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.

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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.

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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

 

"Gratitude is the memory of the heart."

Ah, that Jean Baptiste Massieu guy had a way with words, didn’t he?

I interrupt my pointless ramblings, shameless bragging, and incessant drooling over fictional characters to give a moment of thanks.
Meet my Grandma Lil.
Yes, that adorable curly-headed child is me. {blush}
This is one of my last memories of Grandma Lil before she began her almost-20-year-long battle with Alzheimer’s. Anyone who’s had a family member succumb to this disease knows how devastating it is. Truth be told, I think seeing my grandma lose herself and her memories is a big part of why I became obsessed with scrapbooking at such an early age.
A few years ago, my husband and I participated in the Gainesville Memory Walk to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association and to honor Grandma Lil.

Click here to view these pictures larger

We didn’t do too shabby for our first year, but when I had the opportunity to participate in the Latrobe Memory Walk this year, I knew I wanted to do better. A couple of emails and a Facebook post later, we have already almost doubled the money we raised last time – all in a matter of a few hours!

Little did I know how many friends’ families were affected by Alzheimer’s, too. Although it’s the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States right now, it’s still not talked about the way cancer or heart disease is. That’s why this walk is so important and why I’m so thankful for the generous support of friends and family members. When I walk on September 19, I will now be walking not only for my grandma, but also for the grandparents and parents of so many.
And so to those of you who are cheering me on – whether emotionally, financially, or both – I give you my deepest thanks.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that if you would like to make a donation in memory of a loved one and/or support our walk, you can visit the Team Glantz donation page, or click the link in the top-left sidebar.

For more about Alzheimer’s Disease and what you can do to help, visit the Alzheimer’s Association.

I’m baaack

Did you miss me? I certainly have missed all of you. I can’t believe I’ve been MIA in the blogosphere for a whole month! 

Remember my one little word this year? RELAX. Life has gotten a little hectic in the last few weeks with a new position at work, two BPS classes, LOAD…I can keep going but you get the idea. In an effort to keep my promise to myself, I had to let a few things fall to the wayside for a little while, and blogging was unfortunately one of them. But I’m back. And with realistic expectations, meaning life might need to settle down a little bit more before I get back into a weekly writing routine. I hope you’ll bear with me as I find my groove.
I have a ton of things to tell you about over the next few weeks, but the first thing I want to do is thank my scrapping friend, April, for this incredibly sweet Friendship Blogger Award she bestowed upon me. I met April last year in the BPS Library of Memories class, for which she is an incredibly encouraging Coach, and quickly bonded over being fellow Gator fans. I’m glad that our paths have continued to cross since then, and I hope they will continue to do so.
 

So now I get to have fun and pass along the award. In the true spirit of blogger friendship, I am sending this out to a few ladies in the blogosphere that I have not met in person, but consider to be friends nonetheless:
This is one of the many things I love about the blogosphere and social media: forging friendships across the miles with people I more than likely would have never otherwise met.
Friendship, whether “in real life” or “virtual,” makes the bad times bearable and the good times even better, and I’m grateful for all of you!
Blog with you soon…