‘Tis the season for reflection, so what better way to reflect than to share some of my favorite things of the year.
Next up for My Favorite Things of 2018 is all things that helped me find organizational peace this year.
Traveler’s Notebook and Bullet Journaling
I have been using a bullet journal for over a year now, but it was not until this year where I finally found planning peace in doing so. Before this year, I kept playing with what I tracked and how I tracked it. I was messing around with daily formats and could not find any way that worked for me. I spent more time on Pinterest looking at these gorgeous spreads, experiencing serious envy at the artistic talent of others. Then, I let it all go. I found a habit tracker system that works for me. I found the right number of inserts to carry on a daily basis, and I found a daily setup that is functional and something I can beautify without spending all day long. What used to take me a good half-day to establish each month now only takes me an hour. I spend no more than fifteen minutes each day in planning or updating my lists. Moreover, I found the best traveler’s notebook covers in which to carry my bullet journal. Imperfectly Perfekt makes the most stunning notebooks and planner covers you will ever see. Everything she sells is made by her own hand, including every design that she hand-etches onto the leather. She only opens her store up for sales once a week and sells out of her allotted inventory within minutes, and for good reason. I am lucky enough to own six of her creations, and I cherish every one of them.
Etsy is my go-to place for all my organizational needs when it comes to inserts for my notebook, stickers, and what have you. There are three or four shops I frequent, and others I like for occasional purchases. I don’t limit my shopping to just planner items though. I found my makeup organizers on Etsy. I found my cross-stitch project bags on Etsy. I found holiday decor on Etsy. Let’s face it; I found way too much on Etsy, but I love knowing that I am helping someone with his or her business.
One way to find peace is to remove chaos from your world. One way to do that is through organizing. That is why I included Etsy, my traveler’s notebook, and the bullet journal system among My Favorite Things for Organizational Peace.
I fell in love with this candle company through a subscription box. Last year, this subscription box included what remains one of the best scents ever. Because it was a custom scent for this monthly subscription, I did not think I could ever get it again. (Fun fact – Holly would not let me burn the candle because she did not want to lose that scent.) Thankfully, a few months later, I found out the company did sell that scented candle but did so under a different name. They also have a monthly subscription that includes four of the most adorable themed candles with scents that are heavenly. They burn nicely, and the aroma of the candle fills a room. They even branched out into candles containing essential oils. The Chillax one is now my favorite of all time. I don’t have to burn the candle. I inhale the aroma and feel so much better. With quick delivery, the Dio Candle Company is now my go-to candle shop.
I originally purchased a weighted blanket for Jim, who was struggling with some issues while he was searching for a new job last winter. I quickly discovered the benefits of them myself and now don’t know what I would do without it. I purchased it from MomentarilyMeBlankets on Etsy, and while it took a while for her to make it, I have no regrets. (I adore Etsy, but that’s for another day). It is gorgeous, well-made, and so very soft. On truly horrible days, I love to rub my face on the fabric and let its softness soothe me. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, I highly recommend getting a weighted blanket. They make such a difference.
You wouldn’t think an 85-pound one-year-old puppy would bring me serenity. In fact, there are plenty of times when he doesn’t – like when he fights with his sister and draws blood, or when he jumps on people no matter how well he knows his commands, or when he nips others even though he means it as a sign of affection and playfulness. Yet, I am his person. I sit down, and he sits down next to me. I lay down, and he does his damnedest to lay on top of me. At night, he has to touch me in some manner. If I move, he moves. If Jim is gone, he ignores the empty half of the bed to continue to lay as close to me as possible. This could easily annoy me because there is no such thing as space anymore, but I love it. When he is laying there, sound asleep and entirely at peace, he soothes me. His unconditional love makes me feel so good, and I adore those moments when he lays his head on my lap or even my chest. With babies, those moments are fleeting. With dogs, I know these moments will last their lifetime. There is no better feeling than when you experience a dog’s complete trust and unconditional love.
By all accounts, 2018 was a rocky one. Between new jobs, old jobs, new schools, new schedules, and the craptastic world news, it was not easy to stay calm or happy. Between the scented candles, the weighted blanket, and my pup, I found a way to keep the panic at bay, making them My Favorite Things for serenity of 2018.
Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Here is what I read the week ending 17 December 2018. To learn more about each book, click on the book cover!
I don’t regret reading a book, but I do regret the time I wasted hoping that the one book I did finish this week would improve. How frustrating!
By all accounts, Ezekiel Boone’s spider trilogy was quite good. I wish the same were true of his haunted mansion novel. In fact, The Mansion is so far removed from being a decent novel that it is one of the few times I regret the time I spent reading a novel.
The problem is that nothing happens. Seriously. Nothing. Happens. Oh, there is some drama and blood once you reach the 90 percent mark, but before that point, there is nothing but hints of a depraved history and a very repetitive rehashing of the origins of this fabulous software system.
Once the action does heat up, the answers remain vague and disappointing. You are so thankful something is finally happening, however, that you ignore the fact that there are no real answers and celebrate the rapidity of the denouement. The end is in sight, and you can’t wait to get there after wading through 300 pages of the same technology verbiage, the same character introspection, and the same lack of answers.
The characters have no development. They are purely one-dimensional placeholders, one step above the pseudo-artificial intelligence around which the novel revolves. Mr. Boone spends more time tap-dancing around their individual tragic childhoods than he does creating any depth in his characters. The lone exception to this is Shawn, the man who makes the entire novel possible. We do see one night of his childhood tragedies, but even that does not come until the 60 percent mark of the novel. With four narrators – Shawn, Billy, Emily, and her twin nieces – one expects a better understanding of each of their motivations and desires. Instead, we get a whole lot of their past motivations and desires, and not much of anything else. These are easily forgotten characters, the kind in whom you have no vested interest. It matters not what any of their futures are because you just don’t care.
At heart, The Mansionis as much a love triangle as it is anything else, which is supremely annoying because the only character aware that it is a love triangle is the computer program, which should be creepy but is really nothing more than Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey – movie or book. The whole story tries to hard to be something new but fails spectacularly. Between the lack of original plot, boring characters, and fact that nothing of interest happens in the story, it is safe to say that Ezekiel Boone’s latest novel is one for which it is best to skip.
Happy Sunday! One week and one day left until Christmas; if you celebrate, are you ready?
I need to wrap presents, plan my menus, and bake cookies. Otherwise, yes, I am ready. We need to eat, and I always find a way to wrap the presents in time. As for cookies, Jim made his famous shortbread already, and if that is the only cookie made this year, I am okay with that.
This week saw Jim on yet another business trip during the first half of the week. It does make the week extraordinarily long when he is gone. Cletus does not get his usual chance to play with all the dogs at work, and his energy levels get a bit disruptive. Plus, while it doesn’t sound like much, it is exhausting having to pick Holly up from the studio at 9 PM every night. It means not being able to relax in the evenings because you know you have to leave your house again. Then, by the time you get home, it is almost time for bed. Thankfully, this upcoming week is Holly’s last week of dance classes for the year. Judging by the fact that she fell asleep at 5 PM on Friday and woke up long enough to take a quick shower and go to bed, she needs the break as much as the rest of us.
Work is still a bit crazy as we work to finish the budget before the end of the year. Certain departments are dragging their feet in getting information to me, which is infuriating. We will finish it in time, but there is a lot of sitting and waiting for information, which makes the days long thanks to huge swaths of time doing little and brief spurts of insane activity.
There is still no major snow on the ground, and we have temperatures in the mid-forties right now. It does not feel like the winter holidays without cold and snow.
I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season and, more importantly, finding time to relax. Have a wonderful Sunday and peaceful week to come!
Here are past posts from the last few weeks in case you missed them the first time:
We should always find ways to celebrate the little things in life. What better day to celebrate these little things other than the best day of the week? So, here are the things that make this a Fabulous Friday for me this week ending 14 December 2018.
CHRISTMAS PREP – Christmas cards are in the mail. Presents are hiding all around the house. Butter is softening on the counter waiting for sugar and vanilla and flour. I need to go through my wrapping paper and ribbon to make sure I have enough. I also need to remember where I stashed all of the presents. I know I am going to forget at least one until the last minute. I still need to figure out what I am making for Christmas Day, but I feel like I have this holiday prep thing well in hand this year. At least, I am not as anxious as I normally am at the thought of getting everything done before the big day.
We have all seen movies set in the future, where humans have complete control over DNA and can create “perfect” children for a “perfect” society. I suspect that when one hears talk of genetic modifications, the thoughts that come to mind are curing diseases, customizing hair, skin, and eyes, correcting imperfections like poor vision or allergies, and a slew of other fairly benign changes that bring humans closer to society’s idea of perfection. Arwen Elys Dayton shares her view of the future in Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful, and it is anything but this somewhat simplified picture of superficial changes. It is not that Ms. Dayton means to scare people into making ethical decisions regarding genetic modifications. It is that Ms. Dayton recognizes how the best intentions of humans never really turn out the way we expect them. What starts as a little change to the retina’s DNA to provide someone with 20/20 vision quickly morphs into giving someone the sight of an eagle or the olfactory senses of a dog. Her vision involves some grotesque changes that may or may not change the idea of what makes someone a human.
Therein lies Ms. Dayton’s point. What does make us human? Is it our mind or our body? What happens when we change ourselves to the point of being more animal or robot than human? What happens when we fill ourselves with someone else’s organs? Do we become the other person? Am I still me? These are classic conundrums regarding genetic modification, except with the advent of CRISPR, these questions are more important than ever. For now, the scientific community is drawing a hard line at using CRISPR for the humane genome, but that doesn’t mean that this hard line will remain forever.
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful means to shock and horrify you. There is a deliberate progression in each story as the main character shares his or her life in a world of extreme modification. Ms. Dayton makes no judgments, presenting each story in her vision of our future as matter-of-factly as possible. The reader provides the sentiment, whatever that may be, making it a novel ripe for discussion.
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautifulis disturbing. You would like to think that humans would never go to such extremes to change our bodies, but there is nothing in the novel which should surprise you. Humans have always been willing and eager to do extreme things to their bodies in an attempt to be different, make a statement, or achieve arbitrary beauty standards. It is not a stretch of the imagination to understand that should we gain the ability to make changes at the genetic level, those extreme changes take on a whole other meaning. As such, its characters will haunt you for a long time, and that is another point. The next time someone talks to you about CRISPR or genetic modification as the next scientific breakthrough, you will remember the six characters in Ms. Dayton’s story. We all should remember these characters. Our future may depend on it.
If ever there was a book to emphasize that I read what I like, Fire & Heist is it. The story of a teenage wyvern and her family of thieves tickled me more than it should have. The target audience is a good thirty years younger than I am, but that did not stop me from devouring it. I adore with Sky and acknowledged privilege. More importantly, I fell in love with the unexpected pleasure of Sky’s unlikely crew. Not only is their banter hilarious, but I also love how each of them embraces their quirks, the best of whom is Gabriella, Sky’s human friend. She is not familiar with the world of wyverns, and her enthusiasm has no bounds. She is also an unashamed geek, and you cannot help but fall in love with her implacability in the face of Sky’s imperiousness but her lack of filter and childlike wonder when it comes to magic and unicorns. We all need a friend as honest and as supportive as Gabriella.
The story itself is goofy. Dragons live on earth and are among the richest people on the planet because they hoard gold. Dragons obtain gold hoards by stealing from other dragons. Dragon society rewards those dragon families with the most gold and punishes those who are not successful burglars. Add in a home dragon land, a missing parent, unrequited love, more than one failed heist, a mysterious jewel, and power-hungry dragons and you have a story that is one part Romeo and Juliet, one part Ocean’s Eleven, one part geek fantasy, and one part Hallmark movie. It is cheesy goodness at its best.
I love the fact that I can still enjoy novels meant for a younger crowd and never want this trait to change. Some people might say that life is too short to read bad books, but I say life is too short not to have fun and enjoy any book that interests you. In the case of Fire & Heist, the dragons caught my interest, the similarities to Ocean’s Eleven kept my attention, and characters like Gabriella made me fall in love with this story of gold-stealing were-dragons.
Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Here is what I read the week ending 10 December 2018. To learn more about each book, click on the book cover!
Thank goodness for quick books that are nothing but pure entertainment. They helped me get through a rather hellish work week. The books I read were exactly what I needed. I hope the streak continues!
FINISHED SINCE THE LAST UPDATE:
This is an eclectic mix of books, even for me. One heck of a murder mystery, a fantasy novel involving were-dragons, and a futuristic novel contemplating the ethics of body modifications and exploring the lengths to which people may go with CRISPR. Each of them are so very different, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading them.
I think Fire & Heist is so charming. It is not going to win any awards, and the basic story itself is familiar. Still, I fell in love with Sky Hawkins and enjoyed every minute I had with her. This is book candy at its finest.
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is not nearly as entertaining, but boy does it make you think. As long as humans have been tinkering with the human body, there has always been a concern that we will cross an invisible ethical boundary and take such tinkering too far. Ms. Dayton uses that concern to hypothesize just what that tinkering will look like, and it is not for the faint of heart. In fact, her future is downright scary. Her vision will haunt me for a long time to come, which I believe is her point. After all, if we don’t start thinking of these things now, our chance to make a difference and create clear ethical boundaries will disappear.
DID NOT FINISH:
All good here.
I will be passing the weeks until the US premiere of the television show continuing to immerse myself in the world of All Souls and enjoying every minute I do.
Whatever I want, although I am leaning towards the new John Boyne novel.
It is cold and gloomy around here with just a little snow to cover some of the ground. It is not enough snow for my liking though. I want what they are getting in the Carolinas. Damn climate change.
It was a very long week in that I did nothing at work but work on submitting the first draft of the budget by the Friday deadline. Between meetings and working through my 30-tab spreadsheet, I was toast most nights. It did not help that the stress of the deadline prevented me from sleeping well throughout the week. However, I met the deadline, and that first push is behind me. The rest of the budget process is annoying, but it is much easier than that initial data pull.
Holly had her first winter poms routine on Friday. Unfortunately, the boys’ varsity basketball team is not good at all, so it makes the wait until she performs very painful. Conversely, it is nice being so close to her when she performs, and it is all indoors. So yay for that. The winter poms season continues through February, so we will have plenty of opportunities to watch her dance and bad basketball.
Holiday preparations are well underway. I have a stack of envelopes staring at me that need addressing for our holiday cards. Presents are arriving daily. Now I just have to find the time to wrap everything. How are you doing with the holidays?
The rest of today will be putting the house to rights, laundry, and catching up on all the paperwork and email I shoved onto my desk every evening and need to address. It isn’t glamorous, but it never really disappears no matter how much I might wish it would. The weather at least is cooperating by making me not want to step foot outside.
Here are past posts from the last few weeks in case you missed them the first time: