Saturday, December 31, 2016

If We Were Having Coffee... (Vol. 9 - Good Riddance, 2016)

If we were having coffee on this last morning of 2016, we'd be at my folks' house in West Virginia. It's a cold morning here in the mountains and the ground is covered in 2-3 inches of snow that fell yesterday.  As I did during the summer, I’d offer you a cup of my mom’s coffee. Typically, I would drink my Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry, but this morning I might indulge in some hot chocolate; it is New Year's Eve, after all, and I've not had any hot chocolate all fall or winter. Would you rather have that instead? After getting our drinks, I’d suggest we sit downstairs by the fire. 

After settling in, I'd ask how you've been.  You'd regale me with your Christmas happenings and then share your New Year's Eve plans.  After awhile, you'd ask how I've been and you'd comment on how it's been awhile since we've caught up over morning drinks.  I'd agree with you, for it has been awhile, several months actually.  I'd apologize and express how I've been very preoccupied since late summer.  "The past  four or five months have been like a rollercoaster, to be completely honest," I'd say.  "I've just had a lot on my mind."

You'd lean your head back against the sofa and wonder if you should prod.  I know I'm being vague and I hate that, I really do.  I'd gaze over at the roaring fire in the fireplace, watching the flames dance around the logs, and drift off in silent contemplation.  After several moments, I'd finally say, "This year has been exhausting and my soul is..." pausing as I searched for the right word.  "Weary."

You'd look over at me with a concerned look, but you wouldn't pry.  I so appreciate that about you.  I'd stare off into the flickering glow of the fire.  Finally, I would say, "I'm not sure I can remember a year that has been as mentally exhausting as 2016 has been."

I'd take a sip of my cocoa and continue, "Between the state of the world, all the election crap, the ugliness and hatefulness it brought out in people, and the personal issues I've dealt with as a part of my midlife crisis, it's been a very difficult year.  It has worn on me and I'm so ready to see it go."

A few minutes would pass between us as we drank our drinks in companionable silence.  "I know that 2016 contained some important lessons that I apparently needed to learn," I'd say. I'd tell you that I've tried my damnedest to listen closely to what the universe has been saying to me and to heed those lessons that have come my way.  "I know I'm a better person for having experienced those trials," I'd say.  "I trust that 2017 will be a better year and regardless of what it brings, I'm more prepared."  

After a moment or two, I'd reiterate, "It has to be better, for I'm not entirely sure I can stand another year like this one." 

I'd take another sip of my hot chocolate and gaze at the warm, orange glow before us.  Silently, I'd think, Good riddance, 2016.  Don't let the door hit ya on your way out... 2017, I'm ready.  BRING IT!


Thank you for stopping by and reading my latest installment of IWWHC. 

My wish for 2017 is this - I want people to remember their humanity and to be kinder to each other.  I want people to think before they speak.  I want people to see beyond the color of one's skin, to see beyond the gender, and to be more accepting of religions other than their own.  I want people to see that their way is not the only way.  I want people to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.

On a personal level, I want simplicity.  I want clarity.  I want to be more centered. I want to easily let go of burdens as well as things that do not bring out the best in me, including people.  I want to stay the course and not lose my way again.  I want to find joy everyday.  I want to live bolder and above all, love deeper. 

May 2017 bring you much happiness, good health, and bountiful blessings. Happy New Year.

Linking up with Diana @ Part Time Monster 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Five (Vol. 10)

1)  A quiet Christmas day in Kentucky with R.

2)  On Christmas Eve, I was notified that I had won a free audiobook in a giveaway sponsored by the gals @ Hot Listens and The Book Nympho!  I rarely win things like this, so I was super excited!

3)  A no loss/no gain weigh in Sunday morning!  I was completely prepared for a gain after some indulgences while in Chicago last week and Christmas Eve dinner with R's family.  I was very happy to have simply maintained!

4)  These scenic views as I walked and talked with my aunt one day this week:

5)  This amazing sunset yesterday evening:

BONUS!  Spending time with my family in West Virginia during my winter break. I won't see them again until April, so I have tried to soak up every moment with them that I could.

BONUS #2!  People who come into our lives unexpectedly and become dear friends.  (Thanks, S.)

Wishing you a fabulous Friday, a wonderful weekend, and a safe and Happy New Year's Eve!  May 2017 bring you much happiness, good health, and bountiful blessings!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Show Us Your Books - The Best of 2016

Yes...  I'm late.  I know, I know.  Between the blogging slump I've been in much of the fall and the holidays and traveling here and there, I completely let time get away from me and before I knew it, the day for this link rolled around and I wasn't ready.  Well, better late than never, right?

Without further ado, here are my "Best Of" books for 2016:

Best Audiobook Performance

Santino Fontana 
(narrator of Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes)

Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell 
(narrators of The Help by Katherine Stockett)

Cary Elwes, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Robin Wright, and Rob Reiner 
(narrators of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales of the Making of The Princess Bride)

Of all the "Best Of" categories I've included in this post, this one was the most difficult for me to select only one or two winners, so I went with my gut and selected three.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know how much of an auditory crush I have on Mr. Fontana's voice.  Although I didn't like Hidden Bodies as well as its predecessor, YOU, Santino's portrayal of the sociopath, Joe, was hypnotic.  I swear I could listen to that man read the telephone book for hours.

The multi-cast performance of The Help made the book seem more like a performance rather than a book being read to me.  And, as I mentioned in my review of As You Wish, it felt more like the cast of the movie came over to my house one afternoon to regale me with their insider stories rather than listening to an audiobook.  

Best Book Boyfriend
Braden Carmichael 
(On Dublin Street by Samantha Young)

He doesn't ride a Harley, nor did he wear a kilt.  But, I absolutely loved this modern day, Scottish alpha male's character.  To read my thoughts on this book, click here.

Book I've Recommended the Most
As You Wish:  Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

To read all the good stuff I had to say about this book, click here.

Best Books I Read in 2016 That Are Still Relatively Unknown
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
(14,685 ratings on Goodreads)

The Day of the Wave by Becky Wicks
(176 ratings on Goodreads)

For this category, I decided to select two.  Maybe in Another Life was one of the few books that received a 5-star rating from me on Goodreads; The Day of the Wave earned a 4-star rating.  You can read my reviews on both of these books here.

Most Unexpected Surprise
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I suspected that I would like Ready Player One because of all the 80s references, but I really had no idea I would like it was well as I did.  For my review, click here.

Best Heroines
Sisters Viann and Isabelle in The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah

Both sisters played very different, but essential roles in the French Resistance during WWII.  It was impossible for me to choose one over the other.  For my review of The Nightingale, click here.

Most Worthy of All the Hoopla
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

By the time I read The Help back in the spring, I was probably one of the last people on the planet to finally read it.  I'm not sure why I hadn't read it before, but it is definitely deserving of all the hype it has received.  The Help is one of six books (out of 55) that I gave a 5-star rating on Goodreads this year.  For me review, click here.

Most Disturbing Book
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

I'm not one to read scary books, so this may seem like a lame choice to some.  Pretty Girls contained some very disturbing, descriptive material about crimes that, to me, are unsettling and quite repulsive.  I found the acts depicted in the book to be quite scary, graphic, and not for the faint of heart.  These images stayed with me for long time, even after I finished the book.  To read my review, click here.

Funniest Book
The Unidentified Redhead by Alice Clayton

Unbeknownst to me when I started reading it, The Unidentified Redhead is an erotic, romantic comedy novel, something which I've never read before.  Apart from having some of the most descriptive sex scenes I've ever encountered in a book, it had some of the funniest dialogue I've ever heard.  I genuinely laughed out loud throughout the book.  To read my thoughts, click here.

Favorite Character
Joe Goldberg, the sociopath in Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Yes, I often wonder what this says about me, given that my favorite literary character for two years running is a foul mouthed, sociopath who has a knack for making people disappear.  I just can't help it, though.  I love the character of Joe despite all his faults.  In the end, all I want is for Joe to be happy.

So, there you have it - my best of list for the year!  What were some of your best of books of 2016?  Please feel free to share.  As always, thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with Steph and Jana 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My 2016 - Wordless Wednesday (Vol. 12)

Linking up with Wordless Wednesday

Jan. - It was cold
Feb. - Biggest snowflakes I've ever seen
Mar. - Met Caroline Kepnes
April - Flowers in WV
May - Saw Cirque du Soleil Toruk
June - Deck time with my dog
July - Visit from a ladybug
August - Back to work
September - Steve-n-Seagulls
October - Ziplining in WV
November - Walks in the park
December - Cloud Gate, aka "The Bean," Chicago

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Airing of Grievances - Festivus (A Day Late)

Yesterday was Festivus, the non-commercialized holiday depicted on the sitcom, Seinfeld.  One of the practices of Festivus is the "airing of grievances," an act which takes place after the Festivus dinner and allows participants to express how they've been disappointed in the past year.

I had the best of intentions of getting this post ready and set to publish before I left to go out of town on Wednesday, but...  What's that old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men?  Even though Festivus is over, I'm not going to waste a perfectly good post that was almost finished (especially considering the blogging drought I've been in as of late).  So, as Frank Constanza would say, 

Here are some of the grievances I need to air before the merriment of Christmas commences:

Glitter on Christmas Cards
Oh, Holy Moly!  Whoever had the bright idea to add glitter to Christmas cards should be shot!  Sure, the cards look all sparkly and festive, but, as I can attest to, it's all sparkly and festive until someone (me) gets glitter in their eye - which hurts like a mother!  And, let's not forget that there will now be glitter on my clothes, on my floor, on my sofa, in my bed, in my car, on my person, and probably up my hoo-ha until June of next year.

Weight Loss Nay Sayers
I've been actively losing weight since August 1, but I've had several people say to me within the last 2-3 weeks, "Why did you decide to start this diet thing right before the holidays?  You know how hard this is going to be?  You might as well just forget about losing any more weight until after the new year."  

Yes, I've had people say that to me.

The first time I responded, I was nice and polite, explaining that this wasn't a recent whim I decided to jump on and that I actually started this diet thing back in the summer.  By the third time, I had lost all patience and just started telling people,  "Oh, I don't know...  I thought it would be so much fun to stare temptation in the freakin' face everyday for three weeks!"  C'mon, people!

PSA: People who are on a weight loss adventure (I prefer the word adventure to journey) don't need your negativity!  Losing weight is hard enough as it is.  This is a prime example of when it's best to be kind and remember what your mother told ya (or should've told ya) - if  you can't say something nice, good, or positive, then just be quiet.  

Holiday Food Pushers
Fortunately, I've only had a few of these people cross my path this holiday season.  

Just have one.  
One won't kill ya.  
But these are sooooo good, you must try them.  
Just a little cheat...  

Oh.  Good.  Lord.  Here's the thing, I have indulged in some holiday goodies, but I've been very selective about which goodies are worth indulging in.  Some of the crap that people have tried to push down my throat...  Nope, not worth it.  Go away, people, and let me eat my one Oreo ball in peace.

Kids Who Don't Say Thank You
I have 55 kids on my caseload.  So, one evening after work during the week before break, I went out and bought enough candy, pencils, and erasers to make holiday goodie bags for my students.  I then assembled 55 goodie bags.

A kind estimate is that 25% of them said thank you automatically when I gave them their bag.  One kid even had the audacity to ask for another one!  

But, I can report that 100% of them said thank you before they left my room with that treat bag and that one overly-presumptuous kid learned a little lesson that day about being grateful.

Thank you is such an easy little phrase to say, even if you have a speech impairment like many of my kids do.  I've been doing this long enough to know that "fank you" means thank you.  Teach your children to be grateful.  Teach your children to be appreciative.  Teach your children that manners matter.  

Alright!  I feel MUCH BETTER now having gotten those things off my chest.  I know Festivus is over, but do you have any grievances to air before the big, jolly man comes tonight?  

Happy Late Festivus and Happy Christmas Eve!  As always, thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter 2016-17 Goals & Autumn 2016 Goals Report Card

Happy Winter Solstice to all my fellow northern hemisphere neighbors and Happy Summer Solstice to all of you living south of the equator!

As I write this, I'm really quite shocked how fast the autumn season zipped by. It seems just like yesterday that I was making my list of goals and now it's time to report on them.  As much as I love autumn, I, for one, am very glad that it flew by because, as many of you know, life's been somewhat of a rollercoaster for me since late summer.  I can attest that midlife crises do exist and that they do not just happen to middle aged men.  But, anyhow...  That's a blog piece for another day.  

Overall, I'm pleased with how I did.  I met 3/5 goals and came very, very close to meeting a fourth one.  I really have nothing to complain about in the grand scheme of things.  Here's my progress report:

September 22 - December 20

  • ✔ Do at least ONE thing that is new and adventurous - Completed. I ziplined in West Virginia on 10.18.2016.  I've been zipining before, but never in my beloved home state.  Completing this activity was also an act of redemption.  Long story short - I had the opportunity to zipline this summer, but didn't because I didn't know how much I weighed and I was fearful that I might be over the weight limit.  By October, however, I was safely under the weight limit.  I had to do this to redeem myself.
  • Lose at least 15 pounds more pounds for  a combined total of at least 30 pounds by Dec. 20 - Close, but no cigar.    Fail.  As of this writing, I've lost 28.6 lbs.  Although I didn't make my goal, I am thoroughly pleased with my progress.  So, although this is *technically a fail, I don't view it as such.
  • ✔ Complete my Goodreads 2016 Challenge by reading at least 52 books - Completed 11.10.2016.
  • Do something creative (besides blogging) - Fail.  I did nothing creative during the fall.  Not sure why.  I truly had the best of intentions, but I just never figured out what I wanted to do.
  • ✔ Establish an exercise routine - Completed.  Since September 28, I have faithfully walked at least 3 days a week for a minimum of 45 minutes per day.  

Here are the goals I'm setting for this winter:

December 21 - March 19

  • Lose at least 12 more pounds (shooting for a combined total of 40 by March 19)
  • Continue walking a minimum of 3 days a week for at least 45 minutes per day.
  • Do one adventurous activity.  This may be especially interesting given that it's winter.
  • Complete Erin's Book Challenge 6.0
  • Do something touristy here in Louisville on my birthday (February).

Again, I'm keeping the list short and doable.  I have really discovered that when life is upside down, like mine has been, that embracing simplicity is key and that less is really more.  

What are your winter goals?  

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with:

P.S.  I have to add today's Google Doodle!  Happy Winter!  Stay warm!
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