Resolution 2013 Check-In: Year End Edition

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So my blogging is obviously...off course. I'm not going to say anything about that right now. Same excuses as always. But I've started thinking about my goals for 2014, and thought I should wrap up 2013 before I move on. Here's where I am with only a bit more than two weeks left in the year:

1. Read 40 books.
Met and exceeded! As of today, I have read 53 books and have 3 in progress that should all be finished by year end. Those 56 books were:
-31 fiction/25 non-fiction
-28 audiobooks/8 ebooks/20 paper books
-9 books about the Tudors
-12 biographies/autobiographies/memoirs
-4 books of short stories
-6 dystopian novels

The best things I read this year were:
-Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam Trilogy
-Alexis M. Smith's short novel, Glaciers
-Jess Walters' novel Beautiful Ruins and short story book We Live in Water
-Rodney Crowell's memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks

2. Send birthday cards to my friends/family.
I failed more often than I succeed on this one. It's going back on the list for 2014.

3. Use the 52 Week Savings Plan.
I switched mid-year to a more rigorous savings plan, but my savings goals were met. Which tells me that they need to be more vigorous next year.

4. Prioritize visits with friends (at least 4).
I did pretty well with this--made two visits to my BFF in Pittsburgh, had friends to our house a couple of times, most recently at Thanksgiving. This goal is probably also going to be repeated next year.

5. Complete the Couch to 5K, then reassess.
Done! I finished the Couch to 5K a couple of weeks ago, and am repeating the last two weeks of it right now. My tentative plan after the new year is to run a regular 5K schedule for a bit, then decide whether I want to try to get to 10K capability or not.

6. Blog at least three times a week.
Massive failure. It's just not a priority right now.

7. Do something to improve my space every month.
I don't know if this has happened every month, but it has happened most months.

8. Volunteer.
Sad lack of progress here.

9. Institute a gratitude practice.
No formal practice, but I feel pretty generally grateful and am OK checking this one off.

10. Re-engage in social media.
Again, just not a priority. And I mostly am OK with that at this point.

11. Get a new job.
Still going great! I'm definitely looking to put some goals around professional development for 2014, too.

12. Play with the baby.
Every day. :)

I'm very happy, overall, with my success in meeting my goals in 2013. I'd call 7/12 completely met, which is great! Hopefully I'll do as well in 2014!

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Resolution 2013 Check-In: October Edition

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So I accidentally forgot to check in on my goals for...five months. Oops. Better late than never, though, right?

Here's where I'm at:

1. Read 40 books.
Check! I've completed 39 books and have 2 more in progress! Still mostly audiobooks, but I'll take what I can get. Currently in progress are Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (audiobook) and The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter (ebook).

2. Send birthday cards to my friends/family.
I've completely fallen down on this one. Haven't sent a card in months. :(

3. Use the 52 Week Savings Plan.
I discontinued this, because the varying amounts were messing with my budgeting, but I'm saving far more than I would have been using this plan, on an automatic withdrawal, so the spirit of the goal is met, if not the letter of it.

4. Prioritize visits with friends (at least 4).
Done! I made another weekend visit to my BFF over Labor Day weekend and am going again next weekend. This is a doubly good once, since Emil is coming with me and getting the road trip experience and the visiting friends experience, too! Plus it leaves Mark some time to work without interruption, which is a nice bonus. We're also having at least one (and hopefully more) friend for Thanksgiving.

5. Complete the Couch to 5K, then reassess.
Another fail. Still haven't been to the gym. I found and joined a new one, but I haven't made the time to go once yet.

6. Blog at least three times a week.
You can see how well that one is not going...

7. Do something to improve my space every month.
Quite a bit of progress here lately, including some time spend re-doing our front porch flower pots this weekend and buying a new media cabinet and re-arranging our living room a few weeks back.

8. Volunteer.
No progress. I keep thinking I am going to get going on this, but I'm just not.

9. Institute a gratitude practice.
My formal gratitude practice has completely fallen by the wayside, unfortunately. That said, I feel like I'm doing reasonably well being grateful in general.

10. Re-engage in social media.
Some days are better than others. I'm completely lost without Google Reader and have almost completely stopped reading and commenting on blogs, which is awful. I'm on Facebook a lot, but it's mostly baby-related family/friends stuff (which isn't bad, but isn't what I intended with the goal). I keep trying to get into Twitter and I keep mostly failing.

11. Get a new job.
Got it, doing it, loving it!

12. Play with the baby.
This continues to be my biggest success. He's so much fun right now, and I'm really working on making time to enjoy him. Recently, I've been going to pick him up from day care earlyish at least one day a week and spending some time outside on their playground with him. We've also started taking him to the playground in our neighborhood on weekends. He's such a complete joy most of the time, this goal isn't hard to manage.

So, results are mixed? By my count, I've completed or am on track for 6/12 goals, with another 2 that have some success and 4 than are completely off-track. I'd like to be doing better, but at least I'm doing something.

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What I'm Reading

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alan rickman read poster.jpg

Something really great has happened to me over the past year or so.

I remembered that I can read.

I never really forgot, of course, but it got pushed way, way back on my priority list. In 2011, I only read 17 books. 16 in 2012. It wasn't that I didn't want to read, it was just that other things got in the way. So far for 2013, I've read 40 books. That's still fewer that in years of yore (75 in 2007), and, if I'm honest, I've listened to, rather than actually read, well over half of them. But it's progress, and it's adding to my quality of life immeasurably. I'm proud to say I'm a reader again.

And since I'm a reader again, I thought I'd share a few of the things I've been reading with you.

So far, my favorite read of the year has been Jess Walters' short story collection, We Live in Water. This book reminded me of everything I love about short stories. Each story was a perfect little well-crafted gem, and they all fit together seamlessly. Walters is a native of Eastern Washington, and the stories all are set in the Pacific Northwest, which gave it that extra edge of homesickness-laced poignancy for me. The stories ranged from Raymond Chandler-esque microcosms of individual pathology ("Thief," in which a blue collar dad initiates his own little stakeout to discover which of his family members is stealing from his change jar) to hilarious and gut-wrenching dystopic satire ("Don't Eat Cat," about the zombie-filled future of the human race), but I loved every single one of them.

Another favorite of the books I've read so far this year is Rodney Crowell's memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks. I loved this one so much I sent my mom a copy after I read it. Crowell is a great storyteller, and his working class East Texas childhood is a hell of a story. You can hear Crowell-the-songwriter in languid, poetic ways in which he relates his childhood anecdotes, and he makes things that are truly awful (the book begins with a story about a little boy Rodney breaking up a boozy get-together of his parents' with a gun) seem both funny and bittersweet.

A third of my favorites of the year was Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. I resisted this book so hard--the media surrounding it irritated me, Egan herself irritated me, I just didn't want anything to do with it. But when I finally read it, I found, incredibly, that all that praise was well-deserved. The book is a collection of intersecting stories, with characters playing major or peripheral roles in each others lives, over the span of decades and multiple continents. Most of the characters are various degrees of unlikeable, but they're not completely without sympathy, and, very gradually, one learns where all that unlikeability is rooted. Much as I wanted to hate this book, I loved it.

I have not, however, loved everything I've read this year. I plodded all the way through Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America only to wonder, at the end, how anything about such an interesting subject (the Chicago World's Fair and a really gruesome mass murderer) could be so very boring. I rolled my eyes so hard at Ira Wagler's self-impressed memoir, Growing Up Amish, that I was afraid they'd get stuck. I swore I'd read my last historical novel when I reached the end of the incredibly trite Katharine: the Virgin Widow by Jean Plaidy. You can't win them all.

And, of course, I've been reading lots and lots of picture books, as my son is now old enough to be at least partially interested in them. Most of them, frankly, I could do without. However, I have developed a few favorites:

Brian Lies' Bats at the Beach and Bats at the Library are both awesome. I'm actually really afraid of bats, so I was hesitant to even pick them up, but they're great books, with a non-cloying rhyme scheme and fun illustrations. Some of Lies' other books, particularly More and Deep in the Swamp (both of which are written by other folks, but illustrated by Lies) are definitely going on E's wishlist.

Another favorite is Taro Gomi. As a small baby, E. was gifted her book, My Friends, and I fell in love both with the sweet, simple words and the fantastic illustrations. Once board books came on full force, we added Bus Stops and Wiggle to our collection. Next, I'd like to get I Lost My Dad, Santa Through the Window, or Who Ate It?

Amy Krouse Rosenthal has just gotten popular at my house, and I'm so glad. I picked up her three piece book set, Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink, and I love all three of them. They're simply worded and illustrated, but a little bit clever and cheeky, and they don't irritate me to read. I haven't looked much at her other books yet, but it looks like she has a few more that might be good for slightly older kids, so I'll check those out in the future.

So, that's what we're reading at my house. What are you reading?

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I am picky about my little boy's clothes. Ridiculously picky, actually. So many rules: no characters (with some limited exceptions), no slogans, nothing violent, nothing stupid, blah blah blah. And yes, I definitely have a soft spot for some of the higher end (and higher priced) kids' clothes retailers (Tea Collection, I am looking at you!). However, the majority of my baby's non-thrifted clothes come from moderate-to-low priced lines, and I'm pretty typically able to find many more options than he could ever wear for cute things to buy. Because of this, I find the complaints about the lack of nice, non-misogynistic clothes available for little boys puzzling. I seriously wonder if it's a difference in taste or in where we shop that puts me on one side of this question and the majority of my fellow small-boy-mom friends on the other. With the purpose of perhaps figuring it out, I pulled together a quick collection of moderately priced and currently available toddler boys' clothes, from common stores (Target, which is my favorite; Old Navy; and Kohl's). All of these things should be accessible either in-store or online, all are moderately priced (typically $8-$15), and I think all are crazy cute. There is, however, a caveat--unlike the more "upscale" brands, where I can pretty much pick up anything and think it's nice, finding these items does require a little bit of digging, either virtual or in-store. You have to get through the obnoxious character stuff to get to these more subdued and classic pieces. But lucky you, this time I did that for you!

Target

Old Navy

Kohl's

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More notes from the thrifting trenches

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So that great day of thriting I had a bit back? Got me started on an obsession. I've been several times a week since then, to all sorts of different stores. (Note to local folks: the new Goodwill in Annandale is great.)

And I'm cleaning up. I'm thrifting for tons of my friends, and I've had some really great scores. Favorites have included:
-jeans from Hudson, Kut from the Kloth, and Rock & Republic
-kids' clothes from Mini Boden, Tea, Zutano, Matilda Jane, and Hanna Andersson
-sporty apparel from Lucy
-New with tags stuff from Lacoste, Lands' End, Talbot's, and Boden

I'm focused mostly on clothes, but I also snagged a super cute toddler-sized chair the other day. And I've been thrifting books for the little guy like crazy. It feels so good to be back in my element!

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