Happy New Year!

Well, for me, anyway.

(This is a little long. If you just want my book recs for the week, scroll on down to the end. But if you’d like to know my plans for more joy in the coming year, read a little more slowly.) ;o)

My birthday was this past weekend and it was lovely. A little time with friends, a little time alone with husband—which was also a bit of pamper-me-time, because we went shopping at some of my favorite places to gather up a few small treats—and then some family time with our sons for dinner and a game of spades. (Parents vs. sons. They killed us. I guess we taught them well?)

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As I’ve mentioned many times over the last 18 months, it’s been a roller coaster ride for me since January 2016, emotionally, financially, personally and professionally.

Part of my own journey during that time has been an increase in journaling, some meditation/solitude and some planning with an eye to this birthday and a sort of new beginning for me. I’ve read some books recently that made me feel even more directed to being more intentional this year. I have some really special people in my life that I don’t take the time to connect with. I have a million things I’ve said over the years I wanted to do, but have never taken the time to do them, when all it would take was the decision to actually do it, and a little time and organization.

My husband gave me an amazing gift over the past year by cleaning out our basement and organizing our home. He took family pictures we’ve had in boxes for years and framed them and hung them on the wall. He did a variety of projects that made our home prettier, more welcoming, and more representative of our family’s place and space.

I am inspired by my husband every day. He has an amazing attitude and lets negative things roll of his back like a duck, a true resilience of spirit. But he’s also always been a person who, when he decides to do something, figures out how to do it and gets it done.

I, instead, am the person who says someday way too often. Someday I’d like toSomeday I will...

From simple tasks to huge projects, I am much more likely to think about it as a someday thing and never actually act on it. Whether I’m procrastinating or simply feel overwhelmed, I am much more likely to let things fall by the wayside.

I’ve created big things and small things. Sometimes that’s the problem.

Sometimes it’s because I can’t keep my eye on the end-product long, because I have ten other things that I have to do rather than this thing I want to do, or imagine I’ll do someday. Sometimes I’m shut down by feelings of guilt or shame or believing I’m not good enough.

Sometimes I tell myself that if I do X, some mean girl is going to be snide about it. Because let’s face it, every community can be mean, and there are mean girls in every community, and sometimes even girls everyone thinks of as nice can be mean. 

Sometimes I’m too worried I’ll be judged, criticized or laughed at, so why try at all?

Any of these things sound familiar?

Meanwhile Matt has taken an idea, broken it down into manageable pieces, swept through his own (practically non-existent) insecurities—whether or not it will be good enough, how other people will feel about it. How freeing it must be to not be bogged down by worries as to how other people are going to judge you!

Strangely, as I was moving through my own feelings about some of the changes I wanted to make in my own life, I read a few books that underlined this feeling. I can’t even list them all here, but I’ll share two fiction and two non-fiction.

September is always a time of transition, whether or not you have a birthday. Back-to-school, off to college, cooler weather, end of summer…

So here’s to transitions and positive change. I’m determined to make this an amazing year, internally and externally, and I hope you’ll join me on the journey! I’ll be writing about it here and there, so keep in touch! 

Some books to help you (and me!) on the way:

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods ~ This novel launched Harlequin’s new Graydon House women’s fiction imprint, and it was a lovely choice. Dealing with a broken marriage, a mother with dementia, a soul-sucking job and another deep wound she hasn’t managed to process, 30-something Annie meets Polly, a brain cancer patient who is determined to live her last few months with zest and panache. Polly convinces Annie to embark on a journey of “100 Happy Days” to remarkable effect. This lively and thought-provoking book should be on your TBR list if you’re even contemplating any life changes—or might want to be inspired into them. (The Kirkus reviewer generally liked it too, though not as much as I did.) 

A Glorious Freedom - Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon ~ From its colorful cover chock-full of butterflies to its long, varied list of interviews, essays, profiles of and Q&As from women finding themselves, reinventing themselves and following their dreams and living their fullest lives in their later years, this delightful primer of motivation should find its way on every woman’s shelf. From Cheryl Strayed to Sister Madonna Buder, the nun who finished her first triathlon at age 82; to Zoe Ghahremani, a former dentist who left her successful practice to become a novelist; to Helen Gurley Brown, Christy Turlington Burns and Sensei Keiko Fukuda, who became the highest ranked female judo master at the age of 98 (and everyone in between) these women and their stories are fascinating, insightful and inspirational. It’s truly never too late to change!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman ~ If you love books like The Rosie Project, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand or Where’d You Go Eleanor Oliphant Bernadette, you should really, really read this! I just loved it. (It starts a little slow, but it kind of has to. Give it time, you’ll be so glad you did.) From the book copy:

The “smart, warm, uplifting…story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes...The only way to survive is to open your heart.” (Kirkus says, “Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story.” Full review here.)

Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less and Choose Love by Rachel Macy Stafford ~ This past spring I read a blog post from Hands Free Mama (here) and realized I was missing out on way too much joy. I almost never do this—I get so many books as a reviewer that sometimes my husband wonders if we should buy a storage shed—but I contacted the author and asked her for the newest, Only Love Today. Something about the sweet cover and that subtitle attracted me, and I’m so glad it did. The book is a daily guide, divided into seasonal inspirations by theme (Spring: Opening Up; Summer: Shining Through; Fall: Wrapping In and Winter: Holding On) and daily affirmations that reinforce them, plus essays, poems and spiritual insights. Somehow both grounding and up-lifting.

I’m inspired and encouraged, ready for another year!

Some others titles I keep on my shelf:

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Fairy Tale Girl (or really, anything) by Susan Branch - her most release, which I haven’t read yet, is Gratitude: A Book of Inspirational Thoughts & Quotes. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay - Hay died last week at 90 years old. Her positive, soulful messages of self-love and capacity to change are heart-warming and affirming.

Tell me—what books have you read, either fiction or non-fiction, that inspired you and made you feel like you’d want to keep them on a journey of change?