Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: Personally

I think 2015 was the fullest year of my life so far. It was a year of great highs and lows, of monumental events, plus more daily-ness than my life generally has. At times it was absolutely overwhelming, and at other times, I was able to live in the moment like I never have before. It seems like I felt everything this year, making equilibrium difficult to maintain.

A couple months ago it hit me just how much life changed this year, just how full my life was, and so, true to self, I wrote it all down on a list. I was trying to pick through the list to present you with a sampling, but then I decided to just give you the (almost) complete list.

In 2015:


I turned 40 with as much grace and as little notice as possible.

I suffered a bad depression.

A dear, dear friend in the church passed on.

My husband Brian became a Christian Science practitioner.

19 Kids and Counting went off the air.

I was disappointed when Duggar family secrets come to light.

I found J House vlogs.

We replaced our roof.
We had a tree removed and the rest trimmed.

We put a plan into effect to pay off our mortgage in 3½ years.

My (step)daughter Trina had cancer.

My (step)granddaughter Skye had a baby boy, Lestat.

Grandson Bo went to YMCA summer camp.

Bo got his first stitches.

Bo started the Shark Squad (now defunct?).

Bo’s cat had 7 kittens.

(Step)son and daughter-in-law, Ryan & Brandie moved again.

I spent a year in the same city as my husband’s ex-wife. Harmoniously.

I read 100 books.
I discovered audiobooks.

I made a very good friend online through my blog. Our email chats became a bright spot.

My marriage weathered a stormy period (or maybe it was just my depression coloring things).

Sleep became difficult; started sleeping alone some nights.

Some healing was realized where it comes to long-standing physical ills.

We got a new software at work; work stress increased.

Brother Brad got a new girlfriend, and they later broke up.

I had a garage (book) sale.

Brian bought me my Morganite ring and a strand of pearls.
Bought new furniture for the house: TV and wood stand, easy chair, round end table (for books), padded bench, antique gilded mirror.
Had uncomfortable confrontation with a friend from our campus Christian organization. Was implied my religion was not Christian.

Did a lot of church work, volunteered in the Reading Room, organized Christian Science lecture.
I got back to reading through the Bible, began reading Christian Science Journal each month.

Terrorists attacked Paris.
We had the best peaches we’ve had in years this summer.

Mom started reading.

Our Taco Bell was torn down; we developed an affinity for Taco John’s.

Hosted Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve.

I started journaling.

A childhood friend visited.

Brian switched the garage side for side. Then switched it back. Still don't know why.

Brandie mowed the lawn all summer, then didn't show up the day we had to bag 21 bags of leaves.

Deep budget cuts at the university caused a lot of worry.

2016 campaigns began.

Nephew Nathan confirmed.

Toured the house cousin Jason and Uncle Mark are building in the country.

A friend from my father's Navy days visited just weeks before he passed.

Brandie got her GED.

We had the best Christmas yet with the kids.

What does your 2015 list look like? Comment below.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top Ten of 2015! (plus Book Awards)


My criteria for the best books of the year boils down to one simple thing: the book had to touch me viscerally. It had to demand something of me or comfort me in a profound way. It had to teach me something about humanity. I read a lot of great books this year, but when I sat down to pick 10, it was obvious which titles I’d choose.  


10 Best Books of 2015
Anne of Green Gables
Garlic and Sapphires
I Regret Nothing
In Cold Blood
The Residence
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
We Knew Mary Baker Eddy
What I Know for Sure

Runners up
At Home in Mitford / A Light in the Window
Big Magic
Following Atticus
Humans of New York: Stories
The Know-It-All
The River of Doubt
Under the Banner of Heaven

Best Memoir
Garlic and Sapphires

Best Nonfiction Book (non-memoir/biography)
The Residence

Best Biography
Tie: Mornings on Horseback
No Ordinary Time

Best Fiction
Classic: Middlemarch
Contemporary Classic: Rebecca
Contemporary: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Best Parenting/Family Book
Coming Clean

Best Project or Adventure Book
Three-way Tie: Garlic and Sapphires
The Know-It-All
The River of Doubt

Best Poetry Book
Tie: The Art of Losing, edited by Kevin Young
Good Poems: American Places, edited by Garrison Keillor

Best Cookbook
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

Best Photography/Art Book
Tie: Flower
Humans of New York: Stories

Best Decorating Book
Novel Interiors (by default, it was the only one I read)

Best Picture Book
Kid Sherriff and the Terrible Toads, Bob Shea and Lane Smith

Best Middle Grade and/or YA Book
Anne of Green Gables

Best book that deals with history
The River of Doubt

Best book that deals with religion or faith
Under the Banner of Heaven

Best book that deals with food or cooking or chefs (non-cookbook)
Garlic and Sapphires

Most inspiring, cathartic, or (Self-)helpful
What I Know for Sure (Oprah)

Best book set in another country

Best book based on a blog
Humans of New York: Stories

Best book by an author I’ve read before
Three-way tie:
Big Magic
I Regret Nothing
Garlic and Sapphires

Best book by a celebrity
A Fine Romance, Candice Bergen
(I also enjoyed I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had by Tony Danza.)

Best book about sports
The Last Season (the only book I read about sports)

Best book by a politician or about politics, government, the White House, etc.
The Residence

Proud to be an American award
Gifted Hands

Funniest book
Food: A Love Story or Dad Is Fat
Runner-up: I Regret Nothing

Best cover
My Fair Lazy
(I also loved Gulp’s cover.)

Worst cover
Go Set a Watchman

Best book about books or reading
The Know-It-All
(Voracious was a good runner-up.)

The “I want to write like that” award
Eat Pray Love

Book everyone should read
In Cold Blood
Biggest surprise (in a good way)
Under the Banner of Heaven

Weirdest book
The Book of Joan

Most charming
At Home in Mitford & A Light in the Window

Most disappointing
Go Set a Watchman

Toughest read
No Ordinary Time (too, too long)

Thickest read
Middlemarch (900+ pages, but I “read it” on audio)
No Ordinary Time (526 pages)

Made me cry
Following Atticus

Renewed my faith in mankind
Americans’ Favorite Poems

Best book about a subject I’ve never read before
We Knew Mary Baker Eddy

Best book from a genre I’ve never read before
Tie: In Cold Blood (true crime)
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (audio book)

Kept me on the edge of my seat

Best book about animals
Following Atticus

Number of books read that were published in 2015
25, I think

10 highly- and widely-recommended books that lived up to the hype
Anne of Green Gables
At Home in Mitford
Big Magic
Humans of New York: Stories
In Cold Blood
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
No Ordinary Time
The Residence
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

2015 bestsellers that disappointed
Dead Wake
Go Set a Watchman
Killing Reagan
The Wright Brothers
Yes Please

Books I’m most glad I finally got around to
Anne of Green Gables
In Cold Blood

Oldest book read
Mansfield Park

Around the House and in the Garden
Cold Tangerines
Eat, Pray, Love
The Good Enough Daughter
The Happiness Project
How Reading Changed My Life
Julie & Julia
The Know-It-All
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
Love, Loss, and What I Wore
One Writer’s Beginnings
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
The Reading Promise
A Working Girl Can’t Win
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
The Happiness Project

Best story (within a book)
The saddest story, anyway, was President Reagan, suffering from dementia, giving a four-page memorized toast in honor of Margaret Thatcher—twice. (Killing Reagan)

Books that deserve more praise
Driving Hungry
Following Atticus

Books that took me out of my comfort zone (and what happened)
Americans’ Favorite Poems (classic poetry) – loved it, surprisingly
Brown Girl Dreaming (YA poetry/memoir) – loved it
Food: A Love Story & Dad Is Fat (comedic essays) – loved it
In Cold Blood (true crime) – loved it
The Jesus Cow (contemporary fiction by a favorite nonfiction writer) – hated it
Middlemarch (long classic fiction) – loved it
Rebecca (mystery/thriller) – loved it
Yes Please (pop culture star memoir) – hated it

Authors added to my TBR because of 2015 Reads
Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce mysteries)
Daphne du Maurier (mysteries)
George Eliot (classic fiction)
Jan Karon (Mitford series, fiction)
Jacqueline Kelly (children’s)
Maxine Kumin (poetry)

Topics it was most fun learning about
driving a taxi in New York City (Driving Hungry)
the funny side of food (Food: A Love Story)
restaurant critic disguises (Garlic and Sapphires)
Ronald Reagan (Killing Reagan)
reading the Encyclopedia Britannica (The Know-It-All, re-read)
Theodore Roosevelt (Mornings on Horseback)
residence staff and first families in the White House (The Residence)
discovering the Amazon (The River of Doubt)
11-year-old sleuths (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie)

Books over 30 years old
Anne of Green Gables
Charlotte’s Web
A Christmas Carol
Gift from the Sea
The Great Gatsby
Little House in the Big Woods
Mornings on Horseback
One Writer’s Beginnings

Best audiobook
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Book that didn’t stick with me even until the end of the year
Better Than Before

Books I’ve already gotten rid of
Girl in the Dark
Hammer Head
Nora Webster
Sister Mother Husband Dog
Yes Please

Favorite book review
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Most read posts
Nonfiction November 2015 – Week 1
Nonfiction November 2015 – Week 2
Nonfiction November 2015 – Week 3
Top Ten Tuesdays:
Feb. 2105 Recap
2015 Goals for Reading and Blogging
2014 Subjects Read About

What was on your 2015 Top Books list? Please comment below.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is God's revelation of love to the world.
May the peace of the Savior be in your heart now and guard it throughout the new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (Please Santa...)

This week, the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish are asking for a list of books you wouldn't mind Santa bringing you. Well, I do most of my own book shopping and pretty much buy whatever I like, but there is one bookish area I seldom spend money on--picture books. I have a hard time justifying the money, when they cost roughly the same, and I know I'll re-read them much less often than my adult books.
So Santa, if you're reading, here are some of my favorite children's books that I'd love to add to my bookshelves. (And like every good kid, I supplied a list of alternates, too!)
Link up with your own list here: The Broke and the Bookish.



Monday, December 21, 2015

It's Monday! (12/21/15)

It's Monday! is sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.
This will be my last It's Monday! post for the year. I'm off from work this week and next, and I plan to read, read, read. Hopefully I'll finish my December list early so I can get started on a chunkster from my January list. It's dispiriting to lug a big book back and forth to work each day, making small progress. I like to attack big chunks of one when I'm home on breaks. That's not always possible, but I take what I can get.
Also this week, I'll be: wrapping presents; having my son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and son's mother over on Christmas Eve; going to my mom's house on Christmas Day; opening presents with my hubby alone; and watching old movies off the DVR.
But mostly? Reading. Under a blanket. In new (hopefully) Life Is Good apparel.
Last week I finished these:

Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island grew on me over time. In fact, I enjoyed it more when it was over than I did while I was reading it--which sounds negative, but is sort of a compliment. Sometimes it felt slow and kind of "who cares?" but looking back, I rather enjoyed it.
Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is a re-read, and it's one that held up well. I love this book. It's personal essays (Quindlen is the queen of the personal essay) about being a woman and all that entails. She's so wise and frank and witty. I highly recommend this book, in fact I gave a copy of it to my mother this year.
I continue to listen to:

Hopefully this week I'll be finishing The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. You wouldn't think it would take six weeks to get through three audio CDs.
And I'm relishing my re-read of Michael Perry's Coop on audio. It's one of my favorite books of the year, and one I wouldn't mind owning on audio in addition to hardcover.
This week, I'll finish:

I wasn't sure what to expect from Leah Remini's Troublemaker. I adored Remini in King of Queens, my all-time favorite sitcom (and that right there is saying something), but I had a feeling her past was full of vices and poor choices. And it was. Also, there's the whole Scientology thing which strikes me as a religion developed on a experimental lark by a sci-fi novelist to see if it would catch on. To each his own, but Remini (who left Scientology) paints a weird, dark picture of the belief system.
This week, I'll be reading:

Friday, December 18, 2015

Favorite Things of 2015

It's that time again. This time of year not only am I putting together my favorite books of the year, I'm also looking back to my favorite moments, experiences, and products. What things, big or little made me happy this year? Read on to find out.

(Here is last year's list, if you're interested.)


1. J House vlogs


Well, my beloved Duggars (19 Kids and Counting) were taken off the air this year. I knew the day would come some day, but no one had any idea it would come so cataclysmically. With the show's cancelation, I had a hole to fill. I wanted a good family-oriented show with Christian values and real-life activity. Needless to say, there aren't a lot of those on TV (I don't get UP TV, or I'd watch the Bates' show).
Enter J House vlogs. Long ago I'd bookmarked a You Tube channel of a mom who vlogged about what her kids read. While cleaning up bookmarks this year, I ran across it and discovered that those little bookish videos had blossomed into a family vlog.
The J family is a wonderful family complete with four of the most adorable, mischievous, yet well-behaved children ever. Dad Jeremy is an involved dad. Mom Kendra is real about her struggles as a parent. I'm in love.

2. Playing pool with my husband and grandson on Friday nights.


For many years now, my husband and I have taken our grandson, Bo, every other Friday night. We generally went grocery shopping, then went home for supper (often pizza--with pineapple for Bo) and scary movies. As Bo has gotten older, he's no longer as interested in this time, especially the grocery store part. Brian and I have been trying to find entertaining yet inexpensive ways to enjoy being together. Enter playing pool. For $1.00, the three of us can play a game of pool. For another dollar, we can play a rousing seven rounds of air hockey.
Years ago, Brian and I used to go out and play pool from time to time, just to get out of the house. I got pretty good--for a complete amateur. Pool is a great game to teach a kid about angles, velocity, light touch, strategy, coordination. We've had a blast.
Although Bo doesn't like it when Grandma wins, and Grandma wins quite often.

3. My new Morganite ring


We're not the Rockefellers. We always buy the cheap spaghetti noodles, hardly ever travel, wait until clothes are worn out to replace them, wait for new technology to come down in price (and iron out the bugs) before we buy. But one thing we don't cheap out on is jewelry. Not that I have a lot of it, but when we buy it, we buy the best we can from a local family-owned store that stands behind the purchase.
This summer, we stopped into said store to have my wedding ring cleaned and inspected, and one of the women helpfully created a wish list for my husband of things I liked (so cunning, they are). I happened to pass a case of what looked like chocolate diamonds when my eyes fell on the most beautiful ring I'd ever seen. My jaw actually dropped. I asked the lady what the stone was, and she said it was Morganite (named, I'd later learn, for J. P. Morgan), the most beautiful mixture of not-quite pink, not-quite blown I've ever seen. And it was expensive. But because my husband had never seen me react so strongly to a piece of jewelry before, he (we) bought it on the spot.
The picture above is not the actual ring, but it is a good representation of the color, clarity, and sparkle of my ring. After buying it, I realized I'd really missed out not choosing an emerald-cut diamond engagement ring (yes, I got to choose my own ring). I thought I was a solitaire girl, who knew?


4. Northbook Notebook journals

I decided to go back to journaling in 2016 (more on that later), and I wanted a journal that wasn't too pretty to not use and wasn't too ugly to...well, not use. I wanted something small and lightweight enough to take most anywhere. I wanted good quality acid-free paper with good line spacing. Most of all, I wanted it to be unobtrusive, to become its own thing not make me conform to it like all the other journals I'd ever tried. Well, I found it in these Northbook Notebooks. You get a pack of five for about $30. I love everything about them. They're even made in the USA!

5. Old movies

I have a long list of classic movies I'd like to watch, and this year I decided to finally do something about it. The last couple months I've been DVR-ing all the titles that I've always wanted to try, and I've been watching them when I have time. And let me tell you, I'm having a blast. I've watched National Velvet, Anna and the King of Siam, Adam's Rib, Holiday Affair, The Thin Man, and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
Waiting on the DVR for my two-week vacation are: The Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and several others.