Friday, December 29, 2017

Looking Back on 2017 - Friday Reflections


I tell ya what, this time last year, I was scared to death as to what the new year might bring.  At the time, I was not in a good place.  The year had been very tumultuous and I found myself in uncharted waters, completely uncertain of whether the upcoming year would only perpetuate the problems and uncertainties of 2016 or if the new year would bring about solutions and change and, most of all, peace.  I was hopeful but cautious.

As I sit here, reflecting back on the past twelve months, I realize that much of it was a blur because it seemed to pass by in an instant. My parents and grandparents were right all those times that they told me that the older you get, the quicker it seems to go by. 

This year may go down as one of the wildest and craziest years in terms of national events, but for me, 2017 was a blessing. It was quiet and calm. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, my spirit, which was severely battered and bruised last year, was renewed. I let go of things that were holding me back and I started living my life again.  

I could probably write several posts recapping my year, sharing all that I learned and all the ways that I grew, but, frankly, I don't want to.  I don't want to analyze this, I don't want to examine it under a microscope and pick it apart.  Rather, I simply just want to be grateful for all that the year brought me and all the experiences I had. But, I know that makes for a boring post, so here are a few highlights of the year that was:

  • I received the transfer I had been waiting on for years.
  • I walked 1225 miles (2.9 million steps) and wore out three pairs of sneakers and one FitBit in the process.
  • I befriended someone in need.
  • I said goodbye to someone who took a piece of my heart.
  • I replaced nearly 75% of my wardrobe because all my clothes became too big.
  • I saw my stepdaughter graduate, something both her father and I on several occasions and for various reasons, thought we might never see.
  • I found a friend in the most unlikeliest of places.
  • I saw places in my home state of West Virginia that I had only before seen in pictures.
  • I became a kayaker.
  • I prayed for the safety of a friend who was in Hurricane Harvey's path.
  • I ate tons of lettuce and sugar snap peas.
  • I hit a weight loss plateau in early April and am still trying to break through it.
  • I watched video footage of the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the violent clashes in Charlottesville in utter shock and disbelief. 
  • I read/listened to 44 books/audiobooks, but didn't complete my Goodreads challenge of reading 50 books.
  • I stepped out of my comfort zone and wore a low cut, red cocktail dress on a cruise.
  • I helped someone get her "dream job." (Honestly, that's what she said.)
  • I applauded TIME for their Person of the Year selection.
  • I paid off my car early.
  • I had another year with my octogenarian grandparents.
  • I made it through my mid-life crisis relatively unscathed.
  • I found my mojo.

Looking forward into the new year, into the great unknown, is a lot different for me than it was 365 days ago.  Although I'm not foolish enough to believe that no hardships or curveballs won't come my way, because that's simply a part of life, I look towards the new year with optimism and extreme gratitude.  What a tremendous gift that is.

2017, thank you.  

2018, see you soon.

May 2018 bring you much happiness, bountiful blessings, and good health. 

Linking up with:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My 2017 - Wordless Wednesday (Vol. 25)

(L-R, Top to Bottom)

January - I finally lost enough weight to wear my old, favorite belt
February - My early birthday breakfast celebration - Red Velvet Cake French Toast @ Yolk in Indianapolis
March - Spring blossoms in KY
April - Bare mountains in WV
May - Last day of school
June - Seneca Rock, WV
July - Kayaking in WV
August - Moonshine (A welcome back to school gift from a coworker)
September - Bus duty
October - Beignets @ Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans
November - Sunrise as viewed from my parking space at my new school
December - My nature inspired Christmas tree

Linking up with Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Show Us Your Books - Best of 2017

If you're experiencing anything similar to me, you're probably in total disbelief that 2017 is nearing the end.  In this weird way, it feels just like yesterday that I was writing my "Best of 2016" post and here I am now sharing my "Best of 2017."  To quote the opening line from a soap opera that I used to watch as a kid with my beloved Gran, "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives..."

Anyway, about a week or so ago, I shared my Top Ten Books of 2017 for another linkup.  To do so, I looked back on the forty-two books I read this year and whittled the list down to ten.  

In order to mix things up a bit (as I have in previous years), I created a list of ten categories similar to that of high school yearbook superlatives for today's end of the year Show Us Your Books linkup with Steph and Jana.  Here are my "Best of 2017" book honors:

Best Audiobook Performance
Michael Urie in Lily and the Octopus  

I so enjoyed this book.  It made me laugh and it elicited a lot of, as Lily would put it, "eye rain." But, I have often wondered if I would've enjoyed it as much had I read it in traditional print form.  You see, the voice artist really brought the story to life for me and his impersonation of Lily, the aging dachshund in the book, was extraordinary. 

Best Book I Read in 2017 (that's still relatively unknown)
Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen (6598 ratings on Goodreads)

Nine Women, One Dress is the tale of nine women and some of the men in their lives, and their experiences with the must-have, "it" dress of the season.

I loved this book for the lightness of the story and for it's resemblance to the movie Love Actually.  This book wasn't earth shattering or life changing, but it provided me with lots of laughs and enjoyment.  Sometimes that is exactly the kind of book that I need.

Best Unexpected Surprise
Replay by Ken Grimwood

I stumbled upon this book by accident and am so glad that I did.  It was entertaining, it kept me engaged, and it made me think - what would I do differently if I found myself back at the age of 18 but still with all the knowledge that I possess now? 

Most Worthy of All the Hoopla
Wonder by R. J. Palacio

I just finished this book about two weeks ago and I can honestly say that it's definitely worth all the hoopla.  It's the kind of rare book that renews my faith in humanity.

Most Disturbing Book
Sold by Patricia McCormick

Sold is a quick read and is written in short, but very evocative vignettes.  It is told from the perspective of Lakshmi, a young girl from Nepal whose stepfather sells her into the unimaginable world of prostitution.  

Human trafficking is something I know exists, but this powerful, eye opening read really brought the issue to the forefront of my mind.  Based on the author's extensive research, the plight of Lakshmi really disturbed me knowing that it was representative of many many young women who are sold into prostitution. 

Funniest Book
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

I'm a fan of Hiaasen's noir humor.  But, as I've mentioned before in pretty much every Hiaasen book I've ever reviewed, my experience is that you either love him or hate him.  His writing is not the kind that appeals to the masses (Steph would agree).  In my experience, I've found that some of his books are funnier than others.  Razor Girl is probably one of the funniest books of his that I've ever read and, hands down, is the funniest book I read in 2017.

Favorite Character

What I liked most about Junior is that he kept it real. His character was refreshingly honest and that elicited a range of emotions in me.

Best "New to Me" Author
Celeste Ng

I've only read one of Ng's books to date, Everything I Never Told You, but I've already purchased her newest book, Little Fires Everywhere, and am very excited to read it soon.

Most Thought Provoking Book

I had read several fellow bloggers' thoughts on this book before reading it myself, so I was prepared for the "heaviness" and knew that it might be uncomfortable at times.  It was uncomfortable, just as I predicted, but I was still utterly enthralled.  All the Ugly and Wonderful Things made me think, wonder, and re-evaluate my own biases towards age, love, and soul mates.

Most Beautifully Written Book

Everything I Never Told You turned out to be such an unexpected surprise for me, so much so that I also considered it for the "Best Unexpected Surprise" category.  It deals with a very tragic event, but the story in itself is so beautifully written and pieced together like a tapestry.  

And, given that it's the end of the year and that Goodreads supplies its members with end of the year statistics, here's an overview of my reading this year:

What are some of the best books you read this year?  Please share, for I'm always on the lookout for a great read!

I hope this finds you having had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukah!  May 2018 bring you much happiness, good health, and great reads!   

Friday, December 22, 2017

Winter 2017-18 Goals & Autumn '17 Report Card

Back in September, I set some goals.  When I made them, I was on the cusp of a significant life change and I wasn't really sure how the following months were going to play out.  So, without further ado, allow me to share how I did my Autumn 2017 goals:
  1. Do something "Halloween-ish."  Nope, just didn't happen.  I got the news in late September that I was going to be allowed to transfer on November 1.  I spent the entire two weeks of my Fall Break in West Virginia and on a cruise.  Every other day was pretty much spent cleaning out my old therapy room and packing up my belongings to move to my new school.  There simply wasn't enough time. Oh, well...  maybe next year.
  2. ✔ Pay off my car before the first day of winter.  DONE!  Boo-yah!  Completed in November!
  3. ✔ Get my Christmas cards filled out, addressed, and mailed before the Winter Solstice (since I'm notorious for filling them out between the first day of winter and New Year's Eve).  DONE!  Completed December 20!
  4. Be lighter on December 21 than I am today.  Nope.  Didn't happen.  I'm only a couple of pounds heavier, which could be water retention for all I know.  But, I shall keep on trying and fighting the good fight.
  5. ✔ Go into an upcoming major life change (that I said I'd share more about later) with courage, strength, and a grateful heart.  DONE!  The major life change was my job transfer, as I mentioned earlier.  Although the transfer is something I've wanted for a long time, it was still very scary.  I shed a lot of tears in October, but throughout the entire process, I maintained courage, strength, and a grateful heart.  I am grateful not only for the transfer but for the very fond memories I have of my old school and the relationships I made while I was there.
So... 3/5.  Despite my dismissal percentage - 60%, a D on the standard grading scales of yesteryear, I'm not at all disappointed.  Sure, I would've liked to have done something "Halloween-ish," but my life was a whirlwind of chaos during the entire month of October.  It just wasn't in the cards and, really, it's no big deal.  I truly had better things to do and focus on.  Maybe next year.

As for the weight loss, well, yeah, that bothers me a little bit, but it's just a reminder to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get back on the horse.

Now, onto my Winter 2017-18 goals.  As in previous seasons, I'm keeping it simple.

  • Change up my exercise regime.
  • Complete Book Challenge by Erin 8.0 (round one) before the Spring Equinox.
  • Have a specific credit card 50% paid off.
  • Buy nothing the entire month of January other than food and any toiletries that run out and need replacing.
  • Organize my Christmas ornaments and purge decorations I no longer want or use.

Do you have any winter goals?  Feel free to share if you do.  Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

12 Questions of Christmas

What is your favorite Christmas film?  
- A Christmas Story

Have you ever had a white Christmas?  
- Yes, I have.  Many, ranging from the most minute dusting to 10+ inches of snow.

Where do you usually spend the holiday?  
- I alternate between my home in Kentucky and my childhood home in West Virginia.

What is your favorite Christmas song?  
- Carol of the Bells and O, Holy Night.

Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?  
- It all depends on where I am.  If I'm with my husband's family, then...  maybe. We sometimes participate in a gift exchange.  If I'm with my family in WV, then yes.  We open presents at my grandparents' house.  My parents and I exchange gifts on Christmas morning, though.

Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?  
- Yes, I can...  with a little melodic intonation of course.

What holiday traditions are you looking forward to most this year?  
- I always look forward to the first or second day of my Christmas break, when I spend all day watching my favorite Christmas movies.  It's my personal tradition.

Is your Christmas tree real or fake?  
- Fake

What is your all-time favorite Christmas food?
- My family is one of the few that I know who has turkey (in addition to ham) for Christmas.  I really enjoy turkey and dumplings even thought they are not only for Christmas.  (In my family, they are considered "holiday food.")

Be honest, do you like giving or receiving presents more?
- It depends.  When I received a great gift, one that completely takes me me by surprise, I love that feeling.  But, I also love the feeling of giving the perfect gift to someone else, one that takes them completely by surprise.

What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?
- Hawaii.  Seriously.  I've plenty of white Christmases, so I'd like to try out a tropical destination and go around all day saying, "Mele Kalikimaka."

Are you a professional wrapper or do you fail miserably?  
- Um, I've average.  I do pretty well, if I do say so myself, but I'm by no means a professional.

Hope this finds you having a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, December 15, 2017

My Grown Up Christmas List (2017)

A Hawaiian cruise

A slightly bigger house

For my case of tennis elbow to go away

A weekly visit from a house keeper

To be debt free

For Trump to get off Twitter

To lose 20-25 more pounds

A iRobot Roomba

A speedier metabolism

For glitter to be outlawed on Christmas cards (Glitter...  the gift that keeps on giving! Grr...)

For people to be kinder, to have more tolerance, to show more empathy and respect towards others

What's something on your Grown Up Christmas List?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday (A Day Late) - Favorite Books of 2017

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein 
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Replay by Ken Grimwood
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Beartown by Fredrick Backman
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells
Nine Women One Dress by Jane L. Rose
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

What are some books that would make your Top Ten of 2017 list?

Be sure to visit back on Tuesday December 26 when I join Steph and Jenn for their annual Show Us Your Books Best Of link up!  It will be distinctly different from this Top Ten list. :)

Linking up with The Broke and the Bookish 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Recently Read - Vol. 23 (Nov. '17)

November was a much better month than October in terms of reading.  I not only read more, but the majority of books I read were better than average (ratings of 4s and 5s). 

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the the five books I read in November:

Survivor by Brett Battles
Read October 30 - November 8
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 3/5

Think: If someone went back in time and changed history so significantly that the present time was utterly miserable and completely unrecognizable to you, to what lengths would you go to in order to rectify things?

Of the three books in this series, this one was my least favorite.  It's hard to explain why without revealing parts of the story.  Overall, it was a worthwhile series and I'm glad I read them.  I just didn't like this one as well as the first two and I felt the conclusion was somewhat weak.

FINAL VERDICT:  I'd recommend if you have read the previous two books.

The Humans by Matt Haig
Read November 9-14
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 4/5

Think: A look at humans and our curious lives through the eyes of an alien.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I found it to be delightfully funny and insightful about we humans, our precarious lives, and the flaws that make us tragic and wonderful at the same time.

FINAL VERDICT:  Recommend  

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Read November 15-18
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 5/5

Think:  An unconventional and shocking love story between two unlikely people. 

I had read several fellow bloggers' thoughts on this book before I read it, so I was prepared for the "heaviness" and knew that it might be uncomfortable at times.  I agree, it was, but I was still utterly enthralled.  It's a book that definitely made me think, wonder, and re-evaluate my own biases towards age, love, and soul mates.

FINAL VERDICT:  Highly recommend.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
Read November 19-22
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 4/5

Think:  A tale of nine women (and some of the men in their lives) and their experiences with the must-have, "it" dress of the season.

I'm a big fan of the movie Love Actually and one of the things I love about it is the how all of the characters are connected in some way.  It's the same for this book.  All of the characters, often unbeknownst to them, are connected to each other and it's because of a little black dress.  It was a very fun book that I found myself wanting to listen to every chance I got.  

FINAL VERDICT:  Recommend, especially when you are looking for a fun, light read.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells
Read November 24 - December 4
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 4/5

Think: A stranger than fiction story of young girl's childhood.

My half-sister sent me this book two years ago with a note that read, "You MUST read this!"  I'm glad that I finally did.  It's a wild account of the author's childhood with her brilliant, alcoholic father, her artistic, gumption-less mother who has an excuse for everything, and their unstable, poverty stricken life.  (On a personal note, much of the author's childhood takes place in Welch, WV, which is about 20 miles from my hometown and where my paternal grandparents were from.)

FINAL VERDICT:  Highly recommend.

Have you read any of these?  Did you like them?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Currently... (Vol. 23)

Breathing...  a sigh of relief as I am finally settled into my room at my new school.  Yes, the giant heap of boxes in my garage is no more!

Celebrating...  paying off my car 6 months early!  Yee-ha!

Making...  my to-be-read list for Erin's latest book challenge.

• 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages - TBD
• 10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “L” - Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
• 10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) red cover - The Royal We by Harriet Cocks and Jessica Morgan
• 15 points: Read a book with a character’s name in the title - The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
• 20 points: Read a book from this list: Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists The Couple Next Door by Star Lapena
• 20 points: Read a book with the words “house” or “home” in the title - The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen
• 25 points: Read a book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter - Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
• 30 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own - Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Bachman
• 30 points: Read a book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation i.e. bus, boat, car, plane, etc. - The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
• 35 points: Read a book with a character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness - The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Eating...  Cuties! I love them almost as much as Honeycrisp apples!

Starting...  to get my Christmas presents together.

Listening...  to the audiobook This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison.

Accepting...  that I probably will not complete my Goodreads Challenge this year.  I wanted to finish 50 books, but to date, I've only finished 40.

Missing...  several of my work buddies at my former school.  It's hard to leave friends.

Amazed...  at how life changing a shorter commute can be.  I mean, I knew my old (90 mile roundtrip) commute was rough, but I had no idea how rough it really was until I shaved nearly a third off it.

Enjoying...  the simplicity of my Christmas tree.  I only used three kinds of ornaments: red berries, pinecones, and cardinals.  Voila!

Participating...  in a Secret Santa gift exchange at work.

Dealing...  with soft tissue trauma in my mouth.  Damn almonds.  Who knew you could actually sprain the ligaments around your teeth when using a lot of force to chew something?

Looking...  forward to spending some time in West Virginia over Christmas Break.

Disbelieving...  that the school year is almost halfway through!  Where in the world has the time gone?!?

Contemplating...  participating in several athletic events in 2018.  No firm commitment yet, just consideration.

Laughing...  at this:

Wishing...  a friend of mine a Happy 51st Birthday later this month!

Giving...  kudos to Time magazine for naming "The Silence Breakers," the individuals who set off the national reckoning over the prevalence of sexual harassment, as their Person of the Year.  

Sincerely hoping...  that this movement, which has been simmering for decades, will finally boil over and bring about a long overdue shift in our culture.

Feeling...  incredibly blessed.  This time last year, I was not in a good place and I was extremely apprehensive of what 2017 might have in store for me.  Not only was this year very kind in terms of not throwing any curve balls my way, but it was also incredibly generous, unexpectedly giving me the transfer that I've been waiting on for years, which has renewed my spirit in so many ways.  Seriously, this is the happiest I've been with my career and my life in years.  

November in a snapshot:

1) Surprise flowers on my first day at my new job, stunning color, the return of Bandana Girl.
2) Fall foliage in the park, a sunrise as viewed from my work parking space, almost no more leaves.
3) My room at work, celebrating R's BIG 5-0, the cafeteria ladies always set aside 2 breakfast pizzas for me every Wednesday because they know how much I love it.

What have you been up to lately?

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