him in a caretaker position to his younger brother who is autistic.
       I liked this book. The characters are relatable and many of the backstories make you look at their situation and wonder what you would do in a similar position. I might check out the other books in this series.
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The Garden of Lost Memories- by Ruby Hummingbird- I received this from NetGalley as an ARC. This was a delightful surprise to me. Elsie is an older woman who is set in her ways and in her routine until she meets a new neighbor who has left her abusive husband and is trying to support her 10 year old son, Billy. Billy doesn't quite understand why he is living in a new place or why he is stuck being babysat by Elsie, but he starts to feel more comfortable when Elsie teaches him how to work in her garden and he discovers a box that has been hidden for years. I thought this would be a little too light for me at first, but I liked how the characters developed throughout the story and the relationship between Elsie and Billy. It was a nice feel good story to read, even though not all of parts of the story are happy.
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 Only Daughter- Anna Snoekstra-    It's 2014 and a young woman is caught shoplifting in a supermarket. Being a person who is somewhat used to manipulating others to get what she wants, she tries all of her normal routines until she realizes that she may not get out of this situation. So, she decides to try a new approach, to claim to be a child named Rebecca Winters, who went missing 11 years before. Rebecca's (called Bec) parents are called and the girl is welcomed back home into the family. She originally expected to leave the family, but as she settles into her new life, she discovers that she might actually be able to pull this off and might not decide to leave since things aren't so bad. Then things start unraveling and she feels like she has to figure out what is really going on. This book alternates between the girl in 2014 and Bec from 2003. It kept my interest and there were a few plot twists I didn't see coming.
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Secret Prey- John Sandford- I started this one but did get very far. It was on my "to read" shelf but I'm not enjoying books that I'm feeling are overtly sexual, violent or gross just for the sake of trying to be entertaining to someone.
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A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards- This is another book for my Book Hive club. One thing I love about this club is that every person picks a book that they'd like and everybody else reads it. I have read lots of books that I wouldn't normally have read.  This book seemed like it might be a little light for me. It's about a woman named Ryan, who is called by her (considerably) older sister who has gotten in some sort of trouble and needs Ryan to help out by taking care of her nieces. Ryan, who is a crime podcaster, is extremely uncomfortable with the whole situation, but drops everything to try to help. When Ryan arrives at Wendy's house and begins spending more time with her nieces, she starts to realize that things don't seem to be as they seem.
       I liked this book too. I especially enjoyed the relationships between Ryan and her ex-boyfriend Teo as well as Ryan's relationship with her nieces. There were a few characters I spent a lot of time being annoyed by, but I think the author may have done some of that on purpose.
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Personal by Lee Child-       I enjoy the Jack Reacher books. In this particular book, Jack is asked to track down (really, to bait) a sniper named John Kott, who is believed to have tried to shoot the French president. Kott and Reacher have history, as Reacher is the person who got Kott convicted and put into prison. Reacher is teamed up with a woman named Casey Nice and challenged to find Kott before the G8 summit, where they are worried he might strike again.
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American Blonde by Jennifer Niven- I have no idea where I got this book. I think it's been on my "to read" shelf for a long time. I also had no idea that this is the 4th book in a series. With that being said, it was fine as a stand alone book. It's a piece of historical fiction (regular fiction with historical pieces?) that takes place during the Golden Age of MGM pictures. Velva Jean Hart is a girl who is "discovered" after she is caught on a newsreel during her return to America after the war. She is invited to Hollywood to audition for the pictures and is given a contract and a new identity. She leaves most of her old life behind to experience what it's like to be a star while she still tries to hold onto her personal identity. This is another book I'm glad I gave a chance to. I'm not sure if I will go back to read the other three Velva Jean books, but I'm glad I read this one. 



Goodreads Reading Challenge:19/60

Keyword Reading Challenge: 3/12

Thursday, February 27, 2020

February Reading Update

      These are the books that I read in the month of February:

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Persuader by Lee Child. I really enjoy the Jack Reacher novels, though I've found recently I might be enjoying thrillers a little less. I like how action packed these novels are and I suppose I like the fact that there is always vengeance for the good guy. In this particular novel, Reacher is hired (off the record, of course) to help take down a gun dealer who happens to be associated with a man who killed someone Reacher once worked with. I finished the book in a few days. I also just read an article about the author, Lee Child, and how he feels like he is "ageing out" of writing these Jack Reacher novels. He's passing the baton to his younger brother, Andrew. The 25th Jack Reacher novel will come out in October 2020.
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     The Girl Who Disappeared Twice- by Andrea Kane- another thriller type. This book was a bit predictable, but I enjoyed it. It was not graphic or terribly violent. I had not read any Andrea Kane before, and I will give her another shot if I see more of her books. I would've liked to see a few more things addressed towards the end of the book, but it was alright.This completes my February Keyword Reading Challenge with the word "Girl."
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The Blind Spot-  by Adam Barrow- Rarely do I stop reading a book. In this book, a boy is kidnapped from a planetarium when his dad accidentally falls asleep during a show. You learn about a chapter later that the boy is taken with plans to traffick him to other men. I didn't think anything edifying could possibly come out of this book, so I just stopped. Moving on...
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The Imperfects- by Amy Meyerson. I seriously needed to walk away from the thrillers for a bit. This book is about a family who is estranged from one another coming together after the grandmother of the family passes away and leaves a piece of jewelry, which ends up being the Florentine Diamond, to one of the grandkids. It examines the lives of all the characters individually while addressing the family dynamics. I enjoyed this book a lot. The characters were interesting and their family issues were definitely relatable. There were also bits of historical information woven into this story and I enjoyed that just as much.


The Breaker Boys-   My dad lent this book to me. He apparently knows the author, or someone related to the author. It's about young boys who used to work separating coal from other debris after it had been brought out of the shaft. These boys were usually very young (8-12?) and the job itself had some very dangerous aspects. This story is about a family who relocates to a mining town after the father gets into a dispute with his dad and decides to abandon the family trade. After a short period of time, the father of the family dies and the women of the family are left to fend for themselves. One of the daughters decides to dress as a boy and become a breaker boy.
I expected the story to be a bit more linear and maybe focus on the boys more, but it was interesting. I learned a few things and the characters drew me in. Even though I might've preferred more of the story of the breaker boys, their side stories added a lot to the book. I will say that there were a few mistakes in the book that were distracting to me. Example, there is a character who is referred to as Mr. Yager and Mr. Yeager. I don't know if my dad has an edited proof, but it bugged me that that got through the publisher because it happened a lot. Other than that, I found it enjoyable

Goodreads Challenge- 10/60
Keyword Reading Challenge- 2/12

Monday, February 10, 2020

Feb week 1

Well, I did a great job at blogging for 2 days in a row. Lol. Here's what's going on:

Teaching:

      My district is in the middle of contract negotiations and it's not going well for either side. Many days when I'm teaching, there's a subtle feeling that nags at me about the fact that there are many people that do not value what I do as an educator or as a person. Although I try not to let other people's opinions influence me much, this is one that is hard to ignore.
      Last week was one of those "in the trenches" weeks. First, 1 ton of kids at my school have the flu. At least 6 of my kids have been out for over a week, and not ones who usually miss school. There is a constant flow of "out sick," "returning from being out" and "not feeling good today." Trying to meet every child we're they're at while trying to actually accomplish something with everybody who has been in class can be a challenge to say the least.  I had an observation that was important to me Monday. (Not important in terms of making a difference in my job if I did badly, just wanting to do a good job.) Unfortunately, I did the observation with a new group of kids and it ended up being a terribly "off" day. Then, there were the normal middle school behaviors that we see every day. To say that last week kicked my butt would be an understatement. Thank goodness for those few kids in each class who just make a school nicer to be in.

Reading:

Still plugging away. I've been keeping a log of my February books, which I'll share at the end of the month. Have you read any particularly good books this month?

Writing:

I'm a letter writing machine this month. I think I've sent out 26 so far this month. Still going too. I've been getting a lot of great mail through Lettermo too!

Looking ahead:

Next week is February school vacation. We're going away for a few days and I cannot wait. Lots of reading, writing and family time. If you're not from MA, don't go to Cape Cod in the winter. It's dead. My parents bought a time share there and that's where we are going. We're pretty low maintenance, so we just enjoy hanging out with each other with a nice change of scenery.

        

Sunday, February 2, 2020

2/2/20

     Just a short post tonight because I was foolish and spent hours watching the Superbowl. I sent 2 letters today- 1 to a person who requested to be friends on Lettermo and the other to a penpal who has been waiting for my mail since August. Here is her envelope:
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    I also wanted to tell some of my penpals about the Facebook group Snailmailersrus.  It's a great site if you are interested in swapping. I haven't really met many people there yet but I have swapped things like homemade envelopes, stickers and other penpalling goodies. Today I took part in a "Gimme gimme," where you write 5 things that you would like and someone sends you something. You have to sign up to send something to another member. I am sending someone some tea and a memo pad. A woman in Russia is sending me some Russian snacks, which I'm sure I've never had before.
       Tomorrow is a busy day. I'm being observed by a professor whom I am helping with a research project. I'm feeling a bit nervous about it but I'm sure I'll be fine when I do it. 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

February 2020

     Want to know what my favorite thing about February is? Well, I have a lot- believe it or not. Quite a few years ago, I discovered The Month of Letters, affectionately known as Lettermo. Basically, the premise of the challenge is that you write a personal piece of mail for every day in February and respond to each piece of Lettermo mail you get. I'm a little behind with my writing due to the move in October, but I plan to get caught up quick. Of course, I also have other notes I'd like to send too.  I've prepped by making a whole bunch of envelopes and buying a ton of stamps.  I may blog about the mail every day in February since I might actually get a lot of it and some of my friends have asked what makes penpalling so appealing to me.

 Ironically, the only mail I got today was a tag where someone was supposed to send me a bag of candy but they put the wrong swap in the envelope and I got their mail intended for someone else. I've had a bit of a rough day so secretly I was hoping for Finnish chocolate. :( No such luck.  Hopefully she will resend what I was expecting from the swap I signed up for.
      I'm mailing a bunch of things today. There is a letter to a Lettermo participant that I've never written to before, a letter to a student to thank them for always working hard for me, 9 cards to students who auditioned for a music festival today and 1 card to a former student who just performed incredibly in the Dormagen Junior Men's Sabre World Cup.
     If I can get my act together, maybe I can put the stats for my current mail challenge up tomorrow. I have not done well with writing every day, but I have probably sent out more pieces of mail than there have been days in January. We'll see, I just need to track everything down.

Friday, January 31, 2020

January Reading Challenge Update

Reading Challenge Update- January

These are the books I have read in January and my general impressions of them.
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The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking.  The Scandinavian concept of "hygge," which is roughly translated to mean cozy and comfortable, has always been appealing to me. When I saw this book sitting in Barnes and Noble one day a few years ago, I was immediately drawn in to the subject as well as the beauty and simplicity of the book itself. The author, Meik Wiking, is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and he has been studying  what things contribute to making Denmark the happiest country in the world. 
        I was recently writing to a penpal about my old apartment and how it didn't feel like "home" to me. I may have written about it on the blog before too. Based on this book, I think I would feel very at home in Denmark (and a lot of other Scandinavian countries.)  It talks about the fact that people like to just get together to be themselves and be comfortable- to share their time, food and fun. Nothing fancy many times, just good company and comfort- and candles, warm drinks and yummy foods- like cake. I just found myself reading this book and thinking, "Yes, I like that. That's what makes me feel like myself." I also realized that I have some pretty "hyggelig" places in my new house that I already love. This book includes ideas to make your home and places of employment a bit more hygge. It includes recipes and ideas of things to do. I enjoyed it a lot. If you like being casual and comfortable (with other people too), I'd recommend reading through this book.
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The Orphan Train- by Christina Baker Kline. 2 good books in a row! Score. My friend Mary, who is in a book club with me, let me borrow this book. It tells the story of 2 women- Molly, a seventeen year old girl with a reputation who is in foster care, and Vivian, a 91 year old widow who lives alone with some hired help. When Molly is required to do some community service for stealing, her boyfriend hooks her up with a job to help clean out Vivian's attic. They begin to unpack the boxes and uncover some memories and similarities.
         Family history is a very interesting topic to me. I like to see where people come from and "what makes them tick." I had heard of the orphan train before but I definitely did not know all of the details. I've actually wondered if my great-grandfather might've been involved with something like this since it's impossible to find any records on him. I found myself relating a lot to the characters and in how they relate to other people.
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A River Runs Again- by Meera Subramanian. In all honesty, I got this book from Goodreads a very long time ago, maybe 2015. I was behind on my reading so it went on my TBR shelf. I'm using this as my Keyword Reading Challenge book. The keyword was water, but it's okay to use things related to that word. This book was a slow read for me,but I enjoyed it very much. I don't know a lot about India, only what I've seen on the news, in papers or from friends. I am friends with a few Indian families and friends but have never experienced India myself.  Honestly, this book may lead to some interesting conversations with some of those friends. I regret not reading this when I got it because stats from 2015 will obviously be a little different now. (Hopefully for the better.) 
       This book was very informative. It brought up a lot of topics I have honestly never really thought of, or was just ignorant about. Some of those things had to do with water shortages in India (and how most of their yearly rain falls within 100 hours during monsoon season!), how different cultures dispose of their dead, the importance of vultures, pollution from cookstoves, how technological advances also have to be mindful of cultural practices, etc. It was kind of fascinating to me. With that being said, I would consider myself a nerd and I love to read. I struggled with some of the Indian names because I lack familiarity with them. In most cases I knew immediately what the author was explaining, but realistically, I didn't know if the name of a place or person might've had a larger significance than just a name. (For example, was a place names after a significant event in India or was there a symbolic meaning.) I like to read before bed and sometimes I needed more mental energy to be able to process everything than I had that night.
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Hillbilly Elegy- by J.D. Vance- I suggested this book for my book club. I had heard some good things about it. Many people said it "was like Educated," which I hated, so I was hoping for good things. Basically, it tells of the author's experience growing up with his family. This family is not exactly what I would call functional, but there were definitely things that were relatable to me. In terms of good qualities- there were people in the family who were very loyal to one another, people who encouraged upward mobility and growing up to become something larger than people thought you might accomplish, and people who stepped up in times of need. On the negative side, there were dysfunctional relationships, addiction, poverty, and feelings of inadequacy just because of the life you were born into.
         Although many of the people in the book were pretty disturbing, I appreciate J.D.'s honest look at his life. So many people think that they "had a bad childhood" so there is no hope that they will be a functional human. Some people use their experiences as an excuse to not have to try in life. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that your past does not affect your life, but I'm not a believer that you are doomed forever or that someone know owes you something. I think what I liked about this book is that J.D. basically says "Here's my life" and shares both good and bad aspects and how those affected him as a person. Looking back, there are aspects of his life that he knows really affected him negatively, like his relationship with his mom, but also that there are many parts of his life that he appreciates and has shaped him as a person. I found it interesting to read about his experiences at Yale and not feeling like he fit in when he was with what his family (and maybe even himself) would consider "outsiders."
       I like books that explain why people are who they become. The author brings up some points about entitlement in America and a lack of work ethic, which I agree with. All in all, it was a good read. There was a lot of swearing with some of the "stereotypical hillbilly" people, which might be disturbing for many readers, but I think it was probably an accurate representation on who those people were in public as well as in private.

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The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell. Unfortunately, I have finally read a book during this year that I didn't enjoy. Although I'm usually okay with thrillers and suspense, this story did not pull me in at all. I didn't really like many of the characters and didn't particularly care about any of them. The victim in the story had a cool device on her wrist that looked like a watch that the cops were trying to figure out, but that was probably the most interesting part of the story to me. I finished it but it took way longer than I wanted to.

Goodreads Challenge 5/60
Keyword Reading Challenge 1/12.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Book Hive Book Club

Hello!  I thought I'd just write a quick post about a nice aspect of last year. I have been writing a longer blog post about all the books that I've been reading in January, but I've scheduled that to come out at the end of the month instead of putting each book in its own post.  What I thought I'd write about today is still reading related though... The Book Hive Book Club.
      Last spring, May maybe, I learned that a woman had an idea to share the love of reading in a unique book club.  She wrote this on their Facebook page:
 
"Description
The Book Hive Book Club is a unique opportunity that encourages members to share their love of reading with others across the United States. Essentially, each member is part of a 12-member team. Each member journals their thoughts in a notebook while reading a book and then mails the book and journal to the next member on their team at the end of the month. At the end of 12 months, each member's original book and thought-filled journal are mailed back to them." 

       All of the group names are Bee themed. I'm in W's group, so I assume I'm the 23rd group! I think we started in August? The members of my group are from MA, OK, PA, TX, NJ, MN, WA, CA and WV. I send to OK and receive from WV. So far it's been pretty cool. I've gotten to know some of the members of my group through their journals and through our private Facebook group. I've read a lot of books I may not have picked up on my own, like "Have You Seen Luis Velez" and "Meet Me in Monaco."  The book I chose for the group was "The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs."  I have 5 books left- 1 romance (not something I'd pick for sure, but I'll give it a chance.), 2 suspenseful fiction, 1 classic and 1 non-fiction. 
      I even bought a Book Hive shirt that they designed: Now you'll know what it is if you ever see me in it. It has generated some conversation.
      Yesterday I took part in a 6 hour readathon with members of all the Book Hive groups. Rarely have I given myself permission to just hang our for 6 hours and do nothing but read. It was glorious. David and the cats joined me for a while. We had online check-ins and it was nice to meet some new folks.
       I know a lot of my friends are readers. I've mentioned this club to my other book club and 2 members also joined. I recently met another person in town who is part of the club too. If you might be interested, check out The Book Hive Book Club on Facebook. If you'd like to join, PM the owner of the page. It has been different and interesting.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

Happy New Year!

     I was at Christmas this year and one of my sister-in-laws, Sarah, asked where I've been since my blog has been neglected for a long time. I laughed and told her that I haven't been updating because I think only 2 or 3 people actually look at my blog, but then I figured that if someone was asking about it, I should get back into being more disciplined about writing. Also, looking back on the blog, I'm seeing a ton of broken links with my pictures. I need to figure out why that is like that. New year, new start, right?
      So, there's a ton of news since I last wrote.  So, right after my last post, I got a call from my landlord to ask how my summer was going. In reality, he was calling to tell us that he sold the house our apartment was in. After some discussion, it became obvious that he had no idea what the new owner planned with the house and if we'd be able to stay. He didn't seem to care either. The good news is that we'd probably find out when they passed papers, 3 days after his phone call to us. Matt and I decided that we needed to take immediate action about the whole situation. The good news is that anybody who knows me well would know that I've been dreaming of being a home owner forever. Massachusetts is a pretty expensive state to live in so it seemed pretty unachievable to me- and it was until this year. We started looking for a house at the end of August and moved into our new home, in the same town we lived in before, on October 25th. 
      I've gotten dismally behind on my writing and reading (though reading had a huge increase over my Christmas break.) We're in good shape with being moved in and we love it here. It's so nice to live in a neighborhood, rather than surrounded by businesses. We've loved having friends and family come visit and hope to have many more visitors.

2020 Goals

      I was thinking of my goal setting over the past week and then realized I had lost track of my 2019 goals. I thought that I had written a blog post about it but, looking back, I think I was just so grateful to have survived 2018 that I didn't even care. I failed my Goodreads goal by a few books. I read 54 out of 60. I didn't do any reading challenges. I FINALLY BOUGHT A HOUSE! That's been on my goal list for about 20 years.  I also lost 20 pounds. 
      After some thought, these are my goals:

One Word- Some people like to choose a word to focus on for the year. I think I'd like my word to be "CONNECT" this year. I think I'm becoming a little more introverted in my old age (of 42), but I think I'm just sick of shallow. I want to establish better relationships and give myself freedom to walk away from people who seemingly suck the life out of me. Now, I know some of you are laughing and thinking, "Are you serious? You talk to so many people!" I'm okay with that. I like people. I like meeting new people and even sometimes being uncomfortable being surrounded by people that are really different from me. I just want to increase the quality of my relationships. In 2019 I made a few friends at the gym and in my book clubs. I took some risks and become closer to some families at the school where I work and even got to know some colleagues on a deeper level. I want more of this and now that we have a place I feel comfortable hosting, I'd like to connect more.  I have a few ideas on how to connect more. Some of these ideas I'm keeping to myself. One of my ideas is to host a monthly "thing" at my house and just inviting anyone who wants to come. I think January will be a game night. 

Letter writing- Letter writing is one of the nicest ways for me to connect with the world and my friends. I've actually started writing to all of my nieces and nephews last year and really enjoyed just sending them a little love through the mail. They all probably think I'm weird but I know at least 2 or 3 appreciated it. :)  Like the first year I did the blog, my goal is to send at least 1 piece of personal mail per day. That's 366 pieces of mail this year! I'll keep track of a lot of my incoming mail here on the blog so that will help me be disciplined.

Spiritual Goals- I tried to have a devotional with a friend once a week but it was inconsistent so I'm going to try to be more intentional with daily prayer and devotions. I'm keeping a prayer journal where I'm going to write down prayer requests and pray over them daily. I'm not a big "journal" person usual. I think this will help me to remember what friends and family have brought to me and helps me to be less selfish in my prayer life. It will also be great to read back and be reminded of God's faithfulness.  

Reading- I love crazy busy schedules, being surrounded by people and being mentally active. One of my problems is that I can sometimes be too mentally active. I need to unwind if I ever want a chance to sleep. Reading is one of my activities that give me peace. I have a few reading challenges I'd like to do.
       My Goodreads challenge is to read 60 books this year. I'll do it, especially since I failed this year. 
      I'll also be participating in the Keyword Reading Challenge. Every month of this challenge you need to read a book that has one of the keywords (or a variation of that word) in the title. I've done this challenge before when it was hosted by other people, but this year the original host, GirlXOXO is hosting. Thanks! I am looking forward to it! Here are the keywords this year. 
   There's one more challenge I'm kind of considering, but I might be going a little crazy.Ok, there are actually 2.  Maybe I'll update if I decide to do those too.

Physical- I've joined a gym and have been in the process of getting more healthy. Frankly, I have a ton of weight to lose- not literally, but sometimes it feels like it. So, to save you from passing out I'll spare you the amount of weight (just typed "weird" by accident but that fits too) that I'd like to lose, but it's quite a bit. Either way, even if the numbers are not as low as I'd like, I've lowered my blood sugar considerably, I'm stronger and I have more muscle. I'm committed to this gym until at least August so I'm already on the right track.  Feel free to leave me healthy recipes that actually taste like food :)

      Those are the main goals I've had. I was happy that this year made think a lot about what I can do to make myself a better person or to enjoy life a little more rather than feeling like I had to fix a lot of things that were wrong with myself.  

      Ok, I think that's it for tonight. Feel free to say hello or introduce yourself if you're dropping by for the first time. If you're in the Keyword Reading Challenge, feel free to share your blog so I can follow along with you too! Happy 2020!