Where I live we have “Sneaks the Cat” as the local library system’s mascot for summer reading for children. I still have a soft spot for Sneaks as it reminds me of summer vacations long, long gone. But as an adult reader, I still set plans for reading in the summer. It is not an official plan like you see on some blogs where I have a list of themes, authors or genre. Instead, it is that time of year where I up my reading game.

I have been quite ambitious this year with setting a Goodreads reading goal of 50 books. [let’s be friends!] So far I am at 12 books marked as read. Not a solid foundation but good enough. Sadly, I am a bit of a slow reader and I am on the hunt for tips and tricks on how to read faster without sacrificing pleasure or quality.

Like the first half of the year. my summer reading list contains heavy topics and high page counts:


::LET SUMMER BEGIN::


 

Image result for the story of the lost child

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

I approach the fourth and final book of Ferrante’s Neaopolitan Novels and I must admit, I am saving it for the long plane ride to California from my home state of Maryland. I’ve devoured this series and will have a full dedicated post once I finish.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

This book has a lot of buzz around it which usually makes me cautious. After hearing many a podcasters say how great this is, I had to get it. (Side noteBarnes and Noble (local location) had it on sale for 20% off, plus my 10% discount, plus a 20% off coupon and I got myself a deal! (2 books purchased that day for less than what this hardcover would have cost full price.))

I am on page 200 and it is really great. It is not a typical novel and it takes a bit to get used to the structure (which reminds me of a play) but the way in which Saunders uses the structure to tell a story is unlike anything I have read. I look forward to finishing it and writing about it soon!


The [Unofficial]Summer TBR*


Everything on this list!

Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

*subject to change 😉

What are you reading this summer?

to my favorite yoga pants.

I was inspired to ditch these much loved, much adored, much used yoga pants by Kacy Paide of The Inspired Office. Her series on minimalism goes through a items one by one and explains why it is time to part ways. If she can part with 31 items, I can too.

I am not someone who has a tough time tossing things.  In fact, in 2016 I got all of my keepsakes down to a single box. [Read about it here!] Where my issue is when something has to be replaced when I feel like what I have is good enough. And replacing something you love so much is a challenge. Each time I’ve tried, I’ve talked myself out of the purchase because the pants could see just one more day…or one more week. OK, another month.

Last night, I made the executive decision my yoga pants must move on and I from them.

 

Image result for victoria's secret classic yoga pant

It started a few months ago. The in seam started to separate and I sewed them up. I’m not a great sewer so it is not sightly. These pants have been splattered with vacuum cleaner dust. They have had face wash dropped on them. Toothpaste, dog slobber, and I am sure some coffee has made its way on to the fabric at some point. They have been washed and washed and washed. I love them and keep them because they are so soft and so comfortable! They are well-worn to say the least.

Last night my husband noticed the poor sew-job on the inseam. He pointed to the exposed loops – yes loopS – and laughed. Then, last night, I went to pump out some of my face wash and a huge spray of it squirted right onto them. It is a gel cleanser so it got right in. I wiped them down with a wet rag in an attempt to salvage them for the night, but alas…. I decided it was time.

So goodbye, discontinued Victoria’s Secret classic yoga pant. We’ve spent a lot of good times together and a lot more messy times. It is time for us to part ways. Thanks for the memories….

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[image from: Anubhuti retreat center]

Last Saturday, I experienced something I had wanted to do for a long time: a silent retreat.

A lot of silent retreats are entire weekends, but with my own personal anxieties I knew only a few hours would work best for me and get the results I was looking for. Back in October I took a 8-week Mindfulness / Stress Reduction course. Built into that course was one free silent retreat where all of the lessons were combined into a span of 6 hours.

To be honest, I almost talked myself out of it. My personal (irrational) fear of being away from home almost made me send a cancelation e-mail to the retreat director. I fought against it and drove the 25 minutes to the yoga studio. When I walked in, the instructor told me she was so happy to see me again. Although we would not be talking once the 6 hours began and I was in a room full of strangers, I felt comfort in the company of a familiar face.

The entire day, as it was explained, was about us. Spending time with ourselves and if someone did not smile at us today or look us in the eye, it was not personal; we were all there, quite simply, to be alone.

And from there, we did several guided meditations, walking meditations, light yoga and yoga nidra. We also had 1 hour for lunch where not a single person took out their cell phones to scroll through social media, no one made a phone call, no one took out a book or magazine. We ate in silence, scattered around the studio and some of us (myself included) sat outside. After I ate, I took a 30 minute walk around the area.


WHAT I LEARNED


I didn’t have an enlightening experience where I suddenly knew my life purpose or heard an inner voice tell me something life-changing. Instead I learned that I have complete control over my experience at any given moment.

I am lucky enough to live the kind of life where I can leave a place when I am uncomfortable, jump in my car and drive home. I learned that my anxiety can no longer control me like I believe most of the time. In fact, I have control over my anxiety because in any given moment I have a choice: to stay or to go. And whatever choice leads to reduced anxiety (obviously within reason), I will do it.

I felt the exact moment when my anxiety sparked: At 5:15pm.  We were in the middle of Yoga Nidra. After dozing for a few minutes, I woke up in a cold sweat and a state of panic. Before I even realized it, I was already planning my escape.  Fear took over and the sense of being trapped consumed me. (I am not a huge fan of Yoga Nidra, therefore, looking back on this it is no surprise the anxiety hit when it did.)

I realized completely that when that anxiety pang hits, it hits and hits hard. I am no longer a 31-year old woman but an 8 year old stuck on a Girl Scout weekend trip, stuck with a partner who is annoying and annoys everyone else.  Or a 9 year old on yet another Girl Scout weekend where I am being made fun of for having a stomach ache and taking up too much time in the only bathroom. I am the 5 year old who wants to brave staying overnight in West Virginia with her grandparents only to wake up at 1 am wanting to be home with mom and dad.

I learned that as an adult I am in complete control of my enviornment, whether to stay or to go. I don’t need to ask permission or call someone and beg for a ride home. So, after Yoga Nidra ended and the instructor announced a quick 10 minute break, I grabbed my yoga mat and meditation pillow and headed out, leaving the last half hour of the retreat behind without regret or permission.

I am utterly fascinated by the people who have elaborate bullet journals. They are so creative and use their journals as their form of art and creative outlet. I watched many videos and saved many-a-pins and tried to get into it. The truth is, I’m too much of a perfectionist to have the type of bullet journal I see online.

Bullet journal:  [source: tumblr]

The truth is I envy these creative people who can spend hours on layouts and spreads. They are quite impressive and I wish I could do it. I tried. I gave it a solid effort, but I have to give up the bullet journal ghost.


IT IS VERY TIME CONSUMING


The layouts online take a very long time. I worked on one that wasn’t even close to the detail as the one shown above and it took me over an hour. All I did were a few lines using a ruler and some attempts at calligraphy. It still did not turn out the way I wanted it to and I wasn’t inspired by it.


NOT GOOD FOR MY PERFECTIONIST MIND


Ever since elementary school, if I made the tiniest mistake on anything I had to scrap and start all over. I would try to salvage the project, but my inner perfectionist was not having it. I see some bullet journal spreads with crossed out pages, but I cannot deal… it’s either perfect or it is not.


I COULD NOT FIND THE RIGHT LAYOUTS


There are a billion layouts out there for every possible thing one may want to track.  I tried a few and no matter how much I tweeked it, combined ideas and methods the concept never quite fit my style. Combine that with the above quest for bullet journal perfection and you have a recipe for failure and frustration. Going back to reason number 1, this became a time-suck; wasted time I could have used on other hobbies that bring me happiness and joy.

 


ATTEMPTED TO TRACK TOO MUCH AT ONCE…AND FOR WHAT?


Tracking everything you do, spend, eat, read, sneeze, or drink can be a mindfu*k.  I am exaggerating, of course, but once you start down that daily tracking road it is hard to turn back.  Yesterday, I turned back. I tore out my failed-attempts at creative, Tweetable, Instagramable layouts and popped them in the garbage.

The primary reason? I already have a planner. In fact, I was tracking my spending on a note page on the opposite of the last week of April’s weekly layout. Breaking with my perfectionism, I tore that page out leaving me without a daily sheet for April 27-30th.

My inner critic screamed as I tore out the page, but I ignored her. Not having three days in my planner would not ruin my existence. I already track my spending in an old-school checkbook ledger.

[Favorite post by Cait Flanders that inspired me to move beyond tracking: http://caitflanders.com/2016/10/11/stop-tracking-start-making-intentional-decisions/ ]

I already have a planner with the best pre-designed layout that works for me. A lot of people get into bullet journaling because pre-printed layouts did not fit their style. I am one of the lucky people who these work for. I have the monthly calendar and a weekly breakdown with lots of space for to do lists and notes.

So while I have deep admiration for those of you who can do this, I am walking away and giving up the ghost of the bullet journal.

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Hello Readers,

March was a long month! My reading felt a bit slacked and that is because, well, it was and still kind of is. I find that by the time I finish up at the office, come home and do wifely things, workout and clean up the house it is 10pm before I know it. I haven’t had a chance to have some solid reading time and I am behind in my podcasts! Oh what to do…

Last month I had a chance to listen to my first audiobook that was fiction. I have mixed feelings about it, mostly because I am not an experienced audiobooker but I will give more a chance and see what makes a good and bad fiction on audio “read.” But that is another post.

 


BOOKS READ IN MARCH


1. Chocolat – Joanne Harris (Re-read Project) – 5 stars! I love this book & read it every year.

2. By Gaslight — Steve Price – 2 stars – Disappointing ending for such a massive book.

3. Columbine — Abandoned read.  I was a teenager when this happened and while I wanted to read it to understand more about it, it was a little too vivid for me and opened a memory box I no longer wish to visit.


BOOKS TO READ IN APRIL

My to be read list is growing and at a fast pace than I can read.

I bought the books in the photo above except for “Special Topics…” That book I bought a while ago and during my Minimalism decluttering I popped this into my give away box. I regretted it a few weeks later. I kept hearing it suggested on the “What Should I Read Next” podcast and thought I’d just rent it from the library. A few weeks later my husband comes in with it in his hands and says, “I found this in my trunk. It must have fallen out of the giveaway box.” It was meant to be!

For April, I need to finish Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I am about half way through and while I love it so far, I just have not had solid time to read more. April I plan to set aside time for reading again. In February, I actually marked “Read – 1 hour” in my daily to do list. It was not because I did not feel like reading, but scheduling it in was necessary to make sure I set dedicated time aside to do so.

I will also begin reading Agatha Christie’s Poirot short stories collection:

 (Roses – thanks to my husband)

And now for some madness…

I have read several Stephen King books and he is a brilliant story teller. I know his name is thrown around but he really is one of the best writers of all time. He is a best seller for a reason. Next on my list is this gem:

 

 

As for the Re-Read Project, I believe I will revisit “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.

Here I am with Mr. Wilde in Dublin, Ireland. We had a nice chat, though I did most of the talking.