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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.
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.
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.

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:
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!