Update: Three months into my ‘grand plans’

Huh, does anything else even exist aside from the Pandemic That Must Not Be Named (PTMNBN)? Answer: No. And yet, we try. It’s kind of hard to believe that we’re just starting the fourth month of the year — March was, like, five years on its own; 2020 might go down as the longest year in history.

Not that this matters, but my longest year EVER was 1992. Have no idea why. It just would not end.

To review: I started the year by working diligently on three fronts: To read more booksto declutter my reading retreat and to focus on healthy habits. I can’t say I’m working as diligently since PTMNBN hit, but I have made progress, even if it’s on accident. Well, I’ve had a lot on my mind. 😉

Books

It’s a good thing I read so much in January and February because I did not read so much in March, but I managed to end this three-month period on schedule with 15 books. Make that 16 because yesterday I finished “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel (again) and was a good choice — her writing style is straightforward, which I appreciate. She’s telling a story, reminding us of what we have without being sentimental about it. Her new book, “The Glass Hotel,” is on my to-read list. (You can see what I’ve read so far this year by clicking the Books 2020 tab above.)

Deculttering

This is the one I’m most jacked about because not only did I CLEAN OUT MY ENTIRE READING RETREAT (hell yeah I’m yelling, this is exciting!), I did so just in time. I had no idea when I made the goal to thoroughly declutter this mess of a space in January that I would need it as a home office by mid-March. It’s such a lovely area that I forget there was ever a time that coming in here gave me a panic attack.

I am extremely proud of the work I put in here — I started literally with five or 10 minutes at a pop because anything more was an anxiety trigger. I made hard choices. I came to terms with how I actually live vs. dream Trisha, who had outdated hobbies and a book collection she never utilized. I have let go of so much. I feel a combination of relief that these items are finally gone and regret that I didn’t tackle this project sooner.

I’m also grateful. When I cleaned out my desk at work a little over a week ago, it was helpful knowing I had this space. I wasn’t unmoored. I was just … moving.

Here, I made you a slideshow!

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And my next project? The laundry room. It’s the last of my neglected spaces.

Health

Remember how I gave up dessert for Lent? I made it about a week and caved; I was getting such terrible headaches and Jo was like, I just learned about this in health class, that’s addiction yo (paraphrasing) and I was like, I SUCK. And then I gave up eating between meals instead.

Well, I’ve got another week to go (weirdest Lent ever) and then it’s a free for all.

Since working from home / being furloughed / being terminated / being un-terminated / starting a new work-related volunteer gig 😉 I’ve gotten better about yoga in the mornings, drinking more water and taking breaks. I’m spending a lot of time with Johanna — we’ve gotten into a routine of watching movies in the evenings (“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is our favorite) or reading together or playing a game or just talking. We have also gotten into a dinner routine where we create something before Eric comes home from work — and now that I have an oven, we are making all the things she has missed: Oven fries, popovers, biscuits. But we also made a microwave fruit crisp that worked surprisingly well, and that kid makes the best homemade whipping cream I have ever tasted.

Oh, yeah, you read that right — I finally have an oven. It took three days and my saint of a husband had to retrofit the space and get super creative, but it’s in and it is lovely. I roasted a chicken yesterday just because I could.

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Because we are in a pandemic and honestly, that’s stressful enough, I am continuing with my goals but I’m not beating myself if I miss a day (or four). I’m working on a lower bar and I am okay with that.

How are we all doing? I’m better — deadline is now one day a week, which will be more realistic, and I’m looking forward to cooking projects with Jo. We’ve joked that we’re going to watch “Fantastic Mr. Fox” every night for a week and then write a post about it, “I watched ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ every night for a week and this was the surprising result,” and the result is just one line that reads, “It was awesome.”

Well, we thought it was funny.

Update: Six weeks into my ‘grand plans’

It’s been six weeks since 2020 began and I have been working diligently on three fronts: To read more books, to declutter my reading retreat and to focus on healthy habits.

Here’s how it’s going.

Books

I decided the easiest way to track my progress here was a Books 2020 page, which you can find up top under the Minimally banner above: What I’ve read, what I’m reading and what I’ve ditched. (I’m learning to ditch! I’m ridiculously excited about that.) (I’ve only ditched one so far.) The eLibrary has been coming through, usually in the nick of time, which is nothing short of a miracle, but I’ve also reread a couple favorites.

I’m learning to reach for my book instead of reaching for my phone, even if I only have a couple of minutes to kill. I feel like I’ve wasted less time when I read vs. scroll around online. I don’t always remember, but I am remembering more often. I like to read when I read, so it’s different to grab a book knowing I might only have time to finish a page or two. So much is just habit and routine. I find that fascinating, but that’s another post for another time. Eh, maybe.

Decluttering

I am finding it easier to be in my reading retreat for longer periods of time. Probably because each day I’m in there means there’s less visual clutter. And less actual clutter. It’s getting there!

I did make the mistake of letting the girls in on what I was doing early in the process, and they were horrified that some of their childhood books were in the giveaway pile. The kicker: They wanted to keep certain books, but not in their own rooms. “Think of your grandchildren!” Abby said at one point, but I was like, Dude, I AM. They might not even like these books.

That’s the thing: We keep things for future generations, and the future generations are all like, Nah, I want my own stuff. I know. I am one of those future generations (I wrote about that HERE).

I’ve tackled books. I’ve tackled the box of negatives and duplicate photos (that has been on my to-do list for like seven years, no joke). I’ve even tackled the mess of gift bags and ribbons and boxes. I’m sorting through my extensive Everyday Food magazine collection and recycling. I thought that would be harder. What IS harder: I’m dealing with a fat stack of scrapbook supplies and photos that need to go into albums.

(This will strictly be placing photos on pages, no decorating, no creative endeavors, just getting it done. I still don’t want to do it, I think because scrapbooking used to stress me out — the pressure of creating perfect pages, all the supplies and tools, all spread out all over the front room. I associate scrapbooking with stress.)

It feels good to finally be dealing with this space. I cannot believe all that I’ve managed to accomplish in six week. I can’t wait to see what it looks like after the next six.

Health

Again, this one is about mindfulness rather than fulfilling a to-do list. I’m drinking more water (which probably still isn’t enough, but at this stage, we’re just going with any water that’s not coffee as a win). I’m moving around more. I’m taking breaks. Well, sort of. I’m practicing self-care. I’m going to bed ridiculously early if that’s what I need to do.

I’m talking 8:30 p.m.! This is the benefit of having older kids. They let you sleep.

My downfall is sugar — I’m still eating too much, and that’s idiotic because it upsets my stomach and makes me feel super gross. On Feb. 1, I decided to give up desserts for the week to see how I felt. I was eating blueberries for dessert, which actually wasn’t so bad. But on Feb. 8, I ate A LOT of chocolate. Dessert fast over, YAY.

On Feb. 9, I had to admit that symptoms that had taken a week’s vacation were back: Swollen stomach, didn’t sleep well that night, general feeling of ick. Um, yeah, I did finish off the chocolate with a vague plan of restarting the dessert fast today. For a bit, anyway.

GOSH DANG IT ALL TO HECK.

Well, the year is long, if I managed to succeed in all my health goals in six weeks, what would I do with the other 10.5 months of this year? 😉

New year’s grand plan no. 1: Reading more books

Last year, I read 32 books in total. And, I mean, yay me, I guess.

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Hello Kindle, love of my life.

But I’m disappointed in that number — because it reflects how much time I waste online instead of reading. And the fact that I am prone to slogging through books, no matter how much I dislike them. Which means I resist reading at all, so it takes forever to finish a title.

Um, and it also reflects the fact that I am a rather disorganized reader who relies too much on the eLibrary — the trend there is nothing nothing nothing for months, and then all six of my holds becoming available at once. Not an exaggeration.

Well, this year I have the goal of reading 60 books — that breaks down to five books a month. I don’t actually know if I can read 60 books this year (that might be too optimistic), but I’d like to see how close I can get, anyway.

Here’s how I’m going to do it:

I am not going to read books I don’t like. As an English major (I know, gag), I was trained to read what was assigned. That carries over even now, in that if I start a book, I’m going to finish it, no matter how much I dislike it. Dude, I’ve read hundreds of books I don’t like. Well, no more. This year, I’m making a pact: If I don’t feel it in the first 50 pages, it’s time to find something else. Um, it will be hard to remember because the urge to slog through is strong. But that shit needs to stop.

I am going to be realistic about my eLibrary checkouts. I try to cheat the system by keeping my Kindle on airplane mode and then plowing through titles just to get through them … which I may or may not be able to do, given that books tend to come ready for checkout in clusters over the course of a week. If I know I won’t get to a title, I will check it back in for the next person, and then put myself back on the waiting list. Maybe I’ll have better luck in a few months when it comes ready again.

I am going to buy more eBooks. I kind of feel bad about feeding the Amazon machine, although to be fair, my girls and Eric prefer real books so we buy a lot of those, too, mostly from independent bookstores. Justification!

I am going to read Abby’s real books. I like my Kindle. No, I love my Kindle. I haven’t read a real book in years because I’d rather read on my device. Abby has a huge collection of books that I’ve never read, however. It’s time to utilize this resource.

I’m going to reread my favorites. I have a lot of favorites.

I am going to get into the habit of reaching for a book instead of my phone. This will be HARD. I’m trying to break my phone addiction anyway and this seems like one solution. The only potential issue will be that when I read, I like to read — like for at least a half hour, none of this reading in spurts stuff — so this is not my natural response to having a couple of minutes of downtime.

If I read the same title twice, I’m going to count it as two books. Is this cheating? Wait, who cares, these are my resolutions. Anyway, I like to read books twice because the first time, I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s going on to pay attention to all the finer details.

I’m tracking books in my journal. I do this to a certain extent anyway, but lately I’ve gotten out of the habit of reviewing what I read — and just a list of titles doesn’t help me on that front when I’m trying to write my year-end review. 😉

I’m sort of interested to see how January goes, actually, because by the end of this month, I’ll know how realistic my plan is. As of right now, I’ve finished two books and have started a third. But I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my goal, so …

P.S. If anyone wants to throw a title or two my way, feel free.

More reading on reading more (ha!): Austen Kleon, “How to read more books” (HERE).

March books (no joke)

Let’s start off on a tangent: How is it that February, the shortest month on the calendar, took 57 years to get through, but March was like 87 seconds? Time is a mystery, my friends.

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Photo by James Tarbotton on Unsplash. Incidentally, this is TOTALLY my life and how I read all the time! 😉

Anyway! March was a good month on the book front. Maybe a little TOO good — my eLibrary account really came through in the past couple of weeks and I have five titles lined up at the moment. Fun fact: If you keep your Kindle on airplane mode, they can check the books back in, but they can’t technically erase them from your device. I know, that’s totally cheating, but I promise I’m cheating with a pure heart. Uh, assuming that’s possible, I guess.

Here’s what I read, in order even:

The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre. (Before you have to ask, I’m an INFJ — introvert, intuitive, feeling, judging. They say it’s the rarest of all personality types, but I assume they say that to everyone to make us all feel like we’re special unicorns.) Well, Emre isn’t joking — it IS a strange history and it’s kind of amazing that the women who created it, a mother-daughter team, had it in them to be so persistent in getting the thing published. Emre is a skeptic on the personality testing front, and I appreciated that, actually — I felt like it gave her the ability to step back from the hype. One thing I hadn’t realized until I read the book is that according to Briggs and Myers, your personality is set the day you are born and it never changes. That seems weird to me, but whatever. Anyway, it was an interesting read and good to learn that the test is loosely based on Jung’s theories but is in no way scientific. I found that comforting somehow.

Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? by Mindy Kaling. After the craziness of Emre’s book, this book was a fantastic pallet cleanser: It’s hilarious and a quick read. I’m probably the last person on earth to read it as it came out in 2011, but anyway, I recommend this one if you need a laugh.

About a Boy by Nick Hornsby. How did I JUST read this book? I haven’t seen the movie, either. It was just so sweet and funny and great. It’s like the book equivalent of a fancy donut. Recommend!

An American Marriage by Tavari Jones. I suppose it was about time for me to read something more difficult after two fun-fests. This is a great book — well written and made me think about what I take for granted being a middle aged white woman married to the same man for 23 years. There were parts that were hard to take because it was difficult to accept the injustice of it all — for Roy, wrongly accused and imprisoned, and Celestial, who has to navigate life with her husband locked away. It’s not what either of them had expected, and the outcome isn’t, either. Recommend.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I think this might have been an Abby recommendation. One of those sci-fi/fantasy stories with magic and a gang of kids out on an adventure. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the sequel.

What’s on my list:

After about four months of waiting, Educated by Tara Westover has finally come my way via the eLibrary. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and am looking forward to reading it.

I’ve also got The Friend by Sigrid Nunez and The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin lined up. I’m currently reading The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, but it’s the fourth in a series and, while all accounts point to this one being a stand-alone (whatever that means), I’ll probably end up reading the entire series just for something to do. More sci-fi/fantasy/kids on a magical adventure. I don’t mind.

Your turn: Whatcha reading?