The best part of my day

I love hearing the happy sounds of my child stirring after a good night’s sleep. I love feeling his arms around my neck and his head on my shoulder as I breathe in his scent after almost 12 hours apart. I love his smile when he sees me sneak into his classroom at the end of the day, his running leap into my arms, excited to see each other after a long day at school and an even longer day at work. I love the happy chatter in the car on the way home and his increasingly animated tales about what happened (at least in his mind) at school.

I love when my husband comes home from work and all three of us sit around the table for dinner. I love my first sip of wine for the evening. I love relaxing with my husband after the kiddo has gone to bed.

The best part of my day, though, is when I can finally curl up in bed with my book.

reading before bed

No story can be as entertaining as my child. No fictional hero as wonderful as my husband. But reading before bed means I did it. I made it through another day. No matter what that day was like, I’ve made it to the final level of the game and I can finally escape into whatever other world is waiting for me.

Sometimes it lasts only five minutes (before I fall asleep and drool on the pages). Sometimes it lasts for hours (the silver lining of insomnia). But no matter how short or long the time is, it’s all mine.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Writing Prompt: 1. The best part of my day is…

The year of momentum

I’m a planner. By the time eighth grade rolled around, I already had my entire high school course load mapped out. My senior year in high school barely began, and I knew every class I was going to take for my college major and which clubs I was going to partake in. My dad would chuckle and remind me, “When people plan their lives, G-d laughs.” It wasn’t long before I understood my father’s meaning: I graduated from a college I never intended to attend; I reside in a place I never dreamed of living; and my career doesn’t remotely resemble what I studied. Still, I plan. But with much more flexibility and the knowledge that it can all go to s#*! at any moment.

Last year, my planning stalled. For lots of different reasons, I threw my hands up in the air and asked, “Why bother?” You know what happened? Nothing. I didn’t blog. I barely wrote. I created virtually nothing. I stood still. Sure, I thought about doing all those things, but life circumstances paralyzed me. Spending the better part of the year spinning my wheels, I ended the year (in terms of my personal goals and passion projects) in virtually the same place where I started. And that felt BAD.

As 2016 was moving toward the rear-view mirror, I stumbled upon Belong Magazine on Instagram; and as I got to know the founder, Brooke, through her daily photos and accompanying words, she became an inspiration. I recognized her struggles with her goals as my own, and her encouragement to take baby steps became a mantra of sorts in my head. The one thing I did a LOT of in 2016 was read, and so I added books like Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear to my reading list.

All of this inspiration led to my one little word for this year…

momentum: one little word 2017

Belong Mag’s Instagram post a few days ago sums up the reason behind my word momentum perfectly: “If you don’t take a step forward, you’ll always be in the same place.” In her book, Elizabeth Gilbert told a story about her mother that beautifully illustrates the concept of doing your future self a kindness. This resonated with me to the point of almost haunting me. It is my future self that I must keep in mind when faced with the choice to move forward or remain in place. From something as simple as trying to decide if I should take five minutes to make a sandwich for lunch, I think of future me, who is going to be hangry if I opt to do something else with that time. When it comes to my goals, I must also think of the future me and make decisions that leave her in a more positive place than she was.

What is your one little word for 2017?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Photo credit: Mubarak Fahad via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

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My Year in Books

If social media posts are any indication, most of us can agree that 2016 was a strange year. I’m not entirely sure what I accomplished besides keeping a toddler alive, which, considering my inability to keep plants alive, I consider a huge deal. But I do know that I read. A lot. Thanks to some insomnia (and aforementioned toddler), I read 37 (and a few halves) books this year!

Perhaps more impressive than the number is the diversity of books I read. While my passion for Young Adult Literature still burns, I found myself drawn to a lot of memoirs and (non-YA) suspense novels.

 

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My top ten (in no particular order) are:

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

This series, slightly reminiscent of a soap opera, is highly entertaining with a healthy dose of voyeurism. There are so many characters, I was concerned about keeping them straight, but each one’s crazy is unique. I started reading the second book as soon as I read the last page of the first.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

You know how you wanted to re-watch The Sixth Sense immediately after watching it the first time? Yeah, this book was like that.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

In typical Gayle Forman fashion, this was an emotional roller coaster from beginning to end. What I didn’t expect, though, was how good – and complex – the mystery would be.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

I was so surprised by this book. I expected to like it, yes, because I love Amy Poehler, but I never expected to connect with it the way I did. I think had I read it when it first came out, it wouldn’t have spoken to me the way that it did now, given where I am in my career, in my life, and in my head. Her writing spoke to me much more profoundly than anticipated, while still – of course – making me laugh out loud. I enjoyed her behind-the-scenes look at Parks & Rec and got all the feels from Seth Meyers’ contribution about their friendship. Also fun was finding out the little things we shared growing up: “The scene when Sodapop comes out of the shower in The Outsiders was a very important moment in my adolescence.”

Favorites from Amy (yep, we’re totally on a first-name basis now) on the way the universe works:

“People help you time travel. People work around you and next to you and the universe waits for the perfect time to whisper in your ear, ‘Look this way.’ There is someone in your life right now who may end up being your enemy, your wife, or your boss. Lift up your head and you may notice.”

“I also found a song that I wrote when I was seven. It is a poem that has numbers written about it, so it can be played the special way on my special organ. I wrote it in the past and put it in the sacred bench so I could pull it out at just the right time. Time is just time. Time travel, y’all.”

Favorites from Amy on work:

“We did the thing. Because remember, the talking about the thing isn’t the thing. The doing of the thing is the thing.”

“Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. Here’s the thing. Your career won’t take care of you… Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love… Career is different. Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs… Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole… Ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are…”

Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

As a one-time fan of the show Girls Next Door about Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends, I was intrigued by this memoir. It turned out to be less of a tell-all and more of an inside look into Holly’s psyche while at the Playboy mansion. I never thought I’d find myself feeling badly for someone who seemed to have such a luxurious lifestyle that she presumably chose, but the book is a reminder: you never know what has led someone to where she is; “reality” television doesn’t show the whole story;, and getting out of a situation may not be as easy as it seems.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

This is a thriller I could not stop thinking about; as I sat down to dinner, I thought, “Only two more hours before I can get back to reading!” It’s like a really dark marriage between 50 First Dates, Next to Normal, and an action movie from the 90s whose title would give away a major plot twist.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Talk about suspense! I was able to overlook the grittiness – gruesomeness, if I’m being completely honest – because I HAD to know what really happened. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, the plot twisted. A page-turner indeed!

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

This story received so many negative reviews, but I was too intrigued by this story to let that stop me. After reading – and loving – the book, I was surprised to find that a common reason for the negativity is the main character, Anika. She is what did it for me. I loved her snarky voice, and I loved that she acted very much like a real adolescent. There are a lot of criticisms of Anika “slut shaming” girls that aren’t even “sluts.” I recommend these people hang out with middle or high school girls for a day and get back to me on this one. Why do all of our YA protagonists have to be good role models? Who wrote that rule? Anika is an imperfect, complicated character, just like real humans are, and her story (which shockingly is based on something that really happened while the author was in high school) is a great conversation starter for numerous issues that adolescents face everyday, from bullying to violence to family relationships.

Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane

This book gave me all the feels. Centered around the Crown Heights Riots in the 90s, this story of the relations between a young black man and Hassidic Jews speaks to identity and humanity in the most heartbreaking and touching of ways.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

This innocent YA story, told in alternating voices, is simply adorable, sprinkled with humor and tenderness. If you’re looking for a quickly read, feel-good holiday story, this is it!

What were your favorite reads of 2016? Let me know in the comments – my To Be Read list can never be too long!

2016: The Year of RELEASE

It’s been two years since I’ve committed to One Little Word because the only word in my vocabulary during that time was “survive”: survival of profound loss, survival of learning how to be a mom, and survival of all the “adulting” that went on in between. Although things finally feel like they’re settling into a new normal, I didn’t plan to choose One Little Word this year. But then, during a late-night cuddle session with The Toddler Who Refuses to Sleep Through The Night, I began mentally listing my goals for the year, and I realized they all had one thing in common: release.

release

Goal: Release myself and my home from all the material things that neither bring me joy nor are essential to keep.
Plan: Using The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy as guides, I will focus on at least one category per month to tidy up so that hopefully I have a simpler household come this time next year.

Goal: Release myself from the negative self-talk, unrealistic expectations, and unattainable perfectionism.
Plan: I have two strategies going into this one. The first one I saw on Facebook, and I really like it. It’s basically a form of aversion therapy. Whenever you say something mean about yourself, something you wouldn’t let anyone say about your best friend, you have to give up your phone for 30 minutes. The second I credit to a friend of mine: Turn the negatives into action statements. So instead of saying, “Ugh, why can’t I ever remember to call So-and-So on her birthday?! I’m the worst friend,” you’d re-frame it: “After I call So-and-So today, I’m going to put an alert on my calendar so that I’m notified of her birthday every year.”

Goal: Release myself from financial stress.
Plan: Asking for help is not one of my strengths. I always think, I can do this, no matter what this is. Confidence is one thing; stubbornness is another. No matter how many years I’ve spent attempting to budget and whatnot, it’s time to bring in the experts. In addition to making calls and attempting to lower rates on cell phone bills, etc., I’m going to work with a professional to get out of as much debt as possible this year (school loans, I’m looking at you), create a budget that’s realistic, improve my credit score, and make sure I’m putting enough in savings, retirement, and college funds. Normally I’d be stressed just thinking about this, but having a plan, not just a goal, is freeing in itself.

Goal: Release my dreams from living solely in my mind.
Plan: If you were with me during my heyday of blogging, you know that this is one I’ve been struggling with for years. While I’ve made a lot of progress on certain things, like getting an article published and becoming a contributing blogger, there’s a lot more I want to do that I’ve constantly put on the back burner for excuse after excuse.

anne lamott quote

I do a pretty good job of living without “what if”s. To borrow from one of my favorite poems, I don’t want a dream deferred to fester like a sore. The plan is a little fuzzy at best. I’m going to start with writing down the dreams and steps I need to take to attempt them. Then, I’ll start following the steps. Note, achieving the dream is not the goal; finally attempting it is.

What is your One Little Word this year?

Photo credit: “Monarch Release” by kcolwell via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

A Second Glantz at 2015

Okay, I guess it’s really a first glance since I didn’t publish a single post to this blog last year. Thanks to a mixture of Mommy brain and anemia-induced memory issues, I couldn’t give you a month-by-month recap if my life depended on it, so I’m turning to these great Personal Year in Review questions to help me reflect before moving onto my One Little Word tomorrow.

What did I do this year that I’m really proud of?

I’m so proud of the work I did as the Community Relations Director of a local non-profit. From being one of only 15 programs that received a grant out of 55 applicants, to helping a group of students combat marginalization on a university campus, to publishing a new community magazine, to taking on local government officials when they were doing wrong, to working with the FBI to keep our institution safe when potentially threatened, to assisting victims of the “1,000 year flood,” I truly feel as though I made a difference in my community this year. Even when I was teaching, I’m not sure I felt like I was contributing the way my current job has allowed me to – and as I write the words, I realize – this isn’t just a job; it’s a passion. How lucky I am to have finally found it.

This may sound silly, but I’m really proud of myself for achieving my reading goal of 30 books this year. Granted, some of the success is owed to my child for the nights he refused to sleep anywhere but in my arms, but I’m proud of myself for reading instead of playing Words with Friends, and I’m equally proud that I took time for myself before bed to read instead of watch TV. I’m most proud of myself for reading more adult titles than young adult ones this year (which I attribute, in large part, to my mother-in-law and her awesome book recommendations).

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EXHIBITIONDespite my lack of presence here, I wasn’t completely absent from the blogosphere. As a contributor to Columbia SC Moms Blog, I published several heartfelt posts, but the one I was most proud of this year is Five Unbelievable Superpowers All Moms Develop. Why? Because this was an idea that I had been sitting on for months. Tried as I might to finish it, it seemed an impossible task. It’s hard to write a funny piece when you’re not in good humor. But, for whatever reason – perhaps just to prove to myself that I could still write with a sense of humor – I was bound and determined to finish and publish the article. While the article wasn’t my most successful one in terms of how many times it was “liked” or shared, it’s the one that I consider to be the greatest success.

What are the top three lessons I learned?

I finally learned to listen to my body and do whatever it takes to make my doctor hear it, too. If something feels “off,” chances are there’s a legitimate reason behind it. You have to be your own advocate, and you can’t be afraid to share all the details, no matter how trivial they may seem.

Through a terrifying near-accident, which found me doing figure eights into oncoming traffic, all of which – thankfully – somehow managed to avoid hitting me, I learned just how important it is to be present. I wasn’t texting, talking on the phone, drinking coffee, or eating while driving. But I was thinking – fuming, really – about something that happened at work before getting in the car. Even now, I shudder to think how those absolutely pointless moments of fretting about something beyond my control could have resulted in my son losing his mother. Thus, I try really hard these days to clear my mind before getting behind the wheel.

While this is not a lesson that I have put into action as of yet, I’ve learned that I need to write everything down. This lesson is twofold. First is the practical application: I am one of those lucky people who used to be able to rely on an elephant-like memory for appointments, meetings, and the like. But because “Mommy brain” is not a myth and because my brain is so cluttered with work and all other aspects of “adulting,” I will forget to show up to a meeting if it’s not written down (confession: sometimes I forget even if it is written down). The other meaning of this lesson is a sentimental one. Surely, I thought, I will remember this [whatever adorable thing my child has done or said] when I have time to write about it. Nope. Not even a little bit. When my son one day asks, “Mom, what was my first word?” I may have to make it up. If I go back to social media and 23 Snaps, an application we use with our family, I can probably piece things together, but that will ultimately take more time that the minute it would have taken to record the moment when it happened.

What increased my happiness and joy this year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need I really explain?

No matter how your 2015 was, I hope this year is an even happier one! I look forward to connecting with you more in 2016.

14 of 2014: the book edition

The silver lining to the cloud that is my child’s aversion to sleep is the amount of reading I’ve done this year. Hoping to read two books a month, I surpassed that goal, reading an average of three books a month for a total of 37 books at the time this was written (a 38th may appear depending upon the next few nights of sleep).

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My favorite 14 books read in 2014 are as follows (ordered by date read):

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Whereas I felt Suzanne Collins’ ending to The Hunger Games trilogy was a copout, I thought Roth ended the Divergent series bravely and perfectly.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I was surprised to find this touted tear-jerker rather uplifting.

3. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

A fun read, this had a Buffy, the Vampire Slayer type of campiness to it.

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Romance is not my favorite genre; however, Stephanie Perkins does it right. She made me want to grab my passport and book the next flight to France.

5. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

While not her best in the series, I enjoyed how Clare ended her epic tale.

6. Run to You by Clara Kensie

Told in six installments, this paranormal thriller was full of unexpected twists. It kept me on my toes, as well as the edge of my seat.

7. Lux: Opposition by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A page-turning end to a creative sci-fi series, Lux, Armentrout makes me want to have a close encounter.

8. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

This was an eye-opening read about our justice system. Though the TV version has been greatly dramatized, I found the tamer real-life account to be more harrowing.

9. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Having a great fascination with Zelda Fitzgerald since high school, it was fun to read this (admittedly fictional) interpretation of her unusual life.

10. The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Two of my favorite genres, dystopian YA & vampire YA, are a beautiful marriage in the hands of Kagawa.

11. The Future of Us by Jay Asher

A thought-provoking coming-of-age story about how the present affects the future & how our dreams for the future can affect the present and what it means to be happy. Having been a HS junior in 1996 like the female protagonist, I also loved the nostalgia of this great read.

12. Looking for Alaska by John Green

This book stayed with me. For weeks.

13. Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Forman does a brilliant job showing how just one day can affect a greater expanse of time in one’s life – in this case, one year.

14. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

This moving story, reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird and Shawshank Redemption, is so well told, I now want to read everything Gaines has written.

What are your favorite reads from 2014?