Beginning with the End in Mind

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I jumped on the bandwagon and read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.

First, I unlock the door and announce to my house, “I’m home!” Picking up the pair of shoes I wore yesterday and left out in the entranceway, I  say, “Thank you very much for your hard work, ” and put them away in the shoe cupboard.  Then I take off the shoes I wore today and place them neatly in the entranceway.  Heading to the kitchen, I put the kettle on and go to my bedroom.  There I lay my handbag gently on the soft sheepskin rug and take off my outdoor clothes.  I put my jacket and dress on a hanger, say, “Good job!” and hang them temporarily from the closet doorknob.  I put my tights in a laundry basket that fits into the bottom right corner of my closet, open a drawer, select the clothes I feel like wearing inside, and get dressed.  I greet the waist high potted plant by the window and stroke it’s leaves.

Froufrou overload.  I spent a great deal of time trying to keep my eyes from rolling to the back of my head. It started to go bad for me right in the first chapter when she talks about how once people start this life changing method of tidying – lives are completely changed.  One person was so changed they even got a divorce.  It’s not that I don’t think a divorce is ever necessary and it may have been the right thing for the person to do, I just don’t know that it should be a selling feature of your method.  I was just so happy getting rid of all my extra stuff, I threw my husband out too!

A nit-picky little disagreement I mentioned on instagram.  No way that there isn’t going to be some wardrobe cycling in the standard sized closet of standard Wisconsinite couple.

My biggest complaint was the permeating idea of affluence which probably makes sense when you think about the audience of home organization books, but was still overwhelming.  I think it’s a little arrogant to assume that people can afford to surround themselves and clothe themselves only in things that “spark joy”.  Ideal, perhaps, but also unlikely.

Anyway, all of this to say, while I’m not crazy about all of the book there are definitely ideas worth incorporating (visualizing the life you want to live, organizing by type and not room, and doing it all in one sweep).  I’ll fold clothes all fancy if it helps keep my t-shirts more organized and while I’ve never been one for keeping a bunch of mindless paperwork around, I’ll go through and toss out more (though some of the things she deems unnecessary, I use and will keep).

So I’m spending some time thinking about what I want life to look like and how our family home can reflect that.  Of all the things she speaks to, I think that is the one thing I will definitely be taking away from this book.  It’s always a good idea to begin with the end in mind.

Books

In 2014, I made a list of books that I wanted to read.  And then I mostly forgot about it.  While I was updating some things on the blog, I came across my list (this is why I blog, it helps me remember  things that I would otherwise forget).   Luckily for me, I still have a few brain cells and have been working on it despite forgetting about it.  So I thought I’d update it again with what I’ve managed to check off.  Books in italics are titles I’ve read before.

Junior Fiction

1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Bridge to Terebithia
3. A Wrinkle in Time 
4. Jacob Have I Loved 
5. Daughter of Smoke & Bone
6. The Secret Garden
7. The Wind in the Willows (I can’t finish this, I’ve started it three times, and I just can’t)
8. Where the Red Fern Grows
9. Treasure Island
10. The Chocolate War

On the Shelves

11. Cloud Atlas
12. Lit
13. So Much for That
14. Skippy Dies
15. A Confederacy of Dunces
16. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
17. A Widow for One Year
18. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
19.The Jungle
20. The Bean Trees

Classics

21. Tess of D’Ubervilles
22. Wuthering Heights
23. Mansfield Park
24.The Woman in White
25. Gone with the Wind
26. Frankenstein
27. The Grapes of Wrath
28. Rebecca
29. The Hobbit
30. The Awakening

Recently Published

31. We are Water
32. The Goldfinch
33. The Luminaries
34. And the Mountains Echoed
35. The Husband’s Secret
36. The Light Between Oceans
37. Defending Jacob
38. Shotgun Lovesongs
39. This is How You Lose Her
40. Something Like Normal

Nonfiction

41. Lean In
42. Carry On, Warrior
43. Bad Mother
44. I Am Malala
45. Stitches
46. Jesus Feminist
47. Rose Kennedy: The Life & Times of a Political Matriarch
48. Reading in the Wild: 
49. Real Food: What to Eat and Why
50.A Long Way Gone

I seem to have made the most progress on recently published books.  Perhaps because when I created this list I already had many of them on my e-reader?  Perhaps I should download some of those nonfiction as well as the push I need?

Books

I bought books.

In 2014, I put myself on a book purchasing moratorium.  (Sort of.)  I could buy them as gifts for other people, for the kids, or use any bookstore gift cards given to me, but I could not buy them for me.  (I’d like to save a bunch of money, but I’m positive I just spent it on yarn instead).

But today, I was running around Target picking up a few things for Valentine’s Day and it dawned on me. It is no longer 2014.  The self-imposed sacrifice of reading material is OVER.  I whipped my cart around, practically ran to the book section, and picked up three.  I almost bought two for me and one for each other kids but then I decided I spent all of 2014 buying THEM books so I put them back and bought myself another one.

It felt wonderful.  And honestly, it was perfect timing because any of my more involved knitting projects are starting to make me a little crazy and I just want to quit knitting all together.

Also, I needed a reason to procrastinate cleaning the house today.

What Abram's Reading Now (Or Having Read to Him)

I know I often share the books that I’m reading for myself, but with two kids who are developing a reading love that rivals my own, I thought it might be nice to share their reads as well. Here are the books that Abram has been having me read (and reread) daily.

Caps for Sale (A calls this “Hubcaps for Sale”) | Press Here | I Took The Moon for a Walk | This is Not My Hat | The Pigeon Wants a Puppy | The Day the Crayons Quit | Extra Yarn | The Peace Book | The Jolly Postman

The Books I’ve Read

At the beginning of the year, I made a list of the 50 books I wanted to read this year – knowing that I’d probably deviate some. But to keep me accountable, I thought it might not be a bad idea to update my list.

Books I’ve read before are in italics

Junior Fiction

1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Bridge to Terebithia
3. A Wrinkle in Time
4. Jacob Have I Loved
5. Daughter of Smoke & Bone
6. The Secret Garden
7. The Wind in the Willows
8. Where the Red Fern Grows
9. Treasure Island
10. The Chocolate War

On the Shelves

11. Cloud Atlas
12. Lit
13. So Much for That
14. Skippy Dies
15. A Confederacy of Dunces
16. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
17. A Widow for One Year
18. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
19.The Jungle
20. The Bean Trees

Classics

21. Tess of D’Ubervilles
22. Wuthering Heights
23. Mansfield Park
24.The Woman in White
25.Gone with the Wind
26. Frankenstein
27. The Grapes of Wrath
28. Rebecca
29. The Hobbit
30. The Awakening

Recently Published

31. We are Water
32. The Goldfinch
33. The Luminaries
34. And the Mountains Echoed
35. The Husband’s Secret
36. The Light Between Oceans
37. Defending Jacob
38. Shotgun Lovesongs
39. This is How You Lose Her
40. Something Like Normal

Nonfiction

41. Lean In
42. Carry On, Warrior
43. Bad Mother
44. I Am Malala
45. Stitches
46. Jesus Feminist
47. Rose Kennedy: The Life & Times of a Political Matriarch
48. Reading in the Wild:
49. Real Food: What to Eat and Why
50.A Long Way Gone

I haven’t been doing a very good job. Lots of books up there to cross off!! I’ve been reading quite a few things not on the list because I found a list of 100 “page turners” (I couldn’t pin it, so I wrote them in my journal and now I can’t reference the link) and so I’ve been grabbing from that when I’m at the library. I should probably add THIS list to my journal so I have it to reference as well!

What have you been reading lately? Have you heard of the “Matched” series? One of my friends just recommended it but the waiting list at the library is LONG.

Books Read

I’m 15 books into my 50 book goal for 2014.  I hardly read a thing in March and very little in February so while the couch sitting has been annoying, it’s given me a chance to get back on track with my goals.  Here are the 15 I’ve tackled so far this year:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD, *Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson,  A Widow for One Year by John Irving,  *The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman,  *The Giver by Lois Lowry,  *Here I Go Again: A Novel by Jen Lancaster,  The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy,  A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) by George R. R. Martin

Sutton by J. R. Moehringer, *The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, *Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)  by George R. R. Martin,  *World War Z by Max Brooks

The * denotes books that I would recommend reading.  If I wasn’t already ruined by the show, I might have recommended the Game of Thrones books.  As much as I want to continue being a “the book is better”, in this instance, I can’t.  The books are good and I’ll continue to read them, but if you were going to pick one – I’d say watch the show.

Sutton, Bad Mother, and A Widow for One Year were also reads that I mostly enjoyed, but just not enough to go around recommending them to most people.

I’m also looking to compile 20 book recommendations for a project so please share your favorite reads with me in the comments!

My Top 10 Reads (Right Now)

I had coffee with a former professor to chat about my future graduate school attendance (I’m getting excited and nervous). Excepting her love of an author I can not stand, she has magnificent taste in books and is one of the few people I know who loves them as much as me. We spent a good deal more time talking about what we’ve been reading and not what I’ll be studying, but that’s one of the reasons I like her so much.

With books on the brain, I started thinking about ten books I’d toss in a backpack if I wanted to go with tried and true favorites and a blend of genres/styles. These aren’t necessarily my favorite 10 of all time (because that would be impossible) but they are all books I’ve read multiple times and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. They’re perfect if you are looking for something to read on a trip or just to mentally get away.

Martin Eden by John Steinbeck

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Harry Potter (the 4th is my favorite but they’re all good) by J.K. Rowling

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

And if I still have room for one more:

The Chosen Chaim Potok

What books would you throw in your bag?

The 2014 Book List

Because I don’t make enough in the way of lists, I thought I’d make a list of the books I’d like to read this year. I’m sure I will deviate and if I don’t get through this list of fifty books, I won’t cry, but I thought it would be nice to have a place to start.

Books I’ve read before are in italics

Junior Fiction

1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Bridge to Terebithia
3. A Wrinkle in Time
4. Jacob Have I Loved
5. Daughter of Smoke & Bone
6. The Secret Garden
7. The Wind in the Willows
8. Where the Red Fern Grows
9. Treasure Island
10. The Chocolate War

On the Shelves

11. Cloud Atlas
12. Lit
13. So Much for That
14. Skippy Dies
15. A Confederacy of Dunces
16. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
17. A Widow for One Year
18. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
19. The Jungle
20. The Bean Trees

Classics

21. Tess of D’Ubervilles
22. Wuthering Heights
23. Mansfield Park
24. The Woman in White
25. Gone with the Wind
26. Frankenstein
27. The Grapes of Wrath
28. Rebecca
29. The Hobbit
30. The Awakening

Recently Published

31. We are Water
32. The Goldfinch
33. The Luminaries
34. And the Mountains Echoed
35. The Husband’s Secret
36. The Light Between Oceans
37. Defending Jacob
38. Shotgun Lovesongs
39. This is How You Lose Her
40. Something Like Normal

Nonfiction

41. Lean In
42. Carry On, Warrior
43. Bad Mother
44. I Am Malala
45. Stitches
46. Jesus Feminist
47. Rose Kennedy: The Life & Times of a Political Matriarch
48. Reading in the Wild:
49. Real Food: What to Eat and Why
50.A Long Way Gone

Reading List

I reread a few Travis McGee novels for fun this month but wanted to focus on the new reads because so many of them were excellent. It really was just a great month for me when it came to books.

An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

John Green drives me crazy. I love him and I can’t stand him in equal measure which is also the problem I have with his protagonists. They always fit the same mold – very smart, quick witted, and always with some oddball hobby. In this one, we have a (former) child prodigy who anagrams and dates Katherines and is scared he’ll never “matter”. He’s both a sympathetic character and someone I want to hit over the head. And I feel this way about every single protagonist John Green writes. And I get so annoyed that I just want to quit John Green but he’s just so good. The man can turn a phrase and leave me breathless or laughing at his insight. So basically, I have a complete love/hate relationship with him and his protagonists which is best summed up in this review by Jules and I think everyone should read him.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chobsky

I came across quite a few reviews on goodreads that really blasted this book for the writing (it was written in first person and the narrator’s voice seemed far too young/naive for his actual age) and the multitude of heavy topics it covered (sexual and physical abuse, homosexuality, drug use, rape are all touched on and probably a few more I’m forgetting). I loved it and gave it a five star rating but also understand why others might not feel that way. The writing is choppy and it is not a book that addresses one heavy topic and shines an in depth light on it. The discussion about whether the narrator is autistic or challenged in some way seems reasonable but I don’t know that there is really a lot of evidence to support that in the book (besides the naiveté and style of writing). At one point it seemed as if his counselor and family knew of an issue he was facing and other times it seemed as if they were as in the dark as he was (I’m being purposely vague as to avoid spoilers) which didn’t seem to make sense, but I also loved it and would recommend it.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

This is probably my favorite book all month. I sat down with it before going to bed and stayed up until I finished it. It was that good. It was a five star book, but I would have given it ten. The story is moving, the characters are so well written and believable, and if they really do make it into a movie and get the rights to all the songs – the soundtrack will be UNBELIEVABLE. (I’m tempted to make a playlist with the different music referenced in the book). I’ve heard rumors that there will be sequel set a few years after the ending but I don’t know if I’d pick that up. Not because I don’t want to know how the author envisions the rest of the story, but simply because I love how and where it ended.

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter

This book was suggested by a friend who has officially become my book guru. I have to not love something she’s recommended. It’s a hard book to explain but the title sums up the themes and the characters perfectly. It’s breathtaking and probably my second favorite that I read this month so you should just believe me and read it.

The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

Ehh. I might have liked this more had I read it more consistently but I just couldn’t get into so I would have to put it down and then I would pick it up and not remember how everything all tied together and I’d have to read back aways and to get the feel again and then I’d read it and get annoyed and put it down again. It was well written and it made some very interesting points but it was just depressing. And never seemed to go anywhere. And I couldn’t find one likeable character in the whole book which made it almost impossible to stomach for any length of time.

The American Heiress – Daisy Goodwin

This was another okay read but one I wouldn’t have read if I knew what I know about it now. It wasn’t bad but the story line didn’t mesh as well as it could have and it seemed like a badly ripped off Rebecca with a spoiled rich girl as a main character instead of a girl who came from less fortunate means. The Englishman with a secret was there, the cross signals and missed meanings were there, but it never really gelled or even made much sense to me. To be fair, I may have liked it more if I hadn’t been reading such excellent books throughout the month, but it certainly didn’t hold up.

Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace – Michael Perry

I adore Michael Perry’s writing. Maybe because he’s from the great state of Wisconsin and his first memoir happened to be based in the same town as my husband’s cabin so I connected with the references. Maybe it’s because he can turn a phrase. Maybe it’s because he’s capable of highlighting the things that are important without hitting you over the head. Maybe it’s because he reminds me of an old-timer and I like old-timers. Either way, I’ve read every single memoir he’s written and there isn’t a single one that I wouldn’t recommend. And this one especially.

The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate

Wow.  I read this book in a couple of hours and it was good.  I wanted to see if I could read it to V and I probably could get away with it, but it made me cry in a couple of different places so I’ll probably wait a little bit (there are plenty of other books for me to read to her in the meantime).

It’s inspired me to add one “children’s” book on my reading list each month.  I’m thinking next month I’ll read A Wrinkle in Time.  We read it in fifth grade and I don’t remember liking it.  In fact, I don’t remember anything about it.  I think I might have been a bit too young for it then so I’m going to give it another try.   While I’m reading that, I think you should read this.

So now it’s your turn – what have you read lately?  Do you have any recommendations?

Reading List

At the core of my self-defined self, I am a reader. But in the last year, I found myself going through a period where I just couldn’t get into a book. At all. I was terrified that something in my brain had switched and one of my largest personality markers (along with drinking insane amounts of water) would forever be changed. I was knitting and (gasp) watching TV, but I just wasn’t enjoying books. Then I went through a knitting break and settled back into my first true love. Currently, I’m trying to find a way to balance both hobby loves and do the other important things – like put dinner on the table and get the wash in. I really need to find away to read and knit at the same time, but it’s just beyond me. Anyway, here are a few of the titles I’ve read since my return.

Dead Ever After – Charlaine Harris – I know there was a huge outcry against how this ended but I have to say, I get it. I also get why there were a lot of people up in arms. I’m not going to give any spoilers because I know a few friends are saving it for their vacation read but I do have a few thoughts:

1- I read it in an afternoon.
2- I was amazingly disappointed.
3- It was basically a novel long epilogue
4- Lots of story-line inconsistency.

I don’t expect great literature from Sookie novels. I like them because they are craptastic fun. This one was just crap. And seal sex? No. Just no.

 The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach – Having lived close to where the fictional Westish College was located, my brain registered alarm every time the shopping mall in Door County was registered. Knowing that there is no shopping mall in Door County is a small thing and one that probably shouldn’t have bothered me nearly as much as it did, but it did. Alarm bells SCREAMED at the end because (I’m trying to avoid spoilers) it simply seemed completely impossible that people would do that. Besides the weird grave robber ending and the shopping mall in Door County, I loved the story. The characters amazed me, especially the “supporting” characters – Owen Dunne (the main characters roommate) and Mike Schwartz (the mentor of sorts) in particular. I’d definitely recommend it.

Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann – I couldn’t give a review better than this if I stayed up half the night trying to tell you all about the sex, drugs, social climbing and one dimensional characters. And while the book is most definitely not the caliber of F. Scott’s Great Gatsby, it is fun. Is it for everyone? No. Would I bring the title up in my bookish circle of friends? No. But it is guilty pleasure fun -throw it in the beach bag, drink a few vodka tonics with lime, and soak up some sun. It’s great for the summer.

The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery – This is one of the books recommended from the “read 20 books by 20 friends” list. (I’m still about 10 people short, so if you’ve got a title and you haven’t shared it with me, please feel free to put in the comments section.) The story is quick. It makes good use of allegory. I think it would make a solid way to illustrate metaphor to growing readers. It’s a book I’m glad to own and I’m sure I’ll flip through it again and mark some thoughts in the margin, but it’s a book I think I would have enjoyed if I had been introduced when I was much younger. (Which might be why the author says children should be very understanding of grown ups).

 The Stand – Stephen King – I read The Shining in high school. I was such a scaredy cat that I used to put my Bible on top of it in the hopes that it would keep the big baddies inside the book. And stopped reading Stephen King. But The Stand was one of my 20 recommended books and I thought I’d give it a try. It reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” but with paranormal activity, a few too many anal sex references, and whole lot of skeeze. It wasn’t scary (big plus) but it was very, very twisted and it ruined an otherwise great story for me. Since I’m not a Stephen King fan, I can’t say for certain, but if felt as if the seedier elements were written to cater to a certain reader and not necessarily for the story. If you take away that aspect, I found a really great story with great themes, but you also take away half the book. So I’m going to say McCarthy’s “The Road” is the way to go if you are looking for post-apocalyptic storyline.

Stiff – Mary Roach – Of all the books I read this month, this was my favorite. It was funny, smart, and full of interesting information. As a person who tends to get queasy, there were parts of this book that I had to skim through quite quickly but for the most part, it really was much more fascinating than off putting. For a book about cadavers, I’d say that’s quite a feat. Now that I’ve read it, I can honestly say I have no idea what I want done with my body when I’ve used it up, but she does give a pretty good case for letting it be used elsewhere.

So what good books have you been reading lately? Anything you can recommend?

Who’s The Boss

I quit knitting for awhile. Every time I sat down to work on Jesse’s sweater, I was miserable. It wasn’t coming along well and I couldn’t just set it aside. I’m a checklist knitter. I start a project, finish it, start another. And because I didn’t want to finish my project, and I couldn’t start another until I finished it, I just couldn’t knit. Until I decided two things 1) I’m just going to frog the thing anyway so it’s not really a knitting project anymore and even if I wasn’t going to rip it out, 2) I’m the boss of me. If I want to have two knitting projects going at a time, I certainly can quickly followed by a “So there, knitting police in my head!!” (I’m mature like that.)

Here’s what I learned during my interlude from knitting:

1 – I have too many hobbies. Once my main hobby (knitting) wasn’t appealing, I had to choose between scrapbooking, blogging, embroidering, sewing, and reading all as back ups. Not to mention the hobby of just gazing lovingly at pinterest. Most of the time I just watched TV.

2 – Even when I’m not knitting, I really like thinking about knitting. I spend hours browsing yarns at purl, finding patterns on ravelry, and adding to my knitting pins.

3 – Knitting is a beautiful companion to Prozac. My mood since I’ve started working on this afghan is unbelievably better than it’s been in weeks. Knitting is restful but it’s also productive. Pretty awesome.

4 – And of course, that I’m the boss of me. I’m probably pretty late to the game on this lesson. Maybe not. Maybe a lot of us are arbitrary rule followers. While I know it sounds like a toddler throwing a tantrum, I’m really not. I’m not advocating going out and breaking societal norms willy-nilly or even saying that rules are a bad thing. I’m saying I’ve imposed a lot of ridiculous little rules (like I can’t be working on two knitting projects at the same time) that are just ridiculous little rules. I’ve spent a whole chunk of my life worrying about what I should be doing and what people would think if I did (insert some innocuous activity here) and if so-and-so thought I was “good”. I need to stop that.

Being the boss of me means I get to live a life aligned with my own values, filled with the people who matter most to me, and saved by grace.

Doesn’t that sound fun?

P.S.

I’m reading Stiff by Mary Roach right now and while some of the discussion has me a little squeamish, a good portion has me laughing out loud. And it’s fascinating – even if it is a little macabre. Highly recommend.