Summer Reading 2016

For all intents and purposes, I consider summer to be June, July, and August.  It has been ingrained in me since grade school.  Those three months are the warmest, the sunniest, and the busiest for me.  At work the summer reading program takes off and at home I am bombarded with projects and socializing: bon fires, weddings, camping trips, and open houses.  Right now I have plans every single day until July 9 or 10.   Seriously.

Except, every year I come up with some summer reading goal.  I never do it.  I never actually read all of my Mark Twain a couple of summers ago.  Most of the time I never even start the challenge.

Today I decided that my summer challenge would be to get through all of the books currently in my TBR.  That’s asking a lot.  There are 22 books in that pile, plus there will be two more book club books and three Book of the Month Club books.  I’m asking myself to read 30 books in less than three months.  I know that I could do it, but geez!  I have to try, right?  At least this once!  No more ordering and no more checking out (other than book club) until I get it straight.  Right? Right.  Let’s do this.

What is your summer reading challenge??

Current TBR

  1. End of the Watch by Stephen King
  2. Kindred by Octavia Butler
  3. The Girls by Emma Cline
  4. Shrill by Lindy West
  5. Denise’s Daily Dozen by Denise Austin
  6. Essential X-Men vol 1
  7. And Sometimes Why by Rebecca Johnson
  8. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  9. Confessions by Kate Brian
  10. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. Need by Joelle Charbenneau
  12. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
  13. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  14. Chi’s Home Sweet Home by Kanata Komani
  15. What It Is by Lynda Barry
  16. Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
  17. Rage by Richard Bachman
  18. Cider House Rules by John Irving
  19. The Happiness Project by Gratchin Ruben
  20. Alive by Chandler Baker
  21. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink
  22. Gabi, Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  23. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

There, you guys!  And I’m really sticking to it and making a dent this time.  Really.

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The Books of 2015

I’m calling it, folks.  I could probably finish the book I’m reading today but I’m enjoying taking it slow and what is really the big difference between 89 and 90 books when you’re enjoying yourself?  Nothing.  I didn’t meet my goal of 150 books this year, which I changed to 105 in late summer because I knew that I couldn’t.  I didn’t reach that goal either.  It was a weird year.  I actually read more than I thought and when I looked back I was surprised that I managed, what?  Three Stephen Kings?  Four!  No disappointments here.  I’m looking forward to starting the new year.  Without further ado, I bring you….

The Books of 2015!

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April Happiness Project- Make Music Matter

Did you see what I did there?  With the alliteration?  I know.  I rock.

Anyway, happy April!  We’ve got some Happiness Project Housecleaning to take care of.  Let’s start by wrapping up March.

March I focused on enjoying my home and the fine balance that entails.  I think that I’ve done pretty well.  I do want to break something every time I have to do the dishes by hand because the dishwasher still leaks but I would call that my only real concern and, as I said before, I find that if I tackle the dishes every single night before bed they don’t piss me off quite as much.  That’s really what I learned last month: 15 minutes of maintenance today saves a lot of anger tomorrow.

So far in my great organization and cleaning project, I have managed to clean the bedroom, guest room, and office.  This week I tackled the shower.  That probably seems like a stupid thing to spend a week on but the previous owners allowed a crust of rust to build up on the tiles and tub and I have not managed to break through it yet.  This week I made some headway.  I used a new cleaner and it wiped right off the tiles and even took some off the tub.  Today I washed the shower mat and the rug.  We’re getting into some of the real messes really soon.  (Guess how many bottles of sunscreen I have on my bathroom shelf.  3!  I mean, I spent a great portion of last summer trying not to tan and driving around with the top down but that’s kind of ridiculous.  There’s one in the hall closet too.  You’re supposed to replace that stuff every year.  I’m not going to.)

Without further ado, here’s April!

I chose to focus on music in April for a kind of silly reason.  Last year it was warm.  I know that’s hard to believe but it was.  I have a vivid memory of a day in April when I cracked the windows to air the house out, cleaned, and listened to French music from the 20’s.  I didn’t understand a word but I had such a lovely time.

I love music and I always have.  When I was 6 I wanted to be Paula Abdul.  In junior high I dug into 80’s rock.  In high school I reinvented myself with Hole, Korn and Manson.  In college I developed a love for Liz Phair and Veruca Salt.  But I listen to it all.  Classic rock is a fav.  Alternative.  Classic country.  New country.  Sometimes things just catch me and I listen.  Again and again.

On the same note, we are a home of many instruments.  I own electric and acoustic guitars as well as a harp.  Hubby has guitars too.  Between us we share a drum kit, a banjo, and a ukulele.  However, I never stiock to anything long.  I can play a little of everything but lately I haven’t taken much time for it and that’s a shame because I really wanted to learn banjo and that was one of our wedding gifts.

Goals 

  1. Explore new music.  I don’t necessarily mean new genres, just songs that I don’t know.  Also, this could simply mean that I have to actually listen to music.  Lately I’ve been caught up in auido books and podcasts and You Tube videos.  So far this week I’ve made a point to shower to music at least.  It feels good.
  2. Play the instruments.  For now I am committing to 5 minutes of banjo a day, more to be added soon.  5 minutes is not a lot of time, I know, but damn my fingers are out of shape!  Plus, it’s important that I do this every day and build a habit.  I know a G and a D7 now!
  3. Dance like nobody’s watching.  I know it sounds cliche.  I used to dance all of the time.  I love how it feels when I dance.  Why did I stop?  I’m not sure.  I bet I didn’t want Hubby to think I was weird.  (He figured it out.)

March HP Update- Happy at Home

The real trick to being happier at home could be one of two things.  First, it could managing to implement systems that make life easier at home and thus easier to enjoy.  The second option is to just say to hell with it and enjoy things as they are.

One of the things that I did this month in my search for a happier life was double up on my giant organization and cleaning project.  I am now doing two small things a day.  I’ve done the bedroom and the office, the linen closet and my sewing desk.  The going is slow but what I’ve done still looks pretty nice and maintaining it has been easier because I’ve actually been trying.  It feels good and I can’t wait to tackle some of my upcoming projects.

Some things I’ve meant to do this month and haven’t done yet: Light more candles, light more incense, do the dishes before bed, make myself stop working at some point to enjoy the evening without that nagging voice in the back of my head.

Look, when you buy your first house you don’t expect to be there forever and there are a lot of things that you forgive because of this.  I always intended to put in a sliding glass door and a back deck but that will probably never happen.  Other things happened first.  I needed a new roof.  I needed new appliances.  Life is kind of like that.  But the truth is that if we are always thinking about the things we want to do and haven’t gotten to or the things that are wrong (that damn dishwasher), we lose sight of the great things.  I love my house because I love being home.  I love being with my husband.  I love cuddling the cats.  I love being around my books.  I enjoy the comfort of my couch and the warmth of my bed.  And this is what a life is made of.

An Intro to March

My happiness project this month is to love my home.

Five years ago I moved into a different house, one that was purchased with my then fiance.  I didn’t have a lot of money so we agreed that I would give him a couple hundred a month towards the bills plus I would be responsible for the cleaning and groceries.  When we moved in, I used my savings to take care of furniture and paint and small appliances.  Still, the house became a way for him to have the upper hand.  He would remind me that he bought the house “for me” but then turn around and tell me that it was “his house.”  I worked very hard to make it work but it didn’t and there were things about that house that really bothered me…

Other than the relationship stuff, of which there was a lot, the house was a long way from work and family.  My ex was traveling for work during the week so from Monday morning the Friday night, I was alone.  I felt marooned in the middle of nowhere and it was the middle of nowhere.  One night a week I went to my best friend’s house to watch our TV show and have dinner.  Another day I went to watch a show with my mom.  But when we got cable and I got busy with school and housework, I was just lonely.  It was the first time that I had lived cat-less since I was 7 and I longed for one.  The house was always cold. (Tt was to be kept cold while my ex was gone and the heat was turned up when he came home.  Sometimes he checked the propane tank to make sure I wasn’t using too much.)  Plus, it was a creepy effing house.  I would lay in bed at night and expect the bedroom door to open on it’s own.  The front door would open itself between 10 and 11 at night numerous times, sometimes even after being locked and checked.  I wasn’t happy.

After that all ended, having only spent 6 months in the house, I moved back home.  My mother had taken over my bedroom so I was in the basement.  It was a nice basement, walk out with a fireplace and patio and bathroom.  I didn’t have a door but I found ways to have privacy.  It wasn’t bad but I can tell you in all honesty that it was one of the hardest times of my life.  I felt like a low low loser.  I felt cheated.  I had done so much work for that house.  I had encouraged my ex in every facet of his life and then someone else was reaping the benefits.  There I was, living in my parent’s basement, running around with a boy who was 4 years younger than me and a musician, working the same job I had always worked, still going to school.  All I had to show for that period of time was more house shit in storage, some leftover paint, and the kitten I had finally just gone and picked out, my delightful Delilah.

But I worked hard and I was diligent.  Not long after moving home I was promoted at work.  My student loans were still in deferment and my mother wouldn’t charge me rent so I was able to put money away and pay things off.  I lived on very little money.  I drank dollar Blatz at the bar.  I got my masters degree and graduated with a 3.9 GPA.  I was promoted again, a full time position was created to keep me around.  I worked my 40 hours, went to gigs with my boyfriend, spent time with my family and bestie.  A year after moving home, I put the offer in on my house.

That whole summer, the summer of 2010, I had this feeling that something was right around the corner.  My life was about to take off.  I knew it.  I could feel it.  And it did.  I got my house.  I broke up with the musician.  I met the man who I would marry.

My house is not a lot.  It’s a bilevel in an aging subdivision, built in 1973 and not very well maintained.  Still, I got it for $38k and my mortgage payment is less than rent in the dumpiest apartments.  It was home the moment I pulled into the drive and saw my real estate agent sitting on the porch in the sunshine.  Coming here ended up meaning so much to me.  And Hubby was here from the start.  He literally moved me in two weeks after we met.  On our first official date, we stayed out until 4 and then he slept on my bedroom floor with me.  Sometimes, I look around and feel so good about this work that I have built.

But I noticed last year that I was not loving it like I used to.  In fact, I was downright frustrated.  I’ve talked before about how the maintenance of life is something that I have a hard time with.  When we are busy, it is easy for our home to become more background noise.  The lawnmower breaks.  The dishwasher leaks.  There is mold in the bathroom.  The junk drawer is too full.  We need bookshelves but don’t want to spend the money.  The walls could use a sanding.  The tree out front is dropping branches.  It’s easy to come home and face one more annoyance and forget that you have something wonderful.

So, this month is about enjoying my home.  It’s about having a glass of wine after work and listening to a record.  It’s about lighting candles.  It’s about taking to time to fix something that is bothering me, like the effing dishwasher.  It’s about remembering that my home is my oasis in this crazy world.  I want to be happy to be here and I want it to be a productive and relaxing place.  Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.

“Fill your home with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.”  -Dr. Seuss

Random Updates Plus Monies

Eating more real food this month has been great.  However, what has turned out to be even better is the monies this month.  Due to a number of circumstances, such as awesome parents and tax refunds, January’s challenge is actually working out for me this month.  A couple of months ago, my parents lent my brother some money for a deposit on a house.  He recently paid the money back and they decided that it was only fair to lend me the money to attempt to take care of my most annoying bill, if the company would settle.  The company did settle and yesterday I paid off my most nagging and annoying debt.  Tax refunds have started to seep in and I also gave Hubby his half yesterday, minus some funds that he owed me.

A lot of people, mostly older people, are surprised by the fact that Hubby and I don’t necessarily share money but there are a number of reasons for that.  Hubby, for instance, only has an associate’s degree and has way way less student loan debt than I do.  His car payment is lower than mine.  Plus, and this is a big one, I don’t want to know how he’s spending his money and I don’t want him to know how I’m spending mine.  If he wants to take his half of the tax return and buy an xBox, he totally should without me judging him.  The same way that I want to take my half and build my emergency fun back up so that I can tackle paying off some more debt without worrying about things like tires.  Eventually we will share more and we already do but right now it just makes more sense not to.

Any way, other things have been going on.  Earlier this month I went to the eye doctor for the first time in 12 years!  That doesn’t mean much to you but to me it means that I was a hell of a lot blinder than I thought.  I wondered at how everything looked with my new glasses and then I got contacts.  Contacts!  I feel like an actual adult now!  What I have learned from the contact experience is that Left Eye is an asshole.  It’s always blinking the contact out while Right Eye just takes it.

I am working hard on all of my projects.  I should be able to review a book for you all later today and the house is clean and I am thinking about making cheeseburger pie for dinner.  Onward!

Cooking and Cleaning- As Promised

I bet you are just dying to hear about eating real food and the organization project.  Just dying!  But the truth is that I haven’t said much about either because, well, it’s kind of boring.

I’m like two months into my “organize one thing a day” cleaning project.  I am on my office.  I am on my office closet while I sometimes refer to as “book cave from hell” simply because avalanches involving boxes and stacks of books often occur there.  You know what?  I am loving it.  I love to go through my books.  I love to sort and stack them and get rid of doubles and decide that I’m never going to read Bitter is the New Black again.  I’ve been feeling really booky lately (I requested 12 books on Monday because I’m an effing idiot) and this has really been fun.  I’ll be sad to see it done.  Maybe I’ll just leave the books stacked all over the floor.  Why not?  Who do I have to impress?  Hubby?  He already knows I’m crazy…

This month, as part of my happiness challenge, I have been trying to eat more “real food” but, as I’ve explained previously I don’t really mean “real” in the way that most diets would mean real.  I meant that I wanted to eat more at home and less crap that I didn’t really want.  It’s been going really well!  I have had fast food, twice, but I had fast food that I wanted.  Like, last week I had a craving for some Arby’s Market Fresh sandwich.  At 700 calories, it was not the best diet decision I could make but I made it work.  Yesterday I met Mom at Taco Bell for pintos and cheese and a Mexican pizza with no meat.  It was delicious and I decided on that instead of the local Mexican place because, well, pintos and cheese are the shit.

But we’ve had all kinds of great food around here this month.  I made a chicken enchilada casserole which ended up being really close to a Mexican casserole that I make, only my recipe is way easier and way quicker and probably way worse for you.  For the casserole I bought a family pack of chicken thighs which Hubby used to make an Italian chicken with garlic smashed potatoes dinner, with a started of his fabulous bruschetta.  I’ve made dips (bean and chorizo).  We’ve had BLT’s and macaroni.  Last night we made a garlic pasta and tonight I am planning glazed pork chops with potatoes (instant, confessed) and roasted asparagus.  I’m actually loving this.  The act of finding and sharing recipes with my husband and then going to get groceries and using those left over ingredients for someone else.  It makes me feel… grown up.  I really want to try these cream cheese stuffed mini peppers but I have some chorizo that’s begging to go into some jalapenos.

The bottom line?  I am feeling a lot happier right now.  Maybe it’s the sunshine.  Maybe it’s the little things I’ve been making myself do.  (I’m wearing contacts right now.  I was so afraid for years but I got them today and they are in and I can do it!)  I’ve been thinking of compiling a list of things that I want to do and never get around to and maybe try a few of them.

35 days until spring!